Box News #289 – November 5th, 2019

Posted in Uncategorized on November 5, 2019 by heepster

Mick documents the mighty Heep still living the dream and playing concerts in Holland, Denmark, Finland and the UK throughout ‘Rocktober.’

Well October the 3rd it was time for the mighty Heep to congregate for another tour. This time through Holland, Denmark and Finland. A number of us were met by Vic in the van at a hotel in London at St Pancras. This included Phil, Jonny (Monitors) Josh (Front of house instead of Angus on a Sabbatical) and my good-self. We then drove to a services by the Dartford Tunnel to pick up Bernie and meet the rest of the crew along with Davey who had driven down from Manchester.

Russ was meeting us at Harwich, as we were taking the overnight ferry to Rotterdam Holland. I left my home at 15.15pm, and I was walking into my cabin on the ferry at midnight, so it was a long old day. I went straight to bed once I had adjusted my clocks to Holland time, and put my alarms on. The alarms however I did not need as we were woken by the boat tannoy with a very loud voice telling us at various intervals when the Duty Free was shutting, and when the Restaurant for breakfast would open and shut, along with our docking times and where to congregate to depart the boat. This annoying messages began about 6.30am, so no way to sleep in until docking time. Then it was madness trying to find the van again.

With everyone inside the convoy of the three vans, we drove to Hengelo in Holland, and that took a total of 3 hours. This gave the crew ample time to get everything ready for the gig, and as it was Josh’s first gig for the out front sound, we did a sound check.

It was the first gig of the tour and completely sold out, which was a good way to start. We were on stage at 21.30pm, so we had time to go back to our hotel, which was cool. I had just started watching a Netflix series called ‘Mindhunter’ which had me hooked from the first episode, so I watched that. It is based in 1977 and is about a frustrated FBI negotiator who finds a veteran agent who joins up with him, and they start studying a new class of murderer and getting into the psychology of their killing mind set by visiting them in jails across the USA. It was riveting and as one episode finished you are on to the next.

Well back at the ‘Metropool’ venue we could see that it was packed to the rafters and even the balcony was overflowing. The atmosphere was electric, and we could see a sea of familiar faces too. For the first show it was brilliant and what a fantastic reception we received. Holland never let’s us down, and we always have a good time there.

Jon our monitor engineer only did Holland as Ben our usual engineer flew into Denmark to be with us, as he could not do Holland to previous commitments.

However, after the show we had to wait for Vic our driver to help pack the van, and then we went back to the hotel to shower and get to bed. The next day was a long old shlep to Aarhus Denmark. It was over 7 hours driving, but luckily it was a day off. We arrived in time to put our bags in our rooms and go to dinner. Davey and the crew went to a Chinese and Phil, Bernie, Russ and myself found what we thought was an Italian. We had to laugh as it had Italian and Greek food on the menu and the waiter was a miserable Turkish guy, and we were in Denmark. What hope did we have? The waiter did not speak a word of English, and he would not even try to understand. To give you an example Phil, Bernie and Russ ordered a pasta dish each and each one was a different type of pasta meal, but he brought to the table three pasta dishes the same. I ordered grilled Salmon and a Greek Salad. The salad arrived with only green lettuce and one small piece of Feta Cheese, with a dollop of Tzatziki, which looked like a low flying pigeon could have dumped on it . A couple of the guys had wine which was even below the taste buds of airplane wine, so all in all it was a disaster. Still we all opted for an early night after that little culinary mistake and the three of them went to the van to pick up a bottle of wine each to take to the room and down their sorrows.

The next day we had a bit of a hang about day, and I went shopping in a mall by the hotel to get a few bits and bobs I had forgotten to pack. In all of the years I have been touring I still always manage to forget something. Unbelievable really.

We didn’t have a sound check this day and as it was a Sunday, we were on really early at the ‘Train’ venue at 20.00pm, and no support band, which was a bit strange. Well it was a smallish club gig, but well attended and we had a good time there. It was one of those where the audience were up uncomfortably close, but it was still fun, and by the sound of it they loved it.

We had a Golden Ticket guy to meet after the show and he bought his son with him. We had met him and his wife before in Austria, and we sat and had a drink with them and a really long chat which was cool. Then we signed CD covers and had pictures taken and then we said our goodbyes and we went back to the hotel.

The next day we had a 3 hour drive to Copenhagen Denmark which wasn’t too bad, and the band minus Bernie went to a local Mall to grab a bite to eat. We ended up in a ‘Tex Mex,’ which was just the ticket.

There was a support band at the ‘Amager Bio,’ so we were not on stage until 21.15pm. We went down a little earlier to a meet and greet ticket holder, which was cool. On arrival at the venue we could see it was rammed and the atmosphere super electric. There was a support band on called ‘Royal Hunt’ and they went down well. I think they are a local Danish band. We met the meet and greet guy which was cool, and we had a beer with him, and we signed his albums and CD’s before taking a picture, and then it was time to prepare for the stage.

When we walked on to the stage there was a huge roar and we knew it was going to be a good night as the venue was rockin’. Well Copenhagen did not let us down, and we had a great night. The sound on stage was good, and everything just fell into place from the first note. It was an amazing night and after that we met some friends of ours, and then it was back to the hotel.

The next morning we had the journey from hell to Tampere Finland. We left at 10am which was not too bad, but then we started a 7 hour journey to catch a ship in Stockholm Sweden. It was a rainy grey old day, and certainly no fun for our drivers. When we were at the docks we had to wait 2 hours before getting on the boat. When we eventually did that, and went to our cabins, we went off for some dinner. We found a restaurant that did a buffet type meal and we opted for that. Well the food to me was disgusting, and even the sorbet on offer at the end was no good, so all in all a big disappointment. However others tucked in and seemed to enjoy it, mainly because the beer, red wine and white wine were included in the price. I was not drinking so Phil who popped in to see us had my glass and continued to enjoy multiple Rosé wines for free.

Well Finland was an hour in front of Sweden, so we all adjusted our watches and phones. A few of the crew and Davey had some drinks left over from last nights rider in a cabin, and did not eat at all. They then went and investigated the cabaret in the ship nightclub. I went to bed as I knew it was an early get up, but even I was not prepared for a wake up call of someone opening my door at 6.15am to shout it was time to get ready to leave the ship, and to find your vehicle by 7.30am.

Once off the boat we drove the 3 hours to Tampere in Finland where the first of our Finnish concerts was, starting at a venue called ‘Pakkahuone.’ Now try saying that sober or drunk! I have been to Finland many times and I still cannot get my head around the language at all.

We stopped off to refuel on the way and the other vans drove straight through to the hotel. We could not officially check in until 12 midday, so it was our way of wasting some time rather than sitting in reception. When we arrived the crew had just come back from MacDonald’s, and there were a few casualties from the night on the boat. Luckily some of the rooms became ready, so we all gradually drifted off to our separate rooms to catch up on a little sleep.

While we were there Marco our promoter came to meet us with the two beautiful girls who were going to do our merchandising on this Finnish run of dates. Now my left hand fingertips have been very sore for some reason from playing guitar and this periodically happens, and I read on the internet that Apple Cider Vinegar was good for this as well as Super Glue. Well the article said Stevie Ray Vaughn used to use Super Glue, but I went for the softer option which was Mrs Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar. Marcos our promoter kindly brought me a bottle to try thanks to Scampi phoning him ahead of our arrival.

Knowing my luck with Super Glue my fingers would all get stuck together, and that would be the end of that. I have never tried it before, so I gave the vinegar a go. I must say on the first use I was left with a craving for Fish and Chips, but there you go! You have to suffer for your art, so I am reliably told!

Back in my room I went straight to bed, and when I woke up Russ and I went for a light late lunch in a coffee shop a few doors down from the hotel. Phil was out walking and Davey and Bernie were dead to the world. We had a pick up time of 8pm so we had plenty of time to recover.

Well it was decent size venue and well packed out, so a really good way to start the Finnish tour. On this run there was a DJ with us and a support band for the whole tour. We did our usual and arrived just on the hour before stage time to get ready and warm up. All day I had been soaking my fingers in the vinegar and it seemed to smooth them out, which was a bit of a worry. Still once on stage the adrenaline kicked in and everything rocked hard, including the audience. I was pleasantly surprised that the fingertip saga had not got any worse, and a minuscule bit better, so that was good news. Now all I had to do was to try and curb the craving for Fish and Chips. However, in the end I came to the conclusion that I would have to grin and bear it until the callouses decided to come back, which should only take a couple of shows. Anyway it was a good start to the Finnish tour and everyone was super happy.

Our next show was in Kouvola at a venue called ‘Kuusankoskitalo.’ Try saying that with a belly full of beer. Mind you with a belly full of beer you would have more chance. This was only a 2 1/2hr drive which was approximately 118 miles.

This was cool as we had more time at the hotel, but it was an unusually early show with us on stage at 19.00pm. It was a seated venue, but at least the stage was big, so that was good. The venue was rocking all the way through with plenty of people standing the whole show. In the end everyone was standing which was great, as it took the level of excitement up another level until the end. As usual with these type venues our dressing room was super small, but we managed to get through.

