Day 5: 29 July 2009 – Chelmsford

Here is the part where I quit showering regularly. I’ve figured out that the judicious application of hair spray can make my hair look like a strawlike bouffant, rather than something that needs the regular application of shampoo and water. It’s an interesting look.

Tonight we are heading to Chelmsford, a suburb of London. We have a fair drive ahead of us.

Lawrence has planned a detour to Cambridge to show us what he promises will be the scariest clock in the world.

We’re already to the point where we fall asleep the second we hit the car. Yoshi is incredible at being able to sleep absolutely anywhere. A skill I imagined he’s honed from years of tours. Plus, he’s been on the road for 5 weeks already with Still Flyin’.

Cambridge is extremely quaint, and I remember that I came here when I was 14 on a theater tour with school. At the time I was squealing over all the “hot guys with English accents, OMG.” (Hmm. Sounds a bit like our friend from the other night, doesn’t it?)

Anyway, we wander around and find the Corpus Clock, a giant gold clock that is presided over by a giant insect named the chronophage. It’s hard to explain in print, but look it up. It’s creepy as hell.

We eat lunch at a pub and Yoshi orders bangers and mash for the third time in three days. He says he’s trying to sample as many versions as possible. I’m learning to drink beer at 1PM comfortably on this trip.

The show in Chelmsford will be an Indiepop night. I imagine it will be a test of the Indietracks theory — the idea that we’ve screwed ourselves by touring England right after a massive pop festival.

A fair amount of people show up, and those who do seem to really like it. My keyboard is possessed; it keeps cutting out. But there is a super cute couple in front, and I can tell they’re enjoying the show, so I just focus on them and chant in my head, “There is a cute couple here to see your band and if you stay happy, they will be happy.” As the keyboard finally gives up to the ghost, I just laugh and keep singing as hard as I can.

After the show, we drive to John’s house in London and collapse.

Day 4: 28 July 2009 – Sheffield

We wake up nice and hungover this morning. We go scare up some breakfast and then get ready to head out.

We have a gig in Sheffield tonight, with Pete Green, who we met at Indietracks.

The prospect of being in Def Leppard’s home town has us rather excited.

Nick and I are both obsessed with certain Def Leppard songs, and more so with the VH1 made-for-TV Def Leppard movie, which is completely brilliant. Its only rival in our hearts is the Beach Boys made for TV movie. The person who plays Brian Wilson grossly exaggerates his tics, and is perpetually “tripping out” on screen, twitching and saying things like, “Whoa!!! I’m covered in… [twitch, twitch]…SPIDERSSSS!”

Once in Sheffield we go to the club, which is very cute. Pete and some other friends, Marianthi and Kara are there. And they’ve cooked us food and brought it to the club. Pete gifts us each a bottle of a special kind of Sheffield condiment that looks like steak sauce. I love presents, and this one is extra special.

The show goes well–our second of the tour. Already, we’re getting tighter.

I bond with Marianthi and learn that she is a true pop fanatic, and sort of an institution in the British indiepop scene.

Yoshi makes friends with a cat named Guinness. (Yoshi is the cat whisperer–it’s really strange how cats gravitate to him). This makes his day.

yoshi + guiness

After the show, we all go out for curry. I get tandoori chicken wings, because, well, I always get chicken wings.

Full and happy, we say goodbye to all of our new friends.

We’re all a bit wobbly, laughing our way down a narrow street and then all of a sudden we see a cat. Guinness is following us. Unbelievable.

Day 3: 27 July 2009 – Liverpool

Today is a day off. It feels weird to have a day off after only one show. But I try to focus on the positive: we are on our first European tour, with a vast expanse of rock potential ahead.

Lawrence and John have kindly planned a day full of sightseeing for us.

