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 Gig History

 

 

January

Gigs

Embrace at The Cockpit, Leeds, England  22nd 2000

Embrace at Bristol Fleece and Firkin, Bristol, England  23rd 2000

Embrace at Norwich Waterfront, Norwich, England  26th 2000

Embrace at Leeds Metropolitan University, Leeds, England  31st 2002

Embrace at Tsunami Relief Cardiff 2005  22nd 2005

 

Music 

The Abbey Road Sessions EP  11th 1999

 

 

February

Gigs

Embrace at SG #5, High Wycombe, England  3rd 2001

Embrace at Royal Albert Hall, London, England  1st 2002

Embrace Manchester 2nd 2002

Embrace at The Original Oak Headingley, Leeds, England  14th 2005

Embrace at The Dome Leisure Centre, Doncaster, England  25th 2005

Embrace at Carling Apollo Manchester, Manchester, England  26th 2005

Embrace at De Montfort Hall, Leicester, England  28th 2005

Embrace at King Tut's Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow, Scotland  12th 2014

Embrace at Fat Sam's, Dundee, Scotland  13th 2014

Embrace at Lemon Tree, Aberdeen, Scotland  14th 2014

Embrace at Loft, Forres, Scotland  15th 2014

Embrace at The Ironworks, Inverness, Scotland  16th 2014

 

Music

All You Good Good People F/P 17th 1997

All You Good Good People 27th 1997

Looking As You Are  14th 2005

Refugees EP  14th 2014

 

March 

Gigs

Embrace at 100 Club, London, England  4th 1997

Embrace at Hanover Grand, London, England  27th 2000

Embrace at The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton, England  1st 2005

Embrace at Carling Academy Brixton, London, England  5th 2005

Embrace at Bowery Ballroom, New York, NY, USA  14th 2005

Embrace at SXSW 2005  18th 2005

Embrace at O2 Academy Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland  28th 2018

Embrace at Riverside, Newcastle, England  29th 2018

Embrace at Rock City, Nottingham, England  30th 2018

Embrace at O2 Ritz, Manchester, England  31st 2018

Embrace at Music Hall, Aberdeen, Scotland 5th 2019

Embrace at Barrowland, Glasgow, Scotland 6th 2019

Embrace at O2 Academy Newcastle, Newcastle, England 7th 2019

Embrace at Albert Hall, Manchester, England 8th 2019

Embrace at O2 Academy, Sheffield, England 9th 2019

Embrace at O2 Academy Bristol, Bristol, England 11th 2019

Embrace at Rock City, Nottingham, England 12th 2019

Embrace at The Assembly, Leamington Spa, England14th 2019

Embrace at Roundhouse, London, England 15th 2019

Embrace at O2 Academy Leeds, Leeds, England 16th 2019

Embrace at O2 Victoria Warehouse, Manchester, England 6th 2020

Embrace at O2 Academy Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland 13th 2020

Embrace at First Direct Arena, Leeds, England 14th 2020

 

Music

Drawn from Memory  27th 2000

This New Day  27th 2006

Fireworks: The Singles 1997-2002  25th 2002

You're Not Alone  13th 2000

Nature's Law  20th 2006

 

 

April

Gigs

Embrace at Chelmsford Y Club, Chelmsford, England  28th 1997

Embrace at Batschkapp, Frankfurt, Germany  11th 2000

Embrace at Loppen, Copenhagen, Denmark  13th 2000

Embrace at John Dee, Oslo, Norway  14th 2000

Embrace at WOM Outstore, Munich, Germany  20th 2000

Embrace at Binario Zero, Milan, Italy  21st 2000

Embrace at Scala, London, England  18th 2002

Embrace at Olympia Theatre, Dublin, Ireland  20th 2005

Embrace at Manchester Academy 3, Manchester, England  7th 2006

Embrace at Barrowlands, Glasgow, Scotland  13th 2006

Embrace at Corn Exchange, Edinburgh, Scotland  14th 2006

Embrace at Preston Guild Hall, Preston, England  15th 2006

Embrace at Victoria Theatre, Halifax, England  17th 2006

Embrace at Shepherd's Bush Empire, London, England  18th 2006

Embrace at Picturedrome, Holmfirth, England  6th 2014

Embrace at XFM Radio Studios, London, England  25th 2014

Embrace at TramShed Cardiff, Cardiff, Wales  1st  201

Embrace at Engine Rooms, Southampton, England  3rd  2018

Embrace at Epic Studios, Norwich, England  4th 2018

Embrace at O2 Institute, Birmingham, England  5th 2018

Embrace at O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire, London, England  6th 2018

Embrace at O2 Academy Leeds,  England  7th 2018

Music

Embrace  28th 2014

Follow You Home  22nd 2014

 

 

May

Gigs

Embrace at Empress Ballroom, Blackpool, England  4th 2000

Embrace at Empress Ballroom, Blackpool, England  5th 2000

Embrace at Shepherd's Bush Empire, London, England  7th 2000

Embrace at Big Cat, Osaka, Japan  23rd 2000

Embrace at Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton, England  29th 2000

Embrace at The Warfield, San Francisco, CA, USA  2nd 2005

Embrace at The Moore Theatre, Seattle, WA, USA  4th 2005

Embrace at Millennium Square, Leeds, England  28th 2005

Embrace at Millennium Square, Leeds, England  29th 2005

Embrace at O2 Academy Liverpool, Liverpool, England  9th 2014

Embrace at O2 Academy, Birmingham, England  10th 2014

Embrace at Rock City, Nottingham, England  11th 2014

Embrace at O2 Academy Bristol, Bristol, England  13th 2014

Embrace at O2 Academy Leeds, Leeds, England  14th 2014

Embrace at O2 Academy, Glasgow, Scotland  16th 2014

Embrace at Manchester Academy, Manchester, England  17th 2014

Embrace at O2 Academy Newcastle, Newcastle, England  18th 2014

Embrace at O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire, London, England  20th 2014

                Embrace at O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire, London, England  21st 2014

      Embrace at Unity Works, Wakefield, England  28th 2015

      Embrace at This is Tomorrow 2019  26th 2019

   Embrace at Neighbourhood Weekender 2019  25th 2019

 

Music

Fireworks EP  5th 1997

Come Back to What You Know EP  25th 1998

Save Me  22nd 2000

A Glorious Day  30th 2005
 

 

June

Gigs

Embrace at Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth, England  2nd 1998

Embrace at HMV Oxford Street, London, England  7th 1998

Embrace at Hultsfredsfestivalen 1998  13th 1998

Embrace at London Calling 1998 #1  19th 1998

Embrace at Temple Bar Music Center, Dublin, Ireland  23rd 1998

Embrace at Glastonbury Festival 1998  26th 1998

Embrace at SG #1, Burnham-on-Sea, England  1st 2000

Embrace at Glastonbury Festival 2000  25th 2000

Embrace at Doug Fir Lounge, Portland, OR, USA  17th 2005

Embrace at Harlows, Sacramento, CA, USA  19th 2005

Embrace at The Independent, San Francisco, CA, USA  20th 2005

Embrace at Troubadour, West Hollywood, CA, USA  22nd 2005

Embrace at The Clubhouse, Tempe, AZ, USA  24th 2005

Embrace at Larimer Lounge, Denver, CO, USA  26th 2005

Embrace at Double Door, Chicago, IL, USA  30th 2005

Embrace at Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucestershire, England  16th 2006

Embrace at Delamere Forest, Delamere, England  17th 2006

Embrace at Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire, England  23rd 2006

Embrace at Cannock Chase Forest, Staffordshire, England  24th 2006

Embrace at House of Blues, Anaheim, CA, USA  1st 2015

Embrace at The Roxy, West Hollywood, CA, USA  2nd 2015

Embrace at Slim's, San Francisco, CA, USA  3rd 

Embrace at The Imperial, Vancouver, BC, Canada  5th 2015

Embrace at Neumos, Seattle, WA, USA  6th 2015

Embrace at Mill City Nights, Minneapolis, MN, USA  9th 2015

Embrace at Bottom Lounge, Chicago, IL, USA  10th 

Embrace at Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto, ON, Canada  11th 2015

Embrace at Webster Hall, New York, NY, USA  13th  2015

Embrace at The Sinclair, Cambridge, MA, USA  14th 2015

Embrace at Halifax Police Amateur Boxing Club, Halifax, England  8th 2017

Embrace at Principality Stadium, Cardiff, Wales    11th 2017

Embrace at TRNSMT Festival 2018  29th  2018

Embrace at Piece Hall, Halifax, England  28th  2019

Music

The Good Will Out  8th June 1998

World At Your Feet  5th 2006

 

 

July

Embrace at Maida Vale Studios, London, England  23rd 1998

Embrace at Beach Bum Festival 2000   1st 2000

Embrace at SG #2, Loch Leven, Scotland  9th 2000

Embrace at SG #3, Derbyshire, England  29th 2000

Embrace at Sound, London, England  9th 2001

Embrace at SG #6, Gloucestershire, England  28th 2001

Embrace at The Shelter, Detroit, MI, USA  1st 2005

Embrace at The Basement, Columbus OH, USA  2nd 2005

Embrace at Oxegen 2005  10th 2005

Embrace at GuilFest 2006  14th 2006

Embrace at T in the Park 2014  12th 2014

Embrace at Godiva Festival  5th 2015 

Embrace at Halifax Police Amateur Boxing Club, Halifax, England  8th 2017

Embrace at Principality Stadium, Cardiff, Wales 11th 2017

Embrace at Principality Stadium, Cardiff, Wales 12th 2017

Embrace at The Walled  Garden Festival 16th 2017

Embrace at Kubix Festival 2019   6th 2019

 

Music

One Big Family EP  7th 1997

I Run  7th 2014

 

August

Embrace at V 1997  16th 1997

Embrace at Benicàssim 2000  5th 2000

Embrace at Witnness 2000  6th 2000

Embrace at Bizarre Festival 2000  6th 2000

Embrace at Reading Festival 2000  26th 2000

Embrace at Witnness 2001  4th 2001

Embrace at Radio 1's One Big Sunday 2001 Carlisle  5th 2001

Embrace at SG #7, Sherwood Forest, England  17th 2001

Embrace at V 2001  18th 2001

Embrace at V 2001  19th 2001

Embrace at Haldern Pop Festival 2004  7th 2004

Embrace at SG #10, Brighouse, England  15th 2004

Embrace at V 2004  22nd 2004

Embrace at SG #11, London, England  26th 2004

Embrace at SG #12, Ratho Adventure Centre, Edinburgh, Scotland  29th 2004

Embrace at Liquid Room, Edinburgh, Scotland  30th 2004

Embrace at The Eden Project, St Austell, England  19th 2005

Embrace at V 2005  20th 2005

Embrace at V 2005  21st 2005

Embrace at Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival 2006  12th 2006

Embrace at Wembley Stadium, London, England  10th 2014

Embrace at V 2014  17th 2014

Embrace at Indiependence 2015  1st 2015

Embrace at Kendal Calling 2015  2nd 2015

Embrace at Lakefest 2015  8th 2015

Embrace at Hardwick LIVE 2015  22nd 2015

Embrace at Hope And Glory Festival 2017  5th th

Embrace at Victorious Festival 2018   26th  2018

Embrace at Linlithgow Palace, Linlithgow, Scotland  12th  2018

Embrace at Ballymully Cottage Farm, Limavady, Northern Ireland  11th  2018

Embrace at Cool Britannia 2019  31st 2019

Music

My Weakness Is None of Your Business  17th 1998

I Wouldn't Wanna Happen to You  7th 2000

Wonder  20th 2001

Gravity  30th 2004

 

