Tracks Monkeys With Lasers

On The Road With Ben Marwood And Oxygen Thief

With the long awaited release of Ben Marwood’s album “Outside There’s A Curse” coming up, he and his good buddy Oxygen Thief took to the road throughout January. The last three dates of the tour were to be Ben’s homecoming show in Reading, a charity gig in Birmingham and then a small show in London (put on by yours truly) to round things off.

As a friend of both of these guys, as well as knowing the man responsible for the Birmingham show, I joined them on the road for these 3 days.

Friday 28/01 – Rising Sun Arts Centre (Reading)

Having finished with university for the day, there was enough time for me to get a quick bite to eat, grab my sleeping bag, camera and a spare pair of boxers and jump on the train to Reading for the show.

I’ve only been to Reading the once but never for a gig but armed with my trusty iphone, I managed to find the venue with relatively little hassle (except for a broken down bus, delayed tube train and then the slowest ever train ticket purchase taking place in front of me that resulted in me missing my original train). On arriving, it’s safe to say that the Rising Sun isn’t your typical venue..

It turns out that the council have been trying to tear the place down for a while but have never been able to do so as it’s a listed building. The building is therefore safe for now and run as a charity so ticket prices are always quite cheap and all the bar staff are volunteers.

It was an odd building to go into as well with a small hallway leading through to the bar (passing the venue’s single toilet on the way) and then having to go back through another door to the venue proper. After meeting with my tour buddies for the next few days, which also included Kev, the man responsible for [edit] radio, and a few other familiar faces, including Ben’s mum, I grabbed a drink and headed through to the venue.

It was already rather busy in the 50 capacity venue, helped by the fact that 60 tickets had already been sold in advance, and the most diverse crowd I’ve seen in a good while were already listening to Oxygen Thief who was opening tonight.

As always, it was a set full of foot stomping, especially from the crowd to Too Many Trees, and Nick Clegg jokes aplenty. There was even a super rare appearance of Subtlety Is Overrated from one of his super old demos which was a request from one of the party I had no joined. The crowd favourite of Spandau Ballet’s ‘Gold’ was also out in force and went down as well as always befor the set ended with a new track that saw Mr Marwood also take to the stage to help with vocals at the end of the track and even playing guitar with OT as well.

After a quick changeover, it was another local band up for the main support slot in Quiet Quiet Band who I had never come across before (but I had met Jay, one of the guitarists and a friend of Ben’s, before) so I didn’t know what to expect. But what we got was really enjoyable.

They have a very downtempo-folky sound that really does entice you at times but can then kick in and build up really well but all with very delicate vocals over the top of it all and this all works together very well. Altogether, a set I very much enjoyed and one that the crowd seemed to as well.

After that, it was time for the man himself to step up and Ben Marwood was finally on stage to a crowd that was now too big for the venue to hold but one that gave him a hell of a welcome.

The set itself went brilliantly with the vast majority of the crowd singing along to both old and newer songs with Singalong and Oh My Days getting the best response and Horatio Dies being a particular highlight for me. One song only played on this night was Herbert West which was orginally written by a now defunct band whose members now make up the majority of Quiet Quiet Band and the crowd even knew the words to this one.

After his traditional set closer of The District Sleeps Alone Tonight, Ben got the applause he more than deserved before heading into the crowd to seemingly thank each and every member of the audience not just for being there on that night but for all their support that get him to where he is.

Overall, it was a really good night and it was great to be a part of such a big show for Ben. After the crowd had cleared, it was time to go partay and experience the full nightlife that Reading had to offer (and some HUGE moves from Mr Thief and plenty of chest bumping) before a quick chicken burger and then retiring to my sleeping bag on the floor of Ben’s living room.

Saturday 29/01 – Addistock: This Is It! @ the Bright House (Birmingham)

After a reasonable night’s sleep, copious amounts of tea, a sogg sausage roll, far too many episodes of Star Trek Voyager and the result of the Everton/Chelsea FA cup tie, it was time to hit the road, sadly without a slightly ill Kev.

Taking what seemed to be the most scenic route (i.e. slowest) way from Reading to Birmingham, we arrived early in the evening at the venue. The event tonight was the final ‘Addistock’ show which were only intended as a one-off fundraiser for Macmillan Nurses but have increased in number and raised over £2,000 and this all-dayer was to be the last of these shows.

Despite the best efforts of two FA cup games and Britain’s Got Talent auditions, we managed to actually get to the venue in the centre of the city with the Karate Kid soundtrack providing the tunes for the final part of this journey (as had been tradition for the guys on this tour). It was a fairly small pub with a stage round the back and plenty of space for those there just for the music. We arrived just at the end of B-Sydes set and his Glassjaw cover for Addis, the man responsible for the events.

After that, it was time for our new favourite downbeat-folk band Quiet Quiet Band again. This time they played an even more quiet set with less of the big buildups and less drums. It worked just as well as the night before and the more relaxed sound suited the venue and feel for the evening as well.

Next up was an Addistock regular in Neil Morris with his frentic folk music. He had quite a long set due to some other artists not being able to make the show so had a lot of time to impress and I quite enjoyed the set with enough variety in his longish set to keep it interesting.

Following that, it was a more familiar face to me in Joe Summers who plays both solo and as part of Jim Lockey and the Solemn Sun, playing as both at the show I put on at Brixton Windmill (and not the Brixton Academy as I originally wrote; thanks for proofreading Tony). I think Joe has a fantastic voice and is a very good guitar player too so he’s an artist I really enjoy. His set was mainly composed of material from his mini-album but that’s no bad thing as it’s a great piece of work. And with Keep Your Posters rounding off the set, I really enjoyed his time on the small stage.

