US Tour Wrap

I started writing a blog on the first night of the recent American tour, intending to do a kind of travelogue, but never got any further with it because I was always too busy (I mean really busy) or just simply too tired to complete it. Anyway, here is the beginning of what I started, reproduced below in italics. I’ve added to it at the end for a more complete general tour impression. We’d just arrived in Denver, Colorado from North Carolina after traveling all the way by road to meet the rest of the band members.

Well, that was interesting. Almost 2,500 miles driving, much of it through mountains,  to make the first show. The guys flew into America, directly from London- lucky bastards - but we’re all together now in Colorado Springs. The first sound check is out of the way and we did a special VIP ticket holder meet & greet. Such nice people here in Colorado. Maybe it’s because of the new relaxed laws on marijuana. At any rate for all this laidbackness, we’ve been warned to expect a possible search on exiting the state since exportation of the drug is strictly a no no and out of state license plates means scrutiny. No worries, those days are long gone and I would be the only band member with anything of a history with da ‘erb. It’s all I can do to remember the words to the song. A spliff in this situation would spell certain chaos these days. I need all the remaining brain cells at my command.

I must say, it’s great to feel well again. I had the most bizarre affliction some weeks ago once I arrived in England. It’s called Bell’s Palsy.  Sounds positively medieval doesn’t it? It came on big -time just before we played the Cambridge Rock Festival in the UK. For the uninitiated, it’s an infection of the facial nerve which causes paralysis of one side of the face. In my case it was the left side. Once it gets hold, you are unable to smile (that’s the worst thing) you have a weeping eye and a drooling mouth and food and liquids slip down your chin as you try to eat and drink. Self confidence goes out the window and it’s just a depressing experience. In some cases it stays for life, I soon found out. It was indeed totally scary. At one point there I was up on stage at the Cambridge Rock Festival with video cameras filming my every facial contortion as I tried to form my mouth round the words of the songs, as all the while my image was projected onto the giant festival screens either side of the stage. The words and pitching of the melodies suddenly seemed alien and unknown. I was close to panicking.

I had three diagnosis - 2 in the UK and then one when I returned back home where my doctor discovered it was a bite from a tiny deer tick that had caused it. Now here is where it gets totally crazy. I got the word out to various fans and friends. This thing had attacked my nervous system after all and I was freaking out. One friend told me if I was interested in conspiracy theories that this thing with the deer ticks which cause Lyme disease has malevolent origins. Are you ready for this? Back after World War II the Americans recruited certain Nazis to help with their germ warfare program giving amnesty in return for working at a secret facility on Plum Island on the east coast here,  situated about one mile from Old Lyme Connecticut and in close proximity to what is now the Hamptons, playground to the rich and famous.  It seems that our German friends figured out that tiny ticks would make the perfect delivery system for pathogens or nerve agents. They feed on human and animal blood and are carried quickly by deer, chipmunks and especially the white-footed mouse. Security was lax at the facility and in the 1970s there may have been, shall we say, a containment issue, with the result that this thing arrived on the USA mainland in yes, you guessed it, the charming and quaint town of Old Lyme, and a lot of families fell ill with the newly named Lyme disease. Now it’s at epidemic proportions and there seems to be some kind of government cover-up. We are slowly trying to figure out diagnosis and treatment methods but the conspiracy theory is still very much open. If you are in any way interested then read the book Lab 257 by Michael Christopher Carol. Luckily, I was cured with some serious antibiotics and steroids but I know of others who have been less fortunate.

Well, the US tour is well behind us now and the mileage ended at around 10,000 in total but we had very fine traveling weather and some great shows, meeting all sorts of nice folks along the way. as we took in the fall foliage, particularly up and down the east coast.  Highlights were playing by the Mississippi River at an open air event in the town of Alton and then there was the amazing bar, the Midway Tavern in Mishawaka Indiana where our good friend John Ford promoted a homespun event which we almost missed due to a tire blow-out at 70mph. We were later treated to a show by opening artist Kelly Richey. One of my personal favorites was a return to the delightful Sellersville Theater in PA. Great sound, great hospitality and again a great restaurant close by. The very cool band Wild Adriatic thrilled as our opener.

Restaurants seem to now be a delightful feature at some of the venues we visit. The Town Crier moved it’s location from Pawling New York to Beacon New York (former home of Pete Seeger) and now features a much bigger listening room featuring fabulous artwork by some great artists along with a great bar and sophisticated dining experience. The custom deserts are not to be missed. A similar experience can be found at the renowned Infinity Hall in Norfolk Connecticut. I’d heard so much about this place and how we should be playing there so I was very happy to have it all confirmed and more. One of America’s truly special venues. It’s the site of US Public Broadcasting’s televised music events from time to time and has an amazing old-time feeling that is very special. It was built in 1870 I believe. Again, the restaurant and wine list is superb to say nothing of the professional attitude of all the staff.

