Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Woke up around 9am, got a good shower in and then had breakfast and great conversation about culture and politics with my hosts Dave and Suzanne.
Being open enough to share both your pride and your shame of the country that you love allows for a much deeper, richer connection without pretense – we were all able to do that and it was very refreshing.
After breakfast we took a walk through their Cambridge neighborhood, down to one of their favorite coffee shops called Café Brazil. One of my favorite things about touring is all the good and genuine people I’ve met and how open they’ve been with their friendship and homes.
I left Cambridge kinda’ early (around 12:30) and headed for London. I did pretty well on this leg with directions, but the traffic (which was massive) and lane closures made the trip to the Kingston section of London a major chore. It took me several hours to get in the vicinity of the venue. When I got over near the venue, the city tended to remind me a little more of Cambridge. It was quainter than London proper and in a Garden district, a famous one in fact called The Kew Gardens. I would have loved to have had time to walk through the Kew and thought I would, but traffic conspired.
The Grey Horse venue proved hard to find. It’s situated just off a complex town square-one-way street maze. So it took awhile for me to find the joint and a place to park, but I arrived about 4:30 for the 5:30 show – so no panic there. I talked with Richard the owner for a bit and then set up in the corner of the pub room. On Sundays at least there is constant music rotating among their 3 venue rooms – starting around 1pm and going through midnight. My set was scheduled from 5:30-7:30.
As I was waiting for the cool blues band to finish up in the next room I talked with a lot of the local gathered in the pub, some of them having seen my CNN Coverage of the Volcano cancellation and interested to check the show out – so that was cool!
By the time I was half way through the first set, the pub room was full and people were into it; so much so I decided to blow past break and just play the whole two hours – it was after all the last show of an already truncated tour! Again, this crowd was a quick study for singing along and I finished with them singing the chorus of “Stars in their Eyes” back to me – sold some CD’s and had a great time.
Since I had already committed to staying up all night and touring around the city, I decided to stay at the pub, get something to eat, some more bitter beer and see the next show. The pub itself didn’t make food, but they would order from a Tai place across the street for you and serve it all up at the table on their own plates. The food was cheap priced and fantastic!!
The next show was an open jam with a small combo leading it. I am so glad I stayed – it was a lot of fun. It was run by Ian Hunt, a great guitar player in the tradition of Chet Atkins. In talking with Ian, I learned that he had recorded and toured with my first mentor Tom Paxton, back in the ‘70’s. So, the universal language and small world continues!
The pub began to fill up with folks with guitars, trombones and songs to sing. Ian’s band kicked the night off and then folks would drift on stage and play cover songs mainly, but with their own touch. The band (Ian plus a bass player and drummer on a small trap kit) would back everyone up, both on songs they knew and songs the didn’t (the bravest of all assignments). The guys were great and I really enjoyed them, so much so that I jumped up a few times to play – it was blast and over too soon!
I packed up my gear, got some general directions to the center of London and struck out with all my late night, left lane intentions! I spent the next couple of hours just driving the streets of London, trying to get my own feel for the city and how it was laid out (considering I had made this whole trip without maps). When I found the parliament square area, down by Hyde park, Buckingham Palace and Big Ben – I decided to park and strike out by foot (this was about 3am or so). My car had all my gear in it, so I was naturally nervous, borderline paranoid about getting everything stolen. However, I found a spot near where a bunch of city buses were idling, under the light of street lamps and the glare of CCTV monitors – so I figured, what the hell and headed out on the streets of London.
I had a blast, seeing all these sights at night. I walked over several bridges, including London Bridge, but the most beautiful bridge at night was the Waterloo Bridge (just as Dave and Suzanne had suggested). The view of Parliament Square, Big Ben and the big blue Ferris wheel was really great!
About 6am I decided to head for the airport and the rental car return. I found a place to fill the car up and headed into the huge Heathrow airport complex, just as the sun was coming up. The flights would prove to be uneventful and unfettered by mother nature’s pimples. Although the first half of the tour was not to be I am so thankful to have had the very short time I did in the UK – it was an inspired long weekend!
