Midnight Configuration and Death Party UK recently had the opportunity to perform at the Los Angeles Gothic Festival and the Mexico City Goth Festival. Trevor Bamford from the bands tells us more...
"In July 2016 I was asked by US promoter Jesus Terminal if I wanted to reform my old band Midnight Configuration and to play two festivals. The Los Angeles Gothic Festival and “The Mexico City Gothic Festival. I thought about it and decided that this trip would be fun, and so I agreed to do just that and to get my band Death Party UK onto the bill as well, especially as Scarlet and I were also the vocalists for Midnight Configuration when we had occasion to reform for the odd show here and there. This tour diary is the story of this trip." - Trevor Bamford, March 2017.
Friday 17 February 2017
The flight to LA was gruelling. A long 12 hour haul to the USA. We finally arrived in an overcast LA around 1:30pm US time. Jet-lagged but pleased to be finally here.
A little tip for anyone traveling to the USA, especially LA. Make sure that when you arrive, make sure that you complete the digital ESA visa at the airport correctly otherwise you will have to go through the most convoluted queue I have ever seen in my life in order to be processed manually, one at a time, by a very tired customs officer.
The next morning we awoke early to a sound very familiar to us. Rain, and lots of it. We were here in sunny Hollywood, a town on the edge of a desert where it had not rained in 4 years, and it was grey and overcast and wazzing down with rain. Just like our Nottingham home in dear old England. Annoyingly, it all felt too familiar.
Hollywood Boulevard was a quiet place at 7:30am. We saw loads of people sleeping rough under cardboard boxes next to the stars in the ground and faded memories of old Hollywood.
We dumped our luggage at reception and ploughed our way through the English style rain to spend a couple more hours checking out Hollywood before we were due to be picked up and taken to the venue for soundcheck. Nick insisted that we visit The Hard Rock Cafe where he photographed a whole load of interesting rock memorabilia which interestingly enough included Shakira’s worn knickers and bra, preserved in a vacuum sealed glass case for posterity.
We are now sat in the bar in The Stardust Club in Downey as Jesus (tour booker and festival organiser), his son Jason and Caesar sort out the PA system and all the backline for the bands playing at the Los Angeles Gothic Festival. The atmosphere is, as is usual at such an event, busy and electric as one by one the bands turn up and we all join in the melee of setting up merchandise stalls and defining changing spaces (no not any changing rooms at this show, improvisation is the order of the day tonight, but it’s all rock n’ roll mate!) as the excitement hum builds in all of us.
The compere for the evening informs us that we are in the tail end of a hurricane, and from all accounts, it was called hurricane Lucifer. I have no confirmation of that but it does indeed sound both pretty cool and appropriate for the night.
Saturday 18 February 2017
We are currently driving to Tiajuanna to catch a plane to Mexico City in the dead of night, bombing down the freeway currently just outside of San Diego.
The show was crazy rock n’ roll. The first band on, Dominion, invited me to jump onstage to do a duet. I was told that we would be singing Lucretia by the Sisters Of Mercy, but when I heard Doi, the bands’ vocalist giving me a shout out, bounded onto the stage to find we were doing a song by The Cure called Lovesong. All Gothic credits for me go out of the window as I did not know the lyrics or indeed the vocal tune - Oops! I sort of ‘improvised’ the lyrics a little. Well, a lot really. I can’t remember what I was singing about, but I am fairly sure it was about sunny LA, hurricane Lucifer and the endless damn rain. I think Scarlet laughed so loud that you could hear her in England. The rest of the band were cracking up. My work here was done. I hugged Doi and left the band to finish their set without my rather heavy handed help.
After Experiment Peralous, Death Party UK hit the stage. We were high on adrenaline and rock n’ roll and beat-up another storm with our borrowed guitar and thunderous backing tracks. L.A had not seen anything like this for a very long time. Just as we were blasting through another Gothabilly tune I broke a string and it was time for an unscheduled intermission where I ask the audience if I can borrow a guitar. Thankfully Hector from Dominion kindly obliged and I borrowed his Les Paul and off we went again, ripping through number after number and blasting the audience with blistering dynamics and solos until, due to curfews and strict set lengths, we had to end the set early. But not before we shook the place all over.
A break for Scarlet and myself while Italian band Hapex played a quality set and we changed clothes and mindsets, as well as a string on the wounded guitar, in time to take to the stage again, this time in Midnight Configuration.
“Hello Los Angeles, we are Midnight Configuration and this song is called Undead Lifeforce!”
