Wednesday, 31 August 2011

New York to San Diego - days 4 - 6

Day #4
Oh shit, its raining. BIG BLOODY AMERICAN RAIN!!! Wait till it subsides slightly (and its still bloody hot out), and me and Tim go our separate ways to do some random bits and pieces. I head down to the Smithsonian museum back down by the Staten Island Ferry. Mainly because NOFX mention it one of their songs. Museum is cool, lots of native indian stuff on display, but its not very big, so am out within the hour. Theres a funny security guard there that likes my accent. This was mentioned a lot, and its funny – how on earth does my grating south London barking sound “ nice”!?

Its stopped raining enough for some outside stuff, so get back on the subway and head up to Central Park. First stop is the Dakota Building and the Imagine Mosaic (John Lennons apartment building where he was killed, and the memorial for him). Took some pictures, but found it funny the amount of people taking smiley happy pictures outside the Dakota. Hey, heres a happy picure of us in New York at the site where John Lennon got shot. Weird. I guess it’s the kind of thing my friend Shaun would do…but then he’s a bastard. ;-)

Central Park is cool, but only really get to check out a small part of it. Walk round the small lake taking pictures and realise you can’t hear any traffic – its so quiet there! Its cool that theres such a massive patch of green in the middle of this city, just a shame I didn’t come along when it was sunny and dry!

Wandered back down to Time Square, but it was getting scary busy again. Jumped back on the subway and headed back to Manitobas in the East Village in time for Happy Hour. Had a few beers and chatted to the groovy barmaid and waited for Tim (who was late!). He managed to get one cider in happy hour, then headed south to an irish bar for some food.

Day #5
Woke up and was pleased to see it was sunny again, but news of Hurricane Irene was getting more and more heavy and we were getting concerned about what was gonna happen on Saturday.

Got up and headed to Times Square again so Tim could look round Toys R Us – which is a bit of a nightmare, cos I love toys and always wanna buy loads of random shit I’ve never seen before. Latest obsession is a range of horror-based high school dolls – based on Dracula, Frankenstein, Creature From The Black Lagoon etc, but look like 50s style pin up girls. ARGH!!! Luckily I can’t fit them in my rucksack. (for info, see Monster High!)

Decided to hit Tims favourite chain restaurant for lunch, so off we went to Bubba Gumps in Times Square. Had another comment about our accents from the seater guy in Bubbas, who did a pretty good impression of us. After lunch, we figured we should prob go back to the hotel to see what was going on with the hurricane. Luckily we did cos the shit hit the fan.

NY was gonna shut down at midday on Saturday. Both our flights to San Diego from JFK had been cancelled, so we spent the whole afternoon trying to get out of NY. I’m pleased to say American Airlines were brilliant, and I got sorted pretty quickly, although I was gonna have a three flight 10 hour journey to SD – although I was gonna arrive there earlier than originally planned. Tim had more problems and his escape plan was more complicated, but he also managed to get out the following day.

Once sorted, I headed off to Greenwich Village for a beer. It was so wicked round there, and was a bit gutted that we hadn’t got to spend much time in this part of town. Had an Anchor Steam in the Peculiar Pub on Bleeker St, then headed to the City Winery to see Juliana Hatfield do an acoustic gig. Venue was nuts – a very posh and refined wine tasting room, with lots of tables and chairs. Got a seat close to the stage and had some food delivered, along with some Mad Jamaican IPA. This beer was amazing, although it was 7% - after two I was suitably wooly, and decided I wouldn’t go and have a final beer in the Village after the gig after all.

Juliana was great. I haven’t seen her play live for over 15 years, so was excited to see she was playing in NY. She really doesn’t look any older, and personality-wise hasn’t changed a bit. Still ridiculously shy and amateurish (she restarted at least two songs from scratch) andchanged the set around as she went along, but her voice sounded great and she played a cracking set of old and new songs (including Ride with Me by The Lemonheads). Was so chuffed I got to see her.

Went back to the hotel and crashed out with a fuzzy head. Tim had sorted hi escape plan and was off at 3am. I was leaving at 5am. Got some shut eye and waited for the madness to come!

Day #6
Up at 4.45am, packed and headed to the airport. JFK was heaving and I was a bit worried I wouldn’t get on my flight, however, this was when I realised how brilliant AA were gonna be. I checked in almost immediately and was through security within half an hour of arriving.