So ….the final count:
½ - walking up to the wrong side of the car (I thought it about one time)
5,768 – air miles since Wednesday night
952 – car miles since Thursday morning
29 – hours awake until I slept on the plane
∞ – new friends
0 – regrets
As always, thanks to all my friends and supporters on both sides of the pond! Traveling solo always reminds me of how important you are to me
Woke up about 10:30am,soaked up a English Tea and wandered the old narrow corridors of the pub.
Not long after it was time to head toward the Orwell River and the Hallow Tree Scout Campgrounds where the Bluegrass Fest was being held. Veronica drove me out there for a noon sound check while Dave made preparations to go out of town to check out a new band.
We got to the festival sight and saw the familiar signs of a Bluegrass Festival, with tents and campers and groups of musicians’ sitting around a circle of instrument cases jamming away. After we got checked in and walked through the indoor clogging and step dancing hall – we began to hear the ring of banjos, fiddles and mandolins all the way to the main stage tent. I got my sound check in, met the sound guys and promoters (all really nice and dedicated music folks) and drive back to the Pub to shower (I got a hot tip on how to work the damn thing) change and rehearse a little.
An hour later, we were back in the car and headed back to the festival grounds for the show. I was the only American and the only solo act on the bill. Had a great show, about 100 people in the tent. They were incredibly responsive and it was a blast to play for them. I sold a bunch of CD’s afterward and met with fans for about 45 minutes. They were truly fun to be around – so exuberant about the music – I became instantly addicted to them!
We drove back to the pub at about 4:00pm. I packed up, got some directions (that I would later screw up) and headed out by 5pm for Cambridge. The ride to Cambridge was a little longer than expected, although with my recent history with roundabouts and the like, maybe should have been expected.
I got in town around 7pm, driving past those old, classy as hell – collegiate buildings flower laden central parks and the punting boats along the river. I made my way up to the Venue just in time to get a quick sound check before dinner. Bernard Hoskins and all of his volunteers were so welcoming and excited for the show – man does that ever make a difference to the soul of a solo Troubadour.
I shared the night with a couple of talented Liverpool guys, Henry Priestman and Pete Riley. Henry had been in the punk scene with some major label success in the early ‘80’s, now doing the singer-songwriter circuit. Pete is great singer songwriter in his own right, but also tours as a guitarist with Henry and Edwin McCain.
It was a sold out out show in a bricked basement of a restaurant – very cool, old style hootenanny venue. I took the stage first and had a fun set. There are times you get in front of an audience that is there because they just love music, they want you to be great, they want you to move them and there’s no way to fail. This was that type of audience.
Last year, this was the last stop on our tour and I had full blown Pneumonia at the time, so they don’t remember me as a singer as much as they remember me as a drugged out looking Zombie…. Again – making it a little easier to impress this year!!
I was introduced by my new friend popular BBC Radio HOst, Sue Merchant. She's a cool bean with a great sprit about her!
The audience was a quick study with “Searching” and “Stars in Their Eyes” and sang along mightily – it was over way too soon for me. The guys delivered their sets with great songs and a lot of witty English humor – really enjoyed them.
We capped the evening off upstairs in the restaurant and then I headed home with Dave and his wife Suzanne to crash. Right now as I am finishing up this blog while sitting on their futon (which I think I may have just broken). I’m looking at his collection of guitars; including an early 50’s Hoffner Hollow Bodied 6 string that Jim Moran would salivate over .
I also tried to fit in my suitcase – but no go!
We are going to get up fairly early tomorrow, walk through the neighborhood and have a little breakfast. I am going to try to leave for London early (about noon) since its a couple hours always and I get lost and (oh yes) the London Marathon will be going on tomorrow. So, you can imagine the scene of me trying to find the next venue. I have an early show, 5:30-7:30 at the Grey Horse at Kingston on the Thames. My plan is to then skip money on a hotel, drive around London all night and then head to the airport to return the car - in the wee hours of Monday morning. My flight to flight to Philly and Nashville is at noon (where I’m sure I will be asleep halfway through taxiing to the runway).