The following day it was a 3 hour drive to Turku where the hotel was. This was one hour away from the venue as by all accounts the venue was in the boondocks, and this was the only hotel for miles that would be suitable.

We arrived in time for a little lunch, but the crew had to drive to the ‘Lallintalo’ venue to start preparing the stage for the nights performance. We were doing this tour in three vans with the crew split between all three vans, and we had Rich and Josh in with us. This meant poor old Vic had some heavy driving in front of him. Apart from the 3 hours to get to the hotel he then had to drop off the crew and then come back for us to go to the gig, and then after the gig drive us back to the hotel, so he was driving a total of 7 hours. D’oh!

This was a strange old gig all round, and the crew did us proud to get part of the back drop up and all of the smoke machines working and in place. The audience just looked like they were well up for a rock show, which was cool. It was a smaller stage than of late, but everything managed to fit on and all in all it was a cool gig, but we were not on stage until 22.00pm, so it was a late one by comparison to the other shows.

After we had finished the concert and changed, we were driven straight back to the hotel and we were lucky to get into bed before 2am. Still we did not leave the next day until 10.30am and that did help, as it was only a 2 hour drive to Helsinki for the next show.

It was recovery time in the Helsinki hotel before we had a fan meet in the hotel foyer at 5pm. We had lots of pictures taken and signed all sorts of things, before going to the restaurant to have a little dinner. The venue in Helsinki was the ‘Kulttuurialto’ and we were on stage at 20.30pm.

It was a magical day for Davey as his wife Corine had given birth to a beautiful bouncing boy back in England, which was fantastic. His name is Luke and I announced this on stage to a big roar from the audience and it was a very special moment in the Heep family.

This show was brilliant and it was good to be back in Helsinki. It was half seated and half standing so this kind of took care of everyone. We prefer the audience to be standing as we can better interact with them and feel the buzz but as The Rolling Stones wrote so eloquently ‘You can’t always get what you want.’

Beside this it was rockin’ and a good time was had by all. After the show we met many friends that we have acquainted over the many years we have been playing in Helsinki. Some of the boys went out on the town to the Hard Rock Cafe afterwards, to see a Heep tribute band called ‘Innocent Victim.’ By all accounts they were very good and played more obscure Heep tracks very well. They all dressed in Hippie clothing and they had the authentic equipment, so they seemed to be doing it right. It turned out to be a bit of a late night for some and in the morning there were casualties and I was glad I went to my room early. Still when you get out of bed when the alarm goes off feeling rough, the only consolation is the fact that the day can only get better. Well that’s the way I look at it anyway!

The next day we had a drive to Lappaanranta where we were playing a venue called ‘Konserttitalo.’ It was only a 3 hour drive, so on arrival there was enough time to get some catch up sleep and to reenergize. The venue was only 5 minutes from the hotel, but it was an early show at 19.00pm. This was a pretty smallish show, but it was a loud and proud audience which made it all a lot of fun. They really went for it and all in all it was a rockin’ night.

The next day was a 2 1/2 hour drive to Hyvinkaa. Now this was a day off and unusually we would be staying in the same hotel Sveitsi for 4 nights. It was one of those health spa hotels and it must have been school holidays, as there were plenty of families milling around. There was an Olympic size swimming pool, a Sauna, Golf Course and even a ‘Go Ape’ in the surrounding forest.

The night off was pretty quiet as there was not a lot around, so we became hostage to the hotel restaurant as everything else was a drive away. Still the food was good and I relished the time to chill, as did most of the others. The vans were a still full of left over booze from the gigs, so there was no shortage of alcohol. Bottles of wine etc were being smuggled into various rooms at a rate of knots.

At breakfast it made me laugh, as they dispensed fruit juice and water through an iPad which seemed very strange, but there you go. The following day was a day off too and Bernie had been to see a doctor re his voice and was given some antibiotics and steroids. Vic kindly drove Bernie and I to the shopping mall to get his prescription, but this was not without incident. I thought I would keep Bernie company but the first Pharmacy did not stock his medicine, and the second one did not have the strengths of the prescription, so they had to phone the doctor and get confirmation all was okay, which took forever. It was a long old wait, but eventually it was done and dusted so to speak.

Now Bernie has Thai food constipation, as he can never pass a Thai restaurant, and we walked past a Thai come Sushi buffet, and he immediately wanted to eat, and as I was not hungry as it was still quite early and no where near our 1pm lunch time, so I sat in a coffee shop waiting for him and played Sudoku. I had planned to eat at the hotel later anyway and then Vic kindly picked us up to drive back to the hotel.

Once again it was a chilled evening and I really enjoyed that. I had my travel guitar with me, so I could write a few pieces of music that I recorded on to my iPhone, which was cool.

The next day I had an interview at 5pm with FHMF, a metal video show which was cool! The gig day in Hyvinkaa was a short drive to the venue which was called the ‘Hyvinkaa Sali’ and it was like a seated amphitheater, but the band were playing on the floor. To be honest it was more like a University lecture room. This was all very strange but somehow it all worked. We had a good gig and by the end of the show they were all out of their seats shouting for more, so it was all good.

Russ had received some good news as his son’s lady had just had a baby girl, which made him a grandad. After his solo piece that night in ‘Look at Yourself,’ Bernie said ‘and on drums Granpa Gilbrook’ which raised a smile or two. Now what with Davey’s Corine giving birth the Heep family is rapidly growing.

The following day we were playing at a show one hour away at the ‘Wanda Walimo’ venue in Lahti. We were still at the same ‘Sveitsi’ hotel, so it was a lot of driving back and forth for Vic again. We were on stage at 20.30pm, so we left at 18.15pm to make sure we arrived in time. Now Lahti would be the 93rd show we had played in Finland over our career, so we are getting ever closer to the 100 mark, which is amazing. Not many foreign bands can say that can they! A feather in the mighty Heep cap for sure!

This was another small venue, but there were a couple down the front of the stage that made my night. They were well into it and knew all of the words to both old and new songs, and it just created a good vibe. Everyone else was having fun and enjoying it, but those two down the front were brilliant and I am glad they came. The audience were all screaming for more at the end and in the finale couple of songs it was rockin’ big time. The dressing room was smaller than small and with an hours drive back to hotel in front of us, we did not hang around long.

Well we had to leave our hotel home and travel to Turku which took approximately 2 hours. We left at 11am and luckily on arrival our rooms were ready. We then went for some lunch and then chilled in our rooms before leaving for the gig. This venue was a called ‘The Logomo.’ Well it was a fantastic gig and the audience were well up for it. The stage was large, and we could fit all of our production on, and we had a great time as the sound was hard and heavy and exciting.

After the show they had not organized our usual Pizza’s and Salads, but decided to have them all delivered to the hotel which was a pain in the backside to be honest. We did leave the venue a bit sharpish as we had a 7am wake up call to travel 6 hours to Nivala and on a gig day. Stage-time was 22.30pm in Nivala, so we had enough of time to recuperate.

A lot of people came back from the gig and were in the hotel bar and then the band and crew had to wait for the food to arrive, but I decided a late night was not a good call with a 7am wake up, and neither was going to bed on a full stomach, so I gave it a miss. I would have liked to have met everyone after, but sometimes you have to make the decision for self preservation. I am so glad I did as there were a few casualties in the morning, and a long 6 hour drive that turned into 7 hours, with a stop the next day. The van was full of nodding dogs at one point!

Nivala at the Tuiskula venue was rocking and we could feel the tour coming to an end. It was a long drive and a gig, and the crew did us proud getting everything ready in time, so that we could put on a rockin’ show.

The last concert of the tour which amounted to our 96th Finnish concert over 49 years, was a 4 hour drive and lo and behold there was snow on the ground. Not a lot but still snow, which I hate.

Our final show in Joensuu was at the Carelia Sali, and it was another Amphitheater type lecture Hall again, but we were used to these by now and it was a good solid rockin’ show and a good one to go out on. I thanked all of the crew and organizers on stage, which I usually do at the end of a tour, and as each name was spoken, there was a huge roar which was cool. After a few celebratory drinks in the dressing room it was back to the hotel.

The following day we drove to Joensuu Airport to catch a flight to Helsinki and then Helsinki to London’s Heathrow at Terminal 3. The Northern Mafia had another long wait in London to get their connecting flight home which I am glad that it was not me, as I I met my driver and we cruised home just missing the traffic, and as I walked in the front door my dog Iggy went ballistic with happiness which was just great. My cat Biscuit barely lifted his head from his slumber in his warm basket, but it felt good to be home. Sheila was at work and Romeo was in University, so it was a quiet house there for a bit but so lovely to chill, unpack and not be moving for a couple of days.

I had 4 days at home and two of those days Sheila and I went to Leeds University to see our son Romeo. He has a cousin up there and it was her birthday and her parents were taking her out to dinner and they invited Romeo. So we decided to join them and surprise Romeo, which we did and he loved it. I got back on Thursday night and then Friday morning at 9am I had to do some filming for a book on StompBoxes that is coming out. Of course they wanted pictures of me and my Jim Dunlop Cry Baby Wah Wah, and this went well.

