Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

On The Road – Adrian Crowley in the UK

We’re big fans of Adrian Crowley and his excellent “Long Distance Swimmer” album round these parts so we were delighted that he accepted the invitation to join our On The Road club. Adrian is currently doing UK shows supporting both …

Tue, May 27, 2008, 06:28


We’re big fans of Adrian Crowley and his excellent “Long Distance Swimmer” album round these parts so we were delighted that he accepted the invitation to join our On The Road club. Adrian is currently doing UK shows supporting both Silver Jews, Devon Sproule and Vetiver so expect more posts from him in the weeks to come.

Thursday 8th May – City Varieties, Leeds with Silver Jews

A text message tells me that Emma and Vince are arriving on the train from London at Leeds station in 10 minutes so I get up from my booth in Leeds Municipal Library, pick up my guitar and make for the stairs. I head for the entrance by Burger King as directed by Emma and when I enter the concourse they are both standing there with violin cases in hand (well, in Vince’s case, it’s a viola case)

“How was your flight, Adrian?”

“Ah, not too bad, Vince”

“Do you know how to get to the venue, Adrian?”

“Kind of, I had a look at a map in the library when I got in from the airport”

So we head out to the blazingly bright street. I ask Emma how her dad is. We both talk about our dads for a bit while Vince lights a cigarette. After a few hundred yards, Vince suggests asking for directions. We come to a pub on a corner and there’s a thick-set woman standing outside smoking a cigarette and looking very pleased with herself. She doesn’t know where City Varieties is, but reckons Jack the barman does, on account of him knowing everything. When I step back outside with the directions committed to memory, Emma and Vince are laughing with the woman who announces with pride that she has just had her tenth pint of bitter of the day.

City Varieties is a warren of red velvet seats, dusty stalls and balconies.It’s amazing, sort of a more elaborate Olympia Theatre, but slightly smaller in capacity. The stage is buzzing with technicians. A tired looking chap is draped over a seat next to where we stand in the aisle.

“Hi there, you must be the other band, I’m Peyton (Pinkerton)”

Emma, Vince and I introduce ourselves as some others emerge from the various corridors and recesses near the stage. The house engineer, promoter, shake hands with us and then a smiling woman welcomes us in a soft Texan (?) accent.

“Hi I’m Cassie, I play bass with Silver Jews” .I knew that already.

Then I hear a heavy clambering of footsteps down the aisle behind me. I turn around and there’s a very tall guy in tinted specs with his shirt off, wheezing profusely and covered in sweat. His fringe is stuck to his head, he’s doubled over and almost can’t breathe. He seems to emit the word ‘Jeeeesus’ between clenched teeth. Nobody seems to notice him. He then resumes clambering past me and disappears down the corridor. “David Berman”, I think to myself.

A sherpa leads us through a series of ferret holes to our dressing room. Well, that’s how it feels. We pass ropes and gantries and arrive at two doors.One has a sign that says ‘Adrian Crowley’ the other says ‘Silver Jews’. Under my name in gold letters is written “Empire” while the other door reads “Kingdom”. Something tells me those words have been there for decades.

Chris the promoter tells us to relax a while and disappears down a red velvet fox hole. Emma decides to film the two doors with her phone. Vince suggests he and I pull up our tee shirts so she can get some footage of our belly buttons.

“You guys making a movie?… Niiice”. Cassie has emerged at her dressing room door.

We decide to take a stroll outside and find a sunny place to have a cold beer before the sound check.We sit down , Emma’s phone rings. I’m telling Vince about something funny that happened to me in Dublin the previous day when we notice Emma has just turned pale. She hangs up. “My Dad just dropped dead”.

Utter shock follows and we walk in silence back to the venue. Emma makes hurried phone calls and Vince and I wonder what to do with ourselves. She’s remarkably composed, but probably in shock. She doesn’t feel up to jumping on a train back to London and decides to go ahead with the show.

Rich from the label (Tin Angel) arrives from Coventry with my amp and we soundcheck. There is only 10 minutes available but we work super fast and get a great sound. There is a strangely intimate and relaxed feeling among the three of us. In what seems like not a very long time at all, we get clearance to hit the stage. The stalls and balconies are filling up and we start to play. It feels amazing.

We watch the Silver Jews from a booth over looking the stage.T he chemistry between Berman and his wife is touching. I love his songs and they play a brilliant gig.

Backstage, some of the band ask me for a CD. My friend Richard Adams from Hood brings us to his house. He plays records in his kitchen. We talk, have a beer and go to sleep.

Thursday May 15th – Union Chapel, London.with Devon Sproule

I had heard of this place for years. People have been telling me that it would suit my music perfectly especially with the strings and all. I knew it was special, but it nothing could have indicated to me how overwhelmingly gorgeous a place it is in reality. Kevin and I are the first to arrive at the heavy pine doors of the chapel. We find a back door and inside there are people rehearsing for a Broadway style musical in one of the rooms. There is a slightly out of tune piano accompanying a comical falsetto.

We find the main space in the church.There is a tenor singer and a Spanish guitarist rehearsing on the stage. The sound, unamplified, soars around our heads filling the hexagonal wooden cavern of the chapel. What an amazing place. Kevin finds a safe place for his cello and sits down to read. I head out to meet Cillian and Steve who are arriving on a later plane from Dublin.