 

September

Gigs

Embrace at Manchester Academy, Manchester, England  6th 1998

Embrace at Rock City, Nottingham, England  8th 1998

Embrace at The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton, England  9th 1998

Embrace at Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool, England  10th 1998

Embrace at The Dome Leisure Centre, Doncaster, England  12th 1998

Embrace at Southampton Gui 14th 1998

Embrace at The LCR, UEA, Norwich, England  15th 1998

Embrace at Brixton Academy, London, England  18th 1998

Embrace at SG #4, St Agnes, England  4th 2000

Embrace at HMV Oxford Street, London, England  2nd 2001

Embrace at Maida Vale Studios, London, England  3rd 2001

Embrace at SG #8, The Experiment, London, England  15th 2001

Embrace at SG #9, Leeds, England  22nd 2001

Embrace at SG #13, Shepherd's Bush Green, London, England  2004

Embrace at HMV Leeds, Leeds, England  13th 2004

Embrace at SG #14, Palma de Mallorca, Spain  22nd 2004

Embrace at Kensington Roof Gardens, London, England  24th 2004

Eldhall, Southampton, England mbrace at Granary Wharf, Leeds, England  25th 2004

Embrace at Custard Factory, Birmingham, England  25th 2004

Embrace at SG #15, Angel of the North, Gateshead, England  26th 2004

Embrace at Sefton Park, Liverpool, England  26th 2004

Embrace at Newcastle University Basement, Newcastle, England  29th 2004

Embrace at Barrowlands, Glasgow, Scotland  30th 2004

Embrace at The Leadmill, Sheffield, England  19th 2006

Embrace at Hull City Hall, Kingston upon Hull, England  21st 2006

Embrace at The LCR, UEA, Norwich, England  22nd 2006

Embrace at Corn Exchange, Cambridge, England  23rd 2006

Embrace at Corn Exchange, Cambridge, England  24th 2006

Embrace at Colston Hall, Bristol, England  27th 2006

Embrace at Hammersmith Apollo, London, England  29th 2006

Embrace at The Hop, Wakefield, England  17th 2013

Embrace at The Hop, Wakefield, England  18th 2013

Embrace at Knebworth Park, Knebworth, England  6th 2014

Embrace at Knebworth House, Stevenage, England  6th 2014

Embrace at Picturedrome, Holmfirth, England  3rd 2015

Embrace at Lotherton Hall, Aberford, England  5th 2015

Embrace at Bingley Music Live 2015  6th 2015

Embrace at Lotherton Hall, Aberford, England  3rd 2016

Embrace at Unity Works, Wakefield, England  1st 2016

Embrace at Shiiine On Birmingham.   8th  2018

Embrace at Cool Britannia 2018   2nd  2018

 

Music

If You've Never Been  3rd 2001

Out of Nothing  13th 2004

Dry Kids: B-Sides 1997-2005  31st 2005

Target  11th 2006

 

October

Gigs

Embrace at Oxford Brookes University SU, Oxford, England  27th 1997

Embrace at Olympia Theatre, Dublin, Ireland  25th 2000

Embrace at Southampton Guildhall, Southampton, England  30th 2000

Embrace at Manchester Academy, Manchester, England  1st 2004

Embrace at Carling Academy Bristol, Bristol, England  5th 2004

Embrace at Cavern Club, Liverpool, England  6th 2004

Embrace at Leas Cliff Hall, Folkestone, England  7th 2004

Embrace at SG #16, Elstree, England  26th 2004

Embrace at The Hexagon, Reading, England  6th 2006

Embrace at Assembly Rooms, Derby, England  8th 2006

Embrace at Carlisle Sands Centre, Carlisle, England  9th 2006

Embrace at Carling Apollo Manchester, Manchester, England  13th 2006

Embrace at Carling Apollo Manchester, Manchester, England  14th 2006

Embrace at King George's Hall, Blackburn, England  15th 2006

Embrace at Carling Academy, Birmingham, England  18th 2006

Embrace at Carling Academy, Newcastle, England  19th 2006

Embrace at Liverpool University, Liverpool, England  22nd 2006

Embrace at The Dome Leisure Centre, Doncaster, England  23rd 2006

Embrace at Dunfermline Live 2014  18th 2014

 

November

Gigs

Embrace at Olympia Theatre, Dublin, Ireland  25th 1998

Embrace at Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool, England  4th 2000

Embrace at Brixton Academy, London, England  10th 2000

Embrace at Brixton Academy, London, England  17th 2000

Embrace at Barrowlands, Glasgow, Scotland  3rd 2001

Embrace at Birmingham Academy, Birmingham, England  6th 2001

Embrace at Brixton Academy, London, England  9th 2001

Embrace at Music Hall, Aberdeen, Scotland  8th 2004

Embrace at Ambassador Theatre, Dublin, Ireland  13th 2004

Embrace at The Refectory, University of Leeds, Leeds, England  16th 2004

Embrace at The LCR, UEA, Norwich, England  17th 2004

Embrace at Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool, England  19th 2004

Embrace at Hammersmith Palais, London, England  23rd 2004

Embrace at Gruenspan, Hamburg, Germany  26th 2004

Embrace at Zakk, Düsseldorf, Germany  27th 2004

Embrace at Georg-Elser-Hallen, Munich, Germany  28th 2004

Embrace at Szene, Vienna, Austria  29th 2004

Embrace at Lumb Lane Mills, Bradford, England  10th 2013

Embrace at O2 Academy Bournemouth, Bournemouth, England  27th 2014

Embrace at The LCR, UEA, Norwich, England  28th 2014

Embrace at Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton, England  29th 2014

Embrace at Preston Guild Hall, Preston, England  4th

Embrace at The Middlesbrough Empire, Middlesbrough, England  5th 2017

Embrace at Fibbers, York, England  6th 2017

Embrace at The Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton, England  7th 2017

Embrace at Keele University Ballroom, Newcastle-under-Lyme, England  9th 2017

Embrace at Shiiine On Weekender 2017   11th 2017

Embrace at Shiiine On Weekender 2019  16th 2019

 

Music

The Good Will Out EP  30th 1998

Hooligan  8th 1999

Make It Last  2001

Ashes  15th 2004

In The End  24th 2014

 

December

Gigs

Embrace at Astoria Theatre, London, England  1st 1997

Embrace at University of Essex, Colchester, England  2nd 1997

Embrace at Southampton University Student's Union, Southampton, England  3rd 1997

Embrace at Bristol University, Bristol, England  6th 1997

Embrace at Rock City, Nottingham, England  7th 1997

Embrace at Luxor, Cologne, Germany  2004

Embrace at Carling Apollo Hammersmith, London, England  5th 2004

Embrace at SG #17, Edinburgh, Scotland  16th 2004

Embrace at SG #17, Liskeard, England  17th 2004

Embrace at Music Factory, Carlow, Ireland  10th 2005

Embrace at Ambassador Theatre, Dublin, Ireland  11th 2005

Embrace at Manchester Evening News Arena, Manchester, England  16th 2005

Embrace at Halifax Police Amateur Boxing Club, Halifax, England  14th 2013

Embrace at The Empire, Middlesbrough, England  1st 2014

Embrace at Parr Hall, Warrington, England  2nd 2014

Embrace at Victoria Hall, Hanley, England  3rd 2014

Embrace at O2 Academy Oxford, Oxford, England  5th 2015

Embrace at O2 Academy, Sheffield, England  6th 2014

Embrace at The Kasbah, Coventry, England  8th 2014

Embrace at Solus Cardiff University Students Union, Cardiff, Wales  9th 2014

Embrace at O2 Academy Leicester, Leicester, England  10th 2014

Embrace at The Academy, Dublin, Ireland  12th 2014

Embrace at Limelight, Belfast, Northern Ireland  13th 2014

Embrace at Portsmouth Pyramid Centre, Portsmouth, England  18th 2016

Embrace at  Coventry Copper Rooms Coventry  England  17th 2016

Embrace at Liverpool Olympia, Liverpool, England  15th 2016

Embrace at Foundry, Sheffield, England  14th

Embrace at The Welly Club, Kingston upon Hull, England  13th 2016

Embrace at Norwich Waterfront, Norwich, England  12th 2016

Embrace at Engine Rooms Southampton  9th 2018

Embrace at The Mill Birmingham  8th 2018

Embrace at Alexandra Palace theatre, Muswell Hill, England 6th 2019

Embrace at Alexandra Palace theatre, Muswell Hill, England 7th 2019

Music 

I Can't Come Down  4th 2006

USA Tour Blog 1

This afternoon, we are setting up for a full USA production rehearsal at Unity Works, Wakefield, which is also the location of our pre-USA warm up gig taking place tomorrow eve. The weeks leading up to this point have been quite fraught, but also filled with real goodness. We went on Danny’s stag do (and survived), Danny went off and got married to his beautiful fiancée, and we all went on an adventure to the US Embassy in London.

I could write hundreds of words about visa applications. And I have decided to do so! God knows it has taken months of form filling, researching to finding evidence of our previous trips to the good ol’ US of A. It’s difficult to not come to the conclusion that they just don’t like people going there. I spent an entire weekend scanning around 1,000 pieces of Embrace press cuttings so that our US Immigration Lawyers could satisfy the US Govt/Immigration department. We photographed our various gold and platinum discs. We even spent hours attempting to photograph ourselves in order to satisfy the online visa application forms.

This is preposterously harder than it sounds. Imagine: “I know, I’ll get my iPhone, take a few selfies and pick the best one and upload that”. WRONG! Your face in the photo is TOO BIG! No problem though. “Using the handy US Visa Photo App, I’ll zoom out so that my face fits within the green circles”. WRONG! It won’t zoom out quite that far. Determined to not get stressed, I set up the self timer and stand further away. Upload. Picture looks good. REJECTED. PHOTO IS OF INSUFFICIENT QUALITY. Determined to NOT GET STRESSED, I call my other half who comes home for lunch in order to take a nice photo of me on a 10 megapixel camera. Job done, and he’s off back to work. I thank him and continue answering page after page of questions. This part of the form takes around 3 hours. Finally, with all questions answered, I decide it’s time to upload the almost flattering and ultra high quality photo now in my possession.

THERE ARE ISSUES! The photo is now, quite simply TOO GOOD! 240 kb is the maximum size allowed. Determined to NOT GET STRESSED, I import the image into iPhoto, change the settings to SHIT AND SHABBY and export it. I press UPLOAD…. and it’s REJECTED FOR BEING OF INSUFFICIENT QUALITY. Determined to NOT GET STRESSED, I go on Facebook and have a good old fashioned fucking rant while at the same time asking for some advice. Young Tom, our own teenage technical boffin and sound engineer, broke off from his Haribo sandwich and cup of Ribena to suggest that I simply use Photobooth on my Macbook Pro. I take a photo in total anger, a bitter scowl on my face, and stab at the upload button. PHOTO ACCEPTED! Holy shit! We’re all done, except now, my US Visa contains a photo of me strongly resembling Leslie Grantham in “Skype Mode” (this is according to Rik).

This entire visa debacle has taken me around 7 hours in total. I have a break from computer screens and gather laundry, tidy the kitchen and think about normal, less mundane stuff. An hour later, calm is restored at Dale Towers. Then Mike phones me. And Mike has various pieces of worrying news…

1. We must all attend the US Embassy together (5 band and 3 crew) but Danny is not back from his honeymoon until the 25th May.

2. The earliest appointment available at the embassy is 28th May! We’re due to fly out on the 30th, and the chances of visas being processed in 48 hours are 100% ZERO.