So…..the count for the day:
1 – walking up to the wrong side of the car (I’m getting better)
759 – car miles since Thursday morning
32 – extra miles (given the fact I blew right past Cambridge)
3 – nights in a row going to bed after 3am
0 – internet access to post these blogs yet (hopefully tomorrow)
4 – gigs down
1 – to go
Monday, April 26, 2010
Slept in, wait a minute no I didn’t. I woke up at 7am and hit the road toward Ipswich by 8am. All the cars seemed to be moving way past the speed limit of 60mph, but I hesitated to match them because there are signs everywhere depicting cameras that evidently take a picture of your tag and mail you a ticket…like I’m not a big enough Cop magnet as it is!
That said I ambled up the M4 toward London and the M25 (sounds like I know what I’m talking about now doesn’t it). After about 4 hours and a couple of stops for food and petrol – I made it to Ipswich around 12:30pm. Speaking of food, I bought good little cookies with a horrible name – “Digestives”. Probably an American hang-up, but I totally don’t get naming cookies something that is in the Bowel family. I’m just saying!
I checked in with Dave and Veronica at PJ McGinty’s Pub, had a “Tea” and a “Pint” and headed to BBC Suffolk for an interview with Stephen “FOZ” Foster. We had a good interview, did some live playing and then recorded some tracks with his engineer afterward for the BBC to feature on their “Sessions” show over the coming weeks.
I headed back down to the pub and got checked into my room above the bar, learned I wasn’t smart enough to turn on the shower system in the upper bathroom, decided I didn’t smell all that bad anyway and headed out for a walk about town. The bar’s wifi wasn’t working so I walked the street until I found a corner where someone forgot to secure their internet and stood on the corner to get my emails.
Sound check was fast approaching, but hunger was approaching faster, as the “Digestives” where being fully digested.
Dave & Veronica took me for a walk through the city center, past some guys that were being arrested for being shit-faced drunk in the square. The police officer just held his hand while she waited for back-up. It took more to hold him up than it did to keep him from running away.
We found our way to a favored dinner spot called Miso's (I think) which was a “Noodle Bar”. Yep, I said “Noodle Bar” – any kind of noodles you want! It was great food and nice and relaxing until we realized we were minutes from sound check and had to get out of there. Still, we had to make a pit stop to buy replacement candles for the venue room tables. We had received a phone call that the current citronella scented candles had run off all the indoor mosquitoes but might possibly run off the audience as well!
On the way back to the pub Veronica took me by a famous hotel called the “White Horse Hotel” where Charles Dickens had written one of his more famous books – that was pretty darned cool!
Got sound checked and went on first at 8:30. The Blue Room at McGintys is a very cool, dark, vibey room – we had a decent crowd and the show went well. The band, “Songs from the Blue House” up from the Kelveton Institute finished the night. They were a 6 piece folk band – good music and good folks!
After the main downstairs pub emptied out(about 1am)several of us gathered as we did last year, around a corner pub table, played guitars, drank “Red Breast” Irish Whiskey, laughed and lied and loved each others company into the wee hours of Saturday morning. I think I finally went to bed about 5am. after a quick ham’n Cheese with Veronica and the 2 cats upstairs!
A great night as usual with my friends in Ipswich! They are truly a beacon in the night for the troubadour class! Tomorrow afternoon, the Orwell Bluegrass Festival and onto Cambridge tomorrow night for the Acoustic Routes show
So….the count for the day:
1 – time getting in on the wrong side of the car
3 – times walking up to the wrong side of the car
550 – car miles in the past 24 hours
6 – glasses of “Red Breast” Whiskey
1 – too many
0 – ghosts seen (it’s a Haunted Pub – dating back to the 1500’s)
3 – shows down (including the BBC)
3 – more to go
Landed in London at 6:30 am., after a 7-1/2 hour flight from Toronto. Made it through customs without a problem (ironically not a small feat at Heathrow) and picked up the rental car.
