More baking heat, this time in Tuscany - a beautiful part of the planet and a world away from the bits of Italy I've found myself in previously. All was going well until we found we'd been delivered to the wrong hotel - suddenly whisked from air conditioned luxury to a town centre three-star with faulty plumbing and a decidedly rickety elevator. Still, we were close to bars and restaurants and suchlike so it was a fair trade-off as the other one was in the middle of nowhere. We ventured out for a production feed (cheers lads) in the evening and found a little place which seemed nice, nestling at the edge of an elegant square in the town of Prato. If only we'd known about the service before we sat down. What remnants of our order that survived the journey from waiter's notepad to kitchen and back to our table arrived in such a random fashion we may as well have just asked for one big plate of chips between us. Matt's burger arrived before most of the starters, these accompanied by vegetables meant for other absent main courses. A mysterious bowl of what looked like vegetable soup appeared and had us all perplexed. I then had to remind the bloke that I'd ordered some onion soup, though he decided to treat this as a brand new request which meant more agonising minutes looking on as others ate half of their dinners. Eventually I got a completely different steak to what I ordered (where was the red wine sauce?) with no roast potatoes, but tucked right in as I'd lost the will to complain. Won't be eating there again.
Pistoia is a beautiful town. The gig was in the magnificent medieval square overshadowed by a cathedral and museum on two sides, grand old buildings on the others. Porcupine Tree (headliners) were setting up when we arrived, my introduction to them amounting to being told in no uncertain terms that if anything happened to their precious stage carpet the plug would be pulled on our show. Fair enough. I'm Darryl by the way, pleased to meet you. I built a couple of pedal boards as usual (nice multi-level one for Dan this time) and watched the first two support acts from the side of the stage. North Atlantic Oscillation caught my ear - great harmonies and dynamics. Anathema played a good set and then it was time for PT to take the stage. I have to say I was intrigued by their setup. At the front were a couple of pedal boards, racks of guitars and a lovely looking old wooden keyboard. Right in the middle though, was a vacuum cleaner. I remember thinking, "Wow, that's interesting. Maybe they mic it up and put it through some effects or something". Sadly not. One of their roadies hoovered the bloody carpet with it.
I headed back to the hotel pretty early after all was done, missing the spectacle of PT's tour manager thumping a member of Astra for nicking booze and behaving like a twat, allegedly. Matt and I took advantage of the late night roast pork sandwich shop across the road from our lodgings - a bit salty but nice all the same. Les slept in the hotel corridor as Jamie couldn't hear his increasingly desperate attempts to get into the room they were sharing. Hey ho.
I have to say a big thank you to our drivers who really looked after us while we were there - top blokes the pair of them. The photo shows Porcupine Tree's crew setting up in Pistoia. (They did help us out by the way, lending us a couple of essential bits of kit, so cheers fellas.)
Hey, guess what. We're in Tunisia again on Wednesday. Watch this space.