Blog: Jules the Mobile Yoga Master’s Ramblings (Autumn 2008)

Gumbo in Boston

14th September 2008 | Juliet

We arrived in Boston at 6am after driving through the night from New York where we had been doing production rehearsals. All still a bit jetlagged. Get off bus which is parked at the venue the Paradise and check in hotel a couple of miles away. Set off to the venue for soundcheck later pm.  It’s a dark rock club, bit like the Boardwalk in Manchester. The dressing room carpet is leopard skin, nice touch, and the walls are black. Half way through the sound check there’s a bit of a disaster – flames coming out of the big plug thing.  “Call an electrician,” says the bloke in shorts, and someone does.

Before long, the soundcheck resumes. Support band Unkle Bob have their Winnebago camper van parked up outside. They are cooking on the bus. We go to the Mexican fast food place a few doors down and eat gumbo. It comes in all styles including chicken and veggie, which makes Andy and Larry happy. Spicy mexican burritos and whatever you want.

The gig goes well.

Day two: Boston again

15th September 2008 | Juliet

Chaos again cos we haven’t quite got a full time tour manager this tour. This is a bit experimental for us. We are kind of having to work out what is going on for ourselves and rumour has it we are leaving at 3pm but everyone drifts off and eventually reassembles via the gumbo mexican restaurant for a soundcheck. We end up doing some new song Don’t Wait That Long…

Saul got a bit of shoulder injury from the gym so he has a little shiatsu on the leopard-skin beer-stained carpet backstage; a few towels make a futon substitute.

Great gig, audience up close and personal, then a guy who we met last night takes Saul’s guitar and plays on Come Home. Saul plays tambourine. It’s now 3am and we are all back on the bus, showered and ready to go to Philadelphia.

Tuesday: Philadelphia Trocadero Theatre

16th September 2008 | Juliet

We travelled overnight down to Philadelphia on the bus which took about 7 hours. Hardly slept. Those of us who woke at 7 after a series of multiple road lumps wanted to eat breakfast and kept saying, “Eggs, we want eggs!” But the day room hotel wouldn’t have us til 3pm. Saul got us a new hotel – a dodgy motel, two day rooms for us to get washed and sorted. Then we headed off for eggs. Ended up walking along a freeway to find the 24-hour diner, passing 24-hour golf and 24-hour peepshows and 24-hour talk booths.

The diner was busy with very large locals. There were piles of pancakes with maple syrup and stacks of toast being consumed. I joined in the swing of big eating with four poached eggs. Jim had corned beef hash with his eggs and Dave had sausages. The others were somewhere else eating eggs. Saul was running. Tim was sleeping.

Next, back on the bus and heading downtown to Chinatown where the Trocadero is. It’s the oldest operating theatre in the USA. It used to be a burlesque theatre. It’s a shabby old place with sticky carpet, red velveteen, and gold paintwork on ornate pillars. Jim got a cockroach in his coffee and they were in the shower too. But the acoustics were OK.   We ate locally in the restaurant round the corner. Thai chicken and Pad Thai style things and spring rolls.

Gig set list caused the usual disputes, what order should things go, what should and shouldn’t be left off the set… What works for who and why is all considered and finally the show starts with Seven. Andy wears his red dress tonight.

Good crowd, lots of dancing, and lots of James t-shirts old and new in the audience. A stage invasion for Laid the end of the gig.

Sit about in dodgy cockroach dressing room discussing 9/11 etc. Much heated debate about conspiracy theory etc.

Time to drive down to Washington. Two hours to go… listening to Glasvegas in the front lounge, its on loud.

Wednesday in Washington: Day off

17th September 2008 | Juliet

Travelled through the night. Much partying on the bus. Got in to the grounds of the hotel at 5am. Had to hang on in there til midday for rooms. So, much sleeping to be done in the bunks. Hotel plush but surrounded by endless traffic… here it’s unusual to see anyone walk. Cars fly past the hotel in all directions.

On days off we all do our own thing; trip to the gym, a run (not round here probably), a swim, or like Andy and Mark watch a game of footie on the bus. Larry and Jim are having a coffee in reception’s very own Starbucks. Saul has gone straight to New York with Unkle Bob. Theres tons to do in Washington but mustering the energy is another matter.

Today is a day off. Its official. It says so on the day sheet which gets posted under the door whilst we are sleeping. The day sheet also tells us it’s Wednesday.

Washington D.C.

18th September 2008 | Juliet

Larry says last night they went for drinks and comedy in an area called Adams Morgan or as the locals call it Madam’s Organ.

Dave ate cranberries, dried apricots and unsalted peanuts yesterday. That was all. Oh but he remembered he also went for a Vietnamese meal in the evening.  A sound bloke Dave met during the Millionaires era is bringing him a bottle of Tequila tonight.

Band has a show for some competition winners for a radio station. It was a small gig in a club for an audience of 100 in the poshest town of America says Larry. The streets look as if theyve been hoovered. Different to the filth of Philadelphia says Dave. Everybody but Mark did it. He wasn’t there due to technical set up requirements of his monster rig. They played Laid, Oh My Heart and Hey Ma, Out to Get you and Born of Frustration were in there.

