Time is flying by. It seems like only a couple of days ago that I wrote about New York and yet as I look in Master Tour, I realise that we’ve since done four shows (Raleigh, Charlotte, North Myrtle Beach and Wilmington) and had a day off. Master Tour is our digital tour book that delivers all the information we need regarding travel times, distances, hotel addresses, venues and stage times etc to our iPhones. Iain Graham inputs all of this information when advancing the tour so that he can avoid having to answer the same questions time and time again from five people. Despite this, we still ask him how long a particular drive will be or where we’re going next week and these questions, in turn, are ignored. The only problem with Master Tour is that once a week has elapsed, all information disappears forever as though it had never happened and there is no record of the whole tour. Before the digital age reduced everything to ones and zeros, It was exciting to receive an analogue tour book, neatly spiral bound with real pages and a cover. It would generally be left in a bag and never consulted, prompting endless questions directed at the poor tour manager who’d spent hours putting the book together to avoid the exact same questions but it at least served as a nice souvenir of the tour. I have a collection of them at home from past tours that I occasionally stumble across in the back of my wardrobe and it’s nice to look back on all the places I’ve visited. Master Tour has made everything streamlined and convenient but at the same time, robbed us of memory jogging mementos.
So we’re now well into the Southern states and not only is the weather warm but so is the hospitality. After soundcheck in Raleigh, we found ourselves in the venue car park sat in camping chairs outside a large motor home owned by some fans being served delicious soup from a gigantic cauldron-like cast iron pot and drinking beer. Southern hospitality is so acknowledged that it even has it’s own Wikipedia entry and it does indeed feel like everyone here is genuinely happy to see us and seem to be doing everything they can to make us never want to leave. We’ve even had total strangers come over for a chat whilst re-fuelling at gas stations. From Raleigh we travelled to Charlotte where again we experienced the same friendly welcome and then onto Myrtle Beach. The House of Blues in Myrtle Beach resembles a giant corrugated iron shack and looks like it should contain giant circular saws, rusty meat hooks and other horror film paraphernalia rather than a well equipped music venue. The only external clue to what lies inside this unsettling looking building is the giant neon blue “House of Blues” sign that is possibly visible from the moon. After load-in, we wandered out onto the balcony backstage which overlooked the car park and some fenced off swampland where someone had left a load of logs scattered around by the water; except they weren’t logs, they were alligators! We were right next door to Alligator Adventure, home to hundreds of prehistoric looking reptiles with toothy grins as well as snakes, wolves, parrots and bobcats. I went in to have a look around as I’ve always been fascinated by animals that can either poison or tear you apart. The alligators and crocodiles seemed fairly happy. These mostly sedentary animals were lazing around like sunbathing holiday makers at a resort waiting to be bought poolside cocktails but I have to admit to feeling pretty sorry for the bobcats. They seemed none too happy about being held against their will in too-small cages and stared at by ice-cream eating tourists. The wolves looked a bit pissed off too. I left the Bobcats and Wolves to plan their escape and returned to the House of Blues for soundcheck. This was followed by a big tasty plate of chicken and chorizo gumbolaya which had just enough time to down before stage time.
The next day was the first full day-off we’ve had in the 8 weeks of being out here. “Day off” is a term loosely referring to a day without a gig but can include a drive of up to 400 miles or a bit of radio promo so technically not a “day off”. In North Carolina Beach however, we actually had a proper “day off” which we spent a good portion of being motionless, much like the alligators from the previous day. I actually considered going to buy a skateboard but this was discouraged by concerned band mates envisioning broken wrists so instead, a few of us went to the beach for a nice safe game of late afternoon frisbee. Having worked up a thirst, we adjourned to the poolside bar for a margarita. As we sipped on our refreshing adult beverages, I noticed a storm warning on the television screen behind the bar. As if on cue, the sky grew dark and a jagged flash of lightning cut across the horizon. The barman had just enough time to fix us another round before pulling down his shutters. We retreated to our balcony to watch the storm unfold. After numerous failed attempts to capture a lightning flash on camera, pizzas were ordered in and an almost full complement of Temperance Movement members assembled in room 511 to watch a film.
The storm appeared to have hit the reset button on the weather and we woke the next day to a clear, sunny sky. We made the obligatory coffee stop and were on our way to Wilmington for a headline show at Ziggy’s by the Sea.
The gig was great fun. There wasn’t an overwhelming turnout of people but enough to create the sense that word is starting to spread. It’s early days yet and we have a long way to go before Madison Square Gardens but stick with us, we’re working on it!
So yesterday was another “day off” and although it was one of those ones where we spend 4 hours in the van to do a bit of radio promo, from 3pm onwards, we were free to spend it however we saw fit. It was a glorious sunny day and the obvious thing to do was to head for the beach. Frisbee and high winds generally don’t mix well and after chasing the orange plastic disc up and down the beach for a while, we headed to a Mexican bar/restaurant for some of the best tacos I think we’ve ever eaten, washed down with delicious cold beer. The idea then was that we’d head back to our hotel, watch an episode of Game of Thrones and get an early night. This is not exactly how the evening panned out. Our hotel was not the finest establishment we’ve stayed in on this tour. The first indication of this when we checked in was the bulletproof glass between us and the girl on reception. Either the building was formerly a bank, or the staff of the hotel felt the need to protect themselves from the clientele. When entering the rooms, it became apparent that we were not in the Four Seasons. I called reception to enquire as to how I might open the windows to allow some non-stale air into the room, and the short reply that came back was “they ain’t opening!” It was a statement, not a question. The one thing it did have going for it was the large expanse of grass outside the rooms – perfect for frisbee! All was going to plan until Ian Graham bought out a jar of peach moonshine that had been given to us the night before. A few swigs of this convinced us that it would be a much better idea to go into town and find a bar than get an early night. One Über ride later and we were getting stuck into the first but by no means last margarita of the evening. It was in this bar that we discovered the greatest game ever known to man – shuffleboard! Our self imposed curfew came and went as we got totally absorbed in a shuffleboard tournament of epic proportion. The more we drank, the better we seemed to become at this game and I think I finally found my calling in life – a professional shuffleboard player!
When the tournament had finally reached it’s thrilling climax, we returned to our high security hotel, not to go to bed, but to play margarita and moonshine fuelled midnight frisbee on the floodlit grass outside…then we watched Game of Thrones. At least I think we did!