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Leaders Of The Pack

As my friend and colleague Eamon Carr has written (eyes right), the promising young Waterford outfit O Emperor are out and about in Ireland over the next few days in the company of Alessi's Ark and Sons of Noel & Adrian, thereby keeping alive the long and noble rock'n'roll tradition of the package tour.

Not only does this make perfect sense for punters in these straitened economic times, but it provides an ideal opportunity for up-and-coming acts to showcase their wares without too much pressure being placed on them.

In the past decade, the annual NME tour has always slipped in a few surprises, and next month The Maccabees headline at the Academy in the company of highly tipped Norn Iron outfit, Two Door Cinema Club, with the act further down the bill well in with a shout of upstaging the headliners. This has happened before on such jaunts, with one strange evening in the Red Box seeing the much-hyped but truly appalling Tiger being outshone by Theaudience (featuring a young Sophie Ellis-Bextor) and The Stereophonics (before they turned to stodge).

Perhaps the starkest example of an act down the running order stealing the headliners' thunder came at the Ambassador in 2006 when the unfortunate Maxïmo Park had to look on as droves of fans scarpered for the exits and the pub once Arctic Monkeys finished their set, the latter having just had the fastest-selling debut album in British chart history that week. Ouch!

Package tours involving Irish acts have been pretty popular down the years, with the bands who played Moran's Hotel regularly in the mid-70s bringing the word to far-flung outposts via the Falling Asunder Revue, a venture which gave the Boomtown Rats (then sounding for all the world like a Dr Feelgood tribute band) valuable exposure outside Dublin.

The post-punk era saw the cream of the Navan Road acts setting forth on the Dream Dates Tour, as the Fabulous Fabrics, The Sinners and the Boy Scoutz took to the road and had many adventures, including instances of people sleeping underneath vans outside places like the Abbey Inn in Tralee.

As sponsorship became more prevalent in the late 80s these multiple-act line-ups made sense, particularly if the dates could be co-ordinated with rag weeks of colleges around the country.

The Heineken Rollercoaster Tour was a perfect example of such a promotion, with bands being given all the Dutch lager they could drink and then being paid decent money to entertain drunken students. Mind you, bands getting stuck into free beer can have dangerous consequences as was shown when the Revenants practically fell into a gig off Fleet Street after a six-hour drive from Kerry and for one night only effectively became The Replacements.

But for all the fine tours which we've enjoyed here over the years you'd have to admit that the trek which took place around Britain in November 1967 would take some beating, given that the line-up consisted of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Pink Floyd, The Move, The Nice and Amen Corner. Now that's what you call a package.