Monday, March 30, 2009

Monday - Mark's UK Tour of Hospital ER's continues!


The antibiotics have been doing nothing and feeling much worse today - so off again to the ER. They did a EKG and a chest x-ray, ruled out pneumonia. That said the lung infection is pretty stout - so they changed up the antibiotics to something (2 in fact) much stronger. The amazing thing again was, I paid about $21 for the Rx and nothing, nada for the chest x-ray and cardiac workup. I,m going to have lots of discussion points with my friends who down universal health care soon!

I am hoping that the new course of treatment may give me a shot at the last 2 days of the tour, but who knows. I had really hoped to take the train into London today, but I'm lucky to make it down the hall at the moment.

Thanks again for following along.

Sunday Night - The Maars Bar, Worcester, England

We opened for a wonderful artist last night named Amy Wadge. She's from Wales.

We did a 30" opening set. I played but still could not sing. I had a fever before showtime, so I took some aspirin. Between the stage lights and the fever breaking I was my own waterfall onstage. I thought for sure I would short out my guitar or electrocute myself! I'm sure the audience was thinking that I had the bird flu or something - not a pretty site.

Briana did well carrying the singing for the night and the crowd seemed responsive. We had a two hour ride back to Basingstoke and crashed quickly. We're off on Monday and then resume on Tuesday.

Thanks for follwoing along.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Saturday Night - The Cotton Tree - Bolton...Almost

Well, we had our first snag (non-health related anyway) of the tour. We arrived at the Cotton Tree Pub in Bolton (between Manchester and Liverpool) for a 7pm sound check. The first thing out of the club owner’s mouth was, “I thought you guys had cancelled” (…right)! The second thing out of his mouth was, “I have the music room already booked out”. He went on to say, “I don’t have a contract on this gig – I don’t know whether I’m paying you or you’re paying me”. The loud side of my inner voice replied, “well it aint option two there buddy”! He went on to suggest that he had never received any promo stuff, so no radio or print promo had been down for the gig. After some “involved” conversation he suggested we could play in the smaller bar area, rather than the main music venue room. We met privately regarding this idea and after say……2 milliseconds, decided we would just move along. So we made the long journey back tonight to our home base in Basingtoke.

However, the day was not a total cluster$#@%! Earlier in the day we had a chance to spend several hours in Liverpool. Liverpool is a major port town on the Irish Sea. The wind coming off the water blew through like it was blowing through a tunnel, straight down the narrow streets of the downtown district. If I was cold, you now it was cold.

Liverpool has some aspects of Broadway in NYC- with urban hype and shopping, but also has that Old English, cobble stone streets, troubadours and ancient churches. To me it’s actually, very Youngstown, Ohio looking. I found it very interesting and beautiful in its own way. Robert says that “Liverpoolians (my word) have an almost secessionist mindset to them and even talk in a very different dialect. I didn’t pick that up myself, but it seems obvious to him. There is also quite the rivalry between Robert’s Manchester United Soccer team (to my new found UK friends, I can’t call it football yet – but I’m trying) and the Liverpool team. In fact, the sports rivalries here carry an incredible weight of emotion, passion and meaning to them, far more so than in the states. In a discussion in one pub, it was suggested to me that they can break along hard cultural and even religious grounds. Doesn’t everything these days!

Most notable about our Liverpool jaunt was a visit to the famous “Matthew Street District” and the “Cavern” where the Beatles first started performing. The original “Cavern” was torn down in 1972 to make way for subway venting shafts. Before you yell and curse about the sacrilege of it all (I did) know that it was rebuilt on the same site years later, using almost all the original brick. So, they say it looks pretty close to the way it did in Fab 4 days. There are several flights of stairs to walk down and it has a real Brickskellar feel to it - very cave or “Cavern” like. And like most legendary places (except for maybe the Grand Canyon) – much smaller than I would have guessed. I took pictures, mainly thinking of Jim Moran on this one. In fact, I have been taking pictures all along and had intended on posting them along with the text blog….but I forgot the usb cord. So, that may be a “post-edit”!

We are headed to Worcester tomorrow night – so far still all cough and no voice. We’ll see what tomorrow brings. Maybe the night off tonight and a full day on antibiotics will help.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday - The Blue Cat - (in..I honestly can't remember)

Well the saga conitunes. The scottish Dr. said ride it out, but this am was bad....fever, sweats, bruised ribs (I have a new found undertsanding of what you go throuugh). I had Robert take me to a hospital in Kendall, a mid-size English town. That dr. said "I can't belive the other Dr. missed it, because you have a full blown lung infection in the left lung, hence the insidious coughs and fevers. He started me on an anti-biotic and suggested it would do the trick. The amazing part of the story is that I paid 0 money to the hospital or the Dr., just 7 pounds (12 bucks or so) at the hospital pharmacy.

I have been able to wing the previous two gigs by cutting my songs down in number and my BGV's down too. We continued to get great response and good cd sales. However, different story today. If I open my mouth to sing, talk, whisper, spit or (oh yeah) breath - I cough uncontrollably. I have gone from barrell chested to "over Niagra Falls in a barrell chested"... overnight!