3. Our travel plans while in the USA were as follows: rent a van, drive from show to show and stay in cheap motels. However, under Mike’s scrutiny, this would be highly gruelling and therefore possibly dangerous because it would entail us playing a show, loading the van and then driving for a couple of hours, then pulling over and crashing out in a motel for 6 hours tops before continuing our journey to the next gig/city. This is certainly not a healthy way to tour, nor is it safe because of tiredness. The distances in America are vast compared with the UK.

As Mike is explaining problem number three on the shit-list, I have already left the house and am walking to my local pub. I am laughing about it all with him, but in a manic and mildly psychotic way. I leave the pub much, much later with a clear view of our situation: We’re Completely Fucked.

The next morning, with a slightly fuzzy head, I hear via email that Les, our tour manager and all round Solid As A Rock geezer has spoken with Starsailor’s tour manager. They have room for us on their (rented) tour bus, and have said it’s cool for us to travel with them for the entire tour. This is a huge relief, especially to Les as he was likely to be doing 90% of the driving. 

A second bit of good news is that we have managed to get booked in at the US Embassy for our pre-trip interviews at 8 am on the 26th May, hopefully allowing time for the visas to arrive back with us before we are supposed to fly. And yesterday, that’s exactly where we all were, at the US Embassy. It went without a hitch. Mike wore his “Don’t You Wish Your Girlfriend Was Hot Like Me” shorts to keep us all entertained and in good spirits, especially Steve who seems to comment on these shorts at least every ten minutes.

Tune in soon for Part 2: My Keyboard Hell.

 

Tour Blog Part 2: A few words about keyboards…

Some months ago, it was suggested we travel to the US to play some shows. Two feelings about this:

1) I love the USA very much. I have wonderful memories of being there on tour with both Embrace and Talk To Angels. I feel so excited that I almost certainly annoy everyone else in the band with my sing-song glee, humming show tunes from West Side Story and Team America: World Police. From “I like to be in America” straight into “America! Fuck Yeah!” etc etc.

2a) My keyboard rig is heavy - too heavy to fly with us.

2b) My keyboard rig is old - too old to be able to rent those pieces of gear in the States. Even if I could find them from a rental place, they’d probably be fucked. Ask me how I know (TTA at SXSW in 2009).

2c) Why did I ever stop playing the bass - a fine instrument one can play whilst enjoying a game of badminton?

Once upon a time, bands would arrive at flight check-in desks, airport trollies piled to the rafters with huge flight cases packed with outrageously overweight items. The airline companies would charge extra (per kilo) for these items. Fine. At least the gear travelled with us. Sometimes, we’d even get lucky with our policy of pleading poverty AND offering SWAG (CD’s, signed photos and T shirts). This often had the desired effect of our excess baggage charges being totally waived. Sadly, since those wonder years, some Health And Safety jobsworth got involved and nowadays it’s risky to put anything at all inside your suitcase for fear of it suddenly becoming overweight. Overweight bags do not fly. Overweight bags are sent to Hell (an industrial unit near Milton Keynes). That same Health And Safety person’s other claim to fame is making sure the words “Warning: May Contain Nuts” are now printed on every packet of nuts.

So, I get pro-active and look at ways of being able to pretty much arrive at a gig with a laptop fully loaded with amazing sounding pianos, strings and synths etc. Having discussed this thrilling new concept (new only to me by the way, it turns out many bands were doing this last century, darling), I was assured by EVERYONE that I would be able to rock up to a gig, nonchalantly connect any generic 88 note midi controller keyboard to my new pride and joy computer, and all my sounds and settings would be available at my finger tips! Nice! Yeah, right. “Everyone is working this way, Mickey. Welcome to The Future”. Twats. 

Filled with Christmas Eve levels of giddiness, I bought a shiny new Apple lap-toy and a giant package of impeccably sampled grands, uprights, orchestras… You name it! Native Instruments Komplete is what THEY named it! And we began using it in the studio in February on LP 7 with stunning results, so I was very much looking forward to using this baby on stage!

Then as rehearsals finally got underway, I endured what can be best described as My Keyboard Hell. I won’t bore you with the finer details of those dreadful two weeks. What I will say is this:

Manufacturers of keyboards NEVER ask musicians what we need in the way of functionality. They often just guess and expect us to adapt / hamper our style of playing to fit around their frankly crap new inventions. Or they take loads of mind bending drugs and add so many levels and layers of operating menus which may only be navigated via a tiny screen that they apparently hijacked from a 1970’s Casio digital watch (step forward please, the NORD Stage 2 HA88).

In summary, nobody makes anything as good as a Roland A90, the controller keyboard which the band bought for me back in 1997, but I’m told that the company Kawai have got very close, and a very fine man called Dave Nova is lending me his Kawai MP6 while we’re in America. Fuck Yeah! 

We’ll find out more when we land and collect it from Pasadena, but I have a very good feeling about it, which probably has a lot to do with the fine Rioja I have consumed while writing this technical paper for your education and enlightenment.

Coming soon: The Safe And Sudden Return of Firtho’s Beloved Guitar Strap.

 

 

PART 3: THIS TOUR IS ON!

NEWSFLASH! WE NOW HAVE PASSPORTS WITH US VISAS ATTACHED! HALLELUJAH!

This means that all previous elements of doubt are now smashed to smithereens and unless new and unforeseen problems arise (anything is possible), THiS TOUR IS ON, BABY!

Last night’s pre-USA/Canada warm-up gig went without a single hitch. In fact it was truly bloody superb. We even threw in an impromptu rendition of Bonnie Tyler’s classic - Total Eclipse Of The Heart. Unity Hall in Wakefield is a great venue. The alcohol provided for the dressing room was a bit too good though. I love Brew Dog’s IPA beer, but at 5.6%, I am really struggling today. As such, not one item of clothing has been placed in my suitcase yet. I just don’t have the energy.

In other news, the vintage Jean Paul Gaultier jacket seemed to go down well (or at least nobody was physically sick).

Keyboard World behaved impeccably and my new palette of sounds is breathing a bit of new life into even the oldest songs. I wish I had taken the plunge a lot sooner! I’m also looking forward to having a faff with the keyboard I’ll be using throughout the tour. But first, I must get my ass over to Pasadena from LAX and pick the keyboard up. We may rent a car for the day. However, if anyone can help us out on Sunday with this mission, we’d be most grateful and will reimburse you for your fuel etc, provide you with guest passes for the LA show and present you with a T shirt from our thrilling new Spring/Summer collection.

Not much else to report, but on behalf of the band, I would like to thank everyone who came to the show last night and made it such a fun gig. Without you guys, we’d be playing to an empty room and Young Tom. He doesn’t like music that much, he just likes to play around with huge mixing desks with hundreds of coloured flashing LED’s. Still, I was the same when I was 15.

So that’s about it for Blog 3. I hope to blog every day while we’re on tour, and I’m hoping that I can give you some real insight into our lives as touring musicians. The sounds, the sights, the smells…

Blogs about Steve’s controversial guitar strap and Mike’s Money Supermarket shorts will be coming soon, I promise.

Have a great weekend, folks!

 

 

Blog 4 - Drawn From Memory

It’s currently 21.18 on Saturday, and I’m thousands of miles up in the beautiful blue sky. Lots of passengers are fast asleep now, and having just watched Still Alice on the inflight movie screen, I wanted to do something to lift my mood. So, Blog Time it is.

Today (Saturday) at 8.15am, we gathered at Embrace HQ and began loading the van with suitcases and musical equipment. While my case was many kilos under the maximum permitted weight, it would have been impossible to cram a single cigarette in there. I tend to take far too many clothes wherever I go, and I refuse to change this policy. This did mean that guitar leads, pedals, drum sticks and skins plus many other bits and bats had to be shoehorned into everyone else’s already stuffed cases. Having said that, we’re managing to travel pretty light really, and we incurred no overweight baggage charges on out outbound flights.

At Manchester airport security dept, both Rik and Steve had their hand luggage swabbed and inspected due to the heavy-duty guitar effects rack mount units they both had with them as carry ons. In total, we have three of these amazing Fractal Audio Axe FX II’s, and at £2,000 a pop, it’s wise to not leave their care and safe transit to the baggage handling department. We’ve been stung before. Danny’s hand luggage was also taken aside for closer inspection, but the concerned security man found only hair straighteners.

Travelling is really very boring, and it’s no wonder that groups of people kill time by eating junk food (no other sort for sale), drinking beer and taking the piss. we spent a very funny half hour tripping down memory lane, recalling some of our previous foreign excursions. In not-so-brief summary, here are two randomly selected tales for you:

Japan is unlike anywhere we have ever been before or since. It’s mind-blowing in many ways, mostly because it is so utterly different to anything else you might get to experience as a touring band. The food is sometimes challenging (and wonderful if you like it), the folks are friendly, super-polite, charming and have amazing dress sense too. It’s all perfectly cool. It’s also worth mentioning that Japan is a country that takes punctuality very seriously indeed. I was not even slightly phased to hear this as I find lateness rude, lazy and arrogant. I pride myself on punctuality and beat myself up if I am even a few minutes late for a meeting, even if it’s merely meeting a mate in the pub for a catch up. Why bother arranging a time to meet if you cannot stick to it? I have been known to leave a pub and do something else if I am left waiting for more than 30 minutes, and I see nothing wrong with that. Time is precious, as is a respect of the process of making plans and fucking sticking with them. Fuck with me on timing, and I might fuck with you too.

Keeping all that in mind, I reckon that’s probably why after almost 20 years, I am still a bit sore about a particular incident during our first ever visit to Japan. The concert promoter out there liked to run a tight ship, and after a bit of schmoozing and the band making friends with him and his colleagues, he proudly gave each of us a black canvas hold-all bag with his company logo attached via a snazzy chromed badge and presented each of us with a DUAL-TIME digital watch. This clever gadget told us the local time in Japan as well as the time back home in the UK, which seemed pretty useful and highly advanced in those great days before iPhones, laptops and the internet.

So with snazzy new watch attached to my wrist, I said my goodnights and tried my best to get a good sleep (the time difference and jet lag tends to fuck me up for days). I set my new watch’s alarm to get me up early enough for a shower, and then I decided to venture down to the hotel lobby, thinking to myself that if the promoter is down there already, I can make a decent impression by being early and chew the fat with him. It’s always good to try and make friends in this business.

The lift doors opened and I was suddenly in the bright and sunny hotel reception area. But instead of a nice relaxed assembly of our band and crew, I was met by an angry and without doubt offended promoter. He scowled at me, aggressively tapped the fingers of his right hand onto his left wrist in that Universal Body Language that screamed “What fucking time do you call this???” The rest of the band were all sat waiting for me in a people carrier which was parked outside the lobby with the engine running. I embarked upon this fucking retched Shirpa van and made my apologies to everyone. It turned out that the promoter had not set my watch correctly and technically it was his own fault that I had offended the entire nation, but I figured rather than get into that shit, it was best on this occasion to just take one for the team and let it go.

Over the coming days, we got to see lots of Tokyo, and it is a beautiful city. The skyline, the dress sense, the language, the typography, food, neon signs, gadgets, the friendliness - it’s a stand out place all round. Back then in the late 90′s, the folks out there were mad for British music and we were very well treated by both the indie kids and music press alike. And so we went into promotional hyperdrive; cramming in many hours of interviews each day, usually followed by a gig in the evening that was probably really very good, but none of us can remember because we were all brain-fucked with jet lag.

