Current mood: adventurous
I know, I know, it’s been a while since I’ve posted a blog, but then again I usually only post blogs after tours and I haven’t really been on a full on tour since May. So here it is, a blog on my three week tour to Ireland and France that I just returned from last night:
October 28th- Cork City
I haven’t been to Cork since I was 12 and was visiting relatives with my elderly grandmother in the countryside outside the city. All I remember about the city was the one way streets and there were hippies who would braid that colored thread into your hair. I always wanted to get it done but my grandmother probably thought it was silly and just one more thing on the way to getting tattoos and piercings…Anyway, Cork has really developed into a nice pretty city since I last was there, actually the whole of Ireland has benefited a lot from the “Celtic Tiger” (their expression for the huge economic boom of the last ten years). When I arrived early in the morning after a red eye flight I was exhausted and immediately checked into the first place I stumbled across which turned out to be a played called the “Bru Hostel”. I slept off some jet lag and then went into the communal lounge and observed all the international travelors hanging out there (eastern European, French, Canadian,…you name it) then I went to my gig at the Whisky where I played as the feature of an open mic. The folks there were nice and afterwards we went out for a beer. I befriended two Swedish guys who had been at the show. There was also a really nice girl who had played at the open mic and she was from New Zealand but lived in Cork working at the healthfood store. She told me a story of how when she first came to the city she stayed in the same hostel I was staying at (the “Bru Hostel”) and how some people staying there got really really drunk and did something “disgusting”. I couldn’t help but ask her specifically what…then I wished I hadn’t asked…apparently one of the guys was so drunk that he went to the bathroom and puiked in the sink and shit the floor, I guess he couldn’t figure out where the toilet was, or rather what it was for…she said she felt really bad for the maid. And so did I….
After the bar I returned to my hostel and tried to enter the room quietly because I knew there were 3 other people in there that would probably be sleeping at 2am. When I opened there door I heard a rustling noise so tried even harder to quietly put my stuff in the corner and climb up to my bed on one of the top bunks. Within a few minutes of getting into my bed I continued to hear rustling of covers, and then whispering voices which I knew were people speaking in French. Then I heard a noise that I discerned as people exchanging fluids, as in kissing…and well…then I realized that two French people in my hostel were trying to quietly “do it” while being in a room with two other people that were sleeping. It turned out that they were in the top bunk which was right across from my feet so I could actually kind of seem in the dark. I couldn’t really believe they were doing what they were doing, and I tried to get to sleep and put the pillow over my head, and not laugh, or take a video and stick it on youtube…well..whatever…so that was my introduction to Ireland and this tour…two French people screwing in my room. When I told the story many times over the coming weeks people merely observed “oh, they were French…that figures” I guess French people are famous for having sex in places where other people, strangers nonetheless, are sleeping. The next day i saw the two culprits before i checked out but I honestly wasn’t even sure what to say, I wanted to scold them but I knew they wouldn’t give a shit. So i just shook my head in disgust and left “the Bru Hostel”…
The next day I met back up with the two Swedish guys and we had a fun day, we made some food, listened to some good music, taught each other how to juggle, and just talked about traveling and what it’s like to grow up in Sweden and all that kind of stuff…they were great guys and a lot of fun. Next I went to Limerick for a gig and met up with the promoter, Benoit, when I got there, he made me a nice dinner and we chatted about music and the fact that he is originally from Belgium. The gig was at a nice pub called Baker’s Place and afterwards we went to the most popular bar in town called Nancy something… it was a beautiful old old irish pub with sawdust on the floor and good guiness on tap. That night I stayed at Benoits on the couch and was still tired from the flight and slept in such that when I awoke I got dressed quick and called a cab to catch a bus to my next destination.
In Athlone I met up with Eddie who I met last year and would be touring with for most of the time I would be in Ireland. Eddie is a really nice guy, kind of a soulful depressing kind of indie folk singer-songwriter, last year he was playing with my friend Dave and I have very fond memories of hanging out with all those people in the midlands. We went to Mullingar that night and played at the Stables. It was a pretty fun show except that there was an extremely drunk guy who wouldn’t seem to leave me alone. He kept trying to buy my beers and harass me and when he asked Eddie if I was his girlfriend Eddie stupidly told him the truth that I wasn’t so he continued to bug me. On the ride home the promoter told us that in fact that dude is on to just about every female musician who comes through the place…good luck to them…
On Halloween we went up to Belturbet in Cavan and played at a pub called the Widows. Most of the patrons were dressed up. Memorable costumes were jesus by a girl who had strapped a cardboard cross to her back, Bob Dylan by a guy that had curly black hair, black pants/blazer/sweater, black sunglasses…well…he looked like Dylan…there was a naughty nurse whose boyfriend was a ninja…and…well that’s all I remember at the moment. It was a pretty fun gig. My memory of our long drive up in the country was seeing all these fireworks and bonfires on the side of the road, turns out Irish people like to set off fireworks on Halloween, but it was really pretty to watch from the car as the shy is really dark there.
In Athlone we played at the Passionfruit theatre, a cute little local place, it was a very attentive gig (as in people were very quiet) and I enjoyed it a lot. We had Indian food beforehand and after went back to Milky and Camilla’s apartment and hung out which was a lot of fun. Although I got all upset at two people at the party who had never seen “Star Wars”, I mean really, how could you be on this planet as an adult and not see Star Wars? right? Anyway, it seemed like a sign that I should go to bed so I did, but was awoken a few hours later by a Polish guy screaming (in Polish) and pounding on a nearby apartment door at around 4 or 5 in the morning. The next day my Polish friend Camilla told me that he was saying “open the door you fucking bitch”. But of course I had kind of figured that…
Dublin for about 5 or so days…
I then went to Dublin to do a bunch of gigs in and around the city. I was lucky to get a lift from Julia, a midwife originally from Germany who was friends with my friends in Athlone. She dropped me off in the middle of Dublin at Starbucks and I hung out there drinking coffee and writing in my journal. Then I went to play on “Balcony TV” (www.balconytv.com) which is basically where you play one song on a 5th floor balcony right in the middle of Dublin, I played “people” on accordion but had to wait until a garbage truck went by as it was pretty noisey. Then I played a gig out in Dun Laughoire which is on the water near Dublin. The next day was off and I just hung out and watched the news because it was the day before the election and I was just infatuated like many others with what would happen. On tuesday I had a gig at the Ruby Sessions which is a great singer-songwriter session I did last year as well. I played with Mark Geary who is a really great irish singer-songwriter and then raced home to my friend Matt’s house to watch the election. He is also an American and hence put together a part and there were about 8 or so of us watching the TV and checking the internet for the updates on the results. At around 4am we heard the McCain succession speach and (Thank god!) the Obama exceptance speach. We were all really in awe and maybe even in a bit of shock that it was finally over and the outcome was the one we had all been hoping for. It was a very proud moment. And for the rest of the tour it became clear that that night had essentially changed most European’s mind about America, basically they were from hating us to loving us all with the knowledge that we had finally gotten rid of Busy and elected someone really great and historical.
Anyway, back to the tour, I played in Dublin the next night at the Globe, a loud but fun pub. The highlight story of the night was when Eddie and I were in a “chipper” (a place where you by fries, burgers, kababs, ect…) having a bite to eat before the gig and a “knacker” (a term for travelors and “low class” people in Ireland who have bad social skills and live off social welfare and would be like the “pikey” in England memorable from the movie “Snatch” where Brad Pitt played one…). Anyway, the “knacker” was a young girl who walked into the chipper and demanded to use the bathroom. The management tried to kick her out because she hadn’t bought anything but she said “I’m pregnant” (even though she looked about 15 and really skinny) and pushed past them into the bathroom. They were all a bit confused but Eddie and I just sat there eating our chips keeping quiet until she came out of the bathroom and on her way out the door she stopped in front of our table and looked down at our food and said “oh can i have a chip” but she wasn’t really asking, she just grabbed a handful of Eddie’s fries and walked out the door. It was pretty disgusting but highly entertaining and I laughed while my Irlsh friends talked about how gross the knackers are…
The next day I had coffee with Chistophe and his girlfriend, I had met them at a show that weekend and they were nice folks to meet up with and have a chat. Then I did a radio show that night called “on the verge” although it was at a huge mall in New Dundrum, I mean huge, apparently it is one of the biggest malls in Europe…so for a minute I felt like I was in some suburban part of the US. They even had a Christmas show going on and everything and all I could think is man, it’s only the first week of November and these people are already celebrating xmas… That night I dropped by the King Kong club where my friend Keiron Black does a battle of the bands thing. He’s a really cool guy whose main thing is promoting shows in Dublin, we met last year and I stayed with him a bit and we had become good friends. The next day I went to his apartment which had a great view of the city and of the Guiness tower (where you have a beer in a tower that revolves and looks over the whole city), Kerion has a juicer and made amazing carrot, apple, ginger, spinach, and chili juice that rocked my world….
Friday I had my last show in the area up in Drogheda which is a town about 45 minutes north of Dublin. Eddie, Matt, and I took the train up there. The show was at a pretty cool pub and we played with a guy named Jimi Cullen from Gorey. He’s a really nice dude who plays funny songs and was nice enough to give us a lift back to Dublin after the show. The night ended with a Neil Young cover band which was kind of cool because the lead singer actually sounded EXACTLY like Neil Young and had even won a competition for being the best impersonator out there with that high pitched croone..
The next day it was back to Athlone where I did a house show at Yasmin’s place because the show at the Shack had been double booked. It turned out to be a lot of fun and some really nice people came out and listened to the me play in the living room. Later that nigh “Felix Sonnyboy” played as well. He’s a young American dude who is more or less trying to be Woodie Guthrie or some such rambling vagabond singer-songwriter. He played old 30′s depression era kind of tradition songs and then some original songs that sounded like the covers. He dressed the part and had a guitar and banjo and in general it was cool to see someone keeping that old timey kind of music in the loop as it is all feel good tradition tunes.
Then it was back to Limerick to play at the Belltable sessions. Eddie and I drove down and when we arrived went to “Chicken Hut” or some such chipper for a quick bite. We sat upstairs and witnessed yet another fight between some “knackers”, this time I laughed and said to Eddie “what’s up with us being in the middle of weird knacker fights?”. Eddie then gave me the look to shut up before they heard me say that and we got beat up ourselves so we quietly got the hell out of the chipper and I haven’t been back to one since…well, except one in galway…
The gig was completely acoustic with no PA and it was at a big beautiful space with candels and a backdrop, very ambient… That night we stayed with Beniot again who made us a great dinner. The next day I took a bus to Clonmel to play my last show before flying to Paris. It was a in a beautiful little town in a valley between some hills. The week before there had been a “traveler’s funeral” which basically had practically shut down the town because of potential fights that would take place in pubs, I didn’t quite understand the story, but it had something to do with the fact that a traveler had been killed and hence other travelers where at this big funeral looking to cause problems. I played to some folks at the pub after sleeping at the B&B upstairs that afternoon knowing I had a long day/night in front of me. There was a woman at the bar talking about the theraputic effects of Guiness and hash for menopause, the bar staff was mildly entertained by her strange tale…I overheard her declaring that guiness was some sort of “cure” of sorts…
That night i took a bus to the Dublin airport and arrived at 4am even though my flight wasn’t until 9pm or so. I went to the Starbucks in the airport and took a nap although after about an hour someone went around to all the chairs and couches and woke up all the people who were sleeping like me until their flight. So I read my book and half slept until my flight to Paris. Which turned out to be a flight from hell and actually scared me so much that I started to have a fear of turbulence…I was on Air France and it was a windy day and the plane was fairly small and kept hitting big bumps of turbulence and I thought I was going to throw up…our landiing was even rocky…
I got to Paris in one piece and went straight to my hotel and crashed out. My gig that night was at La Fleche D’or, my favorite club in Paris. The best thing about the French is that they take care of you. I had a hotel down the street, a nice dinner with wine and coffee after…I played my set and then chatted with people who wanted my cd and the other bands. It turned out that the headliner was “Andy Yorke” from Oxford, UK. Of course I didn’t get the connection at first but quickly learned that he is the brother of Thom Yorke from Radiohead. Hence there was a good crowd there anxious to see the younger brother of one of the best musicians of our time… He turned out to be pretty poppy and not too experimental like Radiohead…but it’s a hard act to live up to…The other band was from Tucson but had a French singer and the two guys in the band were Americans who had lived in Maine for a few summers and we chatted away, what a small world… All in all it was a good night and I managed to get back to my hotel and watch some tv, but all they had in English was CNN and then some hardcore porn…so I went to bed…
The next day I had a show at Viex Leon and hung out in central Paris near the Siene and had a nice day walked past Notre Damn, Pompedu, and going to my favorite bookstore “Shakespeare and Co.” to read some David Sedaris and write in my journal. The show that night was nice and intimate, I had played there last year and had nice memories, plus as usually they made me a great meal and took excellent care…gotta love french food…the next day I went to Montmarte and walked around my favorite parts of Paris that I remember from my last two visits. I stopped into my two favorite cafes, one is a bakery and one is the place where they filmed “Amelie”. Then I went to Truskel to play a show in the financial district. It’s a club that is open until 5am and their claim to fame is hosting after parties for bands like Franz Ferdinad, Bloc Party, Cold War Kids, Interpol…ect, basically they let these indie bands have their fans come and hang out with them after a show in Paris. They gave me 11 playing cards that were drink tickets, I had no idea what they wanted me to do with that many so I gave them to other people mostly…Right before the show I had walked around to by a jamon and fromage crepe (I had one every day I was in Paris, I love crepes…) and stumbled across an art opening and went in to gaze at the paintings like old times at my old art gallery. Truskel turned into a full on hipster dance party the moment I stopped playing so I had a few of my playing card beers and then bust out…
I had two days off in Paris at that point which was great because I love to just be there. I walked around Montmarte again and went down the Shakespeare and Co. again to read and write. There is a piano there and a guy sat down and started to play Autumn Leaves, Dave Bruebeck, and the Mario Brothers theme music for Ninetendo….The people that hang out there are your typical young literally types. I overheard a British guy saying that he “absolutely must finish his play in the next month”, everyone there was writing and book or reading one, or both, including me…I spent the rest of my night just walking around after eating my jamon and fromage crepe…
My last day in Paris I went to Montmarte, again, and had my last jamon and fromage crepe that turned out to be kind of bad…it also was slightly undercooked and the cheapest one I had had the whole time…I had planned on going to another cafe and hanging out all day but I had seen a paper at Shakespeare and Co. that there was a writing group on Saturdays from 3-5pm and on a whim I went to an internet cafe and typed out the first few pages of the writing project I’d been working on and then took the metro down to the bookstore. I went into the front upstairs room with about ten other people and we introduced ourselves and told everyone a book we read and didn’t like but learned something from. I was reading Ferinheight 451 and was having mixed feelings about it… In any case, people shared their writing, short stories and poems and we all commented. I was a bit nervous about sharing mine but at the very end of the workshop I read my piece and everyone laughed because, well…luckily they found it funny which was kind of the point. It’s sort of autobiographic self-depricating humor which I seem to specialize in. After the workshop we went to a nearby cafe and chatted over a beer, I met a bunch of ex-pats who live in Paris, American, British, Australian, they all had made lives there…And I hope one day to maybe live in Paris too, even if for a year or so, and if I do I will certainly go to the Shakespeare and Co. writing workshop every saturday and hang with fellow English speaking ex-pats…
That night I had dinner with my friend Fabien and his housemates. We had a typically French meal with baguette, cheese, meet, red wine, and it was a lot of fun. Fabien told me how the French were trying to reintroduce bears and wolves into the into the wildlife. I guess they wanted some more wild animals kicking around France, but he also commented on how the farmers “were not happy about this”…go figure…
Last day in Europe- I flew back to Ireland and Matt and Yup picked me up at the airport and we went straight to Galway for my last gig of the tour at Roisin Dubh. We arrived and went to the pub and hung out before show and went to a chipper (told you I’d go back) and got some curry fries. I played to some nice folks, and immediately after the place filled up with the late night drinkers. Downstairs there was a Rory Gallager cover band, all of which were well over 50. We shared the apartment the Roisin Dubh keeps for musicians, last year I had stayed there as well and love this whole concept of venues keeping apartments for touring musicians, I wish all venues did that… In any case, we had a great night and the next morning drove back to Dublin where I caught my plane back home. Where I am now….
