“A Life on the UK DIY Underground.”
By Ginge Knievil.
After months of intense planning and without the need for an agent or manager, the time had come for The Sick Livers to ply their brand of high octane glam punk on 5 unsuspecting towns across these fair British shores. Aptly aided by social media and contacts made from previous outings, Dom Daley of Glunk Records and I booked these shows ourselves. After all, we’re not about to buy on some tour anytime soon. This is grassroots do it your fucking self! Gone are the days of posting cassettes for promoters to immediately chuck in the bin, we’re fully embracing the modern age, albeit with a slight kick and scream whilst fondly nodding back to those analogue tour booking days of old. Our partners in rock ‘n’ roll crime for this jaunt were New Jersey’s The Disconnects, now our label mates via Baldy Longhair Records in the USA. We adore this band on record and to say we were pumped to be able to help them play Blighty on a bill with ourselves is an understatement. So, this is it, this is punk rock, this is DIY in its truest essence, and here’s the warts and all journey of those 5 days through my eyes and ears. At this point I make no apology for the lack of rock star bullshit and inflated sense of one’s own self importance. The unwritten rule of “whatever happens on tour, stays on tour” is about to be broken… well, almost!
Wednesday 26th August 2015 – Cardiff.
The question was hanging high over my head before the show, how the hell do we get people to a midweek outing in the Welsh capital a few days before the UK broke for its final long Bank Holiday weekend of 2015? Ben Gallivan of Rockpie Promotions had taken a punt by putting the gig on, and for that we were thankful. Any school night guarantee for a band of our stature is always appreciated. An unexpected rider of beer and bar snacks awaited our arrival, complete with a token apple and pear! Fuel Rock Bar is somewhere I’d never visited before, but on entering the answer to that aforementioned question was answered and I suddenly remembered that the worries of the crowd were null and void. Whether there’s one man and his dog or hundreds and thousands, you always get the same debauched show by The Sick Livers. For an (almost) home turf gig and aside from some regulars in the shape of Uber Rockers, Ziggy and Jon from Death or Glory Promotions, Paul Cairns from The Rock ‘N’ Roll Circus Radio Show and some travelling die hards from Bridgend and Bristol – the usual suspects for this show were absent and instead replaced by new faces. It’s always nice to see new faces, and some of these were Twitter based. The power of social media coming into play.
Pre gig prenups consisted of treating our new American friends to a pint or 4 at the City Arms just down the road from Fuel. It was great to finally meet them… and they were all on the same wavelength! Much communication was had with Ryan (The Disconnects’ singer and guitarist) ahead of this tour and most of it consisted of teaching him Wenglish! Through all his Johnny Thunders cool, there was something quite surreal about hearing the South Wales staple shout-out of “tidy” being echoed via a New Jersey drawl. These guys were (and still are) the real deal and the camaraderie had begun. Everyone’s spirits were akin to an apprentice’s first day on the job, full of eagerness and spunk. It had begun proper!
After much stroking by travelling English real ale drinkers of my Brian Hibbard style leopard print fur collar, and coupled with some sporting girls who joined us on stage for a tambourine heavy rendition of “Dark, Dangerous & Delicious,” day one was almost done. I took on merch man duties as the “musicians” packed down and as always, I’m never ceased to be amazed as our goodies flew out. It’s only day one and we’ve just sold out of medium shirts on our new tee design. “WHOA!” and “FUCK!” in equal measures.
Tonight I would travel the 20 miles to my own bed. This rock ‘n’ roller is not made of the sterner Oliver Reed style antics that accompanied my previous self. With a belly full of beer and a mind full of excitement, things were gearing up for a hell of a tour.
Thursday 27th August 2015 – Bristol.
Day 2 and I’m prowling the house like a man possessed. My brain is in child mode, constantly asking a disgruntled parent on a long car ride to a theme park – “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?”
Dai The Bass finally showed up in a short wheel base transit van as The Sick Livers kitty couldn’t stretch to a crew van after ploughing our funds into the “Mid Liver Crisis” vinyl. This would essentially be our home for the next 5 days. The opening piano chords of Dennis Waterman’s “I Could Be So Good For You” were blasting from the white van man speakers. We were on our fucking way!
From Cwmbran onwards, I’m in the back with DJ Knievil and our view of the road would consist of wooden panels where windows should be and our light would be provided by wind-up torch. It’s only a matter of time before we would be joined by smells of beer farts and out of date Scotch eggs. For most this would seem like hell, for me it’s a strange sort of bliss. I know the rock ‘n’ roll show will be imminent, a sense of being and belonging, and I enjoy the silence before the bedlam, albeit in between DJ’s phone tunes. The New Bomb Turks are blasting from the front of the cab whilst DJ and I enjoy a moment with Lionel Richie’s “Stuck On You.” It’s what we do, like a sort of natural fucked up Valium to ease us into our journeys to come.
