Louisa (Tenor Saxophone on Rock and Roll Revolution): Gunnersbury is where it started. Our four-day mini tour, which would take us from Hereford to Treorchy to Barry to Bridlington, began in a (very nice) coffee shop in Gunnersbury. Three of us from the band were being picked up in a minibus and from there we would pick up another two members of the band en route, and hit Hereford later that day. There was a tech van also travelling up. I have to say that it was all very breezy from our point of view - we just turned up where and when we were told to - but a huge amount of planning and work had gone into the four days ahead of us. The most planning I had to do that day was to work out how to carry my coffee as well as my saxophone and suitcase for the 10-metre journey across the road to the minibus.
True to many long car journeys, it began with coffee, sweets and conversations you’d only ever have on the road. My favourite was the one about sneezing - apparently it’s impossible to sneeze with your eyes open, and if you do your eyes pop out. I’m sure everyone looked forward to the prospect of many more discussions like these in the days to come.
After a drive through the winding lanes, we ended up at the Courtyard Theatre in Hereford. Here's a video of Bo Diddley's song Bo Diddley from soundcheck.
We had such a great time in Hereford. The audience was so lively and I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people up off their seats dancing to the music. I always love watching people’s dance moves in the audience - I’ve actually picked up some pretty great rock ’n’ roll moves from this, so please keep them coming!
Usually after our gigs there is a mass rush to get the last train home. But tonight - the first night of the mini tour - we could have our first ever post-show social. And it happened in the form of a Pizza Hut pyjama party in the Travelodge. I don’t know how rock ’n’ roll this is, but it was pretty ideal from my point of view.
Next day we were headed to Wales to play at the Park & Dare Theatre in Treorchy. But before anything else happened, the most important decision of the day had to be made: where were we going to have breakfast. Matt Wycliffe, the in-house brunch finder, took us to Sensory and Rye in Hereford. Oh man. It was raining and people were feeling a bit queasy from the pizza last night, but honestly Sensory and Rye can cure any ills. They do coffee with lavender in. They decorate their pancakes with flowers. I know this isn’t a coffee shop blog but we really recommend this place. Five stars.
(Back to rock 'n' roll)
Up through the twisting mountains we drove as we slowly encroached our way into rural Wales. It was foggy and a bit rainy, but that didn’t prevent us from stopping for a roadside ice cream and an ‘imagined’ view of what the Brecon Beacons looked like.
With the help of some great driving from Chris and Ollie, and a fantastic road trip soundtrack (Sufjan Stevens), we soon arrived in Treorchy. I’d never been to this part of Wales before, and I was really struck by how embedded it was in the mountains. Everywhere you looked - shops, pubs, houses - they were over-shadowed by the towering presence of the Rhondda Valley. There was something of the French about it. It’s beautiful. We also were really taken by the name of the local fish and chip shop: A Fish Called Rhondda (this made its way into the show that night).
The Park & Dare Theatre is a former Miners’ Institute and has an old variety theatre feel to it. Very excitingly, while the boys set up the tech on stage, Chloe and I got round to choreographing a dance to Jailhouse Rock, which we did for the first time that night. It seemed to go down well and it will now be in the show from now on (this is great, but I don’t think our choreography accounted doing it every night… I have very sore thighs now. Being Elvis is hard work).
The Treorchy crowd was great and made us feel very much at home in the Rhondda Valley. But straight after the show, we were headed to our next accommodation point in Mythyr Tydfil.
Many people may wonder what rock 'n' roll things The Bluejays get up to off stage and on tour. Smash guitars? Set pianos alight? Drive cars into swimming pools? This is all on our to-do list, but tonight we had a wine and cheese night planned.
…it was great.
The next morning we were headed to arguably the most exciting part of the tour; Barry Island. I’m embarrassed to say the only reason I know Barry Island is because of the Gavin and Stacey connotations, so I was excited to see the place for myself. Again, the weather wasn’t great, but Ollie took us on a lovely sight-seeing tour of the fairground rides.
