After Toronto we headed back from Canada to the USA and to Buffalo. I understand that on the day we were in Canada cannabis was legalised, so on the drive back to the border there were several signs stating ‘No cannabis’. Clearly the authorities were worried there would be a huge influx of dope into America. When we got to the border we were told to park the van and go into the immigration office. We got a bit nervous as you do not know how you are going to be treated and if an immigration official is not happy about something you might be there for hours. We all got very serious and straight faced. No jokes, no smiles no expression of any sort. These are humourless places - in fact I can’t imagine a more humourless place to work. The staff were OK though (I am sure they are being watched by their bosses) and within the hour we were through and back in the van. We then all breathed a big sigh of relief.
We passed Lake Ontario which is huge. So big in fact that you see the horizon rather than the other side of the lake. It makes it feel like you are looking out to sea. We fully intended to stop at the Niagara Falls as some of us (including me) had never visited them and they are one of the wonders of the world. In fact we left Toronto early specifically to do so. But for some reason, we didn’t. I am not sure why. It just seemed to not happen. Very curious!
We soon arrived in Buffalo where we were staying at an OK hotel. As it is always a rush when you load in for a gig, setup, soundcheck and eat before the gig, we decided it made sense to have a leisurely relaxed large lunch and a light dinner. It is not good eating a huge meal just before a gig anyway. So we ate at the TFI Fridays where I had a delicious steak, mash and veg’. Most tasty and it set me up nicely for the day.
The venue was the Tralf, where Gary had played before (with Allan Holdsworth) but not the rest of us. It was a big room and stage. Beledo played the support set solo today, mainly on acoustic (nylon string) guitar. What he played was really beautiful. I do recommend you check out his music. Our set went well and was received enthusiastically though maybe a little sedately. We changed the encore to One Glove and that went particularly well. It was rocking!
Breakfast the following morning included the usual foods, but with added walnuts (great) and sausage gravy (no thanks). We stopped at a Cracker Barrel for lunch which was great. Being on the road you have to find where you can to eat and the quality does vary hugely. In the last few days we ate at
Cracker Barrel - Fab.
Waffle House - surprisingly not bad. We saw four guys in one sitting together in their little hats looking like something from the 1950s.
Bob Evans- Not great, but we did have lovely waitress who looked just like Kate Blanchett.
Burger King- Err...not good. At all.
Next stop was Cleveland and if any of you have seen the film Spinal tap you will know that there is a scene in the film where the band cannot find the stage from the dressing room. They finally come out to a big ‘Hello, Cleveland! ‘ so that was a definite source of amusement for the day. The venue was the Beachland Ballroom which was an old theatre that I understand had been a Croatian social club for a while. It was kind of funky and rather run down but with a backstage area with big settees and a self dispensing drinks machine that instead of having drinks in, had various types of hemp, unspecified plastic containers containing who knows why and what looked to me like a DIY dentistry kit! Bizarre.
In a splendid case of life imitating art imitating life, there were issues with reaching the stage. The dressing room had no bathroom, so to go, you had to climb stairs, go through the kitchen, then sneak behind a curtain on the stage to the back of the stage to access it which was slightly comedic. Even when the support was performing there was no alternative. When it did come to showtime, two of the band did in fact get a bit lost in the kitchen trying to find the stage. Brilliant!
We were taken by surprise by the enthusiasm of audience who were just fabulous. So enthusiastic and vocal. We loved them and I think we responded accordingly with extra energy and a few left turns here and there. It was definitely one of the best gigs of the tour so far. Afterwards there was a bit of a hang in the bar which was cool. We met some particularly lovely fans and some cool people. It was great to see again some fans from the Steven Wilson US tours.
The next day was a long van ride into the mid west through Ohio and into Indiana. It is remarkable how much conversation in this band comes back to the guitarist Allan Holdsworth who played in Soft Machine on the Bundles album and for less than a year after. There is something about him which drew people in. It is a bit like the subject of Brexit which keeps coming back and is something about which everyone has strong opinions. Leonardo was Allan’s manager for years until his death and not only booked him many many tours but also gave him financial and emotional support. I have heard it said that his support contributed to keeping him alive so long. I did not know him but clearly he had a very particular character and individual personality that was not always either easy or straightforward to deal with. Of course Gary Husband played with him for many years too and both John Etheridge and Roy personally knew him well.
The Indianapolis gig itself was in a large venue called the Irving. Memorably we heard that we were playing on the very last stage that Elvis Presley had performed on shortly before his death in 1977. It had not been in this venue but the stage had been moved here. I particularly enjoyed playing Life on Bridges which is a composition of mine from the new Hidden Details album that involves a tune that is played in a free-ish way and then the band improvises freely without any prearranged areas or markers. So it is very ‘open’ and anything can happen...and it does. We have been getting into some pretty out there musical areas and it has been adventurous, musical and fun.
We stayed in hotel with a pool so I got to swim again which was great as there has been a lot of sitting in the van recently. Next stop Chicago and when we were on our way, the ‘windy city’ certainly lived up to its name as we were blown around a lot on the highway. In fact there was wind, rain and even snow.