Wednesday, 7 October 2009

The Best Laid Plans

Sunday 20th September. BB King's, Times Square, New York.
An early start. Kari said it was about three and a half hours from Boston to New York, so we got on the road at nine.
The idea was to arrive at 1 p.m. and then have a couple of hours acting as tourists; but as the saying goes, "The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry". Once in New York, it took almost as long to get to the venue in Times Square as it had taken to reach the city it self from Boston. It was madness. I did get to spend almost an hour walking around, taking pictures and video of Times Square when the rest of the band were eating; it was the only chance I was going to get. And it was worth it. I’ve never witnessed anything like it - this shameless and massive exhibition of man’s desire for gain and pleasure.

The ‘take’ of one or two band members on the place was interesting when I talked about it later.

One said it was all about greed; I guess it is really, but in my view, greed is something that not only takes many different forms, but can also be interpreted differently. I couldn’t help feeling that this glowing show of capitalism was, more than anything, a testimony to the human spirit, not dissimilar to the way I feel when viewing, lets say, a cathedral or the stunning Renaissance architecture of Florence; it’s less about the actual form in front of me, and more about the wonderment of what drives man to such lengths.
Whether it be money or God, the unrelenting driving force of ‘belief’ itself is there for all behold.

There’s an almost industrial, conveyor belt-like approach to the way BB King’s is run; in the afternoon they staged a gospel production which meant we couldn’t load in and get the equipment onstage until the stage area was completely clear - with every artist and audience member all having left the venue. Yet, despite how it might appear a somewhat cold and impersonal way to run a music club, the staff at BBs were incredibly friendly and helpful. It was the only way a place like this could survive commercially, one of the staff explained.

And when it came to our show, we performed to an audience of around 380; I was told on very good authority it was an excellent crowd for the venue. Monday 21st September. Sellersville Theatre, Sellersville, Pennsylvania.

Picture book American neighbourhoods; this is the only way to describe the communities we passed through on our way to Sellersville. And probably the same should be said of Sellersville itself - a lovely town in which, yet again, we were made to feel so welcome. The theatre was intimate - probably about a 350 / 400 capacity, and it sat a few yards away from a restaurant, run, and possibly owned, I think by the same people.

I have the feeling that as far as entertainment is concerned, there isn’t a great deal going on in these parts, so the theatre looks like a good local focus for music and the arts, and a popular one too. After the sound check we were fed at the restaurant; the food and the choice of beers were both superb, and the too often committed sin of eating before a show was yet again a temptation unable to be declined on my part.

Richard Burgess, Ken and Pete Zorn.

Tuesday 22nd September. Radio - Live session at Sirius XM, Sirius DC.

Another early start, this time so we could get to Sirius DC by 11 a.m. for a show scheduled to be broadcast at 1 p.m. on which we perform a one hour live set. The station blew me away, with it’s ultra modern, state of the art studios.
I was shocked and surprised to discover just how well known some of my past work was with a number of the presenters and production staff here; it seems that the Albion band has some fans in these parts.

A real highlight of the day for me was meeting up with Richard Burgess. Richard was the drummer with Easy Street, the band that, along with Pete Marsh, I had back in the 70s.
Richard had a fair amount of success around that time also with his own band Landscape, having top ten hits with Einstein-A-Go-Go, and Norman Bates. He also made quite a name for himself as a producer, working with a number of successful bands during that so-called ‘romantic’ period of popular music back in the 80s, including Spandau Ballet.

Richard is now the Director of Marketing and Sales for Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, and Smithsonian Global Sound in Washington DC

Photo: Daniel Coston

Concert: The Birchmere, Alexandria, Virginia.

We didn’t even have time to check into the hotel before the gig, and if it wasn’t for the shower I took at the venue after the sound check I might have gone crazy.
The word ‘long’ would not even come close to describing how today - Tuesday the 22nd of September - felt, and ‘tired’ would not be an adequate way of conveying the condition of each band member by the end of tonight’s show.
‘Long’ it may have been, but more than anything else I would have to describe it as deeply rewarding.

Wednesday 23rd September. The Ark, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Flight SWA777 took us from Baltimore-Washington airport to Detroit, taking off just after 11 a.m. and arriving at Detroit around 12:30 p.m.

Met with my good friend Gillian from Colorado. Gillian and I met back in nineteen eighty-something when we both worked for Rainbow Kitchen, a modest business in West Hollywood which every morning would supply sandwiches to the likes of us, and other young hopefuls trying to break into the music and film worlds, and we’d then go out selling them office to office around Los Angeles.
I was lousy at this, and found it all quite soul destroying. But, as they say, it’s all part of the great tapestry of life - and along with a considerable number of other very questionable scenarios, I do value what it has added to my own tapestry; I’m just bloody glad it’s over.

