U.S.A. Tour Diary – Portland to Boston

I think I speak for everyone in this van when I say I’m feeling pretty exhausted. Not only are our bodies protesting at the punishing schedule we’ve endured over the past 6 weeks but so is our gear. My D.I. Box is missing switches, my fuzz pedal finally gave up after years of service and last night I may have blown a speaker. It has become commonplace to see Mr Sayer operating on his guitar between soundcheck and gig. It’s guts spilling out as he pokes around the electrical arteries with a soldering iron. We’ve seen amps come and go, snares break and it’s a wonder that Damon’s drum kit is still standing. Despite this, we battle on, entering venues, blowing the roof off them and leaving like, as Ian Graham succinctly put it the other day, “The navy seals of Rock’n’Roll” – I’m sure the actual navy seals might disagree.

We have one more show now before a much needed week off to recouperate and nurse our road worn equipment back to health before resuming our mission. Tonight’s show is New York City! As we drive from Boston towards the Big Apple, there is a sense of both excitement and disbelief. To be playing New York with a band that was started only a few years ago as an antidote to our “day jobs” of playing for other artists is a dream come true. Due to constraints of the space time continuum – and internet access, by the time you read this diary entry, the New York show will have happened and we’ll have scattered in all directions like animals being released into the wild. I’ll write an account of our New York experience on the plane home but for now, I’ll fill you in on the last couple of days.
After arriving in our Portland hotel, we were in need of sustenance. Unable to muster up the energy required to go in search of something involving the van, myself, Paul, Luke and Iain met downstairs in the hotel restaurant. The menu was encouraging, especially for Iain who has been a strict vegetarian for 23 years. It has been tricky at times for poor Iain on this tour as vegetarianism is regarded as some type of mental illness in a lot of the establishments we’ve eaten and as a result, his options have been limited. So, when he spied “vegan chilli” on the menu, it was a done deal. It sounded so tasty that I also ordered it. When it arrived it was indeed tasty and it wasn’t until halfway through our meal that we discovered the secret ingredient – beef! Needless to say, Iain was not impressed and much apologising and cancelling of bills took place. Portland fully redeemed itself the next day with possibly the best food of the tour so far. The whole day was an eatathon of tasty delights culminating in an aftershow lobster roll courtesy of Karen who had arrived at the gig bearing boxes full of the crustacean loaded buns which we squirrelled away in a fridge for a post show snack. Growing up, I had always regarded lobster as a luxury food and one that you would never order in a restaurant if someone else was paying as it would often be the priciest item on the menu yet here we were, stuffing seafood hotdogs in our faces like there was no tomorrow. They were incredible!
From Portland we drove to Boston. The House of Blues in Boston is a fantastic 2,400 capacity venue situated right opposite Fenway Park – home of the Red Sox baseball team. It’s always a bonus when you get to park right by the venue entrance and there is extra muscle on hand to help load the gear in. Once we got it all in the building, we went for a little walkabout. We’d already lost Damon who’d earlier jumped out of the van in search of a shoe twattery and Paul was busy trying to repair an amp but Potashnick, Campbell and I ended up on Newbury St in the Trident bookstore and Café doing guess what?…Eating! Our waitress was an interesting hybrid of hipster/geek perfectly befitting a café in a bookstore and pretty much told us what we’d be eating. I like it when waiters or waitresses have strong opinions on the food they’re serving. I can be pretty indecisive as i usually want to eat everything so any help in narrowing it down is appreciated. She made good choices for us and we were soon slipping into blissful food comas once again. We dragged ourselves back to the venue for soundcheck.
After a fine show and a glorious 8 hours of untroubled sleep, we awoke to find that our old nemesis, the snow had made a return appearance. He was busy swirling around outside, covering everything in white and making a nuisance of himself. He’s definitely outstayed his welcome on this tour like a drunk guest at a party – fun at first but then you just wish he’d fuck off.
So Manhattan has just appeared on the horizon and we’ve all just done as millions before us have at the first glimpse of the familiar skyline. Altogether now! “Dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah. Start Spreading the news….”
2015-03-31T04:21:50+00:00March 31st, 2015|

U.S.A. Tour Diary – “Licence and Registration Please Sir”

After three hours of driving we emerged from our dark van like moles squinting into the bright sunlight and were led into a large space that looked like a large garage or storage space. In one corner was a van covered in radio station decals. In front of this stood three microphone stands and, on a tripod, pointing at the microphone stands was mounted a video camera. In the opposite corner stood a large wooden shipping crate which, as Paul observed, “Looks like there could be a gorilla inside”. In the centre of the room, arranged in two rows were chairs, the type you might tie a kidnap victim to before filming a ransom video. The rest of the room was filled with a bizarre collection of junk from stacks of old computers to a gameshow style spinning wheel. There was also, worryingly, a cage.
What was going on?
Had Karen bought us here after I called her a Kraken in my last tour diary? It looked a bit like a kill room.
We were actually here to record a radio session for WQBK called, appropriately, “the garage sessions”. A small audience of competition winners were bought in to sit in the kidnap chairs and listen to us perform a few songs and ask a few questions. Disappointingly, there was no Gorilla.

