iTunes Festival!

Well yesterday turned out just awesome, victory snatched from the jaws of defeat. After a total arse of a start to the day, and a last minute re-pitching of the video, we ended up in a park on top of the hill in Oxford in glorious sunshine, with about 50 people helping out with singing, dancing and generally pratting about in front of the camera. It was a pretty stressful day all told, but I think we’ve ended up with something great. Many thanks to all who participated.

Announcements! I’m pleased to say I’ll be playing the iTunes Festival this summer, at the Roundhouse in London, on July 19th. All the tickets are for competition winners and the like, but if you check this out you can find out more about how to get down there. the Futureheads will also be appearing on my night. The set will also be released as a live EP on iTunes a day or two after the event. Should be a lot of fun, I hope to see some of you there.

I’m also appearing on the latest Epitaph Records sampler, New Noise Vol. 1. The song is “Poetry Of The Deed”. It’s released on June 15th and costs a mere $2.99. More information can be found on the website.

As for today, I have a live session I recorded for Geoff Lloyd‘s show on Absolute Radio, which is being aired from 5pm tonight – tune in! And before that, I’m heading to the airport to jet off to Israel for some shows. It’s going to be an interesting experience to say the least, but I’m always keen to experience new parts of the world, so I’m looking forward to it. Detailed musings on here later this week.

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Last Minutes and Lost Video Shoots

What a fucking day. After a really fun run of shows in Ireland, I arrived at the airport this morning to board my flight from Dublin to London, whence I was headed for Oxford for a video shoot. Pretty tight turn around, but then most things are for me these days. However, on arrival, I was told that I could not travel without a passport. My passport is currently up on blocks in readiness for heading to Israel tomorrow, but I’d been assured, fucking assured, that I could travel with my credit card on this flight. Apparently not, on arrival. Cue mass panic and much creative swearing, followed by a manic drive to Belfast, buying another ticket and getting ready to fly home much later than planned.

This means that the original idea for the video is out the window, as we don’t have enough time (which means I bought a 1970s geography teacher outfit for nothing – dang!). However, we are still shooting today, and we need as much help as we can get. This is where you (might) come in.

We’ll be in Oxford this afternoon, basically trawling the streets and getting people to sing a couple of lines of the song (“Try This At Home”) to the camera, maybe play some guitar too. If you’re in Oxford (or nearby) and at a loose end, we would love your help. Exact locations have yet to be determined, but as soon as I know, I’ll post it on my twitter feed. The boys in the band will be out in force, as will I, as soon as I get there. Please do spread the word on your own twitter, facebook or whatever. All the help we can get is hugely appreciated. Let’s make this happen!

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Extra Irish Shows

A quick last minute update thing. I’m down in Cork right now, this is the first time I’ve been south of Dublin in Ireland and it’s lovely here, I’m kind of kicking myself for not getting down here sooner. Anyways. Tonight, I’m playing a free show at Pine Lodge, out in Myrtleville, on the coast near Cork. It’s pretty casual, but I guess I’ll play at 9ish..? Then tomorrow night I’ll be back in Dublin, playing a short solo set at the Ruby Sessions, at O’Doyles. Tickets can be found here.

Finally, here’s an interview I did back in March. I’m off to buy myself a tweed jacket with leather elbow patches.

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China Diary Part V

My final morning in China opened with a degree of mild panic. I awoke with my alarm, feeling a little shabby, but managed to get myself down to the lobby to meet Ciga and head for the airport. The 10am call came and went, leaving me tapping my feet and getting a little edgy – I’m not bothered about waiting around, but I had a flight to Beijing to catch, and airplanes have a habit of not waiting around. Eventually the lady arrived in a cab and a tizzy, having overslept; apparently she’d continued adventuring the night before on Archie’s insistence. We drove hell for leather and made it just about on time for me to check in and drop my bags. I then bade Ciga a fond farewell – she was staying in Shanghai, seeing as she lived there – complete with promises to show her around London if she makes the journey over.

