two day event of an unprecedented amounts of stories, injuries and
the Devil’s mouthwash.
we congregated in the dining room of the Foster household, the Stag
himself pipes up, tries to assert his dominance as a Kiwi Veteran,
and says to us all, “I’m going to slaughter you all!”
get to Rookin House, just off of Penrith, sign our lives away and get
split ourselves into two teams of four, and get set for the first
game. Jason’s bravado comes rising to the service again, as he says,
“Get ready to lose boys!”
this immediately comes to bite him on the arse. Jonny places a shot
so well placed, that the Navy SEALS would immediately snap him up if
they saw it!
and I come in to corner Tom to finish off the first game. As Tom
tries to bolt for it, he trips over his own feet and I land a
paintball straight in the middle of his mask. He got his retribution
the Flag! Blue team, consisting of myself, Jonny, former bassist Ben,
and a not so Prime Howard, totally outplayed and outsmarted the red
team of the Stag, Lewis, Joe and Tom. Blue Team 6-0 Red Team.
game. The first game that I get tagged. Yes, I am not joking! In the
first six games, I don’t get hit by a single paintball!
Defence! Both teams grab the flag, meaning an instant end to the
timed game. But during the blue teams siège, I’m hearing gunfire
swinging by me. I try to get to a different location to try and
locate where it’s coming from, and Mr Wilde tags me square in my
go back to the safety net and respawn, then realise where it’s coming
from. Ben is hiding behind a palette with a slat missing. I get my
barrel in such a position, that the paintball goes through the slat
and tags him on his inner thigh, about two inches from his
unmentionables! A little too close for comfort!
retribution from my earlier mask rattler. I sneak around the side and
slip down, right in front of Tom as my mask slips halfway down my
face! He tags me in the armpit and the side of the head. Two good
shots, I’m not going to lie! The tree tags me too for a six inch gash
through my left arm.
game! Free for all. Lewis tags me straight in the middle of my quads
almost immediately. As I run back to the safety net to respawn, I
jump and twist my ankle. Just typical. As Jason and Jonny are the
only ones left, one of the paintball leaders goes out with is replica
M-40. After about ten minutes they both tag him.
5,000 paintballs, two injuries on my count and six gallons of water
later, we wearily walk back to the bright red chariot and head back
to the house.
No one ever made progress by standing still.
And nor do we! Between me playing woodwinds
for farm animals (yes, I can now put cow
communicator on my CV), and delivering some
weird and wonderful miscellany throughout
lockdown, I ended up buying a new vehicle for
such varied goods.
As we set out in my little red van, cramed to the
rafters with our musical lifeblood, we set out a
couple of weeks ago, back to the little cottage in
the middle of nowhere, in the North Yorkshire
Dales. How I didn’t total the engine with a tonne
and a half of gear in the back, I have no idea!
Unfortunately over the trip, casualties were had
in the line-up. This life is not for everyone. So
we welcome two fresh faces to the fray; Ben
and Joe. Each with their
own unique sounds, abilities, and craic, they
have settled in with a staunch resolve and an
uncanny enthusiasm to fill the void.
As the lockdown is being quashed, we’re all
back to our rehearsing ways, getting back to
some form of normality. We’ve been hard at
work revising, revisiting, and
retweaking songs in rehearsals. Not to mention,
saving up for gear throughout the last 18
months or so. Or for me personally, three years!
That bit of kit has been a long time coming.
As has the opportunity to get back on the road
and gig! And the first big one back, has a
surprise to it. Our very own All Black has a
special occasion coming up. Mister Sound
Engineer extraordinare, Jason Randall, is tying
the knot on the very same
day! His head may have been crossed with
Jesus water, but I have my fingers crossed that his feet don’t get frozen. Only time will tell!
I best get back on the road, to deliver off what’s
left in my van today. Then I have another five
hours to drive back home. Hopefully another
fire hydrant like vermilion episode with my
sniffer, won’t happen. But as I write this, I can
already feel it coming.
Pack your bags kids, Hardwicke Circus are going to Austin.
