Tues 8th March 2011
Location: Memphis, Tennessee – Nashville, Tennessee
Up at 7am for a morning television slot on Memphis’s “Live at 9” show. Try to cover our obvious lack of sleep by muscling in on some of the make-up being applied via shovel to our hosts, but to our vanity’s dismay they are reluctant to share. Bleary eyed we are sandwiched between a political debate and a garden plant study and we give a short interview before performing “Joanna” and “FallingInLoveForTheLastTime”. It feels funny doing a gig at 9 in the morning and we are all a bit delirious after only a few hours’ kip, but it seems to go pretty well. My phone vibrates for the next few hours from friends and family back in Old Blighty who have been watching the online streams.
We only have a few hours in Memphis before we have to leave for Nashville, so we only have time to make one touristy visit. It’s an easy decision to make, Graceland – the home of Elvis Aaron Presley. Elvis has always been a massive influence on me, and I pretty much believe he possessed the greatest voice I’ve ever heard. We are somewhat expectant of an anti-climax but fortunately Elvis doesn’t disappoint. Any dude that carpets his walls with green shag pile and has a mirrored ceiling is awesome in my book. And although he pretty much had the worst taste in home décor I’ve ever seen – it is exactly what we all wanted to see. We sample the fried peanut butter and banana sandwich, suffer mild heart attacks, and after sending my Mum and Dad a postcard, we leave satisfied.
Drive three hours through Tennessee to Nashville, and hit the town as soon as we arrive. None of us have ever been to Nashville before and we are literally blown away by how cool it is. Broadway is just bar after bar of classic music spilling out onto the streets and walking along the sidewalk is like skipping through tracks on your iPod every five and a half seconds. After several drinks in several bars all hosting some of the most amazing musicians we have ever seen, we settle on the famous “Tootsie’s”. It’s possibly the smallest, sweatiest and most cramped bar in all of Nashville, but the atmosphere is electric. My only real memory is that of losing my passport, and after drunkenly accusing every long-haired Nashvillian I could find, I produced it from my trouser pocket ten minutes later. Not sure when or how we got home, but I do know we had a bloody good time.
Wed 9th March 2011
Location: Nashville, Tennessee
Sleep in. Late. Walk back into Broadway for a photo session. It’s funny seeing the scene of last night’s crimes in broad daylight. It’s 3pm and I expect all to be quiet, but still the music continues. Nashville really lives up to its reputation.
Tonight we play at Third and Lindsley. It’s a brilliant crowd and once again we are overawed by everyone’s enthusiasm and receive many more amazing gifts and words of support. It’s a great gig, possibly inspired by the free shots of bourbon that keep being delivered to the stage. It would seem America has found our weakness! Again it is great putting faces to so many names of friends and followers from Twitter and Facebook and after an hour and a half of signing CDs and posters and posing for photographs, another awesome Nashville band take to the stage. We’re all having a great night and so we stay in the venue and hang out with some of the lovely ladies who have come to see us and enjoy another brilliant night of drinks and music.
Thurs 10th March 2011
Location: Nashville, Tennessee – Louisville, Kentucky
Getting surprisingly good at handling the hangovers that this tour is throwing at us. We make the four-hour morning drive to rain-soaked Louisville in good time. Or so we think. Later we learn that we crossed a time zone en-route and we spend our first couple of hours in Louisville living an hour into the future. The weather is Baltic and Robbie breaks out his Russian head attire once more. Looks like we’re gonna have to wait until Texas before we can continue the suntans we started yesterday.
After a stroll around town we head to the impressive WFPK radio station offices for an interview with DJ Laura. As well as playing “She” and “Joanna”, we film performances of “Stay” and “This Is My Story” in the gigantic live room. We later learn it is quite a popular show that seemingly everyone in Louisville has listened to whilst at work during the day. Louisville is a really cool looking place, with lots of quirky little shops reminiscent to us of Atlanta. We spend a good hour in the Guitar Emporium where I let it be known which instruments I want for my birthday, though somehow I have a feeling the boys will instead present me a Kazoo they have fashioned out of some toilet paper and a comb.
