UK TOUR DIARY 2002
SF—- wind up five days rehearsals... pretty good shape. Winston reaching a little -=- More prepared than usual. Lotta work to cram in. Endless details... logistics.
day 2 Louisville:
gig at the AAA/Americana festival with Tanya Donelly/ Ronnie Elliot and others. 30-40 minute set. A good time is had by all - I do my share of kissing babies. Jeff C introduces me all around. run into old pal Paul K of Paul K and the weathermen—meet Andy from Epitaph who is making a record with DJ Mugs from cypress hill and is very impressed when I dazzle him with my extensive knowledge of house of pain/cypress hill. He promises Soloman Burke CD-R booty for me with SB's version of Dan Penn/CP song. The band is sounding better and Summertime is getting convincingly good live. Tough song to play. Getting there...
make small talk with Flatlanders sans Ely in parking lot of travel-lodge.
day 3 fly to Chicago:
Upon arrival—Try to finesse a proper van able to hold all five of us AND gear.. no luck. wing it . cabs etc. We play the Shubas gig to maybe 100 people opening for some dude from nashburg or Knoxville named Scott Miller—And Chris Shuba himself has such a good time he gathers us all up at the bar. He insists on buying the whole band a drink. He's visibly disappointed when I order a Coke and Stephie orders a Seven Up. And of course Winston has a Soda pop as well.... and... well.... Rob does his duty to save what's left of any rock and roll image we might have had, and orders a Johnny Walker Black on the rocks or some such. Stephie follows up with glass of white wine. a pretty good show—and 500 bones later out of % deal, we're off to the MOTEL 6 and Chicago O Hare in the AM with aprox. 8 too many items to check, and 100's of pounds overweight luggage. We arrive bout 5 hours early to the Airport to be safe. We get on the flight with no meaningful fuss. the road gods are smiling down on us today.
We arrive safely at Heathrow—and take two mega cabs with all our gear into town. not cheap—check into the Columbia—"Mr Prophet... So nice to have you back..." Says lovely desk clerk.
Wilco's playing tonight, but I pass.. Wilcos bassman John(?) shows up later at the bar to hang... i decide to sleep while i can...
We meet our cool calm and collected road manager Dutchman Johan later in the evening. I introduce myself and tell him the real reason he got this gig is because he survived tours with Andre Williams of whom I am a massive fan. After a little prodding, he does not disappoint when it comes to André Williams stories.
In the AM—I do a couple of phoner interviews from my room. And play a little acoustic to troll for anything I might want to dust off for my BBC "down the line" acoustic songs. But I ain't feeling it and draw a nice hot bubble bath instead. Lay there a good while— crocodile like—two eyes protruding above water. It's great to be back.
We decide to celebrate our arrival by making a trip to Khans Restaurant en masse for a proper Indian meal. I buy a new pair of shoes on the Queensway as the other pair weren't helping my knees... I imagine my right knee cartilage more resembles hamburger meat about now. At the table, Winston takes the opportunity to speak Dutch to our Dutch road manager—a man of many talents—Winston learned to speak Dutch as a child. Multi lingual/ace mechanic/bob dylan anecdotal machine? what next?
Next day: Take cab to BBC—meet up with Sue the song "plugger". As I'm waiting to go on air, I end up seated next to Petula Clark of all people. My dark side starts kicking in and I begin to fantasize about all the things I could say. Heck, I could just sing a few bars of Downtown... (bet no one's ever done that) but she's be more likely to turn to me and tell me "oh shut up, you cheeky monkey!" than find it charming. Unfortunately Pet' and I never really get the chance to bond. Next time!
Wolverhampton (first gig)
We arrive at the gig in Wolverhampton a little late - it's a big(ish) civic hall room and the opening band is some of our old friends from a band that used to support green on red called the Wildflowers. They once made a record for Slash. There's no posters or any visible promotion. I'm nervous. Jim White is literally playing next door. The competition.
We have a ton of tech problems with gear... buzzing key's—bad transformers. blown up US power-strips...
Turns out to be a healthy turnout. I say to the crowd - `hey everybody—thanks for coming out!' and someone shouts back, "Well... there wasn't any football on Telly tonight Chook... !" Merch sales look good from the get-go. In fact, merch requires no less than two trips back to the van. We sign off on the first gig of the tour. Only 26 more gigs to go.
Teenage blows a bass speaker during gig—we advance him some $$ next day to buy a replacement in Manchester. Johan is clearly a brilliant sound man as well as all around stand up dude/very pro/very cool/problem solver/unflappable disposition... We check into the Hotel Britannica.
