Au Revoir Simone Tour Diary: North Of San Francisco

rainbow1Brooklyn trio Au Revoir Simone recently took to the road to promote its latest pop confection, the keyboard-buzzing beauty Still Night, Still Light. Annie Hart reports:

I offered to drive right before sunset, which was timed perfectly with my favorite drive in the whole country: I-5 through Northern California and past Mount Shasta and roads curving over blue lakes. And the second I took over, the sky clouded over to nearly black and sheets of rain hammered down over the car, sounding like a cavalcade of toddlers let loose with wooden spoons over piles of aluminum trays. When the sun finally came out, the sky was golden and two nearly full arcs of rainbows broke out of the air. The air was so lovely and fresh and the scenery was so picturesque I turned into a different version of myself and did the unthinkable: Next time we stopped for gas, I bought a pack of cigarettes. Those 99.9{e5d2c082e45b5ce38ac2ea5f0bdedb3901cc97dfa4ea5e625fd79a7c2dc9f191} of you who are reading this and don’t know me for the last five years or more will probably not be sufficiently shocked at that last part of the sentence. I mean, sure, when I’ve been drinking too much, I bum one off a friend from time to time, maybe about three a year, and this was the second pack of cigarettes I ever bought. And the first one ended up crumbling into a slightly wet pile of tobacco shreds at the bottom of my bag, with only two smoked out of the pack. It’s not like I think buying a pack of cigarettes is actually that weird of a thing to do, or that smoking a random cigarette made by a company that doesn’t test on animals or puts fiberglass in their recipe is really that bad. It’s more that the action is so uncharacteristic of me that I feel like a completely different person, or that I am the same person, with the same brain, and it’s observing the actions of a completely different person doing unusual things with my body. And to top it off, I have a weird guilt complex when I smoke one outside of a venue, because there will be young fans outside, and I don’t want them to get the wrong idea and think that I approve of smoking or that smoking is cool, but maybe I’m just being neurotic about things, which is likely, since being neurotic is pretty much my specialty in life. Not as much as Woody Allen, though. Heather thinks I did it because of a lack of sex, but I think the lack of sleep is getting to me.

“The Way To There (Mark Anthony Tieku Remix)” (download):

Au Revoir Simone Tour Diary: Somewhere Between Santa Barbara And San Francisco

Brooklyn trio Au Revoir Simone recently took to the road to promote its latest pop confection, the keyboard-buzzing beauty Still Night, Still Light. Annie Hart reports:

To put it lightly, on this tour we fell in love with our opening band, the Antlers. Evidence to prove our love:

Exhibit A: Erika and I jumping on the bed during our last night possible to party with them (above). Darby, the mister-fix-it keyboard player, forced us to jump with pillows placed on top of our heads in order to not hurt our noggins on the ceiling, which was clearly not designed with the possibility of rather tall ladies bouncing on beds beneath them without snapping their necks.

More after the jump:

“Lark (Ruff And Jam Remix)” (download):

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Au Revoir Simone Tour Diary: Van Horn, Texas

jesus300Brooklyn trio Au Revoir Simone recently took to the road to promote its latest pop confection, the keyboard-buzzing beauty Still Night, Still Light. Annie Hart reports:

At Chuy’s, John Madden’s favorite restaurant, in between scrumptious homemade veggie tamales, we discovered Erika bears a striking resemblance to Jesus.




“Shadows” (download):

Au Revoir Simone Tour Diary: West Texas

au_revoir_groceryBrooklyn trio Au Revoir Simone recently took to the road to promote its latest pop confection, the keyboard-buzzing beauty Still Night, Still Light. Annie Hart reports:

They say everything is bigger in Texas, so when we stopped at the typically mega, jumbo, enormous, ginourmous Fiesta Mart in West Texas for a thousand-mile-overdue oil change, it was surprising that Caroline, our English sound engineer, and I were taken aback by the size of the cereal boxes in the store. Maybe it’s because my normal grocery store is about the size of this cereal aisle (and the store was about the size of my neighborhood), and the boxes of cereal that I do buy from time to time are smaller, more demure versions of the reasonably sized Pathmark No-Frills Corn Flakes I was used to as a kid. I’ve never seen anything like this, and it made me wonder what becomes of the impossible-to-eat portions. Are they destined to be gulped down with serving spoons in great big salad bowls by college freshmen? Or end up in forgotten, stale, slightly soggy messes in the bottom shelves of pantries? I want this whole thought process mapped out in a cartoon by Roz Chast.

