US Tour Diary - March 2005
March 26 Los Angeles
Get a taxi to Silverlake, the video location, at around 7.30. Directed by Adria Petty, the day is a procession of miming to Baby boom and Lottery Winners in a dis-used warehouse. It isn’t as bad as we were expecting and wind up around four in the afternoon.
The legendary Troubadour is tonight and tomorrow’s venue. It’s a cool place that looks like it’s been decorated by a wood-paneling freak. The show goes well, but Andy gets a slide stolen and Davey loses his silver bracelet. Andy improvises with a bottle of Rolling Rock that Martin hands him at the crucial moments.
It’s a Saturday night, so everyone’s up for going out. Photographer/promoter/hipster Piper Ferguson shows up and takes us to her Britpop club in Hollywood somewhere. It was a strange scene with fairly straight looking people dancing to the most weird tunes – even Doves’ slower songs seem to have the place jumping. Sack it off at around 2 and head back to the hotel where someone has decided tonight’s after-aftershow ‘do’ will be held in Andrew, Owen and Linda’s room. Half of California show up, including Ed Harcourt, and the hotel staff – as well as the next neighbour – isn’t best pleased. After almost being kicked out of the hotel at 5am, the party finally comes to an end around 6.
March 25 San Diego
Wake up to proper Californian weather – the sun is blazing and it’s really hot. Hit the beach in the afternoon and go for a swim in the Pacific until we have to re-congregate for the trip to the venue. Attempt to leave at three but Andy is nowhere to be seen. His last words, two hours ago, were “I’m just going to buy a towel”. 3.30 passes, Martin is on the verge of a heart attack and everyone else is getting a bit pissed off. We take the RV out on a circuit of the local area only to find him casually strolling along the prom, new towel tucked under his arm. He gets a bollocking from Martin before we all head to tonight’s venue, The Casbah.
The venue’s great, Andrew’s friends all turn out in force and it’s Joe’s birthday. Alaska, the band that join the tour when we leave, are also on the bill tonight. Alice, Andrew’s friend, bakes a birthday cake and, after a storming performance, we get stuck into our free beer tokens with the San Diego crew. Jagermeister have also supplied us with our first bottle of free Jager, so that gets a caning, too. Just as we’re getting into the swing of the party, Martin (sensibly) forces us on to the RV because we have a video to shoot in LA tomorrow morning at 6.30am. Foolishly throwing caution and good looks to the wind, we finish the Jagermeister on the journey to LA and fully expect a hangover the next day.
Check into the hotel, Le Parc Suite, at 3am and stumble into bed for a swift three and a half hour sleep.
Andrew has some friends in San Diego so we make the long trek to California to spend some time on the beach. Get to California, it’s pissing down and there seems to be cars crashing every five minutes. This is not what we were expecting.
Meet up with Andrew’s friends and head out to a Mexican for some food and drink. Joe gets some Jagermeister and beer and stays up with Andrew and co. dancing to dodgy hip hop until the early morning.
23 March Phoenix
Spend an hour driving around an industrial estate looking for tonight’s venue. It transpires that we’re in completely the wrong part of town and nowhere near where we need to be. That’s the last time our partially deaf and partially blind sound man navigates.
Rock up at ‘Big Fish’ around 3pm to discover the promoter has cocked up the posters. In place of a picture of Ash, he’s put a group of middle-aged folk musicians. It’s a baffling mistake, but it’s one that makes us wonder if he’s actually booked the right bands. Unsurprisingly, confidence of having a full house tonight isn’t exactly over-flowing.
After a brief hunt for wireless, Davey and Owen do a quick interview for an internet site for women while Reay goes about fixing the venue’s microphones and PA. We play to roughly 50 people with the drinkers separated from the non-drinkers by police tape that splits the venue in half. It’s a bizarre arrangement, but the show goes quite well.
Ash, faced with the smallest crowd of the tour so far, play a blinder. They’re relaxed on stage, fuck around and seem to be enjoying themselves. Post-show, everyone gets stuck into a few beers and attempts to chat up an ex-Playboy model who now works behind the bar.
