U.S.A. Tour Diary – What a Long Strange Trip it’s Been.

I’ve started writing two incomplete tour diaries since the last one I posted. The problem is that by the time I got halfway through, they had already become outdated and events superseded by new ones. I’ve been chasing time but it out-ran me and so I find myself now on BA flight 0086 to London Heathrow
having finally completed our three month long adventure of the United States and Canada. Over that three month period, starting in mid-February, we have driven over 16,000 miles in our sprinter van, played fifty shows and performed forty-six radio sessions.. There have been highs and lows in both temperature and morale but regarding the latter, thankfully mostly highs. As five (six including the indefatigable Iain Graham) individuals travelling about in, what is basically, a tin can on wheels and living in such close proximity for so long. To come out the other side as an even stronger unit than before is testament to the love and respect we have for each other and our total belief in this band. It really has been an experience we won’t forget. As well as Iain Graham who has been solid as a rock as both a tour manager and sound engineer second to none, I’d also like to thank all the guys on our management team, our U.S. record label, our agent and live nation for working their asses off to make all this happen whilst we take all the glory! Stand up and take a bow guys, you deserve it!
Whilst i’m at it, I must also thank you, the reader of this diary, and everyone else who came out to see us on this tour and made it as amazing as it was for let’s face it, without you, the whole thing would have been pointless!
By now you may have heard that we are to support The Rolling Stones again. This time, in Orlando, Florida. We are obviously honoured and thrilled to be invited back by the most legendary band on the planet. Another piece of good news is that “Take It Back” has broken into the top 10 in the u.s. active rock radio chart. There are so many things going on at the moment that it can be hard to process it all. The implications of all the work we’ve done over here hasn’t become fully apparent to us yet. We’ve just been driving from gig to gig, cocooned in our cosy metal Mercedes womb, generally unaware of whatever impact we may be making. The active rock chart position has been a nice indicator for us that all our work has not been in vain.
So, to fill you in on the last week a little, I’ll backtrack to our San Francisco show. If this was a made-for-tv film in the late eighties, the screen would now begin to wobble and everything would go into soft focus as we travel back, back, back in time…..

I don’t think it could come as any surprise when I tell you that we are absolutely shattered. We swing wildly between bouts of manic energy and paralysing lethargy. It’s the kind of fatigue that has become so deep rooted that it’s going to take more than a good nights sleep to shake off. Add to that the fact that I forget where I am and have no idea what day of the week it is and you can see that it’s probably time we went home to reset and assume some sense of normality. I don’t want this to come across as a complaint. Everything about this tour has been incredible and tackling this gigantic country was always going to involve a lot of hard work but, like I imagine a marathon runner as the finish line comes into view would feel an elated sense of relief.  There are already plans for us to return to the States more than once this year and I’m already looking forward to this but it’s definitely time for a little breather – I’m knackered!

