A bit of "overtaking" in England
Wow. My brain is still recovering from jet lag, a cold, and a decent amount of whiskey, all of which were procured over the 10 days Mags and I were in England. It was simultaneously the most exhilarated and the most exhausted I’ve been for a tour, and it was absolutely amazing.
I like numbers so I’m going to summarize the trip in stats real quick, then you can read all the mushy stuff below if you’d like to: 10 days, 7 shows, 3 of which sold out, and every other show nearly hit venue capacity; 501 miles driven on the wrong side of the road, 48 roundabouts (guessing here, didn’t actually count), 17 underground Tube rides with our music gear, 3 train rides through the countryside with our music gear, 3 city buses, 2 really bad hangovers (one for me, one for Mags), 2 colds procured, and 0 hard feelings. Not bad for a first run overseas tour that I organized myself.
In all honesty it was the most fun I’ve ever had on a tour. Considering that meeting swaths of new people gives me micro-anxiety attacks, and flying is not my thing, it went really, really well. Every show had an incredible turn out, audiences really dug the material and bought CDs, all the musicians we shared shows with were super kind and great songwriters, and getting to hang with and open for the Non Canon crew was special. Huge thanks to Barry Dolan for giving us a slot at those shows and making our tour that much better.
While it was lots of fun, it was also the hardest tour I’ve been on. DIY touring is not easy, and if you want to do it right AND you’re penny-pinching, it’s even harder. But the people you meet and connections you make along the way are well worth it. People keep asking me who booked it and tour managed, and when I tell them “me” they seemed to be in a bit of shock. It legit took months of planning - I told a friend over there that I spent most weekends 6-months prior to the tour doing research, emailing bands/venues/promoters, making sure we had smoothed out important details, looking up trains/car routes, doing cost analysis of car rental vs trains (down to the very penny of dollar-to-pound exchange rate multiplied by the cost of gas (I even looked up our rental car’s liter capacity and average petrol prices and did an algorithm of how much we could actually spend on gas)), getting certificates of sponsorship (so we weren’t turned away at customs), pitching our tour to a Portland company who gave us a small sponsorship (thank you to the music legal advocates at Aspect Law Group for contributing!), renewing passports, preparing merch, and then also refining a completely new set of songs that I wanted to showcase when I got there. I’m tired as fuq, lol. For transparency’s sake, I wasn’t expecting to break even being our first run over, but we actually nearly did and that was mind boggling to me. It was a lot of work, and I also had a lot of help on the ground from local promoters and artists who all agreed to have my back and help us out, and that is a kind of trust that’s hard to put into words and is what made the tour worth it in the end.
Moving away from talking about math and shit, I want to just real quick talk about the musicians who made this tour as memorable as it was. First things first - I’m going to embarrass the extremely talented Jon Clayton, who guested on cello at more than a few gigs - his and Margaret’s violin-cello parts were absolutely phenomenal and made it a lot more fun for me to play my own songs. At the St. Pancras Old Church we had Chris Thorpe-Tracy (Chris T-T) play piano on the new psych-folk song “I Thought It Was You,” and it was gorgeous and a real treat to get to play with him.
St. Pancras was our second London show, and our first London show was equally great. We played at the Green Note with Ella Janes (London/Berlin based) and Amy from Amy & the Calamities (London-based, Zimbabwe-raised). I was a bit nervous about people showing up for the show, but not long after we arrived at the venue a queue began to file at the door and we ended up having a full house. Really blown away by everyone who came out and enjoyed the songs.
In Derby we shared shows with Shelley from Finance who looped ukulele and toy xylophones, and Umbilica who sang about capitalist exploitation of women’s bodies. Two very rad feminist songwriters making cool shit. After that show we went out for beers and the local pub was playing “Don’t Be Alarmed” on the overhead! Totally nuts. Thank you so much, Shelley, for putting on such an awesome show - you guys have a cool thing going in Derby.
In Bolton we headlined the opening celebration night of the town’s new rock camp called Rock It, and it was really rad to be able to be a part of that. The town clearly cares about its youth and encouraging young bands to go for it. Margaret and I even did a Q & A of what it’s like to be touring musician, how we got to do what we do, and what we like most about touring (which we both agree is just meeting people and learning about what’s going on in their local town, and what’s important to them). Huge thanks to Ivan for helping us with this night, and to Julie for making Margaret and me a delicious meal - very appreciated!
