Sunday, December 22, 2013

Tour De Biff - Biffy Clyro Winter Tour 2013 - Paris & Düsseldorf



I wish I had a clue how to handle this blog post. It will be definitely not a "just let it flow" one because then it would be endlessly long and pretty sappy and nobody wants to read that. But I definitely have to put out a warning for 'non music people': Some of the things told here might sound excessively weird to you, but I can assure you: all people mentioned are totally normal and handle their lives well, go to work or school and did not lose their minds. We are not crazy. We just take extended breaks from regular life to heal our souls & keep our sanity in a pretty insane world. If you are new to Biffy Land I also recommend for better context to read a bit into the Biffy Clyro tagged posts here on the blog.

This tour started harmless. When the winter schedule was announced I let a scream of happiness hear through my office because I finally found a Munich date. Hometown show - fantastic! When the presale started I bought my Munich ticket and was done. For like 5 minutes. Then thinking set in. Only one show? All the anticipation and then it would be all over within 2 hours. "Mountains"  and gone. Ugh .... NO! I checked the schedule again, but a tour before Christmas is a terrible timing for me. I cannot take off from work and need weekend gigs but there were barely any except one on a Saturday in Paris. Well .... why not? I was never in Paris before (hard to believe for a hardcore traveler like me) and that would be an opportunity to change it. A few clicks later I had bought one more Biffy ticket.
The plan was to spend the day after the show in the city with sightseeing and to fly home in the evening, but then craziness officially set in. There was some discussion going on in our little Biffy world on Facebook about the show in Düsseldorf the next day - the show my Cologne based best friends would attend - and how cheap it was to go there from Paris. Hmmm .... hmmmmm .... I love going to shows with my friends. At some point I was in a total "screw rational decisions" mood and in no time I had a third ticket, a flight from Paris to Düsseldorf and one on Monday morning 6.50 am back to Munich. OUCH.
The show in Tourcoing near Lille was added later to the schedule and although it was on a Saturday I did not consider it seriously at first but then I found out that this was a club show in a 650 people capacity venue. With Biffy Clyro having the success they deserve the chances to see them in such a small venue are getting really rare. Considerations with Anita (we would go together driving from Cologne), overthinking, checking weather forecasts, more thinking ... screw it! Show number 4, flights and hotel booked. 

HERE WE FUCKING GO!

LE TOUR DE BIFF - WINTER 2013

Paris - Stop 1


In front of Le Trianon in Paris:
Biffy Clyro's home on wheels
The good thing is that craziness is relative. It stops being crazy when you are with enough people who do exactly the same things you do.
Shortly after I had booked Paris without really thinking I figured that plenty of my  Biffy friends had done EXACTLY the same. Paris is easy to travel to from the UK and most other countries, it was the first show of the 2nd leg of the European Winter Tour and it was on a Saturday - perfect for a road trip.
Quickly we started making plans. Travel initiaries were exchanged, hotel rates compared and rooms booked and shared - the IBIS hotel next door from the venue turned literally into the Biffy Headquarter for a night. It was so much fun and we even got our own shirt designed and printed.
At some point in the preperation time I had an idea: for some very personal, lyric related reasons  - and because it is simply awesome from the first to the last note - my favorite song from Opposites is "Little Hospitals". Sadly the song had never been played live yet although they had soundchecked it before. In interviews Simon had mentioned a few times that "Little Hospitals" was one of the songs harder to rearrange for a live version partly due to the pretty special kazoo part. He would be obviously not be able to sing, play guitar and kazoo at the same time. Hmmm .... but what if WE would play the kazoos for them??? Then there would be no excuse to not play the song. Thankfully all the others liked the idea and when I offered to bring a big jar full of plastic kazoos everybody was in for some live kazoo music in France.

