Box News #281 – June 8th, 2019


TOUR DIARY PART 2

URIAH HEEP AS SPECIAL GUESTS TO JUDAS PRIEST IN THE USA & CANADA

Our merchandise Mick while on tour had his Mother Pass away, which was so sad, so he flew home back to England to be at the funeral, and he will re-join us in St Louis. Our thoughts and prayers went with him.

Well on the 26th May we were looking at a bus ride of over 40 hours plus, including stops, so we all decided to fly to Austin Texas from Chicago. As the plane was full on the two flights, we had to do this in two separate parties. The early flight had Brian, Davey, Ben and Angus, and the later flight, Scampi, Phil, Russ, Bernie & his family and moi. I was also super excited to get there early as my son Mike was meeting me there. In fact he was at the hotel when the first guys arrived, so he could get his room, which was cool thanks to my guitar tech Rich.

When we arrived at the hotel it was so lovely to see him, and he had not changed a bit other than he had succumbed at last to the Box face furniture and was wearing glasses. However, I was still full of sickness which was beginning to drag me down especially after that flying too. It was a day off, so I had a little time to rest which was nice. By this time I had also lost my voice which if that has happened to you ever, you would know is super frustrating.

We arrived at the hotel in time for a quick rest and shower before meeting for dinner. Most off the crew on the early flight shift had already been down town all day enjoying the sights. Austin is full of bars, restaurants and shops and it is a seriously happening busy bustling area. Again you can hire scooters and bikes everywhere, turning it into a kind of motorised Holland, with people whizzing by at a rate of knots.

Phil, Bernie, Russ, Mike and my good self decided on eating at the hotel Restaraunt and having a quiet night. It was bar food really, but we were really surprised at just how good the food actually was. Also for those that were drinking, namely Bernie and Russ the barman mixed a mean old cocktail that made them both very happy.

The following day we ventured into town as the hotel had a courtesy van which was cool. We walked around for a couple of hours, which for me was draining in the heat, but the other option of sitting in my hotel room feeling sorry for myself did not appeal. I had been to Austin many times before and they have a slogan everywhere saying ‘Keep Austin Weird.’ This was on stickers, fridge magnets, T Shirts and just about everywhere.

After a little lunch and searching every bar that we came across for a Pina Colada that Russ was desperate for, would you believe it that no bar or restaurant served them at all, not until we found a place just as our courtesy bus turned up to take us back to the hotel. Russ and Phil had to skull them quickly and contacted brain freeze from the ice in the process.

We met at 7pm to go to dinner but the usual tour party was pretty fragmented by then. The crew and Davey were either in town or going down town, but Phil, Russ, Mike, Bernie and his family along with my good-self, spied a Seafood restaurant that looked interesting behind the hotel, so we walked there.

Luckily for us it was superb food and service, and everyone had a good dinner, and those that wanted cocktails had them plentiful and Russ got his Pina Coladas and loved them.

I was still on the sick list and Phil had bronchitis, and Bernie was on a course of antibiotics too, so once again it was a quiet night.

The meds I had brought from London were not even touching the sides to this Passive COPD I have been blessed with through other peoples smoke over the years, so I was not improving at all, and that is where my good friends David and Lana came to the rescue. They kindly arranged for some meds in New York that treat my condition and had them sent by USPS to my hotel.

The following day was a gig day, so all we did was rest all day to have the strength for that nights show. Down at the concert the lurgy was spreading, as a lot of the Priest crew had contacted it, and even Judas Priests guitarists Richie and vocalist Rob. Still the show must go on, and not one person in the audience would have noticed anything as both bands were on fire. Such is the power of adrenaline and passion for what you do.

That day was a bank holiday, so the meds sent by USPS we’re not due to arrive until the following day, which was so lucky as we had two shows there in Austin at the ‘Moody Theatre.’ The tracking note said a 10.30am delivery at the hotel, but I think even the hotel reception lady was getting fed up with me asking if my parcel had arrived. It was either me or Mike going down at regular intervals to see it it had arrived each time to no avail.

The only good thing was that there was a washer and dryer on the 2nd floor, so in between visits to reception to see if my meds had arrived, Mike and I got our laundry done which was cool and much needed.