It was really good said Jim, everyone seemed to enjoy it.

We all met again later at 3ish at the venue 9.30 club in Washington DC. Great vibe in the place. Staff seem really friendly and the rider is good. Loads of fresh fruits and berries as well as organic veg for juicing. Super power juicer. Carrot, beetroot and pineapple with ginger goes down well as the band arrive.

I go to Wholefoods to buy stuff for the bus. Good organic brown bread, cheese, butter, tons of muesli and granola like cherry and vanilla flavour.

Tim eats early, chicken and roast sweet potatoes, and gets some sleep on the bus. The rest of us do our thing. There’s a free laundry upstairs in one of the rooms. Hang out in the two layered dressing room with mezzanine bunk platforms. Then the salsa and veggie chilli arrives. Time to track down the iron and ironing board… will the iron have gaffer tape imprinted onto it?

Some family has driven from Florida to go to the gig tonight cos this is the nearest gig to Florida.

El Tesoro

20th September 2008 | Juliet

We just woke up in a parking lot on the bus, on the outskirts of New Jersey near the Sheraton Hotel. The bus got bashed last night. It hit a wall outside Radio City after the gig.

Radio City is a really incredibly ornate venue, like going back in time but with security tighter than at the White House.

Yesterday started with New York Fire Department being called in to check the colour web/lighting screen which someone had “tested” by setting light to the nylon. It had gone up in flames and it was decided the whole lighting system was a no go area. However the Firemen said it was OK in the end.

As we had driven through the night from the 9.30 Club, everyone knackered. Tim rolled up in duvet down in the small dressing room; Jim shopping, showering and tootling around the venue. Larry took loads of photos of the features of the building.

Gig at Radio city was a very different vibe, more of a sit down and listen musical gig than the rock n roll, audience-in-your-face of the last three. Here it was proper velvet seats and grand theatre. Somehow by the end the audience were on their feet. It was more like a matinee dinner dance at the beginning.

I went to Central Park south side and walked round the sanctuary. Checked out Zara. Located the Museum of Modern Art but didnt go beyond the shop. Went to Hells Kitchen to find a 99cent store to buy I LOVE NEW YORK mugs for the bus and some Chinese china spoons for breakfast (the metal ones had sharp edges).

Passed kids popping and locking in Hells Kitchen park. Woman haggling in the 99cent store. I bought three butter knives for a dollar for Larrys toast on the bus. Peeked in at the Brill Building where all the great songwriters did their deals. Mirrored hallway, grand and fancy, like being in an old black and white movie. Through Times Square, a giant Leicester Square, and back to venue for dinner in the basement of Radio City. Roast salmon with berries on top and roast carrots with their green tops on… Salad with gluey blue dressing.

Dressing room quiet. Ironing, head shaving, lying on the floor, all very peaceful. Carpet very clean. Big bouquet of flowers in dressing room. Lights that work all round the mirrors. Proper backstage scene, showers that run both hot and cold,  and toilets that flush. But that was yesterday….

Today stumble off bus into bright sunlight. Go for a walk with Chris the American guy who does the lights in his turbo dynamic style. We find a park 200 yards from this hotel car park and take some sunlight. I hang off a climbing fame to stretch my spine. There are lots of squirrels about but we don’t see deer. Kids are playing basket ball.

Everyone else showering in the day room or doing laundry or drinking coffee and slowly coming to. Dave’s first bottle of El Tesoro Tequila  is nearly gone after last night. But there’s another full one beside it.

Tonight there is gonna be a long drive to Canada… and a wake up for passports somewhere  on the border…

Sharks and Sacred Land: Asbury Park, New Jersey

21st September 2008 | Juliet

We drove through the night after the gig in ………was it Washington?….and woke on the bus to bright sunshine late morning. Walked along the miles of boardwalk, passing a disused empty Victorian casino which was used to film Jesus Christ Superstar, and wooden huts selling quesadillas and coffees and a clam place. It felt like a ghost town. A man was sculpting a fairy castle on the sands and a crowd watched him. The sun shone. There was no one swimming. Dogs were walking. Made friends with a pony-sized Great Dane. Dog of the day.

We all gather at the Stone Pony from where we can see the sea. Tim and Larry arrive by train. They took a hotel room last night to avoid 2 nights on the bus.

In the seventies Bruce Springsteen used to play the club. Met a Frank Zappa lookalike who said he’d seen Bruce for a dollar. Patti Smith used to play this venue and her mum would watch from the side of the stage. One wall is embellished with real guitars, signed and strung up to give the place a real sense of history. Its another small black-painted-wall club. A trailer complete with brown corduroy, velveteen upholstery and mousetraps is out the back.  It’s the dressing room. “It’s got atmosphere,” says Dave. Everybody else thinks it stinks.

