Restorations are currently touring the United Kingdom with Crazy Arm and Sam Russo, and while they cross the halfway point we’re excited to bring you an inside glimpse at what’s been going on. So without further adieu, check out the first installment of Restorations tour journal!
Written by guitarist Dave Klyman
Monday, July 6th – Tuesday, July 7th – Departures and Arrivals
Flying internationally as a band can be a trying experience. No matter how simplified you try to stream the process or how lightly you think you’ve packed, there can always be complications. Thankfully, this cross-Atlantic trip proved the exception and not the assumption. Compared to last time we flew into the UK, this time was fairly painless. Boarding the plane seemed almost unreal. Somehow, when all passengers had been seated, most of us wound up with full rows to ourselves. Things were looking good. Learn a lesson from us and never talk about what seems like good luck out loud. Soon as we voiced our disbelief at our seating success, a flight attendant brought a seating change directly behind us and our delicate and precious musician’s ears; one of, if not the most hated of flying cliches: the crying baby. Seeing how the trade winds were blowing, I feverishly looked around the cabin, spied an open two-seater toward the front and beat a hasty retreat to the tip of commercial class. Crisis averted for me. Not so much for Jon and Dan. Also, we weren’t even sure Jeff made it on the plane as he wound up seated in the far back. But no baby. So who won that seating raffle? Taxiing, building momentum, and liftoff. Here we go. It’s Restoration’s and my second time flying to and touring the UK. Braving a tin foil tube of jet fuel whose cabin pressure crushes my sinuses to a painful singularity to bring a few songs across the sea.
After about six and half hours of overnight flight (gratefully, we made great time) we made it from New York to Manchester where we met up with our driver/sound tech/all around great guy, the ever inimitable Dave March. He’s been described as the “best beard in the business.” We concur. Once we got ourselves settled into our friends’ Louise’s and Francis’s, flat the battle against jetlag began. And jetlag won for the most part. Some naps were taken by some. Waking was followed by a few drinks and a walk to Manchester’s Curry Mile for a truly delicious dinner. And then we all crashed hard. Some of us fared worse than others.
Wednesday, July 8th – Brighton – Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar
After much needed sleep, the group woke at 8:00 a.m. to get on the road to our first show in Brighton. It’s at this point that it finally becomes clear that we’ve come to a different country. Sometimes it can take a while for the reality of a tour to sink in, the realization that you’re not going home the next day. Or the next week. And so on. Some of the differences are subtle and negligible: driving on the opposite side of the road, using different currency, calling cilantro coriander, etc. These are no big deals. And then you see a sign on a petrol station that offers “The Best Handjob in the World” and you wonder where the connotations got scrambled between here and the US.
We take a momentary stop in Haverhill, Suffolk county, Easternmost county in England, where apparently the sun rises first. Home to the only laser studded roundabout in the whole nation. Most of this information was provided by the reasons we stopped over: picking up tour mates Sam Russo and his lady-friend, Clare. We met Sam and Clare on our last European tour and have stayed in contact ever since. They’re great folks by all accounts, so it was a pretty easy decision to ask Sam along for this run. And Clare joining as support? Hell yes. Despite the disappointment of it being the wrong time of day to see England’s only laser studded roundabout, we nevertheless carry on to Brighton to meet up with our other tour mates, Crazy Arm, at Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar. Once at the venue, a really nice space for a band our size, we began the process of organizing our UK backline and getting setups and sounds where they should be. It turned out to be a solid night for everyone. Solid venue, solid sound, solid audience. Touring with Sam and Crazy Arm is going to be a treat each night. After the show we retired to our friend Jay’s flat right off the ocean for nightcap cocktails. Again, a solid night all around.
Thursday, July 9th – Southamton – Joiners
Brighton Beach is an easy place to be. The bustling night life gives way to just as bustling days. Roving groups of students flooded the central areas. We got some proper English breakfast at a nice little cafe called the Kensington. Quite a different setting and experience than hanging around Kensington in Philadelphia. Unlike most that we’re used to, the beach around Brighton Pier is all pebbles and rocks rather than the typical sand. it’s surprisingly comfortable. Unless you’re the drummer in Crazy Arm and your band mates put rocks down your pants while your trying to lie peacefully on your stomach. He seemed ok with it. Everything was going swimmingly. And then a seagull flew overhead and decided to make a target out of me and crapped on my arm. Few things will make you feel more unclean. Oh well.
On to Southampton. Joiners is a club that we hit last year when we did a long tour of the UK and Mainland Europe with Astpai and The Smith Street Band. That was a great show that also included UK band Apologies, I Have None. Both Apologies and Crazy Arm came through and saved us when our touring van at the time broke down. That was a great show. It was gratifying to see that with Sam Russo and Crazy Arm in tow we could still have another great night at Joiners. Some technical issues born of still finding a home with touring gear wasn’t even close to derailing the night and all the bands had commanding sets. Sam pulled an old favorite move. At a venue with a stage that’s a touch too high for an acoustic act, he took his show to the floor. Southampton might not have the same picturesque qualities as Brighton, but it certainly has some colorful locals walking and falling around the streets. To and from the tour’s first (most likely not last) doner kebab, there were only a couple witnessed incidents of brazen public urination. But with nine shows left, there’s still plenty of time. After we retired to and closed down the preferred local bar, Marshall’s, we then retired to the flat and closed down our consciousness.