Flight to Miami was awesome, as I had been put in first class! So I had a full reclining seat and loads of movies to watch. Laid the seat flat and settled down to watch Bridesmaids, which was bloody hilarious.

Arrived in Miami and headed over to my next flight to Dallas, which was less than an hour to take off. This plane was a little smaller, and was the longest of the three flights. Slept for most of this flight and landed in Dallas ahead of schedule.

Jumped on the Dallas -> San Diego flight and had a whole row to myself. Spent the whole flight looking out of the window gobsmacked. I wish I’d taken my camera out as the view was insane. There is NOTHING between Dallas and SD other than farms and desert and mountains. Was mental. Even when we came in to land there was nothing – until the houses came into view and you realised you were landing in the middle of town! Then came the biggest surprise. My bags turned up. I was sure after three flights, this wasn’t gonna happen. YAY. Left the airport, grabbed a shuttle and headed to the hotel.

I was the first of the UK people to arrive there, and I couldn’t check in cos Tim needed to do it. Luckily, Kelly and Alex from Australia had arrived, so I dumped my bag in their room and we headed out for some food and drink.

For this part of the SD trip, we are staying in the Gaslamp Quarter, which during the evening is a bit like being in a hip hop video, especially during Saturday and Sunday night. The main drag is full of bars and clubs playing banging hip hop and club-type music, and everyone is hanging out outside the bars and on the street, it chaos. Eventually we managed to sniff out a grungy looking bar on the main drag called The Hopping Pig, that did ace burgers and had an extensive beer list, which suited us fine.

Eventually we were joined by Tim and Tom who arrived about 10pm, but after one more beer I was dozing off in my chair in the pub cos of the 5am start. Christ knows how Tim was still awake. So I left them to it and went back to the hotel to crash out and get some well needed sleep – just in case Tim took us on one of his “walks” the following day…

Thursday, 25 August 2011

New York - days 1 - 3

Holiday got off to a great start. Arrived at Heathrow and found BA couldn’t fit me on the plane. WTF??? After a minor strop, by the time I got through security they’d sorted it out, so that was a relief. Flight was cool, usual BA. Spent the whole trip watching cheese on the TV – No Strings Attached (with Natalie Portman) and Forest Gump, which I never realised was so great!

Day #1
Got off the plane and had a record run through immigration. Only took half an hour, and the immigration man didn’t even speak to me. Made a big change from the Chicago grilling last time. Hopped in a cab with my huge backpack and took the trip to our hotel in Chinatown.

Staying at Hotel 91 on East Broadway. It’s a niceish hotel, good for the money we paid (cheap), however it is in the biggest Chinatown I’ve ever seen. There is NOTHING apart from Chinese restaurants and supermarkets for umpteen blocks in every direction – which is great for me as I hate Chinese food! Anyway, checked in easily, unpacked then ran out to find a bar and wait for Tim. After getting lost and seeming like ages, I eventually made my way into the Lower East Side. First bar I found was dark and had skulls on the windows. Promising! Peeked inside – Elvis Costellos Armed Forces on the stereo, Sierra Nevada on tap and a hot barmaid. Sold. This was Motor City Bar, and we’d be back here the following night. Had a couple of beers, but still not heard from Tim, so consulted the guide book and headed to Arlenes Grocery round the corner. Another place with great music on the stereo and tattooed bar staff. Started to get hungry, so left Arlenes and pitched up round the corner at a groovy little burger bar, Mikeys Burgers (on Ludlow St for info). Still no sign of Tim, so decided to go back to the hotel and chill out, as was knackered from the flight, and a little pie eyed from the beer. Tim arrived an hour or so later, and I passed out!

Day #2
Yep, we decided we’d WALK all over NY to get out bearings. Heading out of our hotel, we walked the length of Broadway from Chinatown to above Time Square, 56 plus blocks! Weather was immense, 75 degrees plus. First stop was Joey Ramone Place, where we had the most expensive breakfast ever, which consisted of toast and a muffin. Next we had a look round Generation Records, which was an awesome shop but am being wary not to blow all my cash on CDs before I get to SF. Rest of the walk took in Union Square and Times Square, which made my head hurt. I wasn’t sure what I was looking at, with all the people and the flashing lights. NUTS. Was ace being able to see the Empire State Building slowly coming into view as we walked up Broadway. By the time we passed Times Square it was late afternoon, so we headed for our first Hooters of the holiday. As usual, the wings and shrimp didn’t disappoint, although it was pretty quiet in there for a Hooters. But we had a cool waitress which was good, and although the merch staff and seater girl were pretty attitudey (which seems like an NY trait), we had fun.

