From The Desk Of Grant-Lee Phillips: True Tales Of The Rail Part 14

These are the true tales of the rail and the wing, seen from the vantage point of train stations, dressing rooms, airports and the not-so-glamorous back of a cab. Buckle up in the jump seat for this caffeine-fueled 15-day tour of Italy, Austria, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, France, England and Ireland. Don’t forget your passport.


May 1: Manchester To Dublin
It’s just a skip across the water from Manchester to Dublin. I have time to devour a few pages of Bowie In Berlin, then we’re there. It’s predictably grey and cold, but the rain is holding off as we speed toward the city in a small, rented Renaud. Dublin has a distinct sepia tonality, punctuated with enameled Georgian doors in red, green, black and white. Something about the natural soft box of the sky makes the colors pop with intensity. Foot traffic is rather light this afternoon.

I spot The Bleeding Horse, a historic tavern where I enjoyed a pint of Guinness on my first solo tour abroad. I’ll have to stop in. There’s an hour to spare, so I order up what turns out to be the best fish and chips I’ve ever experienced. Spike enjoys a dish of smokies, a type of smoked haddock baked with a thin layer of parmesan and potatoes. All of it is washed down with a pint of Guinness far smoother than anything you’ll find elsewhere in the U.S. None of the sour aftertaste, no pain in the belly. I vow that it won’t be the last pint of the night. My show at Whelans is packed. Many have been coming to hear the band and I since the early ’90s.

Onstage, I recount a memorable show at Dublin’s Olympia Theater. Before we even took the stage, the crowd was rowdy and ready for a good time. About two songs into the show, a guy darted onstage and hurled himself into the drum set, sending tom-toms flying in every direction, cymbals crashing to the floor. A punch-up with the crew ensued in the wings as other stage crew rushed to rebuild the drum kit. And this was how the show began! I suppose musicians have been diving into crowds forever. Now the tables were being turned. The crowd was diving into the band. First impressions stick, and I left with a memory of Dublin that I still enjoy re-telling.

Tonight, I’ll play a two-hour-plus set, much of it off the top of my head, taking song requests. There’s rumor of a “Disco Load-out,” meaning I’ll have a short window to scoop up my gear, sign some CDs, take a few photos with fans before the club cranks up horrible dance music. The tactic is to keep the drinkers dancing and the dancers drinking and to send the music fans running for the door. I hate it, but it’s what a lot of clubs do. It drives me out the door and onto a now brimming Camden street. It’s midnight in Dublin, or Guinness Time. Approximately 6 p.m. CST, better known as “Miller Time” in Nashville.