A tiny tour with a big heart: a week in England and Wales with my new friends POG
Bonus: read to the bottom for a glossary of British terms!
It’s been two days since I got back from tour, and I’ve got the post-tour blues bad this time.
I always tend to get briefly depressed after a tour, no matter how it goes, but this one was just so utterly lovely that it’d be hard to not have a bit of a saratonin /adrenaline hangover.
The whole thing started in the strangest, and least punk rock way you could imagine. Through my work as the campaign director of Fight for the Future, I got invited to give a keynote talk about net neutrality in London at the Broadband World Forum, which is one of the largest telecom industry conferences in the world. The other keynote speakers were almost all CEOs of major telecom companies. I only own two pairs of pants.
So my first “gig” of the tour was giving a powerpoint presentation about how equal access to the Internet will affect the future of free speech to a crowd of a few thousand telecom lobbyists, marketing execs, and CEOs.
My musical and activist work has taken be to a lot of interesting and strange places. That night I ended up at a VIP reception on the top floor of the British Telecom Tower. That’s this thing:
This was the view: anonymous reflections of telecom elite as a bonus.
London looks a bit dystopian at night:
After a few quick days in London, I was off for something COMPLETELY different. A hop and skip on the train and I was in Brighton, which is essentially the San Francisco of England.
I was there to meet up with Brighton’s beloved nylon-strung rock orchestra known only as “POG.” (They would have picked a different name had they known how impossible that would be to plug into a search engine.)
We’d first met when they put on a brilliant show for Taina Asili and I on our Break the Chains European Tour back in June. Even just hanging out for a brief 24 hours I think we all knew we had a connection.
The plan for this trip was 6 shows in Southern England and Wales, with me playing drums for POG and them backing me up on a bunch of songs.
I don’t think I’ve ever connected so quickly with a group of people. By day two we were already forming into a musical supergroup and acting like a bunch of old friends. It was so lovely to be welcomed into a band and group of people that so clearly cared for each other, for music, and for the world.
We kicked things off at the Kebele Social Centre in Bristol, and played to an absolutely packed house of lovely punks, anarchists, and revolutionaries, who sang along heartily to my older tunes.
Viva Zapata! a great local punk-folk band opened with a stripped down acoustic set:
We had to fit 6 people and a lot of instruments into a pretty tiny car, but dear Joe, POG’s bassist, was cheerily willing to sit in the way way back.
Midday next we were off to Cardiff, my first time back in Wales in about 5 years. Our host was Welsh riot-grrrl legend Efa Supertramp (that’s her on the right below.)
The show was a benefit for a grassroots group working to shut down a women’s detention centre, and featured an incredible lineup including Dancing Queer, a genderqueer Egyptian bellydancer.
Here we are getting ready to play. It was a blast playing percussion with POG, and they were very patient with me ;-)
After a night that involved a perfectly reasonable amount of Irish whiskey, and a Vegan Fried Breakfast that could conquer any hangover, we were off to Swansea, a smallish city another hour or so West into Wales.
We had two gigs in town, both as part of a marvelously unpretentious community-oriented festival dubbed “Do Not Go Gentle,” after the famous Dylan Thomas poem.
Wales has a strong tradition of working class poetry. Imagine a stuffy poetry reading in Manhattan. Now imagine the exact opposite of that. That’s the stuff I’m talking about.
Our first gig was with a collective of local poets known as Poets on the Hill, who were magnificent.
Up next was POG’s set, which left the audience calling out for more. Fortunately for them, we were performing again (as Evan Greer & Friends) just a few doors down, in a lovely little restaurant / venue called The Chattery.
We drove through the night from Swansea to Plymouth, and hit a student-laden 24 hour greasy spoon spot upon arrival. But we still managed to get up and out the next morning in time to explore.
Plymouth is an outrageously charming little seaside town, and we had unprecedentedly non-English weather, so we made the most of it.