Stuffed, we decided it was time to be proper tourists. Thanks to the advice from friends, we headed to the Rockefeller Centre for a high rise view of NY. It was AWESOME – not only did you get the best views of the Empire State and Central Park, but the highest level on the viewing platform was open to the elements, so you didn’t have anything obscuring your view. Highly recommended!

No way was I walking back though. Headed into the subway and was surprised to find how easy it is to negotiate! I used to get very confused with using other countries subway systems , and it always worried me slightly. After Berlin, Vienna and Chicago, I’m kinda getting used to it. NYs system is also pretty straight forward, esp when you consider how insane their subway map is! Headed back to the hotel ready for the evenings shenanigans. I was getting hungry again, so pitched up at The Meatball Shop on Stanton St. This place was AMAZING, and I def wanna go back if I can. Had to wait for a seat at the bar for a while as it was so busy, but once seated, was treated to an awesome pint of IPA (Bengal Tiger I think it was) and four spicey meatballs. YUM! After that, headed back to the Motor City Bar, where a mate of Tims was DJing a load of punk rock records. Was a great night – music was kicking, and Tims mate and his friends were cool people.

Day #3
Time to walk SOUTH down Broadway instead! After stopping for a breakfast Subway (yeah I know, but its keeping the holiday cheap so far), we headed to the WTC site to see what was going on. Lots of building work was the answer. Not much to see apart from cranes and half a new building, but was weird to see where they stood and what surrounded them – its hard to imagine what a mess this area of NY would have been back in 2001. And I know saying that is a total understatement!

Next up, the Staten island Ferry. Headed south down Broadway in the blistering sunshine and hit the ferry terminal – and got straight on a ferry! I love the fact its free, and the ferry is full of tourists (and the odd very grumbly local!). Awesome views of Brooklyn and Governers Island and other places that I have no idea what they are. I think Hoboken might have been one side, but I’m not sure. We took hoodies for the boat trip cos we thought it would be cold. No such luck, the wind is hot is NY. Love it! Get to Staten Island, take photos to prove we got there and use the loo – then back on the next ferry to Manhattan – and get amazing views of the skyline and the Statue Of Liberty (Tim: Bitch With The Stick). On docking, we head to Battery Park for a sit down after all that walking. Then Tim decides we haven’t walked enough, and we head for the Brooklyn Bridge.

We don’t have bridges like this in London. I’m sure Americans must refer to our bridges as “walkways” out of earshot when they are in London. The Brooklyn Bridge is a BRIDGE. You can see why they always destroy it in every Hollywood disaster movie set in NY! We head over the bridge and go straight to Grimaldis Pizza, which Tim assures me is incredible. Judging by the queue to get in, everyone else thinks so too! After 20 mins wait we were in, and proceeded to order and eat the biggest flippin pizza I’ve ever seen. Tim ate the whole of his, it was pretty impressive. By the time we left, the queue to get in was bigger than most gigs we go to, and we headed down to the river for a view of Manhattan from the other side. Stayed there for a while taking photos as the sun set. The view was Gobsmacking.

We were knackered by the time we got back to the hotel, so Tim decided to call it a night, as heaving his pizza belly around was killing him. I fancied a tipple, as drinking water all day had got a bit dull, so I jumped in a cab and headed to Manitobas in the East Village. Another punk rocknroll bar, this place is owned by Handsome Dick Manitoba from The Dictators. Friendly barstaff, great punk/rnr/60s garage jukebox, and awesome beer selection. Had a couple of quiet beers – Goose Island IPA, yum – and then headed back to the hotel and crashed out. Will be dragging Tim back here before the end of the week if I can, as they have Hardcore Cider on tap!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

For All The Unheard

The Bouncing Souls have been doing a bunch of shows over the last month or so where they play all their albums, in order, over 4 nights. The last two weeks saw them pitch up in London and Vienna – and as i couldn’t attend all four dates in London, i managed to do all four dates split over two locations: the first two nights (albums 1 – 4) in London, and the last two nights (albums 5 – 8) in Vienna.

Night #1 - Good The Bad And The Argyle and Maniacal Laughter.

