USA 2022 (Part 3) by Matthew Gee
The midpoint of our tour was our visit to NYC. This had much potential: we were performing in central Manhattan just down the road from Times Square, it was an early afternoon performance so we had some serious post show activities to plan, and we also had a free morning to explore or lounge about in our plush hotel.
Now about that hotel…
We pulled up at the Ramada Hotel, New Jersey to be greeted by the dopiest, most disorganised, check-in staff in a hotel that would be more fitting in a horror movie. This was the least of our issues. My room had clearly hosted an all night vigil to the weed gods, Si Minshall opened up his room to find someone already in it, and Knighty’s bathroom seemed to be locked from the inside. It was not a good start. We then headed into Manhattan for what (in my opinion) was one of the worst burgers I’ve ever eaten and served by dope-headed waiters – the legalisation of cannabis in NY appears to be at odds to their tipping culture. The only good thing that came from the meal is that James and Simon managed to secure refunds for the second night in Hotel Horror and instead book us into the Hilton Garden Inn just down from Central Park. It was game on.
Pete and I woke up bright and early to go into Manhattan and catch-up with friends, James was woken up by workmen, banging their way through the paper thin walls, but everyone else seemed to sleep fitfully. We met for a sound check in the Town Hall, a fantastic venue just down the road from Times Square and performed the Copland programme to a wonderfully full and receptive audience. Many of them hadn’t heard a brass chamber concert before, and it’s fair to say we confounded expectations with Appalachian Spring in particular, which requires all the finesse we can muster to bring to life. Spirits were high.
After checking in to our much-improved hotel, we headed up out for the obligatory visit to PJ Clarkes; an institution, a must visit every time we go to NYC (with these incredible, listed toilets). A little of the black stuff held off our pangs of hunger until our visit to Quality Meats, one of NYC’s celebrated steak restaurants. On the way we dived into a very nice cocktail bar, which required a small amount of remortgaging to experience, but the drinks were worth it; the Pisco Sour a particular highlight, this white beauty really getting us in the mood for the ensuing feast. The food at Quality Meats was exceptional, any mid-tour blues were blown away.
Games have been keenly embraced on this tour, and with that in mind we headed to Cellar Dog, NY’s famous Jazz and Games Bar. Pool, Table Tennis and Shuffleboard were all fiercely played, everyone’s competitiveness paling into insignificance as Matt Knight dictated, changed rules to suit him, and generally ruled with an obnoxious, iron fist.
The Stonewall Inn was our final stop of the night. An historic venue, the site of the 1969 riots which launched the gay rights movement. After a nightcap here it was definitely time to call it a night, and we headed off to our comfortable hotel. There was a twist in the tail however, as an early morning fire alarm roused us from our slumber. My gilet seemed to be the obvious attire in which to head down to the foyer, causing much amusement to the rest of the septet. I don’t really see what all the fuss was about.
We were flying to Texas later that day, but we still had time to enjoy Manhattan, some of the group choosing to cycle around Central Park, others heading off down to China Town for an absolutely fantastic lunch, followed by a moving visit to the 9/11 Memorial. All in all our visit to New York reminded us all how lucky we are to do this for a job, to tour and perform great music with such good friends.
So Texas was up next. Minshall was particularly excited; it was news to me that he holds a firearms licence!