Fish 2008 - Launderette anonymity
Dear FishHeads, Freaks, fans and the Company,
It's pre show in Cleveland and the meet and greet went well. I got a new cowboy hat, the type I always wanted as a kid. Great seeing some old friends again in the Irish bar. I'd caught the Germany game earlier on.
We may have a visit from Andy Gray - the former Scotland player and ESPN broadcaster - in New Haven. I'd met with him in the queue at the US embassy in London when I was being interviewed for the visa.
He sent me an email yesterday so hopefully we can entertain the guy who's been entertaining us every morning on the bus TV.
Milwaukee turned out to be a great gig. Fellini was walking with us that day. A rain storm hit town just as we were rehearsing Sugar Mice and a meandering walk back from the day room at the hotel brought me face to face with a statue of Robert Burns in the nearby park which I had never seen on previous visits. Steve was still suffering from his finger wounds and is struggling through the sets with painkillers and ice dips after shows. He had a close one the other night in Chicago when a cover from one of the lighting units fell from the overhead truss and missed him by a couple of feet. He had just moved his position when it landed directly on the spot where he had been standing. Apart from that, everyone is healthy and smiling and, for the first time I can remember, the air conditioning that I loathe is not bothering me so much. Only Vince the backline tech has been hit by respiratory problems and luckily I had a course of antibiotics at hand to sort him out.
It was great getting Chris back in the band. He had a nightmare getting over here - 26 hours in total. It turned out that when he arrived at Manchester for the flight out that he had the same name and birthday as someone on an International "wanted list". Interviewed at Manchester, his name then came up in Amsterdam and then Minneapolis and every time he was taken to a room for questioning. Six interviews in all! He was hauled out of the queue on photo ID at Customs in the States. By that time his luggage was missing and didn't arrive until 10 o'clock on Milwaukee show day. Dishevelled, tired and minging, he hit the stage like a trooper.
Highlight at Shank's Hall was undoubtedly "Sugar Mice" which was pulled in before "Last Straw". I admit to being very emotional as it was just as Fathers Day was coming up in the UK and the lyrics struck home.
The crowd were fantastic and, although it was another acoustically dry room, our stage sound was fantastic. The monitor engineers we are picking up at venues have all been of a really high standard and personally I haven't had any gripes all tour so far.
Another bonus at Milwaukee was the Maharajah restaurant just down from the venue where Yatta and I discovered the best curry we had ever had in the States. Normally they are pretty bland as the cooking takes into account the tastes over here which don't generally take on board really hot spicy food. Our requests for "medium plus to hot" left a sweat on the brow!
The meet and greet had also been a success and thanks goes to Linda and her husband for buying us the Vindaloo! Yatta and I rolled back to the gig like pale Buddhas.
We had over 300 in and the club were over the moon at the attendance and the overall vibe. Everything clicked and we walked out with a 9.3/10 and zappy smiles. I was in my bunk an hour or so after the show, and drifted off quickly to awake outside the Park West in Chicago around 2pm. My back was killing me from the tumbling bunk and with my space on the third tier it's a climb getting up at night and a bone-jarring fall in the morning. A quick shower and then an interview on video camera. Where is the make up artist when you need one?
Laundry was starting to become an issue and it was hopeless trying to even attempt to find a launderette in Chicago on a Sunday. It was Father's Day. All the Dads in the band and crew were getting SMS and calls with Steve's kid Calvin even having hidden a present in his Dad's suitcase. I had a depressing afternoon. I phoned my Dad and got the all the news from the home front. Apart from that it was silence.
The meet and greet was a buzz and took my mind off other issues. It was an early door at the Park West, so Billy couldn't get away from the venue to Sedgwick's to deal with the pre-show. I picked up a Chicago Fire Department baseball cap from one of the fans and headed for something to eat. I found a great Sushi bar run by a South Korean chef called Andy. I got a real protein buzz from a Sashimi dinner and arranged to pick some Sushi up for after the show. Andy was a real card and tested me out with his own specials including some red snapper Sashimi which he presented in the shape of a starfish vis-a-vis 13th Star.
I left the restaurant feeling a lot happier.
The venue had set up tables and chairs in front of stage. Not my preferred gig environment but I knew we hadn't done great numbers and, if there was standing only, it would have appeared pretty empty as it's a big room. The seated audience were spread through the main area and in the end it worked out well. A solid 9.3 again and aftershow everyone was happy apart from Steve who was still nursing battered fingers. No showers in the venue and I couldn't be bothered humping up to the hotel. I climbed on the bus and was in my bunk minutes after. The shows are demanding and, even though it was an early gig, I played a tired Cinderella and was in bed by midnight despite Doug Hackett's wine cellar clinking away in the bays.
BTW, his company is Dogwood Cellars and you can find him at http://www.dogwoodcellars.com
I copped the Zs in the morning and rappelled from my bunk around 1. The Irish bar for the meet and greet was just on the next block so I headed up to catch the German v Austria game over coffee.
I met up with George and some other guys and caught the breeze before the main event. Thankfully Big George gave me a Cleveland Indians shirt which covered me for the day. No laundry in the venue or in the neighbourhood. The venue was great and the staff, as always, really helpful and friendly. The stage looked out straight onto a balcony which surrounded the venue above a great standing area. I knew it was going to be a good night. There was a gushing shower as well in the dressing room so I slipped in before soundcheck for a steam and clean. My voice has been holding up well on this tour. Normally air conditioning really dries me up and especially on the bus where there are no overhead vents. Luckily, we have real windows in the rear smoking lounge and I tend to hang out there and take the air.