There’s a Texas-sized hole in my heart that’s finally to be filled. This band has always felt transatlantic, with much of our sound originating stateside; blues, country, rock and roll, gospel, soul, of these and much more it is the motherland. For a bunch of school friends from Carlisle to trace the footsteps of legendary British bands that have taken this hallowed path before us is exhilarating and important.
As Zack says, ‘After hearing the news about SXSW I immediately thought of my influences; The Who, Zeppelin, Rory Gallagher and all the other British bands that made that journey across to the USA to tour. To the land of Blues. All the crazy stories you hear. And now it’s time for HC continue the British invasion and show America what we’re made of. We’re built for it.‘
Especially important to us is to be making our US debut in Austin, the Live Music Capital of the World, where a stroll down 6th street could unearth more exceptional live bands than a love-struck hog in a barrel of moonshine. The history of this great music city is not one that requires further pontification, but from the Grey Ghost, Nash Hernandez, Townes Van Zandt and SRV through Iron and Wine, Willie
Nelson, Janis Joplin and Lucinda Williams, the city has produced some of the best artists of all time and has been huge in pushing and pulling this band into the shape it is now. That’s without mentioning the game-changing Austin City Limits, of which many words have been written, all more beautifully encapsulating than my own.
As British boys, we also can’t wait to taste a tipple of the American way, with a shed load of new on the horizon, as Tom points out ‘Austin, Texas is so far away. It’s a different climate, a different landscape, it’s joe buck territory. You know I can’t even consider what’s gonna go down.’
Andy is particularly looking forward to the change is scenery ‘considering I have never flown or visited anywhere outside of Europe’, although it is yet to be seen whether the relevant authorities will allow such a man beyond their jealously guarded borders.
Some are more excited about clasping hands with our American brothers than others, however, when asked about their unique brand of living, Lewis said this;
‘I’ve never been to America. It’s never particularly appealed to me, especially Texas, too brash, too loud, a state of cowboys and supersize everything.
It’s bigger than France. And it is everything I am not.
And yet it’s hard not to be attracted to a place so sure of itself, so exuberant and bold, so big. I don’t eat ribs, I don’t drink coke, and I do not wear a cowboy hat (editor’s note, I am certain Lewis will wear a cowboy hat at some point whilst there), yet I still can’t wait to be there, and to be invited to play at the most significant showcase festival in the world renders it all irrelevant anyway.
It’s a milestone kind of feeling to officially become an international band; for years people have told us that we should play in America, and it always sounded superb, but just like some faraway fantasy of an idea, way off in the potential distance. But suddenly it’s here.
And we don’t know where this trip will lead beyond SXSW but I know it’s our biggest opportunity yet to climb another rung on the musical ladder, and for that I am grateful. And excited, most of all I’m excited. Yes, I would like fries with that thank you.’
To finish up, Jonny says ‘this is amazing news, it’s not every day a Cumbrian band gets this opportunity, but we’ll grab it and run with it until the US hears what we believe in. Getting here goes way beyond the famous 10,000 hours - it’s been four gigs every week for the last three years - in pubs, clubs, prisons, theatres, wrestling arenas, festivals, university halls, the list goes on!
SXSW is a huge step up but one we’re ready for; I can’t wait to get out there with the band.
For Hardwicke Circus, 2020 is all Go!’
So, to the people of Carlisle, and all the other towns in Cumbria, villages and cities in these beautiful British Isles I say thank you for continuing and amazing support; and to our American brethren I say, see you soon.
We’ve returned for the sequel to our guided tour of the south coast.
As is quickly becoming tradition we began our south-east tour in the
north western town of Preston. It’s always a pleasure to play for the
good people of Vinyl Tap, and although we may not have been treated to a
repeat performance of the true rodeo king in the north it has been
great fun to see some familiar faces in the audience.
