An ocean of plastic

I’m a 34 year old environmental scientist, and I’ve just been schooled by a nursery on an environmental issue.

All eyes seem to be on the subject of plastic pollution at present, thanks to the combined efforts of environmental groups from Surfers Against Sewage to Greenpeace, the takeup by large businesses who are getting rid of or phasing out single use plastics like straws, and of course the BBC wildlife show Blue Planet.

Personally, I’ve felt closer to the issue since living near the coast, and seeing how much rubbish washes up on the strandline every day. I try and remember to take a rubbish bag with me when I go to the beach to do a spot of beach cleaning before I leave.

But it was the news last week of a nursery school ‘banning’ glitter to reduce microplastic pollution that really got me thinking.

I love glitter! I have a stash of it myself, which I use for crafts and homemade cards, and more in the form of makeup, which I use for samba performances, gigs, parties and festivals. It sounds ridiculous to me now, but it had simply not occurred to me that most of it is made of tiny pieces of plastic, which end up in the environment.

I was well aware of the plastic pollution issue, that the plastics we don’t see can be even more harmful than the ones we see on the beach, of the microbeads added to certain cosmetics and cleaners, and the damage they cause, and would never knowingly buy or use them. I also know that when we throw or wash something away that there is no ‘away’; everything ends up somewhere, be it landfill or sewage treatment or eventually the oceans. But it turns out I had a sparkly blind spot!

It got me thinking. Where else am I releasing plastics into the environment without realising? The stuff that my home recycling bin gets shamefully full of is the obvious stuff. But if glitter is a plastic then that can’t be the end of it.

My toenails are currently painted blue. A small piece of varnish chipped off a couple of days ago whilst I was in the shower and I saw it wash down the drain. Varnish. Plastic. Hmm. I can try and stop bits going down the drain I suppose by being more careful with it, not getting it outside the edges of the nails in the first place so it doesn’t wash off my skin, and removing it and binning the paper I removed it with once it threatens to chip… but maybe I should stop using it, or at least see if there’s a truly biodegradable alternative. I now genuinely wonder if there’s plastic in any of my other cosmetics?

My mind wandered back to a conversation with my dad a while back. He’s already switched on to this, and is busy replacing most of his wardrobe with natural fibres. Now I’m thinking of it, that makes sense. How much dust and fluff do our clothes and furnishings give off all the time? If they are made of synthetic fibres, that is more microplastics that we’re releasing into the environment every time we do laundry, empty the vacuum cleaner, or even in tiny quantities just whilst out and about.

And today I’m working on some DIY. I just scrubbed a painted wall I am renovating with a scourer, and the water coming off it contained tiny flecks of white paint and green scourer. I flushed it away… but there is no away, right? Cleaning sponges, cloths and scourers are made of plastics and synthetic fibres too (as is the paint – at least what I’m replacing it with is a less plastic based mineral paint, even if that’s not perfect!), and as they wear, they are losing tiny plastic particles into the water. The same goes for my plastic chopping board and utensils in the kitchen.

My life is full of plastic!!

I know I can’t fix the problem by myself and that my own impact is small compared to the scale of the problem. I also know it may not be that smart to throw away useable items just because of this. But I am thinking about it now. Maybe when it comes to replacing things I’ll think a bit more carefully about what I replace them with. There are alternatives out there, even including eco glitter, as a colleague of mine joyfully shared with me! Maybe I can become more conscious of what I am releasing into our water and soils in future, and take better care over the small things.

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Looking for Europe 16: Norwich – where I belong

November 2nd

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My 15th Switchfoot show in one year, and they’re finishing up at my former university, just five minutes from where I once lived ❤ This is some kind of strange and happy dream ❤

Before the show we had a little bit of time to explore Norwich, and it felt so good to be back ‘home’ I wondered again why I’d ever left. We looked round the ever-amazing market, buying fresh dates as I always have (is it the only place in the country that sells them?!) and delicious vegan wraps from one of the new street food stalls. Then we walked round the town a bit, taking in some of the lanes, the river and cathedral close before heading up to the B&B we were booked in to, and then on to the university.

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UEA was a parallel universe, so familiar and so utterly different! New buildings had popped up so navigating us in felt confusing. Once we found the carpark, memories flooded back; rabbits and buses and field trips and long-lost friends and late night student capers with talking car alarms… We headed onto the campus. It still felt, and smelt, exactly as it had before! We passed the notice board where I received my degree results, the cafe we used to hang out at in breaks, the chaplaincy centre, the square where I’d taken part in so many events and demonstrations. There’s a new fountain in it now. I wonder if anyone puts green bubblebath in it these days?

But it was another students’ union, and yet again we were faced with the same awkward situation of not knowing exactly where to go, made all the more awkward by the fact I in theory ought to know! However, although I could very much tell it was the same building, the whole inside had been completely revamped and nothing was quite how it had been rather too many years ago! We found the interior doors to the LCR without a problem (doors I’d gone through for numerous freshers’ fairs and poster sales!), but they were closed. We hung out there for a while with other lost VIPs, before hearing from our American friends that they were at the exterior door and we were meant to be out there! Oops 😀

We chatted to them whilst we waited to go in about British accents; apparently we sound very like Australians, and literally is literally the most British thing we say! It was very funny! M wasn’t coming to the show, so he brought his ukulele with him so he could hang out and work on songs whilst we were inside, and he played some songs for the VIP queue.

Eventually we were let in, and immediately discovered that the purple-painted LCR still has a sticky floor! I wonder if they’ve cleaned it at all since I left..?

We’d found confetti on the floor of every venue so far. To begin with it seemed UEA would buck that trend, but once we got to the barrier we discovered that there actually was some there on the other side of it. It was as if some other band with a confetti cannon had been touring the same venues a night ahead of us! 😀

For soundcheck Switchfoot played We Are One Tonight! That’s such a last night of tour song; they ended both my previous two tours with that one :’) I rocked out even though there were only about 15 of us there, tearing up. They took requests and decided on playing Thrive next. They were about to start when Jon asked ‘Do we need to test the fancy mic?’ to which one of the crew from the back (Travis?) shouted ‘You’re fancy!’ Jon laughed and said ‘That’s like the most demeaning word isn’t it. Fancy and little… ‘how’s that fancy little job of yours?” It was funny, and Thrive was beautiful and sung with a lot of feeling.

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Then it was Meet&Greet time. Tim asked me if I’d been bodyboarding! I laughed and replied there aren’t that many good waves in Norwich! 😀 Drew thanked me for sharing my story the previous day (he is so sweet and sensitive, always remembering the personal details) and the poster, and I said to him, Tim and Romey that they’d been such a big part of my journey the past 18 years, and that that’s a whole lot of inspiration over the years, and they really mean a lot to me. Then I told them this is my old university, and my favourite place I ever lived, and asked if they’d seen the city. Drew had, and the brothers had walked round the campus and said they loved the forest. Drew asked had I seen a lot of bands in this room? I said actually only one, and it was my second favourite band, Delirious? They told me Tim Jupp had been at the show last night, which was pretty cool! I told them I miss them, I used to see them a couple of times a year but I only ever waited for them to come to me, but I realised I had to make more of an effort for Switchfoot! I told them I was gutted I never saw them play together, I don’t know what I was playing at!

