In February 2014 The Jelas set off from Bristol to play a bunch of gigs for a bunch of people around Britain, and they were excellent enough to write this account for us. If you don’t know The Jelas and their freewheeling, ideas-heavy skronkrock then your ears are missing much: new EP ‘Beetroot Yourself’ is a total blast of joy. They are also the best people. Read and buy.
Friday 14th. Bristol. Roll For The Soul
Colin: Finished work and went home for nap. We all met Trust Fund at our practice space a bit later. The show was the perfect way to start the tour, with a friendly home crowd behind us.
Nat: Finished work, went home and didn’t have a nap. Gave some tourists some shit hot directions to get to Cribbs Causeway and found Totem Terrors an awesome parking space. We played in our beetroot-stained t-shirts and were joined by our dear friend Sam Goff on sax. He was later heckled.
Sam: This heckling really perturbed me, as I suffer a crippling neurosis related to my status as a demi-jela. All these Bristol scenesters with their furrowed eyebrows. I drove for an hour and a half to see the first ever Jelas show in 2005 and been busting wit’em since then. But I’ve never lived anywhere near them so I hover on the edges of their world like a latter day Martin Swope. Watch out for more evidence of my crushing lack of self-worth throughout this tour diary!
Aled: Roll for the Soul is a co-operative vegan-friendly cafe and bike workshop which also lets us put on shows there, it really is a great place. Can’t tell you how much I wish every venue we played at had stylish road bikes hanging from the ceiling. The paper inserts for our CD EP’s had only just arrived that day, I managed to prove myself to be so incompetent at folding that I didn’t have to help put any of these together. A clever ruse you might think! But I am literally terrible at that kind of thing, that’s why I don’t play an instrument that you need to use your fingers for. This evening also marked the tour’s first burritos.
Sam: Good show though.
Saturday 15th. Cardiff. From Now On Festival. Chapter Arts Centre.
Colin: I really enjoyed playing this show, I had lots of room to jump around on the big stage. I also enjoyed talking to Richard Dawson, with whom I swapped watches and spoke about penises with for about 25 minutes. I spent the day wandering around this wonderful festival like a Blue Peter badge winner, stunned at how well organised and how pleasant everybody we spoke to was, confused at how we’d been lucky enough to be involved. Mark, Emma and JT make us feel like a real band and I’m extremely grateful. The hitherto impenetrable balloon of Saturday’s euphoria was punctured upon the slowly drawn blade of sobriety as I remembered that the now ex-watch was a gift from my very much current girlfriend. I am now part of an everyday battle not to swap clothes or accessories with strangers of the slightest renown.
Nat: I was terrified by the excess space to jump around in. We delightedly announced that we were playing our song ‘Love In The Time Of Cantona’ in Canton in Cantonese. I don’t know any Cantonese so this really put me off my stride.
Aled: Particularly enjoyed being a part of the Richard Dawson penis exchange, I was able to contribute a very satisfying anecdote about one of my Uni friends once being shown the fully inflated phallus of a notable professional footballer currently on Newcastle United’s books (I think they were roommates on a football tour at the time). Great stuff. The festival was really fun place to be, and a real treat to hear Trust Fund and a load of other great bands in a nice setting with proper good sound too. The Shape people really smashed it! Great rider for this show too, a selection of fine cheeses, olives and pickles served on slate platters. Slate platters! Unbelievable.
Sam: There were also dolmadas. The sight of Trust Fund’s vegan legion curdling over the sheer array of cheeses was a bittersweet highlight. I only feel comfortable when invading Nat’s personal space so I also suffered agoraphobia. Good show though. One of the guitarists of another band looked like Bournemouth AFC manager Eddie Howe. Brilliant!
Sunday 16th. Oxford. The Cellar.
Colin: When we arrived in Oxford we sat in a pub for a couple of hours with Trust Fund minus Roxy, who had gone on a crime spree with Aled. While they were gone I made the best joke of tour and there is absolutely no way I can describe it here in a way to do it justice. Burrito. Two White Cranes played this show too, which made it extra special. Roxy’s voice is a real life actual beautiful voice. The show was put on by an enthusiastic chap called Graeme, he cracked out some dazzling air guitar to Stefano Belli’s timeless guitar line in Trust Fund’s extraordinary banger, ‘Complicate.’