Manchester—Matt and Phreds Jazz club
off the hook gig. might a been a sell out. I didn't ask. things are clicking. a couple of sweaty encores later... the Mission express has popped the UK cherry again. I messed with the set a little—a slight step backwards... I'll get it right eventually. Magical night. Go out for late night curry with some American Ex Pats.
I told promoter Bob Paterson - follow the beer and the piss and you'll find a CP gig—here we are at the Newcastle Arts Center. Everyone is seated. Are they expecting Allison Krauss perhaps? Seated. Not good. I get nervous - you would too. My brand new $250.00 pedal board power supply blows up in sound check emitting a small mushroom cloud of smoke. Cosmically Max blows his up shortly after. Coincidence? Voodoo lab. Yeah right. Some voodoo indeed. Two blown power supplies... God Damn! We spend the remaining sound-check time scouring the streets of Newcastle for 9 volt batteries. Turns out to be a decent gig. sound-system and stage/venue is real uptown/slick/modern. These old art centre patron/folk got merch money to burn. We go out for excellent late night curry. Chat with my main man, Senator Dan K on Johans cell.
I tunes. Obsessing on Isaac Hayes's Do Your Thing. Is that a repeat slap on the piano?
On this AM to the Venue in Edinburgh. Stephie as always first in the lobby, Followed by yours truly. Rob terminally last (we love him anyway). Besides who's counting?
The Venue in Edinburgh—scene of the crime of many a GOR drunkfest. After the gig, we're standing around in an alley while drummer from the opening band (Summer Delay) take's a moment to show us all the famous sights where they filmed trainspotting. `reet here mon, this is where so and so ran out into the street in the oopening montage. Doon't you remember?' Fooking Hell. I hear the Lust for Life intro in my head chung chungh chung chung chung chung chung... or maybe that's Winston right behind me... A great gig. a looooong day. Passing the time driving, sitting through the endless Sean Connery imitations whispered from back of the van all day - Later shifts into Marlon Brando riff fest—as in: "Are you an assassin?" which mutates into "are you a singer songwriter?" we decide dub the tour, The Why Do You Talk Like Marlon Brando Tour UK Europe 2002. "The genius of that.. Gardenias..." All in all, Edinburgh was a gas.
Rob goes on pub crawl till early hours. Can't wake up night clerk at hotel. Rings bell ad nauseam. Am I the only one hearing this? Is someone gonna get up and answer the door? I come down in my underwear to personally let him in at 4 in the AM, shaking my head in mock disgust—giggling inside.
I have many a fond memories of this town. The record store (name of which escapes me) is not the least of the great attractions. Last time I was here I loaded up on vinyl Cilla Black, Dusty, Sandi Shaw, Tom Jones etc. An Anglo fest for the common man.... plus a whole arm load of Trojan records and too many others to mention here. They mail `em back to me.
The local promoter, Stuart - a retired policeman- checks in with us to make sure we're all good. It's a slick new venue for this old decrepit steel town. They decide to put tables up near the stage. Not a good idea. Halfway through the set they get turned over. An authentic rock and roll moment. The Ryan Adamization of the UK is in full force. There are no less than two opening bands tonight playing their own challenged tea-bag brand of Ya'll terminative or Americanama. We enter into a new void, the sleep deprivation brings out my inner child. Either that or the medication isn't working anymore. hah! good gig. starting to feel a little road rash. everyone's getting the dreaded van cold. Endless chatting after gig with old friends. Keyboard stand gets left behind.
I have to duck out of the load-in to do an interview - (eventually, everybody get's a break—Even a blind pig get's an acorn). I meet up later with the gang at a noodle bar for our hot meal as per our rider. I think to myself—this soup is good—whoa!! imagine eating dinner at 6 PM. civilized this.
More broken equipment. Gets sorted somehow. Sound-bloke turns out to be a great chap and finds some geezer on phone to bring us a fuse at 10 at night as we've been blowing em left and right—and may not have been able to play at all without. It turns out to be a genuinely exciting show. We catch up with some old friends. Need to make new ones though. Got the power to convert. We draw healthy enough for whatever night of the week it is—or any night for that matter... but need to take new prisoners...
Hotel Ibis: Sleep deprivation mounting. I come up with the idea that Domino's should take over the hotel chain and guarantee a full nights sleep or your money back.
We stop at a music store in AM and A) buy a new keyboard stand (lost)—20 quid and B) new cable for bullet mic—(busted) 5 quid
We also take in a newsagent so we can catch up on the Bush-gate and get US papers.
I decide to start dedicating Apology to George Bush. Stephie suggests throwing in a British personality, throwing out Gary Glitter who was recently released from jail having served his time after being found guilty holding mucho megabites of porn on his hard drive. I suggest we all find it in our hearts to forgive em. No one has argued with me yet.
