Salty Snack of the Day: Reggae Reggae Groove Cut Crisps (kinda spicy barbecue)
Britishisms Heard Uttered: Nothing classic but I did hear someone say, “It was so small I’d need a microscop.” Which was nice. I got the sense she was referring to a man which is even better.
Birds: Wood Pigeon, Pied Wagtail (so getting better a bit)
The sheep all have baby lambs! You can’t even imagine. And there are fields after fields covered by golden rapeseed in full bloom. Apparently it’s used to make canola oil and has become quite the cash crop. I also read online that Japanese tourists travel just to gaze upon them. Stupid Sting.
It’s a six-hour drive to Newcastle and it was a lovely introduction to the English countryside. So green, and parceled out in lovely asymmetric, hedgerowed fields liberally dotted with the aforementioned sheep. It turns out we’re playing in Gateshead rather than Newcastle. They lie across the river Tyne from each other and seems to be thought of as rather the red-headed stepchild of the two. There was a driving wet snow greeting us and even the locals were complaining about the weather. As we were opening up for Shonen Knife we expected the venue to be nicer than per usual but not this nice. We were to play the small room of a much larger venue called the Gateshead Sage. The orchestra performs in the big hall and a local said with evident pride it is considered to have one of the best six acoustics in Europe. It was a modern looking building with the exterior being three large glass undulating bubbles facing the river. The inside atrium looked like the prow of a cruise ship. We had our own dressing room with tea and coffee waiting. We also had an hour until soundcheck so Lisa and I walked out into what was now a downpour and walked to the Baltic Center for Contemporary Arts building. A massive converted flourmill that was gorgeous to look at as well. We had no time to see the museum but the gift shop was worth the trip on its own, what with the many incarnations of the northern angel one could buy. We had passed the northern angel on the way up. It’s a huge steel statue that looks like an airplane set on its tail but is a famous landmark much in the way touchdown Jesus was in southern Ohio. It was built either with a purer heart or at least sturdier materials as it has yet to be smighted by lightning.*
Shonen Knife’s very thorough soundcheck had us waiting another hour but the crew and staff of this place were so uniformly pleasant and professional it was a joy. Well waiting is never a joy but it was an easy way to squeeze in here how wonderful everyone treated us. When we were loading in Lisa asked one of the stage crew where to put some gear and he said, “Wherever you like.” She answered, “You’re the boss – you tell me.” He shook his head looking somewhat mortified and said, “Aah, I’m no one’s boss miss.” The room was a decagon with two balconies, all dark wood with red finishes. When we played later that evening we were bathed in “Won’t Get Fooled Again” worthy lights and smoke. The sound onstage was amazing and getting used to our borrowed gear and different power situations fairly uneventful.
By the time we had a lovely quick dinner in the atrium café (halloumi cheese and pesto toasty!) I had about half an hour to explore. And this is what I was trying to explain to people before we left. Yes we may be going to these amazing place but we may not get to actually see them. I’m ok with it. Of course I would like more time to walk around, but I’m still getting to see things like the coolest drawbridge in the world. The Gateshead Millenium Bridge looks like a bear trap with the two curves connected by thick cables. The lower side is a pedestrian bridge which is the part that gets raised by presumably huge motors coiling up the cables inside and underneath the walkway. Standing over the Tyne River with Newcastles spires on one side and the big modern Sage on the other was wonderful. And then it was time to play. While walking back along the river there were little plaques inset into the ground celebrating local heroes. One of them mentioned Sting was from Newcastle. So they’ve got that to answer for.
When we walked out on stage and the sound man, undoubtedly expecting some sort of professionalism, cut the music immediately. The audience stared at us stonefaced and utterly silent while we checked our tunings. We had our fumbles but played OK. The audience warmed up a bit but honestly they were mostly kids, and as Chuck said, “If I was a kid and saw a bunch of greybeards walk onstage I’d be dismayed too.” The best part of the evening was three young men who stood right up against the stage and banged on the floor to the beat and applauded everything. After our set they began discussing our setlist and I went over to tell them what changes we had made and they shouted up, “You guys were monumental! Us three are in a band too. He’s the bassist.” I shook their hands and we talked Rickenbacker basses for a minute. They made my night. Not because they liked our set but because they had that joyous fire in their eyes. Just soaking up everything about rock that they can. I bet they go see every band that comes through.
Tomorrow is Manchester.
*Look up Touchdown Jesus or Big Butter Jesus and you should find it.