Day 15 – Brighton. Billy, Paul and I were separated in the Norwich club last night by the enthusiastic after-show crowd, so we catch up on the night’s activities while running errands in the morning. Well, Billy and I are running errands. We need to buy blank CD’s and band-aids (“plasters”)–the CD’s are for selling at shows, the plasters are for Thumby, my busted thumb which refuses to help me out and just goddamn heal already. Paul has been running around Norwich all morning, visiting castles and shit. We accuse him of being a tourist and he points out that we are, in fact, the tourists, as we know practically nothing about Norwich and he knows practically everything about it.
He’s right, as usual. He also has a story to tell about last night. Apparently, he was removed from the theater and dragged out to the bar outside by a scary woman who made him showcase his exotic midwestern accent for all her drunk friends. According to Paul, everything he said floored them. Everything Paul says floors us, too, so I wasn’t surprised, but this same scary woman figured prominently in my story of last night, too. She was the one I saw licking the face of the lighting girl, who seemed bothered by it (but not nearly bothered enough, in my opinion), then she called me a “bloody yank” and told me that she knows what us bloody yanks are all about. “What’re we about?” I asked her. She opened her mouth to answer and then fell into the man standing next to her. He caught her, then mouthed the word “sorry” at me. The lady looked pretty unconscious, or at least non-verbal. “So now I’ll never know what bloody yanks are about,” I tell Billy and Paul.
Then Billy yells, “That’s the lady who called me Superman!” Of course. I’m a bloody yank and he’s Superman. At least I didn’t get my face licked.
My cooler story is about getting my palms read. Literally, they were painted red by the palm reader who’s gonna send me my reading after she’s studied my handprints. It was totally wicked; I wanted to keep the red paint as tattoos, but it washed off in the shower.
When we get to Brighton, we’re impressed by its San Francisco-like misty hills and beachy air. Our friend Sarah Jane meets us at Wagamama, where we’re relaxing over hot bowls of soup when we get a call from the theater, informing us that a film crew has been waiting there for me for seven hours. “Seven?” is all I hear Billy say when he answers the phone.
“Seven what?” I whisper.
“Finish your soup,” he whispers back.
When we get to the theater, I realize that the film crew has actually been waiting for me for more like seven months. The director contacted me about doing an interview for her documentary forever ago, and yet the crew is still polite and gracious when I finally show up. When the interview’s over, they thank me profusely for the opportunity to sit and wait for me all day. I can’t even get them into the show, as it’s been sold out forever and the guest list is full. They thank me for trying and failing to get them in (!) Brits…gotta love ’em.
Beautiful theater, perfectly attentive audience. My publisher is there, so I’m nervous, but I remember all the words, the amp doesn’t blow up and I don’t trip on anything. Whoo-hoo!
Day 16 – Driving back to Heathrow to drop off Paul for his flight home tomorrow. Bummer. We stop at Marks and Spencer for our last bag of groceries and as we’re walking out, Paul claims that the clerk told him that he loved him. “He did not,” I say.
But Paul is insistent. “You weren’t there! ‘Thank you very much, love you,’ he said.”
“That clerk doesn’t love you.”
Paul looks insulted. “Why not?”
We all agree that we will miss these things about the UK:
1. how “girls” rhymes with “dredels”
2. dressing room bowls of onions (what are they for??)
3. breathtaking ultra-green pastures
4. with panda cows in them
5. rhubarb yoghurt
Paul: “Now we’re all in agreement and happy from jokes!”
Day 17 – Portsmouth. The back seat looks very empty without Ethical Paul in it. Luckily, we have a day at the seaside to keep us entertained.
The beaches here are pebbled, it’s windy and chilly and the water is cold, but people stretch out in their bathing suits on lumpy towels, eating ice cream and sunbathing. These Brits are made of stronger stuff than us wussy yanks. “Maybe wussiness is what us bloody yanks are about,” I suggest.
“Maybe,” says Billy thoughtfully.
The last time I played this club, it was with my Mondo Band: billed as a Kristin Hersh solo show, but with the 50FootWave rhythm section and the McCarricks on strings. Tonight, I’m all alone and this stage seems…large.
I watch Chris Rees’s set, knowing it’s the last time I’m gonna see him for a while, then we exchange gifts and addresses and take pictures, like we’ve all just graduated. Musicians are goofy, lonely people. ‘Cause we get so close and then have to go so far away.
After the show, we drive back to Heathrow for two hours of sleep before our flight to Spain. We had to book an early flight in order to meet the other Muses for soundcheck at Primavera Sound. “This is gonna hurt,” warns Billy.
Days 18-21 – 4 days in Spain
We each drink half a cup of tea two hours after going to bed, can’t really manage much more than that, though I do manage to fall in love with an elderly couple on their way back to the states who take the bus called “Hotel Hoppa” with us. “Can I keep them?” I ask Billy.
“If you can take care of them, you can keep them,” he says.
Spain seems rudely sunny, like maybe it should tone it down a little until we’ve had a little sleep. Of course, we are whisked directly to soundcheck from the airport. Our set is very late, so our soundcheck is very early. I let my excitement about seeing the band again wake me up.
When we get to the stage, though, there is no band but me. I meet the very friendly crew of about fifteen, set up, swap out an amp for another, run through my sounds…still no bandmates. I soundcheck alone for a while, but it’s not very interesting without them. Then a woman with a walkie-talkie runs onto the stage and says, “There is a van coming with Muses on it.” Phew. Then she listens to the staticky Spanish coming through on her walkie-talkie and says, “No. A van with one Muse on it. The other Muse is missed.”
“Missed?” Billy and I repeat at the same time, looking at each other in fear. Long story short: after Bernie and I mess around for an hour or so, then play a few songs with the stage manager on drums (he didn’t do a bad Limbo), Dave shows up saying, “My phone is very quiet!”
After soundcheck, we spend some time with Bernie and Dave and then go to the hotel to shower and sleep before the show. It takes us a good half hour to learn to work the shower, which cuts into our sleep time a bit, but “slow pizza” and gazpacho wake us up in time to get to the dressing room and write set lists before we have to play.
The show itself is fucking enormous: 17,000 people or so, with cameras on huge robotic arms crawling around the arena, and yet, the audience listens. They seem to follow every note. Don’t know how they do that.
Primavera Sound is a musical rather than a trendy festival. I can’t tell you what a relief this is. There is always suck when it comes to a big-ass venture like a festival, but there isn’t always wonderful. In the four days that we’re here, we actually see some wonderful, of all things, and when the festival is over, the windswept grounds on the shoreline are so cool: empty and creepy, like a battlefield after a battle.
“Time to fly home to the kids and dogs,” Billy announces, packing his suitcase. “The best part of every tour.”