The Perfect Day.
With 6 albums behind them, of which 2003's 'The Beautiful Letdown' went double platinum, and with the latest album release 'Oh! Gravity' hitting the iTunes number 1 spot; you might have forgiven us for the slightly apprehensive feelings we had as we waited outside the Switchfoot tour bus at 7.30am on the morning of their Swansea gig. For months Dan Evans and Phil Williams had being promoting this event which CSUK were organising along with Event53 and Ignite, and now the climatic moment came, we didn't know whether we would be met with a bunch of American prima donnas.
Now it must be said that there had already been some unofficial talk about taking the guys for a surf, hence why we were outside the bus at 7.30am. But until now nothing had really materialised as we kept checking the unconvincing swell charts. Despite this, everyone (including the band) was keen for a trip to the beach, and after digging in to the Switchfoot breakfast buffet, we set of for Langennith along with Jon Foreman, his brother Tim (bassist), and the drummer Chad Butler. Maybe we should have expected more from this particular high-flying band than our early apprehensions suggested - after all it is known that they often charge venues up to 5 times less than that of bands of similar calibre, in order to keep tickets prices down for fans. There were also reports of Tim Foreman writing a detailed online tutorial, to allow fans to combat the copy-protection software that Sony had secretly put on their 'Nothing Is Sound' cd's.
We arrived at the beach with a biting easterly wind and well formed 1ft+ lines. The three Switchfoot boys were accompanied by PR man Andy who described it like this: "It was decided to go brave the frigid water and hit the Welsh waves. When we got to the beach, those hitting the water put on super-thick wetsuits, hoods, gloves, and booties. I was standing there in a jacket and longsleeves and was still freezing, so I cant even imagine what it must have been like in the water. After awhile, the waves picked up, and fun was had by all." Perhaps too much fun was had by Jon as he remained in the water long after the others had got out to return for their required press and photoshoot stuff. Once everyone had head back to the tour manager with excuses as to why their leadman was still in the ocean, myself and Phil got to spend a little time with the real Jon Foreman. He spoke to us about his frustrations about being branded a 'christian' band. "I'm a Christian by faith, not by genre", he said. "By labelling us a christian band you are putting us in an unnecessary box which may exclude some people outside of that box." He went on to criticise the American christian music industry. "The only reason why people want to put you in a 'christian' box is to make money out of you." "People can talk to me about my faith, or they can talk to me about my music". These thoughts are not overly surprising, after the band underwent a three-year boycott of the christian music industry soon after the release of 'The Beautiful Letdown'.
After another Switchfoot buffet for lunch, the band (still wrapped up ridiculously from the earlier surf) were called off to do their soundcheck, which we had the privilege of sitting in on. There had been a 15 minute slot agreed with the stern tour manager for us to interview a few of the guys, and we headed backstage to hang-out with some of the road team. As we waited, myself and Dan were messing about on the backstage piano when Jon Foreman wandered in for the interview. Slightly embarrassed with our poor musical ability, and with a bit of quick thinking, we asked him his first question, "So Jon. Can we join the band?!". During the interview, the band gave us some insight into the sometimes monotonous pattern of certain days on tour, but when asked if they had enjoyed the day in Swansea they replied that it had been their most enjoyable day of the whole tour.
Switchfoot are quite obviously a band for the fans. Whilst recording 'Oh! Gravity' they offered a winning fan the chance to join them in the studio and play a cattle-bell on one of the tracks. Similarly, they are allowing fans to vote for the setlists on their forthcoming US tour, which covers a monstrous 41 gigs in just 2 months. 1,700 people packed into the big, boomy main room at the Brangwyn Hall, Swansea. It was certainly a surreal place to hold a rock concert, with it's crazy tapestries hanging off the walls, and an old tiered choir pit behind the stage, which the impressive set had been built on. During the performance of 'Oh! Gravity', Jon brought a guy from the crowd onto stage to play his guitar for the last chorus. The guy was clearly stoked along with the rest of the crowd who were evidently impressed.
With a setlist incorporating both old and new songs, including 'Stars', 'Gone' and 'On Fire', they dedicated their final song 'Meant To Live' to the guys that had taken them surfing. Returning to the stage for an encore, Jon Foreman performed a moving acoustic version of 'Only Hope', before the whole band trickled back on stage to crescendo into an emotional finale of 'Dare You To Move', a song that has been inspirational in so many of our lives.
Following the gig, Jon Foreman took his acoustic guitar into the local pub to play an intimate acoustic set, comprising of unheard material and a classic sing-along of '24'. When we were kicked out of the pub at closing time, we decided to take the show to the sub-zero streets of Swansea, finishing off a truly awesome day with an unforgettable version of the old-skool classic 'Company Car'.
When Tim Foreman was asked to summarise the whole day, he came up with a little mathematical equation:
Ice cold waves + Sweaty rock concert = Swansea
It truly was the perfect day for all involved. Go'boys!