America: Day 2 (by Dan West)

Day 2 and we’ve already racked up some serious miles in the Septura battle bus. So far we’ve resisted the urge to stencil the group’s logo onto the side of the vehicle, and the only thing we’ve knocked over has been a very unfortunate traffic cone on the Interstate.

The Septura battle bus

We woke up this morning in Stillwater, Oklahoma, well rested & refreshed from our stay in the beautiful Atherton Hotel on the Oklahoma State University campus. The hospitality extended to us at OSU was genuinely extraordinary. We said our goodbyes to my very good friends Paul & Lanette Compton and then piled into the van. The other lads are starting to become acquainted with the Interstate freeway that dissects the continental USA, I35. We’ll be traveling hundreds of miles on this stretch of tarmac that spans from the US/Mexico border in the south all the way to Lake Superior in the north.

Our journey from Stillwater to Fort Worth

Matt Gee at the helm

Today we spent about 4 hours on I35, finally reaching Fort Worth in time for our rehearsal ahead of the concert at Texas Wesleyan University. The Texan border welcomed us with the sight of a familiar London landmark, which happens to adorn the front of a casino.

Feeling at home in Texas

In many ways this USA road trip is a trip down memory lane for me. I spent a few years in Texas, earning my Bachelors degree from the University of North Texas – a campus which is clearly visible from I35. I’ll spare our loyal readers the nostalgia trip of a nearly middle-aged bass trombonist, but I have to mention how nice it has been to catch up with friends who I haven’t seen since I finished my degree and moved to London in 2005. Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra bass trombonist Dennis Bubert taught me for a year at UNT, and I was excited (if not slightly nervous) to see him in attendance at our Texas Wesleyan University concert.

Good to see our name up in lights

Once again our hosts exhibited the friendly hospitality that is typical in this part of the world. After setting up in Martin Hall we were ready for our second concert of the Ravel/Debussy/Gershwin programme which we’ve debuted on this tour. The hall offered us a rich acoustic which especially suited the French music in the first half. The all-Gershwin 2nd half seems to get toes tapping and Coxy’s performance on the car horn was especially superlative. We were rewarded for our efforts with another standing ovation and a record number of CDs sold in the interval.

Celebrations ensued at, what is in my opinion, the finest drinking establishment in Fort Worth: the Flying Saucer. Our friends David Begnoche (trombone professor –Texas Christian University) and Michael Martin (trumpet – Boston Symphony Orchestra) joined us and my college buddies for a couple of jars (and evermore chicken wings). Hundreds of beers are featured on the menu at the Flying Saucer, and we managed to sample a few before the sensible members of the group retired to recharge batteries ahead of the long voyage in the morning.

Tomorrow we’re retracing our steps and heading north on I35, bypassing Oklahoma on the way to our 3rd concert of the tour, this time in Manhattan, Kansas. It should take about 7 hours, and I’ve baggsied the right to sleep for the first driving shift, having enthusiastically reminisced about the Good Ol’ Days with my Texan friends until the whee hours of the morning.

Old Friends – left to right: Dan, Cory, Stephen, Dennis, Trevor and Jonathan… all trombonists!

Tour stats:

Concerts: 2

Standing ovations: 2

Distance travelled: 5278 miles

Time on the bus: 5 hrs

Time on planes: 11 hrs 31 mins