Great to see Gillian though.

The Ark is an intimate venue, possibly slightly too intimate for a folk / rock band like Steeleye. I only say this because of the close proximity of the people at the front by the stage.
The problem with this is that, even though to be seated at the front may seem like a choice position to be, there’s always the potential to hear too much of what’s coming directly off the stage, and not enough of that which is actually designed for the audience to hear, i.e. that which comes through the PA system. Consequently, they’ll hear too much drum kit, or electric guitar, for example; some will even be able to hear what’s coming through our stage monitors.
In this kind of room it’s often those people further away that are the ones with the smiles on their faces.
Saying that though, the place itself was fantastic. Cara Dillon and Sam Lakeman opened the evening, and they blew me away.

Thursday 24th September. Travel day.
Travelled the 250 miles from Ann Arbor to Chicago by road.

Checked in to the stylish Majestic Hotel on West Brompton - stylish maybe, but the rooms were just too hot, and the AC system was too noisy, so it was best to just run the fans on the ceilings. I can’t imagine what it like in mid-summer.

Ate out tonight at the superb Angelina Ristorante on North Broadway; very highly recommended.

Friday 25th September. The Old Town School, Chicago.
The Old Town School is a whole building, very community based, that is dedicated to one form of musical activity or another; there’s a lot here that pertains to the history and traditions of folk music. There’s all sorts going on here, including music tuition, and it even has its own music shop.

The concert went well. Maria Dunn from Canada opened the show for us.

During the day I found a music shop on N. Lincoln Avenue called the Chicago Music Exchange , actually it would be more accurately described purely as a guitar shop. The range of electric and acoustic guitars was staggering. I needed to buy a couple of jack to jack cables; one that I’d brought with me had given up the ghost, and so I’d been using one of Pete’s (Knight) for the last couple of shows.
If you like guitar shops, then this is for you. I asked where they kept all the cases, and was told that there’s an area beneath the shop - equally as large, and believe me, it’s large - where all the cases are stored.

Saturday 26th September. Travel day.
Quantas Airlines - Flight QF3106
Chicago to San Francisco
Dep: 17.10
Arr: 19:45
Flying time: 4:35 mins.

Said our the first round of good-byes at the hotel before setting out to O’Hare airport for the short first leg of our journey to Australia. The final good-byes and thank yous were as we parted company with she who had put the tour together, had shown considerable organisational skills, and had put up with the six of us (Brian included) for the last week - Kari. I had been impressed with her whole approach and demeanour. And she’s just a good person to be around.

On arrival at San Francisco decided to have a cappuccino; the choices of coffee outlets were limited, and I ended up in a bookstore that also appeared to have a little cafeteria section. A small Mexican looking lady then proceeded to create the worst cappuccino known to man. Be warned.

Quantas Airlines - Flight QF74 San Francisco to Sydney
Dep: 22:40
Arr: 06:20 Monday 28th September.
Flying time: 13:45 minutes

The longest continuous flight I’ve ever been on. Couldn’t get into the films, but did watch a few documentaries, one being about the Muhammad Ali, Joe Frasier - Thrilla in Manilla fight, and all that led up to it. I suppose on one hand it did disturb the hell out of me - but what a fantastic piece of drama.

Arriving at Sydney I got out my very infrequently used New Zealand passport, and glided through immigration. Next I helped gather the considerable amount of luggage and musical equipment we are carrying, then the final step was to be screened for whether I was carrying food, vegetables, plants, etc. For some reason they seem extremely rigourous down here about such things.
Now our bags were on a number of different trolleys, with the luggage on each one in no way corresponding with the person pushing it. On top of this, everyone had gone through this final checking process at slightly different times, and through different channels.
So, my turn arrived. The bags were placed on the conveyor belt. “Have you got any golf shoes in your luggage?”, the official asked. I said, “yes”, then I realised that someone else had already gone through with my case (I guess they are concerned about what foreign vegetation you might bring stuck to the bottom of your golf shoes).
“Can I see them?”, he asked. “Well, I don’t actually have them with me, in fact I don’t have my suitcase here”, I answered. I went onto explain that the band were randomly carrying each other’s luggage. “Where’s your case then?”. “Out there somewhere”, I said, “shall I go and find it?”.

He looked at me for a moment. “What’s your handicap?”, he asked. “Fourteen”, I replied. “OK, go on then”. . . “and enjoy your golf”, he said, and waved me through.

Once outside the airport, the band was met by Richard James, the tour promoter and manager here. We took a large taxi to Darling Harbour, and checked into the Southern Cross Suites.

1 comment:

  1. I like to say thank you for 1. the bigger letters in your blogg and 2. for letting us "home-stayed" persons participate in your tour!