I of course got in the left side of the car, sat for a second and wondered where the hell the steering wheel was. After taking a quick glance around to make sure that no one was looking - I slinked out of the car and climbed in on the right, and “correct” side. I have always considered myself a worldly and well traveled guy and had no concerns about driving on the left side of the road, until I realized that all the previous tours I had someone else driving and so never really drove on that side of the road. Hmmm!
That said I headed out of the airport and toward my first roundabout. We have a roundabout (one that is) in Nashville at the top of music row and although it took us awhile to learn to manage it while checking out the naked statue of “Musica” that it circles ‘round – it served as a source of much confidence for me.
I don’t know if it was a jet lagged brain or just total stupidity, but as I went into the first roundabout I failed to figure out that you have to splinter off of it or you just keep going around and around. That was illustrated by me making the comment (to myself – out loud) “those sheep look a lot like the ones over ………there”
After heading down the M25, realizing I didn’t want to head down the M25, but the M4 – I was on my way in the direction of Wales and made Bristol around 11am.
Bristol is a cool town, hilly, old, with a great city center and harbor area. It was my first city driving challenge, made harder by the fact that the Prime Ministerial debates were being held there and traffic, security and road closures were conspiring.
After the buzz in my head gave way to semi-conscious rambling I found a hotel, snagged a room and slept for a few hours. As luck would have it (and believe me it was only luck) I was only a mile or two from the venue. I got to the venue about 8, met Dave the sound man and headed across the street for some Tai food. A quick sound check around 9 pm and then people started filling the little performance room, some new faces and some folks who saw me last year and wanted to come again. I was tired and the throat was raspy (I was a little worried) but when show time came my voice was there and it felt great to be back at the Prom. There’s nothing like performing for folks who are there to hear you and excited for it – really gave me the energy I needed and made for a great first night. I played two sets and left about midnight.
Feeling completely confident in my driving skills I set up for a direct shot back to the hotel…..then I hit a roundabout and got lost! I finally made a desperate turn down a side street where cars were parked on either side and the passage was about 6 inches on either side – freaked me out – but a couple more turns later, out popped my hotel like an Oasis in a very dizzying desert.
I’m heading out early tomorrow to Ipswich for a set at the BBC at 2pm. to promote tomorrow nights show at PJ McGintys.
So, the count for today:
3 - Countries
4- times trying to get in on the wrong side of the car
2 – beers that were pretty damn good
110 - sheep (if you count them over and over again as you ‘roundabout)
1 – show down
5 – shows to go
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Well in the past 12 hours I've resigned myself to not being able to fly to the UK, followed by unpacking, followed by UK Airspace opening back up this evening, followed by repacking!
The plan is to fly to Toronto via Philly tomorrow on US Air and then hop (hopefully) an Air Canada flight into Heathrow tomorrow night.
Here's the catch - Air Canada said it won't decide if it cancels it's leg or not until later in the afternoon - so there's an even chance I show up in Toronto and that's the end of the line.
Gigs in Toronto anyone?????????????????
Hopefully you'll hear from me after Thursday Night's gig at the Prom in Bristol, UK!
Folk Music vs. Volcano - down but not out!
Thursday, April 15, 2010
(the Volcano is winning)!
Publishers, record labels, vapid commercialism, illegal downloads,
and now VOLCANOS!
My flight to the
I was on the phone for about 2 hours with a woman from US Air, trying to do her best to route me in for the first half of the tour. At one moment or another we were trying to get me in from Germany, Ireland with a Ferry ride to UK, Paris and then a drive thru the Chunnel and then Madrid + a boat ride. As the minutes passed though, and the airspace was quickly closing around the continent, so too were my alternatives for getting to the
So, the first half of the tour is lost. I will be flying over next Thursday and finishing the back
half of the tour.....unless my alternative mode of transport makes it out of the driveway earlier!