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Aaron Jones Fall 2004 USA Tour Diary Part 2

Aaron Jones Fall 2004 USA Tour Diary Part 2The 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 Two of bass/bouzouki player Aaron Jones' Tour Diary...

Saturday 18th September - Casanova's, Maui

Another day on the road begins in the airport. We have a LOT of stuff with us so checking in is generally very stressful. There's nothing like the feeling of emptiness and despair you get when you watch some steriod fueled baggage handler (with more hair on the back of his hands than Jim and I have on our collective heads) walk away with your prized instrument. They always have a look of vacant excitement in their eyes as they disappear down to the loading bays to use your case as a ice hockey puck...I think 'Heathrow' is the most appropriate name for an airport anywhere in the world! It's not unusual for the Dogs to be charged for excess baggage what with all the stage make-up and changes of jump suit we get through on an average concert. If it looks like some unsuspecting check-in agent is going to charge us we unleash our secret weapon...Rory. With his boyish good looks and loveable smile (and a complementary OBD CD) it's usually only a second or two before the check in staff are whisking us through whilst coo-ing and ahh-ing at Rory as he cooly loads a half a ton of drums onto their scales! This time Rory has to throw in two tickets to our Hard Rock Cafe gig in Maui but what the heck...all the jump suits made it onboard...the show WILL go on! I love the attitude of some staff at US airlines when you're trying to find your seat..."People, people we're not picking out furniture here, find a seat and get in it!". Time for our safety briefing and it's clear we've go a real comedian in our midst..."There may be fifty ways to leave your lover, but there are only four ways out of this airplane". He topped it off with this gem too..."Ladies and gentlemen, we've reached cruising altitude and will be turning down the cabin lights. This is for your comfort and to enhance the appearance of your flight attendants."

Once on Maui our host Mark guides us to our accomodation whilst we're here...the beautiful Banyan House. It's like a retreat set up on a hill with a pool, jacuzzi and hammocks and surrounded by various fruit trees and groves. The real bonus is that our venue for tonights' show is only a mile or so up the road, an Italian Restaurant called Casanova's. After settling in we head down for a sound check. The venue is pretty small but we're the first Scottish band to play on Maui so we know we have to earn our stripes here. Poor Nathan is shown to the sound board which is secreted away in a tiny booth. In true Nathan style he produces the goods despite the best efforts of the house engineer who is evidently not used to a sixteen channel band in the restaurant! We take five and enjoy a nice meal at the venue. That's two first rate Italian meals so far on the tour...although Mexico leads in the quantity race, Italy is very definitley leading the way for quality. The gig goes well although the audience take a little convincing at the start. When we head back to the Banyan Tree we realise that house rules are 'quiet after 9pm', something we have never been great at on the road. I listen to my radio quietly and am stunned when I switch it on and the first thing I hear is Edinburgh based fiddler Anna Wendy Stevenson! It's a revelation to discover that Thistle and Shamrock, a programme made by a friend of the band Fiona Ritchie in Dunkeld (north of Edinburgh) features regularly on Hawaiian radio! It’s very disorienting going to sleep on Maui listening to Scottish fiddle music on the radio.

Sunday 19th September - Mulligans on the Blue, Maui

Wake up in the beautiful surroundings that are Banyan House. A bit of investigation reveals that breakfast is actually growing in the trees and fields around us. We collect pineapples, avocados, a papaya and feast in the mid-morning sun by our pool/jacuzzi discussing all the worst concerts and tour experiences we have ever had and deciding that they were worth it to get to this. We lie in hammocks and swap stories of roach infested accomodation, electric shocks on stage and aggressive audience members. The gig tonight is at Mulligans on the Blue. Blue, it turns out, is a golf course so we head across Maui for mid-afternoon. We’re part of a double bill featuring a local band so we soundcheck, eat and have the chance to relax around Mulligans’ and wait for the concert. Two of the concert goers have arrived with their pets...a cockatoo and a parrot and we proceed to have our pictures taken with the creatures. Personally, I think the parrot is a Norwegian Blue...it certainly has lovely plummage. Before we begin, Rory and I decide to catch the imminent sunset and set off, camera in hand, to the nearby beach. We realised very suddenly that we will miss it unless we run to the beach so we set off...Rory tearing along like a thoroughbred and muggins like a seaside donkey. Do you know what donkeys get for lunch at the seaside? Around twenty minutes...boom-ching! All these poor tourists are disturbed seconds after sundown by Rory and I running out of the tree line saying 'B****** MISSED IT' and desperately clicking away with my camera anyway! The gig consists of three sets in a VERY warm pub and although I'm not sure we were their cup of tea initially, we soon brought them around and enjoyed a good evening of jigging and reeling. As I said before, we're the first Scottish band to tour Maui and in a weird way we all love the challenge of winning over an audience in a new place.

