Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Goodbye Pork Pie Hat

Up and down. Down and up.

Down the road to Brighton, up the stairs with a load of equipment. Had a good time playing - the audience was subdued, respectful almost. Which made us worry a little...in the UK they tend to get rowdy, loud. "You're doing fine!" someone shouted.

I'd worn a new old dress I'd picked up at a vintage shop in Norwich. Pleased to have something different to wear, something that hadn't been knocking around my suitcase for the last four months, something I hadn't seen myself in on YouTube, Facebook and mirrors in toilets before shows without dressing rooms. Ladies in the audience had given me some lovely compliments - it's usually the girls, not the guys, who comment on what you're wearing.

So we'd finished playing and packing up and I changed into whatever clothes I'd worn in the van all week. Sitting alone in the room with the last of our stuff and a guy stumbled in.

"You look A LOT better now than in what you were wearing before. That dress looks TERRIBLE. You shouldn't wear it ever again."

Like being slapped in the face. The ravings of a madman or the sage advice of a fashion expert? I mumbled something ineffective, like "other people thought it looked, umm, okay". What did it matter what this guy thought? He had what looked like a perm growing out. He was drunk. But like the lone bad review that sears itself into your brain, every critical word crisply echoing in your head for the rest of time while the positive press composts in a wet pile, his was the voice of authority, the one that says "You thought you were something, didn't you? Well you're WRONG."

Then he said he was looking for his hat.

I perked up. "A pork pie hat?" He nodded, excitedly. "I saw some guy leave with it a little while ago." His face fell and he lumbered out of the room, leaving me wondering.

Wondering why I'd tried to defend myself instead of just telling him to piss off.

Wondering why I hadn't told him that a man with a perm is in no position to offer fashion advice.

And smiling at the memory of the table of drunk people who'd picked his hat up off the floor and passed it around. "Hey, look at me! I'm a dork in a pork pie hat!" Low on the forehead, tilted back - they'd put that hat through its paces. "Take my picture, take my picture!" one of them had shouted. He'd leaned against the wall, glowering, the hat at a ridiculous jaunty angle. "Photo of a man in a stolen hat," he'd deadpanned, before they'd all fallen about laughing.

Did I wear the dress again?

Of course I did.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Most Wanted

Drove the opposite way through France from last week, took a nice stroll and had dinner in Dreux near where Eric used to live, then camped at Baie de Somme, a services we know well as it's the first one from after Calais. Just as we parked and were going to sleep, some crazy wind and rain moved in and the van was shaken and rattled around like a tin can back when there were tin cans. That made sleeping difficult but catching the ferry easy because I couldn't wait to get out of there in the morning.

Spent the first part of our drive north to Scotland going through the papers and realizing that the Pope's visit was eerily following our tour routing: Glasgow, Edinburgh and Birmingham (though he stuck a London date in between there, ours isn't until this Friday Sept. 24 at The Lexington).

We were supposed to check into a Premier Inn near Newcastle and do a phone interview and have a rest but the van broke down. We sat on the side of the A1 waiting for help for almost two hours. The phone ran out of credit while we were trying to give our coordinates to the assistance people but we were able to text our friend Lindsay in Scotland to buy us a top-up. While all this was going on the Scottish interviewer called.

"Cannae you talk now?" Another truck screams past. How many times have Eric and I, separately or together, been here? You know somehow the situation will resolve but it's not fun. Never were able to do that interview but it made for a sweet article.

Arrived in papal-free Edinburgh (he'd already moved on) and played at Citrus Club. Somebody told us they'd seen the pope going by on a street where there was no one, Benedict desperately looking around trying to catch somebody's, anybody's eye. The show was fun and like the last venue we played in Edinburgh was immediately adjacent to a Chinese restaurant. Knew we were really moving up in the world because it was possible to play without blasts of hot greasy air like last time.

Next night was Glasgow. I realized I'm truly a musician now, when my first words to the soundwoman after hello were "That load-in is a bastard." Yes! I have finally become a complaining git.