I saw my first “Lido,” a seaside pool common in England that’s warmed by the sun.
We stopped to make some photocopies and communed with our digital nature.
And then we were off to the popular punk pub The Nowhere Inn, where there was already a boisterous crowd eagerly awaiting the gig.
It was our first night with access to a full drum kit and a serious PA, and our little punk rock hearts were thumping. There was even a Zounds cover at one point…
Here’s a quick clip from one of POG’s new songs, which was stuck in our head for the entire tour.
I broke a few strings to maintain our punk legitimacy in our old age.
We left the show in good spirits and stayed up entirely too late enjoying each other’s company (and a cider or two. Or three.)
After a kip, we were off to something completely different. We took the scenic route from Plymouth to Exeter across Dartmoor, a national park.
This turned out to be one of the most magical moments of the tour. Look who we met along the way!
These are wild Dartmoor Ponies, but as you can see they’re pretty friendly. We fed them some grapes to get them off the road, but I’m pretty sure they’ve just learned that if they stand in the road suckers like us will give them food. Oops.
We couldn’t stay long with our new friends because we were due in Exeter at the legendary Cavern Club for a reasonably early Monday night gig.
It was such a joy having POG play as my backup band. They’re all top notch musicians but more importantly we just had a lot of fun playing togethere and it seemed contagious for the audiences.
We set off after the gig to do another night-time drive. (This is a good way to save on petrol money for other bands’ reference!) Our hearts were a bit heavy since we knew we had just one gig left together. We had officially hit that peak tour delerium at that point where you essentially become one collectively anthropomorphized inside joke incapable of communicating with others outside the group.
Fortunately, we were back in Brighton, POG’s homebase, so we were surrounded by friends. Our final gig was at The Greys, a familiar spot since I played there back when I first met POG on tour with Taina Asili.
Seth Corbin, an awesome local queer rocker opened the show and was so so good. By the time we got up to play, the place was utterly packed.
We played extra hard since it was our last night, and the energy we got back from the crowd was crackling.
It was right around that time that I realized I had to leave for the airport at around 7am the next morning. So we had another pint or two, got some late night food, and hugged our sad goodbyes.
On the flight home I snapped this pic of massive glaciers in Greenland, which captured a bit of how I was feeling, despite still basking in the afterglow of a simply wonderful tour.
I’ve been back a few days now, letting the recordings from the tour be my soundtrack as I settle back into daily life. I’m not sure what I’ve done to deserve such a charmed life, but I’ll take it. Looking forward to the next excursion with my new pals.=
BONUS! As a prize for reading to the end of this I will share with you my glossary of Britishisms that I learned in total immersion. ;-)
Swede — rudabaga
Kip — nap
Bap — bun (like bread)
Lido — sun warmed seaside swimming pool
Faffing — causing others to be late
Chips — French fries
Crisps — chips
Crikey — Christ, exclamation
Blimey — exclamation, more working class
Posh — rich
Bollock — testical
Bollocks — bullshit
Steady on — calm down
Cheers — thanks
Welsh rabbit — fancy grilled cheese
Pasty — empanada-like pastry
Loo — bathroom
Queu — line, also used as verb
Fiver — five pound note
Tenner — ten pound note
Carer — caretaker, for elders etc
Shit — shitty (as in, the food there is shit)
Boot — trunk
Football — soccer
Fag — cigarette (this one is alarming at first)
Real Ale — any ale that isn’t shit
Quid — pounds
Long drive — anything more than an hour (it’s a tiny country)
Fried breakfast — generally includes baked beans, toast, grilled tomatoes and mushrooms
Skint — poor
Jumper — sweater or sweatshirt
Plecturn — guitar pick
Potato waffles — exactly what it sounds like. Delicious
Cheeky — pushy, mischievous, mildly rude but not in a way that would ruin someone’s day
Knackered — tired
Nicked — arrested or stolen (as in “joe got nicked at the protest” or “someone nicked my wallet”)