Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Cafe nine, New Haven

Last night's show was good. The name is misnomer because it's a bar not a cafe, and there weren't nine people there were 11. Tuesday's are quiet. It was still a nice night though and they paid me a minimum thankfully. No more tip jars for me
- - - - - - - -
In the mall now. Ah, the great American mall. It is a relief after the hubub of the big cities, trying to find the place you need and park without paying. Here it's all under one roof. I'll do some booking in my new favourite nationwide food-chain, Panera Bread - healthy food and free wifi. Maybe see a movie. And then head to Ashbury Park, south of New York, Bruce Springsteen's hometown, as everyone tells me.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

(The) Springfield

I've really lucked out today. I'm staying with a friend of my friend Yann from London, Jonathan Green (pictured by the pool) and his wife Keisha, in a classic 1950s, vast US house. This is living! A shame it's too cold for a swim. Jonathan's an English adventure journalist, for magazine's like Men's Journal, and has some tales to tell about everything from bull riding to sky-diving, or the time him and Yann went down the Mississipi on jet skis. He's writing a book now about a Tibetan girl that was shot by Chinese border guards, which will be published soon.   So it's been a very easy day and I only have to drive another hour and a half on to New Haven for tonight's show. If only all days were like this.

L'Esco, Montreal

My second show in Montreal was on the Sunday with Postcards a local band from Montreal... unfortunately only about 10 people came out to see it. It was raining and the curse continues.

But I had a great time in Montreal. I can thoroughly recommend. I didn't know much about it before but it's a huge city. Like Manhattan in that it's an island (40km long) and with big sky scrapers downtown. Like Berlin in that it is cheap to live and has lots of artists. And like Paris in that it's full of froggies.

I saw the old town, explored the plateau and went past Leonard Cohen's house. Peter was a great host and we had fun swapping songs and people we should listen to. All in all a good three days.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Shaika Cafe, Montreal

It was quite a surreal experience today driving North, across a border, and into France. Montreal is a very special city. It really deserves its reputation. 

I'm staying with Peter Nevins, a musician and artist, for three days now in the best area, Mile End. There's so much going on in this part of town. The streets are plastered with funky posters for all the gigs and openings. So many beautiful, well-dressed people. There's a buzzing energy to the place. I give Montreal a 10.

The show itself I give zero, because that's how many people showed up.

Friday, 25 September 2009

The Monkey House, Winooski, VT

Last night was a really nice show. Great sound onstage which makes a big difference to any gig. I played with the Joshua Panda band who are one of the best bands in Vermont. That guy can sing! He grew up down south and grew up singing in the Southern Baptist style. A very powerful voice. I crashed at his and his girlfriend Ruth's place, and their very friendly kitten.

I'm sad to be leaving Vermont today. It feels like I've been here weeks. The last three shows have been within a stones through of each other and I've met a lot of great people. I can't believe I've only been gigging a week.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Terry and Julie

I went begging around the bar for a place to sleep after the show and a very nice retired couple, Terry and Julie (Waterloo Sunset!) put me up. They might have regret it because I'm taking a long time to leave now as it's so nice here.

I will go off in a bit and explore the town. Montpelier is the state capital (the only state capital without a McDonalds) and very small homely town. Vermont is in a really beautiful state. Then it's back to just a few miles north of Burlington for tonight's show.

The set

I'm still perfecting the right set. It's hard to get the attention of a talkative bar so I've found the best way is to introduce the set is saying that I'll be singing songs about "bondage, marijuana, homosexuality, obesity and Woody Allen".

I find that this gets their attention straightaway.

Then I introduce the first song "about my Dad's cousin who was one of those immensely fat people" and that "because you're all Americans you probably all have a brother or sister at home who can't get out of bed, but it was a talking point in England".

I've gone for subject-driven songs to stand out from the other singer-songwriters on the scene. The set looks like this at the moment:
The fat song - gets a laugh
The gay song - I get some strange looks
The Attention Deficet Disorder song - the teachers like this one.
The stoner song - lots of potheads here
The wind energy song - a surprising number of people work in renewable energy it seems
The Woody Allen song - marrying your daughter doesn't seem to help your work
The bondage song - more of a toe tapper than a chuckler
The clutter song - these last two go down the best because people can relate to them
The work song - hating your job crosses all cultural boundaries.

So this is how I'm playing it. Pulling no punches. No ones pulled any punches on me yet or pulled a gun, but a few older ladies have coughed up their coffee. I might tone it down a bit if I get further in land or see a confederate flag flying.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Langdon Street Cafe, Montpelier, Vermont

Another night another show. Coyote Grace are my co-hosts tonight
(pictured). A week into the tour now and it hasn't worked out great so
far. The tip jar, which all the bands play for, has not overfloweth.
$20 on average - pretty miserable - and an average audience of 15-20
people. I can see now why Dan Costello and others don't tour the US.
I'll try and get more house concerts and more in Canada for the next
tour and see if that works. Most venues don't even give food. It's
pretty miserable! At least that's a good mood to do booking in. It's
best to do it on the road when you're not under the illusions of

On the farm

I stayed on a farm last night. Thanks for putting me up Robin. Good luck with renouncing. And thanks for the photo of last night... the first one of me in action. I've tried taking them myself but I'm just not fast enough.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Radio Bean, Burlington

Watching the Honky Tonk jam session after my show (don't call it
country). One of the downsides of couchsurfing is waiting until your
host wants to leave. I'll have to check out the town tomorrow. It
seems very nice, on a huge lake.

The Red Door, Portsmouth

The Red Door is a cool little venue/cocktail bar in the picture postcard town of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. (Note to self: Play more gigs in cocktail bars.) The David Wax Museum (above) played as well and did a very engaging set. They're on a big tour as well and playing most of the same places and they have a blog. Most people had come to see them so I was very grateful they were there! In the daytime I explored Plum Island, a pretty spot (Note to self: spend more time on the beach)

Monday, 21 September 2009

Burren, Somerville

Another night another show. I'm getting into the swing of things. Played with Brendan Hogan (pictured) who put on a very nice show for his new album.

I couchsurfed with Aaron who has written it up nicely on his blog

In the daytime I wandered around Boston and the harbour. A steady Sunday. Every day is like Sunday.

PA's Lounge, Somerville

I stayed with Andy and Jen in Somerville who book the PA's lounge. They've converted their living room into a studio to record people for their Bands in Boston podcast. They're lovely people and pretty obsessive about music.

There were two other out-of-town acts also playing at PA's. Both of them were really really good. Dead Heart Bloom (pictured above doing their podcast in the daytime and below onstage at PA's) from New York and Chylde (pronounced Child) from Buffalo. The former drove to the gig from Cleveland (10hr drive) and the latter drove home after the gig (8hr drive). Insane!

Dead Heart Bloom onstage at PA's.

Saturday, 19 September 2009


Just saw a new film called Extract. Twas ok. Ben Afleck was in and looked like the 4th member of porterdavis
(Weird coincidence: I just realised next day that the cinema I saw it in was on Davis Sqr, one stop along from Porter, the squares Dan and Mike used to busk in and took their names from)


It's looking good for tonight's show. There's publicity! I got a promotion on Boston playground and it's sponsored by Performer Magazine.

People's Pint, Greenfield

1st gig. Mmmmmm. An inauspicious start to the tour. It was a very nice restaurant. Great food and they brew their own real ales. It was packed, but... by the time I came to play the place and almost emptied. They had me singing through a guitar amp because the PA was down and I had to sing with my mouth touching the mic for the whole set to earth it or it gave off this loud buzzing noise. $7 in the tip jar. Friday night in small town America. No one in couchsurfing here either, thankfully the chef let me sleep on her floor. So, I've had better shows.... but it will take more than that to get me down. It's a beautiful day. I'm up with the lark (still on European time). I'm off to Boston and better shows and I have a slap-up, $7 breakfast to look forward to.

Friday, 18 September 2009

The Copenhagen tracks

Hot off the press. I just got these three tracks from the recording I did with Patrick and Andreas last month. I put down the guitar and vocals down in two days and they've added the rest of the music, so it was funny for me to hear them finished now. I'm going to make them available for download and then print a 7" to sell at shows, but you can listen first. Let me know what you think.