It was a fun trip and thank you again to all the venues, and my friends: Eddie, Yasmin, Milky, Camilla, Julia, Matt (!!), Keirone, Joanne, Yup, Fabien, and all the very cool people I met along the way! You make Europe all the more fun to visit…til next time…lots of love…
And lastly check out these pictures from the night in Paris when I played at La Fleche D’or, these pics are pretty awesome:
So I wrote one of my usual long winded tour blogs of how the winter tour down to SXSW went and then it got lost in cyberspace. I was so bummed out that I didn’t bother to re-write it. These things get long winded so I think instead of outlining each show I’m do a more general overview.
South tour which took place from about February 28-March 23rd or so…
I started this tour out solo, and I have to make a confession, I got in a minor fender bender before I had even left the Somerville city limits. I was slightly tapped on my rear by a car, well I was rear ended, but it caught me off guard and I went slamming into the car in front of me. It turned out to be a hit and run but three cars stuff around to deal with the damage, in my case my front radiator grill had crumbled, which doesn’t affect the car running but does look ghetto…I thought it must be a sign, that I shouldn’t go on this tour. Considering the amount of back pain I have experienced this fall and winter and my general state of mind towards the music business I seriously considered just turning around and going home. But I had over twenty shows booked and didn’t have the heart to cancel them all. So I put some of the crumbled pieces in my backseat because I didn’t know what else to do with them, and then I drove to New Jersey for my first show…
Needless to say I was pretty shaken up by that experience, I drove in complete silence all the way to the show (a good six odd hours) because I wanted it to sink it that something really weird had happened as the beginning of a tour that would last 3-4 weeks. The first show went OK, a friend of mine sent me some roses and a nice poem that was delivered to the bar. I was quite moved by the gesture as I rarely get things like that, so I tried to look at the flowers as an offset to the fender bender…
What changed things was that after that first show I bought a GPS, which i highly recommend to any people that travel a lot, it helps immensely not to be reading mapquest direction while driving, which is quite frankly dangerous…I had a really good show in DC where my relatives and some friends came out, good turn out, good response, sold cds, it was all going pretty well. The next day I headed to Charlottesville, VA and played at a hookah bar which was pretty interesting. It was quite the cool hippie spot and folks drank beer, smoked hookahs, and ate grape leaves or whatever.
The next day I had a really long drive ahead of me. Like 7 hours. And about three hours into it my car started acting strangely. I wondered if it was because of the fender bender and my radiator acting up. Either way the car practically died when I pulled it off the side of the road. Some locals took a look, they all seemed to be mechanics, I was in rural West Virginia. I got the car back on the road and within an hour it died again. This time I called triple A and waited for the tow truck. I was pissed off and sort of scared to be alone, then and there I vowed not to tour alone anymore, it’s just too unsettling. Luckily I have friends in Charleston, WV who set me up with a garage to fix the car, a place to stay, and made the whole ordeal a lot easier. But I missed my show that night and had to pay for a car repair so it was a set back. I also resolved to get a new car when I got back from tour (which I did…). The tow truck driver was quite the character, he diagnosed that it was my alternator that had died. He also told me about how he had been writing a science fiction novel for the past four years. This came up when he saw my license plate from Maine and asked if I was a Stephen King fan. His novel is about a bug that swims in some sort of genetic weird goo and then injects people with it and possess them. It all takes place in his small WV town, actually sounded quite good…
So at this point in the tour my moral was a bit down. I kept on going. I played shows in Bowling Green KY, Nashville, Knoxville, Chapel Hill, Wilmington, and so on and they all went OK and the car held up but I was a bit bummed out in general. I guess you could say I was finally having some serious second thoughts on having chosen such a turbulent career, and finding life on the road not to be so romantic. I did however see lots of great friends, especially James and May in Nashville, my great friend Mary Alice and her son Tenny and husband Rob in Asheville NC. My friend Vivian up in the hills of Penland. In general I had a good time. I even met new people in Wilmington that took me to play kickball and a beautiful sunny Sunday which was a nice change from being in a car. Then I had my birthday in Charlotte NC with a bunch of strangers, but that was cool, whatever, I’m kind of over the whole birthday thing where you just get older and it’s not like turning 13 or 16 or 21. it’s like just getting and feeling older…
Anyway, things changed when I picked up Steve from the airport in Atlanta, GA. He had gotten a sort of last minute showcase through his label and I went and picked him up to keep me company for the long ride down to Texas. And he was good company, with the exception that he can’t drive stick shift and was absolutely no help with driving. But he did spin the ipod and do all those things you do in shotgun. I played a show in Atlanta and one in Athens, both a lot of fun. And then we woke up early and hauled ass all the way down to New Orleans, walked around the French Quarter for an hour or so, and then played a gig that was completely not worth it, but we justified the trip because it is more or less on the way to Austin and the French Quarter and New Orleans are just beautiful and it was a nice stop on a 15 hour drive from Atlanta to Austin. We drove into the night after the gig down the long straight highway 10 that takes you down the coast of MS, LA, and into Texas where we got a hotel and crashed. The next morning we awoke early again to head to Austin where I had an afternoon show. We got there and it was sticky and hot. The show was at an anarchist bookstore and was supposed to have 4 bands, all of which had canceled, most of them realizing that hauling ass all the way to Austin for one show is not worth while, SXSW or not, so we played to a small crowd and then went to some weird bookstore and saw some weird back with a dude from Dinasaur Jr. in it, but there was free beer, and weird greeser 80′s hipsters, and then we went into town. I think that was a Thursday and SXSW was just getting into full swing. That night we met up with some friends. Saw the dudes from “Frank Smith” and ended up drinking beers outside their house later. Also saw Dana Colley and AKACOD folks and other random people that had made the long ass haul to Texas. The weather was sizzling the whole time. I sweat up a storm while I was down there. My fondest memory was of eating some really good mexican food at some little trailor place where you order it from a window and they make it behind them on a propane grill or whatever. There was a “drive thru” liquor store right next to the trailors of mexican food so we had a cold beer whilst eating an awesome taco or two. It was a lovely Texas experience.
The rest of SXSW was a blur and kind of crazy and overwhelming and all that, just like last year…I played 4 shows total, all of which were OK, nothing special, but kind of fun, I had one A&R guy actually take the time to listen to two of my songs. That was about all the excitement from my end. Let me just say this people: do not go to SXSW unless you have some good shows, because it’s a long drive, gas is expensive, and there is so much going on there turn outs are really sparse. But I at least did a tour around it. I saw a few bands that only did one show with no one there and I felt pretty bad for them. Steve and I went to see “Drug Rug” who had one show and got stuck with the last slot of a showcase and all the other bands played way too long so by the time it was their turn they only had time for 4 songs. Can you imagine driving over 30+ hours from Boston to Texas (one way) to play 4 songs and not get paid? It happens to a lot of bands there. Steve of course had a great show with Hydrahead and got paid and did well and lots of people and everything that makes a show worthwhile…
OK beyond the cynical stuff we went to the Vice Magazine party where all the LA and NYC hipsters were present turning Texas into it’s own Brooklyn. We went to a show where Elijah Wood was standing right next to us practically because apparently he has his own record label and was watching one of his bands…who knew…I saw some really crappy bands, a bunch of mediocre bands, and maybe a few good ones, it was overwhelming and annoying mostly. Oh yeah, and when I took a walk to get some fresh air on 6th street some army kids started harassing me and tried to get me to have a beer with them. They were really drunk and had recently gotten back from Iraq. The wouldn’t really leave me alone and were like “common’ get a beer with us, what are you too good for us?” and then one of them puiked all over the sidewalk and I finally had an exit plan. Run from the puik. Gross.
We got out of there on Sunday (I should mention that hydrahead got us a hotel 2 or the 3 nights we were there THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!) and drove as far as we could back towards Atlanta. We drove through Waco, Houston, Shrevesport, and ended up at a Motel 6 in Monroe LA which is a totally sketchy town. We wanted to take a walk but it was so ghetto looking we ended up going to a giant Wall Mart so we could walk around indoors with AC. Strange place.
The next night was st. paddy’s day and we had the night off with some friends and went to an irish pub. The next day we drove up to North Carolina where I thought I had a gig in Greensboro. Turned out it was Greenville…but we didn’t realize this until we were practically in Greensboro but the GPS couldn’t find it. We called the venue and found out it was another 3 hours away! But we went anyway. It ended up being a fun show and we played with this band “Ra Ra Riot” who have some buzz and were fun. The venue was cool too. The next day we bought Steve a new t-shirt that had an eagle and said “untamed spirit” because his other t-shirts stunk to high heaven. Then we drove to Charlotte NC again and played a show with a bunch of other touring bands all headed home from SXSW which turned out to be a complete waste of time. Then we went to stay with my friend Vivian up in Penland, a beautiful crafts school in the mountains, we took walks and ate good food, it was a great couple days. We played in Johnson City TN which was actually a great show. From there we headed to Louisville, Charleston, and back to MD where my mother now lives in Frederick, the last couple shows kind of sucked and I was ready to be done. It was easter and I had a nice dinner with my family who I hadn’t seen in a while. That is when I started to write the book that I’m now in the middle of…yes…a book. But I won’t say much about it, if you are really curious you can write me and I’ll tell you more. But that is about that for that tour….I drove home ,played at Smith College on the way, and got back and tried to chill out for a while, I had about three weeks before yet another tour…
Midwest tour in Spring April 16-May 4th
A few days before this tour a got a new car, or a new to me ar, it’s a Subaru Forester and I do like it. It’s a lot bigger and more comfortable than my old car. the gas milage isn’t great but i figure the space is worth it. I wanted to get a honda civic so I could get 40 mpg but i have a lot of stuff to haul around.
The tour started off annoying driving 10 hours to Cleveland, my first two shows were in Dayton and went really well, the first one especially where people really seemed to like what i was doing and buy cds and ask me to come back. Then I went up to Indiana and played a record store during “national record store day” I played right before a hardcore band, it was pretty hillarious, when the cops came because of the noise I got in my car and drove towards Chicago to go stay with my friend Marget. It was the foggiest night ever and the weather was pea soup outside of chicago. I got lost even with my GPS because of road construction. When I finally got into the city and found my friend’s place it was like entering a totally different world. She was having a dinner party with a bunch of her friends who were all business, lawyers, stock brokers, and such. I was definitely the odd duckling but held my own. It was a shabbat dinner but there were only like 2 jewish people there.
Anyway, the next day I drove up to Madison, WI with my friend Martha and we played a show at Cafe Momo, a cool venue. My friend Sarah came and it was cool to see her. We had a good time in general. Unfortunately the next morning we had to wake up early to get back to Chicago because Martha had to work but on the way out of the driveway I drove right into a telephone pole that was in my blind spot and quite literally in Sarah’s very narrow driveway. I cracked my tail light and was kind of pissed off about it but there isn’t much you can do. We got back to chicago and I took the car in for that and another issue i was having with a tire. Damn cars…even a new one…Then I played two shows there both of which were great. One was at a bar I play at every year that’s always fun and one was at a house show which was great. Then I drove out to Rock Island and played a crazy college club and stayed at a hotel across the border in Iowa. The next morning I went to the Salvation Army and bought a cool t-shirt and listened to Christian music on their radio, they were talking about this new thing where they “pray at the pump” because the gas prices are getting so high…i couldn’t believe that one…
Then I played a house show in Bloomington with some really nice people and then at the University of Illinois at Urbana which was cool and nice to see some old friends and make some new ones. From there I headed up to Michigan which is where I met up with Dave Lamb from “Brown Bird” and we toured together for a week back to the east coast. Playing shows in Ypsi, Lansing, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Kingston PA, Syracuse, Albany, and Montague MA. Of all those shows I’d say the highlight was Syracuse where we met some really great people who were really nice and treated us really well. It was a very fun time. Also enjoyed going to the Rock and Roll Hall of fame in Cleveland. The shadow Lounge is always cool in pittsburgh. And Valentines was fun in Albany with some cool bands and a great breakfast the next day…
Montague Bookmill was the last stop. One of the most beautiful places I’ve seen in Mass. you must go. It’s a beautiful bookstore, resteraunt, bar, gallery, in Western Mass near Northampton and all those places. The show was sparse but the place was incredible and right on this river flowing by loudly, just gorgeous.
I got home late sunday night and have been back less than a week. I’m just chilling out for the month of May before heading up to Maine for the better part of the summer. I hope to see some of you before then and thanks for reading.
Info on the LOFT SHOWS and why I no longer post them…
As you may or may not know there have been some issues in my building regarding the having of DIY shows. Most notably a larger show (much larger than my loft shows) was busted on the first floor of our building in March. This has caused quite a bit of concern among people in the building, including myself, but most notably among law enforcement folk of Somerville who now are all too aware of shows and parties taking place in my building.
In order to continue having shows at my loft I’ve had to change things around a bit so that my shows are “legit” and “legal” in the ways I’ve been told they must be in order not to have an issues with the law. I’ve also decided that I don’t want to have any more shows with loud bands of any sort because it’s a disturbance to other people who might be in the building at the time and also is more likely to cause notice among authorities. So most of these shows will be acoustic or with bands that are of a moderate volume. I’ve also ceased posting the dates of my shows here on myspace and on my website. This is because I actually had a man from the fire department come to my loft the day of a show and tell me that he knew I was having shows and he knew I was having one that night and that some dudes “down at the station” had been on myspace and knew of my activities and undercover cops would be there (they never actually showed up…). So therefore I have taken down EVERYTHING from my website and myspace that has to do with loft shows. I’m only posting this blog so that you all know the situation. And also I figure if authorities were to read this blog they would only know that I have made every effort to follow the rules that they have outlined for me so that they have no need to bust up these shows, which I know all of you love as much as I do. So here are the new rules:
-21+ (and we will card…)
-BYOB (we no longer provide any sort of alcohol)
-donations only. (we do not charge a cover, we suggest that you pay $5 to support bands for gas money and other expenses, we do not make ANY profit off of these shows)
-capacity is 50 within the loft. (this is what the fire mashall told me) so we have a lounge area now in the large hallway where people can hang out if they want to talk during an act.
