Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Puttin’ on a show.

Wow. Sunday was a crazy day. I got up early, walked up to Heine Brothers, did a bunch of work (yes, this seemingly glamourous life I lead is actually fueled by hours and hours of music business that involves computers and receipts), and went back home to work on my basement.

Having been out of town for a month, I had completely forgotten that it was the Breast Cancer walk. I didn't even know it was still October. My too-kind-not-wanting-to-bother-me mother didn't text me until after the walk to let me know she and my dad were at the Monkey Wrench.

So I took a break and joined them.

At some point, I discovered Dolly Parton was in town that night. You leave town for a month and are suddenly completely out of the loop when it comes to what's happening in town. But seeing as I had already failed the Breast Cancer walk, I figured I'd at least go see Dolly's Breasts. Dennie at the Wrench and I decided that we absolutely must find a ticket.

We did, of course, being the clever folks that we are. (It wasn't sold-out.)

I'd never seen Dolly before. Well, that's a lie. Back when I worked for CBS The Early Show, she was on with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt (promoting their second Trio record). I was in charge of the Green Room that day, being the only one under 50 who knew their music. I remember as I was introduced to Dolly and was walking her to the studio, she said in that thick-holler-drawl, "Darrrrlin', I looooove that big red hair. Are you Swedish?"

I thought she was just kind of dopey at the time, but having seen her whole show last night, I think she must have been joking at the Swedish comment.

That woman puts on a show. Vegas-style. She's not afraid to talk, and although she must have been telling those jokes for years, they seemed to flow well.

My biggest complaint about seeing live music has always been that the musicians forget about the entertainment factor. Unfortunately, it's still show business, so you can't forget the show element. I'm not saying you need a light show and a joke writer, but at least act like you're happy to be there.

And Dolly's been doing this for a million years, so it's natural that she's got her stage show and it's more of a Vaudeville than a concert. Sometimes jokes emerge naturally.

Peter and I developed a few jokes on the road that came about naturally. No planning or anything. They just sort of happened night-to-night and became part of the act. My favorite one is when he introduces a song and says, "I wrote this one for my wife," and I interrupt him angrily and shout, "You have a WIFE?!?!!" Then the audience laughs uncomfortable and we all start giggling. It's really funny, I swear.....

Anyway, I had a good time at the Dolly show. She sang most everything we wanted to hear ("Jolene" was the third song in!), and she made at least four jokes about her boobs. Her 12-piece band was great. She played the auto-harp without apology. And though the tickets were expensive, it was a lot cheaper than a flight to Vegas and a hotel.

I had a few other adventures this week ... more to tell later...

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Blog for responsible folks 21 and up. (Re: Scotch!)

Category: Food and Restaurants
I love whisky. I don't love drunk. I hate drunk, actually. I just honestly love the taste, smell, and follow-through of a good whisky. (Or even the occasional whiskey, if you prefer.)

It started with my mom, she'll be sad to know. She drank Maker's and Diets. The smell of bourbon reminded me of home. She doesn't drink a lot of them, mind you. Actually, these days she seems to drink white wine instead.

I was not one of those teenagers who snuck alcohol on the weekends. I didn't even drink in college. I think one time some friends and I bought a bottle of Heaven Hill and drank two shots, wondering what all the fuss was about.

I do remember that my 21st birthday was the summer after I graduated from NYU. It was a Sunday, and the liquor stores were closed in Manhattan. This annoyed me because I am someone who enjoys exercising my personal freedoms. I needed to legally purchase some alcohol, and said alcohol needed to be Kentucky bourbon because I was spending my first birthday away from home.

I took the PATH train to New Jersey for the sole purpose of buying a bottle of bourbon, just because I could. I also remember the guy didn't card me, and I made a big stink about how it was my birthday and he really needed to card me. I also remember I bought Jim Beam because it was all I could afford. I took it back to the roof of the building I was living in that summer, and I drank two Beam and Cokes before I realized I didn't really like Jim Beam.

That became a life-long quest to find whisky I enjoyed. And it's all because I was homesick that summer, living in New York, unable to afford my new passion: Kentucky Bourbon. Sipping bourbon. Bourbon that tasted like home sweet home.

Since then, I've become quite the bourbon lover, as anyone who knows me can attest to. I've visited every major distillery in Kentucky multiple times, and I have my own strong preferences as to how I like to drink a particular bourbon.

