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off the wall



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You’ve been warned! This maybe a bit boring for some of you. I had so much ground to cover that I couldn’t really get my teeth into anything. But I do this for my own journal purposes as well. So for the not so faint of heart, read on.

Well you’d think with my own computer there might have been more opportunities to update this tour but we’ve had some busy and downright ridiculous traveling lately. After Sandusky Ohio we headed 170 miles up to Erie Pa. for an afternoon show. Then after that headed another 100 miles to cut some time off the next day’s drive.  Consequently we had the evening free to imbibe.  There was nothing in the area. (It’s a drag but all the Rovers hotels are right off the highway with nothing around.)  Fortunately there was a bar in the hotel and they served Guinness, which was a bonus for the boys.  Having no show the next day it was inevitable that many pints were quaffed that night. The sound guys even got finished in time to join us because of the early show and I was able to pay up on the pint I owed Paul for keeping his mouth shut about the forgotten Bodhran.

Four hundred miles next day with a sore head found us on yet another stop right off the highway still having not got to the gig.  Again, the nearest town was Louisville Kentucky, thirty miles away.  So there was nothing to do at all.  205 miles the next day and we’re finally at the gig.  Paducah Kentucky is not a place the Rovers have played much.  So they are not that well known there.  We played in this beautiful big 2500 seat theatre that was only 2 weeks old and a whopping 600 or so turned out.  That’s 700 miles for a 600-person turn out.  The boys were not impressed.  150 miles the next day back to Nashville to catch a flight out to Florida.  That’s another common thing.  Our flights are always early so we have to get up in the middle of the night in order to have enough time to check all our gear through. This one wasn’t too bad but the 200-mile drive to the airport made for a very early departure. 

All was not lost though landing in Palm Beach Florida was just the ticket.  No show that night meant a small cab ride into town to some Irish pub whose name escapes me.  What I haven’t forgotten however is the barmaid’s name: Gobnet!  How on God’s earth do you survive childhood life in Ireland with a name like Gobnet.  The boys saddled up to the bar. (Never have I known them take a table)  and it became abundantly clear how Gobnet survived.  She took shit from no one.  Not bossy but most definitely the boss with a witty answer to put everyone in their place.  Even good old Joe, a man not blessed with the virtue of patience, called out for some attention in his customary fashion, demanding a round.  She turned from what she was doing looked him right in the eye and without a hint of frayed nerves  or hostility yelled back “I’VE OTHER THINGS TO BE DOIN!”

Joe just laughed.  It takes a special character to pull that off with Joe.  Gobnet was well up to the task.  Excellent barmaid, wonderful character.  I was drinking marguerittas (I didn’t feel like beer) and then said I felt like something else.  She told me I shouldn’t be mixing my drinks. “It’ll give you a hangover” she said.  I promptly ordered a Tequila Sunrise and she said, “You’re a man. I wouldn’t expect you to listen.” And it went on all night.  She called me a wuss for ordering Tequila sunrises when the other boys were ordering Guinness but I could tell she liked me.  Probably ‘cause I was man enough to order it in a crowd of Irish Guinness drinkers!  Had a great night that night and met some of the locals as well.  I was the last of the boys to leave at God knows what hour.  (We got there at 4pm).

I’d gotten word of a good used CD store the next day but couldn’t rouse myself to get out till afternoon.  It was a bit of a walk as once again we weren’t in town. Looking through used CD’s is a lot less fun with a hangover.  I persevered however because it was a pretty good store and walked out with an armful.  Time had got away from me however and I was forced to RUN the whole way back to the hotel to make it for the soundcheck departure time.  My body almost went into cardiac arrest!  I made it just in time and watched in disbelief as we drove right past the frickin’ store on the way to the Gig.

The gig was an outdoor affair.  The guys working it said if we get a thousand we’ve done well.  There had to be at least 1600 so it was a fun show.  I got a good night’s recovery that night looking forward to another Florida experience 230 miles away in lovely Palm Coast.  Sadly, in spite of being in beautiful summertime-like weather, I found myself in a hotel right off the exit ramp again with a Highway, a Cracker Barrel restaurant and a strip mall across the highway for company.  I took a moment to take stock and to be thankful for what privileges I have in life but that said, it might as well have been summertime in Parking Lot, Deadsville, U.S.A. 

We had the day off once we arrived which was exactly as you would imagine a day off to be on an exit ramp: largely uneventful.  Sean and I went for a walk and did find a hick bar in and around the strip mall.  We met a couple of interesting characters.  This one guy, Paul was a history buff and new more about British history than I‘ve forgotten, and that is a hell of a lot.  I learned so much from him in that hour we chatted!  Unfortunately it was, much like my school days, forgotten by morning. After doing some laundry and finding a (bonus!) all you can eat in Chinese buffet (these things become highlights) it was just about time to head to the show in Blunnell.