We play the Borderline which is run by our former road mangler/fearless leader—Barry Everritt. The gig is a stone cold sell out. I scramble around to find the matchbook I wrote my guests names on. It's a blur. I catch up with all kind of people. Barry, Sue, and Chris "As your publicist, I seriously advise you to pass me the Jack Daniels!" Carr. I can barely breath on stage. It is so sweaty. No air. Actually, it's difficult to play and sing... gasping for air in between lines—we play alright... all in all a good show - There are a tons of camera flashes going off through the set. I introduce Max on guitar as a friend who plays like an enemy. And Winston for being notable for having the same hairdresser as Don King. Chris Carr introduces me to this that and the other person afterward. It's all a blur. Meanwhile Max and Rob meet all kind of cool musicians (Yardbirds, Vibrators, Lush?) and talk shop. Stephie works butt off at merch table... I lurk and sign CD's. Stephie opened solo acoustic and moves a respectable amount of go go CD's. Thought:- When asked to sign an original Big Star record, Alex Chilton's response was, "Are you sure? It's the last UNsigned copy."
The next morning I take care of some business at the Cambio and take great pleasure haggling over the exchange rates with Pakistani clerks and get an extra 1% on my side. We head out to Brighton. Stephie goes through my pockets for shrapnel (British coin) and makes a trip to the health market to stock up on health aids/herbals teas/remedies etc. As if there is anything we can do to fight off the moving infection in the van. It can't hurt.
We are all feeling it. Just a little bruised up after London. Too many days in a row without a day off. Then again, only one thing worse than another gig: a day off. Shouldn't complain. We arrive at the gig in Brighton—located right on the boardwalk. It's overcast. And by the time we load in it's pissing down rain. We're tired and hungry. We get through a sound check. And things start looking up with a wonderful, or should I say soulful, meal prepared by a lovely woman who is listening to some slow jams on her beat box in the kitchen. Stevie Wonder/Lou Rawls/Spinners.
Stephie opens the show solo and really delivers. I watch from a hole in the curtain. Winston and I join her for one song. It's a beautiful old hall with stained glass windows on the stage. Sparse crowd of 80 or so in attendance. A brutal cold rainy Tuesday night. We end up having what was by far, hands down, the most musical gig on the tour. Pulling victory from the jaws of defeat—the sound on stage is perfect/divine. I wish I could bottle it and take it with me. After the gig, I hang round the Merch table and catch up with some friends and sign CD's—last unsigned brother aldo's. Jeff who runs Kusworth/Sudden label is a sweetheart. Says you must come stay/ we chat and check into boardwalk hotel over looking Coney Island like pier. Bobby—Shirley Collins son a no show. Hey Bobby—wherever you are. Has anybody here seen my old friend Bobby....?
On the drive up to Bristol I have a lovely meal. Americans traditionally must complain about British road food -Have to break rank here, I have a nice chicken tikka masala on rice for lunch— and a Starbuck's like coffee in a proper cup and saucer. Stephie has veggie plate. Downright civilized. Cracker barrel ain't got nothing on this. Things CAN change.
We learn/confirm today that we will be opening a scattered month of dates for Lucinda Williams when we return home. Max and I immediately start to scheme... gonna need to spruce up our technical reality. alot. Everyone's very excited. We speculate how Rob will fit into the mix being as he's the bass player. nuff said. Air play reports coming in on Summertime Thing in US extremely positive. Things can change indeed. I thank programers via e mail. A little cyber ass kissing never hurt nobody.
I check and send e mail. Way too many messages to get to. Charge up batteries and pick away at a few urgent E's.
Pulling into Bristol, Max fulfills a tour long ambition and somehow manages to wrestle the road map away from Johan. Special props to Johan. I think this is the first time I've ever really worked with a sound-man of this caliber, and it's forcing everyone to play so much betterŠ another level entirely. and everyone really is playing great.
Fiddler owner Joe is a wonderful warm human being—along with his son and a cast of Irish characters they run the venue "we had Robert Plant play here a little while back."
Set list takes form with alternates. Winston is really killing night after night. Band is 5 star hang. Max is at the ready to solve tech problems. plays great—parts are getting refined, and he's slowly winning battle with pedal board. Good energy. Stephie is effortlessly working 3 jobs some nights and playing and singing her heart out. Rob is solid gold. Solid Gold.
Westbury Upon Severn
This turns out to be an unexpected bonus of a gig. A town in the middle of nowhere. We are to play the town hall. We check into the farmhouse and rider is there to greet us, that beats all. Fresh baked rolls and bread. Cheese. Coffee tea, candy, cold cuts... and Kit Kat bars!!!
