In 2001 we completed
our first ever tour of Europe, with stops throughout Germany, Austria,
England, Scotland and Ireland. You might picture a tour with busses, roadies,
lights and groupies...uh, no. We relied on the kindness of friends and
strangers, and we earned our way by singing on the streets. We had an
amazing time, nonetheless. We've included a diary of the whole event,
for your reading pleasure.
Hey, we still have
T-Shirts for sale! Contact us to get one of
these collector's item--real cheap!
Monday, May 14,
Crew 1 (Bruce, Harold, Erik, Jay and Mike), with some help from Heidi
Johnson, finally made it to the Phoenix airport for our direct flight
to Frankfurt, Germany. The sun set on the left, itšs evening/morning for
a bit, and rises, three hours later, on the left again! It took some getting
Crew 2 (Steve and Ashley Perry) set out from Phoenix via Paris en route
to our rendezvous the next day in Germany. They ran into Michael Craig,
CAG founder, in the Phoenix airport. Coincidence or supernatural phenomenon?
You be the judge.
Tuesday, May 15
Crew 1 arrives in Frankfurt, immediately meeting up with our surprise
guest, a certain Ms. C. Identities withheld to avoid incrimination. But
suffice it to say her appearance was most welcomed. She loves garlic olives
and a cappella. She definitely adds to our coolness factor exponentially.
Continuing the grand CAG tradition of outrageous delays and dawdling,
we were able to move to the train station, wrangle a Mercedes 9-seater
van, and even eat, all within the remarkable span of 5 hours. Woosh, like
We made our way to Karlsruhe, home of Anke Zaremba, a former exchange
student and au pair of Bruce's. Along with her roommates, Tonja and Stephan,
and her man Hauke, we did our first official hanging out at a nearby biergarten.
Tonja trounced all at foosball. We wrapped up Day 1 with a late night
walk and our first tentative singing under a concrete arch. We'd been
running on less than 3 hours sleep for two days of running, so most of
us crashed. Harold went salsa dancing ("Sleep is for the weak,"
says the man).
Wednesday, May 16
Bruce and Erik picked up Steve and Ashley at the Karlsruhe train station.
And then we were nine.
Early in the afternoon we loaded in the van and drove the 30 miles to
Heidelberg. We did some decent busking (the street word for "street
performing"), figuring out how to woo the German crowds and elude
the less receptive shop owners. Lesson 1: singing in a cafe out of the
rain to a small, unsuspecting, captive audience can be more lucrative
than singing a lengthy set to a large crowd.
Today's memorable exchange:
Erik: Hey, those mannequins are anatomically correct!
Mike: Erik, they don't have any heads.
Toward dusk we made our way up to the grand old castle, a conglomeration
of castle chunks built and destroyed over the centuries. We sang to some
lovers and to a few straggling tourists--rainy twilight and magical acoustics.
In the evening we drove back to Karlsruhe and crashed on our friends'
floors and beds.
Thursday, May 17
Today is Karlsruhe day, a change in plans in honor of our hosts. It was
a struggle to get our busking in gear, fighting a food fair, construction,
harried passersby and strange, changeable weather. Nevertheless we got
the hang of it late in the day, and a few good sets paid the day's bills.
For dinner, we moseyed over to the Multi Culti, a smorgasbord of cuisine,
as it were. Good stuff, big beer (Mike and Ms. C invent the word "Schweinengeschphinkter").
Afterwards we headed to a disco coffee shop (of sorts), where Steve sang
along with himself on Signed, Sealed, Delivered when the DJ played our
CD over the house PA. The DJ couldn't help but buy a copy too! A wise
After that, even, we showed up at a packed Irish pub for Karaoke night.
Our first big success of the tour! We performed Signed, Sealed, Delivered
and Let's Get it On to the loudest roars of appreciation I can remember.
And we were immediately disqualified as being too good. HAH! We did get
to back up Tonja for a version of Stand By Me, also to whoops and screams.
And then we slept.
Friday, May 18
Sad partings! We have to say goodbye to our fantastic hosts, in the rain,
and head off to try our luck in Munich. We've heard so many things about
busking regulations in Munich, so upon arrival we determine just how illegal
we're willing to be. On a quiet sidestreet we learn Lesson 2: quiet sets
in a quiet alley are more successful than our powerhouse sets. Who knew?
At dusk we drove out to the countryside to the home of Dorothea von Bredow,
long time friend of Harold's and part time resident of Tucson. She took
us to a little local hotel for THE HEAVIEST FOOD EVER. Wet sacks of flour.