This was gonna be an interesting show as far as I was concerned and came away blown away. Firstly, GBA hasn’t been one of my fave albums and wasn’t sure how it would come across live. Secondly ML is one of my fave Souls albums and couldn’t wait to see it. Thirdly, this show was in the smaller Islington Bar Academy venue, a far superior gig venue than the crappy downstairs main Academy, and also the smallest show i’ve ever seen the Souls do. As the show kicked in, the band were using a “Rocky/Boxing” type theme for introducing each of the albums, including the Rocky music, cheesy boxing announcer man, and a “ring girl” parading the album thats due to be played – this instance being a cute tattooed alterno-model. Once the band hit the stage and kicked into “I Like Your Mom”, i realised how great this set was gonna be. As i said, GBA isn’t an album i’m terribly familiar with, but they totally killed it. I guess its because most of these songs haven’t been played live for years (with the exception of Joe Lies).

When the set was over, i was left gobsmacked – i never expected this album to come across so brilliantly.

Highlights: Fist bumping Bryan in the first song, Inspection Station (a song i never expected them to play), and a particularly crushing Old School.

Once GBA was over, the band disappeared for 5 mins while the announcer and ring girl started again for Maniacal Laughter – then they were back out. I’d been looking forward to seeing these songs as ML is my second fave Souls album, and was gutted i’d never seen them play this set for the ML anniversary shows a few years back. Theres not much more to add really – once the gig was over (both albums in less than an hour), i was totally blown away and was happy to have seen the guys play such a mad set of rare songs.
After a quick chat with Kate (manager) and Pete (guitarist), it was off to the pub and was looking forward to Night #2, which unfortunately was in the bigger downstairs venue.

Highlights: Freaks, Nerds And Romantics, Lamar Vannoy and No Rules

Night #2 – Self Titled and Hopeless Romantic
Onto the shittier main Academy venue, and it was obvious from the outset someone had ballsed up. Obviously the 2nd night had sold out for upstairs – but they’d only sold a few more extra tickets, and the gig was quite sparsely populated, which was a shame. Self Titled is a bit of a peculiar album – apart from the first few tracks, its full of quite a lot of filler (band admitted!) tracks, and i was intrigued to see how it would come off. I didn’t expect the band to completely bludgeon the record into submission to get onto Hopeless Romantic!The first few tracks ruled, but by the time they hit The Toilet Song things were flagging. A couple of songs were then dropped, and they were gone after 20 minutes, after a breakneck Shark Attack. As much as the opening of the show was ace, i definitely felt this was the worst session of the 4 gigs i saw – but it was kind of expected.

Highlights: Cracked, Kate Is Great, Say Anything, East Coast Fuck You

Another 5 minute break, and Hopeless Romantic was driving everyone nuts. This was more like it, and they put everything into this set. HR was the first album i got by the guys, so this was always gonna be a bit of a special set, and they pretty much delivered on all counts. A mega version of Bullying The Jukebox made me wonder why they didn’t play this live a lot more often (i’ve never seen them do it before), and Night On Earth was a cracking mid set anthem. Some lucky girl got dragged up to sing on Wish Me Well (we’d met her in the pub earlier and it was her first Souls show). She did a great job, but for the remainder of the set, all you could hear was her screaming hysterically. I guess you couldn’t blame her! Added bonus was the attendance of my mate Jackie, one of my gig going buddies, and a fellow Souls fan who’d done some other multi date trips with me a few years ago. She was gonna be joining me for the Vienna dates, so i was pleased she got a taste of the show in London before we headed out the following week.

Highlights: Bullying The Jukebox, Fight To Live, Kid, Hopeless Romantic

Night #3 – How I Spent My Summer Vacation and Anchors Aweigh
Off to Vienna! After a relatively easy flight and a straightforward negotiation of Viennas subway system (easiest train system ever!), we’d checked into the hotel and were ready for beers – food – gig (in that order). After we had a massive beer in some nice little Vienna beer hall, it was off to The Arena – a place that surprised and impressed us from the off. Seems the Vienna Arena was some kind of squat – its more like a compound that contains 3 venues, an outside pub, an outside stage and accommodation for the staff/bands. It was an incredible place. So the Rocky music kicks in and the next thing, i realise the ring girl for Vienna is the legendary Lamar Vannoy, an old Souls cohort from their early days. It was cool to see him pop up after all these gigs, even though he looked a little uncomfortable onstage (or maybe he was just stoned?). The band then arrive, set off with That Song, and its like its 2001 all over again. Me and Jackie are down the front, shouting the words to every song, while the politest mosh pit kicks off behind us. They play some songs i’d totally forgotten about, and play some songs they NEVER play. The set was amazing, and its obvious to see why this night was the most popular back in London (even though they have just a good other records).

