June 24, 2015

Mon., May 18—the Liverpool Walking Tour

Category: European Tour 2015 — admin @ 7:56 pm

with David Summers our long and true pal

On our previous two trips to Liverpool, our pal David Summers of Lancaster, UK had given us a walking tour of Liverpool,
and now, of course, it’s a tradition that must be upheld! We started of in the early-morning-almost-drizzle, up through the Dingle, the Empress Pub, Ringo’s two nearby childhood homes, up through Toxteth, over to the Anglican cathedral, then up Hope St.: The Liverpool Institute (where Paul & George went to school), next door Liverpool Art College (where John went to school), further up the street to Ye Cracke (student hang-out/pub), further on to the Philharmonic Pub (much fancier, had a nice lunch, and once again ran into our Texan friends from the Lannie Flowers band), and then to the Catholic Cathedral. At this point we parted ways. David had to get back to his Lancaster Life, Lauri and I wanted to walk around the city center a bit, Ron & John went looking for a guitar case, and Neptune and Barbara headed back for the peace of the Pineapple.

it started off drizzling but happy

in front of the Empress in the Dingle

y'know, if yer cute...you get first turn...

I do not know why I find this amazingly comedic....maybe you can explain....inside the most wondrous, gigantic Anglican Cathedral....

June 19, 2015

Tues., May 19th—shopping in Manchester and The Thirsty Scholar

Category: European Tour 2015 — admin @ 3:27 pm

Lauri and I wished to explore some of the neighborhood streets (she’d found, in a brochure, that there were several
record shops in the area). There were record shops, clothes boutiques, etc. on nearby Oldham Street. It was one of those days
where, though the sun was peeking through, it looked like it had just rained, or that it was likely to rain, (very typical weather for this part of the world it seemed, and really nice). We popped into shops when it was drizzling, and then it would be clear when we came back out. After this process repeated itself a few times, we realized that we actually had the super-natural power to turn the rain on and off. We are expecting a call from Governor Brown in Sacramento any time now re: the help we can be with our own state’s drought.

We spent some time speaking to Russ in “Vinyl …Revival”? “Vinyl Revolution”?…He liked that I knew something of the mod-revival bands and ska groups –they had a single by “Squire” which I remember we played with in London on our last tour.

Our show tonight was at “The Thirsty Scholar”. There were a lot of unanswered questions: “Would there be a drum set?” was one of the largest in our minds–right behind “Guitar amps?”….Luckily, like all things on this tour it seemed, everything was more than alright.
Thanks to Tuesday Tony—the host of what *usually* is an open mic night [Tuesdays at this particular place], thanks to the bands playing with us for letting us use their gear–shout out to local hard-rockers The Hidden!!, and thanks to Neptune for doing all the cross-continental communication that made this gig (and the one on the next night) possible. BIG thanks.

The Thirsty Scholar was a club underneath a bridge. Had to think of Billy Goats Gruff..trip trap trip trap…

It was a time to meet up with friends. Awesome to see Andrew Hickey! Awesome to see Lucy Moon!

Lucy Moon was a great pal to us all (and even helped guide us under the bridge to this venue). And it was wonderful over the next two days/gigs to hang out with/converse with Andrew, one of our longest-running UK supporters. This man does everything from write well-thought-out editorials about the Beach Boys and their current touring bands, to run for local office. Dang, if he was running in California, I’d have to put my every-ounce-o’-strength into making him one of my representatives. Plus, he writes some good books. Buy ‘em here! click click.

Wed., May 20th– Manchester & the Tiger Lounge

Category: European Tour 2015 — admin @ 11:23 am

Our plan today was to go visit the Rylands Library. Lauri’s great trust in tripadvisor.com always paid off, and this was #1 on their ‘things to do in Manchester’ list. We headed out on foot with a little map, and a GPS thing on the phone. As can happen, on the way, we stumbled upon some neat stuff.

Looks like some interesting things down this way...

Here was an inn that went back to the 1500′s, and then just around the corner was the Manchester Cathedral.