-no smoking inside. no drugs. That said if you want to smoke cigarettes you must go outside, smoke them, and then come right back in because there is NO LOITERING outside, especially in groups because this is what would cause suspicion if cops were to drive through the alley and see a group of people there.
-no alcohol outside. in general please keep the party inside as much as possible.
And that is about it. There are two more shows in May before I take off the summer for a much needed rest in Maine where I will enjoy my semi-retirement from the riff raff of touring and all that crap. I will most likely crawl back out of my hole in September and continue doing whatever it is I do.
If you would like the info for the two shows in May please feel free to email me and I will give you the dates and information. Here is the line up:
First Show in May: Often Airborne, Sgt. Dunbar Hobo Banned (albany), Dirty Gospel, some sort of comedy group, and me.
Second Show in May: this show is for two reasons: the celebration of Stephen Brodsky’s new solo record. And a goodbye party for me (audrey) who is getting the hell out of Boston for the summer and will leaving sometime around early June or whatever. This show hasn’t totally come together yet but it’s in the hands of Steve who will decide who he wants to play that night.
Again, any questions, just email me.
Opening for Suzanne Vega; online Interviews…happy new year!!
Happy New Year 2008!!! I’m still up in Maine taking it easy trying to recover from some back pain and hanging out with the family trying to prolong the holidays and time off from the city as long as I can. But here is a blog on opening for Suzanne Vega and also two interviews I recently did that are posted on online blogs you can check out:
When I was a kid one of my first memories was of driving down to Maryland with my mom in the old station wagon and listening to “Luka” I had that song stuck in my head for a long time, it was quite memorable and also marked an era, which was sometime in the 80′s I guess. Later I owned “Days of Open Hand” and “99.9″ and of course “Tom’s Diner” so needless to say I’ve always been a fan of Suzanne and opening for her was quite an honor.
I’ve seen her perform twice before in Bar Harbor, ME and in Somerville. She travels with a full band and they put on a pretty solid show. The cool part about playing with someone is that you get to hang out with the band backstage and meet everyone. I watched some of their soundcheck, did mine, then we hung out backstage. The band members were quite friendly and nice to chat with, most of them were studio musicians from NYC. Suzanne was a bit cold at first but warmed up eventually, she’s very much a New Yorker and kind of guarded.
The show was great, it was at a church in Portland, ME and it felt pretty full, maybe 300 people or more. I had a 35-40 minute set and put a lot into it as you could hear a pin drop and you feel the pressure to get whatever you are trying to get across. And the audience did respond, maybe cause I’m a Mainard like them, or hopefully because they liked it. After the set I went out to my merch and did sell a lot of cds and did the signing thing (which I’ve always found ridiculous but whatever). There was lots of positive feedback. And then I felt that feeling that I knew I’d feel which is “if only all my gigs were like this one”. But they are treasured spots I know, and it’s quite an honor to even be asked.
It was their last night of a really long tour and they were actually driving in the tour bus all the way back to NYC that night so they decided to go out for a drink while the roadies packed up. I was invited and went to a local Portland bar on Congress Street to have a few drinks with Suzanne, her drummer, and her technical guy/bodyguard. She had a few carmel martinis and I had two glasses of red wine. We got loose and talked about “the DiVinci Code”, Michael Moore’s new film “Sicko”, online dating, and all sorts of other random topics. Basically everything but music which was nice.
At one point some drunk guys who were waiting for the bathroom (our boothe was the last one in the row and we were right next to the bathroom door) came up to our table and tried to talk to us but Suzanne was really weirded out and had her big dude shoo them off pretty quickly with the “we don’t know you” treatment. It was funny because I think she thought they knew who she was and were trying to get close to her but in reality they were just drunk Mainards who were just being friendly because that is the kind of place Portland, ME is. Suzanne said “if this happened in New York there would be a fist fight by now”. And that was when I was glad I’m from Maine and not from a city like that.
But anyway, it was good fun, she was nice to talk with. She has a daughter, Ruby, who is 13 or so and is remarried and just seems pretty professional and not very “rock and roll” as she said to me, but I totally understand, especially considering she’s been around touring for like 20 odd years and is probably pushing fifty, I’d treat it like a job too if I had a kid at home waiting for me. Anyway, the drummer and guitar player were great fun to drink with, all really nice people in the band. It ended when the bar was closing and they had to get on their bus back to NYC. The funny ending to the night was that they all took a photo of us outside the bar and Suzanne and I were in the middle right next to each other. But the funny part was that THEY took the photo and then left and I didn’t even have my camera on me so I was like “shit, missed that opportunity, but now oddly they have a picture of me…”.
Here are two websites that have recent interviews with me you can check out:
HERE THEY ARE IN PRINT, please go to websites though:
Getting to Know . . . AUDREY RYAN
by Kathy S-B · 1 January 2008 http://www.meandthee.org/blog/txp/
Audrey Ryan is one of the most eclectic performers I’ve seen this year. She’s comfortable with any number of instruments and always seems to have a trick up her musical sleeve. Audrey is a native of Mt. Desert Island, Maine, yet there’s a very distinct urban feel to her music. She’s not afraid to experiment and have fun with her music. Get a taste of what Audrey is like by checking out the music and the video on her MySpace page. Audrey tours a fair amount here and in Europe so there’s a good chance that you’ll see her in your neighborhood soon!
Q: Your style is most definitely one of the most original and dare I say quirky sounds that I’ve heard in some time. The good news is that it’s impossible to pigeonhole you into any particular genre. I hear bits of jazz, folk, pop, electronica, etc. That’s a good thing, don’t you think?
A: I do think it’s a good thing, mostly because I’ve been able to avoid boring my audience and fans, but more importantly, myself. As soon as I get tired of playing the guitar I switch to accordion, then when I get sick of that I go to keyboard or fiddle, and for Christmas I got a banjo which I plan to also add into my act. As far as the songwriting, I think you are right that it’s definitely on the “quirky” side, both lyrically and otherwise, my songs are very personal and one article called me a “genuine weirdo” when they listened to my new CD, “Dishes & Pills,” so whatever that means: quirky, weird… I guess in the end one thing it definitely ends up being is original. And that’s very important to me. I really steer away from derivative work, both in my own writing, and as a listener of others. If it’s derivative then I’d probably rather listen to the real thing. If someone’s ripping off Bob Dylan that to me is really boring, as I’d much rather just listen to Bob.
Q: I understand that one of your main influences in Joni Mitchell. What do you admire about Joni’s body of work and how does that translate to your own work?
A: Yeah, I’d have to say that Joni is kind of “it” for me when it come to female singer-songwriters. She just has everything: she’s an amazing songwriter, engaging and literate lyrics, an incredible voice, her overall musicianship is solid. I can’t really say a bad thing about Joni except that maybe some of her later records are kinda bad… But she has so many incredible records like “Blue,” “Court and Spark,” “Clouds,” in her early years, that it’s hard to really top those.
As far as what translates into my work, I’d say that like her I write very personal stuff, if you listen to my newest record, then by the end of it you pretty much know me, or at least a lot about me and my life and feelings about things. Joni wrote really from the heart about her life and love, I feel like I know her through her lyrics, or at least about all of her many, many relationships with men. We also have a somewhat similar singing style, basically we both use our higher register a lot and arpegiate and such. Overall she’s probably been the biggest influence on me of all times. And when I get reviews they usually reference her and most people who listen realize she’s some sort of an influence on me. But I definitely have my own thing going on, again getting back to that concept of “derivative” and “original” work, if I really sounded like her I’d be ripping her off and I have no interest in that. It’s funny though, I think before Joni I didn’t have anyone I truly looked up to as the supreme singer-songwriter but ever since I’ve never come close to loving someone’s work as much. I’m also a huge Dylan and Neil Young fan, but there is something maybe about Joni being a woman that ultimately the connection is unbeatable.
Q: You’ve traveled all over — Australia, Africa, and other exotic places. What made you set up a musical community in the Boston area?
A: I moved to Boston after college and after having spent a year in Australia and Asia. I chose Boston because my Dad is from Haverhill and I had spent a lot of time in Boston as a teenager because I went to a boarding school in North Andover. Plus my grandmother wanted me to move there, so I kind of did it for her and to be close to my home in Maine. So it was all those things combined. Otherwise I think I would have gone to NYC, and I still might. But Boston is a pretty cool musical city, there are tons of musicians, and plenty of clubs, I think what it seems to be missing is some real industry, there certainly seems to be a lack of that.
Q: “Dishes and Pills,” your newest recording is an interesting mix of all types of instruments and production. Can you tell us a little about how this CD was recorded and how heavily you were involved with all the various production details that make the CD such an amazing aural adventure!
A: I recorded the CD with Stephen Brodsky (of “Cave In”) who is a really amazing musician and also great at lo-fi recording. We recorded 9 of the songs in his and my rehearsal space using a four track. We would just do drums and guitar/keyboard/piano live first and then dump it to a computer and add all kinds of things. I’m a big fan of layering and I own and play tons of instruments so it was really easy to go wild, and even overboard in giving the songs lots of bells and whistles and quirks.
I also recorded 4 of the songs at my loft on my own, playing everything, and I know very little about recording besides how to press record on a very basic and old computer program. So it still surprises me how good those songs came out, they are arguably some of the best ones, but I think it’s because I had total control over them and added and subtracted what I wanted before it went to be mixed. I think what really made this record special was the fact that it was done low budget on a four track in a rehearsal space. If you listen hard enough you can hear cars driving by in the background. Then I did spend some money on having it mixed and mastered and that is what really made it listenable to everyone else, those two processes really glued the whole thing together so that it’s one piece of work. And I have to say, I started recorded it the summer of 2006 and finished it early in the winter of 2007, so even though it was only released this fall, it’s been around a while now for me, but I still love it and am very proud of it, which is great. I don’t feel that way at all about my first record. I think this one has more staying power, and I like that feeling.
Q: Do you enjoy the recording experience more than playing live?
A: I like both really, but I have to be in a certain mood to record on my own, whereas I will do a gig rain or shine usually I tour a lot so I must like gigging but sometimes after I’ve played too much (like my last 7 week tour in Europe where I played 43 shows in 50 days….) I just want a break and I lay low and spend a lot of time in my studio just messing around, practicing old and new songs, and maybe doing some recording if I feel like it. Actually, when it rains or snows I tend to like recording a lot more, it seems to be more of a bad weather thing, maybe because it’s a good excuse to stay in all day and work on something.
Q: What are your dreams and plans for 2008?
A: Hmm…I don’t really know to be honest. My manager Dave surely has some things up his sleeve. I have some Northeast shows booked in January and February and I’m planning another tour down to SXSW in March. I will also probably go back to the Midwest in April as I usually do. Beyond that I’m not really sure, I think I’ll go back to the UK/Europe again, maybe this summer for some festivals, but definitely in the fall, my label there will most likely want me to come back. As far as “dreams”, well, I’m still looking for a US indie label to release my record and help me out stateside, and I’ve also been working on some publishing and licensing stuff that I hope to make progress on in the New Year. I guess we’ll see…
This interview is by David Rogers and is on “Wicked Local: Raising the Bars”
Q: Hi Audrey, I have to admit, I can’t seem to pin down what kind of music you
write. I hear a lot of different influences including The Cardigans, Joni
Mitchell, jazz and when I hear you live you sometimes sound a little like
King Crimson. Is musical diversity something you strive for, is it just a
byproduct of the way your brain is wired or something completely different?
A: I’m sure it has something to do with the fact that I’m a little ADD and get bored pretty easily, I also like all sorts of music; jazz, country, folk, rock, bluegrass,…Plus even though I consider myself to be a pretty good guitar player and a decent violinist and piano player, I’m really more interested in playing every instrument under the sun in a competent way then just one like a perfectionist. I also had a lot of jazz and bluegrass influences back in college because my main gig was playing fiddle in all sorts of bluegrass bands and in jazz ensemble, so I was listening to Miles Davis, Bill Evans, John Coltrane, and Herbie Hancock plus Bill Monroe for like four years, so that makes it’s way into my music. Then when I moved to Boston I got more into the contemporary and indie scene, I started listening to Radiohead and Wilco and then all the other amazing bands that are making interesting original music. More recently I’ve really gotten into Sufjan Stevens and other innovative singer-songwriters. I get a lot of comparisons to him actually, but I think that’s more because I discovered him after I had made my own style of layering and multi-instrumental approaches to songs, and then I was like “wow, this guy does what I do but way more thought through…”. Joni Mitchel, Bob Dylan, and Neil Young are probably my biggest and most long lasting influences as they were what got me into being a singer-songwriter in the first place back in middle and high school. So I guess, yeah, I’m all over the map, and the music is hard to pin down in it’s genre and style. But that’s what I like about it. I make music that interests me so I don’t get too bored with it. As soon as I get bored with my music I change it up, try a new instrument. Pick a new genre of origin. I guess that’s the ADD in me, there is no doubt that I have a very short attention span.
Q: You just finished a residency (often a weekly gig at the same place that can
last months) at the Pickled Onion in Beverly. Many local musicians play them
including David Johnston, Andrea Gillis, Dennis Brennan and others. Do you
like residencies? Are they helpful to a career or can they be a hindrance?
A: I think residences are a mixed bag, they can be a great thing, and also a drag. That one at the Pickled Onion was more on the drag side. But I’ve had pretty good residences at the Abbey Lounge, the Middle East, and back home in Bar Harbor at some clubs. Basically I think good residences are ones that your at a cool club and the staff treats you well and your friends like to come there, and you meet new people and make new fans, and maybe you even get paid decently. But that certainly isn’t always the case. I think for some bands who have had residences for 2+ years it’s a really great thing for them because it’s like a weekly rehearsal in public, bands can get really good if they play that consistently and work out their music in front of people. I’d be into that but the truth is I don’t really have a specific band I work with all the time, I just have a handful of people I play with randomly and if they can do a gig they show up, but most of the time I end up doing stuff solo or duo with just my drummer. In some ways I wish I had a tight band, but I also know how hard that is, and what a drag it can be trying to keep 4+ people on the same page, especially when you are the “leader”. So I think for now I’ll just enjoy my one-off gigs, solo tours, and only do a residency if it presents itself and seems really worthwhile.
Q: On the same subject, you sure do play a lot of gigs. You’ve played around
here, up in New Hampshire and you recently came back from Europe. Do you
pretty much spend all your waking hours on your musical career or do you
have a “real” job?
A: Currently I don’t have a “real” job, I just play music. But who is to say how long that will last. For the past three years I’ve taught music part-time in order to ensure I’d be able to pay the bills, but my touring just kept becoming more and more frequent, then I got signed in the UK, so that’s when I quit my teaching gig. But I’m not really sure that I’d recommend other people quit their jobs for music. I actually think having a day gig keeps your perspective on things, the truth is, we all need to make a living and the music business is brutal, only a few lucky people can really “make it”. I’m not even sure I’m one of those lucky people, I’d like to be, but I also think that the second you make music your livelihood it gets really stressful and not as fun as it was when you were happy if you made twenty bucks at the end of the night because “hey, that’s like, almost a tank of gas”…(or not really these days). Anyway, you get the idea. Do it cause you love it, not because you want to make a buck.