This done, we drove on via a diner lunch to our second bit of radio promo in Troy, NY. We had a little sing-song and a chat with the nice people at radio WEXT and were once again in the van, watching the Tom-Tom count down the hours and minutes to our time of arrival in Burlington, Vermont. If you look at a map of the north east of America (as we should have done) you’ll notice a large body of water reaching down from Montreal into Vermont. This is lake Champlain. If you’re driving from Troy to Burlington, it makes sense to drive up the east side of this lake. We, of course, having blindly followed our digital guide, found ourselves on the west side where, upon investigation, it became apparent that all means of crossing the water, i.e Ferries, had stopped for the day. Our only option was to head South where the water was narrower and there were bridges. Aware that this would add another hour to our 3 hour drive, Iain Graham applied a tiny amount of extra pressure to the accelerator. In the interests of writing an exciting tour diary, I considered describing a Cannonball Run style police chase through upstate New York with Iain Graham as Burt Reynolds and Paul Sayer in the passenger seat as Farah Fawcett but the reality was that when the flashing blue lights appeared behind us, we obediently pulled over with our tails between our legs and waited for justice to be served. The female officer who would decide our fate didn’t appear to be the type to respond favourably to Scottish charm or wisecracks so we sat silently whilst she wrote out the ticket. Had she been wearing one, I might have considered asking if I could wear her hat for a photo but antagonising police officers in a foreign country is never a good idea.
Driving on at precisely the speed limit, we finally reached Burlington.
Vermont is beautiful! The view that awaited me as I opened the curtains the next morning was simply stunning. A crisp, blue sky above a still frozen lake and snow capped mountains gleaming in the distance. The air smelled clean and pure and I instantly felt like I’d received an injection of vitality. We received an alert from Damon that he’d discovered a coffee twattery nearby so no time was wasted and before long we were experiencing probably the best coffee of the tour so far. This place had it all! Beards, Bicycles, exposed brickwork and Maple soaked brioche. That’s it – we’re moving to Vermont!
Seriously though, Burlington, from what we saw, had a really nice laid back feel to it. Everyone seemed happy and healthy and went about their lives with a smile. I could see myself opening up my own craft pizza twattery there. Maybe Luke could open a coffee twattery next door? We’ll travel to work on skateboards!
First things first, let’s get this band off the ground! The show in Burlington was great. The reason I don’t write specifically about the shows is that, unless something out of the ordinary happens like Damon’s drums explode or we do a whole gig without a guitar solo, I’d rather leave it to the audience to pass judgement. I can only compare to other shows we’ve done and getting up to play with this band of lovely brothers is always a joy.
I shall briefly summarise the day today for you as I think I’ve rambled on enough. We’ve arrived in Portland, Maine and I have a dinner date with Luke, Iain and Paul downstairs in 5 minutes. Here it is….
  • wake up
  • shower
  • leave hotel room after 2 idiot checks
  • drink amazing coffee and eat ham and gruyere brioche from our new favourite twattery
  • drive to radio station and discover a print shop next door
  • commute between radio station and print shop whilst simultaneously performing acoustic session and overseeing getting second run of posters done
  • drive to Vietnamese restaurant for delicious Phô
  • investigate curious Bric-a-brac shop across the road but upon finding myself in a basement reminiscent of that belonging to Buffalo Bill in “Silence of the Lambs”, get scared and leave.
  • drive
  • lovely scenery
  • drive
  • more driving
  • Portland!
2015-03-26T03:26:30+00:00March 26th, 2015|

U.S.A. Tour Diary – Pineapple and Chicken Wings

Like a Pantomime villain hiding in the wings, the snow crept out to make an unexpected appearance in Pennsylvania. Just as we were getting used to basking in the glorious rays of the spring sun and my testicles had tentatively emerged from hibernation, we were ambushed by a cold, whirling chaos of white. At the same time, our windscreen wipers decided they’d had enough and refused to co-operate. Perfect!