And then, just across the way for afternoon tea.

Then we continued on our way to the Rylands Library.

The gig for tonight was at the Tiger Lounge. We’d played here with Olly Neashum on our last trip here in 2011. It was another great evening hosted by Tuesday Tony (even though this was now Wednesday), and we were joined by some of the same people who were at last night’s show at the Thirsty Scholar. The comic Sophie Willan who had performed last night, not only did her set, but joined us for the closing anarchic googoogajoob section of “I am the Walrus”, and also invited John, Neptune and I to give her a funk background to one of her own bits. The band Jungfraus opened with their cool, Syd Barret-Soft Boys influenced tunes, and the riffing-heavy crunch of Half-Man/Half-Badger closed off the night. Thanks again to all of the groups that let us share their drums & amps!

June 18, 2015

Thurs., May 21– back to Liverpool & West Derby Village

Category: European Tour 2015 — admin @ 10:22 am

with Roag Best (Pete's brother) on the Casbah Club "stage"

Another terrific breakfast at the Abel Hayward (during which, I called the Casbah Club and made a reservation for us to tour late that afternoon) , and then it was good-bye to Manchester. The basic plan was to get back to Liverpool, have a night’s rest before we had our big day of rehearsing with Maxi Dunn, then the gig that night. True to form, we took the basic plan and stuffed it very full of all the other wonderful things we could squeeze in (and this is why it took us all a good week or so to recover from this trip).

We took a train back to the Lime St. Station in Liverpool and got our things back to the Pineapple before taking a taxi out to West Derby Village and The Casbah Club. The Casbah was the basement teenage club started by Mona Best (Beatle’s drummer Pete Best’s mother). This is really where the Beatles got their start, first as the Quarrymen, and then as the Beatles. We’d visited here on previous trips ( this would be the *third* time for John), but this is a very special place–and when your tour guide is one of Pete Best’s brothers, you know you’re in for an entertaining time.

The Casbah, West Derby Village, on the fringe of Liverpool

"I know you. Don't I know you? ah, give us a hug anyways." Roag Best recognizes Doc as one of his own.

Paul & John (and Cynthia soon to be 'Lennon')

Lauri, in the same spot, under the Paul McCartney-painted ceiling.

We really didn’t have any set plans for the rest of the day, so we did what one does if one is lucky enough to be in an interesting and new place and the sun is shining: we wandered along. We walked down the residential street to the little village center and came upon the Sefton Arms Hotel, which looked like a nice place to stop for a drink. The weather was fine, and so was their nice backyard.

the back patio and grounds of the Sefton Arms Hotel

We wandered about another 1/2 block on towards the village church and noticed a park that seemed to stretch endlessly. This was a perfect kismet moment, as Lauri had been saying on the train earlier that day how she’d love to have a walk in the countryside. The train rides often teased us with that lovely English Countryside that we see on TV shows, but this being a music tour, we were pretty much hovering around the city centers. It really felt like a gift: the day was entering that ‘golden hour’ of late-afternoon/almost-sunset and the park really did seem to open up as far as we could see—very much like stepping into an English landscape artist’s work.

After a goodly walk, and seeing some extra-fuzzy cows, we ended up at a manor house straight out of a PBS costume drama. We saw signs that said “Cruxteth”…I’ll have to look all this up on the internet to figure out where we were.

Then it was the long trek back to the Pineapple (with a taxi’s help), a late night just-before-closing dinner raid on the local “chippie”, and to bed.

June 16, 2015

a small diversion: A Tribute to The Pineapple!

