Tuesday, April 19, 2011

UK Tour Day 11 - Flying Home

Woke up really early today, had to have the car turned in by 8am. Although, I was only minutes from Heathrow - I knew myself well enough to know that rush hour traffic plus my (somewhat improved) UK driving meant I better leave early.

The Garth family (who I thank my Lucky London stars for) was still sacked out from the late night before. So,I left a note of much thanks and some music on the bed and slipped out into the early, chilly English morning.

I had two tasks (well three really)find a gas station open early so I could top the car off, find The Hertz place at Heathrow (which is a city in and of itself) and manage not to dent the car or curb the wheels before the final check in. Mission accomplished!

Heathrow airport is a chaotic mess of people from every country in the world filing through this security line and that security line. So it's always best to give yourself more time than you think you'll need.

I did my rat in a maze obligations, changed my pounds to dollars (which was a hell of a lot more fun than changing my dollars to pounds on the front end of the trip), got one more big English breakfast and waited to board the plane west.

I managed to get several movies in on the 9 hour flight to Atlanta, but by far the best movie was the real one going on outside the window a few hours into the flight. I heard someone say "your missing the coast of Greenland" and I opened my window shade
and that big icy wonder was just right there outside the window - very, very cool to see!

I had just enough time to do the customs dance in Atlanta and reboard a short 45min flight to Nashville. So great to be home, but missing my new and old UK friends already!!

8,500 Air Miles
1,100 Left Lane UK Miles
1 - Case of Bronchitis
5 - Times I tried to get in on the wrong side of the car
2 - Times I screamed out loud to myself, "Mark, wrong lane, wrong lane!"
8 - Wonderful venues with great crowds
2 - BBC Radio Shows that were an absolute blast
20 - Pints of English (meaning room temp with taste) beer
2 - Bottles of Red Breast Whiskey
1 - Moment of horror when I mistook Chocolate Nuttell for Marmite Spread
8 - Times I heard the crowd sing "Stars in Their Eyes" back to me
1 - Pub Quizz - that "Team Twang" failed misserably at
12 - New bands, musicians and artists I was lucky to meet and hang with
3 - Nights feeling 20 again
3 - Mornings feeling 80
Infinite - new friends and joyful memories.

Thanks for following along on the blogs, signing up on the mailing list, coming to the shows,putting me up in your houses and venues, getting me drunk on your whiskey, wine and beer, making me smile when the miles were long and reminding me what's so great about sharing this life of music. 'Till next time. Peace, Mark!

UK Tour Day 10 - The Grey Horse - London - Last Gig

Woke up about 9am from dream of being a Mariachi singer (or was it a dream).

One problem with parking in front of cars whose owners partied with me the night before, is that they don't have to wake up early and may be too hung over/drunk still to move their cars anyway (no names here)!!!

So......did finally get away closer to 11am for John Garth's place in London. After driving in country for 2 weeks, finally getting the hang of it all - made it around the M25 to Kingston in fairly short order and hung out with John and his family before heading to The Grey Horse in Kingston.

The gig went great - audiences were responsive, bought CD's made me feel good on my last night. As is becoming tradition, I stayed late for Ian Hunt's Jam session at the club and had a blast like last year! Got up and sang a bit, listened to locals get up and do their thing and ate some great Curry Chicken (which the bar orders from a place across the street and has it brought in).

Got to see a young blues singer (like 13 years old young) who I think is the real deal. When you're 13 and play and sing like that I guess you can't help but be a novelty, but Aaron Keylock is no novelty - I'll be looking for great things from him.

We headed back to the house about midnight. John Garth and his family have been so supportive, putting me up several times on this tour, feeding me and doing much needed map consultations. Thank you - thank you thank you!

I have to get up early tomorrow to return the rental car (and find my way around the massive Heathrow airport) - morning will come too soon!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

UK Tour Day 10 - Day off in Ipswich....party time

Woke up about 2pm today, went to bed at 6am last night.....