Some group photos were done, and I brought out the comedy chins for the last one! Each of us had already picked one (mine had a beard), and I asked each of them to pick one from the remaining stack.  They thought it was hilarious! After the group photo they swapped chins and did their own photo with them on, they looked absolutely brilliant :D! Tim said afterwards ‘Thanks, that was one of the funniest pranks of the tour!’ I asked him would he prefer to keep them or for me to take them, not wanting to presume either way, and he thought for a moment and decided on keeping them, so I gave him the box! Drew at the end said ‘Thanks for this; thanks for everything’. Tim said ‘We’ll see you next time.’ I replied ‘I’ve been very blessed to be able to do this, and I have no idea if I will ever have the chance again; I will if I possibly can but I never know’ and he said ‘Yeah, none of us know what the future holds, but it’s in God’s hands.’ ❤

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A very small queue had formed outside when we got back out, and it didn’t grow too much whilst we waited either. When we got in there was no rush, so I went Drew’s side of centre on the barrier. Even at the front we ended up with enough space to pile bags up next to us instead of having to keep them on our feet, penguin style, as usual!

Tonight Alvarez Kings played their intro song twice as they didn’t come on right away, and their mic was off for the very start of their set, but thankfully that was sorted promptly and they played a very energetic set, sweating! They were great but I couldn’t help noticing some fellow Switchfoot fans talking disparagingly about them, even during their performance, which I just found rude.

I was worried about that crowd; it seemed disappointingly small with the venue maybe only about half capacity, and I wasn’t sure they were that switched on either, with lots of drinking and chatting going on. It could be a difficult one… :/ Josh got loud cheers for testing the guitars during set up – was that a good or bad sign..? I couldn’t tell. A guy we’d met the previous night had a sidestage ticket tonight and he started leading the crowd! As it got towards the start of the show, everyone began chanting and clapping… What will Switchfoot make of this one?

The lights went down and there was much whooping. Then they came on to different intro track – the Needle intro from the Hello Hurricane tour featuring the voice of a child reading the song’s lyrics! Wow. I’d never heard that in person before! Switchfoot were full on right from the start, and caught that crowd up into their energy. It felt very meaningful to sing ‘It’s no accident we’re here tonight, we are once in a lifetime’ in that place, at the end of this amazing tour.

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Again they went into Stars next, and it was already pretty hot! No-one had pushed forward to join us on the barrier, and I found I had so much space in the sparse crowd I didn’t have to keep hold of the barrier at all so I just stepped back and rocked out! That was quite a novel experience!

They followed Stars with Dark Horses, this time with extra screaming! By this point I was enjoying having that extra space. Jon introduced the crew and hugged Josh, and then got Ryan’s name wrong, which was amusing.

 

Drew played a rich melodic solo during YLIAS tonight, and Jon’s harmonica playing was epic and seamlessly blended into a scream from Drew’s guitar. And oh those vocals..!

Bull and LAIWTF came next, and Jon disappeared off into the crowd, clearly connecting with a lot of people. I remember seeing Delirious? playing here, and Martin Smith popping up at the back there at one point, so it was extremely special seeing Jon now over where he had performed.

 

Back on stage, they brought the energy back down a little, playing IWLYG. I got a video of it tonight, which you can see here. I sang it back to them as a way of stating that I was sticking with them for the journey ahead.

Then Jon introduced House Burns, telling us he’d had ‘an authentic college experience, spilling some books in the hallway, burning the roof of my mouth on a slice of pizza (not that it affected his singing one jot! I was really into that voice tonight) and going for a walk in the woods’. He said the venue reminded him of his old college pub, and told us the story of how Chad had once been caught climbing on the glass roof there to watch a show inside! He dedicated the song to firefighters again. There was lots of windmilling tonight with the four guitars up front!

Then Jon told us he wanted to play a song they’d not played yet on this tour and wanted to bring Norwich something special; they played Mess Of Me, and woah! That yelling! I was rocking out completely; had we been more closely packed in and I’d been doing what I was doing it would definitely have been moshing, but here I had the space to go for it without jumping on anyone else – though I did fall over a couple of times! 😀 This show was getting very sweaty! I absolutely loved Jon’s solo where he sings and mirrors his singing on the guitar, it’s very creative and he does it so well.

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After that Jon said to us ‘Growing up, so many of our favourite bands were from this part of the world, so we’ve been playing a song on each stage of this tour from each city we’ve visited – but Norwich… we really put google to the test and came up with about 5 bands that came from Norwich, which didn’t leave us much choice! I think we can probably all agree that Led Zep is probably better than any of the 5 bands from Norwich!’ This got some cheers! And they played Ramble On again.

What. A. Voice. Oh my gosh..! 🙂

Then the ‘fancy mic’ came out again for Hello Hurricane; to begin with, Chad started a little too far away so Tim shifted him inwards whilst they played, and Jon accidentally hit Tim at one point, bringing some amused smiles! 😀

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And then Where I Belong. Once again I got my banner out, Jon asked for it, I threw it and he held it up before wearing it. Nothing new in one sense, but this time it took on so much meaning; not only the song, but here in this Switchfoot family, and here in Norwich, a place I’ve somehow always had a soul connection to. It all brought on the tears properly that had been prickling the back of my eyes since I arrived. In that moment, I was where I belong, and I soaked up every second. Forever, now.

Meant To Live blew me away, again feeling overwhelmed that there is more than this.

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Jon was still in awesome voice for the encore, adding an interlude where he got the band to play ‘a little bit softer now’, then ‘a little bit louder now’.

He began playing Live It Well, and then got Alvarez Kings up on stage to finish singing it along with them. They were so stoked! At the end, Simon picked Jon up and carried him round the stage; the drummer ruffled his hair, and there were lots of bear hugs and smiles between them!

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Finally, Dare You To Move. I got out the ‘Thank you Jon, you inspire me’ banner, and he repeated it back to us saying we inspire him; he has no idea how much I mean that though! He decided it felt right to go into the crowd with the mic stand and guitar to play it, right in the centre of the crowd. Tears, tears. Although he came back through the crowd a way from where I was, I went through the crowd to help him up as there weren’t enough people there to lift him. Today never happened before! :’) After the show ended I couldn’t move, still in tears; I just wanted to stay in it.

Eventually I faced up to it, and packed my things. I bought some merch and met up with M, somehow sneakily inside the venue! Drew was by the side of the stage signing stuff and thanking us, so I got my setlist signed and said thank yous and goodbyes. I told him this place was so full of happy memories for me already, but this was the best thing that ever happened here. Regardless of my doubts about that crowd, it had been an incredible show, and had felt really, really good.

We left.

A small group of us hung out by the bus in the increasing cold for about two hours, waiting to see if there might be an aftershow, and then at least just to say goodbye.

M fulfilled another long-held ambition by ‘hijacking the aftershow’, giving us an aftershow of his own by playing the uke and percussion jamming on his water bottle and cookie box!

