Rest well, noble soldiers.

The drummer in the band before us played in the little grotto area at the back of the stage. Not because he wanted to, but it was the only way to fit on stage.

Monday, June 24, 2019
London, GB


Your final dispatch - unless you subscribed to the Premium edition* - comes from a rocky turbulence patch about 30 minutes unti we cross above Nova Scotia. We made it onto our return plane. Thad is passed out next to me, especially prudent since neither of us have gotten more than four (less?) hours of uninterrupted rest since Milan three days ago. Ah, but not me; I can't sleep.

Yesterday was maybe a little rough but definitely wonderful. Let's start with the, uh, tricky parts.

So do you remember when I told you that our folding hand truck wasn't doing so well? No lie - as soon as I finished typing those very words I put my laptop away and starting stowing up stuff because we were pulling into the London train station. Train stopped, we hopped off, loaded up all the gear onto our beleaguered little trolley and began wheeling it down the platform.

It instantly graduated from very squeaky protests to irrevocable malfunction. The right wheel had freed entirely from the bearings and it was just ripping the rubber hollow against its totally disconnected hub. I stopped to look at it which was a really dumb move; the pause allowed enough time for the inside of the rubber wheel to cool into a re-formed non-circular shape. When I tried to push it forward again - nope. The thing was totally finished.

There we were - the last folks on the now-empty platform, just two cars down from where we'd disembarked the train. And screwed.

Hyperbole? You wish. Check the photo evidence from train platform 13 in the photo column to the left.

We carried our stuff to the end of the platform and boy howdy was that a real shitshow. Thad kept bailing the duffel perched like a thoroughly-Vaselined jellyfish on top of his groaning rollerbag; that thing was already stuffed with 14 more pounds than its touted maximum capacity. I carried both instruments along with my hiker's backpack. Also my pedalboard was in there somewhere. We had devolved from a well-rehearsed noise-rock duo into a punch-drunk, off-balance and smeary mess.

We struggled on. First we found a store in the station that sold us a jankier/more expensive luggage-wheeler. It had a rated capacity of 100lbs so of course we instantly dumped that plus 25 more onto it. It got us to street-level. Hopped a cab (I know, I know, shoulda taken the Underground, so bourgeoisie) over to the club and somehow we'd arrived 2 hours before it opened. So we transported the whole teetering circus two cobblestoned blocks west to a bar. We killed time ironing out a few tech problems and trying not to drink more than was prudent. The tech fixes were easy. Our restraint was not.

By 5PM, we were back at the Shacklewell Arms - a ramshackle drinking house/club on its fifth or sixth incarnation of establishment-ism. The walls in the performance room (capacity maybe two people larger than Mondo Bizaro from the night before) still bore the decorative paint from being a West Indian dance room, but it was happily suitable as a dumpy indie rock joint. Sound checked through borrowed stage gear that was abused crap and had dinner with the promoter, Grace. I was feeling chatty and she fielded my probably way-too-personal questions with a comportment fitting her name.

Then it was show time. This, being our first ever UK show, brought some far-flung enthusiasts to see us - northern England, southern France. One of the two opening bands, the very good Hands Up Who Wants to Die, had flown over from Ireland just to play for a 1/2 hour. I ached to make it worth it for all of these people who connected with us and to have a night that was a fitting end to the adventure.

Thad and I hopped up on the stage and got going. Despite some gaffes (including totally blowing the first 1/3 of my favorite song of ours, actually STOPPING the drum machine, starting over and then proceeding to play it even worse) (ugh I'm cringe-typing as I relay this to you) (I just hope you appreciate all these sacrifices I make in the name of honest reporting) the night was a real joy. People having a crazy time, shouting our lyrics back at me, yelling approval and good-natured insults during song breaks, wanting to give me a sweaty hug when it was all over.

And then that was it.

Well, not really. Yes, we got to hang out with old friends after the set, the trip to Heathrow (including hauling our crap on the Monday AM bus) was absurd, did a synchronized seat-back watching of John Wick 2 on the flight, etc. - it all happened but that stuff was all just footnotes after last song stopped ringing through the air. We did it, now it's time to go.

I'm feeling a little melancholy as the plane shoots us towards JFK. Tonight we will not get up and play these songs again. This band, this music, this community - it has all opened up a place for me to learn something about myself and, frankly, what it means to be alive. This has been so present for me in the last week; I'm at least glad that experience feels very palpable as we've been living it.

A sea diver gulps a deep lungful of air, affixes her mask and then dives down towards the bottom. There she encounters a beckoning world of rainbow coral and waving vegetation, a shock of cold jetties, thousands of flashes of shimmering sea life. But though she may ache to push forward into the depths, at some point her lungs need air, her ears cannot handle the ringing pressure.So this ends, surfacing back toward warm daylight and oxygen, leaving the midnight blue world to its own shifting mystery.

= Justin

* Of course there's not really a Premium edition.

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