We arrive at the Stag & Hounds in Bristol to what can only be described as a proper old school European touring band welcome. Beers, a meal, accommodation and a petrol money guarantee to see us on our way. At this level, that is all you can hope for and many venues would do well to take note. The owner Paddy should take a bow, as we were shown a warm welcome by Mike at the pub.
And onto another hell of a show, not helped by me spewing my guts up four (or was it five?) times pre show. My initial conclusion to this illness was the old drunkards ruling of “never eat on an empty stomach!” The reality was more along the lines of the fact it was only last week I was in hospital being treated by a crisis team of my local mental health team after a brief setback in my battle with bipolar disorder. These physical symptoms are a natural offshoot of anxiety and the forthcoming disruption to my much needed routine. But was I ever gonna cancel this tour? Was I fuck! Three more exits from the stage mid set (almost cleverly disguised as some James Brown cloak-around-shoulders exit routine) and we played the show of our lives, complete with a bus full of German tourists joining us for “Gimme The Drugs.” And it was at this point drugs were needed. Not the socially unacceptable ones that were my diet of old, but my antipsychotics as the remainder of the band partied into the wee hours with The Disconnects and opening band Gilda Parade at Mothers’ Ruin as it was Matty Knievil’s birthday. I feel like a twat. Gone are the days of me being the last man standing in a whirl of debauchery. I’m now in the hands of men in white coats and being the first one to bed is all so frustrating but essential to me being as balanced as humanly possible.
As the others’ alcohol dried up, I lay on my IKEA bunk bed in the hostel and adopted the role of Danny from Withnail & I as I suitably medicated everyone who so wished in order for them to wake fresh as a daisy tomorrow for a date with the Big Smoke. A rumble of arses and snoring, like summer camp for the middle aged, signalled the end of a triumphant Thursday night in a city that recently never fails to do us proud. Thank you, Bristol!
Friday 28th August 2015 – London.
A lone stroll through some Bristol park in the early morning sunshine was needed. I answered some texts from ex Wildheart & Yo-Yo Danny McCormack. We chat of staying on the straight and narrow whilst being on the road, something which would continue daily throughout our short UK stint. What a top bloke and I wish him all the best with his new project – The Main Grains.
At this point, the mighty John Robb of Goldblade / Membranes would probably be taking on a 5k run. For me, the only running involves my rear nether regions in some dodgy park toilets! A few George Michael types look at me intently as I wash the sweat from my hair and face in my impromptu public convenience dressing room. I’m ready for London. To the van!
As wisely instructed by Rich from FUK outside the van last night, “it’s day 3 tomorrow and that means your voice will be fucked!” I knew this only too well and right on cue midway to London, my voice pops and I’m left at that sticky point when Aled Jones’ bollocks dropped! This is punk rock though and the show will go on.
The Pipeline is my favourite London venue. Sticking a massive two fingers to the bankers, it sits proudly in the E1 city district; playing up to the sleazy Whitechapel scenes of Jack The Ripper’s era and not to the suits and hipsters that now adorn the streets. Head honcho Thomas Evrenos greeted us with that big Swedish smile of his and took the piss as I rested my voice. The upstairs of his rock ‘n’ roll Mecca started filling with Turbojugend kuttes and we knew we were gonna be alright tonight, especially as I spy Jim & Tonic from the Soho chapter. He will be our guest vocalist on a run through Turbonegro’s “Denim Demon” – whether he knows it or not! Again, there were also people from Twitter who came to say hello and the power of that format in modern day rock ‘n’ roll is astounding. I just hope I made it to say hello to as many as possible with my gravely tones as I swapped beer for whiskey.
We were never gonna fill a venue of this size as we take on headline duties this evening, but we left absolutely blown away by the 50 payers who gave up their Friday night. With added guest listers, bands and liggers, it made for an enthusiastic band/crowd experience and for us at this level, which is pretty fucking awesome. To ol’ London Town, we salute you!
A great end to a great night was completed by backstage chats with Ryan of The Disconnects and Matt of The Breakdowns (who opened up and were absolutely fantastic) about The Electric Prunes, The Standells, Sylvain Sylvain and more. The alcohol was flowing, we’re just hitting our live stride but a sudden sadness hit me that all this will be over oh too soon.
Saturday 29th August 2015 – Gateshead.
I wake in some Travelodge somewhere up the north of London on the M1, and immediately rush through their corridors modelled on the Death Star in order to get my nicotine fix. A Little Chef overlooked us for that classic 70s motel experience. The mammoth 5 hour drive to Gateshead suddenly looms and I reached into my medication box for a Keith Moon style continental breakfast.
Several motorway service stations would greet us on the journey and you will not find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. I fucking hate these places. I throw caution to the wind and wade through hundreds of bellends eager to score themselves a £45 pasty. Most of my urinating had been done in plastic bottles but I thought I’d go posh and reap the benefits of the only thing that seems reasonable priced in these places – the toilets.