I was experiencing one of these bouts of lethargy on our arrival in San Francisco. We’d finished loading in and, failing to find a place to prostrate myself, I considered lying on the floor in the middle of the venue until doors opened and I was forced to move.
As has happened more than once on this tour, just as we start lacking in enthusiasm or begin to feel demotivated, something will happen to turn it all around and restore the status quo. The show in San Francisco was possibly one of my favourite of the tour. We didn’t know if anyone would show up to see us at all and whilst it wasn’t a huge crowd, it was certainly enough to create a great vibe. The sound on stage was magnificent and I felt that connection with my brothers in the band that I think makes The Temperance Movement special. It was just the tonic I needed and lethargy was replaced with adrenaline and pure joy – I love being in this band!
After San Francisco, we drove through breathtaking mountain scenery to get to Reno. Once there, I have to say that Reno was less breathtaking. At least downtown was anyway. Although at one time exciting and glamorous, the shine has rubbed off a over the years and left “The Biggest Little City in the World” slightly tarnished and tired.
Despite us feeling the same, the show in Reno was great and the crowd made the long drive more than worthwhile.
Our hotel in Reno was, naturally, also a casino and so I applied the old maxim, “when in Rome…” by investigating the slots. My self-appointed assistant, who sidled up to me once I’d selected a machine promising me good fortune and wealth, was a local drug dealer wearing a cap so low that he had to tilt his head backwards just to look at me. He first broke the ice by asking me for a lucky dollar which, when I handed it over, turned out to be not so lucky, and then proceeded to instruct me on how to operate the baffling machines whilst unsuccessfully offering to sell me various methods of getting high. With his slot machine know-how, we amassed a staggering fortune of just over four dollars which I donated to him to buy himself a better fitting cap before going up to my bed.
The next morning, we discovered that downtown Reno was not indicative of the rest of the city when we visited one of the finest coffee twatteries of the tour. We basked in the morning sun, drinking cortados and cappuccinos and eating unbelievably good pastries. Reno had redeemed itself!
The drive to Portland, although long, was stunningly beautiful and included a food-stop at an unexpectedly good Chinese restaurant literally in the middle of nowhere. Jeff Lee appeared to be both waiter and chef who, amongst his various life achievements, had once cooked for Jackie Chan, a memento of which he hung proudly on his wall. I’m sure Mr Chan was as pleased with his dinner as we were with ours.
Portland gave us some beautiful weather and a venue to match – The Star theatre. I’d like to add this venue to the list of ones we want to return to and sell out. Being a Monday night, the turnout wasn’t overwhelming but what the crowd lacked in numbers, they made up for in enthusiasm. Thank you Portland.
Our next destination on the home strait was Seattle. Or at least we thought it was Seattle until we were told that it was actually Ballard which is considered, by residents of Ballard, to be an entirely separate place altogether. Either way, the venue was in possibly the coolest neighbourhood in the U.S. Pretty much every shop or business was a twattery.   Even the gym had exposed brickwork! (to those of you who may be new to the tour diary and unfamiliar with the term “twattery”,  please see HERE for an explanation)
After loading in, I went off in search of a toy shop. My little girl had requested I bought home a new “Sylvanian Family” (“Calico Critters” to residents of the USA and Canada due to licensing agreements!) to live with us. Faced with the shame of returning empty handed, I summoned an über car to take me to Top Ten Toys and it seems that even the über cars in Ballard are the coolest in the U.S. When the car arrived, I jumped in the backseat and was instantly handed a Gladioli by a wonderful lady who reminded me of a cross between Whoopi Goldberg and Mother Theresa. The pockets of both front seats were stuffed with more Gladioli waiting to be gifted to the next lucky passengers. I wanted to take her home with me but she told me she was busy studying network security at night school and was quite happy in Ballard or Seattle or wherever we were. Gladioli lady waited for me outside Top Ten Toys until I returned with a family of kangaroos, a pair of robots and a giant squid. Back to the venue we went and another show crossed off the list.
Now only one show now stood between us and the finish line – Vancouver.
As our final show, we were always going to throw every last bit of energy we had left into it. We were all running on empty but as we walked on the stage and Damon counted in “Midnight Black” for the last time on this tour, the fatigue soon transformed into unbridled energy and the next 75 minutes were spent immersed in a blissful, loud, sweaty, beautiful, emotional finale. And that was that – Tour over!
So, as I sit here in seat 48D, there is a strange feeling of disbelief that the previous 3 months happened at all. It’s almost dreamlike. Did we really just do all that? There’s also a huge sense of achievement similar, I imagine, to a group of mountaineers standing atop Everest thinking, “Fucking hell, we made it!” And whilst we might not have the same view, at least we don’t have to climb back down again!
Instead, I’m on my way home to give my little girl a huge cuddle…and a giant squid!
2017-07-17T10:23:45+00:00May 23rd, 2015|

U.S.A. Tour Diary – Somewhere in California…

As we discovered in San Diego, when you lose all front of house sound and lights halfway through a show, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. We were performing at a listeners party for KPRI. The venue was a room that reminded me a little of my old school assembly hall except that my old school assembly hall didn’t have a courtyard outside with a fountain in the middle and hummingbirds busying themselves around hibiscus blossoms, drinking their sweet nectar. Anyway, we were two verses into “Midnight Black” when suddenly, out went the lights and the p.a. fell silent. The backline was still working so we ploughed on, hoping for power to be restored. It wasn’t and, strangely enough, the more we carried on regardless, the more the crowd went crazy. All we could really do next was to attempt an off-mic version of Chinese Lanterns. This went down a storm and as if on cue, the power was restored just before we reached the middle eight, allowing us to finish the song full band. The place went mental. It couldn’t have gone any better if we’d planned it and, once the crowd were on our side, the rest of the show was amazing. There’s nothing like it when you’re playing a gig and you feel like the crowd are right there with you. It’s like crack. Every show we play, we’re trying to arrive at that point so we can get our fix. We definitely got our fix in San Diego.

