Monthly Archives: December 2008

Dec 08 making tragedy happen in the uk v 1.4

Up and at ‘em Thursday morning for the 6 hour drive to Glasgow.  Was quite looking forward to the drive as it’s supposed to be some beautiful countryside, but with all the snow, rain, and fog, we could rarely see more than 20 meters in front of us.  So it was a good chance to listen to all the Klaus Nomi records I’d been meaning to get through.  I’d been hearing that Glasgow was like a time machine, and for the little part of it we saw, it was straight outta 1976.  A very drunken 1976.  As soon as we got to the venue and walked inside, one of the crew guys said “You guys must be Tragedy.  Which one of you is Jake?”  I said me and he said “Your mum has been here, and went out to get a coffee.  She told us all to keep a good close eye on ya.”  There’s no keeping Estelle dfown.  I knew she’s own that town.

The Barrowlands is a huge old open room.  A giant old Bohemian Beer Hall that hasnt been touched by time or modern conveiences such as heat, hot water or disinfectant.  Yet it had kegfuls or charm.    It was situated in a somewhat rough area of Glasgow, and pretty quickly one of the venue crew guys told me Id probably be best off wearing a hat if I went for a walk outside.  I figured Id just spend the day inside the venue, and thats what I did.  But not before I ducked across the street to the local music shop.  It had a pink acoustic guitar in the window, so I figured it would have some more gems inside. And mate was I ever right.  I was quickly the proud owner of a hot pink fake fur guitar strap, a large handful of hot pink guitar picks, and a red foam, pop-screen microphone cover.
Tommy braved the neighborhood went out for a walk to try and get some modern medecine to help him with his dire case of Hand AIDS.
Somewhere along the way he passed a leather shop and picked out the perfect present for me.   A pink leather jacket.  Ladies cut.  Perfect for my girlish figure.  Though its at least 2 sizes too small, that adds to the charm, and I instantly decided that it was the newest addition to my stage attire.  As soon as I walked out of the dressing room with it, I was getting catcalls and whistles from the local Scottish crew.  I knew I had a winner of an outfit!

A new tradition stared in Glasgow as well.  The Glitter Bomb!  Scott Sorry, Wildhearts bass player, was sitting in the dressing room minding his own business, so I walked over and started shaking some glitter into his hair. When he offered no resistance, I upped the ante and dumped it on thick and heavy!  Even though he changed his clothes before they took the stage he looked phenomenal with his sparkly hair shimmering under the lights.


When my momma got to the Barrowlands earlier in the day, she asked the crew how many people it held. Even though they were Scottish, she understood what they were saying when they told her “Well, usually it holds 2,000 people, but a lot of the Wildhearts fans are going through their middle aged spread, so tonight we might only be able to hold 1,500 of them.”  Ah, a man after my own heart.  Ive forever been saying that in NYC we should institute a pay by waistline policy.  Seems the only fair way to do it.  Pay for the amount of room you’re gonna take up on the dancefloor!  You fat fucks.

When we hit the stage there were abut 500 people in the audience, and only 6 were up front,  And they were RIGHT up front.  Like “I’m here to see the Wildhearts, and I got here right at doors so I could be guaranteed a spot in the front row” kind of right up front.  We heard that the Glasgow crowd was gonna be the hardest to win over, especially for a bunch of dudes in white spandex and pink leather jackets.  When that happens though we just amp up the energy and attitude and dare people not to love us.  It usually works.  And Glasgow was no exception.  The room filled up steadily during our set and the crowd kept moving closer and closer to the stage.  There were a few guys in the back trying to heckle us between songs, and had we been able to understand them it might have worked.  But thats par for the course.  As Gav told us later “I think you really pissed off a few aggressively heterosexual guys in the crowd tonight.  Nice one mate!”

