I believe travel to be an essential part of life’s mystic journey, and it’s something I’ve always felt a deep connection and passion for in whatever form it takes. Before this particular journey began, I had no idea what to expect on such an action packed adventure. Two weeks on the road in America was new territory and a far cry from our usual European destinations. Not to take anything away from these types of holidays and breaks, they are necessary in their own right, but compared to what we experienced on the other side of the pond, there was a noticeable gulf in stature.
I knew one day I would be able to live out these travel dreams that had plagued my mind for years, and I’d be able to put down on paper my own travel story, and maybe influence and inspire others the same way I’ve been influenced in the past. I just never thought our journey would happen so quickly between proposition and departure date, and in such enthralling circumstances.
It all came about in a pub in Stockport in early December when Mia, the captivating vocalist from Mohawk Radio, told me the big news she’d been promising to reveal to me all day. “We are touring America and you are coming with us!” Those few words meant life was about to get a whole lot more electrifying. This wasn’t just a simple two week jaunt in a hotel sat on a beach we were invited on; this was an exciting quest that required careful planning. It was a chance to tick off top of The Bucket List – to travel around America with a rock band! Does it get any more thrilling? Words cannot express mine and Sue’s gratitude to Mohawk Radio for asking us to come along on a trip that was massively important for them. To be part of their debut US tour is too humbling for words.
The logistics of the tour meant we couldn’t be with the band for the full three weeks, but to just play some part in their voyage was consolation enough. Looking back, I think being forced into planning our own route separately from the band was something we needed to accomplish away from their schedule. Planning our own adventure led us down the path of doing the whole trip by car and tackling the challenge of a real road trip. It was a decision that gave us an experience that wouldn’t have been felt if we’d taken buses, trains or planes between destinations, which is how we initially intended to travel due to my apprehension of driving in America…..how important that was overcome! On the advice of Mohawk Radio and their manager, Maddy, we booked half the trip using Airbnb, and that proved to be an exciting notion as we had a chance to see the real America as opposed to staying in a series of hotels in tourist areas.
Living this once in a lifetime experience gave us the bizarre feeling that we’d found home somehow, especially because home is a state of mind. Most of the time we felt like Manchester was a distant memory of our collective pasts. There was no job, house, responsibilities, or possessions to go back to anymore. Home had become the road, and our lives revolved around travelling from one place to next in an attitude of complete freedom. There was a feeling of fulfilling some sort of destiny, and it felt so natural for us to be on this journey. It was as if our fate lay here somehow and we had found a peace and understanding of life. Inhibitions and defences were lowered, and there was an ease of overcoming uncertainties and breaking down limitations in our mind. I can only assume that the relationship we had with this lifestyle was how life is meant to be lived. Perhaps we’d finally found a good enough solution to answer one of man’s most sought after questions, ‘What is the meaning of life?’
We can’t really pinpoint what the best part of the trip was because there was so much to choose from. There was a connection with every aspect of it. Grand Canyon has always been at the forefront of people’s ‘to do list’ and you could see why. It’s a completely staggering phenomenon and its unearthly presence makes you feel emotional….so much so that it brought a tear to Sue’s eye when she feasted her eyes on this gargantuan landmark for the very first time. Pictures and video clips of The Grand Canyon can be seen from a variety of sources to give you a taste for what it’s like, but until you’re stood on the edge looking deep into its eyes, you can’t possibly know what it’s like to be in the presence of such awesome, natural greatness. The colours are like a kaleidoscope as the blue from the sky seems to embed into the red and orange canyons that create some sort of dusty, psychedelic entity. I’m still astounded that looking over to the other side of The Canyon was twelve miles away. How is that possible to see that far and so clearly when it looked like only half a mile away? Those images will stay with us forever. It’s like a CGI enhanced image from another planet that has no reason being on Earth.
Sue echoed my sentiments of Grand Canyon, but also added another aspect of that day into the reckoning. Being on an Indian Reservation was another startling experience, almost like the American version of the Roman Forums. Being thrust into a piece of history going back centuries brought about some sort of sacred tranquillity within both of us.
It may not have been Sue’s preferred destination, but being back in Las Vegas six years after my debut was a bit trippy, especially since this jewelled city is the scene for my debut novel, ‘Lost in Manchester, Found in Vegas’. It was surreal to walk in the shadows of my younger self down the strip and weave in and out of the hotels that drove us to excess all those years ago. On this occasion, it was enjoyable to be able to relax in Vegas, despite its ever present temptation that sometimes got the better of us.
Being in Arizona and seeing the desert, mountains and landscape was unbelievable. Most of all, it was our hosts, Mickey and Noomie, who made our time in Tucson what it was. What a privilege to have stayed with them and be subject to their hospitality and tales of the past. The day spent with them and Mohawk Radio in their garden eating traditional Vietnamese cuisine is a memory we’ll never forget.
