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Tour Blog 16, Spalding and home

After an outstanding evening at the Square and Compass we had to hightail it north for the final gig of tour at the modern and lovely South Holland Centre in Spalding. We said goodbye to our host, Brian, and his lovely antique car and hopped in the van. A bit of London traffic and some GPS confusion confusion conspired for us to arrive just in time for soundcheck.  The South Holland Centre is a first rate space that is used for live music as well as movies and theatre, including the Christmas Pantomimes that are popular for families this time of year all over the UK.

It felt like the last day of school when we got on stage, giddy with relief and excitement over the great tour and the trip home in the morning. The crowd was a bit reserved but crowded us at the CD table, helping to make sure that we didn’t have much to bring back with us. Our sets flew by, we packed the gear for the last time and I packed my travel bass for the first time in three weeks. The hotel was just a few blocks away, we had a 5am call to drop me and Roscoe at the airport, so we all did out best to get to bed early.

5 AM came and we were rolling towards Gatwick, the smaller of Londons’ two airports. We arrived with enough time to figure out the free airport wifi and get a bite to eat, then it was time to board. We flew through Reykjavik again, this time in daylight, so we were able to really see Iceland for the first time. Rocky and green against the deep blue of the ocean and dotted with low, cozy-looking buildings painted in vaguely institutional colors. I like cozy places situated in severe locations, (Probably why I loved Scotland) Iceland seems to also fit that bill nicely; I hope to visit there in the future. I had enough time to buy a chocolate bar and a yogurt (which I would eat in line to board the next flight. The second leg, from Reykjavik to Baltimore, left minutes later. Moments after takeoff we were back over the water, it’s amazing to me how the waves and breakers on the ocean can seem still from a great height. I closed my eyes for a while, when I opened them we were over Greenland. At least I think it was Greenland. We seemed to be flying low over enormous, stony, snowy mountains, but it may have just been clear and the mountains may have been that big. Either way, the sight was beautiful and there are pictures below. After that, the view was mostly ice and ocean until I drifted to sleep again. We got to Baltimore late, but I made my connection to Nashville. Before I knew it I was standing outside at arrivals waiting for a ride home after a month on the road. It felt as if I could have been gone for a year, or just a weekend. It was an incredible trip and I’m very glad to be home for a while. Thanks to Loudon Temple for bringing us over, to Gerry Roche for showing us the ropes, keeping us on track, and delivering us safely to every gig, meal, and hotel, to the people who were kind enough to host us in their homes.  Most of all, THANK YOU! to everyone who came to see us, we’ll be back and we can’t wait to to see you all again!

 

Thanks for reading,

 

JD

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Tour Blog 15, Worth Matraverse

The penultimate gig of this tour was at the legendary Square and Compass in Worth Matraverse on Englands’ Jurassic Coast. Gerry had been telling us about this gig since he picked us up at Heathrow. We had heard so much about the gorgeous coastline, the pub itself, the cider and pasties, that we were beyond excited to get on the road to Dorset on Saturday. It was all just as advertised. Worth Matraverse is an old seaside town on England’s southern coast, the high concentration of fossils earned the area the nickname “Jurassic Coast”, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Upon arrival we piled into the Square and Compass and each dove into a pint of the house made cider. This isn’t the syrupy stuff you tend to get in the states. It’s not sweet and seems to me to have more in common with white wine than beer, it’s also strong. Really strong. Warmed by our ciders, we followed the directions of Charlie, the owner of the bar that has been in his family for more than one hundred years, and made our way down to the coast. A walk down a path of about one mile brought us out to the top of a cliff that overlooks the English Channel and is marked with a handful of caves carved into the rock when the area had been an active quarry. The view is absolutely incredible, there are some pictures below that won’t do it justice. It was one of those places that gives you a sense of how big and powerful the planet is, and how small we each are in comparison. We explored for an hour or so before the wind and cold drove us back up the path to the Square and Compass for another pint and piping hot pasties.

The Square and Compass is an old pub and seems to serve as the social hub for the area. When we arrived the patio was full of cyclists and climbers who had been outside all day and were beginning the evenings’ festivities. The building itself was built around 1700, with its’ roaring wood stove, low ceiling, and small rooms, it is the single coziest bar I have ever visited. The owner, the aforementioned Charlie, is a fossil collector and the very back of the place is one-room fossil museum and is a great place to look over while waiting for a seat. We had some time to kill, so there was some jamming and some napping done. Later on we set-up and soundchecked with the Kevin, the bar manager, and then it was go time! This was one of the smallest rooms we’ve played on the tour and the crowd present was more than enough to pack the place. We had a fantastic close quarters show, literally toe-to-toe with the audience. It was an incredible night and we can’t wait to get back! After the gig we went to the nights’ lodging, a lovely house owned by a retired gentleman named Brian who kept us up late and then was up before any of us making breakfast. Thank you, Brian!