We made our way through accident induced traffic to a radio station just outside Philadelphia and were met outside by our East Coast radio plugger Karen. We’d been looking forward to meeting Karen as we’d heard many tales of her verbal directness and rottweiler like approach getting records on the airwaves. In our collective minds she’s began to reach an almost mythical status. We imagined her as some kind of record plugging Kraken that struck fear into the hearts of radio programmers across the eastern seaboard. She sounded brilliant – and she far exceeded all our expectations!
Every sentence is littered with expletives as though to hammer home her point so there’s no room for misunderstandings. On occasion she’ll even squeeze a swear word into the middle of a word. For example “I guaranfuckin’tee ya!”. She’s a woman of steely determination but a heart of gold and we fell in love immediately.
She hustled us out of the snow and into the building. Her rapid-fire words (mostly unrepeatable) ricocheting off the walls as we went. Waiting to greet us in a boardroom upstairs were a handful of radio staff and the biggest platter of fruit I’ve ever seen. We greedily shoved slices of pineapple and melon into our mouths in a vain attempt to compensate for all the burgers and pizza we’d been living on over the past 5 weeks. We played 3 or 4 songs for the lovely people of WMMR and were then on our way to Electric Factory in Philly still eating fruit as we exited the building. The snow had still not let up as we arrived at the venue and load-in was particularly un-enjoyable. We paddled through ankle deep slush with our gear to carry it up a flight of slippery, concrete steps. This, preceded by a punishing few days of driving resulted in a slightly tired and grumpy rock’n’roll band. Every cloud has a silver lining though and this came in the form of Karen. As well as feeding us (an easy way to keep us happy) she kept our spirits up with tales of her days working with bands such as The Black Crowes and White Stripes and of how she’d persuade radio stations to play their records – with a sledgehammer! She’s definitely a woman you want on your side!
It’s a tough crowd in Philly and we had to work hard to win them over but I think we managed it. Despite a few technical issues in soundcheck which saw Paul Sayer performing life saving surgery with a soldering iron on my lovely D.I. Box (thanks Paul) we delivered the goods and were soon back in our van on another two hour drive to a hotel so we could cover some distance between Philadelphia and our next destination, Pittsburg.
The venue wasn’t actually in Pittsburg, but just outside in a town called Munhall. The Carnegie Library Music Hall is a beautiful old building that appears untouched since it’s construction in 1896. It has an impressive domed ceiling, a raked stage, wooden backed seats and a tonne of vibe. Also, terrible acoustics for a rock’n’roll band. We took this as a perfect opportunity to do something we hadn’t done in a long time – an off mic version of Chinese Lanterns. It was the perfect venue for it and produced a spine tingling moment that will stick in our minds for years to come. Thank you Munhall.
After the show, we went in search of food. Guess what we found?…burgers! We were partly attracted by the name – Burgatory. Who could resist with a name like that? I went with a fairly conventional burger but Paul went off-piste and was required to fill in a multiple choice questionnaire for his order. Iain Graham plucked up the courage to order one of their shakes which was so thick, it came with a straw as thick as my arm. I had a go on it and by the time I’d generated enough suction for the shake to reach my mouth I was ready to pass out. Tasty though! Bed came not a moment too soon and as my head touched down on the soft Comfort Inn pillow, I was out like a light.
I’m now sitting backstage in Buffalo, NY. The building is throbbing to the sounds of Blackberry Smoke who should be wrapping up their set soon. We can then go out to sell a few t-shirts and meet some locals. Tonight’s show was a corker, definitely up there in my top 5 shows so far. I’m not sure what the collective term for native residents of Buffalo is…Buffaloans? Buffalos? But thanks guys, you made this happen.
As we were in Buffalo, we had to visit the Anchor Bar where the Buffalo Wing came into existence so, after our soundcheck earlier, we made the pilgrimage to the chicken wing Mecca. I have to admit to being slightly underwhelmed as I gnawed on a stack of spindly looking bones covered in lip burning hot sauce and tried not to think of the unfortunate birds the wings originally belonged to. I can’t imagine that they lived a particularly dignified life before being earmarked for my dinner.
So tomorrow we drive in the direction of Burlington, Vermont. I hear the scenery is pretty stunning. It’s a shame we won’t have time to visit Niagara Falls as we’re so close. I still associate it with Superman after first seeing it in Superman II as a boy and it would have been nice to have actually stood there and imagined a man in red underpants and cape flying overhead. Still, we have bigger fish to fry. As Superman was trying to save the World, we are out to conquer it and, with Karen on our team now, I think it’s entirely possible!
2015-03-23T20:59:10+00:00March 23rd, 2015|