Or something like that. But damn delicious flour!
Saturday, May 19
We wake up early early to get in line for our busking passes. Ah, a little
trickery and a little law abiding warrant us passes for the whole day.
The sets are unpredictable, with CD sales oddly low but tips pretty high.
We were befriended by a friendly or opportunistic Brit named Rick, who
seemed to maybe want a piece of the pie.
And then we hit our stride. The successful pattern emerges: sing five
or six songs, hit them with a big one, and then ATTACK, as Erik would
yell. Erik shouted to the crowd in German. We jumped around like idgits.
And the money flowed. At the end of the day we'd raked in $1300. Voiceless,
whooped, we celebrated on more heavy food.
You know, the big finish would be a night at the Hofbrauhaus, right? So
off we went. But what the...we were seated in the only quiet room in the
place, some little known anteroom from which one can only HEAR and SEE
the excitement of the Hofbrauhaus...! We made our own damn fun, though,
with some zesty punning and a rollicking game of "Throw the Coasters."
Ask me how long it took us to get home this evening! On the way out we
ran into Rick again (the Brit, remember?) drunk and ornery and crying
that his bag had been stolen.
At 12 am Jay realizes he has to pee. As Erik pees on the tire of the car,
Jay and Bruce set off on an hour-long walk to find a bathroom.
At 2 am Jay announces he is near death from alarmingly low blood sugar,
but perhaps hešs being overly dramatic about it. He works it out. He doesnšt
pass out, or go ballistic. Itšs a long story, and incredibly boring. Look
up some diabetic websites for more technical info.
At 2:30 am Harold suggests that we abandon the next day's plans for Prague.
At 4:30 am we decide that abandoning the plan may be the only way. Begrudgingly!
Sunday, May 20
Up and out by 9, we say goodbye and thanks to Dorothea. Thanks again!
The revised plan will take us to Erik's grandmother's home in Teisendorf
and then on to Salzburg. Off we go.
Our first stop was to drop off Ms. C at the Munich train station. Thank
you for joining us, C! It made the trip very sweet for me.
Did I mention we ran into Rick at the train station? Strange, but apparently
Our second stop was Teisendorf, a tiny, undisturbed village in Bavaria.
Erik's oma, Margaret Baumer, 87, greeted us from her balcony. She's a
sweet, tiny German woman whose house is chock full of decades of chotchkas,
1979 calendars, and wartime portrait photos. Erik surprised us all with
full-on conversational German, and Margaret was clearly thrilled.
We did some driving and walking to get up to the tiny town of Hoglewort,
where, much to everyone's surprise, the annual Maibaum (Maypole) raising
festival was under way. The townsmen, in traditional garb, hoist a magnificent
post in the center of the village to the rousing beat of an oompah band.
We join in the fun, with much eating and drinking. Much to our dismay
they decorate the pole not with local, time-honored symbols of Bavaria
but with clip art depictions of the kegs, trucks, and even forklifts of
Wieninger Bier, the local brewery who obviously funded the fun.
We lazed around the local pond all afternoon (some swam (some would be
Erik)), threw back some ice cream desserts, then descended back to say
our goodbyes to Margaret.
In the evening we drove to Salzburg and settled in at our first youth
hostel, from which we are reporting. It's like staying at the Ritz Carlton,
with beds and pillows and sheets and showers and laundry...hog heaven.
The amenities! Ah, the amenities.
Monday, May 21
Harold spends the night watching as the one set of washing machine/dryer
tosses our clothes around for hours and hours. As far as we can tell,
all the washer managed to do was make the clothes wet and all the dryer
did was to make them damp.
We wake up the next morning, have a summit meeting about what the next
leg of the trip will be, hang up our damp clothes in the van, and then
get a late start for busking on the streets of Salzburg. We made an honest
effort at singing at legally sanctioned designated busking areas (read:
parking lots), but we ended up having more luck in the "fuBgangerzone"
with two good sets of music and two good crowds of people. After our second
set, Erik followed his ear to the beautiful whistling of a Japanese tour
guide, Tomoo Aoki. Bruce joined in and the two did a remarkable duet.
The days work payed for a nice outdoor dinner before we headed back to
Tuesday, May 22
This is the day we fly to London. In the morning we notice that the prefix
after "Frankfurt" on our super-cheap tickets is different than
the Frankfurt we had originally flown into. Indeed it is an hour from
the familiar Frankfurt. The airport is at a military base in a small town
with no people in itjust houses and streets.