The next day I met Phil at Kings Cross station to take the train to Sheffield where we were headlining the HRH V111 Progressive Music festival. There were a total of 6 bands playing with us going on last, and it was a total sell out. It was a good venue, a great atmosphere, and we had a really rockin’ show. The following day the same festival was sold out at Shepherd Bush London, so that was super cool too. The same thing happened, and it was an amazing reception, and how the audience managed to keep up their energy levels was incredible. 6 bands is an awful lot of music to sit or stand through, but they did us proud at both venues, which we thank them for. Maybe both venues ran out and had to get in a re-stock of Red Bull, who knows! Ha!

After the show we met a multitude of people as playing in London everyone seems to come out of the woodwork. It was lovely to see them all but equally lovely to jump in a cab and climb into my own bed that night! Heaven! It was passing ships in the night for Sheila and I as she was off to France at 5am in the morning, as she was going on a short birthday present trip her sister Anne-Marie and her husband Bill had booked for her.

So it was just down to Iggy, Biscuit and Moi, but I must say I did relish the fact I was not moving on the next day, and I could finally unpack my suitcases, and chill and reflect on what fantastic concerts in Holland, Denmark, Finland and the UK there had been!

‘Appy days!
Mick

Box News #288 – September 12, 2019

Posted in Uncategorized on September 12, 2019 by heepster

Mick documents in another blogolicious the mighty adventures of Heeps concerts in Switzerland, Austria and Gibraltar!

Thursday the 29th of August we travelled to Switzerland to play the Riverside Festival in Aarburg. Over the two days the festival was running, performing there were the likes of ‘Alice Cooper,’ ‘Blackstone Cherry, ‘Uriah Heep,’ ‘Avantasia,’ ‘Dee Snider,’ ‘Krokus’ and Evanescence.’ It was a well run festival and by all accounts Sold Out.

We went in a day early and as we checked into the hotel we saw Sina Rückmann who carved out of wood that heavy wooden Mini-Me that sits in my garden at home by the pond, as she was staying at the same hotel. We had a little dinner in the hotel restaurant as it was getting late and then we had a reasonably early night. The nice thing was that the promoters had left in each persons room, 2 huge cushions with the festival name on and the Uriah Heep logo so that we could take these home, which was cool.

The following day was pretty chilled until we went down to the festival site for dinner. We were on just before local boys and darlings of Switzerland ‘Krokus.’ Well the audience were amazing for us and it was a fantastic show even though we could not play our full set. However it rocked big time and we received a brilliant reaction that felt so good. Switzerland did us proud!

After the show we met a few people backstage, but there was a little chaos back there as Alice Coopers production trucks had arrived a day early, and there was no where for them to park. However I did get to meet my old mate Bob Catley from ‘Magnum,’ who was singing with ‘Avantasia’ that night and Oliver Hartman who was playing guitar with ‘Avantasia.’ I first met Oliver when he played guitar on the ‘Rock Meets Classic’ tour that Bernie and I did, and we also did a ‘Rock Meets Classic’ with Bob and Tony Clarkin from ‘Magnum’ too. It was great to see them both and also the guy who put the ‘Avantasia’ project together Tobias Sammet who is a really cool guy and a talented musician.

We then went back to the hotel as we had an early leave the next day to Austria. We had a show in a venue called the Rathausaal in Telfs. Now this show we tried to do earlier in the year, but we had to cancel as our trucks with the equipment in were held up at the borders on their journey from Istanbul Turkey, and there was nothing we could do about it. Bernie, Phil and I made it as we flew along with a couple of train journeys, but the crew bus with Russ and Davey on it and the equipment didn’t.

We had to stay in a hotel right by Innsbruck Airport, which was convenient for flying home the next day, but a bit of a journey to the gig. Before we were booked into a hotel by the side of the venue, however this was sold out as the demand for tickets for the show made it as close to a sold out concert as you will ever get and therefore the hotel was full.

When we hit the stage we could see that the venue was rammed to the rafters and the promoter was very happy indeed. The atmosphere was electric and they were ready to rock big time. It was so hot on stage that from halfway through the first number we were drenched and so were the audience. It was one big rocking Sauna!

Well we could play our full set so that was good, and it was unbelievable how good the new songs were going down, and seeing everyone singing along to those songs was incredible. It was a fantastic night, and the audience gave us so much, that it just fuelled us with adrenalin.

After the show we met Steve Kerslake (Son of Lee) and it was good to see him, though we could not wait around too long, as we had the journey back to the airport hotel and an early flight the next day home.

The hotel was so close to the airport that after breakfast we walked to departures and all checked in. Then we had a little time in the lounge before flying back to LHR Terminal 5 on British Airways.

As usual it was delayed, but it was not too bad. I was rushing home to see the North London derby football match between my beloved team Tottenham Hotspur’s against arch rivals Arsenal.

I had planned to meet my wife Sheila and my son Romeo at home, and then to drive over to Sheila’s sisters house to watch it with her husband Bill and some more of her family. However with the delay it was getting a bit tight, so I arrived home and instead of driving we caught an Uber cab.

As the game had already started while driving there I watched the beginning of the match on my mobile phone on the way over, so the Uber was a good move. The end result was a 2-2 draw which was not what I would have liked, but way better than a loss. We had a wonderful dinner with some excellent vino, and then we ordered an Uber back home.

On the 6th of September not only was it my son Mike’s birthday, we were flying out to Gibraltar for a show. I bombarded Mike with Birthday wishes and I even got to talk to him on my mobile phone at the airport, which was lovely.

We were meant to be flying out from LHR on British Airways, having booked and paid for our flights, but for our return journey they sent us a text message via our BA App saying this was cancelled. Scampi our tour manager then had to find alternative flights quickly, and we ended up on EasyJet, which flew in and out of London Gatwick. The Northern Mafia ( Most off the Crew and Davey) flew to and from Manchester. They had killer red eye stupid o’ clock flights both ways which I am glad I was not on.

I do not like flying from LGW as it is a bit of a long drive from North London to the airport and more expensive too. Well there was nothing we could do and once at the airport I have to say it was a bit of a breeze getting through security and into the lounge. Russ had brought along with him his lady Christie and his son Kai and his girlfriend Sophie.

The flight was 2hrs 30mins long and on arrival we we were met by our drivers who took us to the hotel which was very close by. I have to say that the EasyJet in-flight menu was more extensive than BA, which surprised me and the items in their duty free magazine were so much cheaper.

Now the amazing thing was that when you leave the airport by car you actually cross over the runway. There are traffic lights to tell you when a plane is coming, not that you need them because you can for sure see that big hunk of metal coming at you.

The other strange bit of trivia is that when they made the runway, it was over a burial ground. Now they moved all of the graves that they could, but for the Jewish graves they were not allowed to move them, so they are still there under the runway.

When you get off the plane the Rock as they call it, is right there, and you can see it at every twist and turn, which is quite impressive. It is 412 metres high which when you consider the Eiffel Tower is 324 metres, the Pyramids in Egypt are 138 metres, the London Eye big wheel is 135 metres, it is pretty big.

We managed to get to the hotel in time for dinner, and we found an Italian restaurant next door to the hotel that was pretty good. The next morning we went for a walk after breakfast. Russ and his family went their different ways, while Phil, Bernie and I decided to walk into town and see what was going on.

Well the Main Street was just like a longer Oxford Street full of shops and many of them were selling the same goods. You could buy really cheap alcohol though, as a litre of blue label Smirnoff Vodka would cost you £7.50. It took 1hr 30mins to meander there and back plus a 30min lunch, so that is how long the road with shops goes on, to give you an idea.

We did see a funny thing though, as there was an old busker guy playing and singing with a keyboard, and he had a dog by his side with a hand written card saying ‘Dog Plays Piano.’ Well we waited to see what this was, and it amounted to the guy putting food on the keyboard and the dog pawing it and eating it making a bit of a racket. I don’t know what else I expected but it did remind me of the time I went to the Calgary Stampede in Canada which was a huge Rodeo type show, and we were with ‘Def Leppard,’ and there was a tent with a sign saying ‘Maneating Chicken,’ and when we went in, there was indeed a man eating chicken. As you can imagine howls of laughter pursued for many an hour after and it still makes me giggle even now.

Well the festival was called ‘Gibraltar Calling,’ and the bands playing on the Main Stage and the Classic Stage over the 2 days were Uriah Heep, Nazareth, 10CC, Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel, David Essex, Slade and the Lighthouse Family. On the main stage it was Enrique Iglesias, Take That, Liam Gallagher, Rick Ashley and Pete Doherty. I think you will agree that is quite a musical mix and match or pick and mix if you like!

We were on the Classic stage after Nazareth, so at least they had a good dose of Classic Rock right there with those two bands, and it was good to catch up with the boys. It was a short set for both bands, so we gave it both barrels and it went down great. The mighty Heep did indeed Rock the Rock! After this we had some dinner and then we went back to the hotel where some continued partying and others retired to their rooms. I went to my room as I was done with my drinking at the gig.

