What a busy week — I was deep in the mixing for Mimi Schell‘s album, absolutely loving how the songs were blossoming, I love these mixes (and songs). I also worked on Sweet Gum Tree‘s mixes and recorded a bunch of extra stuff on the tracks we recorded together the previous week. Guitars, keyboards, backing vocals, drum programming. I’m still tinkering with one of the songs, I think I need to add a little more fairy dust here and there. Honestly, I was working so hard, I don’t remember much else of the week…a few nice meals outside when the weather was nice. Lizards everywhere, we have a LOT. I love to sit at our table in the backyard and listen to birdsong. Oh, I did mow the lawn again. Hardest working man in showbiz.
The house across the street from us, which has been dormant since we moved in, came to life. It’s got a proposed works sign on it, and it’s meant to be torn down and replaced with a small apartment building, and no one wants that of course. The old man who lived there when Dom was growing up has been dead for some time, and his kids have agreed to sell to a developer. But the other folks in the neighborhood have sued to prevent the apartments from being built. And they might win. So, the house is worth something if its developable; if it’s not, it’s a lovely but extremely dilapidated 19th-century house that will need massive amounts of rehab. It’s got an air of mystery to it, not the least bit as the old man was some kind of inventor, odd creations of his are visible here and there in his overgrown yard. Some kind of doll hangs in a window. It’s less scary than it sounds. But the house came to life. The kids came to town, and cut back some bushes and did other maintenance. The ‘kids’ are probably almost 60 themselves.
The last show of the Posies warm up tour. The night before I left, I went to bed super early, and therefore when I was up at 5.40 the next morning, I didn’t feel too bad. I bathed, shaved, dressed, had breakfast. Gently woke up Dom and she drove me to the station (the car is back, at last…we haggled with the insurance company and they agreed at last to repair it, not total it out). By 7.30 I was on my way to Paris. It was Ascension weekend, so Paris was really quiet. Checked in and boarded the Eurostar, I worked on the Sweet Gum Tree mix #2 the whole way over. At St. Pancras, Jon & I sat at a table at one of the coffee shops there, I was amused when I spied a very tidy Wallace & Gromit looking couple, cardigans and what not, brazenly pull out a bottle of whiskey and top up their cokes.
A lot of trains were delayed and cancelled, including the first Brighton train we could have jumped if we hurried. There was no reason to hurry. Everything was going according to plan. Our train finally came up on the board, a few minutes late, but running. Evidently the British Rail companies are either full of sick passengers, or they are very sensitive about sick passengers. Many of the train delays were due to an ‘ill passenger’. Got on our train, and we arrived in Brighton. Cloudy, but not too cold. Now, Jon had a small rolling suitcase, computer bag stacked on that pilot style, and a guitar. I had a huge suitcase w/our gear, and merch, plus my effects pedal bag (very heavy) on top of that, and a guitar. And a backpack. Gawd. I’d mapped the route in my head. We were walking. It was, at least, downhill. We ran in to Bella Hay on the street; and I guided Jon & I to the registration area, picked up our passes. Then, navigating to the club…the entire route, by the way, was about half a mile all told. A long way with all this stuff. At one point we had to walk between a stage with a live band, and their audience. The streets got very tiny, we were walking thru winding little alleys full of shops and cafes and festival goers. I knew the club was too our right, would this little alley be the right way? A young man with hipster facial hair emerged and I asked him if he knew the place we were going to, Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar. It was, indeed, right thru the alley and a half a block closer to the water. Right. No wasted effort. Our get in time was 4pm; when we walked thru the door it was, precisely, 4pm. I’m that good.
The Pierce Brothers were already sound checking, and actually finished early. So, we could set up. Oscar and the Wolf loaded in, which was good, cuz we were using their amp and keyboards (and several of their EU-UK plug converters). With the lines running hither and yon from snake to our audio interface, things were getting a little confusing, between myself, Aoife the sound engineer and her assistant, whose name was Annie, I think? Oh, it’s all a blur. But we did soundcheck, and after much wrangling, the laptop stuff sounded good. Then we got our stuff offstage and went to check in at the hotel, which was just on the block behind us. I did a little more mixing work, and then met up with Andrew & Amy from Lojinx, and Marisa from the Phantom Sound in the lobby. We had dinner together and then Marisa cut my hair (she used to own a salon in LA). Now, being that this was a showcase festival, we were getting paid peanuts, and in England, they don’t even give you peanuts. No hotel is provided, no meals, so…cost conscious band that we are, Jon & I shared one hotel room (it actually cost more than the fee we were paid, so on top of that we had the trains, cabs, etc to get from Tours/Paris to Brighton and back). Soon, said hotel room was filled with boxes of my CDs (from Lojinx) and tufts of hair. It Iooked like Keith Moon’s chest hair had exploded.
