The Subways were kind enough to chronicle their North American tour for us, and we’ll be running their tour diary in several installments this week. Billy Lunn will be our guide, and as he writes, “Because so much usually ends up happening on our tours, we thought that this time round, whilst we’re on our exciting US/Canada tour, I’d keep a diary of all our happenings. As well as being a nice little insight for you guys into our daily lives, it’s also a nice way for me to recap and relive the days as they happen!” Check out entries for Days 1-5 below, and be sure to stay tuned for Days 5-10 tomorrow.
So, rockers! Our first day on this adventure is complete, and to be honest it has zipped by— even with the added six hours to our day thanks to the change in time zones (UK Greenwich Meantime to US Eastern Time). We arrived at Gatwick South Terminal with all our luggage and musical equipment in tow, having said our goodbyes to our loved ones, and hopped aboard the plane scoffing down the last of our snacks and coffees. During the flight I watched half of one film (Black Mass) and three quarters of another (The Pelican Brief) before realising that I was just too excited to sit so passively still to watch a screen, so I got stuck in to my latest read—Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory.
On arrival at JFK Airport, it must be stated that we all couldn’t stop smiling—my customs officer even seemed surprised to see such a happy Brit after an eight-hour flight—but I explained that we’re all just so pleased to be here after such a long time away, hence the beam! Our manager, Ben, had already been in the US for a few days, so we were greeted by both him and the magnificent bandwagon in which we’ll be trekking across the US and Canada.
So we all settled into our bunks—sometimes negotiating which bunk should be yours can be a testy affair—and settled down for a good night’s sleep knowing that the streets of Manhattan were only a few steps away. Tomorrow we play an in-store session at Rough Trade in Brooklyn, and we still haven’t decided which songs to play. But for now it’s time to rest the brain.
After a really good sleep, we all woke up to the delightful buzz of Manhattan outside our windows. Josh and I decided to pop out for coffees, and found a lovely little place tucked away on a side street around the corner from Madison Square Garden, treating ourselves to half a brie and apple toasted sandwich each! Not long afterwards, our guitar tech Al, Josh, Charlotte and I walked a couple of blocks to a guitar shop to buy a spare bass for Charlotte (in a very delicious candy-apple red with black pickguard) and an acoustic guitar for myself. I’ll be using the acoustic guitar for warming up before shows, and for radio and in-store sessions, and at the end of the tour we’ll be signing it and selling it on Pledge Music—so keep your eyes peeled!
After we’d dallied and dawdled, we eventually set off for Brooklyn to play our full-band in-store session at Rough Trade, which ended up being a really wonderful gig. As is usual when we come over to play America, we were all very nervous before going out onstage—Charlotte even pushed me to go onstage first, even though, because she was on the far side of the stage, it was her turn to go onstage first—but the nerves soon wore off once we hammered our way through a short 30-minute set. We wanted to play longer, but we had to get offstage as quick as we could so as to make way for another band’s performance that evening, so we made sure we played two songs off each album so as to give our whole career a good airing in that brief time slot.
The signing session afterwards was the perfect end to the day. We got the chance to speak to so many great people, and we got to hear about all their stories and what our albums have meant to them over the years. I’d just like to say that this meant the world to us. In our tiny little heads we’re still just three kids from Hertfordshire who have somehow managed to play our loud music, which is what we’ve always wanted to do, every single day and in some of the coolest places in the world. What was also great to see was that there was a great mix of people there too—folks from America (obviously, haha), Brazil, France, Germany, Russia. Thank you for making us all feel so special! Next stop: Washington DC!
This will live for me (I hope) till the end of my days: as I awoke on our third day in America, aboard the bandwagon on the way to Washington DC, the first thing I was conscious of was the beautiful smell of a vegetable omelette. YUM! Our manager Ben was wafting it to and fro as he walked up and down the aisle next to my bunk, and as I swiped aside my bunk curtain—there it was! “This is for you, dude.” Perfect. After this (ful)filling breakfast, I gulped down a nice big coffee and saw the day laid out ahead of me.
We rode through the streets, past the cemeteries and over the highways, past the houses and churches—one of which displayed a spiritually invigorating banner reading the righteous and inspirational slogan “Black Lives Matter,” which I just wanted to admire, salute, sing to and photograph—and we eventually reached our venue: Rock n Roll Hotel. A few doors down from the venue I noticed an old Art Deco theatre, and I just had to take a picture so I could send it to my wife—we both LOVE Art Deco. Later on I noticed that the sign on our dressing room door was in a beautiful Art Deco font, and one of the sofas I spent the day chilling out on is just the kind I want to steal and take home with me! Today is just getting better and better.
