2017: a dizzying collection of 365 circumnavigations of the sun in which each new dawn found me peering at a dim screen through half-closed eyes to check if we had been plunged into nuclear war, or if there was a new trailer for the newest Star Wars, or maybe both. I’ve now seen the new Star Wars, and on this first morning of 2018 I woke up to the news that North Korea had indeed “completed” its nuclear arsenal (though how often does any collector know when to stop?). Hello future!
Yes, but as much as I love talking about the apocalypse, the worldwide rise of fascism, the destruction of the planet, and why even dogs are going to the dogs these days, I have been persuaded by management to make a list of good things that happened to us as a band in 2017, because there were a lot of those, really, and in the face of future adversity the best advice is to plunge oneself blindly into nostalgia. So here are a collection of some of last year’s stats and superlatives:
Total number of gigs played: 110
Total number of gigs played on islands: 9
Smallest island we played on: Pellworm, Germany
Island featuring the most imbalanced sheep-to-people ratio, where we still had a pretty decent human crowd at our gig, despite the demographic odds: Eysturoy, Faroe Islands
Most enjoyable “secret” gig: Piano Stage, End of the Road, UK
Most enjoyable radio performance of a censored version of the same song from that video above: Loose Ends, BBC4
Best audience chant at a show: “Ariel! Ariel! Ariel!” at the Burdock in Toronto.
Best comment about my how my hair and beard make me look like a dude from Mumford & Sons: Dave Hill, Slade
Best post-show ride on a dangerous machine with an audience member: Young Jack, Ferris Wheel, Larmer Tree Gardens
Favourite cat: newborn kitten in a basket on the ferry from Livorno to Elba, Italy (runner up, and only a runner up because nothing is better than a newborn kitten: Sooty, Bernie’s place, Manchester)
Favourite cow: Daisy the Dexter
Venue that we were sure couldn’t possibly live up to the hype about how great it is, but totally did: Hebden Bridge Trades Club
Smallest venue: Grayston Unity, Halifax
Oldest venue: Upstairs at Monks, Beverley
Venue requiring the most effort to get to for both the audience and us, but really it wasn’t so bad because the tiny little ferry had a tiny little bar in the hold with tiny little glasses of whiskey: Community Hall, Knoydart
Best impromptu venue set up inside an old ceramic factory: Medalta, Medicine Hat
Venue with the best drinks: All You Read Is Love, London
Venue with the shiniest golden stage curtain: The Ivy House, London
Northernmost venue: KIAC Ballroom, Dawson City
Southernmost venue (also the only place we’ve ever played on top of a platform inside a cage, which we thought would be intimidating but was surprisingly fun): Hole in the Wall, Malta.
Best thing I was given unexpectedly: my new hurdy gurdy, made by Claire Dugué!
Best artist, who we still can’t believe we get to wear on our “sleeves”: Shary Boyle!
Favourite version of It Happens In Florida: End of the Road, UK
Most amount of butterflies: Schmetterlinghaus, Vienna
Newest official Master in The Burning Hell: Ariel Sharratt
Newest official Doctor in The Burning Hell: Mathias Kom
Best recording studio of all time: Big Jelly, Ramsgate, UK
Favourite new bar: Arch Rivals, Leytonstone
Best “lost weekend” with musical friends: Elbasonica Festival, Elba, Italy
Best band we met for the first time: The Vanity Project
Best day off on tour with Jeffrey Lewis: Roshven, Scotland
Best day off on tour with Construction & Destruction: Art Café, Banska Stiavnica, Slovakia
Best day off on tour with Shotgun Jimmie: Spa Day, Moose Jaw
Handsomest tourmate: Steven Lambke
Most beautiful place in northern England: East Briscoe Farm Cottages
Place we all decided we were moving to and starting new lives as cannoli makers, so see you later, everyone, music has been fun but cannoli is better: Palermo, Italy