Reluctantly, we were up early to get on the road to Spalding and the final gig of the tour. Thank you to everyone who joined and Charlie, Kevin, Tom, and Zoe at the S+Q who took such good care of us and kept the pints and pasties coming!

 

Thanks for reading,

 

JD

 

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Tour Blog 14, Tuppenny Barn, Elmsworth

The Drive from Norwich to Elsmworth took most of our day today, thanks a mercifully late 10:00 AM start and some London traffic. Elmsworth is a quaint town in southern England and is full of some fantastic people. We didn’t have time to explore today, but  we did have the chance to take a peek around the venue, called Tuppenny Barn. The barn itself is a cobb building, and is a really pleasant public space attached to an organic farm. We were treated to a loud, standing-room crowd tonight, we came out past the monitors for an acoustic encore and I didn’t think they were going to let us go. Thank you, Elmsworth, we’ll see you again!

Tomorrow we play at the legendary Square and Compass in Worth Matravers. We’ll have a chance to visit the Jurassic Coast and enjoy what I have been told are the best homemade cider and pasties to be found.

 

Thanks for reading,

 

JD

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UK Tour Blog 14, Norwich

We’re in the final stretch of the tour and todays’ gig was in the medieval city of Norwich. We had the day off yesterday and we spend the day traveling and getting some much-needed laundry done; it was a typically glamorous day on the road. Since we had travelled already and were close to the gig, we had the luxury of a free day Norwich. We started with food, treating ourselves to a bit of a posh English Breakfast at a restaurant called Pandora. We’re all pretty into the traditional breakfast and this one was delicious, the meats (most of an English Breakfast is meat) were fantastic and the tea was the best I’ve had on this trip. The decor in the place made it feel like we were eating in a dolls’ house, but that didn’t interfere with anyones appetite. The food vanished in a flash.

Like most ancient cities, Norwich was once a walled city and in many places the original flint wall is intact. Flint can be slightly translucent and the cloudy stones in the wall and some of the old churches, which are also made of flint and have turned black with the years, give the town a  ghostly feel. The Norwich Cathedral, nearly 1000 years old, is a marvel and has the second tallest spire in the country. It’s still an active church but remains free and open to the public all day. The ceiling of the church is quite intricate, the kind of thing you want to stare at, and some thoughtful person placed two large mirrors on stands in the aisle of the nave so that visitors could look at the ceiling without having to crane their necks upward. There were two works of modern art on display within the church. One a collection of enormous cloaked figures keeping a concerned eye on two other figures, those of an old man being carried on the back of a young man. The second was a series of small paintings depicting scenes from the life of Edith Cavell, an english nurse who had treated soldiers from both sides in WWI Belgium and was eventually tried and executed by the Germans for her role in aiding the escape of prisoners out of occupied Belgium. The juxtaposition of ancient church and contemporary work made both seem more vibrant and added to the power of the art dramatically. I eventually made my way out of the cathedraI and spent the next few hours exploring Norwich on my own, making my way through narrow, twisting streets to the castle (now an art gallery) and the market square and eventually to a cafe before it was time to head to the Norwich Arts Centre for the gig.

The venue is in a converted 15th century church, the original building is small and made from the same flint stones that the city wall and most of the other churches are made of. As with most buildings of that age, modern additions have been made that attach to the original structure. While walking around the arts centre you find yourself moving back and forth between the modern and the extremely old. The front door to the auditorium was new; but the side door, which we used, was ancient and black with age. After soundcheck I couldn’t resist the temptation to play by myself in the church. I wound up playing some Bach and some Eccles, it was a rare treat to play Baroque music in a church that was built before that music was written. The sound has been good on this tour and the sound engineer tonight was particularly good. Plus, we had lights and smoke! We would have had a great show if we had been playing for just the techs, but Norwich showed up so we had a really terrific night. Thanks Norwich for being so awesome! On to Sussex!

Thanks for reading,

JD

 

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UK Tour Blog 13, London!

