TOUR DIARY: Meet The Beatles

After a snowy London morning spent wandering around the the British Museum, we hit the road to drive roughly four hours back north the way we'd just come from. Ricky had the night off, but I'd been invited to come to Leeds to open up for Ian Felice (of The Felice Brothers). The promoter later told me that when she reached out to my agent about getting me on the bill, she didn't think there was any way I'd actually be willing to turn around and drive all that way on my day off, but I'd always rather be playing than not, and Ian is a supremely talented writer who I've looked up to since the first time I saw him opening for Bright Eyes at Radio City Music Hall while I was in college, so as far as I was concerned, it was a no brainer. The show was at a great venue called The Brudenell Social Club, and the audience was just perfect. After the gig was the first and only time I forgot where I was and started driving down the right side of the road. The promoter was in the car with me (we were on our way to get some late night kebabs), and I think I gave her a bit of a fright. Sorry Tre!

On the way to Liverpool the next day, I took Jane to Haworth, which is home to the Brontë Parsonage Museum. It was a bit out of the way, but I know what a Brontë fan she is, so I bought us tickets as part of an early Christmas present. (When I told Ricky's manager, Tom, where we were going, he asked if it was an attempt to cure someone's insomnia.) It turned out to be a pretty memorable side trip, though. Haworth is an impossibly picturesque little village with gorgeous old buildings and graveyards and little shops and restaurants lining the steep and narrow streets. At the Brontë's home, you can see the table where the sisters all wrote together, and it's a pretty staggering moment to realize you're looking at a hunk of wood on which 'Wuthering Heights' and 'Jane Eyre' were both written by hand.

The Liverpool gig was back at the Capstone Theatre, where we'd played a few weeks earlier. It's unusual to have two non-consecutive gigs at the same venue, but it seems that Liverpool has always been a Deacon Blue stronghold, and demand necessitated finding a way to get back. The crowd was even rowdier this time, with some fans who had particularly enjoyed themselves (and a few drinks) deciding to serenade Ricky with Deacon Blue hits at the march table. "Just like a Liverpudlian to show you up," Ricky said. That night, I took Jane to stay at the Sefton Park Hotel, which I'd discovered on my first trip into town. It's a great little hotel just outside the city that was once the home of Stuart Sutcliffe, the original bassist for a little Liverpool band called The Beatles. Stuart left the band after their second trip to Hamburg and tragically died young, but his girlfriend was a photographer, and the hallways of the hotel are lined with amazing shots of the young Beatles. It was the perfect segue into our cultural activity the next morning: a stroll through the Beatles museum down at the docks. We timed our visit so we could meet up with my pal Son Little there. (If you don't know his music, I'd recommend starting with a song called "The River," which is how I first heard him and became a fan.) His tour was arriving just as we were leaving, but there was enough overlap that we could catch up for a few and enjoy some of the memorabilia. Each room of the museum is set up to represent a different moment in the band's story (The Cavern Club, Abbey Road, the first flight to America, the yellow submarine, etc.)

Our show that night was in Buxton, which required a drive through fog so dense you could barely see your own hand in front of your face. The gig was great, and the theater was probably the best sounding room (from onstage anyway) that I played in on the whole run. Afterwards, we went for beers with Ricky and his two-man crew (manager Tom and soundman Steph) at The Old Hall, which is reported to be the oldest hotel in all of England (it dates back to the 1500s). Mary Queen of Scots used to stay there when she came to Buxton for the healing properties of its thermal springs. Jane and I stayed a short walk up he hill at the grand Palace Hotel, which was quite a sight to see all beautifully lit up for Christmas.

Coming Up Next: My first shows in Ireland!