Preston, we made our way south to one of the greatest pubs on the south
coast, the Duke of Cumberland, Whitstable. For this trip, we had been
joined by our great friends Ben Archer and Sal Redpath, who are also
conveniently two of the best young cameramen in the world. We felt that
this would be a great chance to get some live filming done with a
Whitstable crowd who never fail to bring the heat and as usual, they did
not disappoint (still no rappers in Whitstable though). We would like
to say a big thanks to legendary guitar player Brinsley Schwartz, who
joined us on stage for a hot rendition of The Shape I’m In, especially
seeing as he hadn’t played the song for 15 years. Thanks must also go to
Paula, who continues to treat us to a much higher standard than we
deserve and Tony for continuing to turn a blind eye when we sneak extra
people into his pub after hours. Finally, it was lovely to be joined by
all of Whitstable whilst we tried to order some food at our end of gig
curry, if not a touch chaotic.
At some point during our meal,
someone pointed at that Andy was nowhere to be seen. Had it been anyone
else this wouldn’t have been big news but when Andy goes missing it is a
point of serious concern. Finishing up and with Andy still nowhere to
be found we started thinking about arranging some search parties to find
our young friend before someone asked if we wanted to join them at
their house from some post-gig drinks. We were definitely amenable to
this idea, so Zack agreed to go out and find Andy while the rest of us
headed along to a house on the coast. It would be an hour later that
Zack would ring us to say that he’d located Andy out cold on the sofa of
a house on the opposite side of Whitstable while a most excellent party
continued around him. One shot too many I expect. So, with Andy located
and crisis averted we headed back to the pub to get some sleep before
the next day.
After Whitstable, we made way across to Folkestone
to play on the Harbour Arms. Our day began poorly, with Andy appearing
15 minutes into set up to confess to having locked all 3 sets of our
keys in the van. This was immediately dubbed a complete disaster, with
no additional sets and lacking the means to pay for a locksmith, however
there is no such thing as an insurmountable issue when Dave Robinson is
around. Requiring only a seconds thought, Dave reached down, grabbed a
fist sized rock and potted the front driver’s said window (now fixed to
all our light fingered readers).
On a normal day this would have
been the worst thing to happen, however it was when I was able to get
back into the van that I realised that I had, for the second time, left
my suit in the venue from the night before. When Dave was told of this
latest indiscretion all he could muster was a look of disgust and the
words ‘bands didn’t use to be like this’.
Once we finally got
around to playing it was a great gig at the end of the promenade looking
right out onto the channel. One young lad was so excited he repeatedly
ran back and forth from his table to the edge of the pier, leading to a
benny hill inspired scene as the boy’s father tried in vain to catch the
young swashbuckler. Thankfully nobody was hurt although a number of
seagulls were badly traumatised.
After the gig, whilst packing
up getting ready to head back to our salubrious digs, a woman came over
and asked if we would want to play at her friends birthday party in the
Folkestone bowling club. We agreed on the promise of free beer and cake,
packed everything up and made our way over there. After a night where
our gracious hosts kept us well stocked on beverages, our collective
memory is a touch hazy however it is generally agreed upon that if we
look back on our footage from the evening we might find some excellent
shots of the venerable Dave Robinson boogieing on down to some Harold
Melvin and the Blue Notes.
We would wrap up the weekend in
Margate at the Rhythm and Rock festival, playing at the legendary Winter
Gardens theatre with some of our favourite bands, including Steve
Harley, The Blockheads and Man. Following a detour to Whitstable to pick
up my errant suit the day began with one of the most accomplished
driving displays I have ever had the pleasure to bear witness to.
You see after the architect for the Winter Gardens designed the
beautiful arching entrances and vast spired stages he must’ve been so
exhausted that he left the designing of the access roads to his intern,
because it is one of the most absurdly narrow and complex tracks we have
ever encountered, including a descending concentric circle system that
is reminiscent of early iterations of Mario Kart. Amazingly Jason
managed to reverse the van and trailer down the nightmare trail to get
to the stage door, either wowing or pissing off every member of staff in
the process. Having finally made it the 100 ft from the entrance gate
to the stage door we started to unload our gear and lift it into the
stunning hall where we would be playing that evening. The gig was
fantastic under the famous lights however the backstage area was so hot
that there is more than one video of me nodding off in the green room
both before and after the show, leading Dave to be genuinely concerned
about my well being. This would also be the day Jonny would eat beef for
the first time, which needless to say he thought was bang average.
