After Dan’s ‘needs more information’ call on the Natural History Museum, it suddenly dawned on me that I’d never seen dinosaurs. And for someone who was part of an historic moment, when we managed to convince one Mr D. Chitwood esq. of their very existence, despite his protestations that the skeletons are all fake, the footprints in the riverbeds just plain don’t make sense (‘It’s a RIVERBED. It’s WET. WATER. WASHES. THINGS. AWAY!’), and in fact the whole thing is just some elaborate scheme designed to make us think……something…….
Well it seemed a bit wrong. I’ve lived my whole life presuming the existence of Dinosaurs is true, and yet I’d never even been to see the truth. Then again I presume that David Attenborough exists, and I’ve never seen him in real life, fossilised or otherwise, either. But still. He’s not hung in a museum. Yet. I should note that this point that D. Chitwood, while not entirely sold on the whole Dinosaur idea, does believe in space aliens, and calls bigmacs ‘sandwiches’. And I say that as a compliment to the man, who is and remains a Veils legend, despite that one evening over sushi in Oklahoma City where it looked like our relationship might come to a sticky end. We came through. We prospered. The Natural History museum turned out to be a whole lot more than just dinosaurs. I took a lot of photos. And we didn’t even get to go to the new bit that’s a big white coccoon full of dead butterflies, because it was too busy. I was actually stunningly excited by it. It’s exciting! The doubt came later. Meanwhile, look! A big dead old fish! Big! Dead! Old!
Like an armadillo! Supersized! Also dead!
Stegosaurus is my favourite dinosaur. Who knows why. Raptors have the cool, TRex has the cachet, even Diplodocus is respectable due to sheer size and neckiness. But Steggy….I dunno. I just always liked it best.
It was when we got to the animatronic bit that things went a bit weird. I was gazing up at the TRex, which I didn’t get photos of. It was large. It was greeny grey. It made a noise. Hell, it moved. And I was weirdly genuinely a bit scared. Actually. Of a robot. But I was standing there looking at it, and I found myself thinking…….really? I mean…..REALLY? Look at the thing! Its arms don’t reach its mouth. If it falls down….it DIES. It’s enormous. It’s about the most ridiculous looking thing I’ve ever seen. And just for a second, I could see exactly where Dave Chitwood was coming from. It just didn’t seem likely. It seemed……unlikely. I guess it’s how Christians must feel when tsunamis happen. It was a bit scary. I doubted the world, for a moment. But the models of nests were cute as hell though.
And then, wandering through the rest of the museum I realised - in a slightly childish way I spose, but I guess doubt made me a kid again. Anything was possible, for a second - it’s not just the TRex that is ridiculous. It’s everything. The THINGS THAT LIVE OR HAVE LIVED ON THIS PLANET. Who needs the unicorn and the jackalope when you have the giant golden mole.
IT HAS NO EYES. NO EYES.
TRex vs Pygmy Shrew: stupidly tiny is just as stupid as stupidly big.
Oh you know. I was a bit proud. It’s not as though they had EVERYTHING.
'Absolutely delicious, apparently.'
I have a bunch more photos but I should also write something about what happened when we went to Haarlem last weekend, and I didn’t really get any photos of that. So I could intersperse photos of hummingbirds with stories about that, which kind of works, in my head. There was a certain nectar imbibing atmosphere. Or, there was right up until that girl got topless and covered her tits in gaffer tape. How’s THAT for a cliffhanger?
I guess almost two months ago now, I was in San Francisco. Dai and I had spent the morning meandering around the city, I’d navigated us to a series of dead ends with great views in the search for a secondhand bookshop, made him try bubble tea and we then seated ourselves in a chinese diner for a lunch that we spent most of discussing vegetarianism. I’m anti, he’s pro, and he managed to work me deftly around to a point where I admitted that I might in theory eat Goebbels.
Dai had never been on tour before. He handled the whole experience with dignity and aplomb, but occasionally I would catch him with a look in his eyes like someone had nudged him toward the edge of the diving board overlooking the deep end of the ocean. We talked a bit about what it’s like, as a thing to do, and I started yapping on, something about after a while it’s all just one day after another, no matter how amazing those days are… He stopped me.
'You can't be used to this’
But I am. We are. I remember the first times we went out and everything was surreal, and notable. Now, everything is still surreal, and I’m clearly still doing a lot of noting, but it’s…..normal. This is what life is. My knees used to shake as I walked on the stage, and now they don’t.
What I said to Dai was that humans get used to everything. I guess it’s how people become wankers. One minute you’re astounded that your mum and your ten best friends are coming to your show, the next you’re throwing a strop about the flavour of vitamin water the promoter has provided in your dressing room. I’d like to note for the record that we have no preference in vitamin water flavour, but we are asked by promoters whether we would prefer our water at room temperature or chilled often enough that clearly some people are indeed very specific in their requirements as far as beverages go.
And we do get pretty uppity, at times. Not that we yell at anyone or anything. Dan just mutters darkly to himself for a bit and then goes to the bar. He’s great at throwing rock star strops, actually, it’s just that he’s careful to throw them when there’s nobody around but us to see. He’s famous for his strops, in fact. Like the time he walked out of a restaurant because the menu was laminated. But I don’t think that’s because he’s a rock star. He’s apparently been doing it since birth. Not over laminated menus. Just about everything.
The upshot of all this adaptation is, in our case, I hope, not so much wankery as just really, really, a lot of whingeing when things aren’t going smoothly. We know we have a charmed life. But it’s still our life. And some times are better than others. The addition of Raife to the mix hasn’t helped with this. Henning isn’t a whinger. So when the three of us would be griping for africa, he’d be the smiling face on the affair. Unfortunately, his many other excellent qualities aside, Raife, when it comes to complaining, outdoes all of us.
Rehearsal Studio, London, 4pm, September 3rd
'Hey. Ollie's plane's delayed. BA again.'
'Everyone needs to stop flying BA.'
'It's okay though, we can pick him up in Hammersmith once we've loaded the gear. And we're not too late.'
'I need to buy a power adaptor.'
'There's a maplins in Hammersmith.'
'Better call them and see if they have one.'
…….’They’re saying that no such thing exists’
'Dan bought one from Maplins in Queensway yesterday.'
'…….no I DONT KNOW HOW MANY MILLIAMPS…….What's it FOR?….It's for a footpedal….for a guita-…..no, no, EIGHTEEN VOLTS……for a guitar……………………..it's for a lorry. Yep. Need it to power my lorry…………yep…..yep I'll pick it up……in the lorry. Can I park my lorry outside?….Yep. Bye.'
'They got one?'
'How'd they handle the bit about the lorry?'
'Didn't seem to even notice I'd said it.'
West London, 6pm
'Why are we still in the same neighbourhood we were in two hours ago?'
'Power adaptor and BA.'
'Lucky we're getting the boat.'
'Where are we getting the boat from?'
'How long does it take?'
'The train takes twenty'
'But the boat allows for us being late.'
'SO DOES THE TRAIN….God I'm cranky.'
'Why are we all so cranky?'
'I blame BA.'
'Hey, it's the natural history museum!'
'God, I really need to go there.'
'You should, I went there the other week'
'How was it?'
'I wanted there to be more information.'
Dan Raishbrook: in a sentence.
* * *
'Where are we now?'
