Wednesday, 11 July 2007

TOO LATE TO STOP (June - July 2007 - Ireland / Germany / Canada / USA)

Sat 9 June Tramore....Another hot hot day. Following a three hour drive we rolled into the sea-side town of Tramore in the sunny south east of Ireland. With an aching back and shoulders, I felt as if I had been run over by a bus, but following self medication I perked up and we soundchecked and hung out. That's what bands do a lot....hang out. Then we played the gig and it was good fun and Chris and Les enjoyed themselves, and so did I and by coincidence, so did the audience. The rather baleful waning moon hung low in the sky as we made our way back to Dublin. Blood red, it seemed to cast an ominous spell. The thick fog added to the atmosphere. Still, we arrived back home in one piece and I fell into bed at 5am and slept well.

Wed 13 June Dublin....A few hours are spent making final arrangements for our trek to Germany and then on to the States and Canada. Then at 6pm it's rehearsal. We worked mostly on a new song which will be called 'Money' for the time being. We also messed about with 'Nine Bridges From Town.' Les split, Chris and I had a few beers and with Åsa, we went down to our local for one, then back home for our little disco. This went on a little late, so we only managed to get about two hours in bed, and nearly missed the flight.

Thurs 14 June Berlin....The taxi in from Schoenefeld airport took ages. The driver eventually found the Sunflower on Helsingforser Strasse in Friedrichshain which will serve as our Berlin base. Had a beer to unwind and went on the internet to check out car rental. Eventually get that sorted, so out into the hot hot sun we go. Ate some pasta and on we went. It ended up being a longer than anticipated walk to White Trash where we play a gig next Monday.

Chris wanted to check out the Tattoo parlour which is part of the whole White Trash emporium. As he looked at designs and chatted to the artists I nodded off for a while in the waiting area. We had a few beers at the bar next door and later cruised down Oranienburgerstrasse. After sampling Berliner beer and tequila in a few hostelries we were feeling mighty fine and the crack was good. The final port of call was a wonderful Indian restaurant where we had a meal, and I drank a bottle of wine, while Chris stuck to the beer. A little bleary and a little the worse for ware, we took a taxi back to the Sunflower.

Fri 15 June Greiz.....It took two hours for us to find the car rental place, so we were later hitting the road than planned. Using the satellite navigation system, we left Berlin behind and hit the Autobahn, cruising at 120mph while big black mercs shot passed us at incredible speeds. At one point we ran out of road and this played havoc with the navigation system. My phone died yesterday, so I had to keep borrowing Chris's mobile to call ahead to the organizers of tonight's festival and to talk to Les who was on board a train crossing the country at high speed. Unfortunately Les missed his connection in Gera and would be forty minutes late for soundcheck. No panic.On arriving in Greiz we met up with Evi who runs the Greizer Schlossfolk Festival. Greiz is in the province of Thuringia, a cool town with a population of 23,000. During the World War II it didn't suffer much damage, although 3 of the 5 bridges in town were destroyed. The gig is in the courtyard of the Unteres Schloßin, one of the two castles in the town. I had a quick sandwich and checked out the Marshall Valvestate Amp they've hired for me and its great, as is the kit for Mr Teusner. Mr Leslie Keye arrives and we soundcheck.

As I stand on a balcony, dark clouds roll in from the other side of the White Elster River bringing thunder and lightning. Within ten minutes we're caught in the middle of a mad storm. Everything is put on hold. An hour or so later the show gets on the road and we do our set. The PA and sound is great and we have a good time. As soon as The Transylvanians hit the stage, the rain starts up again, still the audience hangs in there and the atmosphere is good.Taxi out to Moscowitch in the rain to our countryside guest house. the Transylvanians aren't up for a party so we three racketeers do our own thing, with Les playing a selection of tracks from his lap top, including Althea and Donna and LKJ.

Sat 16 June Wurzen......After a breakfast of bread with apricot jam and a cup of tea, I went back to bed to read another chapter from Gabriel Garcia Marquez's 'One Hundred Days Of Solitude.' Soon, we were back in Greiz to load up, say our 'goodbyes' grab a fruit juice from one of the festival stalls and hit the road, biding adieu to Thuringia. After long consultation with the instruction booklet, Les figured out how to get the satellite navigation system to speak to us in English as opposed to yesterdays German. So we got a very posh lady giving us instructions in the Queens English. Very 1950's BBC in fact.

