Behind the Scenes: The Skeleton Strings Tour (William Control & Crilly Ashes)

As I was offered the opportunity to go on the Skeleton Strings tour as merch seller, travelling with William (Control) and Crilly (Ashes), this seemed an excellent chance to give a more behind the scenes look at a tour. I’m going to start with a warning: it’s not as exciting as you think, I spent a lot of time on my phone travelling in a van. In tour-diary style fashion, here’s a summary of the entire five dates of the Skeleton Strings acoustic tour.

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Tour begins in Newcastle. Prior to the first VIP meeting we encounter the first instance of no-one having a clue where William is – he’s surprisingly good at disappearing. He does however reappear on time after an unidentified knocking sound turns out to be him trapped behind a door no one had noticed. During the show he goes backstage to decide the contents of his set list; I’m already getting the impression things don’t tend to be too planned out. On stage Zac from One Way Street kicks off the show, beginning with a few nervous jokes but soon relaxing as he sees the crowd warm to his set. Second are Strange Creatures, a band whose electric set I wasn’t too keen on last time I saw them, but who pleasantly surprised me with their acoustic set. Crilly soon takes the stage, rather merry after a few malibu and cokes (yep, he drinks that), and puts on an entertaining set of his own songs and covers. This is the first night that the crowd are encouraged to make the now infamous pirate noises along to recent single Down We Go. William soon enters the stage, carrying with him his guitar branded with the words “this machine kills sadness” which he notes is a phrase adapted for his own purposes from Woody Guthrie’s 1941 message “this machine kills fascists” written on his own guitar. His set includes a number of his own songs such as Cemetery, Noir and Soliloquy as well as covers including New Order and Morrissey, and there’s even an acoustic version of a track from his upcoming album. The whole night goes down well. After the show William leaves for the hotel and a few of us head off for some drinks in Gotham Town. This includes a rather worse for wear Crilly who thinks it’s a good idea to start spontaneously playing the piano in Newcastle station, and who ends up with straws in his hair multiple times during the night.

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[Photo credit: Kate Rattray]

The next morning there is definitely hangovers in the air. Crilly introduces me to his ‘medicinal’ hangover cure in the form of a Starbucks triple espresso over ice. This turns out to be everyone’s drink of choice on tour, and it certainly does the job of replenishing energy levels, unfortunate side effects are the potent taste, heart palpitations and shakes. Newcastle to London is a long journey, mostly consisting of idly sitting around checking Facebook whilst Crilly has a nap in the back of the van. We do get treated to a few plays of the new William Control album, which certainly livens the atmosphere up. Upon reaching the venue it is instantly apparent that the room is nowhere near big enough to comfortably fit the amount of people who have bought tickets, never mind squeezing in a merch table and PA system too. Crilly needs to find somewhere more spacious to do his horror cult meet and greet, and decides upon a particularly appropriate goth location: a nearby graveyard. As the show begins it is decided that everyone should sit down to have any chance of a decent view. Loveless take the opening slot, filling in for 48 Hours who are delayed on their way to the venue. They put on a decent performance of their own songs with an AFI cover thrown in, though nerves may have affected the vocals a little. 48 Hours do eventually show up and take the second slot, and do put on an enjoyable acoustic performance, including a cover of Truly Madly Deeply joined by Crilly. The majority of Crilly’s own set sees a crowd member having to fan him whilst he plays, as the humidity increases along with the number of people. This certainly doesn’t put anyone off being lively though, with the crowd providing spontaneous backing vocals to tracks such as Ghost In The Machine and being the most enthusiastic pirate-noise-makers of the whole tour. This enthusiasm isn’t dampened during William’s set, where they sing along to practically every song, getting especially loud during Aiden tracks Moment and Silent Eyes, his cover of The Smiths’ There Is A Light That Never Goes Out and his own London Town. Once the show is over a few of us head off for some more drinks at Underworld where Kier Kemp is DJ-ing. Crilly manages to match his own drunkenness levels from the night before, developing an interest in changing the various lighting effects on the dancefloor and proving himself not the best lighting technician. We end up getting back to the hotel at gone 4am once more, armed with food from a 24 hour Subway yet having had to spend an extortionate amount on a taxi because our beloved Uber app did not seem to be working.

