Sunday 13 November 2011

Liverpool:The City

The day after Grateful Fred’s we wandered around Liverpool. Colin brought us to the train station to leave our bags, which was the first time since the tour began that I’d left my guitar out of sight…well, since the flight over where it was handed to a flight attendant on the plane and still ended up getting in a scrape somehow. But this time, the baggage attendant I handed it to looked like a former rugby player with a keen eye for an instrument and remarked that by the looks of the case, it didn’t need to be tossed around anymore. He then cleared a spot by his desk and left it there. I was sure nobody would mess with him or consequently, the guitar.
I got my watch fixed, and we had the local dish called scouse which is also what you’re called(Scouse) if you’re from Liverpool. It’s much like goulash topped with red beets or red cabbage. It was amazing but I’m having a tough time deciding which I like better, it or a jacket potato. After a bit more rain and a trip through the Tate Modern at the Albert Docks we headed to the Cavern Club.
Yes, the Cavern Club. Well, it’s actually a remake in the same location. The original was demolished in 1973 to make way for an Underground ventilation tube, which was never built, but the new has been built exactly like the original. I didn’t really think too much about it as I was walking down the steps since I’d heard anyone who wants to can pay to play there these days. However, as soon as I saw the stage with the Vox amps and the Ludwig drum kit, I caught the Beetle bug a bit.  Really, it looks just like the black and white photos…but in color.
We stayed with Peter and Gabi, of the Good Intentions, that night and had a great meal with them.  We stayed up late talking about music, recording, traveling, and even Toby Keith. I’m sure you can assume the direction of conversation related to the latter.  There may have been wine involved but I can neither confirm nor deconfirm that. 
The following morning Peter informed me that we should take a drive. We piled into the car, drove a few blocks and pulled over at Paul’s house. MaCartney that is. 
 Drove a bit further to Penny Lane.
Made a stop at John’s place.
 Quick stop at the church hall where the previously mentioned dudes met, and then saw Eleanor Rigby’s grave. 

Oh, and a place you may have heard of called Strawberry Fields.
 Yes, a real tour and very cool. Thanks so much Peter and Gabi.

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Here's a video of me hanging out with Jim and Sarah on Leith FM in Edinburgh, Scotland a couple weeks ago.

A Hard Days Night

You guessed it, Liverpool. Thursday was Grateful Fred’s in Formby, Liverpool, just a bit north of the city center. Fred’s is an acoustic music club, quite usual in this part of the world, and a good one. Last night was their first night in a new venue which was the Formby British Legion Hall.  Complete with velvet curtains, embossed velvet chairs, and Vegas carpet Grateful Fred’s was cool as sh*#.

First, we should start with the night before in Dublin. If you’re in Dublin anytime soon, by all means, avoid the Citi Hostel.  It’s sketchy, it sounds like gunshots next door, there’s a cagey French lady (I think she lives there), and they don’t have a boiling pot for tea or coffee in the room. Also, you may want to avoid the ferry to Holyhead, Whales. When I informed Colin, the founder of Grateful Fred’s, that I’d be taking the ferry he sounded a bit pensive….now I know why. As we were leaving they said they were deploying the stabilizers to make for a more comfortable voyage. I didn’t know what they meant until we were in a 3-meter sea and I was wishing they hadn’t lied about putting out aforementioned stabilizers.  This made it obvious why there were folks at the bar, on the ferry, at 9 a.m., drinking….a lot. We then were fortunate enough to ride one of Mr. Richard Branson’s Virgin trains to Chester. It was fully stocked with about 25% percent more people than should have been on the train,  including a stubborn Welsh women obviously and outwardly annoyed with the lack of chivalry and common courtesy left in today’s youth, plus a bathroom door that wouldn’t close properly (directly leading to our amusement for the duration of the ride….you see, we were sitting on our suitcases in the hallway connecting the train cars due to the  over selling of the train)…we headed to Liverpool.
Once in Liverpool we made our way to Colin’s house which was an early 19th century English home not far from the Legion. He set us up with a room, we had a quick bite (Colin didn’t, he headed back to get things set for the show…good man),and then went to the show. First up Colin and his band played a few great tunes to warm everyone up and handed things off to the Good Intentions. There was a a bit of trouble with the sound, but since Phil had just finished doing sound for Bob Dylan and Mark Knopfler over the weekend I assumed things would be just fine. The Good Intentions did play an unexpected acoustic set but did it fantastically and sounded killer. By the time it came up to me, the sound was running and the crowd was great. Can’t wait to be back at Grateful Fred’s.  
the Good Intentions

photos by Ron Davies

Wednesday 2 November 2011

Still raining.

