Sunday, October 12, 2003

Since it took 4ever to write- and I expect it to disappear during the eventual ensuction at Ratdog Conference- Here are my tour tales from August UKDog tour- Sorry for all the typos and brain fuzzouts-I'm too lazy to go over it right now: Enjoy!

Pre Ratdog Daze

We left SFO early on August 17th, arriving at our first destination Amsterdam about noon on August 18th. We were excited to find that we had been upgraded from a mere hotel room to an apartment (living room, full kitchen,hallways etc) overlooking the Amstel canal. Scott owned a big house and I had a little boy when we met, so this was our first apartment and it was sweetly romantic.......An added bonus was that the living room was decorated with pictures of dogs.

We werent in town long before we needed to find something in a pita for dinner. After debating the merits of shwarma vs felafel, we decided it had to be shwarma ...We sat at a sticky table waiting for our order, discussing who all I knew from the internet we could expect to be in town. Abou then is when a bright eyed blonde bounded into the place. The shwarma dudes gathered round her to flirting and asking her if she was Australian. Blondie laughed and told them she was from Southern California. Scott had to add that hey, we were from Northern California. Blondie eyeballed Scott’s Rex/Dead shirt and said she had spent a few New Year’s Eves in Oakland.. which led to a conversation about Bobtdog’s UK tour- Blondie knew all about it and in fact, along with her husband and friends- would be flying across the North Sea to attend the London show..We started to exchange names and Blondie flashed on something burst ing out with the ever familiar “Are you IRENIE? From Deadnet?!!!!”.
Blondie turned out to be Deadnetter Rockin Robin..
Rockin Robin had been an active onliner Deadnetter til around the time she got married-3 years or so ago- checking back in from time to time. Hadnt seen posts from her lately online, though. Discovered that she and Milo (the husband) have been spending something like 7 months just traveling around the world. After London, they would be heading down to Africa and then maybe return to L.A...We all finished our shwarma and set out for Rookie’s, the coffeeshop-Bar (not a common combo-usually a bar is a bar and a coffeeshop is just for pot/hash) just across the ally from the Mama’s Shwarma shack. We met Milo and friends Rodney and (another) Scott. These were great folks with plenty of Tour tales for us...Rookie’s from then til we all departed for London was the place to meet...If you should end up there, do try the “White Widow”..

We spent the next day pondering the flea markets of Amsterdam, then pretty much eating and coffeeshopping our way around our side of town, revisiting all our other favorite places from last year..ending up with our new friends at Rookie’s for last call.

Saint/Todd made it into town on the 20th(met last year on Ratdog Conference and in 3d on the 2002Eurodogtour) met up with him at Rookie’s, then out for dinner...I got hit big time by jet lag and space cake so, left Scotto with Saint and floated back to the apt. to woken up some hours later by a rather incoherent Scotto who pretty much collapsed on the bed. Now, I was fully awakened and refreshed- so go figure....At some point later, Cousin Bud and Sam e(from had managed to find our place and called us up...I hadnt met them in 3d yet but was excited to know they were around...I explained Scott’s condition and suggested they check out Rookie’s- which they remembered from last year- and introduce themselves to Saint & Rockin Robin and her people. They knew Norman and were happy to hear there was a chance that he could also be hanging there (Norman had e-mailed me earlier, saying he’d be checking in at Rookies too).

The 21st was our last full day in Amsterdam. It was also our 15th wedding anniversary. Some old friends of ours from the Bay Area, Judy & Joel Nelson had been vacationing in Tuscany but had made arrangements to spend the evening celebrating with us in Amsterdam..How cool was that? They arrived in time to bring them over for Amsterdam initiation at Rookie’s and on across the ally to Sherpa’s for Tibetan style dinner..We spent the next 7 hours showing them various sites around the city...Saying good nite at about 3:30 am....

London Dog

The weather was humid and hot in London, no real surprise as Europe’s heat wave was big news everywhere all summer...It was a surprise, though that the grass was pretty much hay colored around Hyde Park & Buckingham Palace -which we noticed as our cab passed by on the way to our hotel. Our first London hotel was the stately old Radisson Edwardian Marlborough..Not inexpensive but being just a few minutes away from the Astoria was worth it...Surely didnt want get lost in London’s crowded streets going to and fro the venue. Our room was suffocatingly small and hot after the Amsterdam apt...No ac but they did prop a fan upon one of the bureaus..otherwise the room had a very grand Great British manor style room..wall paper, dark wood, old world furnishings....Bathroom was nearly as big as the room and I wasted no time leaping into the shower....The bath/shower had three dials. By trial and error, I managed to get the water on and find a comfortable temperature for washing up....the trouble was, after I was done, I couldnt figure out how to get the water off...after perhaps a half hour of trying every possible combination of twists and turns, I gave up..swallowed my pride and asked Scotto to help me....I could almost hear him thinking “how dumb can she be?” as he approached the only took him about 10 minutes to turn everything off...
Freshened up, we met up with Keir, a tour buddy from last year’s Amsterdog...first thing we discussed was the shower- seems we werent the only ones having trouble with turning it off..Keir almost had to call the lobby..We joined Keir for a drink then to find the venue for snaps and to meet up with various folks who were meeting up on Charing Cross rd- which is where the Astoria is located.