Respectable turnout, big theatre. The shows have now hit routine point.  Doesn’t matter how big the venue or the crowd I could do the show in my sleep and therefore have no butterflies at all before any gig.  This is good in that I play better relaxed but there’s no more nervous anticipation that charges you up either. 250 or so miles the next day finds us in the small town of Punta Gorda Fl.  Thankfully we are actually in the town (in fact beautifully situated right on the water).  We have the night off also so I managed to find an evening mass within walking distance.

Everything about this church and its congregation seemed completely in line with any other Catholic church I’ve attended.  There was, however a gang of teenagers hanging out outside the door, and once inside I noticed a full band with drums and everything.  I waited curiously for the proceedings to begin as the rest of the congregation looked like a crowd from an Irish Rovers gig. The next thing I heard I can only describe as something off Pink Floyd’s ‘Welcome To The Machine’ album as the swirling synth sounds blasted through the PA to set the stage for the entrance of the customarily robed altar personnel.

Next came the thumping Tom Tom’s with a singer and two back up females singing a refrain that wouldn’t have been out of place on a Roxy Music album.  This Roxy Music/Pink Floyd sonic experience in conjunction with such a conservative looking priest walking down the Isle followed by a young 14year old alter boy wearing a studded dog collar and carrying the crucifix through a congregation of, for the most part, 55 plus, was nothing short of surreal. I love going to church in the states!  After mass I found a nice, cheap Mexican restaurant, read my book, had a few Marguerittas and called it a night. And so ends reasonable touring schedule.

Next day we had two shows so we drive 105 miles to Clearwater Fl.for an 11:30am sound check and a 1pm show. (I read the many, signed photographs on the corridor walls which had many famous acts from Joe Walsh to Tony Bennett.  But the most memorable was the Jethro Tull one spelt Jethrow Tull.)  A bunch of Old Codgers had taken buses to the show so for a Monday afternoon there was a very healthy turn out.(about 1500).  Then we had to drive back the same 100miles to Punta Gorda (after having initially driven through Clearwater to get to Punta Gorda on the previous night off– Logic which defied most of us who are powerless to such things-and finished off with an evening show in Punta Gorda which was also very well attended and sold out.

We were all pretty bagged after this, but when I met Joe’s son back at the gig in Palm Springs when we were all hung-over from the night in the Irish Pub, I had promised to have a pint with him when we got to Punta Gorda.  And although everyone else bailed I kept my promise and joined him for a pint.  I did however bring my ‘off’ button to this one. Reason being we had a 5:45am Lobby call to head to Fort Myers airport and head back to from whence we came.  That being winter in NY.

This Casino in Verona NY had offered enough money to disrupt our tour and fly back to Eastern U.S. for St. Paddy’s day. The flight went through Detroit, which was experiencing a winter storm, and so our connecting flight was cancelled.  I did the solo thing at the airport and took my notebook to the Mexican style bar to kill some time till our replacement flight was given the all clear. I met this ex pro hockey player from Windsor called Mike Mitchell who apparently played with the Chicago Blackhawks for a while around the time of Tom Lysiak, the Sutter Brothers and Warren Rykel (whoever they are!)  We hit it off really well and ended up hugging as he left to catch his flight out to Florida.  We finally got our connecting flight to NY which got us into Albany just before midnight.  With the Time change this was another long day. Then, it was up at 8am the next day for a 2 1/2 hour drive to the Casino in Verona for an 11am soundcheck, which turned out to be a four hour drive as we went for a long way on the wrong highway.  We then had three 1 1/2 hour shows to do at 1, 4, and 8pm after which we headed back the 2 hours to the hotel and got in around 1am.  St. Paddy’s day with the Irish Rovers and not a single pint to show for it. Irony indeed!

5:30am lobby call for the flight back to Florida next day.  Again through Detroit but happily arriving back in sunny Fort Myers. Fl.  We were pretty tired but we had no gig that night so we caught a cab and headed for Brannigans for a few pints.  I’d left my off-button back in Punta Gorda and so as we returned to the hotel I was curious enough to inquire of the whereabouts of three young ladies who were catching the hotel shuttle as we were disembarking.  Turned out they were going to the Mexican restaurant a couple of blocks away and the shuttle driver offered to show me where.  My plan was to sit coolly at the bar and suss out the situation but the place was dead and the bar was cornered off so I had no choice but to approach them at their table immediately.  Turns out they were 3 Continental Airline stewardesses.  I sat with them for the remainder of the night. Sadly they were all married but we had a good time anyway.

I had the day to kill before the show (not much going on near the hotel again) so I decided to try and recover some long needed rest by the pool.  As I proceeded to unwittingly burn myself to a crisp listening to Maria Mckee, Lynn Miles and Muse I got a tap on the shoulder from two of the three fully regaled flight attendants stopping by to say goodbye.

