Huge mechanical elephants, monstrous merch tables and picking up surprise packages in Paris: Kate Stables reports from the French leg of This Is The Kit’s European tour.
13th March – Saint-Lô, Normandy
Our first French gig of the tour. Quite a shock to the system to find ourselves in the huge swanky venue that is Le Normandy in Saint-Lô. Lots of staff scurrying about doing things very efficiently and we have to readjust from our UK venue and soundcheck habits to the longer and more thorough methods we’re faced with here. A bit more used to roughing it in the UK basically. The gig (and most of the French gigs this month in fact) has been organised under the umbrella of the festival Les femmes s’en melent, showcasing female artists and female-led groups.
The act that played that night was Cléa Vincent, a group of excellent and friendly musicians from Paris that it was a real treat to meet and share the gig with. AND that night we were lucky enough to be housed by our dear friend Sionann who not only took it upon herself to find us all dressing gowns but who also entertained us into the small hours with stories of following Steve Malkmus and the Jicks for a whole European tour, and with demonstrations of her excellent air band (guitar, drums, bass – the lot) skills. And then to top it all off she fed us so well the next morning that we barely needed to eat for the rest of the tour!
14th March – Amiens
It was so great to arrive in Amiens and be greeted by the lovely Gabi and team at La Lune des Pirates where we were to play that night, so very warm and welcoming. And the other act that played was Lidwine, a singer from Paris accompanied by band member and partner Roland who did a beautiful electro-pop set complete with harp and synth drums. Such great guys and splendid for hanging out. We’ll hopefully be seeing them guys again!
16th March – Paris radio session
You can’t beat spending the afternoon and evening in an institution, be it the BBC or Radio France. We were welcomed by a friendly and softly spoken tech team and producer. We shared the music slot part of the show with the Belgian group Jawhar who also happened to be very lovely guys with quality music to boot. To top it all off who should be sat across the table from us in the studio (taking part in a panel discussion) but our friend Frederic’s step mum Dominique Blanc! I was able to say hello and inform her that we would be playing a show with Frederic the very next night in Toulouse! It was just the day we needed: fairly tranquil, no driving. Sitting in a calm room with a view across the river seine. And even squeezng in a game of King of Tokyo (a very excellent board game that comes with us everywhere on tour but that doesn’t always get played).
17th March – Toulouse
On to a gig organised by the aforementioned Frederic Jean and his project Hyperclean, along with Sarah and Den from Les Pavillions Sauvages. So great to be playing a show with the highly talented and terrifyingly unpredictable Frederic. Great great show. Lovely crowd that would not take “end of the gig” for an answer. Hooray!
18th March – Pau
It’s nice to be back at the Centrifugeuse in Pau, a venue on the Pau University campus. And thrillingly this is our first gig of a few this month with Rachael Dadd and band! Blessings and thanks all round. So great to get to see her play again with her ninja band of top talent with the boy Jamie guesting on drums.
19th March – Anglet
Joy of joys. Today was a less than long drive from Pau so we were able to arrive early and head straight to the beach where there were Plenty of surfers and the waves were pretty huge. Needless to say that when I went in for a swim I got utterly pummelled. But felt much the better for it. They were redistributing sand a short way out from the shore in preparation for the highest tide of the century which is apparently happening this weekend. Along with a 90% solar eclipse AND the spring equinox. It’s all kicking off guys! And gosh what a lovely gig. A huge crowd turned up and we had the honour of being joined by the venue’s resident “micro chorale” on a few numbers. Top quality evening. Lovely sound lovely gig.
20th March – Allonnes
The day of the solar eclipse! But cloud cover and smog put pay to any sort of successful eclipse hunting. Had a lovely show at l’Excelsior in Allonnes just outside of Le Mans. We got to discover yet another excellent female-led group thanks to these gigs organised by the festival Les Femmes s’en Mellent. Two women with a project by the name of Mansfield Tya very carefully thought out mise en scene with minimal arrangements and excellent singing. Very lovely guys. Alas, today we are also informed that our show in Rennes has been cancelled 🙁
21st March – Roche Sur Yon
Greeted once again by a very friendly crew at the venue “fuzz’yon” (a pun on the word fusion and the name of the town). They have an excellent merch table here. Kind of a cabinet with a glass top and lined with green foam triangles to prop cd’s up with and make a display. Oh the fun to be had with the merch table, which later on turned on us and wouldn’t open when we were trying to tidy our merch away! Usually such a monotonous job.