The happy scene is interrupted spectacularly by Andy who, high on valium, NyQuil and Piriton (in an attempt to sleep) bursts into the bar wearing only underpants under the illusion that there are breasts to be signed. He’s immediately swamped by the barmaid and another young lady who want pictures with the scantily clad guitarist. When one of the young ladies tries to go too far by yanking down his pants, Andy storms out in a diva-esque fit. It’s probably the most rock’n’roll incident of the tour so far.
Spend a few hours driving through the deserts of Arizona before pulling up at the most right wing restaurant in the world. Resist the temptation to buy a bumper sticker that says ‘the only good nigger’s a dead one’ and head off to an RV camp-site in the middle of the desert.
We decide to go for a wander in the hills, taking in the desert scenery. Andy, Andrew, Owen and Joe stray from the designated paths and quickly find themselves at the top of a cliff that has ‘treacherous’ written all over it. With cactus constantly stabbing legs and arms, loose rocks that unsteady footing and sheer drops that threaten to cut the tour – and the band – short. After two hours of negotiating the life-threatening and Converse-battering obstacles, they make it back to the RV with mild sun stroke.
Go for food at a small local town where we also spot a Safeway, which seems like a nice reminder of back home. Get showered after food and head to bed with Crickets being the only (vaguely) audible noise.
Spend the day on the road, cruising through the plains and deserts of New Mexico and Texas. Saw oil wells, cactus, cowboys and tumbleweed – good solid American scenery. Stop driving at 1am at possibly the worst place ever. We foolishly pull up between two trucks who have their engines running, within spitting distance of a railway that has freight trains honking their horns every thirty minutes. Have bursts of 20 minutes sleep and wake up wanting to kill each other. Come to the conclusion that bands don’t split up because of the pressures of touring, they split up at the hands of short-sighted tour managers with a fetish for insomnia.
March 20 – Dallas
Everyone is fucked. The four day music, booze and barbeque fest in Austin has really taken its toll on everyone. The RV toilet has also been baking in the Texan sun and the smell isn’t helped by the fact it hasn’t been emptied for a week. Every time someone opens the toilet door, the whole bus gets a blast of rotting sweed, which doesn’t make Owen the most popular person on the bus. When we pull in to Trees, the venue in Dallas, he decides to do the right thing and mop the RV, which at least is a start.
The mood is lifted temporarily when we hear we’ll get VIP treatment at Vinnie Paul from Pantera’s club. It’s also a strip club, which is another bonus. The excitement is cruelly dashed when we hear it’s thirty miles out of town and would cost us $200 to get there and get back. Oh well.
The show hasn’t sold very well and by the time we hit the stage there are 100 people in a club that holds 650. Still, we sell 20 CD’s, which is one in five. Which is great. Reay is in a celebratory mood because it’s his one-year wedding anniversary. He hits the vodka and manages to score some weed. In a stoned haze, he hides the stash in the microwave, which he thinks is the greatest hiding place ever. Owen finds it within five seconds and Reay starts to cackle solidly for hours. We hit the road after Ash to begin the 1000 mile drive to Phoenix, Arizona.
19 March – Austin
Wake up at the hotel to discover the Austin Chronicle has run a glowing review on last night’s performance: “It was an action-packed half-hour.. all the knowing bobbing heads near the front of the stage suggest the title track of last year’s Lottery Winners on Aciid EP is a rock anthem waiting for mass acceptance”.
At midday we make our way over to the Hilton in the middle of town for a ‘Tragedy Rocks’ listening party on a bus. It’s a great idea in theory – cruise around on a bus, do the shake and fake with industry bods and listen to ‘TR’. In practice, it’s a catastrophe on a Spinal Tap scale. No one shows up, we stand around like lemons and the album is piped through walkman speakers and sounds shit. Unsurprisingly, the guy who organized the ‘party’ does a runner before Tav, our manager, gets REALLY angry. We slope off nonchalantly hoping no one had spotted us.
Next on the itinerary is a ‘photo shoot’ with legendary snapper Mick Rock. We schlep out of town in taxis only to discover Mick Rock has been replaced by a kid with a small digital camera. We cut our losses and go for a Mexican with Charlotte and drown our sorrows with the first Margheritas of too many.
In the evening we check out the MTV 2 party and get blown away by The Magic Numbers who are phenomenal. Sadly, we can’t say the same about Bloc Party who suffer at the hands of a dodgy PA at the Vice Party. Some head for more barbeque food with Howie Weinberg, others go home to the hotel.
