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Steven Wilson Tour Blog 2013

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Tour Blog Part 29 : The Fillmore, San Francisco

So we left the strange world of the Nevada desert hotel/casino with the endless corridors in which it was very hard to find lifts and when you did, most of them only took you to the casino on floor 3 and not the ground floor reception and exit, with its thousands of fruit machines and neon lights. Strange to see people smoking indoors again as they seem to be allowed to there, and why was no one smiling anywhere? Curious place. 

We drove over the Bay Bridge into San Francisco, passing the small island on the way in where the famous Alcatraz prison had been. The weather was like your average grey day in London in March. We were staying in a part of San Francisco called Little Saigon in a funky hotel with rooms around a pool and bar area. My room has a radio alarm and with a nature sounds option which I put on out of curiosity. Wind chimes, birds, and some sea sounds. Ahh. Very relaxing while I read the hotel manual:

 "California is prone to earthquakes. If one should occur, hotel guests should crawl under a solid table or piece of furniture, or stand under an open doorway, or get on your knees and bend down, cover yourself with blankets and wait for the earthquake to end." .....OK..! 

The whole band was performing a short set in Amoeba records, a wonderful and huge independent record store on legendary Haight St. We arrived early to set up and it was a very stripped down affair with just our basic equipment. I personally find it a lot of fun performing in this way. A kind of back to basics type gig. There was quite a bit of free time and the store very kindly gave us each a $40 to spend on whatever we liked. I met my friend the writer Anil Prasad who made some suggestions and I eventually decided on Pharoah Sanders - Thembi, Terye Rypdal - Crime Scene, XTC - Skylarking, and Oregon - Beyond Words. Have now given them a spin at the hotel and so far enjoying them a lot - particularly Thembi. The band performance was fun and I thought went well. We then spent over an hour signing people's albums in the store. Steven certainly has a lot of dedicated fans. One had a tattoo of Steven' s face on her arm. 

Eventually we got back to the hotel and after freshening up, Adam, Nick, Steven, Anil and I went out for an excellent meal at a nearby vegetarian Thai restaurant. Good food and some most interesting stories and talk. Then a late hang in the groovy hotel bar where the walls were lined with shelves stacked full of vinyl albums and more good talk. 

In the morning I took a stroll up to Mel's diner which is a classic 1950s style American diner, the sort featured in the film 'American Graffiti'. Lots of 1950s style artwork and Americana. Happy smiling all American families and shiny pink Buicks and Cadillacs. I ate some pretty average eggs and toast and strolled back passing the Great American Music Hall. I remember well playing there with Gong on the ill-fated US tour of 2000. Actually that gig was pretty good for us, but I do remember the support act which was Kevin Ayers and band. Back in the 1960s he was in the original Soft Machine with Daevid Allen and he had a rich baritone voice and some strong songs. However that night, he had to be helped onto the stage and after his set practically carried off the stage because he had taken some horse tranquillisers (ketamine) which he said was..err...accidental. Needless to say, it was not his finest performance. 

So I am sitting backstage at the Fillmore, San Francisco waiting for soundcheck. This is a classic venue and the walls are lined with posters of all the great bands that have played here over the years.

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Tour Blog Part 28 : Minneapolis - Boulder

Group photo by Diana Nitschke

The gig in Minneapolis was at Fine Line Music Cafe - a smaller venue than usual for this band. The upside was that there was an intimate atmosphere and it was like an atmospheric pub. The downside was that the stage was small, and being at the back and at the side, I had quite a lot less space than usual. The gig went well. I noticed someone on the front row wearing a 'The World is Everything' David Sylvian 2007 tour T-shirt. That was the tour I played on, though only the first couple of weeks as I was a last minute addition to the line up and I had a Soft Machine Legacy tour I was already committed to that clashed with David's dates. The gigs I did do were fabulous and a real treat. Also in the front row were four of Steven's biggest fans who I subsequently discovered had been to the gigs in Boston, Albany, Chicago and now Minneapolis. That is some travelling! I also heard that some people travelled a very long way to this particular gig, because it was such a small venue. I did wonder if Prince might wander in to the gig, as I had heard that that was exactly the sort of thing he would do if in town - just turn up and check out bands. But he did not.

Fine Line Music Cafe
Boulder Theatre

After the gig, DJ Wilson played some great tracks in the dressing room, including some by Pete Townsend, the Carpenters and a very interesting album by the guitarist from the Swedish metal band Meshuggah, Fredrik Thordendal called 'Sol Niger Within'.

Once back on the bus, I stayed up quite late chatting to Adrian who had asked for my recommendations for great jazz albums that might interest him, given his general musical taste (which includes lots of progressive rock) and the albums he already has (which include various by Weather Report and Pat Metheny). A list was duly discussed and compiled.

Then went to sleep somewhere just outside Minneapolis and woke up in Omaha, Nebraska, once called the 'Gateway to the West', where we had day rooms in a hotel whilst the driver had his 14 hour break. An interesting place, it was once vital for transportation routes across the US and meatpacking plants and had huge stockyards and a big railroad industry. It was where the Enola Gay plane was built and it is one of the fastest regenerating cities in America. I went for a wander and a coffee with Guthrie which was most pleasant. There was an 'OK Corral' feel to the tourist section where we were, and a lovely riverfront too, on the banks of the Missouri. Notable people from Omaha - Marlon Brando, Fred Astaire, Warren Buffet and Elliot Smith. Had a good day off and at midnight we rolled out of town for Boulder, Colorado.

The gig was in a lovely theatre called the Boulder Theatre (photo right). It has a very nice layout and reminded me of the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, near Philadelphia. The town itself is beautiful and the whole pedestrian central part in downtown Boulder has a wonderful feel to it. Lots of Arts and Crafts shops, jewellery shops, vintage clothing places, funky cafes and eateries and very clean. Interestingly we saw no McDonalds or other fast food chains, a couple of hiking shops and very few overweight people! The weather was good, but I was subsequently informed there had been 5 inches of snow only a few days before. I noticed the air being thin and indeed we were 5400 feet above sea level. So after a coffee with Nick sitting out in the main drag, and mooching around in the dressing room and backstage, I had a shower and then went for a walk, looking in some of the crafts shops and got back for soundcheck at 4.30pm. Despite it being a soundcheck after a day off which is usually a recipe for fun for all and having a cool jam, we did not today, and it felt a bit flat (as soundchecks go). No idea why. After that Steven, Adam, Guthrie and I went to find a restaurant for dinner and we found a great vegetarian restaurant called Aji at 1601 Pearl St where we had a delicious meal, possibly the best dinner of the US tour so far. Two of us had a Pad Thai and Steven had something called 'forbidden black rice' that sounded so intriguing he felt compelled to order it.

The gig itself felt really good. Despite some of the guys in the band not feeling 100% (though you would not have known from their performances), I think we all played well and the audience was really fantastic.

Back on the bus, we left about 1 am and I woke up somewhere in the desert in Utah. The driver was having his break and so we had day rooms in a massive hotel and casino in the middle of nowhere. I think we were not too far from Wendover, near Salt Lake City. Thousands of fruit machines by the hotel reception, thousands of rooms, hotel corridors a mile long and nothing but wide open desert outside the windows. Roll on San Francisco....

Utah
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