Tune in next week for the second half of The Guided Tour of the South Coast Tour - Second Coming.
It begins, as all good stories about bands do, with the six of us
getting absolutely wrecked and staying in the studio until 3am, fully
aware of the fact that we would have to be leaving for a gig in
Tottenham 4 hours later at 7am. We eventually packed the van around 3:30
and headed off home to try pick up as many minutes sleep as we could.
So the six of us, operating on 3 hours sleep and travelling in a van
with no air con on the hottest day this side of hell, set off for
Tottenham at 7am with brains muted and last nerves firmly camped on.
All seemed well as we journeyed through the north, past Manchester and
into Birmingham. Some mild traffic was a slight inconvenience but mostly
people were either dozing or attempting to, leaving Jason - our driver
and sound guy - the only person this had any real effect on.
Unfortunately, things were to go very South very quick.
heat affecting people’s cars and minds, there had been two very serious
crashes on the M6 southbound around Birmingham. We later learnt these
crashes were so serious that the entire Birmingham fire department had
been called out to assist (our prayers to those affected). This lead to
the most serious traffic jam England has ever seen (I assume).
This hold up wasn’t all bad, Andy finally got to have the piss he had
been complaining about since Shap, Zack and Lewis soaked up some rays on
the van roof and Jonny met a horse. This seemed like a pleasant
interlude at first, until we realised that the traffic hadn’t moved at
all in 30 minutes. At this point our driver Jason was beginning his
well-practised ‘we should’ve set off earlier, you guys always make us
late’ speech, accompanied by much pointing and flapping of arms.
Soundcheck, we pointed out, wasn’t for another five hours and with us
being at Birmingham it should only take us about two and a half hours to
reach our destination. Despite the holdup, time still appeared to be on
our side. This was until 30 minutes became an hour. And then an hour
and a half. Acting unfazed we continued to preach peace of mind and
clarity of thought despite it now being around 1:30pm. Suddenly a
miracle, up ahead traffic was shifting. Everyone dropped what they were
doing and leapt back into the van as we finally resumed our trek,
refreshed by the break but anxious to get going.
seemingly averted we slowly picked up pace for about five minutes, when
all of sudden silence, broken quickly by Jason swearing and punching the
dashboard. The van’s fan belt had snapped, the engine had died. Having
travelled all of 2 miles we pulled onto the hard shoulder and returned
to a standstill.
Jason, having spotted the now useless fan belt
in the middle of the road, made a motion to collect the defunct part in
the centre lane of the M6 before Jonny grabbed him and pointed out he
was more valuable to us alive. And so we began the arduous task of
arranging roadside recovery, all the while Jason complaining we should
stock spare parts for every nut, bolt and belt on the van just for
situations like this. Finally, we arranged for the Free Roadside rescue
to pick us up and tow us to the nearest service station where we would
be passed on to our breakdown cover provider. They would take us to the
Mercedes garage in Coventry, the only grange that was still open and had
the right part. They also kindly booked a taxi for the band as not
everyone would fit into the tow truck.
So the Free Roadside
recovery finally arrives to take us to Corley services. It’s now 6pm, we
have been on the road for 10 hours and sound check is due in 1 hour. We
get to Corley services and wait patiently for our taxi to arrive, which
it does so about an hour later. The band piled into the taxi, leaving
Jason with the van waiting for the tow truck to follow. Thinking this
dire situation is finally reaching its conclusion, we travel in silence
for all of 60 seconds before Jonny’s phone rings. He answers the phone
and we hear Jason on the other end. ‘You’re fucking joking’, Jonny
shouts, then immediately tells the driver to pull into an upcoming lay
by and let us out. Confused, we ask what the issue is. As it turns out
our manager Dave, who we communicate with throughout our troubles, has
got in his van and driven from his home in London all the way to Corley
services, arriving seconds after we left. Hitching the trailer onto his
van he set off back south, picking us up in the lay by, before driving
at mildly terrifying speeds the rest of the way down the M6 and finally
to the venue we were playing in that night.
At this point, it is
10pm, an hour later than we were due to go on stage. We explain the
situation to the owners of the venue, apologise for our tardiness but
reassure them we are ready to go and can be on stage in 30 minutes.