Drew eventually came out again. Jude got to show him a letter she’d written and have a good chat with him, and I managed to say thanks and goodbye again; he said ‘See you next time’, and again I said ‘If I possibly can, I will’.

We waited some more and eventually Jon came out to the bus. He came over and gave me a high five. He said hi to everyone he knew then saw M and asked his name. I introduced him as my husband, and he said it was great seeing him at a few of his shows and said he always remembers the tall people, and thanks for the cookies! M said afterwards that Jon had spotted him in the crowd in Birmingham and pointed and smiled 🙂 Jon signed stuff for some of the others, and I thanked him. One of my American friends asked him about 25in24 and whether he had any plans for new solo material. He told us a bit about the movie (I told him I stayed up to watch the whole thing, and really loved being a part of it even via the internet!) And he said he still has about 20 Wonderlands songs saved, including some of his favourite songs he wrote for his daughter. He was so honoured we liked his music! But eventually we had to say goodbye and safe travels, and he got into the bus and was gone.

There were no tears till he’d gone. The taxi arrived almost immediately for the Americans, and we said goodbye, and then there were lots of tears. This is so, so hard!!

We eventually headed back to the B&B we were staying at. As we walked back across the campus, the rabbits were out in force just as they had been on many a late night back in my days there, and we passed the site of my old hall.

So many tears. But wow what a way to end!

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Looking for Europe 15: Birmingham – the cat is back!

November 1st

Ahh it was a tough morning; last night’s euphoria gave way to a battle of tiredness, anxiety, broken down buses and near-misses with trains, but thankfully Someone had it all in their hands, and we experienced travel mercies upon travel mercies, arriving in Birmingham much restored.

Over the last couple of days we’d had the ‘pleasure’ of seeing Birmingham New Street Station from pretty much every side, since it seemed to be bang in the way of everywhere we needed to go! Today we must have been round or through it another five or six times!! We went out for another pizza lunch, coming away smelling beautifully of garlic, and then had a little time to get a few pictures of KittyJon climbing some of the city’s eccentric public art. That set the tone for the rest of the day…

Circling New Street once more we headed down to the venue, this time a converted church tastefully decorated in turquoise, brown and gold, and fronted with statues whose facial expressions and body language provided us with a great deal of pre-show entertainment!

Today’s soundcheck was so funny. Right from the off, Tim and Jon welcomed us in, in Birmingham accents!! I could not believe I was hearing that out of their mouths! 😀

Then they soundchecked a Led Zep cover, claiming it was a new song! At that stage the sound wasn’t great so we could mainly hear guitars and yelling, though that was enough for it to sound good! Then ‘Questions, comments or concerns?’ Jude asked what was happening regarding the long-awaited 25in24 movie. Jon said he expected it to come out next spring: ‘It’s been a labor of love!’. I laughed and said ‘Take my money already!’ Then Tim joked ‘Maybe you could show the film 25 times in 24 hours, and film it, and make a film of the film…’ 😀 Jude said ‘So it’s in the can!’, and Jon for some reason, probably because it was Jude, heard cat! 😀 Then they went on to play Mess of Me, before spending a while trying to fix kick drum issues (apparently it wasn’t coming through in their monitors! I can testify that it was coming through the main speakers just fine!).

This was a special show for me; my 20th! I never imagined I would reach 10, and never in my very wildest dreams thought I’d be celebrating #20 the very same year! I made a poster for the Meet&Greet, with the stats from this 20-year journey, and the towns and dates of the 20 shows listed round the edge. It was made on the back of a campaign poster about bees (because.), so I thought I’d show them that too for amusement’s sake, and they spent a while enjoying both sides of it.

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Drew gave me a hug and said to thank M for the cookies, asking did he like the show? I said ‘Yes he did, and he will be here tonight too; and oh, if you’re taking requests, he really wants to hear Holy Water or Where The Light Shines Through? I hope I haven’t stopped you playing that one, as I didn’t mean to!’ Jon said ‘Ah those are great requests, especially because we actually know how to play them!’

As the guys continued to look through all the stats and dates on my poster Jon commented ‘8 countries! That’s a cool stat!’ I then pointed to ’18 years of fandom’, and I told them my story: It must have been 18 years to this very week, as 18 years ago on the 24th of October ’99 God saved my life, and to celebrate, a friend had given me a mixtape with New Way To Be Human on the very end of side B, which fell off the tape half way through! But I had eventually borrowed, and then bought, the CD, and here I was 18 years on! I told them it meant they’d been a part of my journey right from the start and it meant the world to me. I said ‘I have a lot to make back to you; I hope you’re feeling 18 years worth of support’. Jon highfived me and said ‘I’m glad you’re here.’ – in both senses I think. He thanked me for sharing my story. It was almost a throw away comment but he complimented me on the daisies I was wearing – and I said ‘Ah, they go back 18 years too! I discovered joy for the first time back then and needed to find a way to express it. What does joy look like? To me, it looks like a daisy. I’ve been wearing them ever since.’ That was special.

Then Jude had another funny photo taken, with the guys all wearing fluffy haloes! Putting his on, Drew asked ‘Is my halo straight?’! Afterwards we saw him put the halo on his daughter and get a cute photo of her.

Outside again, we got talking to her in the queue about snow and cold feet and cream teas 😀 She is such a sweetie, just like her dad.

The Alvarez Kings found the crowd weirdly quiet! They were really into the onstage pranking tonight, Simon throwing a bottle comedically at the drummer, and at one point singing creepily close into the guitarist’s face and kissing him! Jude was tonight’s human mic stand, and just as I’d found, she just knew beforehand it was going to happen and had been saying so! Simon definitely possesses telepathic powers!

After they finished, a very dubious tall and wobbly projector screen was brought forward to show Jon’s film promoting charity Food For The Hungry. The screen teetered precariously above everyone whilst the stage was being cleared and set up for Switchfoot, before we were given the spectacle of it being dismantled. It was… quite something! It was definitely one of those things that could have gone wrong in so many different ways, but thankfully, no incident!

Tonight I was stood between Tim and Jon at the barrier. As requested, and to M’s delight, they opened with Holy Water! The sound started out quite tinny unfortunately, which was maddening when I’d been waiting to hear this one live ever since first hearing it, but thankfully it got better. It went down very well with the crowd; you can watch it here.

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Then they again gave us Stars, and followed up with Oh! Gravity. Wow!! A photographer friend was stood behind me and I can’t tell you how creative I had to get, trying to rock out whilst keeping my hands out of her shot! I’m yet to find out if I succeeded or not…

We were treated to another improvised solo in YLIAS, then Jon again jumped into the crowd for Bull. As he got back up on stage, he hugged the security guy who helped him back from the barrier, then put his mic to Drew’s guitar, laughed and ruffled Tim’s hair roughly, clearly having a great time!