Highlights: Streetlight Serenade, The Something Special, an epic Gone

Anchors Aweigh blasts along next. Its not one of my favourite albums, but am enjoying it all the same, especially with Jackie shouting in my face. Makes the whole thing more interactive. The sets a good one, but unfortunately they don't do The Day I Turned My Back On You, which is my fave song off the album. I've never heard them play this live.

Highlights: a very kicking, full band version of Nightrain, I Get Lost, Kids N Heroes

The show ended and me and Jackie headed out into the courtyard. Theres a film being shown on the main outside stage about a band called The Gits, so we watch that for a bit while we finish our beers. Then we bump into Pete, who tells us to head over to the outside bar as everyone will be hanging out after the show.
I expected a round of quick and polite “hellos” with everyone (even though i’ve had some mad nights with the band in the past), but this didn’t happen. Within the hour we were sitting at the Souls table, chewing the fat and downing the beers with Pete, Bryan, Lamar, Brian Downey (another old school Souls cohort), DJ the roadie, and Michael (McDermott, drummer). A fun night was had by all, and by the time me and Jackie had staggered off (at about 2am), she’d been signed up to do ring girl duties for the following night, and i’d been roped in to do ranting/shouting on “The Mental Bits” from the last album. Lamar seemed pleased to NOT have to do the ring girl thing the following night – he admitted to us that it meant he got to watch the show instead of being involved in it. Bryan had also said he’d sort us backstage passes and to come back early tomorrow so we could all hang out. This was a surprise to us, and due to
the amount of booze and weed consumed by various people, was something we weren’t sure was gonna happen. Not that we minded. Me and Jackie were happy to be at the shows, and we’d just had a great night with the band - we aren't the kind of people you'd class as "liggers", and hanging out backstage and stalking band members isn't something we do. Surely things can’t get any better?

Night #4 – The Gold Record and Ghosts On The Boardwalk
Hangovers sorted, me and Jack headed out for a day of sightseeing, to see as much of Vienna as we could in one afternoon. We saw a palace gardens, some mad shops at the Museum Quarter, and lots of tube trains. Then we decided we should prob get to the gig, a little earlier than we did the night before. Surprise of the day was the Bryan HAD facebooked me, and said to get our passes from the door. We were very excited! We turned up and immediately bumped into Lamar and Downey from the previous night. Had a chat about our respective sightseeing, then the guys told us we should find the band, as they were looking for us. Yeah right, we thought. We picked up our passes with no issues and headed into the venue, grabbed a beer and then wondered what was best to do. I saw Kate wander off in the direction of the coaches so i suggested to Jack that we go backstage quickly to see whats what and show our faces, and then get out of the way of the band and leave them to it.
This didn’t happen. We got backstage and met up with Bryan and Pete. Immediately, Jackie was reminded she WAS doing ring girl for the night, and i WAS doing the mental bits on The Mental Bits. Apparently everyone was into the idea. This was a shock and both of us immediately felt sick AND nervous.

We're offered food and beer, and even though we try to leave the band to it, they won’t let us leave.

Its quite bizarre watching the band get ready, stretching and doing pre gig excercises while chatting away. We were definitely seeing something people don’t normally see. Then its showtime and we are dragged to the side of the stage. WTF???
Me and Jackie are called over with the rest of the band, Lamar, and Lukas, the other “guest” of the night (sax on The Pizza Song) and his girlfriend, into the band pre-gig huddle. MADNESS!!! I then run down the front of the gig with my camera to watch Jackie do ring girl, which she pulls off with the biggest grin i've ever seen. Shes a natural, haha!
Once The Gold Song kicks off, Jacks back down the front with me, and once again, we’re shouting our heads off for the entire show. The Gold Record is my favourite Souls album, and it was so great to see them play the whole thing live, even though some of these songs are mainstays of the regular Souls set. We nearly lose our shit when they play the incredibly upbeat Better Things (a Kinks cover) – it
was what we needed after all the shit going down in the UK at the start of the week. This is definitely up there as one of the sets of the 4 nights.
Highlights: the band huddle, Jackie the ring girl, So Jersey, Better Things, For All The Unheard.

