Touring is a strange activity. People generally believe that it’s all exotic travel and flash hotels. Like a long luxury holiday with a few gigs thrown in. The reality is somewhat more grubby and demanding, which makes the days where it actually *is* like that all the more surprising.
Today, we’re laying by the pool in Buenos Aires having what can only be described as a right result of a day. We have a 12 hour stopover between Rio De Janeiro and Cape Town. The DJ is spinning a mix of trad jazz and uber-hip sixties funk. The wine is flowing and the sun appears to be doing its best to inflict actual physical harm upon us.
Originally, today was also to have been a pretty brutal day. The previous show finished late in the morning and our flight here left early – meaning little to no sleep. We were going to be spending the twelve hours in the airport with only the plastic seats and duty free for entertainment. Today is an inspired micro-holiday, partly in honour of band assistant EJ’s birthday. She’s five feet to our right, celebrating amidst juggling a pair of iPhones that steadily purr with an onslaught of requests and enquiries from multiple continents.
Sometimes it’s best not to try to fathom how we ended up here. Just to enjoy it before it disappears.
To wind back a day or two, we’ve been to Brazil.
The Rock in Rio festival is a pretty huge deal. I remember seeing footage of it on the TV many moons ago when going on tour for a living was just a silly dream. (As opposed to now, where it’s just a very silly reality) I remember thinking then, that the folks at the back of the crowd must surely have trouble seeing the stage for the curvature of the earth.
I’m told it was about a hundred thousand in attendance last night. Looking out from the stage, the brain stops being able to comprehend it, beyond “there’s quite a lot of people out there”. Perhaps it’s a survival mechanism when you have a job to do? Either way, my eyes know, but my brain refuses to believe.
It’s vaguely apocalyptic out there. There’s huge towers with searchlights scanning the masses. For reasons that must make sense to someone somewhere, there is a zip-line ride that sends crazy waving and screaming folks over the heads of the audience. It starts high above the far right side of the crowd, flying through the air fifty feet in front of the stage, eventually landing over at the other side of the field. Something tells me that health and safety in the UK might make this tricky to get away with at Glastonbury.
The audience itself, is utterly bonkers. Latin America is well known for having loud and enthusiastic crowds. Indeed, we didn’t even have to get to the gig to be reminded of this. Below our hotel balconies is a crowd of folks who’ve assembled the day before the gig to spend the entire day cheering and singing Coldplay tunes at the top of their lungs.
Encouragingly, the new tunes get top billing on their setlist.
The gig was streamed live, so there’s little I can tell you about it that’s news. As the fireworks subside and the cheering still rings, the vans taking us back to the hotel pull out under police escort. There’s four vans and a half dozen police bikes. We tear down the freeway at an alarming rate commenting on how the majority of motorbike riders here seem to find crash helmets a bit passé and unnecessary.
Suddenly a bike pulls alongside us. Not only is the rider without a helmet, but they have a passenger casually waving at us as they match our speed. They decide to jump inside the police escort, despite the fact that all four SUVs have their hazard lights on and we’re mere feet from each other.
Our driver, who I’ve been beginning to suspect is actually slightly more unhinged than the average driver here, accelerates, forcing the bike up to the bumper of the vehicle in front.
“Whoah, easy there fella.”
As the van ahead speeds up, our guy pulls forwards and edges up behind the back wheel of the motorbike, giving them about an inch of clearance. I stare at him in disbelief, convinced that by the time we get back to the hotel he’ll have killed at least a couple folks, if not all of us. The bike pulls into the inside lane and both rider and passenger gesticulate passionately.
Despite the considerable language barrier, I find myself having no difficulty in understanding the message. Some things it seems, are universal…
As an encore, our intrepid charioteer zips along the seafront and completely fails to brake as the vehicle ahead stops at a light. I instinctively close my eyes as the impact arrives with a heavy crunch. The van ahead containing tour manager Franksy and assorted guests limps away with a dented bumper. Our van is just myself and soundman Dan Green. We’re within fifty feet of the hotel, so at this point we decide a little walk will do us good.
This brings us to 3.30 am. Lobby call for the flight to Buenos Aires is 6.45am. After packing bags and a couple hours sleep we’re off to Argentina. That brings us back to the pool where we started off this missive. If the timeline feels a little mobius, I apologise, but that’s just how it feels from this end.