|A few days on the road with Hawkwind
When the dates for the December 2002 tour were announced, I found myself with not only the motivation but
also the time and enough spare cash to go for all of them. Inevitably, negotiations with my long-suffering wife
(a fully fledged member of the Hawkwind Widows Association) did not go the way I hoped. I settled for three
days on the road followed by the obligatory Christmas Party (Walthamstow) with my mates.
The three dates to choose were obvious. I have family in the triangle formed by Stoke, Manchester and
Liverpool, and Hawkwind were playing all three cities. The plan involved sleeping in the back of the car after
each gig so that I could enjoy myself without having to worry about driving anywhere, but still have
somewhere close by for a shower and a meal before driving to the next gig. Sorted!!
Planning the trip to make sure I took what I needed, I started thinking through what I'd do each day and
realised that I'd have an awful lot of free time. Call me sad, but I hate having nothing to do. So, why not
offer my services to the band? If they could use me, great ...¦.. if not, I'd go to the park and feed the ducks or
So I mailed Rik (Mission Control's Webmaster) and offered to help out humping gear, handing out flyers or
whatever ...¦...¦ as long as I didn't have to miss any of the performances. Kris Tait told Rik she was sure
they'd find something for me to do, but no definite plans were made.
Thursday 5th December, 2002
My car is loaded with everything I'll need. It's an old estate, so
dropping the back seats down makes a decent sized bed - foam camping
mats, a proper pillow and a really warm sleeping bag complete the
kipping arrangements. The journey from Surrey to Stoke is uneventful
and I eventually pull up in the car park next to the Victoria Hall in Hanley.
No definite plans ...¦... what next? Stage door I suppose. I ask for Kris
and, after a few minutes, she takes me out onto the stage where Richard
is doing a soundcheck. I am introduced to Mr Dibs and Big Chris who
greet me with a grin as the "friendly fan" (shit, this could get
embarrassing). Dibs explains that it looks like it's going to be a
"soundcheck by parts ...¦. again", and directs me to the back of the hall
where Neil and Keith are setting up the lights. They will be glad of an
extra pair of hands for packing up at the end of the show, but there is
nothing to do until then. Keith shows me around the backstage area,
including the "green room" (theatrical term for a backstage room where
performers rest or have visitors, according to the dictionary) where I
|This great article was written by Rob Dreamworker, to whom my very, very grateful thanks! Thanks also to
Cosmicdolphin and Bernhard Pospiech for some of the pics
*** THIS PAGE IS DEDICATED TO THE TECHNICIANS OF SPACESHIP HAWKWIND ***
Mr.Dibs (not soundchecking)
can get a coffee.
Back up in the hall, I check again if there is anything I can do for anyone, but no. Worse, I have learned that
the high-wattage bulbs used for the back projections are given an hour to cool down before they can be
moved, so I won't be needed by Keith and Neil until midnight. It's about 3pm - what the hell am I going to do
in the meantime? These guys are busy and don't need me in their way.
So it's back to the green room for a coffee and a smoke then. Backstage at the Victoria Hall is a real labyrinth
and it's easy to get lost, which I do. The first person I see is Arthur Brown who points me in the right
direction and is very civil about the fact that the only thing I can manage to say to him is how much I enjoyed
his set at Canterbury earlier in the year.
Past the empty dressing rooms, into the green room. Grab a coffee. Nod at Alan Davey who's relaxing there,
decide it's best not to hassle him, and head near the back to get one together. Shit, I forgot ...¦. the whole
place is non-smoking. But this is a Hawkwind gig ...¦...¦ surely it's OK? Nope. I had expected things to be a
little more free than this. I don't have a pass, so if I go out I might not get back in again without having to
call someone out which would be a pain in the ass. Plus it's freezing outside. But I want a smoke, so out I
go, surprised to find Tim Blake doing the same, both of us slightly miffed at the restrictions of the venue.
So far, everyone seems cool with the fact that I'm here, even if there's not much for me to do. I'm starting to
mellow after the long drive and the inevitable tension of meeting a bunch of new people. And I'm beginning to
look forward to being involved in a Hawkwind gig, albeit in a very minor capacity.
What next? I haven't been introduced to the bus and have no idea who
is on it or if they are sleeping or even if I'm welcome there. So I head
back in to the venue - the guy on the door recognises me and it's cool.