“Knight Of Wands” (download):

Au Revoir Simone Tour Diary: Austin, Texas

au_revoir_chicoBrooklyn trio Au Revoir Simone recently took to the road to promote its latest pop confection, the keyboard-buzzing beauty Still Night, Still Light. Annie Hart reports:

Austin rules. Austin is one of our favorite destinations on tour because of Mr. Natural’s Health Emporium, the best margaritas in the country, drool-worthy breakfast tacos and the best party shops ever on East Cesar Chavez. We stopped into one on the way to the show and picked up a little multi-colored burro piñata, whom I christened Chico, ’cause he’s my boy. I have a little bit of a problem with with anthropomorphizing piñatas, which admittedly is a little strange, but not as strange in my book as not anthropomorphizing piñatas. Side note: I got to talking to the sound engineer at the venue in Tucson, Ariz., about the piñata, and he said, “Oh! My dog is named Chico, too. But I found him in East Austin on Cesar Chavez, so that was no-brainer.” Look at the classic situations my Chico got into after the jump.

“All Or Nothing” (download):

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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

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.”

A.C. Newman Tour Diary By Jon Wurster: Part 4

longhaul_bristol550If 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

May 23
Turns out staying in was the proper thing to do, because the others didn’t get back until 4:30 in the morning. What are these kids doing nowadays, staying out all night? You know there was a video game involved. You just know it. I wake up at 8 a.m., trying to remember all the weird dreams I had. One of them had me eating Rice Krispie treats with the ghost of former Iowa senator James W. McDill. Which is odd because I rarely think about him that much anymore. When Alun comes to pick us up this morning, he parks the van in the first available non-handicapped space. Unfortunately, it’s six entire spaces from the front door, which means we have to lug all our stuff way further than we should. I know, I know, he’s just obeying the rules, but it troubles me deeply for some reason. I can understand his plight. I’m also an extreme rule follower sometimes. I once reported my older brother to the police after he stole a pack of cigarettes. It was the right thing to do. He never touched my smokes again.

We head into town hoping for our first U.K. sit-down lunch. There’s nowhere to park, so we head back to the Premier Inn. Oh, man, is this really happening? Now it’s off to Bristol, where we’ll be playing as part of the Dot-To-Dot Festival. The check-in area for the festival is located in front of a venue/boat called Thekla. Yes, you read that correctly: It’s a rock club in a boat. Superchunk played here some 16 years ago. (It wouldn’t be the last small sailing vessel we played.) The view of the river is really beautiful, and the cameras come out while we wait for Alun to secure our festival credentials. As we’re snapping away, Carl says something I will remember on my deathbed: “Bands don’t take pictures of other bands.”

After we scarf down our complimentary meat pies (yep), Alun hands me a green coupon that I’m to exchange for a case of free warm beer. When I hand a young festival worker the green coupon, he begins ripping the cellophane off a full case of beer and handing us individual cans. “Why don’t you just give us the full case so we can carry it?” asks Carl. “Because you only get half a case,” replies our man. “No, we get a full case,” I object. “No you don’t, you gave me a yellow ticket,” he retorts. “No, it was green.” “No it wasn’t.” “Yes, it was.” This exchange goes back and forth for a while. Look, I am wrong plenty of times. And when I am, I will freely admit it. But I am so not wrong in this instance that it’s not even a little funny. Our friend goes into his pocket and pulls out a wad of loose beer tickets. The one closest to his hand is yellow. “That’s the last ticket I took. Yours. And it’s yellow.” There is no way he can possibly know it’s the last ticket he took.

I reply, “I’m a thousand percent sure I gave you a green ticket.” But this guy is a brick wall. He then goes to his clipboard and asks for the name of the band. He flips through the sheets, locates “A.C. Newman” and says, “OK, I was wrong.” As Carl and I reach down to pick up a fresh case, dude mumbles, “But you did give me a yellow ticket.” More words are exchanged, but the stand-off ends as Carl and I remember England’s strict anti-strangling laws.