An uneventful flight arrived to an eventful airport greeting. One of the first bands I was in at school featured me, Chris and Ben (who went on to become Kneejerk) and a guy called Qiang on bass. Qiang was from China, although he had an Australian passport, because his dad was a diplomat. He was a pretty crazy punk, and dropped out of the band when we started getting interested in hardcore rather than pop-punk (we started sounding “like Metallica” according to him..!). Soon after, he dropped out of school as well and pretty much disappeared. 11 years later, a few days before my arrival in Beijing, Nathaniel (the other S-Plit promoter, Archie’s business partner) emailed to say that he knew Qiang and he was looking forward to seeing me. So on walking out into the arrivals area of the airport, I saw my old friend for the first time in over a decade.

Qiang and I jumped in a cab and headed into town, catching up en route. Apparently he’d spent some time in prison in China for visa violations, and told me a couple of meth-related anecdotes, so clearly it’d been a wild few years for him too – which didn’t really surprise me, to be honest. It was lovely to see my old friend. After stopping at the hotel for a quick shower, we wandered around some very cool pedestrianized small streets, crammed full of boutiques and cafes, and I remembered to do some shopping for friends and family.

After that, we met up with Nathaniel. He’s an American who studied Chinese history at university, and eventually made his way over there, to work and improve his Chinese language skills. He’s now been there for 12 years or so, and apparently speaks and writes perfectly, so he’s the administrative brains behind the S-Plit promotions project. He took me over to the venue, D-22, another classic dive-bar-cum-venue, apparently set up by a veteran promoter from the New York punk scene who’d decided to relocate. Soundcheck was easy, dinner was restorative, and I even managed a nap before showtime.

Another slightly unbelievable crowd showed up – around 300 people, again, some ex-pats but lots of wild and glittering Chinese punks. There’s something in the freshness of their approach to the business of rock ‘n’ roll that makes me think of New York in the 1970s – everything is bold, fresh, new, frontier-territory, and the effortless adolescent styles and gorgeous nihilism of the kids takes your breath away. The first support act had something of a Libertines fixation, which usually annoys me, but there was an innocence and earnestness to their performance that was captivating. The second band seemed to have endless members playing violins, accordions and acoustic guitars. I ended up playing third of four, and had a great show, another enthusiastic response. The night finished up with a Chinese band who seemed to be aiming for Motley Crue, but ended up somewhere a little more punk – thoroughly entertaining.

My final night was spent with old friends and new – Qiang, my old university flatmate Sha (who showed up unannounced and paid me back the £200 she owed me from 7 years ago – madness), and Alexei from Montreal band Handsome Furs, who blew my mind by promising to take me out to dinner with the guys from Godspeed You Black Emperor in August when I’m in her hometown. We drank Jameson sat in seats outside a bar in the warm night air and talked nonsense, ignoring the fact that I had an early flight home the next day. A fine evening, one to imprint on the memory.

So that was China. It was one hell of an experience, all told. Many parts of it were very foreign to me, it’s certainly the least Western place that I’ve ever toured. The shows in Shanghai and Beijing were the best for me, but the experience of being in Guangzhou was probably the more culturally adventurous. The business of being in an authoritarian state was interesting for me too, not least because of my own political leanings; the monstrosity of the system was less obvious than part of me feared it might be, but there was an insidious undercurrent of caution and intellectual repression, usually self-inflicted. Thankfully the personalities and brave character of the folks I met generally outshone those shadows. I’m certainly keen to get back there sometime soon.

In more work-a-day news, the American side of the Try This At Home competition is finally up and running properly – you can find the submissions page here, if you submitted before please do try again. Sorry for the inconvenience.

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China Diary Part IV

Wuxi is a medium-sized city about an hour’s train ride away from Shanghai. Investigations on wikipedia turned up the fact that the name means “no tin”. Apparently this is because there was briefly a tin mine there hundreds of years ago, which got everyone very excited and led to some kind of localized tin rush, and the town being called “Tintown” (in Chinese); however, the seam turned out to be meagre and after a few years the tin ran out – hence the name. I spent the morning wander around town looking hard for any evidence of natural tin deposits, in the hope that I could screw with the town naming council all over again. I rule.

