Old Blind Dogs Tour Diary USA 2004 Part 1
We have just returned from a tour of the USA which took in twenty shows, fourteen states and 6500 miles in twenty four days. Suicide schedule? No, just good fun, as Aaron's tour diary reveals.
Thursday 8th April
Well, after months of anticipation here I am at Edinburgh Airport, delirious with tiredness and facing something like thirteen hours in the air (I knew that bottle of wine was a bad idea last night!). The joys of the airline 'instant breakfast' await and we board our flight to Amsterdam. It was March 2003 since my last long haul flight to the USA for a St. Patrick's Day tour with Craobh Rua so I'm a little apprehensive but once we get settled it's full steam ahead to Detroit. Fraser has managed to pack his entire kit into a case the size of an oil drum that is way over the weight limit. In a moving display of solidarity the rest of us evacuate to a safe distance so none of us are nailed financially for excess baggage! After lots of pleases, thank you's and beaming smiles we all mange to check in 'excess free' and it's of to the ole US of A. The trans-Atlantic leg of the flight has a trivia quiz that can be joined by everyone on the plane. OBD more than hold their own in the field of knowing 'everything about nothing' and our very own Jim 'memory man' Malcolm comes out on top several times...definitely a misspent youth! A short connection at Detroit to pick up Jonny (who was in California already) and we head down to Philadelphia Airport we meet up with Nathan, our Grammy winning sound guy. We also come face to face with our home for the next four weeks...the van! Like the gold rush, we all stake a territory in the van and head off to the home of our friends, Suzi and John (our base camp for the next five days). To our delight, an old friend of the band, Eileen, is also staying at the house and it's not long before we are partaking of several cool beers to numb the journey. A notable mention should be given at this point to Onslow the boxer dog who really owns the house! Still, we are here, tired with the journey but after a few beers...ah...welcome to America!
Friday 9th April
All up at the scrape of dawn courtesy of jet lag so it's English Muffins and coffee for the boys and a general lounge around the house until we have to leave for the Tin Angel in Philadelphia. It's my first USA gig with the boys so it's time to see if the rehearsal has paid off! The gig goes really well, despite the fact that a local band sit next to the stage and talk through the entire set. Afterwards we pack up and as we drive off in the van two beautiful young women in the downtown area who are dressed as nurses approach us, 'Why don't you come down to naughty nurses night?' they invite. Of course we're not tempted at all ;-) so it's back to Suzi and John's where we partake of a few medicinals before retiring.
Saturday 10th April
Our next concert is in Virginia Beach so we head off reasonably early which doesn't prove a problem as we are all still suffering from jet lag. The drive down is great and we decide to go along the enormous Chesapeake Bay Bridge (pictured). It stretches for miles and, to our amazement, has two tunnels along its length to allow shipping to pass over it! Building a bridge and then deciding to sink at tunnel TWICE along its length is a pretty remarkable feat of engineering! Eventually we arrive in Virginia Beach, a town obviously geared towards children and sunny weather based on the amount of amusement parks and gaming arcades. If time were not an issue we would be sorely tempted to play golf. I'm a pretty handy player and got a hole-in-one on the windmill last time! The venue is in an auditorium within a library and despite it not being a full house, we are very well received. We the head back to our accommodation, home lodgings this time, with Marsha and Phillip. Despite an opportunity to offload the $87 in 1c coins I have already accumulated in a game of poker, we settle for darts. The house is beautiful with an incredible collection of beer bottles (pictured) and, after adding to the empties (and despatching Jim at darts!) we depart for bed.
Sunday 11th April
Today is a day off so we have been invited to a fundraiser at the home of Jean and Gary, good friends of the band. Jim had been dying to find out the result of The Masters and we settle down upon our arrival with a Guinness, to watch the exciting climax of the tournament. Jim had secretly bet all of our gig money on Tiger coming through so we are all a little upset when Phil Mickleson clinches his first major. The house really is stunning, built in the style of a castle, including a dungeon! After a banquet fit for king, we head down to christen the dungeon with its first session. Unfortunately the party draws to a close around ten o'clock so we head back to Suzi and John's (leaving Jim pictured) and pick up where we left off. It's down to Jonny, Fraser, Suzi and I to fly the late night drinking flag, passing the guitar from person to person and harmonising wherever we could (hhhhhhhhhoooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwllllllll!!). Great to discover that as well as being an accomplished drummer, Fraser has some great chops on the guitar ;-)
Monday 12th April
We head off the next day for Silver Springs. The weather has been terrible so far on the trip and shows no signs of improving...the shorts, flip flips (for people with two left feet) and the factor 30 (boiler suit and a balaclava) remain in the suitcase! Strangely the backstage hospitality is an oversight culminating in our eviction from the dressing room fifteen minutes prior to the show. Still, the concert goes well although the audience don't repeat the conga that occurred the last time the boys played here...obviously a rare occurrence...Haley's Conga? We have to head home straight after the gig as we have agreed to do a radio interview early the next day on our host Suzi's radio show to promote our show in Kennett Square. We must make this one as we missed a previous interview due to 'tiredness and emotion'.