Because of the change of flight from BA to EasyJet, we were not leaving until 10pm, and we had a 7pm pick up at the hotel with a 4pm check out. The crew and Davey as I said before left at 9am, and I was glad not to be on that flight home I can tell you, but little did we know what was in store for us.

Russ and his family went off sightseeing, as did Angus and Rich, so that left Phil, Bernie and myself to go up the Rock by Cable Car. Well it was all going terribly well and the views were amazing, and when we arrived at the top you could see the wild Macaques Monkey’s all over the place. There was a behavioural chart so that you know when and if they are going to attack you. They are quite mischievous and some had their little cute babies with them that were equally mischievous. We spent some time on the rocks where the monkeys were and you could see them picking insects, fleas, or mites off of each other all the time. Now when some guy was not looking one of them jumped up on to his head, which although looked like a good photo opportunity to his friends, I am not sure what they would have left in his hair. D’oh.

We were half way to St Michael’s Cave, which was rumoured to be bottomless. They say that this probably gave birth to the story that the Rock of Gibraltar was linked to Africa by a subterranean passage under the Strait of Gibraltar, where the Macaque Monkey’s were said to have come through this passage and settled on the Rock.

They actually have concerts in the cave that seats around 400. The stalactites are all lit in different colours which gives it a nice atmosphere, but it still quite damp in there and an example of the type of concert they have is ‘Les Miserables’ which was performed in the cave in 2012.

Anyway we were half way to St Michaels cave where we met Angus and Rich and there was a freak storm like nothing I had seen before. None of us were really prepared for this and neither were most of the visitors. We were all totally soaked through. Bernie, Angus and Rich made it to the cave but Phil and I drenched, walked back to the restaurant/cafe/gift shop. Of course most of the other visitors did the same, so it was packed. Phil and I had a coffee and a sandwich, and just as we decided to go back down, Bernie turned up soaked to the bone. Well we lined up for the cable car and nothing was moving. We waited there for a long while, but the storm increased so much, that you could not see out over the horizon. There were huge flashes of lightning and because we were up in the clouds in the middle of the storm when the thunder struck, it was deafening. So much so that it made a few ladies cry as it was that loud and scary.

Well eventually we were told that the cable car was not moving and that was that. We all had to go back to cafe, and change in our tickets for a number and that was the bus that would drive you back down to the bottom. Well we were not lucky, as we ended up with ticket number 6 and there were only 9 buses in total. Two ladies recognised us from the show and excitedly wanted a picture taken so we did that, but there we sat for 3 hours soaked to the bone, which in turn gave us the shivers.

I have to say that when the storm calmed down a little the Monkey’s got extra mischievous and they were ripping peoples plastic macs off their backs, putting there hands in peoples bags and backpacks, and jumping on peoples heads. The storm really did liven them all up.

All this time I was letting Russ know what was happening as he was down below, so that he could tell the hotel what was going on, as we were meant to check out of our rooms at 4pm. When our bus eventually came up the Rock, there were two tourist Taxi’s that stopped at the various points on the way up with people on board doing a tour, so our bus could not pass them, as the road was super narrow, and this just added to our waiting time. I got a call from Russ saying the hotel understood our plight and they kept my room on and put some extra towels in it so that we could all have a shower, plus they moved Bernie and Phil’s luggage into my room too. That was very kind of them!

We eventually made it down and then we had to get a taxi back to the hotel. Well it would seem that the only taxi’s in town were those doing tours, so we went into the first pub and asked the barman to order us one which he did thank goodness. While we were waiting two guys came out raving about seeing our show the night before and wanting pictures. Well as you can imagine we were not looking the best or in the best of moods, but we still obliged. Our taxi eventually came and we were off to the hotel. We got there at 5.30pm so after a quick shower each, we were out of the room by 6pm. This was just enough time to pop into the Italian Restaurant next door to have something to eat, before being picked up at 7pm.

Angus and Rich managed to get down in time for the hotel check out at 4pm, and when I sent a text to Angus he said that he was just drying out his shoes and shirt with the hair dryer. He also sent me a text saying that the flight home had been delayed for an hour. We were wondering whatever would turn up next.

Well we were picked up at the agreed 7pm and delivered to the airport and we checked in very easily, and we all went to the lounge for a 3 hour wait. Eventually we got on the flight and it took us back to London Gatwick Airport where we had to wait an age to collect our bags or even find out what carousel the bags would come up on as so many flights landed at the same time.

Eventually I walked though my door at 3am knackered, but very happy to be home. My family were all asleep, but my dog Iggy came and gave me a big welcome home, while my cat Biscuit never stirred from his slumber. In the end it was just another one of those days!

‘Appy days!
Mick



Box News #287 – September 6, 2019

Posted in Uncategorized on September 6, 2019 by heepster

My latest Blogolicious documenting the mighty Heep’s trip to Belgium
to play the Alcatraz Festival (Open Air Kortrijk Courtrai) which was Heavy metal to the max!

On Wednesday the 7th of August Romeo was flying to Cyprus with a few of his friends for a 5 day holiday. He had to meet the person who was driving them to Luton Airport at 3am at a certain meeting point to drive him there with his friends, as he was travelling on ‘Wizzair’ budget airlines.

I woke up at 2.30am to wake up Romeo and drive him there, and he said that his friend had just sent him a text to be there at 4pm instead. Romeo stayed in bed of course, but I was up so I stayed up having a cup of tea and reading the papers on my iPad. I woke him up at 3.30am and we arrived at the pickup point right on time. After seeming Romeo off I went back to bed pronto, and I went into a deep sleep. I had the house phone and my mobile phone beside my bed in case of any problems, but luckily they did not ring.

Well on Thursday it was back to LHR Terminal 5 to fly to Belgium. We all met up in the usual lounge to fly British Airways to Brussels Airport. It was certainly getting to be ‘Groundhog Day’ with this festival season upon us, but no complaints there as we have played some wonderful festivals and there is a lot more to come thankfully.

The flight was shorter than normal and they hardly had time to get the drinks trolly up and down the aisle before we were landing. It was BA’s customary 30 minutes late leaving, but with all of the dramas of late at the airports we did pretty well considering, and on landing it was nice to know that all of our luggage had made it too.

We met our drivers and were taken to the hotel which was a nice enough hotel but it was still stiflingly hot and the air conditioning they had mounted on the wall was blowing out so softly a babies breath while sleeping would have been stronger.

Well it was a bags in the room and straight down to the bar moment on arrival at the hotel. We were hoping for some Leffe draft beer, which is a favourite of Phil, Davey and my good self, but we could not find it anywhere. However we did find a lovely Trappist draft beer that did the trick nicely. After a few of those we walked to a restaurant with the attractive name of ‘Ribs & Beer.’ There were a few other bands in there who were playing the same festival, but I did not really recognise any of them.

Well dinner was fine, washed down with a dark Trappist draught beer this time, that had a bit of a more fruity taste, which Davey particularly liked, as he is the sweet tooth in this band for sure. He even ordered Ribs with Chocolate Barbecue sauce, which made my stomach churn, but he liked them, so ‘Appy Days!

It was an all you can eat rib place and we asked the waiter what the record was, and he said one guy ate 9 1/2 full racks of ribs in one sitting. Now one rack had 9 ribs, so he ate a total of 85 ribs. Now that is glutenous of the highest degree.

After dinner we had a final beer in the town square sitting outside, which was rather pleasant, before walking back to our hotel a few yards away and off to bed. As we were sitting outside Nibbs the bass player for ‘Saxon’ was walking around asking people where the hotel was, as he had just arrived, so luckily he bumped into us, and we showed him exactly where it was.

I had breakfast in the morning as it closed at 10.30am, so that was cool, and so did a lot of the other bands and crews. It was the usual meet up at 1pm for lunch but Bernie and Phil were quite happy with a kebab from a shop nearby, but Russ wanted a proper meal, so I went with him to an Italian.

We did did have a laugh when ordering as Russ wanted an Arrabbiata Pasta with chilli’s and on top of that some shrimp or prawns, which was not on the menu. Well the waiter said yes and when Russ’s food came up the shrimps/prawns were missing. He called over the lovely waitress to explain as the waiter who took the order was busy, and she took his plate away and came back a few minutes later. Well we had to laugh as the Arrabbiata was now full of mushrooms. Russ decided to eat the lot and not complain anymore for fear of what might turn up. On asking for the bill we did explain the situation again, and even then it took a long while for them to understand shrimp or prawns, and if I am honest, I am still not convinced they understand even now.

After this we went to the hotel to chill for the rest of the afternoon. We were all picked up at 5.30pm and taken to the gig. The festival was called the ‘Alcatraz’ festival and either side of the stage it was made to look like a prison. It looked pretty cool actually.

Well our dressing rooms were in a building a van ride away from the stage, so there was no atmosphere at all. The catering was there, so we could have some dinner. Other than that it was a bit of a hang about. We did pop down to see ‘Queensryche’ who I am afraid did not cut it for me as the guitar sounds were very thin, and if I am honest I do not know a lot of their songs. They looked the part though and seemed to be going down well enough.