The city is built around the shores of a large lake, so in the morning Ciga and I headed off in a cab to the eco-park on the shores and went for a picturesque wander, through tree-lined promenades and over old wooden bridges out to charming little wooden houses out in the shallows of the lake. One of these was a restaurant where we got some food, which turned out to be over-priced and pretty grim, which was a slight damper, but not enough to subsume the refreshment of wandering in the open air. After a slightly precarious journey back to the hotel – it turns out cabs are a lot easier to get in town than out at the park – he got our bags and boarded another chaotic train towards Shanghai.

Ciga was overjoyed to be back in her hometown again, and celebrated by changing into yet more exciting shoes. After a brief sojourn at the hotel, we headed to the venue, Yuyintang, which was just around the corner. Much like Wuhan, this was more familiar territory for me, a dive bar / live venue in the great rock ‘n’ roll tradition. Apparently it’s the oldest venue in Shanghai for underground music, although it has shifted its exact location a couple of times in its history. Soundcheck was easy, and afterwards we headed out into the town to meet up with Archie and his wife Claire.

Shanghai Skyline

Shanghai Skyline

Archie is an Edinburgh man who lives in Shanghai and is one half of S-Plit, the promotions company that had brought me to China. We picked him up from the side of the road and headed off into the centre of town. He’s a charming character with a healthy dose of British eccentricity who cut his teeth promoting events in the Alps, before deciding he wanted to be involved in music somewhere yet more challenging. He took us to The Bund, a dockside area where the Europeans settled heavily in the 19th Century, loading tea onto clippers and unloading opium. An impressive array of Western architectural styles clamour by the side of the river, most of the buildings now being over-priced bars and restaurants. The opposite bank of the river used to be a squat shanty town in the marsh until about 15 years ago, when the Communist authorities decided on something a little more ambitious. After pumping millions of tonnes of concrete into the marsh, they’ve raised a massive technicolour nest of skyscrapers. Sitting on the roof of an old British building, we had an arresting view of the new capitalist world, framed by a fluttering red flag. It was an intriguing contrast to contemplate over some Chinese beer. Afterwards we went back towads the venue, and got some food in a fantastic Italian restaurant – I felt a little shabby, being in China, but I needed a change after so much Chinese food and the morning’s disappointment. And I am absolutely obsessed with Italian food. Sated, we headed back to the show.

The crowd in Shanghai

The crowd in Shanghai

The gig itself was awesome – More than 300 people showed up, and I’m pleased to say that, while there was a healthy dose of Western ex-pats at the show, the clear majority were Chinese; playing to the locals is, it seems to me, much more the point of the exercise. I played for quite a while, extending the end of my set to pass midnight and thus make it one punter’s birthday celebration, and felt like the whole thing was a resounding success. I failed to make the aftershow due to getting involved in a political debate (and a bottle of whiskey) with some English guys. Nevertheless, I slept contended.

There’s one more installment of this diary to come (Beijing), which I’ll do in the next few days. For now, it’s my pleasure to confirm that I will be appearing at both the North West Music Fest in Portland, Oregon, in September, and at Austin City Limits in October. There will be more US dates in between. Watch this space. Also, A bunch of new stuff has been added to my online store: Poetry of the Deed vinyl (at last!), Love Ire & Song vinyl, new t-shirts and more. Check out the new items below and click over to the Frank Turner store to get yours.

Poetry of the Deed Vinyl Pre-Order

– First pressing limited to 1,000, with only 300 on white vinyl
– Also available in Red, limited to 700

Love Ire & Song Vinyl Pre-Order

– Second pressing, limited to 1,000 on black vinyl

There’s lots more available, so click over to the Store to check it out!