In London we cram ourselves into our two rental cars (thank you, Ferdiye,
for the memorable customer service) to meet up with our two "mates",
Andy and Jo, who graciously let us set up camp in their living room. We
treat them to a yummy seafood dinner at their favorite pub and then enjoy
an evening of the English language in front of the TV.
Wednesday, May 23
Andy and Jo leave town after they teach us how to feed the cats and water
the plants. We have a lazy morning and head for Sheffield to our gig at
the Broadfield Pub.
Before we go further, let me explain Big Deal, the band which unites most
of the characters you'll read about in our British stay: Dave Williams
on guitar, Sarah Williams on tambourine, Jo Howard calling the squares,
Tim Crusher on accordion, Richard Hunt on fiddle, and, in the U.S. incarnation,
Mike Z on thrash guitar. The group has existed, in one form or another,
for over twelve years, playing stomp-happy Irish, American, cajun, and
British folk music for drunken square-dancing crowds from Oxford to Chicago.
With some driving fuss (roundabouts, all roundabouts) we made our way
to the home of Sarah, Dave, and Kate Williams (Kate, their 2-year-old
daughter) in Sheffield. Sheffield is a university town with industries,
so the landscape changes from road to road. Dave and Sarah live in a gorgeous,
recently-remodelled 1920s home with curved front window glass and a huge
attic floor (blessedly).
At the Broadfield Pub we ate a good, cholesterol-packed meal, on the house.
Martin, the landlord, regretfully informed us that he could offer only
four pints of free beer per person, though there was a local brew called
Black Sheep of which one pint was more than enough. While our opening
act (Southpaw, a local guitarist/songwriter) played, we hit the foosball
For our set we both split our time between singing on the mics and singing
al fresca, both to a very enthusiastic crowd. In particular among the
enthusiasts were Sarah and Sue, aka Thelma and Louise, who were excited
enough to lead the publicity charge for our Friday night gig. We also
met Little Dave the plumber, and little Steve, the pub philosopher ("What
do you do, Steve?" "I believe in people...what is your star
sign?" That sort of thing.)
Many thanks to Sarah, Dave and Kate for their grand hospitality! And thanks
to the Broadfield for the excellent CAG posters.
Thursday, May 24
In the morning we set out for York, headquarters of Mike's former company,
Pindar, and the home of Tim, Alison, and Emma Crusher (Emma, their 2-year-old
daughter). York is an ancient city, with remnants of Roman and Viking
occupation, and a magnificent pedestrian zone through the entire inner
city. The Shambles is a zone of zig-zagging alleyways with low-slung balconies
at almost eye-level. The York Minster Towers above it all. In fact, the
only blight on the landscape is the 60s-era Ryedale Building, which houses
none other than Pindar Systems, Inc.
We had heard about the success of busking in this zone, but alas, it was
not as successful for us. Lesson 4: on weekdays a pedestrian zone is merely
a conduit for busy people. No time for music, apparently. We were also
in competition with a large central stage, erected for a BBC music festival,
which was also drawing only modest crowds.
In the evening we joined Tim and Alison for a nice meal. The house DJ
played selections from "This New Place" but managed to skip
the CD on "Haven't Found a Way," much to everyone's disappointment
(But I haven't found a wa-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a....silence).
We then headed over to an Internet cafe run by Cai, a former Pindar employee.
Tim, Mike and Cai revelled in Pindar-bashing while the others took care
of email. Internet cafes have been our lifelines on this tour. What a
difference to be an email away from our friends and family.
In the evening we piled into the Crusher home, occupying every last inch
of floor space. Tim, Alison, it was far more comfortable than you think!!
Thank you so much for letting us take over.
Friday, May 25
In the morning we were treated to a full-on breakfast at Chez Crusher
before heading out to Leeds to try the busking. Leeds is an industrial
midlands city with a pedestrian zone nestled amongst the smokestacks.
But again, Lesson 4 proved important, as we once again competed with busy
locals and a BBC festival stage, earning virtually no listeners. Big sigh.
Much grumbling. Giving up early, we did some shopping and Internetting
before splitting town. In the last few minutes Harold managed to save
the Leeds trip from being a complete shutout, by chancing across a book-signing
by Terry Pratchett and getting a couple of autographed volumes.
In the evening we once again met up with Dave and Sarah for our second
Sheffield gig, at the Barrack Hill Tavern. With a hugely receptive crowd
led by Sue, Sarah, and a contingent who read about the gig in the local
papers, we played through our favorites, as well as improvising a few
requests. This lot really boosted our spirits, prompting a full recovery
from the day's paltry busking.