U.S.A Tour Diary – Hot Tub Time Machine

We didn’t go for burgers in Indianapolis after all. Opposite the venue was a craft pizza twattery. I must pause to explain what I mean by twattery as it has become an established word in our vernacular. It began as a way of describing a particular type of coffee shop. One that I’ve hinted at in previous diary entries. It will typically comprise of one or all of the following features : Exposed brickwork, men with large beards or carefully groomed moustaches, ladies (and men) with tattoos, distressed woodwork, a hand-drawn menu and industrial lighting. There will be one or two barista awards on display as well as works from local artists and possibly a fixed gear bicycle (neon wheels optional) chained up outside. Above all, they will be independent (Starbucks can never be a twattery) and take themselves and their coffee very seriously – btw, if it doesn’t serve a flat white, it doesn’t qualify as a twattery. It may seem like a derogatory term and that we’re taking the piss (we are a little bit) but we love them and seek them out wherever we go. The term has now began to apply to any independent shop, store or restaurant that offers niche or specialist products in a setting as described above. We’ve visited shoe twatteries, guitar twatteries, luggage twatteries (my personal favourite), burger twatteries and yesterday, the aforementioned pizza twattery called Pizzology in Indianapolis. Granted, there wasn’t the ubiquitous exposed brickwork anywhere in sight but the pizza was awesome and I could happily have sat there all afternoon stuffing my face with their lovingly made discs of dough covered in vine ripened tomato sauce and organic buffalo mozzarella but we had to set up our gear and do a soundcheck before doors opened. The venue was actually a restaurant or rather a “gastropub” called Union 50. It was a large stylishly designed space with an amazing menu, ultra friendly staff and a small stage in the corner. We were right at home. It is owned by a successful restauranteur who, it turned out, also owns the burger restaurant we had previously visited in Indianapolis along with most of the cool establishments in town.We were incredibly well looked after throughout our stay there and would like to express our gratitude. You guys were exemplary hosts.The show itself was fun. It was obvious that not everyone in the room was there to see us or even knew we would be there but I think a good time was had by all – helped by a reckless approach to alcohol, and we may have won a few new fans which is exactly why we’re here. Mission accomplished! All we need to do now is convert the other 318 million.

A highlight of the evening came when we were taken to our accommodation for the night. The owner of Union 50 was kind enough to put us up in his downtown condo – an amazing living space that would not look out of place in an edition of Wallpaper* magazine. Not only this but he also had a huge spread of yet more delicious food left out for us. This guy is incredible! There’s more…he has a ROOFTOP HOT TUB! We needed no encouraging and after eating our fifth meal of the day were soon wallowing in the warm bubbling water with the Indianapolis skyline as our backdrop.
Back to reality the next morning and we were up and out. We had a couple of radio sessions to do on route to Columbus, Ohio. We would stay there before driving the remaining 143 miles to Cleveland.
I’m now staring at the small, illuminated screen of my iphone waiting for inspiration to come. It’s almost 11pm and we have another hour or so of driving before we reach our hotel. The van is quiet but for the tippity-tap of Luke’s laptop keyboard  next to me and some soothing 50’s music at low volume in the front. It’s the calm after the storm. We tore up the House of Blues this evening in Cleveland. It was nice to be back on the BBS tour and playing to full rooms. We have only seven shows left on this leg of the tour before we fly home for a much needed week at home with our loved ones before returning for another six weeks. It’s high time we gave our partners the credit they deserve. We couldn’t have undertaken any of this without their patience and support. I know I’m not alone in saying that I miss my girlfriend and daughter terribly. You ladies are heroes. Hang in there, we’ll be home soon.
Ok, before this diary entry descends into a bad Oscars acceptance speech. I’ll sign out. My eyes are feeling heavy and if I just close them for a second, I might have a quick snoooozzzzzzzzzzZZZZZZZZ.
2015-03-21T12:58:25+00:00March 20th, 2015|

U.S.A. Tour Diary – Chicago and Fort Wayne

We feel like new men this morning. It’s amazing what a difference a night off can do to a weary bunch of touring musicians. Not only did we have a night off but we also had the luxury of our own rooms in our new favourite city, Chicago – home of the Chicago Music Exchange, Smoking Woody’s BBQ and friendly policemen who let you wear their hats! Chicago has had a powerful magnetic force over us the past few weeks. Whenever we’ve driven away from it, we are invariably drawn back as though attached by an unseen bungee cord. The reason for our return yesterday was to do a live performance for Radio WXRT Chicago – an important station for us to make friends with as they wield considerable power and influence. Hopefully, we achieved this. The performance was broadcast live on the internet from a room containing a low stage and chairs for a small audience. These kind of things can sometimes feel somewhat sterile and vibe-less. It can be hard for a band to whip up the necessary mojo needed to create the same atmosphere you’d find at a real gig but then not all bands have a Phil Campbell! We closed our 5 song set with “Ain’t No Telling” and Phil took the outro as an opportunity to jump off the stage for a lap of honour around the room, stopping to shake his tambourine at surprised members of the crowd like a frenzied witch doctor. Brilliant! Thanks Kelly and Norm for inviting us to perform at your station. We hope to see you again soon.

