Kaotican Alphabet

Roadie #42 – Blog #95

#42 and the creeping exhaustion

Big. A word whose purpose is to describe vastness, enormity and sheer-all-round-bloody-hugeness. You’d have thought they could have shelled out a few more than three letters on it. It certainly doesn’t really do justice to the experience of walking into the back of the arena here in Toronto.

Another thing that doesn’t do justice to the size of the venue is climbing way, way up to the highest furthest seat from the stage with a heavy bag full of camera equipment and discovering upon setting up, that your memory card is downstairs connected to your computer.

Still, that’s why God invented iPhones….

Now, if that shot doesn’t give you vertigo, then spare a thought for lampy Wayne Kwiat (known to many as "the dancing roadie"). The gauze that drops in front of the stage to get the show get off to its shadowy start got somewhat tangled tonight. The only solution was to lower in the wave truss and have Wayne hop on and be lifted up there to set it free. Imagine what the place looked like to him from up there, stood on a three inch metal tube…

This place is essentially an indoor stadium, with a capacity of around 44,000 tonight. Apparently, it used to be called the Skydome. This had to be what they had in mind when they were talking about "The Enormodome" in Spinal Tap. Thinking about it, they kept using the word "big" as well…

The Scientist sees a stage invader make it all the way up the back of the stage and round the front of the drumkit. The stage invader though, is none other than "fifth member" Phil Harvey and he comes bearing cake and balloons to mark Mr. Champion’s birthday. There’s the obligatory sing-along from the assembled mass choir before Life In Technicolor ii brings things to their conclusion.

As we head back to the hotel, I ponder the fact that Will has had two birthdays on this tour, which obviously means we’ve been at it for a while now. As we get closer to the hotel, I begin to recognise the surroundings and it dawns on me that this is actually the very same city where we spent Will’s last birthday. It’s no great surprise then to find that we’re staying in the same hotel.

Things start to weird me out a little though, when I emerge from the elevator and realise that I’m actually in exactly the same ROOM that I was in a year ago to the day. I fall down a mental rabbit-hole of Groundhog Day emotions. What if I’m in this same hotel room this time next year? Will the tour ever end? Will I ever get to see my cat again? What did I used to do before all of this?

I deal with this as any sane human would. I head for the bar. There’s a soiree on the patio tonight in honour of Mr. C’s birthday, so it seems churlish not to attend. There’s food, music and drinks. A little later comes a rather splendid cake. Not shown is the smaller tom-tom, eaten by Mr. Champion moments earlier…

Also present at (or rather, slightly outside) the party was a rather keen fella trying to get a pile of magazines signed. It’s hard to tell whether he’s an eBayer or a fan. The fact that he can actually pick out bandmembers (as opposed to asking Trainer Dan or Dan Green for autographs) works in his favour. The fact that he spends a lot of the time hiding behind a hedge and peeping out in a somewhat creepy and alarming manner does count against him though.

We’re still in Canada the following day for a festival near Montreal. I have little recollection of the day to be honest, except that there were a gazillion mosquitoes and I fell out the back of a truck.

We’re back in New York the next morning when we receive an email from band assistant EJ to inform us that the festival site at All Points West is extremely muddy and wet. She has organised wellington boots for the band and suggest we do the same for ourselves. Festivals are funny things really. You can argue about the unique vibe that certain festivals have and how certain ones are truly outstanding in their field (sorry…). Really though, if it’s sunny it’s a great day out. If it’s wet, it’s misery.

I go for a tentative look when we arrive. Many folks are doing what they can to keep their feet as much out of the mud as possible.

Others though, have embraced the filth.

The unique aspect of this festival (that no doubt I would be enthusing about had the weather have been gorgeous), is the setting. For the crowd, the view of the stage comes with an additional side attraction in the form of Lady Liberty. (On a side note, I think I’ve worked out where Guy Garvey has copped his stage moves now…)

For the bands, the view from the stage is a rather amazing vista of the Manhattan skyline.

As I say, these views would be the standout feature of the festival had the weather been wonderful. As it isn’t, however, the thing I’ll take away with me, is the smell. Apparently, the land we are on was once a tip. No, really, I mean a proper dump – a landfill. Now that the ground has been stomped and churned and the rain has permeated deeply, we’re left with a stench that is a little beyond unpleasant.

Hats off to the crowd though, they’re well up for it and they play a blinder. They’re in no way subdued or defeated. The trench out to the C-stage is pretty well trampled and is essentially one long puddle by the mid point in the set. There are four folding chairs set up stage left with four pairs of boots ready for the band, but in solidarity with the punters, they wade out there without.

It’s testament to both the band’s audience and the fact that the tour now has pretty much unstoppable momentum, that the show was the success that it was. It had all the makings of a washout and yet it was still a celebration.

We leave for Manhattan by boat – not so much a runner as a rudder (I know, I know, I’m sorry…) The boat is pretty fancy, but has some pretty horrific vibraphone jazz on the entertainment system. Mr. Berryman steams in with the iPod and the universe’s rightful groove balance is restored.

Chris remarks from the B-stage at the Comcast Center the following night that you can always tell when it’s time for a Coldplay tour to be over, because his haircut has reached a stage where he really shouldn’t be seen in public any more. Now, I’m not going to comment on the boss’s haircut, but I will take his quote as a link into the fact that, for me at least, it really is starting to feel like time for a break.

The shows, as I say, are unstoppably potent and the audiences remarkable. The time away from the gig though, is time when your body and mind begin to remind you that it’s maybe time you were doing something else for a while. Something like sleeping in, like spending time with loved ones (that’s if they let you back in the house).

We’re at the tail end of a very long and very intense touring cycle. It’s been the most enjoyable tour of my life, don’t get me wrong, but exhaustion is exhaustion. To be honest, I’ve no idea how the band do it. Myself, I’m all thousand yard stares and a disconnected lack of anything to say. They, on the other hand, are still buoyant and cheery and delivering a knockout punch every night.

Still, we leave Massachusetts heading into two very precious days off in a row. I’m planning on one hell of a lot of sleeping. I realise too, that I’m one of the lucky ones. I’ve been swanning about in the band party, arriving after all the hard work is done. The crew have shown themselves to be built of truly the sternest stuff – pulling the miracle that is the show out of the bag day after day after day – a feat for which there is no magic wand, only a hell of a lot of effort. My hat, if I wore one, would be well and truly off to each and every one of them.

I’m sure that 48 hours of recuperation will give me the energy to make it to the end of the leg. Doubtless the change of scenery and production that the European stadiums will provide, along with the thrill that those shows will no doubt be, shall bring renewed enthusiasm.

So too will the sight of the finish line. Surely there will be much celebration at all that’s been achieved when the last show is finally in the trucks and waved away. Some days the road is more uphill than others, I guess.

Anyway, bedtime. Do not disturb……