UK Tour 2015 Denoument

June 6th, 2015


Sunday morning (early)
Heathrow Terminal 2 – The Quuen’s Terminal, doncha know?
Listening to: Whatever musical garbage the Costa Coffee is spewing.

Hello all you crypto-voyeurs out there, peeking in our bedroom window. Admittedly, this particular bedroom window is wide open, no blinds, and we’re prancing in front of it, trying on all of our naughty nightwear. Nonetheless, have you no shame?

Here we sit, PF, Jake (heretofore referred to as the Big Dipper (“Good Morning!” – his catch phrase)), and Edward “The Tweed Phantom” Brogan at the airport, awaiting our early morning flight. We just parted ways with Benny Baby, off to play more gigs in Holland and elsewhere with the Corn Potato Stringband, having been dropped off by Brian after our final gig at Anvil Arts in Basingstoke. Only 3 more hours til we can check in.

“Hey Hot Seats,” the sensible among you might say, “why not sleep in a hotel room for a few hours before getting up at a semi-reasonable hour in the morning? Why set up a little shanty-town in a respectable international air transit facility?”

It’s just not how we roll, for 3 reasons:

1) We wouldn’t go to sleep at a reasonable hour. There’d be bags o’ beer to drink, cigarettes to smoke, and nonsense to spout, late into the evening. At least would just stay up all night anyway.

2) Those that DID get some sleep would undoubtedly end up tossing the ringing phone across the room, rather than waking up when the alarm sounds. We would end up having to hoof it into a busy airport drop-off area, random pieces of undergarments falling out of our bags as we ran to the check in area, and you know that at least one of us will look and smell suspect enough to be flagged in the security line (woe to the TSA agent who opens up one of our dirty laundry-laden packs).

3) We’re not . . . how do I say this . . . prone to making things too easy or comfortable for ourselves. A quick peek back into the depths of this blog will provide you with multiple examples of plans so convoluted as to make Rube Goldberg or Don Rumsfeld’s blueprints for success seem streamlined and uncomplicated. What’s track and field without hurdles, eh?

Anyway, let’s reflect, shall we (only 2 hours and 54 minutes left to kill)?

Since last I wrote, we had another great gig with The Railsplitters in Kilbarchan, where it was especially heartening to see so many familiar faces. Having played in Kilbarchan on nearly every tour, many of the regulars feel like family. We received an intro from Loudon that expressed a similar sentiment, and ended with our finest stage call ever: “Ladies and Gentlemen, the fucking Hot Seats!” Awww blush.

We had a great day off in Edinburgh. Our good pal Toby took some of the guys to the Malt Whiskey Society to taste a wide variety of special made whiskies, play some tunes, and engage in general ribaldry. After this, we had another dinner with our Soundhouse pals, our hosts, and other notable Edinburgh-ians that we have gotten to know; a ritual that now feels like an annual tradition. Food was eaten, various alcohols were consumed, jokes were cracked, arguments were had. All in all, a typical lively and entertaining evening with such an intelligent and eclectic group.

We headed south on Thursday to the Gate to Southwell music festival. We had two sets – the first on the main stage, just before Billy Bragg, followed by a late night set at the bar stage. Both sets were, if I may say, smashing successes. The first was in front of a large crowd for us – right around 900-1000 folks. We had many of them singing “Ahhh Peaches” with us. Plenty of action there. BRAG ALERT: Coming off of the stage from this set, I got a chance to chat with Billy Bragg (a songwriter of whom I am quite fond), who paid me some choice compliments about mandolin playing and songwriting, specifically a nihilist little ditty we just worked up called “When You Were Young.” It was unexpected and very flattering.

The late night set was as, if not more fun. While there were far less people, it was a packed crowd in the little tent, allowing us to really interact with them. Plenty of well marinated dancers and hooters. We got a chance to bring a new friend – Jez Hellard – on stage to play some great harmonica for us. Such a ubiquitous instrument, the harmonica, and so easy to get a good crowd response for some fairly mediocre sucking and blowing; it’s rare and notable when you encounter someone like Chez, who so clearly puts real time into the craft and can make a little metal bar do so many percussive and expressive things. A fun set, to say the least.

Friday morning we had some time to lay around in Southwell – a lovely small town near Nottingham. I went on a nice circuit run, taking advantage of the many public footpaths that fringe the fields and farms there. We are big into walking in this band, and the public footpath and right of way laws that exist in the UK (or seem to, I haven’t actually done any research on this). The fine citizens of the Ewww Ssssss Ay take our ownership of things so seriously, it’s hard to imagine many landowner being laid back about random oafs meandering on their personal property.

Eventually we made our way towards Camden and the Green Note, where we have played once before. We got some time to walk around Camden and scope the wide variety of styles that are happening in a city as huge and international as London. The Green Note was pretty well packed to the gills with enthusiastic audience members, including our great friends and recent Edinburgh emigrants, Leonie and Kiké, and also PF’s old New Zealand housemate Sam, with whom (and 5 other Kiwis) he shared a total shithole of an apartment in Dunedin, Otago. Ahh, glory days . . .

After the Green Note gig which, as I said, was super fun, we rushed to the BBC Broadcasting Building for a late night appearance on World on 3 on BBC Radio 3 with Lopa Kothari, who is a lovely and inquisitive person. We had possibly the best interview we’ve ever had – amazing how good it can be when the show host does a little research and asks questions beyond “how did you meet?”- played some tunes, had some complimentary sandwiches and fruit, and were generally awed by the fancy grandeur of BBC headquarters. Usually we’re just generally odd . . .

Another lay in, this time in the warm purple embrace of the Premier Inn, Farnborough – our only paid hotel this whole tour, thanks to the kindness of ex-strangers (though some are still rather strange). Our main task this afternoon was the changing of money. Nothing less sketchy than wandering into a mall money changing shop with big wads of cash, furtively glancing from side to side and saying things like, “Yeah, I’m a banjo player, sure, that’s the ticket, see?” We found our way to a massive ASDA mega-box, brimming with shoppers. It really got us ready to return to the USA – the OG when it comes to unnecessary commerce and soul-gobbling boxes. Snip snap, clip clop, and we’re on the road.

Our final gig was in Basingstoke at a very nice multi-use art center. We were in the small theater while a comedian, Rich Hall, was in the big one. We had an amiable chat with him. His Wikipedia says that Matt Groening based the character Moe off of his visage, so it was a little distracting to speak with him without adding a bar apron.

The show went well – the Forge Theater is a very close and quiet room, which has the tendency to make us wonder how well we are going over (too much silence makes us think, never a good thing). However, the crowd was very appreciative and all of our worries were in vain.

And now we wait. Only 2 hours and 13 minutes left to go, and I haven’t even added any links yet. Oh blog-readers, thank you for providing me with a way to keep my hands busy and also for serving as a willing receptacle for our brain droppings!

UK, doners, good Indian food, cool weather, we will see you in a year or so.

PF Hot Seats et al.


Literature, Philosophy, Food, and Toilet Humor

June 2nd, 2015


The Seatsplitters at the Traverse Theatre – June 1st, 2015

Late Addition that I’ve decided to put first . . .

Tuesday, June 2nd:

Hey folks, before we get into the meat of the moment (speaking of meat, did you know that the doner meat is raw on the inside as it spins for days on that metal spike?? Oh Edward, how’s your guts?), just want to relay last night’s fun, as it is the freshest. Yesterday we played a gig for our pals at the Soundhouse Organisation – the company started by Douglas and Jane-Anne, they of the illicit house concerts. The premise behind the company, as with the house shows, is to ensure that the artists get paid fairly for their efforts. This means they take NO money from the door. I know that doesn’t sound so amazing, but trust me, it is. There’s no lack of sleazy promoters in this world, just waiting to take a cut, like headlice, of which we have many!

Anyway, as sometimes happens, we got to play with another band from the roster at Brookfield-Knights, our UK booking agency, The Railsplitters, from Boulder Colorado (somewhere in the annals of this blog theres’ a passage on Boulder, I just know it. I believe it was something like, “If you wanna play in Boulder, better have a djembe in the band”). They are fabulous musicians, great songwriters, and fun folks to boot. It was a great show. It is astounding how we are both “bluegrass bands” but can play such vastly different forms of music. The Railsplitters are careful practitioners with complex harmonies and clean solos. We, on the other hand, are a rabble of nonsense with banjos. Whatever the differences, it was a great lineup and the packed crowd was thoroughly wowed.

