May 23, 2005

what the hell is a newsboost buccaneer, anyway?

in addition to putting out some awesome music, British Sea Power is one crazy bunch of Englishmen. I get their newsletters on occasion, and this one's pretty cool.

Newsletter No. 25

Newsletter No. 25

An exclusive on-the-road report from the North American tour.

At time of writing, British Sea Power have played their last concert of their current North American tour - at Chicago Logan Square Auditorium. Tired but happy and perhaps with a little money hidden in a sock, our men now make ready to board a gigantic aircraft. To an extent unbelievable to those who have never seen a jet aeroplane, this gigantic craft will fly the band high and home - heading over the Hudson Straits with a groundspeed of 527 miles per hour, onward at 36,000 feet over the Greenland ice packs at Disko.

As the BSP quintet decompress, they will sink slowly into their seats. Perhaps they will imagine themselves already back inside their secret Sussex wine cellar - deep inside the Downland chalk somewhere to the north of the camera obscura at Foredown Tower. Maybe they will enjoy mineral water bottled in Blackford, Perthshire, and then watch the in-flight entertainment system as it shows actress Emily Blunt going for a swim. Possibly they will drink wine, while the mind’s eye flickers toward reassuring thoughts of solariums and the Citizen’s Advice Bureau. Only then will they even begin to consider the incident and interludes of the past month.

As Tracey Shaw famously observed, England and America are two countries divided by a common ocean. Sometimes it seems we don’t speak the same language either. The first date on this tour found BSP playing in Seattle. Their concert at Neumos is vigourously plugged in Seattle Stranger newspaper, alongside adverts for The Erotic Bakery and SEATTLE’S FIRST HOME OF THE BRAZILIAN. The Seattle show is a good un, with refreshing supports from The Turns Ons and The Glasses. But the real advent of the night is Charlie, driver of the band’s shiny silver Prevost tour bus.

A treacle-voiced native of the Kentucky/Virginia borderlands, Charlie used to play guitar in the successful country troubadours Billy Crash & The Dream Lovers. Soon Charlie and Noble will be whiling away off-duty moments by playing endless Dolly Parton songs. Charlie is a continual font of dignified good humour. He is also partial to nicknames. It seems, Billy Craddock was known as Doctor Country Rock. Charlie is determined to uphold such traditions. Soon Hamilton is renamed Doctor Love. Woody is Doctor Drums, Yan Doctor Duke, Noble Doctor Drunk and Eamon Doctor Donut.

After Seattle, it is on to Portland and then down past the Mount Lasson National Park and a town called Weed. The next stop in San Francisco, where the band buy Eamon a new drum and walk past the St John Coltrane African Orthodox Church. This is religion as it should be - relaxed and, no doubt, with some vigourous sermons from visiting pastor Bobby Gillespie. The San Francisco show is packed and pretty, but soon all eyes are on the next show - at the Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival.

British Sea Power approach their slot at the Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival with the same spirit they approach most things - amazement, glee and raw wonder that they have let them in. Here they are sat on the grass, ringed by the shimmering purple peaks of the San Jacinto mountains and playing on the same bill as New Order, Gang Of Four and The Sexy Magazines. Nice enough, but even all of this pales beside the real point of getting to Coachella - back-door entrance to the polo scene.

As you will no doubt know, the Coachella festival site is also home to the Empire Polo Field. The polo scene has enough excess and buck-toothed oddity to make rock look like a pre-pubescent boy chorister asking for extra toothpaste. Polo, remember, is home to the Debii Dollar Western Women’s Challenge, the Barbara Sinatra Skins League and, above all, the Jackson Hole Horse Emporium And Hawaiian Iced Tea Tournament And Open House. It is a world in which grown men will pay $8000 for six-chukka membership and all comers can visit the onsite Polo Grill for American classics in a comfortable setting. However, our excitement is short-lived.

Within minutes, it becomes clear that there will be little polo activity this weekend - that the nearest we will come to the thunder of hoof on turf is the sight of the some polo ponies gambolling in an adjacent field. It sure is good to see Mr Topspot and Wansdyke Lass as they run and play. But all too soon, we must say au revoir both to them and to their companions Polar Force, Subtle Shandy and Boogaloo Boyzee. There is work to be done and BSP must move on to the more familiar sights and sounds of rock - of Trent Reznor sending back his on-site Humvee because it ain’t got Attila The Hun’s actual bones in the tool-kit, of Ms Chloe Sevigny erotically detuning Conor Oberst’s backwoods mandolin in the VIP compound and of an excellent set from The Arcade Fire.

As soon as BSP get to their exclusive pop-star bungalow, they get free massages and beer in a bin. The programme promises much. Not only is there Secret Machines, The Futureheads and mind-bending sister Sapphists Tegan & Sara, but the sculpture park also promises The Lucent Misting Oasis. Can it be true - a lifesize effigy of Liam Gallagher lighting up and crying as he gets homesick for chips and beans in his rowdy Manchester homeland? No it can’t - it’s a robot pond made by hippies with nice teeth. So, then, off over to the Gobi Tent to see MIA. Also known as Maya Arulpragasam, this young lady is the new queen of big-tune UK dancehall grime and, all across America, her track Bucky Done Gun has been the toast of the BSP tour bus. Bouncing in reflective bounty-hunter safari outfit and MC-ing with effervescent joy, she does not disappoint. After MIA’s set, we head over to the Sahara Tent to see the DJ set from Ms Kittin.