Afterwards we spent a little time saying adieu to our new friends (Sue
and Sarah; Nikki the cook and part-time Mariachi; Helen from Austin; many
others), then worked our caravan of cars back to Sarah and Dave's.
Saturday, May 26
Sarah and Dave start us out with another full-on breakfast, with all the
fixings. Honestly, the hospitality we met with on this trip was just inspiring.
Bruce made Kate a VERY elegant balloon hat, with catamarans and a curly-cue.
We then piled into cars for a ride into the Peak District, the lush, hilly
region not far from Sheffield. Until today the popular region was closed
due to foot in mouth disease, but apparently someone had just declared
the zone virus-free, so off we went. Our destination was the little town
of Bakewell, famous for Bakewell pudding and for people going to Bakewell.
Nice little river with ducks paddling about, and Bruce and Erik with their
trousers rolled up. Pleasant shops and small streets. A touristy air to
the gardens and walks. We did a little singing here and there, did a little
lying about, here and there. All in all it was a very relaxing break in
the action. It's clear why sheep just stand around in the country all
day: it's to feel like this.
In the early evening we said our goodbyes to the Williams and headed off
to seek our fortunes in Scotland. The sun simply doesn't set until 10:30
at night here, which can be disorienting. Stranger yet, this night the
sun seemed to be setting in the north. A weird effect of the mountains,
clouds, and high latitude as best as we could tell. Otherwise we have
to deny some fundamental physics and meteorology, which none of us are
prepared to do.
Coffeed up, we sang and sang in Car 1. We improvised songs based on single-word
cues via walkie-talkie from Harold in Car 2. Further into the night, we
bought a raunchy, Scottish comedy tape at a service center, but the genetalia
humor in heavy brogue proved too low brow even for us, if you can imagine
Short on hotels in Edinburgh, we booked a hostel in Glasgow, which took
us straight into the colon of Glasgow. The hostel staff eventually had
to stand outside and wave to help us locate them. Local footballers, drunk
as ever, stumbled into our luggage. We shared a room with five sleeping
somethings, several of which had already taken over our penetentiary-style
metal bunks. Late in the evening two more gentlemen stumbled in, jostling
everyone and sniggering for a half hour before finally settling down.
Thank you Erik for getting up to turn out the light on what proved to
be our worst sleeping night of the trip.
Sunday, May 27
In the morning we extracted ourselves from the room, ate some breakfast
and set out for Edinburgh. Instantly we felt the air clear here, as we
sensed coffee and students and artists nearby. Bolstered by coffee from
the Frugal cafe, armed with directions from Lize our Barrista, we set
out for a partly-cloudy day of busking.
Pipers piping and drunkards drunking, we set up shop in front of a cathedral,
midtown. A nicely toasted gent across the way bellowed along as we sang
Under the Boardwalk, until he was led into an alley and beaten bloody.
That shook us up a bit. Turns out it was his friend who did the damage,
and they left together after some questioning. The ever-vigilant Edinburgh
Rapid Response clean-up team made short work of washing away the blood...Yuck!
And we went back to singing.
We had an excellent time on the streets, singing to good crowds that grew
in size and interest as the day progressed. We spent time with our new
Portuguese friend, Mena, as well as Barrista Lize and her mates Anele
Toward evening we briefly became tourists, with a stop to hear an orchestra
warming up in the adjacent cathedral, and a trip up to the castle, which
was closed due to case of dignitaries.
Goodbye, Mena, goodbye Lize, goodbye castle. In the evening we drove back
into the night for our morning rendezvous with Kristin Herman, overhead
Monday, May 28
We woke up in Manchester with much anticipation: today was the day to
greet Kristin at the airport and finally make our arrival into Ireland.
This was a particularly big day for Erik and Kris, fulfilling a many-year
vow to arrive together on Irish soil.
This certainly was a day of lucky mishaps. Kris had, unbeknownst to us,
been delayed in Chicago by five hours. As Erik bought her flowers, we
learned the news. We tried to make the best of our extra time in Manchester
by heading downtown where we found The Parade. Not really sure what parade
it was, but it had something to do with the bank holiday and Christianity,
and there were thousands of Manchesterians out there, just waiting to
give us their money I mean hear us sing. So we did, and they did, and
as the sun came out we realized that Lufthansa had given us a little special
treat after all.