Beyond the musical enjoyment, it also filled us with enjoyment to see a band in the throes of their first experience over here, and specifically that experience filtered through the Gerry Roche lens. Yes, we took great pleasure in having late jamming in the green room and swapping stories with them while Gerry frantically tries to corral them to the van and back to some Travelodge. We recall fondly our first trip over, when Betse, Ike, Nate, and Phil of the fabulous Wilders provided us with some good pointers for UK tour living. Yes, truly we have become the sage grandfathers that we never had.

We’re playing another gig with them tonight in Kilbarchan, and then we’re off to Southern places (no, not Alabama, Nottingham!).

And now, the last 4 days . . .

Date: Saturday, May 30th
Location: in motion
Listening: Akuma No Uta by Boris

Hello out there! Over here! It’s me, I’m right in here!

Here? Where’s here? Where else – the back of a van, hurtling headlong towards the future. On my right is Benny Martin Belcher, headphones on and staring at the passing vistas. No doubt he’s conjuring up some new twisted artistic vision, festooned in slugs and hot dogs (you’ll have to ask him about the meanings; some recesses of the psyche are too dark and murky for a lightweight like me to explore).

We are currently being driven about by Brian Kerr, of whom you’ve read in previous posts. Gerry’s currently off with the Railsplitters, giving them they’re first taste of Paisley hospitality. Let’s hope they’re surviving it. Brian’s style is a stark contrast to Gerry. Both are consummate professionals; however, where Gerry is, uh, vigorously and violently loquacious, Brian is more demure; Gerry is an afterburner of animosity and agita, Brian is a slower burn. We like both styles, for sure, though we find ourselves having to berate one another about the speed with which we get into and out of the van, there being no one else to do so for us.

Most notably, while Brian is a great musician, and right in our wheelhouse when it comes to genres – a former punk musician from the seminal Scottish punk band Fire Exit, and who played with Captain Sensible, of the Damned – he doesn’t like to listen to anything in the van. Not BBC2, not BBC4, not anything. Hence, we tend to be, all of us, headphoned. It makes for a quiet and peaceful van ride, to be sure. Truly, it’s all deep thought, reading, and contemplation, punctuated by the occasional witticism or, more often, pointing out the window while shouting “look at the baby sheep!” Yes, it’s a regular Algonquian Roundtable in the Hot Seats van. Come join us, won’t you?

We are currently en route from The Grapes in Stranraer, a place bout which I wrote in length last year. We are happy to report that little has changed. It remains a highly hospitable, friendly, and fun gig. A little more loose than some of the halls and theaters that we play, which provides a nice balance and allows us to stretch our bar band muscles, which, as you know, is how we cut our teeth (and then ruined them with too many sweets!). After the gig, we are highly encouraged to sample all that the bar has to offer. The night ends with Graham and Ben pouring drinks, running orders, and emptying trash with an enthusiasm that, I for one, have never seen them bring to music. It was begrudgingly that they were removed from the establishment, having found their true callings as sassy barmaids. Thanks again to Billy, Laura, Sally, Colin, and everyone else for a great time and for helping our two boys on their pathway towards true self discovery.

Town Name Update: we just passed Wigtown. Not much else needs said, only that I picture lots of immaculately coiffed and evenly colored heads of hair. Ah to live in Wigtown, our tresses flowing in the breeze. I’ll comb yours if you comb mine!

Aaaand, now we just passed Warcop, and the Warcop Training Center. Sounds more like an apt name for some towns in the U S of goddamned A, right? Given our uber-mechanized and militarized supercops, anyway.

We had fun gigs in Edinburgh and Dunfermline on nights previous to this. In Edinburgh, it was a very small crowd at our pal Naomi’s excellent art space. This allowed us to try out some new material, unearth some old material, and generally goof off. Of note was the first playing of Ben’s banjo classic “Trouser Gravy” as a special request for our pal Jim Welsh from EastCoastFM.
In Dunfermline, we once again played at the Carnegie Hall. However, instead of playing to ~60 people in an 800 person room, we played in the Cafe, which was far more preferred.

If you are concerned with how well we are eating, don’t be concerned folks. Beyond the inevitable late night food mistakes (or, as Ed would have it, food victories), there was ample fish in the Orkneys, plenty of curries, saags, jalfrezis, and pakoras, cheese twisties, man-sized chocolate buttons (a real thing), pork scratchies, and just this morning, the first (and hopefully only) round of Full Scottish Breakfasts. Sodium all day!

And now we’re off to Selby in England. These are some longer driving days for us – 4-5 hours per day – but, as I’ve said before, we are hardened road warriors. These asses are made for sitting, and that’s just what they’ll do. What’s that? Oh, Jake was just making some Classical Analogy about the Page 3 girl in today’s Sport (a magazine that Ed is fairly sure is inflating the assets of their main attractions. and I quote, “there’s no way that those are F’s“). As I said, it’s all snifters, snuff, quotable moments and laudanum for we erudite minstrels. So, with that, time to see what Jake’s talking about . . .

May 31st, 10:30am . . .
Location: In the van, headed North on the A1
Listening to: To Pimp a Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar

Ooh! We just passed Low Cocklaw, which, as Ben says, is “some wild west shit.” Just south of Conundrum (which is where we spend much of our lives, don’t you know?). Thank you Britain, you provide us with endless childish entertainment.

OK, it’s now the next day – sometimes I don’t have the wherewithal or wireless connection to post these in a timely fashion. We had a great night in Selby! What a fabulous venue and staff. Chris and John were super polite and solicitous, we had a tasty Turkish meal, walked around a large, ornate, and kind of imposing 10th century abby with tons of gargoyles and busts in various states of eery erosion carved into it, and then played a fun show to a packed house. While we’ve long been told that English audiences will be more reserved than their Northern neighbors, we haven’t found this to be the case. Perhaps it’s our disarming gyrations and absurd tempos, but our English crowds hoot and stomp with the same fervor as our Scottish ones. Though, to be fair, we were still in the North(ish), which, as recent polling and voting might suggest, is eager to move Hadrian’s Wall further south and start wearing kilts. (So nice to have another country’s electoral outcomes to mock, as opposed to just repeatedly smacking my forehead in shocked disbelief at my own countrymen and women and their bad decisions.). Nice to see that we’re not the only country who elects fat-faced entitled man-boys to the highest political position not once, but twice!

Aaaand, there goes Cockburnspath, which I think might be the figurative route for a few members of this band. And Oldhamstock, which is better than Nohamstock, am I right?

And, it being a new tour, we have yet another new set of patrons. Thanks so much to Paul and Jane who, after seeing us for only 2 minutes at Orkney, thought to themselves, “let’s invite these reprobates into our home for beds, meals, conversation, drinks, and whatever else they might want.” Astounding how two totally sensible people could make that decision, no? Whatever pixie dust we spread to cloud their senses, we are eternally grateful.

Next stop is Dundee for an afternoon gig, then St. Andrews for an evening spot at the Byre Theatre (preceded by a quick 18, don’t you know)

Until next time,
PF et al., signing off


Tales of High Adventure on The North Sea!

May 26th, 2015

Monday (?), May 25th:

Pitch and roll, heave and yaw, flukes and flames! It’s Olde Salty PF Hot Seats here, reporting from the ferry Hamnavoe, transporting us back from the fabulous Orkney Folk Festival! As with other multi-day festivals in Scotland in which we have been fortunate enough to paricipate, we are spent of energy, but fully sated with great memories, new friends, and tons of tunes.

We’ve been over here now for just 6 days, but we have packed a lot of activity into that time period. The trick is to forego sleep – you don’t really need it, you know. It’s just an environmentalist conspiracy to get you to turn the lights off at night.

In brief:
Flights from the USA in 3 different legs – dazed and sleepless wandering in Edinburgh – 5am leave for the Scrabster to Stromness ferry – early morning loving abuse from Gerry the Mother Hen – arrival and welcoming in the Orkneys – new faces, old faces, new tunes, late night jams – 1030pm dusk, 2:30am dawn – fish, birds, rocks, standing stones, ancient rituals – alcohol (x100) – hasty packing, tearful goodbyes – passed out on the ferry floor, spent.

Essentially, the festival has been one long highligt, but allow me to pull a few moments out as especially noteworthy:

1) Danger on the high sea!
On the second day of the festival, we were slated to catch a ferry from Stromness, on the mainland of Orkney, to Sanday, a smaller island to the northeast. We loaded in the van along with our soon-to-be compatriots in adventure: Findlay Napier, a great singer and writer of songs, and the Lowland Linties, a quartet of 3 women and one man who sing beautiful old and funny songs in sweet harmony. Although early for musicians – 9:30am – we were all at the shuttle essentially on time and headed to the ferry terminal. We pulled in to the terminal, unloaded our gear and went inside to collect our tickets, at which point the ferry pulled away. Somewhat dumbfounded, we called our pals at the festival office to inquiry what the %$&* we were supposed to do at this point. They jumped into action with the quickness to be expected from situations like this, and we were pointed towards a small (~35′) water taxi that is used primarily by one of the local salmon farming operations, a big business in the Orkneys.

