Sunday, 12 January 2014

Home For The Holidays

As my current contract for work has finished, and with no new job on the horizon, i figured it would be pretty apt to spend my last holiday of the past 2 ½ years heading to Asbury Park for Xmas to see The Bouncing Souls on their home turf.

WARNING:  This blog might contain elements that only Bouncing Souls fans will understand!

Seeing  the Souls on their home turf has been something i’ve wanted to do for a couple of years now.  I figured i’d aim to do the trip in 2014, but when the job finished, i checked into flights on the offchance. Prices were good – especially flying on Xmas Day – so i leapt at the chance to go to Home For The Holidays this year instead.

Basically – the band play The Stone Pony in Asbury Park (New Jersey) 4 times between 26th – 29th Dec, with a different set list each night (selected by theme), a bunch of different supports, with 4 aftershow gigs and daytime events happening all week.

As for Asbury Park, what a great place. Once i got to mooch round it on Boxing Day, i loved it immediately. Theres not much to it though – a wicked beach, a boardwalk, a few bars and venues, a couple of nice lakes, and one street of bars, restaurants, shops and coffee shops. The whole route from the hotel to the station took around 15 minutes to walk. I only used a cab on Xmas Day.

It seems like the area east of the train line (the beach side) is being renovated. A lot of the area surrounding the beach front is flat – I’m assuming ready to build holiday homes on. The main street with the restaurants on (Cookman Ave) is kinda quaint, and was a nice place to hang out – was fun not having to walk very far between bars and places to eat!

Every day i had breakfast in an awesome place called Toast. It was the first place i passed in town on Boxing Day, and had a great menu, so i thought “sod it, I’ll go in here” as I was starving. Best idea ever. Food was amazing, and the place was staffed by cute tattooed waitresses and bearded tattooed waiters – had a real punk rock vibe to the place. I had initial hiccups with my accent to start with (“taMAHtoh joose? Whats that? We don’t do that. Oh, TOMAYDO JUICE!”), but once they realised i was English, there were no problems understanding me. The place had a great atmosphere, and really friendly staff, loved it.

The other place i frequented was a pizza bar called Porta. I ended up here three times over the four days. Cheap beer, massive pizzas, great atmosphere and more punky waiting staff. It was the closest place to eat and drink to The Stone Pony and most people ended up here at least twice over the week. Highly recommended.

I wasn’t alone either while i was out there. I managed to meet up with some US friends of mine that i’ve got to know over the past couple of years. First was my friend Bob from North Carolina, who i met when I saw the Souls in Vienna. I’ve seen him at the odd Souls show over the past three years, and was great to get to hang out with him for a couple of days. Another contingent of people i knew i shall refer to as “The Girls” – Kara, Marla, Shannon and Maria. They pretty much came as a ready-made unit, and were a blast the entire time we were there. They gave me lifts and looked after me, making sure i wasn’t left on my own for too long. I don’t recall us ever getting particularly drunken at any point, but it was cool having them around for the whole week.

25th DEC
I flew out of Heathrow to Newark on Xmas Day. Had breakfast with my buddy that works at Heathrow that morning (which we did when i started my 4 month trip back in 2011), then took the 8 hour flight to Newark. Pretty event free – slept a bit, watched some films, ate some food. Arrived at Newark, had a relatively easy immigration experience, then found the train to get to Asbury Park.

The train ride was pretty interesting. Was great getting to see parts of America i’d normally not see. Every small town we passed reminded me of Haddonfield from the Halloween films. As the stations got smaller and sketchier, i switched at Long Branch to get to Asbury Park. By this point, it was dark, cold, and taxis were few and far between at each station. Was wondering what was gonna happen at Asbury Park, as i had no idea of the area!

Needn’t have worried. There were cabs available. Jumped in the first cab, managed to make myself understood, and the cabbie took off for the hotel. Within seconds, the front passenger door opened and a massive drunk “gansta” got in and demanded to be taken to “8th Avenue, someone owes me some money”. I had no clue what was going on, esp as I was sitting in the back with a bag full of holiday cash! The two guys argued a bit, and luckily the cab guy had managed to get to the hotel and drop me off while they were still arguing. Jumped out and checked in. Welcome to Asbury Park!

I stayed at the Berkeley Oceanfront. Nice enough hotel – big rooms, clean and modern bathrooms, pretty pleased considering Asbury Park sea front is pretty much a ghost town. Hung around for a bit, then received a text from Pete (guitarist from the Souls) – i was invited to his Xmas Night party over at his house in Neptune City!

It was a slightly more pleasant cab over to Petes, via a liquor store. Pete lived in a very nice, Haddonfield-esque neighbourhood, complete with houses competing for the best Xmas lights. Walk into the house, and found i was one of the first there, along with 6 other guests. Turned out this was a bonus as i got lots of things sorted before the party got busy. Among the guests at this point were Lamar Vannoy and his girlfriend. I hadn’t seen Lamar since Vienna, and he seemed visibly shocked and pleased to see me, as I was him. Was so great getting to see him again, and he and Tina (his girlfriend) kept me company on and off over the week. I also got to meet new Souls drummer George Rebelo and his girlfriend – haven’t seen George since the Draft 2007 tour. He was a friendly dude, and i was pleased to get to know him over the 4 days. Finally, there was an English dude and his wife, both friends of Petes. It seems Pete had told this guy I was coming, and we immediately had a lot to talk about. Lewis (and his wife Sara) became invaluable over the week, but more of that later. Put it this way, meeting him was a mega bonus, and i owe him lots of beers.

Spent most of the eve drinking beer and chatting to whoever was available. Lewis gave me a lot of advice of where to go and where to avoid (don’t cross the train tracks and you’ll be fine!), and through him lined up a few things to check out over the next few days. Youth Brigade wandered in and freaked me out for a second, but as was expected, they are the nicest guys – chatted to Mark and Shaun a fair bit this eve, but got to meet up with the bassist and guitarist a few times later in the week. Was also fun to meet a few more of the “Souls Family” from their DVD – Lamar introduced me to Matty O’Brien and Rob Santello (both great dudes who took the time to hang out and chat whenever i bumped into them), and the Souls local photographer, Mike McLaughlin. It was cool to catch up with DJ (the bands 5th member - my guitar tech, haha!) again. Eventually Bryan (Souls bassist) showed up – we had a quick catch up and a beer, then he quietly disappeared after an hour or so.

I’d been up 24 hours by the time i left at midnight. To be honest, the party was making my head spin, and figured i should go back to the hotel and try and get some sleep!

26th DEC
Woke up EARLY – so got ready and went out for a walk with my new knowledge of the area. Spent the morning taking photos of everything i could – the Boardwalk, the beach, the venues i’d be going to – and wandered into “town”. Which basically took me 10 minutes and literally was just two roads. Walked past the first shop, the aforementioned Toast, and had a massive breakfast. 

The hotel didn’t have working wifi when i arrived, and didn’t for another day, so i took the time to use the wifi at Toast. Once i finished breakfast, and had a chat with the very friendly server lady, popped across the road to Cafe Volan, the coffee shop where Lewis worked. Figured i’d get a coffee and use their wifi as well (as suggested by Lewis the previous night). Instead, he joined me for a coffee, then took me sightseeing (and drinking) for the day until the gig started. I was so stunned and so grateful of this gesture – i figured i’d be sitting on my own getting pissed until the gigs started!