Friday 18 – Austin
We get interviewed by Mania TV, Radio 1 and S4C in the afternoon. With Rick, our press officer, we do the rounds of places that give us loads of free stuff. In a few short hours we manage to pick up Converse All-Stars, Nomad tribe jeans, Zippo Lighters, Le Tigre t-shirts, Vestal watches and a haircut each. We meet Goldie Lookin Chain by the watches. Once they realize they’re free, the watches are stacked up to their shoulders, muttering something like ‘fucking hell clart, we can get £20 for these in Newport market”. Or something.
Tonight’s show was our big SXSW showcase and the pressure was on. Everyone we’d met said they were coming, the label would be out in force, radio and press would be checking us out – it was a nightmare. The venue – Exodus - luckily, was great and we had the luxury of soundchecking as we were the first band of the night. Andy and Owen headed to the RV to chill out for half an hour, while the others warmed up in a make-shift dressing room (a cupboard). The gig was a stormer, the venue was sold out with a huge line outside the door and we played amazingly well. We were all so relieved that we’d pulled it off, we almost didn’t celebrate. Almost. We went to see Ash again and Goldie Lookin Chain only to see Linda get into a fight. We then headed to a party that Owen was supposed to DJ and then he, Joe and Davey moved to the Hilton where Ken from Warners had installed a bar and 100 people in his room.
Joe and Owen head to Denny’s at six in the morning before finally closing the curtain on a victorious day.
17 March – Austin
It’s our first show at South By Southwest and, as we head ever further out of town to the venue, realize that there’s very little chance anyone will make the schlep out to see us. The show is in a place called The Yard Dog and is a party for Schuba’s venue in Chicago. We’re sandwiched between Lou Barlow of Sebadoh and Willie Mason who are both doing acoustic sets. It’s chaos on the tiny stage as we try to set-up while Lou Barlow plays. Reay, barely a foot behind Barlow, starts shouting for microphones and ends up making more noise than the singer. Andy’s enormous pedal board then becomes the butt of Lou’s jokes as it’s set up around his feet. We feel bad for him. But not that bad.
The PA is tiny, the equipment is a little ramshackle, so a lot of our songs’ beauty get sacrificed at the altar of brute force. If nothing else, it’s a spirited performance that has a packed back-yard staring at us in disbelief as amps, microphone stands and drums collapse around us. The Crimea 1 Austin 0.
We head out to see Ash at the Fader party and then visit the Radio 1 night where Kaiser Chiefs, Be Your Own Pet, and Louis XIV play. We call in to see Graham Coxon play at Stubbs, meet up with Louis the horn player from the Polyphonic Spree and talk Peter Frampton with Mark from the Bluetones. We then jump in cabs and head out to a disused aircraft hangar where Queens Of The Stone Age and The Bravery play. We laugh at Mark from Ash’s dancing before being pulled out of the venue and into cabs by managers Tav and Linda.
16 March - Austin
The hilarity of Owen being sick quickly subsides as the toilet begins to take on the smell of rotting Swedes (the vegetable). The floor is also greasy and dirty and Reay’s feet aren’t getting any sweeter smelling. Still, we head to Austin, where we spend three days out of the RV and shoe-horn ourselves into two hotel rooms. The horrible smell can wait. At least for now.
Find out that Zane Lowe had played White Russian Galaxy the previous night and hailed Tragedy Rocks as ‘The Best Album In the World Right Now’. We take it easy for the rest of the day by hitting the laundry room and Denny’s diner for plates of thinly disguised grease.
We meet Perry our A+R, his assistant Lisa, Randy from Dakine and Charlotte from Ash for a Mexican. Some head home while others head for the bars and bands. Between us we check out Nizlopi, The Thermals, Midlake and Asobi Seksu. It’s a fairly quiet night all-round.
15 March – San Antonio
Arrive at the Sanctuary to discover some Mexican builders hastily constructing the stage. A strange area, there’s a heavy Mexican influence and it seems like we’re in the gay part of town. The venue had also allegedly been a lesbian club, which makes finding the gents toilets a little difficult.
