The Story of the Most Difficult Journey to a Gig of My Life

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.

With the
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.

With disaster
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.

Dave looks
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.

Pogue Mahone,


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