Before the show, we ended up at Porta. Lewis’s wife worked there and he knew everyone. Had a few beers and a pizza, and hung out for a few hours, basically being the only Brits celebrating Boxing Day! I'd also arranged to meet most of the people i was gonna be meeting up with over the week, so i hung around for everyone to appear. Bob arrived and joined us for a beer, then i got a text from Pete asking where i was. Two minutes later, Pete runs in the restaurant, hands me a 4 day, all access laminate pass for the gigs, then shoots off again. To say i was gobsmacked is an understatement. I really can’t thank Pete and Kate (Souls manager) enough for this – it meant i got to sell a couple of my tickets, and basically gave me run of the town. Hopefully i didn’t take the piss – i tried not to! The manager from Toast turned up with her boyfriend, and knowing Lewis, hung out with us for an hour or so. Finally, another of our group, Megan and her british husband-to-be popped in for a few minutes. Bumped into these guys a lot over the week!

Met up with The Girls at the hotel then headed to the gig. The Stone Pony is an awesome little venue. 600-ish capacity, small and cosy, full of history (lots of photos of bands that have played there adorn the walls, along with plenty of signed guitars).

The gig is a bit of a blur. First band on were Lost In Society, and they were great, really enjoyed their set. The Souls took to the stage eventually, and i settled in side-stage, alongside about 30 other guests. Set was really random, having been written by some of their old mates (Kate and Tim Chunks i think). Lots of random songs i haven’t heard for ages, like Old School, Bryans Lament, Lay Em Down, 80s Movies, No Rules, Late Bloomer and Midnight Mile. Gig was great – not the best time i’d seen them – but i was looking forward to the other 3 nights and seeing what else they had to throw at us.

After the show, headed to the Asbury Lanes aftershow party and had a couple of beers. Asbury Lanes is an awesome little venue/bowling alley – theres a stage in the middle with three bowling lanes on each side! Chatted with my mate from North Carolina, and bumped into someone else i’d met in Birmingham on the Souls tour in March (random). Watched a couple bands, got introduced to more people, but was crashing hard – so gave up and went to bed around 1am!


27th DEC
Day three and second night of HFTH. Got up early again and went to Toast for exactly the same breakfast as yesterday. Got recognised by one of the servers and had a little chat with them, which was nice. Was nice being made to feel welcome in this little town – everyone was so friendly.

Got a lift over to Neptune Tattooville studio with The Girls to see if i could maybe get a tattoo from Bryan. The shop was doing their annual 4 day charity flash sale, and would have loved to have got something done – but to be honest, Bryan was ridiculously busy, and i don’t really have the space left on me. As much as it would have been great to get something, maybe its something for another time. Kara and Marla got a couple of tattoos sorted – meanwhile i had a nose around the shop, got a tshirt, then headed back into town. Had a beer at the local bar called the Brickwall Tavern, which did the strongest craft beers i’ve ever seen – i settled for a Yeungling Lager, the local brew (which is a bit like Brooklyn Lager). Then headed over to Porta again to meet up with The Girls post-tattoo and have some dinner before Gregs (Souls singer) pre-gig art show at the Lanes.
Was cool to see the Lanes during the day with not many people there. Its very retro and groovy. Gregs show was cool – he was exhibiting a bunch of his Asbury Park art. Bought a set of postcards and managed to get a decent chat with Greg (who is usually very elusive!).

Night #2 was pretty cracking. First band on were The Brigantines, a local punk/surf band, complete with twangy guitars. Main support was Molly And The Zombies – Brian Fallon from Gaslight Anthems new band. Really enjoyed these guys – i’m guessing its been a while since Brian has done a gig this small, and he was relishing the opportunity. Watched the band from side-stage and enjoyed them thoroughly. The backstage area was populated by family members and was pretty packed, and before the encore, Petes dad came onstage to say a few words about the guys.

Souls set on night two was better than night one, and they kicked it up a gear as well. New drummer George played a blinder and yet again the set was completely different to the first night. This nights a bit vague, but Joe Lies, Sounds Of The City, No Security, Lamar Vannoy, and I Like Your Mom were in the set (the past two appeared most nights). We were also treated to Bryans Lament again, which is a track that rarely gets an outing. They played Ballad Of Johnny X tonight, with the added bonus of Johnny X on guitar. We also got a guest in Lou from Sick Of It All singing on a cover of “Good Lookin’ Out” – i didn’t recognise him at first, but couldn’t mistake the voice once he started! For the encore, the fellas all swapped instruments and played The Damned's "Love Song". I've seen em swap before when they did "Folsom Prison Blues" in Amsterdam - its always fun seeing Pete bash away on the drums!

Evening ended at The Wonder Bar afterparty (giving Asbury Lanes a break). Managed to stay awake and last till chucking out time at 2am, having beers with a couple of my pre-mentioned mates, and having a chat with Matty and Wig (old friends of The Souls), Lewis again, and Dave, ex of Sum 41 – now in the Organ Thieves. Also managed a brief catch up with the band and Kate – then buggered off to bed, slightly tiddly but happy.

Wanted a lie in for tomorrow – but got turfed out of the hotel at 3am when some idiot let off a fire extinguisher. Great, that made my night.

28th DEC
Woke up early again, and what with the 2am bedtime and 3am wake up call, turned out i only had 5 hours sleep.

Went to Toast again with The Girls, then headed to the Punk Rock Flea Market at the VFW Hall. This was a fun morning – lots of locals selling records, dvds and various bits of paraphernalia and brick-a-brack, with Pete DJing. As i can’t play records, i was done pretty much after the first walk around. But was a blast listening to Pete playing the tunes, as he was picking tune after tune – FEAR, Adolescents, Damned, The Clash, Ramones, The Beat, The Specials. Was awesome! Briefly caught up with Pete, DJ and Kate, then had a wander round town, ready to catch Filmage, the Descendents movie at the local cinema. Been wanting to see this for ages, and it didn’t disappoint. I was absolutely gobsmacked when i left – i wasn’t really sure how to process what i had just seen. Quite frankly it put me off-kilter for most of the evening, and its only a few days later than I’ve managed to taken in how awesome this film was. I need to see it again, thats for sure.


Headed over to The Stone Pony for the afternoon as Kate has suggested i go to the Souls soundhceck and Meet-n-Greet. I wasn’t sure if it was worth me going, but i went along anyway. Decided to see what i could get away with, and used my backstage pass to get in the venue and actually see the soundcheck, while everyone stood outside in the cold. Felt a bit bad about that, but i was cold and knackered. Met up with Lewis and chilled out in a corner, while everyone else got their posters signed by the band. Needing food, headed over to Wonderbar for a beer and burger, as i was really in need of some MEAT! Got served by more of the nicest people ever, and was back at the venue before the doors opened.

