Oppenheimer in the USA - ATL Tour Diary pt II
One of our fave NI bands recently are still on a mammoth 50 date tour of the US with They Might Be Giants. Here, they continue their exclusive online tour diary. Dont forget, the lads play Belfast twice in one day on December 15th at the Spring and Airbrake.
November 13th 2007
Highlights from the road:
1. The Distances.
We've just driven off from a motel in Joliet, Illinois towards Grand Rapids, Michigan. We're playing at The Intersection tonight with the Giants. It's only a short three-hour drive plus we lose an hour because we're changing time zones. Time loss/gain.
As of this morning we've driven 15366 miles since September 12th. Looking at a world map that's roughly driving from Belfast to the other side of Russia. The longest drives were on the first part of the tour. Through the middle of the states, up to Canada and then all the way down to Tucson, Arizona. The killer drive was from Los Angeles to New York. 2911 miles in one go. This is how it went.
On Tuesday 9th October we left Gerry (our soundman) to Los Angeles International airport. As we were now on the break between the first and second legs of the tour he was going home to see his family and I'm sure catch up on all the Talkback episodes that he's missed. As Gerry departs our friend, Nelson, arrives. He's going to share the driving from LA to NYC. We leave the airport at 1.00pm. The journey starts on Interstate 15. The first big town we come across is Barstow. It's on the edge of the desert and it's where the drugs began to take hold at the start of ï¿½Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas'. We gun the van towards Las Vegas and the outside temperature is soaring. Vegas is a strange place to drive into. Nothing for miles and them you come round a high sweeping bend and there it is. A glittering, neon sprawl. It takes about 15 minutes to drive right through. Past casino after casino. I'm daydreaming that Hornby is in one of them winning hand after hand of no limit Texas hold'em. Interstate 15 then leaves Nevada and enters Utah. Except for occasional truck stops and the small towns beside them there's no sign of civilisation in this part of the world. The drive takes us out of the desert and into canyons. At the end of the first day of driving, Utah is where we stop for the night.
Wednesday 10th October. We hit the road at 9.00am and join up with Interstate 70. I-70 is stunning to drive along. We pass huge monoliths of windswept sandstone and travel through canyons. We leave Utah and enter Colorado. This is where the Rocky Mountains appear on the horizon and sooner than later we're right in them, snaking the van on continually curving highway. On a straight stretch of road we see one of the most surreal things ever. A large airplane has had to make an emergency landing on the other side of the highway. It's right there in the middle of this huge nature. We head on, past Denver and leave Colorado for Nebraska where Interstate 70 joins Interstate 80. This is the road that will take us all the way to NYC. At the end of the second day we stop somewhere in Nebraska.
Thursday 11th October. An early start and the beginning of what seems like an endless drive across Nebraska, across Iowa, across Illinois, across Indiana and into Ohio. Subway, Wendy's and Starbucks are feeding us. I feel like an old man at this stage as my back is really starting to hurt from the constant sitting and driving. We drive for 15 hours today and the scenery has changed from grassland as far as the eye can see to the built-up outskirts of Chicago to the flatlands and cornfields of Indiana. Ohio is where we stop at the end of the third day.
Friday 12th October. NYC feels so close but yet so far away. We hit the road at 8.30am and leave Ohio and enter Pennsylvania. The drive today is through the top end of the Appalachian Mountain range. Rolling hills covered with trees as far as you can see. I-80 rolls on ahead of us and takes us through New Jersey and then across the Hudson River into Manhattan. It's 6.00pm. We've completed 2911 miles and crossed 3 time zones in about three and a half days. It's roughly like driving from Belfast to Beirut. I feel that this is one drive, while being unforgettable, I never want to do again.
2. Atlanta, Georgia.
It's Friday the 2nd of November. We played Athens, Georgia the night before. REM were not on the streets. The venue is The Variety Playhouse and it's in a lively part of town. On the way to Atlanta we keep passing all these signs for ï¿½boiled' peanuts. What the hell is a boiled peanut? We go to a bar before the show and it's there that I get to experience my first boiled peanut. The bartender informs me that they're regular peanuts (still in their shells) that have been boiled in salty water for about 16 hours. I'm thinking that this sounds interesting if not a little gross. When they arrive I dig in and they're really soft to point of having a mashed potato texture and pretty close to a mash taste. Not so gross after all. Back at the venue, the place is packed out. The audience are fantastic and we get on of the best responses we've had all tour. Truly a night to remember.
3. Memphis, Tennessee.
It's Sunday the 4th of November. The drive to Memphis from Nashville takes two hours longer than expected and we roll up to the venue just as doors are about to open. The load-in is through the front doors so we're excusing ourselves as we hump all the gear through the lines of people outside. Tonight's venue is called 'Newby's'. It's the smallest venue that we've been to on the Giants tour and we're not too sure how we're going to go down. Technical difficulties are winding Rocky up no end and we finish getting everything sorted about five minutes before we go on. It's an audience that really makes a gig and tonight is no exception. As soon as we introduce ourselves they're a' whooping and a' hollering as they might say in Tennessee. Great heckles like 'Y'all are doin' just great!' said in a fantastic southern drawl put us at ease and we're once again humbled to play in front of a fantastic crowd.
4. Time flies when you're...
This tour that started on the 12th of September is the longest tour that I've ever done in any of the bands that I've ever been in. The distances have seemed impossibly long at times but the whole thing has been flying by. Half my time has been spent driving. Touring also gives you the chance to listen to tons of music and read a lot. Yet again, Brian Eno, We Are Knives, Tom Waits, Battles, El Ten Eleven, Le Rug, and Tom McShane to mention but a few have accompanied me on this long journey. I've had so much time to listen to the mastered version of our new album too. I'm wondering what people will make of it. I've got the chance to read 'The God Delusion' by Richard Dawkins and 'Dance, Dance, Dance' by Haruki Murakami. I'm in the middle of reading 'Kafka on the Shore' by Murakami at the moment. His stuff is magical and really messes with your mind. Also, time flies when you're airhorning.