That took us right up to showtime, we hustled over to the club, I caught up with our booking agent James and watched most of Oscar and the Wolf’s set. Great band, they also play with a lot of computer tracks, but they do have a live drummer, I think I see the light here. One thing cool about this drummer is he plays all very dead cymbals, they barely ring, so everything is super tight. There’s a keyboard player, a guitar player, and a lanky singer (Oscar, I presume? No, his name is Max) wearing a kind of trench coat onstage. People loved it, they have kind of a modern electro pop vibe, with almost hip hop moments, some mournful vocals, a bit Bon Iver. They had a great groove (and much of that was in ye olde laptop). Then they were done, we got our stuff going, somehow the patching went all wrong (you could see that coming) so not everything came out of the computer as we were hoping, but we/Aoife got it sorted. The place was packed, and I saw some wonderful familiar faces. Anuj, who was the entire audience for my bizarre restaurant gig outside of Dehli a couple years ago. A few other fans and friends. It was a bit stressful getting onstage at the festival pace, and playing only new songs, and we hadn’t played in over a week, so we weren’t a well-oiled touring machine. And yet, it was pretty damn good. And people seemed to love it. I just dug in and tried to make the least mistakes possible. Tried to keep eye contact with Jon. It wasn’t relaxed enough for me to really feel groovy, but it was exciting we played all 6 of the new songs, and then did our epic piano/guitar vers. of “Coming Right Along”. Oh, and for some reason (maybe the result of hauling our gear on foot for half a mile in Billy Reid boots) i had horrible foot and leg cramps for about half the set, I felt like I’d stepped on an electric fence. And then it was done. Holy crap. Within about two minutes Aoife went from buddy buddy to stern taskmaster and was yelling at me to get my stuff off stage NOW. Uh…ok…yikes. I just scraped everything — guitar, cables, laptop, pedals…like you’re clearing off a plate before washing it. Offstage, I tried to account for everything. I revenge barked at Aoife a bit as we need our guitar cable #3, which was used by us and Oscar for the keyboard, and it was still plugged in to the snake. “I need that cable out yesterday!” I said, authoritatively. OK, avenged.
The charming and trim Neil Whitcher, from Fender, was on hand and actually packed up my guitar (which, being a Gretsch, came from his office, ten years ago). He helped me roll everything to the hotel, and the Lojinx crew helped Jon do the same. I took an inventory and quickly repacked, looks like I got everything. No merch was going to be sold, it was a music biz crowd anyway, people who have never had to buy a record in their adult life. It was time to commence drinking. Someone had helped themselves to most of our beers backstage but a few remained, I distributed them around and almost drank half of my 1664. I asked Neil what he knew of wine bars in Brighton, as the Pierce Brothers whipped the crowd into a frenzy, all stomping, celtic scales, digeridoo, etc.
Neil led us back the way we came from the train station, thru the incredible gardens of the Brighton Palace, and finally to Ten Green Bottles wine bar. There was Jon, myself, Neil, Marisa, Andrew & Amy, and our friend Steve, his lady Sue and their friend Michael. We drank….an incredible amount of wine and made a substantial amount of merry. Neil had to duck out, early morning meeting at work the next day, but the rest of us did some serious wine damage and closed the place out. Marisa left us, but Steve & Co had big AirBNB flat and some cheese so we….went on. At some point Jon & I stumbled back to our hairy hotel room and that was that. I think the show was great, I think the night was fun…as far as I can recall.
Up at 7.30, ow. I hadn’t even bothered to undress, I just rolled out of bed, packed up my stuff, brushed my teeth and went to the lobby. Jon followed a few minutes later and we had a straight (but uphill) walk to the station. And it was back to work, most of the day I worked on Mimi’s stuff. In St Pancras I had a tea at the champagne bar, where I was all alone at a table with a place to charge the laptop. I even found an empty seat on the Eurostar with a power outlet (our car had none) and worked the whole way to Paris. Cabbed to Montparnasse, worked in the lounge there, worked on the train home to Tours. Dom & Aden picked me up and as we turned the corner on the main drag near our house, we saw there was an art opening, an old building near us was taken over, and outside there was a small gathering…and what appeared, to my eagle eye, to be free wine. We parked and checked out the art contemporain installation, and then headed to the noshing. Evidently today was some kind of museum open house in Tours, with all museums open and free, and art things happening everywhere. And free stuff. There was chorizo, cheese, wine, and ‘cake’. What ‘cake’ means in French is a savory loaf, typically it would be ‘cake aux lardons’ which would be a savory loaf with some ham/bacon things in it. The one I tried a slice of was cake made with blood sausage and apples (this combination is a very typical one in regional cuisine). The free wine outside had attracted the attention of at least a couple bums, who were graciously served. One guy was clean shaven, and generally not homeless-guy looking, but he didn’t have a full set of teeth and had clearly pissed his pants. And was helping himself to a bit of cheese.
Back at home, I got the latest Mimi mix into shape, and went back to work on Sweet Gum Tree’s mix….Arno, if you’re reading this, I’ll have a song for you by the end of the week. Feels good to unpack, at last…no traveling for the next three weeks. I went to bed around 12.30 to find Aden in our bed…while I was away the girls were scared shitless, it’s woodsy and dark at our end of the street, and there’s an odd phenomenon in our house–I’ve been fooled by it many times. Noises from the outside–a car door slamming, stuff falling over in the neighbor’s garage, footsteps on the sidewalk–seem to be amplified in the upstairs of our house and are thrown down the staircase, amplified — so it sounds like things are happening upstairs, uncannily so. One time a delivery truck next door closed up its bay doors and it sounded like something fell over in the studio, I was certain — maybe a microphone on a stand had been left with the mic hanging forward not over one of the tripod legs. Went upstairs, nothing. Then discovered the truck out front. But you don’t hear the noises in the ground floor directly, I think because of the 6-foot-high wall around our house. Well. We were fine. We slept past ten and are going to brunch. Tour is over.