When you think of a U.K. festival, you think of thousands of drunk kids in Dr. Seuss hats going nuts in a pasture while the Happy Mondays play, right? That’s not the case with Dot-To-Dot. Our gig is in a very old pub in downtown Bristol called the Fleece And Firkin. I’m not positive, but I think a firkin is a pubic wig, isn’t it? Or is that a merkin? Guess I’ll just have to wait for my summer crotch-wig catalogs to show up. We’re playing with the Hold Steady tonight, and it’s good to see them. They’re quite the phenomenon over here and have been wholly embraced by several of the big U.K. music mags. But you’d never know they’re here tonight, because at 6:30 p.m., the club is pretty much empty, even though the festival is in full swing. We’re on at 8, so there’s nothing to do but sit outside and drink those warm Carlsbergs. But I can’t do it. They’ve been tainted with the douchiness of that guy back at the beer tent. I buy some wine and sit with the gang next to a picnic table that has a substantial amount of vomit under it. It totally takes me back to my seventh-grade church trip to see the Pope.

We’re only required to play for 30 minutes tonight, and this is positively thrilling to Carl. He’s almost giddy about having to play such a short set. I kind of am, too. You get to play pretty much just “the hits,” and it’s like having a half day of school or something. But the show’s kind of weird: Two songs are ended too early, and the vibe is a little off. We finish the final tune, “On The Table,” correctly, so we go out on a good note. Afterward, we join the Hold Steady on their rock bus and hang out for a while. Tad Kubler is kind enough to give me a Xanax for future use. Right before we split, I head back to the club and catch a couple THS tunes. The club is completely full now. Where did all these people come from? And can I stay with one of them instead of going to a Premier Inn? I leave through the side door while the band is rockin’ out.

Tired, we head back to tonight’s Premier Inn. This one is in Portishead. There’s a band from here, but its name escapes me.

A.C. Newman Tour Diary By Jon Wurster: Part 3

glasgow_view550If 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

May 21
Today we travel further north to the land that gave us haggis, golf and the Exploited. To say nothing of the many fine products in the Scotch brand tape family. It’s a beautiful drive through the English and Scottish countryside; really inspiring. At a rest stop, we meet a band from Ireland that will also be playing in Glasgow tonight. They’re at a venue called King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut. I’ve played there a few times over the years, and my main memory of it will always be sitting down to eat a club-provided pre-show meal and Mac McCaughan being presented with a “tuna potato,” which is, of course, Scottish for “a potato with a lump of tuna stuck in it.” I think he ended up just dropping it in the toilet when nobody was looking.

Later: At the ABC Glasgow, which is a great venue with nice crew and the full backstage spread; they even have my last-minute addition to the rider (six copies of the current issue of Nuts). After running through a few songs, we head out for more Indian. On the way to dinner, a woman asks us for directions. Miranda’s reply will live forever in the annals of greatest things ever said: “I’m sorry, I’m totally from America.”

There’s a small yet very enthusiastic turnout tonight. We play well, and it sounds really great onstage. Several of the Belle And Sebastian folks are here, and there’s a big hangout in the dressing room post-show. But tonight, I’m in “lone wolf” mode for some reason. Everyone seems really nice, but I’m in need of private times. After we load out, Alun and I hang in the van for a bit. He’s a little unsure of the safety of the neighborhood and doesn’t want to leave the van.

After a bit, I head down to Nice ‘N’ Sleazy, the bar where everyone’s gathered. It’s so loud and packed, I turn right around and get a drink in a quiet bar where they’re watching a soccer match. It’s kind of a toss-up between what I enjoy less: watching televised sports (specifically basketball) or listening to the blues. Thankfully, the other TV in this pub is showing the new Green Day video, which is something I could enjoy for all of eternity.

