KOBO TOWN’s European tour # 2 – August 13th – 24th, 2013

by Cesco Emmanuel

This time we just went for 11 days, just five shows – Belgium, France, Germany and two in England. And when I say we, it was just Drew and I. We were meeting back up with Richard (Trombone) and Neil (bass) from London, we had played with those guys in June, and we were going to use a friend of Neil’s – Daniel Crosby as our drummer for this short run, Rob couldn’t make this last tour.  Now, the tricky part was Drew and I were not on the same flight. We were flying an hour apart from each other. On top of that, I was heading back to Trinidad on the 25th. So just a day after arriving back from Europe, I would be leaving Toronto and heading back home, so I hoped my luggage would be making it back with me in time.

August 13th – I had two flights, early morning. 7AM. I hate morning flights. I was flying in Washington Dulles airport and then to Heathrow. I made it through US customs at the airport fairly quickly but had the joy of dealing with a rude counter staff from United airlines. I asked her if she could watch my guitar while I went to the washroom – because I’m sure it’s a bit uncomfortable to try taking a leak with a guitar on ones’ back. Anyway, she flat out told me she was ‘not gonna do that sir! OK?’, so I didn’t go anywhere, I just held it in. Thank you United for weakening my bladder! The only reason I did not tell her anything in my Trini tongue was the fear of being detained by some trigger happy airport security personnel. Anyway, the flight was bumpy, but I sat next to a saxophone player, from New Orleans, who came to Montreal to play a show with Dr. John, so we talked the whole way. A really nice guy. The plane landed on-time but had to wait to dock for twenty minutes. Now, I had a hour layover connecting to Heathrow. My flight was leaving at 9.15, boarding was commencing at 8.40AM and I had no idea where my gate was. Finally get out of the plane at 8.35, wait to get my guitar from the holding bay, and as fate would have it, the door won’t open! A maintenance crew has to be called, the guy takes forever to arrive and is moving at snail’s pace. The ground crew doesn’t know where my gate is, I ask them to call the desk and ask the flight to be held. Finally, after what seems like an  eternity the door to the cargo bay opens, and I get my guitar. It is raining and my guitar case gets wet. I run to get my flight information. It is now 8.57. My gate is at the other end of the airport. I have to take a sky-train. I take the wrong one. It is now 9.07. I hop-off the wrong train, run to the correct one. Find my gate and amazingly, they’re holding my flight. Thanks United! and guess what? I lost my seat, so I get moved to right after first class. So Thanks United! And then the plane gets stuck on the ground for 40 minutes because of bad weather. All that running for nothing. Anyways. I watched three movies. So I get into Heathrow, second time this summer and hardly have much a wait at customs. Maybe because the flight arrived in the night? I meet Drew outside and we take the tube to St. Pancras Station. We grab late night Mcdonald’s (all that was available) and turn in for the night at our hotel. The room is small, in fact we’re on the basement floor, but this is London -all the rooms are small, the streets are narrow, the buildings are tall. I fall asleep around 2AM.

August 14th – 8AM – We get up and grab breakfast, which is in another section of the hotel across the street, the breakfast room is also small. We grab our gear and head to Husky rehearsal studios which is near Elephant & Castle stop, not the best area, in fact it’s a bit ‘dodgy’. We have a lil walk with our guitars, but it’s not hot, in fact it’s grey and overcast. We finally make it to the studio space a bit after 10AM and soon learn why it’s named Husky – there’s four big husky dogs just lying around in the office. We see Richard and meet Daniel who will be playing drums for the next five shows on this tour.  We run through most of the songs. We finish rehearsal. We have another one tonight at 7PM. Drew and I grab lunch in this funky restaurant attached to the studios, leave our guitars in the office and go back on the tube to Westminster Abbey. We walk around, grab a coffee and do some sight-seeing. We see Parliament, and go into Westminster Cathedral. Drew always likes going in churches, and it’s always amazing to see the architecture in such reverent places of worship. We walk past Buckingham Palace and head to Camden town to grab a few t-shirts and get dinner. We get back to Husky studios, and reconnect with Neil. We run through most of the songs again. It’s always tricky getting used to a new drummer. We’ve been accustomed playing these songs a certain way for years, and Rob just has a way of making the grooves just fit.

We say goodbye to Neil and Daniel, we’re going to meet them at 10AM to drive to Belgium for our first show. We have to pick up a rental van in the morning.

We head back on the tube to St. Pancras. There’s tons of Scotsmen all on the tube, in kilts and everything. They see our guitars and ask us if we can play them ‘a wee tune’. We tell them we need amps to make a sound. They ask us what we’re doing here, we tell them we’re on tour throughout Europe, and one guy exclaims ‘Oh wow, you’re a real band (pronounced ‘bund’)’. I could not stop laughing, such nice guys.