Fortunately, they took this very well and we’re pleased we had made the
effort rather than cancelling. So, the 6 of us plus Dave go to our
trailer ready to begin unloading. We stand at the padlocked trailer
door, everyone waits patiently. ‘Well go on then’ Dave barks, ‘who has
the key?’ All around faces are dropping; the key, we realise, is in the
van, which is currently 150 miles north in Coventry.
around in disbelief, it seems that Jason, who had been using the key to
help Dave hitch the trailer from our van onto his, hadn’t thought to
give Dave said keys, with Dave therefore assuming we must also have a
set. We did not. After a moment of silent disbelief, Dave disappears
into the front of his van, emerging a second later with a mallet and a
set of wrenches. Everyone bursts into laughter as we realise what we
must do. So, still laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation, we
begin breaking into our own trailer.
The fact that we weren’t
arrested during this process still amazes me. The actual breaking of the
locks was left down to myself, Jonny and Dave, with the rest of the
band watching out for any oncoming police. It takes us about 30 minutes
to finally snap all the padlocks, at which point we open the trailer and
begin frantically unloading gear and running it into the venue. This
was the quickest unload of our lives, with people sprinting back and
forth carrying more gear then is probably safe. We finished unloading in
about 5 minutes, a record. Everyone is relieved aside from Andy who is
looking horrified. We ask him what the problem is. His saxophone, he
tells us, is still in our fucking van.
So, with the news that
Andy won’t be able to play tonight fresh in our ears, we begin sound
check. Unfortunately, all our clothes are also still in the van, so we
stand in front of the audience (who has been waiting for us for about 3
hours) sound checking in the comfort clothes we had been wearing for the
journey. Highlights included Lewis’ pink shorts and no shirt, Tom’s
grey Versace tee and swimming shorts and me in a flowery shirt, joggers
and no shoes or socks. However, despite all this, we eventually hit the
stage around 11, 3 hours late and in the most awful outfits you could
The gig itself was very successful, with people staying
and dancing to the end, despite the end coming 3 hours later than they
had anticipated. Andy, having recovered from the shock of not playing,
got very drunk and made for an incredibly enthusiastic crowd member. We
eventually came off stage at 1am and began packing everything up and
returning it into the trailer, when somebody points out Jason is still
yet to arrive. Once we finish unloading Jonny decides to give him a ring
to see what’s holding him up, given that it’s now 2am and he should’ve
arrived into London hours ago.
As it turns out the tow truck that
should’ve arrived at 7pm to pick Jason up didn’t arrive until 11pm. It
towed Jason to the garage in Coventry as planned, which by a miracle is
still open. Jason gets the new fan belt and tells the guy in the garage,
who has stayed open especially, that he can go home, with Jason
deciding to fit the part himself. The owner thanks him and shuts up shop
immediately, disappearing home. Unfortunately, on attempting to put the
new belt on the van it turns out that it‘s the wrong one. It is now
midnight, the garage is shut and Jason is stuck in Coventry with a still
broken fan belt and seemingly nowhere to go. Amazingly he manages to
get hold of the garage owner at 2 in the morning and convinces him to
come back and give him the right part. So, at 2:30am, Jason finally
leaves Coventry and heads for our accommodation in London to get some
well-earned rest, arriving at 5am.
So, having slept for a grand
total of 3 hours from Thursday morning to what is now Saturday morning
and with the gig done, everyone heads for bed, with all that’s left
being to head back to Carlisle the next day. Zack and I decided that we
can’t wait until morning and sneak onto a train heading north first
thing, getting back around 9am. Lewis, Jonny and Andy hunker down to get
some rest and come back in the van the next day, and Tom disappears
into London to meet up with friends and continue the night into the next
day (at the point of writing I believe he is still partying). The
nightmare is finally over, we emerge battered but proud that despite
everything that went wrong we showed up and played the gig as we
promised, holding firmly to the belief that the show must always go on.
Oh and just for good measure Jason pulled out in front of a police car on the way home and was nearly arrested.
Thanks for reading and remember when everything is going wrong all you can do is laugh.