Friday, June 09, 2006

England: Where You Get A Second Chance

When I was driving around The States this Spring with Po' Girl, it was suggested that I should accompany them on The English Leg. They invited me to play a few songs every night before they went on, to warm up the crowd. In Canada you are called The Opening Act. In the U.K. you are referred to as "The SuPPOHT". The Po's had been a few times before and had the trap line all set up in advance and there was to be a van and driver which sounded glamorous. I knew that when we got there, even if it looked like the fire wasn't built specifically for me, no one would mind me sharing the warmth. I am always grateful for the chance to play for people. Thank you ladies. And John.

Po' Girl

Day 1

The Borderline

Historical Folk Hole. (Sarah Harmer, Ramblin' Jack posters on the walls). Strange music on. Kind of fake Americana where the accents and instruments sound slightly wrong and the word Texas is said a whole lot. Have been omitted from the bill for some reason which is a little disheartening but, you know, what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger. So they don't get the full outfit then.
Nervous. Drunk. No dinner. Unannounced. Played my big 4 song set. Started Edmonton twice. Thought they loathed me but they're just English and reserved, I guess. Sold 12 CDs so some of them must have liked it. Or maybe they're masochists, which would explain how they can live here.
Waited hours in the alley for our driver Charles, who is really sweet but a country mouse at heart, to come back with the van. Like, HOURS.

Day 2

Cellar Bar

Spent the day negotiating many roundabouts as our driver Charles, who is really sweet, just won't fucking turn left for some reason. Wiled away the hours making up English sounding place names like 'Twatford upon Cocksfoster' and 'Shaggy Muffstead'!
Bracknell bed and breakfast. Weird pig crocodile stinkdog in the garden and Jesus pamphlets in the room and surprise booming voice at the door saying "Tea's ready!"
Yeah, well I'm not.
What's up with basements and folk music? The whole building was an arts centre, The Ye Olde Entertainment Mall. The audience so silent it's unnerving. And I thought Canadians were apologetic. This woman came up and said, "I don't mean to be rude but I really enjoyed that."
How could that ever be construed as rude? "I don't mean to be rude but that blew donkeydicks" would make more sense to me.
I am never smoking again. Think I've sprained a tonsil.
New Blueberry No-Sugar Added Ribena undrinkable in case you're curious.

Day 3

The Blue Bell Inn

Best Bar Ever! As always, beware of the phrase "They make their own cider".
Ducks, two greyhounds, a goat named Abigail, five hot daughters, John, Rob and Marion. Scrumptuous local organic dinner of stuffed RED peppers with minted couscous and shiraz and when it's over you get to sleep upstairs, if you can make it. I didn't.
Had a lot of free time to test the boundaries of the seemingly endless hospitality after my set while Po' Girl played every song they'd ever heard before. I was left as unattended prey for silverhaired wine buyers. "And another one for the mad girl!"
Thought I was 'maintaining' but awoke on bar room floor clutching the fiddler with a throat full of knives and whiplash and blushing at the vague memory of trying to convince the bartender to join us. The publican and his family started stirring, came downstairs and simply stepped over us saying, "Morning girls! Tea?"
Crikey! In Canada sleeping on the bar room floor would activate police, or a news crew, or at the very least, yelling, but here it's just, "Morning girls" and then there's tea and breakfast with veggie motherfuckin' homemade sausages and all.
There was some further fallout from my one woman show: Allison found her clarinet adorned with a tell tale ring of red lipstick. Oh yeah... Well, I'd watched her play it all night and she makes it look so easy! Like when you watch downhill trick skiing on the Olympics and think you can do it.
Left some CDs for Rob and Marion, apologizing and informing them that they're on the trap line now for life.