You may know my song, "Whisky in the Faucet." Noticed the lack of "e" in the word "whisky." That is because I was referencing Maker's Mark, a bourbon that was created by Scottish descendants. And Scotch whisky has no "e." Look at a bottle of Scotch or Maker's if you don't believe me. (And please stop emailing me to tell me I spelled "whiskey" wrong in my album -- don't you know me enough by now to know that I am completely OCD when it comes to spelling and punctuation?)

Two years ago, I made a New Year's Resolution to really get into Scotch. It didn't go so well. I tried both kinds of Scotch -- Johnnie Walker Red and Johnnie Walker Black -- but just didn't really dig them. Even with soda water, the drinks were bland.

In the UK, I had trouble finding bourbon. Every place had Jack Daniels (not bourbon, as we all know), and about half of the places had Jim Beam. When asked about bourbons, the bartenders were less-than-excited.

It occurred to me then. that it must be similar to our interest in Scotch. If all they have is Jim Beam White, then how can they get really stoked about bourbon? And, likewise, if all we have is Johnnie Walker and Glenfidditch, then how can we get interested in single malts?

The fine folks at Bluesbunny.com were the first to really give me a Scotch primer.

It was great. I do this lovely press interview with one of their writers, who introduces me to his editor, and suddenly we're all trying various degrees of Scotch. The editor of the magazine was impressed, to say the least, with my whisky-tasting abilities. "That's a man's whisky! No woman I know can drink that," he said, as I downed my second Lagavulin.

Lagavulin and Laphroaig were by far my favorites. Apparently, I enjoy the smoky-peaty whiskies, generally from the Islay region -- "not beginner's whiskies, by any means," according to my cohorts. I got some sort of smug satisfaction, knowing that girls can drink boys' whisky and like it.

It took me a few years to accomplish that New Year's Resolution, but I really think I understand Scotch now. It's too bad I still can't get any of the good stuff at any of the bars I frequent. Yes, I'm a whisky-snob.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Actual blog about the UK. Not just a video.

Category: Travel and Places
Someone emailed me and said he was enjoying my Travelogue YouTube videos immensely, BUT ... it's almost like watching the movie version of your favorite book. Not exactly as you envisioned the main characters. Not disappointing; just different.

So for today, I'm reverting to pen and paper. Or rather, aching fingers and a bizarro British keyboard where the @ is where the " should be and I haven't yet found the proper emdash.

Peter is watching "Shaun of the Dead" right now, as any good zombie-phile would be doing in October in Scotland. I am tempted to join him, but I've got so much going I'm feeling mentally constipated. I need to siphon it to a blog, so that I'm not thinking so much.

We've been here just long enough that things don't seem so strange anymore. I honestly enjoy driving on the left side of the road. It doesn't terrify me when a double-decker bus approaches me on a narrow cobblestone street. I still have a little trouble remember which way to look when I cross the street as a pedestrian. I just look both ways about four times each and all's well.

I am, however, planning on going on total detox when I get home. Touring has always been hard on the stomach, especially as a vegetarian. At home, I rarely eat dairy, but that's been nearly impossible on this trip. I haven't had much cheese, but it's all the other crap that is just commonplace in British lifestyle.

Breakfast is a massive heap of toast, eggs, and various fried animal parts or potatoes. Lunch is more fried things. And even my veggie burger I was thrilled to find at a restaurant last week came to me deep fried. There's a place here in Edinburgh that will deep fry anything you bring to them. I managed to find a vegan place in Glasgow, where I had vegan haggis with neeps and tatties (turnips and mashed potatoes). The Baked Potato Shop (tagline: "The hottest tatties in town!") is a vegetarian delight, with all sorts of treats to top off a baked potato. But I don't want to live on tatties forever.

A venue in Wolverhampton cooked broccoli and carrots for us (our rider asked for a homecooked meal -- cool!), and I about cried as I devoured a heaping plate of vegetables.

But mostly -- and I admit, it is a weakness of mine -- it has been: chips. No, not potato chips, my friends. Those are called "crisps" over here. Chips are french fries. But not just any french fries. They are divine wedges of tatties, deep fried to golden perfection, with the perfect crunch on the outside and mash on the in. It is impossible to resist them.

The British serve EVERYTHING with chips. I ordered veggie chili at a pub, and it came to me not in a bowl, but upon a pile of chips. My friend Danny ordered chicken curry ... and it came over chips.

They are sooooooooo good.

Thank goodness for all the walking we've done. Between the Scotch expert I've become (My Glaswegian friends couldn't believe I was able to drink not one, but two, of the "not-for-beginners-or-women" Scotches. At least that's what I think they said. It was hard to tell through that Glaswegian accent...) and the chip expert I have always been, I'm surprised my pants still fit.

But when I get home: vegan detox. I'm tired of my fingers and joints aching from all the crap I've been eating. First orders of business upon return: a massage, a pedicure, and a trip to Whole Foods.

Tonight, however, I'm going to dinner at The Sheep Heid Inn, the oldest Pub in Edinburgh, dating back to at least 1360. Mary Queen of Scots, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson frequented the pub. Tonight they'll be able to add two more names to the little plaque outside the building: Brigid Kaelin and Peter Searcy.

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Scotland is magic.

Scotland is magic.
Category: Travel and Places
It's 3 am, and we've just driven back from our show in Glasgow to our flat in Edinburgh. No, we haven't moved in. It's a loaner-flat. Given to us by someone we only just met yesterday. The people here are completely amazing. It's enough to restore your faith in all of humanity. I mean, who just hands over the keys to a gorgeous Georgian building to a gaggle of musicians? A genuine person who knows that we're equally good people. We got home tonight, and he'd left a bottle of scotch on the table with a note that says: "Come on... it's not going to drink itself."

Scotland rules.

Highlights of the past few days include: vegan haggis, two baked potatoes: one amazing beyong all belief and the other merely pretty good, a wee Scottish boy who cried "that's my lassie!" until my heart swooned but he was really drunk so i didn't pursue it, a few Glaswegians who were supposedly speaking English to me, a train ride, a few more castles, a really terrific songwriter from Bath named Jane, a cello built in 1792 (not 1972), taxidermy from a hundred years ago, and my newfound love and knowledge of Scotch.

Goodnight!

More later.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Travelogue: UK Tour -- Kenilworth Castle video

Current mood: accomplished
Category: Travel and Places

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o7w3VB8t4Ho

I'm writing you from the lounge of the Hark 2 Towler, in Tottington. I'm told the ghosts haven't bothered anyone in a couple of years.

Today we sat in traffic on the M6 for over three hours. A stand still. The British never seem to be in quite the hurry to fix things that we are in America. Are we more advanced? or just more impatient? Perhaps we should just make tea and deal with the problems tomorrow.

Going to sleep now. Not feeling bloggy today. Enjoy our videos though. There should be 3 total. Do a YouTube search or subscribe to my YouTube channel on there if you can't find the others.

Cheers,

brigid

P.S. If you'd like to read Peter's blogs, check them out at http://blog.myspace.com/petersearcy. They are highly entertaining.

P.S.S. Peter's on the floor of the pub right now. Well, not exactly in the matter that you might be imagining. It's just that in England, pubs have rooms available for boarders such as ourselves, and we happen to be crashing in one of those rooms. And I've got hte couch, and Peter's got the floor. He's laughing because apparently I type a thousand words a minute (121 WPM, according to the test i just took because we were curious) and it "always sounds like you're getting so much accomplished over there" ... well, not really, just a lame blog.

Tee hee. Me and my crazy-fast fingers (really, it's just because I played those Bach inventions in piano lessons so many times) are going to sleep now.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Travelogue UK Tour (Prequel)

I'm going back in time a little, trying to re-create some of the glorious earlier blogs that were lost. If this confuses you, just think of it as a Faulkner-type-blog, where time isn't linear.

First class.
I used to be part of the "Poor People's Parade," but let me tell you how very little time it takes to become accustomed to the royal life. By the time Zone 2 boarded, we were already wearing our little comfy red socks on our kicked-back feet, sipping on champagne, and perusing our menus. As the proletariats squeezed by, we were debating what to have for our First Course: the Greek Salad with Cream of Asparagus soup? maybe Fresh Caesar with Crab Salad and Basil Tomato soup? Yes, please, another mimosa! Oh, excuse me, ma'am, those bathrooms aren't for economy class!

Peter drank Spanish red wine with his Steak and Shrimp. I had French wine with my Buttenut Squash Ravioli. Letting our attendant talk us into the Hot Fudge Pirouette Sundaes was possibly our best move on the plane. Having that nightcap was a close second, as we immediately recline our seats into beds, curled up with our pillows and comforters, and slept several solid hours, before a delicious hot breakfast was served.
***
Our first day in Manchester was less-than-average. Thankfully, Peter's superpower is his sense of navigation. He managed to find the venue under the high-stress-level of driving in a city on the left side of the road. Still, we both breathed a huge sigh of relief when we plugged in trusty "Jane," the British voice we use on TomTom, the GPS Navigational System. We listen to Jane at home. We put our trust in Jane. We rely on Jane, to an unhealthy point. Jane is indespensable. Especially here, on their mysterious roads, with their strange roundabouts (Look, kids! Parliament! Big Ben!)

****
Kirsty McGee and Mat Martin are phenomenal people and phenomenal musicians. Please make them your friends and listen to their beautiful music. It was serendipitous that we met them, and they have made our second and third days in Manchester well-above-average.

Peter, Kirsty, and I walked all over Manchester through the rain, popping into cafes for teas occasionally to avoid a downpour. A lovely way to see a city is to go from music store to music store. It took us through several different neighborhoods, where we met oodles of passionate people.

*****
Our first show was at a pirate-themed-pub in a village north of Manchester. The show at Hark 2 Towler was fun fun fun. We were up late late late, and we crashed in the rooms above the pub. The pubs close early here, around 11:30, but we locked the doors and played acoustically to the few people who remain, How brilliant are the English to have pubs offer rooms as well?

Peter took a long nap the next day.

And I can't sit still, as always, so I took the car out.

Wayne, our Aussie friend who showed up at our Tottington gig (how cool is that?), was also up for an adventure, so we decided to go to Wales. I mean, how often do you get to leave a not for someone after lunch that says: "Dear Peter, We have gone to Wales. See you at dinner. -heart- Brigid."

One of my best friends from childhood was born in Wales and I've always adored her parents' accents. I bought my trusty Volvo from her dad, and I've never taken off the Welsh vanity plate. So when the opportunity arose to go to Wales for an afternoon, I was rarin' to go.

England hadn't been the quaint beautiful countryside we were expecting, at least not in the area near Manchester. Honestly, it looks surprisingly like Kentucky as you're driving on the highway, except for the whole left-hand-side-of-the-road thing. But something magical happens as you see the sign: Welcome to Wales!

First of all, there is always a Welsh translation underneath, which reads something like this: "Llwyffglllenrrthhw i cchhhhhhhhw;lllf4h2" and is pronounced "CCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCChhhhha!" I love languages, but Welsh baffles me.

The countryside changes dramatically as you drive from England to Wales. Suddenly, steep hills emerge and sheep freckle the landscape. A sunbeam shoots through the looming clouds bouncing rays of light off the stone cottages and ruined castles. It was really a magical place to ahve my first left-hand-driving experience.

We pulled into Llangollen (seriously pronounced "Clangoclan"), and I was immediately and unavoidably shouting things like, "Oooh! look! CUTE! Thatched cottage! Tea shop! Old cemetery! Boats on a canal! A 14th-century stone pub!" Just as I was sidetracked by a perfectly picturesque tea shop, it started to rain.

The tea shop could've been made for the Seven Dwarves, and it was the perfect backdrop for my first proper cream tea.

A whole other blog on cream tea sometime soon. This is getting long.


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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Travelogue: UK Tour

Category: Travel and Places
I know I promised to blog more. Believe it or not, I have written two splendid blogs, both of which have been lost to the evil PC laptop. I am a diehard macophile, so it is easy to blame this black shiny thing that constantly wants us to update Adobe acrobat or our Norton Anti-Virus software. I shouldn't knock it. It's doing its best. But it did destroy two of my blogs, so I remain mildly bitter.

We are in London now, staying with a friend of Peter's. Yesterday, we met her boyfriend, who when I introduced myself as "brigid," asked "brigid kaelin?" And right as he said that, I recognized him as a friend from 1st-grade. How absurd is that?

It reminds me of the time I went to Ireland, pulled into a parking space in the Dingle Harbor, and almost ran straight into my neighbor from the Highlands.

Is the world really that small or do I just know too many people?

We took two days to get from Manchester to London, although it's only a 3-4 hour drive. Peter had never seen a castle before, so we stopped at the dramatic red sandstone Kenilworth Castle, which was the cheapest castle to visit on our route. I've been to castles before. I love them. I love driving down the countryside, turning a curve, and suddenly seeing a 1000-year-old ruined castle. Kenilworth was in the middle of a quaint town, but equally impressive, especially when viewed from the main entrance.

Another historical obsession of mine is the Tudor regime. Elizabeth has always fascinated me -- her lovers, her rivals, her father, her religion, her pirates, etc -- so this castle was particularly interesting to me. It was her favorite place to visit, and she gave it as a gift to her favourite lover, Lord Robert Dudley. I think since dating is far too complicated, that I will instead choose to be married to my constituents/fans, and take on "favourites" as I see fit. And maybe someday I'll give one of them a castle, as Elizabeth gave Kenilworth to Dudley.

I love knowing that I'm walking on the same hills that these massive historical figures walked and looking at the horizon through the same castle windows. It is really a bone-chilling feeling.

Peter also showed off his joust-miming skills, and we engaged in a little mime-joust-match. He definitely knocked me off my horse, as I forgot my lance and instead tried to cut off his head with my imaginary sword. Oops. And yes, there is video, for a later date. We meandered around the castle so long that we almost got locked in. Seriously.

After Kenilworth, we hit Stratford-upon-Avon, at my request. It was already past 5:00 though, so Shakespeare's birthplace and gardens and Anne Hathaway's cottage (Shakespeare's wife, not the actress) were already closed. But it was still nice to pull up in the village (even though we parked in front of a Starbucks) and walk past the Tudor buildings that were marked "1485" in the woodwork and walk past the lot where Shakespeare lived. We had a pint at The Dirty Duck, and pirated the Starbucks wireless connection to Expedia a hotel to our south.

We woke up around 10:00, just in time for our 10:00 check-out, and thus confused the staff. It's funny how slow everyone around here does things -- except checkout time. They are serious about their checkout time.

We headed towards Stonehenge, being that I have always wanted to see Stonehenge. My friend Meredith used to subscribe to those Time-Life Reader series on Unknown Mysteries, and I always loved the one on Stonehenge.
Despite being only an hour away, we took another detour. This time, for two reasons. One, we were nearby Bath, a city I've been told to visit. Two, and probably more importantly, Peter and I were both hungry. We get on really well together, obviously, and are perfect traveling companions for many reasons. But when either one of us is hungry, we are irritable and unpleasant. In a pre-emptive strike, we stopped for breakfast in Bath.

Bath was absolutely beautiful, but certainly not the quintissential English town. It looks Roman, with it's white buildings curving up seven hills and shops running through the center of town. Most amazingly, the ancient Roman baths are still functioning, an amazing feat of 2,000-year-old engineering. After breakfast, we paid the 10.50-pound entry fee to see them, and it was worth the $20.

The audio tours over here are generally quite dull, but the Bill Bryson commentary on this one was particularly amusing. He doesn't really teach you anything, but he's funny.

Peter was the first to spy Stonehenge. It juts out of the countryside, just past a hill. Even though you know it's nearby, you're still never quite ready for the sight. It is amazing.

Ok, more about that later. Peter needs the computer, and we need to eat breakfast before anything dangerous happens.

Tonight, we play London. Tell your friends over here to come say hi at The Halo 317 Battersea Park Road,
Battersea,
London,
SW11 4LT


New video of our day in Manchester:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=778TSRwhxaI

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Saturday, October 4, 2008

Video Blog One: Indie-Class meets First-Class

Category: Travel and Places

I wrote a fabulous blog, but the PC laptop we brought with us decided to eat it. That's what we get for leaving the macs at home. It's being nice now though, so I should really stop insulting it.

Enjoy Part One of our Video blogs.


Here's the link if it doesn't work ....
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iTyvBE3R7fc

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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Quick Update

Quick Update

Oh, have I got some adventures for you!

But right now, a lovely English woman has just served me a brandy in her home. And it's warm. And she cooked a divine curry earlier. Two of the nicest folks I've ever met have welcomed us into their homes.

Their hospitality and warmth made me not even notice the sheets of Manchester rains. Well, not until my jeans were soaked, anyway.

Highlights:

-first-class to Europe is unbelievable.
-driving on the left side of the road is scary, but Peter's doing great
-what did we ever do before GPS systems?
-chips are better than fries
-umbrellas are for silly Americans, or people with straight hair
-more comments later...

Peter says hello. He has blisters on his feet, and he has broken his shoe. (Layla, you were right; he should have brought more than one pair.)

Longer blog promised soon. And some video. We've been having an absolute blast!

Check out Kirsty McGee's music below. She's a friend in Manchester.

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An apparently simple career boost.

I've spent the last few years feeling largely irrelevant and unloved in the local music community -- not at all a cry for help, just a f...