Tour Diary USA Fall 2004 - Part One
The Old Blind Dogs Fall 2004 tour saw them visit the west-coast of the USA and Canada and included a visit to the Hawaiian Islands. Here's Part One of bass/bouzouki player Aaron Jones' Tour Diary...
Wednesday 8th September - Travel to USA
Oh it's soooo early! Our travel agent has very kindly booked us flights that require our being at Edinburgh airport at 4:45am. I had DEFINITELY set my alarm this morning but something went horribly wrong...it's in pieces on the floor and I am woken instead by the taxi calling up to my Edinburgh flat from the street below. I dress like Superman in that famous revolving door sequence and blearily head across Edinburgh to pick up Rory. At the airport we tried in vain to reserve comfortable seats on the flight but it's not happening...we are destined to spend nine hours wedged between two sleeping six hundred pound guys with clinical snoring disorders and body odour problems. Jonny, on the other hand, has flown down from Aberdeen so we won't be sitting together for the transatlantic leg of the flight...we are all horrified to discover that he has been allocated a seat between an 'under-21 all-blonde cheerleader team' and an 'all female glass cello quartet' who are currently feeding him grapes and ordering him extra drinks...darn!! We arrive, tired and sore, at SeaTac airport and head directly to tonight's accommodation close to the airport. STAY AWAKE is our mantra as we check in...but, after a hot tub, a cold beer and a plate of calamari in the hotel lobby, I am the first to fall and put my head down at a ludicrously early 4pm...
Thursday 9th September - Vancouver - The Rogue Folk Club
Despite our best efforts to stay awake last night (the guys thought steak and gin would help?) we all find ourselves WIDE awake at 3am the next morning. Jonny and Fraser hit the gym for an intensive workout (yes, really!) and by 6am we are sat at breakfast in a revolving restaurant at the top of our hotel. The hotel brochure describes their Top o' the World Revolving Restaurant as having '...scenic vistas.' These consist of a wonderful 360° view of SeaTac's Cargo Departure gates...a real must for all you planespotters. We keep coming back from the breakfast buffet to where our table used to be before it moved 180°, very confusing when combined with jet lag. The buffet costs a very reasonable $10 but the waiter takes a $20 note from each of us and disappears! We soon point out that receiving a 100% tip a Scotsman for a self-service buffet would be as likely to happen as finding rocking horse crap!. We make the hotel very sorry they are offering an 'all you can eat' breakfast buffet by eating about $30 worth of bacon, sausage and egg each and pack up for our journey to Canada for our first gig AND to hook up with our sound engineer Nathan Milner. We were told that we wouldn't need Canadian work permits after the introduction of new rules but are apprehensive about our chances of getting into BC trouble free. Fortunately, the guy who deals with us has family from Bearsden in Scotland so we are swiftly granted our visitor permits and make our way to beautiful Vancouver. We check in to our hotel in a fairly beatnik part of the town (a polite way of saying it was surrounded by sex shops) and head to the Rogue Folk Club. Our new merch has arrived safe and sound and we are delighted with the Old Blind Dogs baseball hats! The gig goes well despite the best efforts of jet lag to spoil it and we head back for a beer near the hotel. Rory's pal Gordon and friend of the band Zanne join us for drinks in Doolin's pub and we are entertained by a great covers band...four guys with great attitude who play through rocked up versions of some classic British rock songs.
