To Cleveland, OH, September 15th 2014
I am sorry to be leaving Nashville. After last night’s show a pleasant bevy of friends and acquaintances coalesced around the backstage zone exchanging gossip and news. The dressing room grapevine. People here are very interested in the Scottish Situation. We endeavour to explain and quickly figure out that it’s easiest just to wait for them to ask, “So you wanna be like Canada?” Yes, that’s pretty much it. The disillusionment with domestic politics is so extreme here now that this makes perfect sense to them.
We pull out of town at 9am and are straight onto the freeway. Within an hour we’re in Kentucky passing through rolling pasture studded with copses and the odd little cornfield. There is the vaguest blush of autumnal bruising staining the trees and the sun breaks through exposing high maps of thin clouds above. We pass a Glasgow and raise our collective eyebrow. A search of the local airwaves proves dispiriting, unearthing only the faintest hint of a lonesome banjo through the static. The rest is tosh; Led Zeppelin, Chili Peppers and auto-tuned country pop. We switch the infernal thing off.
The journey is a languorous one along a straight line taking in three states in eight hours. You could take to the road and disappear for half of eternity in the US, without seeing the same place twice. You see the explorers everywhere in their RVs and trailers, out to see the continent, kids left home and work on hold. There’s nothing left to conquer, no land unsettled but everything to see; the deserts and the mountains, the swamps, the lakes, the forests and the canyons. It is a giant land and everyone’s a minnow in its all-encompassing sea.
So we swim into the cliffs of downtown Cleveland, a city perpetually on the precipice, half in decline and half on yet another road to regeneration. The rusting gears of extinct heavy industry nestle amongst new developments like dinosaur fossils lurking among supermarket aisles. We are valet parked at the hotel which sits right at the mouth of the Cuyahoga river. From my window I can see it oozing into Lake Erie. This is the river, once so polluted it was alleged to have caught fire. I always feel at home here, it has an inexplicably Glaswegian atmosphere and so it duly starts to rain. We hoof out for some food and find a bar & grill that fits the bill. By ten I am back in my cell and ready to fall into the jet black sleep that swallows you whole like a deep cave after time travelling.
Before soundcheck I saunter through the gullies of this handsome city. It has the same feel it always had; urban but laid-back, unpretentious and open. I love it here. I find what appears to be a gay health food café which does perfectly. In any other city this place would be insufferably smug and correct but in Cleveland it’s just fucking charming. The waiter manages to be pathologically friendly without being obsequious, ingratiating or annoying. I decide to hang for a while to get some “work” done. This constitutes emailing a few friends and posting bollocks on the net. Phew. The referendum has made the front page of the New York Times, their Aberdeen based correspondent writing up the story in that weirdly bland house style, contorting itself to appear impartial. I feel far from the fray but I’m buggered if that’s going to shut me up. I now have the fire and zeal of the recently converted. I have surprised myself, a thing I rarely do, and I feel not born again but born anew.
The sun comes out for soundcheck. The venue is a swish supper club style joint, all dark wood tables and chairs and linen napkins. We are treated royally and have a lavish suite for a dressing room. After some delicious house fare we retire across the water to sit in the sunshine outside the hotel. This is the life: no hassle, no stress – a thousand miles from the havoc of having hits. Only thing is…how to make it pay?