For the final phase of the tour we hit the road back up to MA to connect with our US promoter (Louise). She lives well off the beaten track in a very pretty wooded area and even though we were already quite rested from our few days off the atmosphere and pace there would certainly keep you from getting too stressed, let’s put it that way. She cooked us a lovely meal (1st steak of the tour) and some very sweet corn (grown locally). Meeting up with her gave us the opportunity to report on how the tour was going so far and to finalise a few details for the upcoming leg. On Thursday, we headed over to WMUA 91.1 FM as we were scheduled to appear on a show called Rhythm & Blues and the host was a guy called Dave. We had a nice time chatting about blues and music in general and we got to play two songs live – The Peace Within and Talkin’ Woman Blues.
After that we hoofed it over to Ashfield to play the Community Hall there. What can I say – Ashfield is your quintessential New England town. Very charming! We had a lovely meal in a local restaurant called “Elmer’s”, right there on Main St. Again, the food was organic and grown locally. The lady who runs/owns the place happened to be visiting friends in the area when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and she lost everything down there (house, business, the works). She decided not to go back and to open this restaurant/store instead in Ashfield. She certainly seems to know how to make things work because it was a hive of activity all the time we were there. They all knew about our gig and wished us the very best of luck, which was really nice.
The hall itself was an old wooden building and you could hear straight away that the sound was going to be good. It’s a group of local people who run it, including input from our promoter, and they are trying to build up a steady following and have it as a regular stop for touring musicians. I hope it works out for them.
We headed up to Elmer’s again for breakfast and they were all enquiring about the gig and how it went. It made us feel like locals. They couldn’t attend as they all had to work the evening before. After a hale and hearty breakfast we headed off for Oxford Town. Again, we had a beautiful drive across upstate New York and we arrived at our motel in good time. It’s nice to be able to chill a bit in your hotel room before the soundcheck/gig. The room was very well equipped – fridge, microwave, coffee percolator, ironing board (didn’t use that! :-)).
The venue was exactly what we’d been hoping for – a very nice room and obviously a place where people came specifically to listen to the music. The promoters were as sweet as sweet could be and we just knew we were in for a good evening. After soundcheck, we decided to check out an Italian restaurant we’d seen just across the square. After all, what tour is complete without at least one pizza? The food looked great and I was tempted to order something else but no, we decided to go for a pizza. We ordered a small one each. Shortly after we’d placed our order the waitress came and put these sort of high, foldout stools beside each of us. I said (as a joke) to Danny – “maybe those are for our pizzas”. Well, they were!! They brought us these two huge pizzas (can’t imagine what large must have looked like). There was no way we could ever get through them but luckily enough they boxed them for us so we could bring the rest with us. I managed one slice (about half the size of a ‘normal’ pizza) and Danny managed two (don’t know where he puts it because he’s as skinny as a rake!!).
We headed back to the venue to tune up, etc. and shortly after that we recognised some people coming in who’d also been in the restaurant. They were laughing about our pizza story. One old lady said to me – “looks like they caught you by surprise with the size of those pizzas, huh?” She was certainly right about that.
As for the gig – what can I say? It was perfect in every way. There was a good crowd in and you could tell they were connoisseurs. They knew what they liked and they gave us their full attention and appreciation. Gigs like this are a dream – especially if you’re playing an acoustic singer-songwriter type show. Some of my introductions and stories had grown slightly longer during the tour but I’ll tell you, I gave them an earful that night and they lapped it up. It was one of those gigs that you hoped would never end but of course we had to at a certain point. We were more than happy to do an encore for them and at the end of our encore they gave us a standing ovation. I do believe that’s the first standing ovation I’ve ever had. I guess they had as good a time as we did. So we drove off to our motel that night very, very satisfied and with a head full of brilliant memories, a box of CD’s that was much, much lighter – and of course our pizzas!!
The next morning we had to be up early as we needed to get to our final gig, which was way out on Long Island (Hampton Bays), NY. It was about a six hour drive but luckily enough we could stop off at Paddy’s place, have a quick shower, a bite to eat and then Paddy would drive the final part of the journey (from West Orange, NJ to Hampton Bays, NY). Before we left the motel we microwaved a slice of our pizzas and actually when we arrived at Paddy’s place we heated up another slice. OK, that was enough pizza for me for the rest of the trip!
The weather was threatening to take a turn for the worse, which would have been a bit of a shame as we were scheduled to play outdoors, but it was forecast for around 11pm so with a little luck we’d beat it. We arrived a little later than expected but everything was in place when we arrived and we were met by Ray, his wife and their co-hosts. Ray is definitely one of the good guys (we’d met several times earlier in Ballyshannon at the Rory Gallagher tribute festival) and it was lovely to meet up with him again. His wife is a sweetheart and as expected all his friends and co-workers couldn’t have been nicer to us (water finds its own level). We decided not to hang around too long as it was getting a little nippy and windy so we did two longer sets rather than three shorter ones (as we often do). During the break I was introduced to a guy called Dermott, who came from Dundalk of all places! He mentioned that he could play guitar and sing and asked if we wanted to jam. I wasn’t sure if he was pulling my leg or not so I said – “why don’t you grab my guitar now while I’m off and play a few songs if you feel like it”. He did – and he could (sing and play guitar, that is). He did a few Beatles songs and a Paul Simon tune.
We went on after that (telling Dermott in a joking manner to get his own gig and get his butt off our stage, which he did reluctantly as he was having a good time) and I said, maybe we can do something together later. We finished off our set and thanked everyone for making the final gig of the tour such a fun experience. I went off to grab a beer (hey, the job was done, right?) and the next thing I heard was Dermott giving it loads again. Slowly but surely we all gathered in a circle and had ourselves a merry ol’ sing-song. He sure knew a good few tunes. As soon as one was finished he’d launch into another. If it ran out of steam after a while (with no one knowing all the lyrics, for example), then he just kicked off another one and on it went. It was great craic actually and a brilliant way to finish up the night.
We stayed in Ray & Rose’s place and the next morning she made us the mother and father of all breakfasts. That would have fed a football team for a week!! The weather had turned nasty (the rain finally came at about 2am). We had hoped to take a stroll on the beach (just the other side of Ray’s back garden basically) but that wasn’t on obviously. We had to meet up with Louise (she’d travelled down for the gig with a friend), so we met up in a local Irish bar (where else) and said our goodbyes. As with most tours, as soon as it’s over you allow yourself to relax so I could feel the tiredness creeping up on me. We headed back to NJ to have a final meal together with Paddy (who was also such a big help in making the tour flow so well).
The next morning we went off to fill up the car before bringing it back to the airport. We’d been up to this guy’s place before and the last time we were there he said to me – “you smile a lot. I like you!” This time as we were heading off he said to me – “have a nice day, nice Sir!”. Of course every time we heard “have a nice day, Sir” after that, Danny and myself had to laugh and say to each other – “no, it’s have a nice day, nice Sir!!” :-).
…and that’s about it. I’d just like to add that it was a wonderful experience and I’m really glad to have had the opportunity to do it. We had lots of help from lots of people (they all know who they are) and I hope we can do it again. As you play your songs night after night you end up digging deeper and deeper to get more out of them and that’s always a great feeling when you find a new way to sing the same song or be able to add something new to it. It was wonderful to get such positive responses to our music and it was nice to meet some US musicians as well. I’ve always said it – music knows no boundaries – and this tour proved that once again. I’m a blessed man!!