Thursday 28 April 2016

Rain and the Emerald Isle...

It's been a while since we've been to Ireland. The last time was 2 1/2 years ago when I drove to Stansted Airport and hopped a Ryan Air flight to Dublin without my guitar because Ryan Air sucks. I bought a seat for my guitar for 9 Pounds (same as my seat) but they said I'd have to pay an additional 50 because it fell under their musical instrument policy. Luckily this happened online before I left so I was able to scream at the computer and the Ryan Air guy I was chatting with and then call Roy at Ballymore Acoustic to see if I could use his guitar for the show that night. Anyhow, I arrived at the Dublin airport, fetched my Nissan Micra and headed to Ballymore Eustace. That night I shared a show with the lovely Amelia Curran, slept at Mag's B&B, was out the door by 9am the following morning and flew out of Dublin around 2pm...less than 24 hours after I'd arrived the day before. This time, we get 5 days.

Ballymore Acoutic Gigs take place at a great little pub called Mick Murphy's. It's an old pub and the owners live in the apartment attached to the pub which is accessed through a door behind the bar. The bartender can pour drinks and nip out back to still keep up with his favorite television program of the evening. The crowd was great and we even had someone who had driven 2 1/2 hours for the night. Thanks again Damian.

The next day we took a leisurely drive through the Slieve Bloom mountains, took a little hike and found a gigantic 5 meter tall fire place in the middle of nowhere. Sorry but this was an unfortunate time for my phone to have died leaving no ability to provide photo evidence. We also climbed the 2nd highest round tower in Ireland. 108 feet tall and built in the 12 century by Monks as a status symbol and also as a beacon for weary travelers to be able to find the monastery and a warm meal. Unfortunately Vikings could also see these towers and were wise to the fact monastery's and churches typically had a fair amount of gold and tithe money kicking around therefore making them an easily spotted target from miles away.
from atop the small but impressive Slieve Bloom Mountains

Jess at the top of the round tower in Kildare

the church in Kildare from atop the round tower

Yesterday was a day off. An off day. Believe it or not it rained for most of the day. Today we'll drive to Galway and you guessed it, it's been raining and is supposed to continue. Galway is a great city. I hope we find a fabulous umbrella store. Tomorrow we'll go to Dublin for the DC Music Club. I'll Tweet Bono later today to make sure he knows he's invited.

Chun do dheagh shlĂ inte, 
p.s. Still a bit melancholy...

Monday 25 April 2016

Pollo Azul

We made it to Ireland, and as expected it's still beautiful here. The airport staff was friendly, the car hire folks were friendly, the woman at Tesco that sold us a SIM card was nice and helpful, and the woman at the checkout even informed us that the avocado I'd picked up was bruised and that I should go ahead and pick out a different one. All of this random kindness that is so typically Irish.

The VW Polo aka "pollo azul" 

I was going to write a blog post a few days back but to be honest I was pretty bummed out. And I figured there were enough sad laments floating around the internet concerning Prince that I didn't need to add another. But, I will still mention that I will most certainly miss the presence of somebody in the world of music that did things perfectly. Someone so committed to their craft and so focused and unwilling to not bend on the vision. Someone who was as generous as he was. An inspiration and so much more than a musician. Watch the video below.

The last few shows in the UK were wonderful. Liverpool Acoustic was brilliant and it was great to hang out once again with the Good Intentions. Matthews Street is home to the Cavern Club and the View Two Gallery and is a wild time after dark. Or maybe I'm just getting old? The following night at the Thimblemill Library in  Smethwick (Birmingham) was excellent. Thanks to Amit and Rich, Mellow Peaches, and Dan Hartland. Do yourselves a favor and check them out! Dan & Amit also have a fantastic radio show where they play music and argue a lot. 50 Miles of Elbow Room on Brum Radio. They play sweet jams and throw some good verbal punches. It's a great time.

Thimblemill Library in Smethwick

Tonight I'll head back to Mick Murphy's for a Ballymore Acoustic gig. It's been a few years and I'm excited to be back.