Q: You just came out with a new CD “Dishes and Pills.” Can you go into what
makes this collection of songs different or better than the previous one:
“Passing Thru?” And on a side note: what can fans look forward to in terms
of future projects.
A: I think “Passing Thru” and “Dishes & Pills” couldn’t be any more different. My friends and fans who’ve listened to both sometimes say it doesn’t even sound like the same artists, and it’s true. I’ve changed and grown a lot musically and otherwise between 2004 and 2007. I actually put out 2 EPs, one in 2005 and one in 2006, and if you listen to those you might see the bridge of how thinks changed a bit more. I started out very much in the “jazz meets singer-songwriter meets pop music” sort of vein. Norah Jones had just gotten big and I thought I was onto something, but unfortunately I wasn’t…On “passing thru” there is a vibraphone player and most of my chords are jazz chords. There is a Latin and a Bossa Nova tune thrown in for good measure, all original, but heavily jazz influenced. But again, that’s around when I stopped listening to Miles Davis and started listening to Radiohead. Things changed real quick then. I was more into the idea of electronics and even getting weird, which at times I did. I’ve always written songs that I think are accessible, but sometimes you need to spell it out for some people and other people like the mystery. My dad likes “Passing Thru” because it’s a pop record and it’s pretty obvious what’s going on. “Dishes & Pills” is WAY more cryptic and personal. I’ve been told by people that it’s a record you could listen to numerous times and still find something new that you didn’t hear before, and it’s true. It has tons of layers, and tons of really personal lyrics and things to sit on. I’m much more proud of it as a result. When people say to me “I don’t get it” I smile because I know they just aren’t challenging themselves. So yeah, I’m glad I made a really interesting record that makes people think a bit more than just some diluted and derivative CD that will end up in their next yard sale.
As far as future projects, I don’t know, watch out…I have about two or three records worth of material right now and I’m just trying to think of what direction I want to go in next. One project I already have five songs recorded and may just finish that one as my next full length. It’s actually not that weird, but it’s still very layered and so far I think it’s really cool material. The other project I plan to only play piano and keyboard as the main instrument, which will be a big change from guitar being the start of things. Then I just got a banjo for Christmas and I’ve been writing on that and thinking of doing some more “minimalist” stuff. Plus my manager wants me to put out an instrumental CD because I gave him a demo of all my original songs I’ve written sans lyrics. So yeah, there is a lot of places I want to go and am going, but I guess we’ll see what gets completed first.
Q: Finally, you periodically promote/arrange a night of music featuring several
bands in one locale. I think that’s a great idea but I’m curious if creating
a musical scene is part of your strategy in terms of your career or is it
something you just think is really cool.
A: I do monthly loft shows at my rehearsal space, I’ve been doing it for two or three years now and they’ve become really popular as “underground” DIY kinda shows go. As far as my motives, I originally started to do it just to have a party with live music and enjoy it in a fun and cheap way (considering how much it costs to go out, pay a cover, and then buy drinks all night). Over time it evolved into it’s own entity, a way to promote and enjoy music I like with people I like in a somewhat controlled environment. I really just do it because I do think it’s cool, because I happen to have a cool space and I’m not afraid to use it. Because I like to put on events, even though I get stressed out and have to clean up after everyone usually, it’s still worth it. There wasn’t much “strategy” behind it at all except that one day all these people started emailing me like “wow your loft series is so cool” and “hey, aren’t you that girl with the loft?” and then I realized it had sort of put me on the map within my musical community. And I do play a short set at every show, so maybe that’s some ruthless self promotion, but I give myself the least amount of time and the worst slot, it’s always about the other bands, especially the touring bands. I don’t make any money at it, I pay my costs then try and give the bands some gas money. I think really it’s all about the community.
Nowadays it’s so tough to get known in a national scene, let alone international, it’s virtually impossible, it’s about as likely as winning the lottery, so you might as well quit that dream and just focus on your local scene, on having fun in your own neighborhood, and maybe just being locally “famous” or more importantly just having a really good time. My loft shows rule, I’m not afraid to say that because there is plenty of proof. Every time I have one people come up to me afterwards and say “this was the most fun I’ve had in a long time, this place is special”. And it’s because it’s friends and community and good music and it’s not about making money for some shitty club that could give a damn about all that.
Paddy & Swan (Ireland), Toast & Tea (UK), Red Wine & Baguett (Paris), Weed & Clogs (Holland)…
yup, i’m home, after 7 weeks on the road, it was the endurance test of my career, it was like the enigizer bunny it just kept going and going and going…but looking back it was a blast. i met great people, played great gigs, saw new places i’d always wanted to go…so what is not to love? even if i’m suffering from some back pain and am sort of house bound since my return…it was worth it.
so where did i leave you? i can’t remember but i think it was sometime around october 24th or so when i was in the UK about to leave to Ireland:
Nottingham- ok, i think i already covered land of Peter Pan, no, i mean, Robin Hood…this is actually where i developed my back pain by sleeping on a slowly deflating air mattress on a cold night, since then sitting down for long periods of time has been unbearable…in any case, my shows there were so so and my time on the Folkwit tour was wraping up.
Leicester- our last Folkwit show was here, a club in a somewhat uninteresting town in the Midlands. At that point all I had on my mind was that I was going to be alone again, for better or worse, after traveling with the label for two weeks. and i had made friends that i really liked. Shannon and Gaff had hosted me, Shannon is actually an American from North/South Dakota (i can’t remember which….) and was a really nice person. She had moved to the UK to be with her husband and I thought she had a lot of guts to move abroad and leave her family to create a new one, it struck me that all my travels always have an end date but it’s a different story when you actually move abroad. And then there was “If Wen” a guy on the label who works for the BBC by day at night writes moody songs about lost love and the beaches of Cornwall. Nice guy and very interesting to meet a British journalist, I was very intrigued by his career and how he goes about interviewing people, he’d been undercover at protests, gone to Iraq twice, interviewed a paralized man from a train crash on the British rail. Yeah, “if” was cool. And then there was Sam Carter, a great guitarist and a nice guy who I got talking about all the ins and outs of making music cause you love it but trying to manuver the business around you. And then the other folks of Folkwit: Andy Whittle, Sammuel Kirk, Jezz Hall, Nick…good people and a nice way to be apart of a community in the UK, if only for a few weeks. Right after I played my part of the show I more or less had to leave to catch the last train to the airport, “if” walked me there and as I got on the train I felt that loneliness all over again, hoping that Ireland would take it away.
County Westmeath- I flew into Dublin and took the airport bus into the city. I had time to burn since i had taken an early morning flight and didn’t have a gig until the evening. So i found a cafe where I could eat and loiter and spent about three hours drinking an unending cup of tea and working on my screenplay. Yup, screenplay you ask? I’ve been working on several for years, and absolutely none of them have ever been finished or seen the light of day, I’m not sure that this one is any different, but in that time I was in the cafe I must have hand written about 50 pages of plot and dialogue, so at least it was easy to come up with things. Probably because I was “writing what I know” and almost writing it from memory. In any case, that was a fine day of burning time in the middle of Dublin. Then I took a bus to Mullingar where I had my first show of 3 that a really cool promoter had set up for me in the great middle of Ireland the “midlands”. So basically I went from the Midlands to the Midlands. get it? If you didn’t I meant I went from the UK midlands to the Ireland midlands, from one middle of the country to the next.
Mullingar- Before the show I walked around the town and found an old church with a graveyard on it’s side, it was kind of haunting and I just kept staring at it like it would move. I had been to Ireland only once before when I was 12 for a family reunion so I was trying to conjur up any memories or feelings I’d ever had about it in the first place, so I supposed that old stone church was just setting the mood. show was good, some people were attentive, some were probably drunk, but it was a nice group of people and the club was kind of funny. i was in the front room but there was a stone cold room in the back where the big bands play and they were having the guys from the TV show “Jackass” play there the next night, sounded horrific…
Athlone- Dave and Eddie picked me up from a pub and took me to “the Shack” where we played that night. It didnt’ take long to feel at home with two Irish musicians who had good senses of humor and to knock back a pint at a very cozy old Irish pub. Our show was great, it was intimate and fun, I had a really good time. The was an after party at Eddie and his girlfriend Jasmine’s house (she happens to be American…) and it was about ten guys and Jasmine and me, it turned into a sing along party and just about everyone in the room did a Neil Young cover, which was easy for me to do. It was a good time. I passed out well before the rest of them but in the morning I awoke to very lively and fun hangover breakfast and really felt as though I had stepped right in to the best scene in County Westmeath, hell, in Ireland. Good people, good conversation, welcoming, lots of laughing, good food, I had arrived. It was even a typical dreary day in Ireland with overcast skies and looking out to the lake you could see the swans. It was very calming and melancholy as my grandmother always used to say the Irish sentiment was, I could feel it sitting there looking out the window past the lake to the green hills and a large stone cross on the hill, cows in the distance.
Ballymahon- We went on a walk through the woods lead by Dave and passed an old abandon house that was surely haunted. They had been inside and said there were still old glasses on the table, tins in the kitchen, sounded to creapy to climb in through a broken window but just lookin from the outside was enough. The woods were wet and dense and it was nice to walk and I chatted with Jasmine who seemed to be settled to live in Ireland and resigned to leaving America and it’s politics behind. The walk helped me to sort of clear my mind, Ireland is lovely with how green it is and the old stone walls, there is a certain feeling you get there. The place I played was Skelly’s a cute pub and they had the stage in front of a fireplace that was about as Halloween as it could be, since Halloween was a few days away at that point. I was playing on a stage with a which and orange lights, I was in heaven, because if you know me, you know that I love Halloween and it’s my favorite holiday. So I was excited to play on the themed stage to the pub of people. I was almost sad the next day to leave County Westmeath to go back to Dublin for my shows there.
Dublin- I played a show to a loud room and the entire time there was a projection screen showing “Evin Dead” with no sound which I then proceeded to watch several times during the course of the night, what a gross movie! but hilarious, you don’t even need sound because i’m sure the dialogue is crap and useless. Keiron and Jon hosted the show and were really nice, it’s a show called “Sunday Roast” and they make roasted potatoes for everyone which were great. Dublin is lovely, very nice quaint town, very similar to Boston now that I think about it. Lots of pubs and a lot going on close the river (even though the river is gross and dirty…). My other show at the Ruby Sessions was great, you could hear a pin drop and it was a nice full room of people really listening and those kind of shows are always fun, high pressure to perform, but worthwhile and if you get the material across people inevitably enjoy it and buy cds and all that. I met some cool people and had a nice time. I also spent Halloween in Dublin which I can just say was debacherous and everyone was dressed up and drunk in the streets, it must be a universal thing that when women don’t know what to be for Halloween they inevitably dress like hussy sluts, I don’t know why, but they do. Although some were more inventive, I saw one girl dressed like the nut in “clockwork orange” that was cool.
Galway- a lovely town on the west side of Ireland. I played a nice show at Roisin Dubh, a great club there, and they gave me an apartment to stay in (some venues in europe do this and it’s always great). My friends from County Westmeath came to Galway Dave, Keith, and I stayed up at the apartment hanging out eating chips (fries) and chatting until I fell asleep on the couch and eventually woke up to find a bed. The next day we went for a nice Irish lunch of soup and sandwich and tea. Then walked around town down to the water where in the distance you can see County Clair and some large hills in the distance. I wish it was a clear day and I had seen more. On the coast there were lots of birds and an infamous story where a guy had killed and tried to BBQ a swan and how the cops found him by a train of feathers and blood. I just looked back at the town and noticed how quaint and lovely it was, how the buildings were all different colors, how there’s lots of seaweed there and I had even met a guy the night before studying seaweed because there is so much of it. When they walked me to the other side of town to catch my bus back to Dublin I was sad to leave my friends. There are some great people in Ireland, in county westmeath, in dublin, and in galway, I can’t wait to go there again.
BACK TO THE UK: I played five more shows in the UK up in Cumbria
Keswick-When I flew into the airport in Blackpool I immediately went to Hertz and picked up my rental car. I had been “upgraded”. At first I was annoyed to think they had given me a less fuel efficiant car then the one I had reserved but they also said it was an automatic which is a good thing when you are driving on the other side of the road, they even asked if it was a “problem” that the car was automatic since they are all stick shifts there. In the parking lot I couldn’t even find the car because I didn’t know what I was looking for. So i kept pushing the unlock button on the keychain waiting for a car to unlock. then i noticed the black station wagon with tinted windows that had a vibe of a hearse, and it opened. And then I got into my “hearse” (I referred to it as that from there on out) and drove to my gig. It took a while to get used to driving on the other side of the road, especially the roundabouts, i had to play close attention to everything. But the hearse was amazing, it was brand new and had power everything and you could even control the stereo on the stearing wheel, I was eventually elated that I had been “upgraded”. Keswich is a beautiful little town in the lake district, my gig was at a nice cafe/bar/bistro there, they put me up at a B&B which is always nice. But of course they didn’t have a PA and the room was kind of loud, so it was a challenge to have people hear me but I enjoyed meeting the people and loved walking around the town the next day. I went on a nice long walk around the lake which was stunning. Fall folliage, mountains, lake, islands in the lake, it was gorgeous, I felt really lucky to be there then in a clearly touristic destination I had stumbled upon.
Hoff- I played the next night at a country pub in the middle of nowhere, Hoff is not even a town really, just a pub and a farm, and a few houses. The hosts were great though and I had my room and bath and dinner and played to a pub full of locals who were nice and attentive and we had good banter between songs.
Dent- I had played there the year before and in that year the management had changed and it was a bit strange and of course there was no PA for the second night on the tour, quite a challenge, but I did a sing along format instead which was fun and even asked some people from the town to come up and play some songs. In the end it was cool. Charlie was my old friend from last year and we went to a campfire after the show to hang out with his friends that had partaken in the sing along, we were around the campfire and it was cold and they were all telling stories of when they had been to america which was funny because they’d only been to places like a ranch in Texas and Los Vegas, basically places I’ve never even been. Charlie must have been quite drunk because he was out of the campfire a bit and started farting quite frankly and we were all confused of whether or not to laugh or cry, one of the girls started saying how gross it was (there were multiple farts, and he seemed to affirm each one after they happened with an “ahh…” “mmmhh”) I of course just laughed the entire time. The next day I took a little trip into the countryside and went into a cave, that was cool, you always feel really claustrophobic when you are entering it but that feeling passes and then it’s kind of like being in a different world. I left Dent to head south but I passed through Seberg on the way, which is a lovely little village that is considered the book capital of the world because it has about 20 bookstores even though the town is miniscule. I found a nice cafe to hang out at and write, it was a lovely place, I hope to go back there again sometime.
Wolverhampton- I played at varsity venue last year, it’s a nice club and Stu the promoter is a cool guy and very helpful. It was so foggy on my way into town I got lost and totally frustrated because you couldn’t see anything, the fog was like pea soup, I had never seen anything like it before. I was thankful to finally get there. I played with some local bands which should have been great except they all insisted they play anytime but last, so as the out-of-towner I ended up headlining which is always a death sentence as it was a sunday night and people wanted to get home before they got lost in the fog. Stu and I went to an open mike after and I ended up playing some more songs there on accordion for fun. We were sitting next to some polish folks and the girl had massive breasts that even I couldn’t fathom and across from here were two guys with shaved heads and muscles the size of my head. i guess i was just staring for a while. That night we watched some “eddie izzard” who is a great comedian and whilst stu was putting it on the DVD some hardcore porn appeared which his housemate had failed to take out of the DVD player. it was good for a laugh. The next day we walked around to charity shops as I was looking for some shoes but ended up with scarf. I had an arctic role, which was sweet and disgusting, but looks good. And I orded chili twice from the restaurant and they didn’t have it twice, it just wasn’t meant to be.