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As they reached the end of the song, Jon spotted the sign one of my friends had brought saying ‘Switchfoot is where the light shines through!’ being held up in the crowd. As he called it out, she then turned the sign round: ‘Do you love me enough to play my favourite song?’! Jon was taken aback! ‘Ohhh! Now I feel like I’m not sure which song you’re requesting! Pass that here…’ (it was handed forward and he held it up, Where The Light Shines Through outward) ‘I like this side! I feel like I know how to play that one! If we tried this one I’m not sure I know what would happen! It helps I know the words to Where The Light Shines Through…’, at which Tim laughed out loud and said ‘Don’t say that till you’ve played it!’ 😀

Well, with two requests now, they did indeed play it! I got my Europe flag out and was dancing with it on the barrier, using it as a prayer and not expecting it to be taken, but suddenly Jon was asking for it! So we threw it to him; he held it up, pointed at me and I gave him thumbs up, and he threw it back – but it opened up and fell short of the barrier, and he did a funny ‘oops’ voice whilst singing! That was a little glimpse of ‘aftershow Jon’ right there! 😀 That solo was absolutely awesome again, and M was so happy he finally got to see it.

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I filmed Jon’s beautiful intro to IWLYG and I’m very glad I did. You can watch it here; just a taste of the amazing things he sometimes comes out with between songs. Then he did the ‘Lift your arms… and let them rest on the perfect stranger next to you’ thing – and then said ‘Now we’re no longer perfect strangers; we’re flawed strangers. Some of us smell worse than others; some of us are sweaty, ha! (he was dripping!) But we’re in this together.’ He is great.

During House Burns, Jon broke a string and switched guitar seamlessly. And he finally went to someone else for that line! I feel cheated on. 😀 😀 Thus ends an almost unbroken run of about 8 shows I think! 😀

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Next they introduced the ‘fancy mic from the 1900s… way back… maybe ’99, ’97?’! Jon said ‘We have no control over when the storms come, but it’s about what we do in the face of the storms’, and they played Hello Hurricane, Chad at the end picking up his drum and walking back to the kit with the tambourine on his head.

And then the Led Zep cover! This time they introduced it properly, as Ramble On, explaining that they started out as a Led Zep cover band and were terrible! But ohh they make a pretty awesome Led Zep cover band today! Jon’s yelling was absolutely on fire!

During LAIWTF Jon again went back into the crowd… and climbed up onto the balcony, cat-like, as though gravity didn’t exist! If you could have seen the faces of security, and his amused bandmates..! At the end of the song Jon just sat looking up silently at the ceiling, as if wondering figuratively and literally where to go from here… And then he began singing Shadow Proves for a moment, before going into the second verse of Where I Belong again. And just when we began to wonder if he really was stuck this time, he suddenly turned and climbed down again, still singing, like it was no big deal at all, the crowd reaching up to hold his feet! ❤ Wow! He came back through the crowd up onto the stage and took my banner. I have so much respect for that guy!

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The encore was the same again, but oooh how Jon sang Float tonight!! As he introduced Live It Well he said this was probably his favourite show of the tour. And as they finished with Dare You To Move, Jon started with a yell, and we could really hear Romey filling out the sound; at times it was just him and Jon playing.

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Again the lights and pack-down music went up immediately and there was no encore. 😦

As I was leaving the venue I overheard the venue security fangirling! ‘…never heard of them before… he has a great voice… seems a really nice guy… did you see him crowdsurfing? He just floated back onto the stage, you see so many others really struggle…’!

Ohhhh yes. I am so happy for you, discovering Switchfoot! Welcome to the planet. 🙂

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As there was no aftershow and their tour bus was parked elsewhere, we circled New Street Station one last time and got straight off to our hotel. It was such a great night, they had definitely done enough.

The following morning we had a lie in and large breakfast, before getting back on the road for our drive through beautiful autumnal East Anglia for our final show…

Looking for Europe 14: London – loud love

October 31st

Now things were really starting to get disorientating. Where were we, exactly..? We’d been at a show in Manchester the night before, slept in Birmingham, and were now going to London before coming back to Birmingham but sleeping in Nuneaton… oh help!

Even if we barely knew which city we were in, or to be honest, who we were, we somehow got ourselves out and onto the train, headed in the right direction, and with breakfast successfully obtained. I was so tired; the first thing I saw on exiting the train was a branch of AMT Coffee, and I beelined straight to it!

We hung out, recaffeinating, for a while until I heard from M that he had also arrived in London, and we headed off to meet up with him. He was already at the agreed meeting point when we arrived, and predictably had found the most awesome busker, possibly the coolest looking guy I’ve ever seen playing complex and rhythmic Spanish guitar. We stayed and watched him for a bit, and then went in search of lunch (to M’s favourite falafel shop, which he had find memories of from his time working in London!).

Gradually I began to feel a little more human! We headed to the hostel and checked in, and all of us crashed out. It took some effort to shake us awake enough to head back out again, but we did eventually drag ourselves and each other off to the venue.

Cold air, friends and pre-Switchfoot excitement did me good! We hung out with the US fans in the VIP queue, and before too long my own bandmates showed up too! They were not doing VIP, so M went and waited with them.

Drew’s daughter checked us in today! She had her work cut out, as this was by far the biggest VIP event I’ve been to (there were around 40 of us, which I appreciate is not large by many standards, but for Switchfoot in Europe that is a lot!).

This was an actual large venue, with a second tier of seating and very ornately decorated, the first time I’d seen Switchfoot play at such a venue since my first show back in 2011. Everything since has either been clubs of varying degrees of smallness, or large festivals, and since I loved the small and intimate shows so much I was unsure what this one would be like, and if it would feel as special with a bigger crowd…

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Once we were all in, Switchfoot kicked off the soundcheck with Afterlife (Drew – wow!! Such incredible guitar noise!) and then on request played Vice Verses (Jon – wow! But he always sounds sublime singing this one :D)

Then there was a more usual round of ‘Questions, comments and concerns?’: I asked why they often play rare songs at soundcheck even before anyone else has arrived and there is no audience. Jon said ‘Why do you climb a mountain – because it’s there’. I do wish they’d bring more of the back catalogue out in public though, especially if they still enjoy playing these songs.

I had meant to do a funny Meet&Greet photo for Halloween with us all looking scared, but with a lot on my mind I forgot. However Jude did it and she’d had an even better idea, to get Drew to do his scary joker face and have everyone else reacting! It creased me up to see that unreal face in person! 😀 But I did remember to hand over a box of pumpkin cookies from M, fulfilling a long-held ambition (they asked his name, said to say hi and that they’ll look for him in the crowd), and to ask a prayer request on behalf of a member of the ‘fam who had asked.

After a short wait back outside, the doors opened, and that large venue got pretty full, which was great to see. 🙂

Alvarez Kings were really stoked tonight! In the opener they yelled ‘London!’ And they played a great solo too. Simon the lead singer was performing a lot more with his hands, and putting in a lot more expression. He made several funny comments too: ‘I’m out of shape… stages are big!… taught Switchfoot some Yorkshire lingo… dodgy chicken..’ 😀 The drummer had his tongue out a lot! I got some eye contact from the bassist tonight, and was the human mic stand again, again I knew before they even started their set so I think Simon must give out telepathic vibes or something! 😀 The sound was noticeably a lot better tonight and I managed to pick up a lot more of the lyrics; thinking the last thing these guys needed was to be playing to a bunch of disinterested Switchfoot fans on the front row night after night I had made an effort to pick up enough to sing along and engage with the songs right from the start, but I felt like I was really getting to know these songs now.