While not the absolute roughest of days on the North Sea, it was far from the calmest – we were battling roughly 10′ swells and also a strong tidal current – making for a roller coaster style boat trip. Some of us held our own, while others were turning a bit green about the gills. The Linties began singing old songs in order to stave off nausea, and it turned into one of the most spontaneous and organic concert that we have ever witnessed. The whole ordeal bonded us with the other musicians in a way that no normal ferry crossing would.

Their singing brought us safely into Sanday, where we performed for the local schoolchildren. Sanday’s school has 53 kids between the ages of 3 and 16 – nearly impossible odds for any potential pranksters, layabouts, or

After the school concert came the main show, followed by a Ceilidh, where Graham, Ben, and I joined in the fray. The dancing at these ceilidhs is fast and furious, and sometimes resembles rhythmic calisthenics as much as dancing. This is especially true of the Orkney version of a dance called “Strip the Willow” which was a marathon of swinging, leaving the dancers drenched in sweat and disoriented.

NOTE: It’s taking a lot of willpower not to make “Strip the Willow” into some kind of foul euphemism, folks. I hope my restraint is noted and recorded.

2) New Rope String Band!
We were very happy to know that we would get a chance to see the New Rope String Band in action at Orkney. For specifics on this band, see my entry from the Didmarton Bluegrass Festival from 2011. Needless to say, they delivered a hilarious, creative, inspired, and wry performance. The show we got to see was a kid’s concert, adding an extra layer of complexity to the whole thing, as these kids were running around, shouting, and gleefully attempting to climb on stage while the New Rope guys were doing their elaborate and well timed bits.

We also got many opportunities to hang out with Jock and Tim, which was a great treat. On Sunday, Jock joined us for a late night session of old time music during the afternoon and in the later night, when we also graced by Tim, dancing on the tables and singing rude songs (of special note was “9 Inches Will Please a Lady” by the National Bard of Scotland, Rabbie Burns). It’s a treat for us to consort with such talented, fearless, and tasteless people.

3) Pictish Wishlist
As you regular readers probably know, we go gaga for a number of different attractions on the road. We’ve learned the real truth at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, KY; we’ve taken selfies in any number of state parks and historical monuments; art and culture? You betcha! But hey, say you told us that there were confusing and mystical remnants of a long-dead civilization on a remote island on which we happened to be staying? We’d say, oh hyeeelllll yes!

Do you know who the Pictish people were? Well, in truth, neither do the folks who spend time studying them. They were Neolithic age people who lived on the Orkney Islands around 3500 BCE who built villages, standing stones, and strange mounds for burial and possibly other rituals. Two of the famous standing stone rings – The Stenness Stones and the Ring of Brodgar (Ring of Brodgar!! We are getting so close to Conan the Barbarian here, it’s chilling) are only about 2 miles outside of Stromness, where we were staying. While it’s unclear exactly what they are for, it is thought that they line up with seasonal events. We knew better, however.

Ben, Jake, Graham and I (Ed doesn’t truck with ancient magic. He feels some things are better left unexplored) took a ride out to these places on a windy Sunday afternoon. We walked their lengths, pressing our faces and chakras close to the rocks, speaking secret sentences to our Pictish forebears, and then we entered the ring, held hands, and descended to the Black Lodge.

Or maybe we took some pictures and ran around in the wind. Either way, fucking cool.

4) The People:
This is an old sentiment in these blogs, but we made a lot of fast friends at this festival and solidified some older relationships. Not only with our boatmates and Jock and Tim, but also with Mhari and Louise from Shetland, Gavin, Jo, Kate, Irene, the guys in The Chair, Dalahan, Barrule, Gordie and Mark from P.E. Island, and tons more names I’m currently too addled to recall.

Something about these extended festivals that take place in secluded locales really lends itself to building a string communal bond. Like the exact opposite of a prison stint; the sentence is that you are bound to be around the same face for a number of days, and all share in a collective music-making work detail. Grueling!

Addenda: Town Names
There are some truly fabulous town names in the north of Scotland. We departed from Scrabster, which almost sounds like a nickname one might give an old fleabitten dog. Nearby there’s Thurso, Tongue, Wick, and Latheronwheel. Perhaps our favorite is a little town on the main island of Orkney with the unassuming and humble name of Twatt. Yup.

Anyway, just another example of us being treated so well it makes us wonder whether a karmic mishap has taken place. Some kind of Freaky Friday scenario, perhaps. Whatever the cause, be it Monkey’s Paw or Macchio-style Devil Deal, we’ll take it.

Until next time, it’s PF “Scrabster” Hot Seats, signing off.



December Fun Plus a Chance to See An Online Show!

December 8th, 2014

Hey there People of the Internet!

Usually you get to enjoy the miles and miles of my rants and raves, but today I’ll keep it brief. We have a few wintertime gigs afoot, and we’d love for all of you to be a part of it. Specifically . . .

The Hot Seats Concert Window Show!

December 20th, 8pm Sharp!

Email for house show details!

Yes, we’re jumping on the internet concert bandwagon, and it’s going to be a great time. We’re performing it to a small crowd at PF’s Stately Manor, and you (yes you!) can be a part of it as well. Just go to to sign up to watch. You can request songs, and gather around the old laptop, just like your grandparents used to do – listening to Lum & Abner, clipping coupons, and drinking vinegar to stave off the croup.

For our pals in the UK, the show starts at 1am – the perfect time to return from the pub, lay back, and watch your favorite yanks get stupid. All for YOUR amusement!

We have some other dates as well, including a New Years Show at Tanglewood Ordinary. Come out for some home cooking and some stringbandy goodness, ringing in 2015 (our 13th birthday, BTW!).

Check out the new dates on the gig page!

PF et al!



August 6th, 2014


Benny and PF play some notes . . .

Westward Ho!

PF here, back on what might very be the exact same Air Canada flight that we took 3 weeks ago. The flight crew are so polite and apologetic! I have been reading the Canadian National Post, offered free on the flight, trying to catch up on the news of the world. Hey, what’s this? Breaking news! “Bear Tackles Hunter, Hunter Kills Bear.” (real headline, I swear. Yes, it’s below the fold, but it is on the front page). Man, we have missed a lot.

But then, so have you! Since my last post, we had three great gigs in Ireland. Well, one in the Republic of Ireland, and two in Northern Ireland. It’s easy to tell the difference, because the road signs are in mileage in Northern Ireland, and in some totally silly base-10 system in the Republic of Ireland. I mean, come on: 1000 meters to a kilometer, 1000 millimeters to a meter, and so on? How does this make more sense than 12 inches to a foot and 5280 feet to a mile? It doesn’t, and you know it!

It’s actually a great mixture in the UK. It’s all miles for length, but then Celsius for temperature, and kilograms at the grocery store, but then folks talk about their weights in stones! Stones! I’m not sure about my math, but I think I weigh 100 stone. Does that sound right?

Uh oh, the flight attendant just brought me coffee. I asked for sugar, and she brought me something called “Sucre.” Is that some kind of Canadian poison? And one more thing about this National Post newspaper, almost every article that concerns international news has at least one paragraph that is essentially “would Canadians act this way?” I love it, they definitely are concerned with how they are perceived in relation to, in this case, Australians, Israelis, and, of course, ‘Muricans! Oh little Canucks, yous guys are so earnest.

OK, back to business. All three of our Irish gigs were fabulous. It was too short a time, and we do hope we will get back there sooner than later, and spend more than 48 hours there. Special thanks to Shane at the Seamus Ennis Centre – Seamus Ennis, as near as I can tell (having done exactly zero hours of research), was kind of an Irish Alan Lomax who would travel around the countryside, sometimes on bike, to make wire recordings of old timers, collecting stories, tunes, and other cultural artifacts. Very cool. Our gig there was packed out, and it was absolutely pouring down rain – like, hurricane level rain, coming down at a 70 degrees angle.

Our gig in Bangor the following day was similarly wet, but do Irish folk let a little (lot) rain keep them from getting down during the daytime in an outdoor setting? Hell no! In the States, people would be running for the malls for fear that they might melt (oh what a world!). These folks just whipped out umbrellas (from where, who knows?), poured another round, and whooped it up! We got to see our pal Una, musician and sound engineer supreme, and collected some nice rocks from the shore.

