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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Uk Tour #7, Väsen and Laundry!

Yesterday evening we had the incredible experience of sharing a bill with Väsen at the Kilbarchan Performing Arts Centre; but first we had to do laundry. If an army marches on its’ stomach, a touring band band marches on clean clothes. We spent a few hours in downtown Paisley getting the washing done, then it was back to the hotel for a short break before it was time to head to Kilbarchan for the nights’ show.

If you don’t know them Väsen is a Swedish band of the very highest caliber. They play original and traditional  Swedish tunes, as well as some older obscure ones, with really exciting arrangements and a sparkling level of musicianship. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a group of musicians so in tune with one another. They’re a very friendly bunch of guys and it’s clear that their good nature and generosity help make it possible to do what they do.  It was an absolute pleasure to share a bill with them and to get to know them a little bit over the evening! Our set was fun, but it was a little distracting to see Väsen silhouetted at the back of the hall (All three of them are huge!) watching us play. As usual, the crowd was fantastic. It was a great night!

Thanks for reading!

JD

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UK Tour Blog 6, Glasgow!

Today was a day off for Front Country, and we got to spend it in Glasgow! Gerry picked us up at our hotel and drove us into town, dropping us right in front of the stunning Kelvingrove Art Museum. Before the museum, we darted into a cafe for breakfast. Most of us have taken to drinking tea over here (when in Rome!) and I was shocked by the jolt delivered by my americano! It was more than enough to propel me through to lunch. After a quick bite we walked across the street to the museum. Kelvingrove has a great collection of art and historical artifacts, hosts a daily organ recital at 1, and is free to the public with a suggested donation. The collection is heavy on Scottish artists, but does have a portrait by Van Gogh and the powerful Dali painting  Christ of Saint John of the Cross, which is the jewel of the entire collection. It’s one of those works that demands attention and will speak to you if you know how to let it. It’s smaller that I expected it to be; for some reason I was expecting it to be as big as some of the Rothko’s I’ve seen. Nonetheless, it’s impact is big.

We sent a couple of hours in the museum before heading out to lunch. A fan in Saltburn told us that we had to visit the Mother India curry house for the best curry in Glasgow. We did and it was all it had been made out to be and more. The curries were served tapas-style so we split several. I don’t think I’ve ever had a better Indian meal; I’m going to be dreaming of the Chicken Korma for a long time! Fed and warmed up, we strolled around town in the rain for a while until we found the Ben Nevis, a whisky bar that Gerry had mentioned to us specifically. It was nearly empty but still snug as could be, the Scott’s are perhaps more adept than the English at making cozy places. Beers and whiskys were had, then it was back out into the rain. A tea and a train ride later and we were once again in Paisley, not far from our hotel. We walked around a little more (still raining) and found a place to dart in for a pint. Restored, it was time for food and a taxi. It was just Jacob and I at that point; Jacob ordered takeaway to bring back to the hotel while I successfully located a steak pie, doused with salt and vinegar, which I ate while walking in the rain. It seemed like the most appropriate thing I could do at the time.

Now, we’re back at the hotel, looking forward to doing laundry tomorrow and a sold-out show in Kilbarchan with Vasen tomorrow night. Tickets are still available for upcoming shows on this tour, including Wednesday at Carnegie Hall in Dunfermline and the Birnam Arts Center in Perthshire on Thursday. More tour dates can be found on our Tour Page.

Now, it’s time to dry off and get some rest. There are a few pictures from today below; take a look.

Thanks for reading

JD

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UK Tour Blog 5, Scotland!

We’re in Scotland!

Today we made the rainy drive from Saltburn to Irvine for our first show in Scotland. Irvine looks on the north Atlantic and is as starkly beautiful place as I have been. We played at the Harbour Arts Center, a small and really great-sounding venue (Special thanks to tonight’s soundman, Jordan.)  to a fantastic crowd. Scotland is quite a bit more rugged that England is, and I think we’re just getting started. Tuesday we’re playing with Vasen in Kilbarchan, but tomorrow is a day off and Gerry is going to drop us in Glasgow in the morning. I’m really excited to see Glasgow for the first time, we’ll start at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and go from there. I’ve heard a bit about the whisky and the curries here and I think I’ll give both a try.

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Thanks for reading

JD

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UK Tour Blog 4

Yesterday we played in Saltburn by the Sea. As you’d guess, it’s a seaside resort town. Most of Saltburn sits on a cliff overlooking the North Sea; the first thing you’d hit sailing directly out would be the arctic ice pack I was told. We had time to walk around and even though it’s unseasonably warm, we got our first taste of English cold. It’s no wonder the English are good at making cozy pubs; you need lots of places to take refuge from the cold and the damp. We met some new friends at, of all things, a surf shop (There is a large surfing community in Saltburn, apparently.) and they sent us to a pub named the Vaults of Alexandra, the locals call it the Back Alex because it’s tucked in an alley in back of a row of Victorian buildings which overlook the sea. Inside we found a fire, New Zealand v. England Rugby on TV, and pints. It was a great place to make a stand for a while.

The gig happened in a converted church and it felt really intimate for us. As has been the case, the crowd was warm and got loud at all the right times. Thanks to everyone in Saltburn who came to see us! After the gig we paid a visit to the kebab shop for some late-night food, which is always the best kind, and got down the road a bit to our hotel. IMG_2627IMG_2629IMG_2630

This morning it’s cold we’re about to get underway to Irvine and our first concert in Scotland. I’m told the weather is about to get a lot colder; I’m looking forward to taking refuge in more snug pubs in the coming days.

Thanks for Reading

JD

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UK Tour Blog 3

A great gig, a late night pub hang, an early ferry trip, another great gig later and we’re back in England, in Yorkshire. Last night we played to a packed house at the Centenary Center on the Isle of Man and again the crowd was incredibly enthusiastic. We didn’t have time to see much of the island but our host, a band manager turned B+B proprietor named Shazz, took us to the local pub, The White House. The place must have been hundreds of years old and was quiet and cozy as could be. We had a pint or two or three of the local favorite and great chats with some new friends. It was a bit of a late night but we managed to make to the 8:00 AM ferry back to England and caught a few extra winks after hiding ourselves away in some of the quieter areas of the ship.

Once we got off the boat we zipped across the country(!) to a sold-out show at the Selby Town Hall and once again the crowd was fantastic! Selby is a lovely little town and the town hall is converted church built in the 1860s. The sound and vibe in the room were wonderful, once again we felt right at home from “go”. We played two sets and finished up on the floor with an acoustic encore of Family Band and the crowd nearly drowned us out with their singing. Thanks for being amazing, Selby!

After the gig we went back to the hotel, where I’m writing this, and Gerry, our tour manager, put on BBC 4; now we’re blissfully watching vintage highlights from Top of the Pops. It’s been a great day, we’re on to Saltburn by the Sea tomorrow.

Thanks for reading.

JD

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