Friday, July 10th – Bristol – The Exchange
According to Mr. March, there used to be a dirt road of sorts where you could pull off the highway, stop your vehicle, and get a decent look at Stonehenge. But they’ve since let the grass grow and cut that path off. So the best you can get without stopping and paying like a tourist is to watch it grow over the horizon and fade away as you pass by. Maybe that’s what lessens the gravity of the site? Either way, we drove past without too much in the way of ooh and ahhs. But when in the UK, it should be seen. And Spinal Tap should be referenced.
On to the venue. The Exchange in Bristol holds positive memories for Restorations. It was our first stop last time we came over here. It was a hell of show that also included friend and admired musician, Laura Stevenson, playing acoustic. Sam fills that this time around. Having an acoustic performance really helps round out and diversify this tour. The show tonight turned out just as well as the last time around. It’s great to see the room fill up for every part of the touring package. From start to finish it was a solid night, ending in, you guessed it, late night hanging with local friends and doner kebab part two. It’s a delicious (albeit kinda unhealthy) way to end the night.
Saturday, July 11th – Cardiff – The Full Moon
The morning started with sunny and temperate backyard hangs at the Bristol flat of Crazy Arm’s bassist, Nathan. To counteract the hedonism of the night before we opted for a vegan breakfast (except for maybe the traditional beans). After some quality lazy time, we leisurely hit the road to Cardiff, Wales. Stopping along the way, we took a look at Caerphilly Castle. Built between 1268 and 1290, it’s the second biggest castle in Britain. It’s also been the setting for a few Doctor Who episodes. The scenery surrounding Caerphilly was expansive and beautiful UK hills and valleys. We made a round of the castle and its moat and then wandered back to the van to finish the drive.
The section of Cardiff hosting our show is in the stadium district and there was a big cricket match taking place. This assured that the streets were crowded with folks in varying states of clothing and drunken disarray. Many were openly enjoying beverages in the streets. Keeping the idea of hopefully healthier cuisine in mind we got dinner at Vegetarian Food Studio, a nearby, mostly Indian restaurant with many vegan/veg options. After a great meal we checked out another castle. This time we wandered around the outskirts of Cardiff Castle and the giant park that contains it. Classic castle architecture and nature in a city center is always interesting to see.
None of us were sure what to think about the show seeing as how it had seemingly sparked the least amount of advance buzz and conversation. As a result, expectation were lower than those surrounding other stops on the run. But since it’s tour and preconceived notions of success and failure are pointless constructs anymore, we went in hoping for the best but prepared for less. Every once in a while having that thin ray of hope pays off exponentially. Cardiff represented and brought the most enthusiastic crowd that we’ve played to on this tour and many others. Apparently when we were heading into the final throes of the set closer, “Separate Songs,” one quite zealous individual tossed back his beverage, tossed the empty container over his back, magically produced another from his back pocket, and started imbibing it immediately. This was all in one fluid motion. Wales, you’re a whacky place. After loading through a predictably rowdy street crowd we made the haul back to Manchester, arriving arse early in the morning and passing out at Francis’s and Louise’s once again.
Sunday, July 12 – Manchester – Sound Control
Waking up in the city you’re playing that night and not having to power through a drive is a wonderful tour feeling. So many thanks go to Francis and Louise for putting us up and putting up with us for three days of this tour. You meet a lot of people in this weird vocation, good and ill. Frances and Louise are some of the best. Any folks that graciously accepts a large group of odd, battered, sweaty, weary traveling musicians and open their homes without batting an eyelash, these are the people that keep bands going. The reason you get to go see your favorite bands all over the world is only partially due to musical talent. Most of what keeps a band functional is the kindness of others, the pure desire to help a band, the compunction to keep music alive through any and all means. And if they can use their home to make a musician’s life easier, they don’t even think about it, they just open their doors. It’s one of the few things that keeps faith in humanity something that can be considered a reality. Thank you all so much.
With the luxury of a calm morning, we were able to take our time, make our own traditional breakfast, and take a quick spin over to Manchester United’s arena for some quick photos. This can be a divisive topic. None of are die hard fans by any means, but when in Manchester… Anyway, on to Sound Control. Things got off to a shaky start as the sound system was a bit on the fritz. Luckily, Dave March and Francis (Sound Control’s in house engineer) were on hand to quickly suss out the issue and patch it all up. To reiterate the earlier point, there are so many people outside of the band that keeps the music going and they deserve all the recognition. Beyond that nothing crazy happened at the show. Just a solid experience all around. Some music was played, some drinks were had, some hanging out happened. Turns out the Iron Maiden beer isn’t too bad. Things went late into the evening/morning but that’s ok because the next day is off. Let’s see what Scotland has in store for us.
Stayed tuned for the second installment of Restoration’s UK tour journal!