Monday 20th September - Day Off (Oh, Yes!)

'A day off in paradise', Pat, our agent, has written in our itineraries and he's not far off the mark. Really, breakfast is just dropping off the trees and it's in a place like this that you begin to believe those statistics that suggest more people are killed by falling coconuts than by sharks each year. Somehow those figures are harder to accept when you’re walking through the rain in Edinburgh or watching 'Jaws' in Aberdeen. The guys are deciding the plan of attack for today...Surfing Scotsmen (shark biscuits anyone?) or round trip of Maui? I've already decided on NOT feeding the sharks so whilst they deliberate, I flick on the TV for a news check...just to check the weather and make sure it's raining REALLY hard at home. I just can't believe my eyes! Tigger in Court...it has to be the funniest thing I've ever seen on US TV. It turns out this guy was charged with groping a woman at Disney dressed as Tigger from the Winnie the Pooh books. I know assault is no laughing matter but really, the sight of this guy, who the prosecution had insisted dress as Tigger (with the Tigger head under his arm) in court to prove he could NOT reach the woman whilst wearing the costume, was surreal...Tigger-ific in fact! 'Eeyore to be ashamed of himself!' I thought....sorry. Jim, Fraser and Rory decide to stay at Banyan Tree and go surfing (feeding the sharks) and take a trip to the top of Halekala ('house of the sun') volcano. Jonny, Nathan and I decide we'll go for the circumnavigation of Maui. We head off clockwise and the views are greeted with 'oohs' and 'aahs' from the very outset. We spot '...the world's only drive through botanical garden.' and just HAVE to see that. The idea of enjoying the fragrant and fresh air of a beautiful garden from the confines of your car…break out the crayons and colour me tickled pink! I try to imagine why you might NEED to stay in the car...what are we talking here...triffids, poisonous spitting gladioli...jeesh! All the same it's beautiful and we just have to pull up and walk...just for a bit! It turns out this is where they shot the opening of Jurassic Park. We head on clockwise around the island and decide we will stop to eat. We spot a sign announcing 'BBQ - raising money for family trip' and decide to eat there. The chef has family in Samoa who have never seen his four kids so he's raising the money, by running a barbeque in his garden, for them all to go on vacation to see his family. There are three options...steak or chicken or, in true USA style...both. Our eyes are bigger than our stomachs today so we opt for both. The guy produces these steaks from a cool box and they are huge! It looks like he just wiped it's a** and whacked it onto the grill...along with the half a chicken each! Jurassic food! We've travelled over fifty-seven bridges and two-hundred turns in the road to get here but when another diner asks how many turns there are in the road around the island he says '…just two, left and right!'. We hit The Seven Pools next and Jonny and I take a dip in this unique volcanic phenomenon whilst Nathan snaps away at the stunning scenery…it's very strange that the water is warm at the bottom and cold at the top. It looks like we have enough time to head back AND go up Halekala too so we head off around the south side of the island. It's incredible the variety of landscapes on one small island...rainforest, desert, lunar. We arrive at the base of Halekala with enough time to make the sunset. The road is one of the steepest in the world and we tear up 10,000 Feet to the peak and the observatories at the top. It's a magical place as the sun sets...all these tourist is space-aged technology jackets and arctic clothes and Jonny and I in soccer tops and shorts. You are above the clouds here...like flying but with bigger cans of beer and no check-in. On the way home we discuss the fact that the Hawaiian alphabet has only twelve letters, five of which are vowels...a bit like Glaswegian!

