Through rowdy seas, late night drives, and our fair share of Guinness, we’ve closed our tab on the second leg of this UK / Ireland tour. Now we’re in Europe for some sunshine and foreign language (and more Indian food perhaps?). But before that, I wanted to share a few highlights from the last few weeks. Every show has been insane, not only because of the massive crowds welcoming tons of new fans, but because we’re also getting into a really good groove with this fresh energy – “performance symbiosis” if you will. And the best part is, we’re just getting started. Here’s a recap.
This was our first time playing in Ireland and let me tell you, I cannot WAIT to go back. I had never been before, so it was a completely new and exciting experience for me, and a pleasant surprise to play for a crowd that crazy. As if Dublin wasn’t beautiful enough on it’s own, the venue we played at was stunning. Built back in the 1870’s, it felt magical to play in. The following day was a day off, so Cole and I went for a perfect father/son jaunt with our dad (aka Moshpit Mark) who flew out as a super-fan of SWMRS, but also for the Guinness. It was great to walk around and witness the city in such beautiful spring weather, but our trip wouldn’t have been complete without a pit stop at one of the most historic places in Dublin…
Yes, I am referring to the Guinness Storehouse. This was the closest experience to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory any beer-enthusiast will have. I’m a huge fan of Guinness, which is arguably an acquired taste, but even for people who don’t understand it’s wonder, this place is jaw-dropping. Seven floors of history, technology, culture, barley, water, hops, and yeast – never sounded so good. My favorite room was the tasting room (shocking), but not just for the tasting (also shocking). Upon entering, you’re surrounded by cloudy vats of scented fumes that are simply there to “wet your palette” before testing the freshest batch of the good stuff for inspection. Then, you’re escorted into ANOTHER room with mahogany walls and worn leather chairs, paintings of Arthur Guinness (the founder), and flickering candles. Your taste buds are already prepped at this point, but the visuals in this second room help you fully appreciate the feeling of drinking a pint of Guinness. When I finally had the beer in-hand, my life changed (Queue “It Was All a Dream” by Biggie Smalls). Nothing has ever tasted so creamy and complex (hah), and I may have been under some kind of spell, but my goodness was it an incredible moment. Paris, you can keep the Louvre. Washington D.C., the National Gallery is a national treasure, I admit. But if you’re looking for me, I’ll be right here appreciating the artistry of a perfect Irish stout. Even if you only have three hours to spend in Dublin, make the Guinness Storehouse a priority.
Our schedule has been very strange on this tour. We’ve generally been waking up around noon and going to bed at 3 or 4 am. This has made it VERY difficult to find breakfast food, because unlike in the U.S., people don’t eat breakfast all day here. Thankfully, Hatch and Sons was quite accommodating for our 1 pm breakfast needs. Located along the edge of St. Stephen’s Green – a beautiful park in central Dublin – they serve eggs and Irish sausage all day, although I opted for a sandwich. Ironic, I know.
Regardless of whether or not you’ve seen Trainspotting, you will love Edinburgh. Pronounced “Ed-in-burr-owe”, this city is special to everyone who sets foot in it. I’ve now been here at least five times and I always leave feeling like I didn’t have a sufficient amount of free time to explore. In addition to giving us Ewan McGregor, Edinburgh is home to a massive, month-long arts festival called the Fringe, the cafe in which J.K. Rowling wrote the Harry Potter series (The Elephant House), and fantastic food to name a few key features. Our show was on fire, with the crowd shouting the famous Scottish chant, “here we, here we, here we fucking go!” – which was a highlight for me and also VERY apparent at the Glasgow show. On the day of the show, I took a stroll to a highly-recommended bakery and cafe called Manna House, where I had delicious rosemary and rutabaga soup and a wild mushroom frittata.
It was a beautiful day outside so I decided to take a walk through a local park near the cafe. However, I HIGHLY regret not having the time to hike to Arthur’s Seat, the famous hike in Trainspotting, located literally smack-dab in the middle of town. As a compromise, I posted up, enjoyed the sunshine, and read some of my book while gazing at Arthur’s Seat…
A smaller town but well-deserving of recognition, Norwich was quite possibly the rowdiest show of our tour thus far. We played in the student union of UEA, the local university (where a scene from the Avengers was apparently filmed), and the crowd went wild. Seriously, I don’t know why, but it felt like we were playing a show back in California to our home crowd. If you’ve ever been to Norwich, pronounced “Norr-ich” (don’t know why the Brits have to make everything so complicated), you’ll know that it has a quaint, cobble stone-lined city center that’s packed with cool places and good, authentic food to eat. We showed up the day before the show for a day off, and, since we had been here before, I knew what spots I wanted to revisit.
My first stop was Wilkinson’s, home of my all-time favorite peppermint tea. I picked up 160 sachets. (Hopefully that’ll hold me over until the next time I’m back.) There’s something about getting tea from a non-chain, local establishment that makes the experience of drinking the tea that much better. Plus, I love the shiny green packets they come in (it’s the little things, right?). Next we all went to Frank’s Bar (just a few doors down) for an early dinner. I had been there before and my meal this time definitely re-affirmed this as a place to come back to.
I ordered the lamb tagine, and it was absolutely perfect. Given that it was a bit chilly outside and I was feeling slightly under the weather, something hot and a little spicy was exactly what I needed. This place does not disappoint. Last time, I ordered stuffed crab with mango and pomegranates (which they seem to add to everything) and it was also delicious. As a bonus, Frank’s is also pretty affordable.
Let’s face it, London is an overwhelming behemoth and is in no way easy to navigate. This is partly why I often find it hard to provide tips about London in a practical way. However, our last show of the U.K. with All Time Low at Brixton Academy taught me to treat London like New York, meaning that you need to view the city as a country and the neighborhoods as their own cities. I found myself limited to only exploring Brixton before the show, but I was not bummed about it at all. Since I knew of the huge Jamaican population there, the first thing I thought to do was find myself some jerk chicken and dumplings. And man, did I score…
Jeff the Chef, formerly a sit down jerk shack, is now a food truck operating a few blocks from the venue. The Jamaican dumplings, pepper steak, and jerk chicken hit the spot, but I admit that I wish I hadn’t eaten so much… I was very full, so we decided to take a walk around the neighborhood.
Nestled somewhere in the winding side streets of Brixton, Cole discovered a record shop full of 60s and 70s reggae and ska, Northern soul, and early punk records. It was like stumbling on a hidden treasure. This lady helped me find exactly what I wanted, which was an early reggae LP called Tighten Up vol. 1, and two 45s by one of my favorite reggae artists, “Lord Creator”. Bonus challenge: try and find these!
This last leg through the U.K. and Ireland was unforgettable. Not only was it full of amazing food and beautiful cities, but really awesome, passionate people who make me want to come back ASAP. We are currently driving through Europe, and I’m continuing to gather material for the final update of this tour. Listeners (well, readers I guess), stay tuned.