Tour Diary: England (UK / Day 1)

Salty Snack of the Day: Strong Cheese and Onion Potato Crisps (really good)

 Britishisms Heard Uttered: Wanker (in regards to a televised football player’s performance on the pitch)

It is my first night in England and I am sitting in a pub called the Spotted Dog, surrounded by locals gathered around televisions suspended in the four corners, watching Manchester City play Real Madrid. I truly know nothing of soccer, (yes I know what it’s really called) but you’d have to be dead not to get somewhat swept up in the aggrieved hollering and tortured groans. The weird thing is I think they’re rooting for Real Madrid, but that doesn’t make sense, so I’m just trying to be a fly on the couch and write.

We arrived at 10:30 this morning after leaving NYC at 11:00 the night prior. The weeks leading up to departure were one unbroken string of heartburn filled days. We’re a band of worriers and getting everything figured out, from work visas to which equipment to bring and which to rent, to the daunting amount of work needed to be done in order to leave work, was a suppressant to the otherwise steadily growing excitement. I have described in the past the cataclysmic moment when my brother’s best friend brought Quadrophenia over and my life shifted into an obsession that consumed high school. You can’t love the Who and not fall in love with Pete Townshend’s England. I got a full-size Union Jack that adorned a wall of every room in which I slept through college. My first band gave several thousand dollars, earned $50 at a time in coffee houses and bookstores, to an English booker who swore he could get us shows over there. Of course he disappeared as the coffers ran dry having booked not one show. Wussy has attempted to get over here multiple times but the interest, and thus money, was never there. The best we could do was send Chuck and Lisa to perform as a duo and hopefully raise our profile a bit. Even this trip is not guaranteed of even breaking even. But getting to not only visit, but actually play rocknroll in the land of so many of my heroes is a big, emphatic check on my increasingly short list of unfulfilled musical dreams.

We drove to NYC because direct flights were so much cheaper that even adding in hotels and long-term parking it was still much better than flying from Cincinnati. Getting six people with instruments checked and through security went surprisingly smoothly after all the worry. Of course we still ended up paying well over $600 extra to check everything. We had to two hours to kill at the gate so we all got giggly drunk, (except Chuck) which is something we rarely do as a band. Apparently airplanes have gotten futuristic since the past. The windows did not have shades. Instead there was a button that dimmed the window like those eyeglasses that become sunglasses when you go out into the sun. The one thing the future has not accomplished is making those glasses look cool. They’re not sunglasses and frankly are an advertisement for celibacy.

One of the key differences in touring the UK is that you rent a van with a driver. Another Cincinnati band is over here at the same time as us and they chose to self-drive. They got into an accident within days. A small experiential sampling I know, but the reduction in stress, as well as the potential loss of life and limb, are worth it. Our driver is named Ollie and he seems to possess the requisite patience needed to make a living driving the likes of us around. This is a good thing seeing as he’s going to be living with us for almost three weeks.

We went to meet George at his flat* and were offered tea and cakes. Because yes. I don’t like tea but I’ve always assumed that the British did it better. Seeing as our cultures are so similar in so many ways I reasoned that they couldn’t all have succumbed to a mass hysteria of poor taste could they?** I agreed to a strong tea with milk and it was lovely. Apparently it was Yorkshire tea, but regardless, well done there.

The apartment (!) was right next to the Olympic village from a few years back so I walked along a canal to take a look. The first bird I see is a mallard. Like I flew across an ocean to see a fucking mallard. The weather was fetchingly British in that within an hour it snowed, rained, was windy, and sunny. The next bird I see is a Coot. We have those too. I walked past the Olympic stadium, the swimmy place, and a cool vertical intestine that apparently was used to broadcast the circus to the opiated masses, (I actually quite like the Olympics) and then I saw a regular old pigeon. So obviously this country is screwing with me.

Then to our hotel, which was right off the highway and adjacent to a town called Barking. I’m not sure even the citizens of Barking would consider their town a great shakes, but I have to also assume they would never tire of putting the word barking in front of everything. Barking Hotel, Barking Town Hall, Barking Folk Festival to name a few. I did walk through the Barking Abbey ruins, which was really just a half-foot high wall in a small green that looked like an architects drawing for an abbey. The best part was the abbey was first constructed, with no apparent sense of irony, in the year 666 before it was sacked by Vikings. It was there I saw my first non-American bird: a blackbird. Small succor indeed.

Tomorrow a six-hour drive to Newcastle to open up for Shonen Knife. Can’t wait to play a show.