U.S.A Tour Diary – Ohio to New York

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I thought it only happened in films where the hapless traveller (probably played by John Candy or Steve Martin) would check into a hotel in desperate need of a good nights rest only to find that his room overlooks a rail track and every half an hour, a massive freight train comes thundering past the window shaking all the pictures off the walls – Well it happens at the Comfort Inn in St Clairsville, Ohio. It was actually pretty amusing when at sometime after midnight just as myself and Phil were settling in our beds and all was quiet, a train announced its arrival with a comically loud blast of it’s horn and for a seemingly endless amount of time, rumbled past our window, it’s brakes squealing like a thousand nails down a blackboard. This was the first of many. No amount of freight trains could keep me awake though and i drifted off to sleepy town.

The next days drive-athon took us us to Columbus Ohio. We’d already stayed in Columbus post Indianapolis and the familiar feeling of driving in circles returned. Columbus was a good gig. The sun had been shining all day and there was a warm springtime atmosphere which a few of us went to soak up in the open air bar next door before the show.
I’ve fallen into a bad habit of late and that is, if i don’t write the tour diary soon enough, i begin to forget what has actually happened. So much is going each day that i’m having trouble remembering past three days – arriving last week seems like a lifetime ago. I’m having to do research to find out what we did! Due to this time induced amnesia, i shall swiftly skip on to our arrival and subsequent stay in New York.
Columbus to New York is an 8 hour drive. If you factor in a stop for a tasty Mexican lunch and to take silly photos with Corona beer face cutouts, it’s really more like 10 hours. There was a big carrot dangling at the end of this drive however in the shape of tickets for the Yankees vs Red Sox game at the new Yankee stadium. Iain Graham was particularly excited about this and had there not been a speed limit to adhere to, we probably would have made the journey in 7 hours. On route to the stadium, Iain briefed us on the rules of the game. Like many sports, there are a lot of statistics involved which honestly didn’t interest me. I was there to immerse myself in the atmosphere, to watch balls being knocked out of the park, and to drink beer and eat hot dogs! All these things were achieved and a brilliant time was had. I’m not a sports oriented person at all. I had a total football (soccer) bypass at school as having monocular vision excluded me from a lot of team sports (to protect other players rather than myself i suspect) and as a consequence, never felt inclined to watch other people running around a field with a ball preferring instead to channel my energies into solo pursuits such as skateboarding, breakdancing and BMX. Being in the Yankee stadium amongst such passionate sports fans however made me feel as though i’d been missing out on something all my life and it must be nice to follow a team and experience the shared glory of being on the winning side. Obviously there’s a flipside to this and that is when your team is losing. New York kicked Boston’s ass that night – The advantage to being neutral is that i had a great time regardless of who won. If i’d had to have picked a team to support though, it probably would have been the Yankees for no reason other than i thought they had sharper looking outfits! Sorry Boston.  Special thanks to Dave O’Conner for scoring the tickets for us. It was a memorable night and we definitely owe you a drink!
It was late to bed and an early rise. We had a day full of radio promo which began in New Jersey with the lovely Terri Carr at WDHA. Karen was there to meet us with coffee and we kicked off the day with a couple of tunes live on air. From there we hoofed it through the Holland tunnel into Manhattan for a wacky races style trip up Avenue of the Americas to midtown for a session with Hard Drive and then back down to TriBeCa for the final session of the day with WAXQ. The sun was shining, all radio sessions went well and as Iain pointed the van in the direction of our hotel in Williamsburg we considered it another good day.
For a long time we’ve been needing to get some up to date images of ourselves as we’ve been reusing shots that were taken some time ago. You may not have noticed but it’s something we’ve been conscious of. We’ve found it hard to schedule anything in due to issues of geography and lives getting in the way but being in New York with half a day spare, we called upon the services of a friend of mine, Stephen Sebring. He’s a kind spirited and generous guy of considerable talent and has pioneered an amazing photography system that literally takes you into the fourth dimension. He took us to the fourth dimension and back before we moved up to the roof of the building to use the breathtaking backdrop of Manhattan, 18 floors up, and then back down to street level to capture images of us dodging traffic and eating pizza slices. There are not many people out there who can make a photo shoot as fun as Stephen did and I can’t wait to see the results. Nice one Mr Sebring, it was an honour to spend the day with a visionary such as yourself.
New York is the city that never sleeps – or rests, and no sooner had we wrapped up with Stephen, we were in a car on our way to the Mercury Lounge for load in and soundcheck. The Mercury Lounge is conveniently situated three doors down from Katz’s famous deli on E. Houston. This Jewish deli has been serving pastrami sandwiches since 1888 and  will even ship a sandwich to you if you happen to be on the opposite side of the country. To be fully appreciated though, I think you need to be in New York City. They’re not cheap – I imagine Mr Katz and his family must be pastrami millionaires, but damn they’re good.
The show at the Mercury lounge was great. There was an added element of pressure in knowing that our U.S. label had flown over from Los Angeles to see the show as well as other invited industry movers and shakers so we needed to deliver but to be honest, as soon as we start playing, all this disappears and we are simply enjoying the moment, doing what we love to do. As we played, I couldn’t help comparing the Mercury Lounge to The Water Rats in London where we performed our first ever show – there are a lot of similarities between the two. We’ve come a long way since then and have achieved some amazing things together but the feeling i had on stage in New York was pretty much the same as three years ago in Kings Cross, London. The feeling that we’ve created something to be excited about and something precious that should not be taken for granted. It will interesting to look back in another three years from now to see how far we’ve taken this but i suspect and hope that the feeling will still be the same.