On the way past the offices I hear Kris telling someone that Marie hasn't
been able to get time off work and will be late getting here, which
means no-one to set up and run the t-shirt stall. A little later I catch up
with her and ask if I can fill the gap which gets an enthusiastic
response. I'd love to meet Kris when she's not on tour to see if she's
more relaxed. She's like a whirlwind, rushing from place to place,
doing several things at the same time, being very clear about what she
wants and making sure she gets it. Kris is also deep in negotiation with
the management of the venue who want to change a few things that
have been previously agreed - I learn later that this kind of last minute
stress tactic is frustratingly common.
I end up helping Steve (the bus owner/driver) set the t-shirt stall up in
the foyer bar. We're happy with it, but Kris is not. It has to be secure,
with the t-shirts well out of reach because people have a habit of
nicking them if you're not extremely careful. Yes, even at Hawkwind
gigs this sort of thing goes on. So the stall is redesigned, I get my pass
and we are ready. Doors open, people file in. Some of them even buy
t-shirts. Steve tells me that I'm in charge as soon as the gig starts
because he's set a video camera up on the balcony so he can tape the
whole show for Dave. No problem. I'm enjoying this, chatting with
fans as they wander up to the stall, wondering if I'll spot anyone I
know. Marie will be here later and I can go into the gig. Steve is off
checking his setup, and Kris drops by to check that all is OK. She wants to see the sheet with the numbers of
t-shirts we pulled out of the merchandise case. What sheet? We've been counting the ones we've sold and
that's all we need to do ...¦. surely? Kris is not happy - they need to be counted out in batches, then any left
over are to be counted back in. We agree to sort it the following afternoon in Manchester (little did I realise I
was letting myself in for a total recount of all the t-shirts in the case).
Trev Hughes arrives and starts laying out his stall next to ours. He looks at me and grins, lets out a big puff
of smoke, points at his 'zines and says simply: This is tradition, this is. I meet Sam who does fantastic
artwork for Trev (check out the centre pages of the programme for the Motorhead support slot in October
02) and generally helps out. Marie arrives to relieve Kris on the stall. She also asks about the numbers of
shirts we took out of the case to start with and tries to find a way to sort it out with no luck. I feel a sense of
responsibility- these people don't really know me from Adam, but they've trusted me with their money and I
want to be sure that nothing goes wrong. The band come on and I feel like I ought to stick around for a
while. Besides, Marie needs me to man the stall occasionally while she goes in to check the lightshow - she's
part of the Chaos Illumination team and is the one who produces the animation sequences. To quote Bob
Calvert: it's not the way I'd planned it. But it's OK. There's a TV monitor right next to us, blasting out the
show that's on stage and there's always tomorrow night ...¦..
Kris, like a whirlwind
It's gone quiet and Marie has the stall covered so I head into the hall to
mingle with the crowd and smoke surreptitiously. The show sounds
good, but everyone is sitting down and the bouncers keep emerging en
masse from the bar for commando raids on heinous, rule breaking
smokers. This is like Croydon Fairfield Hall (my least favourite
Hawkwind venue) where security are really heavy about people doing
what people normally do at Hawkwind gigs. I go back to watch the
show on the TV. The other gigs have got to be more laid back than this.
The show ends and, after long deliberation about how we might avoid a
total recount, we pack up the stall. I help packing kit away where I can
and eventually it's all done. Marie and Neil are going to chill on the bus
for a while before they head back to Derbyshire, so I'm invited to do the
same. Tim and Richard are the only band members staying on the bus -
Marie - lightshow & merchandise
the others had all been driven back to their hotel by Simon (tour manager), along with their partners. I think
Trev took the last train home. There's a kitchen and 2 bunks downstairs, with 2 lounges upstairs, one at each
end, and 10 or so more bunks.
The crew wend their way onto the bus as they finish their work for the night. It's around 2am (things are
starting to get hazy now). When there's a good number of people on board, Steve puts on the video he's just
made. Tim and Richard critique their performances light heartedly, and we all really enjoy it. Steve filmed it
the way you would watch it naturally. No fancy effects or short shots that move off before you can really get
into them. The sound quality is really good too. This is turning into a cracker of a night. Similar, really, to an
evening round at someone's house when a few mates get together for a mini Hawkfest - but this time the
Hawktalk is first hand. The atmosphere is relaxed as the general chat drifts into and out of several smaller
conversations, with plenty of laughter all round. Dibs occasionally launches into a Big Brother style
commentary of life on the B16 BUS (yes, that's the registration of Steve's bus), which has us all in stitches.