Pre Show Astoria

Keir was to meet his driving companion, a Eurotrader named Chris Jones at a bar called Molly Moggs. I had been e-mailed about something going on at “The Royal George” via someone on Norman Sand’s website. Later on, when we ran into Saint- who had been on a separate flight out of Amsterdam, he said some of our pals from Rookies/Amsterdam were meeting up at a bar called “Champions”...We hit each place but couldnt recognize anyone we knew..We pretty much stayed at Molly Moggs where we met Eurotrader Mike Baxter from Scotland and some of his mates...I don’t know how long we were standing around before I got antsy about heading up the increasingly busy street to the venue..I took my ticket and left Scott with the boys in the pub to find a spot in line.

..Gazing at the folks in line-which was still in the early stages of forming, I saw WDP aka Tattoo Allison! “Ratdog Only!” - another missing Deadnetter! Last heard from online around when Rob Wasserman left the band..Rumors wrt what happened to her included the one that she had finished the dissertation she had been working on these last few years in Boise (tween Ratdog tours, that is) and moved to England- glad to see that was the correct one! Finding her in her usual spot at the head of the line was sort of deja vu! Also, nearby in line was a woman, Darlenie, who had traveled alone all the way down to London from Scotland for the show- another total Bobbyfreak! I loved listening to her voice her lilting brogue sounding a tiny bit like my late Grannie’s South African accent..

The line was getting thick when Scott showed up...finally, the doors opened up and we ventured inside. This was the biggest venue of the UK tour, we found our rail space somewhere infront of Robin & Mark. Turning around to scan the place, I met the sweetest people standing sort of behind me, next to Scott..It was a Dad and his teenage daughter- David and Geraldine both looking as though they had just stepped out of a Dicken’s story. The Dad was a great looking jolly fellow about Bobby’s age.
The daughter, a beauty, delicate with long wavy hair and perfect skin. She was almost as shy as her Dad was outgoing. Her kindness and respect toward him made her even that much more lovely to know. I tried to put her to the rail but she wouldnt leave her Papa’s side..eventually she came up for the encore.

The Show-

I was next to WDP and my Scottish counterpart in Bobfreakiness, Darlenie at the rail- with Scott, Saint and the David and Geraldine behind me. The shows are apparently already available to listen to at Shoutcast- Topher’s creation- you can find it via Topher’s posts at I also understand shows are already circulating- I need cds btw!- So, dear readers you can listen to the show and decide how great or not it is for yourselves. I really enjoyed this show but knew pretty much it wasnt THE SHOW of the shows for me just yet. Looking back and listening to it again for the first time since London, I’m thinking its sort of a sampler of various directions the doggy goes go in..perhaps audience reponse to the different elements set the tone for the rest of the shows-or, I’m really poor at explaining music stuff.. Nice setlist-included “Lucky Enough” and “Odessa”, enthusiastic and full audience. Some of us still stunned we made it all the way to the UK.
Setlist-from Cousin Bud->
Music Never Stopped>Maggie’s farm>Minglewood (London fillies)Mission in the rain>TMTTR>Loser>LuckyEnough>Playin
KC Moan@Bob,Robin,Mark
Odessa>Hell in a Bucket>The Wheel with Blondie’s Tide is High jam& TOO tease>
SOTM>Playin reprise>Sugar Mags...E: Touch of Gray.

Keir was assigned the task of sending DaveR the setlist and so we found the adorable Birthday boy, Cousin Bud ( celebrating his 40th that very nite!), who has the uncanny ability to remember exact setlists..The only thing he hadnt remembered to add was the Tide is High to the Wheel jam..and so there we were, Keir, Scotto, Saint and I tried humming and singing various Blondie tunes,and irritating the midnight geeks at the internet cafe on Charing Cross, til we figured out that it was “the tide is high”....