It's a nice club though, Stereo, and even though we played for almost two hours it felt like it was all over too fast. Then there was a club night coming in so we had to do the loading out super fast, with some help from our Scottish friends. Got back to Lindsay's realizing we hadn't eaten since midday - that is the reality of playing in some of the best cities in the world: you're so busy working you don't have time to enjoy the place, cause once you're packed up and out of the club where do you put the vehicle with all your equipment so you can sit down in a restaurant in the middle of a bustling city centre? Especially if you've recently had a car stolen - taking no chances we had classic cheese on toast back at Lindsay's and sat around catching up.

Wish we could've hung around in Scotland - in between Glasgow or Edinburgh, two of my favorite cities. Instead we had to head on down to Hyde. The promoter called and said the pub had been broken into the night before. He jokingly said maybe that would bring more people out, so they could get a look at the crime scene. We should have known right there it was going to be a tough night. From the barbed wire and old tires around the junkyard entrance next door, to the dogshit scattered across the astro-turfed pub "garden", to the load-in up a wet metal fire escape because the police were busy dusting the inside stairs for fingerprints, to the leftover scraps of astroturf covering the surface of the stage, to the panicky soundman, to the greasy yet sticky surface of everything in the place - it was hard not to feel depressed. You know you're in trouble when you look to the resident heckler for affirmation.

But next night was wonderful, Kitchen Garden Cafe in Birmingham - like being in a weird aunt's living room. Odd garden furniture, slate on the floor and a relaxed feeling. We'd played there once before and saw familiar faces this time. It felt like everyone was on our side. The only thing that had changed was that the copy of Tim Rice's autobiography, a massive tome I'd used as a keyboard bench booster seat last time, was missing from the bookshelf. I had to make do with a hardback copy of Beach Music.

Now we're in the Norfolk countryside, taking a rest until Brighton, London and Manchester - tomorrow, Friday and Saturday (and Winchester on Tuesday). I often feel like Bonnie and Clyde where they hole up at CW Moss's dad's place when we stop for a few days out on the road. A couple of steps ahead of the law, somewhere on the sliding scale between doomed and most wanted.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Two Steps Forward, Etc.

We had a nice visit with Marc Riley at BBC 6 Music on Wednesday. Then it was back in the van to drive down to catch the ferry. We camped at the port which allowed us the rare experience of being among the first in line when they start letting people check in.

We'd been scheduled to travel from Dover to Boulogne, but in the time we'd been in England that ferry had gone out of business. So now it was Newhaven to Dieppe. Dieppe's a pretty-looking town and the place was busy with shoppers. Seeing all the store windows full, displays of seafood and meat and pastries, delicious-looking cheese and flavored yogurts - Normandy has the food culture I wished and expected would be part of everyday life in France. It's a big country, and down in the Limousin we're sort of in Kansas.

It took another eight hours of Eric driving and me trying to think up scintillating conversational topics ("...and what was the second Dr. Feelgood album?" "How did Nick Lowe get his hair to look like that?" It doesn't take much to get full-length rockumentary going from Eric, just a few leading questions) to get home. Kind of crazy, considering we're leaving again tomorrow to do the same journey again, only all the way up to Scotland. But we had to come back, to:

- see the golden light at sunset in the Loire Valley

- check if Ratface, the evil checkout girl, had truly been fired from the local supermarker, as rumored. She was at the cash register yesterday, looking extra smug, like "I bet you thought you could get rid of me. Well you CAN'T."

- find a copy of the new Gil Rose et les Hydropathes album in the mail. Eric produced this very cool French group's new record. I got to sing on it.

- Pick up the next season of Cold Feet from the shelf, we are addicted.

- Get some warmer clothes. Still don't know what to wear on stage this fall. My summer dress is now a shapeless rag.

- Make sure the "rentrée" went off without a hitch. The predictability of French life can be quite comforting. The Festival of Wood will always be the 2nd Sunday of July. The Old Car Fair will always be the 2nd Sunday of September. The Celebration of Chestnuts - well, you get the idea.

- Get given hundreds of peaches and tomatoes by our neighbors. Then try to find people who aren't already laden with end-of-summer fruit to pass them on to.

- Be greeted with double kisses by the bank manager. This was before she saw the sorry state of our accounts.