After the set I went down to the merch booth to greet our adoring throngs.  We were doing pretty well, selling CDs, shirts and posters.  And then I met our biggest fan.  A drunken Glaswegian hoochie ran up tot he booth, and grabbed me by the head and tried to suck my lips right off of my face.  Before I even knew what she was doing, she had moved over to Pete and showed him her tits, then moved on to Toby the Wildhearts merch guy.  While she was assaulting him, vampire style, I noticed a guy standing off to the side with a big blinking button on his shirt announcing his 30th birthday.  I asked him if it was indeed his birthday and he said yes. I then asked him if that was his girlfriend.  He let out a long sigh, and said “Allegedly” with a dejected look on his face.  I said sorry and he said “You’re the third guy she has done that to tonight”  Poor guy.  Later I heard from Lee, the Wildhearts bus driver, that she had been thrown out of the venue.  Imagine that.  All class.  All the time.

After watching most of the Wildhearts set from the side of the stage (holy SHIT they are an amazing band) I went back down the the merch table at the end of the night.  Tons of autograph signing and people taking photos with us. Thats not so hard to have fun doing.  But the Glaswegian accents are INSANE. Ginger told me a few times that he couldn’t wait to see the look on my face when people in Glasgow were talking to me, and I figured he was joking.  I mean how different could they sound?  The answer is “really fuckin different”

I mean seriously, I had to get Paul, our super mega-wicked-awesome driver, to come over and translate a few times.  It was insane.  We also came up with a new term for the dental stylings of many Scottsmen.  ”Jackpot Mouth”  Its the only way to explain why they have the selection of teeth they do.  Its like god pulled a lever on a slot machine and wherever the teeth ended up is how he sent them out to the world.

As bad is it got trying to understand these people, though, nothing compared to the Jackpot Mouthed pair of dudes we met at a service station on the outskirts of town.  They asked if we were in a band and that was the last time  I understood what they were saying.  I was really trying my hardest too!  I made them repeat themselves 5 or 6 times each time they tried saying something to me.  Finally I thought I understood what they were saying They were asking if we were headed back to England.  So I said “Yeah, we’re going back to England tonight.  Playing in Oxford tomorrow.`”  They just looked at me like I had 8 heads, because obviously they had asked a very different question than the one I had answered.  I musta looked like my heels were on fire and my ass was catchin’ and I ran to the bus, jumped in, and bid Scotland a moderately fond farewell.

making tragedy happen in the uk v 1.3

Somehow I managed to sleep for 12 hours.  Amazing.  Load in wasnt til 3pm, so I went out for a run.  Running is nice in a park.  or a desolate road.  Or on a treadmill.  But since there were none of those at my disposal, I made my way through Sheffield City, dodging holiday shoppers, sidewalks and curbs, uneven cobblestones and traffic that always seemed to be coming from the wrong side.  I managed to get in 30 minutes, including 5 minutes of running up and down a set of 20 steps in front of the church that housed the classical music concert.  Got back to the hotel, had some lunch and it was time to head to the venue. YAY.  Its about time we get to rock.  Got the the venue, met up with Toby the Wildhearts Merch Maven, wandered around the floor of the venue, taking it all in, admiring the big stage we were set to rock, and saw Ginger walking around talking on the phone.  Here we were, at the club, so close to rockin I could almost smell it.  Toby asked me if I wanted to go upstairs and have a look around.  I grabbed my bag and followed Toby up the stairs, figuring if the venue was this grand, then I couldnt WAIT to see what the dressing rooms had in store.  Got to the top of the stairs, flung the doors open triumphantly, and I almost shit. I was in the smaller room I had seen last night.  And the Wildhearts were onstage soundchecking.  At first

