Email 24th June 2008

Fish 2008 - Rainbows over Manhattan and other short stories

Dear FishHeads, Freaks, fans and the Company

Washington pre-gig. The support band is kicking in and I'm trapped in another dressing room. The last few days have been eventful and glorious. The only black spot is that Steve's fingers are not healing and he's in a lot of pain and suffering on stage. It's getting him down as you would expect. The two and a half hour set at NEARFest didn't help and he needs a couple of days off. A badly bruised shoulder isn't helping.
The end of tour is coming at us apace and I think he will be glad when his ordeal is over. I am holding up well but the extra numbers in Bethlehem took their toll and I was worried on waking in Philadelphia that I had scorched my voice. I needn't have worried. The only thing scorched was my memory and eyeballs. The former when I walked on and did a "Spinal Tap" and said "Hello Cleveland!" for some subconscious reason and the latter from the barrage of flashes from cameras (more later).

But I jump forward in the time frames too quickly.
The New York day off was painlessly negotiated and the gig day had me rising for a 12 noon bus crawl to Times Square and BB Kings. We were turned away from the Lincoln Tunnel as the bus was deemed to be too high. Another tour bus had been pulled over by the "Tunnel police" for whatever reason and TBH I was glad we weren't facing a haul over and a search that would have had us parked up for ages.
Instead we had a huge U turn and a trip via the George Washington bridge, a spectacular piece of engineering, and into the crawling traffic on the island.
We didn't get to the venue until around 3 and missed the footy game as the tall buildings obliterated the Sat signal. The bus had to leave immediately after off-loading the gear.
The venue had a completely different vibe from others on the tour, perhaps because it was NYC and in the heart of the entertainment district. It didn't feel friendly when we arrived. There are some venues that consider themselves bigger than the band. It's difficult to explain. Nothing I can put my finger directly on, just a vibe. I didn't feel comfortable and the number of staff that were scuttling around the hall made me wonder how it all paid for itself.

First priority of the day was to find a launderette and looking around outside in the theatre district seemed a lost cause. The venue didn't have washing machines but the manager told one of his staff, a young black kid called Rodney, to walk me to a place a few zigzag blocks away. It must have looked quite comical, a big white guy frantically following a wee black guy darting through crowds with obvious intent.
He was a great little guy and, although conversation was stilted due to heavy accents and his acute shyness, the mission was accomplished and on return to the venue he was over the moon when I gave him a T-shirt.
Although he was due to hang up his hat at 4 after he'd moved all the tables and chairs out of the venue, he hung around to catch the soundcheck and I was smiling as I caught him grooving out of the edge of my eye as he hid behind a pillar in the gloom.
The check went on a while. It was another acoustically dead room thanks to a heavy curtained backdrop and a carpeted stage. The backline was also under a lower ceiling which added to hassle with the stage sound. We made it bearable and trusted Paul out front to deliver his end of the deal.
No sooner was soundcheck over when I had to head to the meet and greet at the Twins pub. Billy and I caught a taxi eventually and arrived later than planned to a packed bar. It was the best attended yet with over a 100 fans spread out between the two floors. It had caught everyone by surprise but especially me.
Everyone was really cool and polite and the entire hour or so passed easily. What was foremost in my mind was picking up my laundry. It had started to rain outside and that meant taxis were in high demand.
Billy and I stood outside the awning of the pub as the rain came down. It was 7.30. Thankfully a fan arrived in a trusty yellow cab and whisked us away. Jed (?) was great company and a solid trooper. We stopped off near the launderette; I picked up my bag and scooted to the venue with enough underpants and socks to see me through to the end of the tour. Mission accomplished!