Well the second show in Austin was as good as the first, and the band was on fire and the crowd went nuts. Still back at the hotel no meds had arrived and we were leaving at 9am to Dallas Texas the next morning. This started off a chain of phone calls between USPS, David and Lana in New York and Mike to find out what we could do. We did eventually find out that the parcel was in the Austin depot and that they opened at 7.30am. Luckily the depot was a 16 minute walk from the hotel, so my son Mike got up early and went down there with my ID’s to try and pick up the package, before it was loaded on to a van and driven around Austin all day. This he did and ‘Appy days, he sent me a triumphant picture of him holding the parcel, and he came back to the hotel in time for some breakfast. Phew! that was close, and I cannot thank David and Lana and Mike enough for all of their efforts. I now hopefully had the goods to combat this Passive COPD attack fully. In previous blogs I have mentioned that I have Bronchitis on the road, or a chest infection but really each time it is this Passive COPD that will never go away. It just lays dormant until something triggers it off and the next thing I am sick. Such is my cross to bear!

We arrived in Dallas after a few stops and luckily it was another night off. I started to religiously take my medication and rest was the order of the day. There was a small restaurant called ‘Market Diner,’ that was just across from the hotel car park. There was nothing else for miles, so with the degree of sickness in the camp, we ate breakfast, lunch and diner there, and chilled out big time to give our bodies time to recover. They even had a juke box with the ‘Living the Dream’ album on and a total of 52 Heep albums and 790 songs on it. How cool is that as this diner was in the middle of nowhere.

Of course the crew and Davey hit the hotspots, as downtown there was ‘The House of Blues,’ ‘Hooters,’ and a ‘Hard Rock Cafe’ and by all accounts it was buzzing. Still there is a long way to go on this tour and in fact for the rest of the year, so it was definitively health first for me.

The concert in Dallas was at a venue called ‘The Bomb Factory,’ which was a very cool venue. It was packed to the rafters and a fantastic atmosphere. When we hit the stage the audience were up and running and ready to rock out big time. It was a great show and Dallas did us proud. Our agent Leora from APA Agency was in town visiting her parents, so it was lovely to see her. My son Mike had his best friends in to see the show, and Andy Sneap Priests second guitarist sent me a text to say ‘King Diamond,’ was coming down, and he was a big fan and wanted to meet me. Also guys from ‘Blackfoot,’ who we met on the Rock Legends Cruise came by to say hi.

Because of my illness, I could not really stay around too long like I normally do, so Phil being under the weather too, we took an Uber back to the hotel and unfortunately I missed meeting ‘King Diamond,’ which was a shame. I did hear from Davey in the morning that King Diamond was wandering backstage trying to find me to say hello to me.

Also we had an early morning start to travel to Little Rock Arkansas for an outside gig in the ‘First Security Amphitheatre.’ When we arrived at lunch time we could see the stage backed on to the Arkansas River which was not only flowing fast but dangerously high and browner than brown. Our dressing room backed on to the river too, and I would not be surprised if the next day they would be totally flooded, as it was that high. It was stupidly hot and humid and the crews setting up all day must have been drained. Our hotel was only a 5 minute drive away, so after lunch we tried to stay out of the way as much as possible.

There was also the added bonus that my son Mike and I could watch the Spurs v Liverpool Champions League match on the hotel TV. My wife Sheila was at the new stadium in Tottenham with her brother John watching on the big screens, and I am sure Romeo was down at the pub with his friends. We were texting each other like demons with excitement.

When the handball was given for a penalty in the first few minutes, it was the worst start possible and Salah was never going to miss that.

Now apart from the penalty drama, personally I did not hold out much hope of a win for a number of reasons. Our manager Mauricio Pochettino wanted to play Kane from the off, but I thought he should have bought him on as a sub, as he had not played a full game for weeks due to an injury. He could have been the Ace in the pack so to speak later on in the game. We had a few more players back from injury with a lack of full game experience including Harry Winks, so the gel factor was sadly missing. Erickson, Trippier and Deli have not been in good form of late and it was the same in this game, which at this level is just not good enough. Top that off with the fact Liverpool have beaten Spurs twice this season already and their squad is twice the size of ours in strength, and when you consider Liverpool spent in excess of 200 million Sterling in the transfer market 2018/2019, and Spurs spent nothing as we built a new state of the art stadium, you can see it was all stacked against us.

Add to that I thought we had ridden our luck of late even though our commitment and depth of strength had been admirable, heart stopping and beyond belief at times. There also has to be some unrest with certain players wanting to leave or even being sold, with Erickson being a prime example wanting to go to Real Madrid or Juventus.

I think Erickson is a really good player when he wants to be, but as a replacement for Luka Modric at Real Madrid in my eyes, he is no where near Modrics class. Now what baffles me is that had Erickson played a terrific game and showed some of the brilliance he is capable of and we had won, surely having a Championship League winners medal would have not only driven up his price, but also those clubs would want him even more. To play flatter than a pancake on such an important game is beyond me, even if you have plans to move. I do question their sanity.