The Mayan guy from El Salvador gives me some history on the area.”There were the shark attacks around the 30′s and 40′s, and so people stopped coming. There even used to be a funfair in the Great Gatsby times. Then there’s the fact that some people think there’s a lot of sacred land over there so projects don’t get finished. The place became a bit of a ghost town then the Stone Pony arrived in the 70s… The Stone Pony is the only thing that kept this town alive…”

So it’s a packed house when the band get on stage. Five minutes before they go on half the band are on the bus and half are in the trailer out the back. Separated by heaving audience… Hmm and it’s four minutes to go. Tim is having his ears attached by Magic who has to work his way back to the side of the stage in three minutes. Then Tim loses his earring. It’s a crisis.

All on the bus finally ready to go to stage. The gig is a storm. Audience dancing in the open-air extension out the back. Whole place pumping. Walls are jumping. Clean cut American guy asks me, when they do an unusual encore of Sit Down, “hey I never heard this, what album is it on?”

After the show Tim drinks champagne with his mate Lenny from the Patti Smith band. There is much partying in the trailer. We run out of beer, again… Then we go to the gay disco for a quick drink at the Empress Hotel where we had a day room. Glitter ball hanging over the swimming pool outside, Andy and Saul had used the pool earlier and had been excited all day to find out why indeed it was there? Now we knew. The disco was like that Fellini film. Before we knew it it was five to two and time to run back to the bus.

Wake up on the bus at 9am. Do a bit of hoovering and chucking out the remnants of last night. Everyone has got to get up for the border checks. Make a huge pot of coffee. Incredible scenery as we pass Adirondack Park Preserve (sic) heading up to the Canadian border. Endless xmas trees, bright blue sky….

All fruit including a magnificent pineapple and 4 lbs of strawberries has to be chucked off the bus in Plattsburgh service station. Dave also gets left off the bus. He rings 20 minutes later with his last dollar of credit to say, “I appear to have been left behind.” Mark sends him a glib text to ask if he wants us to come back and get him? Finally we get to the Canadian border. We are warned to behave. The guards get on the bus and we get off.  No jokes allowed. Paul the driver enjoys telling a rather long yarn about musicians who got their “cavities searched….”

Cavities intact we get back on track and finally, a football match later, brought to us by Mark from the UK via his computer and his telly at home (don’t ask me), we get to Montreal at 3pm. Today is called a day off. It says so  on the sheet.

Montreal

22nd September 2008 | Juliet

It was very french in Montreal and I ate french onion soup twice. Walked along the waterside. Very chi chi.

Jim says it was the best gig of the tour for him so far. It was the gig that had sold the least of the tour but was incredible in the end with the audience’s enthusiastic response. Someone brought some little tins of maple syrup, one for each of the band. And there were gifts from Peru from Fernando of Peruvian hats for Jim, Tim and Larry.

Drove overnight to Toronto. 7 hour drive….

Bank Robbers, Racoons and Phoenix Nights

23rd September 2008 | Juliet

“Such a gentleman and such a talented man. Kulas is part of the family of James and its nice to know our family members still want to take part,” said Andy after the Toronto gig.

We drove overnight from Montreal and parked up outside the mental health centre, next to the Phoenix Club. Me and Jim up n about first, went for walk in the botanical gardens. Giant cacti the size of Habitat light shades and lots of spiky things. We always wake up first, next Tim then whoever… Went to day room, had showers.  Went to Kulas’ house for lunch with his wife K making lovely tapas including olives and real cheese. As we eat, Unkle Bob’s van got caught up in cordoning off of road after robbery of bank and bomb-planting. Two police helicopters later and unable to get our transport we take a cab. Loads of fire engines. Back later to get Winnebago. We are surprised it hasn’t been blown up as it was the only vehicle apart from police and fire vehicles at the scene of the crime.

Back at the Phoenix Club we have a juicer and yellow carrots. Big thanks to the runner Bruce Worthington. Great gig. Kulas plays bass on Fred Astaire. And a few more songs after including Laid at the end.

There are raccoons with their babies (raccoonettes?) at the stage door all through the gig. Cuddly things with stripy tails that bite, so says the security man. Fun to watch and see. All of a sudden it’s like an episode of Northern Exposure.

Big after show party. Crates of Heineken. Can’t find a bottle opener as usual.

Set off for Chicago in the night, 2am. Border Police checks chuck us off the bus at 4am. We are knackered. Wake at 1.30pm the next day…we are in Chicago. News from home is that Sit Down has been played at the labour party doo-da in Manchester.

We are finally checked into the hotel that has a curious smell of wee throughout. Its now 3pm. Could it be the carpet cleaner? I hope so.
 
There is an exploding tomato ketchup bottle, Heinz, all over Saul and Dave at Clarke’s Diner. It looks like a knife fight has gone on. It freaks the staff. They bring towels and knock 25% off the bill.

Later Tim, Jim, Saul and Mark go see Sigur Ros play. Me n Andy go for Mexican food and a margarita…. and talk music and Chinese medicine.

Thursday Chicago. The Vic Theatre.