Category: European Tour 2015 — admin @ 9:07 pm

You'll Never Walk Alone

A wonderful element of all three of our overseas tours has been the ever-terrific Pineapple Pub & Hotel. Special thanks to Leland Vander Poel for finding this place for us on our first go-round. It’s in the Dingle, the neighborhood in which Ringo grew up. There are a few slightly sketchy areas adjacent, but mostly it just feels very real, and not at all touristy. You can easily walk down the street for views of the Mersey (or just climb out on the fire-escape) and just around the corner
is The Empress pub that’s just ’round another corner from Ringo’s old house.
The Pineapple feels like home and has become a cherished element of our Liverpool adventures. Yes, it’s not any sort of luxurious B & B, nor is it a shiny modern hotel…but it has personality, and that counts for a lot! And, the people make you feel at home and always call you ‘luv’, and that counts for a lot too!

the friendly staff of The Pineapple: Lorraine, Mary, & Tasha (Tony not pictured, but he'll still buzz you in.)

AND, they have that traditional, English fry-up breakfast every morning….oh, well, they don’t have that anymore. This disappointment was made up by the fact that I’d discovered the very terrific and yummy bakery just two doors down that had some pretty dang good chicken pasties. They were kind of like Chicken Pie Shop pies in these wrap-around pastries. Mmm, and so good for you! [?]). There’s also a fish and chip place (I think they call them ‘chippies’?) a few doors down the other way.
And climbing the stairs is always a great adventure. Bonus points if you were lucky enough to get a room on the third floor!
You may not be as fortunate as me, but if you’ve brought your wife, *and* you’ve just had open-heart surgery, your bandmates may cut you some slack and let you have the room with the bathroom.

Just like you picture in your imagination, this local pub serves as the meeting place and livingroom for many of the folks in the neighborhood. A good conversation is always imminent, even if all you’re trying to do is get out and hail a cab. If you’re in question which team they support, the bright red neon sign that says “You’ll Never Walk Alone” will help you sing the right song during the football game.
And it’s not a bad place for an unplugged band rehearsal, even if the bass player has to stand in the bathroom.

Maxine Dunn joins us to rehearse her song "Change the Record" which we included in our two Cavern sets.

June 15, 2015

Fri., May 22nd—Last Day & Show in Liverpool–Maxi & the Zanzibar!

Category: European Tour 2015 — admin @ 8:37 pm

There were several new (and thankfully positive) experiences ahead of us for this, our last day in Liverpool for the tour. In previous trips here, including the two shows we did here last Sunday, all of our shows in Liverpool had been part of David Bash’s International Pop Overthrow Festival. This was the first time we’d stepped out of that protective coating and been part of setting up a show on our own. But it really wasn’t ‘on our own’—and that leads to the next ‘new experience’ we had.) A local singer/songwriter/record-maker named Maxi Dunn set the show up. We’d met her through Mike Lidskin (our friend at Twirl Radio in Sacramento).

Maxi Dunn

We’d asked her if she would set up a show, if we learned and backed her on a set of her songs.This would never have worked if Maxi wasn’t very professional, patient, and able to hold out in the often ridiculous world of Booking a Rock Show. (The true story is, that this show had negotiated itself through THREE different venues before landing at The Zanzibar. Every time something fell apart, Maxi picked up the pieces and put them back together again. What a great sport she is.) We met up with her at a place called Crash Studios (which turned out to be down a rather lonely ,spooky, Film Noir alley way—would you have it any other way?) in downtown Liverpool.


Inside there was just what we needed: helpful staff member, PA, drum set, amps, etc.. We got down to work: 3 or was it nearly 4? hours of rehearsal. We had 6 songs to work our way through. One of them we’d done last Sunday with her at the Cavern, but the other 5 we’d only worked up on our own, and things were still a bit dodgy—it’s not like we’d played these over and over on stage; we’d be playing all of this for the first time, and we really wanted to do well to show our appreciation to Maxi for helping us out.


After some serious work, we headed over to the Zanzibar…a bit of a trek on foot. Did that whole load in, hear a bit of a band soundcheck [this band was good: Gyrus...I wanna say Gypsy/WorldMusic/Radiohead mix],get a bit of a soundcheck in for ourselves, then we snuck off for a bite to eat–a noodle shop just around the corner. We got back as the music began–a solo gal delivering her set. This was a younger crowd. Interesting to see how we’d do. We got up. First song: “Sun Up”..half-way through a string breaks on my guitar. ah, on that particular guitar, the Mustang, one string breaks, the vibrato tail piece relaxes, and all the strings go wonky and out of tune. Maybe our streak of strong shows was about to fizzle, skid, and crash into the wall. The soundman, a friendly guy who was very much on our side, immediately saw what was up, popped in a tune on the PA.

