It's rare that I get multiple nights in the same hotel on the road, so I wanted to make the most of having another morning/afternoon without a drive. After a quick breakfast at the hotel, I walked a mile into the center of Belfast with no real agenda. The streets are dotted with gorgeous old industrial-looking buildings, but the city doesn't have the same vibe of antiquity that a lot of other spots we've hit on this run have had. I suspect that's in part due to the fact that Belfast was bombed pretty heavily by the Germans during WWII. The city is home to a massive shipyard (it's where the Titanic was built and launched), and that made it a prime target for devastation by the Nazis. Destruction has come at Belfast from all sides, though. Our first night in town we had dinner and Irish beer at The Crown, a pretty spectacularly preserved gin palace from the 1800's that's located across the street from the Europa Hotel, which is known as "the most bombed hotel in Europe." It was bombed 36 times during The Troubles (aka the Northern Ireland Conflict), but now it's the kind of fancy joint where everybody from Justin Bieber to Hillary Clinton comes for a bit of luxury. At The Crown I had steak and Guinness pie, which is essential a stew of beef and gravy and mushrooms and onions cooked in gravy and served inside of a thick, doughy pastry. I felt like I'd taken horse tranquilizers after I finished it.
Anyway, back to this morning. At the heart of downtown is Belfast's remarkable City Hall. Opened in 1906, it's a 1.5-acre Baroque Revival masterpiece, with four towers and a massive dome. Inside, it's chock full of stained glass windows, hand-laid Italian marble, and ornate wood carvings from the same folks that worked on the Titanic. In one room, they have a dresser that was built especially for that infamous ship but arrived to Belfast late and missed its rendezvous with the ocean floor. The restored grand ballroom is a serious highlight (the original was destroyed during the Belfast Blitz in WWII), but the most memorable part of my tour was sitting in the Lord Mayor's ornate chair in the council chambers. In Belfast, the citizens vote to elect city council members, and those council members choose a Lord Mayor every year. Much like Trump, I issued a flurry of executive orders from the chair even though I had no idea what was going on or why I was even allowed to be there. It will be up to the courts to challenge my new ban on all songs that aren't at least a little bit sad.
After my tour of City Hall, I met up with The Mastersons back at the hotel and headed for the Errigle Inn, where we got back into the groove of actually playing music. It's crazy how strange it feels to not play shows for two whole days. I came up with a new song idea in the dressing room and sang it into my phone, which I've been doing a lot lately. Some people have the gift of being able to write on the road, but all I'm able to do is try to capture whatever little spark of inspiration lights up in my brain before it's gone. I save the ideas as voice memos on my iPhone and then revisit them when I get home. Sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised by a cool idea I forgot I had, and other times I can't for the life of me figure what the hell I was thinking. Anyway, we're onto the last leg of the tour now. Only three more nights of shows here in Glasgow, Newcastle, and Bristol, and then it's a wrap. I can't believe how fast this month has gone.