As we loaded in the last of our equipment I noticed an elderly gentleman hanging around asking for change, and I felt a little silly handing over the crisp notes that had quite obviously just come straight from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and into my hands, but nothing trumps passing on the good feeling of the day. I just hope he’s okay. I’m seeing more and more older people (who really should be getting well-looked-after) having to ask for change on the streets, both here and in the UK, and I’m making a habit of making sure they’re okay: having a little chat, passing over some money and offering some hot chocolate if there’s a coffee house or a restaurant nearby.
Shortly after soundcheck we met our support band, PINS, for the first time, and they seem like such lovely people. When they took to the stage, we all thought “what an awesome racket!” So positive, so happy, so free and vibrant; their music exudes this colour, and I’m so glad we have them on tour with us the whole way! We also got to meet our lovely meet-and-greeters, Sean, Brenda and Michael, and we chatted about why we love music so much—always happy to have that incredibly important and passionate conversation. We were also joined by a gatecrasher called Delaney, who had travelled all the way from Tennessee. Such dedication!
During our show, we saw so many happy faces it was hard not to smile throughout—even when a really drunken guy somehow sprawled himself onstage, and later had to get dragged out semi-conscious into the streets to get some fresh air. I hope he was okay too! You’ve all been so kind to us so far. Thank you! Now it’s time to cure this Bangover (you Washington DC folk should know what I mean!)
I know it’s controversial to say this, but thank heavens for Wal-Mart—without these guys we wouldn’t know where to park our bandwagon. So there we were sat, in our bandwagon in a Wal-Mart parking lot just outside Philadelphia, and so we took the opportunity to stock up on supplies and take in the sunshine while we could. After a while we took the trek down the highway and soon we were rolling through the sublime streets of Philly. We had to have all of our stuff ready for the drop-and-go (the venue is on a busy intersection, so the bandwagon couldn’t stay there too long), and as soon as we arrived we loaded everything onto the streets and then up the stairs of Milkboy before our manager/driver Ben and guitar tech/navigator Al zoomed off to find a place to park our big hunk of vehicle.
In Al’s absence we set all the gear up onstage ourselves, which, to be perfectly honest, we’ve not done for quite some time—we’re actually really enjoying this aspect of the tour, getting stuck in with the lugging and plugging! Once we had a chance to look around we noticed how cool a venue Milkboy is; the excitement/nerves were already starting to kick in for showtime. We’re only a few shows in and my voice is already starting to show some wear and tear thanks to the crazy warm-up shows in St Albans and Leicester, as well as the long plane ride over (the air-conditioning is so bad for my vocal chords), so I made sure I didn’t sing too much in soundcheck and that I warmed up as much as I could before the show. Some vocalists can drink, smoke, do drugs (I don’t want to do ANY of those things anyway) and still have tip-top vocals for every performance. Me? I’ve got to warm these bad boys to buggery before I can even think of stepping onstage. And post-gig I’ll spend an hour at least just warming them back down again. If I want to get through this tour, it’s got to be done.
From our dressing room in the basement we could hear that PINS were killing it again, and this really geared us up for our performance. By the time we hit the stage we were all smiles—the notion that we’re actually in Philadelphia—in AMERICA—is still such a massive thrill for us, which I think will last the entire tour and beyond. When we get home we’re probably going to get USA withdrawal symptoms! We added a few songs that weren’t initially intended for the set, and we took some out that we thought wouldn’t quite work. That’s still a big thing for us: being able to judge the right songs to play there and then whilst we’re onstage. By the end of the set we could hear the whoops and cheers in mid-song, and the chills that consequently shivered down our spines were ecstatic. Playing in this band in front of such eager crowds is still the best drug in existence.
Thank you, Philly. Thank you, Milkboy. PS – The food was AMAZING!
Once again we found ourselves in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart. I reluctantly popped in to grab a pack of fruity yoghurts and some popcorn. Only the essentials for me, I’m afraid! Soon we were off again, passing under the various shades of blue sky alongside fields, lakes, rivers—at one point there were marshes featuring Manhattan in its entirety as a backdrop—and eventually we stopped at the coast and walked along the shore of Milford, Connecticut. There was something quite transcendental about being by the water with only the horizon looking back. It was so peaceful and quiet that the only sound I could hear was the ringing in my ears from last night’s rock ‘n’ roll insanity. No breeze, no chill, just fresh air and the odd jokey conversation with the rest of the band and crew littering the airwaves now and then.
I managed to read some more of the sublime Le Morte D’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory (I’m now on Book 6 of 9), which is slowly making me realise that Medieval literature is going to be an important and very enjoyable area for me to cover when I go to university in October. I also got a lot of research and writing done for my column for MI Pro, which is about the (dun dun DUUUUUUUNNN) cover song. If you’re interested, keep an eye out for the official posting very soon! And do let me know what you think!
Anyway, lots of travelling to get done today, so we’re keeping ourselves sane by watching lots of films (Hoodwinked, Date Night, Tower Heist) and trying not to break our necks every time the bandwagon makes a sharp turn (bloody driver)! Sit down for your own safety, everyone! Tomorrow: Boston!