By way of light entertainment I related some choice excerpts from an article I’d read on the guardian online, purporting to be Pixie Lott’s diary. Why the guardian cares to publish Pixie Lott’s diary as written by her machine I’m not sure, but she features suspiciously regularly, not to mention a dubious ‘gardening’ feature some weeks ago where all manner of random quasi up and comers talked about what their gardens were like, or not like, in the case of some who didn’t actually have gardens but would quite like to have one. There’s nothing like buying a paper generally regarded as being one of the more scholarly or at least well spelled and reading about how poor Miquita Oliver would LIKE to have some vegetables but hasn’t really gotten around to planting any on her Hoxton roof terrace…..
Anyway, Pixie Lott’s diary was a new low. But in terms of finding something to get good and irate about when you’ve been driving round london in rush hour for three hours, let off some steam as it were, the paragraph
‘I’m professional and serious. It’s not about the pursuit of fun or fame, it’s about the music. I want to be a good role model. But I’m not squeaky-clean. That’s not me at all. It’s important to keep a happy medium’
comes in super handy.
'And then she goes on about how she'll never forget where she came from or lose touch with her old friends!'
Dan: ‘I can’t wait til I’m so famous I can lose touch with all my friends.’
'There's a delay.'
'What KIND of delay.'
'The french might be on strike.'
'Oh no, wait, it's because of the weather.'
'THERES NO WEATHER IN THE TUNNEL. THIS IS BULLSHIT.'
He stormed off to the burger king with Finn.
'Pick n Mix?'
'What are you carrying?'
'A desk fan.'
'A desk fan.'
'Dan dared me to steal the biggest thing in the shop.'
'And it was a desk fan.'
'It's a foot high. Now I just need to steal a desk. Oh and I got this porno, as well.'
'Giz a sweet then.'
'Finn, are there any other kinds of sweets in here or just one?'
'IT'S CALLED PICK AND MIX. MIX.'
'They're my favourites.'
'Fuck it, give me the porno. When can we get on this fucking boat?'
'Um…..some time after eleven.'
'We're getting up at seven tomorrow, aren't we?'
'Yep.”What time will be get to the hotel?'
'How's the porno?'
'Dunno yet, I haven't seen everyone in it.'
'Why the hell not?'
'I'm READING IT.'
Checking into a hotel in Gent, Brussels, 3am.
'Can we maybe push that 7am lobby call back a bit?'
'A bit…..shall we say 7.45?'
Midday, Haarlingen, Netherlands
'The boat isn't leaving til two.'
'I never want to catch another boat. Ever.'
'Least we can nap in the van til then.'
'It's really cold.'
'And it looks like it's about to start raining.'
'There's an icecream shop over there. You want one?'
'Yeah I guess it's a family festival kind of thing.'
'You know, Dutch people dress their kids really well. I don't see a shred of pastel pink.'
'And nobody under ten is wearing anything anyone would wear to a nightclub.'
'I'm quite impressed.'
'It's nice to take them to a festival, as well.'
'Yeah. Though they're all totally gonna get colds.'
'Yeah. This weather is…..not good.'
'Maybe we're playing indoors?'
Vlieland Island, 4pm
We were greeted by a very tall person in a rabbit suit and two smaller people in chicken suits. This was cheering. There was a DJ by the dock. It actually worked, in terms of giving you the instant impression that you had arrived where the party was. Though maybe that was his outfit.
There was a ragtag assortment of people dancing, in distinctly unfriendly dancing weather. Some people with children. The children seemed happy. Then I heard the song.
'Um, are those lyrics what I think they are?'
'If you think it's PUT YOUR ASS ON MY FACE/I LOVE THE WAY YOUR PUSSY TASTES then yes, yes they are.'
'Look, the kids don't understand.'
Nobody seemed to mind. We left penguin man to his unsound playlist choices and headed for a garage where we figured someone would tell us what to do. Pony!
’You want to pat the pony, don’t you.’
I patted the pony. We stood in the garage. Despite this blog as a whole already containing more than enough information about my teeth, it’s worth adding this little nugget to the mix. Today I had root canal #2 of 2009. Let’s not get into causes, just suffice it to say that the week before Vlieland had been spent picking my way along a delicate path of discovery vis a vis which melange of antibiotics and two kinds of painkillers at which doses kept me sane. A foot over on either side of the line and I was either a snarling painbeast or too doped up to be useful. By friday I’d gotten a handle on it, the only real requirement being that I did not under any circumstances put any pressure whatsoever on the dodgy tooth.
'So, I need to get warm.'
'Don't we all.'
'No, you don't understand. I can't start shivering.'
'If my teeth chatter, all hell's going to break loose.'
* * *
'You know what?'
'I'm actually cheering up.'
'Yeah me too.'
'Is it wrong that it was that DJ playing that song to all those kids in a penguin costume that did it?'
'Do we have a ride?'
'Um….there's a van there, but I think it's full.'
The pier emptied. Soon, we were the only ones left. As it turned out, the bad weather delay at Haarlingen had meant that the Great Wide Open festival organisers had run short on vans, as all the ‘talent’ had arrived at once. We were unsure what to do. But a woman arrived and pointed us in the direction of a bus stop.
'Are we catching a public bus?'
'To a festival we're headlining?'
'We're not headlining, Múm are.'
'Whatever. I better not have to stand.'
But he still gave up his seat for a woman with a kid who got on later.The bus driver dropped us off at our hotel. Which was LOVELY. Vlieland, actually, is a properly lovely place, and I’d like to go back sometime when I’m not cranky and getting rained on. Or, getting rained on but with the option to stay inside and watch MTV with a cup of tea and a sugar waffle. Here’s the view from our room.
Plus, the whole place is covered in cranberry bushes, which I had never seen before and thus seemed very exotic.
'They're going to pick us up here at six, for dinner and to go to the festival.'
And bang on six a girl called Lily arrived. She was very sweet and apologised for the public bus incident as though aware that some sort of international law of rocknroll prohibited contact with the public. Then again, it’s for their own good.
'I've never driven a van before so I hope we make it there!'
She was fine. There’s only one road on Vlieland, and behind our hotel was a large stables and horsecart garage, which implied that traffic was rarely heavy or quick moving.
We ate. It was raining. It carried on raining. Our dressing room was a spacious yellow tent with a rug on the floor. It was watertight. In there, you could relax on a vintage sofa, do your makeup and, like the Marie Antoinette of indie bass players, forget about the troubles of the people.
Of course, at some point, you have to go on stage.
The thing is, we were a bit cold. A bit damp. But there were people outside who had been there for quite some time.They didn’t have a yellow tent.Or a hotel. Or a bottle of Jameson.
It’s such times that myths are made of. I guess because if you don’t make it great, then you’ve stood in the rain for nothing.
And sure enough it was kickass. You could even say that Larkspur is MEANT to be played in the face of torrential rain to a dark mass of plastic sheathed heads. I hope it made standing in the rain worthwhile. Finn gifted the Jameson to someone, Dan biffed his violin bow into the crowd, and we felt thoroughly cheered up. What penguin man had started, the people on Vlieland finished.
We didn’t stay to watch Múm. We bugged out for a session in a resturant. The restaurant was half full of film crew and musicians, and the other half full of genuine patrons looking bemused. One older woman came up to Raife and told him she’d always wanted to be in a band. He suggested she jump in.
