The night I was homeless in Camden Town, London

I realized while transferring things between computers recently, that I had quite a few old blogs..or, stories if you will, that I had posted on MySpace and was smart enough to save. Geez, remember MySpace? It is soooooo 2004.

There truly are some gems in that file, from my adventures in touring. Remember these are a bit old, and my language may be a bit more crass than normal, but in the context, it works.

Here’s one that I have updated a bit to protect those involved who may not want to remember this awful, awful night in London….

Camden

 

May 30, 2006

Current mood:cynical

The streets of Camden, London

And now kiddies, another chapter in… RANDOM TALES OF LIFE ON THE ROAD (road, road, road)(obviously said in a loud, echoing voice for that powerful effect). And p.s. thanks to Linc for drudging up this memory…

It was the fall of 2002, September 12th to be exact. Actually, let’s go back a couple of days before that. I was out with a well known death/grind core package. We, as per usual tour standards, had problems with the bus. It needed to be serviced. Since the bus company was in England, and that’s where we were headed, with a day off in between, it was arranged that we would be put up in a hotel, just outside of London while the bus left to get fixed. Not too shabby, actually. The hotel was great and it was only a 20 minute tube ride into London town. We were told to take all of our personal stuff off of the bus and any random gear that lived in the bays, on the slight chance that this bus would not be coming back, and we would get a new bus. Fair enough.. I’ve been through this drill dozens of times. We unhitched the trailer and packed it full of odds and ends, and moved into the hotel for the night.

The night was fun. After a wonderful bath and some quiet R&R in the day, I decided to call some friends in London to meet up with them. The only other person interested in hitting the town with me was a guitar tech by the name of “The Vomit”. The history behind his name is a whole other story that I’ll leave up to your imaginations, but I will add, that I think his name should have been called “The Pisser”. Hey, what happens on the road, stays on the road, right? Those who know this story, or who were there know what I’m talking about.

Anyway, as I said, the night went well.. met up with some old friends, hit the bars, had some drinks, some laughs, did some shopping, headed back to the hotel bar to finish up there, and nestled soundly in my bed for a decent night’s rest.

The next morning, after a fantastic breakfast, and one more chance of a private shower (usually, but not always, there is one to share between myself, and a minimum of 14 other people, usually all dudes) I was ready to go. I headed down to the bus to help the boys move only the necessary gear into the passenger bus that was taking us. We had been told that the bus that was coming to pick us up would have a trailer hitch so we could just take that with us. Do you think it did? If you guessed yes, hooray for your optimism, but this is the touring business. Things rarely go as planned. We were all a bit perturbed, but we did what needed to be done. Gear cross loaded  into the bus, everyone on board, and we’re on our way.

The gig was at the Underworld, in the very heart of Camden Town. For those of you unfamiliar with Camden Town, it’s the South Street of London, the Haight Ashbury, the French Quarter.. the cool, trendy place to be, filled with lots of tattoo and piercing shops, a spectacular market, lots of goth/metal/emo shops, little treasure shops in every nook and cranny. My personal favorite place to visit when in London. **(**2013 sidebar… I prefer Oxford Circus now as my tastes have changed a bit since 2006**)**

The thing with the majority of the London shows, is that 8 out of 10 times, they have a strict 11pm curfew and you have about a 20 minute window to pack up the gear, and move out of there before it turns into some sort of (generally, gay..not that there’s anything wrong with that) disco at 11:30pm. Such was the case this night (except it was a metal disco.. not a gay disco… not that there’s anything wrong with that). It’s always stressful, particularly on the crew, and even more so when there’s stairs involved. The new bus was supposed to have gone to the hotel, picked up the trailer, and been at the gig promptly at 11:00pm to pick us and the gear up so we could move out to the next show in Hardenburg, NL. Not a ridiculous drive, however, there is a 90 minute ferry involved and the London traffic.