Back at the house in the evening we watched some Buffy before bed:
“What happens at the end of Buffy?” someone (who cares who!?) asked.
“Her toes!!” (That wasn’t the joke from earlier btw)
Sam: My darling friend Tom Geue came to this show because he lives in Oxford (where this show was in). He brought his housemate which I thought was a bit forward. I made a pretty good visual gag about Roxy’s Romario kit but it wasn’t as good as Trust Fund’s Weezer impression.
Aled: Trust Fund all wore football shirts for this gig, except for Dan the drummer who wore a jelas t shirt. This was nice to see, as we’ve always thought of ourselves as being a bit like a football team. Although if we were actually a football team we’d probably lose a lot of our fixtures as we’d never have more than four players, and I’m not very good at football. After the gig I ended up being pursued by a police car the wrong way down a one-way street I’d accidentally turned in to. After spotting the police car behind me (at this point oblivious to the fact I was driving in the wrong direction) I desperately tried to find somewhere safe to pull over, however the street was so narrow there was nowhere to do so! I felt I had no option but to continue driving down the road (going around 10mph, speeds befitting a narrow residential street), the police car in tow becoming increasingly agitated. It was like the world’s slowest car chase. Eventually I decided to just stop in the middle of the road and confront the policeman. Thankfully I escaped with only minor injuries, 6 points on my licence, 120 hours community service and a 9 month suspended sentence.
Monday 17th. Birmingham. Hare & Hounds.
Colin: I bought some pants in Birmingham. 3 pairs of trunks. I didn’t buy a towel even though I’d discovered this morning that I’d forgotten to bring one. I had by this point made my mind up; I was to use Natalie’s towel for the rest of tour and save room in my bag for merch and anything belonging to one of our generous hosts that I took a shine to.
Nat: Woke up in a Trust Fund friend’s house to Jones the (Burmese?) cat scratching around in the kitchen. Colin and I investigated. We thought it was playing with a 19th century clockwork toy, but it turned out to be a real life mouse. Colin jumped on the table and I swiftly left the room. Dan from Trust Fund later heroically dealt with it. Nobody was harmed. I regret lending Colin my towel.
Aled: Fantastic breakfast this morning, Stefano and Ellis cooked 24 Linda McCartney sausages for us all to share, it was a wonderful sight. After eating everyone else played Mario Kart except Roxy and I who had to drive a guitar amp we’d borrowed for the previous night’s show back to its rightful owner who lived in some flood-stricken village in Oxfordshire. It was like a very dull version of Mario Kart where you only run errands in rural England and your car breaks if you drive through the water.
Nat: Don’t forget we had onion rings with our breakfast too – that was a ground-breaking moment.
Aled: I found a jumper with Darth Vader on it in a nearby charity shop. That night we stayed with Eve and Paul from Ace Bushy Striptease. We decided it would be best if I went ahead and drove the first lot of gear and people back and everyone else would follow in a taxi, I gratefully received the house key and off we went. Unfortunately that lovely plan was all just a prank as they had neglected to tell me the code for their house alarm, or that they even had a house alarm! I was left standing in the middle of a pleasant Birmingham street in the middle of the night, looking sheepish as the alarm blared around me.
Sam: Eve and Paul have a fine home but the sheer amount of unorthodox merchandise for County Durham pop-punkers Martha in their living room can be a little disconcerting. Even the kettle is branded! There is also a voodoo doll of Paul, which suggests either chronic self-loathing or dangerous over-confidence on the part of the Midlands guitar/hospitality whiz.
Tuesday 18th. London. Eade Road.
Colin: Trust Fund left early in the morning, leaving a hole in our worlds. Our t-shirt bag and my phone charger had also gone, leaving another hole in our worlds. After coffee and tea we anxiously returned to the venue from the night before in an effort to remedy one of these holes.
Aled: Revenge for the previous night’s shenanigans was swift as I stole Eve’s house keys and took them to London with me.
Our venue for the evening was an old converted warehouse now being used as a music venue and live-in artist studio, a totally cool place to play! There were two resident cats, one resident Irish person, and a mezzanine floor filled with VHS’s. Whitebelt (another Bristol band) made the trip to play too and were really good.