‘Saxon’ were headlining this festival and they had a huge production with them and this was behind one of the bands back drops. Well the wind got up a bit and the back drop blew backwards and knocked over some of Saxons lights and amps that were set behind it, so that prevented us from using our back drop, as we were playing before them, which was a shame.

Still the mighty Heep soldiered on and we had a great time and we received a fantastic response. We could see a lot of our friends from Holland at the front and also Kev and Mandy from the UK. It was a great show and as we left the stage everyone backstage was clapping their hands and shaking hands with us saying what a great show it was, which was cool.

Well we went back to the dressing room to get changed and have a drink, so that we could get down to see ‘Saxon’ who are with the same management as us. It is always good to see the boys and they do put on a good show and the production looked great. One of our two managers was actually there, and he was Adam Parsons from Siren Management. Our other manager Ace Trump was in Los Angeles, taking care of business on that end. So really all bases were covered, so to speak!

It is always good to see Adam and the boys, but we could only stay for 5 songs before the van to take us back to the hotel came. As there were so many bands constantly using the vans to and fro, we had to take the vans that were given to us or else we would be stuck there. Now that wasn’t going to happen!

Davey however decided to stay, and I am not quite sure how he got back to the hotel, but probably with the last band playing or the cleaners. I know he saw after ‘Saxon,’ the Swedish band ‘Opeth’ who played in a tent I believe. I love ‘Opeth’ and I got the chance to say a quick hello to the band as we left for the hotel. I popped into their dressing room, and evidentially guitarist and songwriter Mikael Akerfeldt is a fan of mine, so I have been told, and of course a fan of the band, so it was good to meet Mikael and the band at last.

Well back at the hotel you had to pass the bar which was at that moment in time buzzing. Well I sometimes suffer from Alcohol constipation, as I can never pass a bar or a pub, so you can guess where I ended up having a great time, as I was with Scott Gorham and Darren Wharton from ‘Thin Lizzie’ who were playing the following night. Well it got a bit messy, but I did make it back to my room, and luckily we didn’t have to depart the hotel until 1.30pm the next day, which was great.

Well I slept off last nights festivities, and had a shower, and popped down to the local restaurant and had breakfast, then I ran into Russ and we went for a coffee in the town square, where we bumped into Darren who was walking around in the fresh air aimlessly, as he was still feeling a little bit shall we say under the weather trying to keep up with Scott on the white wine.

It was soon time for us to move, as our vans arrived to take us to Brussels Airport to catch our flight home. We said our goodbyes and our manager Adam was staying as he had ‘Thin Lizzie’ on that night, who are also managed by Siren Mangement, so he had a busy old time of it all.

Well the British Airways flight was predictably delayed, but it was not too bad, and at least the flight home was a quick one, and luckily for me as it was a Saturday, so the drive home was fast too.

My beloved football team Tottenham Hotspur’s were playing their first Premiership game of the season at their new stadium, against newly promoted Aston Villa. Well as I got on the plane we were 1-0 down, and I had to turn my phone into airplane mode before take off. However, once on the tarmac at LHR I turned it back on to find out that we had won 3-1. Our new player Tanguy Ndombele on his first game with the team scored, followed by 2 goals from Harry Kane. I was so delighted and happy, so the car ride home was fine and dandy.

Romeo returned on the Sunday at more than stupid o’ clock, as his ‘Wizzair’ flight had been delayed by an hour. It should have arrived in Luton Airport by 2.30am which turned into 3.30am, or more, and the end result was that Romeo arrived home at 6am, totally shattered. He went straight to bed and we never saw again him until early evening. It was so lovely to have him back at home nice and safe, and it did him good to be sleeping the whole thing off.

On Thursday that week the exam results came through that everyone had been waiting for and the Box household was buzzing, as Romeo had passed his exams and he was going to the University of his choice, which was Leeds. We were immensely proud of him, and what a great feeling it was, coupled with a lot of relief too. Time to celebrate!

‘Appy days!
Mick

Box News #286 – August 5th, 2019

Posted in Uncategorized on August 5, 2019 by heepster

My latest blog documenting the adventures of the mighty Heep in Sweden at the Skogsrojet Festival and also at the ‘Wacken’ festival in Germany.

Thursday the first of August we met again at LHR Term 5 to fly by British Airways to Stockholm, Sweden. We did our usual thing and all met up in the BA lounge before boarding the plane. It was the usual type flight where you buy your own food etc, but everything went smoothly and we landed and picked up our luggage, and then we were met by our drivers in the arrivals hall.

The drive was 2 hours long, so we all nipped off for a pee before doing the journey, as the transport was vans with no toilet. We were staying in a hotel in Norrköping which was about 24 miles from the festival site which was the ‘Skogsrojet Festival.’

On arrival at the hotel, we dropped our bags off in our rooms and headed down to the restaurant which was outside. It was a lovely evening but along with lovely evenings and drink and food come fly’s and mosquitos. It was still an enjoyable meal washed down with a bevy of each persons choice, and then it was off to bed.

It was hot and humid and no air-conditioning, which is always a bummer because if you do leave the window open your room becomes an insect zoo. Well in the morning I was not alone saying that my legs had been bitten to bits. It was scratchy itchy, itchy scratchy all day long, even with some cream on!

Well after breakfast Phil, Bernie, Russ and I went for a walk which actually morphed into lunch. We found a ‘New Yorker,’ shop that used to be the bands favourite shop in Germany, but for most of us it had gone right down the pan, and all the clothes were pretty ordinary. However Bernie found a T Shirt and Shorts that he said would be great for his family holiday trip to Croatia in a few weeks. It was shocking pink and more Heavy Mental than Heavy Metal, but it was for his holiday, well that was his excuse anyway.

Well we had a lunch on our walk about, and then we went back to the hotel to chill before going down to the gig. We left the hotel at 19.15pm as we had a signing session at 19.45pm. This was cool and it went on forever, which is always a good sign.

Well if you had read my previous blog and all the trouble we had with our van, then the bad luck was apparently not over, as one of the festival vans backed into ours. Luckily it would be an insurance job, but still something we could have done without, as it was our equipment van from the UK.

Glenn Hughes was on before us playing all ‘Deep Purple,’ hits and they sounded great, and he has a good band with him, plus he still has a good set of pipes, but if I am honest it did not push my boat out, but the crowd loved it.

When we hit the stage there was a huge roar, and it never stopped, as they were well into every note we played and sang. It was a a great evening even though we only had 1hr and 10mins to play. We had a great time and backstage as we changed the crew broke down the equipment and we the boarded a sleeper bus for a 12 hour overnighter to a hotel near Hamburg Airport.

The bus was rockin’ there for a bit with liquid refreshments being skulled at an alarming rate, but I managed to climb into my bunk and get a reasonable sleep, while others partied on down. It was the best bus I think we have ever had, which added to some of the excitement. We also found out it was the most costly too. D’oh!

Well in the morning we were about 20minutes out from the hotel when Bernie came to the front of the bus asking to stop at the nearest toilet, with a pained look on his face, as he had a curious turtle appear. As there was a NO number twos rule on every tour bus, we stopped for him. Then we arrived at the hotel and there was little time for the crew to turn around and go to the show to start setting up the stage.

Some of the rooms were not ready, so the band went to lunch and the crew took the first rooms that were available to shower and get down to the festival site. After lunch I collected my room key which was on the 5th floor, and as I opened the door there was already someone in it. Luckily not the person, but certainly the suitcase and clothes were strewn all over the place. So down I went for another key, and I ended up on the 7th floor, this time with a clean room. We only had 1 hour and 30 mins to get ready before we had to be downstairs to catch the shuttle to the festival site, which was the ‘Wacken’ festival.

Now ‘Wacken’ festival is one of the biggest festivals in the world, and it has 250 bands over a 4 day period. We were on stage at 17.15pm for 1hr 15mins strict. There were 13 stages and we were on the ‘Louder’ stage. Well 85,000 tickets had been sold for this festival, so you can imagine how big a festival this was, and it was their 30th Anniversary.

Well we arrived at the festival site and everything was huge except our dressing cabin. Still the catering was superb and all of the surrounding areas massive. There was a Table Tennis table outside our cabin that some people were having a serious competition. They had an unusual style I have to say, with a beer in one hand, and a table tennis bat in the another. Still it worked for them and they looked like they were having a lot of fun.

Well the promoters have every person who bought a ticket their text numbers, and when it was time for us to go on stage they were texting people saying that at the ‘Louder’ stage where Uriah Heep were performing, it had sold out and there was no space left, so please go and watch another band. Well it was obvious people ignored that text because the audience went on as far as the eye could see and way past our mixing and lighting desks, and the swell of people each side was just amazing.

Now from the first note to the last we smashed it, and we were on fire. We had a fantastic time and the sea of hands in the air in every direction was more than amazing. We also had for the first time ever in Europe, a hand sign lady on my side of the stage doing sign language for the deaf. She was just amazing and she did it with such energy, she was incredible.

