Tour Diary: The Desert (US / Days 6-7)

Ranking Cheese Doodle: Hill Country Fare Cheese Puffs: Middling

Bought at the same H-E-B store as the Store Brand Intense Cheese Flavored ones, but seemed like the doodle created for their poor cheese flavored snack customers. You know the bag: more clear plastic, duller colors, primitive graphics. I didn’t much like them but everyone else thought they were fine. Obviously this exercise has refined my palette far beyond their plebian tastes.

Texture: Excellent – Well it was.

Flavor: Tasted chemically to me. Much like an over-oaked chardonnay there were strong notes of butter. Rancid oily movie theater butter.

Idiocy from the Van: “Oooh, I adagio’d in my pants a little.”

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Tour Diary: Austin (US / Day 5)

Ranking Cheese Doodle: H-E-B Intense Cheese Flavored Puffs* – Excellent   H-E-B is chain of supermarkets and these were their store brand. And finally a good damn doodle.

Texture: Good – Rougher than a Cheeto, but not enough to abuse your delicate mouth-branes.

Flavor: More salt than cheese but we destroyed this bag. I had to pour bottled water over my fingers to get the orange off. You know what I’m saying’?

Idiocy from the Van: Square Bob Sponge Cake and his best friend Pee-C-Pee-Oh

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Tour Diary: Dallas (US / Day 4)

Ranking Cheese Doodle: There were none.

So here’s a recipe for making your own! I expect pictures and reviews in the comments section.

Idiocy From the Van: Monocle Lewinsky


Our hotel in Tulsa was directly across the road from ORU. No, not The Winnie the Pooh Center for Zen Iconography but Oral Roberts University. For those lucky enough to be ignorant of the Oral’s legacy he was one of the original televangelist preachers, who came up with a version of Christianity whereupon gifts of money to God resulted in tangible blessing from heaven. He was a poor, itinerant Pentacostal preacher, charismatic enough to draw 10,000 people to his tent meetings for faith healings. Eventually, by hiring advertising companies and pioneering direct mail solicitations he became incredibly wealthy. In a bid for respect he founded the Orally Roberted University in the 1960’s. Oral’s son Robert, a twat, spent the University’s money and ran it into the ground by the 1990’s. Then that douche who owns Hobby Lobby gave the University over 50 million dollars and it was restored to its former glory. There’s nothing I can add to the topic of evangelists that a hundred earnest 1980’s songs hasn’t said better. Charlatans preying on the weak. Jesus.

So the reason for that backstory is the architecture of the Uni. It’s awesome. It was designed primarily by Frank Wallace and was in the Futurist style. Admittedly it all looks like the Disney/Epcot view of what the future would be like, but it’s a bright, shiny, golden, angular view nonetheless. The Prayer Tower, modeled off the Seattle Space Needle, is a flying space crown of thorns, with a heavenly tractor beam projecting down to earth in order to lift us up into heaven’s gently probing arms. At least that’s what it looks like to me. The main cathedral is at is heart just an auditorium, but the atrium was really cool with vaulting white triangles and sweeping staircases. Maybe because it’s summer and school is out, but I was virtually alone on campus. Just me and the gardeners piping the tears of fleeced senior citizens onto the Forget-Me-Nots and Jack-in-the Pulpits. I could’ve rolled around naked on the pulpit/stage and no one would’ve said boo.*


I don’t remember much from the drive to Dallas except maybe one of the biggest differences between England and here: the never-ending sprawl that surrounds our cities. Mile after indistinguishable mile of dollar stores in cracked cement strip malls. It’s depressing as hell and creates a longing in me for nature to reassert itself and place our vanities in their proper place. I was also ambivalent about returning to Dallas. Our last show there was one of our worst. The smell of sewage outside the club strong enough to make a Welshman blink, horrible sound, disinterested audience, and we got into a fight onstage. This time we were playing in the Deep Elum area. We were in contact with Olie, who had landed in Dallas earlier that morning and he was reporting that the area around the club was one of the coolest places he’d ever been. We were putting that down to the over-heated excitement at being in a new country because Dallas is, you know, fine. It’s Dallas. We found him at the club and had a huggy, happy reunion; his natural, diffident, British reserve temporarily broken down in a rush of unfamiliar moist emotions. Much like I assume how people reacted to Churchill’s victory speech. “In all our long history we have never seen a day as this!” Or so I assume.

Deep Elum was pretty cool with lots of really good restaurants and bars. It was obvious it would be a better night than our previous Dallas effort. I liked it better during the day before it became a bro-centric entertainment district. Everyone went to the Pecan Lodge for apparently amazing barbecue and I went to Il Cane Rosso and had one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had. Truly.

3 Links is a great rock club, the sound guy was top notch and I loved it there. We had around six hours between soundcheck and playing. Dinner killed some time but there really wasn’t much else to do.** It was hot as the back of Andre the Giant’s balls slung in a singlet on the sun. Fortunately the opener Joe Gorgeous was very good, and the American Werewolf Academy were inspiring. I contend they might be one of the best rock bands working these days. There’s a timeless quality to their songs and they don’t really require any hyphenated descriptors, although they do remind me a bit of an american You Am I. IMG_2974

We played to a good-sized crowd of people largely unfamiliar with our music. It’s a good thing I think. We’re trying to build a following and all. Did it work? I guess we’ll find out when we come back.


Tomorrow is Austin.


*They’re not booing they’re saying put your damn clothes back on you pudgy bald freek.

** I did go into this vintage toy store and played a game I had never heard of: Baby Pac Man. It’s a combo pinball machine and video game and it was ridiculously difficult. When playing the video game there were no things to eat in order to turn the tables on the ghosts but you could escape down two pathways in the bottom whereupon you would disappear and a pinball would pop out. But there was nothing to bounce the ball off of and the paddle gap was wide.


Tour Diary: Tulsa (US / Day 3)

Ranking Cheese Doodle: Flavor Mill Jalapeno Popper Flavored Cheese Curls: I suspect Flavor Mill is a shell brand for a major corporate doodle manufacturer, because they appear at those gas stations that only carry Frito-Lay products. And because the core doodle underneath the fake jalapeno flavor is very Cheetos-esque.

Texture: Good – Like a Cheeto.

Flavor: Once again the damn pursuit of mouth pain ruins the subtle delights of powdered cheese.

Idiocy from the Van: “Could you all hate me so I can go home?”


Our sub-Blanche DuBois hotel fun continued with John waking up to this window washer singing “I’ve got the perfect body” over and over while understandably lingering outside John’s room.* I still couldn’t find much to do but went inside the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Museum. (Or the JNEMM for short) This is where you go to buy your tickets to the arch, and there’s a little bit of a museum there as well. A very little bit of museum. Maybe it’s temporary because of the construction but my kid’s junior high history fair was more trenchant and illuminating. The actual fascinating event that took place there was the Dred Scott court case. And I must say in the museum’s defense the preserved courtrooms are pretty cool. There is a hallway (albeit a short one) devoted to this momentous event, but when I went to the museum’s web site I read this quote:

“Although few whites considered the human factor in Dred Scott’s slave suit, today we acknowledge that it is wrong to hold people against their will and force them to work as people did in the days of slavery.”

Really? We acknowledge that it is wrong? No. It was an egregious moral failing that led to one of the worst human rights catastrophe’s this country has committed. It’s this kind of tepid response that allows apologists to continue to exist. This country’s refusal to truly acknowledge (uttered bitterly) the unbroken sequence of abuse prevents us from healing. I’m not talking about obscure or alternative history here: slavery, Reconstruction, lynchings, Jim Crow, bombings, high-pressure hoses, and on and on until today, are events well documented. Those last few happened during my lifetime. We have to do better.

And then we drive to Tulsa. The countryside south of St. Louis was pretty, green, and kind of lush, but the majority of Missouri on this route was indistinguishable from a lot of Ohio. Rolling grassy hills with small patches of trees scattered about. We left the highway briefly for a short jaunt on the famed Highway 66. Which looked suspiciously like a road. That people drive on. The reason for the departure was we wanted to go to the Uranus Fudge Factory. Obviously a tourist trap but we were willing to bite. There were dinosaurs in the parking lot and a double decker bus. All the obvious touchstones of Americana. And then when you walk in the store the poor lady at the counter says, “Welcome to Uranus.” To every single customer. You know how when Wesley was saying, “As you wish” he was really saying, “I love you”? Well when this young lady said, “Welcome to Uranus” what she was really saying was, “Kill me. Please.” I really thought I would enjoy the place but somehow the over-commercialization of the Uranus joke made me sad. Combining Uranus and Fudge onto a t-shirt is just too obvious. Besides, they didn’t sell any fudge with corn in it, so authenticity was obviously not a going concern. If it wasn’t for the Monkfish it would have been a disappointing venture. Our next stop was the Kum & Go gas station/convenience store. Oklahoma has some things to work through.