There was supposed to be two extra bands on the bill tonight. One gets cancelled for turning up late and the other has to play on the dance-floor because there’s no room on-stage or any will to move anything.
The gig tonight was amazing. An incredible reaction, there were moments – particularly during Girl Just Died and Someone’s Crying – where it felt like we were stealing the show. Afterwards, we sell a crazy amount of merch in a relatively small venue and get surrounded by well-wishers.
We all celebrate by getting absolutely twatted on tequila, invite half of San Antonio on to the bus and watch Owen break the ‘no solids’ rule by barfing into the RV’s toilet.
Befitting a triumphant show, we get cavalcaded out of San Antonio by a procession of fans’ cars eager to help us find our way to Austin. At least, in our drunken state, they seemed like fans.
March 14 – Houston
Having crawled into bed at 3am, we hit the road at 7 feeling absolutely knackered. Get to Houston mid-afternoon and have a stroll around the city. It’s a bizarre place, with a few tall buildings and very little else.
Once again, against all the odds, the show goes well. Up until five minutes from stage time, the local crew were still working out which lead goes where and which button switches the PA ‘on’.
After the show, we get a lift to the designated ‘after party’, which is a few miles from the venue. We cram seven people into the car of the promoter, Jagi. Andrew’s sharing a front seat with Mark from Ash and Owen, andy, Charlotte and Davey are crammed in the back. Two hundred yards from the club and we see flashing blue lights in the rearview mirror. An imposing police officer pulls up to have a word with Jagi and a bad situation is made even worse when Jagi realizes he’s forgotten his driving license (which is against the law in the US). He quickly makes up some bollocks about us being lost tourists and generally manages to sweet talk the stern policeman. He gets off with a fine and is allowed to drive us to the club anyway. Result.
Spend the next few hours getting trashed with Ash and The Bravery and return to the RV to, once again, be greeted with the face of thunder and a mood blacker than Spinal Tap’s black album.
March 13 – New Orleans.
Get to a friend’s house in New Orleans by early afternoon. The weather’s glorious, the city is incredible and it’s Spring Break for many US universities’, which means Bourbon Street is rammed with scantily clad college girls and burly jocks. We find out Ash have pulled up outside a mall for the day and proceed to laugh at them in between slugs of Hurricane cocktails.
After chilling out for a couple of hours, we decide to hit the bars. We get into the spirit of things on Bourbon Street where cheesy cover bands and strip clubs vie for our cash. Decide to spend it on cheap shots of Jagermeister and dodgy jelly vodkas instead. Before the night’s done, we already begin thinking we need a day off from the day off.
March 12th – Atlanta
Get to Atlanta and hear there’s a sniper on the loose in town. We don’t particularly care because the sun’s out, the shorts are out and the miserable weather of the east coast begins to fade from memory.
For some bizarre reason, our stage time is 6.30pm, which leaves us with no time to soundcheck and a narky monitor guy who attempts to sabotage our set by pumping feedback through our on-stage fold-back. Despite the early stage-time, plenty of people show up to lend support and the gig seems to go well against all the odds.
We leave fairly early to head for New Orleans. We have a day off tomorrow and are hell-bent to not spend it in the RV.
11th March 2005. - Carboro
Wake up outside the venue and everyone’s in a foul mood after driving most of the night. Doors are slammed, tempers are frayed and short words lead to four letter words. A few hours sleep is no good. Saving money is one thing, having a band that are too fucked to do their job is another. Some stern words with the tour manager are on the cards.
Carboro seems nice – a lot more American somehow. It’s a smaller town, a college town, seemingly populated by a load of ex-hippies. In all the restaurants there are mung beans as far as the eye can see, so we settle for a salad, some fruit and a good internet connection in a local café. We go for a wander after food to find some great thrift stores, possibly the greatest record shop and definitely the most obvious knocking shop in the world.
The Cat’s Cradle (the venue) is really nice with lots of paintings thrown up randomly. It was a great show – we finally feel like we’re hitting our stride – and get lots of attention from the locals once we’re done. Davey becomes Ash’s wardrobe assistant as Tim takes one of his shirts for their show and we get hailed as being ‘better than The Smiths’ by two lairy, but friendly, English ex-pats.
