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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UK Tour Day 5 - BBC Cambridgeshire

Woke up in time for the 9:30 breakfast and was served up a great one by Alan and Karen. Had a good conversation about the history of the pub and the festival and the many great artists that have come through there. Alan and Karen definitely join the list of the few and far between musician oasis's. Great hosts and now great new friends - I look forward to coming back to the Brasenose.

Cole and I wandered around the village a bit, walked down through the Oxford Canal and checked out all the long-narrow boats. They ranged from a basic mini-barge to very cool houseboats that make their way down a canal that in some places is barely wider than the boats themselves. We headed back to Cambridge via some quaint village roads - looked right out of the movies to me. I kept looking for Sir Lancelot or maybe at least, Monty Python.

Dave had given us a key to his place in Cambridge so we could relax, get caught up on blogs and I could nurse my throat with some of his tea and whiskey! Man that works well.

Cole was first up at the BBC with a 7:20pm slot. This show goes out to basically all of Eastern England, so by far the biggest station I have done in the UK. We were told by other musicians that Sue loves to shake the interview up with left fielded questions, usually "if your music was a fruit which one would it be". Both of us were well prepared for that one, but she fooled us and went with "if your music were a set of clothes...." Cole handled it great, did a good interview and played several songs live. My segment wasn't until 9:15pm. Sue is one of the great interviewers, in that she understands artists and music and asks the kind of questions that make the hour go by like a minute! You can wait for the radio posting (which will come in the next couple of weeks) for my answer to the "clothes and music" question as well as the "magic time machine VW Bus" question. I played "Bye Bye Baby Jane" live and we did "Not Even New Orleans" from "American Road." We also got a good chance to talk up my new group Runaway Home and played "Tell You Goodbye" from the EP.

Cole and I hit a Greek joint for take-out on the way back to Dave's. By the time we got back (around 11pm) Dave had assembled a handful of musicians, professors and students from the area colleges (and saying area colleges in Cambridge is saying something)! They were scientists, geneticists and music lovers from New Zealand, Austria and South Africa. We drank wine and played music until about 3am - a great night.

Monday, April 11, 2011

UK Tour Day 4 - Brasenose arms

Woke up this morning about 11:30 and had a quick breakfast with Dave and Cole. I learned in the process of buttering my toast that there is indeed a difference in taste (though not in look) between Chocolate Nuttella spread and Yeasty Spread. Wow!!! Cole later told me that the marketing slogan for Yeasty Spread is “you’ll either love it or hate it”….enough said…..yeah!

After that we sauntered off into a beautiful Cambridge afternoon to Dave’s favorite coffee shop called Limoncellos. After some cappuccino and croissants we headed back to the house. Cole had the day off with nothing to do and offered to drive me to the Brasenose Arms gig and play percussion for me (which he does quite well). It was nice to sit in the passenger seat and be able to look outside the window without the panic of which lane I’m in and what part of the roundabout I’m about to spin out of.

This part of the country is very rural and quite upscale! The Brasenose Arms is situated in a nest of hamlets and is the home place and home pub of the Fairport Convention Band. Evidently, the Brasenose is featured on an early album cover of Fairport’s.
Alan and Karen are very gracious hosts and got us a good room at the Inn and we sound checked for the 6:30 show. This was to be two sets ending by 9pm – for the Pub Quiz night. I’m still nursing the Bronchitis and hoarse throat, so a pub room was a challenge – but I made it through and all went well.

We decided to stay after the show for Quiz Night and of course the meat raffle, which Cole was thankful to lose because he’s a vegetarian. We teamed up with two folks on a 6 month holiday, taking their narrow boat down the Oxford Canal toward the Thames. Our Quiz team was dubbed the “Twangs” by the Quiz Master (no doubt my influence). What we thought might be a short 1/2 hour bit of fun, turned into be a fairly rigorous and serious 40-question game. We clearly were not taking the quiz seriously enough for the team, “Jones’s” and quite literally did not keep up with the Jones’s (or anyone else for that matter) coming in dead last, but laughed our asses off in the process!! After watching packages of meat distributed to the raffle winners, we headed for the room. I watched a movie on the old Itouch and hit the sack!

UK Tour Day 3 - Acoustic Routes

Got up early this evening after a restful sleep in the studio barn, but awakened by the un-restful debates between the neighbors working in their gardens this morning. Had a quick breakfast and hung out with James and his wife and his two cool twin boys Tev and Joe. Later we hooked up with Stephanie Lambring and Becky for lunch at a neat restaurant out in the English countryside. Both Stephanie and I (as well as Cole Stacy from last night's gig) were due to play the Acoustic Routes club in Cambridge together. So, after determining that the new and bizarre warning light meant that I was driving with my emergency break on, I was able to just follow Stephanie (who was smart enough to bring a GPS) to Cambridge - good thing too - the rural route was a crazy one! We got to the gig early, did sound check and had a great Italian dinner at the CB2 restaurant. I went on last for this show. It was sold out and as always, the crowd helped me to transcend my bronchitis and hoarse voice (they all love tom waits so it was cool) and deliver a good show. They all sang "Stars in Their Eyes" at the end - very fun!

