News & Insights 8 November 2006

“Fresh from London, Finland – The Lightyears!”

Wednesday 8 November, 10.30am (LYs US Residence, Riverton, New Jersey):
I am sitting in front of a plate of Heinz Baked Beans on toast and a steaming hot cup of milky tea. It’s so English I could almost be in Chesham, or Little Todding. However, I am in fact in the god-dang ho-diggity United States Of America! Yee-haw. And all that.

To my astonishment, we arrived last night in one piece with all our instruments and bags intact. Our US tour manager Jon Clifton met us at Newark and drove us back along the legendary New Jersey Turnpike to his home in Riverton. Riverton, founded in 1851 by wealthy Philadelphian merchants, is a picture-perfect town full of ridiculously large houses. Jon, who has an apartment in one of the ridiculously large houses, has very kindly stocked his cupboards with British food products to make us feel welcome.

Tony whiles away most of the morning writing a song about lycopene, one of the principal ingredients in tomato ketchup. Man, tour delirium. Already?!

Weds 8 November, 9.45pm (World Café Live @ WXPN, Philadelphia):
Our first show is a charity event at World Café Live, which is in the same building as Philadelphia’s world-famous WXPN National Radio, America’s most popular public station. We are due to be interviewed on WXPN on Saturday. Tonight the place is full of trendy radio types who keep referring to us as “cats”. “You cats from London? That is sweet. You guys are sweet.”

We hit the stage, introduced by comedy troupe The Waitstaff – “Fresh from London, Finland, it’s The Lightyears!” – and unleash our music for the first time ever on the American public. And they like it. Whooping is pretty popular over here in-between songs, especially when you feed the audience lines like “Hello everyone! We’re all British and this is our first ever show in America!” (over the course of the tour, this line turns out to provoke near-apoplectic hysteria every time I use it – and I use it a lot).

As we hammer down the closing chord of Miles Away, Jon whisks us off the stage and reminds us that we have to drive 45 minutes across town to get to our second gig of the evening. Before I can get out the door I’m accosted by a journalist covering the night who wants to interview me about the charity, which promotes the work of challenged athletes. He asks me what I know about the cause. I reply: “I’ve always been aware of challenged athletes competing in sport, what with the popularity of the Paralympics and so on, but I’ve never been directly involved with promoting it. Which is why I’m really pleased to have played at this charity event.”

And this is what was printed (under the headline Never Fathomed): “I never before wondered if people with disabilities could do sports,” said Russell. “Honestly, it never occurred to me”.

It’s alright though. The hate mail has started to die down now.

Weds 8 November, 11.50pm (Grape Street, Manayunk, Philadelphia):
We’ve just finished our second gig of the night at Philly’s ever-popular Grape Street venue. This place has been around for a while and the stage has previously been graced by the likes of Jeff Buckley and The Black Crowes, which is pretty cool. Backstage, our trademark LYs military jackets are attracting a great deal of attention. People ask where we got them. “Camden”, we reply earnestly. They stare back agog. “Camden??!! Oh my god. That’s brave. Wow.” We later find out that Camden, New Jersey, is just round the corner from where we’re staying and is the most dangerous place in America. We decide not to confess that we’re referring to a different Camden. I mean, image is everything.

Tomorrow, New York. We’re gonna be a part of it.

Rock and roll.

Chris Lightyear

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