Upon arrival we had time to check in to the hotel before heading to the club, and while standing at the front desk a 75-year old gentleman with charisma to spare approached the other desk worker.

“Well that was a huge mistake”


“I’m getting too old for this. I’m 75 years old.”

“Really? You look good!”

“Ah well it’s all rotten on the inside.”

“Oh come now…”

“Have you ever heard of Swift airplanes? I’ve been flying one for 45 years. Well they’re having a get together for the 70-year anniversary of when they started making them, and I decided to fly my plane to it.”

“You flew here?
“Yep, I’ve been bouncing and short hopping all the way from Las Vegas to Tulsa. Still have 600 miles to go.”

“Oh! So you live in Vegas? What’s that like?”

“I hate it. Used to love it though. There’s 2.5 million people there now. When I moved to Vegas there was only 75,000. I met my wife there. She was a showgirl at the Lido.”

“I’ve always wanted to go to Vegas.”

“Oh you should go once to experience it.”

“”I don’t think I’ll make it. My sisters swore they’d never go.”

“Back then $4.95 would get you a prime rib and a show at the Lido. Little did I know, 10 years later I’d be marrying that showgirl. What I need now is a hot shower. Flying that plane – it’s always hot or cold and windy.”**

I think I remember him saying somewhere in there that he had been in the Air Force and had worked at Area 51. How I would’ve loved to have a drink with that guy.


Load-in at the club was 9:00, which is rather late, and when we pulled up John jumped out of the van to see what was going on. He came back a few minutes later and said, “We should probably just leave. There’s a band breaking down in there and the drummer isn’t wearing a shirt, the bartender is wearing a wet suit, no one has any idea what’s going on, and everyone is unfriendly.” We didn’t leave of course, but walked in and saw there was no stage, no monitors, and only a few microphones. We drew a breath, reminded ourselves that for most of our benighted career every show was like this, and to not be all soft. Still, we approached the evening with a little bit of trepidation. It was to be our first of three shows with the American Werewolf Academy, the gents Lisa and Chuck travelled with on their duo tour in the UK a few years back, and it was lovely to see them again. The club was two doors down from Cain’s Ballroom, a famous venue that goes back to Bob Wills, but has also hosted the Sex Pistols and Wilco. Up the street the other way was the Woody Guthrie Center, which was of course closed. Someday I’d really love to go there. Woody is my kind of hero. This section of Tulsa was interesting and arty, with the Philbrook Museum, a nice green space with lots of people hanging out, a Jazz museum in the old Art Deco train depot. Stuff like that.

When I got back to the club patrons were shooting off fireworks in the abandoned parking lot next to the back patio, and everyone seemed to view this exciting combination of alcohol and explosives as not only desirable but not even notable. We had to pre-set all our gear in the parking lot next to the club (but separate from the fireworks) because there was no room inside. We turned on the three microphones set up in front of the speakers, (which is a very feedback prone configuration) adjusted our instruments accordingly, and it ended up sounding amazing. Sometimes it seems with our music that it sounds better when all the sound is coming from one condensed space. Anyway, there were not a lot of people in attendance but the ones that were there were die-hard and generous with their praise and merch purchases.

Tomorrow is Dallas


*John keeps himself quite fit

**I apologize for getting any of the facts wrong. I was eavesdropping after all.

Tour Diary: The 2016 Great American Cheese Doodle Ranking

Cheese Doodle Ranking 2016


Texture – can range from packing peanuts to cylindrical rods of sandpaper roughness. Like what I imagine a cat’s member must be like. If you feel as if the roof of mouth is going to bleed by the end of the bag they’re too rough.

Cheese Profile – is produced by the unique formulations of doodle dust used to coat the doodle. It’s a delicate balance between salt, cheddar and sawdust.



Cheese flavor negligible

Texture pretty good


Taste profile is primarily that of salt with soupcon of cheese underneath. Texture rough

Herr’s Honey Cheesenope

Chuck likes them; I think they’re weird. It’s a doodle coated in brown sugar. Doesn’t even leave your fingers orange.

Carolina Country Snacks Baked Cheese Curls – poor

For all intents and purposes this snack is an orange packing peanut. Smaller than the average doodle, covered in sawdust, and entirely pointless. The bag has Jesus quotes on it, begging the question whether they are praying for our souls or forgiveness.

 High Valley Orchard Spicy Cheese Nuggets. They’re all right. They’re small, like a toddler’s kidney.

Texture: Stale styrofoam

Flavor: The flavor is just like the pizza flavor Combos but really spicy. They inflamed my wretched mouth to such an extent I think they will remain uneaten as well.

 Kitchen Cooked Cheese Kettle Kurls: Just horrible. I ate one and refused to eat another. We threw them away. That’s a damning statement, because after an hour in the van almost anything salty becomes desirable,

Texture: Like that green stuff in the bottom of plant containers. Or time capsule gluten free sponge cake.

Flavor: Fake butter. Seriously.

 Toms – serviceable I guess – I don’t really like them

Tastes like they’re going for a sharp cheddar profile but it ranges from non-existent to an almost sour wisp of cheese. Might be appealing after drinking a lot of beer from a plastic pitcher whilst bowling. Which upon reflection, unless you want to leave your balls* orange would be inadvisable.

Texture is big and kind of rough. Like Garth Brooks scolding his stepchildren in front of a Cinnabon at the mall.

Utz Baked Cheddar Cheese Curls – ultimately disappointing

Cheese flavor is quite good

Texture is a nightmare. It’s like over-cooked air. As if their baking process involves leaving trays of doodle dough inside Chernobyl until they take on the air of a thousand tiny sharpened knives. Plus I’m more nauseous than usual after eating.


*No, I don’t think I’m being subtle.

Tour Diary: St. Louis (US / Day 2)

Ranking Cheese Doodle: High Valley Orchard Spicy Cheese Nuggets. They’re all right. They’re small, like a toddler’s kidney.

Texture: Stale styrofoam

Flavor: The flavor is just like the pizza flavor Combos but really spicy. They inflamed my wretched mouth (see previous post) to such an extent I think they will remain uneaten as well.

Idiocy from the Van: Egregious Philbin

We drove the four hours from Davenport to St. Louis the night before and still got in around 10:00. We were staying at a hotel right near the arch. A hotel whose scratched hallways and undusted chandeliers echoed with the laughter and sighs of a more beautiful, elegant era. Like say 2006. The employees dragging through their assigned duties like the crew of the Titanic if it had taken 6 years to sink rather than 2 hours and 40 minutes. Case in point: The boxer shorts and washcloth crumpled on the floor by the ice machine that weren’t removed for almost 24 hours. I could almost deal with the shorts, as they were flannel and flannel seems benign, but it was the washcloth in conjunction with the boxers that worried me. It was an upscale hotel going to seed almost everywhere you looked. The best example of this was the huge patio on the second floor,easily the size of a football field, with rotting gravelly cement and scrubby shrubbery. And in the center was a structure that looked like it had jumped to its death during construction and just landed apropos of nothing right in the middle. Obviously it used to be used for special functions, what with it’s lovely view of the arch, but now was full of ripped curtains, knocked over chairs, peeling walls, and a trail mix of dust and droppings.

And then John was outside the hotel early in the morning smoking a cigarette and a fellow comes up to him and tells him he’s Tim Burton’s brother. He was wearing sandals showcasing his blistery feet, a thick gold chain, and a red baseball shirt. I wasn’t there so I’ll paraphrase to the best of my ability.

“I’m Tim Burton’s brother. I’m actually a millionaire, but the film industry is such a cash heavy game I don’t have access to it right now. Do you have a cigarette? I make documentaries. “What kind of documentaries? “ Oh well ummm… you know about like selling drugs……… and ummm…. prostitutes. “

He told John that he had started a bunch of companies and gave him his e-mail. John later looked them up and there was a whole page of fake LLC’s. I kind of admire his approach though. It’s that kind of chutzpah that can take a bum and elevate him to a hobo.

I wanted to go up in the arch as I’ve never done that, but the whole park is under massive construction for its 50th anniversary. Pretty much everything of interest downtown was fenced off. The mix of architectural styles and ages bore a striking similarity to Cincinnati, with some German, the odd Art Deco, and a few modern glass corporate trifles thrown in. The odd thing to me was how few people were out and about on Wednesday afternoon. I walked around for a while but never found anything open except a lovely little sculpture garden with public swimming fountains full of kids. The thing is I’ve been to St. Louis several times and I know there are wonderful parts. I love the Soulard Farmer’s Market, Forest Park with its free museums, and the Delmar district. It’s once again the curse of how everything gets so spread out. They were miles away, not really walkable destinations, with the only public transportation being the bus. And there are few things more impenetrable than local bus routes to a visitor. Outside of a few major cities, the U.S. really forces one to drive.