By about 3.30 I'm knackered. A couple of people have already headed off to bed and I declare my intention to
do the same. Keith wants to know where I'm sleeping - he and Dibs tell me it's way too cold outside for
kipping in the car and insist that I take the empty bunk instead. Cool. Well, nice and warm actually - the bus
is plugged into the mains and has air con/heating. Blissful sleep ...¦...¦
Neil - Chaos Illumination
Friday 7th December, 2002
Steve starts the engine at 9am. Shortly he will depart for Manchester, so
I head off in search of breakfast and a shower. Despite my detour, I
beat the bus to Academy by about an hour. This gives me some time to
check the place out and grab some lunch. By the time the crew arrive, I
have organised the venue staff to clear the road to get the bus and van
in. There's plenty of humping to get the boxes down the alley, up a lift
and through part of the building to the back of the hall. Keith asks me to
get the house guys to put up the screen (aka the scrim) behind the band -
the venue's own people are the only ones insured to climb the rigging.
Kris arrives and we count the t-shirts ...¦.. one, two, three, four, five
...¦...¦ there are hundreds of the bloody things. We will set them out on a
table in the lobby 2 or 3 floors down, but it's a public area in constant use
so we have to wait until the last minute.
Meanwhile, I remember that Huw had spent most of last night's gig sitting on a monitor and dig out a bar
stool which I put on stage as joke. It's about 4pm. The band should be here soon for the soundcheck. But
there's a delay. Since the building is part of the students' union and is used for other things during the day
(canteen, bar, etc), there's a noise curfew until 6pm which leaves little time to sort out any problems. The
crew are in wait mode and have dispersed - most of the band plus Kris are at their hotel. One of the building's
administrators wants to know what everyone is going to eat as she has to order it from a bistro across the
road. I stall her until I figure out what's going on. Richard pops into the hall from time to time and Trev
lands with all his gear.
Just after 6, the band arrive and the crew appear. I'm finally able to sort out what food everyone wants.
Huw likes anything fishy and Dave has a soft spot for swordfish. The food will be served in a room on a
different floor. I just know I'm going to get lumbered with looking after the merch while everyone eats, so I
order a salad to avoid ending up with a ruined meal. Kris wants it pronto as she likes the band to eat at least 2
hours before they play. The crew are all in their places, making sure everything is OK. Dave wants to know
what the hell that bar stool is doing on stage and Dibs moves it out of the way. Oops.
As the band start the soundcheck, Trev moves to the front centre of the hall to enjoy the music. I join him
and find Dave grinning at me while he's playing Out of the Shadows. This feels like a private concert for
Trev and I, and the bad news is I can't handle it - I feel too self conscious for some reason. So after a while
I head downstairs to check that the table has been set up for us in the lobby. Looking good. Chris asks me if
I want to add anyone to the guest list - I don't because the mates I normally go to gigs with all live in the
south, but it's nice to be asked.
This is a busy period for both the band and crew. The food arrives, but nobody tells us it's here or where to
go. Eventually the administrator finally gets round to it and everyone heads off to eat a disappointingly tepid
dinner, leaving me sitting on the merch case. The venue is open to the public since the entire building is in
constant use - I haven't been able to leave the case all day unless someone could find some time to babysit it
for me. Someone brings me my chicken caesar salad and a beer. Bliss.
Break over. The doors will open soon. Marie and Kris get the stall
set up while I keep an eye on the merch case. Then I take it and lock
it in the trailer. On the way back I notice that someone has had a go
at the emergency exit on the bus - this is Manchester after all. I race
back into the venue and return with Dibs and Chris to find the
miscreants running off - the cheeky buggers had come back for
another go while I had gone in for help to fix it. We fix the door,
hopefully it's OK now.
Busy night tonight. Loads of people coming in to see Hawkwind and
loads more coming in to use the other bars and stuff in the students
union. I spot Rich Warren as he arrives and he comes over for a
chat. Fatal mistake - Rich ends up behind the stall for the rest of the
night. It's OK, I tell him. I missed last night's gig but I'm not going
to miss this one. It'll go quiet when the band are on so we can leave it
to Marie. In the end, we both nip upstairs to catch chunks of the set,
but it feels mean leaving the stall to one person for too long. It's hard
work watching out for people leaning across the table when you're
serving someone else and the lobby is very busy with people using the
rest of the building.
The performance sounds better tonight, although Huw isn't on form.
The acoustics really suit my taste and Tim is doing his usual top notch
job on the soundboard. It's seriously heaving in the hall so it takes me
|Big Chris - f*** with the bus at your
ages to worm my way through to the lighting desk - everything is looking good, they are sorted. This is the
first time I see Eric Siegerman. He has crossed the Atlantic to be here for a few gigs and brought a prism
with him. He's holding it in front of the projections and using it to split them into multiple images, rotate them
and generally add to the effect. It's excellent.
Back down to the merch stand, the gig ends and we pack up again, counting the shirts back into the case.
