Just three of us sit in the little van taking us south from dreich Glasgow to (possibly) sunny Durham. I disconsolately cast my eyes over the bleak landscape of southern Scotland and wonder what makes it so different from similar American terrain. I realise the main missing visual element is the billboard. You can be in the middle of seemingly endless wilderness in the States but there will always be a billboard along in a few minutes trying to drag you off the interstate into a one horse stop with some gas pumps and a shelf full of poisonous snacks. That’s why Hawaii feels so un-American. They banned billboards there. You should visit. The greens are different too, of course. The grasses of Northern Europe are just that bit more vivid. Their brightnesses always surprises you after a month across the pond. America at its most verdant is just that little bit darker, more brown. It’s like there’s more dust nearby. Here, it’s like there’s more sea.
After eating little since my return I realise I am suddenly hungry and regret not making van sandwiches. I will have to take my chances at a pit stop. We turn off the motorway to head southeast on the A road to Durham. You can see emerald meadows, some spotted with radiant yellow, buttercups or rape I can’t tell. The terrain is pretty flat broken by mature copses struggling into leaf. Lambs huddle close to their mothers in the drizzle enclosed by low lying drystone walls. Everything looks mossy and furred with new growth. It’s an English idyll. If you can keep from your mind the certain fact that most of the badgers, hedgehogs and voles around here voted Brexit you could call it Avalon.
We drive straight onto site without a stop and survey the tattered battlefield of Northern Kin Festival. The site has seen better days, namely yesterday, when the sun shone and the kinfolk surely revelled in comfort and celebration. Today we bring the mizzle from the further north and crowd and crew alike look a tad weather beaten and hungover. Our dressing room is a marquee sort of arrangement and we all suddenly realise we’re going to be cold. We layer up as best we can and prepare ourselves for manipulating our instruments with cold digits. The charming Bernie Marsden pops in for a chat. He tries to encourage me that it’s warmer on stage but I’m not entirely convinced. Either way, it is a beautiful rarity to meet such a gentleman.
Suddenly we’re on. Into the unknown, into the breach. If there was not a breach before we’ll make one. We lose 25 members of the room around half way through. Those that remain I’m profusely grateful for. I tell them. Thank you for remaining. Thank you for your faith.
Thank you for bothering to try to understand.
21 Responses to “To Durham”
https://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/legendary-chicago-dj-lin-brehmer-to-take-leave-of-absence-in-cancer-fight/2879833/ Just a head’s up that your old friend at WXRT here in Chicago is going to be taking some time off for chemo. Thought you’d want to know. Cheers. Jen
where has your palladium post gone ?
Hi Justin, I enjoyed reading your blog posts, please keep writing as long as you are able to and I look forward to reading them. I find them darkly funny at times and wonderfully descriptive. Looking forward to the Dels gig in Dublin next month!
Mizzle is putting it mildly and cold an understatement.
6 hours in the cold and damp drizzle in a field eagerly awaiting your set which we had travelled from a bitterly cold London for the day before to spend a weekend with a group of girlfriends with the purpose of seeing our beloved Del live – the cold and damp gnawing at our bones dissipated the second you walked onto the stage – encapsulated in the pure joy your music brings to our hearts!
So I echo your gratitude – we are profusely grateful for the decades of dopamine overload your music has filled us with!
Eagerly anticipating a warmer sunny dopamine injection at Weyfest in Surrey (our neck of the woods) in August!
Forever grateful xxx
I wonder if they have hideous billboards in Ireland.
I wonder what a Scottish band sounds like in Ireland……
You were a gentleman on Saturday, chatty and humble. You must have been exhausted but I’m so glad you made the effort and so glad we travelled to see you too. Maybe my 30/40th time and loved every second. Thanks.
Dammit. Why did I abandon my philosophy of never reading the Comments section?
