European Tour 2001


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.

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Monday, May 14, 2001
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 used to.

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 the wind.

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 man.
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." Hoo wah.
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 not supernatural.
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 Karlsruhe.

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 it‹just 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. Now onward.
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 table.
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 that.
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 and Chris.
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 and Manchester-bound.

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, unexpectable success.

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 belligerent drunk.
It was a whirlwind trip, this Ireland bit, but worth every bloody second of it.

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 a call?
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.