Boom! We were in the zone and so were the audience who had so bravely fought Hurricane Lucifer to be with us as we levelled all in our vision and view. Blam! As we went into our second song right after the assembled throng were recovering from the dark emanation of power that is, was, and will always be Midnight Configuration. And so onward through a mixed selection of tracks MC put out during the bands 24 year history. Thusly leaving the audience in a shocked but happy state.
We came, we played, we delivered!
We arrived in Mexico City to sun and heat and incredible dryness. A total contrast to the watery heaven of LA. We were all in need of a shower, a sleep and some food and after Jesus had rustled up some Quesadias for us to slake our hunger with, we all retired to our rooms for ablutions and a 2 hour sleep before the taxi’s arrive to take us all to the venue for soundchecks and to get ready for The Mexico City Gothic Festival. As it said in The Blues Brothers, we had “Better get bright”. It’s a show tonight.
Foro Bizarro Mexico City.
We arrived at the club completely shattered not really sure what day was or what time of day was. The American band 13th Sky already there, full of beans, but also full of stories of their strange night; the night before whereby they arrived in Mexico City to find out they didn’t have a hotel room.
We all piled into the green room; the Aztec dancers alongside various Gothic bands, were getting ready for tonight show. Some amazing make-up and headdresses were in evidence alongside rather wane, tired Gothic faces who were busily getting themselves ready for the tonight’s show.
The venue was amazing, it was on different levels, and part of the building was a recording studio as well as a rehearsal space. The rest of the venue was a bar, and nightclub with some amazing decorations; paintings of David Bowie, whole wall of plaster skulls and the stage was decorated in zigzags, just to produce that kind of disorientating effect. I don’t think we really noticed that, as we are disorientated ourselves to a lack of sleep. Scarlet was very particularly bad, and so we had a word with the promoter who sent out for cans of green Monster drink. The best way we know of putting a kick in our hearts and heads
It was time the Death Party UK to go on stage. The room was full, and the buzz was high, with a lot of people eager to see us. They had seen videos, seen pictures, and now we had come thousands of miles across the sea to play to them.
We jumped onto the zigzag stage, pumped up and ready to rock, then I noticed that the guitar I was using soundcheck had gone. The audience were baying at us to start playing, audience members shouting out requests from former bands I was in. These guys knew their rock, more precisely they knew their Gothic rock. I shouted down the mic for anyone to lend me a guitar, eventually my cries were heard and Richard from 13th Sky barged his way through the crowd with his own customised Telecaster guitar to use. What a star.
I did my usual intro for Death Party UK and started the backing track. Disaster. The backing track was too quiet, the guitar settings had utterly changed since soundcheck, and the amp way too loud. A couple of false starts while we got the soundman to whack up the volume of the backing track, me to turn the level down on the guitar and to check our vocals.
Scarlet and I blasted into action, all of the tiredness and fatigued was blown away as the sheer energy and power of that wonderful audience rained down upon us and into us, energising us far better than our beloved cans of green monster ever could. We kicked it, we thrashed it, and we sang and played our hearts as the audience danced and jumped shouted and sang along. It was wonderful, we even got them to flap their arms when we did Mark of the Vampire. We finished the set with our cover of the Johnny Cash classic Ring of Fire.
Playing in Midnight Configuration necessitates a change of mind. It is a different and darker music, rooted in darker, much darker things. Both of us have to get into character, so to speak. My new make up for Midnight Configuration helps me conjure up the monster, and Scarlet’s costume and make up change helps her separate herself from her Death Party UK personality.
After a whoosh of smoke, Nick and Scarlet took the stage, they centred themselves, as the backing track started with the spooky and atmospheric intro, and I then took the stage. We waited a few moments to let my new makeup, my ‘midnight mask’ if you will, sink in to the assembled throng. The audience were totally mesmerised, eyes as big as saucers as we started the Midnight Configuration set. The front of the stage was packed, and I was almost blinded by the flash of cameras.
We breathlessly played our entire set, and then went into a three song encore that I’m sure if we had the songs with us, we could have extended. The crowd went wild, and so did we.
After the show we had many conversations and photographs taken with the audience members who had an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of the Gothic scene as well as my own personal musical achievements. I was humbled and flattered by their knowledge.
Sunday 19 February
An element of bittersweet sadness that always accompanies such an adventure is that you get to meet great people, people who you would be friends with back in your home town. You then go through some great and extreme experiences where friendship bonds are forged, and then the adventure is over, and you know you have to part with the knowledge that it may be a long time before you see each other again.