25th September 2008 | Juliet

There has been time for much laundry and dry cleaning. I went to Whole Foods and bought the granola aisle, and oats and carrot juice and real bread and real cheese; the latter two being hard to find in diners etc… Stocked up for the long haul that is coming soon…

The taxi driver explained how in the Chicago accent there’s no TH sound. It becomes a D. Hence everyone sounds like they in an old gangster movie. “Put dat gun over dere” etcedera. The taxi driver explains it comes from the Slavic peoples, this D thing…

“Chicago is gritty city but the people are very nice,” said Jim. A bit like Manchester hey? And it rained in the night.

Saul bought some wild new stage outfits today.

Re: Sigur Ros gig Saul said, “It was a lesson in deconstructing the strictures of modern pop music, thus reminding me of a blend of Soft Machine and the Pale Fountains.” Whatever.

We hung out in Clarke’s Diner a bit. Drinking weak coffee and eating eggs in the style of omelettes and eggs benedict.

Turner Ballroom Milwaukee

26th September 2008 | Juliet

Yesterday in Chicago the aftershow carried on in the diner over the road… We finally left town at 2am. Milwaukee not far. Parked up outside hotel for a while. Sleeping on the bus getting easier. Stationary sleep becomes an unusual event. We’ve been doing overnights on the bus for 4 out of 5 nights…

Milwaukee seems like a quaint peaceful town. River and malls. Go and buy socks in TJMaxx, just like TKMaxx. Just round the corner there is a beerfest. Me n Mark eat a Caesar salad at Buck Bradley’s. Blackened chicken done their special way. Tastes great. A polka band are playing wearing lederhosen and hats with feathers…….before going into a cabaret style version of That’s Why the Lady is a Tramp…..

Tim, Jim, Larry and Andy doing a radio show. It’s sunny and warm today.

The venue is 100 years old, dark wood stylish old place with a very slopey floor. Windows covered in posters of the B-52′s and Josh Rouse to give a stained glass light effect in an unusual kind of way. The ballroom is a stunning building with a kids tumbling studio downstairs. It has a tasteful, clean dressing room and modern shower. We are very happy about this. Larry takes a photo of the shower curtain. He sees James daisies everywhere. There is much showering and Unkle Bob shower too. There is even an in-house juicer so we run out of carrots quite soon. Another three bags arrive and then me n Geoff get to a bit of post-juice bottling before it all gets packed away. There are some interesting yellow beetroots which look like giant radishes. Geoff the Unkle Bob chef goes wild and juices half a ton of celery and it tastes dreadful. Don’t say I didn’t warn you… He then looks dismayed at the pineapple pulp and whisks that off to use in something he is creating later.

The people who work at the Turner are really friendly and helpful. Especially in catering where there is an array of mexican options and a vat of fluorescent green margarita containing 3 bottles of tequila. We steer clear til later and it ends up on the bus til then.

Take Tim back to Buck Bradley’s. The oompah band have gone away. But the Usinger’s sausage factory is a good point of reference to head for. The bar is a long one with a great atmosphere. Tim has blackened fish and is really happy with that.

The gig is a stormer. A guy called Eric has asked to propose on stage to his future wife. He does this near the end of the show. Then the band play Star…..she’s a star… Eric even got down on one knee. The ballroom slopes forward so there is a feeling of dancing forward. The place is packed but there’s a bit of breathing space at the back. There’s a little lookout square window just outside the dressing room where you can see the show.

A woman gives us orange roses outside the dressing room. There is an aftershow which is packed. The two guys who helped me with my suitcase randomly got tickets to the aftershow, good karma to them. The couple who bought me and Mark lunch were there. Hello and thanks to all them. Lots of good people. Much signing of t-shirts and singles and Larry explains about the artwork being changed with the baby and the bricks and the gun…. We finally set off at 2am to Minneapolis… It’s a long drive and I wake at 9 and head out off the bus passing a neonlit place called Sexworld to a charming Dunn Brothers cafe where I drink a well brewed tasty coffee…..life is good…

Over to Tim today

27th September 2008 | Juliet

Hi again, we have just passed the halfway point of the tour and realised haven’t had much input from Tim so here goes over to Tim now…

Tim’s catch up blog Minneapolis…

As with most of the band, I came on this tour with some trepidation. The last time we toured the States was the Lollapalooza tour, playing to melody-phobic Korn fans in a neck brace having ruptured 2 discs. To varying degrees that tour broke the spirit of the band, reaching a nadir with the Millionaires album. So some of us carried the ghost of that tour. I am very happy to report that the ghost has been exorcised. The love and appreciation we have been showered with on a nightly basis has been overwhelming. So many personal stories from people who have been waiting 15 years to see us. The concerts have been mutual love-ins. I am almost embarrassed to be standing there with a half moon grin on my face. It’s decidedly uncool, un-NME, un-English. But it’s real, so fuck self-conscious judgements. Great nights standing on stage listening to this astonishing orchestral cacophony, as I stand in the centre of the hurricane. I have never felt such prolonged ecstasy in James, and I have hardly seen it in other bands. It takes hours to come down afterwards.