Tuesday 21st September - Hard Rock Cafe, Maui

Today will mark our last gig on Maui. It is such a cool place and we'll be sad to leave so I decide to try surfing as the guys still have their hired boards from yesterday. We head to a nearby beach and I'm acutely aware of how hot it is. Fortunately, I have standard Scottish high UV protection, a boiler suit and a balaclava. I paste myself with high protection cream and leave my t-shirt on to protect my back from the sun (and to hide the man breasts I have been carefully growing with fast food and beer since we left Scotland). Board in hand I wade out into the sea. It's so frustrating when you’re in the water with people who make it look so easy. People of all shapes and sizes zoom passed me like torpedoes whilst I helplessly thrash at the water. I'm purple with exhaustion thinking "...well if I'm gonna check out at least 'surfing in Hawaii' will sound rock'n'roll in my obituary" when a guy drifts up at what seems like thirty knots with his BABY SON sat on his board in a diaper and armbands!. The water must a mile deep here...talk about rubbing salt into the wound! He says, '...try moving back down the board a little and keeping your feet out of the water' and his dad says, '…correct son, that's my boy!' and winks at me with pride before heading out to catch a wave. I try to say 'thanks' but swallow a life-threatening amount of salt water. I turn and make half-hearted attempts to catch the waves, determined purely to head to shore and save my own life. Seconds later, ‘Pop’ scoots by with ‘junior’ hanging ten on the front of his board. B*******! I try a few more times before we leave for the gig but concede that next time it'll be the beginners waves with the toddler group for old Jonesy. We've never played a Hard Rock Cafe before and are disappointed at a bad PA system and poor attendance at the gig. Still, a few friends turn up AND we get some Hard Rock Maui souveneirs for our partners at home...

Wednesday 22nd September - Kona Tree Centre, Kona

We pack up our bags and merch and make for the airport. Our friend Peter has booked us onto a small charter prop so we can, '...get better views on the way to the big island.' When we arrive at the check in the ground-staff weigh each of us...I'm worried that the plane is so small they're weighing us to see if we are too heavy for the flight...I'm gonna get charged for excess I'm sure of it! It turns out they are trying to distribute our weight around the plane evenly and I'm even more excited to discover that the guys have all been working on their beers guts too so I'm not the heaviest by THAT much! The flight is like a people carrier with wings and we all have that nervous 'it's gonna be OK' type grin. The only problem with these small planes is that you can hear everything that's being said...Tower: "Flight 351, you have traffic at ten o'clock, six miles!" Flight 351: "Give us another hint! We have digital watches!" Still the flight is exhilarating and we break out into a classic school bus song 'I cannae get ma granny aff the drugs!' as we float over the turquoise sea below. The runway on the big island is built on an old lava flow so it's exciting as we come in to see the volcanic activity. We are disappointed to discover that we are not going to have time to go see Kilauea, the world's most active volcano...rats! The accommodation for tonight’s gig is a beach house...really cool and with three beds outside in the open air. Rory and Jonny have been troubled by mosquitos in the recent past so Nathan, Jim and I opt for the ‘al fresco’ arrangement. I've heard that the quinine in tonic water puts mosquitos off so I'm planning to test the theory in the bar tonight with the aid of some fine blue gin. We have time before we go to the gig to try some snorkelling. With bad eyesight I am preparing for the usual disappointing blur that removing my glasses for snorkelling produces but am amazed to find that you can get prescription masks! I've never had the benefit of actually seeing the fish before so I'm last out of the water to head for the gig. Our name is in lights again outside the venue and we play to a full house in aid of the Kona Tree Centre...a great gig. We head to a local bar to continue my quinine experiment and enjoy a mini pool tournament before making our way back to the digs. Rory, Fraser and I decide to travel in the back of a pick-up and half way through our journey our host decides to place a large toad into the back with us for company...well I get the heebee jeebee's with green slimey things (I'm a democrat you see) and when Mr. Toad decides to hop around the back of the truck...Mr. Jones decides to leave...at 40mph! Fortunately, Rory catches me by the ankles and persuades me that the toad is not hungry and that if it were he would offer himself as a snack so we make it back to the digs without any major diplomatic incident. Back at the ranch we head to bed and I'm struck with the giggles thanks to a heady combination of gin and mosquito venom. I can strongly recommend laughing yourself to sleep in Hawaii...it's a memory that will stay with you for a long time.

