Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Hall Brothers; Terry & Albert

Yesterday's beautifully timed day off meant I was able to be at the Albert Hall to watch The Specials.

They were amazing. It's a big, happy sound and it properly fills a big venue like that.

Quite brilliant.

It was one of the Teenage Cancer Trust gigs. It's a really great cause. You can find out more about what they do and why it's important via their website. You can also donate. Obviously.

For the last few weeks, I've had Mondays and Tuesdays off - they've been my alternative weekends - but this week it was just the Monday. I'm off to Leicester tonight and finishing the tour in Llandudno tomorrow. There is the possibility that a few more dates will emerge later in the year - although nothing's certain - so all those people kindly guarding secrets... please continue to do so!

I'll spend Thursday travelling back to London from Llandudno. Then I'll have Friday off. We'll be back with the radio show on Sunday morning - and I won't be all wiped out by a late night after a Saturday gig - and then I'll be in the office at Genius HQ on Monday to start work on Series 2.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Final Stretch

I'm pretty exhausted. I can't quite believe that I toured this same show by bike last year. It seems slightly unreal. But it did happen.

I'm off to Aberdeen today - and if you need a reason for why this leg of the tour isn't being done by bike surely a London to Aberdeen journey is reason enough. Aberdeen, Glasgow, Dorking, Belfast, Basingstoke - back to London for a day off and then - Leicester and Llandudno. Phew. That's a lot of silly travelling in eight days.

Looking forward to it though. Honest. Well. I'm looking forward to the shows. The travel not so much. I'm travelling sometimes by car and sometimes by train. I sometimes go in the car with my tour manager, Greg - who carries sound equipment and merchandise and stuff with him - but sometimes when it's more convenient I take the train. So today for example, poor Greg is driving to Aberdeen while I'll be on the train with my laptop out doing some work. I hope.

Last Sunday I took the train from Liverpool to Blackburn because it wasn't sensible to have Greg stay in Liverpool while I did the Absolute Radio show. The two cities are only 45 miles apart so I assumed there'd be frequent train services connecting them. Not so. There were a variety of options - changing trains once in Preston or twice in Manchester and Salford - and they all came in at around 2hours. Except that in reality one of the trains ran late meaning a connection was missed and it took me two and a half hours. Meanwhile my Absolute Radio colleagues had taken a train from Liverpool to London in 2hrs 15minutes. And Greg's drive from Liverpool to Blackburn had taken 50 minutes.

I took the train home from Blackburn too. Via Bolton. And Manchester. On the train from Manchester a pair of screaming banshee teenage girls passed through my carriage on their way from the buffet. One of them, aware that they were annoying other passengers with their noise suggested to the other that she keep it down a bit. The depressing response came, "Don't tell me to shurrup, this ain't the quiet carriage I can make as much noise as I want."

She was utterly convinced that she was right too. As if the very presence of a quiet carriage meant that normal manners were no longer required elsewhere. I hope she spent the rest of the journey with someone shining a torch in her eyes. Because, y'know, unless she'd chosen to sit in the dark carriage there'd be no reason not to would there? Harumph.

The remarkable thing is that the gigs are enough fun to make the travelling worth it.

Of course as soon as this tour is over I'm going to work on the next series of Genius. You can send us an idea via the website or - and this is proving to be a great font for new ideas - follow @bbcgenius on twitter and respond to the many Genius challenges being set there.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Hello World!

Look at me being all multilingual! Oh yeah. I have no idea where this will be seen or what the compilation of clips will mean to them... will people just think I'm an incompetent song-and-dance man? (Which, incidentally, I most certainly would be.)

Anyway... while this video reaches out to the world, I have to dash because I'm off to catch a train. To Bolton. You see, I really am a global citizen. I know no boundaries. Bolton tonight. Stoke on Thursday. Coventry on Friday. Liverpool on Saturday. Blackburn on Sunday. I'm an international man of mystery as I believe the Live Dates page of my site will confirm.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Agony

If you were listening to the radio show last Sunday you'll know we had a new feature - Cheryl Cole, Agony Aunt. It really is her, honest. It's not Danielle doing a ropey Geordie accent or anything like that. It's the real deal.

