Geoff Union, guitarist and fearless leader of Colorado’s Ragged Union, offers this report from their current tour of Great Britain.
The British audiences are amazingly enthusiastic about bluegrass music. We’ve had great crowds everywhere we’ve gone, from formal theater shows in Hexham (near Hadrian’s Wall in the North) to Brixham (along the southwest coast), to cabernet-style affairs in Frodsham and Liverpool, to a set at the historic Lancaster Castle in Lancaster. But maybe our favorite shows have been the two more closely resembling bar gigs – one in Folkestone, and one in the evening in Lancaster – where the crowds were packed-in, standing room only, with a good mix of younger and older folks, with a really excited, appreciative energy. We did have a killer few days, where we played Friday night (Folkestone), drove 5 hours, played Brixham, got up at 4 in the morning to drive up to Lancaster (in the northwest) for a 1:00 p.m. set at the Castle here. I didn’t sleep much and, being the only driver on our trip, reckoned I was awake for about 43 hours straight before finally falling over at the farmhouse where we are staying in Quernmore (pronounced, Cormer)!
We’ve had some interesting and edifying encounters with the local, such as:
While having breakfast the other morning: I was ordering the “full english,” consisting of an egg, sausage, bacon, Heinz beans, toast, fried toast, and other items depending on where you are. I told the waitress “no fried toast for me please,” to which she replied rather angrily, “its called fried bread, this is England!!” Seeing as how its a slice of white bread dipped in a vat of hot oil – they can have it, however you say it!
We went to Stonehenge, but didn’t have time to take the bus over to the stones from the parking lot, and didn’t want to shell out the 20 quid, so we just got a photo of ourselves in front of one of the fake stones at the entrance. #fail
Some old guy in the pub who I have been randomly talking to while typing this email, just said to Matt Mefford (our bass player), as he was leaving, and pointing at me, “Don’t let him destroy the universe!” Not sure what that was about, I swear I’m just trying to pick a guitar, no nefarious intergalactic plans afoot.
Apparently, the south London suburb of Balham is pronounced “Bal-em”, (as in a man’s name, ‘Al’-em), and not like ‘Ball-ham’…
Drunkeness has a few colorful phrases associated with it, such as getting ‘pissed,’ ‘trolleyed,’ or on the extreme end of things, ‘arseholed.’
Don’t refuse the toll roads option on your GPS over here – you’ll wind up navigating Central London at rush hour, driving a stick-shift van on the wrong side of the road…
Anyways, its been a busy and fun trip so far – folks really love bluegrass over here, and having not been overly exposed to it, are super excited to see an American band perform it live. Everyone keeps suggesting other events and festivals for us to play, and encouraging us to come back.