Then we were off to Off Broadway for the show. We were playing Twangfest, a yearly Americana festival celebrating its 20th year. I think this is our third time playing it and for the life of us we don’t know why they keep asking us back. They’ve even had us play their show at SXSW a couple of times. It’s a super well run festival and we’ve always been treated incredibly well. Last time we played with Kelly Hogan and this time James McMurtry. So, not too bad there. I think my favorite thing about the Twangfest audience is that the people who support and attend something like this for 20 years are foremost music fans. The kinds of people who collect records, read reviews, and argue about different line-ups. We played the Off Broadway a long, almost forgotten time ago and it’s turned into a wonderful venue. They’ve built a little courtyard with chairs, a fire pit, and an outside covered bar. The room sounds great and has a balcony. Before the set I went and walked around the neighborhood. It was eerie, but once again there was almost no one around. The houses were mostly well kept with flower boxes watered and such, but no one was outside. It was a little unnerving.

Oh and the show was just wonderful. The sound was clear and perfect onstage and the crowd was super enthusiastic. The cheers at the end of “Teenage Wasteland” made us feel like The Who. An absolutely perfect way to start the tour in earnest.

Tomorrow is Tulsa.

Tour Diary: Daytrotter (US / Day 1)

Back in the U.S.S.A

Salty Snack of the Day: Is dead. Long live the great 2016 U.S. Cheese Doodle Census! We actually started this on our spring break run of shows. I can’t guarantee one every day as regionalism in the U.S. is a dying thing. They will be compiled in a separate post, but the ultimate goal is to elevate the doodle to the lofty, snooty heights of gas station wine. We will fling words like mouth feel and bouquet around like a Whole Foods sommelier.

Kitchen Cooked Cheese Kettle Kurls: Just horrible. I ate one and refused to eat another. We threw them away. That’s a damning statement, because after an hour in the van almost anything salty becomes desirable,

Texture: Like that green stuff in the bottom of plant containers. Or time capsule sponge cake.

Flavor: Fake butter. Seriously. Because the world needs a doodle that tastes like kettle corn.

Idiocy from the Van:

Terrence Trent D’Arby’s or Terrence Trent D’Roy Rogers


I’ve thought a lot about whether to continue writing the blog for the domestic portion of our tour. But when the truth of the fact of the matter is I write this for something to do, and not for any potential phantasmal readers, I know it’s going to happen anyway. In order to do this though, I need some sort of frame of reference. A reference point. A point blank (I could play this game all day!) enough to encompass the autumnal regret of Springsteen with the impotent longing Reeves and Swayze, but not whomever they cast in that reboot of Point Blank. (Chuck just reminded me the movie was called Point Break but I’m not changing it because it just doesn’t matter) Because are we really so bereft of creativity that we need to remake what is at best a cheese-bag movie? I’m sort of willing to accept Disney flipping cartoons onto the stage like Howard Hill adding a coat of paint to a murder house and calling it new, but only because I gather the staging is outstanding. I mean we’re averaging one original and impactful musical a decade now. “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” in the ‘90’s, “Wicked” in the 2000’s, and now “Hamilton,” which I haven’t seen. A golden era this is not.

Anyway, the point I was trying to make is this is our third western adventure and I don’t want to repeat myself too much. Combine that with how utterly lovely every little thing seemed in England, and I wondered if it would be possible to view this trip with the perspective of a foreigner. Seeing as the pair of eyes I scooped out of a hobo in Piccadilly Square with a spoon went bad, (they’re way more delicate than kidneys) I will use the eyes of Olie! Yes! Olie is joining us for most of this tour. (You might remember Olie from such roles as being our driver in England.)

As we get ready to leave, the current state of Wussy is as follows: the band is financially strapped, (nothing new) everyone in the band is broke, the stress of finishing up the school year, trying to get everything done around the house, the guilt of leaving my kids during summer break, my dear wife carrying all the weight of keeping the family and house running. I’m not handling it well. I wish I was, but it’s been a month at least since I haven’t taken some sort of antacid every day. The net result of all this is that I have entered into a pitched battle with my tongue. I’m sure there’s a name for that piece of skin behind your two front teeth, and I hope that it sounds vaguely inappropriate like myoeatmymeatrium. Regardless, mine started hurting and I hadn’t even gotten a tortilla chip stuck up in it. I noticed that my tongue seemed to be pretty much stuck to the roof of my mouth all the time. Is it supposed to be? Is it always there? If it’s always there then why is the roof of my mouth hurting. I don’t think it is supposed to be up there all the time. I think it’s supposed to be resting peacefully in the bottom of the mouth. After all there seems to be a nice place carved out for it. It’s a horrible thing to be aware of your tongue. In trying to relax my face and get my tongue to settle back in it’s tongue-cave I now realize I have this large, wet, dangly thing in my mouth and now it needs to be told what to do. Great. And that’s only the tip of iceberg A-42*. I could make a list I tell ya.

We left at the ungodly hour of 8 am for the seven hour drive to Davenport.*  This then would seem to be an excellent chance to practice my new open and naïve approach to seeing my country. Then I thought maybe I would start in Illinois. Because Indiana. I’m not a hero. I’m just one man.

Illinois seen from I-74 is rather nice. There are not much livestock visible, just unimaginable miles of young green corn plants. The fields of England are parceled out in tidy, eccentric packages bound by hedges and populated with small furry animals. That’s another early impression: the sides of the highways seem less tidy than in England. But how could it be otherwise? There is approximately 6.5 million miles of roads in the U.S. as opposed to not quite 400,000 in the U.K. We have the largest network of roads in the world.

Davenport is one of the Quad Cities, which also includes Bettendorf on the Iowa side of the Mississippi with Moline and Rock Island on the Illinois side. I asked someone how long it would take to go from say Davenport to Moline if you wanted to see a show. He said, “Oh, maybe 15 minutes.” So even though one of the recurring themes this tour is going to be how freaking yuge*** this country is, the Quad cities are fairly small. Davenport, described as pretty sleepy by a local, is showing signs of an uptick in shit going on. There’s barcade with Chexx Hockey (way better than foosball), a cool hipster tap room, and of course Daytrotter. Daytrotter has been recording sessions for a long time (since 2006). In the past they used to put the sessions on vinyl but now they make them available online. It’s treated like a real recording studio session with lots of care given to isolating the instruments and getting really good sounds. It was fun and having to focus in so much in order to sound like we know what we’re doing was an excellent way to get us back in touring fettle. They’ve also recently opened up a performance space, which is gorgeous. Then we ate Chipotle, died inside a little, and drove to St. Louis.


*I was going to give the iceberg a name. A name that would reflect my current state of mind. It turns out however, there is already a system in place for naming them. The National Ice Center monitors and names all icebergs 10 nautical miles or longer along one axis. They are assigned a letter depending on the point of origin.

 A – longitude 0° to 90° W (Bellingshausen Sea, Weddell Sea)

B – longitude 90° W to 180° (Amundsen Sea, Eastern Ross Sea)

C – longitude 90° E to 180° (Western Ross Sea, Wilkes Land)

D – longitude 0° to 90° E (Amery Ice Shelf, Eastern Weddell Sea)

I chose the longitude for Cincinnati in naming my ‘berg.


** Davenport is what my Grandmother called couches.

*** huge

Tour Diary: London (UK / Days 14-16)

Salty Snack of the Day: Howdah Onion Bhaji – Kind of the shape and texture of sesame sticks but a rice based snack. Delicious but spicy as all get out.

Britishisms Heard Uttered: Bloody – I didn’t hear it once. Has this most British of institutions fallen by the wayside? Is it what the biddies mutter under their breath when the price of porridge goes up by two pence? Is it the consarnit or balderdash of England? I really fucking hope not.

Birds: Robin – I really wanted to see one and I did it! Oddly the robin is part of the chat family here but the blackbird is part of the thrush family.

(Seen in the Royal Gardens) Pochard, Barnacle Goose, Goldeneye, Pelicans (introduced in 1664 as a gift from the Russian ambassador)

These are not show days and Joe and his “wife” are already in Bath for the duration. Monday was very simply driving, going to George and Jan’s place, returning rented gear, figuring out paperwork, then heading to the hotel. We were out by some airport with nothing to walk to, so we ended up staying in for the evening, drinking beer in the hotel café and hanging out with Olie for the last time this tour.