Eventually we picked up Kris at the airport. Lufthansa pulled another
practical joke, though, releasing Kris to our care but suspending her
luggage indefinitely. Nevertheless, there were tearful greetings all around,
and we set out for another day's drive to the Holyhead Ferry, Dublin-bound.
The trek through Northern Wales put us right up against the North Sea,
with dramatic vistas past every turn and tunnel, and vowel-free, block-long
city names at each posting. We stopped for a break on the beach, and splashed
among the windy oats that clutch the dunes of unremembered seas, as they
say. Harold and Erik examined the protoplasmic gumdrops that fluoresced
everywhere on the beach, and Erik tried to rescue the already-dead jellyfish.
Steve fashioned a giant man/woman in the sand with his toe, and the rest
of us waded in ankle-deep to get the feeling of it all.
For dinner we ventured into Rhyl, a bizarre, off-season beach town replete
with standard issue casinos, Whack-a-Moles and kewpie doll booths. The
locals eyed us with suspicion and lit the garbage bins on fire, much to
the satisfaction of the zealous fire brigade.
Later that night we arrived in Holyhead, only to learn that Dear Mike
had made a beaut of a mistake, equating 20:45 with 10:45 p.m. The ferry
had come and gone. But before the rest of the team were able to draw and
quarter Mike, the Irish Ferries staff informed us that we could sail in
the morning, for less than half the price of sailing this evening. Better
yet, there were scores of local B&Bs with rates below that of most
hostels. So we packed up, moseyed down the street to a great B&B,
scratched Beefy the Cat on the head, and toasted Lufthansa, United, luggage,
Mike, and the Irish Ferries company for making our night an unplannable,
Tuesday, May 29
In the morning we took the Dublin Swift ferry, a fast catamaran that completes
the crossing in under 2 hours. We took turns on-deck, facing the hurricane-force
winds of the North Sea. Prompted by Mags, one of the staff, we sang a
quick set before disembarking, with wide grins, in Dublin. A taxi ride
later we checked in at the night's hostel (pleasantly pleasant) and set
out to bilk the tourists.
After a few mis-starts we found highly-concentrated shoppers in Grafton
Street, along with other buskers, including The Yellow Man (whose skill
was being yellow), two fiddlers (whose skills were remarkable, and profitable)
and a Romanian boy playing accordion. We moved around a bit, sang for
the afternoon to underwhelming crowds, then settled on Lesson 5: to successfully
busk amongst the busy, the crowd needs to understand, in an instant, why
you are there and what you are doing. Though we've improved our busking
skills on the trip, we've had to acknowledge that we are not the usual
carnival act, preferring a quiet alley to a loud thoroughfare. We need
to reconsider how we busk. Food for thought.
Speaking of, we ate another pub's worth of food, then went back out into
the streets for the evening. We chanced upon a woman twirling fire to
a tin-whistle accompaniment. At the other end of the square we stopped
to serenade Maia, the girl in the window, who giggled, disappeared and
then returned, as did our best street crowd of the day. So, we put out
the hat and ran through an impromptu set. Lesson 6: PASS THE HAT. The
money that flowed made up for the otherwise mediocre take of the day.
Thank you Kristin and Ashley! Drinks on us.
For our last event of Ireland we happened into the back door of a pub
with an awesome live Irish band, "No Jigi Jigi", some really
good musicians on bodhran, pipes, guitar and flutes. Between sets they
played a Bothy Band CD, and we sang along, in Irish Gaelic, to Fionghuala,
in our own special accent. Jay sold his baseball cap for 5 pounds to a
It was a whirlwind trip, this Ireland bit, but worth every bloody second
Wednesday, May 30
Another early morning. Our goal for the day was to reach the Black Horse
Inn, in London, in time for a 10:30 gig. We caught our rather-late taxis
and made it to the 9:45 ferry, the slower-sailing Ulysses, europe's largest
car ferry. Most everyone curled up on sofas to catch up on sleep. And
three hours later, we stepped off the gangways in Wales.
Gathering our cars and bags in Holyhead, we headed to Manchester in search
of Kristin's luggage. At the airport we once again met the British service
industry head-on, shuttling from one office to another until the bag magically
appeared. Why must everything be such a struggle? Why is it so difficult
to flush a British toilet, or work the shower, or rent the car, or make
Continuing on, we drove through Birmingham and into London, to Andy and
Jo's, for the duration of the stay. Vader the cat was overjoyed at our
arrival, as we brought with us the promise of fresh food and back rubs.