The reaction we received from the audience while we were on stage was fantastic and the compliments flowed backstage too by the other band members, crew and general workers. It may have taken us 49 years to get to Wacken, but when we did, we sure made our mark, and it felt soooooo good.

Once I had changed, I had to do three interviews that I could not do before the show due to time constraints, and once these were over I joined the rest of the boys in the huge catering tent for some much needed dinner. The food was excellent and although their were free cocktails on offer I went for the organic green tea and organic back tea that was the best I had ever had. It was a great way too re-hydrate.

I managed to see my German Lawyer Ulrich Poser backstage too which was cool, but Scampi had arranged 2 shuttle busses back to the hotel which was an hour away and Phil, Rich and I took the first. Most of the crew had already gone with the equipment vans and the rest followed on at 10.30pm. There was a tent with a lady giving free massages and Bernie had one booked for 9pm, so he caught the later bus with the others.

We were all given Wacken T Shirts, Water Bottles, Towels and a bag full of goodies, and even two bottles of Wacken labelled white wine, which was good of them considering how many bands were playing there.

Back at the hotel I had a welcome shower, and then I went to bed as we were up at 7.15am, to catch an early flight back to London from Hamburg Airport. Still even with that early start the crew set up in the hotel lobby with the remains of the rider and continued to demolish that, and I daren’t think what time they went to bed.

In the morning the hotel shuttle took us to the airport, and we checked in and went to the lounge which was pretty poor indeed with nothing much there at all, so I was glad I got up for breakfast. On the flight home I slept most of it, and we all collected our bags and went on our merry way. In three days time we would be back at the airport to fly to Belgium, so no rest for the wicked.

When I got home Iggy went mad, my cat Biscuit was nowhere to be seen, and my son Romeo was there giving me a big hug. Sheila was in Scotland on a jolly up, and her brother John was visiting, so we had a boys night in with some Fish & Chips, washed down with the beer of our choice and we watched the football. Magic!

‘Appy days!
Mick.

Box News #285 – July 31st, 2019

Posted in Uncategorized on July 31, 2019 by heepster

My latest blog documenting the adventures that the mighty Heep had over the weekend on the German ‘Rock of Ages’ festival and up on top of a mountain in Wales at the ‘Steelhouse,’ Festival.

After only two days at home with my family, it was time to drive to LHR Terminal 5 for another two shows, one in Germany and one in Wales. Well some times your world gets turned upside down and a little crazy comes into play, and if you continue reading the text below you will see that the craziness went on forever.

I was doing everything I could for my family before I left for the airport, and then I decided before I had a shower, I would have a cup of tea and sit down for a short while, as it was stiflingly hot and humid. Then I heard my phone ping and up popped a message from my British Airways App that my flight was at 15.30pm. Now I had booked my cab for 13.30pm, but that was the time I should have been at the airport for the check in, 2 hours before. I quickly phoned my cab driver and he said he was already on the way to the airport with someone else and anyway I had booked it for Friday.

Well panic set in all round and I looked through my texts and indeed he was right, and I had messed up big time. He said he would call me back in 5 minutes and this was at Midday. He called back and another of his drivers was on the way to my house. Phew! I quickly finished packing and jumped into the shower, and we left at 12.30pm, which was great as it only took an hour at that time of day to get to the airport, so I was still on time. Wow that got the heart beating faster for sure and it didn’t help in the sweating stakes either.

Once at the airport, I checked in and met the rest of the guys in the BA Lounge. There are two BA Lounges in Terminal 5, one in the North and one in the South. We were in the North one when Angus (Front of House) who was in the South Lounge, phoned Ben (Monitors) to say Caroline Flack was in the South Lounge. She presents the programme ‘Love Island’ which my son Romeo and all of his friends watch religiously, as well as Angus and Ben, so I knew who she was. Evidently Rich my guitar tech had spotted her first, so Ben and I legged it to the South Lounge and there she was. She was just leaving, and I said to her can we take a selfie, and she was super lovely and said yes. Then Ben did the same, and she is one beautiful lady, and even more so than on TV if that is possible. I personally think she is better looking than half of the contestants, and so does Romeo.

I sent the picture immediately to my son Romeo who was gobsmacked, and he texted me back saying ‘No waaaaaaay!’ Well that was brownie points for his Dad, as he sent it to all of his friends.

Well good old BA never let you down (joke) as the flight was an hour late, and they get you all sitting on the plane first and then they tell you. So we sat their for an hour on the tarmac before we took off, but at least they had the air conditioning on. One pet hate I have, is that when you get on a flight and you fall asleep before take off, and then when you wake up you are still on the tarmac having not moved an inch, that irks me no end. I did this and then I got up to get something out of my carry on bag in the overhead locker, just as the plane started to move, and then a steward came running towards me saying that I have to sit down as the plane was moving. This was not a good way start to the flight, however in the end everything was fine, and all of our baggage arrived, so we were soon on our way to the hotel.

On arrival at the hotel we were trying to arrange dinner with our fan Sina Rückmann, as it was her birthday, but as we were late, and it was stiflingly hot and humid so everyone decided to eat in the hotel or have a drink in the hotel bar. It was so hot and there was no air conditioning in the rooms and in fact the hotel had to put 4 fans on the bar to help encourage people in for a drink, it was that hot and humid. In the end Sina joined us with her friend which was nice.

We made plans to meet up with her for lunch at her house the next day, which was only 15-20minutes from the hotel. The plan was that she would send a cab for 5 people at 12.45pm to ferry us to her house, but this never happened. We waited for just under an hour and still no cab, so we had to decline the offer and eat in the hotel. What a shame, and both Sina and the band were disappointed, but what could we do. We still do work on the road, so we planned to have lunch with Sina and come back and do the work, but it just did not happen. I think the heat must have done something to the driver because at one point the driver phoned Sina to say she had us all on board, and we were still sitting in the hotel lobby. Because of that mad driver she spoilt everything. In case you are wondering, Sina was the one who kindly carved the mini-me out of wood that sits by the pond in my garden back in London.

Still we saw her at the concert that night in Seebron at the ‘Rock of Ages’ Festival. The last time we headlined this festival was in 2015, and I was presented with a huge framed plaque, that sits nicely on my office wall in London.

Since being in Germany much like the weather in London, it has been ridiculously hot and humid and what with the hotel having no air conditioning, and not even a single fan in the room, it was all quite draining.

Now we were all waiting to be picked up for the gig, and earlier we had all heard an extremely loud bang and there was black smoke up in the sky. We found out that there was a gas explosion and a building had blown up. There were so many fire engines and ambulances all you could hear were their sirens at high pitch for ages. Now the problem for us was that the explosion was between us and the route into the festival so the vans could not get through. We waited for ages and eventually they made it to the hotel to pick us up to take us to the festival site.

At 19.00pm we arrived at the venue for dinner, which in itself was quite funny as Bernie ordered his food first way before anyone else, and he was served last, and there was a lot of us. He was getting quite angsty and I swear another 5 minutes waiting and he would have eaten the table.

After this we went straight into a signing session that lasted an hour, and then I had to do a TV interview. While we were doing the signing it began to rain quite heavily when ‘Rose Tattoo’ were on. They had an ego ramp on the stage and Angry Anderson their singer was getting soaked. Well after their set the rain intensified, and it came down so heavy almost like hail stones, and the end result was that it had soaked so much of the stage, as it blew across the front of the stage, that it became dangerous and apart from the stage being slippery and impossible to stand on, the power points had all been soaked too making it dangerous as hell. The end result was that the promoters put in big white gaffa tape letters ‘The End’ on the ego ramp for all to see. That marked that the festival was definitely over. Now this was devastating as I was really looking forward to playing this festival, as were the rest of the band.

We had Porto Cabins to change in and warm up in and I went into the cabin to get a bottle of water before my TV interview, and there was a guy playing my guitar. Now that is a ‘NO NO’ in anyone’s book, so I told him to put it down and have sex and travel, which he did.

Well after the TV interview I went back to the cabin while everyone else stayed in the catering building avoiding the rain, and as I opened the door the same guy had his hand on the door handle trying to leave with my guitar. Well red mist and sensibility were fighting me inside and I had two choices. One was to knock him out and send him to A&E for the night, but the downside to that drama would have been I might have injured my hand and he would have dropped the guitar and broken it. Luckily sensibility won, and I snatched the guitar off him and put it back on my guitar stand, and then a ran for him and I just managed to slam the door on him as he scarpered in the torrential rain. He still managed to get away with my guitar pick, Russell’s drum sticks and he had unclipped my backstage passes off of my gig bag. All this time Davey’s bass was on a stand untouched and this was probably because he is left handed.

Well not playing was devastating, and I felt so sorry for the fans and the promoters, but it truly was out of everyone’s control. There followed a party in the hotel bar for many people, but I was not in a party mood and I went to bed wondering when would all of this craziness end.

The next day we flew to London Heathrow Terminal 5 on British Airways and I was excited to get there as my son Romeo was meeting me at arrivals, as he was coming to Wales with me where we were playing the ‘Steelhouse’ festival on top of a Welsh Mountain.