I really wanted to see the Angel of The North but settled for photographs via my dodgy 3G connection of motorway signs that VJ had uploaded from the front. Damn those bastards and their windows!! I got my revenge as we hit the edge of the Tyne, VJ slides open the side door and I greet him and the pub patrons with a view of my bare ginger arse. Hello Gateshead!
Now, The Black Bull – what a fucking venue! Hundreds of punk 7″ sleeves adorn the stage area and hosts Maz and Shev showed us to our rooms. They never mentioned the tarantula in the fucking kitchen before, what if that fucker escapes?!?!?! Seriously, these people are my kind of people. Salt of the earth and nothing is too much trouble. In a roundabout way we found out that Jock of GBH had recommended us for this gig, and was still waxing lyrical to Welsh travellers a week later at Punx Picnic in Brum. A massive thank you to him!
Shev winced during sound check as my voice was absolutely fucking shot, but Shev’s a man with a plan. “Dark rum is what you need, lad” and he continued to ply me with double after double after double after… you get the drift! Second song into the set and bang, voice returned as I make love on stage to an inflatable sheep. All hail, Shev!
I’m feeling the burn at the end of the night. Not so much the burn of partying, but the lack of it! See, old me would be scooping any old shit up my nose and downing shots, but now I’m at the mercy of medication and partial sensibility. I miss those stupid days, even if I am a better person without it. I’m first to bed (again) but VJ soon joins for a spooning in the double bed. How adorable?! Only one question remained as sedation hit; when the fuck can I move into The Black Bull?
Sunday 30th August 2015 – Nottingham.
And onto the final day. No party would be complete without Trigger McPoopshute and those Welsh nut jobs made the journey to Nottingham to join us on our farewell soirée. With local lads The Hip Priests doing their thing in Oslo and Coop of the X-Rays on his jollies in Hamburg, we found last day solace in the town’s Old Angel pub. The Pixies blasted mid afternoon from the jukebox as we continued on the now pointless exercise of drinking beer. That stuff just didn’t work anymore!
The mammoth PA in the tiny upstairs room at The Chameleon embraced our sound check before The Disconnects announced in traditional British fashion that they’d like to buy us an Indian takeaway. How could 5 fat Welsh lads refuse? I cancelled my order of a lamb jalfrezi and opted for a basic bag of chips. You see, I was suffering with what our New Jersey cousins call “the number threes!” I’d had a gut dropping mid set experience at a London show on a previous tour and trust me, that’s not a good place to be!
In The Disconnects I honestly think we’ve made friends for life, I love those guys. There are no stories of backstage bitching; it genuinely was laugh a minute with two bands just doing what they do (clichés included). To Ryan, Tommy, Anthony and (stand-in drummer from Crazy & The Brains) Lawrence – I raise a very large glass. The return trip to the East Coast of the USA is only ours to fuck up! Oh, and I must not forget their one man stag do tour manager that goes by the name of Kyle. Arizona created a monster!
So, no sooner had it all began, it was over. With Turbojugend chapters singing “Rumney Rock City” back at me, the night then concluded by The Disconnects and a stage invasion instigated by Darrel Sutton of Trigger. As the final chords of Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven” rung out from Tommy’s guitar, it was good fucking night to a mini tour to end all mini tours.
Maybe I’m too humble, reading the whole situation wrong, underestimate what The Sick Livers have achieved or I’m just plain stupid, but I truly believe that this shouldn’t really be happening to underdog bands of our ilk and especially at our times of life. Every moment is never taken for granted and I thank everyone for turning up to the gigs. Best we get us some more merch! And so back to our Welsh abodes it was, back to reality and getting my sweat soaked clothes into the washing machine. Suddenly, there’s smoke fucking everywhere!! Looks like my tour pants have destroyed the aforementioned appliance. Ah well, welcome home!
At time of writing we’ve just got back from our second largest show to date as we stood in for Glen Matlock in support of Slaves at Blackwood Miners’ Institute for the Velvet Coalmine festival. A total juxtaposition to the tour dates of a week ago. Barriers separated me from the 400+ strong crowd and this sort of setting is something I will never fully get my head around. I need to be out there, in the middle of it all with them, sweating as one. I think we nailed it though and what a fantastic end to a two week run that I will remember fondly for the rest of my life. Right, when are we doing it all again?
The Sick Livers’ critically acclaimed new album “Mid Liver Crisis” is out now on 12″ / CD / cassette / download. Available from…
Glunk Records (UK) – http://glunkrecords.bigcartel.com
Baldy Longhair Records (USA) – http://baldylonghair.com
The Sick Livers (Official Merch Store) – http://thesicklivers.bigcartel.com
iTunes – https://itun.es/gb/gW2y9
For ‘Mid Liver Crisis’ press, please visit https://thesicklivers.wordpress.com/mid-liver-crisis-press/