Bigelf Progressive Nation European Tour Report: First Time in France
Ace Mark from Bigelf is currently on the road with the Progressive Nation 2009 European tour with Dream Theater, Opeth and Unexpect. He hates people who write about themselves in the third person.
Having never played in France before, we were totally taken by surprise by how the crowd was totally rocking. Definitely one of the better shows on the tour. After the signing session, we took the metro to the the city centrum for a taste of some nightlife, Paris style. And let me tell you: the rumors of people there having stiff upper lips and not speaking any English are absolute rubbish. Everybody there was so nice and friendly. Luckily the next day was a day off, so we got to stay in Paris one more day. We did the tourist thing and saw Notre Dame, Pere Lachaise and Monte Martre district with the guys from Unexpect, tons of fun.
After getting caught up in the rain in Paris with a thin velvet jacket, I had a severe cold the next day. Thankfully Jamie the tour manager hooked me up with some pills. The Lille show had an amazing audience as well, France just seems to live and breathe rock. Before our set, I was checking out Unexpect, and once again they drove yours truly and the Frenchies into a frenzy. Our show was good, and the crowd loved it. God bless France, what a cool country.
Ahoy is a huge venue in one of the biggest harbor cities in the world. Quite a few friends and family members attended the show, which unfortunately was a horrendous struggle. The guitar rig had some serious problems, and figuring out and fixing it took a good while. The audience was very patient and cheering up a storm when it came back though. Oh well, you just never know I guess.
It was about time for us to get to play in the Great Britain, our musical influences being almost entirely British. The Apollo is located in a kind of a seedy neighborhood, but the venue itself is really nice indeed. A couple we met in Vegas on the U.S. leg of Progressive Nation showed up with a couple of their friends, and strangely enough they were our tour manager Jamie’s friends as well. A small world indeed, who would have guessed?!?
It was quite fitting that the big show of the tour was on none other than David Lee Roth‘s birthday. Before the show we did a thorough troubleshooting session with the keyboard and guitar gear, with Opeth’s techs kindly offering their help. The show was really good, and the crowd was awesome. I’ve heard so many horror stories about how tough the British audiences are, but once again those rumors got proven wrong. After the show, we hung out with some people from Powerage, Plastic Head and other industry people, all of them impressed, appreciative and actually really cool, which is extremely rare. The Opeth guys and the Elves hit a local pub around the corner, and the party continued by the buses after they threw us out. After our bus had already started heading for Glasgow, Esa from Amorphis sent me an SMS that they just played in London as well. Oh well, maybe next time …
It was a freezing cold afternoon in Glasgow when I finally made myself to get up and step out of the bus. I still had a flu, plus a huge hangover on top of that. Nevertheless, everybody in Scotland seemed to be extremely friendly, but because of their accent it was next to impossible to figure out what they were saying. The show went well, second one in a row with no gear issues whatsoever, halleluja! After the show, we were signing some posters and partying by the buses with Unexpect.
Manchester, U.K. — headlining show
After a relaxed day off in Manchester we had a few shows on our own. Dream Theater was taking a few days break from the tour, so we booked our own headlining shows and Opeth went to Ireland to play on their own. The Academy is a nice little venue located at the campus of the Manchester University. After some confusion with the U.S./European/British power compatibility we finally got to the show, which was quite OK actually. A bit more relaxed than those huge venues on the Prog Nation tour, and it was nice to get to play a little bit longer set. The next day was a day off, so we took the chance to relax and recover from the flu that had also gotten a couple of our crew guys. Our tour manager Jamie and me went to a great exhibition at the Manchester Art Gallery, packed with masterpieces by William Blake, John William Waterhouse and Arthur Hughes among others.
At night we went to Big Hands near the venue and got totally wasted. While we were walking back to the hotel some local thugs jumped out of their car and wanted to beat us up. Like real peace loving hippies we ran instead of fighting, those guys being probably twice our size. One guy came after me with a metal bar, and somehow I got separated from the rest of the Elves. When I made it back to the hotel I tried calling everybody’s rooms to make sure they’re all right. No answer … I didn’t know the tour manager’s room number, nor was there anybody at the reception … At this point I was starting to get really worried, having seen Duffy getting hit straight in the face. What had happened to them? Were they at a hospital? Or even worse, lying bleeding in some dark alley? Where’s the police? Ambulance? Anybody? Finally, after a long nerve-wrecking wait they they finally showed up. They had gone out to get Indian food. Long live curry!
Nottingham, U.K. — headlining show
The Nottingham show was good as well, kinda thin on the audience though. Some huge fans showed up though, and the show went well. The load out was horrible, long ramps on a steep hill to the trailer. The local party people were very curious about us, but thankfully nobody wanted to kick our asses. Wolf from Sweden was playing next door at Rock City. Really nice guys, but unfortunately we missed each others shows. Damn. Hopefully I can catch them later supporting Wasp.
October 16th Barfly – London — headlining show
In the morning we did two photo sessions in a row for Classic Rock. Everybody was exhausted and I was still sick, spitting out blood. Anyway, the photos looked great, and before going to the club Damon quickly did a couple of radio interviews. The Barfly is located in Camden, a really cool part of London with lots of vintage stores and weird people.
Unfortunately we were out of time and energy to go out and explore, loading the backline in with a Hammond C3 and a Leslie up an angled staircase took a loooong while. Anyway, we got it done and by showtime the club was packed with some Elf-hungry Londoners. A really great show, and a great crowd. Many people said they liked it even more than the Wembley gig. After the show we were hanging out at the Barfly meeting old and new friends, among them Titus from Thunderatone and Guy Bailey from the Quireboys. Unfortunately the great night was cut short since the bus had to leave for the the boat to the European continent. With sweet sorrow we bid farewell to England and headed towards new adventures.