After a few wrong turns we rolled into Wurzen around 4pm, an hour ahead of schedule. Wurzen is in the Muldentalkreis district, in the State of Saxony and is now, and has long been a hotbed of Nazi activity. We crossed the bridge over the Mulde River and found the Netzwerk für Demokratische Kultur, tonight's venue. Soundcheck is long long long. Afterwards we eat, chat to Sebastian (our man in Wurzen) and I go for a solitary ramble. Up in the town square I found the strange looking statue of Joachim Ringelnatz, the famous poet (and painter) and the towns claim to fame. Thankfully I didn't find any of the local Nazi's. Another of the town's claim to fame is that Goethe travelled in 1768 from Leipzig to Dresden and back through Wurzen. The long wait for the ferry inspired a passage in his first edition of Faust.Back at the venue I nodded off for a while, which is the divine right of itinerant musicians worldwide, then arose from my slumber, grabbed a beer and hit the stage.

The gig was great and although I was nervous for the first few songs (something that rarely happens) I really enjoyed it. We hung out afterwards, sold CD's, signed CD's and had a few drinks. A bottle of champagne was opened to celebrate the boss lady's birthday and the conversation included Mannix Flynn, Dublin in the 1980's and of course music. When both Chris and Les began to tell me about how good Justin Timberface really is, I began to think that the evening had become a bit too surreal. Les DJ'ed until the early hours of the morning. I had nightmares about Justin Timberface dressed up as a gay Nazi.

Sun 17 June Leipzig.....A long time was spent driving around in circles in Leipzig with a very confused band listening to a very confused robot. Eventually we found the Kulturwirtschaft Waldfrieden, had dinner, hung around and a suitable backline and PA was located in a nearby subterranean rehearsal room. Dan arrived in from Essen and Sebastian arrived in from Wurzen with his girlfriend and we played to a small but appreciative crowd. The show opened up with a solo acoustic 30 minute set from Les. We played well and had a good time. The post gig sing song also came curtsey of Mr Keye. Sleep was non eventful, simply a period of darkness between two beers.

Mon 18 June Berlin....Dan drove me in to Berlin, while Chris piloted the rented wagon, I slept most of the way. At the Sunflower Les insisted I have a beer, then taxi to Mark Mulholland's place to pick up two amps and a kick drum, off then to soundcheck at White Trash Fast Food. Dinner was great and the staff cool. The gig was ok, nothing to write home about, the post gig drinking session was more fun than actually playing. Always a pleasure to see Mark. Last time we met was in New York in April, before that it was Dublin in February. We had one hour in bed before alarm bells drilled a hole through my heavy head and in a state of confusion I arrived into the airport and somehow or other managed to board the plane and stay awake long enough to help Les drain a half bottle of champagne and a couple of red wine. (Chris was asleep.) It's a tough old rock n roll world, but somebody's got to do it. See you out there........

Mon 25 June Dublin.....Played the Belvedere last Thursday to a mad crowd. Headcases everyone. A crazy Japanese lady danced up real close, I wasn't sure if she was going to kiss me or throw a punch. Her man tried to persuade her to sit down, but she went crazy. He was pointing at his watch saying, maybe we should go home now. She was completely out of it, but her reflexes were fast enough to grab the watch off the guys wrist and throw it across the room. It took the poor guy about twenty minutes to find it.A row broke out at the bar, no security to be seen. I was glad to get out of there. On Saturday I played over at the Cobblestone. It was Stuarts birthday bash, and I also did a DJ set, other friends of the birthday boy got up to do a few songs, as did the man himself. Ended up at a party near Leeson Park, where South American sailor boys wooed a few gullible Irish ladies.

Wed 27 June New York....I thought Sunday would be a good day to relax before going to New York and on to Canada, but no such luck. We'd been invited to a barbecue so along we went. Met some Cuban musicians on tour, hung around, got home at 3am, up at 5am and off to the airport. On arrival in New York via London Heathrow I had to clear customs, and it was a bit of a hassle. Travelling without a work permit, I suppose I looked a bit too much like a musician. Guitar, cable's, microphones in my bag alongside harmonicas. Then the customs official opened my shoulder bag he pulled out a copy of 'Silver & Dust'. "This guy looks familiar," he said. I told him I just made up a few to give away to friends and I stuck to my story that IM NOT a musician and eventually he waved me through. After all, I'm not really part of the Axis Of Evil !On arrival into the Lower East Side of Manhattan, I zipped down to Jacks place and we headed out straight away to an Indian restaurant on 1st Avenue for dinner. Had a great time, later watched a movie and on Tuesday records were bought, pool was played and life is good. Word came through on a gig in Leipzig. News from Canada too. Sleepless hours are spent reading Victor David Hansons 'Carnage and Culture.' Especially the parts about Cortes and the Aztecs.

