With no car of my own on the road, the only way I was going get all of my equipment down to Oxfordshire was to hire one. Thankfully, the Park Records office took care of this. Right on the dot of 9 a.m. this morning the door bell rang, and their stood Mister Hire-Car Man himself. He drove me to the depot, filled in all the paperwork, and showed me the ins and outs of the new Vauxhall Astra I’d be driving.
I’d been preparing myself and my luggage for quite some time leading up to this day. As from today I won’t be home for, well to be precise - two days short of two months, and between now and then there’s America, Australia and New Zealand. The day I arrive home is Sunday November 8th; on my return I’ll maybe get one, or if Im lucky, two days at home before heading back to Oxford once again in preparation for the winter tour.
So with all this time away, and the logistics of that to consider, what I take with me today - guitars, amps, cables, clothes, etc, has to be carefully thought through. Due to baggage restrictions, what’s going to the States with me on Friday is a scaled down version of what I’d want to take. Then I have to think about whether, with my car problems, I’ll need to take whatever equipment I’m going to use in November on the UK winter tour to Oxford now.
I’m not sure if it’s just me, but I find packing before I go away stressful at the best of times.
It was about 2:30 p.m. by the time I arrived at the Warehouse. The following three hours were spent brushing up on what we played during the Spring dates. Bass player Pete Zorn is back with us for the international gigs; Rick should be back in action on the winter tour.
Thursday 17th September. The Village Hall, Nettlebed, Oxforshire.
The usual warm-up gig. Well it is, this where we always seem to play after the two or three days of rehearsals that precede our tours. It’s certainly one of the larger folk clubs, and can’t recall it being any less than totally sold out whenever the band has played here.
The most unique feature of the venue is the ceiling above the stage; if you’re looking for a good onstage sound, then forget it. It has a concave recess to it that has the effect of eliminating any kind of definition between one instrument and the next - and between one voice and the next.
There’s some law of physics going on here, maybe along the same lines of the famous Whispering Gallery at St Paul’s Cathedral; it’s something I experienced before we even started the sound-check; I was standing stage left when I heard someone speaking, and it was as though they were literally standing right behind me talking into my ear. When I turned around I saw they were in fact positioned on the far side of the stage.
But when the band starts playing, all that pronounced clarity turns into a, well lets say a ‘soup’ of sound, making it impossible much of the time to pick out its individual elements. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve listened to various band members here complaining bitterly that they couldn’t hear their instrument or / and their voice. And of course they’re right - neither could I.
As far as I’m concerned all you can do, to save oneself from any grief, is to trust that out-front in the house it probably sounds just fine; you see, I’ve never witnessed an unhappy audience at Nettlebed, which says it all really.
Friday 18th September. Travel day. London - Boston.
Last nights accommodation was close to Heathrow airport. We made an early start this morning, reaching the airport not much later than 9 a.m.. I got to witness Terminal 5 for the first time - now with all its famous teething problems evidently well and truly in the past.
The flight, British Airways flight BA 213 took off a little later than its scheduled 11:25 time, but once in the air the journey was smooth going. We landed at Boston Logan International, Terminal 3 some seven hours later.
Kari is the tour manager here in the States - she met us at the airport, and we went about loading our considerable quantity of luggage and musical equipment into what appeared from the outside to be a very sizeable Ford touring bus; in fact, to fit everything into the bus, and then to have any room left for humans, involved not an inconsiderable degree of creativity and strategic thought.
This was a job for a drummer, our drummer - Liam, a man who, luckily, just can’t help but to take control in such situations. It seems to be a double sided scenario; a compulsion to both take control, and then to complain about how difficult it is. I have to admit though, it was a heavy job, lifting those cases in and out of what was a fifteen person vehicle, but with seats positioned in such a way that there wasn’t actually any official space for luggage, so all the cases had to be lifted and placed over, onto, and in between the seats - a process to be repeated a multitude of times during the following days.
We checked into the Somerville Holiday Inn, and that evening went out for Mexican food - something I’ve missed terribly since my days in California. I can hardly describe the pleasure; nachos, quesadillas, chili relleno and margaritas - fantastic.
Pete Zorn & Liam doing the organising.
Maddy filming me, filming her.
Saturday 19th September. Somerville Theatre, Somerville, Massachusetts.
Got the train to downtown Boston this afternoon; it wasn’t easy. On arriving at the closest station - Sullivan Square - I was faced with a number of ticket machines; I had no idea where exactly I was heading, and no idea how the machines worked. Oddly, there were no instructions as to how to how the machines worked, and more oddly, no maps of the train system at the station entrance. And there was one more blindingly missing crucial feature - someone who might be able to help me.
I was stood there with a ten dollar bill in my hand; looking at the machine; looking across towards the platforms; watching others confidently inserting money, hitting buttons, taking tickets and picking up change, and moving smoothly through the automated barriers - not one of them noticing my inanimate behaviour. What I had to do, I decided, was to, more-or-less, jump in front of one of these single-minded commuters as they are in full flow, and hope they take pity.
“I’d like to go to downtown Boston”, I asked a young woman. “Could you tell me which station I should get a ticket to?”. “Well, when I lived here”, she replied, “I’d go to . . .”, then she reeled off one station name after another. Eventually, it was decided I would go to Park Street. Great. I said thank you very much, and she walked away through the barrier and towards the trains.
So then I turned to the ticket machine once again - to buy my ticket to Park Street; shit, I’d forgotten to ask about the ticket machine!
The next victim was a young black guy, and very helpful. He took the money out of my hand, and a second or two later issued me with a ticket, my change, and the instruction to get a train on the Orange Line going ‘that’–pointing to the right–‘way’.
I enjoyed walking round Boston; I like it here. First thing I did was find a T-Mobile shop, and buy a sim card.
It’s important if you bring your phone to the US that: 1. Your phone is either a Tri-band or Quad-band phone (UK phones are largely Dual-band, and won’t work here); 2. That one buys an American sim card for the phone - so as to avoid paying hideous international roaming charges; 3. In order to use a different network, your phone will need to be unlocked.
So I got the card into my mobile, and sent a text with my new number to Carol. We have this deal at home in the UK where you can register the house phone with a special website - there are a few of them - the one we use is called 18185.co.uk. Once registered, what you do is dial 18185 before the number you’re calling; this cuts the cost of your calls dramatically. For Carol to phone me here in the States, on my mobile, the cost is 1p a minute.
I remember a time when it was more like £1.00 a minute.
It was time for a coffee now. I noticed in the bookstore Borders there was a coffee shop; it’s usually Starbucks at any Borders I’ve seen in the UK, here it’s Seattle’s Best Coffee; ‘it must be good then’. Ordered a large espresso machiato, drank it and worried about the rest of Seattle’s coffee.
Tonight’s show. The audience was amazing; so vocal; so expressive. They just don’t hold back here.