Trying out Google Photos story feature. Great to be back doing gigs with the JVM gang. We played at Les Ardentes in Liège and Cactus Festival in Bruges.
This is a great piece of film that captures the visuals and sound of our last show. It was a weird day, knowing that it was the final show, but it was one of our very best. I’m really glad it was recorded 🙂
You can see my mascot polar bear, that I’d picked up in an amazing hardware store in Glendive, Montana, a week previously.
Here’s a screenshot of my ursine mascot, sitting majestically on top of my beloved Nord Stage. The shot does rather fly past if you don’t know what you’re looking for!
The album’s on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/6ovbwOxYvhbLCBh8LhMVyL
I’m on a plane from Boston to Washington DC, where we play the first gig of this tour tomorrow. It’s a relatively short run, just two weeks, and in that time we’ll do eight shows: Washington DC, New York, Minneapolis, Chicago, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
I’m excited — our tour of Europe in October went really well — and also nervous. It’s cool to be going back to cities we played earlier in the year, this time to slightly larger venues. There’s a sense of growth and development that’s satisfying and gratifying. I’m looking forward to visiting Portland for the first time, too.
On the flight to Boston, Adrian and I watched the very funny ’22 Jump Street’ and then I watched some episodes of ‘Girls’, ‘Hello Ladies’, and ‘True Detective’. Cue much accent mimicking on my part in Boston airport…sorry guys!
On this flight, I started reading Amy Poehler’s ‘Yes Please’ (which is already funny and charming and wise) and listened to a wonderful recording of Shostakovich’s 2nd piano concerto, played by Elisabeth Leonskaja with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (it’s on Spotify — check it out).
There are kids in this airport with ‘Class of 2020’ shirts on! On that note…here’s to a brilliant tour!
Packing for our three-week tour, taking James Vincent McMorrow’s ‘Post Tropical’ show for its second jaunt around Europe. I’m excited to get back on the road again, back to our own shows, as opposed to all the festivals we did over the summer. Back to cities we visited earlier this year, and also heading to places we haven’t been to before (Milan, Barcelona, Madrid, Fribourg, Utrecht).
New song from James — cannot *wait* to play this live!
This is one of my favourite Neil Hannon songs, from the ‘Regeneration’ album. I hadn’t seen the video until this morning, when I got to it in rather a roundabout way. I was watching Portlandia, season 2, the episode where Kirsten Wiig plays the groupie/stalker/kidnapper. Amber Tamblyn does a turn as an intern in the feminist bookstore, too. And there’s another guest, Miranda July, who plays someone who’s had a bunch of jobs but, happily (and to a musical number) “she’s making jewellery now”.
Miranda July is a Portland-based artist, married to artist Mike Mills who directed the ‘Bad Ambassador’ video. There’s a connection, too, via the roller-skating theme, to the video Emma J Doyle and Cory Philpott shot in San Francisco for James Vincent McMorrow’s song, ‘Gold’…
…which we’ll be performing a special version of at Electric Picnic this weekend!
All airports have three-letter identifying codes. Dublin is DUB, London Heathrow is LHR, Sydney International is SYD…so far, so decipherable. The Canadian airports’ codes, for some reason that I can’t Wikipedia right now, begin with ‘Y’. Toronto Pearson is YYZ and Edmonton, where I’m currently flying from, is YEG. Whatever the reason, it works brilliantly in this day and age of hashtags. Canadians are famously proud of where they’re from (backpackers sewing flags on their packs is a charming cliché), and using these tags online is another example of that instinct.
Last night we played the main stage of the Edmonton Folk Festival. I had a thoroughly enjoyable day and was really really impressed by the hospitality we were shown as well as the myriad little touches that belie the festival’s strong ethos and thirty year history.
The stages are set at the bottom of steep hills, creating natural amphitheatres. The deal is that you bring a tarpaulin and literally stake your claim. (There’s a prize to be won each year of being the first on site, so you can get the best spot.) Festival goers can get little tealights so, for us on stage, that meant looking out at a twinkling tidal wave, topped last night by a beautiful yellow moon.
It’s probably a bit vulgar to talk too much about how well we get treated sometimes. (Naturally, sometimes it’s exactly the opposite!) Edmonton was lovely, though. The festival is staffed by a veritable army of volunteers — three or four thousand, we reckoned — and it gives a reassuring sense of community and calm to the proceedings. Massage, expert tea brewers (a big plus for we Irish!), tasty food, blankets and extra layers and umbrellas for the uncharacteristic rain and cold we had yesterday, a work station manned by technicians who could do repairs to instruments and amps, and a million other things that succeeded in the fact that they *weren’t* obvious.
A huge bonus for me was that my favourite band of this year, Lucius, were playing straight after us. Despite our very early start this morning, I was able to stay and hear their entire set. It was the first time I’d seen them perform live, and they were brilliant! Definitely a band to go and see if you get the chance 😀
We’ve been travelling all day and are making our final approach now to Edmonton. It’s been a long day but, because of the time difference, it’s only early evening. Our show, as part of the Edmonton Folk Festival, is apparently going to be at the equivalent of 5.30am. So I’m trying not to think about that — it’s not until the day after tomorrow, anyway.
I’m really looking forward to this festival (and the Squamish Festival, outside Vancouver, that we’re playing at the following day). We’re fresh from a successful week in France, Spain, and Switzerland and have been playing well together. It was especially gratifying in Spain — a territory James hasn’t visited often — to see the beachfront arena fill steadily as we went through our set until there were people as far as the eye could see! It’ll be brilliant to do some full shows there on our European tour in October.