I tried to tell my self they were just rehearsing up here.  No such luck. I knew right away that this was the “broom closet” Ginger had been referring to, and that the security guard last night didnt know what he was talking about.  I guess it was my karma for making fun of the bands who were playing in the smaller room.
I watched the Wildhearts soundcheck and it was one of the loudest things Id ever heard.  They had 2 full Marshall stacks onstage, and a drummer that hits like a fucking freight train.  Couple that in a room with `10 foot ceilings, made out of cement, and the volume became unbearable as soon as they started playing.  And that was before the PA was even turned on.
By the  time we got up for soundcheck, we had a bout 15 minutes til doors, and everyone did their best to make it not sound like shit.  As soon as we were done, we ran upstairs and changed, as we had 15 minutes til showtime.  Thankfully the Wildhearts have a rabid fanbase, and there were 200 people outside waiting to get in, and as soon as doors opened the flooded right into the room.
When it was time to go on, Gav, the Wildhearts tour manager, came and got us and led us down to the stage.  He took us around to  side door so we could enter the stage from the back and not have to parade our white clad selves through the crowd.  But when we go to the stage door, it was locked.  Straight out of Spinal Tap.  We all made a u turn and walked right through the club, and a bunch of Wildhearts fans wondering who the fuck we were and what the fuck was going on.  We hit the stage and opened with Night Fever, which was followed by polite applause.  During Jive Talkin they started warming up to us and realizing that yeah, we were taking ourselves, or at least our music, seriously, and at the end of the song the applause was much stronger.  By the end of our 25 minute set, we had them.  And it felt great.  Americans 2- Brits 1.
Missed A, the middle band.  They were nice guys backstage, and we had 5 more shows, so I was sure I’d check them out.  I was just too entranced at drinking PG Tips Tea and Eating the Fun Size British candy bars that were on our rider. Then the Wildhearts came on and played a great set.  Those guys Rock Sweet Balls And Can Do No Wrong.  For real.  By the time they hit, the room was packed beyond belief, to the point that you couldnt even get inside, just wall to wall bodies.  Thankfully I got to watch most of the show from the monitor board.
All in all it was a great night and a good warmup for the tour.  As Ginger told me after wards “The first show of any tour is for you, and then the rest of the shows you do for the audience.”  More good news is that the rest of the shows are selling well.  Well enough to keep them in the original huge halls.  Sweet.  The recession in England seems to have the country gripped in fear much more so than back in the states.  In a conversation with last night’s promoter, I was hearing horror stories of tours that are out now.  The Slayer / Mastodon / Trivium tour was booked in the 14,000 cap Sheffield Arena, and ended up getting moved down to the main room at the Academy and only doing 1,500 tickets.  Judas Priest is doing a hometown Xmas show at the Arena in Birmingham and they only have 700 tickets sold.  It seems the bands with young fanbase are doing alright, as kids dont have much fiscal responsibility, but that if your fan base is 25+, then those shows are suffering tremendously.  We’re just gonna soldier forward and play the best shows we can to whoever is there.

making tragedy happen in the uk v 1.2

Mom and I arose before the sun.  Which isnt saying much because the sun doesnt shine to often on Londowntown.  In the 1600s they used to say “The Sun Never Sets on the British Empire”  I think that can still be said today, because in order for the sun to set, it would need to actually shine first.