I'll be back in touch soon. take care and watch the Boss knock this one out of the park.

Thursday 21 April 2016

Greenwich Mean

Tour date: Thursday, April 21, 2016 approx. 3:45pm GMT

With only three days left of the UK leg of the tour, I'm again surprised at how quickly the month cruised by. Tonight in Leicester. At the moment we're hanging out in Appleby Magna and David Gray is picking his new Mandolin a bit.

Two nights ago was the Greystones in Sheffield and it was the third at-capacity crowd in a row! Once again I was able to fight off the urge to whip out the Def Leppard cover I keep telling myself I'm going to play one of these times. The night started out with M&J Blues and once again they were great. Mark Lyall is unmistakably one of the best players I've had the pleasure to meet in the last number of years and it's always great to him play. Next up was the Fargo Railroad Company and they joked a few times about their name being the reason they had gotten the gig (I'm sure you know I'm from Fargo), but I'd argue that it may be due to the great songs and the bands ability to be really good. But who am I. It was the 5th year in a row Craig with WagonWheel Presents has put on a show for me, the first actually being a Rod Picott show that I opened, and was once again a pleasure to work with him. Thanks again to Craig & Maggie for the fabulous hospitality!

Last night was in Nottingham at the Polish Eagle Club. The show was originally supposed to be at the Guitar Bar, but sadly they closed last month. On the bright side, Rob is still putting shows on and we had nice time. Mellow Peaches opened up the show and it was great to see Amit Dattani play again. This time he was with his co-conspirator Rich and they sounded great. Check them out if you get the chance.

Nottingham, I like that town. We had a nice walk around during the day and were able to catch the 4/20 rally in the market square. Any more time spent down wind of that crowd and I likely would have skipped the show to hang out at the chip shop.

Time to iron the shirt and go to sound check.
p.s. More photos on the next edition...

Tuesday 19 April 2016

I Gotta wear shades

Holy shit those were some amazing shows. It’s kind of like being on a road trip a long way from home not knowing if you have enough money to get back. Then, you find a $100 bill on the ground and can rest easy because regardless of what the day/road throws at you from here on out, you know there’ll be fuel in the tank. That’s how these last shows in Scotland were and now the soul is full and the future is so bright I feel like I could quote Timbuk 3.

I just played a show at the Barry Mill in Carnoustie, Scotland. It’s an operating oat mill that dates back to 1539 and is run by a delightful Irish ex-pat named Kerrin. The room was packed almost beyond capacity and even though it was a bit chilly we had a fabulous time. Truth be told, it was cold. But who cares, it was a blast and we had space heaters and my guitar stayed in tune. We sang, we laughed and we shivered but for the first time on this tour we didn’t talk about Trump. And I’m OK with that. 
Barry Mill (photo by Alan Rollo)
The Barry Mill- originally built in 1500's but rebuilt after fire in 1800's
Barry Mill

Next up was The Newport. Just across the 2 mile long Tay bridge from Dundee is the lovely little village of Newport. The view across the river was stunning and the sunset couldn’t have been better. The Seven Sons kicked off the show with a wonderful set that included what could have been the best version of “If I Needed You” I’ve ever heard. Again we had a capacity crowd and the energy in the room was incredible. Even the occasional dub step creeping in from next door was fun as it only added to ambiance. 
The Newport- nice view, huh?

A million and more thanks to Andy & Natasha, Hypercoaster Music, for the shows, their hospitality and their friendship. Gary, Alan, and Zeb it was great to hang out with you. Oh, Andy & Tash, sorry again about that little round-about debacle on the way to the Alibob…..

Now Sheffield. 

take care and keep on


Saturday 16 April 2016

What's so great about Scotland, except everything?

It's 10 past 8 in the morning and I'll be damned if the sea gulls didn't decide to take the morning off...for the most part. Maybe they're on holiday due to the fact that the sun finally came out. First time since last Sunday. Don't get me wrong that doesn't means it's necessarily warm but I'm sure I'll see some locals out in shorts today, as well as a few convertible tops which are sure to be down.