We did have an amazing time there, and yet it can sometimes feels as though no matter how hard we try, we end up putting our foot in it! For instance, one very hot and stuffy night, post gig, we were all taken out to dinner at a very posh Japanese restaurant by the execs at Virgin Records Japan. We’d just played a gig and we were sweaty, a bit tired and mind-fucked with jet lag. We had crew and also some girlfriends with us, and while these friends and colleagues were also brought to the restaurant, they were asked/told/expected to sit in a separate part of the restaurant to the band and record label guys. In a country that is famous for manners and respectfulness, this did seem strange to us Yorkshire folks who would generally take in a total stranger to join us at the Sunday dinner table if a family member brought them along. It’s just how we roll.

Awkwardly, we were all expected to remove our shoes and sit cross legged on the floor around this very low, very long bench table. After a day of pounding the Tokyo streets and then playing a gig, our socks were quite frankly fucking rancid. We all pretended to not notice.

Then the food began to roll out. Now please let it be known that we are all very adventurous diners and we all did our absolute best to eat a bit of everything and LOOK RESPECTFUL of the culture and cuisine, but at times I was trying very hard to not barf. Danny was at the far end of the table, flanked by middle-aged, grey-haired label execs, doing his best to not let the language barrier kill the vibe or make us appear ignorant. We all chipped in and tried to take some pressure off Danny, and at one point, it seemed to be working! Stories were told - even a few jolly laughs were shared and we had almost got though this meal unscathed! That was until the label boss turned back to say something to Danny…. Still today, I have no idea how we avoided a full blown International Incident over this, but Danny had FALLEN ASLEEP and was very gently snoring at the dinner table! The record company execs all of a sudden began speaking quickly in Japanese. They then got up, said their hasty farewells and then fucked off, leaving us shattered, cross-legged in a circle with stinky feet and our minds fucked with jet lag.

To my amazement, we were invited back a year or two later when Drawn From Memory came out. Things went smoother. 

We like France. The food, the architecture, the cheese, the wine! I’m not really sure if France liked us as much. On one memorable occasion I went out there with Danny and Ricardo to do a promotional trip. Back then, this worked as follows: Danny and Ricardo do all the talky press shit, and then I, like Richard Vranch at the piano, tickle the ivories so that we can hopefully leave the radio station with a few stripped back Embrace tunes under our belt. These sessions were usually made into a kind of torture as nobody knew how to connect a jack plug to the radio stations mixing desk. This technical incompetence has presented itself to us all over the world.

It often felt to me as though there was a bit of a vibe of “Merde! It’s those knobheads from northern England again”, like we lacked a certain je ne sais quoi or the sophistication to be properly welcomed by the Paris folks. And that in itself made the trips often quite socially awkward, like the more we tried, the more they liked us even less! So we just focussed on having fun and being ourselves.

So, with a long and fairly successful Paris press day completed, some of the label folks and the press team took us to a wonderful French restaurant. We sat at a a huge round table in the middle of this fine restaurant. I had the moules marinieres for the starter followed by the finest fillet steak I have ever devoured. I was really struggling to not lick my plate. This was all washed down with generous amounts of beautiful French red wine.

Main courses completed, the waitress came over and asked if anyone would like some dessert. Danny and Rik asked what was available and as soon as home made chocolate mousse was mentioned, their faces lit up as though it was the mid 1970’s and someone had just mentioned Butterscotch Angel Delight.

A few moments later, the waitress returned with a giant (about 18" diameter) serving bowl filled with French-restaurant-quality chocolate mousse. Some proper gourmet shit right there. I think that what was supposed to happen next was that the waitress was going to to scurry away and then return to our large table with two small dishes or bowls - one for Danny and one for Rik, and I suspect that this huge bowl of pudding heaven was intended to be enough to feed the entire sweet-toothed restaurant. All i can say is this: I have never seen so much pudding so savagely consumed. With the giant bowl set down between the two of them on this huge round dining table, and the label and press people looking on in utter dismay, the brothers McNamara did everything their wonderful mother brought them up to NOT DO except for lifting the massive bowl to their heads and shoving their faces inside it.

The next day, we all met in the Paris hotel lobby to continue with our press jaunt, but some way into the second interview of the day, we were distracted by lots of shock and panic coming from reception. People were staring at the TV screen behind reception and it soon became known to us that we had to cancel everything. It was 11th September 2001. We gathered our things and headed to the train station as we were due to be in Belgium that night, with more press planned for the following day. The world was in shock. It took some doing but we finally reached Belgium. Danny stayed in his hotel that evening to watch the news story unfold on TV. Rik and I went to a venue around the corner from the hotel. French band Air were performing, but they were at least an hour late on stage while their largely American road crew awaited news that their families and loved ones were safe. Air were actually incredible that night and I’m glad we chose to spend the evening in a venue filled with much love and compassion. I’ll never forget it. The next day we woke to find that everything was cancelled in our press schedule and we began the long train journey home.

It’s now 02.39 UK time, and 18.39 LA time. I have stayed awake for the flight so that I can be on LA time when we land… and our plane is coming into land very soon, so I’m gonna break off now. I’ll add the last bit to this blog once we have cleared Immigration. It may take some time. Deep breaths.  

UPDATE: We breezed through immigration and headed to baggage claim where it was revealed to us that 9 of our 16 bags (including my vintage Fender Jaguar, my Roland X7 synth AND my suitcase bursting with clothes) did not make it to LA. We suspect that the cock-up took place in Manchester. The bags will arrive on Sunday at 6pm, which is around the same time that the tour bus gets here. Starsailor land around then too. My other keyboard is being picked up in Pasadena by and old mate.    

Sorry for the rambling blog. I got very bored on the 11 hour flight.  

 

 

Blog 5. LA, not so confidential.

Sunday afternoon.

Mike and I returned to our hotel near LAX with the borrowed keyboard, dumped the hire car and then hooked up with the rest of Embrace in the lobby. Tears of joy filled my eyes as I was reunited with my suitcase full of clothes. While Mike and I had enjoyed an sunny afternoon of zipping around LA in a hire car, the rest of the band had sat in a stuffy hotel reception for hours on end, not even venturing outside to see if it was sunny! Rik looked as though he was about to burst from frustration and so I asked at hotel reception if there was anywhere nearby where we could sit in the sun and sip a beer. We were in luck: Manhattan Beach was just 10 minutes away via taxi. It’s a paradise of perfect beaches, parading beach bodies and surfers, 11 million dollar houses and friendly little bars. So Firtho, Besty, Ricardo and I jumped in a cab and settled down for an afternoon of beer and japes!

Just two sips into our beers and a couple of “this is the life” remarks later, a text came in from Danny. “We need you guys back here right now”. Inexplicably, Starsailor had landed early at LAX and we all needed to get onto the tour bus and get them to their hotel. Jesus. We gulped down our beers. Then ordered more beers and some food, thinking “they’ll understand if we’re back in 30 minutes or so”. And understand they did because they are all very fine, upstanding men who appreciate the finer things in life.

The tour bus pulled up outside their hotel, and a few of us considered heading to Huntington Beach, which is not quite Manhattan Beach but it has sand and beer. Then someone noticed Kit’s Bar & Grill just across the car park. It had dive bar written all over it and as we all piled in there, I must admit I was thinking “this isn’t going to end well”. Rows of pool tables, sport on the TV screens and folks turning around to eye us up are not high on my list of essential bar traits. But then everyone was smiling, Echo and the Bunnymen’s Killing Moon was blasting from the jukebox and after a beer or two, a feeling calm washed over me. Everyone was downing pints of Stella. I was happily sipping 330ml bottles of Sam Adams and felt reassuringly less drunk than everyone around me appeared to be. But then I made a very stupid decision. I went top shelf. In fact I went top shelf about three times and ended up being far too drunk on JD and cokes.

Monday.

I have no recollection of getting back to the bus or finding my bunk. I awoke at some point in the early hours, needing the loo. As I staggered back to bed, I noticed that one of the bunks was being inhabited by a fully clothed sleeping woman. This was too much to process and so I got back into the bunk and tried to sleep. Every ten minutes or so, I was being deafened by a dreadful high pitched screeching sound. I wanted it to stop but I was far too drunk to figure out what might be causing it so I just did my best to block it out of my mind. Danny finally got up and turned off the air-con. The silence was golden; the rising temperature and increasing stench were definitely not golden.

Mike and I found a breakfast burrito with endless coffee refills and we discussed Random Female On Bunk No.5. Was she even breathing? Her lips were not blue. Danny and Richard then joined us for coffee and burritos. By the time we returned to the bus, we were told by Kurt our driver that she’d already woken up and cursed at herself, “Jeezus, what the fuck! Why am I on the motherfuckin’ tour bus?”. She then staggered out into the baking LA heat and returned to the bar which appeared to be still open at 9am.

Realising that I felt no better after food and coffee, I went back to bed and tried to banish all thoughts of vomiting. Not much later, the bus set off to Sunset Boulevard and the Hollywood based SIR musical rental company to collect our drums, amps, mixing desk and a load of other shit that we couldn’t bring from the UK. On arrival we hit a very big problem. We had $11,000 of rental gear to pay for, plus a $5,000 deposit. The band’s credit card was declined due to the fact that we’d failed to tell the bank that we were heading on tour to North America! Doh! One by one, band and crew tried to pay the bill but with an amount like that, even if we had that kind of money the banks were bound to decline it without making sure the transaction was genuine. The funny thing was that inside the office, one by one every single credit card was declined and yet outside in the loading bay, the hire gear was still being loaded into our trailer by burly SIR blokes. Finally, after a flurry of phone calls to the UK banks, we managed to cobble the money together and we headed off to Anaheim.

The House Of Blues venue in Anaheim is actually situated within Disneyland! The place is like Fort Knox and at the security hut, only Starsailor’s names were on the list of expected visitors for that day. So Embrace queued impatiently in the baking sunshine as I demanded to know “Just what kind of fucking Mickey Mouse operation is this?”. Well I found it amusing. Sorry.

Soundcheck was a series of panic moments. A keyboard I had never seen before, and only an instruction manual that I managed to download at Heathrow airport to guide me through it, a pile of rented drums and amps to fathom out, and only 30 minutes to make it all work properly, Young Tom realised that a load of special cables were still in his suitcase on the bus, etc etc. As such, our onstage sound was a little hit and miss, but with Young Tom at the mixing desk, we knew that the out-front sound would be big and bold.

Venue doors opened at 7pm sharp and there were some folks already waiting at the door to see us play. We met with Mike, our US booking agent. He has been a fan of the band for many years and has worked hard to make this tour come together for us. He also looks after Ride, Ash and Idlewild out here in the US. I think we all feel that there’s some unfinished business here in North America for Embrace and we’re all eager to get back here as often as possible.

Our Anaheim gig was over in a flash. There were a few minor technical issues but the crowd were great, singing along and showing us a lot of love. It’s always nice to kick off a tour with a successful gig, so thank you very much Anaheim. We hope to return soon.

Tuesday.

We’re now heading back to SIR to grab something we forgot to book and then it’s off to the Roxy on Sunset Strip, also the venue of Zappa’s finest live album: Roxy And Elsewhere. We’re also playing with a new app called Periscope that allows us to broadcast live footage from an iPhone, so all being well some of the gigs will be broadcast this way. Stay tuned.

 

 

Part 6: How I Love Ya, Frisco!

We’re in San Francisco! The best city in the world. Venue looks great, but we cannot load in until 3pm so we (Mike, Steve, Richard, Ben, Stel, Beever and I) walked to Powell and Market, hopped on a cable car and headed down to Fisherman’s Wharf for lunch. We sat in a beautiful restaurant over looking the sea and ate clam chowder served in sourdough bread. On our way back to the venue we drove through Nob Hill. Ricardo says that Steve should have his ashes scattered there.