The band waited patiently as I threaded on another B-string, tuned it up, and as the song on the club system finished, we were ready, and amped up with enough attitude to bring it home–and we did. Another strong set for the score card thanks to my good partners in the Trike Shop. “I am the Walrus” was especially raucous and shook the room nicely.
After a short break, up came Maxi Dunn ready to take the reins. She did well. We did mostly well. A lot of details, hand-signals, nods & winks, had been decided on in that mighty rehearsal earlier in the afternoon. Some of them worked, some of them were forgotten—I know I dropped the ball a couple of times, but all in all, for a band who’d played these songs with Maxi for just the one rehearsal, I think we delivered the whole thing fairly solidly. I hope she felt the same.

playing behind Maxi Dunn for her set at The Zanzibar in Liverpool

Lauri had thought the set was strong and had enjoyed the songs. She’s usually pretty straight up if we screw up, so I’ll trust her judgement.


After our set and Maxi’s, Lauri and I went to explore all the action happening on that corner. People were out in droves, and there were several interesting clubs right close by. The Jacaranda, and the Blue Angel, both places where the early Beatles played, were within a stone’s throw. The Jacaranda features some murals done by one-time-Beatle, Lennon’s friend and fellow art student: Stu Sutcliff. Lauri and I went downstairs and soaked it up for a bit.

downstairs at the Jacaranda Club

Then we headed back over to the Zanzibar to hear some more of the music, several of the young folks came up and told us how much they’d enjoyed the band. It seems odd typing about it here, but one young man was very moved by our theremin arrangement of “Caravan”–we had a good talk about how that was pretty much the point. When seeking a good answer to ‘why do we do this sort of thing’, a young person telling you how much the music lifted them up is the best answer I can come up with. So, after enjoying the solid rock sounds of another couple of bands, we headed back to the Pineapple and a close to the Northern Chapter of our tour.
the club's poster for the night's show


with the singer of Gyrus

June 10, 2015

Sat., May 23–On the Road to London

Category: European Tour 2015 — admin @ 12:54 pm

So, after our best string of shows there yet, it was finally time to leave The North, and our beloved, strange little love of the Pineapple Pub & Hotel. Today we were off for London. Exciting. Ron and Barbara had yet to visit there, and it had been 20+ years since Lauri and I had been there together. And a nice, long, relaxing, train trip through the English countryside is always a nice way to spend an afternoon. Hedgerows and everything so green to our California drought-adjusted eyes.
So many of the train stations in London are extremely charming. Euston station is not one of them. Very bleak, utilitarian…like a hospital that’s been full to capacity because the Rolling Stones are doing a benefit concert in the hall, except there are no Rolling Stones. This is the hardest part of traveling: minds blanked out by the long ride, and new challenges to confront. What’s the nearest Tube station to our hotel? What’s an “Oyster” card? Luckily, though they may not be as gregarious as their neighbors up in Liverpool, the folks down in London were also very helpful. One lady who we never quite worked out if she was working with British Rail or was just a good Samaritan, walked us through a labyrinth of halls and escalators to get us on the right platform.

Earl's Court...isn't that the name of a famous Led Zeppelin bootleg?

Finally we stepped out of the set of Brazil, and onto the set of a film made in London!: We filed out of Earl’s Court Tube Station and began to ask the wise wizard of google how to get to our hotel.