Hit the road for a very long drive to Atlanta. We call into our first Wal Mart of the tour at 5am. Andy finally picks up a sleeping bag, which is conveniently racked between the shot guns and Care Bears.
10th March - Washington DC
Owen wakes up with Reay’s cheesy feet in his face. Bodies are strewn everywhere in the RV, which, even after a few days is starting to get pungent. With a budget of three hotel stays in a month, there’s no prospect of it getting any better either. In a desperate attempt to stay clean, Andy resorts to tipping bottled water over his head in the RV’s makeshift shower unit. Luckily, there’s a shower at the venue, which means everyone can delay the onset of trench foot for at least another few days.
Despite a few minor cock-ups, falling mic stands and song ‘improvisation’ the show goes well. It’s a packed house, the sound is a lot better and after manning the merch stall post-show, all agree that the reaction was a lot better.
It’s a hometown show for some of the guys from The Bravery, so they headline. The post-show drink-up is also rammed with their friends’ and families’. The bass player seems to have many extremely close friends, most of whom are female. We hang out for a while before getting back in the RV and heading south. Hopefully to warmer climes.
The first date of the Ash/Bravery tour. In theory, it’s a short drive to Philadelphia – 60 miles - but Martin had been told it would take 6 hours with traffic. Management had organized a photo shoot with Adria Petty and friends at 10.30am (after a big night out – cheers!), which meant Martin was getting increasingly pissed off as his ‘six hour’ drive kept being put back. After pouting on an icy building site in the lower East Side for a couple of hours, Martin finally manages to crowbar us on to the bus and on to Philadelphia.
Obviously, it takes us two hours to get to Philly, but the venue, ‘The Theatre Of Living Arts’, is in a cool area and gives everyone plenty of distractions to kill time. The Bravery, however, do get caught up in nightmare traffic, allowing us the chance to soundcheck. Not that it makes a great deal of difference. With a half-full hall and a meager PA, the sound is terrible for everyone.
We head off to a bar with The Bravery and Ash for a ‘couple’ of drinks, making the fatal error of not telling the tour manager where we’re going. We crawl back to the RV at 4am to be greeted with a face of thunder and a mood blacker than the cover of Metallica’s black album. It’s also freezing in the RV and Andy has no sleeping bag. We shiver our way to Washington.
The run up to our first show of the tour is a whirlwind of equipment, spares and parking tickets. Martin, our tour manager, greets us with the RV having already picked up $300-worth of fines. We then head off to various instrument shops to pick up vital strings, sticks, amps and a zebra-striped drum carpet. Having made a considerable dent in the tour budget already, we head to the Bowery Ballroom where we support VHS Or Beta.
With five minutes to go before the show, Davey makes his entrance having blagged his way through US customs with a flimsy looking ‘emergency’ passport. Charlotte from Ash, Chris Shaw (our producer) and Howie Weinberg (the guy that mastered the album) shows up to lend support for what is a fairly solid show. We have a half hour slot so we pack it with our greatest hits. During the set, some wag shouts a request for Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Freebird’. The only person who pays attention is a Wall Street Journal journalist who, we’ll find out, will base a story on the incident and get it published on the front cover of the WSJ in a few weeks. It becomes our first-ever front cover.
March 7 - Travel Day
It’s the first official day of the tour. We were all supposed to congregate at Owen and Davey’s house at 8am. Unfortunately, we’re already down a singer as Davey lost his passport after being on the piss in Dublin over the weekend. Already the first date is in jeopardy as he has to apply for an emergency passport and make his way to the States from Ireland.
We get picked up by Ryan, our van driver, and head out to Heathrow. Owen gets a call at 9am from Reay our sound engineer, who’s knocking on the house door. We’re five minutes from the airport and completely unable to turn around and get him. He isn’t best pleased that he’s got to tube it to the airport with his heavy bags.
We check in with roughly four hours to kill before flying, but the mood is lifted considerably when a generous airline person upgrades us to business. We get on the plane, Owen tries to act like he usually travels in this much comfort, but his cover is blown by Andy, Joe and Andrew who immediately start twatting around on the oversized seats and calling relatives telling them how brilliant business class is.
Get to JFK, meet Linda our manager and then head off for dinner to the Spotted Pig with Tim and Mark from Ash.