Night three was my favourite, but also my hardest night to cope with. Organ Thieves opened and they were ace, but i lost interest in seeing anyone else by the time they finished. I grabbed a beer and propped myself up at the side of the stage, and more or less fell asleep standing up. Kate even suggested i should go and have a sleep in the band room, but luckily i didn’t  - Rob Santello said he’d just keep waking me up! Vaguely enjoyed Titus Andronicus (the headline support – kinda like a 90s indie Fucked Up), but managed to wake up for The Souls. DJ let me sit on the other side of the stage so i could watch from Petes side, and actually see George drumming (as opposed to seeing the top of his head from Bryans stage side), and the band played a BLINDER. This was my gig of the weekend, regardless of how shit i felt. They pulled out all the stops – Gold Song, Gone, Dubs Says True, Fast Times, Bullying The Jukebox (man, i wish they played this more often!), Kate Is Great, Born To Lose (not seen this live for YEARS), and closed the set with an epic Comet. One of My Chemical Romance played onstage with them during True Believers, and they played Code Blue by T.S.O.L.George was on fire tonight, and they were the tightest they would be all week. Amazing stuff.

One of the funniest things – Pete knocked his beer over DJs keyboards and broke them. DJ then played the keyboards through an app on his iphone. Genius.

After the show, i went to bed. I missed the aftershow and crashed out!

29th DEC
Felt much better this morning after a full 8 hours sleep, but woke up to pissing rain. Fantastic. Walked to Toast and had my usual breakfast. I had company today – at least three of the staff had a sit down and had a chat with me while i was eating! These people are just so friendly, and was funny to find out a couple of the staff had been at all the Souls shows so far as well.

The mornings event was DJs Brunch at the Watermark, a cocktail bar on the beach front. Basically DJ played lots of English punk/alternative/indie bands while everyone had brunch. I’d eaten already, so settled for a Sprite and joined The Girls for a bit. Then i got called over to another table, where Toasts manager was sitting. So i joined her and her boyfriend for the afternoon, and had a few beers while I was at it!

Next up was Mike McLaughlins photography show at Russo Music. Got a lift down with DJ and pitched up at this awesome music shop to see some acoustic acts and look at some awesome Souls photos. Mike GAVE me one of the big A3 photos, had a long chat with Matty O’Brien, and got to watch Greg from The Souls, Chris from Flatliners, Brian from Plow United and Dave Hause play an acoustic show in the shop. Special stuff.

Had another pizza at Porta, then headed over to The Stone Pony for night 4. Watched the first support again (Restorations) who were great, then headed backstage again, and spent most of the night chinwagging with Lamar and few others I’d met over the week – until a drunk girl accosted me and kinda messed that up. Luckily i escaped from her (she was mental) and headed back to watch The Souls. Sat on Petes side again, and thoroughly enjoyed the final night. They were a bit rough around the edges tonight, playing a couple of songs they obviously hadn’t rehearsed (BoogieWoogie Downtown and Whatever I Want)! However, it was cool to get Better Things and We’re Coming Back dedicated to me by Greg, Pete and Bryan – mainly cos both songs were done by British bands originally! Set opened with Hopeless Romantic, and Serenity, Baptized, Gasoline all got outings this evening.

Head back to the Lanes for the final night Afterparty where Souls Merch Guy Matts band, Spinal Ramones, were playing. They played alternate Misfits and Ramones songs, and were great – far better than The Misfits are these days! As this was the final night, everyone was in party mode. Bryan even showed for this one and was in good spirits when I finally caught up with him. Spent the final night bumping into people i’d met all week – chatted tattoos and Hot Snakes with the guitarist and bassist from Youth Brigade, caught up with Lamar and Tina, and had another great chat with Greg and his awesome wife Shanti. Everyone was having a blast and was a fantastic night. Got to hang out with The Girls for one last time – eventually they all sloped off to bed, leaving me and Maria downing the Yeunglings, getting our drunk on and shouting along to the hilarious goth disco. Was a shame the venue closed at 2am, cos I was finally awake after 5 days of scary jetlag!

30th DEC
Final day. Checked out, had my final breakfast at Toast (which ended up being a freebie), said goodbye to the lovely people that had served me all week, and went for a final beer in Brickwall.

Then i got a lift to the airport, and caught the flight home.

Now its 2014 and i gotta get on with proper life stuff now. This was a fitting end to my two and half years of behaving like a nutcase, I absolutely loved Asbury Park - its not a huge place, and theres not a heck of a lot to do there. But i was treated well, I didn't spend the trip on my own, i met some great people, and got to spend my last trip of 2013 in a very friendly place. I don't think I've ever been somewhere so small with such a sense of community - i like my big cities usually. but this was an incredible change of pace - apart from the relentless punk rock shows! To be able to fall out of bed, walk along the beach, and then go to a nice, friendly bar or restaurant filled with tattooed people, all within a 10 minute walk, was amazing. Thanks to everyone that looked after me - it was a blast. I will be back.

me outside Asbury Lanes
Bryan
The Stone Pony
Asbury Lanes
me in front of the Souls billboard!



Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Another Year Down, part 2!

CONTINUED!!

Bouncing Souls Tour March 2013
When I got back from my trip, the Souls announced a two week UK tour. So I immediately got in touch with Kate, worked out what gigs I could see for free, then sorted tickets for the rest, and booked hotels for London, Birmingham and Manchester.
The first three gigs (London, Brighton and Reading) were a great start to the tour. They changed the set completely every night, and played a lot of songs I hadn’t heard them play for ages. At London, Bryan and Pete hung out with us in the pub opposite the venue before the show. At Brighton, the fellas attended the Roller Derby after party that was happening after the gig (which was totally bonkers and resulted in a lot of horrible hangovers the next day, and a mates car being impounded). I braved more snow (IN MARCH!) to see the guys in Reading. This was there show where Bryan grabbed me after they’d played and asked “why haven’t you played onstage with us yet?”.
A few days later I headed to Birmingham and Manchester. Birmingham I managed to hang out with the guys before the show again where I got to see them write the set list and decide that I was going to play guitar in the encore on True Believers and Gone. I was a bit gobsmacked to be honest. The gig went well, I got my pass, got my instructions from DJ the roadie and played with my favourite band. Luckily a mate was in the audience and videoed the last song – which was promptly uploaded to YouTube and shared around facebook! After the show ended I got abducted by some random brummies, and got dragged to a pub in the middle of nowhere to hang out with Bryan, Pete and John (the sound guy). I can’t really remember much about that evening, and felt decidedly horrible the next morning.
me and Pete, Kingston
Got to Manchester and met up with my mate Lisa, had a few beers and some food, then headed to gig just before the band played. Was grabbed by Bryan and informed I was playing again – so I did, this time with added stage diver dodging! Afterwards we all went to the heavy metal nightmare that was Satans Hollow, where we drank cheap beer and hung out with band/roadies properly for the last time of the tour.
The final show of the tour was at The Peel in Kingston – we met the guys in the Strip Club before the show, and had a very bizarre hour chatting and drinking, while naked ladies danced round a pole behind us. Seeing the guys at The Peel was incredible – probably the smallest show I’ve seen them do, and was utterly brilliant to see them play somewhere I used to consider “local”. Best bit was being asked to play AGAIN and getting ontage with the Souls in front of around 20 people that I knew. It was surreal, and is one of the best things I’ve ever got to do. I’m so pleased the guys asked me to do this THREE TIMES with them.
Seethis video for proof!

