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souvaris tour diary

Wednesday 7 April: Reims, France

Half an hour into our maiden voyage, the first sign of trouble looms on the horizon. After much searching about in the front of our beauteous van (ceremoniously dubbed and hereafter referred to as 'Doris'), Simmo asks me what happened to his copy of Will Oldham's Arise Therefore. I realise that I've left it in my bedroom, and thus we will have no opportunity to listen to any of ol' Will in the coming week because I've forgotten to bring any other of his albums too. Simmo calls me a cunt.

A good few hours later, we are well immersed in Saint-Gobain; a welcome conclusion to the hellish miasma that was trying to find our way around Dover and then setting foot on a shitty ferry that we would spend an hour trying not to be seasick on. Calais was possibly even more repulsive than Dover, too. Now we're surrounded by forests and rolling hills, and though the weather is somewhat unpredictable, everything looks lush and appealing. We've been up since half past six, so Doris already feels like (and looks as trashed as) home. The back row, piled up with drums, guitars, keyboards and sleeping bags, and leaving scant space for two, has already been dubbed 'The Heart of Darkness' - such are its womb-like qualities. By now, we're only thirty miles from our first gig outside of the UK, and the panicking is beginning, if only because of our poorly-translated directions.

After much searching around, we find ourselves at a theatre in Reims University, and shortly after unloading we are greeted by the friendly faces of Simmo's girlfriend Angela and her friend Gail, who have travelled over from a holiday in Paris to meet up with us. We are then treated to what will be the most welcome part of touring in continental Europe – being fed with complimentary hot and nutritious food by our kind hosts. Even our roadies and guests are warmly welcomed to sit and eat, and there is far too much to go around. After filling our empty bellies, we sit contentedly and try not to get nervous about making our debut performance on foreign soil without so much as a soundcheck.

After the 100-odd seats are quickly filled by gladly paying punters who seem to have appeared from nowhere, Scrape open up musical proceedings by indulging in forty minutes of free improvisational squeaks, noises and clatters made by a guitarist (who clearly has been studying Thurston Moore closely) and a drummer (who used to be in Sloy, which gets Dan all excited). Some of us try and sit down/collapse to rest our weary souls before we play, but one by one we slink out as Scrape become more maddening than entertaining. Then a guy from Reims local television approaches Simmo and asks if he can film one of our songs for broadcast in a news programme. Cue lots of amusing attempts to communicate as we try and warn him that the shortest song we'll play will be ten minutes long.

Eventually, after finding the beer fridge in the 'backstage' area, we get to set up on an absurdly wide stage, and try and linecheck without disturbing a hundred people. We obviously have some difficulties trying to tell the soundman what we need, and we end up playing with levels abominably fucked, where Dan is inaudible and Simmo is twice as loud as anything else. No matter, we struggle through a three song set without any major disasters (except for a woeful Mnemonic, which is sworn off all setlists from this point), string breakages or distress, which is no small wonder given our physical state and nervousness. We are afforded a warm, if slightly confused reception, and then quickly get our shit offstage so we can go and hide.

Shortly after, headliners Rroselicoeur take to the stage and are ecstatically received, which only befuddles us when we hear their slightly tired, over-processed take on the most boring elements of so-called post-rock. One section of their songs causes me to blanche as it heinously rips off Explosions in the Sky, but the crowd lap it up like they've been deprived post-rock clichés for far too long. Poor dears. We diplomatically keep ourselves to ourselves, collapse on chairs, smoke cigarettes, drink beer, sell about three records in total (I guess we didn't go down that well then...) and meet our hosts for the night - some lovely local boys called Bertrand (aka Bébo), Julien, and Marc. They immediately insist on us signing their 12"s. Ordinarily I'm generally inclined to laugh and shake my head whenever anyone has sugges ted taking part in such appalling rock star genericisms, but such is the [slightly drunken, but also incredibly] genuine enthusiasm of these guys, we feel obliged to fulfil their desires. Simmo signs his thanks as Henry Kissinger. I am David Ginola. Our friends fall about laughing.

After the gig ends, Marc kidnaps Simmo in his car and we give chase to his flat, which involves driving around a lot of backstreets and confusing alleys before we arrive at a block of flats. After parking up, there is some debate about what to do with our stuff. We couldn't get insurance on our instruments, y'see, so we're more than a little concerned at leaving something like six grand's worth of equipment alone in a van on an open street, without any supervision. In an act that would become a staple act every night of the tour, I take our Travis Bean guitars up to Marc's flat with us to sleep with, whilst Jim and Ian bravely volunteer to sleep in the van for safekeeping. Glad I am not forced to submit myself to such horrors - I later find myself shivering in a gossamer-thin sleeping bag on a cold tiled floor with a stinking headache. But before then, didn't anyone tell us? Marc's hosting an after-show party with a few friends! Listening to a terrible Ramones live album from the mid-eighties on repeat, we try and look enthusiastic and join in on the drinking and laughs. Everyone there is incredibly friendly and nice, which makes me feel all the more guilty for feeling completely wiped out and not being able to talk much. No matter, everyone else does a sterling job of ingratiating ourselves, and soon the catchphrase of the tour is uttered by Julien, who spends most of his time in our company on the receiving end of various 'camp Guy Picciotto' jibes: "FUCK YOU SOUVARIS!"

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