Gorilla on Tour: Letters from the silver van

While the green van is the rockstar of the Gorilla Tour – beloved, universally coveted, an enigma, a wonder, a marvel to be experienced only once (maybe twice) in a lifetime – there is another, more retiring vehicular character carrying out its own highly important task. While it’s lovely to imagine the green van, full of poets, dancers and musicians, making its way across country, it would be a slight untruth to pretend that was the case. As Esther’s post yesterday may have made all too clear, ‘H’, as it’s been christened (Harold too formal, the shortened Harry far too familiar) is not necessarily the most reliable of beasts, and besides…it doesn’t have any seats in the back.

And so we have little silver. A silver minibus piloted by the lovely Luke, with a sat-nav called Dalexus who, like a city-dwelling, cat-owning unmarried aunt, loves to lead us into the less salubrious parts of major cities – preferably down an alleyway – and then start howling ‘LEFT’ ‘MAKE A LEFT’ as we reach the dead end. Or, in one case, briefly drive along a pavement.

But it was ok, because we knew we were in Scotland by the cabbie who said ‘Aye’ when we asked ‘is this road closed’, and we found our hotel eventually. And then, there was Glasgow!

Arriving in the morning to see the Green Van smugly awaiting, as though it had merrily teleported in from Poole, we discovered a truly wonderful band of staff at Buchanan Street, led by the lovely Hailey. Suddenly dancers were stretching limbs in directions nine hours in a car the day before hadn’t indicated was possible, and there were dapper men with guitars loitering around. Lake Montgomery showed up and promptly told us all the story of the time she was in jail for two weeks in France for not having a passport:

‘Well, they didn’t believe I was American, for a start.’
‘Why not?’
‘They said ‘nobody from America speaks French…..But it was when I told them I was from Paris, Texas that it really got bad…’

Admittedly, we got off to a slightly later start than we’d intended, but it was fine, because while we opened box after glorious box of exciting smells, we made new Glaswegian friends. Like the council wardens, who came by and told us we’d need to move the van:

‘Oh, but we have a permit!’
‘Do you?’
‘Yep, do you want to see it?’
‘Naw it’s fine, I believe you.’

So now you all know how to park for free in Glasgow.

By midday we were underway, with Ryan hosting performances in the van, a choose your own adventure guerilla gig, where just showing up means you get to pick from three scents, each leading to a different set of performance works. The visitors book received its first entries, Collisions Dance Co performed amazing works by the incomparable David Beer despite the nip in the air, and by the mid-afternoon everyone was standing in the sun grinning and chatting perfume and art.

It’s a funny thing to do, obviously, park a VW van in the middle of a city and invite people in to watch performances and smell things, but judging from Glasgow, people in general seem to find it as enjoyable as we do. Even the woman who peered in the door to ask ‘what’s going on here…is it something to do with credit cards?’ (answer: does it look it?) was won over by Furze, and the man who poked his head in just to claim ‘perfume! don’t know anything about perfume’ was suddenly discussing Simon & Garfunkel’s suitability for road trips and clutching a fist full of scented papers. Late in the afternoon we were visited by a girl who was wearing a sweater with ducks on it (good sweater) and had had her face painted with a duck to match (even better idea), and it was one of those times when you look at yourself standing in what looks like your nans living room in 1972, if your nan was awesome, blowing scented bubbles out a window with a girl with duck facepaint while people dance to Gil Scot-Heron outside, and everything seems pretty darn great.

Basically, we loved it and we hope you did too. And that was only half the day! To Mono!

Mono is, on its own, is completely awesome. It has a ZINE SHOP. AND a RECORD SHOP. And it’s a bar, and a café, and Tamaryn is playing on the 13th and you should go. They let us cover their tables in candles and scented light up flowers, and they didn’t blink when we started blowing bubbles. Vickie and Cassie manned the merch table as stylishly as they’d manned the bus, and everyone dived headfirst into vegan meals and sensibly sized organic ciders.

Emily Ballou read first, and was glorious, like a modern Patti Smith mixed with Janice Galloway. Lake Montgomery went next and everyone in the room fell completely in love, when, barefoot, she explained ‘this next song’s about a lot of ex-boyfriends….I just didn’t want anyone to think I was saying all these mean things about just one person.’

Kirsty Logan read bewitchingly about bibliophagy, and love. Ryan, the hostess with the mostest with a glass of wine permanently fixed in hand, was everything you want from an MC, and then we got to Jack of Diamonds, who slunk onstage with a surprise fiddle player and by the end of his set had everyone stamping like a chain gang.

Just before closing time, Bobók took to the stage, and despite apologising for an absent accordion player, started a gypsy dance party. A small child became obsessed with the Sikkim Girls fragranced flowers, and the last we saw of her she was trotting out the door into the night with them under her arm. It felt like a signal of success, so we piled into our respective vans and headed out into the night. To Stirling!


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