A few months later, the news came through that Mike, the drummer, was leaving the band. I’ve got to know Mike over the past few years, and he’s such a fantastic dude. He’s always been brilliant to me (and my friend Jackie) whenever we’ve gone to see them, always taking time to hang out, chat rubbish, drink etc. He’s also one of the best drummers I’ve ever seen, and I love talking drums with him – once you start him off, he doesn’t stop. He’s a true musician and a total legend. I shall miss him playing with the band (and meeting up with him when they play in the UK) – I hope I get to see him some other time with whoever he plays with next.


Berlin April 2013
Carmels birthday trip. Have wanted to go back to Berlin since my 40th 3 years ago, and I finally managed to convince everyone we should go back. Was another cheap trip (as was the last one) and we stayed in a great little Ibis hotel in the centre of Mitte by Rosenthaler Platz. The Friday we arrived, once I checked into the hotel I headed out to go to Conspiracy Ink to get tattooed by Uncle Allan. After meeting him at the London Convention in Sept, I managed to get a tattoo session booked with him, and was very excited to be getting tattooed by this guy. Was also excited about meeting his dog Lucifer too. Tattoo session was great (Allan did a skull/rose on my ankle), and once was completed, I went back into the centre to meet up with everyone and have beers and burgers at White Trash.
Rest of the trip was pretty much like the last one – hung out in Kreuzberg, checkout out the East Side Gallery, ate a lot of wurst, went to the Reichstag and Teirgarten, and as always, the Ramones museum. Saturday night we had an awesome German meal for Carmels birthday, went on a massive bar crawl afterwards, which resulted in poor Ian being a broken man on the Sunday and him missing the rest of the trip.
I think Berlin is awesome. I can’t wait to go back again. The weather was ok too – far better than when we went in November last time!
 

The Ex in Amsterdam May 2013

After seeing The Ex at ATP in December, Ian decided that next time they play Amsterdam, we are going. I don’t need asking twice. As soon as we saw the date go up, I booked the trip – two nights over the bank holiday weekend.
my fave seat in Amsterdam
What did we get up to? Same as always – we drank a lot at our fave pubs (In De Wildeman, De Bekeerde Suster, Beer Temple), ate a load of Kasstengels, and got drenched on the Saturday night when we got caught in a downpour. The gig was at an awesome little community centre (squat) – was cheap entry, cheap beer, and no support band. The band played on a stage 6 inches high, and tore Amsterdam a new arsehole. Was an absolutely fantastic night – apart from the ridiculously long walk back to the hotel afterwards (we hadn’t realised how far away the venue was from the centre). We arrived in Amsterdam late on the Saturday evening and left early Monday afternoon – was a bit of a flying visit, and wasn’t particularly cheap! We’d had a great time as usual though – Amsterdam is such a great place to hang out, and due to the fact we’ve been there so often, it makes visiting so much easier. I’m even being recognised in my favourite pub now!

My Bloody Valentine in Eindhoven Sept 2013
Ended up going back to Amsterdam for a night in Sept, when I ended up not working for two weeks. Thought I’d go see My Bloody Valentine in Eindhoven. They were very loud and very awesome. Weather was incredibly hot for this time of year, and had a fab time sitting outside pubs on the canals having a beer and soaking up the sun. I wish I’d stayed longer!

Bands
I’m still playing music sporadically with Breakers, but now I’m in a second band called Harker, which is even more sporadic!
Breakers finally did their first gig in April supporting Iron Chic, and we’ve done three more since. We recorded a second demo, which you can hear on our Bandcamp page, and we are really happy with it. Unfortunately, our latest gig was also our last for drummer and original member Pete, who has decided he hates being in a band. It’s a shame to see him go, but we’ve found someone else, and we will be starting to rehearse sporadically with him soon. As for Harker – this is my friend Marks acoustic act that he does. He wants to turn it into a band, and I’m currently the guitarist. Its interesting because I’m just playing what he wants me to play – it really takes the stress away from working out stuff on guitar! We’ve done one gig, which went down really well, but looks like the next set of activity won’t be until next year. So yeah – even more sporadic than Breakers. You can hear his stuff here.


London Tattoo Convention Sept 2013
And its back to where we started. Was asked again to help out Mary and Doug at the convention, and was back up to London for 4 days at the end of Sept. This time we were staying in the less glamorous Ibis on Commercial Street in Aldgate. It was ok, except for their pitiful breakfasts and ridiculously hilarious “fake” French restaurant – all English food (fishnchips, chickennchips) with French names!
new tattoos!
We had a better booth this time – we were hidden in a row of booths rather than stuck out on a corridor, which allowed everyone to get on with work without randoms leaning over and being annoying while people were being tattooed. Mary had 4 bookings over the weekend, and did 2 walk ups (a pin up girl head and a gnarly wolf), and Doug just did walk ups like last year. It was insanely busy for the three days again, and I was kept on my toes helping out my booth buddies. Also managed to get tattooed by Mary on the Friday and Guen Douglas on the Sunday.
Thursday me and Mary went to the Tower Of London with her friend Kat, and then had a Bodeans before we headed off to Café Kick again for the pre-convention party. Managed to take Mary for a curry in Brick Lane on the Sunday night after the convention. Monday we got to hang out with Marys friend Heather Bailey (from Spider Murphys Tattoos), went back to the Tower Of London, and then checked out Highgate Cemetery. I also took the girls on a bus, which made them quite hysterical. The best thing about the day was ending it, on Heathers suggestion, with a Nandos – I don’t need asking twice!
Yet again, this weekend was a total blast, I had the best time. Its always great getting to be involved in the Convention, and even better to see Mary and Doug this side of the Atlantic. I hope we can do it again next year!
Me and Mary
ToL!

Another Year Down, part 1

Blimey. This years gone by FAST. My last blog entry was in January. I’ve now been in Hove a year and have realised that I’ve not updated at all. The last 12 months have seen me winding down my “professional bum” lifestyle as I gradually work through the last of my available house money. I’ve yet to find a full time job, but things are still ok contracting with L&G. Looking back over the last 12 months, its good to see I’ve still been making the most of my part time status (even if most of my spare time still involved drinking, music and holidays!).

London Tattoo Convention Sept 2012
me, getting tattooed by Mary
So I moved into the flat in Hove, was there three days, then went up to London for five days, staying at the Double Tree Hilton (mega posh!) in Tower Bridge and working at the London Tattoo Convention with my friends Mary Joy Scott and Doug Hardy (from Tattoo City in San Francisco). The guys had asked me to be their booth helper for the weekend, and I jumped at the chance – mainly because I love spending time with these guys and because I’ve always wanted to experience a convention from the other side of the booth for a change. Was a brilliant 5 days. The convention was mental – it was insane the moment the doors opened on the Friday till close on Sunday eve. I got a 6 hour tattooing on my right calf from Mary (where I had to balance myself on a table in a corridor so everyone could gawp at us), and met up with some very cool people – the main one being Uncle Allan from Berlin (more on that later).
Either side of the convention was spent with Mary, showing her around London – Friday we ended up at the Family Business pre-Convention party in Exmouth Market at Café Kick. Great little bar, that played great 60s music – and was absolutely packed with tattooists from all over the world. Was a bit mind blowing, and was quite hard to deal with at first.