We're in Carnoustie, which is in Angus, which is in Scotland. They say Angus is the birthplace of Scotland though to be honest with you I'm not exactly sure how to substantiate that claim. It's a nice quiet little town on the east coast just north of Dundee and south of Aberdeen. You'll see some oil rigs now and then in Dundee which are docked for repair and then they'll head up the coast and further out to see just up north. Damn those things are big.

Arbroath is just a few miles up the road north. A bigger town and home to the Arbroath Smokie. No doubt I've mentioned them before but for a little recap: Arbroath Smokies are a local delicacy and sadly we've never had them. With any luck we'll take advantage of the sun today and go have some by the harbor. I also need to stop by Abbey Music and buy a few plectrums, or picks as we call them back home. Most anyone reading this knows that I'm typically not one to employ the use of these little guys but I might try to push the envelope a little bit. This decision could also be motivated by the large amount of super glue I've been using to keep my right hand together.

Last night was a wee little show at a cafe called the AliBob (at Cairn O'Mohr Winery) over near Perth. Super funky place that started in the owners boot closet 29 years ago. People had to bring their wine jugs back each week for a refill of the strawberry, elderberry, ginger or raspberry wine they made. Now, they produce 300,000 bottles each year. And you get to keep the bottle. Anyhow, it was a great warmup to kick off this Scotland run.
Cairn O'Mohr Winery. . . yes, those barrels are full of wine!

Tonight I'll play at the Barry Mill which is an old flour/oat mill that dates back to 1539. The first concert they ever had there was April 16, 2016. The dude's name was Josh Harty.

take care

Amendment: since writing this post this morning, I have tried Arbroath Smokies. . . . Delicious, but you have to watch out for the bones!

Thursday 14 April 2016

British Figure 8

Well, here we are two weeks into the UK leg of the tour and things are going swimmingly. We started off with three shows across the South right down near the English Channel. First at the Wight Bear in Southbourne, a fabulous little micro pub run by our great friends Dave & Nicola, and then headed to the Square and Compass in Worth Matravers. I've played at the Square & Compass every year I've been coming over and I must say there isn't another place like it in the world. From Charlie's cider, Kevin's chickens and Welsh sense of humor, to the people that attend it's truly one of a kind.
walking with Kevin near the Square & Compass in Dorset

Then we were off to Torquay. The home of Faulty Towers and one of the most unimpressive hotels I've ever seen. Now don't get me wrong, I'm sure when it was last updated in 1961 it was fabulous. Even though the single beds brought me back to the mattress (on the floor) I used to sleep on at Grandma's house as a child, and the tea kettle would be a good charity find for a college freshman on a tight budget, and the shower spraying down the wall onto the bathroom floor reminded me of a nice afternoon at a water park in the Wisconsin Dells, and the casino carpet and flickering lights in the hallway let me experience what it must have been like to live a day in the life of Hunter S. Thompson... maybe the bar that is my taste in hotels has risen a little.
riding in luxury in the back of Suzy's VW

We were again so pleased to have a few days to spend with Suzy, Rosie and Fidget in Arundel. She put on a fabulous show and even ferried us around in the new VW.

London at the Green Note was great. Love that place. Even with the 3 1/2 hours of train travel, a "London cheap" cab ride, and a rush hour Tube excursion, the 11 minutes at BBC London was fabulous.
playing at Green Note, London

The Midlands, Round 1, were great. Many thanks to David Gray! I'll let folks chew on that one for a while. Looking forward to getting back to Leicester, Sheffield, Liverpool, Nottingham, and Birmingham next week. Feel free to call your local BBC in any of those cities, repeatedly, and demand a Josh Harty appearance.
playing a Buddy Holly tune with Mick in Appleby Magna

Berwick-Upon-Tweed is always great, especially when you have an extra day. Thanks to Dave and Jill and of course the pool room. The YHA was great especially with the impromptu excellence of Frederick the Fabulous who baffled the crowd with his conjuring arts and stage crashing prowess.
Scottland Ho!!