LA’s fine, the sun shines most of the time and the feeling is laid back, but it’s just too hot and crazy for me. The Roxy gig was really good. Nice crowd. We had to shorten the set because Danny accidentally thought he was presenting Jackanory and to be honest, he prattled on a bit!

The Starsailor boys are all wonderful, funny and easy going. It’s crazy that our paths have never crossed until now. Other than lots of red wine being spilt last night, there’s really not much to report. The Periscope app seems to be a very good way of engaging with our fans, and my recent blogs haven’t been picking up much traffic, so I’ll post just every few days unless something newsworthy occurs.

 

 

Part 7: I left my heart in San Francisco

Last night’s gig at Slim’s in San Francisco was bloody brilliant and we were made to feel very special from the moment we stepped onto the stage. There were almost as many Brits in the crowd as American folks and I met and chatted with a few people after the show from GB who are now living here in the Bay Area. Nice move! This is my fifth time here and on each visit I have felt a sudden and powerful urge to relocate here. I don’t know what it is. I mean, the weather is fine, the landscape spectacular, the folks are very friendly; there are many other obvious reasons to move here. But I think there’s also something magical and unquantifiable about San Francisco. On this visit, I have made my mind up to actually investigate and begin a feasibility study into whether I can make my dream come true. I mean, the band Cribs have members in NY, Portland and West Yorkshire and they seem to function quite brilliantly! So I am coming back in October for a few weeks to delve into it all.

So, onto our bus drama. On the way to San Francisco from LA, while I was fast asleep in my bunk, the saga began to unfold. Something was leaking from the bus’s underbelly. An assembly of band members stood with mobile phone torches and tried to light the area while Stell and Barry Starsailor crawled underneath to investigate further. “EVERYBODY OFF THE BUS! THIS THING’S GONNA BLOW!” was the diagnosis. I only know all this secondhand. I managed to sleep through it all. Les, our unflappable tour manager shook his head and said to Danny “stay where you are, kid. Nowt’s gonna blow up”. The bus simply had a coolant leak. Serious but not life threatening.

A few hours after our SF gig, we were all rounded up from various San Francisco bars so we could set sail to Portland, the idea being that we’d travel over night and arrive there by midday and then have a nice relaxing day off. But the bus only made it a few hundred yards from the SF venue before breaking down. Rather than return to the bar, I crawled inside my bunk and went to sleep. Gin had got the better of me and I was feeling a bit down, which is utterly lame considering I was in the best city in the world. I’ll never learn. This morning, a mechanic turned up and fitted a new hose then refilled the cooling system with water/anti-freeze.

Finally, we’re heading to Portland. We have seen some spectacular scenery along the way with a little rain and snow capped mountains.

Young Tom has eaten a lot of sweets but I think he’s missing the UK stuff. Mike and Beever have been providing the musical entertainment (Clutch, Prince, Black Keys, Yes, TV On The Radio). Jim and Ben have been telling their amazing stories from when they worked in the studio with record producing legend Phil Spector. Our touring family is a very happy one and it’s a great pleasure to be surrounded by such lovely people each day. Touring is fun but also demanding. It can be ups and downs, being thousands of miles from loved ones. But we’re all experienced at this lark and we look out for one another.

I must start taking some photographs. To be honest, I had wanted to shoot lots of super 8 on this trip but the risk of the film being damaged by airport X Ray machines is too great. A roll of film with processing and telecine comes in at around £60. That’s for only 3 minutes of footage!

I am sat with Mike and Danny, wondering if a) we have any fresh orange juice on the bus and b) whether vodka and orange counts as one of my 5 a day. I’m told that it does! Happy days.

 

 

In the land of the free… Part 8

Our smooth travel to Portland has been very rudely interrupted. In fact we missed the whole thrilling court-room-drama conclusion to a movie we were watching (Denzel Washington in a TV movie called Hurricane).

We are now grounded at the Oregon border. Our bus driver Kurt has been pulled over so that the authorities can check our permit. We have no permit. Kurt has been fined $450. We have been advised that between here and Portland (350 miles give or take), we will need further documents and permits or we will incur more fines.

Jim from Starsailor has asked that we don’t tell Barry the keyboard player about this latest issue. He’s only just got over the stresses of our other sagas within this travelling circus, and Jim reckons that this new ball ache might break Barry’s good spirit.

9pm food stop in a stunningly beautiful small town called Grant’s Pass, Oregon. Sadly, the food was a bit poor. It’s sad to ruin perfectly good shrimps with batter and a deep fryer, and my so called medium rare steak was cremated. Had we been in France, it would have been lobbed into a bin rather than served up. The Sam Adams beers went down nicely. Everyone else was on soft drinks. Sheilas.

Update: after 14 hours travelling, we are now in Portland and our driver is in a hotel, sleeping. Time is 2am. We’ll resume travel at 9am and get to Vancouver by mid afternoon, all being well.

Firtho really knows how to snore!

 

 

Part 9: A tale of two cities.

The failure of that small rubber hose in the bus’s engine bay left us with an entire cluster-fuck of repercussions. Originally, our driver Kurt was intending to drive through the night from San Francisco to Portland so that we could have a relaxing afternoon there before heading up to Canada for our Vancouver show. We lost 12 hours of travel time while searching for a competent mechanic to come and replace the rubber hose; the knock on effect is that we have been on the bus non-stop since Thursday morning except for the odd short stop to use bathrooms or grab a quick bite and some fuel. Whenever the bus has stopped long enough for Kurt the driver to sleep, it’s been the middle of the night in the middle of Butt-Fuck Nowhere. We’re all a bit fried.

We arrived in Vancouver 2 hours late for our load-in/soundcheck. Every band member mucked in to assist Les, Beever and Young Tom, and in no time at all the drums, three keyboards and a laptop, bass amp, guitar amps and effects pedals were neatly placed in position on stage and patched through to Young Tom and his unfathomable 4 foot mixing console (I’m assured by Tom that 4ft is enough to console anybody).

We’ve played Vancouver before, back when we opened for Snow Patrol on their US and Canadian tour in 2006. On that visit, we stayed in a very different part of town and were all struck by how safe and clean a city it was. On this visit, we were presented with a very different side of Vancouver. From our dressing room window which overlooked a busy alleyway, we could see drug deals going down, college kids smoking and injecting drugs and sharing needles, you name it. The window from which we peered had a bullet hole in it. I stepped back and sat down. This was very far removed from the rainbow flags, high-class restaurants, bars and shops that we had encountered last visit.

Vancouver audiences are rowdy - they never stopped shouting stuff at us. All of it was nice, thankfully. We dropped Come Back To What You Know from the set and replaced it with DNA. A good move I think. A sudden burst of energy hit me and I found myself lost in the moment of the show, my fingers working all on their own as I bounced around on my keyboard stool and sang my heart out. The last two shows have really clicked and we’re now firing on all five cylinders. It usually takes a band a few shows to get up to full speed. 

After the show, Jim Starsailor’s cousin (and Vancouver native) Neil wanted to take us out for a drink but we’d spent too long fannying about and by the time we hit the street, everywhere was closed or closing. Our search for a bar took us on foot downtown to a block where hundreds of homeless people were congregated. In a city with so much wealth, it’s outrageous to even think of this situation being a reality for so many people but we know that this is true of many a beautiful city. There is often a dark side. Currently, Vancouver has the highest population of drug addicts and homeless people in Canada. As jobs become more scarce and the property prices continue to soar, there’s no sign of this problem going away. We finally found a so-called British pub. It had a few UK album sleeves on the wall and sold London Pride while pumping out deafening R&B.

The bus remained parked up outside the venue overnight while Kurt slept in a nearby hotel. We set sail this morning at 8am and breezed through immigration back into the US. We stopped at a Denny’s in order to eat our own weight in breakfasts and we’re now heading for Seattle. I want to spend as long as possible outdoors in Seattle because after tonight’s show there, we have a 48 hour drive to Minneapolis. Two days on a bus might just send us all a bit loopy. I don’t want to spend that time in my bunk so unless I buy a DVD box set to kill the time or start writing the longest blog in history, time is going to move very slowly. I asked Firtho what we might do and he joked “Well, we could take acid for the first day and then lots of downers on the second!”. Hmmm. I suggested we try and write an Embrace-Starsailor sitcom. We certainly have enough technology to do that AND film it with our plethora of HD video cameras we have brought with us. Danny Lacey our friend and film maker was supposed to be with us on this trip but since our travel arrangements changed and we are now bus-sharing with Starsailor, there just isn’t room for him. This is a cruel blow to Mr Lacey as he had already been to the US Embassy and jumped through some hoops in order to get a visa. In the end, he waved us off while handing over a selection of filming equipment, giving us very strict instructions to FILM EVERYTHING!!!

We’re almost in Seattle. The weather is glorious and I feel like having a wander around town.

 

 

Part 10 - Helpful In Seattle

Saturday.

Seattle is so hot - almost unbearably so. We got into the venue, dumped our bags and went for a decent wander around. I found a couple of great clothes shops that stocked brands like Brooklyn We Go Hard and BAIT as well as Billionaire Boys Club and other labels that you’d find at Chimp or END in the UK. Nice. I was going to treat myself to a T shirt but when I turned around, Mike, Steve and Ricardo had already left the shop and wandered down the street. I caught them up, we had great coffee and then walked a few blocks. Seattle seems very laid back and chilled. We had walked around 4 miles in total by the time we arrived back at the venue for soundcheck.

The venue looks awesome, but there’s no air-con (or at least none that I can feel blowing away at my luxurious mane of hair). Plus, I am sat right next to Firtho’s giant bass guitar speaker cab, and it makes my guts churn and my eyeballs wobble. Not for the fainthearted.

After soundcheck, we headed out to what first appeared to be a classy local restaurant. Rick soon left because the chef refused to oh-so-slightly modify what he wished to order, which put a downer on the meal. Had we not already ordered food and begun sipping our drinks, we would have all followed him out. After all, we have eaten far too much service-stop culinary crap on this trip. Tonight was a rare opportunity to break bread together and eat some gourmet shit. Anyway, my bowl of clams was decent enough, and the IPA very hoppy and refreshing, but at 7.4%, it needed to be sipped and not replenished.

The crowd was a little smaller in Seattle but still very attentive and vocal. An Embrace fan called Mark Young came along and brought his son Cruz but since Mark bought their tickets, the event had been changed from 14+ to 21+. We tried to find a solution but when I explained the dilemma to someone at the venue, the response from Mr Unhelpful In Seattle was a nonchalant “Yeah… I’ve seen that movie before…”. Tosser. Fortunately the weather was so hot that all doors from the venue to the street were left wide open, and Mark and Cruz got to see the gig. A tall man in the audience shouted to us “thank you for coming to Seattle”. Believe me, you’re very welcome. We’re having a great time!

After the gig I got a shower but the heat was intense and 10 minutes later, I felt hot and sweaty again. A few guys from each band went in search of a bar but not everyone had their photo ID with them so we ended up in the bar which was attached to the venue. The bar tender poured the perfect gin and tonic - loads of ice and at least a triple measure of Tanqueray gin. The bus left Seattle at 1.30am. I sat up with Beever, Stell and Ben until 4 ish, then climbed into my bunk, drunk and exhausted.

Sunday.