The gig itself takes place at Zanzabar, a 50s retro Americana looking venue that makes us feel very welcome. I slip into our green room which is actually a house that we have been given the keys to, and I do an interview with Noelle from the Sandbar website. She is extremely alluring and I actually find myself hoping that it is true what they say about the effects of the English accent. Three minutes in and I am already impersonating Prince Charles. The support act is Justin Lewis, a dude with a voice that belies his age and well worth checking out. The night ends well with another appreciative crowd and more drinks and music into the early hours. I didn’t know too much about Kentucky, but I’m already looking forward to coming back. George Clooney was born here too, and luckily for us not all of the guys look like him.
Fri 11th March 2011
Location: Louisville, Kentucky – St Louis, Missouri
Hit the road to St Louis. To say we are looking a little rough is like saying Charlie Sheen is only mildly fond of the occasional beer. Ten minutes onto the freeway and Keef eyes the Five O in his rear view mirror, lights blazing. Surely the cops aren’t flashing us? Keef speeds up to overtake the car alongside us in the next lane, thinking the cops are maybe just wanting to get past. However this only seems to piss them off even more. We pull over and await our fait. As the officer approaches our van I look around me. Empty beer and whiskey bottles litter the floor, there is underwear strewn across the backseat and we are clearly wearing yesterday’s clothes. This doesn’t bode well.
Mr. Policeman taps on the glass and gestures Keef to wind down the window. I whisper to him just to be cool and agree with whatever he says. Keef winds down the window, and then to my and Rob’s dismay, he actually grins the words “What seems to be the problem officer?” I fear we are now doomed. Mr. Policeman looks inside the van and raises a hairy eyebrow. “License please.” Keef fumbles around inside his jacket and hands over his photo ID complete with dodgy early 90s crew cut and Burberry football hooligan expression. “Where you boys headed in such a hurry?” the lawman inquires slowly and suspiciously. I spy the gun attached to his waist. It is big. I assume it fires real bullets and stuff. Keef lets out a nervous laugh and says “Oh it’s cool we’re musicians on our way to a show.” I put my head in my hands. Musicians = drugs = some form of search. Hopefully not the erotic variety.
I reach for the glove box thinking perhaps I can salvage the situation by offering him a complimentary CD, but quickly retract my arm as Mr. Policeman’s hand twitches over his gun. “Keep your hands where I can see them Sir.” He bellows now looking irritated. He removes his shades and takes another long hard look inside the van. “Any idea how fast you were going young man?” he says to my perspiring compatriot. “Errr…” in desperation Keef actually looks towards Richard our GPS device, in the hope that he might actually come to life and help us smooth talk our way out of the situation. But Richard remains silent. Probably doing his Pilates or something. “Well I thought I was inside the limit, maybe I was going a couple over, but not much,” Keef says back in his bestest, poshest accent of the Queen. “Well you were doing 76 miles an hour, and this is a 65 zone…” I stare out of the window ahead. To rub salt into the wound, there is actually a 75 zone sign about 30 feet in front of us. There is a pause and a silence. “Hold on a moment please.” Mr. Policeman walks back to his car and we see him pick up the radio. Robbie wants to take his photograph so that we can document the occasion in the tour photo album. Although I think this is a really cool idea I tell him that it is probably not a very cool idea.
Unfamiliar with the US legal system we start to panic a little. Keef thinks he may still actually be drunk from the night before. Its 11.08am and he says he remembers still having a Southern Comfort in his hand at 5. Awesome time to break that one to us Keef. No driver = end of tour. However I am now more concerned about the amount of drugs we have on us, and when I say drugs, I mean Paracetemol and Advil. My dear mother was so concerned that we may suffer from headaches and stomach upsets whilst on this trip, that she packed me with enough pills to open my own CVS. To me, it is overbearing parent. To the outside world, it is extremely suspicious. In my sleep deprived, paranoid state I actually consider emptying the pills out of my window. Oh yeah, cos that wouldn’t look suspicious now would it?
Once more Mr. Policeman grows larger in the rear view mirror. “Ok. I’m gonna cut you guys a break. Watch your speed.” Amazingly, he hands over a written warning and turns to head back to his car. I sense Keef about to open his mouth to say something witty and quickly jab him in the ribs. I start to feel like some kind of higher power is now actually guiding us through this epic journey, protecting us from the many perils and obstacles thrown in front of us, so that we may remain unscathed and can successfully complete our task. I think I need more sleep. The tour is back on. St Louis, clean clothes and a shower, here we come… LMD