Devon Sproule (labelmate) is due to arrive soon from Coventry with Rich and her band (including B.J Cole who in my book is eligible for hero status on account of having played with John Cale from The Velvet Underground). Emma and Vince arrive next. This is one of the more extensive line ups I’ll be working with since some time: Kevin on cello, Stephen on bass, Cillian on drums, Emma on violin, Vince on viola. We also have use of an upright piano which I plan to use for one song. The piano isn’t on the stage so the engineer asks a few of us to help carry it up to the stage/altar. First, four of us grab hold of the piano and hoist it up the steps. I soon find myself alone at the bottom step taking most of the piano’s weight. Rich notices my quickening breathing and panic-stricken face and saves my spine.

There’s some issue with the new digital sound desk. It seems to have put reverb on everything and can’t be removed, which causes worry all round given all the natural reverb of the church. It takes three hours to get right and then, it’s time for us to sound check. It sounds brilliant straight away.

Devon recently played Jools Holland so this gig is kind of a stepping out for the label.There are almost 700 pre-sales and when we take to the stage the place is full. It’s a dream gig. As we come up to the crescendo of the last song of the set (“Leaving The Party”), Steven’s phone goes off in the quiet bit. We laugh, he switches it off and we continue with the song without really missing a beat. Apparently we’re recording the gig onto a 24 track. My friend George (Devon’s drummer) took photos from the balcony.I can’t wait to see them.

Later, BJ Cole agrees to play on the new AC album. I’m delighted. I tell him we’ll be starting work on it in July. Devon plays what seems like her best gig yet and is visibly elated. Emma and Vince can’t stay for her entire gig because they have to head off to ATP with Adem at 6am the following day and the Victoria line closes early. The rest of us find a late bar in Highbury/Islington before we get a cab back to our hotel in Pimlico. We all agree it’s the most repulsive hotel we’ve seen in our collective lives. Kevin’s bed just had a sleeping bag on it and there were no light bulbs in the bedside lamps. Cillian went into the ‘ensuite’ of his room, pulled the chord for the light and a pair of jocks fell on his head. In a manner of speaking.

Steve finds a pin ball machine in the corner and puts some pound coins in the slot. “I love this game, do you play?” “Nope” I answer. I play him anyway and win, scoring fourteen million. Beginners luck I suppose.

Friday 23rd May – Taylor John’s House, Coventry with Vetiver

Today starts at 5:45 am in my house in North Strand. A taxi drops me to Camden Deluxe Hotel where Rich is staying. He’s over with Chris Garneau who played with Xiu Xiu in Whelan’s the night before. We thought it was the thing to do for me to join them on the ferry  to Holyhead and from there we’d drive to Coventry for the first night of my tour with Vetiver. (Chris’s music is beautiful, check out “Music For Tourists” on Fargo). He doesn’t really wake up for a few hours; even when we’re on the ferry, he’s semi-keeled over in a yellow poncho with a half eaten Cornish Pasty on the formica table in front of him.

My chronic vertigo travels everywhere with me like a conjoined twin. It never lets me forget that it can take over whenever I’m in a state of motion or elevation or even if I’m stationary and horizontal. It wont let me sleep on my left side and it’s getting worse all the time. My medicine numbs my sense of balance and the crossing is still enough.

Rich and I talk and talk about our plan for the coming months, tours, other territories, plans for the new record. Plans to sort out my vertigo…It’s good to talk. He’s one of the most hard working people I’ve ever met. and he’s just signed Polar Bear. There are football fans everywhere on the boat – it seems there’s something going on in Cardiff.

We reach Holyhead and hit the open road, stopping in a roadside diner somewhere in Wales that looks like it could be in Canada. We eat and Rich starts a series of potato jokes for my benefit/expense. We finally reach Cov and Vetiver are lost in some car park.The poor lads have traveled from Belgium, discovering along the way that there was a ferry strike. They make it over in time for their soundcheck thanks to the Channel Tunnel.

My old pal Otto (Vetiver drummer) calls out to me as he approaches Taylor John’s (the venue), passing by the barges sitting by the lock of the canal.

“Hey Adriaaaaan”

“Hi Otto!”

We’ve planned to play together on this tour though tonight I’ll be solo. He played drums with me a few years ago on my first tour of the USA with Greg Weeks from Espers.

Taylor John’s is a semi-undergound brick vault with a great atmosphere, a tad damp in the air though which means it REALLY heats up when full of people. I get my pedals and guitars ready and assemble them on the stage for soundcheck. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve played here, but this evening seems to have the best sound yet. It’s home turf for the label so there’s a special buzz. I decide to lie down in a dark corner of the room on the hard floor, what with several hours of boat and van and carrying heavy things. People enter through the heavy velvet curtain that separates the bar from the venue and take their seats. Rich announces me and discovers that I’m still stretched out, immobile on the floor by the speakers side stage.

“…but I think he’s just died”, he laughs.

I get up and walk to the stage. “No ,I’m alive”, I mumble.

It’s fun to play and I even try a brand new song about bees.

Vetiver do a beautiful set. Andy Cabic’s voice is so sweet and the band have a great smouldering energy about them.They all seem to have dark piercing eyes and look like they’ve just kicked through some saloon doors in the new world in the 1840′s. People clap loads. And I have forgotten my camera. Damn.

Next stop: Cambridge. My hotel is calling me and I fantasize about my bed. ZZZZZ. Aaaahhh. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ……