We all love Lee MacDougall, the British singer/songwriter who has taken America by storm. And we’re all missing him. While Lee’s in the U.K. on a mini-tour, he sent greetings and an entry from his American Tour Diary: Blog 7, “Houston to SXSW Festival, Texas.”
I hope all of you enjoy this blog as much as I have. Lee is an awesome writer and this blog entry shows just how grueling “life on the road” can be!
Wednesday 16th March 2011
Location: Houston, Texas
Tonight’s journey from Dallas to Houston is a pretty accurate reflection of the strain that touring can have on you. We leave Poor David’s Pub in Dallas around 11pm and have to be in Houston for a 6am Fox News TV appearance. Sleep is often overlooked but it has to be factored in somewhere. It is a four hour drive to Houston and everyone is now seriously suffering from the after effects of a long string of sleepless nights, exhausting drives and alcoholic poisoning.
Tour manager and driver Keef however, seems to be dealing with this fatigue noticeably better than the rest of us.
“How come you don’t look tired?” I quiz him.
“Cos I’ve had a nice little sleep today already.”
“When did you find the time to do that?!” I ask.
“When you were onstage” he smirks.
Keef’s boasts are short lived however. About an hour into the journey as Rob and I are finally nodding off, we are rudely awaken by the sudden movement of our vehicle jolting across 3 lanes of traffic and then swerving back again.
“Sorry…” Keef murmurs with a look of confusion on his face.
“I dozed off.”
From then on Rob and I agree to take it in turns to talk to Keef whilst he is driving to try to help keep him awake whilst the other one of us sleeps. The plan works, but pretty much means that we’re going to be showing up for our big TV appearance with about two hours kip between us.
We pull into our Holiday Inn Express at around 3am and set our alarms for 5.30. There is only one bed so once again I’m back to the blow-up mattress. Or should I say blow-up mattress that now has a hole in it. And so I am softly sung to sleep by the gentle and reassuring ‘sissssss’ of air escaping from the bed beneath me, the only comforting thought being that it probably won’t be completely flat by the time I wake up – because that will be in approximately 56 minutes time.
My air-bed defeat is slightly rectified by my morning victory of being the only person that actually has time for a shower. My only other memory of the morning being that I notice my shoes are now starting to fall to pieces.
We arrive at Fox 26 News and the immaculate looking crew are celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with an array of equally amazing looking cupcakes which they kindly share with us. I had no idea that it was St. Patrick’s day but enjoy the cakes all the same.
I sing “Joanna” and the show goes well, despite the fact that half way though the performance I catch a glimpse of myself on the huge TV monitors and notice that the bags under my eyes are now so big that I may have to check them in on my next flight… Sleep is the order of the day, although it’s still only 9:00 a.m. and we can’t check into our next hotel room until 2:00 p.m.
Decide to decamp to the mall. My shoes are now a kind of Chaplin-esque homage, my toes palpably peeking out and reaching for the sympathy of eschewing passers by. I purchase some super glue to patch them back together and climb back into the van and attempt to reattach my sole (I guess this could also be construed spiritually). Bad idea. I fall asleep half way through and awake to find my foot glued to the carpet and my hand partially attached to the front seat. Rob has just bought a hat that makes him look like Bruno Mars, which is a real shame because I am in no position to be making fun of someone else in my current predicament.
The Hideaway on Dunvale is a cool little venue in a beaten up part of town. After sleeping most of the afternoon I am eager to play. I perch myself on the fence of the patio area outside and do a little busking before the show starts and a lovely young lady named Courtney bestows me with some English treasures including tea bags, Marmite and a packet of Hob Nobs. The Hob Nobs I am especially happy to see, for it seems I have spent half my time in the US so far playing music and the other half trying to convince people that Hob Nobs are actually a real type of biscuit. I am generally met by disbelieving eyes and the scorned remarks of folks who refuse to accept that they are very popular in the UK and that there is absolutely nothing whatsoever remotely sexual about them. Well, depending on their useage.
The Houston show goes well and we stay for an hour or so afterwards to chat to everyone and take snaps before crawling off for an early bed around midnight. Tomorrow is the ledgendary SxSW Festival in Austin. Something tells me it could be a long few days.
Thursday 17th March 2011
Location: SxSW Festival, Austin, Texas
The streets are a kaleidoscope of people. Bob Geldof walks past. I shout “Hey Bob!” and give him a wave, but he pretends not to see me. Everyone looks impoverishly cool like they are in a band or they have just stepped out of the latest fashion blog, having administered acme Mumford & Sons identikit accoutrements. I’m not too fussed about all that and my pastey white arms are in desperate need of some vitamin D, so I dispense with my jacket and give the wife beater an airing. Spot the Brit anyone?
Head to meet my manager Phil Taylor and fellow labelmates Flipron for a posh industry brunch. They have already been at the Driskill Hotel bar amongst the two hundred or so revellers around an hour, and it appears that most of the complimentary alcohol is already adorning our table when we arrive. Better still, it is mostly empty by the time we arrive. It’s 1:00 p.m. Spot the Brits anyone?
Tonight I’m playing at The Hilton Garden Hotel on the Bedford stage as part of the official festival line-up. Being involved in such a prestigious event is a very nice feeling and one that I have waited a long time for. It’s a big crowd teaming with industry bods and palms are sweaty.
I steal Flipron’s keyboard maestro Joe to play keys on a couple of tracks and we decamp backstage to do a hasty rehearsal. We are running through “Joanna” when in walks legendary cult singer/songwriter Ron Sexsmith who is due to take to the stage straight after me. We have a little exchange of pleasantries and I can’t help but smile at the irony. I took the real “Joanna” to see Ron Sexsmith on our first date when I first set foot on London’s Utopian streets many moons ago. He seems pleased to hear this little tale and enquires if we are still together?
“No,” I reply.
“Did you not listen to the lyrics??”
It’s a great show, the crowd are awesome, many having travelled from all over the US to be there. One girl tells me she came all the way from Seattle to see me and also had tickets to see a secret show by Duran Duran. She was devastated to find out that they were then scheduled to perform at exactly the same time as me. “Nevermind,” she says nonchalently. “I’ll catch them some other time..”
The rest of the night is a blur. I know we celebrated the show, and I know I had a long conversation with a police officer on a horse, and I know we victoriously squeezed six people into a tiny little car and went to see Denny at 4:00 a.m. But alas, that is all I know.
Friday 18th March 2011
Location: SxSW Festival, Austin, Texas
Decide to go and see Denny again for a spot of brunch. It’s hard not to be impressed by his menu. Pancakes, granola, yoghurt, seasonal fruit, and a sausage. All on one plate. I ask the waitress if I can speak with Denny to congratulate him on the steller job he is doing, but I’m fresh outta luck – for the second time in as many days – Denny isn’t there.
As it’s SxSW we decide rather aptly to spend our night off going to see some bands. We head down to the Electric Barbarella where a couple of friends of mine from London called Chaz and Dave (seriously) are playing with their band The Coolness. They are an electro glam band, all hair, make-up, crotch-hugging lycra and sexual innuendo. We are soon enjoying their shambolic eroticised genius and phallyic mic stand gestation, and it isn’t long before we begin to merrymake with a group of young ladies.
Spiced rum is devoured, obligatory shots are quickly demolished and the familiar warm hug of drunkeness once again smothers each one of us like a child’s comfort blanket.
Then my phone rings. It’s my mum. Ah mother! I think to myself, how I have missed thee! So I decide to venture outside onto the street and away from the pelvic thrustings of The Coolness so that I can attempt a somewhat civilised conversation with the one woman who’s lifelong love for me has so far been undwindling.
I step out onto the grubby sidewalk and before I can say “Hi Mum, have you missed me?” a muscular tree trunk of an arm comes from nowhere and roughly grabs me by my shirt, spinning me vertiginously off balance and almost (almost) to the ground.
“What the f**k do you think your doing?” a gruff thick-set southern drawl malevolently slurs from behind me.
I turn around and into the shadow of a rather angry looking brute of a doorman/hulk, eyes periliously close together and red blood cells clearly outnumbering neurons.
“Eh? what? Err hang on a minute Mum… What’s your problem, you dickhead?”
Normally I would aim to placate this type of happenstance with friendlier vocabulary in a bid to avoid violence (my US Visa would be instantly revoked), however three things on this occasion have thrust me firmly in the opposite direction:
1. This thunkster may have ripped my shirt, my favorate shirt..
2. I was very much looking forward to a good ‘ol chinwag with my dear old Mum, bless her
3. I was very drunk.
“You’re not allowed drinks outside.”
His response is agitated, and clemency obviously can’t be something he lists on his CV – as with no advance warning he swipes my freshly purchased can of PBR from my hand and launches it into the trash can.
“Ooops,” he grunts disingenuously.
This serves to piss me off possibly more than anything I’ve ever known possible. I leap into a tirade that I’m not altogether sure from wence it came, but definitely feel it worthy of some kind of oscar nomination. Even if just maybe an acknowledgement in the winner’s speech.
“Errrr Mum, I’ll call you back. ‘Ey!! What did you do that for?! Seriously, mate, why did you do that? I was minding my own business, clearly causing no-one any harm whatsoever, trying to have a conversation with my mother who I’ve not seen in weeks, and you go and do that? Why?! Your job right, if I’m not mistaken is to deter violence and keep order amongst the rabble right? Those with intent to disrupt, yeah? All you had to do was tap me on the shoulder and politely point out the fact I couldn’t take my drink outside… and I would’ve been ‘oh, I beg your pardon guv’nor’, and that would’ve been that.. But then you go and do that!? Like you’re actually trying to get a reaction out of me… Like if I’d actually square up to you or summat.. or to see if I’ve got the minerals.. Are you just really bored? You actually trying to incite violence? Did your boyfriend dump you…?”
I was just reaching full swing and had various other scathingly relevant points I wished to deliver, when to my actual surprise, The Hulk snapped.
In one movement (and possibly simultaneously bursting the one blood vessel feeding blood to his brain) he lurched forwards, lifting me from my feet by my collar and yanking me towards him.
I suppose my life should have been flashing before my eyes or something, but the only thing I could think of was the huge unsightly wart he had on the end of his nose… This actually made me laugh a little bit, and I think that proved to be the final tipping point, as the further enraged Hulk quickly retracted his other hand – as if about to launch some kind of death move on me.
Now you, like I, would presume that to be case closed. However, the memory of what happened next will forever flood my heart with pride as one of the most selfless acts of gallantry I’ve ever witnessed.
From this point onwards, as I recall, events unfolded in slow motion.
A cacophony of noise erupted behind us, and out of the corner of my peripheral vision I spy Keef, careering towards us at Olympic speed, hurdling tables and chairs, pushing bemused and unsuspecting bystanders out of the way, words spewing from his mouth, literally screaming.
“Oi!! You! Eyyy!!! What the ******* hell are you doing?!!”
Keef had been watching events unfold from the safety of a nearby taco truck, unsure as to what was happening, but becoming more and more dissatisfied by what he was witnessing as he tucked into his beef enchilada. The instant that he perceived I may be in some kind of danger, almost like flipping a switch in his head, and true to blogs previous – the transformation into Clint Keefwood occurred and in a heartbeat he was on his way to my rescue.
Startled, Tiny Brain let go of my throat and I fell back down to Earth many inches below.
“What’s your problem geezer!?” Keef – out of breath, reiterated his confusion toward my nemesis.
“You’re not allowed drinks outside” came the laboured reply.
“If the police see anyone out here drinking alcohol, I could lose my job…”
“Yeah and if they saw you assaulting my mate I wonder what they’d say then?”
Touche, Keef, however The Hulk’s patience looks like it is now starting to wear a little thin and he is clearly beginning to find the situation all a bit of a nusiance.
“Right, I’m having you two barred. That’s it, out, you’re not coming back in.”
“Yeah and we’ll have you sacked,” Keef retorted back.
“I filmed the whole thing on my phone.”
I look over at Keef. I’m impressed. I didn’t see that coming…
“Really?” I say to him.
“Yep, and I’ll have it all over YouTube by the morning”
The Hulk now looks somewhat perturbed.
“Seriously, geezer,” Keef continued, “you’re gonna get in a lot of trouble for this. I think you should apologise and buy my friend here another drink. It’s the decent thing to do…”
Tiny Brain looks down at me, then at Keef, and then back towards me. His tiny brain trying to make sense of what is happening and divulge if there is actually any shred of truth to what has just been said.
“Look, I just can’t afford to risk losing my job that’s all. If I’m not hard on thems that breaks the rules then everyone breaks the rules…”
He is weakening.
Keef looks at me.
“Is your shirt ripped?”
“Yeah… cost me eighty dollars this shirt.”
The Hulk, looking greener by the second, is now on the back foot. He has been outthunk.
“Listen, I’ll let you off this time, but don’t be bringing any more licquor past this doorway…”
“And what about his drink?”
Keef is still suggestively holding his phone.
Begrudgingly and somewhat unbelievably, The Hulk acquiesces.
Like David’s triumph over Goliath, or the Karate Kid beating the bigger, tougher, cooler kids at his school – victory is ours. And no victory tastes so good as that over a doorman in a nightclub. We step back inside the venue like new men, beaming and proud.
“I can’t believe you got the whole thing on your phone,” I said to Keef, taking a sip of my brand new PBR.
“Let’s have a look?”
“Nah… you can’t.”
“Cos I didn’t really…”
“Ha ha ha, that’s awesome!”
Through the laughter Keef leans over to me: “Did that shirt really cost you eighty dollars?”
“Nah….. I bought it for three dollars in a thrift store…”
“Ha ha ha ha!”
The two of us giggle like schoolgirls for the best part of five minutes, and with renewed swag, we strut back to our table.
“Right then” says I. “I better call my Mum.”