My first trip ever to the UK was in the month of February, 10+ years ago. Despite being turther north than the majority of the US, the UK was noticably and surprisingly greener. In February. Now couple that with much of the US having under average temperatures this spring, yep… it’s definitely browner and more dormant than normal. I get where those comments from Justin came from. Spot on.
Billboards ARE fucking ugly. And they’re intricately tied to America and capitalism. (But I think Hawai’i would still be beautiful even if they did have billboards.)
I’ve only approached Justin a couple of times over 20+ years and he’s always been gracious. But I can respect that might get tiresome for him, as well as for any other band member.
This line from Justin is worth re-reading: “Thank you for bothering to try to understand.”
Cheers and love.
Kristine and Blackleathertrousers…having read your posts I re-read Justin’s words to see if I had missed something but can’t reconcile your thoughts against what he has actually written.
Entitled artist? Well, I bumped into Justin ahead of the Northern Kin show on Saturday and, as with a couple of other occasions in the past 30 years he was open, friendly and gracious.
It was clear the band were cold and tired on Saturday but still put on a great show and thanked the crowd at the end for getting them through.
Kristine- thank you for saying what others have felt this whole time while reading these latest prose from Justin. Negativity and nihilism get old after a while. I was a bit sad that the music that was produced during the past 24 months of dark pandemic was just the same old dark stuff. When the world kinda needed something a bit bright- the same dark music was produced. Nothing new unfortunately. I can’t believe I’m actually writing this- as I was your biggest fan and advocate for so many years. Made it over the pond so many times over the past twenty years to see your gigs. Each time groups would hang out to meet you (to include myself) you came across as an entitled artist looking down on those that thought you were so awesome. It saddens me to say it. When we saw you guys in Denver last month- a group of us noticed you have a tremor. Not sure what is going on with that but it made us all sad. Hard living with lots of alcohol, little sleep, lots of smoke, zero exercise, and a dark lease on life will bring on a crappy quality of life as one ages. It is my hope that you can see some wisdom in anything I’ve mentioned here. I’m sure I’ll get shitted on in the comments- but I am being honest and I mean well.
Wow, very surprised by your comments. Over many years, I’ve waited outside the venues to chat with Justin. He has always been very friendly and down to earth. One time, my brother asked him to wait a few minutes because I was not there when he came out, and he waited. You sound pretty judgmental, especially because you don’t know what is going on with him. We don’t need any more fans like you, thanks!
There’s another way to look at what Justin is saying. If you like his creativity, like I do, then you ought to appreciate him as an artist. After all he creates art for a living and I hope gets paid handsomely to do so because he is terrific at it. What he is creating here are the musings of an artist who is merely looking at the world around him — fast paced, transient, and timeless — through honest eyes, sometimes ruthlessly so. He does not seem particularly interested in writing what people want to hear. He does seem interested in creating for us a slice of his somewhat surreal life and the worthless thoughts that go along with that, like so much bilge. But I tend to find those thoughts worthwhile because of the lens they put to the outside world. It’s the lens of a slightly tortured artist for the reader to look through, and nothing more.
I saw Del Amitri in Chicago in early April (I believe I got Covid at the show. It was the first time in a large indoor gathering for me) and I too noticed Justin had a hand tremor in his right hand and several of us up front felt bad instantly.
It was a great show and I loved the band. I think Justin made a comment that if we got sick “I hope it was worth it.” And it was.
You’re just really not at all happy with that underwear you bought at Target, are ya? Regardless, thanks to you and all for the fantastic shows you did over here. I am forever grateful that I saw you once at a free lunchtime concert in the ’90s and now here again last month in Chicago.