- Have Sunday lunch with friends. Tomatoes, courgettes and parsley fresh from their garden, andouillette on the grill, tarte aux poires chocolat, Salers, red wine, champagne. Then tried to grout the bathroom tile.

- Pick up kitchen cabinet doors from Castorama, before they sent them back for fear of incurring "charges". Life in France is lived in avoidance of "charges".

- Find out the car had been stolen.

That last one, it wasn't planned. The car had been at the garage in a tiny village, where the very nice garagiste had made the necessary repairs for the old warhorse to pass its control. He thought we'd picked it up last week. We hadn't.

So it's back to work. We've still got the ambulance. Two steps forward, etc.

Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby
Two-Way Family Favourites in the UK

Thu 16 Sept Citrus Club Edinburgh
Fri 17 Sept Stereo Glasgow
Sat 18 Sept The Verge Cheshire
Sun 19 Sept Kitchen Garden Birmingham
Thu 23 Sept Prince Albert Brighton
Fri 24 Sept The Lexington London N1
Sat 25 Sept The Met Bury
Tue 28 Sept The Railway Winchester

Come see us and pick up a copy of the new album. MOJO gives it 4 stars!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Cheap Day Return

I went to Brighton the other day for no particular reason. I went to go somewhere, because the train ticket to London was too expensive. When we were up there last week I'd seen a poster in the tube station for an Alice Neel exhibit and thought how great it would be to see that. But between visiting the baby and camping at the beach and worrying about this and that I hadn't gotten it together to get the cheap fare.

But going to Brighton was perfect. The train ride was almost not long enough. I love taking the train in England - total immersion in the culture onboard (Tony Blair everywhere - his autobiography dissected in all the papers, his photo repeated so often that the other passengers started to look like him) and out the window a chance to see into people's back gardens. The train went through Newhaven, where Eric was born, near the ferry docks. It touched me to see it this way, that slightly melancholy feel looking at a place through a train window gives - that and the deserted Parker pen building where his father had worked.

Arriving at the train station in Brighton I will always feel 21 - the age I was the first time I went there. It will always feel exotic in the way certain shabby, slightly tawdry but mundane English things do...a fascination born the first time I saw a Rita Tushingham movie, or stared at a picture of a cigarette squashed out on a plate of eggs and chips in the booklet that came in my older brother's copy of Quadrophenia.

It's good to feel 21 again in Brighton because I think there may be a ban on being any older than that in the place. Everybody's young, in packs, the girls in shorts, big sunglasses, the boys in haircuts. It was so much easier than being in London - the pressure was off. I wasn't looking for culture or enlightenment, just eyeliner. It was fine to spend forty minutes in what must be Britain's largest Boots, a space age wonderland of cheap cosmetics. It was the sheer pleasure of anticipation going up the escalator to TK Maxx, only to ride down an hour later - not completely empty-handed but shaking my head that I'd missed that something special surely lurking underneath the shoes Made In China, size 32EEE bras and sad tattersall-check fedoras.

Around the corner I ate a delicious sandwich - at 4 PM. Thinking of France, where eating lunch out at whatever time you're hungry for it is generally impossible, I defiantly shook my bagel in the direction of the Channel - that's right, it's after 3 PM, I'm eating lunch. And there's other people here, doing the same thing. Deal with it.

I wandered around, drank a perfect espresso at a place I know from when we play just up the street at Prince Albert (next gig there is Thu Sept 23). There was an American couple, coffee afficionados in the way only Americans can be afficionados of things, talking to the barista about how of course they always warm the cup first, sipping suspiciously, like they wouldn't really be happy unless they found something a little bit wrong. Which they couldn't.

I was happy, sitting in a park, watching a young girl, a guy and a rolling suitcase act out a farewell scene. Tried to figure out who was doing the leaving - my money was on the suitcase. Drank a glass of Spanish rose at a picnic table on a sidewalk and started the first chapter of a charity shop book I knew immediately was a winner. The sun was going down, the streets were emptier. Looked down the hill, over the tops of the old buildings, towards the water. Sipped the wine. Was happy not to be 21 anymore, though the girl, like the charming old Brighton I remembered, was still in there somewhere.