This then would seem a good time to sing the praises of our man-crush Olie. His job is to drive us to and from gigs. The fact that he helped us load-in\out, set-up and tear down gear, sell merch, run and get food, and act as tour guide just shows how much he went above and beyond the call of duty. And in the grand tradition of British comedians he deployed a wide range of accents, voices, and silly walks to keep us pissing ourselves laughing. We lucked out.


As for the rest of the last two days I went full on tourist. I’m just going to list everything I saw and keep descriptions to a minimum. I’m already walking a thin line between Rick Steves and middle-aged man slide show.* I will say that London more than lived up to its reputation as one of the worlds great cities. There was a point where I’m pretty sure I didn’t hear the English language for an hour, but instead a steady flow of languages that were melodiously unfamiliar. It felt like a literal crossroads to the world and I loved it. John E. will hopefully post a recording he made when he was standing on the sidewalk listening to the sound of Indian music being performed in someone’s apartment above him. Some men walking up to the building asked if he liked music and of course John said yes. So then, at 2:00 in the morning no less, they invited him to come up and listen. He got to play a harmonium and talk with everyone.


My cold was at its worse and I was probably hungover. London was as gloomy as a Death Eater’s mixer after the bridge mix has run out, and promised rain and humidity in spades all day.


  • Navigated Tube successfully. (Thanks Harry Beck!)
  • Trafalgar Square for coffee, writing, recovering, and realizing there were far too many tourist groups around to even fathom.
  • Walking away from people took me to St. James Royal Gardens with all the Royal birds, Royal grass, Royal bird poop distributed with the enthusiasm, dedication, and equality of a Communist’s wet dream, Royal Cigarette butts, Royally brazen squirrels, etc.

IMG_2710 (1)

  • Churchill’s Bunker Museum. Really expensive. Good museum on the man’s life and visits to the map room and such are very cool. But really expensive.


  • Buckingham Palace. There was long line of posh, white people in coattails and hats and frumpy dresses and hats holding invitations. Turns out it was a big tadoo for the Queen’s 90th I left the Princess Di latch-hook rug I made in 1997 against the gate and walked away feeling closure at last.
  • Parliament House and Big Ben
  • Tube to Picadilly Square



  • The Royal Society!! Did I mention it was my birthday? Well here was my gift to myself. There was a talk open to the public that night. The Royal Society came into existence in 1660 and has done things like publish Newton’s ‘Principa Mathematica” and Hooke’s “Micrographia.” (there was a small exhibit on that as well) The talk this evening was by the 2015 Wilkins-Bernal-Medawar prize winner Professor Hasok Chang and was titled, “Who Cares About the History of Science?” It was a wonderful talk even when I didn’t understand it. So cool to be there.
  • End of tour celebratory dinner with George and Jan in East London.





  • Walked to the Rough Trade Record Store in the Brick Lane part of London, and then all around the neighborhood. East London reminds me of Brooklyn with its transitional areas and hipsters.
  • Decided I would walk the two miles to The Tate Modern so as to see more of London. Was supposed to take 40 minutes but didn’t pay enough attention to maps and it took two very wet hours. Still, I saw what felt like the financial part of Manhattan, with lots of cool modern buildings and people looking smart and business-ey.
  • I have to admit I was hurting by the time I got to the Tate. Throbbing feet, sweaty, wet, and just kind of spent. The rest of the day, however wonderful, would take on a slight Bataan sheen.
  • The Tate was under renovation but the collection was lovely. Lots of classics but also a nice focus on the incredible power of protest and social commentary that the visual arts can achieve maybe better than the other fine arts. The building felt a little austere with mile after mile of white walls and black beams.
  • Met John and Lisa at St. Paul’s Cathedral** for evening choir service. The choir was all male with voices ranging from pre-change to change the channel – that hippie David Attenborough is on. Those voices in that space was profoundly moving and deeply beautiful. We all three wiped tears away and I would’ve likely begun sobbing except for being mostly dead inside. Afterwards the only woman involved in the performance of the service was greeting people and I stopped to thank her. She then said an amazing thing to me. “Do you teach people to sing?” I was surprised at this leap of intuition and told her yes and who I taught. We then had a lovely talk about how the arts are being cut in England, just as in the States, and all the reasons why music is so profoundly important to our core humanity. She said they were sending out a choirmaster to the poorer communities to try and fill in a little of what is being lost. The older I get, the greater the import of service to others seems to be. Connections between people and peoples have to be forged, they don’t just happen without effort.


  • Came across where Sherlock fell from St. Barts.
  • Walked across Millenium Bridge on a day the Dementors held in thrall, and then peeped on the Globe Theater.


*I can’t define redundancy but I know it when I see it.

** I chose cake but they were out. Damn.

Tour Diary: Bristol (UK / Day 13)

Salty Snack of the Day: Pipers Wissington Tomato – It tastes like tomatoes. I love tomatoes. I hated these. Every time I tried to eat them it was like a crispy stone falling through the good parts of my soul and taking a little bit with it. I suddenly wanted to feed puppies chocolate and read Rod McKuen’s poetry to shut-ins. Did not finish.

Britishisms Heard Uttered: Birmingham Twat – Not a thing in and of itself I assume. However whenever one of us would say Birmingham Olie would affect a mocking nasal American accent and say “BermingHAM” making the ham sound like the salty meat. One is supposed to pronounce it as if the word is being swallowed as it’s being spoken. “Brmnhmm.” But if one said twat like hot he would say, “No. Twat like hat.” Honestly.

Birds: Swallow

This will be the shortest post of the tour as it took nine hours to get from Edingburgh to Bristol. We climbed back into the silver bullet of hate and set out.

In the U.S. if you want to stop and make, or get fuel and food, you just get off at an exit and avail yourself of whatever is there. In the U.K. they’re called Services and they were lifesavers. It’s set up closer to the way say the Pennsylvania Turnpike has their service plazas. Daily we lived off of good fresh sandwiches and readymade salads like Beets with Feta from M&S or Witherspoons. Olie, however had been telling us that there is one service stop that was the greatest in the whole country.


It’s somewhere in Cumbria and it’s magical. Plates of sweet, bakery treats great you. There’s a shop with good cheese and wine, and the café has vegetarian lasagna, sausages, fresh peas with mint. Is a big deal? No? Yes? * Ok, imagine you’re travelling for 9 hours on the highways of America and surviving off of gas station snacks or fast food. It’s horrible and you end up feeling like shit. Now imagine a Whole Foods with all the smugness sucked out like meat from Jack Klugman’s colon. That’s this place in a nutshell. But even the regular U.K services I mentioned before are packed with fresh food. No wonder the United States has eating problems. I’m writing this as we drive back to Cincinnati from NYC and the only kind of fresh food I can find is yogurt, boiled eggs in a bag, Cracker Barrel cheese rectangles and carrot sticks. It’s enraging. We’ve been trying to strategize how to eat healthy while touring this summer and all we can figure out is to bring a cooler, find grocery stores, and make our own breakfasts and lunches. Hell, even Starbucks, who I am no great fan of, has vastly more fresh options in the U.K.

Anyway, you can imagine how bedraggled** we looked as we pulled up to the Fleece in Bristol. Last show of the tour, hostel sleep the night before, fighting colds; we were a fright. We were ending the tour the way we began by opening up for Shonen Knife. It’s a fairly famous Bristol venue and bigger than we would play on our own. (for instance Icicle Works are playing there SOOON!***) Big box, older building, audibly sticky floors; classic club in other words. Leggy, the Cincinnati trio traveling the island the same time as us, opened the show and played such an energetic, awesomely rocking set I went out to the van and said we were in danger of getting blown off the stage. And thank God for it, because it was just the kick in the ass we needed to finish the tour strong. We had no soundcheck and limited time so we dispensed with our usual pleasantries and made as much noise as we could for 45 minutes. It was a bigger crowd than Gateshead and they were far more responsive. We did a run and gun; loading straight out and leaving right away, dead on our feet.


I went on a short walk and right near the club was an active archaeological dig of a site going back to mediaeval times. Of course it was happening so someone can build on top of it, but I’m guessing you can’t plant a tulip without coming across history in this country.


A block or two away from a picturesque bridge crossing what I think is the river Avon, I found the closed St. Nicholas Market, which was started in 1743, but that was all I really had time to see.

Tomorrow is back to London and taking care of business in the non-Elvis, more Colonel Tom Parker way.


*Written in an Italian accent. Go back and read it that way. It’s works better.

** Did you know draggled was a word? It means to soil by dragging over wet or dirty ground.

***When I wrote that in Word, I started the phrase at a font size of 8 and every word got bigger so it was just like a Whisper to a Scream. I can’t figure out how to do that in WordPress but I just wanted you to know that I was trying.