I was so excited before this trip. Two shows of my favorite band in two days, a new city and most importantly I would see so many people I just met online before in person for the first time. If you follow this blog a bit you know that I do this a lot - meeting online people in the real world. As much as I am a social media addict and online junkie, believe in online communication as a great way to find people who share the same interest, make new friends and stay in contact with old ones as much I believe that on a long run real friendship grows out of time spent together in the here and now away from the computers and cellphones. When I arrived at the venue around lunch time after a surprisingly smooth trip (CDG Aiport - being famous for being one of the worst in Europe was not a problem at all) I knew I had done the right thing. Within minutes I felt like hanging out with old friends I knew forever instead minutes.
After dropping the bag at the hotel I took my jar with 30 plastic kazoos - like I had promised - back to the queue and off we were practicing and it wasn't pretty ;)  At some point Mike Vennart came back from a walk to a close by music shop and was welcomed with some pretty awful kazoo ... noise (not really music) and made a the unavoidable "WTF?" face. During the afternoon the same happened to tourmanager Neil Anderson, who likely questioned his choice of profession one more time, and Simon's guitar tech Churd, who had to laugh but also visibly questioned our sanity. But there was  hope ... at some point over the long afternoon we managed to do something like "practicing" and what came out of the kazoos when we were not just messing around but actually playing did indeed sound pretty much like "Little Hospitals".


At 5 pm we had a moment of relief after a mega sized ticket drama. Most of us had ordered in the fan presale via Crowdsurge. Only days before the show we then all got emails that the tickets would not be sent out to us as ordered but would ready for pick up at the box office and box office would open at doors. That basically meant that everybody behind us in the queue with a different - later and not in the fansale purchased - ticket would pass us and be inside the venue before us. We would have not even a theoretical chance to be close to  the stage. As you can imagine that was terrible news and we did the one thing that we could do: we tweeted the whole story to Biffy Clyro's tourmanager Neil asking for help. Neil replied immediatly seeking to find out what happened and promising there would be a solution. And indeed: a couple of days later he let us know that at 5 pm representatives of Crowdsurge would come to the queue with a list and would give us our tickets. We would be all able to access the venue in the order of the queue. It was the ideal solution for the pretty fucked up situation and it worked! A few minutes after 5 pm I had my ticket in hand and so had everbody else. And this is one of the reasons why I love this band so much. Starting off a pretty massive leg of a long tour is not when a tourmanager has spare time to fix fan problems but that is exactly what Neil did for us. He literally saved our whole trip. Thank you, Neil!

When FINALLY the doors opened we spread out at the barrier. The venue was very pretty and smaller than I thought and so the barrier was not exactly long either. I ended up in the 2nd row on James' side and was very happy with my slot because I had folks from our group all around me. I had a fantastic night there and could perfectly enjoy the show. I heard at some later point that other folks (not our group) more to the left more in the back were less lucky because the crowd went really wild.

Soon after the venue had filled with peope the light went out and we could welcome Arcane Roots. It was a love fest because Arcane Roots love Biffy Clyro, Biffy Clyro love Arcane Roots and most of the Biffy fans also love Arcane Roots. It meant a lot to us that they were in Paris and welcoming the Roots on stage was indeed the first really big moment of the night.


Sadly Andrew, guitarist and singer of Arcane Roots, was suffering from a bad throat infection - worst timing ever. He could not speak at all and singing was pretty much impossible,  too - especially when you have such a intense style from soft melody to screaming like the Roots.
I admit it: I was more than worried. When I had a throat infection of that extend I was not allowed to speak for full 2 weeks to avoid permanent damages to my voice. I honestly thought - as bad as that would have been for us - that Arcane Roots would need to cancel the rest of the tour. Gladly that was not necessary. As bad at the infection was - it was short term. I had the same bug between show 3 and show 4. It was absolutely terrible for two days, a bit nasty for a couple of more and gone in less than a week.

As for the Paris show I am more sorry for Arcane Roots who had looked forward to this so much than for us. We loved it anyway - especially for the big effort they put into bringing on the best show possible under the bad circumstances.

After Andrew together with Daryl and Adam had left the stage we were almost there .... SHOW TIME! For people who are not into this it is probably hard to understand what it means when the light goes out and "We Are Family" - the introduction song that officially opens the night before the band comes on stage - starts. It is the moment before the energy errupts, when you take a deep breath, dry your hands one more time, clean your throat and get ready to jump. It is the peak of anticpation and it never gets tired.