I rejoin Alun in the van and wait for the others to come back. There’s a disco happening at ABC, and we watch the kids queue up outside, carefully avoiding various small puddles of vomit. Suddenly, there’s a big commotion in the lobby. A bunch of security guards spill out onto the street. They’re restraining a guy. A weird sound cuts through the din, like a duck quacking or something. We realize it’s the fellow they’re restraining—he’s deaf. He’s hustled back into the club and held there until the police arrive about 20 minutes later. The cops shove him into their car, and it’s very weird watching his friends trying to reassure him in sign language as he sits there in the back seat. He, of course, can’t sign back because his hands are cuffed behind him.

The incident reinforces the warning we keep seeing on posters addressing the city’s growing crime problem: “Commit a felony in Glasgow and the last sound you’ll hear is the prison door slamming behind you.” (Except, of course, if you’re a deaf. But rest assured, you will hate it just as much as the normal-eared.) Now it’s off to … Hey, look at that: a Premier Inn.

May 22
We have a day off today, and we’ll spend it at the cemetery-gates Premier Inn. Miranda, Shane and I get dinner at the adjacent pub. There’s some kind of bachelorette party going on a few tables away. They call them “hen parties” over here. You think you’ve heard cackling? You know nothing. Everyone’s going out for the night, but I’m going to continue working on some stuff. And by “working on stuff” I mean watching vintage Burger King commercials on YouTube.

A.C. Newman Tour Diary By Jon Wurster: Part 2

manchester_london550If 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

May 19
My early-to-bed routine has served me well. I’m up at 7 a.m. and doing my ablutions while Carl sleeps the sleep of the just got in a few hours ago from drinking. Soon, Alun shows up with the van. I don’t think he’s a tour manager or a van driver by trade. And that’s OK; this is a bare bones tour, and it’ll save us all a lot of money if we don’t hire a professional tour manager. I really can’t think of a more thankless job. You have to drive everywhere, keep track of everything and people are always asking you for stuff. I really should call my parents and tell them I love them.

When we get to the gear rental place, we find the amps are too big for the van. And, of course, the seats are bolted in and can’t be removed. Surely there were vans more suited to this kind of activity? Maybe not, I dunno. Frustrated, I walk away, all grumbly. Carl and Shane assume the roles of pack masters general. We head out of Manchester to our first gig in London. This band hasn’t played a full set together since early April, but I’m sure we’ll be fine. Our fifth member will be Kansas-based singer/songwriter Andrew Morgan; he’ll play keyboards and additional guitar, as well as open the shows. When we get to the Luminaire in the Kilburn section of London, we hunker down for a marathon soundcheck/rehearsal. Andrew has really done his homework, and everything sounds good. The sound guy is American and looks just like former Kiss guitarist Bruce Kulick’s older brother Bob. (I know what Bruce Kulick’s older brother Bob looks like. What does this say about me?)

I believe it was Winston Churchill who said, “It is times like these when copious amounts of wine could not be more of a help.” There’s that period between soundcheck and the show when time slows to a snail’s pace. Tonight there’s no time to get a proper dinner, so we snack on the rider (food and beverages provided by the club) and we break out the vino. I ask Alun if he’ll get us a corkscrew. “Please don’t judge me,” I ask. This is in reference to a conversation we had earlier today about a book I was reading: The Easy Way To Stop Drinking. It’s probably a typical rock ‘n’ roll story: I didn’t really drink at all until about 1996. Superchunk was on a long and dismal European tour, and I started drinking beer to pass the post-soundcheck/pre-show hours. It helped, but it kind of made me feel like a loser, like I wasn’t meeting reality on its own terms. And I guess I wasn’t. But when your reality is a dingy rock club on the outskirts of town, it’s easy to fall into this. When I look back on the last two years I’ve spent in constant tour mode, I see how I’ve sometimes gotten into the same pattern. My performances didn’t suffer, but I was definitely using that handful of drinks a night to alleviate the boredom and loneliness that goes with touring. And I know I’m coming to the end of the line of that train ride.

At this point, Andrew needs to get ready for his set. He seems a little nervous; I think he’s still a little new to this. He needs to warm up and proceeds to do just that, in front of us. He sings and plays one of his songs just as he will onstage. It is both impressive and unsettling. I need to leave the room at one point because it makes me uncomfortable; I really don’t know how to react.

