American Musician Touring Abroad in the Trump Era — Tour Diary Day 1–2

Tour Diary Day 1, May 24, 2017

Norweigan Airlines. That was the quietest flight I’ve ever been on. I was able to get some sleep and everything.*

Landed in London, small wait at Customs as they checked my paperwork out — Yes, I planned ahead and got my Tier 5 Sponsorship for musician coming into the country to play music — but it is still a disconcerting feeling when they take you to a sectioned off area and tell you to wait there and then they disappear with your passport. You end up with that feeling of “I know I did everything right, I hope there’s no problems.” And the woman who was sitting across from me who they were very calmly telling that she did not do things correctly but they know she’s a student studying abroad and they will work it out with her.

I make my way out of London Gastwick airport and find the train that is right there, ez pz. Hop on and head to Reading to make my transfer to Plymouth.

Reading is a nice little town, I’ve got some time to kill between trains as I purchased a later train so that I wouldn’t be rushed and I start walking around until I see some outside tables and chairs and two men and a lady start inquiring about the guitar case.

“What kind of guitar do you have in there?”

“Gibson.”

“He has a Gibson” the woman says “A ’73 Les Paul.”

“Very nice.”

“I like the stickers on your case.” she says.

I can’t tell which sticker she is pointing at but I think it might have been “this machine kills fascists”, my nod to Woody Guthrie.

So I sit down and order a sausage roll and a drink.

We keep talking about traveling and where I’m going and what-not. Now, I know they are speaking English but sometimes when the guys talk I cannot understand anything they say.

The woman introduces herself as Annie and she asks if I’m playing in Reading that night. I tell her no and as we’re all talking I hand them one of my postcards with the website info and stuff.

“Your last name is Byrnes. My mothers family is Byrne. Maybe we are related.”

“It’s certainly possible.”

“Where you going now?’” one of the guys asks.

“I’m heading to the Cornwall area.”

“Was that an expensive ticket?”

“Not too bad, I think about 25 pounds.”

I hear them talking amongst themselves and hear one of the guys say something to her like “You’ve got the money, why don’t you go with him?”

“It’s been lovely chatting with you, got to run.”

Maybe that was hasty of me, but it made me feel very uncomfortable. Sorry folks.

I return to the train station and I still have about 2 hours before my train when I get a message from Joe Turner.

Joe Turner and I were in a band together in like ‘91? When I first met him I remembered being in his room and he had an enormous poster of Kate Bush from “The Dreaming” album cover and I immediately thought “this guy is cool.” We made a lot of noise in a basement in Newton, Ma before going our separate ways** Nick Gianotti and Jeff Turner also played in that band and it was good for a little while. I can’t even remember the last time I saw Joe but we have stayed in touch through FB to the point that when I saw Kate Bush was doing some shows for the first time in forever — I immediately messaged Joe to make sure he knew and yes, he spent a small fortune buying tickets to Kate’s show in London (when Joe lived in Boston).

Am I going on too much about Kate Bush? I don’t care.

Anyway — Joe now lives in Reading with his wife Jennifer and we met up and had a great catch up and fish n chips.***

And then a long train ride from 9 pm to 12:20 am to Plymouth where Peter Crawford was waiting for me. I’m now about to crash because it’s nearly 6 pm PST and 2 am UK time which means I have spent 26 hours traveling to get here.

Peter has a nice flat and I just met his cat and dog. I’m sleeping next to Darth Vader and a Stormtrooper. I feel strong and stable.

*But no wifi??

**But I still remember that we had a great song together called “God Given”. Really catchy and yes, I do remember the chords.

***And Joe told me all about the Kate Bush concert!

Tour Diary Day 2, May 25, 2017

I slept for 11 hours last night.

I’m staying in Saltash with Peter and Annalisa Crawford. I met Peter on a Songs & Whispers tour a few years back and we’ve stayed in touch through the wonders of the interwebs and they are really lovely people. He has set up all the shows here in the Cornwall area.

I felt bad sleeping so long today but they were really understanding and kept the dog and cat out of the room I’m staying in. It’s an air mattress bed but I could’ve been sleeping on stone last night and not noticed at all.

When I did finally wake up (at half past one) I took a little walk downtown. Annalisa gave me some directions, “I grew up here and me and my best friend used to try to get lost walking around and we never could.” Challenge accepted!

Walking around while not carrying a heavy backpack, suitcase and guitar feels so light, I feel I could walk anywhere today but settle for a ½ mile stroll downtown. Downtown Saltash has nice little shops, butcher shop and bakery and I ended up at Petit Pain, a nice little sandwich shop with one lady working and talking to a friend and one older gent in back making the food.

“You eating here or take away?”

“Eating here.”

“Well sit down, the menus are on the table.”

There’s a nice selection of sandwiches and so;

“Can I have the chicken curry baguette?”