Friday 10th September - Capitol Theatre - Olympia
Oh god! My sleep my walking monster struck again last night. I woke up around 4am, in my regulation sleep walking underwear, in another anonymous corridor in another hotel. The combination of jet lag and alcohol result in my not remembering what room number Jonny and I are in so I have to stand and wait for a moment of clarity to reveal the number. I'm sure security cameras are running...I'm just waiting for my appearance on America's Funniest CCTV Footage...'hey, have a look at this crazy Scotsman in his jockeys!'. We are all up at the crack of dawn so we head south back over the border to Olympia. We are in two seven seat vans so we activate the walkie-talkies Rory has brought ('I got them for the kids, honest!') and communicate on the road. We attempt to re-enact the scene from the spoof Airplane! by using the call names 'Roger', 'Over', 'Under' and 'Clarence'. "...do we have clearance, Clarence to cross the border, over, under, Roger?". We call into SeaTac to have Nathan put on the vehicle insurance and arrive in Olympia with enough time to check-in. Friend of the band, Peter Moulton looks after us really well and it's great to see our name in lights above the Capitol Theatre (pictured). The crowd are great and dance the night away with us and I get a chance to meet up with some great friends, Patrick and Ruta. Jet-lag is settling down so we are all beginning to feel like we are into the swing of things resulting in our spending the night relaxing and sipping G&T's in a local bar.
Saturday 11th September - Private Wedding - Shelton WA
Today, we are playing at the wedding of Dina and David in Shelton, WA. Jim was informed that he would be singing at the ceremony. Not knowing the couple that well, we ponder over which songs he will be asked to do...'Wind beneath my Wings', 'I will always love you?'. Jonny has a great story about a friend who was asked to play fiddle at a wedding. They asked him for, '...the theme from Robin Hood?' meaning 'Everything I do, I do it for You' by Bryan Adams but he misinterpreted and, as the happy couple walked down the aisle, burst into 'Robin Hood, Robin Hood, riding through the glen!' Before we head to the wedding, we enjoy a chance to rest and do laundry but Jim is whisked away at 10.30am to sing at the ceremony. We join him at 5pm and are immediately encouraged to partake in a great wedding feast accompanied by a great selection of wines. We have never performed at a wedding as a band before so we begin with some apprehension but it's not long before the congregation are up and dancing...it really is a great occasion that we are honoured to be part of. The wedding planner informs us that our performance will be followed by 'Dancing with Abba' so we burst into out own version of Waterloo...the Abba version not our own 'Battle of Waterloo'. We must find ALL copies of the wedding video and erase that part!
Sunday 12th September - Port Townsend, WA
The band awake and meet in the Gym. We swap machines as part of our circuit training and do a cardio-vascular circuit which includes two miles on the bikes, one-hundred sit ups and then a simulated walk up Ben Nevis on the tread mill...then I awake from my dream and meet the rest of the guys in the lobby for departure. We all awoke this morning after a good rest aided by the wedding Champagne. I think we are all adjusting to the jet lag finally! We skip breakfast and instead enjoy fresh crab and shrimp from a store across the street from our hotel. We then set off north for a beautiful drive up to Port Townsend (we thought it was called Pete Townsend...who...The Who!). When we arrive a boat festival is drawing to a close in the picturesque town. We head to the English Inn where we are staying and greet our hosts Jennifer and Martin. He has raised a Lion Rampant specifically for our arrival. After a cup of tea (you only get an Ooooo with Typhoo) we head down and set up for the gig. We get a great crowd and a good reception. Afterwards, we head to 'The Sirens' where we meet Austin and his father, fellow Scots from home. As well as our friend Zanne, we also meet up with 'She Smiles' a.k.a Kym Meyerdierks, another good friend of the band and regular discussion room contributor. It really is nice to meet forum members and put faces to names. We finish the evening shooting pool before heading back to our accommodation.