As we’re driving through the countryside, we see a quaint hand-painted sign for a cafe called Nostalgia. This is the kind of place I always want to stop, but there’s never time, or the person driving wants McDonald’s instead or whatever. But miraculously, Lawrence turns off! We head down a gravel road and pass a backpacker with messy hair and stubble and these dead eyes, like a shark’s. He stares into the car, his mouth hanging open.

“That is a zombie,” I announce to the car. “Seriously. This looks just like 28 days later. Oh fuck!”

Nick chimes in that any second, an entire army of zombies will come hurtling over the hill. The hair on my arms stands on end.

We pull up to a beautiful little farm. There is a curly-haired three legged dog guarding the cafe. I miss my dogs so i give her lots of love. We enter the most beautiful tea room, with embroidered linens and fine hand painted china. We get breakfast and talk leisurely. We resolve that we’ll begin snorting cocaine off of hookers’ asses in earnest, just as soon as we finish our tea and scones.

Next, we make Lawrence pull over at a creepy little church and cemetery. We take some goth band photos and I admire the moss.

Then we go to visit the Eyam Plague village, a village that was cut off from the rest of the world once the plague broke out among its residents. There are signs in front of several houses announcing exactly when each of the families died of the plague.

One charming house has the special distinction of being officially called Plague House. I remember how mortified I was by my dad’s Volkswagen bus when i was an adolescent. Imagine how awful it would be to say, “Oh my house is the one at the end of the road — the one with the big sign that says… uh…Plague House.”

We pause at a sweets shop and I make the disappointing realization that the band Dolly Mixture is named after a type of candy.

Dolly Mixtures

Next stop, Liverpool. We go to Anfield where Nick bows down to the glory of Liverpool FC, his favorite club. Then we see a bunch of Beatles-ey stuff as John keeps insisting that they were a shit band. I’m not sure if he’s joking or not.

Nicholas at Anfield

Then we meet new friends, Will from Flamingo 50 and Sarah from Town Bike, and proceed to have way too much to drink. To add some drama to the evening’s proceedings, I start wagering with John about the mating rituals happening across the bar–exactly how long will it take the group of boys to approach the group of girls, etc. I swiftly relieve him of two pounds.

Heather wins a bet

When we can drink no more, we go outside and encounter a girl staggering down the street eating a pizza.

“Pizza,” Yoshi says, perking up. “I want pizza.”

The girl stops in her tracks. She shrieks, “WAIT! Are you Americans?!?! I love Americans!!!”

We spend the cab ride trying to figure out exactly what would make someone declare that they LOVE Americans — all of them, no exceptions.

We are completely stumped.

Day 2: 26 July 2009 – Indietracks

We wake at 9:30 even though we barely slept on the plane and went to bed at around 3:30 last night. For some reason (most likely immutable math) one can never get enough sleep on tour, even if one isn’t partying.

We get a traditional English breakfast at the Travel Center by our hotel. I’m game for most any kind of food, but I have to say, English breakfast is one of the few “exotic” foods I’ve never warmed to. Still, I keep trying, and it’s fun to be eating this meal halfway across the world with virtual strangers.

We drive to the festival and without the jet lag haze, its even more apparent how completely awesome Indietracks is. There is an antique train that choogles around the property, with bands playing on it. Another stage is in an old church. Another is inside a big maintenance shed, and the last is outside, like the big stage of any festival, but somehow more charming.

Heather on train

I recognize people from yesterday, which makes me realize that this festival isn’t that big and it’s certainly not impersonal– it’s just a bunch of people gathered together to enjoy music and each other’s company.

We are slotted to play at 2PM. Nick and I decide to get whiskeys, even though drinking straight whiskey at 1 PM seems perverse. But like an athlete, I have strange superstitions about performance. I have to drink one whiskey, neat, before going on stage, no matter what. For this tour i have also purchased a talisman — a ring of power, matte black metal studded with rhinestones. I believe that this ring contains magical rocking properties that will possess me whenever I place it on my finger. Out of respect for the ring, I have vowed to only wear it onstage, so as not to squander its power on mundane activities.

