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 17-24 below.
As I have written before, things can get quite bumpy in the back of the bandwagon at times. Well, on this particular morning, whilst I was brushing my teeth in the bathroom, we managed to hit a considerable bump in the road, and the result of this was that I found myself slumped in the shower a few feet away from the sink. I was surprised (and very pleased, as you can imagine) to find that nothing had been broken, but the bruises will begin to show in time, methinks!
We arrived in Vancouver with everybody (just about) intact, and we loaded in to the Media Club in fine form. It was great seeing Kevvy and Care (of Die Mannequin) again, and we were excited to see just how Kevvy’s band Fake Shark sounded like live. It was an awesome show, and their stonking single “Cheap Thrills” is a bona fide cracker! It was also Kevvy’s birthday, so Care had arranged a cake for him. Just before they played their last number, Care lit the candles and we all jumped onstage to sing Happy Birthday to him! PINS took to the stage afterwards and played one of their most spellbinding shows of the tour. They really are something to behold—such passion, colour, texture and melody to their music. I also happened to notice that Josh and Charlotte have received their complimentary t-shirts already, PINS, you cheeky devils. Where’s mine?! Hehe!
Another show where we had to walk through the crowd to get onstage, and it was great finally walking out in front of all those expectant faces. As soon as Josh pumped his first hits on the snare drum we rampaged into “Kalifornia” and the crowd went INSANE. So many smiles and so much singing, all the heat and the sweat, all the moshing: awesome! After the gig we managed to speak to some of the crowd, and everyone was so polite and kind, and it was really beautiful to see so many people of all ages attending as always (we’re very lucky in this respect). Anyway, the wounds must heal, for the tour continues! Onward to Seattle!
I was looking forward to waking up in Seattle, and I wasn’t disappointed by the sight when I stretched my achy limbs, brushed my teeth and went to the already open bandwagon door with a nice, warm cup of coffee. Trees, pavements, record shops, cafés, smiling folks everywhere—just such an aesthetic treat for the senses. Before sound check, manager/driver Ben, guitar tech/driver Al and I decided to take a walk to one of America’s most famous and respected record shops, Bob Street Records. We were welcomed so warmly on arrival, and we were shown where all the genres were placed in the immense library before us, which stretched from the floor to about 20 feet upwards. Ladders were provided for reaching the records on the top shelves! I ended up picking up some Fairport Convention, Curtis Mayfield, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles (obviously), and Sly and the Family Stone. How I’ll get them home safely is yet another thing to consider for our departure!
Sound check was superb, with lots of laughter and joking and some very tasty doughnuts. I noticed a mother with a child in her arms dancing at the door of the venue whilst we were playing “Popdeath” in sound check, so I waved hello and the child waved back and carried on dancing in her arms. It was the cutest thing. When we played “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” I gave a few more waves when I could get my hands free of the guitar, and the more upbeat feel of the track saw the kid dancing even more enthusiastically in the mother’s arms. What a wonderful way to get me smiling during the day, Seattle! I only hope it gave the mother and child as much joy as it gave me!
After sound check I posted a few messages in support of feminism, and received insults from MRAs and Gamergate supporters with cartoon avatars. I then proceeded to post some tweets about how funny it was that most Gamergate supporters hide behind cartoon avatars when they attack, insult and threaten feminists on Twitter. Eventually I blocked someone who took serious issue with me, and for the rest of the day I was the focus of some rather nasty people, whom I eventually went through systematically blocking. Rather than being angry or upset, I just felt pity that people are so sad that they have to resort to such venomous activity whilst hiding behind the anonymity their cartoon avatars provide. Clearly something missing there, and I wish them all the best in their lives.
All this was frankly incidental once we hit the stage. There were already a few people bouncing before we’d even picked up our guitars/drumsticks! This was going to be a good one. I could feel it. Unfortunately, in my excitement, I’d accidentally knocked the knobs on my guitar pedals before we crunched into “Kalifornia,” so the guitars were BLASTING behind me for nearly the entirety of the first song. As soon as I could get my hands free from my guitar I bent down and reset the levels. “Ah, that’s better”, I thought! “I can hear things now!” We added a few extra songs (“No Goodbyes” and “Strawberry Blonde”) at the request of some very sweet and polite audience members. We hope they liked our unrehearsed, but valiant efforts! As we left the stage, we all remarked how we could have quite happily played another couple of hours tonight. Thank you for being wonderful, Seattle! I’d love to spend a few years in your awesome city sometime in the future!
Portland, Oregon. Douglas Fir. We have a long history with this place, and it was strange coming back again after all these years as though nothing has changed…because it literally looked that way. For all we knew we could have only played the week before; it all looked and felt exactly the same. For some reason I felt very happy all day, and I realised I’d been in another slump of depression for maybe the last week or so. But out of it I came with a vengeance. It’s so strange how you only know you’ve been feeling down once you break the surface.
