I wanna share a little lesson I learned about 27 years too late, never leave your keys in John’s car…
It was 4:40am on Sunday 24th July. We’d nailed our gig at Tonefest, even spoiled with the luxury of the crowd singing back all the lyrics at us, a moment I’m sure to remember often during a quiet afternoon in the sandwich shop. An early start beckoned in order to drive to Huntingdon for our slot at the Secret Garden Party. All in all it had been the best festival of the summer. Mr Tonefest himself had even made me a custom rubik’s cube, as touching a gift as I’ve ever received.
After what felt like only 20 minutes sleep, because it was in fact only 5am, a voice was heard carried by the wind “Johhhn…….. Johhhhhhhhn. I don’t feel so good.” A dodgy egg sandwich from Tesco was writhing and contorting in Harry’s digestive system, and the look on his face was enough to suggest it was serious. “I don’t think I can do the gig. I might need to get home.”
John is a man you would always wish to be near in a crisis. Here is a photo of John, remember his face:
If you ever see him on a plane and can choose your seat, make a beeline for the chair next to his. Either you’ll have a conversation that you’ll never forget or he’ll save your life. Either way not bad for the price of him occasionally mentioning how tired he is.
This occasion was no exception and 4:40am’s look of tired, tipsy contentment was replaced by an 0500 hours look of SAS operative alertness. He packed down both tents, threw Harry in the front seat with a carrier bag and woke up me and Kev to explain the situation. He would drive Harry home from Dorset, me and Kev were to drive to SGP, and he’d meet us there to do the gig. I needn’t have bothered asking him if he felt ok to drive, you could see it in his eyes that he was totally focused.
Details of Harry’s journey are not necessary for anyone that has had extreme food poisoning before, suffice to say that they stopped at every single service station on the M3. Harry had entered a dream/nightmare state populated by pain, bodily functions and delirious tiredness.
Kev and I awoke to a nice bright day, but trouble was brewing in the dark areas of my subconscious. Something was wrong. I don’t like performing with anything in my pockets, and the night before I’d emptied their contents into my gig case before we went on stage. My keys were in my pockets. My keys were in the gig case. The gig case was in John’s car. My keys were in the gig case in John’s car.
I called John. He’d had enough drama with Harry’s journey home to still be in SAS operative mode. He took it in his stride. There was precisely one solution – John would have to drive from London back to Dorset, hand over my keys, then our two cars would drive back on the same route, past London towards Cambridgeshire.
Harry made it home, and was left to stew in his own turmoil. John drove back to Dorset, grabbing a bacon roll before hitting the road. Ideally he would have had the company of Kev but the back of his car was full of equipment and the front was full of sick and mud, so Kev came with me. Time was tight so no time for pit stops.
We made it to SGP, grabbed our gear and found the stage 10 minutes before we were due to set up. John’s bass was getting loud feedback and we were bereft of a drummer. Instead of landing like grenades our choruses flopped like damp paper on a lawn. I had nothing of interest to say on the mic. Even Kev’s unshakeable positivity wasn’t enough to compensate. I looked at John and he had nothing left to give. Something was playing the notes but it wasn’t anything I’d seen before, or want to see again.
After the gig Kev and I stayed to soak up some of the atmosphere. Liberal, broke-but-actually-wealthy, fancy-dress wearing Festival-Sunday casualties were either mashing up or coming down. Everywhere you go there is another pocket of fantasia in an enchanted forest with twinkly lights and a creative art project. It’s an incredible achievement of a place, and I’d love to go back, either as a player or a punter or both. I only wish I knew the name of an insane jazz fusion band i saw – bass, two horns and drums who all sing. Mad grooves I couldn’t stop dancing to.
As for John he left soon after our set to complete his pilgrimage back home to bed. He drove 900 miles, managed a crisis and did a gig that day on 20 minutes of half-drunk sleep, and deserves your respect. If you see him let him know, and you can both hope for a calm, uneventful flight.