We finally made it up to Toronto and had a great night playing for the patrons of Hugh’s Room. Again, a place with sophisticated dining and interesting artwork on the walls. It’s the new paradigm and I’m liking it. Great music and dining combined with visual art. Why not? Our crowd has now grown up and enjoys the good things in life just like anyone else for the most part and yet if you wanna get down in the dirt and stand all night on a sticky floor with your head rammed under some big guy’s armpit, well,  that can be arranged too. Me? I’m liking the upgrade. BB Kings Club in NYC was a less high brow night though, and perfectly fine for that. I had one of the best burgers of the tour there.  But the all time vote for best tour burger supreme goes to the sports bar next to our hotel in Denver where they served a dynamite bison burger and that ’s what we ate on our first night together as a band again. Welcome to America.

As I say, the tour wound up in Toronto, Canada and we said our goodbyes to the rest of the band and Pauline and I made our way home to Connecticut by way of Niagara Falls. I’d been there many years before but if you are ever up in that area, take the diversion and spend a couple of hours there on the Canadian side. It’s spectacular. We hit the outlet malls on the way back and spent a slightly frustrating time waiting to get jump started after I’d left the lights on in our vehicle overnight. You’d think that I’d have gotten over making mistakes like that but no…it still happens. No worries, we were on no schedule so just built the delay into our day and got helped by the AAA man and went on our way.

All in all a very satisfying tour, not without some ball-busting drives but that’s America. - a very large country. Next time we hit the road here, it will be all through the south again and moving to the left coast winding up in Vancouver, Canada,  no doubt. But for now we have the UK in our immediate sights. We’ll tour there for a month and look forward to meeting all our friends on the road. Don’t forget we’ll be selling vinyl copies of Blue Horizon and featuring the entire Live Dates album on stage as a major part of our set. Thank you all for your continued support of live music and specifically Wishbone Ash as we come to a town near you.

~ A.P.


Ashcon 2014 - Twin Guitars-Twin Drums

Plans for Ashcon 2014 to be held at The Winding Wheel in Chesterfield on Saturday 1st November are now complete. I am pleased to announce that Mike Sturgis will be attending the event as our special guest. His attendance will result in a first for Wishbone Ash as during the main evening show the band will feature two drummers performing on certain numbers, as Mike will join our own Joe Crabtree on “Twin Drums”. I spoke with Mike earlier this week and he is looking forward to renewing some old friendships. Would you believe it’s fast approaching 20 years since Illuminations! Thanks for accepting the invite Mike it will be great to see you and we look forward to seeing this unique feature during an extended performance, as Wishbone Ash pull out all the stops at our special event. I can also announce that we are fortunate to have secured the fantastic Ian Parker for our evening support. Singer/songwriter Ian will be bringing a full band to entertain you with his guitar based blues rock. Please check out his website for information on Ian. The afternoon convention will include a set from Robin Parkinson’s Bare Bonez who entertained us so well last year and our usual tribute slot will be filled by North East based The Flying V’s. Jeff Grant was thrilled at the opportunity to be part of Ashcon and I know that both bands have been rehearsing hard for this event. We have also added a new feature to the afternoon show. There will be a small stage in the auditorium on which some of our talented fans will perform a few numbers to entertain you during breaks on the main stage. As most of you know on the Friday evening the fans themselves perform on a stage at the County bar on Saltergate in Chesterfield, everyone is welcome. This event will again take place from 7.30pm and our new “fans stage” will feature some of these musicians as we attempt to bring to you everything that is Wishbone Ash on our special day. The highlight of the afternoon convention of course will be a special set performed by Wishbone Ash. Andy tells me that the band will feature some songs not covered on recent tours and as you regulars to Ashcon know this set in the relaxed informal atmosphere is always special. Tickets are on sale in the store on our website and are selling well. Please remember this event is “by the fans for the fans”. Please come along and support our special day. Guy Roberts

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Europe in the Summertime

I just arrived home last night from my solo travels in Europe. Once in a while I like to just ramble with loose plans based around some sporadic Wishbone Ash shows. These rambles allow me to reflect and recharge the batteries, even though I’m still mobile. I take a lot of reading material and visit old friends in their surroundings and eat some good food and sample of the grape.