There were too many toys for people who’d been in a tent all day to leave alone. Finn borrowed someone’s string players and did some songs while the rest of us fiddled with a beautifully carved chess set and eyed up the petits fours on vacated tables. I don’t know if the session will be on the net, but I think it probably will, and if at some point you hear a loud CLUNK that’s me dropping a pawn and going fishing for it under a desk. Oh, and you may be able to hear Dan, at one point, saying loudly and clearly ‘THAT CELLIST’S REALLY GOOD.’ Which he was, by the way.
Back in the hotel we discovered that we were in possession of a DVD of the evening’s performance. I try not to watch too much, because all it does is make me cringe about what a poser I am.
Finn: ‘At least you don’t look disgusting all the time like I do.’
'You don't look disgusting!'
Raife: ‘I look disgusting. And Dan looks like Chas and Dave.’
'It sucks that you can't wear a jacket with a hood on stage without looking like a douche.'
Though of course what you look like is totally not the point. Totally. Not the point. It’s nice to look nice though, isn’t it. Oh fine, we’re dicks.
In the morning we went out to catch the bus. The bus drove right past us. We were at the bus stop. We thought that was signal enough. But we made it to the boat in the end. The weather even seemed to be clearing, and the ferry ride back was pretty.
Also, this is an awesome dog. It was in the ferry building wreaking havoc, in a good way.
We made it home. Yesterday I went to the Chelsea Art School MA show and discovered that Chinese bakeries make the best sponge cake. It was a sort of last dance, cos this morning my dentist, whom sadly I know well enough to adore, was out the back of my mouth with a drill and a needle. And now I am two dead teeth in a mouthful of live ones I straight up just don’t trust anymore. Live by the cake, die by the cake I suppose.
Dan Finn and I are drinking coffee in the early morning haze of Heathrow terminal 5 (officially the most badly planned airport terminal in history), having just gotten off a plane from New York. Raife had for some reason caught a different flight from New York, that routed through Philadelphia. We’d seen him at JFK, but who knew where he was now. Some people still had hangovers. Some people didn’t even have hangovers yet. Some people had spent the previous evening, our Bell House show, interfacing with, variously, a policeman, some bins, a crepe stand, and a fast asleep middle aged woman in her own home in the middle of the night in a case of mistaken identity. Back on home soil, we were pale, we were hungry, we’d left a significant amount of stuff in the van, and it was now en route back to Seattle. We were SANS DRE…..
Costa coffee and home for a nap then. Over the last couple of days of the tour I had the following conversation with several members of Foreign Born at different times.
'Hey, what are you guys doing after this tour finishes?'
'Going home and th-'
'-You should shift your flights! We're all going up to stay with Matt's family on Martha's Vineyard! You should come, it's gonna be awesome, we're just gonna chill and eat nice food and swim and stuff.'
'We're going to Portugal the day after we get back for a festival.'
The thing was, we hadn’t really been thinking about it. A tour is a bubble, and whatever you have going on after it is impossible to see clearly. The idea of more touring seems not so much a good idea as an inevitability. You know it’s out there, but it’s distant.
Except sometimes it isn’t.
And so we found ourselves back at Heathrow less than 24 hours later.
August 6th, 6am:
I hadn’t washed anything except my hair, and the only changes to our state from the last month were currency, weather, and that it was Nick in the driver’s seat. A man called Patch doing sound. We hadn’t met Patch before. Poor old Patch.
'I need a coffee.'
'Yeah me too.'
'No, I NEED one.'
'I slept from 1 til 7…..then 9 til 5'
'Yeah I did thirteen hours.'
'You lucky bastards. I didn't.'
'Maybe a couple hours.'
Finn Andrew’s sleeping patterns: reliably sadistic.
'Where are we going?'
'Why are we going at five in the morning?'
'I'm sure there's a reason.
'What the fuck are you wearing?'
'It's the only thing that was clean.'
'The only clean shirt you had was a bright orange one with Reeses Butter Cups on it.'
'You look like you're trying to attract children.'
'YOU like Reeses.'
'I'm not WEARING THE SHIRT.'
It became handy later on, when he was easy to spot in crowds. Or clouds of smoke. The flight was event free. As I get older I get more and more skittish about flying. My mum’s afraid of flying and I used to think she was ridiculous, sitting whiteknuckled through the takeoff as I gleefully bounced up and down. You’d think the more you fly the less nervy you get. I’m not finding that to be the case. Someone was telling me the other day they were on a plane when a girl had a full blown panicking freakout, and they took her away. I mean, clearly they didn’t take her far, given that it’s a plane. I guess they must have an area for emergency cases. Maybe a stungun. I pray I will never be that girl. Anyway.
'What's Portugal gonna be like, d'you think?'
'I think it's going to be like Spain but more…relaxed.'
'Less theft, you mean?'
Forty minutes wait at the oversize baggage carousel and the vein in Dan’s forehead was pounding.
'Is this what you meant by relaxed?'
He gets a sort of eerie calm on, sometimes. Short sentences. Gritted teeth.
'I can see our guitars. I can see them. They're at the bottom of that ramp. Down the conveyor belt. Right there. There's a man. There's a man right there with them. DRINKING A COFFEE. A COFFEE. HE'S PROBABLY GOT ONE OF THOSE CUSTARD TARTS TOO.'
We got out in the end, and were met by very friendly men. 'So, we will drop you at the hotel, and you can get some lunch, and then when you are ready, we can go to the festival, is that okay?'
'Yeah that sounds cool.'
'How far away is the hotel?'
'Oh only five minutes.'
You get a sense for it after a while. You can see openings. Like a jockey, or a florist. Our eyes lit up, like in cartoons with dollar signs, but with NAP.
'What time do we play?'
'At nine pm'
The light was shining brighter and brighter. 'And how far is the festival site, from the hotel?' 'Oh it is…..maybe three hundred kilometers?' Lights out.
I don’t even remember anything we were saying. I don’t remember much of the early part of the day at all, except that I was aware we were acting a little strangely, and all trying really hard not to be dicks to anyone we didn’t know. Our social barriers had been destroyed by a month on the road, and instead of having some time to gradually rebuild them, we’d been thrust onto an unsuspecting Portugal…and Patch…
'Am I being a dick?'
'What do you mean?'
'Like, the festival guys, they're really nice and stuff, and I want to be nice to them but….I don't know….how.'
'Don't worry. Just try and be nice to Patch.'
'We're normally really nice, I swear. Everyone LOVES us.'
He nodded. But we could tell he didn’t believe it for a second.
We thought we were doing okay, til we finished lunch and Nick, who did Europe with us, knows us as well as anyone, and isn’t a man to throw an unnecessary punch, sat back in his chair, lit a cigarette and pronounced
'You know, I've NEVER seen you lot this unhinged.'
* * *
'Do you know what I really hope?'
'I hope this van that's taking us to the festival….I hope it's not, like, full of other bands.'
'Jesus, I hadn't even thought of that.'
'Yeah well, least we've got Mr Reeses to make friends on our behalf.'
'I just think it's best that we stay as far away from other people as we can.'
'I wanna go to sleep. That's all.'
'It's gonna be fine. We're playing a lovely festival!'
'Okay. You're right.'
We climbed into the van, and set out, driven at speed by a young man in a baseball cap. I dozed, with my cardigan over my knees to fend off a little of the glacial blast of air conditioning that Dan and Raife had insisted upon.
Dan, leaning over the seat.
'Could we please do a bathroom stop?'
We pulled over at a service station. I jumped out and headed for the snacks. The queue was massive. Raife has this theory about service station queues. He reckons if they’re too long then they EXPECT you to walk out with your water and your chocolate bar. Nobody else was in the car, which was probably a good thing, because it was on fire.