After the show, we run backstage and hang back, letting the band do their thing. Jackie persuades Lamar that he should join her for ring girl on the last set, and DJ explains the deal with The Mental Bits – what mike i’ll be using and when to go on stage. Before the next set kicks off, Bryan and Pete suggest we watch the show from the side of the stage. This was an amazing treat, and something that prob won’t be repeated.
And as much as i wanted to watch Ghosts On The Boardwalk from the audience, it was a cool way to end the Souls final set. And it also sounded better onstage, randomly enough.

Jackie and Lamar do their thing, and get a massive cheer, then the guys go out and tear Vienna a new one.
These are the newest songs they’ve got and they don’t hold back. They refrain from doing the slow songs off the album (which is a shame as Like The Sun is one of my faves) and hammer along playing the rest of the album.
I’ve heard people in London left before this set – those people are MUGS as far as I’m concerned, as they totally nailed this set. Some of the tracks on the last album are among their best, esp tracks like Gasoline and Dubs Says True.

Track 7 pitches up and its time for me for me to do my bit. I saunter onto the stage behind Pete, and start my ranting. Greg looks round and laughs as i
shout my best “Play THE BLOODY SONG”, totally in the right place and in time. Yeah, i play in a band too, i know what i’m doing. The song kicks off, and i feel less self conscious as things go on. People seem to be enjoying it. Pete and Bryan keep laughing everytime i shout something. The “Scenery” line gets a cheer. People are taking photos. Then its over and i saunter off, while Bryan shouts a massive “thank you”. That was totally bizarre, and an honour to be onstage with my favourite band.

This is the first show that the band do an encore – and its a cracker. I feel sorry for anyone that missed this. They do Punks in Vegas, No Security and Bryans Lament from the split EP. They do Hybrid Moments by the Misfits. And end with a massive version of Hot Water Musics Wayfarer, where everyone in the building joined in with the woahs in the chorus. It was deafening. Gig ends, and the first person to collar me before they’ve even hit backstage is Greg, who thanks me for doing my stuff. Its the most Gregs ever said to me at this point!
Highlights: The whole encore, Dubs Says True, Gasoline, Badass, Ghosts On The Boardwalk, being onstage with my fave band.

Things just get more insane though. Me and Jackie are stunned at this point and head off to the outside bar for a quiet drink. Next thing, Lamar has dragged us off to the afterparty in the smaller venue, where all the band are hanging out chatting to the fans. Lamar ends up chatting with me and Jackie, as he “speaks to those assholes
(the band/crew/etc) all the time”, then starts to DJ. His ipod only has hardcore Dancehall Reggae on it, which he plays for the entire night. An impromptu dance party kicks off, punks and band alike zumba-ing along with each other. Me and Jackie finally catch a break and get to chat to Greg and his wife Shanti, who turn out to be the nicest people ever. It was amazing finally getting to speak to Greg properly – and i think this was mainly thanks to his wife!

Everything gets vague the more alcohol gets drunk. Jackie is dancing with Lamar and Michael. I can’t believe my eyes, its hysterical. Everyones having such a brilliant time. By the time we leave, the crowds thinned out. We say goodbye to those we can find, then catch up with Bryan sitting quietly outside the small bar. He’s chucking around sentances with words like “friends” and “family” and “always welcome in my house” in them, and i can’t believe what i’m hearing.
When we say goodbye, it appears i’ve managed to organise a trip to New Jersey for a tattooing from the bassist. Again – utter madness.
Me and Jackie get back to the hotel, jump around excitedly for a couple of minutes, then eventually pass out around 3am. Next day is just a total daze with what we did the night before – a daze that’s still going on nearly a week later.

Lamar said to me that life can be pretty amazing sometimes. This weekend was one of those weekends. We never expected anything like these last two days to happen (we just expected two gigs and a quick chat with the band, in a nice city), and it’ll be something i won’t forget in a hurry.

What a start to my mega holiday....

Saturday, 6 August 2011


Woohoo! I can get wi-fi in the hotel in Amsterdam! But more about that another time. Last week saw The Dead Beat undertake our first ever mini-tour. Unfortunately, it was also our last ever dates, as we decided to call it a day – well, the others did. I must admit I was a bit reluctant to put a full stop on it, and am gutted that its over and done with. But situations have changed with everyone in the band and it seems like the best thing to do at the time.