We're staying outside the venue again tonight. It's a day off tomorrow, but it's pushing 3am by the time we
are finished, most people are knackered and there's nowhere to go. So it's the same procedure as last night -
a general chill out with some good music and good company. Dibs has found a crate of beer somewhere for
which I owe him one (or several). There is some discussion about the potential for trawling the second hand
furniture shops of Manchester tomorrow, looking for a Val Doonican style rocking chair for Huw. The guys
are still chuckling about a minor incident on the journey up to Newcastle which was the inspiration for the
anchor being carried across the stage at one point that first night of the tour.
Saturday 8th December
I wake at about 10am to sound of rustling papers (Trev has the bunk opposite mine) and head off in search of
breakfast, then a shower. I spend the rest of the day and that night at my parents' house and sleep lots.
Sunday 9th December
On Sunday I want to get to the venue for the get-in time and arrive shortly after 11am. The bus has just
arrived and the venue is being opened up. It's an alleyway between two warehouses that has been covered
over. The good news is that it's only about 10 steps from the back of the van to the auditorium, up a ramp
through a big metal door. There's no need to count the t-shirts today so I've got some time to organise the
merch stall before Kris arrives. Looking good so far ...¦...¦. but I spoke too soon.
The venue is a shit hole and it's freezing. The guy who runs it wants me to use an alcove in the bar for the
t-shirts. Looks good security-wise, but it's really dark, the floor is covered with litter of all shapes and sizes
and the wall where we would want to tape a couple of display t-shirts looks as if someone has puked over it.
I ask him if we can get one of the spotlights in the bar switched on and if someone could clean the place up a
bit and if the heating could be put on. He makes the right noises but it's not going to happen...¦ Neil and Keith
need power for the lights but there is no socket at the back of the hall. The house lights guy is rumoured to
be coming in later to run them an extension from the rigging down to the back, but nobody knows exactly
when he'll be here. In the end, the Chaos Illumination team wait for hours.
Apart from that, setting up seems to be quite straightforward this time. I'm keeping busy. At one point, I nip
onto the bus to get my baccy tin and a coffee and return to find the door closed while the band do the
soundcheck. I bang on it but no-one can hear me. I can see Huw shuffling slowly down the road towards
me and figure it would be a good idea to get the door open before he reaches it. No luck. I tell him we're
locked out. He says nothing, simply lifts his right foot, leans back and boots the door really hard. One more
good kick later someone had opened the door and we were in.
I chill out during the soundcheck and try to sort out dinner for everyone. The promoter is supposed to
organise this, but he's not around and his guys don't get involved (I never did figure out what they were there
for). The owner recommends a place up the road and most people head off in that direction. I stay at my
post with the merch, feeling hungry and getting even colder.
I move the stall to a spot next to the club entrance that has a little light spilling over from the bar and tape a
few shirts to the wall behind. The cleaners have never shown up and the floor of the hall is covered in litter.
I think about how I'd feel walking into that place, looking for a spot to squat down until the band come on,
and I end up sweeping it. The exercise warms me up a bit.
Kris arrives and wants some more light on the stall so she scrounges a desk lamp to use as a spot. Then she
notices how I've arranged the t-shirts on the wall - they are too orderly and not artistic enough so she moves
them around a bit, slants a few of them, folds a few sleeves over and it looks much better. I'm really feeling
the cold now. We've been in this place nearly 7 hours. It'll warm up soon though, surely. Trev and Sam
arrive and set up next to us.
Keith Barton - does everything
Despite the mess and the cold, this is the best of the three venues for
me. From the stall I can see part of the stage and the sound is almost as
good there as it is at the back of the hall. The band sound hot to me - I
can't wait until the Christmas Party in Walthamstow next week when I
can go all out to enjoy the night. Marie isn't here tonight, so Kris and I
are on duty, taking turns to nip off to the bar or whatever. Kris likes
Bacardi Breezers but the bar doesn't stretch to anything so exotic,
offering vodka/red bull instead. There are some really wasted people
here tonight - of the three cities, Liverpool gets the award for most
persistent and incomprehensible visitors to the stall ...¦.. and the one for
buying the most t-shirts, although the two are not necessarily linked.
We're busy on both fronts!
Kris makes sure I've got myself a t-shirt as a thank-you for my help.
The set goes by in a blur, as usual - there's something about Hawkwind
gigs that makes that happen. Well to me at least. There is a last minute
flurry of sales as people head out of the door (this is a good spot). A
|Right: Fleece with Tim Blake
few trying (unsuccessfully) to haggle down the t-shirt price.