Properly. With flames.
I stood there a moment.
'Our van is on fire.' I thought.
'My stuff is in there.'I thought.
'Shit.' I thought.
It’s interesting to find out how you behave in emergencies. Turns out I’m a complete coward. Did I run for a fire extinguisher? Did I fuck. I ran straight into the services to try to find someone else to handle the situation.
'RAIFE! THE VAN'S ON FIRE!'
'It caught fire right as we got out. You didn't notice.'
Too focused on snacks. Sure enough, when I’d gone out there, I’d just seen the interval where people had gone off to find a fire extinguisher, and by the time I came back there was all sorts of action.
'Patch got all our stuff out.'
'Lucky the guitars are in that other truck.'
That’s me and Raife in the background. Let’s move in a little closer to see what we really thought.
Fire may be scary, but that is indeed a chocolate bar I am eating.
Dan: ‘So…..how did this happen?’
'It's just the engine, it overheated I guess.'
'So, if I hadn't asked for that stop…..it would've happened while we were driving?'
'I've saved our lives.'
'Well….you've made it at least a lot less of an unpleasant experience.'
'Good job, little Reeses.'
The firemen came. And it dawned on us.
'So, we try to do something without Dre….and we GO ON FIRE.'
'Well in terms of times to go on fire, this is probably the best time it could happen.'
'True. We're not late, the gear's in a different van, it's not our van that's on fire, not our driver…this isn't our problem!'
'Anyone want an icecream?'
'Go on. Cornetto.'
A new van was procured and driven at light speed from Lisbon. We settled in. The whole episode had fit in nicely with our mental state.
We arrived at our digs for the day, a lovely cabin full of lovely snacks, and a massive stage covered in just the sort of amps we like to use.
'This is nice.'
'We've got soundcheck in an hour.'
'But we're on at nine!'
'Yeah but there's nobody before us. So we get ages.'
People party late, in portugal, it seems.’
'Cool that we get a soundcheck though, seeing as they're not our amps.'
* * *
'Um, excuse me? This amp doesn't seem to be….working?'
'It's okay, we have others.'
* * *
'Um…this one isn't either…'
I gazed across the expanse of stage. Everyone else was busy down the back. So I was the first to notice. I yelled, but in a calm way.
'YOUR PIANO'S ON FIRE.'
Smoke was pouring out between the keys of the keyboard. It was quite pretty, actually. It was also completely surreal. Nothing’s ever gone on fire before. Never a van. Never a piano. And not both on the same day. It was a powersurge issue. It got sorted. We got another piano.In Portugal they keep a lot of spares to hand.
A girl had travelled from Siberia to see the show and bring us a Matryoshka doll. Seriously. She WINS.
'Well, if we play and nothing goes on fire, then I'm counting it a success.'
And it was, but more than that. It was awesome fun. Portugal RULES.
'I dunno. Everything might go really wrong.'
'We can go have dinner.'
There were two dinner tents. We got kicked out of one, it turned out to be the crew one, and sent to the artist one.
'I wanna eat in the other tent. I don't want Chilli, or Thai curry. I want big slabs of portugese meat.'
'Soph I'm sure they'll let you if you really want.'
'I'm gonna go ask.'
'Bring us back some stuff?'
'Uh, excuse me…?'
'Um….can I….can I eat in here instead?'
'You wanna eat in here! You want Portugese food!'
The man in charge looked at me like I was some kind of rare insect and he was an insect collector.
'I make you somehing really special!'
'No no…I just want…..what's here, if that's okay?'
'Of course! Of course!'
I don’t know why I repeat this story. It was just really cute. I loaded up a series of plates with charred pig and grilled fish and salad and headed back to the castle. Dan was shouting again.
'THIS IS MY BEST FRIEND! YOU GUYS KNOW I DONT HAVE MANY FRIENDS!'
'You don't have any friends.'
'EXACTLY. I'M FUSSY, AND THIS IS MY BEST FRIEND!'
His new best friend was our portugese minder. He’d been with us during all the fires, and just generally been pretty awesome throughout the day. He and Dan looked to be heading for quite the evening. We went and watched The National.
I’d never seen nor heard them before. I liked it, a LOT. Enough to tell them so.
'Um, hi, I really liked your set.'
'Oh thanks! Hey, we got given this bottle of tequila, and none of us are drinking tonight, so we were thinking you guys might like it.'
'Really? That's so nice.'
'Oh it's okay.'
That’s how nice The National are. Seriously, seriously nice. Nobody gives away tequila. It was Patron, which Dre hates, but we’re uncultured shmucks from Europe so we thought it was a pretty awesome gift.
'Anyone want some tequila?'
'No, me neither. But it was such a nice gift!'
All in all the day had ended up kind of amazing. And utterly fitting to the state we were in. Happy and charred.
The drive back to the hotel took place on pitch black roads. I was dreaming a little when I realised we were stopping.
'Are we on fire?'
'Why are we stopping?'
'Um….Dan's friend is in the car behind us with the guitars and he's…..feeling a bit…….'
We pulled over at the service station opposite the one we’d been on fire at. Dan’s friend was walking in parabolic loops.
'Dan what did you DO to him?'
'Nothing. He did it.'
To the hotel. To sleep.
* * *
We were on the plane home just after takeoff and I was drifting into a doze when something woke me up. I didn’t want to mention it. If you mention something it becomes real. Maye nobody else could smell it.
Finn turned around from the row in front.
'Can you smell…. burning?'
'…….yeah I can.'
'What do we do?'
'I'm calling the stewardess.'
'This….is this ACTUALLY HAPPENING?'
'Yeah I think it is.'
'Um…..there's a smell of……burning.'
I don’t know what we looked like. Things come in threes. The stewardess could smell it too. With a vaguely worried air, like ‘worried but not wanting to worry the passengers’ she vanished.
She was back in a moment.
'The oven for the meals in the first class cabin has overheated and burned some meals, and the smell is coming through the air vents. There's nothing to worry about.'
We’ve driven past it, always. I’m going to take it as read that most people reading this know why we’re interested.
'Why do we always have to drive PAST'
'Yeah it's frustrating as hell.'
'I can see the docks! I can see the docks!'
'You guys wanna go to Baltimore, huh.'
He took the exit. Of course.
I don’t know. It does feel…it feels a little like exploitative tourism. To want to go and see. And then THAT feeling makes me feel bad for feeling it. It’s not as though Cheers fans, visiting the REAL CHEERS BAR (it’s in Boston) feel, or should feel, like they’re exploiting the drinkers.
But there it was. It felt a bit weird. Didn’t stop us, but it felt a bit weird.
I wrote a bit about what I thought about Baltimore when I first wrote this post, but it was hard, to say what I thought without sounding ridiculously trite, or just stupid, or cynical, or like I was passing judgement in some way. So I deleted it and thought maybe just the pictures were better. I’ve never seen anything like it in England, but I suppose that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Or, some aspect of it. It’s idiotic to think it’s just Baltimore, or Detroit, or Moss Side. It’s not as though they’re bubbles. You know. They’re concentrations of something that’s everywhere, the same way Mayfair is, or Malibu. Seems kind of…..I dunno. Strange, I guess, to think that comparing Manchester to Baltimore is going to get the attention, when surely the thing that’s shocking is the thing itself, and that doesn’t need to be an analogy to deserve attention, surely. I don’t know. I’m talking again. I’ll stop.