The Fine Line Cafe, Minneapolis Saturday…

27th September 2008 | Juliet

Very small stage for James tonight. Gig goes well, slight Spinal Tap moment with dry ice all over Jim and Saul for the first three songs. Finally get the bloke on the stairs to shift the pump back but now its all over Dave. So second try and it’s shooting ice up towards the air conditioning and basically out and away… Tim in fine form. He throws his hat at Magic in the dark… Band feeling well.

All a bit unsure of this massive drive 25 hours to Denver. Over Thai food we discuss bus mess. Socks must now be engaged in plastic bags as must other soiled articles. No bags on seat at back lounge. Use the junk bunk. Keep your water bottles to yourself and generally keep the air circulating…

Post gig blitz of back lounge by me and Saul . As Tim is not on the bus and he is allergic to perfume, Saul and I take it on ourselves to blast the back lounge with my Clarins Eau Dynamisante. It takes a lot of spraying. We can use geranium oil next time I say. Saul grabs the red bottle and sprays ad lib into the back wardrobe copiously. I’ll get some more he says.

Then we get the hoover out. Everyone lifts their feet in the air and shouts loudly ‘you missed a bit’,  I know, I know. Saul then adds the hose (technical bit) and does the corners and the missed bits. Exhausted I sit down with a glass of wine which is the one that nice man Scott gave us at the Stone Pony. It’s covered in wire mesh so must be good. Mark has been saving it in his bunk for the right moment. Saul whisks the hoover and its attachments away and is now mopping the kitchen floor with a vanilla wet wipe which is semi attached to the moppette thing. Fresh or what.

But there is a major problem. Somebody has done a poo in the toilet. It must have been someone other than us. A friend of someone who didnt know that it is not possible to poo in the loo. There is much detective work. Nobody knows how this has occured. Mark our wonderful zen tour manager says there is gonna be a 500 dollar fine for this. Oh no. Apparently you can get a loo with a grinder but that makes for an extra cost of 100 dollars a day… When Paul the driver gets on at 2.30am we sit quiet as he empties the bins and also the floodgates under the bathroom. Nobody says anything but the smell is gone…

We sit up watching Brass Eye which Dave has brought with him…much laughing til 5am….
Arrive in Omaha and check into a hotel for the day. It’s sunny…there is even grass to sit on outside. Its Sunday today.

I blitz the fridge and rearrange the beer into the fridge on the left. There are 12 boxes of brown sugar in the cupboards… throw out tons of plastic cheese slices, edges curling, and lost pots of ageing salsa and hummous. Asking Saul’s advice first I decide to plan a midnight cheese and wine featuring last night’s rider pineapple….the bus leaves at 1am…we are also in a different time zone we think.

OMAHA a day off one Sunday in September

28th September 2008 | Juliet

We pulled in to the Comfort Inn at around 10am… Rooms ready, a miracle, hooray, but then this is the bible belt…  We have the day off here on the way to Denver. Paul our driver has to sleep. We are to reconvene at 1am in the night…

We sleep and wash our handwash only… and I do some yoga after sleeping for 3 hours. More on yoga later, there’s a cosmetic surgery outside  the hotel…

8pm-ish we go to the Cheesecake Factory and eat nice food. Me and Larry go to Wholefoods across the motorway and buy exciting olives and good rye bread and cheese, blue and smoked and soft and Jarlsberg and little tomatoes. Mark and Saul and Stewart from Unkle Bob (who took the spare bunk last night) have an aperitif  while we are gone.

Back to hotel. There’s a thunderstorm. We get on the bus. The cheese and wine has been postponed til the desert crossing.

We are going overnight to Denver. Chris says it will be great to see the mountains into Colorado in the morning… I am looking forward to that.

Good night.

Denver Ogden Theatre: Monday. Laundry at Smiley’s and Tina Turner’s friend

29th September 2008 | Juliet

We drove through the night from Omaha. There was a bit of singing of “Omaha” to the tune of ”Oh My Heart” as we set off in the rainstorm and a few lines of ‘A boy leaning against a wall of rain calling come on thunder’…and it came on…first storm of the tour…Long night drive down to Denver..

Denver parked up outside Smiley’s. Perfect. Huge Laundromat with all the locals doing their thing. It has a black and white checked floor which adds to the scene and very helpful staff who help work the old machines and help choose what settings. I shrink Tim’s checked trousers by mistake. They went in with all the rest in his bag clearly marked laundry. I break it to him gently when he flies in to Denver from Minneapolis…

The Ogden Theatre has had a lot of famous people performing there. Nick Cave last week. Houdini had performed there. Because Denver is one mile high, and the air is a bit thin, the venue lay on an oxygen cylinder for performers. Dave had a go on it, as did Andy so he could blow his trumpet.

Jim is ready to go home now. He says the tour is too long and he wants more days off and doesn’t like being surrounded by this many people.