We ended our Irish time with a gig at the Red Room in Cookstown, an experience that I cannot recommend high enough to musicians and fans alike. Arnie and Sharon live in a lovely house (that Arnie built himself) and have been putting on house shows for years. They gained such renowned that Arnie had to build a little barn next to the house. It’s about as great a venue that a band such as ourselves could ever hope for. Lots of our pals have played there throughout the years, and it is yet another great combination of top notch hospitality and a high quality artistic experience.

We were warned that the crowd might be taken aback by our more . . . unique materials. However, we charmed them with some bluegrass and old time and then slowly started slipping in some left of center (excuse me, centre) pieces like Reminiscing, Hammer Time (working title for one of our new songs), and others.

After the gig, we hung out with most of the crowd, having snacks and drinking Arnie’s homemade potìn. What’s potìn, you ask? Well, for any of our pals who have ever drunk clear liquid from a Mason Jar, potìn should seem pretty familiar. It’s basically Irish Moonshine (although the folks at the Red Room assert that Moonshine is just American Potìn). Arnie makes it in sloe, blackberry, raspberry, vanilla, and probably others. It is high test and excellent, and just perfect for bands who need to catch a ferry that’s 90 minutes away at 10:30am the next day.

We made that ferry, you’ll be happy to know, met our new pal Colin in Belfast, and took the boat back to Stranraer. On the way we saw some porpoises, gannets, and totally picturesque views of Ireland, Scotland, Aran, and Ailsa Craig – the “volcanic plug” where all the curling stones are harvested. Curling! For our thoughts on this excellent sport, see the blog entry from archives, wherein we are traveling during the Winter Olympics and learn the value of women’s curling from some fine gentlemen in Eureka Springs, AR.

We ended up playing two more gigs that day – a little impromptu set at the Grapes in Stranraer – thanks again to Billy for hosting us – and then that night back in Edinburgh at our pal Naomi’s Fringe Speakeasy Venue. People have remarked to us recently that we workee sooo hard, to which we reply, hell yes! Sometimes we get tired of being around one another, of course, just like any polyamorous married band; but one thing we never tire of is playing music with one another. If we have an opportunity – busking, last minute sessions, late night showcases – we are in!

Oh, we also never say no to a nice meal.

And now we are descending into Toronto, where we will, no doubt, be greeted with maple sugar garlands and poutin by the bowlful! We are well seasoned and ready for our August and September shows. Thanks to everyone who came and saw us over the last three weeks, and a special thanks to Bill, Sue, Leonie, Douglas, Jane-Ann, Nicholas, Sharon, Arnie, Rahel, Jonny, Kym, and all of our new pals. And, of course, Loudon, Brenda, and Gerry!

OOH! I almost forgot. While in Stranraer, our very own Graham “Chips ‘n’ Cheese” DeZarn was playing squeezebox in a park (not a euphimism) saw a car pulling a trailer with a fellow that was covered in black goo on the back. We asked Colin, our Stranraer emissary, about this, and he replied, as nonchalantly as if he was talking about a seagull or kilt wearing piper, “oh, you probably saw a blackening.”

A .

Turns out that it’s a Scottish tradition to pull a potential bride or groom through the town, covered in fake tar and feathers, thereby preparing him or her for the horrors of marital bliss. Oh Scotland, just when we think we know everything, you go and show us something totally absurd!

Feeling all kinds of squishy nostalgic . . .

PF Et Al.


In Which We Discuss Gerry Roche . . .

August 2nd, 2014


The Two Man Gentlemen Band Trio and us at Carnegie Hall. What a serious group!

August 2nd, 2014

Avast ye! The Hot Seats are a’boardin!

Ahoy there, internet mateys! It’s Olde Commodore PF, sitting in the plush environs of the Stenaline from Cairnryan to Belfast for our final two days of gigs. Yes, international travelers that we are, I’m currently engaged in some serious talk with, who else, Jake “The Consultant” Sellers about US foreign policy, the future of oil, ice cream flavors. You know . . . the heavy stuff.

In an older era, we would be sipping brandy from snifters, cigars burning on crystal ashtrays, and moving figures around a light table with the maps of foreign lands projected from below. Later we’d retire to the drawing room for a game of whist whilst our doting wives prepared canapés and kept our martini glasses brimming with brine and vodka.

As it is, we’re drinking weak coffee and eating carrots, talking too loudly about inappropriate things while women everywhere regard us with mild to spicy disdain. Oh modern times, how you vex us!

We have been steady playing since last I wrote, with fun house concerts in Edinburgh, a nice trip to Peebles and the Eastgate Theatre, and a monumental show with the Two Man Gentlemen Band Trio at, where else, Carnegie Hall!!*** Last night we played in Stranraer for a nice, tightly packed crowd at a pub called the Grapes. It was a hot one, for sure, and made us long for the languid dampness of Virginia in the summertime. The pub owner, Billy, and promoter, Colin, put on a great show there. As always, the spectrum of hospitality in our world is astonishing – you’ll get some spots who are making money on drinks hand over fist and yet feel the need to nickel and dime (pound and pence) the band over every drink or hamburger (CLUB OWNERS TAKE NOTE: Half off domestic beers and food is basically like extending your middle finger only halfway up. It’s still a fuck you, just more wishy-washy). On the other end of the spectrum is The Grapes, where we get paid a fair wage, get put up in a nice (not fncy, but nice) hotel, are fed dinner and breakfast, and have to literally put up two hands and scream “No More!” to keep the drinks from flowing.

As a result of all this hospitable-ness, we had a great time, as did the crowd who drank plenty and will certainly come back for more. It’s amazing (it’s actually not amazing) how that works – band is happy, crowd is happy, club is happy. And now we sail . . .

We have been driving ourselves around for the last few days, which is totally exciting. Did you know that a US drivers license doesn’t allow you to drive on the right side over here? Well, apparently that’s the case. So much for global superpower (thanks a LOT, Herr Obama (actually, on the topic of US politics, I had another typical conversation last night with a fan where I tried to explain the US health system to someone who has lived her whole life with nationalized health care. It goes like this:

She: So wait, what happens if you get hurt?
Me: Well, if you have insurance, then you probably only have to pay for some of it, depending on your deductible.
She: What if you don’t have insurance?
Me: Well, then you’ll be on the hook for thousands of dollars.
She: Well, what if you can’t pay it?
Me: . . . Freedom, goddamnit! (Middle finger to the sky, wave American flag, make an eagle call, drop the mic and walk out before anymore questions).

Or something like that . . . oh wait, I’m deep inside a parenthetical within a parenthetical, aren’t I?)). Oh yeah, driving. Driving is fun, and relatively easy. Turns out, when you sit on the wrong side of the car, it’s easy to drive on the wrong side of the road. There’s all kinds of fun signs, our favorite being “Changed Priorities Ahead”; we haven’t the faintest idea what that actually means, but we know it fits our van quite well, as one second we’re all about rocking out, and the next it’s political talk time, followed by a rousing chorus of “I have to pee/I want coffee and chips” and then back to rock.

One thing that all this driving brings about, however, is thoughts of our beloved Gerald “Wrong Turn” Roche, who is currently out with Pokey LaFarge (remember him? He used to ride around with us. Don’t worry though, he’s doing OK). Just last night, we were wondering, “what’s Gerry up to right now?” Which we answered with a few possibilities: (A) saying lewd things sotto voce to some poor innocent from Pokey’s band; (B) smoking cigarettes and waxing poetic on the nature of Scottish politics, art, society; (C) telling road stories or pulling from his inexhaustible library of jokes and music stories; and finally (D) threatening the band members with bodily harm if they don’t get into/out of the van.

Gerry is really an integral part of our UK experience. He is our translator, cultural guide, mother hen, navigator of social morés, and harasser. I know that many of you might only know of Gerry from my various references to his anger (feigned or otherwise) and lewdness, which is really my fault. He is a multi-faceted person.

Never before has there been a man of the people who hated other people more, but who, at the same time, displays such high levels of generosity and geniality – he has, on many occasions, gone way beyond the call of duty for us and asked nothing in return. Gerry is staunchly blue collar, hailing from the mean streets of Paisley, but he is highly learned on a wide variety of subjects – literature, music, art, architecture, sport, politics, cars, food, etc. A man who’s opinions are set in stone that is then covered in industrial epoxy – hates cheese and pasta, loves meat and Budvar – he is also open to all new experiences (though feels free to comment widely and hilariously nastily while engaging in said experiences).

