News & Insights 14 May 2007

This man could crush me like a peanut

Monday 14 May, 1pm (Multi-tiered car park, Lower East Side, New York):
We have just arrived in the Big Apple and, after hours of searching, have finally located an appropriate place to leave the van. It’s a bit on the pricey side (Donald Trump would think twice before parking here) but at least it’s close to Pianos, the venue we’re playing tonight, and it seems relatively secure. The attendant parks the van for us and takes the keys away with him to his little booth. Bugger. Need our instruments from the back of the van. With trepidation, I approach the booth and ask to have the keys back. He is not a fan of this idea.

“Sir, once your vehicle is fully stowed in the parking bay, you are not allowed access until you intend to take your automobile away.”

Arse. I consider the options. This chap looks like one of the drug dealers out of Robocop, and I have a feeling that my green belt in Tae Kwon Do wouldn’t be enough to save me if I got on the wrong side of him. Some pleading, I think.

“I’m terribly sorry…. Bit of a pickle really. You see, we’ve just flown three thousand miles, and we have a show to play tonight, and it would be a frightful blow if we couldn’t make the gig. Any chance we could borrow the keys for just a jiffy?”

This man could crush me like a peanut. Luckily, he relents and lends me the keys. “Bring them right back,” he warns. 

In light of the attendant’s icy warning, you’ll be surprised to hear that – having removed our equipment from the van – we manage to LOCK THE KEYS INSIDE IT. Don’t ask me how it happened. Suffice it to say that there is a very expensive BMW parked in the bay above ours, and any minute now its very expensive owner is going to come back and want to remove his car. But he won’t be able to. Because ours is in the way, the keys are inside and we don’t have a spare set. The Robocop Drug Dealer is beginning to eye us suspiciously from his booth. I opt out of being the one to tell him what we’ve done, on account of some very important and time-consuming walking-around-in-circles I’ve just remembered I have to do outside on the street. Luckily, our host Dan, being a New Yorker himself, volunteers for the job. What a legend. 

Five minutes later and a group of attendants are doing everything they can to break into the van using a spade and what looks like an enormous unravelled coat hanger. Oh yes. The Lightyears have definitely landed.

******

Pianos is an intimate upstairs venue in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. We’re taking part in a quirky New York tradition called “Cross-Pollination”, where two acts who have never met (and, in this case, were until very recently residing on different land-masses) play a set each and then collaborate on a collection of cover songs. I like this idea a lot. It’s kind of like the rap-battles you get on the Detroit underground scene. Only, y’know, no one pops a cap in anyone else’s ass. Otherwise it’s the same.

We squeeze onto the tiny stage and play a highly-charged set which I think takes Cross-Poll’s regular punters by pleasant surprise. As always, our accents go down a storm and I do my best to use words like “super” and “wizard” when addressing the audience. The tunes we throw in from our early-2003 coffee house days, like Fine and Girl On The Radio, appease those in the crowd who have come here to listen to gentle acoustic music – but the biggest cheers of the evening are reserved for the new pop numbers like Sleepless and Don’t Want You. When we finish, Danny gives us a thumbs-up from the sound-desk, which is perched jauntily on the end of the bar. He seems happy, although this may be because he hasn’t been asked to leave the premises yet tonight (on account of being under 21), which for Danny is a major triumph. 

We make some new friends, several of whom join us for drinks in an Irish bar after the show. I have absolutely no idea whereabouts I am in the city. My sense of direction is questionable at the best of times, but it suffers most severely when I’m in a foreign country. We are supposed to be crashing with some friends up by Central Park, but somehow I end up staying the night in a small apartment in Queens which is, I think, quite a long way from Central Park. Hey-ho. Perhaps I need to invest in Sat-Nav.

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