We knew it would be about an hour's drive to the evening's gig, so, in
true CAG fashion, we set out with an hour and fifteen minutes to spare.
"Highbury bore me, Richmond and Kew undid me," says the poet.
We drove and drove and DROVE, looking for the Black Horse. We passed over
the very Richmond Road that was supposed to be our destination. We got
directions from the pub owner, and from the pub guests, and from several
maps, but nothing could sort us out. At 22:45 we began to despair, realizing
the sheer number of Richmond Roads, Twickenham Roads and Kew Streets that
surrounded us. Absurdity! At 22:58 we gave up. We missed the gig. At 23:00
the Black Horse was closed to us forever. We stopped at the next pub we
saw, but entered as the bell sounded that last call had ended (no drinks
after 11pm in England).
With some sweet talk we were able to get one last round, and in thanks
we sang a song for the owners and the one remaining table. They were thrilled
and demanded more, so naturally we obliged. The gang was so happy with
us that they took us home for a party around the corner.
Turns out that the owner of the house was Aaron Davidson, who, much to
our excitement, was the former keyboardist for Modern English, the group
that brought us "I'll Melt With You" all those years ago. We
also caroused with Tomas, the number theorist, his wife Alissandra, Christina,
Martina, Barbara, Tony, Sean, and the bony, 18-year-old cat named Wilson.
Once again, it just goes to show, you never know what's going to happen,
how it's going to turn out, or who will get you there. You just have to
keep looking for the Black Horse pub. Or something like that.
Thursday, May 31
We awoke in Andy and Jo's apartment with this unusual thought in mind:
there's nothing to be DONE, for hours and hours! Ah. Sweet.
After much lying about, dawdling, and drinking of tea, several of the
gang headed out for a day of touristing and shopping. It was a short walk
to the Tube station, and from there London was easy pickins. Erik and
Kristin made the only official tourist marathon of the trip, crossing
checkpoints at Picadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace (rats,
the guards changed at 11:30) and Harrod's, where coffee beans and truffles
were secured. Steve and Ashley did some shopping (soaps n stuff, I believe)
while Bruce laundered, Harold and Jay roamed, and I caught up on the diary.
But hey, back to the shopping. Where did they all go shopping?
Covent Garden, actually, a large, pedestrianized (yes it's a word) zone
close to downtown. We had heard tales of the street performers in Covent
Garden, and there they were, aplenty: guitarists, rappers, a Chinese man
playing an enormous metal bazoongo, and the ever-present silver-and-gold-painted
guys who will ring a bell or move an elbow if you tip them. Some arcane
rules seemed to apply in The Gardens; for example, if the musicians played
on the brown bricks, they were legal, but if they ventured onto the gray
bricks, then CG rules applied and no busking, please. Sigh. This Is Britain.
We made mental notes for our next visit.
We all reconvened for supper and a thorough perusal of the maps (there
would be no Black Horse II) before heading off in two cars to the night's
gig, south of London. Surprisingly enough, on a congested route straight
through downtown London, over Tower Bridge, through some 60 roundabouts,
an outing that required from Steve and Harold a degree of attention and
reflexes not often seen in this day and age, we did not get lost at all.
We were even on time to the gig! THAT, friends, was quite a score.
And pay no attention to that burned out car, we said.
Oh don't worry--we were right. Despite this harbinger, the neighborhood
was not so bad as all that. We parked on the street and entered a beautifully
restored Garrick Tavern, a cross between a pub, gallery and coffee shop.
There to greet us was Steve's sister, Cynthia, who had just headed to
England for a stint of work in Leeds. It's the pleasant surprises that
make a trip! We never heard whether her time in Leeds provided "pleasant
surprises," but we hope so.
We set up shop in the back room, the art gallery, where some interesting
modern art paintings seemed to wander all about if you blinked rapidly
and repeatedly. We were joined for our first set by our patented "small
but appreciative crowd," and at the break we took on fish & chips
from a little shop up the road. All in all, we had a pleasant, relaxed
gig to crown a pleasant, relaxed day in London.
After gathering up Jay (who had wandered into a back garden for quite
some time, leading to a reconaissance mission from Bruce "heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeey
Jaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!!!" Bayly), we piled into the
cars and, again flawlessly, navigated to Cynthia's and onward home to
Vader the Cat and a good night's sleep.
