I hope I’ll be able to remember all the wonderful experiences I/we had on my/our 1st US tour and report it all here in my blog. I’ll try to do it by breaking it down into different parts (the tour had roughly three phases).
Day one obviously involved getting to the airport on time and all that jazz and everything went smoothly and according to plan so nothing to report there. The flight was very comfortable (one of the new Airbus aircraft) and we arrived at Newark International Airport, New Jersey around 6.30pm (local time). Going through customs/security involved having your photograph and fingerprints taken. I still think it’s a weird situation because for me I still associate having your fingerprints taken with being in the police station and you having committed a crime or something like that. I don’t like it but if that’s the only way to get into the country then I have to accept it, right?
So, first I had to do the four fingers of my right hand and then my right thumb. Next he asked me to do the four fingers on my left hand and my right thumb. I wasn’t sure if he was also testing my mental abilities so I said – “don’t you mean my left thumb?” and he chucked a bit and said – “you’re not to slow”.
He then proceeded to ask me a few questions like, have you ever been in the US before, etc. and then he asked me if I’d ever been arrested. I just had to laugh a bit at that and answered – “no, I haven’t had that pleasure yet”.
After that it was bang, boom, bang and my passport and all the various forms we had to fill out were stamped and he said – “welcome to the United States!” Danny had no problems clearing customs either so the next job was to meet up with my old high school buddy Paddy, who was waiting for us on the other side. He went with us to help us pick up our rental car and it’s a good job he did because they wouldn’t accept the credit card I had (my girlfriend’s) as the card holder had to be the same person as the one picking up the car. Paddy took care of that by charging it to his credit card and naming me as an extra driver. That little ‘mistake’ cost us $77.81, not really the best way to start a tour, right? 🙂
So, the next ‘problem’ to sort out was driving without a gearstick. Oh, oh, that was fun the first few times. I kept stepping on the brake every time I wanted to use the clutch (that wasn’t there). We found our faces up against the windscreen a few times on the first few days!! All in a day’s work, right!! 🙂
The next day was the first gig – Swing The Teapot, out in Floral Park (Long Island), NY. This show was sold out in advance of the tour, which was a really great way to start the tour. Obviously, there was a strong Irish contingent among the crowd, including a few high school pals I hadn’t seen in well over 20 years. It was a bit like a class reunion at times. We had decided to add a few ‘Irish’ songs to the setlist just to give the set more variety and it also gave me the opportunity to talk and tell a few stories about growing up in Ireland and what music I heard growing up and they went down well with the ‘home’ crowd. It was a great opening to the tour and it was all over in no time. Time sure does fly when you’re having fun.
We had the next day off, which was a good thing as it gave us a little time to get settled. That evening we decided to get some Chinese food so we hit the local takeaway. We placed our order and as she was bagging it for us she said something to us. I had no idea what she said (she had a heavy Chinese accent and I was only half-awake) so I asked her to repeat it. I still couldn’t get it but there was a rather large black man (or whatever the current politically correct term is) standing beside us and he explained that she’d just asked us if we wanted some free Won Ton soup. We didn’t feel like soup so we just thanked her but said – “no thanks”. She then said something else I didn’t understand so again our ‘brudder’ explained that she was asking us if we wanted a free soda. We didn’t really feel that that either so again we said – “no thanks” and as quick as a flash our ‘translator’ said – “I’ll take it!!”
Paddy took us to a library in Montclair as I wanted to check my e-mail. They were very kind and helpful and gave us a guest pass which allowed us to use the computer for 30 minutes for free. I like this country already – free Won Ton soup, free soda and free access to the internet!
We were in Montclair, NJ on Saturday night, which wasn’t all that far from where we were staying. We got in early enough to set up but there didn’t really seem to be anyone in charge of the sound equipment, etc. Danny likes to muck around with the sound so he got stuck in and got us a decent sound in the end. Nice one Danny! Again, there were some people at the gig I hadn’t seen in ages so it was catch up time again on what everyone had been doing over the years. I also had the very pleasant surprise of meeting several people face-to-face that I’d ever only ‘spoken’ to via e-mail. Some of them travelled several hours just to catch the gig, which always amazes me when someone does that and I was very grateful for that. Again, we felt in the company of friends and the gig became quite a cosy affair and again was over all too soon. So far, everyone seems to be really enthusiastic about the music/show and their favourite statement seems to be – “you guys are awesome!” I can live with that!! 🙂
We were scheduled to appear on the Gene Shay show on WXPN radio in Philadelphia, PA on Sunday. Shay’s been around a long time and is a very well-known name in the folk scene in the US. We talked briefly before going on air and he certainly knew quite a few names from the Irish folk scene. There was another duo on the show – Beaucoup Blue – who are a father/son team. We walked in as they were soundchecking and my first thought was – boy, these two guys sure play it tight, which of course makes sense when you realise they’ve been at it for ages. It was a real pleasure to meet them, very sweet guys!
On Monday we headed back to NJ to record a 30 minute special for the TV show “Horses Sing None Of It”. They’re based in Randolph, NJ. The show has been running for over 20 years, can be seen in 10 to 15 states, depending on a few variables. Our show will probably air in about three months and will then run for up to three years! It was quite a laid back affair and I’m really looking forward to seeing it. They’re going to send us a copy on DVD.
We had a day or two off after that so we used the opportunity to spend a day in New York City. I won’t take up your time here by describing our day out or what all we seen/did while we were there but if you’ve never been to New York City then I can highly recommend it as a great place to visit!!
Ok, that sort of describes our first week/phase of the tour, so I’ll write more in Part II as soon as I get a little more free time.