Day 4

Will Howard Centre

The English countryside is so green. But it's a different green. English green. Like it should have it's own wedge on the colour wheel. The green is broken up only occasionally by stone fences and dotted with sheep.
Stopped in a tiny town and spied "The Famous Thaxted Sausage" kitty corner to "The Little Hay Hole" and smirked like a pervert for the rest of the day. Went into a big cold church from the fifteen hundreds and thought, "This reminds me of something... Oh yeah, our house!" The same coldness inside the walls and moldy smell. Perhaps the lady doth need more modern castle for approaching twilight.
It's cramped in the van. Pissed bright orange. Gargled with some sort of stinky antiseptic/toilet cleaner. Wondering if me and the wine will arrange for some sort of truce by showtime.
There is no evidence of my alleged 'suPPOHT' so they're not gonna know what hit 'em if there is indeed to be a 'they' but batting a hundred so far attendance-wise.
Went to pick up our band dinners at a wine bar and heard a man say: "I'll have the steak and my wife will have the CHOOONA." Then remembered that I was the foreigner and that mockery is a two way street, but man you should have heard him!
O, The William Howard Centre goes WILD on Friday nights! And by wild I mean sitting like statues ("delightfully still!" as it says on the bottled water) until the last song when one couple started ever so slightly wiggling their shoulders to show their appreciation. Another stone folk basement. I played the hangover set of contrition which worked out rather well.
Met Ken and Sue, the Po' Tour people, who mentioned something about next year's festival. Charles has left us. Met his wife, Noleen, who had just recently fallen on her face.
After the show, on the way back to the Oval House B &B, the gang ventured into the Nag's Head for teenagey obbo karaoke night but D and I returned the forks to the wine bar and headed back to the Ogle Room where I drank hot water. On Fridays I goes wild. Don't worry about killing me, I'm already dead. .

Day 5

The Cluny

Oh boy! Newcastle is my town! It's a Geordie point of pride to never wear a coat, ever. Famous for "slappers" who wear their bikinis to the bar, dampness be damned. Nice to be back in a proper bar again with actual moving, drinking, smoking, Saturday night humans!
Beautiful show. Sold loads of CDs. This, apparently, is good. The Po's were awesome. Everyone loved them. Met a woman named Karen who said, "Are you on your own then when they play? I came over because I felt a bit sorry for you." Gee thanks. She told me she used to be married to a lead singer but she left him because he was terribly insecure. Really?
Nice venue. Every time I asked for a glass of wine, they gave me a bottle which is always dangerous. Restocked the dressing room for when the ladies came off stage. Went on a hash run with the guy putting on my return engagement. And then back to weird tiny hotel.
Ugly Americans we. "Yes hello. Listen, we're going to go up there and smoke some hash so we're gonna need some sandwiches. Can you make us some sandwiches?" The nervous night porter whipped us up some cheese and pimento triangles on white bread and brought them up, backing out of our room clutching a fiver, navigating his way through the smoke and bodies while Trish offered him some culinary suggestions. "Maybe some crisp green apple?"
Our new driver Ken was last seen clutching a large tumbler of scotch, running up stairs muttering "They're all mad!" before a door slammed hard. Had some wicked hash theories. Can't remember now. My neck is officially 'out'. Quite painful when I look to my left. Have tried to cut down. Looking left, that is.
We gave ourselves pep talks and have decided as a group that here in England, stony silence does not equal hatred. That silence is just another form of appreciation. And that any perceived negativity is all in our minds. But lead singers are all insecure.

Day 6

Memorial Hall

Went to see The Stones. Well not Mick and the lads, although his brother's band is playing in the area, but these ancient mystic stones in Castle Rig. Apparently they are famous for their Energy. A man there held two coat hangers and when he got to the middle they moved together. This, apparently, was significant.
Learnt the expression, "If it should all go pear-shaped" (fall through, get weird). Wonder if it has anything to do with ladies.
Have decided that unheralded suPPOHT has it's perks. Intoxicating randomness, no sound check.
Came up with new tourist slogan for the U.K.: "England: Where you get a second chance!" Because of the way the roundabouts work, if you miss the turn-off, you get to try again the next time around. And, judging by the ads we've seen for the North American acts on tour here, it seems it works that way career-wise as well.
So, Sheffield. Home of Judas Priest, Human League and Cabaret Voltaire. Memorial Hall, huge. Alice Cooper's here at the end of the month. There's a smaller theatre as well, which is, of course, where we are. I tried out my "Silence doesn't equal hatred" theory on the oil painting out there daring to call itself The Audience and the theory was greeted with, you guessed it, resounding silence which I took as unbridled communal agreement!
Went for a smoke outside in the interval and eavesdropped on some actors rehearsing elsewhere in the building: "It's a Roman farce about a slave who wants his freedom. All comedy. All the way through. Come and have a laugh!" Been thinking about how when the folks back home say, "Oh they must love you over there!", it implies a deep-seeded belief that there will indeed be a "they". This tour, for once, there is and they do, I think. In their own way.

