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 11-16 below.
Our bandwagon stood alone in an empty car park not 10 minutes walk from Niagara Falls, and from there we all walked in anticipation of seeing the legendary site itself. We walked through what was actually a pretty hellish little district that resembled a cheap Las Vegas rip-off—a House of Horrors, various casinos, wax, life-size figures of characters such as Taylor Swift and Elvis dotted the strip. Getting closer and closer to the rumbling sound we could hear in the distance, the tacky sounds of jumped-up capitalism faded away, and before us in all its glory stood Nature. Thrown by the power of the falls from where we stood, little did we know that this would be nothing compared to what we would experience later.
Before we did anything else, we all grabbed a coffee from one of the many stalls within the site, and then we booked our tickets for the boat ride. On went our biodegradable pink ponchos and aboard the boat we could already feel the coolness of the water. In the haze of recall I see photos, yelling to be heard, the chilly spray from above and below, videos of Charlotte and myself wishing the fans well from beneath Niagara Falls, and blasts of wind that implied just how powerful lots of water times potential energy equals. Walking off the boat, we all remarked how blue the water looked, how fresh the air felt in our lungs, and how refreshed we all felt following the impact of the elements on our naïve skins.
We walked along the face of the cliff on the Canadian side until we found a spot to eat before heading down into the tunnels behind the falls. There we met our tour mates PINS, and we all felt rather invigorated and ready to move on to the next adventure after some catching up and joking around. PINS came along with us, and they seemed just as struck as we were by the cascading water over the hole in the rock in which we all stood. It was a mixture of being a kid again and being an adult in an art gallery, breathing in the experience and combining moments of solitude with moments of sharing our awe with each other. When you reduce it, it really is just water falling off a ledge into some more water, but that would do the implication no justice. This whole site is dedicated to the power of nature, and this was felt most strongly when we walked back to the bandwagon on clouds through the lights, plastic, sugar, pop and rattle of modern capitalism begging for our money. Aboard the bandwagon we trucked on to America for a brief moment knowing the value of something beautiful over the cost of everything else.
P.S. The border control check back to America was a dozzle, though it often gets a bad rap.
We rolled up at The Grog Shop in Cleveland and the weather was very U.K. with a light drizzle. It was actually pretty lovely to watch from the bandwagon window, and even better to step into for load-in. I say that, though I was a lazy git today and didn’t help out at all with load-in; but I made up for that after the show by getting stuck in for a very exciting load-out!
For the whole day I’d been feeling a little dazed and not entirely with it, and then I realised that I hadn’t yet taken my antidepressant pill. Once I’d had that (at about 5pm, when really I should have taken it as soon as I got up), I was back on track. I also got to shave Josh’s head, which was a huge pick-me-up. My first time ever shaving someone’s head! And it required some skill, too, because I had to be sure I didn’t cut any of the long hairs in the centre. Pretty proud of myself, really! Sound check was good, if not a little laboured. We’re about dead-on halfway through the tour now, and as much as we wanted to have fun in sound check, our bodies and minds weren’t having any of it. After sound check I got to say a quick hello to our lovely opening band, Scuzzballs (awesome name), and they suggested I go next door for my first Chipotle.
I did, and it was BLOODY MARVELLOUS! I had the soy burrito, and blimey was it good. I’m still full up from the darn thing! Afterwards I managed to give a couple of dollars to an armless fellow wandering around outside the venue. We had a good chat about rock ’n roll, and I wished him the best of luck, though I wish I could do more. The gig itself was so much fun. We relaxed into the performance, and the faces in the crowd were singing along to almost every song—wow! Some guys even travelled all the way from Detroit, and said that, on the way, they’d been stopped numerous times by the cops because of their Michigan license plates! I hope the show was as good as they were expecting after travelling all that way, especially after all that trouble! It was just so bloody great being back in Cleveland. After sound check I suddenly remembered very vividly the last time we were in The Grog Shop all those years ago. All that time and still the memories remain so clear. I hope it stays that way! Next stop: Chicago!
We’re halfway through the tour now. Right invbetween all the gigs that have been and all the gigs that are about to be on this U.S./Canadian adventure. I woke up to hear the wind rattling the sides of the bandwagon; the Windy City was living up to its name! It was a very early load-in today, as another act was playing in between our sound check time (2pm) and our performance time (10pm). It was actually quite nice to get sound check out of the way, just so we could have a good long talk with the meet-and-greet Pledgers, and also so we could unwind with a SERIOUSLY HOT buffalo soy salad. Seriously, is buffalo sauce meant to be that hot?! My naïve little mind, eh! And my poor tongue! Avoiding buffalo dishes for the WHOLE TOUR NOW!
I’m just going to talk about the venue itself for a moment, because it really struck me—all of us, actually. Schubas is a venue right in the heart of Chicago, near where the Cubs play baseball, and it feels like an old function hall tacked onto the back of one really cool bar. The hall is made up almost entirely of panelled wood, with the sound desk being contained in some sort of bureau. Looking around, we were all suddenly thrown back in time to the old rehearsal space we had in Ludwick Youth Centre in Welwyn Garden City. We used to pay £3.50 per hour, and we spent so many of our days there, writing songs and making so much noise whilst dreaming of playing in places like the USA. Our beginnings all came flooding back, and it struck me just how much we’ve done in-between then and now. Today really is a day of in-betweens!
