After the first leg of his first solo European tour, Frank continues through France and in to Belgium as he meets a bank manager that could have been a hallucination.

Part Two: Lille, Belgium & Return to Paris
The advantage of being a solo artist / folky / man-with-guitar / troubadour is that, if required, touring can be a very low-overheads, no-frills affair. This tour is a case in point - Chamoule and I were traveling in his car, him driving, me making the sandwiches, both of us fighting over the stereo. Thus on Tuesday morning we sped north out of Paris towards Lille. I'd never been to Lille before, and didn't know much about it either. It turns out it's a pretty beautiful university town near the Belgian border, not unlike, say, Cambridge. We had a proper show organized for the Wednesday, but we figured that it'd be good to get on the road, and friends in Lille had located a little bar where I could probably bash out a few numbers in the corner called Le Va Zen. We were staying with a friend of Cham's called Amandine (who, incidentally, was stunningly hot) and after dumping our sleeping bags at hers, we headed to the bar for some drinks. I'd already broken Cham's heart by telling him I was vegetarian, thus scuppering his plans to introduce me to real French cuisine (which, once you get past the cheese and the bread, is basically lots of creative ways of making animals into lunch). However, there was always the beer (and the cheese). I think I drunk more beer on this tour than at any time since... well, probably since Latvia, but that hardly counts as normal. The show that night wasn't so much a normal gig as guy-plays-in-corner-of-french-bar, but we got free drinks, drunk them, and had a good time. The barman insisted on sitting on my lap at one point while I played a tune ('Goodnight Sweetheart'). We retired to Amandine's appartment for further 'revelry' and sleep.Tour Poster
Amandine (Artist's Impression)Not much sleep though. Day two in Lille was characterised by screaming hangovers and sleep deprivation. And by looking around the beautiful city itself, of course. After an amazing breakfast (French breakfasts are the best, end of story, even if they do insist on drinking coffee out of bowls and giving me funny looks for asking for milk in my tea) we went for a wander. The highlight was probably walking around the old overgrown battlements of the star-shaped citadel on the outskirts of the town, and finding ourselves about the zoo. Good stuff. The evening's gig, in Le Mechanisme Dubitatif (try saying that when you're pissed), was cool, although I was playing after the football, when Arsenal got beaten, and everyone kept trying to rib me about it as if I'd be retarded enough to give two shits about something as utterly retarded as fucking football. [so true the anti-foootball Ed] Grr. Further drinking ensued (we took the piss out of the 'free drinks for performers' rule by finishing two bottles of spirits), followed by yet another poor excuse for a night's sleep.
After two nights of abuse we said our farewells to Lille (I'm definitely going back) and headed across the border into Belgium. I'd played in Belgium a few times before with MD, but in the Flemish end, to the East. The Western part is pretty much exactly like France, only a bit cheaper. We had a look around Tournai, an old town that's dominated by a massive gothic cathedral, which was pretty badly damaged in the war but is now being patched up. We hooked up with Sylvain, the promoter for the evening, and went to his flat. After watching a DVD of Beruries Noire (an 80's French punk band featuring a drum machine and a sax, who are, frankly, awful, but were apparently very politically important and very popular), we decided, given our lack of sleep and hangovers, that we should probably eat some mushrooms after the show. Seemed like a good idea at the time. The gig was in a bar called Le Bouchon, where I had to play on a mezzanine floor that was, essentially, a shelf; nevertheless it was a good show and I ended up jamming with a cellist by the end of the night. We then tucked into the mushrooms, and shortly afterwards met the human wonder that is Lionel Bayer.
Lionel was around 30 years old, and wearing a suit. His business card told us that he was a bank manager from Brussels. He was also completely and utterly mangled. His friends told us that he'd only had one drink, but that he was alergic to alcohol and had thus completely flown off the handle. He danced, sang, cried (about Morrissey, a lot), laughed, ranted in broken English and so on. His crowning moment was an anecdote he told us, in which he was called by the police because they'd found a corpse with nothing in its pockets except one of Lionel's business cards. The police asked Lionel if he knew the deceased, to which Lionel replied "Was he wearing a leather jacket? He was? Ah, I didn't know him then." He departed as quickly as he arrived, in his car, at 5 km/h, on the wrong side of the road, singing along to Radiohead at full volume. Wondrous. We returned to Sylvain's flat wondering if we'd hallucinated the whole thing, and then drifted off listening to a French Nazi punk band called Warmageddon doing a hilariously awful rendition of 'Happy Birthday', addressed to... Hitler. Seriously.
Beer From Belgium
Day two in Belgium was cut short by the fact that we woke up at about 3.30pm and had to race into Mouscron feeling weird. The show was in a cool bar called La Cuve A Biere, run by a coke-addled barman who failed to grasp the fact that my French wasn't perfect and gave us more beer than we could ever have hoped to drink. It was mighty tasty though, and the show was excellent - packed out, and I ended up playing two sets. By now we were pretty tired so we got a comparatively early night (after Chamoule hijacked my blog with some weird shit; incidentally, French keyboards are totally bent, making my ability to type a reply much harder), in preparation for our journey back to Paris.Frank Rocking Mouscron

Friendly BarmanWe made it on time the next day to Saphir 21 for an afternoon show with Clarence Boddicker (what a band name!) and ISP (more on them later). The show was ace, my first headline show in Paris, and it was followed by an evening return to Le Nouveau Casino for a packed-out show with Oceansize. So, after nine shows in eight days, and one last night of drinking in a Paris bar, it was time for some time off.

Part 1: Arrival, Paris [click here]
Part 2: Lille, Belgium & Return to Paris [click here]
Part 3: Heading South and Home [click here]