Friday, March 12, 2004

ENGLAND FIVE. The Nottingham show was at another smallish venue, The Maze at the Forest Tavern. Lach had a cold so,to preserve his voice, he skipped sound check and had our driver pick him up just in time for the performance, coming into the club as the openers finished with his sweatshirt hood fully over his head like a prizefighter before a bout. When he performed you couldn't tell he was sick. Whatta pro.

In contrast to the generally very flat Midlands travel, Nottingham is very hilly, with some streets just absurdly graded like those of San Francisco or Glasgow (thank God it wasn't raining). Around the club we saw a surprising amount of graffiti and a number of home alarm signs. Steve says Nottingham has the worst crime rates in England. Well, that's what happens when do-gooders like Robin Hood start weakening people's sense of personal responsibility.

On our day off, Lach went into London by train for his solo show to save the cost of keeping van and crew there overnight, so Bill and I knocked around Lincoln and finally made it up to that Cathedral we'd been threartening to visit. It's at the top of a steep hill and, unlike a lot of European cathedrals I've visited, serves as the architectural centerpiece of a really posh neighborhood -- with little shops (not tourist shops, but clothiers and chemists and so forth) and obviously upscale residential addresses nestled in narrow streets. Apparently the volunteers who run the Cathedral were not working, so Bill and I couldn't get inside the place, so we circled it to take in its mass, which is considerable. Again, that much carved stone in one place puzzles the modern mind: you have to believe in permanence a lot more than most of us do to fashion a thing like that. Unable to get at the guts, we went to a very nice pub called the Magna Carta and had a few pints of Banks's Bitter. The pub was quiet and the light was fading; through the windows the little buildings fell into silhouette and a nearby medieval wall -- this kind of thing is all over the place, apparently -- was smacked with floodlights from the ground, and the deep shadow this caused across its top made it seem like a large piece of theatrical scenery standing in front of a dark blue scrim.

That night we watched some of our Lincoln friends rehearse their band, and haunted with them a few more pubs. I was still not over this cold but I reckoned I'd be fucked if I'd let some germ prevent me from having pints with the good people of our English hometown.

The final show in London was at Barfly, the closest thing to CBGB I've seen around here: black walls, hard light, tiny dressing room with walls thick with graffiti. It was harder, I noticed also, to elbow your way through the crowd here: the punters stood their ground like New Yorkers. We smashed through the set in true urban-marauder manner, using manic energy to override fatigue, and received plaudits; a gaggle of girls made much of us and one of them kissed my cheek as I lugged the bass drum down the back steps, constituting my entire ration of road sex for this tour. Later we were invited to the apartments of another band to yammer about music and bang on guitars and drink, and that was something else I wasn't going to miss, tired as I was.

This is Friday and I am taking it easy. We're going home tomorrow. I have no urge to scrape up extra thrills. For the next eighteen hours or so everything around me will be London and my mind, being osmotic, will soak a good portion of it up and carry it back with me to New York.

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