Apart from all of that this seasons journey has been just incredible with many roller coaster moments that will live with us forever, and I just pray our manager Mauricio Pochettino stays at the club to take it all to the next level, but there are some concerns, and a big black cloud hanging over Mauricio staying. He has even hinted at leaving if we won or lost the Champions League Cup which was in my mind was professional suicide going into such an important game of a lifetime. Maybe he was just trying to shock owner Levy into action and get him to deliver in the buying market for next season, but the timing of those comments was certainly not what we all wanted to hear.

I am immensely proud of Spurs, as to achieve 4th place in the Premier League this year, with the big spenders above us like Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City (2019 Premier League Winners), we therefore qualified for the Champions League next year and became Champion League runners up in 2019. We made it to the 4th Round of the FA Cup and the semi-finals of the EFL Cup, and all that while enduring a season without a proper home and all the unrest and uncertainty that brings, especially as we spent zero money on players in the transfer market while building a new world class stadium.

Now after that disappointment, back at the gig Brian was setting up Davey’s bass and as it was outside, all sorts of big creatures where climbing up his fret board, including a hairy type Caterpillar would you believe. You could see huge snakes in the murky waters backstage and there were some bugs on steroids flying around, but lucky for us, no Alligators showed up!

Considering the audience were all standing or sitting in that heat they were really responsive to our rockin’ set list. It was stiflingly hot and humid on stage and this dried up our throats even more. Still we went down a storm and against all the odds, we had a fantastic reaction.

Under the circumstances our crew did a marvellous job setting up our gear and making sure everything was just right, so we could just walk on and face the elements and rock out Heep style.

Back in the dressing room though the floor and food table were infested with thousands of ants, all having a field day, so consequently we did not hang around too long. While Bernie was in the shower it did cross our mind to put a handful of ants in his underpants, but apart from all of the schoolboy giggling going on, it never happened.

Now how the Priest boys got on I will never know. Both guitarists Richie and Andy wear full leather outfits, so by the end of their show I bet they both had a pair of ‘Betty Swollocks,’ each!

Rob has a number of costume changes too throughout the set, so he must have been drained at the end of it. Still as we were leaving the venue and getting an Uber back to the hotel, they sounded as good as ever and the Metal Gods were at full power.

We had an early leave the next day to drive to St Louis for a day off. Taking my medicine and getting some good rest, I did feel slowly that I was turning the corner a bit with this sickness and I sure hope that continued. Being sick on the road is no fun at all, and now Mike has a dose of it coming on too which is not good news. When we arrived in St Louis, our first port of call was to order an Uber and get Mikey down to Walgreens to pick up some medicine to try and nip his now incessant cough in the bud. Fingers crossed! Our merchandise Mick flew to St Louis from England, so it was good to have home back on the team.

In the evening the crew and Davey went up the St Louis Arch and then Scampi and Brian found an Irish Pub for some Shepherds Pie, and the rest of the crew hit a hamburger joint that served Ben a Hamburg he nick-named filth on his Facebook page. It did look pretty bad I have to say.

Over here in the USA they have cheese with everything, and this can be cheese slices, grated cheese, stringy cheese, cheese squirted from a tube like toothpaste, and we call it mostly comedy cheese because it does not taste of cheese at all. I am very careful to say to whoever serves me ‘no cheese please on anything,’ and still most of the time it still turns up with it on my meal. Then back it goes to the kitchen until there is not a drop of cheese in sight. Now I love cheese, but it has to be good quality cheese and not of the above variety and lack of quality.

Bernie, Russ, Mike and I found a Thai Restaurant nearby which was good food, and we then had an early night. Phil fancied some fancy Peruvian Cuisine at a place called ‘Mango,’ so we did not see him, and between eating he was doing his laundry.

Well Mike had a bad night coughing etc so we set a plan in motion for him to fly home from St Louis to El Paso where he could see a doctor and get fixed up. He left about the same time we did for the gig, so it worked out well, and he could be in his own bed that night, and try and get himself well. It was sad to see him go, but the right thing to do in the long run.

The gig at the Stifel theatre was fantastic and the audience reaction was stunning. We met a few friends after but we did not stay around too long as this sickness prevailed, plus we had an early start as we were playing a funky venue called ‘Knuckleheads’ in Kansas the next day with an early 8am leave.

We made really good time and arrived at ‘Knuckleheads’ at around 12 midday, then we ate lunch/breakfast, and then the band checked into a nearby hotel for day rooms only, as we were travelling overnight to what we thought was Colorado Springs. The Kansas show was a Heep headline show, so we could play our full set which was great.