On the way I was looking for signs and totems. Signals and auspices for the night. As the rain began to dwindle, we were passing close to the Empire State Building and the mellow sun was low over the Hudson River. I muttered something about watching out for rainbows and - lo and behold - when we broke into a space in the skyline as we travelled up the Westside, the sky was arraigned in front of us and a rainbow held the frame of one of the most famous NYC landmarks. It was so jaw-droppingly beautiful and perfect. The arc completely followed the structure in sublime symmetry. I expected to see a film crew directed by Woody Allen on the sidewalk. It was totally spectacular.
And I didn't have my camera.

I would have to let it burn in my vision and selfishly hold it to myself as much as any citizen could on such an overpopulated island. How many others savoured that moment, that image, that truly inspiring expression of Mother Nature. How many took the awe and inspiration of that captivating soul-searing, breath-catching, heart-stopping, eye-popping revelation and wondered. Truly shock and awe. I didn't care. It was mine for a fleeting moment before we disappeared into the shadowed canyons of the naked city.

I arrived at the gig convinced we had a blessing from the big F!

"3", the support band, was good. We had eaten our band meal at a table earlier in a corridor in the bowels of the gig. Cold chicken and mashed potatoes. The gig drew ever closer.
As if in direct contrast to everything else around us back stage, it turned out we had a personal masseuse. At a dollar a minute I took advantage and allowed my tired shoulders and neck to be dutifully coaxed into relaxation by the fingers of Phil. The ten minutes pre-gig set me up and I bounced on stage after limbering up to an enthusiastic audience who lapped up our show. Monitors be damned, it didn't matter as we ran out winners at a healthy 9.3/10. A great result for NYC which sees major bands coming at them every night.
An interview with Britsound after the show confirmed we had a result.

I partook of another massage from Phil soon after coming off stage and we talked about his wanderings through Kung Fu schools, narrowly missing the draft in the '70s, his interest in homeopathy and alternative medicines and the like. His muscled, strong, thin black fingers moved the stress and strains from my body and I floated away in the grey corridors of the bleak dusty air conditioned corridor to a place of stories and dreams. Characters. Always characters, introduced and delivered like jewels and trinkets, some to entertain, others to guide and all as living signposts on this never ending fantastic journey. All navigators in some sense or another. I can only read the maps and enjoy the trip.

We moved slowly from back stage as the venue rolled up the shutters. Many of the staff came up to congratulate us on the show. We had made a definite mark. It had been a good turnout and all the promoting staff were really happy with the result.

On the way out I passed the merchandise outlet. We hadn't been allowed to sell our own merch and, as you would expect, the single seller at the door wasn't particularly enthusiastic. She had been overrun and as the stall was immediately at the door it was awkward and crowded. I went up and asked for a shirt for me and Taz from the venue as a souvenir. They had just raped us for $500 in commission on merch sales and were now haggling over giving me two free shirts! The front of house manager started to give me grief over my attitude. I felt like decking him. He eventually acceded and I got the shirts, he was still complaining about my attitude. I smiled and left the venue. The commissions piss me off and the only smile I do have is that we are doing the business at the meet and greets and every penny or cent is supporting this tour and providing me with a living. Not going to the venue is an added bunce they don't deserve!

The bus was caught up in an accident on the George Washington Bridge. We were sitting on our suitcases with all the equipment awaiting pickup on 42nd Street. It was 2am. The neighbourhood bars were closed, the streets ablaze with the homeward bound detritus of the night's affairs and communions. We huddled around our baggage like Custer's last stand, sober, depressed and frustrated as the adrenalin wore off, the hunger kicked in and the glory of the night became inconsequential. I am embarrassed to admit I succumbed to a Micky Dees as I was so hungry. I sat on my beloved boulder of a Samsonite and bathed in the neon.

The bus finally arrived and we loaded the trailer and holds. Yatta and I set off for the hotel in a hailed taxi while the rest bundled onto the bus to Washington for a day off. Tomorrow was the radio awards. The suits were ready.
I fell asleep in my bed in the Hoboken hotel, Manhattan across the water was a dark affair.
I had clean laundry and another gig under my belt. I knew I was already a winner. :-)

lots of love
Onkel Fish xx

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