I really dug the spectacle of the University balls. If they exist in the United States, I was never aware of it, so these were my first. Thousands of well dressed British people guzzling plastic bottles of cheap wine, chugging beer cans while colliding into each other in bumper cars, scarfing paper cartons of mayo-drenched chips using disposable wooden forks, the neon carnival ride lights illuminating the night, slutty university girls insistent on brandishing bare arms and legs despite the chilly winds of England. It was hard to discern how many people in the crowd knew or cared about our music, but we dutifully danced and sang for the drunken frenzy, whatever the case.
Our second back-to-back ball took place in Hull, and was exponentially more memorable. We were telling all these jokes before we went on stage, which Darwin hilariously rehashed during the outro of Radar Detector: “All the ladies planning on having sex in the bushes later tonight say YEAH!” “All the the fellas who brought roofies tonight say HELL NO!”
The band that followed us was a Black Eyed Peas tribute band, in full regalia. Also on the bill was a guy named Wagner, a Sammy-Hagar-looking fellow with a noticeable paunch, an operatic voice, and, on select songs, a set of bongos. One of the partiers filled me in that Wagner is some sort of former X Factor competitor. The headliner was The Streets, whom all of us thoroughly enjoyed. Darwin noted that he had never seen anyone so successfully pull off such a relaxed stage presence. Mike Skinner would mount one of the monitors at the front of stage, hover there, elevated over the audience, and just kind of slump in place, reciting his lyrics with little extra movement. At one point, Mike spotted Darwin watching him from backstage, pointed at him, and then gave him the “OK” hand signal, expressing his approval. We were flattered.
Unlike Leeds, where you had to pay, Hull’s University Ball came equipped with a parking lot of free carnival rides. Some friendly strangers were glad to let me tag along with their groups. I rode the ride called “Crazy Dance.” Then, the centrifugal force ride, the one that spins and plasters you against the wall behind you. I went on another spinny cart ride twice, watching the dark cityscape and neon blur below.
The night was slowing down and I was waiting near the van for the band to accumulate. A drunk guy insisted that I speak to his brother on his cell phone and say hello from Darwin Deez. I shouted into the noisy signal, trying to convince this guy that I was from the band, who refused to believe me.
The ongoing question of what to name the tour has gone to the next level. Yesterday, Darwin declared that there would be a competition where we would all write jingles to endorse whichever tour name we favored (Darwin’s allegiance has switched over to a new title “Lazy Summer Sunday”). Today, on the drive back to London, our tour manager Ben began creating fully produced recordings of these jingles using his laptop music software. Greg’s jingle, “P40x” (a dual reference to the duration of the tour, 40 days, and the exercise program he and Miles have been following, P90x), has come out of nowhere and garnished an impressive amount of goodwill. The jingle is funky and perhaps unstoppable. I’ve really got to bring it with my competing jingle, “High Spirits.” Please, friends, cheer for me.