Monday we went to the British Museum to see the mummy cats, did a bit of shopping in the west end, and took Mary for a bangers and mash at a typical London pub. Then she tattooed my armpit back at the hotel. This was such a great weekend, and was so great getting to hang out with Mary and Doug outside of San Francisco. I really wanted to do the following year after this (again, more later).

Amsterdam Nov 2012

Went to Amsterdam for my birthday, and got to hang out with another couple of friends who were also celebrating
thanks Guen!
their birthday while they were there. it was totally random that they were in the same city at the same time, and we had a blast - and a particularly boozy blast at that! Main reason for going - i got tattooed by Guen Douglas at Salon Serpent on Walk-In Saturday. Was such a great session, and since then Guen has tattooed me a further three times, shes so awesome. I also managed to get to the Maritime Museum this time - such a brilliant place, definately check it out if you are in Amsterdam.



ATP Dec 2012

Managed to get a group of us to attend the Shellac curated ATP at Camber Sands. Wow Pontins is a total hole – was nowhere near as awesome as the old Minehead venue! We still had a great time though – highlights included Shellac twice, Future Of The Left, The Ex, Uzeda, and The Membranes. The place ran out of beer on the Saturday evening. It took us a whole day to heat up the chalet. Tonio cooked us a nice meal one afternoon. Ian and Phil kept hiding my bedding, and we went on the beach every day (luckily it was sunny). Saturday morning, we followed my iphone googlemaps to go check out Camber Castle – and ended up in a nasty little working-mens type pub called The Camber Castle. It was such a great time, we are going again this year.

Australia Jan 2013
OFF!
We’d had no summer in 2012, and I’d basically spent the latter half of 2012 living in a country that was wet, cold, dark and gloomy most of the time. By the time we hit December, it was getting positively arctic. My projects at work had run down for the time being and I wasn’t needed back until the end of Feb – so I decided I’d go to Australia for a month, revisiting Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. My decision had nothing to do with the fact that the Bouncing Souls were playing with the Descendents in Perth! I was actually really lucky with music while I was there – Big Day Out was happening, so every city had a bunch of side gigs happening either side of the festival, so I managed to catch OFF twice (in Sydney and Melbourne), Sleigh Bells in Sydney, A Place To Bury Strangers,Against Me and Iron Lung in Melbourne, and Thee Oh Sees, Bouncing Souls and Descendents in Perth.
Got the trip booked by a very helpful lady at the Flight Centre, and was off on Jan 14th. Day I left, it started snowing. After a very stress-free 22 hour flight, I arrived in Sydney in the middle of a heatwave, the temp not being below 35 degrees every day. One day it reached 45 degrees – I thought I’d gone mad.
As you would expect it was a brilliant holiday. Sydney is still my favourite place, and had a great time hanging out on Manly Beach, nosing around Kings Cross, checking out all the local pubs – and local craft beers -  at The Rocks and generally enjoying being somewhere that was hot and sunny ALL THE TIME. I was glad I got to come back as it had taken me a few days to get my bearings last time I came. I stayed in the same hotel so knew exactly where I was this time, and didn’t have the hassle of trying to work out where everything was. The day I arrived, I checked in the hotel at 9.30am and was in my fave pub by 11!
By Sydneys standards, Melbourne was a little disappointing. It started well with the hotel I’d picked trying to fob me off with one of their old cheaper unfurbished rooms (I’d paid for one of their groovy rooms in the prison-like side of the hotel), but they soon sorted it out. Then I realised I was staying at the cr py end of the city – there was nothing where I was apart from a nice little deli/café. Every day I had a good walk into town – which gave me some exercise I guess! However, the hotel was right by a tram stop and the main station – so getting elsewhere in the surrounding area was easy, especially when I was heading to the gigs I’d booked at the Corner Hotel (and awesome little venue with a fab rrooftop bar - i even won a pub quiz here one night!). I got quite used to using the trams in the end!
Beer Deluxe!
I also found Melbourne very expensive, and I’d seriously underbudgeted. But there wasn’t much I could do – I like a beer and I like eating out. A basic night out in a pub with a pizza was gonna cost around $50-$60. One night the cinema cost me $30!!!
Luckily I had some friends around – Cara and Greg are old mates from London who met me the day I arrived and showed me around. I met up with them a couple of times over the 8 days I was here and had a great time with them. My other friends Martine and Mark (who I was staying with in Perth) also appeared one day, and had a great time hanging out with them, taking great pleasure in taking them to some of the pubs I’d found during my stay.
Melbourne certainly is a beautiful place, but I did find it a bit overrated. It didn’t have much more to offer than London or Brighton (or San Francisco for that matter) – but the weather was great throughout, everyone was friendly, and I loved walking along the river every day and hanging out in the botanical gardens. I went to St Kilda one day, thinking I’d get a day on the beach, but it was as windy as hell. Ended up getting a burnt face/head instead. I also did a day trip into the bush to see wild koalas/kangaroos/emus with the fantastic Echidna Walkabout people, which was pretty awesome.
All in all, it was a great 8 days, but in hindsight, I kinda wished I’d stayed in Sydney an extra day instead, especially as I hadn’t made any arrangements in Melbourne to get out of the city proper at any point. Also being a sports retard, I had no clue the tennis was happening while I was there. I was absolutely gutted I hadn’t realised (I fell in the Open was on the last day I was there), as that would have been a fab thing to have gone to see.
Final thing – I found a fantastic bar called Beer Deluxe in the middle of the city that did ace craft beers, and sold Murrays Angry Man Pale Ale that I’d had in Syndey. I went here every day, and got to know the barstaff quite well!
Next stop was Perth, slap bang in the middle of their hottest weather they’d had this summer. The weather was incredible, and was happy to be seeing my friends from back home again. First week I stayed with Ray and Shirley again in Rockingham (see last years travel blog) and generally chilled out by the beach, the second week I stayed at Martine and Marks (who had moved since last time to just outside Perth), and the final weekend I stayed in a nice little hotel in the middle of Perth city centre. Didn’t really do anything different than the last time I was here. Hung out in the pool at Martines friends house, drank loads, had a couple of BBQs, went to Kings Park, did a Swan River trip. Managed to get to the Lucky Shag again a couple of times, which is a favourite spot of mine in the city by the river.
me, Kelly, Bon Scott
Also managed to see Kelly and Alex again for a couple of days out. Went to Fremantle again, had an afternoon in the Sail and Anchor (another fave bar), then saw Thee Oh Sees at The Bakery in Perth, on one of the hottest days I experienced out there. They also took me to a wicked Mexican in Northbridge, and had another evening out in Mount Lawley where they live. Was great to catch up with these guys again.
Couple of highlights – Martine took me to City Beach and Point Walter. City Beach was totally empty, the sea was like a warm bath, and had the added bonus of a bar on the beach, Clancys, which was incredible. Amazing beers and wicked food! Point Walter is a small reserve with a huge sandbar that reaches out into the Swan River and I’ve always wanted to walk along it whenever I took a Swan River boat trip. So I finally got to do that on this trip. I’m obviously pretty simple, cos standing up to my knees in water in the middle of the river, being harassed by black swans, was one of the most hysterical things I’ve done.