Larry is loving it all. Last night he  went dancing with a stripper who dances in a lesbian bar in New York. They went  to Charlie’s, a gay bar across the road, where beer was 25 pence a pint. Later he was befriended by a toothless old black guy who had been a friend of Tina Turner back in the day.

Mark the tour manager dazzled us this morning in his brightly coloured new harlequin socks as we drove over the high desert plains towards Salt Lake City. The light was stunning. There were incredible flat top  giant sandcastles on the horizons.  I bought some bread at the truckstop from Walmart. Pumpernickel and Italian rosemary…

Tim and Andy Diagram have flown to the west coast today to see relatives. We will all meet again in San Francisco…

Still on the way to San Francisco

1st October 2008 | Juliet

1st October Wednesday

We are driving through the mountainous desert type landscapes. Sometimes Xmas trees, sometimes lakes, like giant Scotland. The light is beautiful, bright and every scene is National Geographic for a good few hours.

The time has changed and it’s now earlier in the day than we thought. We are watching the CNN news and drinking coffee. The granola has run out so we have to add bits of almonds and things in the cupboard to breakfast.

Larry woke up with a nose bleed which is due to the altitude we think or general over-excitement. We suggest he lies down and gets his feet up. Larry reports he saw some lovely clouds yesterday in Salt Lake which were like giant fluffy cotton wool balls.

In Salt Lake we stayed in a day room hotel situation which was great. Fell asleep as soon as I lay on the bed. Then at 4pm went to lie by the pool, but it was scorching and the piped pop music was quite different. Back in air-con hotel foyer bumped into Stuart from Unkle Bob and we had a macchiato at the hotel cafe and sat on a velvet sofa.

Later some of us went and had a bad Thai meal which had hair in the curry and no prawns in the prawn tom yum. Checking the bill, ask who had the pa le ale? (sic) (Stuart’s beer badly punctuated) But that was yesterday. We are back on board at midnight to go to San Fran.

Bad news of the day is that one of Dave’s dogs has gone missing. Dave is wearing his James dog T-shirt and is sad.

We got over the border into California bearing a pineapple and several lemons in a basket. We shared the last banana earlier.

Jim says we will have been on the bus 10 nights by the next time we will get a stationary bed. The Chicago hotel does seem like a very long time ago.

The Regency, San Francisco

1st October 2008 | Juliet

Long drive through amazing scenes continued infinitely til we eventually saw the Golden Gate Bridge…

Parked up at 2ish. Ate eggs at Mel’s Diner. Like being in the Fonz Happy Days show. Very fifties feel with the music. Go to the Wholefoods and buy more supplies, the usual bread, granola, carrot juice in bottles for emergencies.

Seems that the previous band had left bottles of spirits in our dressing room. Great show. Much partying after, including tequila found in dressing room and in bar. Very late chaos of bus invasion by everyone’s new friends, meant bus left at 2.45am. We horizontal ones pretend to be asleep behind our curtains that don’t actually block out anything except a bit of light. Eventually tour manager gets up and gently asks the party people to get off the bus. This they do once they have found their bags amongst the piles of coats, stage gear, clothes etc in the back lounge. It’s going to be a long night on the bus again up to Los Angeles.

Back behind the bunk curtains sleep follows. The party goes on in the front lounge a bit more..
Bit of a hoo-ha about whether Tim will make it for his interview tomorrow due to the hiccup of traffic.

Next morning Jimmy offers to take the blame for the chaos of leaving a bit late last night. It was the biggest party so far and everyone happy to be in California.

Anyhow Tim gets to his interview and all is well. We have had a campaign to get a hotel as it’s been a long time since beds and we check in eventually to the Farmer’s Daughter hotel…. which is in Los Angeles…it has a farmyard theme…I have a painting of chicken and another of an egg on my wall…

P.S. David got news in San Fran that his dog Bernie had been found.  It turned out that a local dog warden had picked him up–yet when David’s wife Alison phoned them, Bernie wasn’t in their records. He’d been taken fifteen miles away to a different compound by a private contractor.  David played that night like a man who’d got his dog back!

L.A., by guest Dave

2nd October 2008 | Juliet

Jules was tired today so I get to take over for the L.A. blog!  Excited for a bit of warm sun, we checked into a fab hotel and then head out to sample some of the delicious Mexican food and healthy organic veggie dishes that L.A. had to offer.  On the way to the gig a couple of us ended up in a crazy Russian karaoke cab.  We rocked the El Rey Theatre, and had a lot of fun at one of our best performances yet on this tour, if I do say so myself.  Later several of us hung out in a mutual love fest with the Unkle Bob boys at a cozy L.A. gathering.  Now San Diego is calling our names…

Last night on the bus…San Diego to Anaheim

5th October 2008 | Juliet

House of Blues San Diego

Great venue full of atmosphere. Loads of art on the walls. Quirky and bright. Art from the deep South. We have a bit of an aftershow in the main hall and I get into looking at the art. Over one of the bars it says “BE NICE OR LEAVE.” I like the painting of the gospel singers doing “Reach out and touch”… and the one of the woman who looks like she could be the mrs of the chef in South Park.

