Jan 22nd – Day Nineteen
At 8.30am we meet in the lobby feeling a little worse for wear. I don’t even want to imagine how Lamont feels as apparently he spent the night on the floor of the bathroom claiming its tiled surface to be “really comfortable.” His unhappy little face tells me this was not his wisest decision plus he is the one in charge of money, passports and logistics for this last leg of the trip and you can see his brain moving at glacial speeds trying to compute all the information given to us as we check out of the hotel.
I won’t bore you with details of the flight from Saigon to Hanoi, but our arrival was interesting. We were told we would be meeting a man called Poo. This is what our manager had written on our itinerary and we were slightly disappointed when a guy came up to us, asked if we were The Lost Souls and introduced himself a Phu (pronounced Foo). Phu was the promoter for the last show we were to play on this trip to Vietnam and he was to put it simply a pretty cool guy. Raised in Hanoi, but having spent years in the UK he had an amazing Vietnamese meets South London geezer accent and gave us the lowdown on life in Hanoi all the way from the airport to the hotel. The only thing was i couldn’t take it all in because i had my head encased in guitars and luggage. Phu’s car was just a small family car and we had the whole band, all our gear and all our luggage to fit in. We used every spare inch of that car but would possibly have been laughed at by being wasteful by the locals who sped past us with whole trees on the backs of their scooters as well as (animal lovers look away) a cage of about 15 lives dogs all on the back of a bike. Crazy.
Hanoi seemed so different to Saigon as well as being a lot colder. Cold enough to feel like a cold day in the UK in fact, it really did feel like we were closer to home. The people accordingly looked glummer and the whole feel was more subdued, but i’m assured the old town is amazing and full of interesting architecture and heritage sites, but on this occasion we didn’t get a chance to see it.
Phu drops our stuff at the hotel then takes us for soundcheck right away. The venue is called Hanoi Rock City (it had to be right?) and is a newish place, but you can tell they’re working hard to build something cool here. The stage is temporary however and made of boards over scaffold meaning it wobbles a LOT and when James walks across the stage standing on one end of a plank my mic suddenly hits me in the mouth. After re-positioning our gear to places not at the ends of planks we go with Phu to grab some street food and then go back to the venue for a few drinks before the show.
The crowd in the bar is mostly ex pats, Americans, Australians and one or two English. Probably the most English speakers we have seen in one place for nearly 3 weeks and it feels somehow alien, especially combined with the cold weather, felt due to the main bar being open air with a roaring log fire (that seems to be emitting vaguely hallucinogenic vapours due to some plastic bottles i saw thrown on) . The first support band are all ex pats, called The Props and they play a kind of punk, blues, cowboy thing that is pretty damn cool with the crowd packed into the main room. The second support band are a Vietnamese band who despite their best efforts manage to pretty much clear the room and we’re convinced our Vietnam adventure is going to finish playing to a cold empty room. We even get told by the barmaid that loads of Vietnamese kids showed up to see us but because our stage time was midnight they had to leave (even 10pm is a late night for locals here). Shit...that sucks for us and them.
Somehow though whilst im busy plugging in my pedals and leads feeling more than a little depressed the room fills up. Really, amazingly fast. One minute i’m looking at my wah wah pedal wondering if it’ll smash me in the face later if Si jumps on the wrong plank and the next there’s people pushing against the stage and a real buzz enters the room.
Right. Time to stop whining and get on with it! We waste no time between songs, just playing as many as we can and the crowd laps them up with people singing along, Vietnamese and ex-pat alike. It is trule amazing seeing people singng your songs back at you and something that i never thought about when i started playing in bands. But when faced with this love and knowledge of your creation you can't help but feel pretty overwhelmed.
Onstage i don’t usually see much of the other guys as i'm pretty much stuck facing the front singing, but during the last song i get to just play some guitar for a while and i take the chance to look round and feel a real sense of pride looking at the other lads. There they are, James, Jon and Si rocking out with the last of their energy, on a rickety stage in fucking Hanoi in fucking Vietnam in front of people half a world away singing our fucking songs with the strobes just going fucking crazy and the smoke machine on permanently and i take a mental snap shot as this is one of those incredibly rare moments that i feel like i’m totally alive and in my gang, with my friends, forging our own path making total strangers into friends and making them happy and feeling like not such a lost soul for one night. Cheesey but true.