We finally made it to London! Yesterdays’ show was at The Harrison in Kings’ Cross. We stayed near Cambridge University where Leif was to deliver a talk in the morning, he’s a geology professor as well as a fiddle player. We were up and out early to drop Leif at school, then it was time for breakfast and the ride into London. We frequently eat breakfast at the cafe in Morrison’s Supermarket and that’s what we did yesterday. Morrison’s is a big chain, most of their stores have a cafe inside where you can get a cheap and reliable breakfast. The English Breakfast is tasty enough and I can generally get through until dinner on one, so about five pounds for a plate of sausage, beans, toast, bacon, hash browns, an egg, and a pot of tea is a good deal.

Fed and with several hours to spend, we drove into London. Gerry dropped us off near the gig, which was just a few blocks from The British Museum, so off we went. The British Museum is free to the public, and simply massive with a staggering collection of antiquities. A visitor could spend all day in just the Egyptian galleries and not succeed in taking it all in. Since there was a bit of a tight schedule I opted for the survey-level approach and took in as much as I could in a few hours. I was able to make my way through the Egyptian, Roman, and Celtic galleries before it was time to go. The sheer number of artifacts and the amount of information presented will make your head spin; I wish that we had more time to spend there. On the way out we did stop the see the Rosetta Stone(!), but missed The Great Wave off Kanagawa. That will be first on my list next time.

The Harrison is a snug pub, full of leather couches and tucked down a side street in Kings’ Cross. The performance space downstairs is a nice space for an intimate show and that’s just what we had. It was a pleasure to play in London and I can’t wait until we can come back! Today is a travel day, we play in the medieval city of Norwich tomorrow night, so stay tuned for castle pictures!

Thanks for reading,

JD

 

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UK Tour Blog 12, Dundee and Edinburgh

We finally made it to Edinburgh for a sold-out show last night, but first we stopped along the way for an afternoon concert at the Dundee Acoustic Music Club. We haven’t had many openers on this tour, but we had one yesterday in Dundee, a great local band Wire and Wool. They tore up their opening set, then joined us for Red Haired Boy and The Weight during the encore. It’s easy to connect with fans in Scotland, everyone is so friendly and warm, and it’s particularly easy to connect with Scottish musicians. No matter where you go musicians are the same and it’s easy to become fast friends, especially when you know a lot of the same tunes. We had a great time getting to play and hang with W&W. Between them and the fantastic crowd who braved the weather on Sunday afternoon to join us it was a great stop for.

After Dundee we had to throw ourselves into the van and get down the road for gig #2 and our first visit to Edinburgh. On the way Gerry pointed out a few landmarks to us. Most notable was the Forth Bridge, a victorian rail bridge that was responsible for making Scotland more accessible and is quite beautiful. I got a few photos from the highway, the best one is below this post. The crowd was as enthusiastic as the one in Glenbuchat, whistling and shouting the whole way. The show in Edinburgh was the best possible way to end our visit to Scotland. We’re back in England now, relaxing after the long drive (Thanks, Gerry!) and a massive feast of take-out curry. I’m going to miss the people, the shaggy countryside, and the simultaneously modern and ancient cities of Scotland. Tomorrow we make our London debut at The Harrison in King’s Cross; I’m positively thrilled for this show and to see London for the first time!

Thanks for reading,

JD

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UK Tour Blog 11, Findhorn.

The ride from Glenbuchat to Findhorn was another one for the books. There was more snow on the mountains and the roads were a bit steeper. The weather had gotten colder but the sheep were still out on the hillside, seeming not to notice the chill at all. We rolled past The Glenlivet distillery, we’re in highland malt country,  and through a few small towns on our way to the North Sea and Findhorn.

Last evenings’ gig was at Universal Hall in the community of Findhorn. The community was planned as a bit of an alternative living environment, if I understand correctly. It’s a cozy place right on the North Sea. I suppose you have to make it a cozy place if you’re planning a community on the North Sea. The hall itself is beautiful, with an enormous glass entryway inset with a double door which itself wears a pair of leaded glass wings. It was impressive during the day, but positively stunning at night. The crowd was a bit more polite at the show, but came to the CD table in droves, so I suppose we made a good impression on them. We’re a double in Dundee and Edinburgh today, so it’s time to get rolling.

Thanks for reading.

JD

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UK Tour Blog 10, the Highland and Glenbuchat hall.

We had our first day in the Scottish Highlands! The gig was in a small place called Glenbuchat Hall in Aberdeenshire. For days we’ve been telling people that we were playing in Glenbuchat and nobody knew where it was. As it turned out, Glenbuchat was just the name of the hall, there is no place by that name. The Highlands were just getting their first coat of snow and were absolutely stunning; steep and rolling, dotted with sheep and stone.

