"We’re really doing this? Will my bass work? Is anybody going to be at the shows?.....ANYBODY? Is this a bad idea??
These questions have been constantly whirling around in my head since about February 2005 and now the fact that plane had landed safely at Heathrow and I was standing in the immigration line carrying about 100 pounds (45.36000 kilograms now that I’m in Europe) of my gear, I now have some relief that at least the first task was completed.
I was in tow with the rest of the band in the immigration line. The UK shares the same custom as the States in that parents let their kids scream like Mariah Carey caught in a bear trap and run around in and out of the line (can you tell I’m not a parent?). I usually keep imaginary barbiturate laced blow darts handy for such occasions, but I was worried about customs.
Friendly but dutiful immigration agent: “Why are you in the UK ?”
Tom: “To get away from my job and the mundane disaster that is my life in the states (in my mind) (Nervously, robotically and rehearsed) I am in a rock band on a non- profit promotional tour.
Friendly but dutiful immigration agent: “Oh! Whats the name of your band ?”
Tom: “Mott the Hoople” (in my mind) “Echolyn”
We must have looked like what, our now legendary bus driver, Duncan would have referred to as “window lickers” on the shuttle ride to the back line company. “Ooooo! There’s a really tiny car!!!” Hey!! There’s a McDonalds!!” “Wow! It looks just like the U.S!” “Hey you’re on the wrong side of the rode!!!”. God Bless the shuttle Drivers for their infinite patience.
We arrived in our first non-U.S. ghetto to pick up our equipment. There we were greeted by a luxury double decker tour bus. “WhooooHooooo!!!!! We’ve hit the jackpot!!!!! We must be huge over here!!!!!”….It wasn’t our bus. As we waited for John Henry’s backline to open I nervously eyed every bus, van, and bicycle going up and down the street.
No sooner had we wheeled out our gear, when Duncan arrived with a tour bus fit for a king. I can imagine what the poor guy thought seeing a bunch of dumpy yanks eyeing his ride like a pack of grizzlies. All of the gear fit perfectly and we fit in the bus perfectly. “Wow a fridge!!! A stereo!!! A toilet!!!” Duncan rolling his eyes: “YES!!!! IT’S A BLOODY TOUR BUS YOU TWATS!!!!!!(In his mind)
We arrived at the Mean Fiddler. I later theorized that the “Fiddler” in question was either the owner of the club or the jock working the front door. I looked out the windshield of the bus, to see Duncan laughing with a bobbie like they were old college roommates. This is the dynamics between civilians and the police in England as opposed to the police in U.S. The police in England only seem to get roided up and nasty when you actually commit a crime!!!!!! I’m not so sure they even get themselves into a funk on those occasions either. It’s like they were….professional(?)
I stepped outside of the bus to enjoy the Soho aroma which rivaled the scent of a dead skunk in a Philadelphia subway. Since the club was not open yet, we ventured out to find us some vittles. We arrived at classy little pub where I had a delicious lunch of bangors and mashed taters. I was vindicated of an accident I had in 2001 where I broke my toe changing my pants, when Brett came out of the bathroom and announced that he burned his hand while using the toilet. I then knew there was a profound meaning to this trip.
We all learned how out of shape we were, carrying brutally heavy equipment down the 39 stairs to the stage area. I contemplated that I am now old enough to have a heart attack performing such activities. Fortunately, my cigarettes were handy to calm my nerves at such a thought. Another bit of fortune was the staff at the club who attacked loading our gear in as if we were supplying them with hookers and gold when they were done.
The stage and sound crew of the Mean Fiddler /Astoria were beyond amazing. They actually seemed to be enjoying themselves. Their dynamics with us were as though we had known them since high school. Telling jokes, bonding insults, and just plane slap on the back friendliness. The opening band, Strange Fish had also arrived and were also a great crew of people who were very patient and accommodating.
After load in and soundcheck, I rushed outside excitedly to look for our promo posters on the streets ofLondon…..Nope!!! Okay. Maybe our name on the club marquee? I looked up to see “Sept 3…G_A_Y”. Okay, maybe this accounts for the unusually high proportion of men at our shows. As it turned out, The Pussy Cat Dolls were performing in the room above us and I guess they had top priority and they were…..G_A_Y!!!! Paul later found our posters discarded in a back room (way to hide the evidence guys!!!!).
As Strange Fish took the stage, I had the pleasure of my first face to face encounter with our UK fans. They bought us beer and one even supplied me with a lighter (I had ditched mine to avoid hassles getting on the plane). I could feel all of my fears about the tour gradually melt away when I met these amazing people. Now my only worry was that I had been awake for 24 hours and I had to perform the show of my life for these people. Fortunately, the crowd turnout and response made our first show abroad easy and exciting.
Once again, the club staff dove in and aggressively helped us with the load out (Thanks guys !!!!!). We had to make way for what appeared to be an anorexic 80s metal band. Chris had the thankless task of settling up with the chincy, non-echolyn-promoting club owner at the end of night. Chris is not somebody you want to go head to head with when it comes to him getting paid. I’ve never experienced it first hand, but I would imagine his tactics are similar to those used by Hannibal Lector to make Miggs swallow his own tongue.
After 6 attempts at loading the bus, tempered by sharing the sidewalk with a hostile drunk and the freakazoids attending the Pussy Cat Dolls review, we relaxed and enjoyed obscene amounts of beer on the bus……….off to Sheffeild."