Monday 15th March 2010
After the hoop-jumping, back-bending, how-high palaver of securing US Visas, we leave Leeds towards London, ready for our flight the next morning, and a red van starts changing lanes without looking. It swerves just before smashing into us as Lee holds the horn down. Our hearts are now banging out about 180bpm and we have to go straight back to Krish’s cause I’ve left my passport and money at his house.
Tuesday 16th March 2010
At 4:30am We leave Lee’s sister’s for Heathrow, drive past long term parking 3 times and then hit the car we’re parking behind. Slurpy’s bass drum case is stuffed to the brim with his cymbals, click track, snare, and all of our clothes and it weighs about two hernias. He carries it like an empty handbag.
The plane is packed with bands and music industry going to South By South West. Huw Stephens is asleep just behind me to the left and I consider seeing how much stuff I can pile on him and take photos before he wakes up, like Buckaroo for grown ups, but I decide there are too many people awake and aware who would think I run a weird fetish website based on innocent but inconvenient real life recreations of childhood boardgames.
We land, obviously, to Susan Boyle singing Wild Horses, and get our connecting flight from Dallas to Austin. The captain seems to have a rare form of turrets based partly on his own hunger and partly on his desire to be a Roy Lichtenstein painting. At the end of the first announcement he pauses briefly, then says ‘toast!’ and stops. At the end of the next announcement, regarding takeoff, he pauses at the end, then goes ‘Zooooom!’ When we hit the runway in Austin we don’t get the ‘Bosh!’ I’m hoping for. I leave my passport in the pocket of the chair in front and cause a bit of a security panic when I try to go back onto the plane.
We go to the wrong Doubletree Hotel, have to call another cabbie, who has a big bag of weed in the front and doesn’t seem to want to charge us, and we get to the right place. We head downtown for something to eat and find a Chinese restaurant with massive horse sculptures in it and a friendly waiter. He asks what we’re all having and then whether we want white or brown rice. We all want white. He points at Lee and says ‘white’, then at Slurps, ‘white’, then at me and says ‘white’, and finally at Krish and says ‘brown’. It’s hard not to shout ‘racist’ at him, but he might miss the irony, and it’s our first night.
Krish smokes the night away after making us swear we wouldn’t let him, but me and Lee can’t be bothered getting into a fight with him and having to smash his beautiful little face in, so we just remind him he’s a disappointment to everyone he knows.
Wednesday 17th March 2010
We wake up and get breakfast in bed. We’re not used to American portions so, after the equivalent of an English breakfast, each bite of the super-absorbent, half-inch thick pancakes is like trying to choke down a dirty, damp flannel. Lee does a phone interview for the Yorkshire Evening Post and we head downtown to check out the venue and eat burgers. The traffic’s so bad we have to head back to the hotel to get our gear straight away. We watch The Temper Trap film an acoustic session by the hotel pool till the next shuttle bus comes.
We drop our gear at the venue and hand out some flyers. Some American girls immediately become our street team in order to hang around with us and look at our beautiful faces and listen to our magical accents until the gig starts. Nearly all American girls here are called Lisa, Laura, Laurie, Lauren or Lindsey.
Thursday 18th March 2010
We arrive at The British Music Embassy at 10am as requested and discover we won’t be needed for an hour and a half. It’s just like in England, but not nearly as bad as having to get to the venue last night at 6pm and not being needed for five and a half hours. We get smoothies from a smoothie bar and you can choose one ‘power shot’ to go in it. There’s one for energy, one for immunity and so on. Lee orders invisibility and soon feels himself disappearing from the crotch down. I want the ability to pause time but they don’t have that.
After sound check we flyer 6th Street and I get distracted by some girls hoola-hooping in bikinis in order to get customers into the bar they work at, which is called Bikinis. I spend a while telling them they’re shit at hoola-hoop and asking why they haven’t been trained properly and I know they really appreciate my constructive criticism, especially when I tell them the drunk bearded guy asking for a go is sexier than all of them. The sound at The British Music Embassy is amazing and immediately after the gig we’re ploughing through the free drinks.
Local news reporter Jade Mingus interviews me just before I’m no longer capable and by the time Slow Club are finished we’re Oliver Stone. By the time The Crookes have played we’re Nicolas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas and by the time The Grammatics come on stage we’re so flammable there’s a danger I’ll spontaneously combust every time my throat rasps as I shout at Owen that he’s fucking well cool. Our gear has been removed from the venue and piled up outside. I head off to see Mike Snow and the others head back to the hotel.
It’s happy hour at the hotel bar and Krish, Lee and Slurps ask the bar maid to deliver burgers and more margaritas to the Jacuzzi. Three security guards come to watch/supervise as Lee starts singing at the top of his voice into the tubes in the Jacuzzi. These tubes come out in the pool and amplify his voice around the hotel. He shouts ‘Jesus’ and ‘Vivaldi’ alternately until it’s time to break into the conference room and steal cookies and coke to go with the burgers and margaritas. Slurpy meets some English guys in the bar who’ve never played at South By South West and tells them they’ll be fine for their gig, that the crowd are nice and not to worry or be nervous. He asks what their band is called. It’s called Hole.