We’re now in Butte, Montana. We’re surrounded by mountains and quarries, and it’s spectacular. On the way to the hotel, the guys stopped at a Subway to get food. The woman behind the counter was having kittens listening to the various northern English accents. “Oh are you guys related? Oh it’s so exciting!!!”, she blurted while serving Danny and Ricardo. Then Jim Sailor spoke in his gentle drawl and it was just to much for her. She put her hand on her heart and quickly scurried behind the counter and hid out of our site!

Mike is doing laundry (Steve is a bit concerned that the Money Supermarket shorts might shrink). Everyone is showering and chilling in the two hotel day rooms that we purchased. We have the rooms until midnight while Kurt the bus driver catches up on his sleep. At midnight, we’ll resume our long journey to Minneapolis. Our show there is not until Tuesday. I’m very tired but I’m going to head for downtown Butte and do some exploring. There’s a place called Pork Chop John’s! 

 

 

Part 11 - Gary the boot-maker from Butte.

Sunday

We parked up in Butte right outside the hotel and bought some day rooms. Once everyone had showered, the super-friendly hotel provided transport to a nearby restaurant, and it was inside this fine dining establishment that I devoured the best meal of the tour so far. Spicy chicken soup followed by blackened Ahi tuna steak, served on a lime and ginger puree, with garlic mash and steamed vegetables, all washed down with two pints of IPA. It’s easy to over cook tuna steak but this was moist and tender. Once the waitress had quizzed us about who we are and what our business is in the US of A, it seemed as though every waiter and waitress in the large restaurant found a reason to visit our table! The service was spot on though and it’s nice when people take an interest. Being in a band has its benefits!

After we finished our meal, some folks went back to the hotel. And some of us went in search of the bar that the lovely waitress had recommended. Downtown Butte, where the hotel and restaurant were located is a large expanse of retail units ranging from burger joints, casinos, in car audio centres etc etc. The kind of stuff you find anywhere in the US except here in Butte we’re also surrounded by huge, stunning mountains.

Uptown Butte is another kettle of fish. The old and tall buildings have a wonderful wild west flavour to them. We’re so high up now that the air is thin and after a short uphill walk to an Irish bar, we were all slightly out of breath. All around us there are mountains and of course the large quarry. Butte’s one and only source of employment is copper mining. Once Edison had invented his lightbulb, demand for copper wire was huge. Mining has been going on here for 150 years, and they reckon they have at least another 150 years ahead of them.

I sat with Jim Sailor in front of a gambling machine. Neither of us understood the game and yet Jim’s instinct was very good and in no time at all, he was 40 dollars richer. Ben, Mike and Steve played pool with Gary - a local boot maker in his late 50’s with the kindest face on the planet. Gary doesn’t know much about music and shakes his head as Jim mentions artists like Tim Buckley, Jeff Buckley and Carole King. 

The gents toilet in Malonie’s bar has its walls decorated with pages from adult magazines. It’s all done very tastefully. Jim asked the bartender if the ladies loos have their walls adorned in a similar way. And indeed they do. Adonis central.

Butte is a small town - population 40,000. It peaked years ago at 100,000 but as new technology kicked in and the mining was scaled back, many folks upped and left. And so in such a small and quiet place we were thrilled to find that the jukebox in Malonie’s tiny bar is very well stocked with Embrace and Starsailor albums.

I’m having the best time with wonderful people. 

Today is Monday. We travelled overnight to Bismarck, North Dakota and we’re now showering in day rooms before heading into town to do more exploring.

 

 

Part 12 - Killing Time in Bismarck, North Dakota

The morning after our most fantastic day off in Butte Montana, we awoke to find our tour bus parked outside America’s Best Value Inn and Suites, in Bismarck, North Dakota. The North-West of America has been enjoying a heatwave this last week and the temperatures have been so high that even walking 100 yards to Taco John’s for a light breakfast has been very hard work. But eat we did. Ricardo turned his nose up at the taco menu and headed across the large main road for a Subway chicken salad. The Starsailor boys had opted to take a taxi into town and eat there. Everywhere we go, folks are highly intrigued by our English accents. In San Fran, I stopped a man to ask “Excuse me, could you please tell me, am I walking in the right direction to Powell and Market?” He just burst out laughing.

Once the overwhelmingly average tacos were scoffed, we stepped back out into the burning sun and strolled to the hotel rooms to get showered. We lost a couple of hours while pondering what to do with our day off/travel day. Finally, Young Tom said “I’m going to walk into town. It’s only a mile walk”. Even in the baking heat, this seemed better than sitting on a hotel bed, staring at Facebook. So Young Tom and I headed to reception to ask for directions. The reception desk girl (who’s sing-song voice I struggled to understand) eventually made it clear that downtown was at least 2 miles, so we ordered a cab then quickly returned to the room to grab a portable phone charging battery pack thingy (have these things been given a proper name yet?). Ricardo decided to tag along with us.

Our taxi driver called John told us about some awesome things to do in Bismarck. For instance, there’s a huge modern building which houses the dinosaur exhibit. We asked him to take us past that and towards the Target dept store. But later, I researched the dinosaur joint and found this striking review:

This was a wonderful museum! Great displays and lots of them! It showed exhibits from pre-historic time all the way to modern and everything inbetween - such as the first settlers, etc. DO NOT smell inside the “lift lid and smell” box near the buffalo/bison display - how disgusting! There is buffalo poop inside. It made my nose burn and I thought I was going to pass out. It was horrible - I have no idea what they were thinking when they allowed such an exhibit!

We wandered aimlessly around Scheels, a giant store containing everything except what Young Tom craved, and that was some nice-new-shiny nail clippers. So we bogged off across the street to Target and immediately found Young Tom’s nail clippers, some WAHL 110v hair clippers for me and my head and some shower gel. After all this crazy excitement, the three of us headed for a coffee at the Barnes And Noble bookshop/Starbuck’s. We took our first sip as Mike’s text came through - “We’re all heading into town to grab a pint and then go see the new Mad Max film which starts at 7pm”. After a quick vox pop, I replied “See you there!”. This left us with around 40 minutes to kill at the bookshop, and only ten minutes later, the three of us decided that the cinema was best saved for a rainy day and also that Mad Max films are shit (except the one with Lizzie Birdsworth from Prisoner Cell Block H in it).

So we strolled around the bookshop in search of Brian Wilson’s biography - Wouldn’t It Be Nice, because the film we really wanted to see is the new Brian Wilson bio-pic. They didn’t have this book, but I picked up Jon Fine’s “Your Band Sucks!”. Jon’s played in loads of great alternative guitar bands over the years, including Bitch Magnet and he’s worked with Codeine, my favourite band ever.

Again, the intense heat of the sun hit us as we headed from the air conditioned comfort of Barnes and Noble. We were in search of somewhere to eat. After a couple of blocks, we found a nice area populated with bars, restaurants and an Irish Pub called The Blarney Stone, and this is the place that the three of us chose but sadly no sooner were we through the door that we were back on the street. The pub has a strict over 21’s door policy and Young Tom is not quite 21 just yet. Right around the corner we found Peacock Alley, a large pub/restaurant with an air of upmarket dining. Young Tom had a fillet steak and chips with fresh veg, Ricardo had chicken and shrimp in a tomato sauce with grilled asparagus, and I ordered a salmon fillet, also with grilled asparagus in Hollandaise sauce. Divine. I managed 3 pints of IPA and Young Tom and I had deserts (both of us have nut allergies and Tom’s cheesecake had to be whisked away and replaced with a triple chocolate affair while I decided I was prepared to take the risk of a nut reaction). 

After the food, we sipped our drinks and discussed lots of finer technical details for out summer festivals, weighed up a few options and then began our 2 mile hike back to the hotel. It soon became painfully obvious that mosquitos truly adore Young Tom! He was covered in swarms of the little fuckers, and many of the ones he slapped away in panic had already had a good glug of Young Tom’s blood and his hand was covered in red wet life juice. Rick quickly distanced himself from the risk of being bitten by marching 100 yards ahead of us. Mosquitos don’t bother me at all, ever. Too much garlic and booze in my blood system.

Back at the hotel I shaved my head, got a shower, watched a little TV and finally headed back to the bus and had an IPA with Beever… and Beever told me about his evening (drum roll, please!)…

Mike, Steve, Danny, Beever and the Starsailor gang had a very different evening! Danny stormed out of the cinema (or movie theater, as they call em here) in disgust out how shit Mad Max was going to be! The rest stayed and Ben (awesome Starsailor drummer and fine human being) enjoyed it for what it was. The rest complained via social media before heading to the Irish pub to complain some more. Then it all got funny/silly. They downed at least 4 IPA’s, Sang along to All You Good, Good People on the jukebox, had some large lady flash her enormous boobs at them all, then they headed out of there for a burger. The burger joint was Drive-In only, and our lads were all on foot… hungry and resourceful, they pretended to be driving cars, like 5 year olds would, making engine and horn noises. Miraculously, the were all served burgers at the drive-in window!

Today, half the IPA/Burger/boob team have been very poorly, and way more so than a simple hangover would induce. Some are saying “bad pint”, others are saying “food poisoning”. We’ll probably never know.

Onwards to Minneapolis.

 

 

Part 13: That toddling town…

We arrived nice and early - around 10 a.m in Chicago and parked outside the venue. Then we parked again in a car park at the side of the venue and Kurt pressed his magic button which makes the bus 4 ft wider. That’s right! Our bus has a motorised extendable section in the front lounge. We were then told “Hey! You cannot park there!”. So the bus was rudely returned to a less impressive state and we re-parked outside the front of the venue again, by which time I was losing the will to live. I was tired and grouchy. The roads from Minneapolis to Chicago are quite frankly fucking atrocious, and inside a bunk with no visual clues as to the roads or our speed of travel, it’s easy to assume that we’re all likely to die horribly. It’s as though the bus has left the road and is hurtling along at high speed towards certain disaster.

The venue was still locked up, so Mike, Barry and I wandered across the street to McDonalds for a breakfast feast (Sausage and egg McMuffin with coffee). After an hour or so of loitering near the bus, a gang of us (me, Young Tom, Ricardo, Mike and Steve) headed on foot a mile or so away from the venue (Bottom Lounge) towards downtown Chicago.

Some good friends of mine are over from the UK and working here in Chicago. Darren used to manage Talk to Angels back in the day, and he also runs a company called Muzo. They make very attractive high end office furniture which they sell all over the world. Muzo recently opened a swanky new showroom in Chicago so I was eager to have a nosey. Nathan, our good friend who works with Darren is also out in Chicago. Nathan is an artist and he designed the last Embrace album sleeve (and the Talk To Angels sleeves too). We pounded the pavements for almost 2 miles in 30+ degree heat and finally spotted Muzo’s new premises. Their showroom is wonderful. Dark wood panelled walls, lots of industrial pipes and air con ducts on the high ceiling and huge windows with good views of Chicago. Darren gave us a guided tour of the building before taking us all out to an authentic Italian restaurant for lunch. Ricardo ate his weight in chicken and salad, Young Tom ordered pasta and the rest of us ate delicious pizza pie.

Without going into too much detail, I needed to use the restroom at the restaurant, but someone before me had blocked the bloody loo. Fortunately I managed to hang on until after the meal and then Darren took us around the corner to the apartment where he and his team are living during their stay in Chicago. This is how the other half live! A spacious apartment on the 22nd floor with amazing views across the city - views so good, one can wave to people in other neighbouring apartments. This is a whole new world of people watching. Darren said that he feels like a high-class Hilda Ogden, spying out of the window but without having to twitch the net curtains. After taking care of some bathroom business, Darren asked if we would like to go up to the roof. Why not, I thought. The views are bound to be great up there. But I wasn’t expecting to find sun loungers, bikini clad girls and a bloody swimming pool!