Thursday 23rd September - Travel Day

It's a sad day for us all...we're leaving Hawaii. The place was quite surreal for me. One of those places you see on TV as a kid but never think you'll get there...bit like the North Pole or Mars. We board our flight and our friend is back on the microphone..."In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, masks will descend from the ceiling. Stop screaming, grab the mask, and pull it over your face. If you have a small child travelling with you, secure your mask before assisting with theirs. If you are travelling with more than one small child, pick your favorite." We are heading to LAX where we will stay in a hotel near the airport for the next days travel but when we arrive at LAX we discover that Rory's bag has gone missing...not just 'still in Hawaii' missing but 'missing' missing!. I hang on with Rory at the airport whilst the airline company try to track the bag down...it becomes apparent that it is seriously lost and so we head back to the hotel on the shuttle bus and drown our sorrows in the hotel bar before heading to bed. Hawaii was a blast...the memories will stay with me until I am an old man...Muhao for the memories!

Friday 24th September - Fallon, Nevada

We boarded this flight and were aware of several Spinal Tap type Rock 'n' Roll stars kicking around. Many had that feature best described as a builders cleavage, tight denim and a hair cut affectionately described as a 'mullet'. You know the kind...'business at the front, party at the back!' It turned out that Johnny Winters and his band were on board and we spotted the great white haired one sitting in First Class. The pilot came onto the intercom and announced, '...on the left you can see the Sierra Nevada's.....and on the right...my hoose!' The gig is great fun and the locals have really got into the whole vibe and called their bar the 'Old Blind Bar' in our honour. We end up out with some really nice folks in a club but the end of the night is a little fuzzy…they really nailed that authentic ‘Scots night out’ thing!

Saturday 25th September - Sebastopol, California

After a flight to San Fran airport we made the drive up to Sebastopol Festival...it's like a drive home for the Dogs. Nice hotel rooms and great friends of the band always ensure a pleasurable stay in Sebastopol. The gig is not until much later that day so we head to the festival site and to my great surprise an old friend, Lisa Davies is there. She's a jewellery designer who I know from my days with Craobh Rua (and is responsible for the forthcoming Old Blind Dogs Tags). We sound check briefly for our gig with Nathan and festival monitor engineer Tesser who many of you will meet on our forthcoming tours as our new front of house engineer. We're performing as part of a double bill with Lunasa and we're delighted to get on and off stage before them so we can kick back with a few beers and enjoy their set. I though Kevin was trying to look cool by wearing shades in the dark but in fact he'd had a nasty DIY accident and was protecting his eyes. We all chilled out later and took the chance to catch up with old friends in Sebastopol.

Sunday 26th September - Sebastopol, California

We all wake up the morning after the night before to an interview. Unfortunately, we are all on autopilot a bit but we manage to get through. We've all got workshops this morning too which doesn't help. The good news is they are very informal and more like performances that actual workshops. I sing a couple of songs with Dennis Cahill, Martin Craddock and the other guitar whizzes who are appearing at the festival and we all get through relatively unscathed. The dumbest thing I was ever heard at a workshop was when someone asked the difference between my five string bass and a four string bass? "One string! I replied. We are finishing the festival that afternoon and go out with a bang...always a great audience at Sebastopol. No matter how many times you go you always meet up with and make new friends. We go back to our hotels and freshen up for the legendary after festival parties at top honcho Cloud Moss's pad. We have a ball...all the guys and gals from Baka Beyond are there...incredibly lovely people and after a few drinks and songs (Niamh Parsons was singing like an angel as usual) in the house several of us end up with an a cappella sing around in the jacuzzi. We sang too loud though and neighbours called the police but too be honest I think the cop would have quite happily got into the jacuzzi with us for a song if he had not been on duty.