It’s what we do. But they’ve taken the weird reverse mirror down from the bathroom.And the food IS kinda expensive. It’s a good tuna melt….but is it a nine dollar tuna melt? But it’s right round the corner from the Mercury.And you can always get that big table in the corner.And it’s What We Do.
We’re not taking our twice yearly patronage elsewhere. But Pink Pony may, from now on, just handle the coffees.
Enter…. LA ESQUINA. Dre, obviously. Always Dre.
You could kinda take the whole Pink Pony/La Esquina thing as a metaphor for our American tour in general. This time around, everything a little busier. A little more neon. More spice. More fun. Louder. A little less guardian travel guide. A certain…..colour, and confidence…. In short….a little more mexican. Or maybe just more truly American. Something was appearing, that we had only glimpsed before. And unlike many things, that look nice from a distance, shrouded in fog, and turn out to be a bin with a plastic bag hanging off it, this thing just gets more beautiful the more of it you can see.
Raife had eaten at La Esquina before. Something something wild eyed tooth gnashing something baby back ribs and fish tacos howl of delight.
And yet it wasn’t a fish taco that sealed the deal. It was no myserious marinade. No subtle smoky spice. It was something very simple. Like how the first person who mixed chocolate and peanut butter was doing something very simple. And yet….
Dan had it in Portland from a street vendor. Appeared in the dressing room with his face covered in cheese flecks and chilli smears. Raving. We didn’t really pay attention at the time, mostly because Dan, being vegetarian, knows sod all about Things That Taste Amazing.
It’s easy to make. Make it, eat it, and I swear to god, you won’t have a meal without it again for at least a week. Someone commented once about how I go on about food all the time. I know I do. I like to cook. And on tour there are only a few things that happen:
Everything else is incidental. The food and the venue are the only things that really vary. And I never could write about shows properly. Besides! Recipes are handy! So. MEXICAN CORN. If anyone is more practised than me at making this, then please do weigh in, I just did what I presumed to be the process, with one tip from Dre, and it’s not as good as La Esquina’s YET, but it’s good, and I suspect the mexican cheese makes a difference.
GET YOUR CORN. WHOLE COBS. NONE OF THIS HALF COB SAINSBURYS NONSENSE. A barbeque is ideal, but I don’t have one or an area in which to use it, unless I start doing it in the living room, which I’ve done before during an interlude in my youth when three people Incapable Of Dealing With Admin Who Were Blessed With Can-do Spirit And A Tolerance For Adversity lived in a house together, with the inevitable consequence that we ended up with no power, no phone, a dead bird nailed to the wall, a severely blocked sink and a full size gas barbeque in the living room. It’s not the complete disaster you’d think it would be, but it’s Not Ideal. Stick to the grill, if you’re backyardless.
Soak your corn in water for about ten minutes. You can leave the husks on or remove them. I think husks on would work well on the barbeque, but under the grill it seems safer to strip em. Those hairy bits seem pretty flammable. Like all hairy bits. You will need
Mexican cheese OR Parmesen OR a mixture of Parmesen/Cheddar/Feta.
As your tastes go.
Chilli powder (Though I’ve been using spicy spanish paprika with good effect)
Grill your corn until it is slightly browned in bits but not dried out. I do a bit of butter basting. While it’s grilling grate some cheese. Cut yourself some lime wedges. Get the top off the mayo, if it’s sticky. Remove from heat and allow to cool until you can hold onto it comfortably - warm to the touch but not hot. This is important, so the cheese doesn’t melt.
Once it’s cooled, grab onto it and paint it with mayo. If you’ve got one of those pastry brushes I’m sure thats very handy, but I just sorta smear it on with a spoon and my hands. You don’t want it to be thickly coated, just a thin, semi-even layer.
Sprinkle it with the cheese. Again, a light but full coating.
Dust with a little chilli powder. Squeeze of lime.
THIS IS THE SECRET OF DELICIOUSNESS.
Dan would tell you that cheese is always the secret of deliciousness.
That was what we did before Mercury Lounge. We ate corn. Also Ceviche, and tacos, and watermelon juice (Finn: ‘This is amazing! It’s like having watermelon without the irritating parts!’) and many other wonderful things. As soon as we left we were planning to go back and eat corn again, which we did, a few days later.
But that’s for later.
Mercury was pretty good fun. We ended up on the street, where I got involved in a conversation with a tramp about souls. It’s a really good angle for people to take, when they’re wanting money from you, the whole ‘I can see that you have a beautiful soul’ angle. Works a charm on me, anyway. I go all ‘Really? Well clearly if you, Mr Slow Motion, can see it, then it must be true! I do indeed have a beautiful soul! Thank you for telling me so! How can I in turn improve your evening?’ And it’s only after they leave that I get around to feeling that ‘he probably says that to all the girls’ feeling of slight usedness. But it was a nice conversation all the same. Plus there are few times when you feel more like a cock than when you’ve just had people applauding in your direction for an hour and you refuse to help out a tramp.
Besides, when we’d first parked at Mercury lounge, we had all refused the advances of a different guy, who promptly told us to go fuck ourselves and threatened to slash our tyres. New York: even the tramps are balls-out. So it was kind of nice to rebuild my faith a little.
Someone once told me it was illegal to give money to street people in the Netherlands, because there is a system in place that they’re meant to use that’s funded by the government. I’d think that was harsh but come to think of it I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a homeless person in the Netherlands, and they do seem to have a lot of things pretty sorted, so maybe it’s okay.
We ended up at Max Fish. I was a little end of my tethery. Relief at not screwing up the show mixing with end of tour exhaustion. So I bailed, only to realise I’d forgotten to tell Dai, who was meant to be staying where I was, that I was going.
And I had one of those thoughts end of tours seem to breed, like the ‘fireworks in the suitcase’ initiative.
Earlier this year, Ericka and I were both reading the same book. It’s a really good book. It’s based in Boston. Late LAST year, I spent a month shuttling back and forth between New York and Boston while I waited for my new UK work permit to arrive. In fact, I’m almost Bostonian, in that my parents moved me there as a baby, and I lived there until I was six. My sister, to my intense irritation, was lucky enough to be born there and possess that magical beast, the American Passport.
But I don’t really know Boston at all. I know parts of it. My Great Aunt, my Father, and assorted family outposts still exist, but I’ve never spent enough time there to get to know it properly. And the shows we play there always seem to be ones where we arrive 20 minutes before soundcheck and leave directly afterward. This one was no exception, we left before Foreign Born even finished due to an arrangement in New York the next morning. So in lieu of a proper Boston entry, but in order to give a town I owe my tendency to call sticking plasters ‘band aids’ and my early New Zealand school spelling tests being blemished by my failure to include the letter ‘U’ in ‘colour’, some kind of homage, I’m going to tell a story.
It’s a story all of my friends know (which is lucky, given what happens later), and it’s about my father. I’ve heard him tell it a bunch of times, to various people. It’s something he’s quite proud of. And actually, I’m quite proud too.
It’s worth noting at this point that I come from a family of grammar police. If there’s one thing I remember about being a kid it’s telling my Mum some vastly exciting story about something ‘me and Steph did’ only to have her pause me in the middle and say, in a nice way, but say all the same; ‘Steph and I.’ I get angry about apostrophes. Dan gets angry about my apostrophe stance, in that, if you are apostrophe minded, you’ll notice I leave them out on occasion. My utterly illogical position on the matter is that it doesn’t MATTER if you leave them out. But show me a ‘TAXI’S’ sign, and I’ll go apeshit. My grammar is imperfect, is my point. But they tried.
