A brief return and a last goodbye - Leg 2 (Back in the U.K.)

By the time our ferry docked up in Liverpool from Dublin (a good hour or two later than expected) it had gone midnight. Still, we figured we’d try and make up some ground by driving through the night back towards Kent. We got as far as Warwickshire and figured we were better off (and probably safer) fending off our tiredness by sleeping in a service station carpark.

With the Irish leg of our tour over and still fresh in our minds it was time to turn our attention to a run of UK dates that would see us play around 7 gigs in about 10 days starting in Guildford at a cocktail bar called Komo.

Komo were one of the first places to support my solo project from the off and have always looked after and fed us pretty well so it was a nice place to kick things off despite it being fairly quiet.

The next day we headed into London to play at the Notting Hill Arts Club. I was on first as part of a line-up in support of an EP release for a young singer/songwriter called Danny Starr. The line-up was also strengthened by the inclusion of a french band called ‘Ryder the Eagle’ who were one of the most classy and creative bands we’ve seen in a long time. Following the gig, ourselves and Ryder the Eagle headed to a nearby pub and drank late into the night before we split the numbers into our separate vans for a bit of sleep.

2 days later we played our first gig in Bristol as I headlined a slot at Mr Wolf’s. We were blessed to be surrounded by so many good friends, (many of which we’d made through Electric River) which helped to make the atmosphere pretty easy-going and positive.

A Thursday night gig in Oxford followed at St Aldate's tavern, another venue that have always given me the time of day and one I’m grateful to return to although the lead-up to it kicked off possibly the most taxing and turbulent 48 hours we’d experienced.

Having had poor communication from the venue we were due to play after Oxford, we gave them a call to confirm things were ok. We’d recently received an email saying our gig booking had been cancelled however it referenced the wrong date so naturally we were curious to clarify things by phone after our original reply was ignored. Had we not called them ourselves, we would have turned up to a gig that wasn’t even on.

So here’s to Chasers in Daventry. The most unprofessional venue we’ve dealt with and the most condescending we’ve been spoken to by a long shot.

Have I had a venue cancel on me in the past? Sure, but not without actually letting everyone know first.

Being a Friday night, chances are we could have booked somewhere else to play so naturally we were pretty frustrated at the loss of earning and outcome. It was also irritating as we knew there were people specifically coming to support us that night which is basically why we decided to include Daventry on the tour in the first place.

Then, 20 minutes later, in a sudden U-turn and as a last ditch attempt to resolve things the gig was suddenly back on via a blunt text. By this point though my mind was made up. As far as I’m concerned and despite being skint - there are some things more important than money; humility and respect being two that spring to mind.

To top everything off, whilst the Daventry saga was occurring, news was filtering through that my Aunt (a huge supporter of my music) was rapidly losing her battle to cancer. With the benefit of hindsight, the gig being cancelled provided a weird silver lining in that it unexpectedly freed up a day that was perfectly timed for us to make the most of what presence remained of her. I’m strangely grateful to Chasers now.

We spent her last day with us hanging out whilst she was in and out of consciousness; trading in the gig to play a mini bedside set which helped lighten the mood for everyone in the hospital ward. It was the biggest and toughest gig I’ve performed in the whole time I’ve played music.

By the time we’d left that night, things seemed to have improved and judging by the level of conversations we were having I naively thought she might actually have a bit more time on her side than perhaps we first anticipated.

After picking up a late night pizza, we slept the night in the carpark of a cinema absolutely shattered and emotionally drained. When we woke up, we heard news that Kate’s condition had rapidly deteriorated over the night prompting us to rush back over to the hospital just in time to catch her. It seemed as if she’d hung on until she was with her loved ones before departing from us.

There were a small number of us around her bed that morning each putting on brave faces, dealing with the situation the best we possibly could. Though Kate would have been grateful for our company; after she left, I couldn’t have been more grateful for the people I was with too (which included my sister and Katie).

It’s hard to fully put the experience into words and though death is such a natural and ordinary thing for people to go through, I’m not sure its something I’ll ever fully be able to process. I guess we all deal with it differently. In my case, I figured having a gig later that night would be a great way to clear my head even if I wasn’t sure it would be possible.

That afternoon, we drove up to Stafford for our next gig at a place called The Market Vaults.

Upon arrival, all signs pointed to another uphill battle of a pub gig to gain just a tiny bit of attention and interest from the punters in the room. It panned out to be the opposite and there was a real enthusiasm for my set and what I was doing. The Market Vaults gig picked our tired, battered souls up again and it’s something I will always be grateful for having started the day in the worst way imaginable.

The next day, we finished our short run around the UK back in Kent at The Tickled Trout in Wye, in the company of family and good friends which made for the perfect atmosphere considering the circumstances.

I dedicated the set to Kate, kicking it off by summarising who she was and what she stood for.

Kate was completely selfless and never once said anything remotely negative in the whole time I’d known her. She was never comfortable being the centre of attention and was always concerned for the welfare of others, even when things were at their grimmest.

I remember thinking as a kid growing up that she had to be one of the nicest and most gentle people I’d ever known. That impression never changed and I’ve now come to realise and appreciate what a blessing her presence and influence really was to everyone around her.

The whole run of UK gigs was naturally overshadowed by the chain of events that unfolded towards the end but it was still nice being home and gigging around our own country.

We ended up getting slapped with a fine for sleeping in that service station the first night we arrived off of the ferry which really pissed us off considering we felt were doing the right and safest thing by resting (as so many motorway signs urge you to do). We’ve since come to learn not to waste time or money on insignificant threats like parking fines that are dished out by immoral private companies (that have no real legal power anyway) who’d rather penalise you than ensure the safety of yourself (let alone everyone else on the road). It’s something you don’t really get in mainland Europe; the place where everything started for us and where we were heading back to 3 days later….

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