I feel like I am at least giving myself a shot at the end of the tour, but hard to be optomistic now. So I am playing back-up guitar. Bri is forced to play more guitar than she bargained for, so it is a learning curve. That said tonight went really well. The crowd was an odd mix of really loud bar crowd, but after the show wonderfully supportive (a mix I'm beginning to understand).

We are in a hotel tonight - heading down the road only about 10-15 miles to Bolton for tomorrow nights gig at the Cotten Tree Club

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wed. Night - Isle of Bute, Scotland - Hotel Victoria

Well it's official! I' sick as hell! Still coughing constantly and the voice is gone. That said, we had a really good gig tonight. People said they loved the vocals. Seriously, they either had to be deaf or huge fans of Leon Redbone. We had good CD sales tonight and more importantly, nice rooms to lay our weary heads. I am planning on seeing a Dr. in the am - hopefully for some antibiotics or rotorooter.

One stand out tonight. There was a guy at the bar who either had some form of CP or a stroke - with difficulty talking and huge problems walking. After hearing that I had throat trouble, he made is way out to his car (no small task whatsoever) and gave me his cough drops nd throat lozenges. It's connections like that that keep me going on this wild troubadour life.

We are headed back over the Ferry tomorrow an hour or so down the road to the the West Beer Brewery in Glasgow. As of now I can't sing - hopefully tomorrow will be better.

Thanks for following along.



Tuesday Night - The Blue Room - Ipswich

We started out the day (Tuesday) driving to the East Anglian town of Ipswich to do a BBC radio show with Steven Foster. We played a couple of songs live, talked for a bit and then he played some cuts from the CD’s. We had several people come to the show that night who had heard the radio show – so it was definitely worth doing. Evidently you can hear the interview on the web for the next week or so.
The website is We also did an interview with John Row and that interview will be aired on April 2nd. I think you’ll be able to hear that show on the web at some point at

We played last night in Ipswich at a great old pub call McGinty’s Blue Room. The pub was originally named the Halbert Inn and dates back to the mid 15th century. It was originally the entrance to the village of Ipswich. It is also considered to be the most haunted house in the town and is on a regular ghost watching tour.

We had a great night, enthusiastic crowd and decent CD sales. The best part of the night however was hanging out afer the show with the owners Veronica and Dave and several of their friends. We drank “Red Breast” whiskey and sang songs into the wee hours of the morning. We repeated songs from our show that they wanted to hear and covered a ton of old 70’s era songs – a fun night.

We slept in the rooms above the bar. Robert slept in the room said to be the most haunted, where ghosts are known to pull the sheets off the bed on a regular basis. He reported no such activity however. I slept in a room known for having a ghost stand in the corner and watch you – no such luck for me either. The only “occurrence” I had was early the next morning walking past the door leading up to the venue room. The door was locked, but I distinctly heard footsteps going up the stairs on the other side of the door– eerie in a cool way.

We’re off early this morning for a long 8 hour drive to the Isle of Bute in Scotland. We will catch a ferry over to the Hotel Victoria for our gig tonight.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Monday Night - The Zebra Bar, Maidstone

We’re back tonight late (about 1:30 Am.) from Maidstone. We played the Zebra club on their Maverick Magazine Showcase night. We had about 150 people there. We opened for a young folk-rock band called Wheeler Street. The audience was made up of a combination of mainly young fans of Wheeler Street (the band is mainly teens and young 20’s) and the older crowd that are regular followers of the showcase night. It reminded me of the Dick Cerri-World Folk Music Assoc. nights around DC in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

We did a 45” set, well received – got calls for encore, but we were already running late so thought we’d leave them wanting more. That’s where CD sales were supposed to come in, but they were surprisingly light tonight given the reaction. I’m learning however, that when you’re in the opening act slot here, the audience is coming with the main act’s merch in mind. We’re looking forward to some of the gigs that are our own.

We did meet some great folks, including Alan Cackett the editor of the magazine and some audience members that remembered Briana from her tour last fall – so that made it a mini homecoming.

Robert is doing a great job driving us around – I think I ‘m getting the hang of the left side of the road and the millions of “roundabouts” – seems pretty easy to get around. Some of the traffic around London and the outskirts is incredibly heavy and that’s the only time I think me driving might get a little hairy – anxious to try it though.

Monday, March 23, 2009

First Gig - The Robin 2 in Bilston

We just returned from playing the Robin 2 Club in Bilston. It’s about 1:30am on Monday morning. It was a pretty drive down today from Basingstoke, got to see the small but pretty mountains of Wales, in the distance beyond Bilston.

I have been up since 7:30am. on Saturday (with a couple of hours sleep on the plane) feeling pretty crispy now! We were the first opener (there was another opening duo as well) for the old UK cult group Chumbawumba. There were about 60 or so at the club. The set went well. Most importantly my fix on the guitar nut seemed to hold and it played well. Still need to get someone to look at it in the next day or two. The crowd was definitely there to see Chumbawumba, but was responsive to us. We’re definitely more country than they usually get.