We were awoken by a strange mechanical crying voice outside the hotel, and quickly woke and dressed to see what it was. The sepulchral mechanical voice was that of a Mexican Rag and Bone Man’s auto speaker announcement as he went about collecting his wares.
Wow, what an unexpectedly great day we have had. Our initial plans today was to shower, eat and rest but that was blown out the water just after we booked into a smaller and more demure room for the remainder of our stay. Ivan was up for showing us and 13th Sky around Mexico City
Ivan proved to be the perfect guide and host and took us all round the centre of the city as we came upon Aztec dancers, lovely open spaces, magnificent cathedrals and Aztec ruins. Eventually, we all ended up in a cool Mexican bar where we all drank and told stories from the road and from our respective homelands. LA stories mingling with Nottingham subcultural ones as we drank into the afternoon serenaded by a whole cacophony of semi-unwanted strummers and crooners.
At one point I was laughing so hard that my metal chair broke, an event which saw me ‘arse over tit’ as they say in England as once again my band mates and musical mates laughed on at my calamity.
Several beers were drunk and it was time for us to go back to hotel and to say, once again, our goodbyes. This time to Ivan who had looked after us all so well, a job I am sure was like herding kittens at times.
Us and 13th Sky got back to the hotel and we decided that we were all going out for a wander about looking for food, and in Nick and Richard’s case, beer. So a little later in the early evening the Anglo-American Gothic gang took to the streets of urban Mexico City in search of sustenance.
Steve and Richard had done a reccy earlier on and informed us that we were basically staying in an urban industrial area and there was little about where we could eat or drink. The only solution seemed to be shops or street vendors. We eventually found a sort of mini mart place that sold snacks and drinks and outside there was an authentic Mexican Taco stand. Nick and Steve opted for the mini mart, Scarlet, Richard and I went for the Taco Stand, mainly on the premise that Richard could speak Spanish and could order us some Veggie Mexican food. Which he promptly did to our immense pleasure.
Monday 20 February 2017
It was so damn hot today, even hotter than yesterday. A day so hot even the Mexicans were moaning about it. I know this as I have been talking on Facebook Messenger with our mate Mark who is married to a Mexican lady and spends a lot of time here in Mexico City. We are planning to hook up sometime today. But disaster.
Scarlet is quite ill. It seems that the Mexican Taco’s that Richard and I had last night did not agree with her stomach. I find out the Spanish for paracetamol and purchase some for Scarlet at the local drug store. A day in bed is prescribed for her by both herself and Mark who will now hook up with us before we leave tomorrow.
Thursday 23 February 2017
We are back, it feels odd. When I used to tour with both Every New Dead Ghost and Midnight Configuration I used to have this concept, this idea. It kind of goes like this:
Whilst you are embarking on an adventure like this one, an adventure that involves you challenging yourself, pushing yourself way above and beyond what you think you can deal with. An experience that involves sacrifice, stress, joy, happiness, wonder, challenge, courage and achievement you feel, and quite correctly, that you are on a journey with a destination in your sights. But it’s not just a physical journey, it’s an internal, mental, and some would say spiritual journey; an inward journey that opens up an element in yourself, a reservoir of strength and of a “growing” of who you are, what you can be and what you could achieve that comes out in times such as these. You know that, for the betterment of yourself, you will never be quite the same person that you were before. You have, somehow and someway been ‘expanded’.
In connection to this idea, is an idea I call ‘Stillness’. It happens at the very moment you end this journey.
The last part of the journey home is littered with grinding physical obstacles. Got to walk to the train station, up those steps, wait for that tram. Travel on that tram achingly wishing each stop by as you centre upon your destination. Get off the tram and tramp through the rain, dragging your complaining cases who are more than happy to screech and moan as their wheels are dragged through the rain soaked Hucknall streets, almost heralding our impending and much desired arrival home.
The madness, the lovely madness ends and you are home, the door is closed and it’s over. You can stop now. This adventure with everything that is connected to it has ended.
Perhaps not an audio or visual stillness, but a stillness in your heart and mind. A feeling of completion, and ending and of achievement. Too early for reflection and contemplation, but the seeds of such activity have been planted and will germinate over the next few days or weeks. It’s like you have crossed a boarder, one side is part of a casual collection of events, the other ‘stillness’ and a feeling of completeness and achievement.
I used to get that sensation every time I was involved in any epic tour or events. I feel it tonight almost exactly seven days and 15000 miles later.
Time for a mug of English tea and a sleep in our own bed. What an adventure.