Two days off on a tour schedule always looks like a gaping abyss to me, and by time you start playing shows again it can feel like it was an absolute age since you were last on the stage. After the arena show in Toronto we had such a gap in the schedule, and all attempts to book fill-in shows had been stymied by the 4th July – America’s Birthday (With Capital Letters). This apparently even matters if you’re in Canada. Who knew?
The good news was that I discovered that my friends Fake Problems were playing a show on the second day in Quebec City. FP are a great Florida band (I’m taking them on tour in the UK in October) and are also the route through which I know John, my tour manager. Quebec City was only 3 hours drive beyond Montreal, our next show stop. So it was a no-brainer (as they say over here), after a pleasant but quiet extra evening with Michael in Toronto, to drive up there and hook up for some good old fashioned fun and games.
Going to a show on an off day is a bit weird sometimes – it’s a little bit bus-driver’s-holiday, and you also feel slightly keyed up at the end of the night, like there was something you forgot to do. Nevertheless it was great to see the boys, and they played a cracking show (with me on guitar for one song). The other oddity for the evening was heading into French-speaking Canadian territory. Now, French is the only language I can even vaguely speak other than English, so like a 45-year old at a Fleet Foxes show I’m always keen to show off the fact that I can sort of look like I know what’s going on, yakking away with Gallic abandon. However, it turns out, right, that Canadian French is totally different from the Parisian strand. It was really odd – I could understand probably 75% of the words being uttered at any one time, but just could never get the overall gist of what was being said. It was like being really, really drunk, in a funny way. Weird.
The evening ended chaotically, as evenings with FP generally do, and we crashed at someone from the show’s house across sofas, mattresses and floors – and in a bed in one person’s case, but I’ll save his shame, not least because in the morning an older brother arrived who looked like he wanted to eat the culprit alive for messing with his sister, hahaha. We made a hasty exit and headed south, back down to Montreal, with the Floridans still in tow (it was their turn for a day off).
I’d been very excited about hitting up Montreal for a while, partly because of the now-redundant French speaking thing, but also because a lot of great bands came from there – not least Godspeed You Black Emperor, a band I love so very very much that I actually have a tattoo. In the end we didn’t really see anything Godspeed-related, but it was a gorgeous city on a beautiful summer night. The show was at a small but lovely club, the turnout was amazing given that it was a Sunday and my first time there, and a good time was had by all. I actually had a bit of a renaissance man show – I played piano live for the first time, sang a cappella and sang a song in French. I’m definitely looking forward to going back. It turned out to be Josh FP’s birthday after midnight, so silliness ensued.
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We headed south to the border the following morning, wishing both Fake Problems and Canada a fond farewell. John was stoked to be back in the USA and the land of English. Our date with destiny for today was in Albany, New York, at a club called Valentine’s. On arrival we discovered that Enter Shikari were playing upstairs in the same venue. This was good news in that it was nice to see some Brits and say hello, and bad news in that there was some serious bleed between the floors between the hardcore show and the folk show. In the end it wasn’t too bad for me, but I felt sorry for the local supports. The show was OK – a small-ish turnout. Afterwards our solicitations for somewhere to stay produced a house party nearby at a student flat, which almost half the people at the show ended up going to. Predictably enough, come 4am my guitar was out again and another set went down, more enjoyable than the actual gig. Such is my life, haha.
Alfie and James, our hosts, sent us on our way the next morning with some homemade sandwiches and some hangovers, as we hit the highway once more, this time motoring towards Sayreville New Jersey to rejoin the Offspring tour, and picking up my friend Evan en route. Tonight’s show was the first to be inside, in a 2,500 capacity club, and it was sold out to boot. I’d been bumped up to main support, and was looking forward to the show. In the event it turned out to be a tough one – the crowd were pretty rowdy, pretty muscly, and pretty much not interested in anyone except the headliners. It always sounds petulantly lame to over-analyze a difficult show, but I must say that the moment when the wifebeater-wearing jocks started chanting “USA! USA!” at me, I felt puzzled: surely this isn’t what punk was supposed to be about? It really wasn’t all bad, but it has slightly knocked my confidence about Offspring crowds. They and their crew were lovely about the whole thing, and as we drove to Brooklyn after the show I closed the book on this chapter.
It’s fun to be back in NYC – I spent 2 weeks here recently finishing off my new album with Alex Newport in Greenpoint. A good night’s sleep and a bagel and some coffee with Evan put me in a good mood in the sunshine. The show tonight, another sell-out, is at the famous Roseland Ballroom. Sum 41 are soundchecking right now, my press schedule is getting hectic, and it’s time to finish this blog entry and get on with getting on with it. Until next time.