U.S.A. Tour Diary – Quantum Leap

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Disclaimer : I’m reaching the stage of the tour where i’m not altogether sure where i am or what day of the week it is so bear with me, this could get confusing. Strap in, here we go!

Myself, Luke, Paul and Iain Graham have just returned from Del Mar Lanes in Houston, Texas. Along with shuffleboard, table tennis and frisbee, 10 pin bowling has now become a favourite pastime of the Temperance Movement touring party. Our hotel in Houston is not downtown but 30 minutes out and surrounded by freeways. A large Mexican seafood restaurant, a laundrette (which has proved itself very useful) and a fuel station are our neighbours but it’s pretty much concrete and billboards as far as the eye can see. We had caught the bowling bug two nights previously in Orlando (I’ll come to this later) and, as there was no show tonight, we looked up the nearest bowling lanes. We were rewarded with a no-frills, time-warp of a bowling centre that looked like it was strait out of the Big Lebowski. It was absolutely brilliant! Once we’d collected our special shoes and were shown to our lane, we noticed that the room seemed to be segregated by ability. One half of the room was buzzing with activity. All lanes over that side were crammed with mostly men brandishing their own custom made balls, one dude even sporting a single bowling glove like a ten-pin loving Michael Jackson. They hurled balls down the oiled lanes with practiced confidence and the sound of resin smashing into wood echoed around the building. On the other side of the room, taking up one solitary lane, was us. It was as though the occupants of the other side were worried that they may somehow, by proximity, contract an inability to bowl. There seems to be a certain amount of superstition in bowling. I noticed some kissing of balls (fnar, fnar!), and little rituals adopted to get into “the zone” so perhaps it’s generally considered wise in bowling circles to stay well clear of people who are shit at bowling i.e. us – we were bowling lepers! Thankfully, a couple of guys were brave enough to wander over to our side of the room. In a friendly gesture, they first advised us that it would work financially in our favour, if we purchased a bucket of beers instead of buying them singularly. This led to further conversation at which point I asked one of them outright, “So, how do we bowl?”
“I’ll be right back” came the reply.
Obviously, any idiot can throw a ball down an alley and knock a few pins down but we suspected there was more to it than this and, sure enough, 10 minutes later, our new friend Ron, came back over with his buddy to shed some light on the intricacies of the game. Literally, within a few frames under Ron’s expert tutelage, we were noticing an improvement and definitely a less random result. It was interesting to watch how differently everyone bowled. Luke developed a beautiful fluid style whereas Iain Graham’s technique by comparison was still to hoof it down the lane and hope for the best.
So, as I mentioned previously, it was our last visit to Orlando that sparked this bowling obsession. We’d hopped on an airplane to do some radio promo after our stint in New Orleans. We were collected from the airport by our radio plugger Howard, and, after a huge feast of meat at a Turkish grill, ended up at an AMF bowling centre just a stones throw from our hotel. Howard, being the affable and modest guy that he is, played down his bowling talents on the walk to the lanes but once there, absolutely destroyed us. Whilst we flailed about, trying to keep the ball out of the gutter, Howard became Roy Munson from “Kingpin” scoring strike after strike. We should have suspected he had bowling talent after he revealed to us that his grandmother had, only the previous week, scored 190 – not bad for an octogenarian. He was from bowling stock! Howard was most pleased that night to have beaten her score and was looking forward to calling up Grandma to gloat. Now that we’ve been receiving coaching from our mate Ron, we’re looking forward to a rematch with Howard and kicking his ass. Get ready Howard, it’s on!
The following morning, we were up early to get on the radio and promote a little acoustic gig we’d be doing later in the day for Cinco de Mayo. This holiday celebrates the Mexican army’s victory over French forces at the battle of Puebla but seems to have been hijacked as an excuse by Americans to drink tequila. The radio went amazingly well and attracted a bigger number of people than we expected to the 2pm session. Similar to the acoustic session we did a while back in Silver Spring, it could have gone either way – an uncomfortably empty and unresponsive room, or a resounding success. Thankfully it was the latter and we turned the Elixir Bar Room into a party. Damon worked the room, dancing with anyone within reach, Phil was a frenetic ball of energy and by the end of our set, I was wearing an oversized sombrero and performing a shaker solo – something that is unlikely to happen again! An interview was conducted immediately afterwards which involved coercing us to drink tequila shots and then we were free to hang out and chat to some Floridians.
You’ll have to forgive the confusing chronology of this diary entry today but one thing I haven’t mentioned yet is our trip to New Orleans. This happened six days ago after our blowout on route to Houston which is where we find ourselves again now. Plus, by the time you read this, we’ll be somewhere else – see, confusing isn’t it!
Anyway, I’d personally never been to New Orleans and was pretty excited to get there, especially as the jazz festival was in full swing and the town would be in party mode – which it is most of the time anyway from what I’m told. After our first of two shows, we went out to explore. The streets were alive with partygoers, tourists, buskers and other characters with dubious intentions. Buses cruised up and down with signs inviting people to jump aboard and in the back would be either a live band or an earth shaking sound system. People poured out of bars onto the pavements and there was music everywhere. Bass-heavy Hip-hop mixed with jazz trombones and tubas and live bands playing cover songs all blended into a cacophony of noise making it hard to know what to dance to. As you walked down the street, you’d tune into whichever was the loudest or nearest to you. Parts of the French Quarter and particularly Bourbon Street are like Blackpool sprinkled with voodoo dust – full of cheap bars, souvenir shops and inebriated tourists but there are also parts of the city away from the madness with stunning architecture and beautiful gardens. We tried to go to Preservation Hall – a historic music venue established to preserve New Orleans jazz, but all tickets were sold out so we walked through some of these quieter parts in search of a place to have a drink on the less mental side of town. It had been a long day and was already way past midnight so it wasn’t too long before I found myself back at the hotel and tucked up in bed.
New Orleans was a memorable part of the tour. The weather was hot and sunny, the atmosphere unlike any other city we’d visited and we got to see some great live music. Lenny Kravitz, Buddy Guy, and a spell in the Gospel tent at the jazz festival followed by a typically chaotic show back at the House of Blues later that night from George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic. Backstage at the House of Blues is a wall on which is written the names of all the bands who’ve sold out the venue. I’m looking forward to the day we can come back and add “The Temperance Movement” to that wall.
So we’ve now come full circle back to where this tour diary started but, just to confuse you even more, I’m going to reveal to you that I am now no longer in Houston where I began writing this quantum leap edition of the tour diary, but lying on a bed at midday in Dallas. We drove from Houston after the show last night to get here as we had early morning radio promo to attend. We’ve just returned from the station and are attempting to get our heads down for an hour before moving to a new hotel and then the venue for tonight’s show. As far as I know, it’s Friday, the 8th May, 2015.
Phew! I’m beginning to know how Marty McFly felt.

Laundrette