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China Diary Part III

The evening of my second day off in Guangzhou was like a whirlwind trip through the different sides of China. We took a cab over to the old town to see some 19th Century (and before) architecture. Ciga and I wandered aimless and happy through a warren of little streets, old wooden bars instead of doors on the buildings, tiled rooves and rickety staircases, hectic street food markets and so on. One of the cultural differences that hit me hardest about China was the different attitude to personal space. The Chinese just shoulder on through in crowded situations in a way that, to my timid Western self, seemed pretty brutal at first. But you get used to it after a while, and actually charging through crowded thoroughfares kind of appeals to the secret part of you that wishes you could do that on Oxford Street on a Saturday afternoon. Anyways, after the old town, we wandered off to get some food and ended up in an ultra-modern shopping area, cowering under massive tower-blocks clothed with gaudy neon advertising, KFCs and cool young kids thronging chaotically, everyone with English slogans on their T-shirts but no one speaking the language, everyone vibrant and on the make. It felt pretty exhilarating to walk from one area to the other. We got some great Chinese food, and then headed back to the hotel. Later in the evening we stopped by to catch a set by a Canadian singer / pianist called Tyler (alas, his surname escapes my memory) who’d been at my show a few days before, and who whipped out a brief medley of my songs on the fly for my benefit, which was impressive and flattering in equal measure.

Another solid night’s sleep in the bag, we headed for the airport feeling mighty refreshed for a flight to Wuhan. Wuhan is one of the largest cities in China, an industrial powerhouse slap bang in the middle of the country. It reminded me of Manchester in many ways. Our stay was pretty whistlestop, but great fun. The venue, Vox, was much more of a normal rock venue than either of the other places I’d played so far, and the promoter, Dostav, was quite a character – he’s from Kathmandu originally but moved to Wuhan to get involved in rock ‘n’ roll. He seems to be doing a great job there. After the single best Chinese meal I’ve ever eaten, the show was busy, with a great crowd of mostly young cool Chinese kids, hungry for live music. After a great show and two days’ rest, I was in a really good mood after the show, and tested Dostav’s propensity for drinking as far as I could, with Ciga and some Italians who were at the show. I think I agreed to go play some shows in Nepal at some point in the evening.. Watch this space…

The next morning we got up late. Ciga and I decided we were allowed to have Western food for lunch, but actually ended up getting Chinese again, savouring the memory of the night before. We lunched in a restaurant with fantastically insane English translations on the menu – my favourite being “Slippery Chicken Of Cloud Mushroom Ear” (your guess is as good as mine). Thence we headed to the train station to get a 5-hour bullet train to Wuxi. Boarding the train was another exercise in a peculiarly Chinese kind of mayhem, everyone shoving everyone else, but somehow everyone gets to where they need to be. The train was really great, comfortable and fast, and we swept through some awesome scenery. Like Europe, but unlike the USA, the human imprint on the landscape in China is deeply ingrained – even in the depths of the countryside, you can see crumbling ruins, ancient cuts in the hillside, that are so old it’s almost like they are natural geographical features rather than man’s doings. You really get a sense of how old this civilization is, which in turn only adds to your respect for it.

Due to the vagaries of tour scheduling, we arrived in Wuxi at 9.15pm and basically ran to the venue, where I pretty much walked in, set up and played straight away. Wuxi is not a particularly Westernized city, despite being pretty near Shanghai, so the crowd was all Chinese, and on the quiet side. The show was in a Jazz Bar run by an enthusiastic local guy called Eric. I had fun playing, running through a bunch of new material and some more obscure older songs, as well as some covers. At shows like this, I feel more like, say, a pianist in the corner of a restaurant than someone that the audience has specifically come to see. That was the case with the Shenzen show as well. It’s not necessarily a bad thing at all, it just takes a slightly different mental approach to do it well and enjoy it. On this occasion, I had a great time, despite my stay in the building being so brief. We got an early night, on the grounds that the following day we’d be in Ciga’s hometown, Shanghai. I was advised to save my energy, and being a good little musician, I obeyed my tour manager.

I’ll finish up this diary in the next few days, but I’m going to save Shanghai and Beijing for another entry. I write from Winchester – I just got home, having completed one full lap of the world. I’m tired but happy. I can’t complain right now, it’s such a fantastic privilege to travel around these amazing places and do the thing I love. I’m pleased as punch to be back in England again, I do miss this place when I’m away. And tonight I shall sleep in my own bed. Bliss!