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Then two more firsts for me; the venue gave out cups of water to us all, and there was a big display screen behind the stage, so we got all Switchfoot’s backing vids tonight (they’d used some in Basel, but they used them all the way through tonight)!

They once more opened with the full electric Hello Hurricane and got the crowd going, singing along and jumping. The crowd’s energy tonight was fantastic where we were!

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During Stars Jon paused, smiling, to survey the crowd in a way I’ve seen many times previously, but hadn’t seen yet this tour. It felt good already. 🙂

Stars led straight into a vid of John M Perkins on the screen, introducing The Sound; it was an INSANE performance!! Woah!! I let go and danced like a crazy thing, it was so much fun to rock out to!

Introducing YLIAS from there, Jon said ‘There’s a theme to tonight’s setlist. I believe in a love that’s louder than hatred, louder than racism, that all our wrong notes in this symphony of life will be made right by the Composer Himself.’

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Then he jumped into the crowd for Bull and LAIWTF, dedicating it to Chad as apparently this is yet another place he used to live! Jon wove his way through the crowd and worked us all from the back as though it were no different from any other venue I’d seen him play; even that large, two-tier crowd seemed just as engaged with his performance. Back up on stage, there were smiles and hugs between the guys and the crew. 🙂

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Beginning IWLYG, there was a funny moment when Drew made an accidental guitar noise somehow. 😀 Jon told us tonight feels ‘like family, church, community…’, and I had to agree.

They played House Burns*, and then at the end of the song Romey disappeared… and reappeared on the drums with Chad! They played The Clash’s London Calling! Jon was all hair, definitely getting into his punk side! 😀

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Dark Horses followed, then… Jon fetched a ukulele that he had been given at Meet&Greet!! :O Jude had requested The Edge Of The Earth a few days ago, and he had given a particular look in response like he was thinking about it… but this..! He said being given the uke he took as a sign since we’re a long way from the islands and it doesn’t happen often; he wanted to play one of his favourite songs that they’ve never played before as they wanted to bring something special out for London… and they actually played it!! I was pretty teary and trembling! That EP is up there with my favourite albums. I know many fans who have seen them many, many times and never heard them play a single song off it, but this is now the third time I’ve seen one of these precious songs performed. It was so special! They started all gathered around the ‘fancy mic’ then returned to their positions for a truly epic ending. Wow. :’)

I filmed it, and you can watch it here; the camera visibly gets the shakes over that ending, and I turned the camera round at one point and captured the pure joy on my face, which is absolutely genuine.

It took a little longer to get there this time, but by the time they were closing out with Where I Belong and Meant To Live the energy was so high I was back near Bristol heights of ecstasy, yelling and shaking and rocking out in absolute bliss… Singing ‘We want more than this world’s got to offer’ when the world can be so very good felt almost greedy. It was a mind bending reminder of God’s goodness, that God does indeed offer much more than even this.

They again played Float as an encore, and despite the prominent ‘No Crowd Surfing’ posters everywhere Jon did indeed Float (over me, I’m pleased to report that I did not drop him!).

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There was an interlude with Jon talking about s’mores whilst introducing Live It Well, and he got his old friend JJ up on stage for a shoutout to thank him for all he’d done to support them right from the start. This I was very happy about, as it was this same JJ who had made Jon’s solo show happen back in June, and that had been extremely important to me, so I appreciated being able to thank him too.

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And then they finished once again with Dare You To Move – but ohhhh it was so nice tonight! Jon got the crowd lighting the stage with their phone lights. It was as pretty in real life as the pictures I’d seen! A magical way to end another stunning show. 🙂

And then what happened?! Everything seemed ripe for a second encore but the crowd stopped! I stayed at the barrier, partly speechless, partly fangirling with other fans, and partly waiting for Josh to throw me back my flag, which this time had ended up backstage. When I eventually got my things together to leave I found one of Drew’s guitar picks underneath.

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Afterwards was funny; I met up with M and our friends and we were hanging out, and refreshing twitter, then suddenly everyone went round the side of the venue to the stage door. We didn’t know why for a while as there had been no tweet, but it turned out it was the venue staff wanting us out the street so we didn’t make a noise. It was funny as all of us were so hyped up that every time anyone went in or out there was a cry of ‘Wooo!!!’ ‘*shhhh!!!*’. And I met more cool SwitchFam! We had to keep letting cars and bikes through the barrier we were standing against, and soon had a sort of human gate system going! 😀

Eventually there was a tweet!! Jon came out a little while after, and wanted to take us somewhere else but the venue staff really wanted us to stay round the side of the venue where we were. So he got up on a wall, and I lost my vantage point 😀 He had just started playing Caroline when the Alvarez Kings’ bus needed to get out and we all had to move once again! 😀 Then no sooner had he started a second time there was a loud siren in the street..! It was fairly silly! But he played, and we sang. There had been a lot of singing from the crowd tonight. He played 24 and Your Love Is Strong, and our friend was pleased he played 24, a favourite of his, at his first aftershow. It was so lovely seeing M and Jon both singing together! 🙂 And then he was gone, and we headed back to get some sleep.

So it seems a large crowd can actually love even louder. That was easily one of the best ever concerts of my life. I had no idea music could feel like this :’)

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*Yes I was finding far too much entertainment in this silly saga but for the sake of completeness, and letting you know what actually goes through my strange mind during concerts… well, Jon did come over to me at the right point in the song tonight, but I wonder if I lost my ‘spark’ since I hadn’t been paying attention the night before when he did it! There was brief eye contact this time but he didn’t sing ‘to me’ 😀

Looking for Europe 13: Manchester – finding warmth on a cold day

October 30th

After a much-needed lie-in we eventually headed into Manchester and met up with SwitchFam friends from France and the USA for a late lunch and cocktails (‘Well it’s 5pm somewhere right?!’)!

It was not a particularly warm day, and though we were thankful it wasn’t giving us typical Manchester rain, we were so cold lining up for the VIP event! When we got let in I had on my very sensible, grownup, fox shaped mittens; they said hi so I waved to them wearing them, and when they noticed the silly foxes they laughed! Drew did a double, and triple, take! When they saw the American ‘fam were here they were amazed, especially seeing a hometown fan here, who got a joyful ‘What are you doing here?!’

The guys asked what they should play and the US fans all yelled ‘Awakening!’ There was a general agreement, so they went for it! Jon said it was quite a high one for ‘this time in the morning’ as it was for him back home. But they did it and it was awesome! I just rocked out 🙂 You can watch it here.

Then as a little boy was there, Jon asked what his favourite song was; it was Looking For America so he said the boy would have to do Lecrae’s part 🙂 Chad suggested playing Hope Is The Anthem, which went down extremely well with everyone, and they played with so much passion. Again, I filmed it so you can watch it here. Sometimes it really doesn’t matter how small the crowd is.