Bristol- my last show in the UK was in Bristol and it was fun. Andi met up with me and we tried to return my rental car but failed as we couldn’t find the Hertz place. Then I went back to Helen’s place and had dinner, she is getting her phD in poetry and writing a dissertation on slam poetry, which seemed really cool, she had been to the US to do research and had lots of interesting stories about it. I played at the “acoustic night” which is kind of like the open mike but was about 80% poets and a few musicians. But it was a relief to hear poetry instead of music as I had been surrounded by music the entire tour and enjoyed the break, plus I love writing and poetry so it was nice to get an insight into that culture, they were all really supportive of each other and overall it was just really interesting. i was the feature and played a set and they were all very responsive and it was a nice night and a good way to end my time in the UK.
FRANCE, or Paris rather:
Paris- on the plane ride over I noticed a woman wearing a baret with a stripped shirt and thought that surely she was a French bohemian. After I got my luggage and headed for the train into Paris she came up to me and said “are you playing in Paris?”, I don’t know how she knew but she said she asked because I had a guitar, I explained to her that I had a show that night in Bastille and she decided to tag along. She was a bit older maybe around forty, and was a pianist. Her name was Jacqualine and she was actually Canadian but lived in the UK. She had come to Paris for two days as a sort of spontaneous trip and she was going to go around the city finding cafes with pianos and playing one song at each one and leaving her cd, it seemed like a strange idea, but i thought it was a very cool concept in general. We sort of immediately connected and she told me how before she got married and had her son she had toured all over Europe for years. We found her a hotel and then went to the club where I was going to play. It was the cutest place called “the Motel” a smokey hipster bar in a hip part of Paris. I immediately loved it there. We got a drink and some cheese, sausage, and bread (all they had in the way of food) and hung out before I played. There was a great vibe there, even though I felt like I had stepped in to a hipster bar in Brooklyn were everyone was speaking French, and it was damn smokey. The guy who ran the place felt bad that they didn’t have more food for me so he brought me to his apartment next door where he had cous cous and chicken, he lived alone and commented how he should “get a cat”. The show was fun and Jacqualine and I agreed to meet up the next day.
I stay with my friend Laura who lives near Momarte, she’s a really cool person and it’s always good to see her. Plus she lives in an interesting part of Paris, not the best part, but it’s close to Momarte and very interesting in general. I walked to Momarte and met up with Jacqualine, we climbed up to the cathedral, or whatever it is, and then went past it to the hill were all the painters and cafes are. It was lovely, we had a capaccino there and I just remember feeling like I had met her for a reason, that she was me in the future. Our conversation really helped me because I had been feeling so confused the entire tour about my future and what I was going to do in my life ( i guess i always feel that). But she gave me some kind of confidence that everything would work itself out, she encouraged me to stick with my music, that I had something there and it was worth keeping with, she told me i’d all work out. and i thought that maybe it would. maybe i could keep making a life of music and maybe when it all made sense i could fall in love and get married and have kids and all that stuff, and that even that would be ok when it happened. i guess she was sort of the pill i needed to take that made me realize that life keeps going and works itself out one way or another and it’s all ok. i’m really glad i met her then, it was definitely what i needed. everyone else comes to Paris and they’re already in love, they are on honeymoons, they are making out in alleys. i was alone and thinking the entire time, i had so much on my mind. so a few things happened that just helped me make sense of things. that was a good day.
my show at Point Epherme with “versari” was really cool, it’s a great club. and i saw my old friend Dawn landes there which was quite a nice surprise. the show was cool, they always feed you in france which is great, because the food is good. i just wish i knew French and then i’d never leave Paris because it is lovely. I spent a lot of time in Momarte just walking around and writing, a weird thing came over me a few days after I’d been in Paris and I just started writing voraciously and by the time I left I almost had a book, a book I call “the cathartic handbook” which was basically me purging all the feelings I had had of late, on my life, on my break up, on moving on, on life and love and everything else. I guess Paris really does inspire. I found the cafe where they filmed “Amelie” and had coffee there twice. I love that movie, I love Paris. My other show at Viex Leon was nice, the owner was great, the food was good, the people were lovely. I loved it. My last show was back at Pop In, my favorite hole in the wall club in Paris where it’s so smokey you could cut it with a knife, I met lots of people and ended up dancing to soul music late at night and taking a taxi well after the metro closed, yes, yes, paris is special. It was hard to leave I enjoyed it there so much, I think one day I will live there, in fact I’m sure of it, I’ll just have to find a way I guess. it’s very easy to fall in love in paris, if only just with paris. My last day I went to Shakespeare and Co. and English language bookstore, and I sat up on a bed and wrote for hours, just across the river from Notre Dame, how lovely. Of course the bad ending was the day I left the metro went on strike and I had to walk a few miles with all my stuff to catch my ride to Holland, all with a bad back, but even with that bad ending to a week in Paris I still can’t say a bad word about it. xxxoo.
It was my first time there and I didn’t know what to expect. We went through Belgium and I was suprised that with the European union there are now no borders to go through, that was actually nice. I arrived in Amsterdam and it was already night. I went to my venue which was an Irish pub and basically was like going to Ireland again instead of Holland, as everyone who worked there, and several of the patrons were Irish. It was a long gig but fun and there were some nice people there and a bunch of rowdy Croatians that were there for a boat show. That night I stayed in the apartment that the venue owns, watched some news and feel asleep soundly.
Zwolle- almost six years ago now I backpacked around Southeast Asia and in Thailand i spent a few weeks with a Dutch guy named Jereon or “joey” as i called him. We kept in touch and he came and picked me up from Amsterdam and took me back to his played in Zwolle where he lives with his girlfriend and their son Walter. It was nice to see him again, he’s such a positive person and we reminisced about our time in Asia and all our travels. it was great. but it was bad timing because his son was sick, he had a bad cold and was having trouble breathing so in the time i was there they had to take him to he hospital. that was kind of sad. but nonetheless, i’m so glad i got to reconnect with him. he also took me to see an Osteopath who treated me for my back, he cracked it in fact. that was interesting, i was convinced he might cure me, which he didn’t entirely, but i do think it must have helped.
Haarlem- i played a show in a beautiful old pub from the 1500s, it used to be the place where they would weigh the goods that came in from shipping with a large metal scale called a “de waag” in dutch. it was a nice attentive and intimate crowd and a good night. Cees was the promoter and a really nice guy, he hated america and told me that early on, i didn’t bother defending it, i just said it’s where i’m from, i can’t defend our politics and would never bother. but he was great and so was his wife Elisabeth. they had been married only about a month before but were probably in their 50′s, really nice people and it was great to get to know them. the next day Cees took me on a bike ride to the town next door which was a quaint beautiful village, and he showed me where his boat was out in the water. we had a hot chocolate in a pub (also from the 1500s) that had old rugs on the table (appearantly a very dutch thing). it was such a cozy place with antiques on the walls, and those rugs, man, it was the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had and probably ever will.
Edinhoven- the fifth biggest city in holland i was told. I played at a club that has blues and jazz and everything inbetween it seems, it was fun, the people were nice, i met two Dutch guys who were highly entertaining and got really drunk and i took a video on my camera of one dancing and singing with a mic that wasn’t turned on. i met a girl who had on the same sweater as me, both black and white stripes, we took pictures, she already sent me hers and wants me to send mine. Nina Simone followed me from the UK, to Ireland, to France, to Holland, everywhere I went I would hear her on the ipods of the clubs and just feel waves of sadness and happiness, I love Nina Simone, I think she is my favorite singer ever. Erwin was the promoter of the club and my host, he’s a nice guy, a poet. He made me a killer breakfast and i liked his old cat that would sit on it’s chair as though it would never leave, we watched some Wallace and Gromitt cartoons, or rather the same people who created it, and those were great. Then I went back to Amsterdam for my last show.
Amsterdam- i had time to burn, about 3 hours, and I put my stuff in a locker at the train station and wandered around the city to see “it”, which it turned out to be the red light district. It was cold, and if it hadn’t been for that I would have enjoyed it more, but my hands seemed to be loosing their circulation it was so cold. I walked down the touristy bit and got some curry fries at this place where the food is in a vending machine. you stick one euro in the machine and you open a door and get a hamburger, strange but cool, i’d never seen that before. I wandered into the red light district where there are “coffeeshops” everywhere in the alleys, all kinds of places where you can just go smoke a joint at your fancy. some were themed, rasta reggae, some were just normal cafe but the menu must be in canabis terms. i don’t know because i actually didn’t even go in one because i didn’t want to get stoned and then go play a show. but i did want to see the red light district, and when i stumbled upon it i hardly knew i was there until i noticed i was in an alley and it was all men and then i started to notice the many many windows of woman who are displaying themselves in fishbowl style. most of them had on bra and undies, some even skipped the top or had their nipples bulging out. some even had on flourescent bakinis and outfits where their whole bodies were glowing (also like some rare tropical fish). yeah, it was crazy, they are just standing there, or posing there like a display window, and all there is seperating you from a hooker is some glass and if she has a customer all she does is pull a curtian, so that is when you know they are in business. i was told a “suck a fuck” costs fifty euro (only 75 bucks), i think that is the bargain of a lifetime, i can’t believe they do it so cheap. i especially can’t believe it because someone told me they are unionized, in which case i don’t understand why it’s not a lot more. but yeah, what a sight to see. it’s a one of a kind place. the canals in Amsterdam are beautiful, the houses are tall and thin, it’s a really beautiful and special place. it just happens that the main attraction for tourists is weed and hookers, and maybe mushrooms although i hear they are trying to make those illegal ever since some tourist jumped off a building to his demise because he thought he could fly.
My gig was at a really cool place called KHL, it’s sort of a music theatre, really nice, and not anywhere near the red light. I actually had some friends come to see me, my friend Matt who I actually had met in ireland but was there for the weekend (maybe getting a suck and fuck, i don’t know…). and my friend Jeannette that I lived with in Australia also about six years ago (i’m getting old) and it was amazing to see her because she is married now and has a child and was just so put together I was really in awe. It was a great last gig because i was around friends, new and old, and just felt like it was all worthwhile and was exhausted and ready to go home.
So the next day I flew back to the UK where I had one more day before I flew back here to the good USA. I changed all my money in euro and pound back to dollar (thank god for the exchange rate, our money is shit, but i made more…). then i went out for my last night with my friends James Yuill and Sam Carter and we saw a show and had a few beers and it was fun. The next morning I got up and started my long journey home on Air Canada. Which was much better on the way back then on the way there at least with entertainment (i saw “once” and “mighty heart” and the “simpsons movie” all were great and highly recommended). But i was delayed in toronto and that sucked. but whatever I”M HOME!!! and even though i’m exhausted and my back hurts and i had to have an MRI on it to see what is wrong, i know i will be ok and that this trip was totally worthwhile and i’d do it again if i had the energy…
thanks for reading and as your PRIZE for finishing this blog i’m rewarding you with …..
thanks for flying ryan air.
Current mood: cold
Well, I’ve been here now for over three weeks and I have a little more than three weeks left. So far I’ve just been doing shows in the UK although tomorrow I go to Ireland and after that France and the Netherlands. So here are some overviews from places I’ve been so far:
Hastings/St. Leonards- this is basically like Hampton beach, a seaside resort kind of town, but in October it’s kind of foggy and getting cold and there aren’t as many tourists at the arcade. I played three shows there straight and had a really nice beginning to my tour staying with my friend Kate, whom I met last year, we both were in a similar place having come out of relationships not too long ago and sort of coached each other through it a bit and went on long walks around town and the beach and checked out the old fishing village.
There are these very small houses, maybe 4 or 5 feet square and they are two stories tall, all they carry are netting for gear for fishing. The fishing museum had all these beautiful pictures of fisherman from the 1800′s and beyond which showed a kind of history to the area that was almost haunting. There still are fishing boats, and it’s still a big industry there, but otherwise it’s hard not to notice the amusement park, arcade, chippy stands, and summer condos that have spread throughout that area. My shows went well and it was nice to return to the Rooms, and meet new people. The highlight being a late night at a bar watching a dude dance with himself at the bar, he was basically humping the woodwork, and I recorded it with my new digital camera, I’m convinced I could stick it on youtube and get a million hits, or make a music video out of it. I played one night there with a band with six ukuleles which was interesting. I told them they should make a zombie music video in hastings with all that fog and some halloween makeup. At least that is what I’d do…
Brighton- “london by the sea”, I think more like san francisco. It is a nice place, a city on the beach, there are cool shops in these little alleys, I went there last year and didn’t see a whole part of the city which was clearly the place to be…The show was good, it was in the afternoon which was strange but they drew the curtains and created night and people came…My friends Clare and Jezz gave me a tour of the town, we walked the seaside strip with all the folks hanging out at bars, sitting on the rocky beach, it was a nice feel. In college I chose between going to study abroad there or to Australia, as some of you know I went to Sydney, which I’m still happy about, it’s sunny and cheaper, but Brighton would have been cool too. The next day we went up to a hill in the countryside and walked around. That is what the English seem to do, go walk their dogs and kids in the countryside and then go to the pub for a roast and a pint. So that is what we did and it reminded me that in England there is a hell of a lot more day to day tradition, whether it be tea or a roast. I guess in the US we have…thanksgiving? I’ve always found in English-speaking Western countries it’s all those little differences that make you know you are in a foreign land. Anyway, yeah, brighton is cool…
London- oh geez, I’ve tried so hard to love London but it is such a tough love, either that or it’s just not happening…I can’t seem to really call it my own in any way and I’ve now collectively spent over a month there in my lifetime, it’s just a big spralling expensive city to me, I’ve tried to love it and will have to try some more. All the gigs there usually are the worst of the tour, in big cities there is too much going on for people to take notice of what you are doing. I did a handful of shows this time and the only one that was kind of cool was at the Old Queens Head and that was just because it was this beautiful room with high ceilings and chandaliers and old furniture, I felt like I was in a room you could only be in in London, we don’t have rooms like that back home. Otherwise though London is a tough nut to crack, maybe even tougher than nyc. To sum up my feelings on London I will not give you a Bert Jansch song that struck my fancy and captured my feelings a lot whilst I was in London and in the UK in general:
Running Running from Home (by Bert Jansch)
Running running from home, breaking ties that you’ve grown, catching dreams from the clouds. The city sounds burn your soul, turn your head to the cries of loneliness in the night. Just like a fly when it’s caught the spider soon takes it’s brace spins a dance round your heart. Yet be your beauty of age, your pleasure pleasing my mind your heart with shatter and fall. Step on pavement so old cast a glace at the young girls are making their way. A passing image of you reflects a pain to my heart and disappears in a crowd. Running running from home breaking ties that you’ve grown catching dreams from the clouds.
