Kaotican Alphabet

Roadie #42 – Blog #85

#42 and the gangs in the vans...

Sometimes, completely out the blue, you get a blindingly bright view of your life from another perspective.

We’re approaching the Indianapolis show when, beside us on the freeway, we see a converted old school bus, with guitar cases, amps, drum carpet and so on piled up in the window. It’s a band on their way to a gig. We too, are in a van, we are also on our way to a gig. The similarities don’t end there though. In our van is Franksy, Dan Green, show designer Paul Normandale and I. Every one of us started our touring careers crammed into a bashed up van full of gear with the band, driving to some smelly, sticky dive in the middle of nowhere wondering whether anyone would show up.

I remember coming home from a gig in Plymouth, aged 17, with a band very dear to my heart, (who sadly got passed over by the industry at the time). The van was so heavily packed and so wheezingly broken, that anything more than a slight incline meant everyone but the driver had to get out and walk. On particularly steep hills, we would have to push.

Quite frankly, that all added to the fun. Being "part of it", being that close to the music, "living it" – it was all I could have wished for at the time. The band in the van next to ours (I am so utterly gutted that I didn’t write down their MySpace page from the back of the van, otherwise I’d have linked ’em up here) wave back as we all smile out of the window giving them the thumbs up.

Somehow, the inhabitants of the "our-previous-selves" van realise just who our convoy of vehicles may contain. Presumably, they can’t find a piece of paper, because instead they scrawl in black marker pen on a white drum head. They hold up the make-shift sign that says "Coldplay?"  and we point to the vans ahead and nod, smiling.

They’re laughing and high-fiving each other – enjoying the story they’ve just bagged that nobody will believe. I wonder what they imagine life is like for us. I try to remember what I would have imagined when I was pushing that brown Ford Transit up a hill coming out of Plymouth. In many ways it’s what I expected, but in many ways, little has changed since the van. Massive amounts of world travel, aeroplanes, huge venues, loads of trucks and the many other tokens of "Big Touring" are all present and correct.

The things that stay the same though, are the fact that you’re in a gang. You’re out there taking on the world yet at the same time, the most crucial thing is making the perfect joke at the expense of your mate. That side of things begins in the van days and never goes away.

I’m stood in the corridor where the band grab a drink and a towel before the encores and I realise that despite all else that surrounds the hugeness of the Coldplay circus, they’re still the same four mates who started it all those years ago.  As the Viva remix pounds through the walls, they dry the sweat and talk of who came into which chorus too early or who hit the wrong note when.

Admittedly, when the show is over they leave by police escort in a screeching cavalcade of flashing lights, rather than pushing a transit van. Inside the van though, not that much has changed.