The various changes and tweaks I’ve been making to my setup have been working out well. We switched out the clarinet and the lapsteel and put those parts onto synths, which makes things a lot simpler for festivals. I got my Nord Stage to communicate better with the Mainstage program on my laptop (it runs the soft synths), halving the time it takes me to change patches between songs. Lots of little things which have made a big difference.
We were in Edmonton before, back in March. It was a very memorable gig for many reasons. To recap: Our tour bus broke down outside Seattle on my birthday; with the help of the support band’s van we got to Vancouver and played our show that night; after much solution-searching, James and our tour manager drove across the Rockies in a U-Haul with all our gear while the rest of us flew to Edmonton; we put on the show of our lives (it was also the first time we’d been in a venue that could accommodate the full lighting setup). It was a beautiful venue, the MacDougall Uniting Church, and the crowd were fabulous. As was the hospitality shown to us by the local organisers, especially Steve Derpack of JCL Productions. I also recall a delicious local grapefruit ale that I’ll be seeking out…!
Yesterday we played on the radio — Ray D’Arcy’s show on Today FM. It was a really good experience. We haven’t done a lot of ‘pure’ radio as a band, i.e. without any video/webcast element. Not having a camera there made for a more relaxing atmosphere. Just as we were setting up, Eamonn Dunphy was being interviewed about the previous night’s Twitter-igniting football match between Brazil (1) and Germany (7!) in the World Cup. At one point — I didn’t catch the context — he got up out of his seat and held up a pink dress against himself. Radio allows odd things to happen. When we’d finished, a cool-looking Australian man swallowed a sword and then a lady called in and let us all listen to her enjoying a custard slice. A rich tapestry 🙂
Here’s the Australian man, Aerial Manx, swallowing the sword:
Ray asked him how far down the sword goes into his body — the tip ends up two inches below his heart…
We played James’s latest single from Post Tropical, Glacier. You can hear it here, four minutes in:
James also played his brilliant cover version of ‘Higher Love’, which you can hear just past the ten minute mark.
Finally, a video of an acoustic version of the last single from Post Tropical, ‘Gold’, that James and I performed back in April at the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto on the afternoon of our show there. I’m wearing a ‘Post Tropical’-themed t-shirt that I found in Hamburg earlier this year.
We met early at Dublin airport on the morning of the 14th and spent a full day travelling against the tide of the sun, arriving late in the evening to our hotel on Sunset Boulevard.
The next day (and the day after that!) we had breakfast at a great place called the Dialog Café. There was some gear to be bought in the afternoon and I went along to the giant Sam Ash music shop that the guys had been talking about. I didn’t have anything to get except a piano bench, so I happily played with the Prophet 12 synthesizer while the guys got the bits and pieces (and, the main item of business: a drum kit for Paul).
After a swim in the hotel pool, we made the pilgrimage up Runyon Canyon (impatiently eschewing the boring old path and making a beeline for the top) to see the Hollywood sign and take some epic band photos. I tagged along with James and Emma, then, to an amazing sushi place they’d been to before and we walked back past the Chinese Theatre, the panoply of stars on the Walk of Fame under our feet.
Sunday was show day and we loaded into The Roxy in the afternoon. I had been feeling a bit nervous about getting back into the swing of things again after our few weeks off, but once we started sound checking it all came back. The few tweaks I’d made to sounds worked well, too. It was amazing to play to such an enthusiastic, sold out crowd in such a historic venue 🙂
We got a few tales about the place from the production manager, most memorably the image of David Lee Roth running out into LA traffic, topless with red sequinned Lycra trousers, calling after his dog which had escaped!
The following morning, St Patrick’s Day, after waking up to an earthquake, we played a ‘Morning Becomes Eclectic’ session at KCRW.
Their studios are on the campus of Santa Monica College and the walls are adorned with portraits, large B&W prints and one entire wall of small Polaroids of everyone from Ian McEwan to Ellen Page to a three-years-ago James.
That night we played another show at The Roxy. James was having trouble beforehand with his voice and pushed through the show, the three of us supporting him with a heartfelt, albeit unmathematical, 110%. Again the crowd were brilliant (as were the supporting act, Aiden Knight and his band, who I’m looking forward to hearing more of along the road) — they responded really positively to the new material and were treated to James singing ‘Higher Love’ at the end, something he doesn’t normally do.
A problem with our bus meant that we were standing around in the parking lot for an hour after our pickup time. My clarinet was sitting on top of my suitcase and all of a sudden one of the venue staff pulled out of their parking space and knocked it over, crushing the case. A quick examination assured me it was okay, although a few keys had been bent and I knew it would have to be repaired properly. Shaken and annoyed, I went to bed as soon as we loaded the gear onto the bus. Next morning I found the name of a woodwind repairer in San Francisco, Daniel Deitch, and called him up when we got to the venue. He responded graciously to my plea for help (I learned later that he has a really big workload at the moment) and I brought the instrument to his workshop as the guys set up the stage. Daniel was brilliant, quickly working over the clarinet and ultimately leaving it in better condition than it’s ever been in. Every cloud has a silver lining and all that! I also joked with him about ‘the luck of the Irish’ as we contemplated the tonne of steel that my Yamaha case had withstood valiantly.
We chatted while he worked and listened to a brilliant Thelonius Monk album, ‘Live At Town Hall’.
When I arrived back a couple of hours later, the decision had just been made to cancel the Great American Music Hall show that night. James had an infection and a specialist had just prescribed penicillin and total rest. Hopefully the show can be rescheduled. On we go…