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)
30/10/13 – MARSEILLE TO VILLEFRANCHE-DE-ROUERGUE
Our luck craps out at a service station near Nimes. Yesterday’s incident has become today’s slow-acting deflation. For three hours ML & I play a stellar round of the medieval English game ‘Throw the brick at the peasant’, only we replace the peasant with a litre bottle of water. ML wins 1-0. James and ME return from a nearby village with the van, €150 lighter, thus eradicating the slight profit margin we had steadily accumulated. MM remains unsullied and unflappable throughout.
Time becomes pressed with delay. Nerves fray. James enters the incorrect slot at a tollgate and, before we can reverse our increasingly cumbersome battleship, a queue forms behind him. After a dozen hectoring honks, a grey Mercedes Sprinter van becomes the site of the 21st Century Three Mile Island. “WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO? I CAN’T DO ANYTHING!” ML lowers his head beneath the parapet as the van undertakes a ninety-six-point turn before squeaking pathetically toward sweet freedom.
The remainder of the route is incident-free, if long. When we have informed our previous hosts that we are to play Villefranche-de-Rouergue, they ask why. We do not know either. The agreed guess is that it is the French equivalent of Hebden Bridge: a relatively activist old town in the countryside with an active scene of punks and squatters. As estimates go this was not too bad.
We roll outside Les Hauts Parleurs at 8.30pm, wheel our belongings into the building, set up, gulp down a beer and commence performing at 9.10pm. A strong and appreciative crowd in an intimate space make up for the relative hardships along the way. Once more, the hospitality is impeccable. Fafun plies us with regional beers, champagne and curry.
A man outside that we name The Paramedic (green trousers) lists things in order to ascertain whether we think they’re good or not, though he tells us before we get our answers in e.g. “Edgar Wright? You know him? Hot Fuzz? World’s End? Fucking SHIT! What was that show, two drunk women? Yes! Absolutely Fabulous! FUCKING SHIIIIT!” Another man tells me to look after my voice, saying “a guitar is no good if it does not work, eh?” Can’t argue with that.
31/10/13 – VILLEFRANCHE-DE-ROUERGUE TO LORIENT
After a stroll around the attractive town and breakfast with a local character named Rachid, who laments the death of Lou Reed by singing ‘Walk On The Wild Side’ unaccompanied by anything but bewildered silence and chewing for a couple of minutes, we mount up for the 500 mile/800km drive to Lorient. And what majesty soundtracks the journey of this squat-playing post-punk group, making tentative steps toward the A20 north? Why, ML’s personal Best of Neil Finn mix-tape, of course.
It’s an arduous drive that saps the humour of most. Bank holiday traffic around Nantes, more toll hell and two thwarted attempts to get hot meals extend the journey from an 8-hour trundle to a 10-hour crawl. Manchester-based non-Mancunians Money are playing at a festival across town with personal favourite Colin Stetson so expectations are on the low side, with slight cabin fever setting in.
Le Galion (The Pirate Ship) sits near an industrial port. Had the bar existed in the 1880s, merchant seamen of all nationalities, rolling dice for the right to kiss the local stray dog and spitting teeth into the sawdust, would have inhabited it. We meet owner/soundman J-B and the members of the band Musicsova, both of whom completely rule.
After dinner and a couple of restorative tonics, the place becomes charged with people; members of the Turbojugend, boat skippers, fishermen and travelling rock fans up for a lark. We play, the loosest outing of the tour, but everyone seems up for a great time, saving the night despite our attempts to ruin it. I fall in love with another audience member. People dance. Afterwards, they say nice things and we are well looked-after and we get paid. Complaint is impossible.
Back in tonight’s designated crash pad, ML, ME & I are still van-lagged. Fortunately for Anglo-French relations, MM & James hold court with Musicsova and J-B until six am, topping up drinks, sharing jokes and yelling about Gallon Drunk.