Monday 13th September - Day Off - Olympia Hot Springs
We decide to spend our day off by travelling up to Olympia Hot Springs in the beautiful Olympia National Park. It really is a stunning part of the USA and the drive up through the park to the springs is jaw dropping. We pass fast flowing glacial rivers which scream 'fish me, fish me!' to Jim but eventually arrive and park up for the two-mile hike to the springs. Old Blind Dogs participating in VOLUNTARY exercise on a day off...I know...this is getting unbelievable!! The walk up is stunning through rainforest and over streams but we are disappointed when we arrive to find that rather than being large steaming pools with towels provided, the Olympic Hot Springs are, as Jim so delicately suggests '...stinky hot puddles!'. The smell from the pools is a pungent sulphur and reminds me of getting stuck in an elevator with Rory on our last USA tour after a particularly healthy Mexican meal. The guys still can't resist and Rory, Jim and Fraser are soon wallowing in the puddles in their Speedos (pictured). Most natural springs are thought to possess healing qualities but just to be safe (and just in case these cause your skin to fall off) Jonny and I settle for a paddle. The walk back works up a real appetite so we head into Port Angeles to an Italian restaurant recommended to us by Olympia concert host Peter Moulton. The food and the wine are stunning. We head back to our B&B and get to talking about the 'Wizard of Oz/Pink Floyd' conspiracy and our hosts, Jennifer and Martin, inform us that they have the equipment to set up the experience. His sound Hi-Fi is a brain rattling surround sound system and his TV screen would qualify as an I-MAX cinema in Scotland! Apparently you start the 'Dark Side of the Moon' CD on the third roar of the MGM Lion at the beginning of the 'Wizard of Oz' and they play perfectly in sync! A curious experience which certainly seems more than coincidence but we head to bed very sceptical!
Tuesday 14th September - Seattle, WA
We're all up for a great breakfast of French toast this morning before setting off for our concert in the Tractor Tavern in Seattle. Before we leave we pull up in Port Townsend to run some errands and also to allow Rory to get a photograph of the 'pirate ship' for his kids. The pirate ship was, we were told, the same boat that appeared in the recent film Pirates of the Caribbean and was docked in Port Townsend as part of the boat festival. Unfortunately, the boat festival is over and there is not a single boat docked in the town...the best-laid plans!. The drive down to the ferry is like so many of the drives in this part of the world, breathtaking. It's not long before we reach the ferry but before we board we decide to get lunch. We settle for a Mexican place on the main drag before boarding our ferry straight into Seattle. It really is a great way to get into Seattle avoiding all the bad traffic on I-5. Despite having no maps we've all done the Tractor before in various guises so we find it and set up with the minimum of hassle. We catch a swift beer in Conor Byrne's pub. There's a good slogan on the wall which catches our eye. 'Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend, inside of a dog it's too dark to read!'. Jonny, Fraser and I decide to catch some food before the show and head to the Thai Cafe for some delicious soup and rolls and when we return to the Tractor the place is jumping. We enjoy what most of the band consider to be, our best ever concert in the Tractor. The audience are really up for singing and clapping. Midway through the second set Jonny begins to tell the audience about my sleep walking habits which he doesn't usually bring up...I wonder where he's going with it as he began to describe my getting locked out of the room in Minneapolis in just my underwear when suddenly Bex, a friend of the band appears with some custom made underwear for me to wear in case it happens again...a g-string with a little pocket sewn in for my room key (pictured)! Dina and David, the newlyweds from Shelton have attended the gig and very kindly brought some of the wedding cake (pictured) which we missed out on at the wedding...it is killer! We also meet Michelle properly tonight, another regular to our discussion boards. We head to a hotel near to SeaTac airport as we have an early flight to Hawaii so it's jammies on and drifting to sleep with thoughts of palm trees and pina coladas...