After hugging Romeo and thinking we had left the crazy stuff behind, the driver Cuzz who was driving us to Wales phoned Scampi to say he had gone under a low ceiling in the car park and knocked the sky light clean off the top of the van. Well Scampi and Brian armed with gaffa tape went to try and fix it, otherwise it would have been a wind swept drive all the way there. While they were doing this we all had a coffee. Romeo was able to come on this gig as Angus & Ben drove up in Angus’s car, Russ and his girlfriend Christie drove up, and Rich and his girlfriend Katie drove up, so there was room in the van for my lovely son.

Eventually Scampi appeared and said that he and Brian had done the best they could with the sky light and they did do a good job. Well the cry went out from Bernie to stop at the first services for some food. The first one was at Reading and when we pulled into the car park it was crowded with people scattered everywhere. After a quick investigation we found out that the power had gone in the whole service station except for a Cornish Pasty Van outside. Well the rest of us settled for a pasty or a sausage roll, and a drink, but this was not good enough for Bernie, so we had to go to the next services, so that mister food dependant could get what he wanted. He had a ‘Murder King’ burger and chips, but at least that settled him down as he does get a little angsty if he is hungry.

Well we eventually arrived at the hotel which was a health and spa type hotel. It was a weird hotel to put most of the bands in as it was what I would describe as a ‘Gods Waiting Room,’ hotel.

It was still very hot and humid and still no air conditioning but we decided to have dinner in the hotel as we were miles away from anywhere else. They had a gym and a swimming pool so Romeo enjoyed the delights of the gym while I rested in the room.

We met as usual in the bar for dinner and had a couple of drinks outside in the fresh air, and then we went inside to eat. This became a bit of a drama getting a table but eventually it was sorted. We went to the restaurant to be told to go back in the bar to book a table, and then the head waitress came to the bar to take us to our table. It was a Carvery which was nice except as Phil pointed out his Yorkshire Pudding would have made a good Frisbee. Now you walk along the food and point at what you want as the server puts this all on the plate for you, and then there was a tray of condiments along with mint and horseradish etc that another waitress puts on for you, and then she takes the plate to the table for you. It was all very nice, and on our table was Phil, Davey, Romeo and I, and on another table there was Bernie Marsden and Bernie Shaw the two Bernies, drinking but not eating. However the stories between the two tables were flowing freely.

After this we decided to keep the theme of the hotel going and Phil, Romeo and I watched by Davey had a game of scrabble. This was a great laugh after a few bevvies and I am sure some of the words had never even been near a dictionary, but I ended up being the ‘Chicken Dinner,’ (Winner) as they say in Las Vegas. Then we joined everyone in the bar until closing time and we had a good laugh with Scott Gorham, Bernie Marsden, Phil, our Bernie, Romeo and his Dad.

The next morning we had breakfast and then outside there was a chess game with those huge chess pieces that you move about, so Romeo and I played a game, of which I was a Chicken Dinner again, much to the annoyance of my son. Then we had a bit of lunch and Romeo went for a swim and a quick work out in the gym, while I showered for the gig.

We left the hotel at 2.45pm to go to the ‘Steelhouse,’ festival as we had a 3.45pm signing session. Now this festival is up on top of a mountain and even on the way up the dirt road had markers with ‘You are half way up.’ Your are nearly there’ etc. Once we arrived we could see everything was in full swing, and soon we were at the signing tent, signing and having pictures taken, which was cool. Then there was an endless round of interviews for TV, Radio Shows, and of course Planet Rock Radio. This was done by our old mate Ian Danter which was cool.

While I was doing this my son and Rich my guitar tech’s girlfriend Katie, were in an axe throwing competition. He did well and hit the bullseye twice, so he was well pleased. There is obviously a technique to these things and he managed to find it quickly. At 5 pounds a throw I am glad he did. Let’s be fair there wouldn’t be a cash machine up on top of the mountain now would there.

Well it was soon our time to go onstage and we entered to a huge roar, and it was a fantastic gig. The crowd were ready to rock and rock they did. We only had 1hr 15 mins to play, so we rocked it out and had a great time. The reception we received was brilliant and it did the heart good. While we were on stage the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day, but shortly after coming off stage, boy the temperature dropped. Kevin and Yvonne Jones had sent me a picture of them the night before wrapped in blankets, and now I could see why. Mind you I thought the amount of anti freeze being drunk would have done the trick, but there you go.

We did hang around to see ’Living Colour’ who had Bernie Marsden come up on stage and play ‘Sunshine of your Love,’ with them. This was very well received and even a chant of ‘Bernie, Bernie’ came from the crowd. He is still well loved from his time in ‘Whitesnake,’ both as a performer and writer. The singer of ‘Living Colour’ said over the PA System, ‘Whose fucking idea was it to put us on after Uriah Heep,’ which was very nice of him, and an indication of how well we went down.

Up next were headliners ‘Thin Lizzie’ who were playing their famous album ‘Black Rose,’ in it’s entirety. I have to say Ricky Warwick does a great job filling the shoes vocally of Phil Lynott, Darren Wharton added some good keyboard parts, drummer Scott Travis (from Judas Priest) was outstanding as Lizzie’s music relies so much on the swing element, Troy Sanders was on Bass and Damon Johnson and Scott Gorham played some killer leads, so justice was fully done to the 40th Anniversary of this album.

Well we arrived back at the hotel before the bar closed so Romeo and I had a good night pint before retiring to bed finishing off the day in fine style.

The following morning we were up for breakfast at 9am, as we had a 10am leave. In the van I downloaded the episodes of ‘Love Island,’ Romeo had missed, as his mates had been texting him, so we caught up on those and he was very happy about that. We were driven down to London to be dropped off at the St Pancras Hotel, where Romeo and I met our cab driver and drove home.

It was especially lovely having Romeo with me and we had some good father son quality time along with a lot of good laughs, and a few pints as it should be.

‘Appy days!

Mick

Box News #284 – July 24th, 2019

Posted in Uncategorized on July 24, 2019 by heepster

After 5 days at home we were back at London’s Heathrow Airport at Terminal 5 flying to Munich once again to perform a festival in Falkenberg Germany. This was a headlining show with Les Holroyd’s ‘Barclay James Harvest’ in support and the ‘Havliceck Brothers.’

It was the usual British Airways flight, but when we arrived in Munich they had lost Scampi our tour managers suitcase. After registering the loss at the lost baggage desk, we boarded a van to travel the 2 1/2hrs to Falkenberg. On arrival they had dinner arranged for us which was nice, so we quickly put our bags in our rooms and went down to the restaurant. After everyone had eaten and had a drink, one by one we all sloped off to our rooms and bed, as it was quite late.

In the morning we had breakfast and the promoters had arranged a tour for us starting at 11am to 1pm. This was at a Castle that was also a Brewery as well as a place for Weddings etc with 8 nice modern type bedrooms on the top of the Castle. When we arrived we saw the German twins there Andrea and Claudia Obergfell which was cool.

It took 9 million Euro to restore this Castle, and it had over 1,000 emotional years of history. There are over 10,000 visitors every year, and the Castle overlooked the village of Wilgartswiesen and it was built-on sandstone.

Now the fun part is that if you own a house in the village and you can only do this if you actually own a house in the village, you can brew your own beer in the brewery. Many houses get together and work out the ingredients they want to put in their beer, and it is brewed there. They just bring in their bottles and fill them up and take them home. The beer is unfiltered, so it is very clean tasting. Of course we did try a few while we were there and it did get the thumbs up from everyone. The story goes that once a household has their batch of beer inside their house, they put a sign outside so that anyone can knock on their door and go inside for a drink with them. The sign is of the earth, wind, fire, water and air. It was an amazing Castle to see with so much history and it really was interesting.

We then went back to the hotel for some lunch, but first the organisers wanted us to go to the festival site to have a picture taken with everyone on the stage, which was inconvenient, but cool. It did also give us a chance to try out our equipment too, so it served as a mini sound check.

After this we chilled in our rooms until it was time to go down to the festival site. On the way to my room I met Les Holroyd of BJH on the stairs, and he said that he had recently seen a poster with both of our bands name on it from the early 70’s, which was cool.

Once at the festival site we could hear the last few songs of Barclay James Harvest and they were going down well. At one time they were huge in Germany, but now there are two versions of the band which kind of diminishes it a little, but they sounded good to me. Scampi was pleased though, as he had been reunited with his suitcase.

It was a beautiful evening and the audience were well up for it and we had a great time. Seeing the joy on peoples faces, and everyone joining in and singing and clapping their hands, it did the heart good. The new numbers from ‘Living the Dream’ went down incredibly well and it was good to see people singing along to those songs as well as the classics.

As it was outside and a summers evening, we were wondering if we were going to be bitten to death by the bugs, but we were lucky, though Russell’s bass drums in the front were filling up with a lot of them. They were bouncing all over the place and it was quite funny to see. I imagined they would of all had a wicked headache after an hour and a half of that, or at least felt a little sea sick floating in around there.