"Different People" is one of the best show openers you can think of building around the key line "We're alive tonight", which is pretty much what this is all about - feeling as alive as a person can feel.

The memory of the show is already quite a blurr drowning in the excitement of the night. The venue was packed with fans knowing every line of every song. We were all indeed singing our hearts out all night long. My personal favorite of the evening and for the whole tour was "Glitter & Trauma". It is such an awesome song. I also especially loved "57" and while the studio version of "Living is a problem" is not exactly a favorite of mine I adore the live version with the extended break. It's amazing.

Inbetween songs we again and again put up our kazoos and played the line from "Little Hospitals". While I on the right hand side I had the feeling I could barely hear them, that was clearly not the case more on the left and on stage because Simon started making jokes mentioning that they never play this song, which used to be true. But then suddenly between songs he said loud and clearly into the microphone: "This is a song we never played live before. This is "Little Hospitals"

They did it! For the very first time. My song.


I know that this has nothing to do with me as a person. It probably has something do with
30 crazy people playing kazoo in front of the venue though, but that moment was mine and it meant the world to me. I could neither say anything nor really move. I just stood there diving into my song .. until the kazoo part was on. Then I of course played along with my green plastic kazoo and so did very much the complete front and parts of the second row. It was pretty amazing. For the final part - the most important to me - I sang along from the bottom of my heart. I loved every second of it and so did the whole audience. It  turned out that "Little Hospital" is a fantastic live song (so not surprised). 


Another highlight followed right away: The double package of  "Machines" and "Folding Stars". Usually on this tour the acoustic part had "The Rain" instead of the very emotional "Machines", but we got a fair bit of special treatment that night. The atmosphere was amazing and the band enjoyed it very obviously as much as we did. 

After the show I ran into Andrew from Arcane Roots who handsigned me that he was not allowed to talk - obviously - but I wanted to just tell him  that I was wishing him a speedy recovery and would see him the next day in Düsseldorf and so I did.

We slowly grabbed out hoodies and jackets and went outside for the next round of queuing ... waiting for the band to come out. Biffy Clyro are well known for often taking some time for the waiting fans to sign stuff, make pictures and chat a little bit. Sadly this night a big crowd was hovering directly at the door while we were waiting at the coaches. At first Mike and Gambler came out and could pretty easily pass the front door crowd. Good for us - time for a chat and getting the frist signature on my ticket.
A little later more noise from the door and pepole yelling "Where is Simon?" The person they "asked" about the frontman was - Ben. How annoying is that? Thankfully Ben did not care at all and worked himself through the crowd and then took a lot of time to talk us. I had my 5 minutes as well, got my ticket signed, chatted a moment and took a picture.
This is actually weird. Due to my former music related jobs I met a lot of musicians already and some I really like ... Muse, Phoenix, Paul Weller, Supergrass, Neil Finn, Neil Hannon (Divine Comedy), Heather Nova and lots of others. I never took pictures. I did not even make a picture when I interviewed Rich Robinson. I have no idea why Biffy Clyro is so different but they are. Probably it is because they are incredibly nice and patient with the waiting people so taking pictures is really not a big deal anymore and does not feel half as awkward as it usually would - at least as long people are not too pushy.
A while after Ben also James came out of the "Where is Simon?" yelling crowd and had some people on his heels who were way less relaxed about the whole situation and tried very hard to get his attention (nobody from our group). That is when I am too old for things. I am not elbowing people away and if I see that the person of interest wants nothing more than climbing into the waiting bus and relax than it's absolutely fine. James though was very patient, nice and polite as well with everybody approaching him and I quickly collected the signature on my ticket but did not borther asking for a picture.

We did not get to see Simon because Neil did the only smart thing you can do with a weird crowd like the folks at the door: He got Si out of the side doors into a car and drove him around the block to the coaches. It was of course pretty sad for us, but I would have done exactly the same in the situation. There is quite some serious hystery going on around Simon, which is understandable because he is the (very handsome) frontman - nothing too relevant for us close fans who are into a band not a person, but very relevant for the press and people who are more into meeting "stars"  than into the music - and because he is truely special, but it's scary. I am afraid with the band getting bigger life will get more complicated for him and we might less often get a chance to say hi. 

