I can’t remember now precisely whose brainwave it was. It was either my fault, or it was Aspinall Miles. One of us was to blame for the hair-brained scheme for which we were both probably officially Old Enough To Know Better.
After all, who amongst you wouldn’t say to yourselves: “I know, Urge Overkill are playing an obscure mod festival in December somewhere in a little known part of Spain that’s nowhere near an airport. Let’s go!”
It’s not like I hadn’t done a road trip before. There’d been plenty: Senseless Things to various toilets across the kingdom. Girls Against Boys to just about everywhere in the UK, not to mention a foray to Chicago. Pitchshifter to all over Europe. (But those are all Another Story.) The difference was, this time it would be less We Are The Roadcrew, more The
Random Jottings Of Hinge And Bracket (see their excellent website here). .
After a great deal of talking, planning, synchronising of watches and reconnoitering the area via the internet, I finally had my tour manager head on. Flights? Booked. Trains to get us from cosmopolitan Madrid to the wilds of historic Léon? Booked. Hotels in both locations which weren’t going to leave us bankrupt? Booked. Four-hour bus ride back to Madrid because all the return trains were full for the Spanish Bank Holiday? Booked. Google Translate? Downloaded. Oh, and somewhere along the way we’d managed to lay our hands on tickets to the all important Urge Overkill headline slot, set for 7th December.
Aspinall Miles: three weeks spent trying to get a small court in the South West to move a trial back a day so she could get a weekend pass from law and kids. Me: telling my clerks I’m playing hooky, booked. And relax.
What could possibly go wrong?
Now, this is the world of Urge Overkill we’re talking about. As can be seen from Keith Cameron’s excellent recent Mojo piece (follow the link here), things in Urgeworld don’t always go according to plan.
About 36 hours before we were due for Gatwick lift-off, a notification pinged into my Twitter. The UO tweeting team DM’d to alert me to the fact that the band were now having to play on 8th December, due to some sort of ‘immigration issue’ (I didn’t ask). This was awkward, since Aspinall Miles and myself were booked to fly back that day, several hours before the band would be taking the stage about 400 miles from Madrid airport.
Now, I’ve not spent the past decade grubbing about in court and prison cells and giving lip to Old Bailey judges simply in order to cave in at the first sign of trouble. FFS, this is Urge Overkill. No UK shows on the horizon. Never know when you might get another chance.
At the Easyjet check-in I was soon relieved of £70 or so to change my flight back. The monastery I’d booked in Léon could accommodate me for a second night. Nothing was going to foil me.
Only problem was, I was going to be on my own. Aspinall Miles was still going to have to get her original flight back. It would be up to me to report back on the full majesty of the UO setlist.
As we landed in Madrid and headed to the hotel like a couple of spinsters on the WI’s annual outing, I did seriously begin to wonder if I’d lost my marbles. This had better be worth it. (Our hotel had some interesting door signs as well, though the chances of either of us being ‘molestar’ on this tour were admittedly slim.)
After a whistlestop tour of the sights of Madrid – lovely, but a touch tricky if you’re vegetarian, since every other shop seemed to be a ham vendor – and a train ride across country during which we were taught some rudimentary Spanish by a charming five year old child, we’d landed in Léon.
I’d somehow managed to book us into a monastery. Well, a hotel with no bar. (An amazing place, which you can see here – well worth a visit.) Fine for me, not so great for Aspinall Miles, who was by now gasping for A Drink. Since this was the night we were meant to be seeing UO, but weren’t, and since AM had to fly home in less than 24 hours I decided it was only fair that we went out on the town. We ended up in a sports hall somewhere across town watching some American bands we hadn’t heard of, which was pleasant, with a bizarre drinks purchasing system involving tickets that Aspinall Miles never did quite work out. Her thirst was, presumably, not helped by the fact that she confessed halfway through the night that she had a handbag full of unwrapped proscuitto filched from the restaurant earlier. No, I didn’t ask.
In order to obtain some accompaniment for her ham, we decamped back into town, and somehow ended up in fantastic dive bar yards from the monastery until the early hours, where we were fed ginger cake (me – about the only thing I could eat out there, as it didn’t come with meat accompaniment) and red wine (Aspinall Miles) by the owner, an eccentric mod whose hostelry fitted about six customers, including us, but had a stonking stereo system pumping out a sensational Hammond based 60s soundtrack on repeat.
I think Aspinall Miles sampled each of the various house reds (as you can see here, below left), whilst I sampled each of the house mineral waters. But we had to make a sharp exit from the lock-in when funny cigarettes starting coming out, in order to maintain our dignity as barristers obviously. And so Aspinall Miles wouldn’t have the smell clinging to her jacket as she went through airport security in less than 12 hours.
As I waved her off in a taxi to the bus station a few short hours later, I was officially On My Own.
Part 2: I did actually see Urge Overkill play. Of which more later. Meantime, you can enjoy one of their classic numbers here. (They don’t have a song about ham, mind.)