Night #1, we all headed to Brighton to play at the Green Door Store with 1994! And Algernon Cadwallader (2 bands from the states). After stuffing ourselves with food at The Prince Albert across the road, there was a bit of faffing where we had to acquire a marshall cab from one of our local buddies, and then was time to soundcheck. The GDS is a mostly great little venue under brighton train station. Looks and sizewise, its great, but unfortunately the sound isn’t the best as it gets lost in the cavern like surroundings and makes it difficult to hear whats going on. It was cool though, and the sound issue only made us fuck up one song.

We played to a relatively decent sized crowd (for us), pulled out all the stops and played through the sound issues. I think we were pretty happy with the way it went. Once we’d packed up, we dragged the gear back to my residence in brighton just down the road, then headed back to the venue to hang out with our mates. Our old drummer adam had popped down to see us and was great to catch up with him after all this time, esp as I won’t be seeing him for the next 6 months due to my travels.

After the gig, we stayed for the free club night – an 80s Soft Rock evening where the DJs played everything from Boston, Bad Company to Joan Jett and the Sweet. It was bizarre to say the least, but being different from the norm, we all had a good time jumping around and generally being ridiculous. Myself, Tonio, Dan and Vix then headed back to where I was staying and carried on partying till 3am, knocking back the Anchor Steams and eating toast. Bad mistake as we had to be up early the next day for our trip to Leeds.

Day #2 was a nightmare to start with. With everyone hungover and tired, we dragged the gear up the hill to the car at 8.30am, then went off to reload the bigger car and pick up our drummer Dave. Set off from Brighton at 11am (expecting to get to Leeds around 4ish) – and hit heavy traffic on the m25 an hour later. This continued for the entire journey – 3 hours to Northampton, then stuck again at Nottingham and Derby. Stopping for a break halfway, we all had a massive and dirty KFC each, and eventually arrived at Leeds at 6pm.

The gig was being promoted by our friend Toby who works his DIY promo/fanzine under the “New Wave Of Cut And Paste” banner. He moved to Leeds last year and we hadn’t seen him for a while so was great to catch up before the show. I also had two of my best friends from Sheffield pop down to see us, so we pitched up in a groovy little bar/cafĂ© for some pizzas, anchor steam and a chinwag.

The gig was at Santiagos, a divey little venue in what appeared to be a disused shopping centre! It was small and loud, and exactly the kind of place I like to play. Oh, and the beer was cheap too. I think we played well tonight, playing harder than we did the night before, with less of a cock up in “More Snakes”. However, Dan was a moany git throughout the show, which prompted some nice fella in the audience to remark “I’ve paid £4 for this, stop moaning!”. He was right, as it did sound a little bit like we really didn’t wanna be there, haha. Bit of a no-no in my book.

Toby had put on a wicked line up too, and we played with a couple of ace bands – Matadors, who were a rockin Hot Snakes type band who included members of Dead Reckoning and Buzzkill, and Blacklisters (who were Leeds answer to The Jesus Lizard!). Both bands were awesome, and it was a great change for all of us to play with some bands we really got into and were trying to do summat different, rather than some of the identikit Fest-wannabe bands we’ve seen in the past.

It was Tonios night to drive, so Dave got on one and was caning the jagerbombs with Dan, while I dozed off in the corner by the merch desk. I’d not been sleeping too well, and after the late night and hellish car journey, I was done for the night! Thankfully, got a great nights kip at Tobys awesome house! Thanks for letting us stay dude!

Day #3 was another early start to Kingston to try and catch Slow Science (the opening band at the lunchtime half of the two-part punk show we were opening in the evening). 8.30 we were on the road, and this time had a straightforward drive back to London. 5 hours, BAM! That’s more like it.

We arrived at The Fighting Cocks as the doors were about to open, so just in time to see Slow Science tear the venue a new one. I mention these guys a lot in my blog, and in my opinion, not only are they one of the best new bands I’ve seen in a while, they are definitely one of the best bands on the scene at the moment. They are an amazing live band, and are brilliant to watch as you don’t know which band member to watch first. They write such incredible songs, and the musicianship on show is insane. I really hope something happens with these guys, as they really are something quite special.

After Slow Science, we watched Bristol based Caves (Woah-Oh!), then left the gig to go and grab some food before the evening session. Thanks to Banquet Records, we’d managed to jump onto a show they were promoting that evening, when we got shafted by a promoter in Nottingham and the original gig was pulled – actually, I don’t think it was ever arranged, but whatever. Banquet really came through for us, and we really appreciated it. When we arrived at The Peel for soundcheck, we found that the headliners had already set up and soundchecked, so we finally got a chance to really get the sound right onstage for us, as we rarely have the luxury of taking our time when it comes to checking our sound.