Veronica and a handful of her friends including Alex (historian and tour guide extraordinaire) took us on a walking tour of Ipswich. The tour included "The White Horse Hotel" where Charles Dickens wrote his Pickwick Papers, "Silent Street", aptly named after everyone on the street died of Plague, the spot where it is said the last people were burned at the stake for heresy and the well that a Black Friar Monk was thrown down for trafficking (trafficking what I don't know). If those historical happenings don't say to you, "Ipswich is one swinging town" - then well, you just don't know how to party!

Speaking of parties....a "Fancy Dress Party" (costume party) was scheduled for the evening (Nori's Birthday) - so we headed back to prep the Green Room for that and a quick nap (which I spent sprawled in the third floor window watching the passers by). We grabbed a great early dinner at Mizos and it was time to dawn my costume for the evening.

Luckily Veronica went through her costume wardrobe vault (i.e. back of her van) and found a Sombrero, poncho and a flask....perfect for me! I bought several shots of tequila at the pub, filled the flask and the costume was complete.

Had a blast at the party.... which included such notables as Pocahontas,
the "118's", Rocky Balboa and many more (luckily there was also a Dr. in the house for any potential part fouls)!

After about midnight, the party continued down the street to the local dance club called Mojo's (I think) where the prerequisite characters abound; the boys sitting around trying to look cool together while being too scared to ask any girl to dance, the gorgeous girls dancing alone because the boys were assuming they were with someone and think they don't have a chance in hell with them and the dirty/drunk old men(evidently, including myself)dancing horribly around said girls..... because we don't give a damn and know life is too short anyway.

My goal of going to bed reasonably early and sober turned out to be a pipe dream, so I turned in about 4am with a 9am wake up to London!

Lesson learned: ya' wanna' stay young at heart, hang out with young people ....maturity is completely overrated!

Friday, April 15, 2011

UK Tour Day 9 - BBC Radio & PJ Mcginty's

Hated to leave the confines of my swanky hotel in Lewes this morning, but I had miles to go to make my 2pm BBC Radio show in Ipswich. I amazed myself at my navigating prowess this morning (but then again I'm easy to impress) That said, I did find myself admiring he A12/M25 interchange from both directions, twice. Not only was it a beautiful little interchange but challenging for me to pay attention to in something other than the rear view mirror.
I did eventually head toward Ipswich and my nice sit down with Stephen Foster (FOZ) at BBC Suffolk. We recorded a drive time show for today as well as an extended music segment highlighting Runaway Home for next week.

Back at the Pub I shared a pint with Dave and sat in on a "School of Rock" graduation performance going on in the music room. It's a very cool program designed to immerse kids in music and performance. They learn instruments, form a band, write a song, make friends and do and end of school performance - very cool organization dedicated to kids and music.

The gig went great - room was packed out. I shared the night with Phil Jackson and Ady Johnson .

After the bar closed down about 10 of us sat around drinking Red Breast Irish whiskey, singing songs and swapping stories 'till 6am - yes 6am! Needless to say - I slept in today!

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

UK Tour Day 8 - Stonehenge and The Pelham Arms

Again with the early waking up thing. I wanted to head out and see stonehenge on my way to Lewes today. Some guys in the bar turned me on to a town called Asbury and what turned out to be absolutely huge rock henges

far larger than its famous neighbor further south. I spent about an hour walking around with the sheep (no jokes please) around these huge stones. There were we least 3 separate, giant rock henges spread around this little village, quite impressive. I continued south on what we would consider in the stares to be a blue highway, past a cool hill, mound really but big and in the middle if this field.

I had to check that out for sure. An hour, a hamburger and a dozen near misses (were talking not enough room on the road here) later I drove up on Stonehenge.

Wow, I know its not as big as the other but its ironic shape and image is really something to see in person. Even the overt commercialism of the park could not deminish the mystery and magnificence of the place. I'm so glad I went.