The shows which provided the wherewithal to make the cost of all this worthwhile, were the Rock of Ages Festival in Germany, the Chateau Beaufort show with Doro Presch and then lastly, the Cambridge Rock Festival. Living Stateside, I can’t be flipping back and forth across the Atlantic anyway for individual dates and it’s far less stressful to take the road less travelled so to speak. The 11th century chateau was undoubtedly the most amazing location for a rock show and the hospitality and warm welcome from the audience that we received there was super. Cambridge. England too, nice folks who produce shows for all the right reasons. We’d played the Rock of Ages festival situated not far from Stuttgart, Germany, eight years ago and that was also a pleasure. Great crowd and the usual incredible German organisation.

It was great to get down on the farm in true French country style, with Danos, our intrepid sound man at his place in the Ardêche region. Dan has spent the last couple of years renovating a remote house there and I was eager to see the results of his work. With gorgeous views and lots of stone and wood, it was everything I hoped it would be. Again, good to catch up with my old friend and his wife Rosie, who fed me to bursting point. In addition, I made it to the Gorge of Ardêche, for the surprise birthday of another dear friend, Mikaël Samson, who has in the past, edited some of our DVD work. Visit this region if you get a chance. It’s where all those amazing prehistoric cave paintings are, some of the oldest recorded human artwork ever found on the planet. We swam in the river and hiked and ate a spit-roasted sheep. Unbeatable.

Then, I visited my dear 93 year old mother ‘behind the gates’, as they say in Frinton-on-Sea, Essex. This largely retirement community, is quite relaxing as you can imagine with its beach huts and beautiful examples of 1930s Art Deco homes and its ‘there’ll alway be an England’ mentality.

Lastly, I visited the Cotswolds home of Muddy and Mia for some wellness and relaxation in the countryside there, eating,drinking and walking the dog - oh yes, and picking blackberries. We did routine a few new songs for our upcoming tours. Just simple stuff. So, all in all a nice trip.

Last night Pauline met me and we drove straight from JFK to a Kenny Loggins show to which I’d been invited by our former tour manager back in the 70s, Mel Baister. Great to see him again. It’s been many years. I’m not especially a Kenny fan but hats off to him and the band. This was American professionalism at its best. Great vocals and guitar playing and the staging in the neighboring town to ours, Ridgefield at the Playhouse there. This is the town that inspired our recent song American Century. A site of the only Revolutionary War battle to have taken place in Connecticut.

Tonight I’ll be checking out the Tedeschi Trucks Band in Simsbury, CT (Derek Trucks is a favorite) but I wanted to get a quick blog down here. Folks are always asking for an update of the legal situation between myself and Martin Turner so whilst its painful to keep going over this tedious exercise, the latest is that of course the courts ruled overwhelmingly in my favor concerning the fact that once you've quit a band, you quit it and then cannot purloin the name back after a 15 year absence. All logical stuff. So, after a wait of 9 months, Guildford Court set a hearing to glean some financial info pertaining to settlement of awarded court costs and legal fees etc. Unfortunately, Mart had a tummy upset and did not make a court appearance!!!!

Sadly, we’ve now been told by his lawyers that he’s filing for bankruptcy. We’ve seen no evidence of that yet but apparently he has signed over his share of the equity in his million pound Surrey home to his wife, who has been financing his latter day musical career with one assumes, some of his own funds. That’s what we’ve been told so I’m just waiting to find out how he will meet his various legal and financial obligations. Prepare for a long wait folks. It ain’t over till it’s over. So sad that it all had to come to this, when just one of the many honest attempts at mediation could have avoided all this misery, and those that have for their own selfish reasons, been poorly advising Mart could have been side-lined.

Enough of that though it’s a sad chapter in the history of Wishbone Ash. On a more upbeat level, the band’s current tour date sheet is stacked. I mean really stacked. Come September we’ll be touring the West, Mid West and North East in the States plus Canada. I’m really excited that we’ll be at Infinity Hall, a beautiful venue in my home state of Connecticut. The UK tour has been worked on for a year by our stalwart agent, Andy Nye. The legal issues over confusion and brand dilution have made his work in particular really hard BUT he’s prevailed with a really solid tour. Many of the old haunts plus some new places for you Brits to catch up with what we have on offer. The feature of both of these tours is that we’ll play the entire Live Dates album in the same song sequence like the famous 70s album. There’ll be a few other surprises along the way too, I can assure you.

Moving into 2015, we have tours of Holland Belgium, Switzerland and Germany like always. I’m sure there will be extra dates in Poland and France coming on line and I will tell you that negotiations are under way for some more South African dates. So all that remains is to pass on best wishes to all our friends from the band and crew and see you down the road apiece.

~ A.P.

P.S. I almost forgot; my first stop on this whole European sojourn was in Dublin where I’ve been working with Colin Harper on the much requested biography. Yes, Mart has had his turn. Mine will be forthcoming in 2015.