Los Angeles seemed to go by in the blink of an eye. We arrived around lunchtime on Wednesday and by early Thursday evening we were on the road again. Our first port of call was the Sixx Sense radio show. Nikki wasn’t actually there due to tour commitments but we spent an hour or so with his lovely co-host Jenn. The studio was much as you’d expect from a Motley Crüe member. Large throne-like chairs, lots of leopard print, photos of Nikki with people such as Slash and Lemmy and a reception desk bell labelled “ring for sex” – I rang it but disappointingly it didn’t appear to be working. The building we were in was also home to several other radio shows. As we were shown along the corridor to the Sixx Sense studio, we wandered past windows looking in on the other shows being broadcast. It was a bit like visiting an aquarium but with radio presenters instead of tropical fish to look at.
The show in Los Angeles was a lot of fun. The venue was strangely laid out with the mixing desk way above our heads and to the side. This dictated that Iain Graham had to mix the sound remotely using an iPad – something that caused him great pains. You could almost see him wincing with embarrassment as he pushed virtual faders up and down whilst standing in the crowd. I guess it’s the engineer equivalent of playing guitar hero on a playstation instead of the real thing.
After we successfully blew up the room, we spent some time hanging out and drinking delicious tequila that had kindly been smuggled into the venue for us. We had a great night and the Los Angeles box was firmly ticked.
We had a couple of bits of promo to do the next day. The first, a photoshoot and interview out in the desert. The weather was uncharacteristically cold and wet for mid may in Los Angeles and, as we stood in the drizzle looking out across the rolling Valencia hills, it felt more like Scotland than California. The photographer was a nice guy and took some great snaps. We held the interview in our increasingly crammed van. We seem to have acquired an awful lot of stuff on this tour. Getting it all home should prove interesting.
As I write this diary entry, I’m sitting in a roadside restaurant somewhere in California. We left Los Angeles yesterday evening after our second bit of promo and drove for 3 or four hours before stopping in a comfort inn to sleep. I just woke up, showered and came outside to find breakfast. There’s not a lot around here – wherever here may be. As the rest of the world marched forwards towards the twenty first century, this little pocket of California appears to have been left behind in the early eighties. There’s an original PAC-MAN arcade game as you enter the restaurant and mounted all around the ceiling beams are children’s lunch tins. It’s an impressive collection. As I scan around, I see E.T., The Fall Guy, Knight Rider, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and other films and T.V. shows from that golden era. Paul has just joined me for a quick omelette before we head for San Francisco so sign off now but will return with more thrilling tales of sitting in a van!
2015-05-18T07:21:06+00:00May 18th, 2015|

U.S.A. Tour Diary – Ants!