While the nightliners finally backed out and drove away towards Düsseldorf, we went to an Irish Pub down the road to sing along with the local band there, who had a lot of fun with us, have some drinks and lovely post gig chats. It was the perfect ending of a wonderful day


Düsseldorf - Stop 2

The next morning I walked back to Gar Du Nord passing the coach of the White Lies who parked already in front Le Trianon with the sleeping band aboard. A new day and a new band for Paris. A new day and the same band for me in Düsseldorf. That was a first for me. I never toured with a band. We sometimes caught two shows of  the Black Crowes on the same tour, but never directly on two days after each other as far as I remember. 


The trip from Paris to Düsseldorf was eventless. I arrived in the early afternoon and my friends picked me up at the airport. Thankfully Germany is not such a crazy queuing country like France or the UK and so we had only a small crowd waiting in front of the MASSIVE (8,000 people) Mitsubish Electric Hall. And because this is Germany (It just works ;) ) it was all very well organized. The first 400 people got a wristband that allowed to a) leave the queue and come back b) seperated the elite crowd of early birds from the other thousands of later arriving concert goers and would give us access to the front of stage area before the breaker that was built up half way between stage and soundboard. That was all really nice and we had a pretty easy run for the barrier - this day on Simon's side -, but it felt weird the whole night. It was very comfortable not to get pushed, being able to breath, being able to go  to the restroom or get a drink (not  that I personally did anything like that but it was possible), but it almost felt empty especially since there was lots of open space left and right from the stage. I never got rid of the feeling to be in a half empty venue until I saw a picture of the show a few days later that just showed a MASSIVE and pretty wild crowd  - and our tiny heads at the barrier with about 7,000 people in our backs - woooops!



When it was show time it was also time for a big surprise: Andrew's voice was back! After seeing and hearing him suffer the night before I would have not thought that this was possible, but it was. Of course he was not his normal self yet again but it was so much better.
We all were more than happy and partied at the barrier, while the majority of the crowd reacted with polite interest. The big venue was still filling up.
After the show I met the guys at the merch stand and this time I could actually not just talk to but with the band and say good bye until later in the week in Munich.



Düsseldorf was also the first night for the 2nd support band that would accompany Biffy Clyro until the end of the tour: Walking Papers from Seattle.
Some of my friends had seen them before as support of Alice In Chains in the UK and loved them. For me - I have to admit - it was not exactly love at the first sight although I really like this very American almost classic rock type of sound and it was pretty exciting to see the legendary Duff McKagan from so close by playing bass. I also had (and not just then) a very sentimental moment seeing Barrett Martin at the drums again after two long decades. He played drums for the wonderful Screeming Trees, who I loved so so much and had the pleasure to see live once as support of Alice In Chains (February 1993). Martin was also part of the Seattle super group Mad Season. So that was right down my alley but still - I did not really catch fire yet. Maybe it was the weird atmosphere of the venue. It should definitely change a later point of the tour though. That is btw another feature of touring: if the support band is decent you become a fan and it's even more fun!



And then it was Biffy time again! From our position we could even see them coming together behind the curtain while "We are family" was playing and hear them cheering before they went out. Loved it!

The show was flawless and I enjoyed very much to be there with two of my closest friends at that awesome front row spot and I have no real complaints. It was just that the atmosphere of the venue kept being strange to me. It was not even warm - I never sweat less at a show, I think.
That is kind of odd because like mentioned the pictures from the seats (there were seated areas at the sides) are showing a wild rock concert crowd but I could not feel them. I would feel them a bit too much later the week in Munich, but not in Düsseldorf - that's for sure. I at least used the chance I had with free view on Si (and Gambler - such a rare thing) and nobody pushing me for shooting some really nice pictures.
Another problem was the sound. The speakers that were lined up in the pit were extremely loud and overthrowing on bass. It was already painful before the show when the music came over the PA. When your ears hurt over a Frightened Rabbit song you know something is odd. I was more than grateful for my Lugplugs one more time. 