Tour Diary: Edinburgh (UK / Day 12)

Salty Snack of the Day: Seabrook (Lovingly made in Yorkshire) Sea Salt and Vinegar – Handed to me as the van door opened in Edinborough. Salt and Vinegar in the UK are much less intense than at home. You can actually eat them without opening up sores in your mouth. This is an excellent chip.

 Britishisms Heard Uttered: Chuffed – “I’m right chuffed by that!”

 Birds: Black-Headed Gull, Little Tern, (I felt confident at the time at least) Red Kite, Pheasant (dead), Oystercatcher, Jackdaw

Today was to be our last headlining show and our only one in Scotland. But before that all sorts of epic, potentially dangerous, undoubtedly heroic things would have to happen. Like Olie getting up far too early to take the ailing van to the garage, then taking a cab back to the hotel to pick Chuck and I up, (because we’re just slightly less heroic- like that sycophantic Samwise Clamcheese from the Lord of the Flies) The upside to not remaining cozily enrobed in a Travelodge duvet like the lazy bastards who are everyone else, is that I got to see a little more of the actual city of Birmingham. We were staying in an industrial area with the Land Rover/Jaguar factory right next door. We never went through the city center but moved into an area that increasingly looked like an American city. It wasn’t just the litter and graffiti, or the barbwire and sketchy looking buildings, or even the palpable sense if diminished opportunities… Oh wait, yes it was. I am not saying Birmingham is like that. I’m just saying this street was. And of course this is where the rental place was. It was a dirty, piece of shit place and if I could remember the name I’d launch a flame war against them and their shoddy business. Even though we were paying 100 pounds a day and there were Transit vans onsite, they gave us an old LDV with an empty tank, no washer fluid, the engine check light on, and hard plastic city-bus like seats that wouldn’t fold down or adjust. So needless to say (he said) loading in gear was annoying as hell. We had to line the seats with pillows or parts of our bodies would begin to seize up within 15 minutes.


Anyway, enough of that. We had about a seven-hour drive to Edinburgh and we were of course late. Flash forward a few hours and we entered the region of Cumbria. From here until we arrived the scenery became more beautiful with every mile. Rolling hills, green green fields, cascading streams, stone walls containing regular sheep and the long hairy kind as well as long hairy Highland cattle. Plus, actual cool birds! By the time we got to Scotland the roads were too curvy to write and the buildings and villages looked hewn from a time so long past you expected to see broadswords and buboes. My father had told me Scotland was maybe the favorite place he’d visited in the world, with its unearthly beauty and decent, open people. I see what he means.

As we approached our venue in Edinburgh, The Electric Circus, the architecture made the inhabitants of the van sound like slack-jawed yocals watching a fireworks display.


After a quick load-in Olie, Lisa, and I went for our usual one-hour to see a town walk. We walked by the Gothic tower created as a tribute to Robert Shaw,* and began walking up the hill towards the Edinburgh Castle. There was a long set of stairs and it was satisfying to see everyone walking up on the left. It’s a chicken and egg thing isn’t it? Does the side of the street you drive upon influence the side of a walkway or staircase you walk down, or the other way around? (Potential doctoral thesis anyone?)


Anyway, Lisa and I bought tartan scarves because Scotland, and as we re-entered the street we heard the sound of bagpipes coming from the direction of the Castle. Lisa took off running. I didn’t because my cool, dispassionate demeanor simply does not allow it. We never figure out why, but in front of the Castle was not just a group of piping baggers but local bugle and drum corps. They played music that alternated between triumphant and plaintive while executing parade maneuvers that would have made Dr. Heimlich faint with pleasure. Arguable highlight of the tour.


The Electric Circus is an interesting mix of intended audiences. They have private karaoke rooms, which seemed to be the focus of many hen-dos. These were different from the Cardiff hen-dos, which were patently silly and involved props and costumes. These parties were executed by fiercely intense women dressed to the nines, wearing high heels that would make Isachar Zacharie roll over in his grave,** and woe to those who would stand in their way. Like me for instance as I was standing in front of a door looking through the small window into a mysterious hallway with glowing doors on either side. “All right, let us through,” commanded a voice that surely in a past life conjured up sand storms with which to bury invading armies. I found myself inexplicably bowing and scraping in obsequious retreat. I am not mocking these women. They are awesome. At the end of the evening as they left the club with relaxed smiles and arms around each others shoulders, obviously heroically drunk, they were still gliding over the cobblestones in those impossible heels as if they were wearing slippers on Sunday morning.

And then we get on stage and the audience begins to cheer us with the vigor of most crowds when they hear the harmonica at a Billy Joel concert and they’re like “Oh my God – he’s playing Piano Man! I didn’t think he was going to do it and then bam – first encore!” This was our 13th show in 12 days. We’ve never done that before. We usually have a day off tucked in there somewhere and we were on fumes.*** So it was purely the energy of the audience that turned this into one of the best, most memorable shows of the tour. People arm in arm singing along, a roar of cheers after every song. In general, the British audiences are unsurprisingly a little more reserved than in the States (as well as not talking loudly through every song by every performer) but the Scottish threw that all out the window. It was a joyous experience. About halfway through the set Lisa said, “Ah, so this is where our people come from. This is like playing at home.”

After the set we ate Nandos (3rd time) in the apartment/green room a few doors down from the club.**** The night before I’d woken up several times with a sore throat and it was now apparent that it was here to stay. Also, and wait for this, the entire band, Olie, and Joe’s “wife” were sleeping in bunk beds in one room at the hostel across the street. I had vowed I would drink good single malt scotch while in Scotland and a stiff bit of courage before the hostile seemed appropriate. And while I’m not a whiskey drinker I could get used to that.


View from a Hostel. (Second best Kim Wilde song)

The hostel experience can be summed up in this one interaction. As Chuck, John and I were bringing guitars up to the room, we went through yet another door (there was one every five feet I swear) into another narrow hallway, when a beautiful young women steps out of the showers in a towel. Us three middle-aged men immediately averted our eyes and begin shuffling to try to get out of her way. Of course we’d completely jammed up the space like Michael Jordan and realized the only way out was forward. As we went through at least two more doors she resignedly followed us while we issued forth mumbled, “sorrys and almost theres.” We felt like oafs. The night passed in a chorus of snores and bunk bed head smashed curses. It was ridiculous and hilarious and thank God the only one on the tour.


Tomorrow is Bristol.


  • Sir Walter Scott in truth, but I accidentally wrote Robert Shaw. Don’t you love him? Of course Jaws, but Force 10 from Navarone, Taking of Pelham 1,2,3 (everything I do is funky like Lee Dorsey) Anyway, at 200 feet 6 inches it’s the largest monument to a writer in the world. It was supposed to only be 200 feet but his wife asked for just six inches more.

**President Lincoln’s foot doctor. I just spent the last 15 minutes reading about him. Cool story.

*** Not literally. We don’t advocate or partake in huffing.

**** Quick aside. In the van John typically sat up front with Olie and they got on like a house on fire. One day we heard the sound of goats screaming from Olie’s phone and those two almost crying from laughing. Jump back to the green room. Bands are given one key and when you enter you climb a winding set of stairs. As it turns out the doorbell wasn’t working. So as some of us are sitting up there, most likely in a stupor, we hear the surprisingly loud sound of a goat screaming. I run down the stairs and there is Olie summoning us through the mail slot while everyone else is doubled over on the very pubic sidewalk laughing. Maybe one of those you had to be there moments but definitely an entry into the band pantheon.


Tour Diary: Birmingham (UK / Day 11)

Salty Snack of the Day: M&S Prawn Cocktail – I had to try at least one prawn snack right? I wasn’t looking forward it but was told by a concerned local that the Marks and Spencer brand was the best. Just very slightly fishy with a little tomato in there. Not that notable either way really.

Britishism of the Day: Bollocks “It’s like putting clean underwear over dirty bollocks.”

Birds: Grey Heron and probable Buzzard flying over.

I don’t remember much of the drive to Birmingham. Days are starting to run together. I met a motoring enthusiast with a broken down 40-year old Morgan who was ever so happy to tell me the entire history of the company and the various models of Morgans then and now. (always accompanied by the liter size of the engine) They still create 200 cars a year largely by hand. He was still talking as I backed away, lost in his reverie, waiting for the break calipers to cool down enough so he could drive home and tinker some more.


We were set to play the Hare and Hounds in Birmingham, but it was actually in an area called King’s Heath, a suburb about 5 miles from the city center. We were running late because of repeated bouts of horrific traffic. In order to stave off my usual soundcheck crash I order my first typical English breakfast.* Yesterday a pasty, today an English Breakfast. Is there anything I’m missing that is classically English, but also potentially vegetarian? Ooh, crumpets! I should have one of those. Wouldn’t mind some clotted cream too. Mmmm….clots.