Day 7

The Centre For Early Music

Gorgeous hotel last night. Drinks in the bar, a little hash, some stories, and then early-ish bed. Ken was funny: "I was going to say that you were one of the most TOGETHER bands I've ever worked with but the words just sort of stuck in my throat!"
Woke up at 12:03. "Weren't we supposed to be standing outside at noon?"
"Uh Yeah"
I have become That Guy. You know. The one I hate. The one on tour who's always late and never knows what's going on. Ah well, everyone takes a turn.
York is beautiful and me dear sweet mum is from near here. Apparently there is a museum nearby which has the "Smell the History" room where they blast in different fish, coal and seaside smells.
The Centre for Early Music is ancient. There's a wall out back from eleven hundred. The place is giant with huge columns. Spinets and harpsichords in the corner. Good sound. I like singing into tenth century marble.
I sat on Thomas Holmes' grave under a spec-dracular moon, pantiless in my new polka dot dress, having a drink and a smoke and a think, figuring Thomas wouldn't mind and that I can't have been the first as he was stored in the Artist's Garden (tulips, clematis, gravel).
Been reading The Master and Marguerite. Wonder if I would have survived 1920's Russia with my treasonous thoughts and trucker mouth.
The ladies sounded beautiful tonight and I always like it when you can see the audience. They were slightly more animated than the previous few. Tried in vain to find drinks past eleven but walked around with Allie and Awna in the old cobblestone streets and down this lane called "The Shambles" where all the buildings are tilted and Yorkminster looked gorgeous in the moonlight. Smell the history. Ended up sitting out front of that night's B & B at a picnic table with Diona discussing desire and if there's a difference between Want and Need, and gardening, and how the world is big and small and how maybe it expands and contracts- all your basic serious moonlight topics-hoping we weren't keeping anybody up.

Day 8

The Forge at The Anvil

Last day of tour. Dr. John is playing in the big theatre. His bus is outside. The trailer behind it is bigger than our van. Cute tiny theatre. Very nice sound man. Went to Tesco's for some last-night-of-tour-celebratory-dressing-room-thank-you snacks and wine. Really nice show. Attempted gargle solo in the Whore song and people liked it. Went out to the lobby in the interval to find dressing room key and was actually mobbed for autographs!
"No. Thank YOU. My pleasure. We'll always have Basingstoke!"
Sad to be parting ways with my tourmates. They are sweet people who know first hand that everyone is weird. Trish and John were off to play some festival with The Be Good Tanyas, Allie and Awna were headed to Brighton, leaving me and Diona and Ken to figure out how to get to glamorous Stanstead airport at the crack of arse. I made two hundred pounds in CD sales and left it on the stage. (Gee, motivated by money much?) Luckily, John called later and said he had it. He said he'd keep it for me but that I'd have to say goodbye to my little red suitcase. Fair enough. Ended up in some hotel near Heathrow for like an hour before the taxi came.

Arriverderci England. Fuck. I forgot to learn Italian.


At 12:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Carolyn, we had never heard of you before you came to york and we saw you play with po girl and you were wonderful, literally, my heart sang and now i have 2 lovely albums which i am loaning to EVERYONE to share the wonderfully around... you rock...

At 2:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dude, you rock.
You actually rocked my world.
A fair amount. I was sat there with my friend, and we were trying not to be benevolently-smiling Guardian readers who have half a gin and tonic and then clap a bit more excitedly... and we succeeded. A bit. But then the old grannies stopped us from throwing beer bottles at you (showing appreciation) so we had to pretend not to have soul. But you gave us soul.
This is in relation to the oil painting audience of Sheffield, UK by the way. The audience you should WELL come back to. Maybe not the audience. However, you need to kick that tour manager (unless you really like them), because it sounds like they didn't get you many grotty gigs. You deserve to be stadiumming, or at the very least, at gigs where people aren't sat down on 50 year old seats, with 50 year old arses.
So email me, we'll have a party and a half when you next come. Which should be soon, because, as I said, you rock.
(that brings me nicely back to where I started, so I'll finish)
Ciao bella. Keep the flumpin faith.


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