At least I think it is. I closed my eyes throughout it in case I ended up being blinded by her radiance so I can't know for sure. But it sounded just like her to me.

Anyway... we're hoping CC will be popping in from time to time to do some Agony Aunting for us and it would be nice to get some problems in advance so we don't waste her canny time. So if you've got a problem that you think Cheryl could help with - she is very sensitive - drop us a line via the show's site here.

It's best if we can get some details about your life and situation rather than just a sentence... and it's best when there's a dilemma at the heart of it - sympathy falls out of Cheryl very easily but problem solving is, I think, what she does best.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Any Other Business...

So... first off, some things you ought to know - or at least things I ought to tell you - on the Genius front.

I'm going to go to work on the next series as soon as this tour is done and dusted but Team Genius have already assembled and are beavering away, filing and categorising the ideas we've received so far. (This is why it's a bad idea to send your ideas directly to me and a good idea to send them to the show! I'm a busy fool whose head is elsewhere.)

To make it even easier to send ideas in to the show Team Genius are now on Twitter. They're @bbcgenius and there's also now a facebook page for the show too. You can sign up for it here: www.facebook.com/bbcgenius.

I'm really enjoying chatting to people after the shows on tour and one of the things I hear a lot is, "I'd love to send something in to Genius but I never have any ideas!" Well, this is where the twitter/facebook side of things might help. Because while ideas just come to some people, sitting down and trying to come up with an idea can be a bit too abstract. But Team Genius are going to be offering challenges to people and that might well inspire you. Yesterday at lunch time they asked twitter folks to tell them what a Genius Biscuit might look like and later in the day they asked for Genius suggestions of genetically modified animals.

There were loads of ideas for both. Personally, I liked @jimmyshoey's suggestion of a mug made out of Hob Nob, with choc-coated inner lining. That way, you finish your tea and the mug is not only edible but also pre-dunked. Sounds like Genius to me.

Meanwhile @_Blaggins suggested crossing dogs with people and also cats with people in order to better distinguish between, um, dog-people and cat-people. You see? You don't. I see. I think.

Well anyway... get along and follow @bbcgenius and see if you can answer any of the challenges. The more the merrier. And making merry is after all what the show is really about.

Now... after my two-days-of-rest-that-wasn't-really-two-days-of-rest-at-all-because-I-had-to-do-five-days-worth-of-admin-and-meetings-and-stuff(I'm-not-complaining-just-saying) it's back to the tour with the run of gigs: Cheltenham, Cardiff, Birmingham, Manchester, Brighton.

One of the things I'm being asked on Twitter a lot myself is "what kind of sadist is scheduling your tour?" The journeys rarely make a lot of sense. But the truth is, this is what most people's tours look like. When I did the cycling tour, I don't think many people realised how much work went into the logistics. Simply finding gigs that were 50-60 miles down the road in the right direction each day was an incredible feat. It's also why several venues I wouldn't normally play were on the schedule. Sometimes, playing a village hall or a smaller theatre was the only way of keeping the momentum going.

It stands to reason... venues aren't all standing empty just waiting for my agent to call. If we agree to do a gig in Town A on a particular Friday night, there's no reason why the appropriate venues in Town A+50 should be available on the Saturday that follows it.

So inevitably touring journeys are between the venues that were available on those days rather than the venues that are the most convenient to travel between.

On my bike ride, I did 32 gigs and cycled just shy of 1600 miles. On this leg of the tour I did over 1600 miles in the first ten days. It was much more efficient by bike. In every way.

Still at least this week offers something more sensible.
I'm off to Cheltenham tonight - that's not too bad. See you there. Then Cardiff on Thursday. Quite a sensible stretch. See you there. Then Cardiff to Birmingham. Very doable. See you there. Brum to Manchester for the Lowry Centre. Easy. See you there. Then... oh... Manchester to London overnight in order to do the Absolute Radio show on Sunday morning? Oh.