Speaking of mystery, the route I took toward Lewes was definitely the road less taken - beautiful scenery interspersed with occasional bewilderment at just where the hell I was at any given moment. Everyone has been extremely impressed at my map prowess and I have taken their complements with gusto, but between you and I, I'm bringing a GPS next time. I did get into Lewes early, about 5pm. I got checked into the very swanky White Hart Hotel that Andrew at the Pelham Arms was so generous to offer. The guy showed up with the sound system (a 2 channel amp) about 6:30. At first I was a bit nervous as how it would work , but at sound check the thing sounded great so I was off and running. Philly showed up with her pal Rich (who brought his open faced banjo along)

and my friend Peter and his wife who I met two years ago came as well. Rich joined me for a few tunes on the second set and did a great job. Had another good night with cds and the voice seemed to be in better shape than last night, but still more Leon Redbone than it should be.

Right now I'm sitting in the hotel bar single finger typing on this phone for all I'm worth. So forgive the typos and check back in a few days when I can add pics and links.

I'm off early again tomorrow for a BBC Radio Show at 2pm and then a show in the evening at my fav PJ McGintys. Veronica - get out the Red Breast - well that doesn't sound right
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UK Tour Day 7 - The Beehive

Headed out from London to Swindon with brand new misplaced confidence in my left side driving. I was introduced to a new Roundabout concept called a "Magic Roundabout", a euphemism if ever I heard one. Think a half dozen roundabouts tucked inside one giant roundabout.

That aside I found the pub on a steep and narrow hill (of course),

but with friendly faces inside. The Beehive is located more in a residential neighborhood - the UK version of "Cheers." Andy met me with a beer and a sound system and we quickly got a nice sound out of that great long room with the old wood floor. My friend Philly Stock and her mom showed up along with some regulars who have been following my tour blog.

My voice was still pretty hashed but the cool room and enthusiastic people got me through my 2 - 45 min sets. I sold a handful of cds and retired to my room above the pub. Andy was gracious in letting me stay there. He had a room with a mattress surrounded by old DJ equipment. It was the folk version of the Saturday Night Fever set, but a very easy sleep.
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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

UK Tour Day 6 - The Troubadour - London

Well, had to wake up a little early today, 9am. The three of us (Dave, Cole and myself) headed out for one more trip through Lemoncello's for cappuccino and croissants and then Cole packed up to gig in Nottingham and me for London. Man, it sure was nice touring with him for a few days. We made some cool music, had a bunch of laughs and it just broke up the solo travel vibe (the long hours of quiet between all the great stages).

I went from my Cambridge oasis at Dave's place, back to my London oasis at John Garths. In the process I got lost as hell. I don't know how I got lost or wound up at his house - it's all a blur. In the end though, he was waiting with a smile, some food and a good hand drawn map to the Troubadour Club.

I rested up and then headed out about 6:15pm. The Troubadour as I found out tonight, has quite the famous past. It dates back to about 1954and has had Eric Clapton, Jimmy Hendrix, Dylan, Joni Mitchell and countless others on it's little basement stage. Oh yeah, and now some folk singer dude from Nashville. It was a good night, packed house - sold a few CD's.

Downtown London driving was an experience tonight, but John's map made it all not the nightmare it could have been. I got back to John's in fairly short order around midnight (although the damn Sudbury Roundabout never looks the same to me coming back)and I tend to spin off it in the wrong direction every time - tonight included. Luckily I am very familiar with where I keep getting lost, so I am righting myself quicker (that doesn't even make sense).

No place to park tonight on the narrow little Myrtle Street, so I parked the rental out on High street - hopefully reading the parking signs right - we'll find out in the morning! Tomorrow I head to Swindon and the Beehive Club either 1.5hr. drive as the directions state or longer if the Sudbury screws me up again!!! Thanks for following along all!

Peace, Mark
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