Later: Now that’s what I’m talking about. A great show. The club was sold out, and we all had a good time. There were a couple small mistakes, and Carl made a big production of blaming the problems on “the new guy” (even though they may not have been his fault). It was all in fun, though, and at one point Carl apologized to Andrew on mic for “throwing you under the bus.”

Tonight we’re staying at another Premier Inn, this one’s in Didsbury, which, little known fact, is where 100 percent of the world’s plastic change purses are produced. (I just made that up.) As we park, I’m shocked to learn that Alun wants us to load all the gear into the hotel. Though I understand his not wanting to risk having the gear or van stolen, the idea seems insane to me. I’ve been doing this a long time and have never brought all the gear inside. Thankfully, he finds a secure spot to back the van into and I don’t get all crabby.

Now, let’s get some fooking sleep.

May 20
The van and the gear were stolen. Just kidding. We’re heading back to Manchester today to play a place called the Retro Bar. Sounds promising, yes? Oh, just you wait. We stop at a travel plaza that features a Marks & Spencer food shop. M&S is a cross between a convenience store and a Whole Foods; you can actually get salads and other good things there. There’s a magazine shop in the travel plaza and a cursory look at the rack reveals that “Britain loves tits.” They call them “lads’ magazines,” and there are at least five of them, like Maxim but with even more air-brushed fake breasts. One’s called Nuts, and this saddens me deeply. On the bright side, one look at the cover of the new issue of the NME has raised my spirits substantially: “The Arctic Monkeys Are Back And They Now Have Long Hair.”

Now, before we proceed, let me state that although I try my best to maintain a positive attitude on the road, I also quite enjoy bitching about things that get under my skin. I don’t know a touring musician who doesn’t. It’s a healthy and usually painless way to let off steam. That said, let’s go to the Retro Bar. Ah, yes, it’s all lining up:
Multi-flight downstairs load-in? Check.
Club so small there’s actually no need to mic guitars or drums? Check.
Tiny corner stage decorated with Jack Daniels posters? Check.
PA blasting Rage Against The Machine? Check.
No rider? Check.

There’s also the fact that the club smells like a fetid cheese made from the lining of Satan’s own running shorts. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear we were in a bar in State College, Pa., at closing time. I mean, if State College, Pa., was located in deepest Hades. This is going to be one of those “what am I doing with my life” kind of nights. We can all feel it. Thankfully, Alun rustles us up some fruit, chips and vino. And the sad fact is wine does make it better.

Post-soundcheck, Miranda, Carl, Shane and I head down the street to an Indian restaurant. It’s located next to the hotel I stayed in last May when I was here with Bob Mould. We had a night off and did the inexplicable, deciding against seeing the Jello- /Peligro-less Dead Kennedys in favor of hitting the town. We ended up in a kebab shop packed with wasted teenagers. I was mistaken for Dave Grohl and our bassist, Jason Narducy, started pretending he was my security guard. “Please, no phone cameras, people … give him some space, please.” I think I told someone we were “all going to Liam’s for a spliff or two.” Oh, the stunts you pull in your 40s.

After another winning Indian meal, we reluctantly head back to the Retro Bar. There’s maybe 35 people here tonight. It’s a real shame because I think the songs are great and so is the band. I experienced the same thing when I toured with Robert Pollard. Without the name “Guided By Voices” or “New Pornographers,” it’s unfortunately a different ball game. Even though it’s the same guy who wrote and sang the songs. Come on, people. The show is good, despite my snare-drum head literally breaking in half three-quarters through the set. Not from my Neanderthal style of bashing but from the drum’s misshapen hoop. (You guys love “drum talk,” don’t you?)

Now it’s back to the Premier Inn to watch a documentary about a 16-year-old girl trying to make her way into the totally awesome world of lads’ magazines.