We walked into the venue’s room and were engulfed in smothering fog machine smoke. Since we were late we flew through the soundcheck and began to look around. The H&H was a very old, maze-like, gorgeous pub and venue. The walls were covered in stunning art deco tiles, and I found a courtyard that felt like a secret hidden in the middle of the building.

. IMG_2592

I ate my breakfast for dinner, (baked beans with a hash brown floating in them, toast, egg, tomatoes, and grilled haloumi cheese) and looked up the history of the place. And it was haunted! Here’s an excerpt describing the events in question:

In the 1990’s barmaid, Marion Powell, had an experience she will never forget! She went down to the cellar to get the cleaning products she needed at the start of her shift when she spotted an overwhelming blackness come rushing down the stairs towards her and engulfed her! Marion describes it as pure evil.  But that wasn’t the worst of it! She then heard “GET OUT!!!” screamed at her and she needed no further incentive to run out of the pub!

Sometime earlier the landlord noticed a foul smell coming from the sewage system and it had become blocked by a black gunge coming through the walls of the cellar.  It seems that the building next door was the site of the city gallows.  The bodies of the executed criminals were pushed into a trough which now forms part of the cellar wall of the pub!! It’s ok though, they have built a new wall now between the cellar and the old building.

Today we often meet Harey Harold, our friendly ghost, who occasionally plays with the lighting and music systems as well as knocking the odd thing off the shelves. 

Except I just found out this story came from a different Hare and Hounds. Piss. Oh well, it’s a good story.

Anyway, The H&H we were at had a plaque stating UB40 had made their debut there, and it’s legitimately considered one of the best small venues in the UK. As has become the habit we were treated well, provided tea, coffee, water and beer, and of course the sound was excellent. We played an abbreviated set because there was a DJ up after us. The crowd was kind of far away from us and mostly hidden by the rock fog, but it was a good night.

Olie had spent a good portion of the evening under the van trying to fix what now seemed like an exhaust issue. After the show he reported that it hadn’t worked and was getting steadily worse. With a long drive to our last headlining show in Scotland the next day, he said he was going to try a 24 hour Mercedes Benz garage, but that we were probably going to have to attempt to rent a van the next morning. Olie was obviously displeased and left for the garage around midnight with the plan to plead our situation using many dire adjectives and puppy dog eyes. He returned shortly after with the place being locked down and inaccessible. So tomorrow at the crack of dawn we shall sally forth,** deposit his van, rent a different one, and still try to make soundcheck. Will we make it? Prospects look dim as the dim prospectors settle in for an uneasy night of fitful sleep.***

*With Linda McCartney sausage. I can’t believe there’s enough left of her after all this time but she was delicious.

**Sally Worth. Whatever.

***How’s that for a cliffhanger? It’s a pretty shit one isn’t it? Dammit.

Tomorrow is Edinburgh

Tour Diary: Brighton (UK / Day 10)

Salty Snack of the Day: Leighton Brown Sweet Potato and Cheese and Jalapeno Crisps – Not a very common brand I gather but ridiculously delicious. Oh and before the show a couple of audience members who have reading the blog provided an entertaining and educational discussion  about the merits of regional salty snacks. And when people began shouting out different snacks during our set I was tickled beyond belief.

Britishisms Heard Uttered: Wee – As in pee. In the Windmill’s men’s room, one peed against a ceramic wall where the collective urine was collected in a gutter-sized trough and sent steaming to the right. During the second afternoon, when the festival was still going on, a little boy said to his father, “Daddy, I’ve never had a wee in one of these before!” He was so innocent and excited he didn’t realize it was actually barbaric.

 Birds: I saw one species of bird in Brighton. The Herring Gull – large, noisy, and ubiquitous; they are the American tourists of the bird world.

Signs That Sound Naughty: All three of these were spotted on the way to the hotel after playing Brighton. Will likely not be a regular feature.

Sussex Tent Show

Arlington Upper Dicker

Polegate Willingdom



We got up and hustled out of Leicester as every one was excited to get to Brighton, a seashore town made famous to me by the Who’s “Quadrophenia.” We had about an hour and a half to see the sights before soundcheck so Olie, who lives there, played tour guide and took us around. It was a stunning, perfectly sunny day as Olie parked the van at the beach by the huge Ferris Wheel. The beach at Brighton is composed of rocks. Some as big as a steak bone, some patches of small pebbles, but most the size of a small rubber bouncing ball. A bit difficult to walk in but the child in me, as well as Chuck, (our inner children are conjoined and named Bo and Percival) began selecting the most interesting examples until we had a pocketful of rocks


The beach cuts towards the ocean in a steep terraced fashion and when the water was pulled back into the ocean as the bigger waves receded it made a hissing, bee-like sound I loved. There seemed to be a lot of what looks like flint in their composition, but regardless, the rocks make a glassine sound when knocked together either by us or the ocean. Just lovely.


Next we began moving into town via the South Lanes. Very narrow, twisty, pedestrian only roads going back to the city’s fishing town origins, but now full of unusual posh shops like the one that created these two-foot high edible chocolate eggs.


We walked by the Pavilion, described as a pleasure palace built for King George the IV. By the time it was done it had domes, minarets, and towers, reflecting a decidedly Indian flare. It’s quite stunning even if it was just built so a spoiled prince would have a place to party and shag.

Then into the North Laines, spelled differently for reasons I could look up, but I’ve already looked two things up and honestly it’s just below the threshold of fucks I give. The North Laines continued the trend of cool antique/vintage shops, bookstores and such. And here is where I’d like to state my favorite thing about Brighton. It’s a beach town, a longstanding tourist destination, but it is almost entirely bereft (bereft can be a good thing) of cheesy chain stores. Of course there are some sops to tourism. The world famous Pier, which had closed by the time I got to it, looks just packed with noxious family entertainments. But it has retained a certain elegance. Olie says it’s a town very accepting to artists and the odd. I could easily spend several happy days here I think.

We split up for about half an hour while Olie went back to fetch the van. I had a half pint, sat outside watching the world go by and eating my first Cornish Pasty. (rhymes with patsy or ummm…rhinoplasty) Like a large empanada but with dough more similar to that of a pie. I had the cheese and onion and it was like a Hot Pocket fit for a very kind, benevolent king.

On to the Hope and Ruin, our venue for the night. The downstairs pub and restaurant were super cool with all kinds of hipster shit on the wall. (Not literally – although I did contribute a little smackeral later on) They had fit a camper (caravan) into one corner and turned it into a vegan kitchen. I enjoyed their Krautwork vegan dog later. The windows were open to the sidewalk and we all sat there for a bit, reveling in the beautiful day and rather fetching populace


The venue itself was a lovely clean version of the rock bar box. When the soundman, a fastidious and thorough man named Leon, spent a full five minutes just on the Joe’s kick drum sound, Lisa laid down on the stage to wait and we all drooped a little bit. But oh my God it was the David of kick drum sounds, and the rest of the band sounded just as good. It was like we were getting studio sound in a club.

After check everyone went off to get food but I was still engorged by my pasty. I headed towards a very thin, incredibly tall and modern looking structure that Pierced (2nd worst James Bond ever) the sky. When I reached it I saw it was not yet completed but would eventually have a clear glass restaurant or some such riding up and down it like a doughnut on a hot dog. When I asked Olie’s girlfriend (a thoroughly charming and delightful young lady far too good for Olie ) she had several choice words for that horrible, expensive monstrosity. I will say, the early days of the project appear to have nothing to do with the aesthetic of the town.

IMG_2557 (1)

I walked up the beach from the twice burned pier to the presently popular and unburned pier, walked through town until my feet sent pings of pain up my legs with every step, like the Nerka being depth-charged by Bungo Pete.*

The show was fabulous. It’s amazing how much more you can bring to a performance with great sound. Someone explain to me the high level of ability the soundmen (unfortunately all men thus far) of this island possess? The sound has been consistently great night after night, the engineers and crew consistently cheerful and accommodating. One thing that is the same is the weird way some towns become aware and fall for a band. We had one of our top two biggest crowds and they were excited to see us. They demanded extra encores (“Majestic 12” and “Muscle Cars”) and gave us a night to fill us up enough to power through the last three shows. (Hopefully! We’re really tired)

Tomorrow is Birmingham.

*”Run Silent, Run Deep.” Read it. Watch it.

Tour Diary: Derby (UK / Day 9)

Salty Snack of the Day: Walker’s Worcester Sauce – Tastes as described. There’s no reason we shouldn’t have this flavor at home.

 Britishisms Heard Uttered: Squidgy Bits – Another one from Olie. We were sitting in the hotel watching a bit of Terminator 2 and the lovely Linda Hamilton evoked a reverie on the wonder that is the female form. “I like the squidgy bits” was a sentiment that brought much reverential murmuring. “Ah yes, the squidgy bits. They’re the best…”

 Birds: Nothing new, although I did see a rookery of rooks and did a little dance when I realized it.