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[Photo credit: Sammy Lilley]

The next morning sees hangover 2.0, and we are grateful for a little time to relax in the hotel garden. Crilly reveals a major perk to taking merch on tour; you always have clean clothes. His opinion is that all you really need to take on tour from your own things are new socks and a toothbrush, a highly debatable statement. We find our hotel and enjoy a much needed nap in our rooms before we’re off again, this time to Santiagos in Leeds, another venue which is always cramped and sweaty but seems almost airy compared to yesterday. William disappears once more after VIP as the show begins, noting only that he’s going “to nap”. He definitely never recovered from the jet lag. First on stage is Jason from Kill The Silence, putting on a good acoustic set which ends on the forever dodgy song choice of covering Wonderwall. He just about pulled that one off. Next are As Sirens Fall, whose extremely enjoyable acoustic set includes some of their impressive new material from recently released album The Hospital Party. The crowd are lively again throughout Crilly and William’s sets, probably being the most proficient mass hecklers of the tour, especially when urging William to play other songs during his set. One request even asks for him to play Justin Bieber, probably the point when you know the heckling is going a little far. There’s a reprieve from the nights out after this show, and we return to our hotel in Bradford with the firm intention of finding a good pizza. This we manage more successfully than expected, who knew Bradford did such good pizza?

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[Photo credit: Kate Rattray]

Before we set off to Manchester the next day we pop into Primark, which feels far too ordinary when accompanied by a man commonly referred to as “the gothfather”. The van journey is a short but productive one, where general conversation leads to a decision to live stream William’s set tonight, and also to have Crilly join him for a performance of Love Will Tear Us Apart, a song which Crilly may or may not have learned how to play on that very journey. We reach Satans Hollow far too early to set anything up, so end up going on a hunt around Manchester for somewhere that serves a decent cooked breakfast. Back at the venue the weather is deteriorating, and as we approach opening time the heavens open and people begin to huddle in the entrance for some hope of shelter. No one hangs around once doors are open, and inside the show kicks off with local bands Without Andrew and Don’t Stop! Go!, both putting on excellent acoustic performances. Crilly and William both get an enthusiastic reception to their sets, especially their joint cover. William’s performance of his b-side track Heaven also seems popular. We had earlier been invited out to a club night to see a drag queen named Acid Betty, so once the show is over some of us go off to this. Meeting her was fun, if expensive, and lots more drunkenness and horrendous dancing ensues. A possible alcohol-induced lack of common sense may be to blame for the fact that neither Crilly nor I realised we had been given the wrong room when we arrived at the hotel. The fact that neither of the room keys initially worked, coupled with the tiny, hot, windowless room which only provided one towel didn’t seem to indicate anything strange to us until the next morning. On closer inspection what we thought was a three at the start of the room number was actually a badly written five. Handwriting really does matter kids.

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[Photo credit: Leanne Haywood]

The final tour date is in Cannock. On the journey there William and Crilly look over the comments and reactions from the live stream and seem happy with what people thought about it. We find another Wetherspoons upon our arrival, William doesn’t join us but asks for a plate of sausages to be brought back for him, a request which gets poor Crilly some odd looks from the bar staff. As it’s the final night of tour we decide to do a mega merch sale in the hope that William won’t have quite so many bags to carry at the airport. As the VIP begins, an unfortunate mix up at the door means all the non-VIPs get let in too, leaving them having to linger around in the hallways for a good while. The show has no support acts tonight, and Crilly admits it’s odd being the opener. The crowd are definitely the quietest of the tour, but he still manages to draw some pirate noises out of them. He even does a performance of Pirouette, a song which he was adamant he’d finally avoid playing on a tour. Tonight sees a lone rather drunk heckler, but after learning that it’s his 18th birthday today Crilly stops in the middle of his set to buy the guy a drink. William is not quite so generous and jokingly tells him off during his set, making him sit at the side of the stage. The crowd are still a little quiet, but certainly enjoy his performance. Some odd noises during one song cause Crilly to have to run around on stage behind him as he continues playing to try to resolve the problem. He ends, as he has done every night, with the fan favourite London Town. After the show William says his final goodbyes and heads off to Manchester for his airport trip. Crilly and I head off to stay with As Sirens Fall, whose tour he now joins as their driver. The man literally never rests. On the journey there comes the realisation that the tour is now officially over, and though this is sad the past few days have been a lot of fun. I’m hugely looking forward to William’s next tour, which we thankfully only have to wait until September for!

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[Photo credit: Leanne Haywood]

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