We were slightly tempted for a quick game of crazy golf before soundcheck, however we ended up in Asda - perhaps the grown-up’s version of a fairground (it was a really big one and it was genuinely exciting). It’s probably worth mentioning here that Amelia is a self-proclaimed Welsh gal - she spent a lot of her summers in Wales growing up. I’m assuming this was why she chose to lie flat on the floor outside Asda on a Bank Holiday Saturday. On the pavement. In everyone’s way. Wales, in case we haven’t made it clear, you have a BIG fan in Amelia Rendell.
(On a side note... here's a photo of Amelia in a car park on the outskirts of Venice during a gig we The Bluejays played in 2016. I notice a theme.)
Soon we arrived at our next port of call: the Memo Arts Centre. Today we had a new guitarist in to cover for Adam. Craig has played with the band many times before, but never on this particular show, so the boys had a quick run through in their dressing room before soundcheck.
It is times like these I had a lot of admiration for the boys running the band. Over the course of the four days I don’t believe they had any downtime. As soon as we finished a show, they would be packing all the equipment away, then driving us to the next accommodation, then checking us into the accommodation, and then in the morning they’d be up before us, planning the route to the next location, re-packing the van and then driving us there. Ollie has said that usually by the time he plays the first chord of the show, he lets out a sigh of relief: the show is the easy part, he says. Of course there was time for breakfast (there’s always time for breakfast), but Chris would often be planning the next promotional material, and they would be in chats about new lines of dialogue, and ways of keeping the show fresh. It’s a privilege to perform and they are always open to ways of developing the show. It’s a completely independent effort and I think it is this care they have over every single aspect of the band that really sings out in everything they do.
Anyway, back to business. Amelia’s affection towards the Welsh concrete somehow rubbed off on me and we ended up doing some pre-soundcheck yoga in the car park
The Barry audience was awesome. It’s funny how the size and shape of an auditorium can change the feel of a show. This was an end-on theatre, so it was slightly less intimate than an auditorium that curves round the stage, but my god, the people in Barry were up for a good time. Their dance moves were astoundingly good. Thanks people of Barry, I’ve learnt a lot from you.
The show went down well and Craig did a brilliant job. Wales Online made our show the top of the weekend's Hot List. Which was nice.
Now for our next accommodation port of call: Birmingham. Now I don’t know how hot you are on recent weather activity but if you recall, this was the night when suddenly the British weather suddenly went MENTAL…
Members of the band were woken up at 2am by giant flashes of lightning and what sounded like huge buckets of water being tipped over the roof. But as if by magic, by the time we hit the road in the morning, it had cleared up. Not even that, it was SUNNY. And we were headed to the beach. Honestly, as if this tour couldn’t have been more organised…
We arrived in Bridlington a few hours later and slowly make our way through a maze of British sun-worshippers, all strolling through the road as if they had been drugged up by the sun. The smell of fish and chips sailed through the air. It was a beautiful day. The Bridlington Spa Theatre is right on the sea front, so we were in for a treat today. While we waited for soundcheck we went for a stroll on the beach, ate fish and chips and competed in some pretty impressive stone skimming.
Today we had another new excitement: we were to be joined by Tracey who would take over as CSM (Company Stage Manager) from Glyn. Tracey has worked on some past performances with us so it was great to see her again. By the time the show happened that night, we were all covered in sand. It was great.
I was also very excited tonight because it was the first show I was going to do a voiceover for the projected video at the beginning of the show. The words were ‘Bridlington Spa’. I had been practising for the past few days so I was a bit nervous. It seemed to go down well so fingers crossed I’ll be able to widen my repertoire onto new places and words in the shows to come.
The crowd was brilliant and we had a great time at the Spa (which was backed up by this glowing review from the Yorkshire Times). Packing the van at the end of the show with the view of the moon shining on the sea was a bit of a treat, and it struck me that I could easily stay here for longer…
… Anyway, a long journey awaited us, so into the night we drove (of course we had some leftover cheese from the other day, and the conversation was above average, so it was actually a pleasure). What an amazing few days. Here’s to next adventures the Rock and Roll Revolution will bring...