“We’re all out of the chicken curry.”

“Can I have the chicken salad?”

“We’re all out of that too.”

“How about the chicken and stuffing?”

“We’re all out of that.”

This goes on for a couple more things I tried ordering.

“What chicken do you have left?”

“Coronation Chicken.”*

“I’ll have that.”

Coronation chicken is chicken in a curry mayonnaise sauce on baguette and it was delicious for less than 6 pounds.

As I’m walking back to the flat I hear a horn beep and it’s Peter on his way home, perfect timing!

We have a nice sit down in his back patio area with their dog R2 and cat Dylan until it’s time to head to Plymouth for the show.

Tonight’s show is at Bar Rakuda and it’s right along the water in Plymouth, we pass boats that are moored up and it’s a nice touristy type area with shops and bars that would remind you a lot of Rockport, MA mixed with a little bit of Hampton Beach, NH. Pete takes me over to a place that has “award winning” fish n chips. I’m not going to lie, it was very good. I’ve had better chips but the fish was excellent. I would’ve taken a picture but I needed both hands to eat it. We walk over to this area to eat and it turns out we’re standing at the place where the Pilgrims took off from in 1620. How about that! We joke about how they felt persecuted for practicing their religion so they left England to go practice in the new world and persecute others. Makes sense right?**

The stage area for tonight’s show isn’t ideal, it’s a small area in the center of what is probably the “summer” bar. Not a lot of dancing room and the speakers all face out but shockingly it still sounded good on stage. The cobblestone and old buildings providing just the right amount of bounce back and reverb.

Peter goes on first and he has an exceptionally easy voice to listen to, writes great songs and his cover selection takes me off guard — The Dobie Gray was excellent but I really was not expecting him to play Britney Spears!

Now the weather has been absolutely fantastic all day, it’s in the low 60’s but there is a bit of a breeze blowing. It’s not like a New England breeze that chills you to the bone but it’s still brisk and unrelenting. Bar Rakuda has what you might consider a “mayor” or “man about the bar” or a “consigliere” . His name is Colin and he’s always checking on everyone there, he sees a girl in a short skirt he’s right there with a blanket for her to cover up. He’s busy doing this tonight. He comes over to me:

“Do you need a beer?”

“No thanks.”

“Shot? Jamesons?”

“No, really I’m good. It’s a bit cold.”

“Would you like a pot of tea?”

“Yes, I would love that.”

“Would you like a biscuit as well?”

“Of course!”

That’s what kind of rock star I am. Now before you get all over my case for turning down beer and Jamesons — remember, this is the first night of my tour — I have 60 shows in the next 70 days. This is a marathon not a sprint.

I will happily call this the “Tea & Biscuits Tour 2017”

Apparently the weather is not always this lovely in Plymouth and it’s brought a bunch of folks out on this Thursday night and the group right in front of the stage is calling out requests left and right. When Peter plays “Hit me baby one more time” by Britney Spears they go crazy and sing along.

I don’t have a Britney Spears cover in my pocket. I have no intention of ever having a Britney Spears cover in my pocket. That’s not a diss on anyone who does — it takes a special talent to cover a song like that and do it well. Peter does that. I don’t play any Beatles covers either — I have tried a few and I’m doing them more of a favor by NOT playing them!

The girls come over and ask for a few covers.

“Do you know any Ariana Grande?”

“Sorry, no.”

“Really you don’t?”

It’s a weird thing when folks ask for covers like that. I’m never quite sure how to take it because I know that I have my own sound and I’m not being pretentious when I say that I do what I do pretty well and there isn’t anything in there that would suggest that I could pull off a Ariana Grande or an Adele song with any decency.

“Well, what do you know?”

“I know a lot of Replacements songs.”

“Who?”

“I know some REM.”

“Oh, I love REM — what do you know?”

“Driver 8, Feeling Gravity’s Pull, Begin the Begin, So.Central Rain, Gardening at Night, One I Love.”

“What are those?”

“They are REM songs.”

“They are?”

So I return to the regularly scheduled program and they seem to like it.

Pete and I finish up with a few songs together and it’s a fun end to the evening.

Same girl comes up to me to tell me how much she enjoyed the show.

“You guys are great performers.”

“Thank you very much.”

“Did you write any of those songs?”

“I wrote most of those songs that I played.”

“Really? They were good — and catchy!”

“Thank you.”

“It must be hard when people just want to hear the songs they know.”

“I’m trying to get my songs to be the ones people ask for.”

“You will get there, I didn’t realize you were playing your own songs.”

“I’m here on tour promoting my new album.”

“You have an album?”

“Actually I have about 9 of them.”

“No, really? You’re very good.”

Thank you Plymouth, goodnight.

*This dish was invented for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. There’s some food history for ya!

**Man, those Pilgrims must have been the worst at parties! Ha!