February 19-24, 2012
London and Manchester, UK
We started with 7.5 hour flight direct from Atlanta to London’s Heathrow Airport. It was surprisingly much like any other flight, just longer. We left at 11 p.m., and due to the time zone differences, arrived at noon the next day. From there we were picked up at the airport by the tour bus and headed through London to pick up our rental gear.
John Henry’s in London is the largest backline facility I have ever seen. Imagine the warehouse at the end of Raiders Of The Lost Ark, but filled with drums, guitars, amplifiers, keyboards, P.A. equipment, the works. I counted six or seven rows of just drums. Upon arrival, our gear was waiting for us stacked neatly in the hall, and we immediately had doubts about our trailer being able to hold it all. We squeezed it all in, just barely, and Mark declared we’d pick up a larger trailer the next morning near Manchester, the site of the first show.
We then drove to a parking facility in Greenwich and all trudged out to find dinner. Mark led us to a nearby pub, where we had some dinner and drinks, and began to really break the ice. So far everyone seems to get along well. Daniel and Aquiles spent some time chatting it up in Portuguese, as they were acquainted before the tour, and they are both from Brazil. There was a lot of friendly “sizing-up” going on, and some folks were quiet and did not share drinks, while others were boisterous and had many. Aquiles was visibly surprised to learn that I don’t normally listen to or play metal.
After dinner we attempted to find a grocery store to get some supplies, and here Mark led us astray. Of those that came along, about half gave up along the way, as the walk to the “nearby” store stretched to 45 minutes. Eventually some few of us arrived, stocked up and set out to return to the bus, which took us about ten minutes. Not a promising beginning.
When we got back to the bus, I cracked a beer, grabbed my bag of Trader Joe’s sesame sticks and headed up to the lounge. We all had many laughs and swapped stories, about growing up and school, Tony adding stories from his remarkable career. We didn’t quite finish the bottle but we got close. We all finally retired about 11:30 p.m.
I woke in the night to hit the john, and found Eric in the throes of a nauseating tension headache. I gave him some Advil I had and sat up for a minute or two, and then went back to bed. I slept fitfully but awoke rested. I was first up and had some breakfast and coffee as I painfully edited an article from Drumhead, reading from my iPhone screen. By the time I’d finished, Mark and Emma were up. We were at a truck stop, so I headed in for the restroom and then changed clothes. After a bit we woke up some folks and transferred our gear to a larger trailer and then just kind of sat around until it was time to head for the venue, Moho Live in Manchester, UK. Aquiles predicted we’d need 3-4 hours to set the drums the first time (we’re to share his kit) and we wanted to allow plenty of time.
This proved to be an understatement. It took nearly five hours to set the kit the first time. Moho Live is a downstairs club, and loading the heavy cases across cobblestone streets and down a flight of stairs took its toll on us. Agent Cooper played that show with a collective case of Monkey Paw and NO soundcheck. All told, it could have gone worse. Afterwards we all hit the shower and crawled back to the bus exhausted.
We drove back to London the next morning and parked in front of The Underworld, our venue for the night. another downstairs load-in. We got the drums set in about 2.5 hours, a 100% improvement. The club had better sound and everyone generally played better but my right hand seized up in the middle of the set from my sticks being smaller than I’m used to. I’d changed models to accommodate Aquiles: my white sticks would mark up his custom, black-finished cymbals. I’d thought going a little smaller would help, but I was wrong. After the show we were literally chased out of the venue by the meathead security people. Assholes.
That night we left immediately to catch the 3:30 a.m. ferry from Dover to Calais, and most of us elected to stay up rather than be awakened in the middle of the night (they won’t allow you to remain on the bus during the ferry rides.) We immediately satisfied several American stereotypes as we completely rowdied-up a ferry full of sleeping, annoyed Europeans, again with Tony in the front line. He’s a fun guy. After we landed in Calais at 6 a.m., we all crashed as the bus drove to Kerkrade, where we had the next day off, thank Goddess.
The day-long chill was much needed, and late that night Aquiles and I sat up watching drum videos and talking shop. All the stores here look like IKEA. Next day I had a Skype date with my Emily Sodashi (big news from home, more on that later) and then we loaded in and set the gear in The Rock Temple.
Set-up and soundcheck completed with time to spare, the staff is fantastic, and the bathrooms are clean as hell. This is a VERY cool club. Kit took 1:10 to set up. I hope we can get it down to 45 minutes. Dinner is served and we play in about 90 minutes.
Stay tuned for more updates, thanks for dropping by!