Tuesday 13th April
Radio Broadcast with Suzi - Jim takes the call and delivers a sterling performance thanks to triple strength coffee. We head off in the afternoon to Kennett Square, a place that we are informed is the home of mushrooms in the USA...we're hoping so because we're all fungi's (oh jeesh!). The concert was great. A local catering company, The Blue Crab Grill, feed us well and the band perform their set to a near full house. After the show a young fan takes to the stage to try that low 'B'..ttwwaaannngg!! (pictured). A selection of friends comes back to Suzi's for a small (ahem!) libation and a singsong. Jim is in fine voice and we are accordingly visited by Elton John, ABBA, John, Paul, George AND Ringo...It's late (early?) when we get to bed but the evening is a fitting end to a hugely enjoyable six days with Suzi and John. Thanks and see you guys again soon!
Wednesday 14th April
Early start after 'the night before' and everyone is feeling the effect of over indulgence! After a breakfast of Ibuprofen and coffee, Jonny and Nathan begin their epic journey by van to Little Rock. Their plan is to reach Nashville that day before stopping (a small fourteen hour drive!). This will ensure their timely arrival before the concert in Little Rock. Myself, Rory, Jim and Fraser take a bumpy flight to Charlotte, NC before flying on to Little Rock. Our fantastic host, Mark Pippenger, shows us to the hotel and...yahoo! a hot tub. After dropping the bags into the room (and the kids off at the pool) Fraser and I head straight down to the tub to soak away the journey. Then it's off to a delightful little Mexican restaurant where we indulge in Margarita's and sample several types of Tequila. We head back early-ish as we have an early morning TV appearance the next day...
Thursday 15th April
The day starts with a rude awakening as we rise at 6.30am to do Good Morning Arkansas on local TV (pictured). We appear on an hour-long programme which includes such delights as colon cancer (and spotting the early signs in your stools), foot jewellery for children, and preparation of Pork Noisettes! When asked what we'll be performing we tell the researcher 'Tramps and Hawkers'. She is stunned...she thought we'd said 'Tramps and Hookers'! (Incidentally, that was one of my favourite episodes of Jerry Springer). Mark looks after us well all day and helps me shatter my own personal world record for Doner Kebabs by procuring one for me by 10.30am! The feeling of guilt secures the purchase of a football for a token effort at exercise on the tour. The boys finally arrive from their short drive down from Philadelphia and we make for the concert in Juanita's, a Mexican restaurant/venue that I have actually played before with Craobh Rua. We all eat our own body weight in Mexican food (again) washed down with a delightful little beverage called 'Pacifica'. The concert is extremely enjoyable thanks to the first appearance on the tour of bass bins! After drowning the band in bass we head to a popular local bar where we are offered a choice of 160 beers on draft...unfortunately we are only looking for one beer that tastes nice!
Friday 16th April
Up and away by ten o'clock after a small kick around with our soccer ball. When room service asks Nathan if he'd like more towels (at a ludicrously early hour) he replies, 'Yes, to mop up the blood!' which ensures they don't enter the room until check out time!! Must remember that one! Our earlier token effort at keeping fit is thwarted very quickly by stops at Subway and KFC on our drive down to Tulsa, Oklahoma. On a refuelling stop yours truly is on 'bug detail'. The joy of removing bugs the size of small birds from the windscreen is just to disgusting to describe, suffice to say that despite my best efforts some of our bigger winged friends remain on our windscreen! The weather has improved slowly over the last few days and, as we arrive into Tulsa the sun is splitting the trees. Our joy is increased upon the discovery that our hotel is next door to the theatre where we are performing AND the news that we have just about sold both nights in the 450 seater. A night on the pop is inevitable after a successful show so it's off to McNellie's downtown and participation in a whisky spree that includes some of the biggest shots of single malt that I have ever been served. After our malt tour of Scotland we drunkenly head back to the hotel (courtesy of a lift from Sam Egan). Rory and Jonny enjoy 'making polite conversation' out of the sunroof with the locals a la Chewin the Fat! Ya couple o' fannies!
Saturday 17th April
OOOhhhhh!! Groan!! We all wake up in various states of hung-overness courtesy of our whisky binge and it takes until lunchtime for us to congregate in the hotels restaurant for a life saving lunch of salad. The day really never kicks off despite attempts at a swim. It is down to myself and Jim to re-order T-Shirts as our stock is running very low. All we have left is all XXXL. We have our fingers crossed for a large football team to come to see us play our second show tonight otherwise we will have to sell them as nightshirts! Unfortunately, everywhere is shut on a Saturday and besides, we are so hung over that I'm not sure we'd have made any sense if we had got through to a T-shirt company! The second gig is as full as the previous nights but this time we behave and head to the hotel bar, ensuring a moderate evening on the sauce (hic!).
Sunday 18th April
Each night on the tour we have been having a sweep to see who can guess, to the dollar, how much merchandise we'll sell. Everyone has to buy the winner a present the next day and it's on the journey to Kansas City that we happen across a huge fireworks store! We end up buying Fraser a ludicrous amount of fireworks in the hope of having our own OBD display somewhere along the road...I'll let you know when that happens! The concert is in an incredible church designed by the architect Frank Lloyd Wright and the very appreciative audience make it a very enjoyable night. We head off to wind down in a local Irish bar. The boys discover the chocolate Martini courtesy of our host Valerie but we all decide to make a sharp exit after our beer glass balancing tricks go horribly wrong...gravity sucks!.
Read Part 2 of Aaron's tour diary - click here.