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souvaris tour diary

Saturday 10 April: Fernelmont, Belgium

This was the day to end all days. It was Rhâââ Lovely Festival day: the biggest gig any of us could probably hope to play at any point in our humble lives. We started the day well, waking at some ungodly hour in order to get to the venue on time, and getting all confused by the shutters on the windows that prevented any light from entering the room. We then instantly started bickering over who got to go in the shower next. To say we were at all well-rested would be a goddamned lie, but such was Cedric's hospitality that we couldn't exactly complain, especially when he fed us all with breakfast too. Plus, his mum had a worrying collection of owls that was far too disturbing to comment upon in public. Soon enough, we set off for some tiny village in the middle of nowhere, Belgium. Shortly thereafter, as we circled the village of Fernelmont three times in search of our destination, we found ourselves marvelling at the idea of 20 bands and electronica artists and 600-odd people managing to find their way to the primary school that was hosting the festival.

Upon finally managing to find the damn thing and unloading, we were given proper artists' wristbands and backstage access, along with complementary beer called 'Silly Pils' (best name ever), which lasted a good hour between all the musicians appearing. There wasn't much to do now for a good six hours before we were due onstage, so a lot of waiting around nervously ensued, along with Billy Sweetcheeks' drummer telling me that they were opening new doors for post-rock. Things improved immeasurably when we started setting up at the merch stall, and accidentally met Jason Noble of The Shipping News, who was sat right next to us, and was an extremely agreeable man. Almost scarily so, in fact. Or maybe that was just his luminescent teeth. Things got even better when Explosions in the Sky finally turned up from the farmhouse they had been staying in just around the corner, and we got to catch up and shoot the breeze. Plus, I got to laugh heartily whilst the aforementioned Johnny Lovewhistle were onstage, and sat backstage Munaf mistook one of their songs for Greet Death playing on a radio.

After a few hours of alternately relaxing and pacing around nervously, we were finally granted access to the stage, and quickly went about setting up and intently ignoring the five hundred people in the hall in front of us. When I finally bothered to look up, I realised I had nothing to worry about because we were all blinded by stage lights anyway. So this is what being a 'proper' band is like. Maybe that's why all the photos from this event look slight hyper-real too. Anyway, after some faffing about, we played a slightly mangled ¡be he! (during which the strap on Ian's bass snapped off, leaving him sprawled on the floor for the rest of the set) and launched into our 20-odd minute opus A Summer Spent Observing Green Leaves, which seemed to be going well, when the festival organiser started gesticulating madly at me. With only a couple of minutes of this song left, he informed me that we had five minutes in which to play our final song, which was something like ten minutes long at best (sixteen, at last count). I involuntarily raised my eyebrow and tried not to look too panicky, so he shrugged, smiled agreeably, and said "okay, you’ve got seven minutes!" Gee, thanks! So we decide to drag out the ending, and play a forty minute set with only two songs, which actually sounds GREAT as we get noisier and noisier, only to stop on a dime - possibly the best finish we've ever mustered on A Summer... We get a nice healthy burst of applause, and finally get to see just how many people there are out there. I am glad this is only revealed after we have finished, because it's just goddamned scary. As we clamber offstage, we are variously accosted and praised by each of the bands playing above us - Migala, Shipping News, Explosions, and Berg Sans Nipple. BSN are on next, and one of them expresses concern about them being able to follow our performance, which just causes us to blush and blanche. We all love the Nipple and think they're an incredible live band, so we can't get higher praise. Of course, after we get back, the only reviews that friends point us to on the 'net slag us off incessantly for being boring and obvious, so I gu ess that's our egos kept firmly in check.

After we get our stuff cleared away, we get to sit down and eat spaghetti Bolognese, catch a little of Berg Sans Nipple's set, and then have our first ever interview in the flesh with a guy who clearly was trying to play devil's advocate and was clearly surprised to find us agreeing with his slagging off of post-rock (all the more funny when you consider that Rhâââ Lovely is probably the ULTIMATE post-rock festival) and enthusing about noise, drone and minimalism. I don't know if the interview will ever get broadcast or written up, but I'm torn between a fascination about how it turned out and a mortal fear of sounding like a right twat. Oh well. Ian and I then go and watch Explosions and Shipping News from the crowd, whilst the others finish off complementary drinks and do the collapse as exhaustion finally takes its toll on everyone. Explosions are great as always, and probably blow everyone else off the stage that day. Plus, they're watched by the chef and a couple of very small children, who turn out to be offspring of the people they're staying with.

Shipping News debut a lot of a material from an album that they've just recorded, and despite a number of technical problems, they sound fantastic. Not as good as their linecheck though, which saw Jason Noble and Jeff Mueller repeating various mantras into microphones, including reeling off breakfast menus and the immortal phrase "Marsupial. Marmoset. Mandrake." Awesome stuff.

After t'News have finished, Ian and I join our gang and the Explosions boys in collapsing onto plastic school chairs, and spend the rest of the night exchanging stories, anecdotes and plans for the forthcoming year. It's some of my most treasured time of the tour, as it's the most amount of time we've been able to spend in each other's company, and I won't be able to catch up with them when they visit the UK in May. One day we'll actually get around to finding the time and money to head over to the United States/wherever and actually tour properly with them, like we said we'd do about three years ago. Oh well.

After Explosions depart for another European tour, we stagger around/try and sleep in the van, as we wait for our host for the night to introduce himself. We also get to talk to Berg Sans Nipple some more, and some mutual love exchange takes place, with us promising to put them on in Coventry or Nottingham the next time they tour. We also talk more to the Shipping News, and Jeff freaks me out by greeting me by shouting "Hot Snakes!" My t-shirt that night is a passport to diplomacy. Todd Cook, their new bassist, also regales us with remarkable tales of recording with Brian MacMahan for The For Carnation album, and indulges in a bout of Travis Bean geekery with me (he was playing an Artist bought for $400 from a pawn shop a few years ago) - even admitting that he'd gone and checked the serial number on mine, and was pleased that his was older. This scares me almost as much as Jeff did but a few minutes earlier.

By 1am or so, Migala have just about finished their late set, and everyone is staggering around in a drunk/knackered manner. Simmo has gone slightly insane between drinking and having had virtually no sleep for the last couple of nights, and starts scrawling "I want to die" and "Fuck you Souvaris!" in French on blackboards. Dan and I get accosted by a Belgian guy who is quite clearly utterly wasted, who begins his gambit by being extremely complementary, but then quickly descends into an illegible rant (in slurred French) about the music industry, trapping us against a door for a good ten minutes before we manage to beat a hasty retreat. It is now 3am, and we are all completely fucked by sheer exhaustion, so it is with some relief that we finally manage to persuade our host Benjamin to stop helping clean up and take us to his house, where we can all stretch out on air beds, mattresses and sofas, and immediately pass out. We like Benjamin. We also like his house, which is distinctly opulent and refurbished by his hands. He also has a bathroom the size of our ground floor in Nottingham, and a shower that will come in fairly handy the next morning. I pull the shortest of some fairly lengthy straws and sleep in an armchair, with guitars within easy reach, despite this place being the middle of (a very wealthy) nowhere.

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