We knew the Lemuria/Cheap Girls show we were playing was gonna be a busy one, but when doors opened and we got onstage, I was a bit gobsmacked. Looking at the crowd, it was as though the whole of Kingston had come out to see us – faces from every show and every band and every friend. I also spotted our original singer Phil, who had turned up relatively unannounced to watch us for the first time. Although we had one more gig to do on the Sunday, we really felt that this and the brighton show were are last official shows, as they were the hometown ones. We pulled out all the stops again and played as hard as we could – and made no cock ups this time. It was definitely one of the best shows we’ve played, and when it was over, we kinda felt that we probably couldn’t have done any better. It was a good way to end the band.

After the gig, there was a punk rock club night arranged by Banquet at the big Hippodrome club in Kingston. Our mate Tim decided he was going, so dragged me, Dan and Dave along for the ride. We got in for free, negotiated the thuggish brain dead illiterate bouncers (who seemed to think packaged rennies and ibuprofen were class A drugs), and headed up to the side bar where the club was. Once we realised the beers were nearly a fiver for a bottle of becks, we knew we wouldn’t be staying. After a brief jump around to Teenage Bottlerocket and Off With Their Heads, we all headed back to Tims for a few more beers. Me and Dave crashed out and left Dan to it, but Dave snored like a drill all night, so kept me awake. The fucker.

Day #4 was a later start, as we only had to be in Basingstoke. After the awesomeness of the previous night, we were not exactly filled with enthusiasm for playing a final gig where we knew no one would know who we were or would give a shit that it was our last show. But we knew we had to do it, so off we went.

When we arrived at the venue there was no one there – just the first band Just Add Monsters soundchecking. And no bass cab or amp in the backline, which would cause us problems. As it turns out, the promoter had all the bass cab backline pulled by the bands – no one was bringing any with them. But rather than phone round to see who could bring one (like US, as we could have bought our own!) he’d just left it and hoped someone would bring one.

So after Just Add Monsters played to us, then the following metal band played to no one, it was our go. We weren’t too happy about the bass going through the PA, as Tonio was likely to blow the thing up – being a bass driven band, you want the bass to sound right. Luckily the band after us had arrived and had bought a massive Trace Elliott cab with them, and they were cool enough to let us use it. Unluckily for us, once I plugged in I was getting electric shocks from my microphone. Brilliant.

By the time we played Dan was in a foul mood, so we cut the set slightly short and powered through it. We’d managed to be the first band to actually pull a crowd of sorts, so at least we weren’t playing to no one like the others had. And although I really hadn’t wanted to play, we still pulled out all the stops for our final show. In my mind, it was the last chance I’d get to play with the band again, so I was gonna make the most of it. I’ve always loved playing music and making a racket, so rather than worry about the small crowd and bad organisation, I was gonna play this final show for ME.

Once completed, we packed up and got the hell out of there. Back to brighton, switch cars and say goodbye to everyone, in Daves case for a while as I wouldn’t see him before I go off travelling.

So that was our one and only tour. We had a brilliant time, and was just cool to finally get the band together for a few days to hang out and have fun. I’ll really miss playing with these guys. This band has been a real hard slog, whether it be trying to get gigs (and never being available for them) to trying to make an effort to write music that’s a little different from the norm (however rudimentary we sometimes sounded!). Big thanks all round to everyone that’s been involved with us in someway in the past – from the friends that continually came to see us and showed support, to the promoters that still asked us to play, even when we weren’t always available for shows. To the bands that we played with that lent us gear and who were generally cool people to hang around with. I would list you all but this blog has rambled on long enough. You know who you are.

And to Dan, Tonio and Dave – there wouldn’t have been a band without you. It was brilliant to finally be in a band with Tonio after 20 years of hassling him about it, and in Dans case to have someone that tirelessly campaigned to get the band to actually do something. Without him, we wouldn’t have done the gigs we managed to do, got loads of artwork, and also have someone within the camp that put on great gigs for us to play when we couldn’t get shows – and in doing so, put on great shows for the other bands we always played with. I look forward to attending more of Dans gigs in the future as a punter – and maybe in another band at some point.

that’s me done for a bit - over and out!