Tonight is the last night in Ireland. It happens to be a night off and it happens to be in Dublin. I'm sitting in the kitchen of the hostel where a few folks with nothing in common, other than be being broke enough to be staying in a hostel, are all making dinner. Everyone is just getting started but the room is already filled with the smells of three distinctly different parts of the world.
We came in today from just a bit south of here in a town called Kilcullen. It's near Ballymore Eustace where the bank holiday prevented a show at Ballymore Acoustic from happening but, will not prevent the show on the next tour. I did, however, get to sit by the fire place in a place called Bardons with Roy, who runs Ballymore Acoustic, and play songs with him for a few hours.
hanging out with Roy in Kilcullen

The night before was in Cobh which is a seaside town next to Cork in the south of Ireland. Cobh is pronounce Cove. Cobh is also the last place the Titanic stopped to pick up passengers and also the resting place of several of the Lusatania passengers. When we got to Cobh we looked for a hotel online and found one in a good location near music for 60 Euro. We went inside where the owner insisted it was 80 so we went out to the car in front of the hotel, stole their WiFi and booked it online for 60. When we went inside to check in she said "you'd like to check in? Great, that will be 80 Euro" which Jess replied, "actually we booked it online for 60." As you can imagine this was not necessarily a welcome response and was met with a bit of scorn and a thorough review of our confirmation receipt. Once allowed to check in we drank all the complimentary coffee and tea and promptly stuffed our bags with the provided  shampoo, mending kit, and shoe shine supplies.
This morning marked another trip to the Dublin airport to return the Fiesta, a failed mission to find the Delta counter, and take another double-decker bus ride through town.
the lovely seaside town of Cobh

Now, some dinner and perhaps some amateur comedy next door or a poetry open mic at the Shebeen Chic down the be continued.

Monday 31 October 2011

Half way and raining.

Well, Dublin was good. Had the first pint of Guinness; played a show with a family in the front row that clapped to everything...occasionally in time; reluctantly turned down the chance to go to the late night disco with a couple of 18-year old Dutch guys who happened to be crashing with the same guy we were; then slept on on couch that would have been perfect if I were 3 1/2 feet tall...and used my jacket for a blanket. Yes folks, this is what we call living the dream.
Next day we hired a little gray Ford Fiesta and drove to Tipperary which is about half way between Dublin and Galway. Amazingly I remembered the twisty turning backroads that lead to the McGrath house above Lough Derg where we'd be spending the next couple days. Donnie and Kay and the crew are fantastic people, which would be implied by their being Irish but also helped along by the fact they are related to our good friend Tim Quigley.
 the beautiful scenery of County Tipperary (notice how narrow this "two lane" road is!)

Larkins, Garry Kennedy-Tipperary, was a two part show. Friday and Saturday.
Friday-nice crowd with two fireplaces burning, a couple pints of Guinness, and a fantastic after hours jam with a couple local guys by the fireplace...again, a couple pints of Guinness. In my brief time here I've learned that when offered a pint, one accepts the pint and the one that follows.
Saturday- Now this was the kicker. It was Brenden O'Connors 50th birthday and it turns out the multitudes that didn't come to the show the night before were waiting for Saturday. The place was jam packed and there was a live band. Since it was Brenden's birthday he hopped out of the guitar spot pretty early and replaced himself with me. Which was awesome. I played with the band for a good part of the night and re-learned that part about being offered Guinness. Then just when I thought we were leaving (around 1 am), I ended up back with the band for a few more. To say the least, Garrykennedy was fantastic.

Now, Killarney and a day off to explore the Ring of the rain. But hey, it's awfully green.