So, sandwiched between Louisville (the subject of Damon’s diary entry) and Chicago was a visit to Fort Wayne. For those who’ve expressed a desire to be at a small, intimate TTM gig. This might have been the one to be at as you would have been amongst only eight or nine people. It felt a bit “Twin Peaks” being in a fairly large room with just a handful of silhouetted figures dotted around and one couple on a sofa at the far end in front of the mirrored back wall. There’s no reason why anyone in Fort Wayne should know or care who we are and nine people is better than no people so we got on the stage, gave it some and then went to bed. Job done!
As we say goodbye to Chicago for probably the last time on this trip, we say another hello to Indianapolis. This should be called the Déjà Vu tour. We were here just the other day with Blackberry Smoke but return for our own St Patricks day gig. We’ve already made plans to revisit the same burger joint we ate at last time and I’ll be raising a glass of Guinness to celebrate St Patty’s (yes, that’s what they call it here) day. Cheers!
2015-03-18T13:40:33+00:00March 18th, 2015|

U.S.A Tour Diary – Indianapolis to Louisville

It’s a beautiful, sunny morning in Kentucky. We’re up and out early to drive to Fort Wayne for another headline show but our first priority is to find coffee. This week is probably the most intense of the tour. Late nights, early mornings, radio promo and gigs all start to blur. The days off that at first, littered the itinerary, have now all vanished without trace like the snow now that Spring has arrived. Today, i am handing diary duty over to a man you all know and love. A rhythm ninja who uses drumsticks like nunchucks. The Thunder from Down Under, the one and only Mr Damon Wilson. Take it away Damon…

Friday the 13th.
What’s the worst thing that could happen?
We’re not a superstitious band but there’s more than a few raised eyebrows when we arrive at the Egyptian Room in Indy. The room Is decorated like Tutankhamen’s palace.
Not weird at all.
We’re met by Howard our trusted radio plugger. It’s his job along with Jill & Karen & Angelo to get us played on the radio & they do a great job at doing just that. With him is Brett the Man Mountain who is our marketing guy visiting from LA. He really could star in Game of Thrones except that his broad grin gives him away as an exceptionally sweet dude.
Burgers are swiftly ordered & demolished & it’s onto the show.
The Pharaoh’s Palace.
And like any king’s chamber it’s huge. 1700 eager Indianians – is that even a word? – are waiting for us & boy are they a rowdy bunch of Friday good timers! The show flies past and by the handshakes and hugs and hearty back slaps we get afterwards I’d say we’ll be welcomed back in Indiana. To all of you who came to say hi at the merch desk thanks for an overwhelming welcome. Hope to see some of you next Tuesday for our St Patricks Day show @ Union 50 in East St Indy.
Next stop Louisville KY. Our very first foray into the South. Rumour had it that his Royal Purpleness was to play at the venue next door to ours. Sure enough we arrive in the Ville to scenes of minor pandemonium. Prince fans are lining the main street and mixing with the Blackberry Smoke / TTM fans so that security are working hard to explain it all and keep things calm.
‘Queue here for Prince for the 8 o’clock show. Blackberry Smoke queue here. The Prince midnight show you’ll have to come back later. Meet and greet…’ And so on.
It’s a fantastic feeling to be amongst people who are like us – passionate to the core about music. There’s a weight of anticipation that you can feel physically. It’s a joyful feeling of expectation though. Nobody’s frustrated or on edge here.
St Patricks day festivities have begun early here which only adds to the human electricity.
And as we take to the stage the electricity only multiplies. We’re in the South and they’re keen to let us know it. The Mercury Ballroom seems to be plastered from floor to ceiling with wild eyed Kentuckians and we don’t mind in the slightest. Somehow it’s a very intimate big room as the balcony hangs over us and there’s a feeling that we’re connecting with all 900 of these music lovers.
Before the show Paul suggests we take a chance and break into Purple Rain at the back end of Pride. Hey it’s not every day you get Prince as your neighbour right? It turns out to be a master stroke and the place erupts. Hands in the air. Beautiful stuff. God I wish we’d written that song!
As we eventually pack up and walk out into the warm Louisville night we can hear Prince burning through his second show. It’s like he’s trying to tell us something:
‘Hey guys if you wanna do this you gotta do it all the way.’
We borrowed his song so it’s only fair that we take his advice too.
Thanks Prince.
2015-03-15T20:28:37+00:00March 15th, 2015|

