BackBlog: UK Tour 2005 (pt. 1)

Back to the UK and Europe

Tuesday, June 21 – We get in to Heathrow at 9:30AM local time; none of us have slept on the plane, and we are again completely ruined. American Airlines has outdone itself in cheaposity…breakfast is a sealed box filled with mini bagel chips, a foil-pack of un-refrigerated but never-to-go-rotten cream cheese, a Nutri-Grain bar, orange flavoured Craisins and a cheap peppermint. And if you happen to catch them as they rush by, you may land yourself a glass of orange juice form concentrate. It’s all rotten.

So it’s the usual schedule for us: a brief nightmare through immigration, get the bags, sweep through customs, stop in at the Marks & Sparks for a fruit smoothie. Wait for Splitter Patch in one of the three lanes of Heathrow pick-up-drop-off chaos. Drive around myriad roundabouts to the cargo company and pick up the gear that’s come from North America. Unload the luggage, put in the gear, reload the luggage. Pass out in the back as we rush off to the Bella Union office. Wake up! Go inside and pretend to be awake. Say hello to everyone and be nice for god’s sakes. Go order a sandwich and remember how shitty English food is. Now you are really, seriously destroyed. But there’s a show tonight, in some town a few hours outside London. Pass out for a quick hour nap as your already contorted body is jostled and jerked by the movement of the van. Get up. Wake up! Get over it. Set up. Sound check. Play the best show of your life.

Wednesday, June 22: Northampton – Is this a town of date rape, where lonely things happen at night, after the bars close, behind parked cars, the asphalt wet with runoff from a morning’s rain. This desperate feeling where nobody is happy. There is a sign posted in the toilets by the local police: “Make sure it’s only your bum that gets pinched tonight.” Yes, we girls understand, a quick anonymous grope in the dark is much better than losing your wallet. Nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to tell anyone about, when you finally discover the bad touch versus good touch. So how much goes down here at night? The Date Rape city travels around the world, like a gypsy caravan, to wherever it becomes most popular, the easiest to sweep under the rug. Now its here. I watch my drink.

Thursday, June 23: Hyde Park – The first festival date of several festival dates. It rains all afternoon; rains that we are told flooded out Glastonbury earlier that day. Muddy lakes formed at Glasto, with brave men, making several diving attempts to the mucky depths, only to arise to raucous cheers as he holds up the sunken treasure: a bottle of Red Stripe. Hyde Park gets a bit of muck but nothing extreme enough for diving. Luckily we are playing in a tent. And it was a crowded tent, though sadly our stage was running behind schedule and we lost some of our audience to New Order at the end. I was impressed, nonetheless.

We get a nicer room at the hotel near the park; last night was a shambles, sleeping in an inferno with a blasting fan that did nothing at all. The frustrating bit is that we know it’s colder outside our window, and even colder in the hallway, but the air in our room just would not move. Now we’re in a nicer room, a more comfortable place to deal with jetlag; only we have to wake up at 8AM to go to a BBC radio session. Another fucking radio session. Will they never cease?

Friday, June 25 – Murray and I wake up at some ungodly hour, 8:30AM or some-such. We travel to the BBC for our one-thousandth time. I joke in the cab that they should just give us permanent visitor passes. We go up and Murray is to play a song, no interview, during the Loose Ends talk show. They have a panel of British litteratti, authors, playwrights, thinkers, comedians, actors – you know, that crew – to discus tea and biscuits, Jaffa Cakes, Rich Tea. Seriously. It is so incredibly British I kind of space out, find it difficult to follow the conversation. I read uninformative newspaper headlines about the flooding at Glastonbury. Last night the bus traveled ahead to the festival. They arrived at (surprise) a mud pit and are freaking out. There is two feet of mud and they can’t even leave the bus and walk to pick up their festival passes. Apparently they are using canoes to get between stages. We get a dozen phone calls: “They’re out of boots here! Make sure you buy them in advance!”, “We’re out of water!”, “I can’t handle this!”, ”We’re miserable and dying!” We have to stop ahead for supplies: wellies in everybody’s sizes, beer, water. Murray texts a joke that they have run out of Wellingtons but not to worry, we’re bringing shitloads of plastic bags and a dinghy. We giggle, they freak out: “That’s not funny, man.” I guess we’re not out there, we’re not in the trenches, in the crossfire. It’s obviously a state of emergency. I mean, It’s probably really rough, but you’re on a bus at a frickin’ music festival, not living in a tin shed on the edge of the Red River. And so accordingly, I am to be dropped off at the hotel on Bath before even heading to the site. Fine, I think, though I’m a bit disappointed to be missing the legendary, anticipated carnage. I would have liked to have seen some of the bands, wanted to see Coldplay to see what all the hoo-haw is about. I’ll go tomorrow.