We parked the bandwagon around the corner from the venue, which meant a well-planned and coordinated effort to get the equipment round the block and into the venue via the underground parking lot. We accomplished it in no time – or as some would say, “with aplomb” (ha!) – and before we knew it sound check was underway. Everything sounded DELICIOUS onstage thanks to all the crew’s hard work, and we were ready for food in the restaurant upstairs as soon as sound check celebrations had commenced. I say “we”, but I didn’t actually order any food – just a coffee – because I’d already had my fill of the vegetables and hummus laid out beautifully in the dressing room.
After doors had opened, I popped out front to see how everyone was getting on, and came across a guy called Stewart who had come to see us at Satan’s Hollow in Manchester in 2004. It was really strange for me just then, because for so many years, including quite recently, I’d debated with myself as to whether the gig had actually happened or not because it was such a strange one. The stage was right in the middle of the room, which meant that Charlotte, Josh and I played facing away from each other and outwards towards the crowd, who stood surrounding us. The venue also had the craziest interior design (fitting rather aptly with the name of the venue), decked out like the inside of a cave with Satan’s many heads poking out from the corners of the room. And because this gig happened so long ago now, as the years went on I’d questioned whether such a performance in such a place had ever occurred. To add to the singularity of the conversation, Stewart was wearing a Coventry City FC football shirt, and we’re always talking about CCFC on tour because our tour manager/sound engineer, Steve Gurney, is a CCFC supporter of many years standing. Stewart is now living permanently in Portland, and said he’s loving every minute of it, which I can fully imagine: It’s a fantastic place.
The show itself was a wonderfully relaxed occasion. Usually we have technical problems when we play Doug Fir—it’s the only curse I can think of us ever agreeing on—but I think we well and truly broke that curse this evening. We played “Young for Eternity” instead of “Celebrity,” and a fan asked us to play “All or Nothing,” to which we happily oblige, even though we were a little shaky to begin with! I had some problems with my Gibson 335, naturally, but I love it too much to hold anything against it! Once again, Portland, it was an absolute pleasure!
What a wonderful day. It was a travel day today, and we skirted down the West Coast the whole way, seeing some divine sights. At one point we stopped off to soak our skins in the bracing sea winds; to savour the smooth dark sand under our feet; to lean over the delicate bank by some rocks to dip our hands into the freshwater river (trickling rather than running) down into the sea, where some oystercatchers were bathing and playing in the sunshine; to play among the deadwood punctuating the grass and the sand on the way down to the water. Such beauty is Nature.
It was tour manager/sound engineer Steve’s birthday today, so we stopped off at Redwood State Park and set ourselves up at a couple of benches and sparked up a BBQ. Spicy black bean burgers, vegan sausages and alcohol free beers! What joy! There were moments when I just stood there in the clearing, surrounding by these giants of nature, whose trunks, bark and branches defy anything you ever thought could resemble trees, and I just sucked in the cleansing and refreshing air. I took a quick walk down to where I heard a river running, and saw the faintest, clearest, sparkling blue water just floating by. I did take a few seconds to look around in case a bear planned on jumping our at me, but on seeing I was all alone, I took a few seconds more to enjoy the scene.
After the BBQ, we managed to take the chance of Steve wandering off to light the candles on his birthday cake selection, and sang happy birthday to him as he walked back. We hope he enjoyed the Godzilla card we got him too, which was really difficult to sign without waking him up because it kept roaring whenever it was opened! We all hopped back onto the bandwagon and gave it a bit of a clean up (I worked my magic with the washing up and the vacuuming) and then we set of for San Francisco. I tucked back into the magic that is Anthony Trollope’s Doctor Thorne, and started re-learning some of my favourite poems after realising just how much I had forgotten after testing myself the other day! ‘Til tomorrow, folks!
Today was a particularly bumpy day in the back of the bandwagon because 1) we were in a rush to get to Honey Hive Gallery Studios in time for our acoustic session and 2) we had the hills of San Francisco to contend with! At one point, the full-to-the-brim kettle, which stood on the side (a bad idea to begin with) just waiting to topple over, eventually did just that, and there was hot water EVERYWHERE. I think Josh and I did a pretty nifty job in cleaning up the resulting mess whilst also being thrown about the place in doing so.
We arrived at our session before time, which was a relief, and so we walked a block and a half in a straight line to Trouble Cafe, which manager/driver Ben was super happy about. He’d heard it mentioned on the This American Life podcast, and said that a great explanation as to why they serve mostly toast and coconut milk can be found in it somewhere. He seemed quite touched by it all, so I’m very tempted to check it out. The coffee, moreover, was superb. Screw it: I’m definitely going to check it out.
The acoustic session was lovely. We ended up playing “Taking All the Blame,” and we had great fun in doing so. Everybody was super nice, and I waffled on for AAAAAAAAAAGES in the interview about a whole host of things. I really am going to have to curb this propensity I have to just waffle on. People end up either looking scared or bored. I need to know when to stop!