Gerry has, possibly, the quickest and sharpest wit that any of us have ever encountered (and hey, we’re pretty sharp ourselves, sometimes). I say “wit” because it is often highly witty, but, like Oscar Wilde, Virginia Woolf, or Don Rickles, that wit is usually at the expense of someone else.

Come with me now to Newcastle. It’s pissing rain, and we have finished playing our afternoon gig. The van is packed and we are hoofing it north for an evening gig, 4 hours away. In the haste to get out of town, Gerry comes to a quick stop at a red light, rolling halfway into the pedestrian walkway. A somewhat rotund man standing on the sidewalk just stares at us, apparently waiting for us to back up:

Gerry, with the appropriate amount of sarcasm: Feel free to traverse in front of the van.
Rotundo: Twat!
Gerry (so fast that it was clear he had already been thinking this, like before the final “T”
or “Twat” had even left this dude’s lips): Fat prick!

This was followed by an expletive stream so virulent and yet Shakespearean in its meter and content that I must have entered into a fugue-like state, as I don’t recall the specifics.

Counter that with Gerry, around 4am into our night with the Hardy’s in Glenbuchat, discussing exactly why he works in the music industry. While I don’t have the exact quote, the gist is that he believes that any gig that results in people smiling at the end of it is a gig worth playing, regardless of the money made. Counter that with Gerry, singing John Martin songs so sappy I am pretty sure I got cavities from just hearing them. Counter that with Gerry, on our last night together, while dropping us off, in the most tender voice, “OK boys, get the fuck out of the van.”

I could go on, but this is already over long. Let’s just leave it there, Gerry Roche – international man of mystery and hysteria.

Three gigs to go!
PF Et al.


Journey to the Center (Centre) of the Jake!

July 28th, 2014


We bring the noise and the rain to the Summertyne Festival!

July 27, 2104

We are fresh off the heels of three great gigs!

1. Universal Hall – Findhorn: This is a really cool space, almost like a giant wooden yurt with a big opening in the ceiling to allow for maximum airflow. Findhorn itself is two parts – the town, and the spiritual community that has been existence there since the 1960’s. It is reminiscent of Twin Oaks in Virginia, the home of our longtime pals The Vulgar Bulgars and also the makers of the firmest tofu you’ll ever have. Anyway, it was a great show – we were fueled by a very healthy vegetarian meal, and were all aglow with the stamina and vigor that comes from food that isn’t fried (imagine that!) and vegetables besides potatoes.

2. Glenbuchat Hall – Strathdon: We had heard great things about this venue, and were not disappointed. Strathdon and the surrounding areas are, first of all, stunningly beautiful and also quite remote, or seemingly so. The hall is like many we have played, in terms of layout, and there was a fiesty crowd who hooted and hollered and got us up for double encores!

As if the show wasn’t sufficient, our hosts for the night, Kym and Jonny Hardie, live waaaaaaaaaay out in a house that was built in 1604 by Jonny’s ancestors. It’s called the House of Newe (no, the castle is gone, we stayed in the awesome smaller house), which is, somehow, pronounced, House of “Nee-ow,” like a cat with a speech impediment. Oh Scotland, you love to keep us guessing! Turns out that Jonny (of the great band Old Blind Dogs) comes from a landed family and that house was originally just an outbuilding for the larger CASTLE that the family used to live in until the 1920’s (something happened to global economies then, can’t remember what). The house itself is clearly full of all kinds of stories, and has old pictures, shields and swords, and other interesting miscellany strewn throughout (anaconda lamp!). It’s definitely the kind of house in which you just KNOW that people have died. I found myself blindly walking down a dark corridor at one point, just certain that it was only a matter of time before some kind of apparition manifested, demanding that I right some ancient wrong.

After the show we, along with about 20 folks from the show, headed back to the digs for some more festivities. We ended up jamming with Jonny late into the night/early into the morning, depending on how you look at it. We played some old timey and bluegrass tunes, some scottish/irish tunes, and sang some silly and sweet songs. Jonny treated us (he has a great voice) to a song called Terror Time, I believe, that is bout the most bleak thing we’ve ever heard, all about Scottish winter: Heather will fade and bracken will die, the small birds will be going, for it’s then you will be knowing, that the Terror Time is here. Or something similarly cheery.

We had a nice leisurely morning with them, bacon and sausages and egg and all (helpful grease sponges for the alcohol from the night before), more tunes in the sunlight in the front garden, and lots of mutual host/band love.

3. The Salmon Bothy – Portsoy: Portsoy is a sweet little town on the Northeast Coast. We played the Salmon Bothy last year and had a great, if sparsely attended show, and were expecting much the same. Instead, the small venue was so packed that it turned into a bit of a sauna by the end of the night. The crowd was enthusiastic and even had some requests, which is always a nice treat for us. A highlight moment was that Big Jim Paterson, of Dexy’s Midnight Runners, was in the crowd, and was highly complimentary of the show. We retired to the local pub after the show, apparently not learning any lessons from the previous night, and hung out with many of the show attendees and also Portsoy locals.

Allow me to say a few words on the English language. I realize that, as an American – home to such terrible and obnoxious expressions as the use of “summer” as a verb, “frenemy”, or  “croissandwich” – I may not be in the best position to make light of certain words or usages that exist here in the origin of the language. Yet here we are.

There are some linguistic habits over here that I/we find to be notable. First on this list is “wee” for “small” or “little.” Now, the middle schoolers that reside in each of us find it funny on the most visceral and toilet level, but there’s more. It seems like a word that would be used by a pan-flute playing half-goat as he describes the king of the fairies to a bemused traveler. It’s a dainty word. It is, to us, disconcerting to hear grown men, sometimes quite large and imposing men, use “wee” to describe just about anything.

Then there’s seemingly made up words. I took a trip to ASDA the other day with Gerald so we could get cheap gas, beers, and other necessities (hey USA big boxes, you really need to step your games up. ASDAs and Sainsburies make the average Walmart or Target seem like a corner bodega. They are, at their best, like crazy commerce amusement parks.). Anyway, there in the store was a big old display, advertising a brand of “Jubbly Ice Lollies.” Now, “jubbly” isn’t a brand name, it’s a descriptor, same as “lollie”. Jubbly. Lollie. Say them to yourself. They flow off the tongue well, indeed, but at what cost? How much personal dignity does one sacrifice when he/she says “I’d very much like an jubbly ice lollie right now.” A lot.

I’ll just quickly say that we are, as usual, having a great time playing tunes with one another. We are working up some new material that we hope to work out over the next few days. As you know, we don’t play with the frequency with which we used to, so these times are even more important to us, artistically, and to strengthen the bonds of smells and sounds that bind us together, like so many natto soybeans or coital slugs.

I will now pass the blog baton to Jake Sellers, who has been keeping his own daily journal. Please appreciate the raw efficiency that Jake uses with the English language. It should provide a great contrast to my own keyboard wordiness (note: some of the content has been redacted for the sake of mothers and other sensitive parties):

7/15, 16 up around 9:30, laid in bed for fifteen some minutes, did dishes, final preps, Sean green showed up at 10:38, got to josh’s at 11:15, stopped by Carytown for rollies, I grabbed the last Live! sleeves, drank a beer, on the road to Dulles,  made it to gate with five minutes till door closed, Ed and graham made it at final minute, flight overbooked, josh and I got on Ed graham did not (rerouted to Frankfurt), had to retrieve stow away bag to get graham Ed their work visas, talked to 53 yr old linea Grey teacher at duke Ellington school of performing arts (Dc) from take off to landing in Toronto, facebook messaged girls for fifteen minutes before boarding (mom was one), fairly empty flight adds to comfort, slept little, 500 mile club, got to Edinburgh around 6am, customs, realized they lost our bags, dealt w that, took new tram to bill & sues, caught up, tea, took a long nap, walked w josh to return his t-mart “lost bag need underwears” purchase (he realized that Ed had his bag), in came the rain, walked to Douglas’, not home, walked for about forty in rain seeking coffee, internetted in cafe, met up w Ben Graham Ed, fake hugged force kissed Ben on the mouth, we all had dinner at Mother India Cafe, mutton curry & ginger spinach chicken& butter chicken & rice & poppadom w chutneys, walked to Leonie’s, recalled last year’s ed sleeping in bushes coke can for a pillow, met bfriend keekay, yurt set up, cold & wet so I stood in doorway till all came inside, chatting, radio 6, met new roommate Rosella, kicking the ball around out back w Graham Ben Josh before g&j left, had a beer, flirted w Rosella, charmed, left, b&e&me st Royal Oak pub, 3 quid Bowmore Islay single, fella playing guitar, left just as cajon player arrived, stopped by The Newsroom pub, briefly chatted to hot pants Scottish lass, b&e&me all had one small and one big Three Hoppeds (Edinburgh ale), challenged ed’s “restaurant food should cost what the food costs” view, had a good time.