Friday, June 1
Our second day in the same town...unthinkable! What slackers. Our goals
and destinations today were much the same as the day before: relax, eat,
shop at or near Covent Gardens. The gang en masse rode the Tube into downtown
London (enough driving!!) to luncheon at the Cheshire Cheese, an ancient
restaurant much recommended to Kristin. The place holds artifacts from
patrons Samuel Johnson, Charles Dickens, and others, and claims to have
been frequented by Shakespeare. Now it also holds placemats and a guest
book signed by Catacoustic Groove, the crown jewel of its fame, really.
We sampled the steak pudding and thrilled to the deft handling of silverware
by our animated waiter (a real waiter, but very lively).
One memorable point from this lunch: Mr. Jay rationalized his second beer,
deeming it a medicinal measure. We will recall that his third beer was
not even rationalized.
On our walk to the next Tube station we sampled the exotic air along the
banks of the river Thames. This old river, rumour has it, once caught
fire due to the pollution. Burn on, big river, burn on. Erik, of course
(did I say of course?), decided that he ought to touch the river, being
that we were so close and all. So, he inched his way down the edge of
some mossy steps to have a look...
Jay liked Erik's idea, too, though he decided to forego the "inching
his way" portion. Instead, he simply walked, tall and proud, down
those mossy concrete steps...then bounced down the last ten on his back,
past Erik, past that point, straight into the Thames. It was Erik's unrepeatable
shouts that got our attention. We turned to see Jay, coolers in tow, bobbing
out to sea. Well, a few FEET out to sea, but at first glance it looked
grim. In reality he was able to climb out of his own accord, gooping wet,
swampish and stunned, runny with green and brown muck. Some swabbing of
scrapes and wringing of shoes ensued, as our horror turned to laughs.
It was clear that Jay had only one destination this day: away from us
I mean home to change.
The rest of us? We went shopping.
Jay insists that I mention that a pigeon defecated on my head from a fifth
floor perch, and you will note that I have mentioned the direct hit and
now we shall say no more.
In the evening we reconvened for another London gig at a stylish pub called
The Larrick, not far Andy and Jo's, in Crouch Hill. We walked the rainy
mile or two to the place which was, to our excitement, bright with modern
wood furnishings and packed with people. But unfortunately, there was
no P.A. system. After some screaming minutes of attempted singing we realized
that we were no match for the very loud, stogie-toting crowd. To save
the day we decided to go mariachi-style, singing table-to-table for anyone
that would listen/could hear. Project Mariachi worked nominally well,
but after one set we were just looking to finish the evening, get paid
and go home.
The second set, however, turned around. A rowdy table that had seemed
to be mocking us earlier instead called us back to sing for their friend,
who was leaving for a life abroad. We did impromptu request versions of
"Hit the Road Jack" and "Leaving on a Jet Plane",
along with a few other sing-along songs, and soon we were all fast friends.
And suddenly we were fast friends with half the place! There was dancing,
and requesting, and general mayhem, enough to make us stand still and
scream for our new gang. Thanks to the twin waitresses, the actress, the
cigar smokers, the lascivious dancer, Andy's Table 'O Friends, and all
the others who made the night a final success.
One last event for the evening: Bruce and Mike made a trip out to Green
Lane for kebabs. Wow--LOTS of kebab for the money! And there were many
leftovers. And it was good.
Saturday, June 2
So there you are, you wake up knowing it's the last day of the last leg
of a once-in-a-lifetime trip. What's to be done today? How can you capture
the essence and spirit of the journey, making sure nothing is left undone,
that no regrets lurk about?
Right. You split up and go shopping.
The thing is we really did. Granted, we did do some sitting around in
Andy and Jo's garden, and we did breakfast on toasts and teas (and kebabs),
and there was packing, and there was well-focused laziness. But the truth
is we really did shop away our very last day.
Andy and Jo re-joined us mid-day, returning from their exploits in Greece,
filming rare and elusive Grecian chameleons. They found some, it turned
out, actually some17 new species of critters in total. Despite some ruined
tape and much lost sleep, the outing was deemed a success and may actually
lead to a television spot. Fingers crossed. We met them half way from
the Tube station to heft their bags--the least we could do!
There really doesn't seem to be much to say about the shopping outing.
There was a pilgrimage to King's Cross, Platform Nine and Three Quarters,
to be exact. Bruce managed to secure a set of unadulterated Harry Potter
books in their proper British casting as well. Once again we reconvened
for dinnerAnd so, soon we began our trip, by multiple forms of municipal
transportation, we all made our way to Moriarty's, on Liverpool Road,
for our last gig of the trip. Moriarty's is a nice, spacious pub with
a dimly lit upstairs for music. When we arrived, we were rather stunned
by two pieces of news: a) our payment for the evening was to be one pound
per person who claimed to come to see us, and b) the first band of the
evening was an a cappella group, Citizen X. Not just an a cappella group,
mind you, but a damn good one, performing tight R&B arrangements as
well as gospel. You could feel the collective CAG nervousness, should
you be into such things.