Bilston or Bust

After spending a late night wandering around Charing Cross from the internet cafe to the nearest felafel stand , back to the loud & crowded Molly Moggs and on and on..and on til around 2am...Scott and I left Keir and Saint to their own devices and headed on back to our expensive, overheated lil hotel room.

Morning came, we enjoyed (everything but the coffee, that is) a Britstyle breakfast in the hotel. Grabbed a taxi, dropped most of our baggage off at the Washington Mayfair hotel - which was the hotel we would stay in when we returned to London a few days later, then zoomed on to find the Enterprise car rental place, which was the designated meeting place for our van group-which was composed of charactors from last year’s tour plus internet folks: David/London Werewolf -originally from Canada- living in London and his Girlfriend and our only native English person, Angela, their friends- Bernadette from Ireland and Theresa-born in Australia, raised in the UK..Then there was the East Coast crew- Ruth/tiny dancer, Warren and his exgirlfriend Ellen and her sister Leslie ..Not on the bus til Bilston, would be Brian/Less Than from Baltimore..Todd/Saint had also been slated to van pool with us . Scott had been concerned earlier when Saint wasnt in the hotel lobby at the decided check out time.. he went up to see what was going on- turned out after a very late night out Saint changed his mind about hitting some of the shows and decided to stay in London... This opened up a seat in the van, so once we were at Enterprise, Theresa rang her friend Robin- originally from Canada but living in the UK and gave her the good news that she would be able to go to the shows with our van group We were happy to see the vans, one silver and one blue were not as small as we had feared. As we waited for the members of our group to appear, we learned that the nice looking couple also renting a car at Enterprise were also Ratdog bound. We all sort of nodded at each other. Our group was just loading up the vans when that couple left the rental place, they got about as far as the first traffic light when SMACK! they had gotten into a minor fender bender side swiping thing with another car....They had our sympathy, driving in England is not for the fainthearted....Of course, it was awhile later when we found out that the driver was the same fellow who had made the beautiful embroidered “Bilston or Bust” tee shirts...

On our road atlas, the highways look more like spider webs than anything. No apparent straight forward central highways. I had wanted to keep track of where we were going but it was just too confusing. Only four of our vanpools would be driving. Warren, David, Ellen and Theresa. I had drawn and colored Ratdog on sheets of magnet paper for the vans. They were sticking and spiffy looking but eventually all fell
off during the ride to Bilston.
Scott and I took seats in “The women r smarter” van- where Theresa ended up doing all the driving- and there was lots of driving! Turned out Scott was the only guy in the silver van. LOL- no baseball talk for him, instead earfuls of girl talk...He spent the first few hours trying to be useful by fixing the splits in the cord of the car plug in cd player...oh and one time, Theresa let him pump gas.....Our long trips were broken up by stops at very nice “Chef Parks” - rest stops with food, atm and shopping courts...Very clean and nice.

Bilston definately had that typical small city involved in a typical daydream feeling to it...Sleepy looking with nearly empty streets. Finding the Haven Hotel was quick. Somehow (see Tiny Dancer’s explanation) The blue van lost it’s back window on the ride down Claremont Street- about one minute or less before turning into the Haven’s driveway. glad that we had amply insured the vans back at Enterprise. Hopefully, Ratdog fans will still be welcome at Enterprise in the future....
Haven hotel is a cozy Inn with a pub and breakfast room. Toilets are shared though. We had a big room with a tiny shower. Almost immediately, we walked over to see where and what the venue was about. The venue was at most a 10 minute walk from Haven. The streets were vacant and a little eerie. The Robin 2 is a bright looking place- From outside looking more like an ice cream parlour than a bar and located directly across the street from a police station. I got my photo and so headed back to the Haven. Hung for awhile in the pub- looked as though Ratdog fans had taken over the rooms (all 13 of them). Then back into town to get dinner and wait in line. Chose fish and chips at the Bilston Bangladeshi - the food server there was all questions “Where were we from? Why were we in Bilston?” Told her we were from SF. She was incredulous “You have come ALL THE WAY TO BILSTON FROM SF to see a band?!!? A BAND FROM San Francisco!?” .

Scott left me to do line duty...Folks slowly stsrted showing up. I had hoped maybe Rockin Robin and her friends would make it but no show...Instead I was surprised to see the woman I had met on the rail at a Ratdog show in Portland how many years ago now? She vaguely remembered me- but I would never forget her- as I held her rail spot for her during thst long ago Portland setbreak, she returned to hand me a pair of backstage passes! Scotto wouldnt let me use them then..They are currently on the Bobwall of fame in my house....
Inside The Robin 2, I found an okay spot under Jeff’s piano. So close that the only way I could see Jeff was by sticking my head under the piano and looking up to see just the bottom of his palms and fingers strike the keys. An unusual but still kinda cool view.
I was inches away from his feet. Next to me was another (I assume!) Father-teen daughter couple. This daughter was greeting the band in a shirt decorated with a US flag. Dad seemed to know everyone too- including the very cool trio of Indian fellows, I hadnt ever met them but had seen them at the euroshows last year and remembered them for their knowing every word and singing along to every song.