The club has a pretty rich history. We spent quite a but of time today with Sean the sound man, talking to him about the many ghostly experiences in the club, including shadows walking through walls, employees being pushed and a cat that seems to appear and disappear in a certain stairwell. We didn’t witness anything first had, but were aware of the possibilities to say the least.

We did manage to set the alarms off in the whole building just before the main act took the stage, by exiting a back alley stage door that was evidently not intended for normal use. There is quite a Labyrinth of small corridors and stairwells behind the stage, so no wonder we ended up randomly opening doors.

We are sleeping in tomorrow morning (hopefully into the afternoon) and then heading to Maidstone around 4pm for a show at the Maverick-Zebra Showcase night. We are hearing that the night is sold out – so looking forward to that.



Sunday, March 22, 2009

Landing At Heathrow

I landed at Heathrow around 7am. No real trouble at customs, although their system was down and I had to wait for them to verify my work permit – took an extra 20 minutes. Oddly enough, once I cleared passport control, no one even glanced at my bags. Compared to my trouble at an East Germany checkpoint in 1989- my experience here has not bad at all. I’ve had much worse treatment out of the Canadians – nothing like a Kayak on your roof to make you look suspicious.

Got some of my money exchanged, ouch! It’s about 70% of the dollar exchanged to pounds. Hopefully the money made in the UK and exchanged as I go home will make up for it. I determined that Starbucks is as over priced here as it is in the states, but the jones for an 8am cookie was too strong – I’m now UK invested!

I am waiting around for Robert (the tour promoter) to drop off an artist leaving the country and to pick me up. Briana is due in around 12 or 1, so we’ll be back to pick her up then.

I met a Hungarian blues player in the airport, named Little G. He is just back from a tour in the states, mainly AL, TN and GA – seemed to have enjoyed his time, but was anxious to return home. He first got turned onto the blues by listening to John Lee Hooker records. He said he didn’t know what the hell the words were about but he could feel the blues and the music spoke to him. I don’t know if it’s the camaraderie of the troubadour or the camaraderie of the impoverished artist that allows an instant connection – but it always seems to be an immediate bond. We exchanged cards and hopefully will stay in touch (although he was not optimistic about country-folk touring in Hungary). I’ve been touring with country and folk music for twenty years now and I’ve never been optimistic about it either – so I’m undaunted in my quest to play in Hungary!

Well, here’s a new wrinkle. I just checked out the guitar and the nut is cracked. It started acting up on me in NC – buzzing horribly. It looked like the first string had been digging deep into the fret. I rigged it with a piece of paper between the string and the nut and made Friday night’s gig work, but it looks like now that dug out part has completely cracked through the nut. For the moment I have pushed the nut back together and it seems to be holding and playing well, but who knows for how long. First order of business today is to find someone to fix it (come to think of it - probably not going to happen on a Sunday). We are playing tonight at the Robin in Bilston – opening up for Chumbawumba. It’s one of our bigger gigs on this tour – so something’s going to have to work. The good thing about jet lag is that it leaves you without the energy to panic. Stay tuned for the “cracked nut” saga (can’t pass that up can ya’)!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Travelling Day

Had a great time in Charlottesville, VA last weekend, doing the Barking Cherry House Concert Series. My friend Len Jaffe (from my old DC - days) and his wife Ginny run a great night with an enthusiastic crowd. Had a chance to visit with WJUT Radio (I think that was it) Brian who runs the folk show up there - had fun playing songs live on the air and talking about my creative life of poverty!

Played in Charlotte, NC last night with the Folklahoma-appalachi-Groovetrain at the Evening Muse. For a solo troubadour - travelling with my friends,Kim Mclean, Devon O'Day, Will McLean and Chris Herin is a blast on and off stage! Lets see; locking the car keys in the Jeep (again), nerf football, hot-tub, Pizza & Beer and a fun 2 hour show in front of new and old friends - (I'll leave out getting my butt kicked in wii football by Will).

In the Houston airport now waiting to catch a later flight out to Heathrow to hook up with Briana Hardyman for a 2 week tour in the UK - starting tomorrow night in Bilston, opening for Chumbawamba - should be an interesting mix of music that night! Looking most forward to the Scotland leg of the tour - gonna' track my lowland horse thief roots!


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

New Music & Tour BLog

Hi Friends,

Well, I suppose I've been blogging all my life (writing songs), but I am new to the official term and activity.

I am looking forward to my tour to the UK with Briana Hardyman - starting 4/22. I will be reporting back on my travels and gigs.

I am looking forward to playing my buddy Len Jaffe's Barking Cherry House Concert this Saturday. Definitely excited to make music and new connections with folks. However, I'm equally excited about travelling that beautiful mountain corridor through the Shenandoah Vally as Spring takes it's first peek!

As always - thanks for the support!