23rd – 29th April
I write to you as we set our course back to the mainland, from Stornoway to Ullapool. The sun is shining, I’ve just sampled the steak pie from the ferry menu, and I only feel a little bit seasick. Things are good.
A week ago, we began our longest tour to date. A sunny Sunday evening saw our return to Café Continental, Gourock, having last visited a couple of years ago. We had a cracking night and were treated royally, with as fine a selection of cheeses as you could wish for! It was a good sweaty gig to get things started.
A day off to recover – and buy travel shampoo and paracetamol – followed. Then, early doors on Tuesday, we were off to An Tobar, Mull. A couple of the boys had been before, but this was my first trip. The island provided us with the artwork for ‘Boots Met My Face’, where Luke Joyce’s majestic photographs of abandoned boats can be seen on the front cover. In an A-Team stylee, we piled out of the van when we spotted them on our drive to the venue, and this happened:
We had a lovely gig in the intimate surroundings of An Tobar. Afterwards, I was surprised to meet some fellow Northumbrians who happened to be holidaying on the island, and who even remembered me from the Rothbury Music Festival; a fixture in my summers growing up.
The next night was spent in classic Aviemore fashion at the Old Bridge Inn. We’ve had many a great time there before, at the Inn, Ord Ban, Inshriach House, the Insider Festival and Gordon Reilly’s own abode. There was some powerful singalong action on new song “Isn’t this World Enough??”, which so far has gone unrivalled. We also unknowingly hosted our first hen party, who very kindly bulk-bought some of our new T-shirts!
The next morning marked another first: Phil, Joe and Kev went for a run in the rain, swiftly rewarded by a fry-up. They’ve been building up their stamina since, and now have a collective personal best of a 25-minute mile. Training montage to follow.
A short ride in a fast machine then took us to the Ironworks, Inverness. There was a bit more elbowroom on stage for this one. We were really pleasantly surprised by the turnout, and had lots of fun. Thanks to the venue team for helping everything run smoothly.
Ullapool was next up, and once more a great time was had by all. Highlights included a record male AF team effort of 41 keepie-uppies in a row. As for me, there was an unfortunate accordion incident for the second night in a row, where it became stuck on the ‘Jimmy Shand setting’. I’m beginning to think the box has a mind of its own – which it only uses for evil.
Finally, we played the Woodlands Centre, Stornoway, but not before an entertaining afternoon radio session with Norman at Isles FM:
Our Saturday night crowd once more demonstrated their enthusiastic singing skills, and the evening was capped off by a mighty fine flat party: invitation generously extended to all and sundry by host Eilidh.
Thanks must go to our support acts so far: Siobhan Wilson, Ryan MacDowell, Eilidh Hadden, the Whisky River Band, Steven from Bluefields, Swingboy, and James Canty, a very talented chap who joined us for three of the dates on this Highlands and islands leg. To our hosts along the way, and the team at each venue: Alex at Café Continental, Gordon at An Tobar, Gordy at the Old Bridge Inn, Dougie at the Ironworks, Robert at the Ceilidh Place and Innes at Woodlands. To the incomparable Davy Gleeson, without whom we would likely never have managed to leave Glasgow in the first place. And thanks to every single one of you who came to the shows. Here’s to the next five weeks!