U.S.A Tour Diary – Green Bay to Madison

We continue our erratic exploration of the United States past thawing lakes, melting mounds of snow and sun-kissed cornfields. Spring has arrived! Yesterday, the temperature definitely qualified as warm. No longer are we shuffling about like frozen penguins and I’ve cast off the arctic survival parka that made me look like Kenny from SouthPark. Strolling around Green Bay after soundcheck yesterday and feeling the sun’s re-energising rays has filled me with vigour. Judging by Phil Campbell’s performance last night, spring has had the same effect on him. The Meyer is a beautiful old building that reminds me of the theatres I spent a lot of my childhood in when my Dad was musical director for summer variety shows and Pantomimes – a quaint old british theatre tradition probably not found in the U.S. Based on crazy fairy tales, Women generally play the lead character but dressed as a boy and men dress as matronly women with over-sized boobs. There’s usually a couple of people in a horse costume and always a villain lurking in the background. Kids seem to love it and are encouraged to scream “He’s behind you” whenever the villian enters the stage – Bonkers! Anyway, venues such as the Meyer are great for a bit of light hearted entertainment or a play where un-amplified voices need to be heard but when being built, the architects probably weren’t envisioning a future with Paul Sayer’s guitar amp throwing out face-melting volume or my bass amp shaking the buildings foundations. As a consequence, the sound on stage seemed odd as though, in protest, the room was acting as a big volume sponge. In some ways this was a good thing as hearing our own backing vocals suddenly became possible. In addition to this, for the first time on this tour, we experienced a seated venue. From where we stood at the side of the stage before going on, it looked as though the audience were making themselves nice and comfortable for a showing of “Driving Miss Daisy”. Phil Campbell was having none of this and as we tore into “Ain’t No Telling”, he became a demented blur of arms and legs bouncing around the stage like a Super Mario Bro™ collecting golden coins. My level of respect for Phil as a performer went up a level last night as I’ve never seen someone work a seated crowd quite like he did the Meyer theatre – needless to say, the majority of the audience didn’t remain seated for long. We were about to segue into our last tune when we noticed Iain at the back flashing his torch and waving his arms wildly. We’d run out of time, had to abort “Take it Back” and exit the stage. Sorry Green Bay, we’ll come back and play it another day.

This morning, we drove to Madison first to visit Radio 1055 Triple M. They’d kindly laid on a vast amount of pizza for us and in return we performed a few acoustic tunes in their boardroom. The goal, obviously wasn’t just free pizza though but to endear these lovely folk to five charming young men from the uk in the hope that they’ll get behind us in our campaign to dominate the American airwaves! Rome wasn’t built in a day and i think we laid a foundation this morning. Thanks guys, you were wonderful hosts.
As we’d arrived 15 minutes early for our appointment, we took the opportunity to throw a frisbee around in the lovely spring weather. Whilst we frolicked in the car park, the warm sun shone down on large piles of remaining snow, melting them into large puddles. Upon attempting an ariel catch from Luke, i fell sideways into one of these puddles much to the amusement of everyone watching. I entered the radio station a little soggy.
It’s now 8.00 pm and we’re in our dressing room at the Majestic Theatre in downtown Madison. Muddy Waters is providing our warm-up music, it’s a cool, vibey little venue and we’re eager to play. I’ll let you know how it went.
2015-03-13T01:14:54+00:00March 13th, 2015|

U.S.A. Tour Diary – Detroit to Toronto

We’re here, we’re there, we’re everywhere! Time has become elastic. It feels like we’ve lived a lifetime in this van already and yet landing in Chicago seems like only yesterday. Memories of home are beginning to fade into the mist…wait, hold on, let’s not get too melodramatic. We’ve been here three weeks. No time at all really. In total, we have almost 4 months out here. Yes, we’re having to cover a lot of miles but we’re getting used to the distances and a five hour journey now seems like a trip to the shops. This country is huge. There’s so much to see and we’ve only just scratched the surface. We’re having the experience of a lifetime and remind ourselves of this every day. It’s brilliant. This opportunity is not available to every band and we’re going to take full advantage of everything that comes our way. Being away from family and loved ones is the hardest part of all this but the wonders of technology allow us to maintain a level of contact denied to many bands before us. Imagine what it was like for bands before the internet made it possible to video chat. I suspect that once we’ve returned home, it’ll seem like we were hardly away. Time is an illusion, just ask Albert Einstein.