August 15th – Gig # 1 – ‘Held in Het Park’, Eeklo, Belgium. We grab breakfast, check out of the hotel, grab our gear and luggage and go grab the tube at 8.45. Unfortunately it is packed, so we squeeze in, people don’t really move around in Europe I realized, same thing happened in France, everyone stands by the doorway (truly genius – let’s stand by the door so people can’t get on or off).  My laptop bag gets stuck in the door. A lady yells at me to ‘Get off the train!’ That’s a first, never had that happen in Toronto when I lived there. Perhaps Londoners aren’t the nicest first thing in the morning. Anyway, I apologized. We get off at our stop and go grab a taxi to take us to the car rental, the taxi driver was quite nice. We get to the car rental and have our first hiccup, problem with the booking and the card used. We eventually get it sorted out, but we’re an hour late now. We pick up Neil and Daniel at Husky studios and drive to get Richard, we’re trying to book the  train to France, via the ‘Chunnel’ from Folkestone to Calais. We have to book it online and we’re getting trouble to do so. Finally we get through, we’re booked on the ferry, at least we think so. Make it to Folkestone in time, drive around and cannot find the ferry. We then realize we have to drive to another location, we get there, show the French immigration our work papers and get on a cargo train that holds cars. Now that’s cool. So we were never booked on the ferry to begin with. We get to France 45 minutes later. It’s now an hour later than the time in England, so we have less than two hours to get to the gig at ‘Held in Het Park’, Eeklo, Belgium. We get there just in time for soundcheck. It’s a nice big field, and everyone is rather friendly. We run through a few songs. Grab a bite to eat backstage, and head to the hotel which is not too far, run by a very nice husband and wife. I have my own room, but I realize that I don’t have a shower, I have a bath. Never used one of those before, so I wet down the entire bathroom trying to use the funny shower head. We arrive back to the show with less than ten minutes before we go on. We get on stage, it’s a decent size audience and they are quite receptive to us. It wasn’t our best show because we were still getting used to each other’s playing style, we were out of sync. We do our usual walk-off into the crowd. They really dig that, and we get called to do an encore. We sell a few CDs after the show and stick around to grab a drink. However, we gotta be up early in the morning to head to France. It’s an 8-hour drive. So we head back to the hotel.

August 16th – Gig # 2 – Festival Le Cafe de L’ete, La Roche Sur Yon. I get up at 5.30AM, feeling like utter rubbish, in fact I haven’t had a good night’s sleep since Toronto, every morning we’ve been up early and going to sleep rather late. Anyway, I attempt and successfully draw a bath. It is the weirdest feeling in the world, sitting down to bathe. We all meet for breakfast upstairs, check out and head to France. We’re playing at Festival Le Cafe de L’ete, La Roche Sur Yon. We’re running rather close for time, we eventually get to the hotel and walk to the venue, it’s that close. We have a pretty good soundcheck and run through a good bit of songs, just to tighten things up. Our contacts at the festival are quite nice and make us feel right at home. Already people have gathered to hear our soundcheck. We walk back to our hotel and get dinner at this lovely restaurant. Everything is within walking distance. The food is amazing. The French really know how to cook. We head back to the venue. The place is packed now. We get a great response and we do put on a better show than in Belgium. We do our walk-off into the crowd and again get asked for an encore. We sell a good bit of CDs after the show. We end up meeting a nice group of people and they invite us out to an irish bar after. We get there an hour later, and dance to some rather strange dance music. The guys all leave, but I end up staying back to walk around the town with my new acquaintances. I’m being shown the town by a lovely young mademoiselle. I say goodbye to my new friends and get to bed by 5AM.

August 17th – Drew drops the Englishmen to the airport, I was supposed to go with him but I just couldn’t wake up. I was really lacking sleep at this point in time. Later, we check out of our hotel and go grab lunch by our new French friends. We leave later than evening and head to Frankfurt. We stop at the Abbey of Solesmes, grab dinner and stay for vespers (evening prayers). We leave for Reims. We pick up two hitch-hitching Polish musicians. They are a making a documentary about the island of Pitcairn. We stop at a hotel close to the outskirts of Reims. It is 2AM.

August 18th – We oversleep. I made the mistake to shut the blinds and we literally wake up at 11AM and run out of the hotel to avoid a late check-out fee. We grab the Poles and all four of us drive to Reims. We stop at the Facade de Notre-Dame. It’s amazing the architecture on these gothic churches. Simply amazing! We grab lunch and drive to Frankfurt. We drop off our Polish friends at a truck stop and we get in to Frankfurt around 6PM. We go grab dinner and just walk around the town. We’re staying in this loft/warehouse/workspace. Rather cool.