 Final weekend here was a total scorcher. I stayed in a nice hotel on Murray
in the middle of the Swan River
Street, which was handily right next to the James Squires pub and the venue I was seeing the Souls at on the last night of my holiday.
The Souls gig was a blast – Kate (Souls manager) put me on the guest list and I managed to watch the band from the side of the stage, and hang out backstage before and after with Mike, Pete and Bryan. Mike knew I was gonna be there cos he’d been following my travels on Instagram, so it was a blast to finally catch up with them. They played a blinder as usual – and was cool to see them do a different varied set for the Australian crowd, geared to them as they obviously haven’t played in Aus for a while.
However, after the Souls, The Descendents were a bit of a let down (again). I’m not denying it wasn’t great seeing them, and they do have a completely brilliant set of songs. That set list is incredible. However, they couldn’t quite get out of second gear, and yet again Milo had problems with his voice. He lasted until the encore, when he was replaced by the dude from Bodyjar (the support band).
I’d had a great two weeks in Perth catching up with everyone, but it was time for the final stop – Singapore! One of my favourite places, and I was so excited to be going back, even though it was only for two days. I stayed at the same hotel as last time (Park Regis on Merchant Road, right by Clarke Quay), and was ecstatic when I saw my groovy hotel room again! I only had two days, and had decided to take it easy while I was here – basically, I wanted to make use of the lovely hotel pool and also get a new lens from my Canon. So again I spent two mornings in the Funilife Digital Mall checking out lenses, and ended up with an awesome Tamron lens. Weather wasn’t the best - it chucked it down every morning till lunchtime (it was wet but still hot), but it didn’t put a damper (ahem) on the stay at all. Managed to take a Bumboat ride along the river to see the Merlion statue, and hung out at Boat Quay a couple of times, a cheaper food/bar area 20 mins down the river from Clarke Quay.
Clarke Quay was as busy as always. Managed to get a Hooters on the last day (the only one of the holiday!), and get recognised by the barman in Sque, a bar on the river I frequented last year. Final night I checked out the Blues Bar in Clarke Quay, the only “scummy” hang out there. The beers were slightly cheaper, and as much as I hate Blues, the band were great. My final day, I had to go to Chinatown, mainly to see Erich and his Wuerstelstand and get a giant sausage. He was on holiday – so I settled for a gigantic litre of Tiger beer - that cost me £3 - and sat in the sunshine getting slowly sozzled.
I love Singapore – I love how reserved it is, how you never see any tattooed or alternative people (there must be some here, right?), and how I don’t feel particularly short! I was actually really gutted to leave (whereas I was quite excited to leave Aus and come here), and was thoroughly miserable when I got on the plane!
I’m so glad I managed to do this holiday – it was very short notice and I didn’t expect I was going to manage another long trip away. It was amazing to be in sunshine for a month, in the company of some great beers, great mates, and some brilliant live music. I was gutted to get home – and have another 3 months of cold, rain and darkness until June!!

Friday, 11 January 2013

Here We Go Again!

Its 2013, and where am i now?

Still living in Hove, and very much enjoying it. The band just completed our first demo, so that should be appearing online imminently. My contract got renewed at work, so will be here till at least July.

However, work didn't need me till Feb - so i arranged to work a bit after new year, and booked a final, month long jaunt to Aus for Jan/Feb. This is it for my BIG travelling at the moment, as the fund is depleted. I was always intending to do another (slightly smaller) trip after my last one, i'm just shocked that 2012 ran away with me and its only happening now.

But as it happens, I do appear to be going to Australia at the best time - amazing weather and loads of bands playing. So far i'll be seeing Against Me, OFF, A Place To Bury Strangers, Iron Lung, Descendents, Bouncing Souls and Sleigh Bells while i'm out there. Phew.


I intend to get back into updating this blog with info, so keep your eyes open - links will appear on FB and Twitter (and prob instagram!).
Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, here I come!

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Better Late Than Never – A Year On, Part 2

So whats been going on? Heres a brief update of whats occurred since January (and I really can’t believe its October already – where did that year go?)

I got back from San Francisco and my big trip on Jan 4th 2012, slap bang in the middle of winter, and promptly did nothing till June, save a few bits and pieces. I should have maybe taken the time to do another (slightly smaller) trip – but I thought I’d be sensible and didn’t. Instead, I had a few weekends away to London – to see Bouncing Souls, Dropkick Murphys, Mastodon, A Place To Bury Strangers, see friends and generally behave like a drunken bum – a trip to Sheffield in May to see Lisa and Ginny (and see Alkaline Trio), and a couple of trips to Amsterdam with mates to see Cock Sparrer and The Bouncing Souls, of which both trips were a blast.

Although I generally did nothing while I was at my parents (and looking for college courses to do in my downtime was a miserable failure), I did get started with a new band, based in Brighton. I played a shit-lot of Skyrim, and what days the sun came out, I went to the beach. I also tentatively started running again.

However, this is nothing to do with moving forward in life.

As of June, I started working back at Legal And General as a contractor, doing 3 days a week at the Hove office. And I quite like it. I lived with friends in Hove a couple of days a week while I was working, and got to like that too. I’ve always loved Brighton, and have always thought about moving here, but am so lazy, I never wanted to deal with the hassle. I didn’t know Hove that well, but found I really liked living here too. It’s a pretty great place.

So as of the middle of September, I’m now living in my own flat in Hove, 5 minutes from the beach, 10 minutes walk from work, living in a town that I’ve always enjoyed visiting and is somewhere that I’ve wanted to live for a while. I’ve also got a new band that after 8 months of work, is finally nearing the stage where we’ll be getting music online and playing live soon. And I can run 7k in 40 minutes.
So things have moved forwards in the last 18 months, albeit slightly. I definitely feel like I’m in a better place that I was back at the start of 2011. I need to keep chipping away at life before I get to March 2013 – cos that’s when all the contracts finish!
Not sure I like deadlines…..

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Better Late Than Never - A Year On, Part 1

Figured it was time to kickstart this blog again. Stuffs been happening this year - albeit very slowly - and i'm pleased to say things are moving on. However, thats gonna be part 2. I feel this hastily written blog is far more apt, considering almost a year ago, i was starting my Round-The-World trip - first stop being Amsterdam and Vienna with The Bouncing Souls.

So bizarrely enough (and i didn't even think about this until it was happening), this week I ended up in The Netherlands to see The Souls twice again, a year and two weeks after the last time i saw them.



Flew out to Amsterdam, checked in at my groovy hotel, then trained it an hour and half away to Eindhoven, a place i've never been before. I can't say Eindhoven was particularly amazing - however, the venue was right next to the station, in a pedestrianised area that inculded loads of bars and restaurants. Great, i haven't really got to go that far to find places to hang out.