The setlist had no in particular rare stuff (and no
"Little Hospitals") but it had its special moment anyway and when I least expected it:
While both songs are great I could pretty well live without hearing "God and Satan" and "Many Of Horror" at every single show, but since both of them are popular singalongs they will just stick around, I guess. While I was thinking about exactly that (and singing along at the same time) for "Many Of Horror" Simon started to wander around for the final part.
We were standing far off left in front of a black curtain framing the stage at the sides with perfect view on stage but quite far away from the center, when Si came over. He kept playing guitar but he went away from the microphone, climbed over a box, went out of the spotlight towards the black curtain - out of sight and out of the ear 
of most of the 7,000 people around us. Finally he climbed off the stage on the big speaker right in front of us no more than an arm length away. He was as close as he could come without climbing down completely. We could hear him sing but I am pretty sure that nobody else could because - no microphone (the crowd was singing along nicely anyway). We were just looking at each other singing the final part of "Many Of Horror". When the song was over he gave us a little nod and went off back to the light and the microphone. I promise I am not complaining about "Many Of Horror" any time soon again.
Before you get me wrong: I am not saying that it had anything to with us as specific people like "Let's go and say hello to the girls over there." It probably happened because were were visibly partying the most at this end of the barrier (the other half of our group was at the very other end) but that is it. It nevertheless made the moment very special


When the show was over
Ben got up behind his drums and started as every night throwing his drumsticks into the crowd. Everybody who went to a couple of more shows knows that this is usually not random. While Ben tries to throw sticks along the whole length of the barrier he definitely points and throws at people - usually familiar faces of traveling fans and / or very enthusiastic people who obviously enjoyed the show a lot. He started at the side away from us but finally turned our way, laughed over to us pointed and threw. It was a tiny bit too short but the security guard handed me over the drumstick right away. Day made! 



It is now here at home with me leaning against the signed "Blackened Sky" poster looking very pretty. 


The coaches were parked out of reach in the back of the venue and I had to get up at 5 am anyway. So show No. 2 ended with some lovely chats with friends in the entrance and merch area of the venue before we drove to Cologne were I crashed for a couple of hours on my friend's wonderful, huge couch. 


I made it in time to the aiport and from the aiport home to start my work day as I should. I had three off days now before show No. 3 in my home town Munich and I really needed them although off day 2 wasn't really one because I had another event where I was not only in the audience but also organizer. Crazy times.... [to be continued]

If you still had not enough Biffy stories stay tuned for the 2nd part featuring the shows in Munich and Tourcoing. You should also visit David Rossi's blog here to find out how touring with Biffy is when you do not take an airplane but the actual tourbus with the band and crew. 

Paris: 








Düsseldorf:











Setlist Paris:

We Are Family 
(Sister Sledge song)

Different People 
That Golden Rule 
Who's Got a Match? 
Sounds Like Balloons 
Biblical 
Accident Without Emergency 
God & Satan 
Glitter and Trauma 
Bubbles 
Spanish Radio 
Little Hospitals 
(Live debut)
Machines 
(Simon Solo Acoustic)
Folding Stars 
(Simon Solo Acoustic)
Living Is a Problem Because Everything Dies 
57 
Many of Horror 
Modern Magic Formula 
Black Chandelier 
Woo Woo 
The Captain 

Encore:
Opposite 
Stingin' Belle 

Mountains 

Setlist Düsseldorf:

We Are Family 
(Sister Sledge song)

Different People 
That Golden Rule 
Who's Got a Match? 
Sounds Like Balloons 
Biblical 
Accident Without Emergency 
God & Satan 
Glitter and Trauma 
Bubbles 
Spanish Radio 
The Joke's on Us 
The Rain 
(Simon Solo Acoustic)
Folding Stars 
(Simon Solo Acoustic)
Living Is a Problem Because Everything Dies 
57 
Many of Horror 
Modern Magic Formula 
Black Chandelier 
Woo Woo 
The Captain 

Encore:
Opposite 
Stingin' Belle 

Mountains 

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