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.