7/17 up at 8, hi gerald!, in van around 8:45, got out of Edinburgh headed toward borders (about hour and half), listened to Jane Doe & dipaolo, nooner BBC radio spot, host Gordon very good, played jawbone and darlin, drove about hour to Brampton, walked about for two hours, got two postcards from antique shop, £1.10 for a carrot and a lb of strawbs, short drive to castle carrack, Worked on drum set up, soundcheck at 5, short rehearsal, worked up Hammer (debuted that night), dinner at 6 (chicken korma), went for solo hour walk, back music on the marr festival, hit stage near 9:30, had one beer before playing and one while playing, flub city never felt so good, more beer, Ben and I went to our accommodations, rest to theirs, hosts tommy and Tricia hung for about twenty before retiring were very nice, Ben and I stayed up a couple of hours drinking and talking, was great, slept around four or so

7/18 up at 10:30, quick cereal and toast w marmalade bfast, 90 some minute walk w Ben, missed intended path but was good, met boys by the van, listened to Nilsson and Slayer en route to Hawick, walked around with graham after popping in Morrison’s, stopped by middle eastern ish coffee shop, I had a slice of cherry plum cake and a hot chocolate, realized coffee date hot chocolate potential, met up at Border Club, saw loudon and davie briefly quick soundcheck, walked, josh and I walked up The Mote talked band business, back to club, 8:15 45 set killed, aggressive merch push, second set killed, great crowd, loudon happy, hurried to break down, fun band photo chick ankle bite, asked the club president for beers, he gave us ten, great time drinking & talking on the ride back to Edinburgh, funny times, all back at bill & Sue’s, graham Ben and I hung and drank on front steps (tB Eb to bed) for hour plus, mostly discussed hipster ramifications, bed around 4

7/19 up at 9:30, hour run to back of crags, listened to seasons of the abyss, in the van shortly after noon, two and a half hour ride to Gatehead (Newcastle), got there at ish two forty, listened to wolf, 3pm set time, very rushed, started close to three, fun set, outdoor stage, rain hit right before we started, lots of umbrellas, good set, back line kit had floor tom peaches big hits, broke down, short merch push, met new rope string daughter, split a hog roast w graham (no oink), hurried off to coldingham (about an hour and forty away), soundcheck, take away fish & chips, hurried to eat before we played, fun set not big crowd, chris (Glasgow big nice guy chickpeas) and fam came out, gave Dave (venue host) the flask i was to throw away (he wanted), 2nd set good and crowd liked it but ya know, played encore (dim lights, Roanoke) on theater steps, gushing with happiness, pushed merch, Gerry broke down my shit while I merch pushed, woman said I was a bridge and I made people want to be a part of us and I create landscapes but we had to go, I asked if she had a card, she didn’t so I was like “well (shoulder shrug)”, back in the van to Edinburgh, we all listened to queen (most of sheer heart attack) some e Costello and harry Nilsson’s vine st. in van, hung for five at bill & Sue’s, all went to pub, had two lager IPA fusion beers, hit up chip shop, I got mixed pakora, we all sat on church steps and ate our foods, back to b&S’s, little facebook and sleep

7/20 up at noon, out of bed at 1:30, ran to Portebellas seaside boardwalk (hadn’t been), walked boardwalk a little, ran back, looked into amazon flask purchase, got take away kabab curry from previous night place, hour some ride to Biggar, had Guinness w Ben, alright set, small crowd, rode back to Edinburgh, fun time scatting popular riffs, went out w Ben Ed, political military whistle blower sex change guy debate, good time, back at chippy I got nothing, Ed said he was in bad mood as he got large Donner but didn’t remember saying it caused slight weirdness when addressed, crisis avoided, back at b&S’s, sleep

7/21 up around noon, we all lugged our gear to go busking on the royal mile, ed having ed moments while waiting for coffee, busking went well till asked to stop, walked to oink for grunters, ate at grass market, popped by Armstrong’s, nothing there for me, got flask at antique shop down the way, continued busking on mile, bill came ’round, got shirts from shirt dude, Rva shirt photo op w Ben, dropped off gear and slammed some Stella at b&S’s, caught up w Ed and bill at theatre royal for a pint, walked to mother India, lamb dish saag paneer garlic naan poppadom, , Graham Ben I off to yurt, we chatted w Rosella for about thirty, went out for pints (early morning for R so she stayed), Blind Poet acoustic night, whiski there for fifteen min), the royal mile pub (rockaoke band Mintz chat), fairly sauced, graham cheese chipped, walk back to yurt, sleep around three(?)

7/22 up around eleven, busked on mile from 12 till 2, walked back for 3pm pick up, slept, stopped by paisly to kill time, got candy (toffee crisps/crunchies, drifter bar, something else) from Morrison’s, josh and Gerry off asda, Ben graham Ed kicked ball w Adam, I went to Alamo bar, chatted with chaddy (good man), had a Budweiser and a lone star, had a nice twenty some min conversation with elderly woman, “enough with the Beatles,” she used to be an opera singer, paisly born and bred, nice lady, headed to kilbarchan for gig, set up, Indian take away, short nap on grass, hot room, hot set, back to Edinburgh, we all harry nilssoned in van, went to newsroom pub TB g & b, fun convo, b&g off to yurt, TB&me back to bill Sue’s, little snack and bed around 2:30(?), first night of solid sleep in a while

7/24 alarm woke me around 6am, couldn’t get back to sleep, snooze alarm every ten minutes or so, bought four pears, back at b&S’s, ran five or so miles by swan lake and around Arthur’s seat, listened to slayer, showered, picked up at 11:30, about a four hour drive to portsoy, rode through Cairngorm’s park, aberdeenshire, fochabers, beautiful ride, lots of harsh fast turns and mountains, stopped by portsoy accommodations, headed to Findhorn, commune type village reminded me of The Beach, vegetarian dinner after soundcheck, post dinner solo walk through dunes to seaside, got back later than intended, I did not have a good first set, merch push mostly chatting but sold to all I chatted with, second set redemption set, really tired, rode back to portsoy, stayed w Gerry Ed, watched TV briefly, traded songs, drank four or five stellas, fishbone stories, adolescent Gerry discovers punk music stories, Gerry first concert (alex Harvey 1975ish) story, Ed to bed, I hung w Gerry for another beer, bed around 3:30

7/25 out of bed around eleven, walked w Ed to coast, took a dip, cold water didn’t take long to acclimate to, Ed walked back, i got postcards at marble shop, watched young cliff divers, walked back, Stella in the shower, picked up bearman, got a flat tire, put on spare, mint magnum bar while waiting for tyre repair, walked w Ben josh to get coffee, ice cream round two (toffee swirl), was asked to not take picture of ice cream, talked dead sister cassidy cat w josh on walk back to van

Being between great Benjo Gerry court and Ed land, Gerry talking about his passion of work, whether its 30 or 3000 people leaving happy makes work worthwhile, rare vulnerability, nature of the gig, go for money, be happy you get gas station sandwiches, all the miles hardships gas station sandwiches


Well now, how about THAT action, right there? It’s like we got to live in Jake’s brain for a while. Hope you enjoyed that. Upcoming blog topics: New songs, gardens, the Gerry Exposé!

Until we meet again!

PF, Jake, Et. Al.


First Missive from 2014 Summer Fun!

July 20th, 2014


july 15/16, 2014

It begins again!

Yes yes yes, PF here, enjoying the spacious accommodations of an Air Canada Rouge flight from Toronto to Edinburgh. You should read the things that people write about this flight! Cramped (untrue), dirty (no), rude staff (absolutely not). In fact, this flight is undersold, allowing for acres of room – I actually got to extend my legs all the way! The plane is plenty clean, and the staff are solicitous to the point of actually apologizing when your feet, in the aisle in a blatant refusal to follow the rules of plane riding, get in their way. The only thing I can glean from the great divide between the internet expectations and the actuality of this flight lies in the reviewers themselves, who are most certainly hairy-foreheaded troglodytes who expect all experiences to be catered to their exacting and impossible standards. I shudder to think what they might say about this blog and website (“grey on black made my eyes hurt!” “this author goes on at length about total banalaties” and so on).