So where we’re we? Oh yes! Last time I wrote, we had played Chicago and were headed for Detroit. The Detroit Fillmore is located in the downtown area amidst some pretty impressive architecture. Everything in Detroit feels big, solid and spacious and the interior of the Fillmore was no disappointment. We love a venue with a bit of history. It seems to make you up your game as though all the legendary acts who’ve performed there before might be watching. After prancing around our dressing room like a bunch of idiots to some highly questionable music, we strode onstage and, as one guy nicely wrote on Facebook. “Baptised the Fillmore” It was definitely one to remember and another venue we’d love to headline one day. We had the second of our own shows in Toronto the next day so the plan was to cross the border into Canada after the Fillmore show and stay the night in London, Ontario before powering on to Toronto. This was executed with military-like precision and early the next afternoon we were parking up outside Rivoli on Toronto’s busy Queen St. The brain-stopping temperatures have given way to a far more pleasant climate. It’s still fairly cool but the sun is shining and the waist-high piles of snow and ice along the sidewalk are beginning to melt. The moment we arrived at the venue, everyone dispersed in different directions. I found myself in an all above board – no happy endings – massage parlour I happened to walk past, getting the knots taken out of my shoulders and neck by a nice Chinese lady’s hands, elbows, and at one point, knees. I walked out feeling like I’d been given a new body and will be seeking out such establishments wherever we go now. After some great sushi to follow, it was time to load-in and soundcheck.
It might seem like I’m just making this tour diary up to be a consistent string of amazing gig after amazing gig. We’ll the truth is…it has been. They’ve all been different. We’ve played to 1900 people and we’ve played to 45 people but each one has been great in its own way. Something happens when the five of us play together that is very special. The Temperance Movement is greater then the sum of its parts and I consider myself lucky to be a part of it and to be doing these shows. Toronto was dynamite!
There may be five of us on stage but there is a sixth and increasingly important member of this operation – Mr Iain Graham. A no-nonsense, direct talking Glaswegian man with a thick accent no American seems able to understand. He is like the Patriarchal figure of the tour, shepherding us around and hurling (often hilarious) abuse at us at any opportunity. As both a sound engineer and tour manager rolled into one, he’s become a permanent fixture of this setup. He’s like a machine. In fact, as i write this, he’s sat next to me booking hotels on his laptop after driving for the last four hours. Iain, if you’re reading this, which you’re probably not, you’re doing an absolutely first class job mate – Thank you.
So from Toronto, we’ve now made our way back to Milwaukee via Detroit. We did a radio session in a great little studio in Anne Arbor this morning and tonight have found ourselves back in the same hotel we were at 5 days ago. At least we get to visit Glorioso’s again!
2015-03-11T04:47:40+00:00March 11th, 2015|

U.S.A. Tour Diary – Milwaukee to Chicago

Sorry guys, i’m falling behind with this tour diary. Access to the internet is only partly to blame. I’m actually sat in The Rivoli in Toronto now. We’ve done our soundcheck and i’m grabbing a few moments to get this posted. So here is the diary from Milwaukee to Chicago. Detroit and Toronto will follow soon…

March 6, 2015
We’re driving back to Chicago again!  We first landed in Chigaco almost three weeks ago and have come a full 3,500 mile circle back to it. The last few days we’ve been dancing around it like night-time moths fluttering around an outdoor light,  but tonight we’ll do a show and stay there before continuing on our way to Detroit and then onto our first foray into Canada. If you look at the roadmap of our tour HERE it resembles the flight path of a drunken bumble bee.