De Effenaar was an awesome place. Not dissimilar to Melkweg, it was a huge grey building with mad pipes and crap hanging off it. Two venues inside and a wicked little bar/restaurant. Hung out in the bar and charged the iphone, had a few beers and chatted to the nice punky barlady that kept serving me. There was a massive book on the bar - unfortunately all in Dutch - full of photos. Turned out it was a history of the club - its been there since the early 70s, and everyone has played there - the Damned, Ramones, Fugazi, Jesus Lizard, Pixies, Shellac, QOTSA etc etc etc. Was impressed.

The gig itself was ace. The venue was small, intimate (about 300 capacity) with brilliant sound and more friendly bar staff. Support for the Souls on this tour are a band called Downtown Struts from Chicago. I must say i was impressed, and they have a fan in me. They kinda reminded me of The Briggs (but less Piratey) or Street Dogs (without the Oi-ness), and cranked out tune after tune. Was cool to see The Souls bring another great band out with them, as a few of their supports haven't been the best in recent years - i can't remember who played in Vienna (that nondescript, although i know Pacer played a few times - nuff said), and Black Presidents on their last big tour were pretty tedious too. I guess Downtown Struts would be the best thing since they dragged The Draft in tour in 2007. Anyway, i got an album, and would enjoy them again the following night.


Bumped into Pete (Souls guitarist) and Kate (manager) at some point, and drinking was arranged for the following night.

The Souls set was wicked, once again playing a full on consistent set of old and new stuff. As well as playing 8 tracks off the new album, we got Argyle, Cracked, Lifetime, Kid - songs you don't hear that often. However, the barely played anything off Gold Record, and nothing off Ghosts On The Boardwalk, which was a bit of a shame. Regardless, i had a great time down the front, shouting along with a couple of Beardies and their girlfriends that i'd met earlier.

Had to catch the last train, so missed the last few songs and caught my train back to Amsterdam with no problems.


Next day I was seeing The Souls at Melkweg, on of my fave venues. Spent the day as I usually do, drinking by the canals (mainly at a pub called In De Wildeman), then had a long walk down to a tattoo shop i wanted to check out (check Salon Serpent, such an awesome shop).

Bumped into Bryan and Pete from the band just before showtime and sorted arrangements for beertime afterwards, then headed into the venue.

The gig was in the small room (where i'd seen Magnapop a few years previous), and i'm pretty sure there were less people there than the previous night. Not to say the crowd were any less receptive, but it was nice to have room to move around.


Downtown Struts did their thing first, and i must say i enjoyed them more than the previous night, especially as their songs are so catchy, I remembered them from the night before. Next up was Dave Hause (from The Loved Ones) who i'd seen in May with Alkaline Trio. I'm a big fan of Dave, and The Loved One, and was excited i'd be getting to see him again. Once again, he was "lone guy with acoustic guitar", but makes such a big noise and really riles up the crowd. The great thing was i was down the front with a bunch of other fans, and everyone was singing along to every word. At one point he got the crowd to crowdsurf a little 10 year old punk dude around the venue (he loved it!), and then orchestrated a crowd-split-down-the-middle singalong. Which generally can be a bit cheesy, but Dave pulls it off so well - hes such a down to earth and good natured bloke. A couple of Loved Ones songs and Coma Girl by Joe Strummer later, he was off and i was grinning like an idiot.

Souls set was more of the same as last night, except i got to see the full, 8 song encore, which was a cracker (they pulled out Manthem for the first time in a while). They really put an awesome set together for this tour, and its great to see a band thats been going as long as The Souls still try their hardest to make the sets as interesting as they can for everyone (band and new fans included).

As for Melkweg, well, its another incredible european venue. The sound is brilliant, you can see the band, the bouncers aren't arseholes, the barstaff/venue staff are friendly, and noone throws you out as soon as the gig has ended. The few Euro venues i've been to are all like this (De Effenaar from last night, Paradiso, Winstom Kingdom, Vienna Arena) and shows it isn't THAT difficult to do. I prefer Euro gigs over UK gigs everytime.


Met up with the band after the gig (as well as some random german punky types i'd met earlier in Leidseplien, who wanted to take me drinking after the show), and headed over to Dan Murphys on the corner of Leidseplien for a quiet drink. The usual core of Bryan, Pete and Kate were in attendance, along with Michael the drummer, Dave Hause and three of the Downtown Struts, as well as bunch of other friends of the band. Spent most of the time chatting to Zack and Ryan from the Struts (talking Chicago, San Francisco and DIY punk), had a bit of a fan boy chat with Dave Hause and talked Keith Moon with Michael.

Got turfed out of Dan Murphys pretty early, so headed over to The Cave, a late night metal club off Leidseplien. We were the only ones there, and was a bit of a riot. And as things got steadily more insane, i decided that it was time to leave them all to it. Said goodbye to Bryan and Kate (and left with some very good news indeed), and walked out into the rain. I was back at the hotel at 3am.


I've now seen The Souls 33 times, and they are now top of my "how many times i've seen a band" list. I really enjoyed this trip, even though there was a lot of running around, late nights and hangovers. Was ace getting to see The Souls play again (with the added bonus of great supports), and also spending time in one of my fave cites, almost a year ago to the day that i started my trip.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

MY TRIP - THE AFTERMATH!

I’ve been back home now for just under a month. I still don’t know what I want
to do with my life, but that’s something for another time – I need to start
sorting stuff out soon. In the meantime, I thought I’d take a look back over
the last four months (and more), and pick it all apart.

First of all – it was a bloody amazing holiday. However, I had no epiphany
moments, no game changing discoveries about myself, no “sitting on the side of
a mountain and coming to some great realisation about life, the universe and
everything”. I kinda figured that wouldn’t happen. I think the only thing that I
really came away knowing was that I really missed playing music, and it’s the
one thing I truly love doing, whether it’s playing in a band or seeing bands.
So I just got on with having the best time I could, and apart from a couple of
minor back-packing niggles, for the most part I achieved it. I saw some
gobsmacking places, went to some of my favourites cities (more than once), did
a few vaguely mad things (mad for me anyway), and spent over six months in
bright sunshine and hot weather. I got to hang out with some good friends (some
of which I hadn’t seen for years), and made a few new ones. Oh, and I got a few
new tattoos, courtesy of my friend, the very brilliant and talented Mary Joy Scott.