Colin: Haha. Mezzanine! What a boring title. I made an error in my communication with the Decorum gang about the bill for this and Bastardgeist’s name found its way onto the poster. The poster was made from a woodcut print and is stunning. Mat Riviere was in-fact due to play the show, although couldn’t find the awkwardly placed venue so had to drop out. This delivered a degree of twisted integrity to the majestic poster. James and Dan put this show on. Definitely the most suave and stylish people we’ve ever been in a room with, they made a bar, made cocktails, did sound. All impeccably so.
Sam: I thought Whitebelt were absurdly good. Everyone had a good old very-loud-Pet-Shop-Boys-knees-up after the show, which retrospectively rendered the eleven o’clock ‘curfew’ a bit silly. All very enjoyable. Colin slept with his knee in my neck, just to let me know that I’m only a demi-Jela. I tried to get him back by crashing the car the next day but I’m just too good a driver.
Wednesday 19th. Manchester. Wahlbar.
Nat: We travelled through the beautiful Peak District to get to Manchester, stopping in the Plague village of Eyam (pronounced ‘eeem’).
Sam: ‘Pestilence Heritage’ is the name of my R’n'B album.
Colin: Narratively speaking, our hour in Eyam sEyamed to define the tour, which had hitherto bEyam prEyamble. As pun fans, the name ‘Eyam’ is a drEyam. Its vague sound allows even the bumblEyam pun-smith to join Eyam with a tEyam with mEyambers as linguistcally nEyamble as NEyamar. Funnily enough, Eyam was dEyamed our destinatiEyam on a whEyam. We had CrEyam tea. All along S(ey)am had been wearEyam a Cash Rules Everything Around Me Wu Tang Clan jumper, a picture of this would make a good mEyam. It was at this point that whEyam wEyam Eyam Eyam Eyam….
We went for a curry. The chef played the old put-a-bit-of-pineapple-in-the-korma-and-call-it-a-dhansak trick on Nat, which was disappointing. This meal was my low point of the tour, I was jealous that Aled had a hotter curry than me and I kept asking him how it was, unintentionally in a smug prick way. Aled and Nat reprimanded me appropriately and I felt extremely sad. I later went out for another meal after our show with Marcus, who put us on and put us up. Marcus is flat-out super. Supportive and enthusiastic. Awful at cleaning his house or maintaining a sink but, I dunno, I think he’s a polymath. He’s the guy Mark E. Smith wishes we all were but only Marcus successfully is: Sat on the toilet reading Brecht with fungus literally growing in the hand basin.
Nat: Me: “Is this a korma?”
Waiter: “Does it have pineapple in it?”
Waiter: “It’s a Dhansak then”
Sam: This was probably the most fun show I’ve ever played. I finally realised my dream of climbing on Aled’s shoulders. Usually Aled is much taller than me; however to play the drums he has to sit down and I took vicious advantage of this self-imposed vulnerability.
Aled: Oh dear, I didn’t realise I had made Colin genuinely sad! I guess I was acting a little prickly because I’ve only recently become one of those people that’s not satisfied unless they order something really hot from a curry restaurant or burrito place. Not entirely sure where this newfound streak of spice laddishness has come from to be honest, it’s exactly the kind of behaviour I dislike in other people, especially when they have to talk about it all the time. Oh well, just another drop in Aled’s giant well of self-loathing. Sorry Colin.
Thursday 20th. Nottingham. JT Soar.
Aled: This morning we went to Cafe Oklahoma where Marcus works. It was a lovely cafe with brilliant decor (I got to sit in a Buster Bluth hand chair!) and staffed entirely by members of the Manchester DIY scene. Boy was the service bad! But you couldn’t fault them for it, not with those winning smiles. I’d wait half an hour for a coffee and a further twenty minutes to be told the baked potato topping I’d ordered isn’t actually available every morning for the rest of my life if it meant I got the flash of a coy grin from the guitarist from Sex Hands.
Colin: On the way back through the Peaks we passed four reservoirs. Reser-vier. We also saw an incredibly bright rainbow whilst having a group shout along to The Dismemberment Plan, as we do. JT Soar in Nottingham is a ‘proper gaff’ and we love going there. Like Wharf Chambers in Leeds and Audacious Space in Sheffield, it makes me wish there was a similar place in Bristol.