You know how in supermarkets, there is a line for people not buying much? A sort of express line? And that line is marked by a sign?
That sign usually says
TEN ITEMS OR LESS
Well, the story goes. My father objected to this. After all, it’s supposed to be TEN ITEMS OR FEWER (my mum, in my head: ‘Less is for volume, fewer is for number’).
Some people might note it. Some of those people might let it be mildly irritating. Some of THOSE people might mutter darkly to themselves or a friend. After all, it’s not that hard to get a sign right. And surely the extra two letter signwriting fee isn’t the issue. One man took it further.
He campaigned. He asked. He gently suggested. And if I know him at all, he nagged.
And now, if you venture into supermarkets in a certain area of Boston, I’m not entirely sure which one, you’ll see it. I’ve seen it.
The express queues are all marked
TEN ITEMS OR FEWER.
I’ve had independent corroboration about the truth in this story. He did it. It was him. I think he should take his campaign global. Maybe I’m being a bad child in that I’m not in the Morrison’s down the street right now giving them hell.
Everyone I tell this story to loves it. It’s a popular story. There’s something genuinely hopeful and kind of…..I dunno. It’s a good one, I think.
So, I come back to the beginning of this year. Ericka and I were both reading Infinite Jest. Which meant I had someone to text when it happened. It’s a properly good book. Even an Important Book. I recommend it. Highly.
It’s written in a way where a lot of the action goes on in the footnotes. It’s a lengthy book and they are lengthy footnotes. But on page 1039 of the book, in said footnotes, I suddenly discovered a sentence* that made me send Ericka a text all in capitals. 'D. FOSTER WALLACE HAS MET MY DAD.'
And there it was. It’s a strange feeling, seeing a family story in someone else’s book. And it can only have come from him. I know he tells the story all over, there’s the setting, there are other very leading pieces of evidence in the book as to how said meeting could have occurred and there’s the simple fact. THIS CAN’T BE TWO INDEPENDENT INCIDENTS. And if it is….we need to get these people together. I asked him about it (my father, not Foster Wallace, whom I would LIKE to ask about it, but he is indisposed. Permanently. Which I think is a terrible, terrible shame), whether he had met a man of the same name and told the story and got the following response.
He doesn’t recollect specifically. This is a man who did once say to me ‘I was at a party the other night and there was this very strange little bald headed chap…..nice fellow, but rather odd.’ Turned out it was Moby. *’You’ve got the Militant Grammarians of Massachusetts, which she co-founded with a couple quote cherished academic friends, also bats, where the M.G.M.s for instance go around to Mass. supermarkets and dun the manager if the Express Checkout sign says 10 ITEMS OR LESS instead of OR FEWER and so on.’
'We should really do something with all these fireworks.'
'Maybe having them lying around on the floor where I drop cigarettes is a bad idea, for a start.'
'Well, we haven't exploded yet, have we.'
'Dre shot one out of his fly in Tucson.'
'Yeah. Foreign Born were all too pussy to do it.'
'Do you reckon……like……..HOW illegal do you think it is for me to try to take them back to London in my suitcase?'
Luckily I have my friends.
'Are you joking?'
'No. I mean, I know it's illegal. But HOW illegal do you think it is?'
'It's Guantanamo illegal.'
'But they're FIREWORKS. And I'm a nice girl, if they found them I'd be all 'oh god! silly me! I guess I just plumb forgot….'
'Soph. You know how, if you JOKE about having explosives in your suitcase, you go to prison? Well, you're talking about ACTUALLY CARRYING EXPLOSIVES IN YOUR SUITCASE.'
'Essentially, you're asking how illegal it is to PUT A BOMB ON A PLANE.'
'Yeah, just wrap them up in some tape and maybe put a little clock on it.'
'Tell them the clock's to remind you that they're there.'
'I see your point.'
'Sometimes I wonder what's wrong with you.'
'Me too, Dan. Me too.'
We never did do anything with the fireworks. I got some really good ones, too. Those ones that are like little bees, that got banned in New Zealand after one too many ‘rogue bees’ chased the family labrador/family six year old around before taking out a teacup sized circle of skin. I miss those bees, and the edge of terror they gave the whole evening. Settling for Roman Candle wars and the Devonport tradition of beach riots, complete with Real Live Police was, I honestly think, a generation’s attempt to make up for the loss of adrenaline and genuine physical risk. Should’ve just given us back the bees. There might’ve been more individual incidents, but compared to a Warehouse™ brand super roman candle, they’d be useless against riot shields.
No doubt Dre and the bees are laughing it up in Seattle right now.
There’s an odd rivalry between Montreal and Toronto. Some people say Toronto is too mainstream. It’s dull and there’s no real soul. Other people say Montreal is pretentious, overly convinced of its own importance, and Not Even That Good.
Both groups are wrong. Both right in a sense, but both wrong. The truth is, both cities are amazing, in slightly different ways. One is poutine and beautiful apartments, the other is candy coloured villas and international food heaven. Both equally good. Stop bickering.
Montreal DOES have the best laundromats in the world. A comparison. Here is my laundromat in England. Well, actually it’s not, because my laundromat in England is not pictured on the internet, for the obvious reason that who wants a picture of a laundromat. But this is exactly what it looks like, and thats where I sit while I wait for my laundry.
This is a laundromat in Montreal. There are pictures of it, the way there are pictures of nice things everywhere.
On google, you can read reviews of it. Of the COFFEE AND THE FOOD (Coffee very fine. Food good. Juice excellent). Of the HOMEMADE ORGANIC DETERGENT. NICHE LAUNDRY! WHO WOULD’VE THOUGHT! Amazing.
We met some interesting people hanging round outside Sala Rossa. A guy from Bell Orchestre who had no idea we were playing but who was lovely and ended up coming to the show. A gaggle of fifteen year olds in eyeliner who were giggly and adorable. And this guy.
'Do you know what the band that's on next is like?'
'No. Really good. Amazing. Best band in the world. Seriously.'
'Oh. Sorry. I don't know your music at all. I'm just….well I'm staying across the street, and I wanted to see some music to kinda…..erase my head.'
'I'm having a bit of a…..I don't know. I drank a bottle of wine last night in Toronto and decided to get on a bus to Montreal and here I am.'
'I see. Well, we'll try to…..erase for you?'
'Let us know how it goes.'
He didn’t. Though maybe he meant to and just didn’t happen to see us afterward. I hope we helped out, anyway.
Basia got up and sang with us, which was as lovely as ever. Her new album is going to be brilliant.
Afterwards, Dre wanted poutine. There was none to be found. This seemed surprising, because poutine is definitely a 24 hour food. But he wanted it with sausage bits in, or something, and didn’t want to wait. I ate some more Tim Horton’s. We got to the hotel.
'Raife! Let's go swimming in the morning!'
Dan, Raife and Dai ended up in what Dan described as ‘the nightmare of nightclubs’, where muscled jocks booty danced with tightly nylon clad girls into the wee small hours. In the city known for being indie mecca, where you can’t walk down the street without bashing into someone who used to be in Arcade Fire but left because they were getting too commercial, this is no mean feat. I went to sleep knowing I was going to have poutine for breakfast or Dre was going to kill someone.
Come the morning I headed for the pool. Spent some time in the lift looking for what floor the pool was on. Looked in the hotel information brochure. Finally asked at reception where it was. And this is when I realised, as if the fireworks incident wasn’t enough, that some kind of mist had enveloped my head.