It's still really cold. It gets worse as people head out and all the doors are
opened as stuff starts getting carried out to the trucks. We finish
sometime after 2am. In about half an hour, when everything is sorted, the
bus will set off in the direction of Leeds. It will park somewhere quiet just
short of the city so that the guys can get a good "night's" kip. Iâ€™m not
going to Leeds. I want to, but I've made commitments at home so...¦.
While the bus is still around, I take advantage of its comfort, warmth and
coffee as well as the hospitality of those on board. It's been a fantastic
few days. I've gone from excited yet slightly apprehensive about the
whole thing to feeling at home and appreciated. This is quite a tight crew
who have worked together on Hawkwind tours before, but they have included
me in everything and made me feel like a member of the family, Keith and Dibs
especially. I’ve had some relaxed and interesting chats with Tim and Richard,
who have time to chill when the guys are setting up the show. It’s been
thoroughly good fun working alongside Kris, Marie and Rich on the stall, not
forgetting Trev and Sam next door. Chatting with the stall’s customers has
contributed significantly to the buzz. I’ve got my t-shirt, my pass and an
empty stomach. Time to go. I say goodbye and thanks and get the same in
return. That was one hell of an adventure. I drive off in search of food and
the bed that’s got my name on it.
Monday 10th December
Even after only a couple of days on the road, normal life seems surreal – I’m
sure it should be the other way around. It’s something to do with the buzz
created by the tight deadlines and the camaraderie of everyone pitching in to do
whatever needs doing to make it all happen. Dibs calls this “Space Lag”.
|Right: Steve, the
Left: Special obscure view of Tim the soundman. Pic by Bernhard Pospiech
If you get the idea from the account above that life on the road is not as glamorous as you thought it might
be, then you’re right.
The work involves long hours, is physically demanding and requires a lot of intellect too – some of this kit is
quite sophisticated, and every night is a new installation with fresh problems to be solved. Even when there
isn’t much to do, you have to stick around in case you’re needed.
The crew don’t get to hang out with the band much. As far as I could tell, the most interaction occurs
during the soundcheck. And when the gig finishes and the band chill out backstage, the roadies are busy
packing up …. Having said that, Richard and Tim were very much part of life on the bus and chatting to
Dave and Dibs in Bristol this year (2003) it seemed that more of the band were using the bus this time.
What about all the sex and drugs? you ask. At the end of the day, this is a professional show, so being drunk
or otherwise incapacitated is no good to anyone and is a sackable offence. Hawkwind are not exactly the
kind of band that inspire groupies and, even if they did, the band are long gone by the time the crew have
finished their job.
Special mention should be given to Keith Barton and to Marie Chaos for their dedication to duty. While most
of us head for the sunshine or to chill out at festivals, these guys use up the holiday they get from their
regular jobs to work even harder on tour.
To give you an idea of the multi-tasking that goes on, Mark joined the
crew as van driver. He’s a drummer so was asked to sort Richard’s kit.
That meant that he also had to master the setup of the banks of
sequencers that Richard has. Keith joined back in the mists of time to
sell T-shirts. He appeared with Hawkwind at the 2003 Hawkfest and his
guitar work really augmented the whole set in Amsterdam recently.
The whole thing is put together by 9 crew members, plus Kris and the
guys that come with the PA and the house. Personally, I think they do a
fantastic job of it. Long may it continue!!
Cheers. Rob Right: Mark, drum tech and van driver
Technicians of Spaceship Hawkwind (multi-role combat team)
(in alphabetical order … sort of)
Big Chris: Dave’s backline, chief roadie, driver
Dibs: backline for Alan, Huw and anyone else that turns up
Fleece: Tim’s kit, monitors
Kris: band’s manager, merchandise
Mark: Richard’s drums & sequencers, van driver
Simon: tour manager
Keith: Chaos Illumination, also doubled as van driver
Marie: Chaos Illumination, merchandise
Neil: Chaos Illumination,
Steve: bus owner/driver
Eric Siegerman: manipulation of the lights with a crystal prism
Trev, Sam: comics
2 or 3 guys from the PA company
1 or 2 house guys to help with the humping and climb the rigging
Bus for crew + Tim & Richard.
Trailer for lighting kit behind bus.
Van for band’s gear.
Minibus for Dave, Alan and Arthur + other halves.
Huw seemed to appear and disappear.
09.00 am Start thinking about the drive to the next venue
11.30 am Arrive at the venue
04.00 pm Finish setting up
04.30 pm Soundcheck
06.00 pm Eat
07.00 pm Doors open
11.00 pm End of the show
02.00 am Finish packing up