Here it is….two hands to the sky about to bring down the last flam of the last song in Barcelona. I look at this as I sit in the downstairs lounge of the tour bus and it finally dawns on me why in the heck I am so damn tired. ( WAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!) We’ve been gone a week today from California (well, yesterday actually, since its 12:30 on Saturday morning already) flew like madmen across the water, played 5 shows, took an all night ferry from the UK to France that ended at 6:30 am, had a day off and went bike riding and walking all around Bordeaux France-liked it so much we are going back tomorrow!!-and managed to fight off an allergy attack, sore throat and stomach pains all in one week-and on show days!! If this sounds fun, we haven’t even got to the fun stuff yet!
Arriving in London we immediately embarked on the first adventure…trying to get out of the airport and to the hotel. We were held up a total of two hours because of a protest over a 3rd runway going into Heathrow Airport. Apparently there are too many rock bands still flying to Europe to tour so they have to make room. So by the time we reached our destination and ordered our first round, it was dinnertime and jet lag was setting in hard, but I kept fighting it. All the way through the Amanda Knox documentary on Netflix, which I was surprised was working on my US account. Well, more like overjoyed actually- Netflix the whole tour??!!!-but alas it was only a fluke of technology and soon my viewing access was denied. And so sleep finally came.
The first show in Manchester and the first bus ride through England’s green fields was a fairly easy affair. Crew and band back together and back on solid ground playing the entire “ King Of The Road” record for the first time since last year in the United States and Canada, plus a few other choice FU nuggets. Our tour manager Chris Monks’ wife, Sharon, brought their mountain bikes down from their house to the gig to be loaded on the gear trailer and now we were properly outfitted for any day off adventures of our choosing
London on a ridiculous warm fall day was like none I have experienced there. To call it oddly warm weather would be an understatement. From the moment I opened the top hatch on the bus to get a feel of the air as we rode through Islington, I could feel the heat. Not an Autumn Indian Summer heat like we get in California, just one that was out of place for the first week of October in London. At around 11 AM Bob Balch and I departed to meet Richard Cole, old friend and tour manager, at Edgeware Road for a quick lunch. We got stuck on a stopped train and had to get up to the street for an Uber through tony Primrose Hill, all the while ditching our flannel shirts that we would not need, even on the way back in the afternoon. Richard was in fine form, having not seen in him in at least 5 years he looked healthy and we had a good laugh about his old times tour managing Fu Manchu and of course there were asides to his touring days for Led Zeppelin and The Who. When we asked him to confirm a particularly risqué story in Carmine Appacie’s new book that the legendary drummer had just released that involved Richard, all he could say was “ Well you know, never let the truth get in the way of a good story….what else did he say in the book??” Which probably means you’ll have to get Carmines book and have a read for yourself.
LUNCH WITH A LEGEND
We headed back to the gig and I was able to slip in a quick dinner at Wagamama, my favorite chain noodle house in England, after a very long sound-check dealing with equipment bugs. No bugs in the drums of course, for they require no electronics so the only gremlins to strike are the ones that creep into my limbs after 3 shows…but more on that later. After dinner I took a quite walk through the neighborhood around the venue, checking out how people were getting on in their cool English basement flats and apartments in olde stately buildings with rents too ridiculous to believe- I thought it was expensive in Orange County!!-but then I remembered that London is just like New York City in that space is at a premium so everyone is crammed in where they can. But London has always seemed a world away from NYC to me, where bigger is sometimes not always better and you of course don’t get the olde world charm. But tonight’s charm would come in the form of a raging sold out Monday night crowd. So loud they forced me to take my earplugs out and just soak it all up. Our friend, bad ass photographer Andrew Stuart from LA showed up right before we went on to say hello, he was in town to shoot the launch of Kat Von D’s make up line for the week, so it was good to see him before he got too busy. After the show we went down to the street to Slim Jims for a quick pint before bus call and the long overnight, all night ferry ride from Dover’s white cliffs to the shores of France, via Calais.
STILL LIFE IN ROUEN
I awoke at 3:30 PM the next afternoon having taken allergy medication to knock out my sinuses that started getting crazy on the way to the ferry. It in turn knocked ME out and I must have needed the rest. But I got right up, grabbed a coffee and the first ham and cheese of the tour (many to come) and went in the venue for sound check. I opted to skip dinner after a shower and wait until after the show so I could instead get in a bike ride along the Seine into downtown Rouen. I was very tempted to stop and idle along the ornate gothic church downtown or the alleys loaded with shops and cafes, but I had to get back to the venue in time to warm up and stretch out the kinks from raging in London and having a screwed up sleep schedule. No amount of preparation could ready me for the getting through the first part of the show, hands tingling and shoulders hunching with all the miles and time zones on me, but by mid set I was back in form. “Grasschopper” is this tour’s mountain to climb. It’s a mid-set, mid album relentless burner and to get through it with focus and intensity takes…well, focus and intensity. I now remember it being the same way when we did “ KING” in the US and Canada. I have found a few tweaks and subtle dynamic things to throw in and its making it a fun challenge to play it. Well. Every night.
BORDEAUX MIDNIGHT REFLECTION
For our first day off we ventured to Bordeaux France where guitar tech Jon Priestly and I got on those bikes and took off into the city center this time with no timetable and no need to be in any kind of a hury. We took it all in from the river side walks to the makeshift dog parks (do pugs from China speak French?) and the massive amounts of skaters on the half pipes set up right by the water. Apparently skating is a big export here (keep decks FREE TRADE!!) and there were many tricks and jumps, and even the odd razor scooter on the pipes. Something that would probably get you jumped out of the skate park in the good ole USA. We ended the day at The Dog and Duck Pub before a grand meal with a four-course desert and espresso…which promptly kept me up until 6 Am again!! Or maybe I was just excited to get to Spain.
And who wouldn’t be after almost 7 years out of service there? Madrid and Barcelona were all that I remembered them being. Great foods and wine that I could not sample pre-show in Madrid, but I did manage to find a great Thai massage place a 9 minute walk from the venue where my body was promptly beaten back into shape for these two shows. After another sell out crowd that night, Bob, Brad and myself went in search of the after-show post mortem Pizza and were rewarded handsomely. We also ran into quite a few fans from the show that we happily posed for pics and signed some albums for. We had quite a few offers to join folks for drinks but had to decline to get back to the bus in time to leave for Barcelona.
I awoke in the warmth of my bunk around 10 Am, got up and wondered to the back lounge. We were stuck in traffic and moving slow into the city. We crawled past Montjuic Cemetary, established in 1883 and literally a 57 acre verticle tomb setting that seemed to stretch forever. Our sound man, Kevin Raymond, said he had explored it once with a friend of his that lives in Barcelona and it took him all day. When we finally arrived at the gig, I discovered we were 10 minutes walk to the beach, so I took off to view and stick my toes in the Mediterranean after a quick breakfast. I would return later in the evening after sound check for a solo glass of wine to watch the fishing and sailing boats come in and the sun go down on the late afternoon volleyball players and sunbathers. The moon was rising in sliver form over it all and even though it was hard to tear myself away from the tranquil scene and not just order a huge steaming paella, it was time to play a rock show on a Friday night. One of the hottest gigs so far and we all drenched and exhausted by the end. But what a great way to end a great first week.. And so here then is the first lesson from the road with footage from London and Rouen thrown in for good measure…enjoy!!