Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Wilders SELL OUT!

Wilders UK Summer Tour:

I'm propped up against the wall in the hotel room in Stirling, Scotland. I have just a few minutes to write before I head out for tonight's gig. I realize it has been a very long time since I last posted, but a lot has happened this year, and my blog writing has unfortunately been shelved to the back of the pantry.

Thus far, 2009 has been the year of the overseas tour. We did two weeks in the UK at the end of January, followed by another three-and-a-half-weeker in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Just a few weeks after we returned to the states, Betse came back across the Atlantic for a week-long teaching stint in Belgium, and two more weeks in the UK-touring with multiple artists from the US and Scotland, for her brainchild "Going Across the Sea" project. Now we find ourselves on another month-long overseas odyssey, starting with a week of dates in Ireland (our first time in the Republic), followed by a return to our beloved Scotland (where we now reside). This week, our tour is focused on the middle belt, between Glasgow and Edinburgh. But next week we will be heading north for a festival in Stornaway (a three hour ferry ride to this purportedly breathtaking island). Then we are looking at several punishing days in the van, with 8-9 hour drives each day, taking us south for three dates in England, and our final three dates to Wales. Although this is our 4th tour to the British isles, this time we are covering some very new territory, and thus far, our reception has been very positive.

Our first week in the Republic of Ireland was dizzying. On the 26th of June, at 6:55 in the morning, our faithful Scottish driver, Gerald, met us at the Dublin airport and escorted our poor, jet-lagged arses to his motel room to get a few hours of rest before loading us back up for a promotional appearance on RTE Radio One that afternoon. Our gig at the Seamus Ennis Cultural Center that evening was our first in the Republic of Ireland, and our first sellout show of the tour. It was a great way to start. The next day we piled into the van, driving to the south coast for a gig at the Cork Midsummer Festival. The venue was inside a vintage Spiegeltent, similar to the one we've played at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for the past three summers. The familiar surroundings made us quite comfortable, and we gave a spirited performance to another near sellout crowd of festival revelers.

Then it was out of the van, and into a small uncovered motor boat (which barely contained us and our belongings) for a cross-water trip from the mainland town of Baltimore, to Sherkin Island. The quick boat ride was somewhat sullied by the fact that it had started to rain, and so by the time we arrived at the landing, we were all soaked to the skin. But our Sherkin hosts made us welcome and soon enough we were dried out and rocking the small but enthusiastic crowd at the Sherkin Shindig. The next morning, I took the time to explore the ruins of an old friary near the boat landing, before we had to load our gear back into the boat for the trip back to the van. Luckily, the weather was much better, and Betse was even given the wheel for much of our return voyage.

The next two days, we got a real taste of the Irish pub scene, playing a showcase in Milltown Malby, County Clare, followed by a show at the well-known traditional pub in Galway, The Crane Bar. Both of these shows were followed by sessions of traditional Irish music that stretched late into the night. It was an eye opening experience to be sure- and the Guinness on tap in the pubs made it all the tastier.

We left Galway the next morning, and headed north for two days of concerts in Wexford, and Manorhamilton, County Leitrim. Both these shows were sellouts. The small twisty roads on the west coast of Ireland left their mark on me particularly, as I encountered my first car sickness in years. But the roads straightened as we got closer to Belfast in Northern Ireland. We played to a near-sellout crowd at a rock club in Belfast, and then headed back down to Letterkenny, County Donegal for our final performance in Ireland (on the 4th of July!), at the Earagail Arts Festival. A trend was now clearly established, as this show, in a very nice performing arts center, was also sold out. Apparently, the combination of us playing our butts off in the past, as well as some pretty deft promotional work by our agent, Loudon Temple, has begun to pay off.

On July 5th, we hopped back into the van to bid goodbye to the emerald isle and catch the ferry to Scotland. Gerald estimated that it would take about 2 hours to get to the departure terminal. But unfortunately our satellite navigation unit had other ideas. The route it chose for us was a scenic drive through some of the most beautiful rolling hills I've ever seen. The only problem was that the tiny winding roads were very slow and, by the time Gerald realized that we had been put on the wrong road, it was too late to turn back. So, for the next three hours, our van literally flew up and down the tiny roller coaster roads while I grew greener and greener in the back. Several times, I had to close my eyes and hold on to my seat to put down the urge to hurl my breakfast all over Ike's backpack (which was sitting at my feet). Not soon enough, we finally flattened out and joined the line at the ferry terminal with a few minutes to spare. Gerald breathed a sigh of relief once we were safely parked onboard. I think we were all quite happy to step away from the van for the relaxing three-hour ride across the Irish Sea. As I looked at the green shores of Scotland growing closer through the window of the ship, I felt that I was coming home.

So as to not belabor this post, I will condense our continuing tour dates in Scotland as thus:

Sunday July 5th- Harbour Arts Centre, Irvine SOLD OUT!
Tuesday July 7th- Carnegie Hall, Dunfermline SOLD OUT!
Wednesday July 8th- The Byre Theater, St. Andrews SOLD OUT!
Thursday July 9th- Eastgate Theatre, Peebles SOLD OUT!
Friday July 10th- Howden Park Centre, Livingston SOLD OUT!

That's pretty much the start of the tour in a nutshell. I will make an effort to give another report soon. But please stay tuned as there is a possibility that we may have a guest blog coming soon. Right now I've got to get to our sound check for tonight's gig at The Tollbooth Gallery in Stirling. I wasn't surprised to hear from Gerald that tonight's show is sold out too.

Cheers from the UK y'all!