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Some Sleep Till Wembley

…But not masses. I’ll keep up the China diary some more tomorrow (I’m dog-tired right now), but in the meantime I have a bunch of extra shows for the summer to tell you all about. I’ll list them out nicely below, and you can look at the whole lot by pointing yourself at the “Upcoming Gigs” tab above, but for the meantime…

The Freddie Mercury tribute concert in 1992 was a major musical milestone in my life. My older sister made me watch it with her, and we taped the whole thing over a number of VHS cassettes (swapping them over as fast as possible so as not to miss anything). I was 10 years old, I’d just started finding out about music, but seeing Metallica, Guns n Roses, Spinal Tap (!) and a host of others playing Queen tunes was a major eye-opener for me. We watched those tapes till they broke. So for that reason and a million others, I’m pretty blown away to say I’ll be opening for Green Day at Wembley Stadium (and Manchester Cricket Ground) in June. The world has gone mad.

New shows!

  • 16th June 2010 @ Manchester Cricket Ground, with Green Day (tickets)
  • 19th June 2010 @ Wembley Stadium, London, with Green Day (tickets)
  • 9th July 2010 @ Ruisrock Festival, Finland. I’m excited to be heading back out to Scandinavia with the band again, hope to see old friends and new there.
  • 14th July 2010 @ Komedia, Bath (tickets). This is a warm up for a weekend of festivals, but I haven’t played Bath for a while so it’s good to be going back, whatever the reason.
  • 31st July 2010 @ Lowertown Festival, St Paul, MN, USA.
  • 5th August 2010 @ The Stone Pony, Asbury, NJ, USA, opening for my old pals, The Gaslight Anthem (tickets).

Not bad for a day’s work. To sleep.

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Try This At Home

I’m pleased to announce two big, juicy bits of news today. First of all, we’re launching a competition to find two new bands / singers (one UK, one ex-UK) to provide the B-Sides for a firthcoming 7″ of Try This At Home, in keeping with the song’s ethos. Everyone is welcome to get involved, and there’s all the information you could ever need right here. Spread the word!

I’m also stoked to say that I have a run of US shows to announce. They look like this:

  • 1st August 2010 @ Osheaga Festival, Montreal, Canada (solo show)
  • 2nd August 2010 @ The Webster Underground, Hartford, CT, USA (solo, with William Elliott Whitmore)
  • 3rd August 2010 @ Lost Horizon, Syracuse, NY, USA (solo, with William Elliott Whitmore)
  • 4th August 2010 @ Brooklyn Bowl, Brooklyn, NY, USA (full band, with William Elliott Whitmore)
  • 6th August 2010 @ Mohawk Place, Buffalo, NY, USA (full band, with William Elliott Whitmore)
  • 7th August 2010 @ Magic Stick, Detroit, MI, USA (full band, with William Elliott Whitmore)
  • 8th August 2010 @ Lollapalooza Festival, Chicago, IL, USA (full band show)

Ticket links and all that jazz will be posted up here, on the gigs page and on my myspace as soon as I have them. See you all there!

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China Diary Part II

After meeting up with Ciga, we headed into Shenzen. It’s a startlingly new city – it was a fishing village 40 years ago, but for reasons I never quite got to the bottom of, Deng Xiaoping chose it as the first of his Special Economic Zones sometime in the 1980s, and since then it’s blossomed into a massive, pulsing city, a centre for international trade, a buzzing metropolis. We checked into our hotel and relaxed in the air-conditioning for a while – it’s even hotter in Shenzen than it was in Hong Kong, and I was doing a whole lot of sweating. Ciga is great – she speaks great English, wears awesome shoes and doesn’t trust her government. A woman after my own heart then.

