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.