A.C. Newman Tour Diary By Jon Wurster: Part 1

cemeterygates550If 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

As a kid, I’d often fantasize about what it would be like to travel the world in a rock band. I’d imagine how much fun it would be playing every night in a different city, seeing new things and meeting interesting people. As it turned out, I got to do just that. First with Superchunk, then with folks like Robert Pollard, Whiskeytown and Marah. Things started to get crazy a couple years ago, and I’ve been on a seemingly continuous round of recording and touring with the Mountain Goats, Bob Mould, Superchunk and the focus of this tour diary: A.C. Newman (the solo project of New Pornographers singer/songwriter Carl Newman). This non-stop rock ‘n’ roll juggernaut is actually pretty close to what my 12-year-old self imagined. But I had no idea there’d be so many Premier Inns involved. Or so much warm beer. Or vomit.

May 18
This is the final leg of A.C. Newman’s Get Guilty tour. We finished the North American portion back in early March with an appearance on The Late Show With David Letterman, a wonderful way to wrap up things. Now it’s time to bite the bullet and hit the U.K. for a handful of shows. I say this because it’s been my experience that in order for your record to be given a proper shot and for your overseas label to take you seriously, you must turn up on their shores to play shows. Unfortunately, much of the time those gigs are, well, not so happening. You’ll have a great one in London, but most of the other shows are losing propositions. Carl has no illusions about this trip. He says he’s not expecting much in the way of turnouts. We’ll see how it goes. At the very least, it’ll be good to play together again.

When I arrive at JFK’s Delta international terminal, I’m a little put off. I know times are tough and airlines have to scale back on expenses, but outfitting your agents in red Delta T-shirts instead of actual uniforms does not inspire confidence. What it says is, “You think this is bad, wait ’til you get on the plane.” In the middle of the flight to Manchester, Carl and I are standing in line for the lavatory. He whispers, “This is the worst international flight I’ve ever been on.” I have to agree. It’s a combination of things: The seats are so close to each other, it’s ridiculous. Carl and I are more than six feet tall, and our knees are touching the seats in front of us. What in the name of Samhain does a Kobe Bryant or a Sir William Corgan do in these situations? Yes, I know they’d be in first class, but things don’t look all that much better up there. Then there’s the English gentleman between us. He stares straight forward the entire flight, his only movement the raising of a wine-filled cup to his lips. I hardly know he’s there. Except for when he lets loose the rankest fart ever to reach my airspace. It’s positively criminal. Yet I have to give him points for the the stoic poker face he retains in the 45 seconds following his assault.

After we land in Manchester, we’re met by our tour manager/label head, Alun, and our bassist, Miranda Brown. Miranda got in a few hours earlier from Austin, Texas, and she’s on fumes from lack of sleep. Outside of being brutally murdered, there’s nothing worse than arriving at your hotel after a long journey and being told your rooms will not be ready for several hours. It hurts you to your soul. We’re given this news, and our souls hurt. So we kill time at a local cafe. Alun has a tiny car, and it’s decided that after eating, he and Carl will go to his flat to pick up some stuff, and Miranda and I will walk the mile back to the Premier Inn. She and I take no more than 10 steps before the clouds open up on us for the duration of our walk back. I picture my umbrella nestled snuggly in my suitcase, and I curse God for inventing rain, Manchester and Alun’s small car.

Manchester has a remarkable musical history. Oasis, the Buzzcocks and the Fall all hail from here, as did the Smiths. Alun informs us that the cemetery across from the Premier Inn was the inspiration for their tune “Cemetery Gates.” While Miranda and Carl sack out at the hotel, guitarist Shane Nelken and I hoof it up to the cemetery to get in touch with our inner Moz. We take a walk around the grounds, and it’s actually quite beautiful, excepting the fact that there are submerged dead bodies everywhere. Shane used to work in a funeral home, and it’s interesting hearing about the inner workings of that world. Although I’m a little disappointed to hear that the number of times he’s made love in a graveyard barely cracks double digits.

After a fabulous Indian dinner, I’m starting to fade. I elect to cab it back to the hotel while the others go out on the town. The U.K. is abuzz at the moment with news that the speaker of the House of Commons wrote off hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of expenses he was not entitled to. Seems he will be the first speaker in more than 300 years to be forced out of office. I think the last guy was tossed for wearing the wrong kind of breeches in front of Mary II. Definitely something breech-related. The Indian cabbie and I never speak until he hands me my receipt. “Here you go,” he says cheerfully. “If they can write off their houses, surely you can write off this.” Damn straight, my man.