The show in Shenzen was in a restaurant-cum-bar called i Du Tang, which was located in a weird little pedestrianized area of the city that was, apparently, the arts district. We headed over for a brief soundcheck (not all that successful, more on that in a moment) before grabbing some food. Ciga promised me we’d eat a whole lot of real Chinese food while I’m here – indeed, it’s hard to eat much else, and mentions were made of chicken’s feet, turkey neck and turtle. These have yet to materialize on my plate, and I have to say I have mixed feelings about the idea. We shall see. Sated, and newly familiar with Tsing Tao (Chinese beer, very nice), we went back to the venue for the show.

I have to say I had no idea what to expect from shows in China, so I was a little nervous to take the stage. There was a decent seated crowd in the room, many eating food, probably 100 people or more. There was a heavy smattering of ex-pats, but it was mostly a Chinese crowd. I played for around an hour, but I have to say it wasn’t one of my best shows. The sound was pretty mangled, both on stage and off, which certainly didn’t help; I was also feeling knackered from the last few days of travelling. But I think I also wasn’t sure how to approach the show. The crowd were very reserved in their own way, and the honest truth is that it’s been a while since I’ve played to a room with no one who knew the words. I guess I’ve been getting soft in my old age, and on first encountering a virgin crowd again, I basically floundered a little. Thinking back on it afterwards, I used to play shows like this reasonably often, 4 years ago, and it taught me skills that I suppose I have let gather dust. We hung around for a drink after the show and chatted to some cool American guys who were teaching English in China, but I was happy to get to the hotel and hit the sack hard.

The next morning we got up for a Chinese breakfast (much like all other Chinese meals, as far as I can tell) before getting the bullet train to Guangzhou. The train was very fast, efficient, and clean. We rolled through endless suburbs, never really breaking into open country, before arriving at our destination, a city known to the west as Canton. Our hotel for the show was immediately above the venue (always nice), which was an Irish bar called “Hooleys”, run by a Canadian, in China. Do keep up. The venue was nice and homely, the owner (Sean) was a great guy, and the show shaped up nicely. Hong Kong singer Kris Lao opened the show, and then I played a set for 50 or so people – more expats, proportionally, this time round. The show was much better from my point of view – as well as being better rested and in a more familiar environment, I’d done a lot of thinking about how to approach the show, mentally, and felt like I got the balance right.

After the show, we have two days off here in Guangzhou. It’s been an age since I spent 2 days in one place without travelling, and it always makes me feel a little bit surreal. Yesterday we did some pottering around Shamien Island, an enclave in the Pearl River which, for many years, was the only place Westerners were allowed to settle in China, meaning that the architecture is delightful. I’m kind of battling a cold at the moment, so we didn’t do too much with our day. I did manage to have an engaging conversation with Ciga about politics and China today. Interestingly, she said it was definitely a communist country, but couldn’t define that, and hadn’t heard of Marx or Marxism. Similarly, she knew about the Cultural Revolution and condemned it and Mao in strong terms, but knew of nothing happening in Tiananmen in 1989. I think it’s important to try and approach these situations and conversations without the arrogant assumption of cultural or factual superiority, so I was trying hard not to offend, but it was intriguing to see how Ciga saw her country. She also, incidentally, says she does not trust her government one bit. More as I find out about it.

Today I have been record shopping and am about to go hit the old town to see some pre-20th century Chinese streets and markets. Later on, I have a bunch of big announcements to make about US tour dates, competitions, 7″s and so on. But that can wait. Ni Hao, one and all.

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China Diary Part I

I have successfully arrived in Shenzen, China. As this is about the furthest afield I have come on my travels thusfar, both geographically and societally (along with, probably, Moscow), I’ve resolved to keep a proper tour diary here on this blog. I’m also unable to access Facebook and Twitter while I’m here, so if you’re looking for pithy updates on my progress, here’s your best bet. Anyways, to business.

I flew from Wellington, New Zealand, to Hong Kong on Thursday. It was another gruelling late-night travel turn-around – the show had finished at midnight, and my taxi for the airport arrived at 3am. While I always bear in mind how fortunate I am to do what I do and travel around the place, there’s no disguising the fact that those kind of schedules are no fun. 4 hours to Sydney, 3 hours hanging around (including being rockognized in a bookshop at the airport, which I couldn’t get my head around because I was so tired), then 8 hours to Hong Kong. Safe to say, I was feeling pretty knackered on my arrival.