So, we get all of the gear out, personal belongings, etc…. but what’s this? No bus… hmmm… maybe the driver hit some traffic. Our TM/FOH guy **(for those of you not in the know, TM= tour manager and FOH= Front of House, aka, Sound Engineer)** decided to call the driver.. no answer. OK, we’ll wait it out another 10 minutes.. he should be here. Now, what you need to realize is, Camden isn’t the best place to be in at night. In all of its artsy glory, the freaks truly come out at night, paving the streets full of junkies, drunks, and all around weirdos. Add to that the fact that you’re on the streets with 1000′s of duckets worth of gear and merch… well, you get the idea.

Midnight. No bus, no answer on the driver’s phone, temperature’s dropping, gear is outside, in the alley of the club. I’ll spare you the details of the many phone calls to the bus company, the booking agent, the driver… I’ll skip the politics of it all to protect those involved in this mess happening and skip to the fact that we were stuck. There would be no bus coming to pick us up. There would be no hotel for us to drop the gear in. It was us, against the freaks of Camden, left to defend our castle of guitars, drums, amps, heads, merchandise, and personal belonging packed for a 4 week tour.

Obviously panic set in. We were cold… so we all decided to start layering ourselves in the band’s hoodie stock … this also helped to confuse our enemies as we protected our territory in the matching uniform of the band logo, making us look, perhaps mildly organized and intimidating. There was a proper London double decker bus, parked around the corner… you know the ones I’m talking about. The red ones that are associated with all things British. A few of the guys decided to break in and nest until help arrived. The Vomit, then decided to piss in there (just a small hint as to why i think he should be called “the piss”), causing some of the seperatists to come crawling back to our camp. Some of us found cardboard boxes and decided to go the whole homeless route and lay them out like mattresses and curl up. We watched the gear in shifts, fighting off those who tried to infiltrate, as they urinated on merch boxes, and begged us for a quid to get drugs. Some even offered us some of their drugs, but unless the had cyanide pills to ease our suffering, I don’t think anyone was interested. There we were… all night… on the streets of Camden, one of my favorite places on earth.. homeless, deserted, and utterly.. fucked.

Morning rises. The streets are getting busier. Now, as of the last conversation with those in charge back at home base, we were supposed to have another bus at 9am. It’s now 8am… people are going to work, looking at us, just as you would look at someone in the situation we were in. The promoter from the previous night’s gig, strolls out of his apartment in disbelief as he walks up to us laughing, half with us, half at us, saying he can’t believe we were stuck there all night. You know what? I can. My friend Adam, who helped guard the fortress with us for as long as he could the night before, called me and asked if we made it out of there yet. I told him no, and he too, began laughing with me/at me. I was in a state of delirium at this point ,you see, as I was not able to get a wink of sleep, guarding my boys and our precious cargo. 9am rolls around.. no bus. Quite agitated, our TM/FOH guy called the powers that be. Turns out the soonest a bus can get there is noon. Fan-fucking-tastic. A phrase that has become quite common in my vocabulary during these situations. Well, we’ve waited 10 hours, what’s another 3, right? We hang tight… miserable, tired, hungry. We go off in shifts wandering the streets, grabbing breakfast, trying to kill some time, now that things are actually open. Noon rolls around, and passes. Every call we make, is ended with the promise that the bus will be here soon. Screw this.. I’m going to the bar.

To conclude, this miserable story, now turned into a hopefully entertaining tale for you, the bus finally showed up at 4pm that day. That’s 16 hours abandoned in the streets of London, folks. We loaded the gear, and stumbled on to snuggle in our bunks. To be honest, I really can’t remember if we did that show in Hardenburg or not. All I remember, is that was one of the most horrendous nights of my life, and from there on out, the tour just kind of lost it’s vibe for me.. but that’s mostly because of our horrendous, alcoholic, obnoxious new driver that came with the new bus, whom I hope I never have the misery of touring with again. (It was a completely new driver by the way and a different bus company.. again, I’ll skip the politics of it all). **(2013 sidebar… I never did tour with that driver again)**

And this concludes another installment of “Living the Dream”.

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3 responses to “The night I was homeless in Camden Town, London

  1. geez Erin, how awful this must have been. I don’t think I would have wanted to work for whoever was responsible for this fuck up ever again. I’m sure you did, though.

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