The Barbara Mann Theatre In Fort Myers is THE theatre to play and we sold it out so that felt good.  What didn’t feel good was the 4:15am lobby call after only getting back from the show about 11:30pm and not being able to get to sleep till 2:30am.  We then flew to San Diego Ca. after a stop over in Houston, which got us into San Diego about 1130am California time. Which was too early to claim our rooms.  So, Exhausted as we were we went and got some food to kill time.  Upon returning it was luck of the draw situation with whose room was ready.  I was the big loser and had to wait till 2:30pm on the couch in the lobby for my room.  We had to leave at 5pm for the show ‘cause it was about 45mins away. So I got about an hour and 1/2 nap.  We did the show (which was poorly promoted and poorly attended) somewhat punchdrunk to a small 500 or so but enthusiastic crowd and headed back to the hotel in San Diego. (Don’t ask me what half of these cities look like I haven’t a clue!)

Still no respite.  Another 4:30am lobby call to head to San Diego airport for a flight to Phoenix AZ where we had a show 35 miles away.  We might have had a few hours to nap had the hotel been in the same city as the gig but in order to cut down on travel time the next day we were staying at a hotel beyond Sun City West (where the gig was). I would have loved to have been able to say “I ain’t gonna play Sun City” but it wasn’t that Sun City and I would have been fired if I had.

Sun City West in Arizona was a gig I had been warned about since the tour began.  This is a city completely made up of wealthy retirees.  One person has to be minimum 55 years of age to live in this walled city.  They have there own municipality and police force.  The speed limits are 35miles an hour and it is the only place in America where you can drive golf carts (which everyone does) on the streets!!  There are (count them) nine supposedly pristine golf courses in this city and the theatre we were playing is the largest single level theatre in North America (about 8 or so thousand).  Seeing as it was Sunday with time to kill and nowhere to sleep I found a mass not too far away and dragged my sorry carcass into this retirement community church.  Not realizing till later that I was wearing my Dennis The Menace “Menace To Sobriety” T-shirt at the time. No Pink Floyd openers at this one!!

Back to the gig.  Because of the size of this place they can curtain off some outer regions and we fortunately put about 2500 in there so it didn’t look to bad.  Supposedly every seat has a built in hearing aid!  Rock and Roll man!

We had yet another 40miles to go after the show to get to our hotel (Small-town Wickenburg AZ).  We’d done it!  3days of travel with less than 8hrs sleep was over and, as wasted as we were, this small cowboy town had a saloon right across the street with our name written all over it.  Some well-deserved pints were quaffed and a small town cowboy vibe was a welcome thing. The jukebox was being well patronized and some very characteristic selections were available which a few of us got in on. Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, ZZ Top, Lynyrd Skynrd, etc

While I was picking mine a pretty cool more current country song came on that I liked.  I turned to the guy behind me sitting at the bar and asked him if he picked this song.  Turned out he had.  It was a band called The Mavericks.  I asked him to recommend another track off the album for my picks and he said they were all good but selected one anyway (which I also liked)

The boys had one by one called it a night, which, as usual, left Sean and me.  So there we are sitting at the bar when the guy who I’d spoken to at the jukebox and had subsequently left came back in and offered me two CD’s of some country artists he wanted me to hear.  He just went home and picked up two CD’s and brought them back and gave them to me!  No manipulative agenda, nothing, just a desire to spread music, which I can truly appreciate. I thanked him kindly and left shortly thereafter.

165 miles to Laughlin Nevada the next day was a much welcome change to the boring interstate highway travel in the rest of the country.  Driving through the Arizona Desert listening to my newly acquired CD from (Tom) the night before was really cool.  It was a sort of swing country boogie sound with some great steel guitar and piano honky tonk stuff.  The album is called ‘Wild Free and Reckless’ and the guy is Wayne Hancock. Some of the lyrics were actually about being on the road and going through the Arizona desert on the way to Flagstaff  (which is pretty close to where we were heading) which was a great bonus.  I was loving it.

We are now in the heart of the Nevada Desert area in a gambling city called Laughlin, which is about 90 miles from Las Vegas and is like a mini Las Vegas itself. The only thing is it’s all older folks so not much in the way of ‘talent’ for the next 3 days.  The good news is the shows are only 1hr and 15mins and we only have to soundcheck on the first night.  So our days our completely free apart from the 21/2 hrs required to do the show and sign autographs and stuff.  AND we’re not out of the town I can actually walk around.  Thing is it’s strictly a gambling city so it’s just hotels, restaurants and casino’s. The more inhabited part of the area is a few miles away.  After the last week though it’s a very welcome rest!  One more day left here then it’s a 370-mile drive to LA for our last show.

I apologise for the length of this email but as most of you know, as well as writing to you it serves as a journal for me and saves me the repetitious accountability after I get home. If it is a nuisance let me know and I’ll take you off the list.  Some people get back to me after these and we have some more ‘abbreviated’ dialogue, which I appreciate very much on the road.  Thanks to all that did. (Including my cousin Michelle).

God Bless All.
Lolly xoxo