Wednesday

Written Saturday 7/29/06 - mid-day England time, waiting for the arrival of Andy & Tom the house where we're stayin' in Owslebury Thursday we went back into Winchester to take care of more business: some accounting bureaucracy stuff first of all as we're getting paid above several tables, and declaring our proceeds and adhering to the law like that. Then onto an Internet cafe where I posted the first lot of entries, and we both caught up on e-mails and the news (depressing escalation of reactionary violence in the Middle East in the mainstream news, accompanied by a missive from Amazing Alan of the punk underground detailing the use of radioactive waste - made in the good ole US of A, and spun into a commodity by a subsidiary of the VP's company Haliburton - in the bombs being dropped by Israel mere miles from its own border). We had some free time to walk around behind Winchester cathedral to the Wickham Arms for a pint of real ale, noticing all the ancient stones as hot and dry as stale bread in the sunny July weather. Those structures were built for drizzle and moss, not these lovely days of the European heat-wave when the air is green with the smell of sun-baked plants and the pubs have outdoor seating with shade umbrellas. Then we followed our instructions to WinFM into the basement of the Brook - Winchester's shopping mall. Down to the lowest level of the underground parking structure we went, beyond the benefit of any air conditioning, realizing eventually we should check in with the mall security office. We were then taken around to the private/staff elevator and back up to the top floor above the shops to the radio station's offices. WinFM is a local station - 24 hours, two recording booths and lots of high-quality original content, yet broadcasting just in the 10 mile radius around Winchester, reaching perhaps 150,000. Sally Gates interviewed us for an hour on up-and-coming bands that will air this Sunday between 9 and 10pm. (Not available via Internet, but once we get back I'll post audio and a scan of our 1/2 page feature from the July 13th edition of the Hampshire Chronicle.) We recorded a 15 minute conversation (to be edited down, most likely) and selected "Eddie Come Down" from MEET THE ANIMAL and "Welcome to the Show" from The Larch's 2005 release PRIZES FROM THE GROOVE ARCADE for airing. That part of our work day done, we headed over the to Eclipse for another pint, and Ian's Mum joined us there then brought us back to Owslebury (nearly impossible to get to without a car) where we met up with our invaluable UK operative (more about him later) for a nice dinner of chicken and gravy pie, chips and veg, then we talked music, logistics, gear, rehearsals, charts and chords until past one in the morning. Yesterday, Friday (the day before the Arrival of the Rhythm Section!) was spent with one of our favorite couples in the whole world. Andy & Sian took us west through the New Forrest and down to Bournemouth Beach for a day spent picnic-ing on hot sand, splashing in the gentle cool ocean, walking through the park and out onto the pier, eating chocolate New Forrest ice cream, catching up and enjoying each other's company. In the evening, they dropped us off at the Town Quay in Southampton (by the ferry dock with the sign "Gateway to the Isle of Wight") where we visited our posters at the Platform Tavern for our show there next Thursday, and then walked up through town and around the parks to the Joiners Arms on St. Mary's Street. Ian used to play shows there 20 years ago, and they've since morphed into an even more respectable venue with posters on the walls of a roster of band's who've played there. We met up with two of his friends from that era, and watched three local bands. All the bands were all boys, and the first two bands were all quite young as well, extremely bar chord reliant and somewhat bashful. Still their influences - the Jam + a little Beatles - were right up my alley, and it was fun to be on the scene in another country. We weren't able to stick around to see Ian's MySpace friends The Reason due to complicated car arrangements, but the third local band intrigued me somewhat. We were talking with some of their friends before their set, and learned that they are "richies" from Lymington in the New Forrest. Self-described owners of "fast cars with nowhere to drive them." With that background information to help inform my opinion, I could see a sense of entitlement, about the lead singer especially, yet it was somewhat alluring. HE knew he was a rock star, felt he deserved to be, apologized for nothing. Had a pretty good voice too, although the songs didn't stick with me, just the insouciance. Andy & Tom have arrived in the middle of me writing this entry. Now we're chilling in front of Tron, napping in anticipation of a night out tonight, then basically all go through this exciting tour experience. One last thought in reply to the Blog of the lovely Ms. Paula Carino. (She wrote about feeling the need to finish a song, and giving herself permission to toss off a "bad" song in order to clear the pipes. Of course with that level of freedom you cannot fail in your objective, and she found herself pleasantly surprised and in possession of a new completed "good" song rather quickly.) She asked for tips and tricks to get the creative juices flowing. I always find travel invigorating on so many levels. New places and situations require you to be aware, new ways of using languages tickle you with phraseology, and distance from your home-rut gives you the strength of an over-view perspective. Daydreaming on the beach, re-applying sunscreen and feeling the caught up bits of Bournemouth sand rub away any trace of past days, I knew the visual look I want for the artwork for our third record (that album is finished in my mind, now this fall we just work through the experience of executing the endeavor) and I also felt certainty fall upon the concepts I've been toying with for writing for record number four, and miraculously record number five! I know in some ways that's getting way ahead of myself, but that sense of purpose, having a concept, a reason to communicate, a thorny patch of interest to explore, that's the key for me to being prolific. ***** Written Tuesday 8/1/06 - mid-day England time, the house where we're stayin' in Owslebury With the arrival of the Larch & the WonderWheels rhythm section on Saturday, our posse is complete. After a few hours for their jet-lag