It would have been nice to have a dip and a sunbathe, but I had soundcheck on my mind, so we headed back down to the street where Ricardo offered us some options. “Do you want to walk bloody miles back to the venue in this blazing heat, or would you like to take a ride in a beautiful, comfortable air conditioned taxi?” I scratched my head and replied “Tough choice. You decide”.

The taxi weaved in and out of the chaotic Chicago rush hour traffic and eventually dropped us at Bottom Lounge. The venue which had no air con in the dressing rooms, woeful wifi, a lot of confusion surrounding what time the doors opened (and consequently what time Embrace would be on stage) and to top all of that, no fucking showers! With all of us tired and drenched in sweat, this left only one (and my favourite) option: sitting down and doing lots of pissing and moaning. It’s a great hobby of mine and a great way to polish up my sarcasm and cynicism.

Apart from the few minor niggles above, the venue was actually great. A good sized room with decent PA, friendly staff and best of all, a brilliant cafe that served high quality hot food. I had no appetite after the pizza pie, but Young Tom had a gourmet burger while Les had a bucket of mussels. Living the dream.

After soundcheck, it suddenly occurred to Ben and I that we ought to nip out and buy something for Jim Starsailor; it was his birthday after all. So after getting some directions from a nice man at the venue, we found ourselves once again pacing around Chicago. 20 minutes later, we found a large supermarket called Jewel Osco. Ben bought a giant (and delicious) chocolate cake with raspberries on top, and on behalf of the Embrace gang, I picked 3 bottles of (hopefully decent) red wine. As I was due on stage in less than 30 minutes, we hailed a cab and hurtled back to the venue.

The Chicago gig was ace - a wonderful crowd and a very spirited performance from Team Embrace. For me, the shows get better each night and so it’s frustrating that there are only 3 shows left on this tour. Our adventure has been lots of fun and everyone has been very happy. If only we could do one more week not only would it be creatively fulfilling, it would also mean the tour would be in profit rather than merely breaking even. Alas, it’s too late to do anything about that now, so the best thing we can do is savour these precious moments.

Ricardo joined Starsailor on stage to play extra guitar on Good Souls, but not before the rest of Embrace stormed the stage with a candlelit birthday cake for Jim. We all sang Happy Birthday and then let the supergroup get on with it.

After the gig, we hung out with Darren, Nathan, Joe, Mike and a bunch of other great folks from the Muzo team. I’m hoping to come back out to Chicago at some point soon and become involved with their great company.

After our farewells, we all piled back onto the tour bus and headed out of Chicago. On a street corner, we saw a bunch of young men and women involved in some kind of heated argument. Two women appeared to be spoiling for a fight. Nobheads. I shook my head, crawled into my bunk and instantly fell into a wonderful deep sleep. Only a few hours later, Les was waking everybody up so that we could present our pretty faces to the US/Canada border people. We breezed through without drama and everyone went back to bed except me and Jim. I figured it was blog time, and Jim opened his book and began reading, but he soon dozed off at the side of me.

Chicago is a stunning city. No litter, a breathtaking skyline that rivals and perhaps even beats NYC, the cleanest river I ever saw, very friendly people and a thriving music scene. Next time I am here, I hope to see Steve Albini’s studio as well as do a bit of digging into property prices.

13.06. We’re on our way to Toronto. I’m told they do good lobster there.

I have a giant blister on one of my toes from all the miles of walking around.

It turns out that I was bitten several times by mosquitos in North Dakota. Flying fucking fascists. One can never feel safe where mosquitos are concerned. As my dear friend Jock once sang in an old Poppy Factory classic called Mosquito:

From the darkest trees of your green garden 
Diving, diving through blue skies  
Silent waiting to stain this bliss 
With a distant buzz and a bloody kiss

Over and out. x

 

 

Part 14 - Toronto/NYC

TORONTO

Due to heavy traffic and slow customs shizz, the Toronto show was an in and out job. We arrived just in time to load into The Horseshoe Tavern, a wonderful and legendary venue where the Pixies had performed only a few days earlier. The stage was tiny with a very low ceiling. This often makes our jobs harder, not just from a square foot point of view, but also from a sonic one. I always sit very close to the lovely Mike Heaton, and as you know he likes to pummel his drums. DRUMS! DDRUUUUMMMMSSSS!!!!!!  In a room with a very low ceiling, the sound of the drums has nowhere to escape and so the high sound pressure levels generated by a big drum kit/bionic drummer find their way into my ears from a number of sources. 1. My backing vocal mic 2. Other people’s vocal mics and 3. The sound of the drums leaking through my in-ear monitors. So while the Toronto gig was superb in many ways with a very boisterous and appreciative audience, the sound was in truth fucking atrocious on stage. In these situations, one just has to smile and power through it. Things calmed down after Mike put his snare drum skin through! He had to swap to his spare snare drum, and that one seems a fair bit quieter, and to me it sounded much better too.

After the show, we met with a few fans in the bar area, all of whom were complimentary and excited to have finally seen us play in their home city. This was our first time in Toronto so it came as a great surprise to find out we have a very decent fan base there. Thank you for making it memorable and special.

The bus travelled overnight from Toronto towards New York. At some point during this journey, we were all dragged out of our bunks and herded back into Immigration. In various states of drunkenness, hangover and sleep deprivation, this simple task was a bit of a bloody saga. I didn’t know who I was, where I was or what day it was. I returned to my bunk and got some good sleep.

DAY OFF IN NYC

I woke up the next morning to find the bus parked outside a Holiday Inn hotel. However, rather than being in wonderful and iconic New York, we were parked up in bloody Newark and this was where the bus would be staying for two days. Hell’s bells. After a long and drawn out back and forth debate between the brothers, Firtho and I about whether we should get a day room here in Newark or get us a room in NYC, we finally settled on downtown NYC. Mike had left the circus and gone off to meet his Fiancee; the Starsailor boys had already booked a cab into the city. Via Air B&B, Danny found us a rental apartment in Manhattan for a very reasonable price and so after a lifetime of debate and even more umm and ahh, he added to basket, proceeded to checkout and sealed the fucking deal. We were soon on our way in a taxi from Newark to NYC, a sweltering journey that would take us an hour and cost us $100. Sheesh! Mayonnaise.

So there we were, walking around Times bloody Square, naked painted cowboys and grandmas, thousands of tourists everywhere and odd looking people trying to sell us shit that we really didn’t want to buy. The heat was a highly oppressive 95 degrees and for some unfathomable reason, we escaped the heat and walked into Hard Rock Cafe to get something to eat and drink. This place has such bad service that it’s hard to figure how they even stay in business. “Table for four please”. Right this way, sir. We were then stood in a room full of empty tables but told that they were all booked. So we sat at the bar and asked how long it would take for a table to become free, and told around 40 minutes but we’re welcome to eat at the bar if we want. “If we order, how long will the food take?”. And her do-I-look-like-I-give-a fuck response was “it depends on what you order”. So we bogged it off, turned around and went in search of something less fucking hard work.

Back into 95 degree heat. Jesus. As we crossed the street, Ricardo and I heard a teenage lad say to his mate “What kind of fucking idiot eats at Hard Rock Cafe?”. Indeed. We soon found a nice little restaurant and after a lot of farting around, Danny ordered the All Year Thanksgiving Dinner (turkey and all the trimmings). Firtho, Ricardo and I ordered chicken pie which came with nothing. Good job. Large enough to feed a family of four. Washed down with 2 pints of IPA. 
In the furnace of Times Square, Danny was fretting because the owner of the apartment that he booked for us via Air B&B has not replied and it was now 6pm. So we decide to cancel it and try to get into the same hotel as Starsailor who were all checked in at a swanky little hotel in the Bowery district. Danny managed to book us two rooms there via his iPhone and we headed off to find the NY subway that would take us to Broome St. There has been a great deal of walking on this tour. Another mile or so won’t kill us, I mutter under my breath.

The hotel was very boutique-y. The reception guy told us it’s the oldest hotel in NY. Yeah right. Whatever, we just want our rooms. Drenched in sweat and my feet sore and blistered, minutes seemed like days. I must not grumble though and remind myself that I’m living the dream. And what lovely rooms they turned out to be. Small, but charming and clean. Two single beds and a TV, air-con and a bathroom. Next door to the hotel, we found a great little bar serving IPA at $9 a pint. Sheesh! Mayonnaise. We were too tired to move any further so we stayed put and spent a small fortune. The Sailor boys joined us for a few ales. Ricardo and his brother in law went off with Jim Sailor to the exclusive member’s  club Soho House, and then quite magnificently, Les, Beever and Young Tom all arrived at the bar on bicycles! It turns out that they’d cycled about 30 miles that day. Young Tom loaded himself up on Whiskey and Cokes, thrilled that he passed for 21. We stayed in the bar until kicking out time, and then the three amigos cycled off into the night, falling off at least once on route to the train that would get them back to Newark, a train that never came and forced then into a $90 cab ride.

Show Day - NYC.

Firtho and I checked out of the hotel. We couldn’t get hold of Ricardo and we knew Danny would be busy writing, so we decided to go in search of food. Jim Sailor tagged along with us. He was worried he might get lost - not because he doesn’t know NY (he knows it very well) but simply because his hangover was so humongous that the poor lad was struggling somewhat. We tried The Egg Shop - a tiny cafe where they sell nothing but egg based food. We couldn’t even get near the place - folks were queueing around the block!  A hipster egg store, no less. So we walked into Little Italy and ordered pizza. Danny texted to see where we were and quickly joined us. He ordered a mouthwatering rib eye steak with spinach and green beans. Ricardo suddenly appeared, looking puffy eyed and exhausted. A hangover can do that to a man. Other than Danny’s giant steak, the meal was poor. Worst pizzas ever really.

After our grub, we walked up from Soho to the Webster Hall venue where we were met by Lori Weinstein. Lori has been a fan of the band for ever and she kindly let me stay with her when I took a trip to NYC for the final gig of favourite band, Codeine. We dumped our bags in the dressing room and headed across the street for a cold beer or three at Pourhouse. An hour later, the bus arrived with our trailer full of drums, guitars and all the other shit we cart around the world with our travelling circus. Soundcheck was a very frustrating affair - the venue’s PA not working correctly with our digital mixing desk; the bass amp sounding like a million angry wasps; the venue staff being in some sort of altered state; we played half a song and then doors opened.

The venue had a strict 11.30pm curfew which meant that Embrace hit the stage at 8pm. I wasn’t prepared for the huge roar from the capacity crowd. Thirty wonderful fans had flown out from the UK to see this NY gig, which is very heartwarming. The other 400 folks in the room were no less up for a fantastic evening and the noise from the crowd was actually making my ears hurt! Unbelievable. 10 years since we last played NYC and we still have a devoted and loving audience. We all really hope that this trip to North America is only the beginning of a whole new chapter for the band in the States. We were made to feel like kings, every word of every song sung so loudly from the audience that they were drowning out the PA system!

In addition to a heavenly NY reception, my evening had a further giant cherry on top. Stephen and John from my favourite ever band Codeine came along to see us play. Codeine were a band from 1989 to 1994. They made three great albums and then broke up. They reunited in 2012 in order to celebrate the lavish box set reissue of those beautiful records and I flew out to NYC to see their last ever show. We briefly met after that show. They were blown away that I had gone to such lengths to see them play. In fact, my trip to see Codeine inspired their singer Stephen Immerwahr to fly to Japan to see his favourite female singer out there. So I dropped the guys a message to say I’d be in NYC with our Embrace/Starsailor travelling circus and invited them along. We spent the night talking about our experiences of life in a band, touring, labels, studios, bands we know and like; in fact we discussed everything except a new Codeine album. I can sense that it’s a thorny subject and I didn’t want to spoil the lovely vibe. I should also point out that during the NY Embrace gig, I craftily played a little bit of Codeine’s song “W” which they spotted and found hilarious. Happy days! They say you should not meet your heroes, but in this case it has been 100% magical. NYC is bonkers. I couldn’t live there but you cannot beat it for a short burst of high energy madness every now and again.

