Road Blog: Tuesday October 09, 2018 - London, UK
October 9, 2018
Tuesday morning we woke up to a beautiful, sunny, London sky, moderately cool temperatures, and an open day at our Airbnb. Since we had two London shows we stayed here two nights, which makes for less time spent traveling, packing, checking in/out, etc, and more time enjoying the city, relaxing, taking care of things that are difficult from the back of a van, and generally doing our own things for a bit. Patrick got up early, got some exercise in, made coffee, and headed into the city via Uber to visit one of his favorite neighborhoods – Canary Warf. Gabriel drank coffee and read a book he started just before we left, and I went for a good run. Around noon, a guy from our rental company picked up the van, which had been giving us fits, and took it back to the shop, promising he’d be back with a new one (and all our gear) in short time.
Our AirBB is just north of the University of East London, which sits on the bank of a marina that connects to the River Thames, which is a short swim to the runways of London City Airport. The Capital Ring Walk is a 78-mile bike/walking path that surrounds the whole city and makes for some great scenery of the skyline and the river. I ran through the university campus, dodging the students at lunchtime and Caribbean food truck traffic, along the Capital Ring for a good bit, back into the neighborhood, and into a huge park just west of us that had paths leading to many major points of interest. It felt great, and long overdue, to finally have some time to get some exercise and not be on the go for a few hours.
I got back to the AirBnB where things were quiet and peaceful. I changed the strings on my Fender Telecaster, did a little work on the computer, showered, and got ready for an early load-in. The new van arrived around 3, loaded with our gear and ready to go. Great service from our rental company and hopefully a more reliable, less stressful ride. Patty texted that he was bringing back sandwiches from a shop he likes called Pret A Manger, and they were damn good. Gabe had smoked salmon, Pat had chicken, and I had prosciutto. Patty had a sore throat coming on and was rapidly losing his voice. We climbed into the van and headed back into the London traffic towards the venue.
The show last night was early – 4:30 load in, 6:45 show, done by 10:30. We’re getting used to London traffic, but it’s up there with the worst I’ve seen in my life, and I’ve seen some. Massive congestion, aggressive drivers, narrow, busy roads, confusing exits, giant buses, countless bikes, motorcycles weaving in and out, all compounded by an insane web of streets that curve and turn every which way constantly and a van with manual transmission. I don’t know how Patty keeps his shit together, driving under those conditions, but he’s done a great job. We arrived at the venue on time, met Tim, the bartender, and loaded in. Again last night there was a mandatory backline, meaning we had to use the venue’s gear, so we just brought in guitars, drum hardware, various accessories and merch. We went to the recommended parking ramp beneath a nearby shopping center that was a whole debacle in itself, locked up the van, and walked back to the venue for soundcheck.
Around 5pm the sound engineer arrived. He’s a younger dude with a head full of dreadlocks pulled back into a pony tail and a difficult-to-understand accent that Gabe thought was Italian and I thought was Jamaican. My heart sank when he pulled out the house guitar amp that I was told would be a Marshall combo but was in fact a tiny little Fender Champ. Not the cool ones from back in the day, but one of the newer solid-state ones. If you know me, you know that I am particular about my guitar tone, and I wish I’d known as I would have lobbied to bring in the Vox AC30 from the van. Oh well, too late for that now. Sometimes in rock and roll things don’t run as smoothly as you wish they did, so I made the best of it. We plowed through soundcheck and headed out on foot to get away a bit and find a beer.
Seems in London there’s a pub on every corner….till you need one. We finally found one a couple blocks away and ordered pints. A young woman approached us and asked us a couple questions about the Kavanaugh hearings for a study she was doing. We shared our disappointment with her, made it clear where we stood and how we felt about his appointment to one of the most important jobs in our country, and exchanged pleasantries before she moved on to another table. From there we went to another nearby pub called The York which dated back to the early 1800s, had another round, and enjoyed it in the courtyard out front. We walked back to the venue and said hey to some of the other bands as the show was starting.
The Islington 1 Tolpuddle Street is a great venue that sits in the neighborhood of the same name. TrooperGirl22 and I were here a few years ago when I dragged her halfway across town to have a couple pints at Filthy MacNasty's, a legendary pub frequented by the likes of Bowie, Bolan, etc, and once owned by Shane MacGowan. It’s since closed, but the neighborhood still has a lot of character. The Islington has a bar room with a public house feel and a band room off to the side. The band room is small but has a nice stage and an area to stow gear. The Eagles Of Death Metal played a surprise show there a couple weeks ago and many other great names have walked across that stage.
Up first was Dan Tredget, a younger dude with an acoustic guitar and a loop pedal. He had a good crowd out and played a fun set of smart, engaging songs. Next was Evert Outen, a singer/keyboard player with a solid 3-piece behind him, and finally was Jimmy Regal and the Royals, a Mississippi-style blues band with guitar, drums and Jimmy on the harp and vocals. Super nice dudes and a fun, rowdy set wrapping up with Pretty Thing – a killer Willie Dixon/Bo Diddly tune that I love.
We went on last and the room filled in nicely during our first song. After the last couple nights we needed a good one, and it was great to have some faces in front of us. We flew through our 30 minutes, wrapped up more or less on time, and spent the next hour mingling with the crowd and other musicians, selling a little merch, tearing down, and loading out between drinks. By this point, Patty’s voice was pretty much completely gone and he was drinking hot totties to sooth it. Remember the bit about how rock and roll doesn’t always run as smoothly as you expect? Well, sometimes that applies to pay-out at the end of the night too. We waited around for a long time, finally got a little cash, hit a nearby grocery store for some late night and morning provisions, and drove through the city and back to our AirBnB.
Despite some of the logistics around the show not being what we expected, we left feeling good about the night. Everyone working at the bar was really nice, we made some friends, played to a good crowd, survived the city, and got our music into the hands of some new people. The tour is past the half-way mark now, and we’re ready to head north and get out of the city. We’re still in that weeknight-mode, so the shows come with an air of unpredictability and low expectations, but we’re feeling good and ready to see some new country.
See you tonight at The King Billy Rock bar in Northampton. Thanks for reading! Xo