Before we went on stage at ‘Knuckleheads’ we received the bad news that Rob Halford had lost his voice and that Colorado Springs was cancelled. This threw a lot of our plans up in the air as Brian our Bass/Keys/stage manager was leaving the tour for a week as his son was getting married in Cancun. He had his flight booked from Colorado Springs. Plus we were meeting a double driver there too for the long drive to Saskatoon Canada, along with Brian’s American replacement joining us.

So backstage before we went on it was a little chaotic to say the least. Arrangement ideas were flying back and forth, and there was even a suggestion that we announce the cancellation on the Heep & JP sites and find a venue in Colorado Springs where we could play a show, so as not to disappoint everyone. Well this proved impossible to arrange in that short time, so Scampi our tour manager set about making alternative arrangements to get us to Saskatoon in Canada direct.

Firstly he arranged a flight for Brian from Kansas to Dallas on to Cancun which was lucky, and as we only had day rooms in Kansas he kept one room on for Brian to sleep in before departing to the wedding.

The bus company said that as we would now drive straight to Saskatoon Canada there was no need for a double driver so that was cool, and then we arranged for the new tech to fly direct to Saskatoon. This meant that for the rest of us we had an overnight drive for 11 hours to a place called Faro North Dakota where we then had 12 hours on the ground in day rooms, as our diver Bob would be out of driving hours.

While in Faro we found out that just a 15 minute ride away from our hotel that there was a Rib Fest with ‘Vince Neil’ from Motley Crue and his band playing there. The hotel courtesy bus dropped us off at the venue which had a $5 entrance fee. Everyone but Russ and Ben went, and it was a bit of a laugh. Once they realised who we were they put us on the monitor side of the stage to see the show. Obviously it was 90% Crue songs, but all of the guys we met were nice and respectful, and the audience were well into it. The weather was great, so it was nice to mull around before heading back to the hotel to jump on the Bus for yet another overnighter.

We departed at midnight taking us to the Canadian border in Portal Canada at 8am. We had all of the necessary Carnet and clearance papers, but we still had to get off the bus at 8am and show our passports. So in under and hour we were on our way which was marvellous. We planned to stop at the first restaurant we could see to have some breakfast but the prairie countryside was so flat and remote, we did not see a thing until 1pm, and then there were only two choices. A run down Cafe or a Subways that was inside a Garage. I opted for the Subway choice as it looked safer and healthier. Phil, Russ, and Rick joined me but Bernie, Davey and Scampi took the greasy hamburger option.

Since being in Canada there has been a noticeable drop in the weather and it had started to rain heavily. Still Bob our amazing driver made it to the hotel where we all checked in and went to our rooms until the 7pm where we met in the bar for dinner. Just a short walk away from the hotel and right next door to each other were an Italian Restaurant and an English pub. The pub was called ‘Winston’s English Pub and Grill,’ and the Italian Restaurant called ‘Taverna Italian Kitchen + Bar.’

Scampi wisely decided to stay in and get his work done having room service, so he could have a complete day off the following day.

Well the English Pub served on draft ‘Leffe’ beer and ‘Guinness’ on draft, so that was Phil, Davey and Mick all set and Bernie, Russ and I went to the Italian. Our food and drink was excellent and then we joined the others back in the English Pub. Well from when we left them at the pub originally the level had gone up somewhat, and to our surprise the entire Judas Priest crew turned up, so it was destined to get a bit messy.

The table opposite us had a guy who joined our table and started buying Tequila shots for everyone. I left seeing Davey knocking back another shot, and as I was not drinking, and I was still on antibiotics, I walked back to the hotel. Bernie came back with me and I could only see it all going to be a lot of fun, but with a lot of hurting in the morning. Luckily it was another day off!

The mighty Heep adventures will continue on then next Blogolicious, and I hope you enjoyed the read above, as there will be more to follow in part (3)

‘Apply days!

Mick

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3 Responses to “Box News #281 – June 8th, 2019”

  1. Egil Bokn Says:

    Betty Swollocks,,,,,,,nice one Mick. Again, thanks a lot for sharing. Would have loved to follow you guys through a tour!!!

  2. Alan keetley Says:

    Thanks Mick, always enjoy reading these blogs.

  3. Elina Aaltonen Says:

    How awful is that, getting a COPD from other people´s smoking! I hope the new meds will kick in well and you´ll be able to fully enjoy the rest of the tour and the next one and so on… The young musicians today are luckier with stricter smoking restrictions.
    Congrats to the Spurs for the great results this year and as you say, on to the next level next season! In the meanwhile, ´appy days and ´appy birthday!
    xxxxx

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