But you know? The thing of it is, CAG loves to sing, we love to sing to
good crowds, and we were SO lucky to have the enthusiastic Moriarty's
crowd for our last performance overseas. There were Andy and Jo, and Kate
and Dave (Jo and Kate are sisters, Dave is a Big Deal-er), Allison (another
Big Deal alum), friends from the Larrick from the night prior, Dorothea
(yes, the same Dorothea--am I dreaming this?) and of course all the members
of Citizen X. After a slightly shaky start we could sense that everyone
was on our side, and as the audience filled up (maybe100 people?) we found
ourselves in our element. We convinced Citizen X to join us for a massive,
impromptu "Stand By Me," and Steve brought the place down with
"Let's Get It On" and "Just My Imagination." Who cares
that we earned 15 pounds for the night (can you believe they paid us $22
for an hour?!? To split amongst us!)? We may not have been perfect, but
we definitely did our thing, and that night our thing was just the right
thing to do.
So, we ended the evening with a few drinks at the long table with the
whole crowd gathered 'round. We lingered a while but eventually there
was nothing to be done but to submit to the first round of goodbyes. Goodbye
everybody, so long Kate, bye Dorothea, goodbye Dave! We piled into taxis,
knowing that we had a late night of packing ahead, followed by long nights
of driving in opposite directions for early flights to here and there.
We forced our stuff back into stuff sacks, duct taped the boxes of unsold
CDs, split up the unsold tour shirts, and put it all away.
At two in the morning, Steve and Ashley, bound for Milan, and Erik and
Kristin, bound for their first-anniversary trip to Ireland, piled into
the slightly bedraggled rental car, removed the 85 parking passes from
the dashboard, and waved to us, windows down, as they drove off. Goodnight
Steve, cheers Ashley, see you soon Kris and Erik.
At three in the morning Harold, Bruce Jay and I crammed our gear (packed
to thwart RyanAir's weight restriction gestapo), into the second, somewhat
ding-ed, rental. Free from all our junk, Andy and Jo's place looked downright
spacious again. We waved goodbye to our incredibly gracious friends and
drove out, into the night, to meet our morning flight at Stanstead. Goodnight
Andy, goodnight Jo, we'll see you again someday, Vader. And thus, friends,
ended the Catacoustic Groove European Tour. ***
Closing notes July 2001
I'm writing this last section from my desk in my studio in my house in
sticky-hot Tucson. Already, so soon after our return, the trip is becoming
a little surreal. Events are beginning to slip away (dinner on the last
night? A total blank). It's powerful scary how fast it gets away!
Our trip was purely wishful thinking for so many months, all the way up
until we said so long to Heidi in Phoenix and stepped onto the plane.
After that, we were simply in a whirlwind of a trip, with barely-met people
and unexplored towns fading from memory at every turn. You want to hold
on to it all, right? More than just the general feelings. You want to
record the gritty details and the good gossip to make the Telling of the
Story appropriately amazing.
I'm glad we have this diary--faulty maybe, but soon to be the definitive
source of trip data. I know we've left out many good parts (Yeah, Mike,
what about Deborah?? Deborah--thanks for taking the time to record us
on the streets in Munich!! Can't wait to hear the tapes some day.) But
hopefully it will prove reliable enough to recall the good spaetzel and
bad bunks, the gale force of Andy's enthusiasm, the dang unbearable cuteness
of that Munich kid in his stroller.
In this brief post-trip bubble the memories are still visceral and the
faces are still attached to voices at pubs. Sure, there were things we
didn't get to do (big sigh for Prague), but there were also great surprises
(a May Pole ceremony in Bavaria? Who could plan that?) I think at this
point it's undeniable: we, Catacoustic Groove, had a fantastic trip.
Soon enough the whole trip will distill down to a few snippets from the
gigs, a snapshot of Jay bobbing along, maybe a glimpse of that great plywood
backdrop that framed our quieter sets in Munich. It will all blur together
soon enough, everyone knows that. But I suspect that it's going blur well.
One last thing: our deepest gratitude goes out to everyone who supported
us in this venture, from our send-off crowd in Tucson to our send-off
cat in London. You've made such an impact on us!
See you at the next world tour.