There it is, London in a nutshell. This song is beautiful, check out Bert Jansch’s myspace it’s posted on there and is a great listen. The only London story that comes to mind is that I meet this weird dude at a show who told me his life story in less than five minutes, where he inherited a bunch of money and then his third wife and her gangster relatives robbed him of it. This was his justification for why his Martin guitar was at his mother’s house in case the gangsters came back…oh my…
I had a lot of de ja vu at the beginning of the tour where I was going to venues and seeing people I saw exactly a year ago on my first UK tour, and it kind of freaked me out. Knowing that a year had gone by and that I am a year older. And that things have changed since then, last year I was in a relationship, lived in an apartment I no longer live in, had a different life almost, so it was strange to return to the same thing changed. But the weirdest de ja vu is when I went to this venue I played last year and went to a nearby supermarket to grab some food before the show, the same supermarket I went to last year. I remember that I got their premade food last year and it sucked but it was easy and cheap. So oddly enough, even remembering this information, I went back to the same shitty supermarket, got their premade food and took a few bits and threw it away. Then laughed all the way back to the venue that I’m such an idiot creature of habit that I had repeated the same crappy decision with crappy food exactly a year later…
Margate- also a trip down memory road, I was playing the last show of the Moon on a Stick promotions weekly gig at the Qubar, they decided to stop the series that week and I was the last one to do it so it was quite an honor and it was a great show, it was a nice part of the venue this year that was more like a posche club with a dj boothe and leather couches, it was a fun gig though, I liked it a lot, and it was great to see Penny, Ollie, and Lisa again who all wrote nice little notes in my journal while I was playing. Penny lives in this adorable little house that is three stories but scrunched in between other buildings and you feel like you are in a shoebox but it’s a very comforting feeling. Sometimes coming back to places is a really great feeling because you know what to expect and I felt like I knew those people even though I’d only come across them for two nights in my life, but as a touring musician that is what you are constantly trying to do, connect with people, especially when you are alone…and speaking of alone, this is the part of the tour where I hooked up with my label, Folkwit Records, for their label tour and for the next two weeks I’ve more or less been with them and 4-5 of their other artists on a label showcase and I haven’t really been alone at all since, or much.
Cambridge- well with the fancy university and the fact that Cambridge, MA is surely named after it, you can imagine what it is like. Very IV league and beautiful and old and people go “punting” with boats down the river (that thing they do in Venice…). My friend Brendon is going to law school there this year so he gave me a tour of the town and school which is just beautiful with gardens and incredible architecture, and old cobbled streets and houses. Has that real old English feel to it. The show was pretty good as a listening room.
I went for Chinese food next door and ordered some chicken fried rice from a young Asian teenager whose family probably owned the business. Then he went behind to the kitchen and came back out with my food, and then I asked for some sweet and sour sauce and there appeared his identical twin which totally tripped me out, I thought I had entered an episode of the twilight zone, one of them came out with a big cup of sauce and wanted like 90p for it (almost $2 basically) and I was like, no I just want a little packet of sauce, which totally got the twins wicked confused and they were taking back to each other, and they looked exactly the same with the same outfit practically, and it was just really trippy, I guess you had to be there…but if I ever make a movie they are gonna be in it…
Clitheroe- country town in Yorkshire, we played in the backroom after the Rubgy was over, and thank god the British won…When I walked into the bar I ordered a diet coke and then asked the barkeep for a lime and he said “Miss this is an old English pub we don’t have things such as limes, you must go up the street for that”. A bit shocked I saw a jar full of lemons and asked if I could have one of them. “Are you Australian?” he asked, “No American,” I replied. “That’s even worse,” he said back and a bunch of people listening laughed. The other people from Folkwit who were with me were quit appalled and said that most English people aren’t that rude. But I just thought I’m in the country and I’ll just shut up and not ask for a lime…Needless to say the show was great and it was a very attentive audience and we all had a great time.
Leeds- when I hiked in Nepal over five years ago I met a couple, Sam and Matt, who were on their honeymoon. Now they live in Leeds and have a beautiful son Otto, who is 15 months old. I stayed with them for two nights and played some shows and had a really nice time seeing them again. It’s sometimes nice to be with a family when you are traveling as a musician, it gives you a sense of stability and…reality…most people don’t live such a bizarre life as I do and I guess the grass is always greener. Sometimes I long for a sense of stability and I meet people everywhere that are envious of my ability to move around at will and not be tied down by a mortgage or day job, or children.
I played a show outside Leeds in Otley with two US bands that were there on a tour promoted by CMEAS, something that is on sonicbids, and we had been in touch and they invited me to come play. It was an interesting setting in a country pub in a small picturesque town. It was outdoors under a tin roof, garage sorta thing, the drums were a bit much for the place but otherwise it was certainly a show to remember, and some great English roast as well. It was nice to chat with some other American musicians and get their stories on touring around. They had had quite an adventure with a van breaking down, man have I heard that story a lot. And I’ve also lived it and know how awful it is when your vehicle shits the bed on tour, it’s the worst feeling because you have a gig to be at, tons of gear, and you are kind of stranded. In any case, that was a fun show.
Then I played in Leeds at what was essentially like a variety show with all kinds of strange acts and poets, and whatnot. It was cool though, the only really shocking part of the variety show was a diva who had them put in a cd that stunk of wannabe Beyonce or J-Lo and she proceeded sing along with the CD karoke style and dance around and diva herself onstage, it was pretty unbelievable, I forgot that that is popular culture and some people actually admire all that shit.
Sheffield- home of the Arctic Monkeys which has made it a town with tons of bands who probably are trying to make it big like them. The club was cool, Runaway Girl, kind of a swank place. One of the bands I played with was quite anthemic and sort of interesting “held by hands”. The best part of the show being that Cath the promoter was very helpful and I got to stay in an apartment above the club for the night and have tapas the next day before I shoved off. And the tapas were great. Plus I love clubs that have apartments where performers can stay, it doesn’t happen much but when it does you always feel like all clubs should have that for touring artists. I also walked around town going to charity shops looking for some new books to read. One cool thing about the UK is that there are small charity shops everywhere that say “Cancer Research”, “Save the Children”, “Oxfam”, so I went to “Help the Aged” where everyone shopping there was over 65 and got myself a book for 50p and hoped the aged i guess…
Of course the bum news is that on my way back to London from Sheffield my bus broke down on the side of the highway and it was pouring buckets, I was worried I was going to miss my show. We waited at a gas station, I was under an umbrella who two guys who were smoking and talking about their diabettes, and luckily another bus came and I jumped on wet and happy. The woman next to me talked my ear off, but it felt really good to just get out of that parking lot with the rain coming down and feeling stranded. I made the gig afterall and met a really nice band called “forestbrook” who were these girls playing folky irish influenced music. The Electroacoustic club is basically the one venue in London I can call my own, I’ve played there three times, always going to the same Asian place around the corner for a bite (are you starting to get my patterns here…) and I’m buddies with the soundguy, so that must mean I do have a London home in that cave-like venue…
Bishops Stortford- small villagey town outside of London thirty or forty miles. “If Wen” and I walked around for a bit. He’s one of the Folkwit artists who is a BBC journalist by day and has a lot of interesting stories and has been to Iraq twice and always has a lot to say about politics. What I liked most about the town was looking above the shop windows to the little apartments above that must be interesting places to live since you are in a fishbowl unless you shut the curtins, but I imagined it as being a really cute place to live, especially back in the 60′s or something, not sure why that came to mind but I always imagine all places being a lot more interesting back then. The show was intimate and we had a very attentive audience. The pub used to be a horse barn so there was an old smell to it and you knew that you were in a stable, they even had stable doors seperating the pub from the playing/function room.
Pettersborough- we played in a hippie artists collective pub which was quite interesting, a young electic crowd with a DJ spinning between sets, practice rooms in the back. It wasn’t really a good venue for the music that the tour is promoting, since people were kind of loud, but it was nonetheless an interesting place to be. The other artists who I’ve been playing with and gotten to know these past two weeks are Andy Whittle, Jezz Hall, Samuel Kirk, If Wen, and Sam Carter, all of whom have played at least a few of the Folkwit dates, and it’s been nice to get to know them all, as they are all nice people and the music is varied under the indie folk umbrella you might say. We went for some fish and chips which is always the easy cheap way to eat in England.
Nottingham- I’ve been here in “notts” for a few days now and it’s been good. I’ve been staying with Gaff, one of the guys who runs Folkwit, and his family has been very nice and hospitable. I played with the label at Hotel Deux which is a cool pub with a great owner, Rob, and his cute dog who is v. old and has asthma and had black tape all around it’s foot because it tried to knaw at it’s paw. The venue is like a large living room with couches and it was a good show even though the rugby world cup was on earlier and England lost. I was happy to see that John Renbourn (who played with Bert Jansch in “Pentangle”) had played at the venue the week before. It’s always a nice feeling when you’re playing at the same venues as people you admire and influenced you from a young age. We had a nice night and the next day I took a day trip to:
Manchester- for the “In the City” festival which is basically like the SXSW of England. I played a day show at a venue that reminded of of “the other side” cafe in Boston and the Middle East. Lots of hipsters and whatnot, but it was a good show even though I was on early on a Sunday when people were probably just getting out of bed and confronting their hangovers or whatever. I hung out and watched the other acts for a while but decided to get back to Notts in the evening because I wasn’t really in the mood to trek around exploring the festival even though it may have been worthwhile.
Part of my decision to bust after 3-4 hours of chilling out that afternoon at the venue was that another band mistakenly took off with my guitar as it was with all the other gear near the stage, I luckily discovered it missing, realized what had happened and recovered it all pretty quickly but it was a horrible feeling to think that I could loose my guitar so I’ve been keeping it closer to me now, knowing that all gig bags look alike and that musicians are historically very flakey. Not to mention the waitress was a bit on the bitchy side and while I was playing I had left a bag of apples, banaas, and snacks at my seat and when I got off stage it was gone…damn rock clubs.
No whatever it was cool, I just was doing my Suduko looking around at all the hipsters chatting away thinking to myself that I’m either too old for this shit or just over it because I just dont’ seem to care about the scene anymore, and I wonder if i ever did, but it occured to me how much of this business is just a bunch of fashion hipster hype and “who you know” and all that horseshit, and even though I’ve never liked being tagged a “folky singer-songwriter” type sometimes I think in that scene at least it really does matter if your music is any good, since it’s so stripped down and easy to bore people if you’re music isn’t interesting. With the hipsters sometimes I can’t even see beyond their glaring 80′s clothes and the music just sounds like a wall of “hey i leared to play this synth yesterday here’s some shitty song i want to be a rockstar.” or whateves…
I’ve spent the last two nights in Nottingham doing the feature for open mikes, which is a built in but inattentive audience I find but on a monday and tuesday night on tour it’s better to play a show than not. One of the venues was this amazing old theature with a glass doom roof. It would be amazing to play at except the stage is about 8 feet above the first level and 8 feet bellow the balcony so you are stuck somewhere imbetween and it’s hard to know who you are playing to even though asthetically the place was stunning. Tonite we are off to Leicester and then tomorrow I go to Ireland to finish off the second half of this incredible long ass tour! Here are my closing sentiments on this blog:
Books I’ve read so far: “Travels with Charley” (John Steinbeck), “the Bell Jar” (Sylvia Plath), “Delusions of Grandma” (Carrie Fisher), “the Joy Luck Club” (Amy Tan). Here are some quotes:
“When that time was over and the good-byes said I had to go through the same lost loneliness all over again, and it was no less painful than at first. There seemed to be no cure for loneliness save only being alone.” John Steinbeck
“When you are a kid time drags ass, then before you know it you are 50″ -the film “Amelie”
“I wished with all my heart I could crawl into her and spend the rest of my life barking out one idiom after another. It mightn’t make me any happier, but it would be one more little pebble of efficiency among all the other pebbles” -Sylvia Plath
“Babies rolling over, babies reaching for rattles, babies eating their first spoonful of solid food, babies doing all the little tricky things it takes to grow up, step by step, into an anxious and unsettling world” -Slyvia Plath
“To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is the bad dream” -Slyvia Plath
Basically “the Bell Jar” is an amazing book, one of my favorites, it’s like a female version of “Catcher in the Rye”, and even more off the dead end, you must read it if you haven’t, or re-read it as I just did, I loved it even more then second time.
My closing sentiment is of course a bit of my usual cynical self on a rant, only read this if you want to read a rant… Having weathered the music business now for about five years full time, I can say that it is a thankless and really difficult industry to wrap your head around. I always thought there might be some kind of equation or science behind what you need to do to achieve “success” but surely now I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no such way to know these things, and surely there is no science to sucess in this industry. Even being over-ambitious and working hard at your craft doesn’t always seem to add up to results, and touring takes it’s toll as you sacrafice the feeling of having a nest at home and a sense of security for a freewhelling life of unpredictablity which cuts both ways into good and bad gigs and road experiences.
I’ve spoken to a lot of people about the state of the industry and we all agree it’s getting more and more difficult with the digital age to sell cds and to quite frankly make a living because the market is diluted with tons and tons of artists (mostly amateurs) who have decided to post their music on myspace and get gigs, and they make it difficult for those of us who are really serious about making music for a living. I think ten years ago it was a much different market. There are so many names and bands now, every time I open a music magazine over here or back at home it’s just more and more albums, bands, solo artists, and they are all trying to get their music out there, it feels like swimming in a sea of unidentifiable objects, and it makes you wonder how anything floats to the shore. Seriously I don’t know how anyone rises up in a scene these days, there is just so much competition and really just so much content and it’s hard to know what is worthwhile as an approach to making music in a public forum.
Having almost driven myself crazy over the past couple years dumping all my time, energy, and money into my music career, I have to say that I’m looking forward to taking a step back. It started to really come clear to me this summer when I was interviewed for a film about indie bands. I told them about all my touring and how I had gone about trying different avenues in the business. They asked me if I thought making a record, having a solid local/regional fanbase, or touring were the best ways to focus your energy to be successful. And all this kind of theoretical crap in the industry I’ve talked about with people countless times. After the interview, when the camera was shut off the director told me about an interview he did with my friend Lee Anderson who runs Radio Bean in Burlington VT, an old and great friend of mine, I was living in Burlington when he started the business and I still play there regularly. The director said Lee was his best interview and when I asked why he said because when asked:
“what would you tell bands looking to make it in the music business?”
his response was “No, don’t try and make it, keep your day job, do it because it’s your passion and do it because it doesn’t owe you anything, don’t try and make a living off of it, that is the first mistake all these musicians make, they think that “making it” is quiting their day job when it’s really just being respected in your arts community and having a love for what you are creating…”
Of course I’m embellishing a bit, I’m not sure exactly what he said beyond that idea but I have to say when the director first told me this response I thought it was an odd thing to say. But I’ve thought about it a lot over the past two months and I have to say that I’ve come to the conclusion that he is right on. I’m so sick of getting all these emails on myspace from bands looking to pick my brain, ask to play at my loft, open a show, all this shit, it’s like everyone in this industry is going around saying “What can you do for me?”. and these are just the musicians I’m talking about, let alone the clubs who want you to have a big draw and take all the door money and give you a couple bucks for making them tons of money off booze, let alone the scum bag A&R people who just look at you with dollar signs trying to see if you could be the next big thing. They don’t give a shit about your music, it’s about money, and artists are making the same mistake.