At Meet&Greet they asked me what we’d done the previous day. I told them about the ferry journey, and that I thought it was great but it wasn’t so for Jude (Chad kept apologising to her, as if it was his fault!!). I told them how I was up on deck watching the sky and the dolphins and how spectacular it was, and all the seaspray, and that I came away knowing how it feels to be a salted peanut! I got a hug from each of them.

I asked them to sign my setlist from Bristol; I said I don’t normally like asking them to sign lots of stuff but I felt they should put their names to this as they should be proud of it, it was so incredible and the best I’d ever seen them. Jon agreed it was special; he highlighted Teardrop as he spoke and said maybe they should release a cover of it, and I told him it was stunning, and they played it so well. Then I asked him if he had read his card; he said yes he had got it out the other night and gone through it and ‘unpacked it all’, he was really touched by it. I also passed on a request from one of the card’s contributors to play in her country and he said yes they’d love to.

Then I filmed Jude’s meeting for her; Chad saw me and photobombed it to say ‘Helloooo’ in a silly voice 😀

Then we headed back out to line up in the cold. We had some good chats to other chilly VIPs, it was great.

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The venue was a large club, with a black interior and a balcony running round that unfortunately was closed for this event. They were very strict about what you could take in, which was a bit annoying, especially for friends who wanted to use decent cameras. But with or without our bags we all made it in eventually.

The Alvarez Kings were back to their pranks tonight; in the process of stealing the drummer’s stick the singer again knocked the cymbals over, but less disastrously than in Dublin! Their drummer is amazing; he has such a loose style, twirling the sticks as he plays, and singing along with his eyes closed and a big smile, looking like he’s having the time of his life. We could hear more of the guitar tonight, and they put a solo on Somewhere Between.

Switchfoot opened with the full electric version of Hello Hurricane again, which got everyone jumping!

As on previous nights they followed up with Stars, Jon making eye contact but not for ‘partly cloudy’! Then he departed from the setlist to play Needle, before going into YLIAS and LAIWTF.

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Then they played IWLYG; Jon spotted a little girl in the crowd with ear protectors on, sat on her dad’s shoulders. He went over to her and asked if she was having a good time. He said to all of us he often gets asked how to write songs and that he has found it difficult to answer, but that he has figured it out now; ‘start in the darkness, and search for the light’. Going back to the child, he said this song feels like a father holding his daughter; ‘I look at you and have to try not to cry’, at which the whole crowd said ‘Awww!!!’ :’)

Next, Jon started Dark Horses with the slow, acoustic version of the chorus, before going into the usual rocked out version. It feels very moody, and was really awesome to see played this way.

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Then he went into the crowd for Bull, saying ‘Can we get the party started?’.

Back on stage, they started playing House Burns, and Jon started singing too late and caused a timing error, though he recovered it quickly, and the others were not thrown by it. Such professionals.

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Then they played 24 round the fancy mic!! Jon told the story about the skateboard incident and how he wrote it realising he wanted all the broken pieces of his soul to be whole. It was acoustic right to the very end when the others drifted back into their positions and seamlessly brought in the full band, gorgeous.

Then they played us one of their favourite covers, The Verve’s Lucky Man, for Manchester. I’ve seen them cover this one a few times on other fans’ videos, but never in person. Their version really does sound fantastic. I decided I’m a lucky fan! 🙂

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Again they ended on Where I Belong, Jon again wearing my banner, and then Meant To Live, and woah did they rock hard!!

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As Float began for the encore Jon came back on stage with a mouthful of water, and spat it out into the air like a fountain, which made us laugh! Tonight the disco ball was working, just a little slowly, but Jon crowd surfed and successfully floated this time!

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He got everyone swaying for Live It Well before finishing with a heartfelt Dare You To Move.

Afterwards we headed back out into the cold. There were doubts about an aftershow happening, but I was going nowhere, having done what I always tell others never to do the other night by leaving a show straight away when he tweeted that there wouldn’t be one. I at least wanted to see them again.

But I got the tweet; he retweeted another fan asking, to say ‘So, aftershow?’ 🙂 🙂 🙂 He got a whole lot of YES!! in response! I chatted to another friend who I’d met at a previous show. She had to get a taxi back to her friend’s house and was worried she’d miss it as he was late out (almost 12, having said 11:45!) But thankfully she caught the first couple of songs before having to dash.

He played right outside the venue just to the side of the bus to allow the other guys to get back on in peace (though Jude caught them!), and played Caroline, part of On Fire, Before Our Time (‘Whistle solo..? Anyone..? No..?!’ Clearly the London secret whistle chorus had not infiltrated this show!) and Inheritance, for a couple expecting a baby. He asked before he played it ‘Does anyone remember payphones?’ (‘There’s one right there!’) He told us how he used to have to get up at 3am on tour to call his wife, but that she had a huge family, so he’d spend forever dialling in the long code, mistyping etc, only to find the phone was engaged, again! 😦 🙂

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Afterwards he came back to the bus past me. People were just thanking him and he was shaking hands and just saying ‘Thanks, goodnight!’ to everyone. I thanked him too, and he turned to me and just said sweetly ‘See ya Helen’ before carrying on :’) I felt like he’s been so warm towards me today :’) I guess it means a lot to know the appreciation is getting through.

Then we had a lonnng drive on to Birmingham for the night, listening to Fiction Family Reunion in the car, accompanied inappropriately by comedy sound effects from Jude’s satnav!

It was a lot later than it felt as I was full of fan-love…

Looking for Europe 12: Belfast – embracing the chaos

October 28th

Today may have started with two of the worst cups of tea I have ever consumed, but it certainly improved from there!

Although we were not looking forward to taking a rail replacement bus over to Belfast the journey was actually pretty good, and we saw lots of autumn colours on the way there. Belfast itself was a surprisingly beautiful city. I realised as soon as I saw it that I had no mental picture of how it would be, but it still surprised me with its art and architecture.

The hostel was just a short walk from the venue and the VIP event wasn’t due to start until 5 so we had plenty of time to chill out. We took our time getting ready for the show and playing Switchfoot, but eventually the pre-show angst began to get to me, and I decided I needed to take a bit of a break from Switchfoot until the show before it got too much, so I went out for a walk along the river, grabbing a silly photo of our mascot KittyJon with a striking statue before rushing back to the show.

When we arrived at venue we could already hear them soundchecking Lonely Nation! We stood and listened through the door. This time we didn’t have long to wait before they let us in.

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We wanted to hear Lonely Nation so much that they agreed to play it again for us inside,  after a lot of jamming. Jon’s yells right from the start were really overwhelming, especially to such a tiny audience!! I was almost knocked off my feet 🙂 They took more requests, and were going to play Afterlife, but something happened and they changed the plan to do Meet&Greet straight away. And then our friend from Dublin arrived, having made the snap decision to come up to Belfast for a second show!!

Jon came over as they were setting up and I told him his yelling was awesome! I was so tonguetied! He said he liked my t-shirt (Fiction Family) and I said ‘I like your band!’, which made him laugh. Chad came over and told us that following them on tour means a lot to them; he thanked us and said it was special arriving in a place they’ve never been before and seeing familiar faces.

