Ollie: Twice a year the Isle of Man plays host to the most exhilarating and famous motorcycle road races in the world; the 'Tourist Trophy' and the 'Classic Tourist Trophy', TT for short.
Both competitions are not only an opportunity for some of the most daredevil and, quite frankly, bonkers riders from around the globe to fly around residential streets at speeds of up to 200mph, but also a petrol head's wonderland, hosting some of the most beautiful two wheeled machines I've ever seen!
Considering the Bluejays 'vintage' stylings, The Isle of Man 'Classic' TT was, and is, the perfect setting to play our favourite brand of music. Something about the names Triumph, BSA, Harley Davidson, MV Agusta and Norton; all of which experienced their heyday in the 1950s, beautifully accompany the Rock and Roll soundtrack that we were proud to provide.
Jez, our sound engineer and resident chauffeur for the journey, set off from Brighton early on Thursday morning, picked us all up en-route and drove straight through to the ferry port near Lancaster fuelled on six gallons of coffee.
The ferry across to the Isle of Man lasts a lengthy three hours. Some of us took the opportunity to catch up on some much needed zzz's. Others chose to photograph unsuspecting sleeping German bikers whilst experimenting with their new toy.
Having had my 30th birthday last month, my fiancée and family chipped in for me to buy a Leica camera which I have been incessantly playing with. Some of the shots up here were taken using it, as you may notice... hopefully. I still haven't worked out how to take pictures in colour yet.
During the ferry crossing, the theme of the weekend became fairly apparent...
I haven't seen quite so many bearded and leather clad fellas in such close proximity for a long time. I'll leave that there.
On the Isle of Man the throaty hum of two and four stroke engines is ever present. One of my favourite writers, Hunter S Thompson, is the king of motorcycle diaries. His Gonzo book 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas' and his documented travels with the Hells Angels in the late 50s and 60s had already got me worked up over the idea of riding classic bikes, but this was something else.
I learnt that the Isle of Man has the longest line of unbroken parliament in the world, but even the High Court of Tynwald wasn't able to find accommodation to cater for the five of us during the TT. Soon after unpacking and ordering some pizza, we realised that there were only three beds to sleep five of us at the assigned digs. Some pepperoni and chillis later, Greg and I relocated to a nearby hotel and headed up to our rooms. I got lucky, my room had a bath. Some T Bone Walker, a beer or two and sleep soon-after.
We had an early start next day setting up on the outdoor stage behind the main grandstand. All morning was spent praying it wouldn't rain. It was touch and go, but the Gods of motorsport were looking favourably over us the whole weekend. Not a drop.
We played our first set at around midday and the place quickly picked up. The sound was tip-top. I thought I'd give my 1963 Gibson ES-330 a run out and oh Jimminy, those P90 single coil pickups really bark!
By the time our second set rolled around things were getting busy. A load of people had come down from the grandstand to watch us having been enthralled with a motorbike stunt team appropriately called 'The Purple Helmets' on the race track.
Although I don't have a photo as proof, my apologies, our favourite Purple Helmets' 'spectacle' was an enormous and incredibly hairy gent of an overly ripened age, goggled, naked and playing a piano strapped onto a Sidecar travelling at 40 mph. In between musical phrases he even found the time to slap his considerable and exposed behind to the roar of applause from the crowd. Yes, I did say naked. There's a first time seeing everything. Sometimes, hopefully, there's also a last.
Having finished the gigs before turning hotel-wards for the evening, we just had time to try some locally ground coffee from Manx Mini Doughnuts. Oh yes... and some chocolate dipped, sugar coated, warm, mini treats. As our resident ambassador of all things sweet and sugary, Chris was pleased to award them with his 'thumbs up approval'.
Back in Douglas, the Isle of Man's capital city and our home for the weekend, I took a shower and headed out for a wander in search of dinner. Entirely by luck, I came across Trip Advisor's 'best seafood restaurant on the island', The Little Fish Cafe. I wasted no time in discovering the local produce. Isle of Man queenie scallops are a renowned delicacy and the Hooded Ram IPA jam-packed a punch! Great service too.
Saturday I decided to watch some Classic TT racing and picked the bottom of Bray Hill as the vantage point. It was the first time I'd been less than ten feet from a motorbike bike thundering past at 180mph. It makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck just thinking about it. These quiet residential streets, flanked by stone walls and post boxes become the stage on which the bikes strut whilst tearing up the tarmac. Having just about learned how to use shutter speed with varying degrees of success, I had more fun experimenting with the Leica.
Whilst at the track I got chatting to Sally and Doug who had seen the Bluejays set on Friday and said that they had really dug our sound. Sally, an ex-hairdresser turned ton-up-kid proudly explained that she does all the cleaning and polishing of the bikes that Doug renovates and builds from parts. His pride and joy was his Triumph Bonneville, the shell of which he salvaged from a skip. The bike had seen action in the Second World War and he had now brought it back to its gleaming former glory. I took some shots of the multitude of badges pinned to their leather jackets.
After the race, because it was so good, I went back to 'The Little Fish' for a deep fried queenie scallop sandwich and fries before gig number two; The VIP tent. I have to admit that I have always had a bit of an aversion to the letters 'VIP'. Not the letters so much, but the implication that someone is a very important person and that makes someone else... well... not. I just think it's a pretty silly name. Regardless, the crowd was eager and energised and we had a great night. Here's a liitle footage from the soundcheck.
We ripped through a couple of sets of hits from Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, The Everly Brothers etc. We get booked to play at lots of weddings and private events but performing to a busy room full of bikers who had switched their leathers for polka dots and collars was really fun! Pack down and bed bound after a late drink, I was knackered.
Another early morning, which I'm becoming increasingly immune to, another ferry and we're back on the main land en route to London. The only cruel irony of this fantastic weekend is that both my little bro, Hugo and my pa, Simon, are both bikers and I wish that they could have experienced the Classic TT with me... mainly so that every time I said... "woah, what's that one, I want THAT one!" they could have given me a name, model, engine type and inevitably filled me in with jargon that only the most ardent motor aficionados know.
I'm off to buy some leathers, boots and a Triumph. If you don't see me for a while, maybe you'll hear the fearsome roar of my 500cc in the wind...
Or maybe I'll just get the bus; not sure how many guitars you can fit on a bike.