Wrappin’ Up – US Tour 2010

I’m writing this from a flat in Paris, which is trés chic of course, but then, that’s how we roll.  I had some things to say about the final stages of the US Tour with the Guggenheim Grotto for quite a while.  Inevitably, with the madness of the tour, the post-tour physical crash, and the scramble around rehearsing and recording for “Fingertips of the Silversmith”,  I have left these notes languish in my notebook for far too long…  I’m rescuing them, and just publishing them in the hope of freeing up my mind for more productive, forward-looking acts.  After this I’m going to venture out towards Shakespeare & Co, a bookshop near Notre Dame.  What better way to spend a Sunday?

So here are the cliff notes on the final days of the June/July US Tour 2010…

Baltimore, MD

We stayed in Baltimore on a few occasions during the summer tour.  Kev & Mick were seeking a quiet place to record their new album, The Universe Is Laughing (http://www.guggenheimgrotto.com/store/), and a good friend of mine and her sister stepped in to offer us the use of a house in the city.  On a quiet street, in a lovely house, with endearingly noisy plumbing, we settled in with sleeping bags from a local Target superstore.  The only furnishings we had were deep pile carpets, which made for lots of static-electricity-related fun.  With our shaved heads, sleeping bags, and general appearance after several weeks on the road, Kevin likened it to a Berlin squat…  I’m not sure which parts of Berlin he was referring to though.

I say it everytime I’ve been here, but I can’t help but think of The Wire when in Baltimore.  One of my all-time favourite series.  I would swear to seeing Hamsterdam in the flesh.  Squares of boarded-up terraces and overgrown pathways… and the occasional brand spanking new SUV parked suspiciously on the street.  Apart from the odd dodgy moment Baltimore was kind to us.  The guys got lots of recording done, I got some writing done, and even managed to ascertain that all but two pairs of jeans in Baltimore make me look like a complete and utter tool.  (Maybe this has something to do with me being a tool?  I’m not sure.)

Brighton, MA

Siobhán, the family and Jen have looked after us in Boston countless times now.  This time is no different.  Recording had been planned for here… but bizarrely the weather prevented any real work from being done.  The torrential rain during our short visit was being heard on the ultra-sensitive microphones…  which sometimes can suit a track – but not every one.  To perk up our spirits we’ve tended to frequent Café Nation… purveyors of fine coffees and tasty crêpes.  It’s just the ticket for these miserable days.

Queens

Karen’s place is a smorgasbord of photography and literature, smack bang in the middle of Jackson Heights.  The area we stayed in has quite a South American feel, but only a few blocks away are huge Indian and Far Eastern areas.

After arriving back into NYC, and finally reaching Queens after a trek through rush-hour traffic, Kevin & I had what’s termed as “a fierce goo on us” for an Indian meal.  We don’t often find Indian food in the States, so being back in Queens we thought it was high time that we partook.  This was Paddy’s Day.  Our one concession to the Irish that day was a photo of the Indian condiments which strangely enough is shamrock-shaped.  Co-inky-dink?

We ended up in The Scratcher – as ever – our own personal Irish embassy.  The night was a long one but fun.

Staten Island

Our return to Staten Island was tinged with sadness.  We adored our previous shows here and were really looking forward to our return, but our hosts had had a hellish week.  Not one, but two friends, one of whom was an employee too, had died that week.

We come from a culture of “wakes”, where the life of the deceased is commemorated through stories, songs, drinking and general celebration.  I think it’s a healthy way to deal with death.  Give them a good send off.  It’s not an easy thing to do though under tragic circumstances.

RH Tugs, the venue we play that evening, is by the water, and every so often a colossal tanker glides by with the weight and quiet menace of a ship in Star Trek.  They’re truly incredible machines.  Very difficult to get your head around the sheer scale of the things!

West Milford

In all the times I’ve been through New Jersey, The Garden State,  this is the first time I’ve really felt like the name was in any way justified!  So much of our time in NJ has been barrelling down the NJ Turnpike that cuts through the industrialised areas, Newark, and down towards Washington, etc…  This place really feels like the countryside.  We’re in the woods here.

Such a warm audience.  Sometimes the rubbish that ones management puts you through before the gig really ruins a show for you.  You never get into the zone, and can never give it your best.  This was one of the rare shows that the audience saved the day and put us in the frame of mind to give good show!

Tonight was my last show of the tour, and my farewell to the Grotto.  We’ll be glad to see the back of each other, but we’ll miss each other lots too.  I can’t say that they’re the ying to my yang (nor, thankfully, the wing to my wang), but definitely kindred spirits…

And speaking of spirits… end of tour drinks beckon…

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