Next up, it was Mr Adam Boucher who’s now back as a solo act after the Dead Set disbanded (who have also played one of my shows). This was the first time I’d seen him solo and I enjoyed the set and the difference in sound that the solo has from the full band set. With plenty of songs under his belt, there was a good variety of his own tracks, and the odd cover, with A Farewell To Harrington (and the heart wrenching back story to the song) being the backstory.

After Boucher and then the almighty Addistock raffle (and me winning the Complete Horse Racing Night In DVD based game much to the disappointment of Ben), Oxygen Thief was back on stage. It was more of the same from Barry (as he’ll be called from here on in as it’s his name and I’m running out of other things to call him) and it was probably more well received than the previous night and the cover of the night this time round was Andrew WK’s ‘Party Hard’ which was fantastic. Weird highlight of the set was the two man moshpit of me and Ben which didn’t quite work as I floored Mr Marwood and then didn’t quite know what to do. He did recover in time to join Barry on stage again for the final number so all was well.

It was then up to Ben Marwood to round off the night and he did so with aplomb again. Even though the crowd was smaller than the previous night, they were no less appreciative. The set was pretty similar to the previous night but was just as good as before with a mix of album tracks and older material and the set closer of ‘District’ sounding as good as ever.

After the show, it was time to clear up and get out of the venue and back to chez Addis, horse racing game in hand, along with half of the people who had played on the night it seemed for more drinks, late nate pizza, Strongbow boxes for hats, Adam Bennett abuse and all round good times (except for the rather drunk guy who told Ben he was only where he was because of Frank Turner and that he didn’t like Frank. Or Ben. And then went and crashed in Addis’ bed) before I managed to claim the sofa and got another night of drink induced sleep.

Sunday 30/01 – The Wilmington Arms (London)

After waking up and seeing the masses clear, it was time for copious amounts of toast and a spot of Futurama before bidding a fond farewell to our host and hitting the road for the final night of the tour proper in London.

A more straightforward journey than the previous day saw us get there in good time and dump our stuff in the venue and then wait for the sond engineer to arrive while we continued with the rock and roll lifestyle and drank tea. After a quick soundcheck, it was back into the bar for some food which we got A WHOLE POUND OFF for being part of the show tonight. A musician’s life seemingly has it’s perks. And tour buddy Kev rejoined up, rejuvinated by a proper nights sleep and a good shower.

After everyone had soundchecked and we’d cleared the tables, chairs, mop and bucket that made up the assorted shit left lying around the venue (rock and roll again), we were pretty much ready to get the show going.

The venue itself was actually pretty nice and a good sized room. The sound was also really good during soundcheck but now it was just the horrible wait for people to turn up which was made even more horrible by the fact that it was a Sunday and the nearest tube station was closed.

Thankfully, people had started to turn up so Adam Bennett got the proverbial ball rolling. Adam had stepped in late on to replace one act who pulled out but he had played the previous night before our arrival in Birmingham as part of his mini-UK tour with Adam Boucher and Dave Hughes (who they were meeting up with the next day). Tonight, Adam’s set went rather well with his almost sea-shanty-esque “anti-folk” songs. He’s only just started writing and touring properly but has got some good songs under his belt and he, hopefully, can only get better, even with a near constant stream of abuse from Boucher.

Next up, it was time for Adam Boucher whose set was similar to the night before. His somewhat abrasive banter with the crowd may not have gone down brilliantly with a quiet, Snday night crowd but he seemingly won some of them over as he got them to keep clapping after breaking a string and changing his guitar before carrying on. It was a slightly strange set though as he actually said nice things about Adam Bennett between tracks, perhaps only to lure him into a false sense of security before abusing him for the rest of their tour again.

Third on the bill was an act I’d been looking forward to in who are (normally) a four piece that are based in Kingston and have been together for a few years now. Tonight, however, they plained mainly as just a duo with Del on guitars and vocals and Scarlett on keyboard and vocals. They played a stripped down version of their songs and it worked really well on the night and they were the only band whose CD I bought through the entire weekend. Definitely a band I’d like to see in their full lineup and it was a set I really enjoyed.

Main support was Oxygen Thief’s time on stage and it was again more of the same. Tonight’s one-from-the-archives was Camera Shy and cover-of-the-night saw Gold re-emerge. Odd part of the set this time round was the obscure crowd surfing I ended up doing after being flipped in the air. I say crowd surfing, it was pretty much just Ben and another friend carrying me around for a bit. Barry’s set was enjoyable again and if nothing else, got people to finally emerge from the shadows at the back of the venue and come to the front of the stage.

And so, Ben Marwood, bounded on stage for the last performance of the full tour. With only half an hour on stage and a voice only just clinging to full strength, Ben launched through his set again with plenty of stories of tour and life in between. Another big rendition of Singalong ended the night but not quite as everyone would have liked as the manager came in and pulled the plug on the show so District never even had a chance.

A slightly damp squib to end the night with and a mildly disappointing turnout meant it was a slight anti-climax to the tour but I hope that those that did turn up enjoyed the set.

After clearing up and sorting everything out, it was time to say goodbye to my brothers as they returned to Reading, leaving me alone on the edge of the road with just my sleeping bag, a CD, a horse racing DVD game and a whole load of happy memories but also the thought of returning to real life the next day.

Ben Marwood – Horatio Dies (live at the Rising Sun Arts Centre)

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