Nat: Phil Booth put us on in Nottingham. He’s one of the nicest men in the world of DIY. He made us burritos with a delicious beetroot salsa to commemorate our EP’s launch.
Aled: The Bean chilli filling and the homemade houmous were a treat too! And Phil had a box of lapsang souchong on his tea shelf. What a guy!
Sam: As a naturally abrasive personality I find people as wonderfully nice as Phil as blinding as a Peak District rainbow. Such digs!
Friday 21st. Leeds. Wharf Chambers
Colin: In the morning we went and had a coffee with Marie and David. Everyone was on a caffeine rush and we all spoke about things we hate. As with all of our shows, we arrived in Leeds on time. We don’t rock up late, we’re punktual. Wharf Chambers is a place that makes me jealous. The world would be a better place with more spaces as welcoming and as well supported as this. I’ve been there twice, though, so don’t assume I’m correct. There could be bodies in the walls for all I know. I tried to say how much I like Leeds from the stage, but just came across as patronising. The sheer brilliance and popularity of the show’s promoter, dear Jonathan Nash, cooked us beetroot pizza and a lovely cous cous salad. A stellar host, guitarist, drummer, person. Shitty bassist.
Sam: There was a point when I was driving up the M1 with Aled in the front seat and Colin and Nat fast asleep in the back. Aled and I sang along uproariously to a double-header of Why?’s ‘Gemini (Birthday Song)’ and Weezer’s ‘The World Has Turned and Left Me Here’. Probably the emotional zenith of my not-so-young life. Beards played before us and were remarkable. They probably still are, it’s only been like a week since then. Beards!
Aled: “TODAY I FELL ASLEEP IN A BATH OF HAAIIR! HAIR THAT ONCE SPROUTED FROM OWN WHITE WET CHALK FOLLICLES! I SWALLOWED A COAL! AND FOLLOWED MY BREATH! AND I DID IT WITH THE GRAPEFRUIT SOAP THINKING OF YOOOUU!!” Lovely set from Bilge Pump too, love those guys!
Saturday 22nd. Northampton. NN Café.
Aled: I was up first in order to drive Sam to the train station. I was slightly irked about this as it was the first and only night of tour where I got to sleep in an actual bed. On the drive into town I sleepily almost drove the wrong way down a one way street again. This time not only in full view of a police car, but what would have been a collision course with the front of a police car had I continued on my original trajectory. Luckily I noticed in time and managed to correct my route in time to avoid another run in with the law. My good fortune continued as I was able to go home and sleep for another four hours.
Colin: Had a great breakfast at Nash’s house. Also, perhaps my best night’s sleep of the tour, in the knowledge that I would soon be using Natalie’s towel again. Pressing its recently used microfibres up against the entirety of my wet frame. We took our time before leaving for the NN Cafe, a lovely bar in picturesque Northampton.
Aled: By this point I was becoming a little weary of the M1, our fourth visit in four days, I swear this time there was a stretch of reduced speed limit the entire length of Ted Leo’s Tyranny of Distance. Tyranny of Distance over Time Equal to 50mph more like! Our rest stop an hour from Northampton marked the most Spinal Tap moment of the tour as we clamoured around a service station following signs for Waitrose for what I’m sure was fifteen minutes. It has to go down as the country’s longest service station, it was like being at Amsterdam airport.
Colin: There is theatre next to this show’s venue Northampton and it was advertising ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ and ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.’ Northampton can expect, no doubt, upcoming shows from Rufus Wainwright (Nat’s joke), Robson & Jerome (Chris East’s joke), and Alien Ant Farm on a roof (Barney Webb’s emotion). We went for curry. The best jalfrezi I have ever eaten. I am a very big curry fan.
Aled: I too had a jalfrezi and the group dynamic was better for it. Spice egalitarianism.
Nat: Christ East of Anguish Sandwich hilariously pretended to be ill, then turned on the charm for his set.
Colin: Chris East is a classic entertainer. Cold and unapproachable off stage; begrudgingly tolerable on it. Chris, John and Cath’s band, Anguish Sandwich, are excellent and will have an album out sometime soon so everyone will see that and say “I’m glad I read all three thousand and four hundred words of The Jelas’ tour diary so I could find out about Anguish Sandwich!”
Sam: I don’t remember this.