After that we went to Anaheim which took a couple of hours and parked up at Disneyland Sherarton where we eventually stayed and slept and swam and packed and unpacked and ate salad and soup.

We will have travelled 6,801 miles by the time we get to sleep tonight. Twelve bunks all stacked like sharing a room. Monkeys climbing to top bunks in the night…its been like a rolling big brother at times but no one has been evicted. Andy played DJ and Larry was in charge of all-round enthusiasm from toast to partying, Saul was professor of hygiene, Mark was maître D and wine waiter, Magic kept us going by giggling lightly, even in times of crisis, and wearing funny T shirts and thanks to Chris the bear for cracking my back. Our UK driver the Florida cowboy, Paul, drove us safely a long way.Big thanks to Mark Kocourek for his Zen calm and minimalist approach to management and showing us the way forward with socks. The juicer held out with only one attack of burn out, where it started smoking in Denver. The recepie for the most popular juice….PINEAPPLE CHA CHA is…..lots of carrots a small beetroot and two large slices of pineapple…try it and let me know. So its goodbye to the big silver bus…. No more muesli in aluminium dog bowls and no more burnt coffee no more dazed mornings trying to find Jim or Paul or Gym or Pool, or trying to check in or even a shower or even find a light switch. Sixteen nights on the bus, eight nights on land.

Getting out of Disneyland past security was almost as rigorous as getting into America.

And now we sound check at the House of Blues in Anaheim where gospel singers are finishing off their day’s worship…

Anaheim House of Blues: Mickey Mouse and all…

5th October 2008 | Juliet

The venue is again full of the most incredible art. A restaurant is attached where people are doing Sunday things, eating and drinking in a wine bar kind of way. Inside the soundcheck is going on, but step outside and you are in Disneyland, full of families and Mickey Mouse ears and purple and pink candyfloss, balloons attached to pushchairs, amongst the juice bars and Mexican eateries. It’s sunny and slightly surreal to walk outside.

Fans from the show in LA have come and are making a day of it, sitting outside the House of Blues eating late lunch in the sun. It feels like a party in the afternoon.

Nick Garside who produced gold Mother and one of the very first James demos is there at the after show. Turns out he is Tim’s neighbour, but they didn’t know it til that night. Tonight we are saying goodbye to Unkle Bob. Apart from Ron and Stewart who are coming to Mexico to do drum and guitar tech work. They are dispersing and driving their Winnebago back across the States. Everyone is very happy after the show and there is a bit of a party on the bus. Saul does a song and dance to the soundtrack of Barry Whites love songs with a cushion up his t-shirt on the drive to the airport hotel. We gather everything off the bus. Tomorrow we fly to Mexico City for the first James gig in Mexico ever….

Mexico City

7th October 2008 | Juliet

As the plane comes in to Mexico I see a city of colours. Brightly coloured buildings, cobalt blue, burnt orange scattered amongst the concrete. It’s raining in Mexico today. We check in to the hotel and end up all eating together in the most beautiful courtyard surrounded by curving pillars and fountains. The crew are all there too. We eat Mexican food which is fantastic. It’s two hours later here than in America. It’s great to all hang out together and there is relaxed talk about plans and ideas for the December shows.

Next day some of us visit the anthropological museum which is walking distance away. The ancient Mexicans were highly prolific sculptural artists. It’s a beautiful museum and the galleries go on and on. We stop for lunch in the courtyard of the museum and drink bright green “cactus juice” and lime sodas and eat great food before heading to the shop to buy books on Frida Kahlo and postcards of Mexican art.

The gig has sold out to 10,000 or so and is in the huge auditorium concert hall. It’s mostly seated with very tight security. The audience go wild. The noise from the crowd is deafening . The stage is so much bigger than any in America this tour. Loads of room for the band to move on stage. The people go wild for the song Fred Astaire and cheer to the lyric that mentions ‘go south to Mexico’!

There a big signing afterwards and lots of fans come back for the aftershow. A great venue for a party. James are happy to be in Mexico for the first time… and hope to be back soon.

Guadalajara: Tequila and Trumpets

8th October 2008 | Juliet

I first heard of Guadalajara through Kirsty MacColl’s upbeat latin song “These Shoes?” on her Tropical Brainstorm album, where she sings about her time there. Somehow I imagined a tropical paradise with palm trees and a beach. But no, its a massive city west/north west of Mexico City and it’s inland. Anyhow we got there by plane and checked into the hotel. Again there are altitude issues, it’s 1525m high and has a population of 1,670,000 it says here.

Popped to the hotel gym and did some Scooby Doo walking on the treadmill for 15 minutes to get some energy after the flight. Saul was there lifting heavy things and Jim had just finished working out. Saul showed me how to work the tricep pulley machine. No time to lose, we had to get to soundcheck. A driver took us in a mini bus to the venue.

