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.

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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.

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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