Derby (pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-erd*) was only a short hour away so the inevitable staked its claim and we declared it laundry day. Olie dropped us off in Leicester’s West End and went to the garage to get a more thorough opinion on the van’s issues. Laundry is laundry, and there wasn’t even any weirdos to comment upon. However, the garage’s claims to be able to look at the van immediately, much like the Treaty of Versailles** were so many empty promises. The little strip containing the launderette was shabby and held only one promise of diversion. The Merry Monarch, number one in the city (runner up nationally) in places to go after life has lost any of its meaning, but just (by a single pensioner’s hair) before death. There were three scooters of the type we call Rascal’s *** parked in front.


Thus depressed and with news that the garage had not even looked at the van yet (we were miles from the hotel) I knew something heroic needed to be done or I’d go mental-er. The closest decent coffee was about a mile away according to my phone so I offered to go fetch some. Providing a service and getting to go on a quest? Perfect. Joe and I lit off for St. Martin’s Square, walking through the West End to get there. About halfway Joe said, looking around, “I could live here.” And I agreed. In some ways it seemed a little like Northside back home. Not fancy, enough Mom and Pop shops to feel unique, every day people going about their business. We walked through the University and into the square. It was full of windy (Sheryl Crow not fast moving air) (Oh, I’m supposed to use winding not windy? I think I shall not)(Screw you White and Strunk)****roads and vintage shops. Maybe our first full sunny day was influencing me but it fairly glowed. I put the tray of hot drinks into a paper bag, which Joe to his credit doubted the wisdom of, and began walking back. (St. Martin’s Tea and Coffee was delightful by the way) And then it happened. The real reason for the quest appeared. Not as a vision or burning shrubbery, but in the statue form of Richard the III performing the DAB. We were walking by the church where his bones were interred! Interred bones rule. Ruling bones interred rule harder. We were on a schedule so it was just a quick pop in where I saw the pall that had covered his coffin and his crown displayed above that. Not only is Richard III’s story worthy of a play, but the story of the re-discovery of his bones is amazing as well. Look it up! (I’ll wait)

Back on the sidewalk the drinks immediately broke through the bottom of the bag and plunged vengefully to the sidewalk, their contents of tea and coffee mixing all over the sidewalk like the blood of so many Lancastrians and Yorkists. Joe commented, “Well I guess that answers that question.” We got back to the laundrette just as Olie was pulling up in the van.

With clean clothes draped about ourselves we left for Derby.

We were playing a place called the Hairy Dog. The first impression from the outside was maybe a metal club, which is fine. The second impression, upon entering the pub portion, was kind of like the Comet back home. You know, a regular rock bar. The third impression made walking through the doors into the venue itself was, “Astroturf? Ok.” It’s a space that feels cavernous do to it’s super high ceilings, the stage is like a proper theater stage, not just an elevated portion of the floor, and the floor itself is covered completely in bright green Astroturf. We were immediately put at ease by the owner, wearing a Roky Erickson shirt, and another man wearing a Lowell George shirt, whose job, while undoubtedly of great importance was never immediately obvious. The soundman, with lightning speed, got sounds together and gave us some of the best sound of the tour.


The big problem in my life was that I was starving. I’ve not had any problem finding good food to eat. What I’ve struggled with is the timing. This has happened repeatedly, where I find myself crashing. This was the second day in a row where I felt just horrible by the end of soundcheck. This was also to be the second night in a row where we ate at Nandos. Olie says that some bands he’s driven for eat at Nandos every night on tour. It’s certainly Chuck’s favorite place. It’s primarily a chicken place with lots of sauce options and is about as good as chain food gets. However, I was feeling so awful I couldn’t just sit and wait 20 minutes for food to arrive, so I did what I do and went for a walk. Maybe two blocks away was the stunning Derby Cathedral glowing in the early evening sun. A few blocks up from that was St. Mary’s Cathedral, fetchingly framed by a walking bridge leading up to it. The streets were laid out in a seemingly circular fashion, with blocks of huge imposing buildings curving away from you into infinity. Whether true or not the streets gave the town an ancient air. At least in this part of town the ubiquitous grid plan was nowhere in sight.

The Derby show was booked last minute to fill a spot on the itinerary and our expectations for attendance were low. This was also our 8th show in a row and we were feeling it. I think we played well, but it was well lacking in inspiration. The crowd was probably the same number as Manchester but were so far away, and we were so high above them it was difficult to feed off their energy. Throughout the set a weight in my chest grew and grew until I was practically despondent. Kind of like that feeling you get when the person you’re with has begun cheating on you but the knowledge hasn’t made it up from your subconscious yet.

After the show I went to sit in the green room, which was two benches facing each other in a narrow room painted red, because I wasn’t ready to talk to anyone yet. After a minute the woman who played first, a lovely voiced singer-songwriter named Jo Lewis (no relation) came in and a lovely thing happened. The typical introductory niceties led to our occupations and it turns out she teaches music at a Derby community center. We talked briefly about education but quickly the conversation moved to the folk music of our respective countries. I launched into a long-winded and frankly tedious monologue about the African and European disaspora while her eyes began darting to the exits. She expressed surprise that the English folk traditions were as influential as the Irish. (I think so at least) I told the story Lisa had relayed about the end of our first night at the Windmill. A small party near the door were quite snockerd, (pissed) one of them had even fallen asleep on their bench. They began singing an Irish song slurrily out of tune. Lisa at the time was talking to a man who was either some sort of music scholar or just loves its history. He started taking notes to try to identify the song and began to bemoan England’s loss of the oral singing tradition. He said that since the heyday of Pentangle and Fairport Convention the British had become too cool to sing like that. Lisa said he seemed genuinely sad.

Anyway, with the passage of this lovely conversation I felt the weight lifting from chest. By the time I released Jo from the dull ring of purgatory I felt better. I’m genuinely curious about how songs travel throughout the world, and while rock is my first love, I didn’t expect to get to talk with someone still trafficking in those traditions.

It was a challenging night but the club put on a great event. The other opener, Liam Walker, was as good of a writer and singer as all those Mummineers bands out there now. The owner paid us double our guarantee for no reason other than he was a decent sort.

Tomorrow is Brighton.

*Darby actually

** It was a Mercedes Benz dealer.

*** Why Felix Cavaliere does not have an endorsement deal is beyond me.

**** “Screw you back you run on sentence blog writing hack.” – Strunk and White

Tour Diary: Leicester (UK / Day 8)

Salty Snack of the Day: Jacobs Mini Cheddars: Like cheesy Ritz crackers. A somewhat sophisticated Cheez-It. I want to eat these forever. The BBQ ones are crap.

 Britishisms Heard Uttered: SPAM! When the conversation turned to male pattern baldness, as it does, Olie said his hair was beginning to recede a bit. Then he patted his forehead and said, “I’ve always been a bit spammy though.” “Spammy?” “Well yes, when we were kids we would smack each other on the forehead and yell SPAM!”

 Birds: Ring-Necked Parakeet

We woke up, drove, checked into our hotel, Joe and I had a half pint in a lovely pub called the Red Cow, (with a really cool ‘70’s thatch roof) and drove into town.

The night previous our days destination had won the Premier League in football, which is the biggest deal thing you can win around here. They are a club that started in 1884 for pete’s sake. They haven’t won a title in something like 120 years I heard someone say, but honestly can’t make heads or tails of their history. They had started the season as 5,000 to 1 against winning it all so at least a few dreamers made some money. While we played our last night at the Windmill, the City of Leicester was losing its mind in a chanting, beery, party in the streets. It would have been a bad night for a show but probably amazing to witness. By the time we arrived the city had settled into a bleery, hungover, haze.


We had been told by more than one person the Leicester can be a bit grim. And the first impression upon landing at our venue for the evening, which is located in an isolated industrial corner of the city, with the low hanging grey clouds sapping the color from the air, a concentration of Brutalist* architecture surrounding us, well I guess it could lend credence to this view. Shortly after arrival, with the club needing more time clean after the celebrations, we worked our way to the city center, which did feel little schizophrenic with the mish-mash of architectural styles. However, there were immense pedestrian walkways going off in every direction and an obviously vibrant modern city humming all around us. I could find no Leicester City swag to commemorate the historic victory as of course it was all bought up. The longer I spent in the city the more it all started to feel cohesive. I know that it is ultimately ridiculous to say anything of any depth with these glancing visits. It’s presumptuous to assume I can bring any insight to a place where we people actually invest themselves, their time, their futures. Take these missives for what they are: geographically limited impressions influenced by the need to find something to eat. Anyway, I noticed that Leicester seemed to be a very worldly city and when I looked up its stats I saw that it had experienced several significant waves of immigration. I’m always pleased when I find myself in a place where there is a polyglot of voices and a feeling of peaceful cohabitation.