After failing to get some porn on the TV, Lee passes out and Krish and Slurpy go back downtown. Slurpy tries to give some money to a tramp and gets rejected by the offended homeless man. Krish rings Lee to come back out saying “I would love you to be here man. We’re on 18th street. Oh god, we’ve got to get some food, we’re in hell on earth.” Krish puts his phone back in his pocket without hanging up and Lee can hear him telling Slurpy, “I’m serious man, I’m gonna be sick over this bridge.” Slurpy asks where Lee is, Krish remembers, recovers his phone and changes plan, “Things are not good man, stay there, we’re coming home.”
Friday 19th March 2010
We wake up feeling like we’ve been in a Sahara-Desert-eating contest and we’re all losers. At breakfast the waiter says he saw us on the news last night. It’s a glorious sunny day of interviews at the Convention Centre, along with free massage and drinks in the artists’ lounge. Everyone thinks we’re younger than we are due to our exuberant outlook, our buoyant laughter and our underdeveloped physical appearance.
We bounce between Buffalo Billiard Lounge and Soho on 6th Street and drink our hands surgeon-steady again before gradually working our way back to old-lady-trying-to-slowly-shake-hands-in-an-earthquake. Going back to Buffalo Billiard Lounge the bouncer asks Lee if he’s having a good time. Lee says yeah, he’s had a couple of drinks; he’s a little bit drunk. A guy from inside the venue runs out and pushes Lee over, puts his knee in his chest and says he’s putting the whole bar at risk. Apparently, in America, you have to be careful what you say about drink to people making their living selling you drink. You can buy their drink, just don’t let it take any chemical effect; tipsiness is as dangerous as atheism here.
What happens next is a blur but it involves putting some Radio 1 employees through their paces, doing forward rolls in the middle of the road, teaching a group of girls the crab dance and explaining how massive it is in England, Krish and Slurps taking a spill in the pizza queue and people treading over them, Krish dancing samba in the street like he’s an instructor in Pineapple Dance Studio, going to Iron Cactus and ordering death drinks and Krish thinking he can’t go on and having to drink some water.
Getting into the shuttle bus home Lee clips his nipple on the door and the driver asks if he needs a medic and launches into a story about nipples, “I know a guy who got his nipple bitten off by a beaver, man.” He says him and his mate were in a car and hit a beaver. His mate picked the lifeless beaver up and said, “Look man there’s not even any blood.” On cue the beaver came round and took his mate’s whole nipple off through his clothes. The driver goes on to speak about racoons, always referring to them as ‘coons’. Maybe he’s mates with the Chinese restaurant waiter. He says that when you harvest rice you do it in a spiral from the outside in, so all the animals hide in the middle. They used to trap the racoons and use them for their fur, and this guy from out of town, this city guy he knew, was having a go at catching a racoon. It jumped up and bit the city guy’s hand and fucked it up. He was trying to shake it off and when it let go it starting chewing his balls, it just latched on. The driver and his other friend laughed so hard they couldn’t help the city guy. Almost incapacitated by laughter, but scared city guy was going to bleed to death, the driver, “had to kick the coon off the guy’s dick.” He just, “kicked the coon right off his crotch!”
Saturday 20th March 2010
Slurpy is going to try to eat a 4lb burger at Bikinis later in order to try to win a T shirt, and to prove that he can, but it doesn’t stop him having the now quotidian meateggsflannel breakfast. Our manager is going to join him in the challenge. We meet at 4pm at Bikinis and the burgers are the size of a dinner plate and about 3 inches thick including the bun. Slurps is half way through before he starts struggling and Tony decides to dip his bread in his Dr Pepper, screw it up into a ball and eat it like an apple. Slurps struggles not to vomit. After an hour, Tony has had to stop, and Slurpy is working away at the crisps and salad with a pallid, sweaty face and an occasional suppressed gip. He clearly wants to stop, but to paraphrase Macbeth, he has now stepped so deep in meat that to turn back were as tedious as go o’er.
He comes out victorious and wins a T-shirt with the slogan ‘Not tonight ladies. I’m just here for the burgers.’
Sunday 21st March 2010
We wake up late and decide to sunbathe by the pool. I go down and Lee and Krish aren’t with their stuff so I set myself down amongst the West Virginia cheerleading team, who are here with the basketball team, who are at training. They are soulless materialists who spend their time talking about how they hate this or that celebrity for getting fucking fat. Or how this or that celebrity is a saint because he said he wouldn’t abandon his child once some other celebrity gave birth to it and that he wouldn’t even cheat on her. They are shallow to the point of concavity and I choose to listen to Blur’s Stereotypes on my ipod and enjoy the sun.
Monday 22nd March 2010
We go to Denny’s after checking out of the hotel, eat a lot, and head to the airport for the long flight back to our other reality.