We arrived at The Chapel—what a venue! Beautiful! We were also shown the ghost video, which they’re very proud of. I’m still quite sceptical about all the supernatural stuff, but the video is darn convincing and even scary! After sound check we had some great conversations with the many meet-and-greet Pledgers. Some of the stories they told us were flat-out inspiring; one father even explained how his daughter, who brought along her bass for Charlotte to sign, was missing her music finals to come to the gig. Wow! I shall get an apology letter written up to send to the school immediately! The show itself was a blast. I fear I may be losing my voice again (probably something to do with end-of-tour fatigue), but it didn’t stop me from screaming my guts out. By the time we chugged into “Rock & Roll Queen,” the whole place went berserk! We hit our last chords as a young lady sailed over the crowd following her last-minute stage-dive. Amazing.
After the gig, we holed up in our dressing room with PINS to sing some songs together on my acoustic guitar (which I’ll be Pledging after this tour!). Kyoko was mainly playing the guitar (multi-talented, this one!), and we all sang “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out,” “Cigarettes and Alcohol,” “Dreams”—and I took over on guitar duties briefly to play “Go Your Own Way!” What a night! Now for a long drive to Morro Bay, where we’ll be having our day off! Goodnight, all!
Come on! We can make it! Keep driving! Keep moving! No, don’t stop! Fools! Yes! We’re moving again! All our thoughts willed the bandwagon on its speedy way to San Diego. We’d misjudged our timing and were due to get in a little later than expected, which we all really hate. Like Spinal Tap, we pride ourselves on our punctuality. The further south we managed to get, the more we began to feel the air heat up around us, and opening the windows did practically nothing to help. But this was also part of the joy of this tour. From urban to rural, fields to the Rockies, inland to coast, and now cool winds to warm.
Sound check, when we finally arrived, was a rushed affair, but then we managed to squeeze in a few more songs for our lovely meet and greet Pledgers who had travelled all the way from Utah! We really do not deserve this dedication, guys! Thank you! The show was a hot one, as was expected. Sweat, sweat, sweat. And more sweat! But that’s just how we like it! If we don’t work up a sweat, we almost don’t feel like we’ve even been onstage. That gig was just begging for a nice, cold shower afterwards. I love a cold, refreshing shower. Brrrrrr!
The rest of the gang, including PINS, decided to pop around the corner to a rock bar to sink a few tumblers of rum. I stayed and finished off the glorious Doctor Thorne whilst Josh played some video games on his fruit-based electronic device. As I’ve stated more than once before in ironic jest: ROCK ‘N ROLL!
I woke up to a bandwagon that was halfway between being unpacked and being packed away. Basically, it was a mess. I hobbled over all the bits I could manage, stumbled over the bits I couldn’t, and sorted myself out some breakfast whilst making sure I wasn’t thrown into the fridge in the mean time. We pulled up in the alleyway behind L.A.’s The Troubadour and mucked in for the last load-in of the tour. But by no means was it the last time we’d be lugging those heavy and very expensive items around! Consider, for example, how we’d have to load-out after the gig, and also the very next day we’d need to unload it all again to drop it off at the hire company’s HQ.
Halfway through sound check our delightful meet-and-greet Pledgers waltzed in, and proceeded to rock out and join in with the jokes. What a way to conduct our last sound check of this amazing tour! We had a great talk with the two Pledgers once we’d put away our instruments—one knew the tour set list off by heart, and had it in a playlist all ready on his phone in preparation for the gig (admirable research), and the other is a budding musician/songwriter who loved chatting shop. Perfection! Not long afterwards, we watched PINS sound check also for the last time on this tour, and we all went for a meal at a fantastic Indian restaurant just a few doors down from the venue.
It was really sad knowing that it was going to be our last gig with PINS, who have been an absolute delight to tour with. They’re a group of really talented, intelligent and passionate people who do what they love and love what they do, and we love them for that. Their songs are awesome, their sound is awesome, their stage presence is awesome; there is a bright future in store for these brilliant human beings. They put on a particularly astounding performance at The Troubadour for this last show, and it was also super cool watching Charlotte join them onstage for a sing-song and a tambourine shake-a-thon!
Watching PINS got us all pumped up for our own performance, and we smashed into our set with all the energy multiplied from the cumulative shows building up to that moment. It was to be our last show on the tour, and we made sure we squeezed out all the life and energy we could muster. The sound onstage at The Troubadour is always amazing, and this time it felt like huge, rampaging monsters were screaming beautiful chord-shaped bellows into our tiny English ears. The crowd warmed up, got dancing, and eventually worked themselves crazy into a rabid mob. I dove off the stage during “It’s A Party” before deciding to climb the stairs to the balcony to do one giant leap into the masses. What a feeling! I LOVE IT. Halfway through “Rock & Roll Queen,” PINS joined us onstage—completely as a surprise to us—and we couldn’t stop the smiles and chills that we felt right there and then. Some of the crazier portions of the crowd decided to join us all onstage, and soon more and more piled on as we smashed out the final chords of the tour. Thank you, L.A., for sending us off in style. Thank you, America. We love you!