The Bilston show, just about everyone we spoke with was the favorite show. It especially rocked HUGE live, people were singing and screaming along. and I can’t tell you exactly why that was- the struggle to find Bilston? The odd little venue?....or maybe it just rocked because it did? Give it a listen, music and love you can’t explain...
Set list:
Shakedown Street (shake it down-down!) Queen Jane, Easy Answers, Youngblood, WRSI & II, Dark Star, Blackbird, El Paso (an awesome El Paso!) Rollicking Ramble on Rose,Uncle John!, New Speedway boogie (heh) Estimated, So Many Roads, Dark Star, OMSN - Encore: Chinacat>I know you Rider

That’s Right-It’s Saturday Night!
We were all blown away by the show...Bar wasnt closed afterwards so we all pretty much hung around and toasted the show...Saw the Car accident guy and his glamourous wife. Found out they were Kidratdog & Marie. Told Kid about the blue van’s window which made him laugh- he had imagined that we mustve thought it was hilarious when he got in his earlier traffic accident- (we were actually concerned and spooked by it). Noticed that Kid had on a very cool shirt which had“Bilston or Bust, Ratdog UK Tour 2003” machine embroidered on it... I wanted to know where he got it as we hadnt been able to find ANY tour shirts or posters..Kid had made up 3 . One for Cousin Bud (who had celebrated his 40th at the Astoria) One for David (celebrating his 30th in Madchester) and one made for himself. I thought it was funny that of all people to think up the Bilston or Bust slogan it would be Kidratdog...The next funny thing was that Kid had yet to meet David (or Bud.) and didnt realize til I told him that David was the guy that Kid had been chatting with at Enterprise that morning...Went to find David and Bud to hook them up with Kid but neither one was around.

where they were at once swamped by folks. Both guys were good sports, taking pictures and doing autographs and letting folks ask them questions (someone did ask Bobby about the beard- and got a kind of an amusing reply). I somehow resisted the urge to fling my whole self at Bobby, wasnt easy but I did my best....In the next blink of an eye, Bobby & Jay were gone and the rest of us were being urged to move along as well...We returned to HaWhen the place cleared out a little, Bobby and Jay ventured to the edge of the dance floor ven where the pub was open for us to hang around in. I met Luke and Teelo. Teelo a young German guy and Luke a young ‘Merican guy. They werent traveling together but both were pretty excited about being on tour. Also hanging was Less Than/Brian whom I met via The Well and also at Brian had his laptop out and showed me some amazing pictures he had taken. We all stayed up a little bit longer still all buzzing about the great show we had just seen...


We were up and ready for the marathon drive to Canterbury..Scott & I hadnt really planned on going til we got to England and knew we wouldnt be able to stand to miss a single show on the tour. Back in the silver van we went. Bernadette (from the Blue van) wouldnt be continuing on. Brian, who had gotten to Bilston on his own was now part of the van groups- he rode with group in the blue van. Once again Scott got to be the sole male in the silver van not that he minded so much...but he did get an earful about what certain people were finding attractive about certain Ratdog band & crew members.... sigh.. Whenever there was confusion about how to get to Canterbury (often enough) David and Theresa would call each other on the cell got to the point where a collective groan could be heard whenever Theresa’s phone rang...
But, we did finally arrive, traveling on a dirt path , in the middle of a pear orchard which was the parking a short distance, the distinctive aqua blue Ratdog bus was visible. Yep, we was there!