During the Meet&Greet Jon was chatting to another fan, saying the transitions between songs were as important to them as the songs themselves so they put a lot of thought into the structure of the setlist so it flows with some rise and fall. Romey gave me a hug. It was a rather confusing VIP event this time as there was a lot of stopping and starting, the guys kept coming over and hanging out, and we were never quite sure where we were meant to be!

However we got our photos; Jude was plotting something again! After we got my picture Tim again thanked me for following the tour. Jon had disappeared but I told the rest of them they’d been my top band since about 2001 and it had taken me over a decade to see them first, and then I had thought ‘what am I playing at, I need to make the most of this’, so I was making up for lost time. I got to tell them I took up bodyboarding this summer too. I was a bit embarrassed to tell that to pro surfers as I’ve really no clue what I’m doing, just got really into it, and I told them that. Tim said ‘That’s awesome, my wife loves it too, keep it up!’

Jude’s picture was indeed funny; she had found some guitar-shaped comedy sunglasses for Drew and he looked hilarious in them! Then she got me in the next picture with Switchfoot temporary tattoos on. Drew asked me should he take the shades off, and just looking at him creased me up so I said ‘No keep them on – for the show! They suit you!’ 😀 He looked so perfect! 😀 And then Jon told me I’d been in the picture the day before in my absence!! Jude showed me later – she had printed out an embarrassing picture of me wet from the sea and had it in the photo! Oh dear 😀

Then Jude got permission from Chico to go in the pit with a photographer’s pass; she was so stoked!! It was still confusing where we were meant to be as the event sort of just drifted seamlessly into the gig set up and no-one showed us out. But eventually we went out to queue and fangirled outside the venue, and we were joined by someone from inside the venue who had seen Jon and rather liked the look of him, which was pretty funny!

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The venue was a brick built club, larger than Dublin’s and plastered in band posters. And it was cold again; I had to keep my scarf on until Switchfoot started. I got a front row spot again, this time in front of Drew.

The Alvarez Kings were delayed coming on; it turned out that there was a lift between the green room and stage, and they had got stuck in it! But the rest of the set was much looser and smoother, with no pranks or mishaps this time, and they looked really pro. I had the feeling even before they started that I was going to be the No Resolve mic stand tonight, and I was correct!

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Switchfoot opened with Afterlife, the request from soundcheck that wasn’t played, which was a nice touch. They sounded amazing!

Tonight I admit I put far too much attention into testing my theory that Jon has certain lines from certain songs he always finds me in the crowd to sing to – and yes, as predicted, when they sang Stars I was ‘partly cloudy’ once again!

They then played Oh! Gravity again. I love how much they have been playing this one! To begin with Jon was having some trouble with vocal effects on the pedal but it nonetheless sounded as epic as ever, and they rocked!

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Then they played YLIAS, and then Bull and LAIWTF, for which Jon was in crowd, coming up by me during LAIWTF, and I lifted him back up to the barrier. I just love watching him interact with people whilst singing in the crowd!

They played Needle (And Haystack Life) for the first time of the tour; that’s the song I’d previously noticed Jon singing a particular line to me in so I was keen to see if he’d stick with it – but no, he didn’t tell me not to let go 😀 Maybe he has a new target 😀 This one really got the crowd singing. Drew was all hair tonight, really going for it!

Although it wasn’t on the setlist, Jon decided to go into Only Hope, saying it felt right. Again he omitted the second verse.

And then he introduced IWLYG: ‘There’s a lot of stuff going on in the world. I look at twitter, I get depressed. I look at the news, I get depressed. There are a lot of reasons to give up; but I realised a while back it’s always going to be this way. I want to be aware of what’s going on, but I also want to be aware of the transcendent love of the Maker Himself. When I write songs I want to acknowledge the darkness in the world and within, but I don’t want to let that be the end of the story.’ This was a new perspective on this song; perhaps it is a bit political and not just personal? None of this (world) is in your control. It’s an amazing song even just taken as a song about God’s love for us, but this gives it a new layer of meaning. As they played, the guys all had their eyes closed, as if each were playing to an audience of one.

Suddenly the last thing anyone expected happens: Jon decides to embrace the chaos, asking ‘Any questions, comments or concerns?’ in the middle of the show, and it goes weird! It went something like this:

Person in crowd – ‘What’s your favourite colour?!’ Jon – ‘The blue of the Pacific, or Atlantic (crowd – ‘wooo!!’), ocean!’

Another person in the crowd – ‘When’s the next album out?’ Jude – ‘Soon!’ Jon – ‘Ahhhh… Soon!!’

Person 3 – ‘Wanna come to my house for dinner?!’ Jon – ‘What’s cooking?’ Person 3 – ‘Whatever you want, your choice!’ Jon – ‘Some sort of really traditional Irish meal??’  Person 3 – ‘Then you’ve got stew! We’re going surfing tomorrow too.’ Jon – ‘Got spare boards? More importantly got spare wetsuits..?!’ Me – ‘It’s warm!!’ Person 3’s friend – ‘Got 1 year olds too!’ Jon – ‘What else you got?!’ Jude – ‘Chocolate!!’ 😀 So much hilarity! ‘Questions, comments or concerns?’ is a tongue-in-cheek question he frequently asks at sound checks and aftershows, but I cannot believe he did that in the middle of the show, especially right after IWLYG 😀

Somehow he managed to bring it back and play Hello Hurricane around the fancy mic! He said ‘We’re family; we’re going to get stew and surfboards and 1 year olds and chocolate…’ 😀

They again played the Thin Lizzy cover they’d had so much fun playing the previous night, the gleeful grins on their faces were infectious and we could tell they were having a blast.

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Then I got my last chance to test my song line theory, as they played House Burns – and yup, same line again! Jon wasn’t even my side of the stage, but shot over to me at that line. It’s just a little weird!

As with previous evenings they closed out the main part of the show with Where I Belong and Meant To Live. And they stuck to the same encore routine, except that when it came to Float the disco ball was broken and chugged round super slowly, causing a lot of amusement! Live It Well Jon again invited us to imagine we’re at a California campfire, and he said to ‘person 3’ ‘You’re bringing the stew!’ There were lots of smiles, and they were really grooving with it.

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Then they finished with Dare You To Move. Suddenly poignant, Jon said ‘I never know how many more times I will be able to do this; I live each day like it’s my last. Thank you for a beautiful last night in Belfast.’ 😥 Lump in throat. Cannot even go there. He began the song with a yell and Tim filled in with lots of bass. And then it was over, Josh once again returning me my banner.

There was no aftershow; a halloween party was coming in and it was raining so we went away eventually and got chips. My fan love was going crazy. Jon is full of miracles. 🙂


October 29th

The next morning I realised I had made a crucial error: I forgot to air the Where I Belong banner. Oops. I could see the sweat on it last night!! 😛 😀

I couldn’t believe we were half way through! At the same time, tour life had begun to feel like normal life. Perhaps I could live like this..? A voice in the back of my head reminded me that that would be pure escapism however; I do this to keep me fuelled and inspired for facing the real world with all its trouble and pain and injustice. It would be a lie to run away…

Today was purely a travel day; we had a chilled morning, getting up late and having a good breakfast in a cafe together with our Dublin friend, including a decent cup of tea! We went to the station, taking pictures of the venue as we passed…

But then chaos descended again. We arrived at the station to find that the bus we had booked on helpfully did not exist. The next one was going to be later and only arrive at 1:30, which was the last check in for the ferry, and it wouldn’t go to the terminal. I sent out another emergency prayer request!! We almost got put in a taxi, but that too fell through. So, we got on the bus, and prayed.