We take the stage and what can I say? People watch, they sing along, I don’t trip, Yoshi keeps a steady barrage of drum brutality, Nick rocks out. We have succeeded, and I feel pretty confident that we’ll only get better over the next couple of weeks.

For the rest of the day, we enjoy the festival, meeting a bunch of great people and watching some amazing bands, including Art Brut and Teenage Fanclub. Then, at the very end of the night, it turns into a dance party and we all go apeshit.

I am sad to leave this little musical utopia in the countryside.

Leaving Indietracks

Day 1: 25 July 2009 – NYC-London-Derbyshire

Over the next week or so, I’ll be posting the tour diary entries from our tour — the ones i couldn’t get enough stable internet access to post at the time.

Day 1 7/25/09

Before Nick and I head out to the airport, I make him wait for me to get my nails done, which he finds mildly annoying. On the subway ride to the airport, a woman is taking up an enormous amount of space with all of her bags. My bag gets snagged on hers, but she won’t bother to move it. She just stares at me, like i’m a gnat buzzing around. She then opens a packet of heat-and-serve lentils and proceeds to eat it right there on the filthy subway, licking each finger many times as she eats. She is all dressed up, which is hard to reconcile with the lentils from a packet. I’m still mad about the bags, so i start to send telepathic messages, willing her to spill on the lap of her white satin floral dress. I send the messages very strongly, chanting “spill, spill” in y head. Soon, a big dollop of lentils falls on her lap. She swipes it up with a finger and sucks the finger clean.

I lean into Nick and say, “I made her do that.”

We’re booked on the red eye to London and we get to Newark airport too late for any restaurants to be open. We get Jamba Juice, knowing that this will be the first of many meals skipped over the next few weeks.

The flight is fairly uneventful. I sleep most of the way, but every time i open my eyes, Nick is staring straight ahead. Not sleeping, not watching TV. Just staring. I worry that he knows something I don’t.

At Heathrow, we clear customs and then look for our label gentleman, John, who will be picking us up. We find him and he’s with another gentleman, Lawrence, who John says will be driving us. It should be noted here that I let Nick make most of the tour preparations. I have remained blissfully, perhaps stupidly unaware of much of our situation. This means that most of the details of our tour will be total surprises. Like the wondrous fact that someone will be driving us around for a week in England.

We pile into the Jetta wagon they’ve rented and they show me my keyboard for the week, an ancient looking contraption called the Bunny One. I can’t wait to hear how this thing sounds. IT will either be brilliant or ungodly. But beggars can’t be choosers.

We drive for a couple of hours to the site of the festival that will be only our second show ever with this line up, the trio. Oh, and since Yoshi has been touring with Still Flyin’, we haven’t practiced in 2 months. To say i am nervous is a gross understatement.

Indietracks day 1

The festival, Indietracks, is held at a defunct train depot in the English countryside. There are tons of indiekids wandering around, and a terrific line-up to fill the day. We wander around drinking beers and watching bands. Nick and I worry about how Yoshi is going to find us — he’s coming separately, and we suddenly realize that none of us have cellphones that work. It seems totally hopeless, but as Nick is napping in the Jetta, listening to the distant strains of Camera Obscura from the big stage, he hears a voice yelling his name. He pops his head up and spot Yoshi, along with his band mates Wyatt and Maria, striding towards the car.

As the sun goes down, we watch the music and feels so lucky to be at this festival, reunited, among all of these great people who love music so much.

I go sleep in the car while everyone else parties. About 2 AM they converge on the car. They’re all a little loopy, and we head back to the hotel.

As Nick and I are falling asleep, we hear a knock on the door. Wyatt and Maria need a place to sleep. We offer up our room, and we settle in, all five of us in a tiny hotel room. Another knock comes. It’s the desk person. She says she knows that there are too many people in the room, and that she will give us ten minutes to get the extra people out or she’ll call the police. This is literally a foreign concept to us — that someone would call the police for such an offense. Wyatt and Maria go sleep in the parking lot, and I sleep like crap on the floor, knowing that tomorrow is the moment of truth, when we play the festival and either make our label guy proud or very sorry indeed.

