Road Blog: Friday October 05, 2018 - Ilfracombe, UK
Ilfracombe, Devon, UK
October 5, 2018
We met at the airport on Thursday afternoon, gate 54, around 4PM. Patrick and I got there first and waved goodbye to our guitars as they headed down the conveyor belt, like a couple of parents sending their kids off to visit their second cousins in Guam, a bit of sadness and a lot of concern. Pat was talking on the phone when Gabriel arrived, and I was at some godawul chain steakhouse enjoying a $13.99 Bulleit Rye on the rocks. It made me mad that Pat had Sky Priority boarding and I didn’t, but it was going to be a long trip and no sense letting petty competitions get you down. The flight was more or less smooth, with a short British lady next to me on one side, wreaking of cigarettes and otherwise not saying much, and an older British lady across the aisle who dropped pretty much everything she picked up, from the bag of books her grandchildren insisted she take on the plane to her glasses to the crumbly peach muffin that came with that sorry excuse for a breakfast box. No matter, by 6:30am GMT we were in terminal 3 at Heathrow, drinking coffee, and waiting for our van. Just after 10 we met up with Rob, a driver for our rental company, who set us off in a Mercedes diesel powered, manual transmission sprinter van full of gear.
Patty took the wheel, as the only one among us who has driven on the other side of the road before, and Gabe and I did our best to navigate the insane Heathrow traffic. There were a couple wrong turns, a couple stalls, and maybe even the occasional wrong lane, but as the day went on, we got our system down better. Our first stop was Andertons Music Co., considered one of the biggest and best guitar and drum shops. We oohed and ahhed the Dusendorphs, Fenders, Reverend Guitars and Gretchs for a bit before heading south.
Our second stop as we worked our way towards our gig was Stonehenge, a British historical monument, immortalized in rock and roll lore in the move This is Spinal Tap, sitting in the middle of miles and miles of farmland, dating back to 2500bc and earlier. Now, to say that Patty and Gabe were not excited would be an understatement. For a moment, the whole plan was close to collapsing, but it was my thing, so I got us on that coach with all of the Asian tourists taking selfies with their iPads, and bless them, Patty and Gabe were patient and tolerant, and using some restraint as we saw this “pile of rocks” (as Patty calls it), picked up a souvenir and headed west towards Devon.
By now we were pretty much starving and opted against the roadside gas station café with a giant neon Stonehenge in the window, and ended up down a back-country road at a pub/inn/restaurant called The Beckford Arms. It wasn’t the quick sandwich and pint we were looking for, but we weren’t complaining as they set down an amazing fish & chips (Pat), pumpkin salad (Gabe) and ploughman’s plate (me). A good, warmish pint of some Yorkshire ale, and we were on our way.
The next four hours were stressful as we weaved in and out of country roads and highways, through roundabouts every four miles, and down narrow streets and roads that aren’t big enough for one car, let alone a sprinter van full of gear. Our jetlag was kicking in pretty good by them, as it will when you’re in a moving vehicle after not sleeping for a day and a half, and still the occasional bad navigation, stall, or wrong turn, led to a stressful drive. Patty did a great job, much better than Gabe or I would have for sue, and after the last half hour of flying down a narrow chasm into oncoming speeding Pugeots and Audis, we tool a collective sigh of relief when we finally got to our hotel. Patty and Gabe rested for a bit and I went to the lobby to use the Wifi and get caught up on things. We got ready for the gig, realized that, for the first time in probably 2000 hotel stays, they didn’t provide towels, and headed out.
After a couple more bad navigations, stalled vans, and wrong turns we finally ended up at The Pier, the venue for our first European show. Ray, our booking agent, was there to greet us, a bit nervous and relieved as we hadn’t checked in all day. We met the owners, Paul and his lovely wife, and our bar tender Amber, loaded in, sound checked, got a round of pints and “Devon Blue Burgers” (“They’re royt fookin’ yuge, mate!”), had a chat with Ray and some of the locals, and felt a lot better being there after the long, stressful day. I was happy that my Telecaster survived the trip and was more or less in tune when I pulled it out of the case. My dear friend Laura showed up after a bit. She’s a Marquette girl who lives in this county now with her family, and it was amazing to see her and get caught up. We go way back, her and I, and haven’t seen much of each other in the last 25 years.
The Pier Brewery Tap & Grill is a long room that sits at the very end of a long marina dock in the coastal city of Ilfracombe, England, in the county Devon. It’s a beautiful setting, but hard to take in when it’s dark. The room is long, with a bar on one end, the stage on the opposite end up a couple stairs, and a small room in-between – but it’s all open so you can see the stage from the bar and the middle room. There were a lot of people there who approached us, saying they’d checked us out on YouTube, and were looking forward to the show. One dude even shook my hand as he walked out of the bathroom, straight from the urinal to the door, if you know what I mean. But all lovely, warm, welcoming and personal.
Support band Quorum went on around 9:30. They’re well-rehearsed, younger dudes, playing an alternative-pop-punk style with good songs and a polished sound, and they had some people out who were really digging it. We went up next, around 10:45 to a good room that grew and grew as the night went on. By half way through the set there was a steady stream of shots coming to the stage from the shot, and I’m pretty sure that Jager-bomb during the encore was about the last thing my jetlagged ass needed, but it was a super fun set with the rowdiest crows we’ve played to in a long time.
We spent the next hour or so chatting with the locals, getting a couple rounds, loading out, and saying our goodbyes. Everyone at The Pier could not have been nicer to us and it was a great kickoff to the tour. We know that all of the shows aren’t going to be this good but we really needed it last night.
I got a good, solid 7-hours sleep and now we’re getting ready to head over to Swansea, Wales for The Swansea Fringe Festival. The sleep is going to help the general mechanics of things, and we’re looking forward to visiting a new country. See ya tonight Wales!
Thanks for reading – apologies for typos etc. Wifi is a challenge. More tomorrow! xo