I always ask for the AC to be turned off at the gigs when we go on stage as, despite all the water you can take on board, your throat never seems to moisturise and I find myself dry coughing. The recovery sleep on the bus is a lot better than on the European buses as the bunks are longer and wider and generally more comfortable. For the tail end of a 3-in-a-row I was in pretty good shape.
Soundcheck and then a quick burger before heading to the meet and greet at Flannery's. It was packed, and it took me a while to get through the autographs and photo requests. Again everyone was really friendly and patient and I got through everything in just about an hour before I was due to head to stage at 8. No support again. Paul Kennedy, our sound guy, had mixed the Gazza Ladra theme with the Lisa Simpson intro as it was taking too long to set up the gig. It did the trick and I strode on wearing my new acquisition, the black ten gallon cowboy hat, to a huge roar from the 400 or so FishHeads.
A great gig that registered as 9.6 thanks to a vibey crowd and a great band performance. I was getting my banter together and was a lot smoother overall. The stories are slicker and are finding their balance with the daily pickups you get from locals or events on the road. The set is also well balanced although I would like to have had another couple of numbers to play with. Steve's injuries mean we have to be careful as he is in a lot of pain and doesn't need the extra pressure. The band is on top form and there are a lot of smiles onstage which is the best sign that we have a cooking unit.
Frank has been playing his heart out on "Cliche" and Gavin is getting better by the day as he gets used to the time differences.
"Incommunicado" was a hoot as the cowboy hat returned together with the Braves shirt :-)
A wonderful night overall.
Another welcome shower and, after some conversation with a couple of Frank's friends, I headed to the bus with my belly full of chicken wings that I wolfed down with a bottle of Doug's wine. Day off in NYC!
And now I stare out of the hotel window at the river and Manhattan beyond as the ferries dart over the blue waters. It's my first real bed since San Francisco over a week ago.
I hadn't slept well and woke up at 4am to join the night owl merchandiser Billy in the back lounge. The journey hadn't been without incident as somewhere around 2am Lee, our driver, had braked heavily to avoid a deer on the freeway. It happened just as Steve got up from the couch in the front lounge to head for his bunk. The action sent him flying through the dividing curtain and into the front window of the bus, leaving him battered and bruised in the stairwell. He was lucky he didn't break his neck. Lee said he couldn't manoeuvre as he had a truck coming up on him and a car on the inside. Steve reckons it was deliberate as they had been warned about playing music too loud. I reckon Bambi survived to live another day :-)
Being up that early gave me the chance to talk to Elspeth for the first time in over a week. It was great to hear that everything was OK at home, that all in the garden was growing and the cats, despite the lack of company, were fine.
I spent the next hour sitting up front with Lee and discovered that, like a lot of drivers in the Rock and Roll movement business, he had served in Vietnam. It turned out he had been an MP stationed at Danang in '71 and had finished his tour in Saigon. We got talking about the country and the conflict and our mutual experiences. We had both been at a number of locations including Marble Mountain which I'd mentioned in my blogs. A really interesting and genuine guy. As the sun came up over Pennsylvania and with New York over the horizon, I finally succumbed to the sleep crawling in my head and climbed up the cliff to my bunk.
I stayed under the covers until 2 because the hotel, as always over here, is never ready until mid afternoon. I arrived in reception to find Gavin still waiting on his room and asleep in a chair.
The mention of laundry got me excited until I discovered pick up was at 10am and they didn't do overnights. I was pointed at a mall over the road and rushed to my room to pack the bag. The disappointment on discovering it was a dry cleaner was such a come down. On the road it's a constant battle not only with stage clothes but for everyday wear as the inconsistent showering arrangements, spilled wine from deer avoidance incidents and general muck around gigs and back stage empties a suitcase pretty quickly. You can always tell when last night's blagged shirts are on backs next day.
I carry 2 bags; one the big grey Samsonite that holds back ups and specials like suits and decent stuff and which stays parked in the hold, with the other a softie I use for gigs and everyday use. When the softie is crammed with dirty laundry it's time to haul the Sammy out and reorganise. Hitting the hotel room and opening the Sammy I found I was down to my last 2 pairs of underpants with my swimming trunks the last resort! :-D I just pray BB Kings has an in-house washing machine. Oh, the endless glamour! :-D
The other big disappointment today was the realisation that the Radio Awards that I thought were tonight are actually on Thursday, the other day off after NYC, and when we are scheduled to be in Washington. Yatta is now trying to reschedule as he is coming to the Awards with me. I hope it's a lucky night if we do make it!
Otherwise we have both been hauling suits all the way across the US for nothing!
So tonight rather than a glitzy affair is a hum drum night in the Hotel in Hoboken. Steely Dan are in town as are Iron Maiden, Dr John and Stevie Wonder but I can't be arsed going to a show tonight.
It's 7pm and all I want is a decent meal, a bottle of wine, a very large cognac and a good movie before I rest my head on a big fluffy pillow on a bed that isn't travelling at 60 miles an hour, and dream of clean laundry.
It's been great so far and I can't remember a tour being this much fun for ages. As Steve said the other night "I could do this for months!"
Coming from a man with bleeding stumps for fingers, a heavily bruised back and a near death incident under the truss in Chicago, that says something! :-D
lots of love
Onkel Fish xx
Email 17th June 2008