Wednesday 15th - Flight to Hawaii
Oh man, 4am start to check in early enough for our flight. When we finally got on board the Alaskan Airlines flight to LAX it was really empty and we savoured the opportunity to spread out for a sleep on our three hour journey. Unfortunately, Alaskan Airlines found a 'fault' with the nearly empty plane and we were transferred to a later 'packed' flight. Once in LAX we head straight to our gate continually asking each other excitedly, and loud enough for others to hear, 'ARE WE GOING THE RIGHT WAY FOR THE FLIGHT TO HONOLULU?'. The flight was fairly uneventful, six hours of looking at the Pacific, '...oh look, the sea!'. The flight also included an extremely poor film featuring former WWF (not the World Wildlife Fund!) wrestler 'The Rock'. It was so poor that I understood the plot better WITHOUT the headphones than most people did that were listening! On a passing note, we were excited to learn the Zappa family, minus Frank obviously, but including his fabulously named daughter 'Moon Unit' were up in first class...I wonder if they'll mention that the Dogs were in coach class in their travel diaries? We touched down and loaded up our van with essentials...guitars, fiddles, pipes, surf boards (pictured) and made our way through crazy traffic to our hotel, right down on the beach front at Waikiki....somebody pinch me! As quickly as we could get our swimmers on we were in the sea (in the dark but what the hell!). It was like jumping into a tepid bath...mmmm! This is one of those places that don't disappoint you when you get there...Hawaii does exactly what it says on the tin...the bands essential travel requirements...sun, sea, sand and sushi!! After Pina Colada's we settle down to a good nights sleep...it's going to be a tough week!!
Thursday 16th September - Day Off Hawaii
All up early after a restful sleep. We head out to buy local costumes to blend in. It's not long before we are kitted out with the regulation Hawaiian shirts and shades although Jim declines, preferring instead to go with the Surfing Scotsman idea. Jonny and Fraser went for the tourist shops whilst Nathan, Rory and I prefer the second hand stores for the 'worn-in' look. Rory also purchases a pair of shades and proves to be a brutal haggler! 'Nothing compared to the wife!' he points out after getting his shades at half price. Despite our attire we still all look like five peely-wally Scottish guys in Hawaiian shirts! It really is an incredible place...we call into an antique store and who should we see but Angela Landsbury!! And only $800!! We take it easy during the most oppressive heat around lunchtime although if the truth be known we take it easy all day. Jim hired a surfboard from the hotel and although he has no experience of surfing he is last seen half a mile out to sea with the Pro-Surfer dudes desperately trying to catch a wave. Jim has a solo gig in town tonight so we head into Waikiki for a sushi extravaganza. I try a few things for the first time...sea slug sticks in my mind (and my throat unfortunately). In true Scots style we decide on a 'kerry-oot' and head back to our hotel rooms veranda for a few beers. On the way back we spot people cruising along the seafront on motorbikes without helmets...a very unusual sight for us. Nathan informs us that riding a motorcycle without a helmet is also known as 'donorcycling'! We pass the police department on the way to the hotel and can't resist our very own personal tribute to Hawaii 5-o. 'Book him Dan-O', we scream to the bemusement of passing locals. Once we are back at the hotel, we decide to have one more dip in the briny...well...it would be rude not too.
Friday 17th September - Kaka' Ako Waterfront Park
Another lazy start followed by a rare check of emails courtesy of the accommodating hotel. It turns out Jim had a really noisy gig last night so he is chilling out in the sea as Fraser, Nathan and I head back into Waikiki for a bit of retail therapy. Rather disappointingly this materialises as a Homer Simpson Beer Bottle Opener (Mmmmm, beer...oh, yes, oh, yes! You know the one!) and temporary tattoos. Why are we in paradise again...oh, yes...we've got a gig! We head off in convoy to Kaka' Ako Waterfront Park for sound-check. Miraculously it starts to rain during the soundcheck at the outdoor venue...this is not in the script! After recording a radio jingle ('Hi, we're Old Blind Dogs and you're listening to...cut'!) we head for dinner before the gig, safe in the knowledge that our first gig on the Hawaiian Islands is expecting around 500 people. We are taken for a delicious Mexican meal by a group of local life-guards who turn our surfing Scotsman, Jim white with stories of fatal wipe-outs and monster sharks! We're stuffed after the starters but soldier on for Scotland through bucket loads of food before heading back to the show. The gig is great fun and we are presented with beautiful Leis (Jim's wife said it was OK if he got a Lei on Hawaii). We head beck to the hotel and, with the help of Rory, pack the merchandise for the short flight tomorrow to Maui...
Part two will follow shortly...