THE HIGHLIGHTS:

My European start of the trip was pretty amusing:
- Gay Pride in Amsterdam!
- hanging out with The Bouncing Souls in Vienna, and getting onstage with them
- me and Jackie doing one day of sightseeing in Vienna with massive hangovers
- cutting my Amsterdam trip short to fly back to see The Bronx in Kingston, the
night the London riots broke out

America was brilliant from pretty much start to finish.
The only problem I have
with the place is at least 50% of the cab drivers are utter retards. It was a
pretty relentless few weeks here (including Chicago in May, and San Francisco
at New Year), and we did a lot:
- getting to hang out with Tim, Tom, Kelly
and Alex on and off for over a month
- Tims awesome friends in Chicago who did so much for us while we were there –
CJ, Jim and Mel
- seeing Chixdiggit and Marked Men in Chicago, and getting to a Cubs game (and
watching them lose!)
- spending a lot of time with my SF friends for a change – Suzanne, Tom and
Mary (and Nikki!)
- getting back to SF for New Years for a manic week to see X, attend Suzannes
birthday and get a mega tattoo off Mary
- my best bud Lisa coming out to Las Vegas for a week, staying at Hooters,
shooting guns, and seeing the Grand Canyon and Valley Of Fire
- hanging out with my old Ship crew, Jon, Jeff and Nicole in LA. First time
seeing them for over 5 years, and didn’t seem like a day had passed since the
last time we saw each other. Was only a brief trip to LA, but the guys helped
me out a great deal with places to stay/keeping me amused, and was such a great
few days.
- Awesomefest in San Diego. I liked San Diego A LOT. I dunno if I’d ever go
back outside of Awesomefest happening, but as a first time trip and being a
tourist it was brilliant. Sunny, hot, great beers, great bars. LOTS OF MEXICAN
FOOD. Loved it.
- New York – for being awesome. Rockafella Centre, Staton Island Ferry, Manitobas,
and seeing Juliana Hatfield for the first time in 15 years at City Winery (and
puking in their very posh toilets!)
- going to see Bob Mould in SF, getting to meet him, and seeing him do the rock
thing AND the gay disco thing in the space of one night.
- The Academy Of Sciences in San Francisco
- The ridiculous SF pub crawls in SF that me and Suzanne did over the space of
a week
- Hooters – every one of them!

Then it was onto Fiji, which was 50% incredible:

- loved the Blue Lagoon
- swam with sharks, did a cave dive, two massive hill walks and lots of
snorkelling
- met lots of awesome people, including Will and Carole, a young groovy American
couple that kept me company for the whole trip in Fiji. Think they liked having
a drinking buddy – I certainly appreciated their presence the time I was there.
- hated Waya Lai Lai with its shit food, weird villagers and bed bugs

Australia gets broken down like this:

- hated Brisbane, which was full of arsehole backpackers.
- Fraser Island was indescribable. All I can say was it was like being on the
island in LOST. Had the best tour guide, and a good tour group. Had a brilliant
three days, the highlight being the third day where our group of three got
taken to some really random remote places away from the other tourists.
Awesome.
- Sydney. Was only here for three days, but should have been longer, as it took
me a few days to get my bearings. I think the best thing about Sydney was
discovering James Squires beers and getting drunk in The Rocks! The worst thing
was missing The Drones and Dropkick Murphys playing by two days!
- Featherdale Wildlife Parks kangaroos, wombats, kookaburras and koalas
- Perth was all kinds of amazing.
- getting to see all my old friends in Perth who I hadn’t seen for over 10
years (Ray, Shirley, Martine, Mark, Tarnya) and have them put me up for far
longer than they should have, getting to hang out with Kelly and Alex again,
and meeting some of their groovy tattooed punk rock friends.
- finally getting to see OFF! play, after missing them in every country/city I’d
been to in the last six months
- Kelly and Alex taking me to Rottnest Island, and doing an 18km bike ride to
the far west of the island
- Kelly and Alex taking me on an insane DIY beer tour into the Swan Valley to
try out some different breweries
- Mark driving me to the Pinnacles National Park and back again. Four hours
there and back, 20 minutes in the park! All we wanted to see was a very long
road and a Pinnacle that looked like a penis. Job done!
- Kellys mum driving us around Perth for a day, and getting to hand feed wild cockatoos!
- the ridiculous meaty BBQs put on by everyone throughout the holiday
- Fremantle, the Little Creatures Brewery and Bon Scotts statue
- the beer – James Squires One Fifty Lashes, Little Creatures Bright and Pale
Ales, and the Nails IPA only found at the Sail And Anchor in Fremantle
- drinking said awesome beers practically every day. Especially the day I sat outside
the Lucky Shag on the river, drinking pints of Golden Ale, eating a massive
steak, sitting in the sun listening to the cheesy cover band.
- Kings Park and the main city of Perth
- The Two Feet And A Heartbeat walking tour
- the wicked birdlife – my inner ornithologist came back with a vengeance

And the final stop, Singapore:

- the zoo
- my stupidly posh hotel
- Clarke Quay
- Hooters!
- more Little Creatures

The downsides break down into two sections – backpacking and my rucksack. And thats about it.

Backpacking really wasn’t for me. Apart from meeting relatively normal people
in Fiji and Fraser Island, I spent the rest of the time on my solo part of the
trip not meeting anyone. With Fiji and Fraser Island, it was as though everyone
was kinda thrown together – in Fiji, it was because everyone was following the
same route round the island. In Fraser Island, it was because you were stuck on
the same tour together. But everyone in those situations didn’t appear to be
rampant 18 year old boozehounds...unlike the ones I “met” in Brisbane, Byron
Bay and Sydney. Basically these were people I’ve actively been avoiding my
entire life in the UK, so Christ knows why I would want to hang out with these
people now. I also wasn’t spending time in the few hostels I stayed in hanging
out there – I had money to go out, eat a nice evening meal, have a few (good
few) beers. So by not hanging out in hostels, I wasn’t really meeting anyone. My
arrival in Brisbane (at 1am) put me off immediately – it was like a bad night
out in Croydon. Coupled with my prison like hostel, populated by the kind of 18
year olds that run riot on the last night of the Reading Festival, it changed
my mind on backpacking as soon as I got there. Byron Bay was another kettle of
fish altogether – if you aren’t a surfer, you may as well be invisible. That is until the drunk Bogans come out on a Friday and Saturday night. Then I wish I could have been invisible and ignored. I liked Byron Bay as a place, but the people
there left a lot to be desired. After this, I booked hotels and was quite happy
being on my own, and got on with enjoying myself. And bloody enjoy myself I did!!

As for that bloody rucksack – worst mistake I made! Serves me right for not
going with my initial preference. I found a side loading Berghaus rucksack,
with a detachable day pack, wheels and a handle which I thought was ideal.
However, looking at research online, no one had a good word to say about it. So
I ended up buying a normal top loading backpack (a Vango 60+10), which I hated
the moment I started trying to pack it. Forget the fact I never once needed to
use it as a rucksack – it spent the entire trip either in a plane hold, in a
cab boot, or on the floor of my hotel. I never once carried it for longer than 15
minutes! The thing that eventually got to me though – I met more than 5
different people who were all travelling with my original choice, the Berghaus!

So my point is – for anyone going on a big trip – work out if you will actually
need to use your backpack AS A BACKPACK! If you aren’t going trekking or
camping in the wilds or wandering around cities aimlessly trying to find
somewhere to stay, DON’T BOTHER. I wish I could have found some helpful advice on this before I went away – but every Backpacker site I found was incredibly biased towards taking a rucksack. I guess its fine if you are travelling all
round Asia. I however was basically on a mega extended city break – with a few
beaches thrown in as a change!

And thats it. Best idea I’ve had in years, and a pretty brilliant 6 months. I’m
so glad I sold the house, quit my job and did this, even though I haven’t got a
clue what to do next.

Maybe I’ll just do the trip again – but this time do it backwards, starting in
Singapore, and hitting Melbourne instead of Sydney. Hmmm, wheres that bank
statement....