As BSP enter the tent, Ms K’s only gone done started playing her own, up-front mix of Bucky Done Gun! Imagine that. Like totally spangled 4AM ravers overjoyed at remembering their own names, BSP spontaneously thrust their arms aloft. In the heat, it’s almost too much. But then it gets worse. As Ms Kittin bends over the decks, you really, REALLY can’t help noticing that her cleavage is revealed like that of 17th Century courtesan leaning out of a coach to give oranges to the poor. In the nick of time, tour manager Mark orders BSP back to their artist cabin.

The band sign CDs and pictures of polar bears at the Virgin tent. This is enlivened by the sudden appearance of the inspirational BSP audience veteran known as De Lacey. Kindly, he has brought the band a recording contract to sign, which they do without hesitation. We are sure that Rough Trade will not mind.

BSP are playing on the Outdoor Theatre Stage, after the composed PC rap of Aesop Rock and before the glorious glam-funk crawdaddies of The Faint. The crucial stage decoration is completed - a fan or beech leaves around the drums, two pine cones on the keyboard riser and a plastic pheasant on the top of the Marshall stack. Then, an unfortunate reality becomes real. As BSP soundman Joe attempts to complete the line-check, it becomes clear that no sound at all is coming our of the PA. Heart-stoppingly, the band are due on stage in 30 seconds. Then, miracle of miracles, the PA starts working. They are on.

The 40-minute set flashes by in an instant, compressed by the heat and the Californian night. Noble climbs to the top of the 60-foot lighting rigging and looks around. Then he climbs down again. Soon the show is just a blur in the memory hole, the only tangible remainder being the hand-annotated plastic sack of garden peat that one young lady has been kind enough to throw on stage.

In the backstage compound, within minutes BSP are all drunken and scared at how fast it went. Then, just what they need, their friend Carlos Of Interpol beams out of the night. They can’t believe it. On the plane over, BSP were amazed enough to see Carlos featuring in the in-flight entertainment - skilfully taking the role of Joaquin Phoenix in M Night Shyamalan’s 2004 thriller The Village. And now here he is in the flesh. Sing hallelujah! He tells BSP they were great, the dirty fucking liar, and then soon all of time is gone. Not one of BSP remembers getting from Carlos to the tour bus. But it happened. As we leave the festival site, Eamon wakes momentarily to hear a joyous, spirited whinnying resounding through the night. Goodbye Miss Kittin, goodbye Wansdyke Lass and goodbye Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival.

After Coachella, the band head down through San Diego and Texas. The Canadian singer Feist joins the tour in San Diego and is something of a revelation. Alone at the mic, accompanied only by guitar and some taped effects, she is bold to the utmost. She also benefits from a lovely, remarkable voice. Occupying the sought-after middle ground between Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone and Billy Bragg, Feist is fine indeed. You will be hearing more from this lady.

After Texas, the band enjoy a day off in New Orleans. Topically, Eamon is mistaken for Baron Samedi, the popular local undead Voodoo-ist spirit guide. Naturally, this makes Eamon quite the celebrity and he sure enough takes advantage. Soon he has even arranged a date with Kim Basinger - on the basis that he can get her eternal life and a part in the next Bond movie.

Atlanta, North Carolina, Washington DC, Philadelphia, the road winds ever onward. The sun shines and the band are pleased and awed to note that the Manchester-based BSP tour expert Cath Aubergine has joined the trail in Atlanta. Amazing, Cath! You have truly travelled far.

Soon, BSP reach New York and their two sold-out shows at the Bowery Ballroom. The first night is a Saturday and the soundcheck is enlivened by the way Noble leads the band through both Bohemian Rhapsody and the theme tune from Chariots Of Fire. Come the show and come one of the best BSP performance in living memory. Later, a review on the esteemed Tripwire website will be headlined British Sea Power Obliterate NYC Bowery. The review itself reports how, “Brighton’s finest stunned onlookers with ferocious intensity, wind-swept balladry, ceramic ducks and frequent crowd invasions.”

Hey, those were no ceramic ducks folks, but this can be excused. For the full review, please sign up at:

The second night at the Bowery was more relaxed, but still shimmeringly moving. It was attended by the lovely lads from Interpol, Dean Wareham of Galaxie 500, plus Sofiane Sylve, leading dancer with the New York City Ballet. After hours, there was time for Creedence Clearwater, T-Rex and imported Old Speckled Hen at a delightful bar called Black & White. Then it was off into the night and the last four shows of the tour.

Soon, BSP will be back in the homeland, ready for an intriguing portfolio of UK appearances - all the way from the Chelsea Flower Show to bonny Newcastle. There will also be the release of the Please Stand Up single on 23 May. As they board the plane and head out to south-east of Quebec City and the north-west of Halifax, Nova Scotia, please spare a though for them.There they go - Doctor Love and his good friends Duke, Drums, Drunk and Donut.

Tour report by Old Sarge. Thanks you ye, dear reader.

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