The crowd at Glenbuchat was the best of tour, so far! Shouting and stamping through two sets; they were a joy to play for. And the bottle of whisky in the green room was a nice bonus. Crowds like that make it easy to do your job well when you’ve been on the road for a while.

We had the pleasure of staying in a home after the gig; this particular house had been built in 1604 and despite having been modernized still felt ancient. After the show our hosts got a fire going, it took little time for the entire house to feel perfectly cozy. We enjoyed a bit more of the whisky, we had been treated to a local favorite, and then it was off to bed. In the morning we were able to take a short walk around the property to see the family cemetery and a lone giant sequoia that had been planted by one of our hosts great grandmothers. The tree was completely out of place, but it’s age somehow helped it to look right at home.

Thanks for reading.

JD

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UK Tour Blog 9, Birnam, Dunkeld, and Beatrix Potter

We had a little bit of extra time this morning to spend in Dunfermline after breakfast, so I went back to the Abbey and the nearby park for a walk before it was time to leave for the next gig. After a short drive we arrived in Birnam with some time to kill and decided to walk to Dunkel, the next town over. Dunkeld clams to be the gateway to the Highlands, though we’re not in the Highlands yet, and the first seat of Christianity in Scotland. Like most of the oldest buildings here, Dunkeld Abbey was built in several phases, the earliest of which little is known. The chapel is still an active church, it’s attached to a medieval nave that’s no longer in use and is under heavy restoration. It’s fascinating to see a very old building that’s been in constant use for centuries attached to an older one that’s positively ancient. It’s a visual reminder of how present the past can be in modern life. The Abbey sits next to the Tay river, which is wide, fast, and black. I walked down to its edge and as I got closer to it I could feel in the air the cold of the river. As black as the river was, I could see leaves clearly in it as they were swept by several feet beneath the surface, they seemed to be suspended in glass. It was striking to be so close to such a dark river running fast right next to the perfect green of the abbey lawn.

The venue was attached to a museum and garden dedicated to Beatrix Potter, author of Peter Rabbit, and many others,  who spent time in Birnam. The garden had a handful of little bronze statues of some of the animals that inspired Potters’ books. Those books were read to me as a child and I read to my kids from the very same copies; so I had kind of a sentimental moment running around the garden.  I found Jeremy Fisher, Mrs. Tiggy Winkles and the Rabbit family before it was time to go inside for soundcheck. Once again, the crowd was absolutely great and made us feel right at home. Thanks, Birnam! The UK crowds are wonderful, but the Scots in particular really know how to make you feel welcome. On to Glenbuchat Hall tonight.

Thanks for reading,

JD

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UK Tour Blog 8, Dunfermline

We had the luxury of a late start today. Lobby call was at noon, which gave some of us the time to get out for runs and walks to start the day and the rain held off just long enough to allow for it. The weather did roll in though and it rained enough to keep us out of Edinburgh, where we had planned to visit for a few hours. Plans scrapped, we got into Dunfermline (Where we play Carnegie Hall tonight!) a few hours early. There was plenty of time to explore town, including the ancient and imposing Dunfermline Abbey. The Abbey Church is still in use, but the nave and other areas are now open primarily for tourism. Everything is older here, but this was the first time on this trip that I felt I was looking at something truly ancient. Parts of the Abbey were built in the 11th century and it was the first home of Charles I, the last Scottish-born King of England. The newest-looking gravestones I saw in the cemetery dated from the 1820s. There is a lovely park across the street from the Abbey, the larger stones steps in it have been in use so long that they have the appearance of river rocks. Up a short trail I came to the remains of the first Tower or Dunfermline, which is known more from ancient reputation and images than from the little that is left of it. It’s an incredible town and I can’t wait to get back one day!

The gig at Carnegie was terrific, due to a late surge of ticket sales we were moved into the main hall and the crowd did more than its part to make the bigger room feel full; we closed the show with Gold Rush Goddess and the crowd clapped though the entire song! The theatre is beautiful and the crew are supremely competent. Ethan, our sound man for the night, did a wonderful job and made the sound in the room and on stage spot-on. At set break a fan gave us a list of whiskys that we need to try, we’ve had several already but clearly there is more exploration to be done! It’s such a treat to get to meet people at break and after the show, the Scots are extremely friendly and we’re having a blast making new friends!

Thanks for reading!

JD

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