From the foothills of the Pennines to the Mediterranean coast and back again. This is Total Victory’s French odyssey as told by the band.
Narrator = Dan (singer)
ML = Matt Leonard (bass)
ME = Matt Evans (guitar)
James = James (drums)
MM = Martin (guitar)
26/10/13 – BOLTON TO LILLE
The journey of 2500 miles begins at 4am from ME’s home on the outskirts of Bolton. A van (gun-metal grey, light modifications, no cup holders) and three further band members are accumulated and the M6 South is successfully located. To mark the occasion, ML puts his own The Best of Ted Leo compilation on at bum-quaking volume.
We arrive in Dover early enough to locate a branch of Timpsons in order to replace the van key that we’ve already broken. The white cliffs look nauseous. Dover looks like Leigh. Breakfast. Ferry port. No one bothers to check our passports. James goes into teacher mode, rendering human guardians of bureaucracy as jelly. The man from G4S wishes us well on tour instead of examining our amplifier valves for crack residue.
I always thought seasickness was a myth much like how some believe that travelling backwards on a train makes you ill. Walking around the boat means being pushed by invisible hands, one instance nearly landing me in an elderly man’s soup. James confines himself to quarters. ML & MM smoke contemplatively in the face of indifferent spume. ME roams airily around the floating waiting room, looking for action. The remaining few kilometres from Calais to Lille are soundtracked by the audiobook of I, Partridge and, after an entertaining battle between James and a French roundabout, we arrive outside La Malterie, evidently alive and with near-full mental capacity.
The next eight hours, if fully detailed, would read as some kind of self-aggrandizing fantasy narrative. In short: it is the best eight hours of the six-and-a-half years of the band so far. We meet Fred (who is largely responsible for this tour happening so if you’re enjoying this blog then you owe him thanks), Emilie, Guillaume and Gilles from Berline 0.33. They feed us. They look after us. MM becomes so overwhelmed with the milk of human kindness that his face threatens to seize up in a permanent smile.
Berline 0.33 are also great. Moody and threatening, almost remorseless, knotted balls of tension, guitar cutting judiciously, every cathartic moment earned. It’s difficult to follow. The crowd are plentiful and into it. Fear of failure strikes and panic briefly grips.
For the tour we had rehearsed one hour of material, 12 songs, rejecting material that was either too complex to relearn or not relevant to us as a band. In Lille, we performed 11 songs and left the stage. Fred entered the dressing room and demanded we do more. We went back on and played one more song and then walked off. Fred came back in and demanded that we do more. “We have no more!” we all say.
“Just play more!” says Fred. The ‘leave them wanting more’ maxim seems trite when the dressing room door is ajar and there is a roomful of paying people asking for more and besides we might never get to come back. We return to the stage and play two songs we already played. No one cares. It’s brilliant. We play them better the second time around and then we leave the stage.
As if good luck operated in a similar manner to a day job, it stamps its time card to signal the end of the day on arrival at Fred’s house: the van door breaks. ML grabs his sleeping gear and sets his face for a night on the parcel shelf.