Oh dear. Oh hell. Oh help.

See you in Manchester. Tune in on Sunday morning to hear me pressing all the wrong buttons. If ever a man was going to take the station off air by accident... this'll be it.

And from there to Brighton for the Sunday night. Yep. That's okay. I'll go by train. If I fall asleep - I will fall asleep - at least it won't be a train that goes on beyond Brighton so I can't miss my stop.

So yeah... Wednesday Cheltenham, Thursday Cardiff, Friday Birmingham, Saturday Manchester, Sunday: Absolute Radio and then Brighton. Easy.

Oh... and by the way... thanks to everyone who's been downloading the podcast (it's here if you're an itunes bod or here if you're not) The number has increased in the last few weeks... which might be down to people becoming more aware of it because I'm touring, or, in the last week it could be down to Absolute Radio's poster campaign... with it's oh so flattering picture:


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Lemsip Tour...

In The Wings, originally uploaded by Dave Gorman.

A couple of people speculated as to why I was feeling more tired after ten days of the non-cycling tour than I was when I was doing it all by pushbike... and I think they were right that there's something simply energising about that amount of exercise.

My fitness improved hugely after only a few days of 50-60 miles a day and I ended up slipping into a ride-show-sleep-ride-show-sleep shaped groove that was, while challenging, pretty comfy.

But I think there's more to it than that. The bike ride was, without doubt, the most challenging thing I've ever done. As a result a great deal of thought went into the small details - what I was eating and drinking (and when) as well as equipment and so on. It might have been an effort but I was making sure I had the right calories on board - in the best form and at the best time.

Even more importantly... because it was so challenging, everything else had to fall by the wayside. I left home and didn't have to deal with anything outside of the tour until it was over. No phone calls, no e-mails. No other work. Nothing but the ride-show-sleep groove.

This tour is different. The rest of life goes on and expects me to keep up. After the first ten days we've now hit a pattern of Monday/Tuesdays off and the rest of the week on. But those two days don't feel like days off because I end up cramming a week's worth of meetings and stuff into those two days. So I'm travelling and doing the bit of writing I need to do for the weekly radio show and I'm doing interviews and I'm dealing with correspondence and I'm basically doing everything else... and at the same time, I'm eating bad food because we're having to grab stuff at garages in order to get to the next venue in time and so on. No wonder I'm feeling run down.

Not that I'm complaining. I volunteered. And the tour is fun. Just exhausting fun. And I could have taken time out of the radio show if I'd wanted - but I didn't want to because that's immense fun as well.

Incidentally, for the last three weeks we've seen an increase in the number of downloads for the podcast. Which seems to suggest that the live show is helping to advertise the radio show. Which is ace because the radio show thrives on your input. Your e-mails and texts the last couple of weeks have been fab. (I still laugh whenever I think of the crisp eating e-mail that was in show 18. Just. Too. Weird.)

There's also something to be said about the pace of cycling. If you cycle 50 miles you're aware of every inch along the way. You get off the bike at the end of the day and your body understands how it got there. It's a journey that makes sense. But when you get in a car - or a train - and travel 300 miles I think the body feels tricked at the end of the journey. You know you've done the miles, but you aren't quite so aware of how they all connected to one another. The end result is that it feels like your brain is being tricked. Or something. I haven't expressed that very well. But I know what I mean. Oh well.

So... now for the next five days of travelling. Portsmouth tonight. Then Plymouth, Bedford, High Wycombe then, gulp, after the Sunday morning radio show... Newcastle.

At least you can see why I'm not cycling. Hope to see some of you along the way.

Live dates

Monday, March 1, 2010

This made me very happy this morning...

70 Million by Hold Your Horses ! from L'Ogre on Vimeo.

Apparently Hold Your Horses! are Franco-American. I like them. It sounded a bit like I'm From Barcelona. Who are not from Barcelona. They're Swedish. I like them too.