So I’ve made a decision to step back and stop letting this business get to me in the ways it has these past years I’ve made it my biz. I’m going to try and find the good parts of making music that made me play it to begin with, because the business is dirty and really unattractive. And I’d rather not do it at all then feel so bitter about it. Some of my best friends (Laurel Brauns, Nick Zampiello, my ex Steve B.) are the most talented people I know but they are all bitter and jaded from this business because they’ve worked so hard for so little and again, it’s just thankless. All of a sudden having a day job seems a lot more attractive when I think about how when you try and make music into a business, it makes you into a business, and that business isn’t very pretty and sometimes the last thing it is is creative.
I guess the upside to this realization is that I have a manager now, to it’s easier for me to let him deal with all those business things that are making me hate the industry so much. But it seems like the right thing to do, taking a step back, I think I’ll just take it easy and record a bit, if I feel like it, do some writing, jam with some new people. But I guess I’ve said all this because I know most of the people who read this blog are my musician friends and I just want you to know how I feel, I think I’m really sick of having the same conversations we all have about the biz and people’s endless desires for sucess, and again the “what can YOU do for ME?” mentality which seems rampant these days. I guess I’m just a little fed up. I think we should all stop gigging all the time and just jam in our living rooms like we did in college, that was a lot of fun, I miss those days, we jammed because it was fun, because we wanted to, not to make a buck. OK, rant officially over. Thanks folks for those who made it this far. I miss you all and will be home for turkey!
Current mood: tired
Hey whoever reads these things,
thought i’d give an update on my life since my last blog which must have been a while ago. i went to Europe in June/July, oh yeah, i think i did write a blog about that one,…ok, since then around mid-July I got back in the US and moved up to Bar Harbor, ME (where i was born and raised) for the summer to live with my folks and take it easy so to speak. Taking it easy would involve playing fiddle on a boat, lots of local gigs at some Bar Harbor bars and of course getting in my car practically every weekend and driving to Vermont, Boston, Portsmouth, Portland, and everywhere else for shows, so it wasn’t that relaxing after all, although it was a really good summer for me to process a bit where I’m at in life and sort of take it all in. Plus my CD release shows have been this entire month and it took some time and prepration to get ready for that.
Maine is really the most beautiful place on the planet, i’m quite convinced, and this summer i finally admitted some form of defeat, in that no matter how hard i try to live an urban life of constant stimulation and travel, deep down i’m just a country girl from Maine and i like to take the dogs for a walk in the woods, and sit on the porch and just look around. so i made a pact to myself that i wouldn’t spend another summer sweating in some shitty sweat pot city, i’m gonna get out of dodge and go up to maine each summer for the rest of my time. of course there are some logistical issues, like having a place to live, my parents are always nice enough to let me stay at their house but at some point i’m sure that’s gonna get old, like when i’m 40 or something… so i have it in the back of my mind to make a couple bucks at some point and buy a house there, i almost bought my mom’s house this summer but thought better of it as it would tie me down in a way that probably isn’t a good thing right now. especially, as many of you know, i’ve just been becoming more and more of a vagabond (i’d like to think trubador) unsettled and traveling and living all over the place.
this of course was helped by the fact that my relationship with Steve ended in May (i won’t go into details here) but that certainly freed up a lot of space, plus i subletted my apartment which i have yet to re-claim, so in many ways i’m as free as you could be. that comes with lots of personal benefits, i actually really love being single, i forgot how great it is not to be emotionally tied down to someone. there are so many great things about relationships, don’t get my wrong, i miss a lot of the companionship and friendship, but all those bad things i don’t miss… plus with no apartment i’m able to tour a lot and basically just be a full time, i’m no longer teaching music or doing anything on the side…yet…but who knows how long that will last.
i’m headed to the UK october 1st for a seven week tour of the UK, Ireland, France, and the Netherlands, i’m both psyched and petrified. this will be my third time over there, so it’s not like it’s unknown territory, it’s more just that i’ll be alone for most of the time and it can get sort of lonely and challenging traveling in foreign countries alone, but i’ve done a fair amount of traveling solo and will hit my stride a few weeks into it i suspect. the good news is that the label i’m on will be supporting me for 2-3 weeks and i’ll be traveling with other artists on the label and will be able to just sit back and relax, to a degree, and play music instead of worrying about how to get from A to B, which is quite frankly a bitch most of the time…
so with my week left i have lots of things to do, which in fact i should be doing right now instead of blogging…but i do have two more CD release shows, one here in Boston september 28th and in NYC september 30th (come if you can), then i’m out…I’ll be back thanksgiving and after that things get a little blurry plan wise December and beyond, but i’ll tell you when i figure it out…
hmm…i’m not sure this blog ended up being as great as i had hopped, but i think that’s because i sort of lost my train of thought…i’ve been busy as hell which is always a good and bad thing, good in that you feel like your making headway (i’ve gotten tons of regional press, radio recently which has been amazing) but then it’s exhausting in other ways. i do want to mention and thank my new manager Dave who has been an incredible help to me these last couple months with doing publicity and whatnot for the record. it’s makes a huge difference having a “team”. i guess i’ve finally reached a point in my career where i feel there are enough people who are helping me and give a damn about what i’m doing enough to justify continuing doing it and not throwing the towel in.
the music business can be so frustrating and it’s so diluted with artists that in reality a lot of us have to eventually admit some sort of defeat or compromise our originally goals, so i feel fortunate to still be in a place where i’m growing with it and things only seem to be getting better and more interesting. a lot of that seems to be the result of putting out a record that people seem to like and is getting a lot of positive reviews and feedback and an “interesting and original” kind of record, whether that’s really the case, i don’t know, it feels very personal sometimes and other times it’s like something i made a year ago and i’m just already moving on. but if you haven’t heard it please check it out, i sell it at my shows and you can buy it, listen to it, and review it at:
the record is called “dishes & pills”
stayed tuned for a much more entertaining blog when i get to europe and go on some crazy rant like i usually do….
I’ve spent the last 2-3 weeks in Europe for a tour/vacation of sorts. I first rolled into London which is quickly becoming my euro base since the label I’m on is in the UK and that is where I know some folks. I only spent one night there before flying to Oslo, Norway a country I’ve never been to but always wanted to go.
OSLO- well, I guess sometimes stereotypes are not too far off, I picture Scandinavia as being full of blonde haired, blue-eyed, beautiful norde looking kind of folk, and well, it was…I came into town and walked down the main street Karl Johan I think it was, that was a little bit of America with its McDonalds and other kind of crap, then at the end of the road is a castle where the prince of Norway lives. I always forget that some countries still actually have that monarchy stuff, it just seems so medival…In any case I met my old friends Lars at a fountain in town, a fountain that children were practically swimming in, something you’d never see in the US. Sometimes it’s the small things about foreign countries that are really different, like how everything in public is actually clean and all the girls and boys really do have blonde hair and blue eyes.
I don’t have any wild and crazy Norweigan stories to tell, I just hung out with my friends there, went to a bar one night, beer is really expensive there, actually, everything in Norway is really expensive because they are one of the only two countries in Europe that is not part of the European Union and have their own currency, the “crown” which is far superior to the dollar. The two highlights of my trip were, in order 1) Seeing an exhibit at the Museum of Natural History on “homosexuality in nature”, I kid you not, yes, it was an exhibit on gay animals. I had to go when I read about it, turns out there are over 1500 species of animals, and probably many more with gay tendencies. The only bummer about the exhibit is that even though it was fascinating it wasn’t visually, because animals, unlike people, look the same no matter what gender they are, so in their pictures and stuffed versions of the animals you couldn’t really tell anything was any different, it was like “here are these two lesbian birds who keep a nest together”, and there are just two birds in a nest and you’re like “ok, cool, they look the same”. Regardless, it is good that this kind of research is getting out there so that maybe all the homophobic bigots can realize it’s just nature and shut up about it. 2) I saw “The Scream” by Edward Munch at the National Gallery, wow, that was cool, I always liked that picture and I even used to have cards of it that I’d send out to friends. Otherwise, yeah, Norway is like, clean, and pretty, and fairly homogenous, and most of the chicks walking down the street were blonde with blue eyes and pretty hot so I felt like a little pasty Irish thing but whatevs…
Back to London! I did a show at the Electroacoustic Club in London when I flew back from Norway, I played there on the last tour so it was nice to feel like I knew what to expect. I even went back to the same Asian place for dinner which goes to show that I am ultimately a creature of habit, especially in cities where I just know bits and pieces. Slowly I will learn to love London but it will take me a few more trips I think, it is just so damn big and decentralized which kinda bugs me for some reason. But my friends there are cool, it was really good to see James, Charlie, Will, and Paul and meet some new folks at the club, plus some good bands. Good times london, yah!
Bordeaux, France- So some of you may or may not know that the last time I tried to play in France I missed my damn flight there, this is the only time this has ever happened to me, but it sucked, so this time I made a lot of effort not to be late. I should also mention that I blame my missed flight on London where somehow it takes 2-3 hours to get to some of these airports, because there are 4 of them, and the cheap ones are really far out of the city…Ok, so yeah, this time I got there, and then took a city bus and tram into the center of Bordeaux which is a beautiful old city and just got UNESCO historical status while I was there which is a really big deal for them because it means they will have a lot more tourism and all that. I played a show at El Inca which is a really cool little indie club in the heart of the town. I met Milos and Martin who work there and was treated very well to a good home-cooked diner and peanuts and beer. Not speaking French in France kind of sucks, and I will say that it made me really want to learn the language for future trips there, but people were nice and I hung out with the other two bands who were very fun and young and friendly. I played the show alone and borrowed one of the other bands electric guitar, since my acoustic is so crappy (i mean the one i went on this tour with not my gibson or martin), the guitar I borrowed was a beautiful white Les Paul and I dug it, I also asked the drummer to play with me which was kinda fun. Playing accordion in France feels a little weird, but they seemed to like it anyway, probably because I wasn’t playing traditional French music or anything.
I stayed that night with my friend Bruno and his family. I ended up staying with them for the rest of the weekend and they were incredible hosts, extremely nice and generous. They took me into Bordeaux and showed me around the little streets, the river front, and even this really weird part of town where they tore down all the slums and made it into a futuristic/bad 70′s kind of look, basically the complete opposite of the rest of the town which you can really tell has a long history with small narrow streets and buildings that have been there for ages. The city is beautiful though, they have a new tram, and never river front, and is a great place to walk around and hang out. Bruno and Crystal are two really amazing people who live there with their daughter Anna right outside the main part of Bordeaux. They took me for Chinese food one night which was great, and the next day we went into the open market where there was lots of fresh vegetables, meets, cheese, wine, flowers, and everything really. I had dinner with them and their friends who they get together every sunday, which reminded me of the times I used to have dinner with a group of my friends (Bernard, Eric, Jerome…) at least once a week, which was always really fun for us and is a great way to sort of grow together I think, I hope to do that sort of thing again when I’m in the same place for more than one day.
So then on Monday, Martin, the bartender at El Inca, drove me to Paris, it was a fun trip, because he is a really cool dude. He’s from Peru but has been living abroad a while, and in France for four years, we went into the centre of Paris and met up with his friends Christophe who was a funny French dude. We went up to the streets that go up to Monmarte and had dinner at this little cafe on the hill. It was such a cute, small place and I had duck and salade and we ate and had some red wine and in the corner across the room there were these girls smoking cigarettes, drinking their wine, and laughing and I thought “yes, dammit, I am in Paris!” Of course my Paris stereotype is highly based on Joni Mitchell lyrics “sitting in dark cafes”, “walking down the Chaneleze”, “he cooked good omelletes and stews”…Anyway, that night at the cafe was great and fun and I really felt glad to be there in the heart of Paris. That night I stayed with my good friend Laura who I met in Boston when she was working as an au pair for my friends. She’s in school now working really hard at business and Chinese but made me welcome in her apartment. The funny thing was her housemates didn’t really know English so it was a bit of a challenge, since my French is almost non-existant even though I had a book and tried my damndest. So her housemate Julian and I used this program on google which translates in order to communcate, that was kinda funny. He watches that show “malcolm” or whatever it’s called, but overdubbed in French.
The next day I met back up with Martin and we just walked around Paris all day, we had some Peruvian food and just walked down the river and on the two islands where Notre Dame is all kinds of beautiful places. And that is just it, Paris is SO BEAUTIFUL! I love it there so much, it was like a love at first sight situation, I’m sure many other people feel the same way about that city, and maybe this is why there’s the myth that you fall in love in Paris with a man or woman as well, that didn’t happen of course, but yeah, I fell hard for Paris, I kept thinking of how I would learn French and come back and live or just spend more time. It’s not just the Eiffel Tower, or the Louvre, or the Seine, or whatever, it’s just the whole deal is so beautiful, it really just pulls you in and you want to be there and nowhere else. That night we went over to a place Martin used to work called The Frog, we just sort of hung out in that area and later on sat out on the benches with Christophe just talking about politics, I learned a lot about French politics in particular which was very interesting for me.
I had two shows in Paris, the first one was at La Fleche D’or (the Golden Arrow) which is Paris’ premiere indie rock club. It’s in an old train station and is a beautiful club and building in general. The format is pretty awesome too, there is no cover charge, they make all their money from charging a little bit extra for the drinks and food, but the atmosphere is definitely the center of the Paris hipster indie scene, I’m very sure, and it was packed. The food and drinks and atmosphere were great. Of course a lot of the hipsters were a bit off-standish, as they are back home as well, but I didn’t give a damn because I had some friends there and it was just a fun place to play to a lot of people. Of course playing on your own kinda sucks, especially when you are at a huge indie rock club (it’s like the middle east or knitting factory or whatever…) and they probably want to hear some drums, so of course I asked the drummer from one of the bands to come play “vampire blues” with me and at least that kinda rocked. Otherwise I just ploughed through my set best I could and I think people appreciated it even though I couldn’t rock their faces off, maybe next time I will bring my loop station and makes beats, but that just always seems so cliche or something…
We had a really good time after my set just hanging out talking with Laura and her friends, the other bands were interesting, there were two French bands, one sort of odd rock with sax and synth kinda thing, and the other more indie portishead kinda vibe. Then last there was a band from Japan but to be honest I didn’t really hear them, it was pretty crowded and nuts there so I had to bust out towards the end to take the metro home. The next day I did some more walking around up to Monmarte and the cathedral as well as the hill where all the painters are, it is a very touristy yet beautiful part of the city. Julian took me in his car around Paris and I also was able to see that big famous tower with the rotary around it (name I forgot), the Chandeleze (or whatever that famous road is with the trees), the Concord, the Capital building, and other goverment type looking places, and of course the Louvre, which is soo big I decided I could only handle a little bit and will do the rest the next time. I then met up with my friend Pat who lives in Paris and Normandy. We had coffee at a cafe and walked around town and it was really nice to see her and talk about how great Paris is.