My voice is picking up again, and that had me in a good mood all day. When I have to strain my voice just to get through a show, it means I can’t focus on just enjoying the moment as much as I’d like to; I can’t soak up the atmosphere or engage with the crowd as much as I love to do. The dressing room at Schubas is down in the basement, a la Milkboy in Philly, but this dressing room had more settees, lamps, chairs and mirrors! It actually had a really cool atmosphere, and once PINS had performed (awesomely, as always) and joined us there, we all had a good chat and a joke before we hit the stage ourselves.
We had to walk through the crowd to get onstage for the gig. I love that. It’s happened a few times on this tour, but today I really realised just how much fun it is. Before I even said “hello” down the microphone, let alone picked up my guitar, I was yelled at by some fans at the front who were eager for us to start the show. Midway through the show, when I was trying hard to introduce “We Don’t Need Money to Have a Good Time,” one guy kept yelling “Alright!” at me, so I crashed into “Alright” and gave him a hi-five afterwards. We ended the night watching the mosh pit erupt, and left the stage thanking the hell out of Chicago. Thank you guys! And sorry for mentioning my balls so much during the show. I just thought it was funny.
I had my breakfast at Denny’s, and it was actually great—a veggie omelette with an English muffin and coffee refills. I could get used to this. That’s not just breakfast, that’s lunch sorted too! We also had a good chat with the staff, and I tried a bit of the valuable English charm to try and make them laugh. I don’t know why I always do that. “Oh look, here’s a new person; let’s get a few chuckles from them!” A few miles and maybe 45 minutes down the road, we found our venue for this evening, the Triple Rock Social Club in Minneapolis. On loading the equipment into the venue I spotted a sign in the window that read, “TRIPLE ROCK BANS GUNS IN THESE PREMISES.” “Thank heavens,” I thought! I bloody loathe guns, and one of the last places I’d one want to see a killing machine is at a rock show where we’re all meant to come together in joyous celebration.
Today I started reading my second book on this tour: Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope. Trollope’s genius spilled from the pages only a few paragraphs in, and I’m quite excited about getting stuck in to this one! I won’t bore you with any more talk on it, as I shall be saving it all up for my book blog. Sound check was great; we went through a few numbers we reckoned would probably be requested, which in the end turned out to be a good idea. I’m having a lot of fun playing “Strawberry Blonde” at the moment, and I’m quite keen to slip it into the set list on this tour at some point. Maybe when we hit the West Coast!
The food at the venue was bloody delicious! With Triple Rock Social Club being what it is (a rock social club), the food was mainly vegetarian, which I absolutely loved. I had myself the vegetarian burger with fries (not chips, Billy), and I swear I could have sunk five of those bad boys, but then that would mean absolutely no jumping (or moving) at all during the set. It’s all about the show. The gig itself was another treat, though the venue was ICE COLD! I can’t hear you, what’s cooler than being cool? ICE COLD! It was so cold that I saw a girl shivering right in front of me for the whole set, the poor thing. But we tried to crank up the heat with a blistering set, and I think we pretty much got there! There was another lady who stood and smiled for the entirety of our show, singing almost every word back at us, so I gave her my plectrum (sorry, U.S. folks, “pick”) once I’d chocked my last chord. Now we’re on a two-day journey to Vancouver! Bon voyage!
This was a long journey that lay ahead of us. Two full days of driving, from Minneapolis to Vancouver, and there was the very real possibility of us all going a little stir-crazy cooped up in our small lounge in the bandwagon. In preparation, we therefore stopped off at the nearest gas station (petrol station to us Brits) and bought some ‘80s DVD collections. I’m far too embarrassed to let you guys know exactly what we bought. Maybe I’ll divulge once I’ve washed off the shame. Eight showers should do it. Along with the DVDs I bought a ridiculously sugary coffee. What the…?! I had to throw it away, it was that overwhelmingly syrupy. And I bought a huge tub of the stuff too!
I took advantage of the long pockets of time to power on with my reading of Anthony Trollope’s Doctor Thorne, which is so far already such a wonderful story and very beautifully told. I interspersed reading this more contemporary piece with reading a new translation of Virgil’s Latin classic The Aeneid, which I’ve read before in verse form, but not in prose. Interesting fact: the verse translation I initially read was translated by Cecil Day Lewis, Daniel Day Lewis’s father! Obviously a very talented family! I’m actually enjoying the prose version a little more than the verse, simply because I think the prose form gives room for the poetic aspects of the text to breathe without being constrained by the tyranny of meter. Nothing against Cecil Day Lewis, obviously.
Anywaaaaaaaaay. The views outside our windows were astonishing. We passed through North Dakota into Montana, and then eventually through Idaho, where we stopped off in a sleepy town called Wallace, where we had a lovely dinner at a place called 1313 Club. We also noticed a plaque marking The Centre of the Universe, which was, frankly, amazeballs. Onwards we went! We took so many pictures along the way, and at one point we got overexcited at seeing our tour buddies PINS zip past us in their people carrier. For a few seconds we were like children seeing Disneyland for the first time ever. “Look! It’s PINS! Wave!!” Awesome. At the end of the long journey we went on through Washington and up towards Canada, where we were finally ushered over the border by a very brusque gentleman, and we found our bumpy way to Vancouver. Let the Canada rock commence!