Most of us were pretty wiped out by now, in need of a little rest. We’d just played last night and finished a first week of travel and 5 shows so far. Plus, being away from home in exciting new surroundings, we were definitely not leading a temperate life-style full of healthful rest. Lauri and I, being amongst the most stubborn and willful creatures, still heeded the crazy voice in our heads “You’re in London. It’s not *that* late. You should go bop around!”–so we did. We saw that St. James Park, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Westminster Cathedral….all that stuff was just a tube station or two away. We set off.

Lauri knocked, but when they saw who was at the door, they decided to pretend they weren't at home.

June 9, 2015

Sun., May 24— London Tourists

Category: European Tour 2015 — admin @ 3:08 pm

One of the Hounds of the Baskervilles, but this one seems a bit more like a Scooby Doo

Lauri, John, Ron, and I started our day by getting to 221B Baker Street–home of the illustrious Sherlock Holmes. There is, of course, a museum, and a nice one, all set up as a reproduction of his living quarters with a sort of trophy room of his adventures at the very top.

Next, we headed down the street a few steps and entered Regents Park. Fantastic, these lovely parks in the middle of the city.

Then, a cab ride over to the Natural History Museum:

Next, Lauri took off to some likely shopping areas, while John, Ron, and I continued on our rock n’ roll pilgrim’s road; we were off for Golder’s Green, a likely bus stop connection to Muswell Hill, the area where the Davie’s brothers grew up and The Kinks came to be.

So, of course we ask all around for the “Archway Tavern” [where cover for the Kinks' "Muswell Hillbillies" was shot]. A couple people knew where it was…but it’s not in ‘Muswell Hill’, it’s down the bottom of the hill by the “Archway” tube station…. and, it turns out that it’s closed for renovation. Oh well, we still needed a picture.

Keeping with The Kinks' theme: a sign we kept seeing in the London underground.

and of course, the most important life-lesson to be found on a London sign:


June 7, 2015

Mon., May 25— Last day in London, or Brighton!

Category: European Tour 2015 — admin @ 6:07 pm

Jimmy by the Brighton Pier in the film "Quadrophenia"

The Mod Revival of the late 70′s/early 80′s hit my little gang of friends pretty hard. The film “The Kids are Alright” came out, then “Quadrophenia”, and seeing these films multiple times at Midnight showings or drive-in double bills (with the Ramones’ “Rock n’ Roll High School”) earned you bragging rights, and was a great way to check if you wanted to bother going out with that girl a second time. Bragging rights were, of course, multiplied by a factor of two or three if you attended in a home-made target shirt or army parka with Who buttons. This is all building up to another rock n’ roll pilgrimage: the pier at Brighton. (and I am, of course, listening to the Quadrophenia LP as I type this) Ron was completely done in by That Hideous Road Cold and was tucked safely in his bed in Nevern Square.

Lauri and Barbara had decided to take the day to see the major sights via a hop-on-hop-off bus tour— Big Ben, Parliament: London’s Smash Hits.

Part of their day together included lifting a tea cup to one of our dearest friends’ [Marcel Nunis] mother at the swank Savoy Hotel’s high tea. This one’s for you Gertie. Apparently, Marcel’s mom had introduced her son to this wondrous place/tradition when he was a budding¬† young man.

Barbara and Lauri at the Savoy's 'high tea' in London.

Me, I was off for Brighton with John. Neptune, after his *further* adventures in the North (see picture),

Neptune at Blackpool's "Pleasure Beach"--I've forgot the crackers!

promised to meet us.

So, John and I took off on the train to Brighton. This rocky beach town reminded me of a down-scale Santa Monica, or an up-scale Pismo/Venice mix.

Neptune had told me that there were some artsy bits to explore…but we were just there for a couple of hours. John and I headed out to the pier.

A nice holiday weekend (Memorial Day for our U.S. pals; here,¬† this was a ‘bank holiday’…and I’m still not sure what that is.) At the end of the pier, John invited me in for a pint. There was a club and a rock n’ roll band….but this wasn’t a “Brown-Eyed Girl” moment. They were playing a rotation of Mod hits: Small Faces, The Kinks, The Who, something from Tamla/Motown/ Stax, then rinse and repeat. Ah, we’d found our tribe.