Every day's a joy
5 years on
Viva la revolucion

The idea is to record three EPs like this and then release an album. Rather than only recording every two years or so. The album cycle. My friend Anders is music marketing guru and it's one of his many ideas.


I hiked to the top of Mt Tom this morning. I know this a very boring photo but it took me an hour and a half to get up there so I'm posting it.

I've stopped for lunch in Northampton. Connecticut's 'alternative' town, which seems to mean lots of bead shops.

West Springfield

I couch-surfed with Kim and Mike last night. Thanks for having me guys. I've got to remember to take photos of people. This is from their couchsurfing profile. They have lots of adventure stories so the picture is appropriate. It was nice to stay in the countryside.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

New Haven and Yale

My first night was in New Haven. I found a place through and stayed with a very nice couple, Mike a musician and Jing, who's doing her Law masters at Yale (still only 22!)

Today I went round the town (very small) with Mike and and fellow couchsurfers Matt and Amber from England, who have bought a van and are doing a US tour but without the music.

There's this huge mausoleum in the centre of town. It looks like the setting for the next Dan Brown novel, and it very could be because it's the Skull & Bones fraterity house, where the likes of Bush and Kerry had their fun. 

America is still talking of the Yale graduate student Annie Le who it seems was murdered by a lab technician. Obviously not a well-thought out crime, because you wouldn't leave the body in a high security area where only a few people have access.

New Haven is a strange town. The centre is filled with elite students, many of whom will get million dollar salaries later in life, and this is surrounded by ghetto areas where you shouldn't walk alone.

The beast

I've arrived safe and sound stateside, and am settled in my new home
for the next 44days, a Chevrolet Impala (I think). It's huge. I could
sleep in the trunk. I see now why there are so many fat Americans,
because they have such big cars to fill.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Sailing away

Out on the IJsslmeer enjoying some relaxation before going to the States. Photo by Erik Rolf

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Mr Pleasure Man

After the show we went to my oldest friend's 40th birthday party, Enrique (he's a choir conductor). I'd written a song for him and we surprised him with it (Dan on piano). Despite his advanced age, pot belly, receding hair line, etc., he is still very popular with the ladies. And actually got a nickname from one of them - Mr Pleasure Man. The song wrote itself. 
I didn't record it unfortunately (will have to do that at his 50th) but you can read the lyrics on my songwriting blog

Dan Costello

I played a show last night in Amsterdam with Dan Costello, pillar of the legendary New York anti-folk scene (sic). Not many people showed up as it was out of town and not in a regular venue so I feel bad about that. But he was great and will be back in March so I'll work out something better then. I play with a lot of different singer-songwriters when I'm on the road but not many of them have something to say, so that was a joy.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Living room show in Amsterdam

What do I do on my first night off? Go to a concert of course. I saw Rue Royale, Awkward I and The Black Atlantic in a very good living room show in Amsterdam. It was very nice speaking to the folks from Rue Royale as they tour full-time as well and had some advice - mainly to buy a car rather than renting as it's much cheaper, so I will have to do that, one in Europe and one in the US. T

Monday, 7 September 2009

Back in Amsterdam

10 days break now. House-sitting. One of life's greatest pleasures. Time to work on songs and kick back in a quiet house without having to worry about getting it sorted.

The tour was great but too much driving. Over 8000km. Ridiculous.

The last gig was part of Kassel's museum night and I played in an exhibition dedicated to death. A morbid end to the tour.


For Ben and Innes - to prove I'm alive and well. In windswept Bremerhaven. A nice show. I had to play for almost two hours so really played everything in the bag. I only found out afterwards that the city has 25% unemployment, so Every Day's a Joy was finally ironic.


Mini-golf is a big part of my fitness regime when I'm on tour. Keeps me sharp mentally and physically.