August 19th – Me & Drew go walking around Frankfurt. Today’s my Dad’s birthday so I call him to wish him ‘Happy Birthday’ (well, he actually has two birthdays, his birth certificate says one day and his late mom used to swear by another day, so we celebrate both), he is rather glad to hear from me. We walk all around the city. We go back to the loft and head out for dinner and late night coffee.

August 20th – Gig # 3 – Palmetgarten, Frankfurt. We pick up the English crew at this small airport in Frankfurt. We have a few hours off before soundcheck. We playing in this lovely park area. We get a good soundcheck, and get fed like kings. We’re playing two sets. The first set the crowd is a bit subdued. But by the second set, they’re on their feet. We get called back on-stage twice, which has never happened before. We meet so many people at the CD tent telling us how great our set was. We stick around a bit and then head back to the loft. We leave for England in the morning. We have to drive from Frankfurt to Calais. Drew is trying to book our ticket to catch the evening ferry.

August 21st – We leave after 9AM. We drive through Germany, Holland, Belgium and then France. We get to the Calais dock, but there’s a mix-up with the ferry service, our order didn’t go through. But we get to British Customs, and they keep me and Drew back to check our paperwork. Everything is fine a half hour later, and we go to the boat ticketing office. We’re on the 5.30PM boat. We get to Dover and see the White Cliffs. We drop-off the guys at a train station and then drive to Bristol. We’re staying at the house of this lovely couple that saw us in London back in June. They’re arranged this show for us tomorrow at the Left Bank Pub. We arrive after 11.30PM, we meet the Clibery’s and get treated to a lovely fish soup.

August 22nd – Gig # 4 – Left Bank, Bristol. Again I sleep in late, Dan and Lucy Clibery show us around Bristol. We have a radio interview about the show tonight. We get back to the house after 5PM, we meet Dan and Richard, Neil is at the venue. We grab our stuff and head to the pub. Soundcheck is a bit late and we don’t have much of a PA, so it’s a dry mix. We get a pretty good crowd, but our set is a bit noisy because of how the venue is laid out. Still, we had a great time. We lime a bit to hear the DJ spin some old dub.

August 23rd – Gig # 5 – Shambala Festival – Northamptonshire We say goodbye to the Clibery’s and head to Shambala festival in Northamponshire. We get stuck in traffic. Worse yet, Dan is meeting us by train as his bus got delayed, so he had to grab a train and is hoping to meet us there in time for soundcheck. We’re playing at 3PM. I hate that time slot. Daniel makes it on-time and we get a pretty decent soundcheck. We don’t have much of a crowd, and we honestly just mill through the set. This is not the ideal end to the tour but, it is what it is. We walk around after and grab a bite to eat and check out a few other bands. It’s not a folk fest, but a sort-of ‘hippie/masquerade/carnival’. It’s interesting. I just think we were the wrong band for this kind of venue. The Clibery’s come by later that evening and we say our last goodbyes. Such lovely people. We drive back to London, drop off Neil, Dan and his girl and Richard. Drew and I check into this small hotel and go grab a late night dinner – Burritos.

August 24th – We get soaking wet trying to grab lunch before we head to Heathrow. We get there and strange, no one is at our gate. And we don’t have our seat numbers. We finally get it sorted out and we’re on our way back to Canada. But for a while, we were a bit worried we about our flight. We have a two-hour wait in Washington Dulles. I watch another three movies. We reach back to Toronto close to midnight. I say goodbye to Drew at the airport and head to my friend’s place.

And just like that, the summer tour of 2013 has come to an end for me. The guys have a few more dates in the US and Canada in September, but I’ll be teaching by then. Got to be a responsible adult now and pay bills.

August 25th – I get up, bathe, eat, say goodbye to the Hurejs’ and head to Pearson Airport, I’m flying back home to Trinidad this evening. A short stop-over in Grenada. I reach in after 9PM and reunite with my family. My word, did three months fly quickly.

p.s. So a few thank you’s – Drew Gonsalves (for asking me to join the band on this summer-long tour) and the rest of the guys in Kobo Town for having me play alongside them, it was truly an honour. The Hurej’s for putting me up all this time. My Canadian family, my cousins and friends – it was great to see you all again this summer. To all the trinis who came out to see the band in the U.S. – it was so great to see you all, it really meant alot to me and the band. The Encinas family for their hospitality (and trini spoiling) when we were on the West Coast. To my new West Coast friends – thank you for your hospitality while we were in Vancouver. The Clibery’s for all your warmth when we were in Bristol, thank you for inviting us to your town. To my new French friends, thank you for your warmth and being our tour guide around town, thanks for feeding us. To all the musicians we played with along the way, it was a honour.

To all the new friends and fans we met while we were on the road, thanks for dancing, screaming and singing along with us. Thanks for making us feel welcomed in your town.

See you all again next year.

This was the craziest summer of my life, the adventure that I’ve always dreamed, and now that it’s over, I can only think of one thing.

When’s the next tour?