Tour recap: Nicholas

We just got back from two and a half weeks of touring in Europe. Since Heather will be doing basically all of the tour blogging over the next few days, I thought I’d add in my own recap in the form of a song. Not a song I’ve written, but a song written long ago. A song that stands out as one of the finest works in the long tradition of tour songs. Grand Funk Railroad’s ability to capture the the spirit of our first European tour three decades before it even happened is quite remarkable. If you just change the names of all the cities, make the second verse about taking the Liverpool FC museum tour, and the third verse about throwing down at a small tea room in rural Derbyshire, then this is basically a word-for-word account of what happened to us over the last two and a half weeks in Europe. Enjoy.

Back from Europe

We’re back from our European tour. It was completely amazing in every way imaginable. Thanks so much to everyone who came out to the shows! We had a really great time and hope to head back to Europe soon.

Heather’s plans of updating the tour blog on a daily basis didn’t exactly work out as we had hoped. This wasn’t for lack of effort (she has pages of notes detailing each day), it was just a matter of not having as much internet time as we’d planned. Since Heather is a tour blog completist, she’ll be updating the blog with stories of the entire tour very soon…it’ll be just like we’re on tour, but two weeks later!

We’ll also be uploading all of the photos we’ve taken over the last few weeks to our flickr page over the next few days. In the meantime, John from Where It’s At Is Where You Are has already uploaded some photos from the English leg of the tour.

European tour dates

We’re heading over to Europe at the end of next week to play some shows in England, Sweden, and Germany. We’re very excited to see some new places, and melt some new faces. If we’re in your neighborhood, come out and see us! As usual, we’ll be firing up the old tour blog, so get ready to read about some things you never wanted to know, written about in more detail than you ever thought possible. Watch this space for updates.

Here’s the full list of European gigs:
July 26 : Derbyshire, ENGLAND @ Indietracks Festival
July 28 : Sheffield, ENGLAND @ Red House
July 29 : Chelmsford, ENGLAND @ Bitterscene
July 30 : London, ENGLAND @ Bardens Boudoir
July 31 : Göteborg, SWEDEN @ Parken
August 1 : Malmö, SWEDEN @ Debaser
August 5 : Berlin, GERMANY @ Bang Bang Club
August 7 : Munich, GERMANY @ Astro Cafe
August 8 : Dresden, GERMANY @ Wimp Club

You’re gonna meet some gentle people there

We’re back in San Francisco after NYC Popfest. The Bell House show was a blast last Saturday! Thanks to everyone who made it out to the show. It was the first gig with Yoshi on drums and it went off without a hitch. Awesome bands. Awesome crowd. Awesome weekend.

We found some recaps of the show for those who weren’t in NYC:
Brooklyn Vegan
Chromewaves [great photo page here]

And don’t forget SF Popfest this weekend. Should be lots of fun. Three Imaginary Girls has done a SF Popfest preview podcast. Check it out.

December 16–Sacramento

Last we play Sacramento. An early show at an old-school bar called the Press Room. Onstage I say how happy I am to be there—I truly would not rather be anywhere at the moment. Some wondrously nice locals take us to get pizza afterwards. It’s a warm ending to a really satisfying tour. I am grateful we get to do this with our lives. And yes, I want to go home.

After the show, where I’ve had too much Coffee Patron (tequila), we gun for home, making it only to Redding. We watch Adult Swim, which makes me feel as if I’ve been dosed with acid.

Then I start compulsively reading the electric stove ratings on Consumer Reports in some wayward, distant claim on domesticity.

The next day, we finally make it home. My room is clean, my laundry is dirty. My bones are tired.

Who am I, Bob Seger?