Justin met me at the airport. He’s a HK national, but he spent time in the UK and is friends with Nigel, Ben and Tarrant, so he came well-recommended. He’s also leading a drive to bring more live music and touring acts to his city, and doing a great job of it too. We took the train from the airport, which is weirdly located on reclaimed land out in the bay, to the island itself. Hong Kong is, on the basis of 2 days’ experience, an awesome city. The colonial experience hangs heavy, alongside the dazzling steel, glass and concrete blooms of capitalism. The place has a great feel to it, it’s vibrant, electric even. HK Chinese locals are fiercely proud of their city, especially since 1997. There are many ex-pats, but they too have a lot of love for the place, and every one of them has a story to tell. I felt like I could spend a lot more time there.

The first evening, Justin and I headed out for some drinks. We ended up at a private party being thrown by hip-hop mogul Damon Dash – he’s currently mentoring singer-songwriter Mckenzie Eddy, who was booked to support at the show. The party was fun (helped immeasurably by the free booze), if a little industry heavy (no, I don’t have a card; why would I have a card? Jeez). By the end of the night the traveling, the lack of sleep and the booze conspired against me, and I ended up ordering room service in my pants and scaring the waitress. I think I wasn’t sufficiently “street” for Damon’s interest either. Oh well.

Show day began with a hangover. I went for a quick wander through Soho, a cool bohemian-ish area near my hotel, before heading over and checking out a new recording studio on the other side of the island, whose owner I’d met the night before. It was a pleasant surprise to find out that 70% of the area of the island is forrested hills. The stereotypical image of Hong Kong is urban over-crowding, and there is that, but the Chinese hills and the sweeping bays were refreshingly beautiful, and made me feel a whole lot better.

The show for the evening was in a bar called Rock School, which was in the red light district of the city (as many venues are… hm). The owner, Gregory, was an enthusiastic San Franciscan ex-pat on a mission to spread HK live music, and was very excited about the show, to the extent that he bought me a bottle of Jameson especially. Urgh… Soundcheck was fine, everything set up, I got some food and then waited for the show to start. I’m always nervous, playing a headline show the first time I come to a country (or, as in this case, continent). By rights, I don’t expect anyone to know about me or what I do. And like a nervous birthday party host convinced that his friends have deserted him, it’s easy to get a little edgy around the time of doors. In the end, we had an amazing crowd of about 250 people. There were lots of English ex-pats, as ever, but also fans from Singapore, American GIs and crazy punks from Taiwan, and lots of HK Chinese people as well. I was blown away by the turnout, and the show was a whole load of fun. The evening ended in hazy awesomeness.

This morning I got up, had lunch with Justin, and then boarded a suburban train towards the mainland and the Chinese border. Even though my visa was in order and I was well-rehearsed for the crossing, encounters with officialdom always make me feel a little nervous – I start thinking of all the possible things I might have done, or be doing, wrong. Insert nugget of wisdom about the corrosive nature of state power here. Anyways, after trundling through the suburbs as the only white person on the train, I made it to the border crossing sweating hard (although that’s also partly due to the intense humidity here, honest). In the end everything was seamless, and the bored young border guard waved me through (incidentally, I’m increasingly finding myself to be older than “authority” figures I encounter, which is always a little off-putting). On the other side I met Ciga, who is to be my tour manager for the next week or so, and she seems very nice and well-organized.

And there you have it. More to come soon. Incidentally, yup, an election in the UK. All three of the bastards lost, which was briefly heartening (though I didn’t see nearly enough Labour blood on the carpet for my liking). But in the end, who cares? Still no one is discussing the fucking behemoth in the room – national debt and impending economic collapse. Since you started reading this, around £2 million got added to our debt. Fucking hell. It’s nice to be far away from it all, sometimes.

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