recovery, Saturday evening we went to The Brook, a Workingman's Social Club on the Fair Oak Road in Eastleigh to see Blue State, the band of our previously mentioned UK operative, the extremely nice and talented Richard Stickler. We were able to get into the private club as guests of the band. We paid £1 each to the veteran doorman as he continued to chain-smoke, and he carefully wrote each of us a slip allowing us to "make payment for excisable articles" (buy drinks) for one evening only. And, being a private club the excisable articles were hella cheap. After three pints of delicious 5% Abbot Ale bitter I wove gracefully back past the doorman towards the ladies room, and ended up in a brief conversation about the "humiliating retreat from Dunkirk" until we were interrupted by his duty to corral a few running kids. Blue State sounded great! A party/for hire band with quite a good groove. The drummer and the guitar player switch off singing lead and all the playing was very good and together. Richard is an excellent keyboard player and he's going to let me play his first class rig - a Hammond XB-1 with a Lesley speaker coupled with a Yamaha S90 through a Roland. Even better, he sat in with us at rehearsal and added quite a nice element to songs like "No Exceptions (Looking for the Light)" and The Larch's "Acoustic Kitty." Sunday we took it easy, sleeping in and making it back over to the Hampshire Bowman for Sunday lunch at about 3pm. Ian's Mum drove us, and we ordered several meals to share and had quite a feast: two Sunday roast dinners with lamb, sauteed potatoes and carrots, broccoli and cauliflower as the veg, a plate of "bangers and mash" - astoundingly tasty local sausages made of lamb and mint on a gorgeous pillow of mashed potatoes, more veg, and the whole plate covered in homemade gravy, and a turkey and cranberry pie, also homemade, that was also out of this world. This bounty, for which we are most grateful, was washed down with several pints of the local real ale, the "Forty Niner" along with a few small glasses of scrumpy cider and ginger beer to clear the palate. Sitting out in the backyard behind this country pub, flush with good food and good feeling, all together, a moment to remember whenever and wherever things are not so nice... Yesterday, Monday, was more of a spring into action type of day. First we got another lift from Ian's munificent Mum down Stubbington way to pick up our rental car, a pretty happening Toyota Avensis: a hatch-back diesel Euro-car with (SURPRISE!) a manual transmission. Now back in Brooklyn, Andy is almost always our designated driver, but it turns out he doesn't drive stick-shift, so that is how yours truly came to be driving from the car place to Shirley (past Southampton - about 30 miles) over to Fret Music to pick up our rental gear. That's right, first time driving in a foreign country, driving on the other side of the road, in traffic, and the first time driving a stick shift in about seven years. All I could think was "thank goodness my Mom does NOT know I'm doing this 'cause she would worry non-stop." We're all still alive, obviously, and Tom can drive a stick as well so it's not all on me which is good. ***** Written Wednesday 8/2/06 - morning England time, waiting for the other 'mericans to wake up after a night down the pub, the house where we're stayin' in Owslebury The rental gear we procured it quite good, and the p.a. and keyboard rig Richard is helping us out with is really good, and we've rehearsed twice and decided that we're ready to rock Hampshire as it has never been rocked before... We also found time to go into Winchester yesterday and have Cornish pasties for lunch (puff pastry pies offered with a variety of fillings - the Indian flavored chicken was delicious and they throw some potatoes and peas into just about every kind) and take a bit of a walk-about which included taking a few hilarious (but not at all sacrilegious, no way not us) band photos in St. Swithuns chapel in the old wall which is mentioned in the Winchester Doomsday book of the 1100's. We also went back to the Wyckham arms which by the way is spelt with the Y. Then, after rehearsing all afternoon, we ventured out with me behind the wheel to find another local country pub. Richard gave us directions, but couldn't come along. We went out from the driveway, turned left, made the first right and found ourselves poking down another tiny country lane, verge hedge on one side, farmland all around. First we passed a fence made of woven sticks straight outta Watership Down. After what seemed like maybe too far, we discovered a few very nice, upper class houses and then we were in little Upham. One row of parked cars deceived us (house party), but the next row - which went all the way down the lane past the duck pond which also contained swans and ducklings - correctly indicated that we'd found the Brushmakers Arms. We settled in and ordered some food. I wasn't too hungry, but Andy wisely splurged on the 1/2 shoulder of lamb dinner which probably spent an enjoyable life within a 15 mile radius of where we were sitting. It came garnished with red currents and was so big and tasty that we all got to have a bit. After eating, we wandered out into the back garden and met some locals who had a really amazing Burmese mountain dog which looked like a cross between a St. Bernard (huge tan paws) and a black and white border collie. Then we went back into the bar and the serious drinking began for the boys while I hung around in designated driver mode and looked at the collection of antique brooms and brushes and the old pictures and photos of the place from 100 years ago. The proprietor, Keith Richard, made us feel right at home. He entertained us with tales of his recent honeymoon to NYC, tipped us off about a good liquor store down on Wall St. which you can find by "lookin' at the ass end of that big brass bull, then it's down some stairs to your left," and even let us come around through the kitchen to stand behind the bar and take a photo. When a farmer-gentleman in the corner lit up a cigar the ambience was complete. Scotch was sampled, although regrettably I couldn't partake, then we safely toddled back to home base and had a quiet/don't-annoy-the-neighbor's-baby practice on some harmonies and I started writing a new tune. Tonight: the first ever Larch & the WonderWheels show. Now we play everyday through Sunday!

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