Monday 27th September - Chico, California

Jonny, Kym and Fraser decide to head to Kym's folks so Jim, Rory and I head on up to Chico to check in a night early (and get a sleep in) at the hotel. When we arrive at the hotel, the whole place is undergoing a modern re-fit (except our rooms sadly). We check in and, as time is getting on, we head out for...you guessed it...Mexican food. This place is pretty special though and the food is magic. We eat our fill and then band pal, Murray turns up for a swift jar. I've not met him before but he's one of those people who takes you on face value and is instantly likeable. Unfortunately, he's been working hard all day so we enjoy just a couple of jars and call it a night.

Tuesday 28th September - Chico, California

Great lie-in this morning! The hotel room is very simple (and so old fashioned it's like waking up in the Andy Griffith Show) but everything works...it's amazing just how much CNN you end up watching in hotel rooms. It's like that Bill Hicks line, “...do you ever sit and watch CNN for...like...twenty two hours in a row?” The news is all death, famine, destruction and pestilence, ”…they are still looking for WMD.” the tanned reporter informs us...'How do we know what weapons they have, Bob?” asks one pundit...didn't Bill Hicks suggest, "...looking at our receipts". After a very leisurely morning I head out with Fraser for the excitement of tour laundry. There's nothing quite like spending those few hours of peace and quiet when you're NOT travelling searching for a laundromat and sitting with a handful of quarters willing your jeans to dry. Still, the washing is done...Fraser is spared turning his smalls inside out again for a new band record seventh time and we head back to wait for the rest of the boys to arrive. Jim has been fishing with Murray so we're bracing ourselves for, 'the one that got away' story but it turns out that as well as beautiful scenery, they had a good catch too. The concert hall is not great acoustically and Nathan has to fight the room but he's a real pro at that sort of thing. I have decided not to try to fight my imminent baldness by beating my hair at it's own game and regularly shaving my head. Fraser decides he needs a haircut too so we borrow a set of clippers from Murray and set about each others heids in the restrooms at the venue...we both leave big tufts all over each others heads. The gig goes really well so afterwards we head with our pals to a local hostelry and then party back at the motel until the very early hours...Murray really is a top chap!

Wednesday 29th September - Santa Cruz, California

Oh...my...god! We are all sssssssssssoooooooooo ill this morning. Must have been a bad pint...of tequila. We make our way very sheepishly to Santa Cruz and wander around the town in a daze killing time until the gig. How does a Scot find a sheep in long grass...irrisistable! The irony is that tonight, of all nights, a friend of the band is turning up to record the performance for a promo DVD for a project he is working on. We all look like death warmed up but, thanks to a great (and incredibly lively ) audience, Dr Gig comes to our rescue. We're staying with a great friend of the band Gloria Rosson and our pal Dorothy is here too but we have an early flight and, after a cup of tea it's no surprise that we don't need much rocking to get to sleep.

Thursday 30th September - Tucson, Arizona

Another day, another flight...I love that 'Welcome to our platinum and gold frequent flyers club members' stuff. Are the silver and bronze folks NOT welcome? What about us musicians back here in aluminium class? ” Your seat cushions can be used for flotation and, in the event of an emergency water landing please paddle to shore and take them with our compliments." 'Scuse me, but aren't we flying over land today... were you hoping to ditch in a swimming pool!. We get to the gig eventually and it's a really nice auditorium. Plenty of food, a good PA and a really receptive audience. Unfortunately, the promoter is VERY good at math and despite a nearly full house, we walk away from the concert with a very poor deal which leaves something of a bad taste in our mouth. We head to our accommodation which IS really nice but, un-nervingly, the rooms are set out for honeymoon couples with his and hers bathrobes, flowers and wine!