Oh. Just did a drive-by of Stonehenge. It is just sitting in the middle of a green field by the motorway. Twenty heavy, perfectly cut slabs just hanging there. Lovely, surreal, unreal.

Another thing that’s astounding, people go to these things knowing it will be a disaster, knowing it will be a deluge of vomit and garbage, swimming in silty rivers floating with outhouse fluids.

Sunday, June 26: Glastonbury – What a mess. I stay backstage and people mock my perfectly clean rubber boots. What can I say? I only really needed them to go to the loo. More retardedness: they’ve left my keyboard stand at Hyde Park. Apparently it didn’t make it into the splitter at load out. But they have a shitty replacement for me. Oh, great. I only spent days looking for the perfect keyboard stand, then got it shipped to the UK, adjusted it perfectly and placed Velcro to my liking. Oh but we’ve lost that one so go play the biggest festival show of your life with a wonky, ugly piece of shit. What the frick? Anyway, LuLu, the keyboard tech for Rufus Wainwright says I can use his and it is perfect. Eternal thanks to him for saving my sanity! Murray likens the show itself to a car crash: nobody is sure what happened because it happened so fast. We are all in shock but have to get through it. Everything that could go wrong did. The monitors were useless. The synths were in full sun and I couldn’t see any of the settings. It was jazzy but our performance I guess went well. No trashy press has come out yet…fingers crossed!

Sunday, June 30 – The man sitting next to me on the plane with a bum knee is killing me. Every time he exhales I am destroyed by the smell of death. Like he’s sucking on a handful of mothballs. Once he yawned and I thought I was going to die. He must have had about five rotten teeth and he wasn’t even really that old…like 70, max. Get a dentist, ‘sti! We land in Copenhagen at 11:20PM and the sun has just set. We circle over the glassy water of the bay, around to Copenhagen International. We walk through spotless ergonomic airport lounges with designated wireless areas. The taxi takes us through cobbled streets lined with bike paths. We pass a bus shelter that is shaped like a giant overturned shell, but is painted like a cartoon mushroom. I come to a cultural conclusion: The Scandinavians have a penchant for things being cute, things that make them feel like home or remind them of childhood. They are also insanely clean and efficient in their use of space and resources. In these ways they are remarkably similar to the Japanese. They are the Japanese of the West.

I am so homesick. In my head I make a list of things I’d like to cook when I get home. Roasted vegetables and garlic with goat cheese. Squash and apple soup. Brothy mushroom soup. Tapenade with the kalamata olives from the PA. Potatoes with fresh tarragon grown out back.

Monday, July 1: Train to Roskilde. Never has something more ruined my life in such a brief stretch of time. Murray and I make our way through the fliffen-floffen and onto the train to Roskilde. Yay, we made it, we are not idiots. Patch calls: “Where are you?” Murray answers: “We’re in Roskilde.” That was the deal. Patch meets us at the train station in Roskilde, so here we are, where is he? Well there’s another train, according to a group of young girls. Go under the tracks and you’ll find the festivalplanden-floffen train. Murray and I pay the 15 Kroners and board: it’s full of a rag tag team of backpackers and campers, potheads and proud drunks-to-be. They carry tents and crates of beer and oversized backpacks whose horizontal clearance they disregard. They’re boorish and smoking, rosy-cheeked, glazey-eyed, and rolling blunts. There are empty bottles of vodka and it is only just 1:20PM. We are misplaced with our Delsey rolling suitcases and laptop bags. I feel like a commuter on a train full of co-workers, suddenly realizing that I absolutely hate my job.

We go straight to the V2 media tent where Martin has started interviews. Murray is asked to stay to do interviews as well. Everybody starts getting on my case about how I don’t have to be there, how I should go chill out; but what I really want to know is what’s going on, what the plan is. “Just go to the bus,” but that’s not what I want to know. I am not sick or ailing, I just want information that nobody seems prepared to give me. I want to freak right out because this is retarded. “Can I know what is going on? How long are there interviews for? What is the schedule? Where is the bus? Is there a backstage, a hospitality tent, water?” Apparently getting oriented is selfish and insane and what I should be doing is drinking beer and partying. Isn’t that why we are all here? Later, Murray gets dad tips from Thurston Moore and I don’t feel so isolated any more.