In Bristol we played two sets, a matinee and a sold out evening show, opening for Non Canon. Mark McCabe also played, and his songs are unreasonably good. It was a treat to be able to play a venue like The Exchange, too. I think that was the day that Margaret and I both started to get really sick, so we kind of floated through the day and enjoyed playing and hanging with everyone, knowing that Sleepyville wasn’t too far away.
We then had a few days off and Margaret and I headed back to London to check out the city. We did our own things, but when we met back up later it turned out we had done the same tourist itinerary. Great minds think alike.
The day of the St. Pancras gig, we arrived at the venue early for sound check. We were a little too early so I went outside to check out the grounds (and Mary Wollenstonwcraft’s grave!). When I opened the door of the church, lo’ n behold Portland’s fav queer folk-punk songwriter Rascal Miles was standing there, mouth agape, giddy and ready for a hug. Rascal, I love you, you dingus. Rascal joined us for the rest of tour and it seriously made the whole trip that much better. Then we played the gig, and the church was stunning. I stood atop a grave during my set, and got through despite starting to lose my voice.
We got to Brighton on the 13th and I was at that point voiceless. We ended up having to pull our set and I was really sad about that (Brighton was definitely one of the shows I was looking forward to the most!), but it meant that Rascal got to play a set, and it was cool to still be able to represent Portland so far from home. El Morgan and Lewis McKale were rad and fun to hang with - next time I won’t be sick and you’ll be able to hear me play! Thank you so much to Chris for helping us with the show and for treating us to the best brunch in Brighton.
Our final show was in Devizes at The Lamb, and I had been looking forward to that show all tour, mostly because years ago I learned about the venue and the work that Kieran of Sheer Music does. Kieran truly is the GigFather of Swindon. He’s built up a bustling music scene in the middle of the English countryside that maybe wouldn’t have such a vibrant gig scene if it weren’t for him and the community he’s pulled together. We shared the show with boisterous folk-punk songwriters Mike Barham and Nick Parker, both super sweet and supportive dudes. I got into political debates post-gig, which was fun for me, but then I realized that I may just be riling people up for no good reason other than my own pleasure of telling people everything I know about current American politics, intersectional feminism, and how much I hate Trump. Not everyone loves debating as much as I do, so I decided to cool it. Also because it was the last night of tour and I always get really drunk on the last night of tour. So, I was drunk, and so were my debate opponents, and it wasn’t going anywhere productive… Kieran at Sheer Music - thank you so much for an awesome and memorable last stop of our tour! Can’t wait til next time.
Last thing is: Margaret Wehr is an absolute gem of a human being who saved me so many times on this tour. Not only is she a phenomenal violin player, she’s also calm, collected, flexible, hilarious and always had my back. There were several times when I made us arrive at the incorrect address and I insisted that we knock on the door, even if we weren’t sure it was the right address, and she still had my back. I took many wrong turns and roundabout exits that I shouldn’t have taken, and she got us back on course. There were several times when I got grumpy because I lost my voice, and she cheered me up by imitating British accents from every region we visited. I couldn’t have imagined a better tour partner for these shows, and I’m so thankful that we can look back on this trip together in years to come. To my number one M1 fake-Brit, backseat overtaker: you’re massively ace. (did i use those words right?)
Last-last thing is: THANK YOU EVERYONE WHO CAME TO THE SHOWS! This tour wouldn’t have been a quarter of the fun if you hadn’t bought tickets and shown up, and you did. I’m blown away and still processing how awesome you made our first tour to the UK. Thank you.
There’s talk of more touring the UK and Europe next year after our next album release (estimated release… spring 2019), so watch this space for eventual dates. It’s been a great year of things happening with music, and seeing as I don’t have a manager or a label or anything, I’m just trying to keep tabs on everything and not be a dick to my family, friends and employer. I’m excited to take a short breather over the next couple months, but this winter I’ll be playing around the West Coast a little (US/Canada, and there’s talk of East Coast shows… but nothing set in stone) so do check dates and stuff.
Sorry for the novel - I thought it was going to be short! Thanks for reading and supporting live music and independent musicians. The only thing the 1% can’t steal from us is us.
Lots of love,