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Tour Of America (3) - Short Stories & Turn of the Corkscrew

Thursday 17th Jan

Woke up with a mild hangover from the whisky and MacGuffin Beer. We didn’t have a lot but the beer was 12%! Or maybe we were feeling the big pizza pie (When the moon hits your eye like a…’) that we had when we got back from the gig. Or maybe it was just the jet lag.

Molly woke up even earlier so it was Ben’s turn to get up while I snoozed til 7. We had a big day ahead of us - the cello needed to be picked up now the bridge was straightened, we needed to pack all our belongings, do a radio show, and we needed to get to Short Stories in Madison for our gig.

Ben and Molly headed in to New York to collect the cello and I did the packing. We didn’t have to get everything too compact as we were getting a lift with our new friend Kip in her Subaru First though, we had a last minute radio show to appear on in Jersey City. Lynn Mullen Aka DJ Trouble had seen our gig at Little City Books and had invited us to talk on her show. As we walked into the building, we were told that the back of the building was being bulldozed but we could get upstairs to the studio. Luckily, Molly was in a deep sleep and as we chatted to DJ Trouble, she was in the next room causing no trouble. It was a relaxed and very cool show. It was Françoise Hardy, the French singer-songwriter’s birthday that day so she was featured quite heavily. Three of our songs were played of the Curious and Curiouser album and apparently we were heard in one of our favourite bookshops in Ireland - Sheela na Gig in Cloughjordan.

We got back to Kate’s and managed to get everything in to Kip’s car. We set off to Madison. We were quite glad that Kip was driving and not us. The roads are very confusing for a British driver!

Arriving at Short Stories, we were welcomed by a sign outside and a large poster of our tour on the door, some tea and big smiles from Meryll, Robert, Phyllis and James the sound guy. Then we caught a glimpse of the space we were to play in. It was going to be a nice gig. Short Stories is a Community Book Hub Launched as a social entrepreneurship venture by Barb Short and her daughters in 2014 and Kickstarted by the community. It’s not just a bookshop. They put on many events including concerts, children’s story time, art exhibitions, open mics, workshops and books clubs. It has a coffee shop and is a real independent centre for arts in the community.

The building has been renovated and stripped back to the original brickwork. It used to be a camping shop but when it became empty, Barb had a vision for what kind of place they wanted it to be. It’s a spacious bookshop selling all things books and more. They even had socks and tea-towels (or dish towels as they are called here!) We offered our Bookshop Band Tour ’T-Towels’ to the mix. Up a couple of steps was a large multi-use space and where we were to play.

We had ample time to set up and Kip looked after Molly while we did. They got on very well, reading books and counting chairs!

We had a raised stage (for the second night in a row!) and our backdrop was the brickwork of the building with a cute wooden door. There was a piano on the stage that Ben threatened to play and in front of us to our left was a very convincing tree reaching all the way up to the ceiling. This felt especially relevant during Curious and Curiouser, our Alice in Wonderland song.

Once we had finished setting up, we were told that Barb was staying with her mum that night so we had her whole house to ourselves, Having been in New York and New Jersey, the houses in Madison were now how I imagined typical American houses to be. Detached, each a slightly different style with large porches. I was questioning why we don’t have large porches in the UK.

We had a bit of a late lunch, got ourselves gig ready and met our babysitter. Molly seemed very happy with Krysten so we left with little concern.

Once back at Short Stories, our audience was starting to arrive and the place was buzzing. It was clear that this place had a sense of community and that many people knew each other. We even had three or four children in the audience - one the same age as Molly. It was lovely watching them responding to the music. I think they particularly enjoyed You Make The Best Plans Thomas about the beheading of Ann Boleyn!

It was a lovely experience and we are loving the American audiences. They make us feel very at home and are making many suggestions for other bookshops and other places to play.

We drank cocoa at the end instead of whisky.

We woke up this morning to a light smattering of snow. Molly wanted to build a snow man so we made a very small one.

Friday 18th Jan -

Last night we headed out to Turn of the Corkscrew Books and Wine, a play on the ‘taming of the shrew’, out in Rockville Centre, a small town of 25,000 people that connects seamlessly to the towns around it, as things do here. We’ve been using car services like Uber and Lyft so far to get around. It’s not cheap but with the sheer amount of stuff we have to carry it’s the only way really. We had to resign ourselves to never really being able to walk around. This time however we dropped all our stuff of at The Paper Factory Hotel - a boutique industrial place in Queens that our family had paid for for two nights as an early birthday present for Beth (which I totally get to free-ride on too :) We left Molly with a lovely Irish babysitter called Maisey from LifeVines. We were expecting tears and protestations, but Molly simply turned to us, smiled and said ‘Mummy, bye bye’.

I’d packed everything we need band-wise into one HUGE suitcase, with all our instruments: 3 ukuleles, 1 guitar, a cello and a banner and we’d decided to train it East. We were pretty exhausted but thought the walk would do us good. It was about a 15 minute walk to the subway and after about 10 seconds I knew it was a really bad idea as the big bag I’d packed couldn’t really take the weight - it must have weighed about 50kg and the wheels basically collapsed into the bag, so we were basically dragging the whole thing. Stubbornness persisted and we got the the subway only to realise that there wasn’t any lift. Anyway - you dont want to hear about all this, save to say that we’ve always thought that a great title for a biography of our band would be “Adventures Through Doors”, basically because of the all the instruments and bags that get stuck as you try and make it through in one go.

We were met by Peggy and Carol at Turn of the Corkscrew, a lovely bookshop that’s been running for about four years. The layout was triangular, with us at the apex, and they said that due to a really great local newspaper article there were expecting to be turning people away. Crikes! We’d only brought the one amp and so after a failed attempt with a DJ’s dodgy PA system from the 1950’s we’d found in the basement I ran out to the local music shop to buy a little portable PA speaker (and so our gear expands further!). I’m so glad we did, as the place rammed full with even a few young children in the front, which was so nice. I had accidentally forgotten to bring a shirt so I ended up wearing my thermals for the gig!

The concert went really well. The audience were so responsive, laughing and interacting - a good audience always makes the gig. A man called Teddy had brought his classical guitar for us to use, so we played The Crowning, inspired by Richard the Second, and Bobo and the Cattle, inspired by Don’t Let’s Go To The Dog’s Tonight, by Alexandra Fuller, who many of the audience had read. They did a pretty awesome sing-a-long for Smog Over London - laying the gauntlett down for the rest of the tour I think - let’s see which shop does it the best - which one will make it onto the best-of live album. Beth and I’s energy was revived by the gig, and loads of people wrote their book recommendations in our guestbook.

When we finished and turned our phones back on we got a photo of Molly standing next to Big Bird in The Museum of the Moving Image near to our hotel in Brooklyn. She and Maisey had had a great time. Molly hadn’t cried once and was now passed out on our bed. We pretty much passed out on the train back. I think we’ll be taking Lyfts and Ubers in future.

- - - - - COMING UP - - - - -

Saturday January 19th



The 53rd Street Branch of the

New York Public Library

18 West 53rd Street,

New York, NY 10019

2pm - 3pm


NOTE: this is NOT the main public library building that everyone knows


Book Culture LIC,


26-09 Jackson Avenue, LIC store

5pm - 6pm



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