Notes From The Road: Stagecoach

DIY isn't a choice...

Stagecoach have always done things the hard way.

But yet, that's the only way they know. Working hand to mouth, the band were finally able to deliver their debut album 'Say Hi To The Band' via Alcopop! last year.

Sprightly of riff and yelping of vocal, the album was wall-to-wall energy - much like their live show. Packing their kit recently, Stagecoach took off around the country for a whirlwind tour which included headline shows and in-stores, with Luke Barnham jotting down some notes from the road.

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May 12th - JT Soar, Nottingham
This venue has no right to exist. But thank God it does. A former fruit and veg warehouse now hosting gigs. It doubles as a rehearsal room and studio. A big crowd shows up for the first night, what better way to start? It feels like one of those Chicago DIY scene gigs you read about. Great atmosphere and bring your own booze ensures a lovely time is had by all. The next day we have band practice at the venue and the owner Phil takes us on a little tour of Nottingham record shops. I pick up a 10” by The Hystericals because it has band playing a pool party on the cover. London uber promoter Sam 'Smiffy' Smith is with us for this leg of the tour.

May 11th - The Labour Club, Northampton
We’ve played the Labour Club on previous tours and love it. It’s situated on what looks identical to Coronation Street and is a former working men’s club. We are playing with label pals My First Tooth who put on a very strong show. It’s great to hear their new songs live. The night ends in a disco with dancing to Hole, Third Eye Blind and The New Radicals. We stay at Jo My First Tooth’s house and sleep in a room with the most wonderful collection of Megadrive and SNES games I’ve ever witnessed. They even had 'Cool Spot'!

May 12th - The Star, Guildford
This is something of a home show as Guildford is a short ride from our hometowns. Lots of family show up and the show is hosted by old friend Del AKA This Is Not Revolution Rock so we’re in safe hands. Prior to sound check we have a BBQ round his. Homemade burgers and FIFA make for a most pleasant afternoon back in the Home Counties. The venue has recently reopened so we benefit from all new PA apart from terrible mic stands which seem to disintegrate if you touch them. The gig goes down a storm and it’s lovely to see some old faces from early Stagecoach gigs. Our hometown landlord comes and offers us a lock-in back in Dorking. This is most welcome. We get comfortably drunk and Gurd (landlord) insists on us personalizing his record sleeve. When the clock strikes midnight the record is officially out. We try to re-create the cover. Seemed like a great idea at the time.

May 13th - The Cellar, Oxford
Oxford is home to Alcopop Records and a lovely place to spend an afternoon. On the drive in John (Coach) tells us about a house which has a full size Great White crashing through the roof. We stop for a photo opportunity. Apparently the Shark was to express someone feeling totally impotent about nuclear bombs and ripping a hole in their roof out of a sense of anger and desperation. The Cellar is another venue which we’ve passed through a few times over the years and has the same great soundman Jimmy, who is in even though it’s his wedding anniversary. The gig is a sleepy one but we get a second helping of Salvation Bill (ex-Ute) and his fantastic new songs.

May 14th - Birthdays, London
Birthdays is the launch show so we’re all a bit tense. Will people show up? Will the venue work out? We park the van and immediately get a parking ticket. Bummer. At sound check we find the soundman has done our sound before 5 years earlier in Guildford. He’s a lovely chap and spends a good hour or more perfecting the mix for us. The 405 (website) turn up to record a video session. It involves us playing among 160 coloured balloons. We spend the next hour helping blow them up. The gig goes swimmingly well. Harry George Johns, Tyrannosaurus Dead and Joanna Gruesome all make some excellent noise before we play one of our best shows to date. We get asked for an encore so play the song we used to finish every set with. It involves much crowd invasions and a big singalong. Success!

May 15th - The Zephyr Lounge, Leamington Spa
This gig is the wildcard of the tour to a degree as nobody has been to Leamington before or heard of the venue. Fears are quickly dispelled as we find the Zephyr Lounge has a great PA, chequered diner floors, Pinball machines and a great record shop next door. The guy working in the record shop gets us to sign a Stagecoach cassette he has left over from Record Store Day (a week later it turns up on eBay). I purchase Lemonheads Hotel Sessions and the new Vampire Weekend. In the venue we play AC/DC pinball and the venue gets us to create our own cocktail which is now on sale. The promoter titles it ‘The Tazer’ after our song. Gig goes down well. We later discover that one particular chap who had been head-banging hard got locked in the venue overnight by mistake.

May 17th - The Great Escape, Brighton
The Alcopop/Big Scary Monsters showcase is always chaos. We arrive at 8pm to find a venue bursting at the seams and the toilets literally overflowing. The bouncers already look very flustered and have apparently had trouble with crowd surfers. We go on stage at 9.45 to a capacity room and by the second song it’s a huge sing along to ‘Ice Age’. Things escalate quickly and by the last song we are eaten up by the audience. We get a firm telling off from security, Matt is then sick on the bar after already sneaking back in once. Bed time for him.

May 18th - Rough Trade West, London
We decide to play this one unplugged. The shop is tiny so this will work best and lets us put a bit more emphasis on the harmonies we do. We have a mini band practice at my flat before setting off for Notting Hill. It gets to 4pm when we’re due to play but we’re still a mile or so away in traffic so decide to make a run for it with our gear. We make it for 4.30 to a busy shop full of expectant shoppers. There’s just time for a quick beer with friends in the afternoon sun before its back in the van to Rochester.

May 18th - The Nags Head, Rochester
We arrive to find tonight’s gig is in a locals type pub. The stage is in an elevated area where the Pool table usually lives and you kind of play in a line looking over the pub. It strangely works. We have our first Wetherspoons dinner of the tour and a cheap yet tasty IPA. I break a string in the third song but manage to swap and tune guitar while still singing which I’m pretty pleased with myself about. Promoter tells us fun stories about putting on Grandmaster Flash. Some folks made trips from further afield in Kent which is humbling.

May 30th - The West End Centre, Aldershot
Another venue where the chief, Barney, has known Coach for a few years. It’s a great venue with really good sound and they buy in pizzas which all bands are big fans of. We are quite taken aback by the big crowd who turn up for the gig; they then proceed to buy loads of merchandise. This is a proper venue so I think the gig is more of a concert. Serious business. We call our landlord back in Dorking to see if we can squeeze in a sneaky late drink on route home but he’s in bed already. Plans foiled. We find out that, what is supposed to be the final date o f the tour in Leeds is now cancelled.

May 31st - The Buffalo Bar, Cardiff
We are supporting our old friends Tall Ships. We haven’t done a gig with them for about 2 years so it’s lovely to see their smiley faces. Everything is running late as everyone has been stuck on the motorway trying to get to Cardiff. It will be a swift line check before we play tonight. When we play there must be 150 plus people and the room is dripping with sweat. Despite no check, we start playing and it sounds great. Nick’s guitar amp packs in one song from the end so it’s a hidden blessing that this will be our last show. After the gig we head with Ships plus the promoter Connor to a 80’s and 90’s night at Club Ifor Bach and stay there until daylight. R-Kelly Ignition was playing when we arrived, after that it’s all a little shady for everyone but I’m pretty sure Tall Ships were still dancing to Limp Bizkit ‘Rollin’ at dawn... That’s it for a month until festivals begin and we get to do it all over again. 

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