by Jeremy Lemos
I'm on the bus headed to four sold-out gigs in London, and as I write this it's 3 AM. We have to catch the ferry to the UK, so I've got an hour to myself to think about the tour so far and what's happened. We have a truck full of sound and lights, and you can end up spending most of your day in the venue getting it all ready—a week will go by before you know it.
The tour started in Dublin, and Stephen and Mark barely made it because of the volcano. Stephen performs quite well under the stress of jet lag, apparently, but the airline did lose the bag he took from Coachella (still lost a week later BTW) with all of his pedals in it. Eventually we found the cafe Green Nineteen, and it was delicious.
Glasgow, the Barrowlands Ballroom! I didn't leave the venue all day, but that was all right. The three-story load-in (maybe the craziest in the world?) is handled by the toughest local crew on earth. They pick up two Fender Twins, one under each arm, and bound up the stairs singing sailor songs. The catering there was killer (carrot-ginger soup was divine), and the show was a hot, sweaty, wonderful mess. We were supposed to fly to Paris afterward, but the Dublin airport was closed—so back on the bus. Instead of getting to Paris a day early, we have the day off in London for a bus-driver break.
Woke up in an underground bus parking lot filled with empty buses and drivers standing around smoking and looking out of place. Sabrina the lighting designer and I jumped on the tube and headed across town to Dose Espresso for stamp number one on my Disloyalty Card. Barista champion Gwilym Davies wanted to bring a little more attantion to the London coffee scene, so he picked his eight favorite cafes set up this deal where if you hit them all, he'll make you a free coffee at Prufrock. After a gilbraltar and an espresso we split to the Barbican and saw the Céleste Boursier-Mougenot installation. Such a delightful thing to experience in real life! Finches would land on your shoulder and then eat birdseed in a contact-miked cymbal, their tiny beaks making huge gong sounds. When they landed and nested on the live electric guitars, it sounded like Kevin Drumm. One of the best free shows I've ever been to.
We stopped off at Gordon's Wine Bar before we left our friends, who were headed to see Atlas Sound later. It had some intimate candlelit tables inside and an entire alley blocked off in the back where you could eat small plates and drink wine next to the park. It seemed like a place where real Londoners would stop after work and unwind before heading home. I'll go there again for sure. Got back on the bus and woke the next day in the parking lot next to Le Zenith in Paris.
We played a coheadlining show with the National in Paris. They have shared more than one festival with Sonic Youth in the past few years, and I remember the crew and a few of the band members, who are all killer. They put on a great show, and the singer ended up in the crowd with the longest mike cable I've ever seen. My guest list is way too big, and I know it, but how can I not invite all the amazing people from the Fondation Cartier or all of my great friends who've let my band sleep on their floors? The most wonderful city in the world has many wonderful people living in it, and they all happen to like Pavement.
We had a concert at the the classic Dutch venue the Paradiso the next night and stayed out until 4 AM drinking Duvel. Amsterdam has had a trash strike for a week, and it's now the filthiest city I've ever been in. The only thing I really wanted to do while in Amsterdam was go see the Stumptown Coffee that opened last week, and I walked over there only to get denied. Damn! Closed for training. I tried to sweet-talk my way in and have the trainees try all their wonderful experiments on me, but nothing worked. Later I found out later Mark Ibold was in there, having succeeded where I failed. Amazing. I can't wait to hear all about it. Had some wine with one of the back-line techs, who lives on a house boat in Amsterdam, and then some tapas before the bus.
And that's where this story started. London is calling. Four sold-out shows at Brixton Academy, starting tonight, with 5,000 people a night. Isn't that crazy? I've heard rumors of what happened the last time Pavement was here, but the reasons this band broke up have never interested me, honestly. It's none of my business, but I know these shows will mean a lot to them. I can't wait.
Jeremy also posts on Twitter and is probably on the road right now. . . .