Last weekend I had the absolute pleasure of being asked to step in on piano at short notice for Yarbo, a band of people I’ve known and respected for many years, and play two shows in two days in London then Sheffield. How could I say no? Having only two days to learn the set from scratch was a bit of a challenge as it meant not being able to rehearse with the band before the shows but, with long time friend and musical collaborator Kieran Joyce playing bass in Yarbo, I had a great opportunity to be shown the piano parts in person and learn the songs quickly.
Road Trip Begins
We set off for London on the Saturday morning at 11am, all 6 of us (plus equipment) crammed into an old transit van with no first gear. I was lucky enough to get a seat up front on the way there but I’d later find out that sitting in the back wasn’t too bad provided you put your feet up and got your head down.
— Yarbo (@Yarbomusic) October 25, 2014
After a quick stop at Watford Gap services (which, in reality, is nowhere near Watford at all) we arrived at The Nest in Dalston, London, and had our soundcheck on quite possibly the tiniest stage in existence. It wouldn’t be too bad for an open mic or a club night but for a 6-piece band with drum kit it was an interesting experience. After we’d set up there was the customary ‘waiting around for hours’ before heading on stage so we grabbed a couple of drinks and free olives at Escudo De Cuba, lovely place.
Eventually we got on stage and before we knew it, the set was over. As frontman Dan Pye pointed out in between songs it was a bit of a shame travelling all that way to play just 25 minutes of music, though we had an awesome turn out with lots of lovely faces in the crowd. I’m also pleased to report that my first performance went rather smoothly and mistake free, which went down well with the lads.
Cue packing up the gear. After a few more drinks, shameless selfies and ‘discussions’ about loading the van we were on our way to our resting place for the night, George the drummer’s house, where a swathe of ham sandwiches and more alcoholic beverages were waiting for us. The morning was just as good, with what seemed like unlimited bacon and coffee!
It pretty much goes without saying that none of us got much sleep that night, which made the journey to Sheffield on Sunday afternoon seem even more arduous than normal. After a much needed stop for more food at Trowell services we continued on our way, barring immediately pulling over on the hard shoulder of the services slip road for Dan to have a quick spew out the back of the van, and arrived at Shakespeares well ahead of schedule.
When it comes to new places I generally like to keep an open mind and form some positive opinions, but having never been to Sheffield before it didn’t exactly make it easy for me. To be fair it was a Sunday evening, but the fact that the streets were dead and pretty much everywhere else in the city was closed (apart from the curry house opposite where we parked the van) was, to quote Kieran, ‘like a scene straight out of The Walking Dead’. The whole architecture of the place definitely had a feeling of being stuck in the 70s, with dreary matte brown office buildings everywhere, which didn’t help either.
Regardless, we got our equipment upstairs and soundchecked, leaving Dan asleep in the front of the van who was still recovering from the previous night. A couple of hours later, in front of maybe a total of fifteen people (including the other bands), we took to the stage and did our thing for the second day running. Unfortunately, Dan snapped a string on his acoustic only two songs into the set and when trying to change the string, broke the bridge pin leaving half of it jammed inside the guitar. Our van driver and roadie for the weekend (cheers again Daniel Ross you absolute legend) did his best to get the bridge pin out, but with no luck, so for the rest of the set he switched over to a spare electric guitar and all twenty of us in the room laughed and joked about it and that was that. Again, I got through the set without any mistakes and to be honest was pretty proud with the way the two Yarbo shows had gone.
That was that though. With everyone absolutely knackered we packed up the gear, got into the van and made our way back home to Manchester and Liverpool via snake pass. In hindsight we probably shouldn’t have driven on snake pass at midnight in a van fully loaded with people and equipment (and no first gear) but by that point we were so tired and just wanted to get home. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the whole weekend and had a great time with the band, having not seen many of them for years, and would be back in a second if they asked me to step in again.