Stephanie headed back to Ipswich and Cole and I were put up by a local singer-songwriter and musician oasis - Dave Streatfield! Sleep comes easy after the stress of the left hand days and the excitement of a sold out night.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

UK Tour Day 2 - Institute at Kelvedon

Slept in today, hard to shake that flight. My host John was busy working the phones for me searching for a last minute gig for my one open date next weekend. Man he is a troubadour's oasis! I headed out on the M25 around the "clockwise loop" around London. Wow the traffic !!!! Took me about 3 hours to get to Kelvedon. By now I was realizing my cough was getting worse and I was indeed plagued with my UK usual. I stepped into a health clinic where they diagnosed me with bronchitis and got me started on some antibiotics , so at least I think I'm on it early this time. I joined up with my fellow troubadours Stephanie Lambring and Cole Stacey for sound check and a bunch of good laughs that only new friends of an old struggle seem to share. We are also sharing the bill in Cambridge too so that will be a welcome interrupt to the path. I walked outside before the doors opened and saw a big line waiting to get in and I inquired if anyone good was playing for which I got the reply, "god I hope so". I told them one out of the three of us sucked but couldn't remember which one. Luckily the English and I share similar humor. My voice held out OK through my 45 min show but began to die during the last song but by then the audience had the chorus on "Stars....." and they carried it for me. I headed back to the promoters house where I had some great beer and antibiotics and listened to a bunch if new music back in his music hut in the backyard. A great way to end the night. I think we're all grabbing lunch in town before heading to Cambridge. Here's hoping for more great people to sing to and a voice to do it with. Thanks for coming along. Peace Mark
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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

UK Tour Day 0-1 - One Boot Shy of a Load

I showed up at Nashville airport 2 pounds overweight on my bag (NO JOKES PLEASE). So after a bit of haggling an configuring,found that removing 1 cowboy boot did the trick (so I carried that one on the plane with me).

After a short flight to Detroit and a long flight to England I found myself in line with literally about 500 others at the customs line in Heathrow. Per the usual, my check was delayed due to me being, well...a singer and having done the paperwork correctly righteousness doesn't always pay.

I picked up my Hertz rental and I have to say choosing a manual (though I've driven them for years) with the left hand gear + driving on the left - the whole bit was slightly overwhelming on a jet lagged brain. The rental guy tried to chastise me into renting a GPS saying I would never make it on my own with just a map. Well that pissed me off just enough to forgo the GPS and head out toward my first round about! I traded the smell of jet fuel for that of my clutch(good thing its a rental) and found my host about 45 min later.

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John Garth and his family have been great hosts, allowing me to crash for several hours before dinner and then out to the Antelope Bar to catch Ian Hunt on guitar. I will share a night with Ian on my last stop on the tour - The Greyhorse.

Today I am off about 3 hours to the Institute at Kelvedon, playing about 8:30. Hoping that my mandatory UK respiratory ills abate before then - it's better today after rest, tea and a beer! Cheers Mark.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Mark's UK Tour Blog Coming April 7-18

Hi All,

This time last year the great Icelandic Volcano cut my UK tour by more than half, but I had a great time anyway! I am excited to be returning to some of my favorite venues and adding a few new ones to the tour. Old friends and the promise of new ones - that's what makes this music circus all worth it. Check back on this blog starting later next week and follow along with the journey. I'll be blogging as internet connection allows. Thanks for the support! - Peace, Mark

Fri. April 8 - The Institute at Kelvendon - Essex - 8:30pm.
Sat. April 9 - Acoustic Routes - Cambridge - 8:30pm.
Sun April 10 - The Brasenose Arms - Oxfordshire - 6:30pm.
Mon April 11 - BBC Radio with Sue Marchant-Cambridge- 9:30pm.
Tue April 12 - The Troubadour - London - 8:30pm.
Wed April 13 - The Beehive - Swindon - 8pm.
Thur April 14 - The Pelham Arms - Lewes - 8pm.
Fri April 15 - BBC Radio Suffolk w/ Stephen Foster- Ipswich- 2pm
Fri April 15 - PJ McGinty's Pub - Ipswich - 8pm.
Sat April 16 - check back on Mark's website for last minute update
Sun April 17 - The Grey Horse - Kingston on the Thames - 5:30pm.