Thursday 27 October 2011

Trains, Ferrys, and Buses...oh my

Well. We've retired the Panda for a while and gone to bigger transit. First, we took the high speed train to Edinburgh. Have you ever heard of such a thing? You get onto a train, it begins to move very smoothly and soon you're traveling at 80 mph past loads and loads of traffic that is stuck in grid lock. Then, almost as though you're on an airplane, an attendant comes by with a cart of coffee, soda, tea, snacks, and even a beer if you'd like for a reasonable price. Then, if you need to use the restroom, you get up...take a walk, stretch your legs, and use one. All this while taking in the countryside, reading, getting some work done, or surfing the web as they also provide free WiFi. Those of you from Wisconsin know where I'm going with this. 

Edinburgh, or Leith rather, was great. I played on Jim Welsh's radio show, which you can listen to online Sundays at 2pm local time....or 8 a.m CST. Then we continued on to Glasgow for two shows, a great tour of the city by Mr. Eric Young, and then back to Leith to play at the Leith Folk Club Tuesday night.

That was where the charter coach came in and we headed to Ireland. We had a great trip to western Scotland where the ferry was waiting. It turned out to be a floating hotel of sorts with a restaurant, coffee bar, sports bar, and internet lounge(kind of) and all of this while listening to a BMW's car alarm going off....for 3 1/2 hours.

Here's to Belfast and a quick jaunt to Dublin tonight to play at the Swan. Until next time....

Saturday 22 October 2011

Berwick-Upon-Tweed....the gig.

Last night was in a great venue in Berwick. Now, to say it properly you musn't pronounce the W....much like not using the L when you say Milwaukee. If you do use the W, you will be corrected. The venue was in the lower level of a pub called the Barrels Ale House and was very much like a rathskeller kind of place. The crowd was great and believe it or not they were drinking ales and scotch. I should mention that Berwick is located 1 mile south of the Scottish border and has been fought over for hundreds of years over whether is was an English or Scottish town. Currently the English are maintaining control.

After the show I was invited to Dave's house (Dave is originally from Mississippi) which was across the street from the hostel where we stayed. He used Laphroaig 10 year and a 1935 Gibson Advanced Jumbo. I bit on both

Two things about this guitar other than the fact that it was amazing. First, it's worth somewhere in the ballpark of $50,000. Second, the last dude to play it was Mark Knopfler. That's right, Mark Knopfler. Apparently Mark was in the market for a new acoustic guitar but decided the Advanced Jumbo he already had was enough. As you can was awesome...see photos.

Now, we're in Edinburgh and about to head out. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Hello England

Hey there,
Well, it's been an interesting first week of the tour. Where to begin.....
We flew in a week ago today and it seems the jet lag has just now let go. However, the jet lag has not been so forgiving with my watch as it appears to have died. We spent the first night in London and rented a B&B's broom closet for the evening. The  place was called the Good Wood and they even offered a boiling pot for water...for the tea, of course.

We rented an adorable little Fiat Panda and on my first day of driving, I was amazed at the number of roundabouts. . . I was just starting to think I'd figured out mostly how they worked when I entered yet another one. The SatNav(English for GPS) informed me that I needed to take the 3rd exit rather than the 2nd. I figured that since I was out of the way of the fast moving traffic in the second and third lanes I could continue on to my desired exit. However, the following screeching of tires,  blowing of dust,  abrupt turning of the wheel, and the stearn announcement from the navigator led me to believe something wasn't quite right. It was then I realized I'd nearly smashed into another car that was exiting the roundabout. Now, you might think crash averted so everything is just fine. The same thing was in my mind until I noticed the car I nearly hit was a police car and by this time the lights were on.
At this point an annoyed and somewhat perplexed looking police man and his partner came walking towards the Panda and I figured I'd be deported shortly. Instead, he took pity on me and offered a tutorial on the intricate workings of the roundabout.
Since then things have gone pretty smoothly- I've had great radio sessions with Mick Smith in Nottingham and also with Barry Everett in London on the House Of Mercy. Both sessions will be available very soon and I'll put up a link for anyone who'd like to check them out.
 Hanging out at the House of Mercy, London

The Square and Compass is one of the best pubs in the UK and is the only venue I've ever been to that provides it's clients and musicians the opportunity for a 3 mile seaside hike should you like the adventure.
 The Square & Compass, Worth Matravers

Monday night came Sheffield and the Greystones with Rod Piccott. Rod is a great writer and player from Nashville, TN and I suggest you seek him out quickly.

That brings us current and I'll be back with more tales of adventure and roundabouts when we get to Berwick-Upon-Tweed for the next show on the 21st!
take care