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!