Friday 1st October - Flagstaff, Arizona

This really is spaghetti western country as we head off to drive up to Flagstaff. We are separated into two cars and very quickly loose each other as we drive up through Sedona to the gig. We stop to catch the scenery and are amazed by the amount of shops selling 'genuine native American' products like wristwatches and magic sets? We also spot a place called 'The Taco Tree'. "Ah, so that's where they come from!" says Nathan. At tonight's gig we have a 'meet the public' session before the show. I always find these things a little awkward but everyone gets on great and we enjoy a great show in a venue that looks more used to holding rock concerts than folk music. We pack up and head back to our hosts house where we enjoy some great food and play tunes and songs into the night.

Saturday 2nd October - Berkeley Freight & Salvage

It's time to fly back to California for the final leg of the tour. We make our way to the airport and board again for another flight..."We'd like to thank you folks for flying with us today. And, the next time you get the insane urge to go blasting through the skies in a pressurised metal tube, we hope you'll think of US Airways." I've never actually played the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley before although several of my friends have. They all speak highly of the vibe at the concerts so I'm looking forward to this one. It's a little smaller than I had imagined but that generally equals a good atmosphere and, based on the amount of graffiti in the dressing rooms, the place certainly has character. To my shame (as merch dude) tonight is the first time on the tour that ALL the merch has been togteher at the same time. It's a mammoth task sorting it out but thankfully Kym (Jonny's wife) is with us and she lends a very helping hand. It's a great gig, with that warm and intimate atmosphere that makes you get into playing. It certainly works up and appetite so we head of to a local Chinese place (yes, NO Mexican tonight!) with band friends Gloria, Kim and Tim. You generally get a fairly standard beef, chicken or prawn deal in Scotland when you eat Chinese so when we spot 'ducks tongues' and 'jellyfish' on the menu we have to try them. They are truly awful as you might imagine but we have a great time, in great company before heading back for a well earned sleep.

Sunday 3rd October - Grass Valley - California

Today it's a beautiful drive up north to Grass Valley to their festival. It's a big outdoor number with trade stalls, exhibitions, concerts and catering. There is a drum ensemble going for glory on the stage dressed in the full battle dress. The irony that these Californian guys are dressed in full plaid, claymores and saltire face paint whilst our Scottish contingent is clothed in Hawaiian shirts, sunglasses and sandals, is not lost on me. We load in the gear and then chill out and walk around the grounds to check out the stalls and exhibitions. It's set in a really beautiful park. We ALL spot the masseure back stage and are all jellified before going onstage. Always a good idea to get the massage after the gig. This is the way to finish a tour...we have a cracking gig and the audience really respond well. We decide, in traditional OBD fashion, to celebrate the last night with several beers at the after festival party. I end up chatting in another room and when I go back Rory is fast asleep so I crash in with sound engineer Nathan. Deep down we all know it's his last tour with the band so it's nice to get a chance to chat before bed. Although he'll be sadly missed, I'm glad for Nathan that he can go home and relax tomorrow and we bid each other goodnight and sleep in preparation for our journeys home.

Monday 4th October - Travel home

I'm on another plane...aaagggg. Still look on the bright side, I'll be home after another fourteen hours flying! "Ladies and gentlemen, if you wish to smoke, the smoking section on this airplane is on the wing and if you can light 'em, you can smoke 'em." We kick back and watch a few films, have the chicken, not the beef and enjoy a few hands of blackjack on the personal TV's. As we approach home the flight captain announces over the intercom, "Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking. Welcome to Flight Number 293, nonstop from San Fransisco to Amsterdam. The weather ahead is good and, therefore, we should have a smooth and uneventful flight. Now sit back and relax...OH, MY GOD!". There followed and long silence during which we all looked around in startled wonder. After a few minutes, the captain came back on the intercom..."Ladies and Gentlemen, I am so sorry if I scared you there. While I was talking to you, the flight attendant accidentally spilled a cup of hot coffee in my lap...you should see the front of my pants!" A guy behind me yelled, "That's nothing. You should see the back of mine!"

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