'There ISN'T a pool.'
'What? Yes there is! I……'
'Heard about it?'
'I've looked. There isn't one.'
'But I was sure there was one.'
'So was I.'
'We invented a pool. Didn't we.'
'Yes. Yes we did.'
Despite staying in many hotels, a number of which DID have pools, I managed not to swim once, the whole tour. I probably wouldn’t even have ended up going in Montreal if there was one.
POUTINE FOR BREAKFAST.
Chips are nice enough. Cheese Curds are nice. Gravy is…..it’s okay, I spose. As a combo?
Because Poutine is somewhat of a medical myth. Personally, I’m actually not that much of a fan. But I understand. I had coffee. I like foods that are specific to an area. They become like little gods. And everyone loves an edible god.
In a sense, Toronto is our North American home away from home. New York and LA are too, and Oklahoma is, but something about Toronto, when I get there, I always feel like everything’s going to be okay. This trip was particularly like that. Ericka and her husband Jonathan happened to also be there, which meant we got to see them, and hang out with Victor, who is amazing, always. His main thing is that he does beautiful street art in Toronto, but he also runs a gallery, looks after a building, and does all the variegated other things you’d expect the soul of a city to do.
The first day was Tim Horton’s, Victor’s building, sushi and experiments with camera lenses.
You can keep your chocolate sprinkles, Ericka, for me it is only the God Of Donuts that will do. The Honey Cruller.
Dan claims they make him feel sick, but all they make me feel is sad that they only exist in Canada. And that’s before I even get to thinking about the Double-Double. We got a widely varied dozen, including a disgusting looking pink one that I insisted on. I asked Dai later who ate it, because I wanted to know if it tasted as Pink as it looked and he said he didn’t know. It just vanished. I suspect VICTOR.
We also spent some time playing the game everyone plays at Victor’s.
One night, home with the TV, Victor saw an ad he liked. One of those, YOURS FOR JUST type of ads. He dialled. And he forgot. Until one day a mysterious package arrived on his doorstep. In it was…. a very comprehensive selection of the very best of….. THE MIDNIGHT SPECIAL So now, when he has guests, or his guests have him, or probably sometimes just when he’s in the mood, the game goes pick a disc, any discpick a song, any songand watchand learn it’s a simple game. But very satisfying. I picked Ted Nugent. Finn picked Robert Palmer. Then we group picked Heart, and all agreed that Heart Are Sexy. Dinner was sushi. Very happy sushi. And a short wander before bed, to the latenight bookstore. When they start having to label a section, it’s time to put a stop to
Look at all those perkily pastelly coloured spines! Look at all that cursive! Imagine the Romance! The indecision! THE SHOES!
We were all sleepy. And there were Things To Do Tomorrow. Namely, get Finn’s shirts drycleaned and go shopping.
Turns out, its quite difficult find a one hour drycleaner in central Toronto on a weekday. Quite difficult indeed.
Ericka: ‘How bad IS it?’
Finn: ‘It’s pretty bad.’
Ericka: ‘I mean, I could do them in a washing machine.’
Finn: ‘I’m not sure I want you to do them……I’m not sure I want you to touch them.’
So we went to Kensington market, which is full of shops like this one, which I thiiink is the same one where the beautiful Elise works. She advised us on tricks with laundry, like Febreeze, and Airing. Finn looked at her dubiously. Clearly, he didn’t think this was a Febreezeable situation.
I bought a dress and for a while we avoided the whole shirt cleaning question like the good procrastinators we all are. Until after lunch (waitress: ‘Could you please smoke somewhere FAR AWAY’) when the issue came up again. There was going to be no one hour drycleaner. There was no choice.
Ericka: ‘It’s fine. Jess’s apartment is across the street from the Horseshoe, she’s got a washing machine and we can iron them there as well.’
It was true, we were going to Jess’s for dinner anyways. I was late because I was trying to buy a pair of tights. I thought it would be a five minute mission. After all, I was in the middle of downtown Toronto. Turns out, NOWHERE would sell me plain black tights. Fishnets yes. Leggings OH YES. Pink purple neon green, an array of colours, shapes and lace patterns, but plain black, no. Disgruntled, I decided to eat instead. And as so often happens, one person ended up saving everyone’s day.
When not using those binoculars to spy on peoples nocturnal (and occasionally daytime) activities, it turns out Jess runs a sort of YMCA for musos, without even realising.
'Look! Your shirts are done!'
'You need TIGHTS? You should've said! I've got loads! Brand new ones!'
Jess’s other guests were well amused by the laundry.
Ericka: ‘I’ve ironed one. I think we can all do one.’
Finn: ‘This ironing business. Show me?’
Ironing classes and tight supply. Brilliant. I’ve still got the tights, too. Very fine.
We ate. We drank. And then we played. It was second only to Spaceland, and we’re all in agreement that Spaceland was…special.
'SOPH! LOOK OUT!'
Too late. There’s one in every bunch. The quiet one. That all of a sudden becomes the KRAZY one. In this case, it was Ariel Foreign Born. It took a while for us all to properly bond. It seems what we think of as jovial banter, other people find…..terrifying. I suppose it’s not everyone who can see that Raife making throat cutting motions across a crowded room at you is meant in a FRIENDLY WAY. As Dai succintly put it
'This is…..big personalities…'
But Minneapolis started something, and Toronto exploded it. A love was born. I think its true birth was when Brian walked up to Dan out of nowhere and said
'Hey Dan….let's do something weird.'
So to find myself suddenly soaked from behind by a bottle whatever bottled water company the Horseshoe Tavern prefers was surprising…..but to turn around and find it was Ariel….was strangely very cheering.
Give anyone long enough, and they’ll come around to our way of thinking.
It wasn’t long before I was standing next to him at the bar, watching a little drama unfold. The bar was closing. We were supposed to be going to Victor’s, but nobody had thought to get any drinks in or anything. There was a really lovely barmaid who said she would love to help us out, but had kids to feed and a job she liked, and wanted to keep doing both. Someone said something about an afterhours delivery service. But some people thought there were more direct routes.
'WHAT IS THE MOST I CAN GET WITH THIS?'
Waving a silver card of some no doubt limitless nature
'Do you mean, what is the least?'
'NO. WHAT IS THE MOST I CAN GET?'
'GIVE ME A BOTTLE OF ABSOLUT.'
'Oh, I didn't mean a bottle of liquor. I thought you wanted a beer.'
'Oh. I'm sorry. I can't do that.'
He turned away to serve someone who looked a little less like they were on the train marked KRAZY.
'SOPH! WHY IS HE SERVING THEM! WE'RE THE MOST IMPORTANT PEOPLE IN THIS BAR!'
'No we're not.'
'OH YEAH. WAIT. NO. YOU'RE THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON IN THIS BAR. AND I'M PART OF YOUR TRAIN!'
'No I'm not.'
'OH…..YEAH I GUESS NOT.'
I heard he went back to the hotel and ordered everything from room service and ate it in the bath.
We went to Victors. Though it took me a while. I and a nice girl whose name I don’t know and probably will never know went to the 7/11. We tried to go to Tim Horton’s. It was closed and the guy cleaning up didn’t want to know. So we settled for Dill Pickle Lays, an orgy of chocolate and a mysterious cup of sweets that I got around to in the morning and would like to see again, because they were the best sweets I ever had. By the time I got to Victors I’d lost the lust to party completely. I shoved one bag of crisps into Dan’s hands, watched his face light up, and bolted. Dre was outside, looking similarly lustless. We jumped in a taxi, and I went to sleep in a pile of Dill Pickle flavoured crumbs.