As I look out of the window of our van I see open blue sky, unblemished save for the occasional wispy cloud and the odd bird of prey soaring above a vast expanse of Arizona desert littered with cacti, some reaching 25ft high. They’re the stereotypical kind you’d draw if asked to draw a cactus. A tall pillar with two offset arms held in a surrender. The mainly flat desert is interrupted by craggy mountain ranges. There is not one building as far as the eye can see. A small twister whips up a column of dust close to the road. I imagine you wouldn’t have to look far to find a rattlesnake. This has been the scenery for most of the day. We’re on our way to San Diego from San Antonio – an 18 hour drive that we’re tackling over two days. Last night we stopped over in Las Cruces in New Mexico and were back on the road at 9am this morning to smash the remaining 699 miles. It’s the longest drive of the tour so far but by now we have become so accustomed to spending our days in this van that we are relatively unfazed by such an undertaking and we’re excited to reach California.
We spend our time in the van in different ways. Some of us might binge-watch a tv series to while away the hours. Sometimes the constant hum of the van might lull you into a snooze. Sometimes we learn about a place we’ve been or are travelling to, or sometimes we’ll get stuck into a debate on important matters such as “The ultimate toasted sandwich”. Earlier on this drive we attempted to remember all the places we’ve been on this tour in chronological order, and any notable events that took place there. This took some impressive powers of recall and killed at least two hours!
We are a mere 10 days away from completing this 3 month adventure and our time with Blackberry Smoke has come to an end. San Antonio was the final show of their tour but all good things come to an end and we must now go it alone as we venture west.
We had a fantastic time with the Smoke boys (as well as The Ben Miller Band) and, if they’re reading this, would like to thank all the band members and crew again for being so hospitable and unfailingly helpful throughout the tour. We marked our final show together by all piling onstage, Parliament-Funkadelic style, for a version of “Streetfighting Man”. Doug from Ben Miller Band’s trombone solo was a highlight and, for me, secured the trombone’s place in rock’n’roll!
I last left you in Dallas where, if you remember, I was struggling to get up off the bed. We’d just returned from a couple of bits of radio promo which had both gone exceptionally well but after the previous night’s show and subsequent long drive followed by the early lobby call, I was feeling a bit depleted and would have been quite happy to have stayed in my room and staged a John and Yoko style love-in…minus Yoko. Unfortunately, this was not possible and we assembled at the van to throw our cases in the back and travel to the venue. Iain Graham had been given more of an incentive to get up as he had discovered his bed under attack from ants. Paul was witness to a highly agitated Scotsman hurrying towards the elevator past a housekeeper exclaiming “I’m covered in ants!” Her brilliant, dead-pan reply, was “I’m sorry Sir, would you like me to take you to a hospital?” This unexpected offer caused Iain to stop dead in his tracks and politely respond with “Oh, no thank you, it’s only ants!” We couldn’t work out if she was genuinely concerned that Iain might be in mortal danger from the ant attack or, she was just displaying a highly developed sense of sarcasm – I’d like to think it was the latter. Iain showed us a video of the invasion. It was undoubtably traumatic for him to have been violated by so many creatures, there must have been at least six or seven of them!
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…it is now 24 hours later and I’m sitting in sunny San Diego. We made it! The remainder of our drive took us through a constantly changing landscape. We drove through areas strewn with giant boulders, areas of lush green agriculture and miles of Kalahari-like sand dunes. At one point, not long before we reached San Diego, it looked like we were driving across the surface of the moon.
Myself and Luke celebrated our arrival last night by jumping strait into the hotel pool which interestingly was designed by Tarzan – or rather the actor and competitive swimmer who originally played Tarzan, Johnny Weissmuller. After our refreshing plunge, we ate a delicious dinner, drank a tasty beer and retired to our comfy beds.
We crossed two time zones to get here so found ourselves waking earlier than we’d have otherwise chosen. This was actually a positive though as it gave us more time to enjoy a delicious Californian breakfast and take another dip in Tarzan’s pool before setting off for a full day of promo. It feels good to be here. Not that it’s necessarily better than anywhere else we’ve been but there was a real sense of achievement when we arrived. We’ve been out here since mid February and have survived brutal sub-zero temperatures, driven tens of thousands of miles and made it all the way to the other side of the country. This tour has been an incredible experience and an amazing chapter in our story which continues to unfold daily. There’s probably a couple more diary entries to go before the final one of the trip so stay tuned, it’s not over just yet. Next stop – Los Angeles
2015-05-13T07:02:29+00:00May 13th, 2015|

U.S.A. Tour Diary – Quantum Leap

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!
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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.
2015-05-08T17:45:20+00:00May 8th, 2015|

U.S.A Tour Diary – Texas blowout!