There was the same couple who’d been dancing at home to Let’s Go Bowling or The Khyber Rifles (seemingly). Many of the guys in the band were much older than us, and must’ve been there for this music’s first go-round. In fact, we heard that the drummer had played for Sandie Shaw and had been Ringo’s (!!!!) replacement in Rory and the Hurricane’s when that guy left to join the Beatles. Seemed like a pivotal moment…esp. after seeing no reference/throw the rock tourist a bone kind of things in town (unlike Liverpool who finally figured out they could run at least 1/2 of their economy on the Beatles.). We enjoyed for a while, then had a good visit with the band afterwards. We walked back up the pier and…there was our partner Neptune.

Next , it was time for lunch, we walked back up into the town and found lunch at a local pub.

After spending a while trying to work out the puzzle, “How can this town support a Fish n’ Chips Shop every 27.5 feet”, we headed back to the train station and our beds in London.

Brighton Rail Station

inside Brighton rail station

A great day. –and now to end this post with an observation: There seemed to be some sort of trend towards using these cheap, plastic, fake plants….these round blobs of almost-foilage….north, south, Liverpool, Manchester, London…we saw them everywhere.

funny plastic plant reproductions near our hotel in London.

Sting as "BellBoy" and "Ace Face" in the film Quadrophenia

June 6, 2015

Tues., May 26 –the Chunnel. London to Dusseldorf.

Category: European Tour 2015 — admin @ 6:10 pm

Lauri strike The Pose outside of the high-speed train that'd just taken us under the English Channel.

Today was a travel day. Sort of a day of rest. Somehow it doesn’t always feel that way. Barbara put it well by saying that
travel days were a lot of sitting down for several hours, broken by short,exhausting, crazy bursts of running. “Oh no, the train’s just changed from track 12 to track 14″…zoom! I do love the long train trips though: the scenery, the leg room, and often the chance to meet people from other walks and have some cool conversations. One of the first chance meetings was at the station in Brussels where we changed from one high-speed train to the next. Who did we meet? A lady who’d played flute in the Fresno Philharmonic, and her daughter who’d graduated from Hoover High School just two years before me. Crazy, eh? On the train itself, we had a great mixed-up multi-lingual-multi-person conversation going. That started because we said hello to a young woman who turned out to be a Russian who had just learned German. So, with Lauri’s bit o’ Russian, and my bit o’ German, the comedy began. Across from us was a Frenchman from Burgundy. Lauri pulled him into the conversation when she saw him trying not to laugh too obviously at something I’d said in my halting German. ["Your hovercraft is full of eels."?] He (of course) spoke a few words of Russian as well as French and English. Then it was only a matter of time ’til we pulled in the German lady next to him. Crazy, but cool.

When we got into Dusseldorf we finally got to make the in-the-flesh acquaintance of our host for the last leg of our tour, the Irishman turned German businessman/pub proprietor Stephen Leech whom we’d met via our long-time internet radio friend Mike Lidskin (no surprise there, Mike being not just the curator of his weekly radio show, but also the curator/matchmaker of musical friends. Check him on Saturday afternoons at www.twirlradio.com and at KUBU 96.5fm if you’re in the Sacramento area. I’m listening as I type!) Stephen got us safely onto a train that took us to the smaller, nearby town of Hilden where we would be staying for the next few days. And here’s a good enough spot to say, that if you’re ever in the Dusseldorf area, find Stephen at his place: The Irish Pub . We can’t thank him enough. All I can say, is that we will try our best to spoil him when he and his come to California.
first visit to Stephen Leech (center)'s Irish Pub in Hilden, Germany

Afterwards, some of us crashed at the hotel, and some of us couldn’t resist a late-night exploring of Dusseldorf.

and sometimes one does need a special tag: “things are a little bit different in Germany”…a slightly surreal Brothers Grimm spirit and style that sometimes shows through:

the (should be) world-famous Nutella Nipple of Dusseldorf