Please, dear residents of Chicago, Cleveland, Minneapolis and Pontiac, don’t take it personally that our travels through your more than fair cities aren’t getting full individual exposure. It’s not that they’re any less exciting. In fact, you were scenes of tour defining moments. That went unphotographed. And so I’m reduced to foggy images that float up out of my brain at random. Where were we when we nearly got caught up in the ramraiding of a gas station? What DID we say to the doorman at the Radisson that produced such a strong response? Why am I wearing an eighties ‘Cats’ tshirt? Actually, I know exactly why that is, and it’s because when I was a kid ‘Cats’ came to town and everyone’s parents took them along, and everyone had ‘Cats’ tshirts, EXCEPT ME. So when I found one in a store in Cleveland the inner jealous nine year old in me said WANT IT. AND LOOK AT ME NOW! LOOK AT ME NOW!
Unfortunately it is also a very well loved ‘Cats’ tshirt and smells a bit foul. What price, happiness of inner jealous nine year old?
It was Minneapolis first. What we do in Minneapolis is we see movies. Last time it was Batman, this time it was Bruno.
I didn’t like Bruno. I disliked it enough to make a point of saying so. Loved Borat. Hated Bruno. Maybe it’s just that I’ve heard funnier jokes about dildos, maybe it’s that embarassing Paula Abdul seems like a fish/barrel deal, maybe I’m just fussy when it comes to ‘gayness! funny!’ bits - give me David Cross, Bri-Bri and the Chevre any day - but it just…..wasn’t FUNNY. There were good bits - Nazis ARE funny - but there weren’t nearly enough of them. I was surprised. And disappointed.
Anyway. So we did that. We did an interview, during which it became apparent that we’d reached the point in the tour where we can’t do anything except giggle and repeat injokes. The girl doing the interview was lovely, and she did her very best, but she was working with…..you know that stuff you make when you’re a kid (clearly inner nine year old, drunk on the power from ‘Cats’ tshirt, is now attempting to take over completely) I think it’s just cornflour and water and some food colouring, when you squeeze it it’s solid, sort of, but then it reutrns to a liquid, jellylike state at the slightest opportunity? We were like that.
'Can you tell me a bit about the drums on Larkspur?'
It is unfortunate that she semi-directed this question to Dan, but I can understand it, because NONE of us look remotely like Henning, and this was halfway through the thing, when she was already up to her elbows in gloop.
'Well, I'm the guitarist…HE'S the drummer….AND HE DIDN'T EVEN PLAY THE DRUMS ON LARKSPUR.'
We all cackle for a little too long, for no reason at all.
'No, I'm the NEW drummer.'
'Our old drummer.'
'Your old drummer died?'
And then we all had hysterics. And tried to make her promise to run a little RIP HENNING tag across the bottom of the screen when the interview went out.We did tell her he’s not dead REALLY. But by then it was too late.
I think the whole much-longer-than-is-reproduced-here interlude was cut from the final piece, which you can see on the Dustbowl blog.
We played. That was happy. And then we drank Jaegermeister. We got Foreign Born to drink Jaegermeister. Before we knew it, Brian Foreign Born was sitting outside the Radisson on someone’s immaculate white motorbike, avec sidecar, and some people in uniforms were looking a bit unhappy.
We made it inside, at least. Finn and Raife were playing football with Raifes mobile phone. Cue: morning:
Raife: ‘Why is my phone broken?’
Finn: ‘Might’ve happened when I was being goalie and you were kicking it at the marble wall in the lobby.’
Some other people seemed to be trapped in the revolving door and were making a bit of a fuss about it when a man appeared.
'I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to leave.'
'Oh no, we're staying here.'
'I know you are.'
'We'll be good! We'll be good!'
A hand firmly in the middle of Finn and Raife’s backs and a gentle manoeuvre into the lift.
Chicago was great in all ways except two. One: I didn’t get to go to the John Fluevog shop. Two (more so), Foreign Born got everything stolen. As in, all their clothes. And their laptops. And their passports. Out of their van. There are some very well dressed criminals in Chicago right now, with some Californian passports and some very well stocked ipods. It wasn’t nice. And it meant they couldn’t come to Cleveland, because they had to stay in Chicago and get new passports in order to make it to Toronto. It put, to say the least, a dampner on the night.
I’ve said it before, but it’s worth saying again, Cleveland for me ties with Tucson for best shopping in America. It has my favourite shop in the world, Big Fun - and I note, from going to the website just now, that Playboy agrees with me. This time, we didn’t get to go, and I was disappointed. But it was amazing even so. Not only did I get this now completely over-hyped ‘Cats’ tshirt, there was also something MAGIC in the dressing room.
'Guys, check this out!'
Dre is holding a bottle cap woman.
'Jesus. Where did you get that?'
'Through that door.'
'What door?”That door right there!'
IN the dressing room, was a DOOR, that lead DIRECTLY into a second hand clothes shop. If that’s not the best dressing room of all time, I’ll eat my own hat and Finn’s. After Cleveland we DJed. Us DJing is…..oh it’s a shitstorm. Always. The first time we did it, we let Liam have a go, he promptly cleared the club by playing Iron Maiden for forty minutes. Eventually Dan and I took charge, nailed it with a deftly handled Hendrix/New Order combo, and swore never to let anyone have a go again. Another time went beautifully, except for the fact that Henning wasn’t speaking to me by the end of the night after I screamed ‘VETO’ in his face about every musical choice he made. It’s generally the deal that Dan and I take main duties, Finn guests every fifth song or so, and usually guests well, but it’s always full of fraught moments. Mostly it’s my fault. Put me behind a mixing desk with a screen and I become a dictator, telling people their taste is bullshit right left and center. And this time wasn’t any different. If it wasn’t Finn changing songs halfway because the urge to play ‘Shoop’ was overwhelming it was me forgetting that my laptop has a headphone jack stuck in the socket and thus is mute….
And why does SOMEONE always request Steve Aoki? Do I look like I like Steve Aoki?
And yet, it always ends up working out. The people from Music Saves, whose birthday it was, were lovely, and the whole thing was quite brilliant.
And then we went to Dennys. Why do we ever go to Dennys. Why did Dre decide to order the Grand Slam Burrito?
THE FINE PRINT: ‘All of your favourite ingredients from the original Grand Slam® - two scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage and pancakes with syrup - topped with melted American cheese and hand-wrapped in a large flour tortilla. All grilled and served with crispy hash browns’
That’s American cheese. Made, in America. Hand-wrapped. By real hands. Are the hash browns REALLY neccessary?
Why did Dai end up eating egg yolk off a menu? Was that even coffee? Should I have been drinking coffee at four am anyway?
Yes. To all. Pancakes. In a Burrito. Pancakes. Burrito. Burrito. Pancakes. That’s not food. It’s warfare.
Pontiac was interesting. Detroit in general is pretty interesting. The fact that the place is called Pontiac is something in itself. Was it named after the car, or was the car named after the city? There are beautiful houses around, that look like they have nobody living in them, which is sad.
It says far more about the state we were in than the state of Pontiac that by far and away the most exciting thing about the day was that the Crofoot had a washing machine and a drier. It couldn’t have come at a better time, honestly. We laundered.