The club was called the Musician and it was easily the Cadillac of venues on this tour. Beautiful room, excellent stage and sound system, and a veteran soundman named Malcom who continually chuckled as if life was a constant source of bemusement. The opening bands were flat out wonderful. (Luna Rosa and Echolocation) I’ve had this feeling that perhaps the UK still loves guitar rocknroll in a way that the States does not at the moment. I don’t know if I’m in a bubble and the general population has moved on from the electric guitar here as well, but the bands we keep hearing seem to be evolving the form in a way that has been reviving to hear. For instance the band Echolocation could have fit in any era from post-punk to obviously now. There was an angularity and artiness that was amazing to hear people still doing. Chuck compared them to the Fall, which seems pointlessly vague, but he can’t always be brilliant. I was kind of thinking maybe Pere Ubu with trumpet and a lighter touch. I mean how much fun is it to talk about bands like that? Anyway, after a small onstage bout of insecurity worrying that the reserve of the crowd indicated apathy, or even worse it’s second cousin antipathy, we recovered ourselves and played well. We were just being stupid as once again we were blessed with a generous and attentive audience.

Tomorrow is Darby.


*I’m no architecture expert. Feel free to correct me if I’ve got it wrong.

Tour Diary: London (UK / Days 6-7)

Salty Snack of the Day: Flame Grilled Spanish Chorizo with Roasted Onion – As a vegetarian I just want you to know what I’m willing to do to bring back the best in salty snack news. The question here is can a potato chip ever live up to such a grandiose name? These tasted like smoked paprika and onion powder. So no.

 Britishisms Heard Uttered: Mental – You hear this all the times on British shows and it’s my favorite. Overheard on a sidewalk, “That’s completely mental.” Yes.

 Birds: I saw a Great Tit! Looks like the world’s most badass chickadee. Moorhens with babies in the water and some still on the nest. A newly fledged wren. Finally! Good British birds.


We stayed just outside Cardiff in a hotel right up against the highway. I had about 45 minutes before the slowest among us would be ready, so even though it seemed as if we were surrounded by concrete I figured I’d look around. At the end of the street I saw a football field bearing the sign Albion Rovers Football Club. After reading the plaintive missive spray painted on the side of the club walls expressing that basic human longing for Hoes, Money, and Weed, I found myself on a trail with ridiculously cute families throwing sticks to their dogs. The trail ran along a shallow river and boom, freaking birds everywhere! It was wonderful. With a rolling Welsh field in the distance on the other side of the river, if you turned your back to the highway you were immersed in the countryside. A small distance down the trail, as the stream deepened, I came to a 200 year old lock and realized of course that the river was an old canal. The timbers used to open and close the lock were immense, and as the lock now functioned as a dam, the other side became more of a meandering river with trees arching over on each side. I couldn’t believe my luck. I could have spent my whole day walking this trail, but something possibly even better was waiting for me. Lisa, being her sweet self, had suggested in the van the night before that since we were staying so close to Cardiff why don’t we just go to the Dr. Who Museum in the morning? Interest ranged from none to keen but everyone agreed.

Your visit at the museum starts out with what I guess they would hope was an immersive experience. On the half hour a ticketed group files into a room with smoke and an ominous crack in the wall. Our guide, either an aspiring actress overmatched by the material or an actual tour guide under-endowed with charisma, suddenly began interacting with a videotaped Peter Capaldi, and before we knew it we were in mortal peril and tasked with finding three crystals to save something or other of vital importance. It was obviously designed for children even though there was not one amongst our group. It was as Olie put it, rather cringe-y, but I thought it was delightful nonetheless. We went inside the TARDIS, the floor shook, Daleks threatened us, all the things you’d want to see.


Then you got to enter the part of the museum containing all the props, monsters, and costumes from the entirety of the series. I love behind the scenes stuff. It’s so much fun to see everyday items spray painted and glued to some metal screen or plywood and knowing that through the camera it would look otherworldly. Plus, it meant the world to me to be able to bring back pictures and cool shit that you can only get there to my son.

But now we were late for London.


We were playing two nights at the Windmill in Brixton. Upon arrival the name became obvious as the park adjacent contained an actual enormous windmill like I’ve never seen in person before. It didn’t seem English so much as Dutchy. So of course I passed it on the left hand side. The next day there was a festival celebrating its 200th anniversary and the whole community came and hung out on the green, drinking some local beer I can’t remember now because the line was too long to get some. It was lovely seeing so many people sitting together with nothing other than a pretty awesome DJ and one tent selling beer. The Windmill (as venue) seemed ancient and gave me the vibe of a place that could host open mic poetry readings* as well as gobbing punk nights. Candles stuck in bottles, a huge wooden bar lit seemingly entirely from the refrigerators, and a tiny stage emerging out of the back corner. We were headlining the Walpurgis Night Festival, but to be honest spent several hours on the sidewalk in front enjoying a rare nice night, lax open container laws, and waiting for the dog to appear. The Windmill is famous for its dog on the roof.** There have been at least three through the years and the current resident is named Lucky. I don’t know breeds but he was a bear of a dog with enormous tan paws, and he lived on the flat roof above the bar, occasionally sticking his head over the side to gaze down. It looked as if there was probably an apartment up there too so hopefully he wasn’t outside all the time. From time to time he would drop a sad little fragment of a ball directly onto the sidewalk in front of the doorway. People would huck it back up and every single time Lucky would catch it in the air. Olie went on a two-day quest to get him a new ball but sadly, like Ponce De Leon, he failed.

And then I saw a grey fox! Just crossed the street like it was nothing and disappeared like a less shooty, more urban Rommel. So I guess nothing like Rommel at all really. Regardless, the only mammal I would be more excited to see would be a mongoose. And your mom.

The club was packed and what with there being something like 12 bands there was no time for niceties. We just jumped onstage, plugged things in, felt the collective sense of chaos hover just above panic and started playing. The soundman was on it though. Which is amazing considering he had mixed a million other bands already and we were all crammed into a dark sticky corner with detritus and cables everywhere. We could hear everything and by the second song it seemed like maybe it was going to be OK. Sitting in the hotel the night before we had watched a documentary on the rise of post-punk synth bands like Human League and Gary Numan. They had shown a brief clip of a very early Clash playing “White Riot” in a punk club with bodies flying everywhere and people losing their minds and I just tried to channel that spirit. And it worked. Mostly because of the good sound but whatever it takes. The audience was standing on benches in the back and at times singing along so loudly Lisa could hear them over her own vocals. That’s a magical feeling.

We were due to play the next night as well, performing “Forever Sounds” in its entirety. So off we went through nighttime London, driving across the Tower (London) Bridge and across the Thames to our home and hotel for the night.

The Windmill Day 2

We returned mid-afternoon having had a nice lie-in and I promptly went to a coffee shop called The Stir to write. While gazing out the window I saw a man walk into the middle of the side street gesticulating angrily and obviously shouting at someone off screen. It went on for a while and when John joined me he said there had to seemed to be some tiff at the chicken place up the street. It was unusual in that he was the first upset Briton I had seen. He left. Came back and yelled some more. Again left. About five minutes later he walked into view with a man sporting those ever so helpful neck tattoos, and they were facing each other and smiling. However the man was holding a knife. A nasty looking bugger too. I just started goggling at John saying “I think he has a knife!” The two men clapped each other on the shoulders and then the man, with a wide swing of his arm, hurled the knife into the trees. I still don’t know what I saw.


The rest of the afternoon is easy to summarize. It was a bank holiday so every veg. restaurant I walked to was closed, I got lost, it rained on me, and two hours after leaving the coffee shop I finally found a restaurant. Pizza, Spanish wine, and a nauseating number of couples in the obviously early delusional stage of infatuation.

Then I went back to the Windmill where everyone in the band was experiencing the first night of tour fatigue. Lisa didn’t wake up from her nap in the van until 15 minutes to show time, Joe was cranky, I was anxious and feeling far from home, Chuck was awake,*** and John was steady as always. Still, while the crowd was a bit smaller I was genuinely proud of us as I think we put on a pretty good show. A tour driver had just gotten off his own tour, driven 500 miles from Ireland to see us and only got there in time to see the last five songs. And he was thrilled to have seen it at all. Amazing.

Tomorrow is Leicester.

*At least before the Hague finally declared them inhumane and punishable under the war crimes act of 1996.

** They even have a beer brewed specially for them called “Dog on the Roof.” It was not notable.

*** Thus grumpy.