Chris Carr arrives with Sylvie Simmins from Mojo magazine by train later in afternoon. She wants to do an interview for MOJO. the angle is "couples in rock and roll". There is a Mojo staff photographer on hand. He takes us into a meadow to click some photo's—directing us to sit down in a field of bluebonnets. says, "okay... just a couple of lovers chilling talking about music." We, of course, are good sports. After the interview, Stephie and I look at each other as if we've just gone to a marriage counselor. Sylvie is very sharp and on top of it and quite chatty. We go in a million directions and tell stories finishing each others sentences. The general theme that emerges being: if this lifestyle or whatever you want to call it— don't split ya apart - it can only bring ya closer together... here here.
Meanwhile, we miss the sound-check, but Max does such a bang up job of setting up all the myriad connections to both Stephie and my rigs and directing monitor engineer. This is a great help.
The town hall gig is sold out two times over. It turns out to be somewhat amazing. A real blast. I feel like Buddy Holly! A time warp of a venue. Probably looked exactly like this 50 years or more ago. These gigs are where the real rock and roll is. When all the conventional rock clubs have been saturated with touring bands subsidized by major labels. Rock and roll has become diluted.
A perfect send off. This British tour was the best in memory. The crowds have been there, but without a proper UK label presence pushing, it's gonna be hard to bring in new victims. The audiences have been real loyal here over the years... All the fellows in band are psyched/upbeat.
A kid comes up to me after the gig—goes into a rap on how much he enjoyed the gig—I make out every fifth word or so. Eventually,after a lull in the conversation, he shrugs and says "oh well... got to go get pissed now".
Early morning wake up. I'm starting to feel the effects of no day off in a couple of weeksŠ I crash hard, Props to Roger, Peter and Angie—wonderful meal after gig includes homemade ice cream for dessert. A great way tie off a real rock and roll barn dance...
We get up at the crack of dawn and head out to Dover to catch a ferry - tonight's gig is in Belgium. in the middle of nowhere. I pick up a James Ellroy novel at the Duty Free book shop and fall asleep after three pages. I repeat this process... 10 hours later we get to the gig. After load in we attack the rider—I fall asleep on the couch. I wake up and lie there with my eyes closed while Winston riffs on Bob Dylan, as in: "ah Š WinnieŠ I hope Chuck likes that guitar I bought him - ah... he never MENtions it." this riffing goes on and on... and the talk evolves into the possibility of opening Dylan shows. Winston carries on narrating what he imagines to be my dreams. Me still horizontal on coach—eyes closed. Winston (in his best Dylan voice) ah... hey... ah... I wanna give you these keys to your new bus.. ah... I can't have Chuck riding around in that old van... ah... It's not SAFE...." Hilarious.
We check into the hotel after loading out. I am really starting to feel the road rash - felt like a caged animal on stage tonight. stage so small—Not able to move around—- Forces me to stand in one place. knees fucked. It's all beginning to wear me out. Stephie whispers in my ear on After the Rain "get it together, wake up dude" Still somehow beats a day off. The gig pulls through. Why complain? Unless of course, it makes ya feel better.
Hotel—We get our keys to our rooms from the night clerk. Stephie and I trudge up to the fifth floor and key card is fucked. I go back down to the lobby all the while thinking - okay-if I go to sleep now I'll get 4 or five hours - if not? Hard to say. I bring up a brand new key-card after watching her wrestle with the computer program. It still doesn't work - we repeat this process a couple more times.. up and down the elevator. GIVE ME A PASS KEY NOW PLEASE. Clerk obsessed now with computer program. Been there—know the feeling. please let go! GIVE ME A PASS KEY NOW PLEASE. All my E Mail entries are centered around how much sleep i get. there's so much more...
Back to the gig. Belgium has some of the most beautifully designed venues in the world. We play the gig and I notice that after Max tweaked my nine string guitar-it's beginning to hold it's tuning all through the gig. Nothing worse that pausing for 5 minutes to tune all nine strings of the damn thing mid set. Boy, these people like to smoke. Mmmm... chocolate bars filled with banana cream. This is living. A good night.
After gig, young man from opening act (something box?). is blown away —can barely talk... so many questions. Really thrilled to see us play. Says, "That's how I imagine a real American bar to be like. People drinking beer, swaying to the music. I felt like I was transported to a Texas road house—Belgian audiences never get that excited..."
Heading out to France. I notice a car on the motorway with a surf board on a rack. Strange.
France (awesome venue. best sound yet. career highlight meal.—in the AM, Winston takes train to meet up with sweetheart Gretchen who's flying in for a couple of days. Drive 10 hours to Brussels.
day off Brussels—Sheraton hotel. AT&T has now officially cut me off. Gotta work that out. Check E Mail..
Waffles for breakfast (Naturally). Batteries charged up.
Day Off Amsterdam—Jump train to main square and take in a movie with Stephie and Max. Walk back. Italian meal.