My other Paris show was at this club called Pop In which is in Oberkampf, a somewhat trendy part of town I’ve been told. It is a great bar which is small but with four different rooms, I played a good show though and people seemed to pay attention and like it, in general it was much more intimate than the show at La Fleche D’or because it is so much smaller. The folks there all seemed to know each other and the guy who works there was just an awesome dude and I was treated very well and had a great time there. I had to rush out of the club before the metro closed, and unfortunately Paris is like London and Boston and closes the metro early at like 12:30am, so I was running to find the metro and asked this dude on the street. He was like “yeah, well, it closes soon and you know,.. maybe you will miss it,… but where do youl need to go anyway”, and I was in such a hurry I was just like “what direction is it, please!” so he hestitantly pointed and I ran off, I was rushing down the street and found the station and was about to go down the steps into the metro and the guy comes back up to me and says “hey, you know you don’t need to go, you can come home with me, I’ll make you an omelette…” I am totally serious, this means that Joni Mitchell lyrics actually have the ability to come true in real life, she was right on, except or the part where I skipped the omelette and got on the damn metro…
In general both shows were great and I loved Paris so much I just can’t wait to go back!!
I flew to Geneva from Paris very early the next morning. My trip to Switzerland was specifically to go to the wedding of my friend Bernard. I’ve known Bernard for about seven years and met him in San Francisco when I was living there for a summer in college, we’ve been good friends ever since as he lived in Boston for most of the time I was there. We had lots of dinners together with my ex Jerome, Eric, Alia, Lecia, and some other friends of mine. This group of friends was very special to me as they were a bit of a Euro club of sorts and as an American I really enjoyed being apart of that. In any case to go to deep into the details of this wedding might get too weird and complicated, but let’s just say that I thought I was going to Switzerland for a pleasant little wedding and in fact there was a little more to it. Namely, from the minute I got to Gstaad where the wedding was I started to get a weird vibe from the bride (who I have known for about 3 odd years and had many many dinners and meetings with Bernard & her). Then at dinner her parents started acting kind of rude towards me, the mother said a very cold “hi” when I went up to her and then ran off, the father said nothing to me. It was a bit shocking because not only have I known the bride since she met her husband (who I knew long before her) but I’ve had her and her parents over to my house when Jerome and I were living together at least 2-3 times. So yeah it was strange. But then after the ceremony this American couple that knew the bride’s family came up to me and said “we have a question for you, are you the ex girlfriend?” and I thought to myself that I wasn’t sure what they meant so I said “maybe, why?” and they of course proceeded to tell me that they had heard from the bride’s family that Bernard had invited his ex girlfriend and her family and they were very upset about it. Well, truth is I did date Bernard but for about one month, which in my mind doesn’t even really count, especially when you know someone for 7 years, one month is nothing, and we’ve always been friends regardless. The other strange thing is that the bride, Flavia, has known me for 3 or more years and for most of that time I was with Jerome, my ex who I was with for 3.5 years, and so she never really knew me as anything else but his girlfriend. And I never even spoke to her about this brief month I dated Bernard.
Anyway, the story is much longer than this but the end result is that there was a weird vibe, which kinda sucked considering I came all the way to Switzerland to this wedding, and, I was invited and never had a clue that it was an issue. In many ways people just mystify me, their insecurities, their complete narcissism and disregard for other people and a reality outside of their own. So in short, my experience in Switzerland was very hindered by these odd politics. Otherwise it is a beautiful place, the mountains and Swiss alps are very beautiful and the lake is lovely as well. I actually am in Switzerland outside Geneva right now on the lake and I love just looking out the window, I leave tonite to head back to London and then tomorrow will make my way back to the US. So there it is I guess, this has been an incredible trip all in all, I am really glad I came and I certainly wouldn’t let a few petty people spoil my time in Europe, which is just an incredible place in general. Viva la Paris and Europe!
Current mood: peaceful
James Borchers & I ventured in his Toyota 4runner about 3,500 miles all over the midwest, our furthest point being somewhere in Minnesota, overall it was a tour with a few awesome shows, a number of OK shows, and a couple wipouts, in that we didn’t get what we had bargained for, but overall it was a fun time, we met some great new people and were able to see some old friends.
Cleveland, OH- someone there told us that Cleveland is the poorest city in the country, that’s hard to believe when Detriot isn’t too far away and has a much worse wrap. Apperantly the way it works is that all the white people and people with money live in the outkirts of town, in this case either in Cleveland Hights on the east side of town, or in the west side of town on the Lake, either way downtown Cleveland sorta sucks whereas where we played is a pretty nice residencial/suburban vibe. Nighttown is this old jazz club that is pretty incredible, they have old art from properties that sold off all their early twentieth century paintings, pictures, and drawings, which are now on every square foot of the walls there. It’s a great venue and we played pretty well but had to keep our volume down for the people there who wanted to eat dinner and talk, and there wasn’t the crowd we had last year, although the crowd we had was interactive and fun. When i played “people” on the accordion a girl came up to me after the show and said “I really like that song, I’m on lithium”, it was a relief that she liked the song and wasn’t offended by it’s content, which as some of you might know is a commentary on medications. We stayed with my old drummer, Pete Kelley, who is still at law school at Case Western, studying his ass off. We went to the rock and roll hall of fame the next morning, if you give them a CD as a touring band they let you in free, it was James’ first time, I’ve been there about 4-5 time now and they have a good deal of my cds…It was cool, same old, some new stuff, but the new stuff included the “warped tour” which is kinda lame and featured crappy modern bands that i could give a damn about. But it was fun getting back into the pyshadellic 60′s and grooving on my usual favorites of Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Dylan, The Bryds, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, you know…
Chicago, IL- our first night in Chicago was playing at this crazy abandon church called “South Union Arts”, it’s a real DIY space where these urban hipsters types took over the lease and turned it into this art space/club. The room is like any old church except the seating was movie theatre style and not pews, thank god, it was really cold because they don’t use the heat, so pews would have made it even colder. The best part of the room by far was a large neon Jesus on the cross right above the alter where all the bands played. Jesus was pink and blue and said something about Al Sharpton, or at least that is what James told me, he could have been joking, it was the most awesome and creapy piece to have up on a stage. We played with two local acts “Fingers & Toes” and “Them, Roaring Twenties”, fingers & toes are old friends and were great, roaring twenties where cool too, very fast and nutty songs. Oldly the night started with a jam band from Buffalo, we didn’t know they were on the bill, but they had a light show which was well used with the neon jesus. We went on second and played a set that was quite memorable in that i left like we were not on a stage but hovering on a dark cloud over people looking up that we couldn’t see, it was probably our best and most intense show of the tour, it was so much fun, we also got to see old friends, for me two of my high school friends Marget and Harriet, as well as Patrick and some others. It was byob and we got a little loose and danced in the isles to the other bands. I really hope that space keeps open so we can play there next time.
Madison, WI- this was one of the bum nights of the tour, we played at a place called “the Klinic”, which a friend of mine said was a cool club. definitely not the case, it was a total rock dive bar, but not a charming dive like the “abbey” or something, it was way more seedy with lots of neon beer signs everywhere and a stripping pole right next to the stage. apperantly you can hire a stripper for your show if you want, they can’t legally get their own as they don’t have the liscence, but if you bring your own that’s just fine they told us. in any case, we won’t elaborate more than to say the best part of the night was a promotional thing that Newcastle beer was doing that gave us several dixie cups of free beer. Lesson learned: don’t play at a club that someone says is cool unless you research it a bit first, i guess that’s my own fault…
Minneapolis, MN- this was a pretty fun night because i got to see my old friend Bernard and and even older friend Sara Goke, we played at the Acadia Cafe which is a pretty cool place, they have a cafe on one side and a small theatre on the other which would be great for very smaller play productions (seats about 75) and shows of course. The bill was with one local band and another touring act from NYC, there weren’t that many people there overall which reminded me of how when you run a show you really have to be aware of how you can make a show work, one way is to never book two touring acts on the same bill, touring acts don’t draw usually, especially the first time they play in a city, but we had about 20 people there who were all a good audience and it was a pretty intimate show.
Mankato, MN- yikes! well, i guess the real misunderstanding is that when we booked this show the agent had on his email “university of minnesota, mankato” so we assumed we were playing at a club that was connected to the university, on campus or something, i’ve played these kinda places before and they are usually ok, college kids like to drink, so we thought we’d give it a try. it turned out the club was a rock club in the middle of town with no connection to the university, my bad, it was also an all ages show, so no beer just soda, and the other bands were mostly under 21, so we were the old guys, in the first band the guy had a mowhawk and they were a punk/rock kinda outfit, most of the bands on the bill were as well so we were wondering why they booked us. in any case, we went downstairs and played some pool and decided that our way of combating our misconceptions of the show would be to rock their faces off, which we promptly did, they seemed to enjoy us a good deal when we turned the “rock” up on the amp and drums power duo style. sound lame? well, what would you have done? played a folk song? they were actually a great supportive, attentive crowd, and it was a good show afterall.
Madison, WI, again- We played at the “high noon saloon” one of the better clubs in Madison, which was a nice change from “the klinic”, we even got a little write up about the show in “the onion” which i thought would help the draw a bit, but we ended up in a similar, if not worse, situation to what happened in minneapolis, we were playing a Monday night at a large rock club with two other touring bands, which equals not a lot of people to fill the room. good news is that the 30 people there had a good time and it was fun. the bill wasn’t very consistant musically but was good nonetheless. brianna lane played a nice set that was pretty folky and literate, then we played, and then this band called “megaphan” played (i’m not sure i spelled that right…), they are from the Durham, NC area, and were actually really good, nice harmonies, cool instrumentation and songs, they even did audience participation with giving us shakers to shake to a song, that was pretty cool, and they pulled it off well. overall a fun night lacking a local band that could have brought some more people.
back to Chicago, IL- we played at the “underground lounge” which is in boystown, near wriggley field. it seems if you a bar in that area it is either a gay bar or a sports bar, so this was a rock club that was on the sports bar side of things. the soundguy totally freaked out at us when we walked in with a drumkit, he was told that we were an acoustic act. ah yes, miscommunication, the night had a lot to do with that. there isn’t much to tell except that we just dealt with it and played out show, and quite conveniently walked across the street to the place we were staying afterwards…
our last night in Chicago was at the Red line tap up in Rogers park. i’ve played up there two times before and like the area even though it has a wrap of being a bit ghetto. this girl told us the night before that we should be careful because when she was up there she heard gunshots. i totally shook that off and knew it was fine because i’d been there before and told james that was hearsay. then right after i said that, about a block from the club, there were about 4 cop cars arresting some old dudes who looked like vagrants, who knows, it was just kinda funny after we had just had that conversation. the show was good, we opened for a jam band kinda outfit, redline is a cool bar, bartenders are nice, food is pretty good, we played pool and i beat james AND this random dude who acted like he was really good, but yeah, i kicked his ass…
Rock Island, IL- called the “quad cities” because of Davenport, Iowa and two other cities i’m not aware of the name of, we played in Rock Island which is a little hub where college kids hang out, what college i don’t know, apperantly there are a bunch of small ones in the area. we played the thirsty thursday gig which 50 cent drafts of miller light and other bad beer. so it was a lot of college kids drinking bad beer who could give a damn about original music. the sound guy on the other hand was by far the most meticulous soundguy i’ve ever met, he even disinfected the mikes before the show and asked me how they smell, when i said good and asked what he uses to soak the mikes he said “it’s an old italian recipe, secret”…wow…some girl came up to me in the middle of the set and asked if i could play any “destiny’s child”, yeah, that sucked, it was a good paying show so we were torn between the idea of making some money and playing to people who wouldn’t know good original music if it smacked them in the face. we didn’t hang around afterwards, even though part of the deal was 24 draft beer for the band, that’s 12 each, i think we had about 2 each and then went back to our motel 6 and watched cable TV.
Akron, OH- bad news is that on the way to Akron i left my phone at the hotel and am still waiting for it to be fedexed back to me….damn it…good news is that Akron and the “lime spider” was awesome, my good friend james aka JR showed up with two friends, they drove a fair way to come see us play so we hung out with them on the upstairs deck where they had a DJ and grill, best burger in town, we danced to Prince and who knows what else until late hours of the evening. the bill was at least well thought out in that the other two bands were local and some folks were there, we had a good time and enjoyed that venue a lot, will definiltey come back.
we stayed in Kent OH where my favorite thrift store ever is “einstein’s closet” you must go if ever you are in Kent. it’s all 80′s vintage stuff, i bought a record player all in one deal, it’s amazing…
Pittsburgh, PA- i love pittsburgh and i love the shadow lounge and that’s all i have to say, it was one of our best and most fun shows of the tour because people there are so nice and really into the music, and buy cds, and say nice things, and it’s just a great place, i wish we could have hung out longer but we had to split to make some headway.
Brooklyn, NY- james had piece of his performed that afternoon at a church in the East Village, it was fun to tap into the classical music world for a moment although i found myself trying to sensor the words coming out of my mouth so as not to sound like a retard around all the classical folks who graduated from Yale and have good posture.
our show that night was at “goodbye blue monday” in bushwick, a not gentrified part of brooklyn. what a cool place, it’s like a junk store, coffee shop, gallery, bar, venue, sorta deal. it was fun but we were exhausted and kinda over the idea of playing every night for two weeks straight. but it was cool to see waylon and robby.
…now that we’re home i’m in an interesting space of taking a step back from all this stuff. i did a phone interview for a magazine where they ask you all these questions about your opinion about the music biz, which is endless in my case, i have so many thoughts and feelings of this business and what i do, and things change all the time, how i think and how i feel, and sometimes it’s so exhausting i don’t think i can carry on anymore because i’ve invested so much of my life and who i am in this thing, and it’s just suffocating sometimes, i just want to have a nice normal life where i have no expectations or need to make music people want to listen to, or whatever the hell it is you want as an artist. so i did what i haven’t done in years, i came home and i cleaned the shit out of my room, i got rid of things i don’t need, i rearranged the entire room so that my new record player could have a space of it’s own. i made it into the room i never had, the room where when i’m in it i feel like it’s my space and i could just be there and it’s not just a place where i sleep sometimes and keep my crap there. i’ve become such a traveler and vagabond in some ways i feel like i have no home, but i’m dying for a little space from the life i’ve gone after and the life that i started with, which probably involved a lot less of what it’s become. what i mean is it’s nice to have that warm fuzzy place, i put a picture of me and my mom up when i was 4, she was in her twenties, and i almost cried looking at it because it’s amazing to me that when my mom was my age she had a kid and a home and i’m that age and i have a messy car and messy room, and i don’t even have a pet, even though i really want one. sometimes i think the life we lead isn’t the one that our genes had planned for us. sometimes i think i was meant to live a simple life in maine like my folks but i think i’d go crazy if i was up there year round, but i also get exhausted making music all the time traveling around trying to see if anyone wants to listen to it. sometimes i just really want a home to come home to. so my room is clean right now and looks amazing and i hope it stays that way. i’m gonna drink tea and listen to the band, dylan, simon & garfunkel, lenard cohen, and all those folks and just chill out and try and get back to my warm fuzzy place, i’m sick of bars and clubs, and quite honestly of other musicians and the ego, id, and crap like that, but i won’t elaborate into the cynical side, you’ve all heard that before (in my last blog). i put pictures up on the wall of my grandparents, my cousin, and my aunt, who are all gone now, i made them a little shrine in the corner about my desk, it made me really happy to have them there in a space where i can feel i have some control over things, there is so much we don’t have control over but you do have control over that.