Today’s ‘Tour Day In The Life of…’ feature comes from Elliot Coombs. He is a guitarist touring with The Wishing Well who are a popular Melbourne band mixing folk, pop and rock.
8am – Quack, quack! I wake in dazed confusion until I recognise the sound of the alarm bringing in the new day. All at once the tinker of other alarms fills the room from various bunks and bags in the hostel dorm, and I exchange good morning’s with the rest of the band, all seven of them. After a quick shower I join the breakfast feast in the communal kitchen and break the daily question to our tour manager/violinist, Rivkah, “So, what’s the plan?”.
You see, being on tour with The Wishing Well means that the plan is always changeable. It is based around venue shows, like other tours, but also involves street performances every day. These are great for reaching a much larger audience and promoting the shows, and as an added bonus involve spending the majority of the summer basking in the European sunshine!
9am – Time to go. Having hurriedly packed our belongings, we gather by the van as the bags are piled in and super-roadie Ed puts our instruments in the back. I shuffle into my modestly sized seat and we’re off. Today we have a two-hour journey ahead, aiming for a brief busking session before a concert in the evening. As the van speeds across the German countryside, a compilation of Frank Zappa and Extreme provides some background ambience while various conversations are had, books read and iPods listened to.
11am – We arrive in another city, the name of which I’m yet to discover, and park up. Here we wait while Riv and Jai, our singer/guitarist/mastermind, go exploring to find a suitable busking pitch.
11.30am – Jai returns and guides the van through a hectic labyrinth of back streets towards the spot. We unload our gear into the street and set up full PA, banner, drum kit… the works.
Afternoon – It’s All Go For This Band
12.15pm – As we change into shirts and waistcoats in front of the gradually amassing audience (modesty flew away a few months back) the girls return wearing full stage makeup, corsets and skirts. We perform two 30-minute sets as the audience continues to grow, donations mount up in the violin case, and the CD table, manned by Ed, is set upon by an endless stream of people eager to show their appreciation. During the breaks, we grab some food, go exploring and enjoy the sun.
3.15pm – Thankfully we make it through the performance without any objections. I’m growing accustomed to policemen or council workers asking us to stop, due to the volume, but it’s still unsettling when you spot 2-3 uniforms in the crowd while putting on a performance. Despite this, it’s an important aspect of the tour and allows us to spread awesome music to so many people. During the pack down I’m told that 64 CD’s were sold today! Not our personal best (111 in two hours, in Linz, Austria) but still a very positive response to our efforts. I pack my own gear away, then help with the PA and load back to the van.
4.30pm – We jump in and travel a short distance to the venue for tonight’s show, which is an old museum in a beautiful little village just outside the city. I stretch out in the sun, happy to escape the confines of the van again, and find out that we are performing in the roof! We move our equipment up two flights of wooden stairs to a converted loft space and set up.
6pm – After soundcheck we are led downstairs where the venue has laid on a wonderful meal for us. All kinds of German breads, meats and cheeses cover the table. I find it quite hard to get a decent meal when in Europe due to my diet (I’m vegetarian and intolerant to dairy. Awkward!) but there’s plenty of choice tonight.
Evening – The Concert
7pm – The concert doesn’t start until 9 o’clock so I go for a short walk in the remaining sunlight. The museum is actually an old barn that has been renovated inside, and is surrounded by some woodland, a stream and an overgrown flower garden with a random sign saying “Die Fledermaus” (complete with illustration of a bat). I like the peacefulness of the place but begin to wonder what the turn out will be like…
8.30pm – It’s nearing showtime so I make my way backstage to another part of the roof area. I grab my guitar and warm up while joining in with the usual band banter as everyone gets ready.
9.00pm – Showtime! I peek out from behind the curtain to find the room absolutely rammed. With seating full, audience members are packing themselves in at the back to be part of the show. We play two great sets to rapturous applause and a few people crying (no joke). It feels so unbelievably surreal to be cramped up in this glorified attic in the middle of nowhere with eighty or so strangers, and having this profound effect on them through music. Connecting with people (be they audience members or musicians) is the single most exciting thing about playing music and I can’t imagine my life without it. The surrealism is one of my favourite aspects of touring too. When you ask yourself “Is this for real??” on a daily basis, you know you’re in the right job.
11.00pm – After an emotional show, we pack down at the same time as chatting with fans, shaking hands, and signing countless CD’s. I never get used to signing stuff but see how happy it makes people to have something personal to remember the evening by. It always puts a smile on my face.
11.45pm – With the gear all packed, we discover our sleeping arrangements for the night. Members of the audience (and friends of the venue) are very kindly putting us up in their homes. After being given shots of, what I can only describe as, the greatest cherry liquor in the world, we say our goodbyes to the promoters and venue staff. We’re introduced to our hosts for the night (four couples, each accommodating two band members) and told to return to the venue at 10 o’clock the following morning. I grab my bag from the van and get in the car of our designated hosts, along with Marta, our cellist.
12.15pm – On arrival, we are guided to our bedroom for the night which has its own en suite. Definitely an upgrade from last night! We settle in, watch an episode of Battlestar Galactica (a recent craze that has been sweeping through the band, as instigated by bass extraordinaire Mr Jordan Brown), and get some sleep, ready for tomorrow’s adventure.
Elliot is a London-based guitar player and backing vocalist. He has performed across the UK and Europe, working with members of The Yardbirds, U2 and Kate Nash backing band. Elliot has also written and recorded with a variety of established acts, including rapper/multi-instrumentalist Chris Cape. www.elliotcoombs.co.uk
Photo: Ed Sillars