Matt Pengelly, Sound Engineer

Suffice to say, my first show had not been a great one.

It’s 15 minutes into a 30-minute festival set and one-by-one, the in-ear mixes are dropping like flies as the next band on stage powers-up their wireless guitar packs – seemingly not bothered in the slightest about the site coordination everyone else is adhering to.

Reassured nods slowly turn to faces of horror and panic, but by the time we’ve figured out the cause of this radio meltdown the last song is well underway. Everybody is very understanding about it in the dressing room afterwards, but I’d be quite content for the earth to open and swallow me up at this point.

Jump to a week later and I’m packing my bags to start the tour determined this time that no hiccups will stop me from making a good impression! The 90-minute layover I have in Oslo to catch my connecting flight to Bergen seems like plenty of time, so I’m not worried as I head to baggage reclaim to pick up my cases and make the transfer…

Even as my fellow passengers walk off with their bags, leaving me at the carousel, I’m not unduly concerned. Perhaps they’re opening up my Peli flightcase to have a look at the various tools and wires that are making for such an interesting picture on their X-Ray images? Perhaps not.

Finally, with time getting tight, my bags fall down onto the belt and I scoop them onto a trolley and head for the transfer. As I do so, the corridor in front of me closes off and a hidden door in one wall is opened to reveal two large dogs and their two (even larger) handlers. “Excuse me sir, could you follow us please?” they barked, as the dogs looked on in silence. At this point I began to worry. Not that I let on to the dogs.

I’m escorted into a brightly lit room with stainless steel tables and what I assume to be a two-way mirror across one wall. At the end of it sits an ominous-looking armoured door.

“One of our dogs has reacted to your luggage, sir. We need to search it,” I heard. But before I could answer, another sentence was put to me. “Are you carrying any drugs?” Christ!

I explain that I’m more than happy for them to search the bags and that I certainly don’t have anything I shouldn’t in them, but I am due to make a flight connection and I’m running out of time. They don’t seem to share my concern. Shame. An even bigger shame is that they then don latex gloves and slowly start pulling everything out of my – very neatly packed thank you very much – bags.

After a couple of minutes they seem satisfied that I’m not some Mancunian Pablo Escobar and they close my cases back up. Happy days, I think. Alas, I am wrong!

“We’ve found nothing in the luggage, but we will still have to search you, sir.” Again, I tell them that’s no problem and raise my arms to be patted down.

“Oh no sir, you will need to come with us.” The man gestures towards the big armoured door. I do not like where this is going…

On the other side of the door is a row of police cells. I’m taken into one and the officer locks us both inside. * “Please remove your clothing, sir.”

Sigh.

I strip to my underwear and my jeans, shoes and jacket are gone. Again, they of course find nothing.

“Please remove your underwear, turn around and put your hands against the wall, sir.” I swear the dog smirked.

After what feels like a very long time the next sound I heard was one that will stay with me for as long as I live. The snap of the a rubber glove…

Gulp…

“That’s fine, sir. Thank you for your cooperation. You can get dressed now.” I turn my head in time to hear the second snap as the customs officer takes off his other glove. Never in my life have I got dressed as quickly as I did in that moment.

Doing my best to walk calmly out of the cell before collecting my bags, I’m soon running to make the flight. I get there just in time to hear them calling my name at the gate. I collapse into my seat with an almighty sigh of relief. Only then contemplating how the hell I would have explained to my Tour Manager that I wasn’t going to make the gig because I’d been detained on suspicion of international drug smuggling.

The sound of that first snap still resonating in my ears, the rest of the day is something of a haze in comparison, but three years of touring life later, and I’m still gainfully employed by that same artist. I can only assume the second gig went considerably better than the first…!

Matt Pengelly

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