Embrace the chaos. None of this is in your control…

We arrived back in Dublin just after 1pm and got straight into a taxi, arriving at the ferry terminal just before 1:30… and ha, no way, the ferry was 30 minutes later than I thought, and we were well on time!! 😀 Suddenly all the stress dissolved into hilarity and thankfulness! Oh my gosh 😀 Oh well 😀

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The ferry journey was fab for me, less so for Jude! She got sick, but I spent the voyage up on deck. It was a fast ship and woahhh when it got going was it fast!! It almost literally blew me away! 😀 I found myself stuck fast to the railing with all my layers on, and a big grin on my face, wind beating against me, spray lashing, and the boat pitching! The spray threw up rainbows as we powered along and dissolved Ireland into ‘salt hazy pearls’ to quote one of M’s songs, and the sky was beautifully dramatic with a sunbeam-filled sunset as we arrived back in Wales. I saw a pod of common dolphins race past, leaping out of the water, and also guillemots and a shearwater. It was incredible! We got back to land with me saltcrusted, frozen to the bone, and totally stoked 😀

After a long drive featuring much singing along to Switchfoot, we arrived back at Jude’s for a chilled evening, sleeeep, and a fairly relaxed morning at home before setting out again for more adventures.

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Looking for Europe 11: Dublin – getting the party going

October 27th

It was another very early start after a late night but I no longer had any doubts. I was doing this. I had stayed over with some Bristol fans after the show and we had even stayed up ‘fanduding’ and having late night tea and toast after getting back so hyped up! But 6am came and I was soon up and back on the train.

Ireland happened almost by accident.

I had planned to see all seven shows in the UK when they were announced and had snapped up tickets for those straight away. However I hadn’t planned to go to either of the non-UK shows. I didn’t feel the need to try and do that this time; seven was easily enough!

However, one of those shows was in Belfast. There was a day in the schedule either side of the Belfast show, which I assumed would be plenty of time for travel. But when I came to working out travel plans it turned out that if I didn’t want to fly (and I absolutely didn’t), the only options were either another day travelling back up to Glasgow, or to go via Dublin, arriving the night before.

Dublin, the night before… hmm..!

I checked ferry and train times, and yes I could actually be in Dublin by the start of the show! And so, ticket number eight was purchased!

I had a gorgeous journey over. I had to send out an urgent prayer request when my first train was delayed, resulting in me missing my connection on to Wales and therefore the ferry, but prayers were answered; I was put on the next train, which turned out to be a better, faster train, and I made the ferry in good time. It was a glorious day, and the journey up through Wales, past beautiful coasts, castles and mountains, and across the sea on the ship was spectacular. I even saw dolphins!

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I arrived in Ireland for the first time as the sun was setting, and just had time to check into the hostel, where my friends had left me some food and I could drop off my suitcase before heading to the show. I arrived at the show just in time; the queue to go in was still short and my friends, who had VIP passes got me a spot centre stage! I’d honestly thought I would be arriving after doors and would be at the back for a change!

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The venue, located mercifully just round the block from our hostel, was a smart, black-painted club, picked out in red light, and absolutely freezing cold inside! Even the crowd barrier seemed to be refrigerated! We kept layers on right through the support band, and hung coats over the barrier to insulate it.

The Alvarez Kings were fun; as on previous nights they continued to prank one another during their set, but the kit seemed to be pranking them too this time. The cymbals fell over in No Resolve (the song in which the singer picks a girl in the audience to be his human mic stand!), causing giggles and panic, then the singer’s guitar strap snapped during their final song!

Switchfoot opened with The Sound this time, a powerful way to kick off. As he’s done previously, Jon added a section calling out ‘Let justice roll down..!’, and ended with a drum jump.

Stars followed, and then Dark Horses; things were starting to warm up now! Jon sang me a couple of lines in Stars 🙂

They then went into YLIAS; this time Drew’s solo started out quite understated, but then he got creative with it before suddenly hitting epic! He continued soloing underneath the remains of the song but in harmony with it, in a way I’ve not heard before. An amazing guitarist! On the second ‘eyes wide open’ section they stripped right back to Jon on acoustic guitar before the whole band came back in.

Jon got in the crowd for Bull, and there was much hat swapping! He nicked a phone to film with, and stood on rail at the back working the crowd, whilst Drew threw in another awesome solo!

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Still in the crowd Jon started everyone off singing When We Come Alive. He went back and forth through the crowd through pretty much the entire song, people taking selfies with him the whole time, and he ended back on stage holding the mic stand high and getting the crowd to sing.

And then they again played Oh! Gravity. This time there was an awesome jam session in the middle, Jon soloing with Chad. Tim almost knocked the mic stand over, resulting in lots of amused smiles between him and Jon at the irony of gravity, and smiles and hugs between them as they played. And Romey’s piano crash solo!! Wow!

Jon introduced IWLYG, saying ‘This is about a love that won’t let go, the transcendent love of the Maker Himself’.

They followed this with Hello Hurricane, played acoustic around the ‘fancy mic’, but I could hear them audibly, so close I could hear each of them and their individual harmonies, which was lovely. Some girls in the crowd provided nice backing vocals throughout! The sound at this show wasn’t the best quality; it’s hard to put a finger on what exactly was wrong but it just wasn’t coming over at its best somehow. But this song sounded lovely on the different mic.

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For tonight’s cover, the guys chose to play The Boys Are Back In Town by Thin Lizzy – and they were clearly having a lot of fun!! Drew told us a funny story at the start about how he was really into Wham as a kid and bought a tape, but his big brother literally knifed it to the wall and told him he should listen to this instead! Jon said ‘Let’s hear it for Drew’s big brother y’all! He could’ve ended up in a Wham cover band!’ 😀

And then Jon sang me that same line in House Burns! I’m really going to have to ask 😀 He began Where I Belong by singing snatches of the second verse over the introductory chords, so skipped it in the actual song.

And then again they closed with Meant To Live. Romey came right to the front leading on rhythm guitar whilst Jon and Drew passed the riff between them awesomely. He actually rocked rhythm at front most the way through, at one point going back and playing the keys at the same time!

Bizarrely the crowd encored with ohley ohleyohleyohley! Again they played Float, Live It Well and Dare You To Move. Jon went into the crowd again during Float and came up by me, I had to help lift him back onto the barrier!

The venue was cleared immediately after that, and Jon tweeted no aftershow, so we decided to go straight back to the hostel for some much needed sleep! But my Dublin friend was devastated; it was her only show. 😦

In spite of the somewhat ropey sound, that show had a real party atmosphere; I don’t think I’ve ever seen Jon spend so much time in the crowd, there seemed to be a lot of connection.

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