Sat 30 June Toronto....Took the overnight 12 hour bus from NYC to Toronto on Thursday night. No problem with customs, but 12 hours is a long time to be on a bus. My old friend Robert O Neill picked me up at the station. His brother Brian is with him. He's over here on business. Last time we met was a few months ago in Rathmines, Dublin of all places, when I played a gig with the band. Off out to Robert place and he's in the process of building a garden shed. Im no good at that sort of thing, so I sit down and have a few beers and offer encouragement. The sun is riding high in the sky, its real warm. A trip to the liquor store is in order and after a while I get some much need sleep.The gig is down at Dora Keoghs, next door to Allen's where I played last October. Good to met gentleman John Maxwell again and of course Dora herself. The gig went fine and Andrea brought down a bunch of people and Kate came in too. Afterwards we sat up late chatting and drinking and listening to Dylan bootlegs.

Tues 3 July Strattford....Hit the road to Hamilton after a huge breakfast at the Lucky Dice Diner on Saturday morning. Played at aplace called Rebels Rock. Good sound, good PA but hardly anybody there. They asked my permission to put "Silver & Dust" on the jukebox, and I of course said YES.On Sunday it was Canada Day, a sort of Independence celebration. I got a gig at the strange time of 4pm at the ultra cool Cadillac Lounge back in Toronto. Having a beer at the bar after soundcheck I chat to some guy who informs me that the big concert on tv is in honour of Princess Diana. There's those two royal twats dancing their stupid dance to a line up of the usual suspects, Status Quo, Elton John and Duran Fucking crap they named them twice ! The younger of the royal sons didn't bother dressing up as a nazi this time, as he seems to be fond of doing.After a while I finally get to meet Aimee who is booking agent for the tour. I play my gig and its cool and the sound id good. Afterwards I meet Ward, a local guy who spends half of his time in Nigeria, half in Toronto. He's taken over 150 photos of the gig and promises to email them to me.

Out in Etobicoke I gotta do a house concert, only its in the garden. Play and 7pm and its all a good vibe, good food, good booze good people. I get to DJ a bit too, after sharing a few rum and cokes with Hank the Gladstone Cowboy.On Monday everybody is a little bit weary, but me and Robert spend the afternoon visiting local artists, Hungarian Bill and Canadian Lucy. They've got paintings and drawings everywhere, and I mean everywhere around their apartment. They're an inspiration. Can after can of Guinnes is opened and drained dry. I get to hear some record by the Babyshambles and have to admit it sounded good. Still think the guy is a twat and the just can't cut it live, but the record is good, so credit where credit is due.

Earlier today we checked out the CRC Museum in town, saw some cool guitars and had a beer or two in Kensington Market. Then drove out through the County of Willington, down through Mohawk country and on into Strattford, hometown of Richard Manuel, keyboard player with The Band. The gentleman who, aged 42, hanged himself in his motel room after a Band show at the Cheek To Cheek Lounge in Winter Park Florida in 1986.Strattford is also famous for its annual Shakespearean Festival. Its farming country out here. We needed a mic stand and a guy called Mike got one for us. A cool guy who knows his music and listened to every note I played. Drove back to Toronto afterwards, nodded off for a while, thankfully Robert stayed awake. He was driving.

Wed 4 July Toronto.....A well deserved day off. Robert needs a break from driving and having to listen to me every night. On awakening, I notice it's a dark overcast day, the rain is lashing down, still it's hot and humid. Childhood memories of the west of Ireland come flooding back.Once the rain stoped, I took a walk down by the shores of Lake Ontario, walking up past the power station and the ominous Mental Asylum. Dropped in to the liquor store for a couple bottles of red wine. Back at the house, Robert and I watched a great DVD of Van Morrison playing at the Montreaux Jazz Festival in 1980, with two drummers, John Platania on guitar, Pee Wee Elis on sax. A great performance. 'Wild Night' was a highlight and stuff like 'Summertime In England' was just inspiring. Checked out some things on youtube and an Old Grey Whistle Test DVD got put on. Some of it was ok, Rory Gallagher for example. Roxy Music were funny and pretentious. Then Little Feat came on. What can you say about Little Feat, only it brought it home to me how much we NEEDED punk in the late 70's. Thankfully it arrived on time so that kids like me could get a guitar and do our thing and not be weighed down by virtuoso crap. And you could turn on the radio without having to listen to Little Feat !