Back in the dressing room the promoters brought in some of the local Castle brew for us to try, and it was very nice indeed. We then went back to the hotel for a shower and then we drove on an overnight bus to Mezokovesd Hungary. This took 12 hours, but when we arrived they had breakfast come lunch ready for us, which was nice. Then it is was time for a little sleep in a non moving bed before we met at 5pm for a TV interview, and then at 6pm we had dinner in the hotel.

Since arriving in Hungary the weather had been wonderful and sunny with a clear blue sky, but while Scampi and the crew were down at the gig setting things up, they had a freak thunder storm that caused all sorts of problems. Scampi came to the hotel while we were eating and I have never seen him so drenched and windswept. Then he told us that where the Front of House and Lighting Desk were under a tent, the storm came down and it blew their tents way into the distance and all of the equipment got soaked.

The same thing was happening on stage and it was even impossible to hang the backdrop. The equipment on stage was drenched, and there was a point where we had to make a decision whether it was safe enough to go on. All of the plug boards and electricity points had all been soaked too, making it dangerous. Phil’s Keyboard suffered the worst, so they sent someone off to Budapest to get a replacement. The strange thing was that when it arrived and Phil had just finished programming it, his own one started working again, so it was superfluous to needs.

In the middle of all of this drama, the Mayor came into the dressing room and presented us with a bottle of local of schnapps like drink, a set of doily’s for the table, and a book about the city. He made a little speech and we had a picture taken and then he left.

Well after the crew running themselves ragged, they managed to get everything up and running, so the gig was on. I was looking out over the dressing room at the stage and there were not many people out there, which I put down to the rain, but the promoter said oh no it is amazing that 10 minutes before the band goes on thousands of people appear from nowhere, and he was bang on, as that is exactly what happened.

Well we kicked off the set and I have to say they were a wonderful audience and we had a really good time. Even though we did not have the backdrop and we were down to basics, it was a rockin’ show. They joined in everything and it was a special night especially after all of that drama with the freak storm.

Back in the dressing room they brought in some pizzas that were the size of a small Island, and on one of them it was a cucumber pizza that baffled everyone. We then left the venue and tried to get to the vans to drive back to the hotel and it was mobbed, so we were there for about 20 minutes signing all sorts of things and having our pictures taken, which was all very nice, and eventually we made it back to the hotel.

The following day we had a drive back to Budapest Airport and we caught a British Airways flight back to London. We all said our goodbyes, but we would be back in Terminal 5 at London Heathrow Airport in 2 days time to fly to Stuttgart for another couple of festivals. This time one in Germany and one in Wales.

‘Appy days!

Mick

Box News #283 – July 18th, 2019

Posted in Uncategorized on July 24, 2019 by heepster

Well after just a week at home we were off again to headline a festival in the Czech Republic called the ‘Masters of Rock.’ This time though there was an extra air of excitement, as our original bass player Paul Newton and vocalist John Lawton were joining us on stage. Lee Kerslake was also going to do this, but his ill health prevented him from flying, so he instead went to see ‘Kiss’ at the O2, so that he could interview both Gene and Paul for his documentary. We really did miss him, but flying was out of the question. It was still a shame as it was the one thing he wanted to do, and that was to be back on stage with Heep.  

We all met at LHR Terminal 3 all except John and his wife Iris who flew from Stanstead. We were flying to Vienna and then driving to the Zlín in the Czech Republic, and once through the check in procedure we all went to the lounge. There were two lounges so we were split up there for a while, until we all met at the gate. Most of us were in one lounge but Davey, Phil, Paul and his wife Joan were in another. 

I sat next to Paul and Joan on the flight and we had a good laugh catching up on everything, and of course the stories were flowing. When we arrived in in Vienna we had a two and a half hour drive to Zlín, and I have to say it was numb bum all around as the roads were terrible. It was like someone had installed speed bumps every 3 feet for the entire journey. We did have one stop for a pee, but we were anxious to get to the hotel as they were keeping the restaurant open for us, and we were all starving. 

We eventually arrived at the hotel that was more than adequate, and we dumped our suitcases into our rooms and went straight down to the restaurant. John and Iris had been there for a while and had eaten, so we got the heads up on what was good and what we should avoid. It was hugs all round and then we found out that it was a set menu of sorts, but everyone could find something to satisfy themselves in the food department, along with their chosen beverage to wash it down with. 

The following morning the crew had to leave the hotel at 7.30am as they had an 8am-10am window to set up all of our equipment. Vic and John had driven our Backline over from the UK so that was good. Needless to say there was no sound check with that number of bands on the festival bill, and I personally was quite happy about it what with that red eye start to the day. 

Those left at the hotel all managed to have breakfast and then Phil, Bernie and I went for a walk around the town. Where we were staying there was very little to see, so it was a short walk, and then we all met for lunch at the hotel restaurant, which once again had the same menu as the night before. In fact the menu did not change for our entire stay, but that wasn’t too bad. 

I managed to do some work in the afternoon which was cool, as I had a lot of catch up to do, especially after the long 2 month tour with Priest we had just been on. Then it was time for dinner and we left at 19.00pm to get down to the show. 

At 19.30pm we had a signing session and John and Paul joined us which was cool. It was an amazing line of people and we were there for just under an hour. 

After this there was a press conference where we all sat at a table and there were plenty of press, photographers and TV Cameras, but really there were only three people passing around the microphone asking us questions. It was a bit of fun and then we went back to our dressing cabin to prepare for the show. 

There was a lot of banter and laughs all round in the cabin, but soon it was time to get changed and for Russ, Davey and I to warm up. In no time at all the intro tape was on and the next thing as we ran out on to the stage we could see 20-30,000 people there which was amazing!

We kicked off the show and the atmosphere was fantastic and half way through the set list we announced both John and Paul who came on to play ‘Stealin’ and they received a huge roar from the audience. It was great fun having them on stage, and I could see John being his usual cool self and singing great and Paul was just loving every minute of it. 

The next song up was ‘Gypsy’ and we had found out that it was John’s Birthday, so I announced this on stage to a huge roar, and two lovely ladies came out and presented him with a Birthday cake, a Birthday card signed by the whole band and crew, and a bottle of Gentleman Jack. Then the audience sang ‘Appy Birthday to John which was great.  After this we fired up the intro to ‘Gypsy’ and Paul stayed on for this song. It was the first time Paul and I had been on stage playing ‘Gypsy’ since the old king died and it was a good feeling, and Paul’s smile said it all. 

After this we were back to finishing the set and jamming through ‘Look at Yourself,’ and then on to ‘July Morning,’ before both John and Paul joined us for ‘Lady in Black.’ We had  Davey and Paul on bass for this one, and it went down incredibly well. It was amazing that on stage that night we had the first and last of the Heep bass players, which was super cool! As John and Paul left the stage we went into ‘Sunrise,’ and finished on a rockin’ ‘Easy Livin.’ They both then came out and did the bow with us, and all in all it was a special night. 

Back in the dressing room cabin the drinks were being poured and John got stuck into the Gentleman Jack and the banter was full on. Davey was eating some for the cake and those with a sweet tooth joined in. After a while John & Iris and Paul & Joan were driven back to the hotel while the rest of us had an overnight journey to Rosenheim in Germany. I think John and Iris went home to the UK, and Paul and Joan were going to indulge in the delights of Vienna. 

Well the bus was rocking there for a little while, before we all climbed into our respective bunks for some sleep which was difficult as once again we were on those bumpy old roads. We arrived at stupid early o’clock in the morning and our rooms were ready thanks to Scampi arranging it, so we crawled out of bunks and into the hotel with one eye open and one eye closed, and picked up our keys and went to bed, only this time in a non moving bed. 

The crew left at 11.45am to get down to the venue which was the Rosenheim Sommerfest to set up the equipment. The rest of us had lunch at the hotel. We were headlining this festival and the two other bands were our old friends ‘Sweet,’ and ‘Nazareth.’ As we went to lunch we met both the bands and the crews and it was hugs all round. 

We left the hotel at 19.45pm to get to the venue as we had a few last minute interviews thrown at us, well thrown at me to be exact, and we could hear the ‘Naz’ boys rockin’ it hard, before the ‘Sweet’ boys went on and went down well too. 

Before the show I was presented with a painting that a lady called Elke had painted, and it was made up of 25 Heep song images, combined in one picture, 40 X 50cm in size. This was very cool indeed and very nice of her to do it. She said that it was her way to express her gratitude for all of the joy the Heep music has given her since the 70’s until today. Now that is brilliant.

Still soon it was time for the mighty Heep to hit the stage, and the crowd were well up for it, and so were we. We hit our stride like the well oiled machine we have become, and the 9,000 capacity crowd just loved it. It was a sea of smiling faces and people having the best time rockin’ out, which amounted to a fantastic night.

We met quite a few people after the show before heading back to the hotel. In the morning we drove to Munich to fly on British Airways back to LHR Terminal 5. This went without a hitch so we collected our bags and took trains and cabs back to our respective homes. We would only be home for 5 days before flying out again, so we would not be home for long, but that is festival season for you, and we love it. 

‘Appy days!
Mick