At this very moment, we are converging upon Edinburgh to begin yet another 3 weeks of music, food, and alcohol fueled mania in some of our favorite of places. Who knows what adventures lay ahead of us? Besides us, of course. Some things – doners, whiskey, harrowing van rides, sleep deprivation, tons of picking, yurt sleeping – are inevitable. Other things, well we will just have to wait and see, clutching our faces in anticipation.

I say “converging” because we are in three parts. Jake and I are flying in from Toronto by way of DC. We left Graham and Eddie waiting at the gate, like so many jilted grooms (that makes us the runaway brides, our trains dragging behind us like lacy white tails (and who are WE to wear white??)). Yes, apparently, some airlines (all airlines) will oversell a flight. And then, when you (we) roll up at the very last minute, sweaty and ready for some serious sitting, they tell you “sorry, even though you DID pay for a seat, we lied about there being one for you.” The result of this is that those two are currently en route to Frankfurt, to then double back to Edinburgh. Will Edward find himself a variety of German sausages at the Frankfurt Airport? We can only assume that he will, if they are there to be found. He is like a sausage-seeking missile, a man obsessed.

And meanwhile yet, Benny-Boy is traveling in from parts unknown, having just left Corn Potato Stringband Tour. To find out about his travels, you’ll have to ask him directly. If I had to guess, I’m gonna say he’s been doing a fair amount of banjo playing, but also some real quality sitting quietly, maybe some staring, and some smoking.

But hold on, let me back up a second. What happened to the idea of commerce? Does a receipt and a bit of planning mean nothing in this world? What exactly is the logic behind overbooking a flight? Do they expect that people won’t show up.

“Hello, I’d like to drop some hundreds of $$s on this purchase. What? Will I actually show up to make good on it? Who knows? I just like to hit “Buy Now” on the internet. It really fills the old pleasure holes in my brain!”

Well, we are not those people. When we take part in an internet contract, we honor it! That’s why Ben appears nightly on his bedroom WebCam, he signed a contract!

This just in, according to Air Canada’s Twitter response, apparently they oversell flights to “avoid seat spoilage.”  Seat spoilage. It’s almost too easy a joke to point out that, if they wanted to avoid seat spoilage, a good way to start would be too keep all Hot Seats off the plane entirely.

Two Days Later . . .

Hi all, back again and, where else, in the back of the van!  We are just pulling out of Cumbria, en route to Hawick (Hoick), after having a great time at the Music on The Marr Festival.  First a quick end to the travel saga.

Graham and Ed had a fine time with Lufthansa. Apparently the screens on their flight had access to cameras mounted on the front and bottom of their planes, allowing them to stare into the vast unknown. It really affected them – GFD and EB have been lying in the grass, contemplating their own smallness in the larger scale of the Earth, Milky Way, and Universe, saying really deep things like, “Oh Wow” and “I mean, why are we here? Like, really.” while braiding dandelion stems and stacking small rocks. So, thanks Lufthansa.

We converged on Edinburgh, once again staying with our pals Bill and Sue in their beautiful flat in New Town. We spent the day, wandering aimlessly around town in a state of waking sleep, having a tasty Indian dinner and catching up with old friends. Edinburgh is a very different city in the non Festival months – much calmer and more empty. We will be using it as our home base, which will should provide some needed constancy to our otherwise harried tour existence.

Thursday/Friday, July 17/18th

Gerry picked us up at 9am so that we could swing by Edinburgh airport and grab the bags that were misrouted (of course, what about our airline debacle wouldn’t involve a lost guitar and Jake’s dirty unmentionables?). We then made our way south towards Cumbria and the little town of Castle Carrock for the Music on the Marr festival. The Cumbria region is lovely, indeed, with rolling hills, local cheeses, and the pervasive and comforting odor of cowshit, always lingering just on the edge of whatever else you might be smelling.

There is no castle in Castle Carrock, though perhaps there was at some point. We were the “headliners” inasmuch as we played last on the first night of the Music on the Marr Festival – which is one of the many sweet and smallish fests that happen over here. We were preceded

by a group of Glaswegians called The Chaplains, who played some bluesy originals and a folky cover of “I Wanna Know What Love Is” by Foreigner, which prompted a long and pointless conversation about Foreigner (not sure there is another kind) among our ranks.

Our set – a 90 minute juggernaut – went well. It was the first time we’d played together as a group since May, so there was some rustiness to work through, but even amid the flubs and occasional forgotten lyrics, we pulled out a pretty monumental set. The crowd was great – fairly typical for our UK audiences in that they listened and applauded at the appropriate moments. We even got a few folks up and dancing, which means they must have enjoyed it.

We wound down after the show and were split up between a few folks’ houses.  I can’t speak for the other guys, but Graham and I had a great time staying with David and Shella. We slept well, were fed a monstrous breakfast, and had some stimulating conversation with David, mostly revolving around the asinine nature of politics, both home and abroad. Speaking only for my(our)self, it is so refreshing to be in a country where there’s no misplaced sense of religious morality creeping into areas where it doesn’t belong.

The highlight, or at least most notable aspect, of our stay was that there was something called a macerating toilet. It really adds a sense of danger and excitement to one’s bathroom experience to know that the toilet could, if it felt like it, eat you.  Danger toilet!

After bumming about the town for a while the following mornig, we hopped into our home on wheels – the van – prodded gently by our very own Tour Den Mother, Gerry “Wrong Turn” Roche. NOTE: “prodded gently” can be inferred to mean constant low grade abasement and threats that range from straight violence to bizarre forced acts.  We hit the road for Hawick, the hometown of our agent and UK benefactor, Loudon, and a town we ave visited many times before.

The gig at the Border Club was fantastic – a small room, packed to the gills with enthusiastic audience members who were respectful without being overly quiet. A note to all audiences, please do feel free to shout and hoot and engage in coversation. Yes, we take our art so so seriously, but we also feel like it’s made for a party environment, so go ahead and succumb to our intoxicating rhythms, melodies, and odors. We’ll let you know if you’re getting out of line.

After the gig, we spent some time chatting with various audience members, including David – the president of the Border Club (yes, we have that kind of clout. Did you think otherwise?). We then hightailed it to Edinburgh for the night, watched a bit of Rambo with Sue, and to bed.

Saturday, July 19th:

A fairly early start from Edinburgh, as we had to get to Newcastle for our slot at the Summertyne Festival. It turned out that we, perhaps, underestimated the time required to get to the gig, and we were treated to some highly acrobatic driving by Gerry.

One puzzling thing over here: there are speed cameras along the roads, but there are signs warning you of their approach, and also white lines on the roadway that signify the distance within which the camera is measuring your speed. It seems like an incredibly generous and courteous measure on the part of the UK highway commission – to let drivers know exactly when they must obey the speed limit, leaving us free to burn up tarmac in all interstitial stretches of highway. Thanks, chaps!

We rolled into Newcastle right on time, loaded our gear onto stage (a nice stage, indeed), and blew through 40 minutes of our very best nonsense to an enthusiastic and damp crowd, who hooted and hollered while being dumped upon from above. The British have no fear of rain, and while they don’t necessarily relish it, they certainly don’t let it stop them from doing some day drinking. It’s just another inevitability, like death, taxes, fillings, grey hairs, flat tires, earwax, shoulder hair, 2am doner kabobs, chips and cheese, chicken saag . . . wait, what was I talking about? I’m so hungry!

Anyway, we had a great set and then got accosted by a variety of folks for pictures, autographs, etc. Careful, Newcastle, we might just get used to this star treatment! Unfortunately, we had to almost immediately pack up and get back in the van to cruise back up the road for our evening gig in Coldingham. We did get to chat with Rona, the daughter of Tim from the New Rope Stringband, about whom we’ve spoken in previous posts. It’s always flattering when folks who we think are great think the same about us, so that was a nice little interlude. Ooh, can’t you just feel the ego inflation, just wafting from your computer screen? Never fear, there’s sure to be some abasement in our future.

We arrived in Coldingham just as the mist set in – a portent of things to come? The village hall lies directly next to an old graveyard (everything over here is old, I guess). The mist in the graveyard made for some very eerie views, indeed.

We set up and had some nice chats with Dave, who runs the village hall. The show was about half full, but turned out to be a great night – a very enthusiastic and appreciative audience. I myself, made a new young fan, Onya, who even drew a picture of me, singing Sugar Pudding, which is not the most appropriate song for an 11 year old, though it’s hard to know in this ultra-permissive day and age, what with the free love, hair beads, hand drums, and thong sandals.

