Oxbow tour diary part 3 – Union Chapel, London

22.10.12 – in which some intrepid adventurers head south in a rusty green Land Rover.

Sam arrives at my house at 8 a.m. in order to help sort through our tat – sorry, “merchandise” and secure the waterproof roof bag to the roof bars.This involves both of us climbing onto the wheels of the Land Rover. By the time we have finished we are absolutely filthy. And it’s only 8.30.

Yes, we're really going to travel almost 1000 miles in that thing

We meet the others at the Paragon Hotel in Birmingham, and find out that we may or may not have a gig in Paris as someone has apparently been murdered outside the club we were due to play. French law requires that the venue is closed down for a while, so we’re currently without a place to play.

We set off for the smoke. Our journey is pretty uneventful (the only one that will prove to be so) and we trundle down the M6 and M1 as fast as the Land Rover will carry us. Which isn’t very fast at all. That said, the hire van, with Eugene at the wheel, has a few problems when setting off, and despite the lumbering speed of the Land Rover, it isn’t until we’re a good distance down the M6 that they pass us.

As none of us usually drives to London, we are blissfully unaware of the Low Emissions Zone. We see a sign with a big green circle on it, and don’t give it another thought. Mistake. The Land Rover is, after all, nearly 20 years old.

View from the Union Chapel stage under the stage lights

The staff at the Union Chapel are perfectly lovely. The crew are helpful and considerate, we are fed some great home-cooked food, and best of all, we discover that one of Sam’s good friends has recently taken the post of musical director there. We soundcheck acoustically and then decide to take others’ advice and use a little amplification for reinforcement.

Niko rehearsing the string section backstage at the Union Chapel

The Oxbow material is starting to come together more – I’ve stopped counting some of the knottier time signatures in favour of simply watching Niko’s hands, and this is working better.

It’s only when I come to pay the congestion charge that the spectre of that Low Emissions Zone sign comes back to haunt me. TFL website informs me that I’m liable for a £100-per-day charge for driving the thing down the London streets. Ah, bollocks. Needless to say, I discover this just as we’re about to go on stage. We decide to play just two pieces in our set – “Rebirth” with Earth’s “Seven Angels” interpolated, and “Waltzing into the Doldrums” off the Beyond Tree and Stone EP. I take a few minutes to settle into it after the “this gig is costing me £200” shock, but once in the zone everything takes flight. “Seven Angels” feels massive and heavy, and the Union Chapel feels like the most appropriate venue ORE have ever played.

The Oxbow Orchestra set feels more together than it did at Supersonic. By comparison, Supersonic now feels like more of a rehearsal than anything. There is a mishap as Niko jumps around on stage a lot and manages to dislodge the power supply to his effects pedals, but otherwise things proceed well. Eugene delivers an electrifying performance which, we discover in conversation afterwards, has given more than one of us goosebumps. Our lips are flagging a bit. The idea of a night off in Paris is suddenly very appealing.

We stick around at the merch stall to meet some punters and sell a few copies of the album and the KK Null collaboration. I speak to one very friendly chap about classical music, and neither of us can remember Ligeti’s name. Later on he dives back in to shout “LIGETI!” at me and then runs back out again.

Backstage things aren’t running quite so smoothly.

It turns out that we can’t leave our gear in the venue and leave for Paris as early as we need to in the morning as none of the staff is at the Chapel early enough.

Marie (Mariexxme on YouTube etc.) who is a film-maker and friend of the group, has agreed to come to London with us instead of going back to Paris if she has somewhere to stay. It transpires that, for whatever reason, nothing has been organised and she doesn’t have anywhere to stay. ORE to the rescue! Sam and Greg, our sound man, agree to sleep in the van outside the venue; Sam’s bed at the hotel is taken by Marie. This seems only fair – especially as she has so graciously agreed to put four of us up in Paris the next night – and there’s no way we’d see her go without somewhere to sleep.

I pull the Land Rover into the hotel car park and – surprise, surprise – it’s already full. I block some large Transit vans in and leave a note on the windscreen. I speak to the man on reception, who has a terrifying scar on his head that looks as though he’s been very badly glassed in a fight at some point, and he doesn’t seem unduly concerned.

I shower, ring my fiancee for a quick chat, and so to bed.

<– Back to part two

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