Economy drive

Meet the newest addition to my technological arsenal: Tim the travel kettle (I already have Tom the navigator so I'm trying to build some camaraderie in the naming). In a bid to cut costs I've taken to making my own brew. On the downside, the kettle takes 3/4 to (almost) boil so I have to predict my thirst patterns well in advance to avoid the ever-present danger dehydration.  
But it's worth it. Instead of the 2 euros a time tea stops I am now on an almost no-cost solution! When I was young, my Gran trained me on the art of collecting the spare sugar sachets, milk packets and tea bags that cafes leave lying around.
Other money-saving measures I'm employing at the moment include making sandwiches for lunch from the breakfast buffet, wrapping them in napkins and subtly sliding them into your manbag while distracting the waitress with a well-thrown croissant.
I'm also saving money on urination by avoiding the 50 cent charges in service stations, which can really add up. I now go discretely behind the petrol stations, or in a plastic bottle in the car while driving if I'm late for a show, but this is taking some practice and I've had a few close calls.
Another idea is book swapping, once I've finished my latest thriller. I've no space to keep the ones I have and libraries aren't an option.
Now I have the travel kettle, and to achieve true self-sufficiency, I'm thinking about some kind of water-filtration system with the bottles I've filled. I have over 20 now - it's just like being back in the camper van. I'll keep you up-to-date.

Friday, 4 September 2009

In-car entertainment

People often ask me how I stay sane on these long drives. I've tried reading, updating my journal or even doing a watercolor, but it's too cramped in the car and I can't get comfortable, so I listening to CDs or audio books.

I usually start off optimistically each day with the radio, until I'm reminded of how awful it is. It almost seems that the authorities fear that good music can excite and incite the masses, so all state and commercial radio worldwide is only allowed to play the same 200 mind-numbingly bland songs.

There are some English-language radio channels in Germany. Near Berlin they broadcast the BBC World Service which is like a beacon of light. In other parts of the Rhine Valley you can pick up British Forces Radio or the American equivalent, but a few minutes of tub-thumping is more than enough.

Thankfully I have my ipod and thank heavens for the podcast. This is a Godsend for the long distance driver. An endless supply of interesting documentaries, comedy, etc. The days when I can't update it are long days.

The novelty of all these hours in the car finally wore off yesterday, driving 5 hours from Stuttgart to Duisburg. All my best jokes, funny voices and hilarious impressions of people we both know failed to amuse me.

Today is another three hours up to Bremerhaven in the very North. Until then I have found a nice cafe with a breakfast buffet and wifi. What more does a man need? Refining the art of eating long after you're hungry with the world at your fingertips.

Only two more shows to go. Last night's show here in Unna was OK. Only about 20 people, but it was a fixed fee and they enjoyed and most importantly the bedroom was in the same building. That's always at the top of my rider.

I met a guy called Kosta who also knows Magnifico who my friend Martin Mol knows who is helping me get some shows in Slovenia in January. Kosta was an interesting guy, also touring over here, used to run one of the most famous night clubs, and now makes guitars. He can help me get another show in his hometown so it's looking good for Slovenia.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009


The third or fourth thing people usually ask me, after where do you come from, where do you live, where's the foundation, etc, is do you earn enough money doing this? As this must be of interest to a lot of people I'll give you, my beloved reader, the exclusive lowdown.

For this tour, the short answer is: barely. Because it's been too many km driving, 20% to the booker, and it's summer when not many people are in the bars.

Here's a breakdown of the average cost and income for the 14 shows so far:

Hat/deal: €101
CD sales: €34

Car hire: €45
Petrol: €45

So I'm making €31 a day so far. Take off tea, coffee and collectables and you're not left with much.

Even though it's mostly tip jars or percentages in the US from September, it should be because:
- The distances are much shorter (I did the booking ;)
- They sell gasoline instead of petrol which is a tenth of the price! I've looked into finding gasoline in Europe but no luck. There is some Benzine but it's not much cheaper.
- American people are generous, gregarious people who love music, buy lots of CDs, T-shirts and tip tip tip! And the US has the highest percentage of them anywhere on earth.
- I'll look into buying or borrowing a car. The same for Europe next year. If anyone has any suggestions...

Europe should also be better next year as I'm only booking places with a guaranteed minimum average of €200.

So it's hard times at the moment but as you can see, I will soon be rich. Rich I tell you. Rich and famous. With someone to drive me. A driver! Yes. I'll make him wear a uniform. And I'll sit in the back. Laughing! LAUGHING!!! Ah ha ha ha ha ha HA HA !!!....

I hope this answers your question