24th March – Paris show. Eek. Divan du Monde
Briefly home! And joined by so many dear friends on stage. Vincent Mougel on keys from the paris power pop trio Kidsaredead, Dizzy the bassoon player from La Bande Originale and The Paris Fantasy Orchestra and of course our very own Jesse D. Morningstar battling it out with Neil on electric guitar. And what’s more we finally got round to nabbing Rachael, Emma and Marcus to join in as the horn section on Spinney, such a pleasure and a treat. To top it all off we had our friend and spiritual guide JB Deucher doing our front of house sound. So great to be in such good mixing hands.
Another great thing today was that just before we left the flat for the sound check the delivery of our new album arrived – at last! Some CDs to sell at the shows. If they’d arrived moments later we would have missed them and had to waited days to retrieve them from the postal depot. Fortuitous to the max.
25th March – Nantes
Nante’s gig was in an amazing venue which was part of the stereolux complex. It seems to be the HQ of huge puppetry theatre company Royale de Luxe and we were met by a huge mechanical elephant of theirs upon arrival. Today was also the day I was to be interviewed on Radio Trempolino who were based just a few metres from the venue. Handy. Hosted by the calm, kind and generous Henri and Cecile, friends for whom I’d played a house show a few years ago. Much to my surprise it turned out to be an hour long interview IN FRENCH (yikes) in front of a LIVE AUDIENCE (double yikes) but Rozi came along to be my lucky charm and I think I more or less stumbled through okay.
26th March – Grenoble
We were a little late for the Grenoble get-in but when we explained to the tech team at Le Ciel that we’d come all the way from Nantes that morning then they let us off. Plus Jean Pierre on sound and Ruby (an excellent roller derby champ who also makes jewelry) on lights were so pro that the sound check was done swiftly and painlessly and we were then able to go and explore around Grenoble. We stumbled upon the cable cars but had lost neil at that point so decided to come back in the morning all together and ride them the next day.
The gig that night was with the very talented Annie Eve (and band) from London, England. Lovely guys who did a very great show. And it was a real treat to see Neil’s sea foam green jazzmaster being played so excellently by Annie whose guitar had come a cropper in the flight over. And what a welcome surprise to see Renaud (of bands H-burns and Syd Matters) after the show! So nice when pals pop up unexpected and he was kind enough the next day to show us the way back to the cable cars and up the hill to a plate of chips and one of the best views of the whole tour.
27th March – Annecy
Nice to be back at La Brise Glace in Annecy and double nice to be crossing gig paths again with Roniia who we’d played with also in Nantes. Their show tonight was especially great. Good sound and nice room to do a gig in. Had a quick 6 degree dip in the lake before we played. The next day we had time to stroll around the old town where there was a brocante on. I’ve never seen so many swords or mountain bells for sale. I did buy 2 bells, but I didn’t buy any swords. Plus the bells seemed like quite a cosmic link to this Roniia song that we’d been enjoying very much.
28th March – Geneva
And so on to our last gig and Geneva. Again not such a long drive so there was finally time to find a Decathalon! Jamie headed straight to the rain coat aisle, Rozi to the sporty leggings, and I made a B-line to the rucksacks. Neil was very restrained and didn’t buy a single thing. Everyone came out of the shop pleased and satisfied. Tonight’s show was a bit weird as instead of Rozi Plain opening in the same venue as This Is The Kit (original plan, standard gig procedure), we were ferried across town to a kind of private office opening party full of sound equipment that wasn’t in anyway ready for a gig and a room/bar full of really chatty people. But, despite the bleak appearance of things upon our arrival they managed to plug everything in and Rozi played a blinder of a show that totally caught the attention of the audience. It was a lovely show.
And then back in the car to whizz across town for the This Is The Kit show at La Graviere. A nice bunch came along to the show including our good friends Meg and Toby! But then all of a sudden we had finished the gig and loaded the car and it was time to part company. All too quick and alarming after a month of being on tour! The rest of the band were flying back to the UK the next morning so they were staying in town and I went back with the car and gear to Meg and Toby’s house in the picturesque St Prex, as the next day Jesse and Mo were due to arrive to go into the school where Toby works and do some music for the kids there. It’s always strange to suddenly be at the end of a tour and to not be able to sit down quietly and have a cup of tea before parting company. It invariably turns into an alarmingly rushed affair. But, all is not lost. We’ll be on tour again soon! So not long now till we’re all reunited and on the road again and maybe even sharing that unrushed cup of tea in a quite room somewhere.
Bashed Out by This Is The Kit is available now from all good record shops and Bandcamp