A.C. Newman Tour Diary By Jon Wurster: Part 5

van_whippy550If you think that post title is catchy, you should hear Get Guilty (Matador), the most recent solo album by New Pornographers frontman Carl “A.C.” Newman. It’ll blow your mind. Jon Wurster, drummer for indie rock’s A-list (Superchunk, Robert Pollard, Bob Mould, Mountain Goats, Whiskeytown), chronicles his recent U.K. tour with Newman this week at magnetmagazine.com:

May 24
One more to go, folks. We’re gonna close this out in the great city of Nottingham. Last time I was here, I put my foot through a club wall. It’s a long story involving a less-than-ideal rental drum kit and my near arrest the previous day for taking photographs in the vicinity of small children. If only I were joking.

Today’s afternoon show is also part of the Dot-To-Dot festival and will take place on the campus of a university I couldn’t possibly care about knowing the name of. There’s an hour to kill before we play, and Shane and I head into the city center. While he looks for sneakers, I go to a book shop and pick up a copy of the Mark E. Smith autobiography and the first season of Steve Coogan’s recent series, Saxondale. On the way back to the venue, we see an ice-cream truck with the words “Soft Whippy” painted on it. This cracks us up to no end, and for the next six hours, it’s nothing but Soft Whippy jokes, my favorite being Shane’s portrayal of an English thug placing an ice-cream order: “OK, right? Here’s how this is gonna go, right? We want ‘free whippies,’ OK? Two sof’, one ‘ard.” It’s funny because it’s true. You can totally picture the ne’er-do-well uncle of one of the Housemartins saying something like that.

Since we went over our alloted time yesterday, it’s decided we’ll cut a song from the setlist. It’s a little disconcerting that nobody’s in the cavernous hall as we set up our gear. But there’s a constant stream of folks coming in while we play our first song, and soon the place is pretty full. It turns out to be the best show of the tour. The lighting guy even provides us with several blasts of dry ice, which makes us feel like Black Sabbath, or at the very least, The Right To Rock-era Keel.

The show is over in the blink of an eye, and soon we’re back on the M1, warm Red Stripes in hand (not Alun, though!) heading to the cemetery-gates Premier Inn one final time. I get started on the Mark E. Smith book, and Alun is kind enough to put up with my constant barrage of Manchester-related questions. Although he draws a line when I ask him to rank all 38 Fall bassists according to “chops, vibe and funkiness.”

Back in Manchester, Alun and Andrew head back to Alun’s flat for some well-deserved rest. Tomorrow, Andrew is heading to London for a solo show; the rest of us will be flying back to the U.S. Carl, Miranda, Shane and I head into town for one final Indian meal. On the way back to the Premier, Carl and I talk about the tour. Despite the usual small stuff, we’re both pleased with how it all went. For me, it’s always an honor to get to play great songs, and Carl is, in my book, one of the very best songwriters going; it’s been awesome playing with and getting to know him, Shane, Miranda and Andrew. (As well as Tara Szczygielski and Shaun Brodie: the other members of our band who didn’t make the U.K. trip.) And a special thank you to Alun for bringing us over and dragging our asses around. I know it wasn’t always a barrel of laughs. Especially when I peed in the van.

Tomorrow we’ll scatter to the four winds: Miranda back to Austin, Shane to Vancouver, Andrew to Lawrence. Carl will have a few days rest before returning to New Pornographers mode. I’ll be back on the road in the fall with Bob Mould, the Mountain Goats and Superchunk. I’m sure a Premier Inn or two are in my not-so-distant future.

Back at the hotel and I can’t sleep. Oh, wait, I remember the Xanax that Tad gave me. It takes forever to kick in, and just as I’m about to say, “This stuff doesn’t work,” I’m off to a magical land filled with dreams of the softest whippies imaginable.

May 25
We’re on a Delta plane heading back to the U.S. Though there’s no English farter to contend with, there seems to be even less legroom than on the way over. Carl has the severe misfortune of being in a middle seat, the worst fate imaginable on a seven-hour flight. He spends a good portion of the journey playing trivia on the in-flight entertainment system. He’s kicking ass. I watch him play for a little while, but I start to get really sleepy. As I’m about to drift off Carl whispers, “You know, this is the worst international flight I’ve ever been on.”

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