Thurs 5 July Sarnia....A mysterious lady who goes by the name of Crystal has been sending out bulletins through her myspace concerning all my gigs. She seems to know if one is cancelled, or there's a change of venue, long before I do.I get it organized so that a poster is on the way to Montreal via email from Ireland, and we hit the road. Arrived into Sarnia (population 73,000) past the Hiawatha Racetrack Slots. We turned off for Modeland Road and rolled on past the Temple Baptist Church on the left. They wouldn't like me if they met me I bet. The sign says it's 7K to the toll bridge into the US, but we don't want to go there. Down along Indian Road, hang a right and we found the bar. We both needed a beer or two after the long drive and then we checked into the Motel next door.Dinner is good. Jack phones from New York. The gig is fine. Meet some good people, and spend some time out on the veranda afterwards.

Fri 6 July London....Checked into the Maple Leaf Motel, an then had dinner in the nearby Thai Restaurant. Had a beer or two and got some sleep. The show in The Wick was a strange affair, as predicted. The bar itself is a cool joint, and everybody is friendly. Met up with the Duke himself. Tonight Im opening up for Duke Sedan and The Hightones, a fairly traditionalist 50's rockabilly outfit. They're nice guys, but their audience seem a little perplexed by the Irish man singing songs about 16th century Prague, walking along by the canal in Amsterdam etc, and my version of the Stones 'Play With Fire' goes right over their heads. Not to worry. I get to meet the mysterious Crystal and her boyfriend Randy. The barman keeps me well supplied and Robert is knocking them back big time. I enjoyed the Dukes set, and guest Leah is a cool lady, like a cross between Wanda Jackson and Holly Golightly, but she's got her own vibe going on.Later we take a taxi back to our Motel with Crystal holding a large paper cup full to the brim with orange juice - mixer for the vodka. We have a little party in our room and it's all good fun.

Sat 7 July Windsor....Another day, another Motel. Last time I played Windsor I had a great time. Tonight it's nothing to write home about. In the morning we hit the road early (11am) and drive out past North Chatham where an avenue of gigantic pylons run alongside the motorway, before diverting through the fields of wheat, looking like something from a 1950's Sci-Fi movie. We drove on, Robert with the boot down, past the half rotten corpses of the roadside racoons. Made it back to Toronto in one piece.

Mon 9 July Toronto....I found myself on the streetcar at 8.30am, taking the hour long ride into the city centre. Off at Bay Street and walk up Dundas Street and get to the bus station. You get a better deal on the price if you buy it more than 24 hours in advance. Spent all day rambling around this vast city. Picked up 'Villette' by the incomparable Charlotte Bronte for $2.50. Went through a big Bronte phase last year. Later I relaxed with some Sangria, as the sweat dribbled down my forehead. Another hot and sticky night in south Ontario.

Tues 10 July Montreal......Arrived into town at 6.30 after an endurance test of a seven hour bus ride. Sean Moore met me at the station. We had never met before, but we've had an on going email correspondence for a few months now. The connection is Cannery Row / Two Dollar Bash. It's my first time being in Montreal and I can tell straight away that Sean's a good guy and that Im in safe hands. The gig is great. A real good atmosphere and the sound is good and I play well.

Wed 11 July Montreal....The gig in Quebec City didn't materialize, so Im content to hang out here. Bad news from Europe, but I won't elaborate. A few beers are had on Shannon's veranda after breakfast with Orite, who sings and plays with the wonderful Little Birdie, a great country influenced band. Well worth checking out. Sean arrived back from walking the dogs and it turned out to be a day of beers and smoking and making new friends and having a good time. Later, much later, we rambled off into the French part of town for a look around, found a bar and settled in. A surreal evening by any standard.

Thurs 12 July Toronto....Left Quebec at 1.30 in the afternoon and arrived into Toronto as the heavens opened up at around 8.30pm. Straight down to the gig, which was in a horrible bar full of awful people. Got the cash and split. Civilized drinks out in Etobicoke. The following day Robert brought his newly acquired Silvertone amp into town for repair. Later on, after dinner, we ended up at the Gladstone Hotel up on Queen Street West to see Hank, The Gladstone Cowboy perform. Hank dedicated 'Your Cheatin' Heart' to yours truly. Later, we stumbled across an opening at a shoe shop. Complete with bar, sexy footwear, and interesting people, we were in the right place at the right time. I spoke to the artist about the possibility of him customizing a pair of cowboy boots for me. He lives in Paris and the price he quoted me is affordable. Fell into bed at 3, up at 6 and onboard the bus to NYC at 8.30. Twelve hours later I found myself in Port Authority. Took the subway downtown.Over the next couple of days I bought some records, watched a few movies, played a gig at the Sidewalk Cafe, ate good food and was conscious that back in Ireland everybody was getting real pissed off that it was cold and the rain wouldn't stop.