 I’m running out of adjectives to describe our shows but last night really was a good one. Let’s say stupendous! We had a whale of a time and the audience also seemed to be enjoying themselves judging by the noise coming back at us. Thanks guys.
The venue was The Ballroom at the Eagles Club in Milwaukee. A grand building, built in 1927 that has frankly seen better days and needs a little love. Particularly to its leaky roof. The Eagles Club or The Rave as it’s otherwise known sports an imposing facade and the main ballroom is a cavernous space that invokes the lavish decadence of yesteryear. It also hides all manner of spooky secrets from its past. After our bombastic set, we were taken on a mystery tour through the bowels of the building. Like a scene from Scooby-doo, we crept along dusty, unused passageways full of old junk using the light from our phones to navigate. The building is supposedly haunted and much paranormal activity has been reported over the years. The basement houses a beautiful pool, now eerily empty and home to supposed ghosts and other disgruntled spirits. There are also three disused racquetball courts. Apparently the ghosts like to hang out in the giant boiler room which we found padlocked. I imagine that’s the only place they can get warm as the whole building was like an ice palace. The security guards manning the draughty stairwells that night didn’t seem to happy about being there. As well as the Blackberry Smoke gig last night was a rave and another live gig. The building contains 3 halls. So, whilst in one room, bug-eyed teenagers fuelled on amphetamines were losing their minds to dangerous levels of subsonic bass, in another room were The Wailers – Bob Marley’s original backing band. After a bit of easy skanking in the Reggae room we wrapped up the night at the merch desk and drove back through the staggeringly cold night to our beds.
Next morning my roommate Phil Campbell and myself woke in high spirits. The music was turned up and there was much singing and dancing around the room whilst we packed and showered, not realising that it was 8.30am. Our neighbours, Damon and Iain we’re not impressed. It’s now been suggested that Phil and I be separated like naughty schoolboys.
We’ve eaten well in Milwaukee. The night we arrived, all the guys excluding Phil and I went to a restaurant with the genius name “Thai-namite”. We’d decided a much better option would be to get in our beds and watch some “House of Cards.” As one episode ended, a knock at the door was heard and there, like a glorious hairy angel stood Damon clutching a take-out Pad Thai. What a beautiful man! The next episode was watched in our pyjamas eating off paper plates laden with spicy noodles. Life doesn’t get much better than this!
Also in Milwaukee is Sobelman’s, home of possibly the best burgers of the tour so far and an absurd Bloody Mary that’s almost a meal in itself. This bring’s me to our third gastronomic discovery in Milwaukee. Glorioso’s. This Italian deli provided us with great coffee, the best meatball sandwich on earth and also a dancing partner for Damon. I turned a corner to find him gliding around the store with a random customer to the italian music being piped through the speakers.  Damon is definitely spreading love and good vibes wherever he goes on this tour.
There was a feeling of excitement in the van as we drove to Chicago. Touring is easy when there’s good food, laughter and “Money for Nothing” blasting on the stereo. No-one was more excited then Paul Sayer however as we dropped him off outside Chicago Music Exchange. We didn’t see him for the rest of the day and when he returned at soundcheck time, he was sporting a shit-eating grin and two extra guitars. As I predicted!
It was a rammed Saturday night in Joe’s bar. Everyone was up for a good time and so were we. For 40 minutes the room filled with Rock’nRoll and smiles before a nice chilly load-out and packdown outside in the back alley. Much like a plunge pool after a sauna.
2015-03-09T00:00:56+00:00March 9th, 2015|

U.S.A. Tour Diary – Grand Rapids

We’re driving to Chicago. Sturgill Simpson is providing the soundtrack and there are two things on our minds. Ribs and vintage guitars. We have a day off today after our first headline show in Grand Rapids which I’ll come to in a moment. Our plan today is to drive to Milwaukee via Chicago’s many vintage guitar stores and eat some ribs along the way. Space in the bus is becoming scarce. We’ve already acquired miscellaneous paraphernalia on our travels and by the time we’ve left Chicago it wouldn’t surprise me if a guitar or two was added to the already tight pack. There’s even murmurings from Damon about looking for vintage drums. We’re going to need a bigger boat!

After visiting Radio WGRD yesterday for a little acoustic performance, we set off for Tip Top Deluxe where we would perform our first ever headline show in the U.S. When I first walked into the room I didn’t even notice the stage in the corner. You could probably have just about swung a cat on it but only if you had very short arms. The PA was minimal so only vocals and Damon’s kick drum were fed through it. There was one monitor mix and there were no flashing lights. By the time we sauntered onto the stage there were maybe 30 or 40 people in the room. Was this going to be a lukewarm gig? We’re we likely to be leaving Grand Rapids disheartened and uninspired? Absolutely not! In fact quite the opposite! It was fucking awesome and we loved every minute of it. We were so close to each other on stage we literally became one. A multi-limbed being making beautiful noise like some kind of rock’n’roll Vishnu. Highlights were, being delivered tequila shots mid show by Sheri-Sue the feisty waitress and then Phil flinging himself off the stage to dance wildly with members of the audience. Thank you to everyone who came last night to share what one guy declared “a legendary gig”. It was great to hang out afterwards, eating burgers and chatting with people. We also appreciated help with the load out which seemed so much more fun after a couple of drinks.
So, back to the present. In half an hour we’ll have our grubby little noses pressed to the window of Chicago Music Exchange, Paul has sourced Chicago’s finest BBQ and by the evening we’ll be in Milwaukee, home of the Fonz. Morale is high and we’re ready for anything.
2015-03-05T02:36:47+00:00March 5th, 2015|

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