The gig was in a big white tent, massive stage again, festival atmosphere, kind of outdoors. Loads of local people were gathered around the outskirts of the site. A quick soundcheck where Saul stood in for vocals as Tim was having a kip. He sang a version of Seven and it sounded quite authentic.

Then it was time for catering. Excellent fish in a chilli-type sauce wrapped in foil and baked, and tons of salad and clear noodle soup… We retired to the dressing room and everyone had a bit of a lie down. It was more like a kindergarten afternoon snooze than a pre-gig hype. Mark came in to get the setlist and asked, “What the….?”  We were a bit tired.

Tim arrived and suggested a warm up by singing ‘Where is the love?’ (Lose Control) acoustically and then said ‘hmm lets go on with that’. So Larry took his acoustic guitar and Tim went on singing… Andy tooted at the side despite suggestions he actually get on the stage.

Again the noise of the crowd was incredible. Cheers and chants all the way. It was a fantastic end to the tour. Local Guadalajaran kids climbed the walls of the compound to get a peek at the gig, hanging on to the walls by their arms like monkeys…

After the show the whole band and Chris, lighting man, went dancing at a local club into the small hours with a load of people we met at the gig, getting drunk on tequila shots and even dancing to White Boy.

Andy went out even later, looking for a mariachi music club. This is what he reported today, Friday evening:  Over to Andy:

“hey julietta!

me..i am totally knackered and i cant tell what time of day is. trying to stay awake so that i will get an english nights sleep, but no doubt i will be wide awake at 3 in the morning jumping up and down with my trumpet….its going to take a while to settle back.

Yes me and Tim went in search of mariachi and found a street full of musicians at 4am. they serenaded us with violins trumpets and mexican guitars.

One of the trumpet players let me have a blow and i did a few Tijuana brass blasts to much applause…cant remember much more as the tequila was flowing and i was nearly whisked off to become a permanent mariachi trumpet player.

lovely costumes …silver studded tight fitting cowboy gear with those fantastic wide brimmed mexican hats”

cha cha x

Tim’s final blog summation

9th October 2008 | Juliet

It’s 4.30am at the Rusty Trombone Club in Guadalajara. All members of JAMES, inebriated, are making their way back to the hotel as the club kicks us out. There’s a great sense of celebration amongst us and the feeling that this is one of the best tours we have ever done.

We have survived weeks living in a bus together with few hotels to break the Big Brother intensity.

The two fans who drove me, Andy and Larry back to the hotel are telling us that there is a street in the city where the Mariachi players wait for custom. Custom usually being young Mexican men who want to hire Mariachi bands to perform under the balconies of the girls they wish to woo.

“Yeah but they’re not there now? At 5am Tuesday morning,” I ask. Sofia replies that they are there all night every night.

Larry staggers off to bed when we reach the hotel. I persuade Andy that we go see if the Mariachi story is real. He is concerned that this is a front for a kidnapping cartel. I tell him he is drunk. We head off into the deserted city centre of Guadalajara. After 15mns we turn a corner, musicians in full Mariachi costume descend upon the car looking for custom, there must be sixty or so. I feel like David Attenborough approaching a colony of rare penguins. We get out, negotiate terms and take a table and chairs into the centre of a pedestrian street. The troupe surround us. Violins up close (they are the quietest), three acoustic guitars of various pitches, three singers and further away because of the volume, two trumpet players. They play for us in surround sound. One hundred year old love songs that Sofia sings along to. It’s stunning and a fantastic end to the tour. Andy is especially blown away in seeing trumpets as part of mainstream culture. Mexico was an amazing finale to the whole trip. In Mexico City itself we played to 10,000 people. Nobody had ever told us that we were popular in Mexico.

In North America we were also unprepared for the reception and the love that awaited us. People had travelled thousands of miles to see us, with some beautiful gifts and stories about how much our songs have meant to them. We will be back.

Historically it was an amazing time to be touring the States. I followed with passion the country swing towards the point of being about to elect Obama as President (as of today 15.10.08). Four months ago I read his book: “Dreams of My Father” or rather listened to it on CD. It’s not his political positions, it’s the consciousness of the man. If he becomes President I am sure he will make political decisions that I will disagree with but it is clear to me that America has never had a political leader like this at the door of power. Its not only a reflection of the man that has got us to this point but it’s also a tribute to the country that they might be able to overcome the inherent racism that is in EVERY political system and culture in the world and get over themselves. Interracial marriages have only been legal for forty years in this country! When same sex marriages become legal we will also look back with the same incredulity.

The other fascinating historical backdrop for the tour was the collapse of the financial markets. I have been studying this for a while. The whole financial system was based upon an illusion of solidity propped up by our belief in its reality; You invest £100 in the bank it can then invest £1,000. When we stopped believing, it crashed. The rescue packages may temporarily make believers of us again but the fact remains it is still an illusion, just like any religion and can always undergo a crisis of faith.

Brian Eno once said to me, and I paraphrase: The problem with Capitalism as a system is that if you have money it’s easy to make more, but if you don’t have money, it’s hard to make any.

« Back to latest Blog posts