After the show, we headed back to Pourhouse and drank copious amounts of Modelo beer with our lovely fans and the Starsailor boys. Eventually, we were dragged away and told to board the bus so we could head off to Boston. I stayed up for a short while and then snuck off to my bunk. I woke up for a quick pee at some point and went back to bed. So I missed all the drama. 
Les, Beever, Young Tom and Danny were enjoying a few beers in the front lounge. Les was allegedly three sheets to the wind. Danny thought that Les had spilt some beer due to the carpet suddenly being damp. Les said “Ah it’ll be fine Dan”. Then all four of them turned around to see gallons of piss spewing out from the toilet cubicle. Les went into Jack Bauer overdrive mode and did battle with the broken toilet. he then went up front to ask Kurt to make an emergency stop as soon as possible. Only the sliding door between the front lounge and the sleeping quarters prevented 4 inches of stale piss from entering the bunks. Kurt pulled over and got out of the bus. He then opened the storage area underneath the bus where we keep our suitcases and instruments. Even more piss came flooding out. The next two hours involved Danny gathering all the stuff on the bus and putting it into bin bags while Beever and Les frantically scrubbed and disinfected everything with whatever they could find; a bottle of Timotei shampoo rubbing alcohol. After a lot of effort and panic, a truly major disaster was averted. We could have ended up having to abandon the bus and book everyone into hotel rooms. I asked why Young Tom was not involved in this monumental clean-up process. Les said “Young Tom demanded I order a new bus and when I told him to not be so ridiculous, he fucked off to bed”. Genius!

 

 

Part 15 -  Final Tour Blog: More Than A Feeling

Boston, MA

Our bus had parked up outside a very swanky hotel in Boston with glass-walled elevators and a double room large enough to sleep 6 adults (if you’re happy to get creative with all the pull out beds). Some of us dumped our bags and showered/scrubbed our teeth and then hopped in a taxi towards the fabulous Sinclair venue. Upon our arrival, Lori was already sat upon the venue’s steps and waiting for us. Ricardo, Firtho, YT, Lori and I walked hopelessly around the block looking for good food that also met all of our dietary and budgetary requirements. This type of search is always agonising and slightly preposterous; a low carb meal with two pints of Guinness? Sheesh. 

Eventually, after twice around the block, we decided to eat in the restaurant part of the venue, which is right where we started! The menu was a treasure trove of mouth watering meals ranging from mussels in white wine to pork chops and bloody steaks; all of it sounded delicious but we quickly found out that the lunchtime menu was limited to only a handful of simpler snacks. 

We ordered drinks (the usual IPA’s and Guinness)… Lori ordered a Bloody Mary… After a small eternity, our drinks arrived and fortunately my IPA was worth every second of the wait. A can of Guinness is a can of Guinness and so there were no complaints from Ricardo. However, Lori’s vodka was causing some distress at our table. Her drink had arrived in a glass jar containing plum tomatoes, chilli seeds, vodka and ice and a whole rasher of (drum roll please), streaky bacon. Sheesh Mayonnaise! In a nutshell, this alco-ragu hallucination was not to Lori’s taste. Our snail-paced waitress feigned some amount of concern, promising to return the drink to the mad scientist behind the bar who had created such a mind-boggling concoction of flavours, and to return it to us in a more palatable state. 

Ten minutes later, a modified version of bacon and vodka hell arrived at our table, in fact it arrived around the same time that Young Tom announced “The service here is so shit that I have to leave now to help unload the bus trailer”. Young Tom is from Yorkshire and is naturally gifted in matters of complaining.

And so it was, a starving Young Tom left the table while the rest of us enjoyed delicious rare burgers, cumin infused humous, skinny fries and chicken wings. The modified jar of noxious vodka fusion which, on first impressions Lori thought would now be quite drinkable, soon had her almost coughing and choking due to the crushed chilli seeds and tabasco sauce firing sharply at the back of her throat.

Stuffed, we settled our bill, rolling our eyes at the inevitable bit of tax for this, so many added percent for that, on top of which you’re still expected to leave a healthy tip (around 15-20%). This service charge/state tax/hidden extras pantomime needs addressing. It’s  actually impossible to calculate the actual real cost of anything here until the point of paying the bill.

Downstairs in the venue the PA was sounding immense! Full of power and detail with headroom to spare. Young Tom has been playing Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody” every day in order to fine tune each venue’s PA system. The production of it is impeccable, plus it’s a song I have always loved and one I remember from my more youthful days of clubbing in Leeds. 

Tonight, we have ample time to soundcheck so Young Tom and I discuss a few keyboard level tweaks for a couple of our songs via my new MainStage laptop, and the band then play an odd verse and chorus of each tune to ensure that the new levels are bang on.

The venue was very humid and I felt tired all day in Boston - most likely due to the two hectic days in NYC combined with the rather late night hanging out with fans, our two bands and of course Codeine. Just moments before our stage time, I was praying for a second wind. Fortunately, it kicked in only three or four songs into our set. The Boston crowd was noticeably smaller than in New York but those present were certainly having a great night. As they sang along, heckled and cheered, it reminded me that an audience is also about quality, not just quantity. The highlight of this final show of our North American tour was the wonderful Starsailor, who joined us on stage during our last song, The Good Will Out. Jim came on with his acoustic guitar while the other Sailor lads either played percussion, sang along and clapped or captured this wonderful gran finale on video. Happy days.

Post gig was a little chaotic. Exhausted (but mindful of a hurtful remark made about me on Twitter which suggested I have been rude to Embrace fans), I ventured out to say hello and thank people for coming. After photos and an enjoyable time chatting, I ventured back to the dressing room to find that not only had a bunch of folks entered our private space and drunk all of our beer, they were also complaining “There’s no fucking beer! This is the shittiest party I have ever been to!”. Honestly. 

Eventually, these odd people departed and the complicated pack-down of all our equipment could commence. Various piles of musical gear cluttered the stage; stuff that needed to be returned to SIR (Studio and Instrument Rentals, AKA Shit In a Road case) in Los Angeles; the drum kit (last used by Spandau Ballet no less), Ampeg 8x10 bass cab, Ampeg bass head, Marshall cab and head, loads of inverters to make our 230v toys work on 110v, the awesome Kawai keyboard that I borrowed from Nova from the band Scars on 45, 3 x keyboard stands, even smaller piles of musical toys that needed to be shoehorned into our suitcases so that we might hopefully get everything back to the UK safely and without financial penalty.

Finally the stage was clear, and with a dressing room dry of a single drop of alcohol, we packed ourselves onto our tour bus and headed off back to our Boston hotel. Most of us slept that night on the tour bus except Mike and Sarah, Stel, Ben and Jim who managed to build beds for each of them by turning sofas and chairs into something quite comfortable.

Monday.

The tour bus was due to leave the hotel for Boston airport around noon. Starsailor were due to fly a good few hours later than the Embrace gang. So we said our fond farewells, took a few snaps and eventually arrived at the airport. The British Airways team in Boston were absolutely superb and we incurred no additional charges for our extra cases. We glided through airport security like a well choreographed ballet production of Swan Lake and then sank a few pre-flight pints of Sam Adams, reflecting on our very successful North American mission.

Upon landing at Heathrow we were met with more airport security. This time however it severely lacked the precision and organisation of any US immigration we’d encountered. The chaos resembled Ikea on a bank holiday weekend but with armed officers barking instructions as to which queue we should be in. I made it to the other side of security with our esteemed tour manager Les, and we went in search of liquid refreshment. 

A classically British debacle ensued. We had found a nice looking bar and ordered two Heinekens. “Sorry sir, we have no beer”. But this is a bar, I objected. Guinness? No. So with a dismissive “fuck this shit” we headed off in search of another bar near gate A23, a gate so remote from the rest of the airport that may possibly be in another county. Finding no alternative watering hole, we passed the Bar With No Beer and spotted a young lady sipping a BOTTLED BEER. I was incredulous. Why the fuck couldn’t the barman have said “Sorry sir, we have no DRAUGHT beer. Perhaps a nice cold BOTTLE of beer might do the trick?”. Welcome back to bloody England, I sighed. I’m cranky when I’m tired and thirsty. 

Young Tom and Firtho only just made it to gate 23 in time to board the plane to Manchester. They had been held up at security for almost an hour. YT said it was a total farce, being told to remove every single microphone from its case and feed it through the scanning machine, one by one. Steve’s Twat Box (our pet-name for his bass effects rack) always arouses suspicion, but that’s because it looks like a 007 Soviet spy transmitter.

Baggage claim in Manchester was a textbook success - everything arrived without damage! Upon seeing EMBRACE emblazoned on our flight cases, a couple of the airport staff wished us well for the future and our summer festivals, which was a welcome uplifting moment after so much travelling. We quickly passed through Nothing To Declare and into the fresh Manchester air. Our friendly driver (and ex Vicious Pink member) Brian pulled up in the trusty grey splitter bus with trailer attached and we set sail across the M62 to Embrace HQ, shattered from exhaustion but fuzzy from the wonderful experiences we had all shared over the last 18 days.

So that’s that. A massive Thank You to Mike Hayes - our truly brilliant North American booking agent for having the faith and making this dream into a reality; to Jim, Ben, Stel and Barry of Starsailor for sharing their living space and stages with us. You’re all legends and I hope we play more shows together soon! To Steve their tour manager who worked brilliantly in many ways but excelled at keeping Kurt calm and in hotels on the days off. Not the easiest of tasks! 

Thank you to our amazing Tour Manager Les Smith for the weeks of battling with Visa lawyers, for getting us there, for keeping it all on track once there, for fixing broken things, tuning the guitars and for handling the Tsunami Of Piss which had threatened the tour, as well as being a very fine gentleman. We never got that glass of dry sherry. 

To the brilliant Beever for getting the gear on stage and working each night and for getting it all back safely into the trailer after many a long day; for the immense laughs, the tsunami clean-up mission, the bwiscuits, cwoffee and guacamole!  You’ve been with us so long Beever, you deserve a bloody carriage clock. Thank you! We love ya.

Ah, Young Tom… We’re all delighted to have been able to provide you with this truly invaluable work-life experience. To be 20 years young, still addicted to fizzy drinks and candy, and yet have the unique opportunity to travel the globe with not just one but TWO highly esteemed groups of world-class musical entertainers… it’s impossible to put a price on all of that really. However, after a lot of soul searching the band has come up with a figure. I’ll email our invoice to you later this afternoon. Don’t worry, we’re VAT registered, dear! Seriously though, sterling work, YT. Thank you for everything. We could not have done it without you!

To Kurt our bus driver. Eyes like a hawk, nerves of steel, heart of gold, leg of lamb, nob of butter. Thanks for getting us all safely across over 6,000 road miles. I hope that when we return to the US we will once again be in the great presence of The Kurtster! 

Finally: To all of our wonderful fans in Canada, America, the UK and anywhere else who came to see us on this North American tour. Without you guys we’re just another band playing in an empty room. So a huge and heartfelt thank you for coming along, for saying hello, and for making us feel very special indeed. Here’s to all of us. Here’s to the future. 

Over and out.