Our day in Sedona with the band was another highlight. What a beautiful place it is where the Red Rock Canyons that form the backdrop are just too striking for the eyes to realise. We spent the day at Slide Rock jumping in the river, and later on we ventured into the Wild West type town centre itself. This is definitely somewhere we have to return to at some point in the future and stay for a couple of days to experience more.
Palm Springs was the biggest surprise of the trip. We saw it as a stopping off point between Flagstaff and Los Angeles, not anticipating the heavy night of drinking that followed. I hear Palm Springs being mentioned in a joking capacity as being a place to retire too. Well if that’s the case, sign us up now to retire there. The party atmosphere Spring Break and St. Patrick’s Day brought to the place was one of the best and most unexpected nights we’ve ever had.
Being in Los Angeles held huge importance for us. For Sue, to soak up the vibe on Sunset Boulevard, Santa Monica Boulevard and Venice Beach, where a lot of her favourite west coast based bands hung out, such as ‘The Mamas and Papas’ and ‘The Beach Boys’ was a powerful sentiment. The same places and sentiment applied to me too, but it was all about The Doors history, which was a priceless experience. Setting foot inside the Whisky a Go Go, Rainbow Bar & Grill, ‘Rock and Reillys’ and staying over the road from The Viper Room were huge steps into the cauldrons of rock n roll history. We could almost feel the JD seeping into us as we stepped into these places.
It was an absolute blast to watch Electric Parlor in their hometown at a gig in Downtown LA too, a band I connected with on twitter a year ago and had played on our Sonic Bandwagon show a few times before. It was a unique experience to be in this part of town watching three local bands play and immerse ourselves into the underground music scene in Los Angeles, in exactly the same way we do in Manchester. Thanks to Electric Parlor, and Mucho, the hugely talented drummer from Warchief, for the invite and hospitality on the night.
There’s just too much we saw and experienced to try and find a defining moment, but Sue summed up all the experiences in her own words which I wholeheartedly agree with, “It heightened every sense….physically and spiritually, and some of the experiences were what I would expect ethereal to feel like.”
For all the moments named above, there was a particularly strong kinship with the driving aspect of the trip, where we covered 32 hours and over 1700 miles. There was such a sense of liberation when we were driving on these roads for hours on end. From an early age I’d always envisioned myself driving through America with nothing but the music and the scenery for company. The reality exceeded expectation, and we weren’t prepared for just how emancipating the feeling really is. I cannot fully explain what it felt like to be driving for miles upon miles in a never ending scenic landscape that was infinite in its splendour whilst the great music soundtracked the vision. The scenery and music working together was a force too great for words. Sue did ask me several times when I was driving whether I was just locked in an apparition of my own movie. I guess that was one way of looking at it.
It wasn’t just the bands that we’d loved for years that helped contour the soundtrack. Music from bands who are friends of Sonic Bandwagon, and personal friends of me and Sue were a huge feature. The best of the best were out there with us, and it was a pleasure to take them on the road. The Cornelius Crane, The Rubys, Matt Fryers and Thunderous Jones are but a few to mention….but of course our very own Mohawk Radio featured heavily throughout the drives.
Speaking of which, the importance of this trip to Mohawk Radio was far greater than our own as it was something that could shape their entire future. Being a rockin’ band with a certain Sunset Strip anthemic sound, I always felt their music was more fitting to the attitudes of America, and that has proved to be the case. That’s not to say they don’t have a UK fan base because there is a core following that adore them, and they will always sell tickets. But with their style, what sells underground venues in England could sell stadium support slots and more in the US. The reaction that I saw in Tucson, and heard about in North Carolina and Austin, backs up that statement. But the biggie is Los Angeles. There is a huge opportunity for them in the city of angels, and judging from the response at their gig at The Mint, and their connections out there, it just may be that LA comes calling a lot sooner than anticipated.
So what did it the tour mean for me and Sue? Starting on a personal note I’m proud that I managed to document and complete these series of blogs, which has been a challenge in itself. I felt it was something I had to accomplish and I’m pleased that I stuck to the task and delivered. Staying on the writing, the experience has been invaluable in gathering material and inspiration that’ll form the bulk of the sequel to my debut novel, which I’m looking forward to starting….but the release of the debut is the primary focus for this year!
From both our perspectives, the importance of this trip has been paramount. I fully expected it to be the single most meaningful thing we’d ever done in life, and I had a sneaky suspicion that life wouldn’t be the same again when we returned home. I think our minds have well and truly been expanded, horizons have been broadened, and we have been devoured by the travel bug. America lurks somewhere in our subconscious, serving as a constant reminder to the enormity of what we’ve experienced.
For life travelling on the road, there are no boundaries or restrictions and it’s one of the biggest senses of freedom you can experience. It’s because of that why we’re already looking out for the next adventure and for the sequel to manifest itself. We have been heavily inspired now to explore further and see more of the world. Who knows? Perhaps our adventure with Mohawk Radio will continue next year and the next set of blogs documents an even bigger tour. If that proves to be the case, we’re already signed up. The ticket has been bought; the ride will be taken once again!