We rode home in a misty haze, making it back to Edinburgh with ample time to hit a pub close to our lodging. After some drinks and some foolishness at the bar, we decided to make a bad food decision as a band (usually Ed and Graham bear the weight of these decisions alone), and all hit up a nearby kebab shop for doner meat over chips with chilli sauce. Jake actually got the mixed pakora. Regardless, it was a greasy salty nightmare of smells and sounds, and one that seems like a great idea as long as you can get it all down before any sense of sobriety or self-preservation kicks in, reminding you that it’s 1:30am and you’re shoveling ~1500 calories of nonsense into your face like you’ve been stranded at sea for a month.

There’s almost no chance that this same event won’t happen again. It’s like the tides, just waiting for the right amount of pressure to build up.

OK, let me send this off before it becomes a short novel.  Just one last highlight to look forward to: I have painted Gerry Roche, our beloved driver, in a somewhat single dimensional light. Look forward to a long essay that delves into the complex and fascinating world that is this man. To start with, let me just say that we were listening to Nilsson Sings Newman on the ride home, and Gerry was singing along with “Vine Street” in the most lovely falsetto. It was really quite tender. He almost whispered, “Get the Fuck out of the Van” to us as we parted.

Ah sweet memories,

PF et al.


And Lo, The Earth Did Open, and The Hot Seats Ooze Forth!

June 26th, 2014

Hello all you beautiful 1’s and 0’s!

PF HotSeat here, struggling at the controls aboard the Subterranean Moleship, The USS Dirty-Dawg. I apologize for the long break since my last missive, but I assure you, we have not been idle. No, in fact, we have been like beavers in a sawmill, like termites in a sawmill, like . . . well, lots of things in a sawmill, I guess.  What I mean is, we’re covered in sawdust, and full of wood pulp!

That’s right, if you’ve been wondering “where are my Hot Seats?” while tearing at your clothes, wailing, and staring directly at the sun, I’m afraid you were 180 degrees off! In our hiatus, we’ve been traveling through the crust and mantle, searching for inspiration among the CHUDS, Morlocks, and Mole People.  And boy have we found it!

As we speak, we are in the process of putting the final touches on our next album,which we have decided to call “Granddad’s Favorite,” which references a tune we play, as well as a kind of creepy nickname (apologies to whoever is in this pic, but really . . .), dontcha think? It is by far our most traditional in sound, though we feel confident that it can’t be mistaken for any other band. We have a clutch of new originals in the works that we’ll be arranging and playing with this Summer, in the hopes of recording more in the Fall.

We are super excited for our upcoming summer of shows. Admittedly, most of these shows will be located on a couple of islands in the Northeast Atlantic, but we do have some stateside shows in August and early September, and have some things we want to communicate with everyone – specifically “banjo banjo banjo, twang thump screech.”

For those of you in the UK, Ireland, and Europe, you may have already had a taste of sweet sweet Hot Seats summer lovin’, as our Benny-Boy (look at that smile!) has been touring with our pal and former fiddler/spandex enthusiast, Aaron Lewis and the Corn Potato Stringband. If you see him, tell Ben that we all said “Wassup?” and then simultaneously cup-check him and give him a kiss on the cheek.

As always, check the dates page for gig info, and be in touch!

Love and Gloves,

PF et al.


Late Posting, last missive from the UK tour

September 5th, 2013

Westward Ho!

(Note: I found this blog, full formed and ready to post. Must have written it on the plane in a sleep addled state. Enjoy!)

It’s PF “Intercontinental Champion” Hot Seats, here. Just where I started this little journey, except this time we’re headed back towards the land of the Red White and Blue, the land of deep fried butter instead of deep fried pizzas, the land of the free . . . refill. Mother America, won’t you once again accept your Hot Seats back into your bosom? Tired, weak, hungry, our loins burning to breath free! Or is that, “our burning loins, yearning for sweet relief”? So hard to remember after such good times!

Yes, Scotland, another summer tour has ended, we’ll be taking our sunshine and warm winds back to Virginia with us, I’m afraid, but we shall return. Yea, like the mighty phoenix, we will fizzle out, only to reflame next summer! Can you handle the break?

Good times in Edinburgh over the last 5 days, including two great gigs at (NAME REDACTED)’s wonderful flat and studio. Why do I keep doing that, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you a story of Edinburgh – a town that is chock full of venues, pubs, and more touristy shops than you can shake a Harris Tweed stick at. In this town, there live two people, we’ll call them “Robert Douglason” and “Ann-Jane”, who decided that it would be fun to have get togethers at Douglas’s flat and have bands play. Now, unlike a “normal” venue, this is an invitation only type event, there’s no bar or restaurant, and similarly no profit motive. Any money collected, and it’s all donation, goes to the artists. The musicians get to play an intimate show to a generally full house of VERY appreciative and supportive people, and the crowd gets a chance to interact with performers in a way that is essentially absent from the modern club or theater scene.

Now, can you see how threatening this could be to city councilors? Specifically ones who *may* or *may not* have controlling interests in venues, restaurants, and pubs of their own? Well, it just so happens that the Edinburgh Council does find it threatening, and has been trying to shut “Robert Douglason” and “Ann-Jane’s” little operation down. Luckily, the two of them are very clever, and have been stymying the council at every turn. Nonetheless, it does require that we use some discretion when talking about these gigs. If you’d like to write the Edinburgh Council and let them know just how absurd they’re being, here’s how . . .

To me, the most interesting thing is this: there’s no reason for any club owner to be threatened by this little operation in terms of its potential for stealing audiences. At most, these shows could hold 60-80 people – hardly enough to worry about in a city of 500,000 (1,000,000 during festival season). On the other hand, these folks should feel very threatened by what these shows represent – a situation where artists are fully respected, where talentless middlemen don’t suck off of the hard work of these artists, and where events aren’t used simply as vehicles to sell alcohol. One might think that venue owners could take a hint from the ethos of the thing, rather than react out of fear and spite. Just a thought, mind you . . .

What else . . . we had some exciting busking action a few days ago. Whilst on the Royal Mile, shaking our thang a bit and twanging it up for the delighted onlookers, a fellow performer who was set up across a VERY busy street from us became indignant at the noise we were making. Apparently, though there was a piper caddy corner to her, and a massive street of buses, cars, and tourists between us, our mere caterwauling and plunking was disturbing her to no end. Furthermore, as she was promoting Scottish culture, we should be quiet and allow her to sing her songs and spin her loom. Furthermore, she was doing her act “for the kids,” whatever that means. Mind you, this is a frightening looking woman with a mohawk, wearing a tattered outfit composed of random pieces of a Tartan.

Now, as you all know, we are a very accommodating lot. Why, we’re step over ourselves to do the dishes, lay our jackets across puddles for ladies, and generally be as mensch-y as we can. However, sometimes when busking, I find that a certain amount of aggressiveness goes a long ways. It’s dog-eat-dog out there, ya know? I contested that, during the Fringe especially, there was plenty of space for all of us to do our things, and that we had as much right to be there as she. Additionally, she was doing it for the money, just as we were. As these things sometimes go, it escalated, resulting in her calling me a “Money Grubbing Yank,” and wondering in amazement that I hadn’t “had my eyes blacked” for me. Ever supportive, the rest of the band shouted encouragement from behind the column where they’d conveniently hidden.


We had the support of the crowd, many of whom assured us that they weren’t particularly interested in the Scottish culture she was promoting, though they themselves were Scottish. We did give her 5 minutes of respite and then continued playing. We later learned that her name is “Mad Heather,” and that she has a reputation for such shenanigans.

We played a fun and rowdy late night set on Saturday with the Black Diamond Express, the band of our pal Toby – a 9 piece blues-y rock outfit. Very fun indeed. After determining the level of consumption both in the crowd and on the stage, we decided the best route would be as hillbilly as possible – fast and loose! It was the proper gamble, and we had the nocturnal Scots hooting and whooping.

Not much more to report, except that, as usual, we want to thank all of the folks whose generosity and support make these tours a blast. Clare and crew, Bill and Sue, JaneAnn and Douglas (and Colin the wonderpup), Loudon and Brenda, Gerry and Elaine, Leonie, and all the friends and fans who came out to the shows!

We’re off for a week, and then we hop in our van for a few days out in Indiana and Chicago. Hey midwest, remember us?

Finally, a list of exciting foods we’ve eaten on this tour:

Cullen Skink
Stornaway Black Pudding
Doners of all shapes and sizes!
Chips with Cheese (but never after midnight)
Pizza Crunch (yes, deep fried pizza)
Scallops with Coral
Heaps of great Indian food from Mother India (so good!)

Upcoming shows

No shows booked at the moment.

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