By Scott Creney
Before we continue with the story, there’s a couple of things I’d like to address.
Here’s the deal about traveling with another band. It inevitably turns into a sibling-like relationship, with all the attendant competition, annoyance, and love. When I told the story about ‘Hotelgate‘, as Helen from Shrag affectionately dubbed it, I was only trying to make a larger point about how touring distorts people’s perspectives and causes them to act in ways they normally wouldn’t. Let me state publicly that I have nothing but love for the members of Shrag, to the point where I feel comfortable teasing them about their ineptitude at foosball. I miss them terribly, and if any one of them were to walk into the room right now, I’d jump up from my computer, throw my arms around their necks and give them a big sloppy kiss (on the cheek).
Secondly, I’m sorry if it sounds like I’m whining or ungrateful. Believe me, I recognize how lucky I am. I’ve dreamed of visiting England since I was a teenager, and getting to see the UK with some of my closest friends was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. But it was also one of the hardest and most challenging. I hate to shatter people’s rock’n'roll fantasies, but touring at the lowest levels of rock stardom is a grueling, exhausting slog. Throw in the challenges of an unfamiliar country, a touring party of 10 people, zero days off, and a tight budget, and — well, it’s work basically. Believe me, I’ve worked some shit jobs in my time. This was harder. In writing this tour diary, I’m just trying to be as honest as possible about my experience.
So we left off in Glasgow. Interesting note about the men’s bathroom in The Captain’s Rest: the urinal cakes, shaped and sized like tater tots, are colored blue instead of the yellow they were in the rest of the country. As patriotic gestures go, it felt both heroic and sad.
The drive to Liverpool feels like forever. Each time we stop it takes longer and longer to round everyone up and get back on the road. It feels like years from the time we get off the motorway until we reach the venue — an endless procession of roundabouts and shopping centres, the UK equivalent of sprawl. At one point, a drug addict stumbles into the road dragging his girlfriend behind him, and someone makes a joke about Lee Mavers. There are seagulls everywhere.
Upon reaching Mello Mello,a vegetarian restaurant that, for reasons I’m never able to figure out, smells overwhelmingly of fish, I curl up on the stage behind an amplifier and try to take a nap. Will, the infinitely kind promoter (and excellent writer, check out a recent Cloud Nothing interview here), secures a room upstairs for me to crash in. It’s an off-duty dance studio with walls covered in cracked and peeling paint, about 2/3 of the way through a transition from white to yellow. It’s fucking freezing. I wish I was back downstairs behind the amp. Standing up, I look out the window onto what seems like endless rows of strip clubs and cobblestone streets. Someone has painted graffiti on the building across from me that reads JUMPSHIP RAT. In my current state, worn out and near delirious from eight straight days of driving and shows, I almost think they are talking to me.
I head back downstairs and Will starts telling me about how great tonight’s show is going to be. I’m finding it hard to concentrate because, with his Liverpool accent, he sounds exactly like John Lennon. Which totally makes sense of course, seeing as how Will IS from Liverpool, but I find it funny how an accent can have such a warm, nostalgic pull — probably because of all The Beatles I heard/watched growing up. Later, I’ll find that the rest of Tunabunny experience a similar warm swoon whenever they hear someone from Liverpool speak. Maybe it’s an American thing.
Shrag go on before us. They’re continuing to raise their energy level and intensity. Russell the bass player climbs on top of his amp and starts rocking it back and forth. A band that a week ago offered (excellent, enjoyable) entertainment has turned into something altogether more frenzied. The audience is loving it. Then Russell falls off his amp at the end of the last song. He lays on the ground for nearly a minute before he gets up, bleeding just beside his eye, his face already beginning to bruise and swell.
This is starting to get dangerous, the competition between us and Shrag is threatening to turn unhealthy. Sure enough, I can’t help throwing myself backwards into the bass amp and knocking it over during our set. Jesse hangs a glass upside down on his high-hat stand — he does this a lot, I think he likes the way it spins while he plays — but it ends up breaking and he ends up cutting himself and bleeding all over the drum kit. We still have two shows left before the tour is over.
Gabi from the mighty fine Town Bike puts us up for the night. She had a collection of VHS tapes with a higher representation of 80s mainstream American films than you would expect. Jesse pops in a copy of Roxanne, starring Steve Martin and Daryl Hannah, and for a brief moment we forget there’s an entirely different country outside. The next time I sleep for more than two consecutive hours, I will be back home in Athens.