Wandering up the dirt path, beautiful groves of pear trees -loaded with nearly ripe fruit, on the right, we arrived at a tented check in point. Here we purchased our tickets and a Fayre shirt- except for Kid’s tee, the Fayre shirt was the only shirt documenting Ratdog’s 2003 UK appearance...NOTE TO BOBBY: TOUR SHIRTS & UP TO DATE PUBLICITY POSTERS NEXT YEAR PLEASE!! Heck, I’ll even design & distribute them myself!
Now, that we are home, I wish I had purchased an extra shirt (hmmm, maybe some are available at the Canterbury Fayre website?).
About 4 paces from the ticket booth, we found a very smiley Mark Karan. Taking advantage of his good nature, everyone jumped in for photographs. I think I took about 6 or 7 pix of the van people with MK. I even jumped in there with WDP for a couple myself...
We wandered up a little farther and found ourselves at the entrance to a bazaar type place- where some music acts were taking place inside an old fashioned circus tent. A little bit “Safety Dance” ish but not as much as I had expected. Our group broke up here to look around, planning to meet up about an hour or so later.
I wasnt overwhelmed by the merchandise (for a change) but did see some fun stuff. Of interest for sure was the mushrooms and unusual smoking paraphanelia. Mushrooms (only fresh) are legal in the UK I learned.. I had never seen Guarana served as a beverage before either...I was of course, tempted to try everything but it was going to be a big day and a long drive to London after the Fayre- ingesting strange stuff in a strange place=not a good plan.
We sort of met at the appointed spot around the appointed time and wandered down the hill to the rail area where a band was wrapping up it’s set. After they finished their encore- half the folks on the rail disappeared and we Doggyheads moved in. To my right was a young man of about 10-11 years old. He had the most beautiful strawberry blonde hair and was wearing the Grateful Bear US flag tee shirt (my 8 year old son has the same shirt)...Unable to stop myself, I had to ask “So, you see much Dead?” He fixed me a look that had me expecting a real smartass answer back, but the expression turned into a grin and he told me “Well, no I havent seen any Dead. However, I did catch a few Dylan shows”........LOL!

All was incredibly easy and roomy at the rail but once Ratdog came on- a great squeeze occured(in other venues the great squeeze comes on somewhere in mid second set). An older kid had managed to wedge right in between me &my young strawberryhaired guy..The big kid wasnt a tough guy-just a bit clueless- making a lot of noise, clearly not into the music but instead making faces & gesturing at another young teen who was hanging out on stage while Bobby sang Birdsong and the eagerly anticipated Cassidy (they opened with a rollicking Jack Straw)...Finally, the big kid decided to move along and after he left, my young man turned to me, hands in the air, & shook his head...we were both glad the big kid took off-more room to dance- and my young man had moves as though he had been raised on the Fillmore rail!

I was enjoying this show very much!
At every turn there was another tour buddy! In front of us- in the photographer’s ally- tween the rail & stage were Norman, Chris and Brian- doing their thing. I’m not trained at all to take pictures - but, seeing as I was right in the front and did have my trusty Kodak DC290 with me- I felt I ought to try to get some pix of the band at work. The end came all too quick we had enjoyed the show very much. Before Bilston, the tradition of setlist prediction was started with the Silver van group. The only songs called for that were played at Canterbury was my call for Dear Prudence and the group call for Cassidy! The Canterbury setlist was
nothing like what we had expected.Here was where we predicted an Aiko,Scarlet, Truckin and
Bobby McGee but what we got was :
Jack Straw>Birdsong>Cassidy>Rooster>2Djinn>Miss1/2 step>TOO
LWF>Terripin>at a siding>Terriflyer>Dear Prudence(yes!) Birdsong reprise>Cassidy reprise with a Touch of Grey encore- TOG was the only song repeated on this tour by the way...

After Dog, we all hung out a bit longer, with Scotto and I the munching never stops...Found some donuts and coffee (blech on English coffee) One big problem I had with the coffee was that it is served SCORCHINGLY hot with no protective cup holder thing...We slowly wound down the hill, back in to the silver van, back on the road to London....Somewhere in London the cell phones started ringing. Somehow both vans were lost...I think Theresa did know how to get back but had relented and followed directions being given by the guys in the blue van and had gotten completely messed up....We whirled around the streets til we found the Tower of London on our left (beautiful at night!) from there Robin was able to navigate us to Picadilly Circus- which was when I asked to be let out- We were all tired and It seemed to be getting late to be meeting up for curry as David had proposed we all, the curry place was in his neighborhood which would require that we find a way back to our hotel in Mayfair...Best thing to do was bail. Theresa let us out at Picadilly Circus. Years ago (30!), I had spent about 6 weeks of a summer vacation in a hotel off Picadilly in the Mayfair neighborhood in London. I assured Scott that the walk to our Mayfair hotel wouldnt be too bad....and it really wasnt - only about 10 minutes- I surprised myself and was able to find our hotel without even once needing to see a map! We checked in washed our faces and then went out (10:30pm) in search of food. Our hotel turned out to be just across the street from Shepard’s Market which is an older area- once (duh) a shepard’s market and then a bit of a shady night spot but these days it’s filled with restaurants and shops. We found an Indian restaurant -kind of pricy- but open and ready to serve. So, at least, we did get some curry after all.