Friday, March 31, 2006

Post Mode-m

God, that has to be one of the worst titles yet. You'll have to pardon me, as I'm a bit bleary-eyed from getting up early, all after a pretty big night out.

Elena, Eva and I walked toward the Manchester Evening News Arena late in the afternoon, figuring we could pub crawl our way to the DM show. We pretty much just made it to one pub along the way, but it was great. One of those traditional places with wood banquettes, plenty of cask ale, and, uh, a video jukebox where other fans kept playing the D'Mode songs over and over again. It looked very much like the fans had taken Manchester over for the day - and it wasn't the scary, aged fat goth thing like you'd see back at home, so it wasn't too disturbing.

Well pissed, we made our way to the Arena. Good god, this place was HUGE. It has to be, by far, the largest indoor arena I've ever seen. It's like taking a small football stadium and sticking a big roof over it. And it was packed to the rafters. This made for a great, raucous atmosphere, but it did pose a challenge: How the hell are we going to enjoy the show, having general admission in a place this big?

Not to worry - just like my previous British concert experience, everyone gave plenty of room to breathe, space to walk out to pee, and they had freakin' people with backpacks full of Carlsberg, selling pints at £3 a pop. Not freakin' bad. After having enough horrible $10 stadium beer, this on-the-floor service at a reasonable price was more than welcome.

And the show? Fan-fucking-tastic. A fair bit of new material bolstered by a load of old favorites, the show was musically and visually all I could have hoped for. I spent all the US leg of the tour ignoring reviews and setlists so I could be surprised when this night came, and I was. Pleasantly so. And Elena got her tiny, credit card-sized camera in via her wallet, so we got a load of great pictures and movies.

We headed out afterward and the atmosphere outside was, in a word, hilarious. There were so many bootleg t-shirt and postcard sellers alongside the streets adjacent to the arena, it was like some sort of Moroccan bazaar. Only everyone was barking out in a semi-drunken Scouse. "Bloody tour t-shirts! Get your bloody tour t-shirts! Only a fuckin' fiver!" Never underestimate the appeal of being common. I love it.

I was hoping to meet up with some people from the Bong mailing list at Retro Bar after the show, but after walking most of the way there, my foot was ready to give out, and even more so, my stomach was begging for some form of dinner. So the three of us finally found an open restaurant, snagged some decent dim sum, and forced ourselves over to the nearby Sub Space for one drink before heading to bed. Unfortuanately, even though it was "I Love the 80s" night and supposedly an official after-party for the show, most of the music was crap from the late 80s, though I'll admit I really enjoyed going all New Jersey and singing my heart out to "Livin' on a Prayer." Yikes.

It's off to Liverpool today. A nice little daytrip by train, perhaps meet up with some friends, and enjoy some Beatles sort of touristry.

Load o' Mode

Jesus H. Christ! It seems just about everyone staying at the Hatters tonight is going to the Depeche Mode show. I just may have a hangover tomorrow, what with all these folks to pre- during- and post- show party with.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now

Ahh, back in Old Blighty. I'm not sure why they call it that, but it could be because the weather here is enough to get anyone sick. Of course, I started this trip with a cold before I even left - and even started getting over it - so it's not so bad.

The bad part was on the plane. Shortly after take-off, my sinuses went apeshit, causing pressure so intense, I was convinced my head was going to implode. Tears were welling up in my eyes as I was writhing around in my seat, praying for some sort of solace.

Normally, I travel alone. I prefer it. It's sort of a lifestyle, I guess. But this time along, I'll have many people with me. On this leg, Elena joined me, and thank god. Seeing the pain I was in, she offered me a Soma. I'm generally not one for painkillers and all, but this little pill was a blessing. Within minutes, my agony subsided, replaced by amazing loopiness and a shit-eating grin. The craptacular Turning Leaf cabernet sauvignon was suddenly the best wine ever. The bland baked pasta and riccotta became one of my favorite airplane meals. And Good Night and Good Luck became the finest biopic I'd ever seen. Ok, it actually was good, and following it up with one of the better episodes of Family Guy scores British Airways a LOT of points in my book.

As laws of nature go, though, that wasn't the end of the pain. At some point, my foot started cramping up on the flight. Call it economy class syndrome. It really wasn't so bad, until I finally arrived in Manchester another flight later. As the night wore on, my discomfort transformed into a very noticeable limp. Never mind the intense pain every time I stand up. All this from CRAMPING, folks. Remember to hydrate. Always.

Naturally, hydration wasn't the first thing on my mind. Manchester is known for its ales, so after unpacking at the very clean but anesthetic Hatters hostel, the first order of business was to find a legendary pub known as Sam's Chop House. Knowing this is a run-and-gun sort of trip, I wanted to get one decent meal out of the way, and what a fine one it was. Rib eye steak, mussels, mushrooms - the whole lot. Washed down with their own brew, of course. Yum.

A pub crawl back to the Hatters sounded like a good idea, despite my aching foot. Of course, the route back seemed to be devoid of pubs, until we were nearly home and came across The Piccadilly, spitting distance from both the hostel and the train station. Convenient. And the prices? Let's just say I'm not looking forward to going to London on Saturday. With most pints under £2, it's hard NOT to spend all your time in Manchester in a pub. And when one of those pints is Boddington's - ON CASK - it's even harder to stay away.

Alas, eventually we did get away from The Piccadilly and made our way home to our cozy bunks, tepid showers, and clinical surroundings. We met one of our roomies, Eva from Holland, who's also going to the Depeche Mode show tonight. Turns out this concert is a pretty big event here in town.

Anyway... I'm now at my company's office in Wilmslow, just outside Manchester, using my first decent internet access of the trip. It was a bit of a quest getting here, since the "direct train" somehow means "train to Stockport, bus to Wilsmlow via Cheadle Hulme..." whatever. I made it, and it's good to see our UK staff again. We'll be off to lunch soon before I head back to Manchester proper to get ready for the gig.

And my foot? It still hurts like hell. Where's that Soma when you need it?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

T-minus 24 hours...

'Til the latest adventure begins.

Stay tuned to this blog for all the sordid details.