And those that remained (especially this one, who certainly didn’t vote Brexit) were grateful to you all for a fantastic evening ❤️
’64 here. You are not too far off from your description of our country, although I have never been to Great Britain to compare sods and greenery. Only in films I have witnessed the beauty of Europe. This time of the year is definitely the dirtiest and most dusty. It’s been a long, cold, harsh winter. They use a lot of salt and sand on the roads in these northern parts especially. I get where you’re coming from. Billboards, too many, I rightfully agree.. I will have to make that decision myself someday to which what country possesses the most color and abundance. I’m just assuming you’re feeling like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, “there’s no place like home”. I’m glad to see you are safe and sound, you and the band among the familiars that present contentness. Enjoy lad. You have earned it. Quite a show you put on for over 30 days. I’m impressed with someone the same age as me. As always, your musician friend in Minnesota, Cheers!
How can anyone leave this band halfway through – how very dare they!!
So glad to see Justin with a beero in his hand and smile(ish) on his face xx
Wow. Just wow. We host you for a month, overtly elated to have you across the Atlantic for the first time in 3 decades. And your first post back home is to rag about our vistas. Following your prior musing about our cacophonous communities in which you think we can’t hear music. Do you hear yourself?
FWIW, if you ever got off a freeway, out of alcohol-soaked venues, and ventured into nature here, across many regions of the country, I believe you’d find our greenery as verdant as yours, our seas awesome & humbling in their expanse, our mountains & canyons shocking in their majesty, the red dirt of our deserts and our sun-kissed blue skies soul-stirring. The uninformed negation of our landscapes is stupefying. Christ, here in the NW, we have endless forest, mountains, high deserts, and the rocky shoreline of the Pacific all within a few hours’ drive.
I honestly cannot believe this was what you chose to share upon your return home. Is this residual fury about our music industry’s failure to recognize your talent 30 years ago & accord you the accolades rightly deserved? Just a guess.
Sorry we don’t measure up. Just thought you should know how offensive these recent posts are. I’m done.
I don’t see nothing offensive in his words. You shouldn’t be too sensitive about that. Unfortunately we all know that the US isn’t now what it was 50 years ago. But I hope it will be a great country some day again. Take care
I honestly don’t think Justin wrote anything negative about the USA at all and as a fellow fan am shocked that you think so. If you read his musings you’ll see he describes Scotland and Northern England as bleak, misty, drizzly, slightly run down etc and nobody here objects to that because it’s so often true!
It’s the artists job to interpret the world around them and it’s the reader/listener’s job to approach their endeavours with an open mind. As a Brit I’m very pleased to say that Monument Valley remains the most incredible place I have ever seen on planet earth, that Yosemite is awe inspiring and that Arizona where I lived for 4 months has probably the best sunsets and stargazing in the world. Be honest though, American cities or towns are rarely things of beauty, there’s a terrible lack of building planning controls so anybody can just stick up whatever they want wherever they want and the constant billboards do blot the landscape. I’d also argue that the USA has far too much poverty for such a rich nation and the lack of medical care for the poor is a national disgrace in a country that boasts such extreme wealth and riches.
Denying these things does the American people and its great nation no favours. I sometimes think in the UK we’re much more aware of the problems/issues/flaws with our country whereas in the USA patriotism prevents you acknowledging them…
Replying to blackleathertrousers:
I find it slightly amusing that there is criticism of the recent music released by the Dels not being happy and uplifting, seeing as we have endured a pandemic.
The album sessions finished the day BEFORE the UK lockdowns actually started.
And the album and associated tracks are all that we could have hoped from, from the Dels. “More of the same” it may be to a small extent – because it is the same writers and the same musicians. They are not going to create some happy chirpy songs that sound naggingly like the Spice Girls, are they? They’re not going to sound like some other band that isn’t them.
I also think that some people dig into what Justin says with so much seriousness and angst that it’s ridiculous.
Some cities he has been through on their slog round the States this time are not beautiful and wonderful and Justin has written about what he sees from the perspective of a tired working visitor. Every niggle he’s had about the food need not be taken as a damning assault on America.
Read his posts about the UK. He’s honest and tells it like it is.
He sees what he sees. If it isn’t what someone else sees, well, that’s just how it is.