Just as we crossed the state line into Louisiana, the heavens opened unleashing a torrent of rain of such biblical proportion that at one point, the car in front became almost invisible as if it had been swallowed by the deluge. As this was happening, jagged arteries of lightning lit up the sky overhead – Thor was having a tantrum. “Are we in a disaster movie?” came Iain Graham’s comment from the back seat.
We’d left Gulfport that morning to continue our 1200 mile journey to Austin. Looking back on the two days of driving, it’s as though they’d never happened and we’d been in some kind of semi-hypnotic state for the duration of the journey then snapped out of it the moment we stepped on Texan turf.
We’d all been excited about Austin. Not only would we have an unprecedented two days off but we’d be in one of the coolest cities in America. Our home for the duration was an ultra cool apartment with rooftop terrace and full length windows overlooking downtown Austin that Mr Graham, our capable tour manager, found on Air B&B. it worked out way cheaper than hotels and was far more enjoyable. Just around the corner were cool bars and a multitude of food trucks. There are over a 1000 of these in Austin and, unlike the late night kebab vans in the uk that occasionally seem like a good idea once alcohol has suitably impaired your judgement, these establishments offer some of the finest food in the city. Anything from BBQ to Mexican to Creole can found and the best of them can attract long lines of customers. They provided much of the catering for our visit.
Everyone in the band found different ways to entertain themselves in Austin. As well as catching up on sleep and doing laundry, we all got to explore and discover the city a little. I hired a bicycle on our second day there and set off in the direction of Barton Springs, a designated spring fed swimming spot along Barton Creek. It was a beautiful hot day and I’d worked up quite a sweat by the time I got there. Plunging into the pool was glorious, it felt like swimming in Evian and despite the initial cold shock, was the perfect temperature for awakening the senses.
I’d made an appointment for a massage later in the day – I occasionally have one to iron out the knots and kinks that accumulate during a tour. The only appointment I could find was situated to the North of the city. I was in the south. I arrived at Austin Sports Massage red faced and out of breath, looking like I’d just completed a triathlon – which I kind of had as I’d also been for a jog earlier that morning. An hour later, feeling suitably tenderised, I was back on the bike and tearing down Guadalupe St to get to Congress bridge before dusk. The reason for the deadline was not that my bicycle might turn into a pumpkin but that at sundown each day, 1.5 million bats take off from the bridge and this was something I didn’t want to miss. I made it with time to spare and joined the large crowd gathering to witness the mass flight. Apparently, the cloud of bats that forms is so large that it is picked up by local weather radar. When the little flittermice decided to emerge it began first as a steady stream followed by a raging torrent of flapping and squeaking. A magic carpet of bats shot by underfoot and seemed as though it would never end. If it had been 10,000 bats I would have still been impressed but 1.5 million was fucking mental!
The following day, i needed to experience what all the fuss over BBQ was about so I headed to the LA Barbeque truck. Much research was done into the best Barbecue in town and the name that topped all lists was Franklins. I had jogged past it on the previous morning as I was out testing my new running shoes and at 9.30 in the morning there was a huge line of people waiting outside  – it looked like the launch of a new iphone. People had bought chairs and coolers and apparently start queuing at about 8 in the morning –  Franklins doesn’t even open until 11.00, hence why I headed to La Barbeque. Surely no rack of ribs is that good? I’d read that La Barbecue was run by a former chef from Franklins, it had received rave reviews and the lines weren’t quite so long. When i arrived with Ian Graham, a strict vegetarian with no interest in barbecue, the line was still pretty long and it was a good 45 minutes before I found myself at the window ordering meat by weight.  I had 3/4 lb of ribs and 1/4 lb of beef brisket with a side of chipotle slaw and I have to say it was the best barbecue I’ve ever eaten. I’m glad I didn’t order more as my stomach would have protested but if any of you get to Austin and don’t fancy camping outside Franklins for 3 hours, LA Barbecue is a good bet.
It was great to get back onstage that night and I think we all felt revitalised after two days of Texas food and sunshine. At one point during Paul’s solo at the end of “Pride”, Phil came dancing over to me, shaking his tambourine and shouting “We’re on our summer holidays!” It did feel that way
So, following the gig, we had a two and a half hour drive to Houston, where we’d stay before an early rise to get to New Orleans. An hour and a half into the drive as I was dozing behind the drivers seat, I was woken by a strange squealing noise and a juddering of the van. It had to happen sooner or later – the tyre had exploded!
Paul was driving and said it was such an odd noise that at first he thought we’d hit a pelican or something and he’d looked in the mirror expecting to see a load of feathers.
Now, changing a wheel on a car is relatively easy. Changing a wheel on a 3 1/2 tonne mercedes sprinter in the pitch dark at the side of a highway is a slightly different challenge especially when the back is full of heavy equipment. Using our phones as torches, we first located the jack and the spare wheel before unloading all the gear onto the side of the highway behind the van. By the time it was all out, it was strewn along the side of the road like a yard sale. We loosened the wheel nuts and began jacking up the vehicle. The jack was being very temperamental and would reach a point beyond which it would stubbornly refuse to go higher even though it wasn’t at full height. We wrestled it to a point at which we could remove the wheel with the spectacularly shredded tyre but realised we would be unable to get the new wheel on unless we could get the jack to go higher. It was at this point that further disaster struck.

Rule number 1 – When changing a wheel on a vehicle, first apply the handbrake!

Unfortunately this rather important rule had been overlooked and as the van rolled rolled forwards off the jack in slow motion we could only stand by helplessly and look on in horror. The van make an awful groaning noise as if it had suddenly acknowledged it’s impending doom but by some miracle the jack wedged itself against the spare wheel which was basically only leaning against the axle and the tyre prevented the van from bottoming out. I’m not sure how we got away with this. By the laws of physics we should have been looking at an undriveable van and probably a missed show in New Orleans. In short, we would have been fucked, but with our history of vehicular malfunction, we’ve always managed to come out smiling. As we had just finished loading all the equipment into the van, a police car pulled up alongside us and seeing that we had the situation under control (if only she’d known) drove off again. We hopped back in and drove to our beds in Houston feeling that, once again, we’d cheated disaster and conquered adversity. We’re unstoppable!

We’re now in New Orleans. Let’s see what adventures she has in store for us…

2018-08-28T23:33:21+00:00May 2nd, 2015|

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