After  quick shower, we headed to the lobby for the Travelodge Breakfast.  Ooooooh, my first chance to see if what they say about the food in England is true. To my delight, it wasnt nearly as bad as its been made out to be.  Considering its a hotel lobby breakfast buffet.  By no means was it *good* but it was edible.  I had some scrambled eggs that Im pretty sure had once been powder.  And some beans and sausage and ham.  And tea, lets not forget the tea.  Mmmmmm English tea.  At least I had some fuel in the tank for the long day ahead.  Mom and I got a taxi to Euston Station to put her on a Virgin Train to Glasgow.  We got there fairly early and had a chance to walk around a bit and take in the sights of the station.  British train stations are pretty well laid out, and the boards that post the train schedules, boarding and track status are easy to decipher.  Unlike American train stations.  Americans 1- Brits 1.
When the info was posted for her train to Glasgow I walked her to the gate and the ticket agent was kind enough to let me through without a ticket so I could make sure she found her seat alright.  Thats right, trains in Europe have assigned seats.  What a concept!  And they were really nice trains.  Clean and sleek on the outside, clean and comfortable on the inside, with plenty of room for luggage and power outlets by most seats.  I saw her train off and was alone in the big bad city. Oh, what to do.  I walked back to the hotel, and took a meandering root so I could take in the sights and sounds on a London morning.  Her train was at 8:45, so when I got out of the station the streets were bustling with people on their way to work and school,  and there was a good energy all around.  I walked for about an hour until I made it back to the hotel, but kept on walking past the hotel and through a whole other section of town and made a loop around for another hour until I finally got back to the hotel.
I had a quick hotel room workout consisting of pushups and squats and then at 11:30am went around banging on doors and making sure everyone was awake, as our minibus and driver was coming to meet us at 12:30.  We gathered all our bags in the lobby and I stayed as the bag watchman as the band went around the corner to get breakfast at a cafe that mixed reviews.  Maybe the food in England was gonna be bad after all…
London traffic is about as bad as the weather and the food combined so the minibus didn’t show til 2pm and we packed everything in.  This time with 1 driver and minus my mom, we all fit a little bit better, and were comforted by the fact that after we got to the gig in Sheffeild, we were gonna drop our 4 guitars, pedal board cymbals, snare and merch into the Wildhearts equipment truck, creating some more room in the .
The drive to Sheffield was pretty uneventful.  Grey skies, grey landscape, and like US highways, the motorways didn’t offer much in the way of a view.  We arrived at the Travelodge in Sheffield at 7pm, and once we got checked in and dropped off our bags, I headed out to find some dinner and noticed immediately that the town was deserted.  All the shops had closed, but a few random pubs were open.  There was barely any sign of life on the streets, and this was in the middle of downtown aka Highstreet I kept walking up the hill until I finally found some signs of life.  There were people converging on what looked like a church.  ”Great,” I thought to myself.  ”Ill go check that out, should be good for a laugh at least”  But when I walked up to the steps of the church it turned out to be a classical music concert.  Eh, not for me.  Not right then.  Not ever really.
Just up the block I found a 24 hour shoppe which blew me away.  I figured that if Sheffield City was this dead at 7:30pm why on earth would they have a store that stayed open 24 hours. But it gave me faith that all was not lost in this town.  Across the street from that was a decent enough looking restaurant / pub called Lloyd’s, so I ventured inside.  After about 5 minutes of looking around for a hostess, I finally went up to the bar and inquired if it was a “seat yourself” establishment.  I was told that I  could sit anywhere, and that I needed to take note of the number on the table, and use that when I came back to the bar to place my food order.
As tempting as it was to order Fish n Chips, I went for the lone healthy looking option on the menu, the grilled Salmon Fillet with mixed vegetables.  Hold the hollandaise sauce, thank you very much.  The food was decent enough.  After dinner I  headed out in search of the Carling Academy.  There are a string of venues throughout the UK known as “the Academy” Almost every major city has one.  And they all have 2 or 3 venues inside.  Thrillingly named The Academy 1, 2 and 3.  1 Usually holds 2-3,000.  2 will holds 500-600 and 3 will hold 200 or so.  The Carling Academy Sheffield is pretty new, having opened in April.  Yet of the 6 people I asked on the street, none knew where it was.  This wasnt a good sign for the vitality of the music scene in Sheffield.  Finally, by chance I happened to stumble upon it.  There were some people lined up outside waiting to get in so I went to have a look, and I explained to the security guards that I was playing in the band supporting the Wildhearts the next night and asked if I could go inside and have a look around.  I had heard from Ginger a few days before we left that the Sheffield gig had been downgraded to “a broom closet” so I told the security guard that I thought the gig had been moved down from the big room to the middle room.  He got on his radio and told me to wait right there.  He came back a couple of minutes later and took me inside, through a small club with bands into and and onto the balcony of the very large, very nice big room.  He explained that the Wildhearts show was in the big room, but since ticket sales were a little slow they would be closing the balcony, which would be better since it would make the floor more packed.  Sounded good to me.  The stage was HUGE, and the PA and lights seemed to be top notch.  I thanked him for letting me in and walked back through the small room, feeling bad for the bands that had to play in there.  Suckas.  I went back to the hotel, read for a while,  watched some rugby and hit the sack.  Ah, the wild and crazy ride of a rock band on tour in a foreign land!