New York is mild. I mean, it’s still below freezing but not the blizzards that could descend at this time of year. Just before we left the UK a friend sent us a link to a Reuters news story “Snow Mega-storm to hit central America”, its lead photo a picture of one of the venues we’ll be playing in a couple of weeks - the Historic Inn in Taos. Crikes.
The night after we arrived we played a little warm-up house concert in the apartment of a poet, Owen Lewis, who we met briefly during the autumn at the Wigtown Book Festival. He brought together a few poets who had recently published collections through Four Way Books - a poetry publishing house that he was involved in, some wine and an audience and we tested out our instruments and warmed up our voices after what had been a few days now without much sleep at all.
The next morning the air and ground was touched with a lacing of frost and we walked up a small hill from where we are staying in Hoboken to see the gorgeous views of Manhattan across the Hudson River, like some obsessive’s mad lego project sprawled way beyond control.
That night was the first full concert on our US tour, at Little City Books, the bookshop of Kate Jacobs, who we’ve been staying with since we arrived in the US. She has been AMAZING - being a musician herself she has a music room in her house which we’ve been rehearsing in and has put helped source us a temporary cello (while the bridge on Beth’s is mended) and an acoustic guitar amp for the tour - as if we needed more stuff to carry.
Little City Books is a Tardis, on the corner of Bloomfield St in Hoboken, extending down and doubling in size as you walk through to the huge children’s section. Fairy lights, beautiful book displays - the book covers all new to us, even the books we knew, in their American editions. They let us take over the window display with the huge beautiful banner our sponsors Gardners / AMS had sent. Kate had initially been worried about generating an audience in the mids of January, but loads of tickets had been sold and it was gearing up to be a full and warm welcome on our American tour. They stoked their bar with Scottish whisky and 12% beer. We’ll save that till after the show.
The shelves were all pushed back to reveal a seriously good PA and stage in the shop - how many bookshops have that? We unpacked our bags, trying to locate all the disparate wires and gadgets we’d collected over the last few months in an effort to scale down everything to fit on the plane, within the luggage allowance of two cases. Mini guitar stands, clip on mics, thinner and shorter XLRs. We had set ourselves the extra challenge, supported by an extra grant from Creative Scotland, of trying to record as many of our concerts as possible which will culminate in the release of a best-of-tour album on our return (you can pre-order the vinyl here). All this meant that we were sound checking right up until the last minute as the audience started to arrive and fill up the shop. It’s pretty nerve wracking plugging in wires, dealing with booms and rumbles, in a new country for the first time with the band, a weight of expectation on your shoulders. What will they think? Will they like it? Can I get it to sound good in time? Please please nothing go wrong. "We're in Forbes Magazine!" said Kate. Plugging in more wires. Testing, buttons, power, check check, one two three, check check.
Finally it was all ready with a few minutes to spare (phew), the PA sounded awesome, everyone was in, Little City Books was full of people. After three months of visa applications, thousands of emails and phone calls, countless ups and downs, and a growing sense of excitement, we were finally here. We were about to start, it was happening, it was real. We’d made it to America, the audience was beaming and so were we.
Today we’re headed out to Madison New Jersey, about 45 minutes north west of New York, to play at Short Stories and Community Hub. We were going to catch the train, but then a lady came up to us at the end of the concert and offered to drive us. Before we left Wigtown, a friend of ours Ruby had come up to us and given us one bit of advice, which was to let people help. People want to help and we shouldn’t be shy about accepting help. So, we said yes :)
There is snow forecast for Saturday.
Thursday 17th January 2019
SHORT STORIES AND COMMUNITY HUB
23 Main St, Madison, NJ 07940 7-9pm
Ticket link: http://www.shortstoriesnj.com/events/
Price: $15 ($10 with college ID)