Well, the journey does roll on. On Thursday October 25th I landed in Manchester Airport. My whole life I have been obsessed and fascinated with British culture, mostly the music culture from The Beatles to Bowie, from Oasis to Gorillaz, from David Gray to The Cure, from Johnny Marr (former guitarist for The Smiths) to David Gilmour (former Pink Floyd guitarist).. Not to mention some non musical references, the football (soccer), Doctor Who, and Harry Potter. I am what my British friend, Jon Beeby, calls an Anglophile.
So I began my journey from the Manchester Airport and saw the image of “I ❤️ Manchester” just outside the airport and I realized that I was finally in England. The image commemorates the bombing at Manchester Stadium last year when pop artist Ariana Grande was performing and some were injured, some dead, including kids during the terrorist attempt. Seeing this image outside the airport set the stage internally for me reminding me that America is definitely not the only country that deals with these problems off and on. It gave me a great amount of empathy to see this after seeing the coverage in the news
As I traveled into the city I realized a few things:
Many of the people that I met that were Manc, Mancunian, or from Manchester, England were incredibly kind and helpful.
The public transportation was flawless.. and EVERYONE used it. Contrary to America, where many many drive, a lot of folks took their own version of The Metrolink or Trains or Busses.
Manchester was VERY clean, at least in the city centre.
Entering Manchester to me was a bit religious as I am a big Oasis fan, in fact a very big Oasis fan. I was riding the tram into the city center where Noel Gallagher wrote “Definitely, Maybe” and “What’s The Story Morning Glory?” In a small apartment in the early 1990s. This is where Liam Gallagher got his swagger from. This city not only birthed Oasis, but The Smiths’ Johnny Marr (influential English guitarist) and David Gray (singer/songwriter most known for his hit “Babylon”). The city felt futuristic as I made my way through the city centre and Piccadilly portion. Everything was bright, alive, active, and once again CLEAN. I am sure there are bad areas of Manchester, just like St. Louis, New York, Chicago, LA, whatever…but I saw an amazing and beautifully vibrant city with art on the walls, shopping centers, diverse food vendors, and colorful signage around directing folks to where they need to go. I truthfully could live in Manchester.
Let me explain just how friendly everyone was. Upon arrival to my Air BnB, my host George greeted me Kindly and invited me into the kitchen. He said upon arrival: “Mate, help yourself to the coffee and tea, to the cereal, the television, the shower, anything you want.” I then asked if I could wash my clothes and he just showed me how to use the machine and allowed me to use it. Mind you, this is the first AirBnB host who has made it to meeting me and also went out of their way to be kind and helpful like that.
Upon chatting, George was a big Manchester United fan, and he went to explain how the city partially gets divided between allegiance to Manchester City (Man City or City) or Manchester United (Man United or Man U). I personally am a Liverpool Football Club supporter, but did not divulge that all the way to George to prevent any qualms, because it can get pretty sticky between United supported and Liverpool supporters. Very thankful for George’s kindness. Oh, not to mention his Air BnB was SPOTLESS. It was nice being a cleanly space, as being on the road you can really be around some dingy places.
Not only was I excited to be in Manchester, but… I have a good friend that is from Manchester named Harry. Harry I met in St. Louis twice and he is a good guy who was more than happy to come out in the evening and show me around. Harry, in true fashion to what I saw in the Mancs’ kind hospitable ways, took a train into the city and we hit an English pub for beers. English beer is very tasty and truthfully overall, we do not have a lot of it in the States. Harry and I bounced around from the pub to some of the significant historical sights in the Manchester city centre. He showed me Albert Square that was named Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria. Queen Victoria reigned from 1837-1901 as Monarch to the United Kingdom and Ireland. He showed me a memorial for fallen soldiers in British wars, he took me by Piccadilly Records, where Noel used to buy albums, he took and treated me to Nando’s a chain that is pretty frequent over there of latin style food. It was a great time with Harry and I couldn’t be more grateful.
Not only did I have my friend Harry, but I also had my American friend Kyle in town and Kyle and his friends Max and Colin were in town as well, which was very fun because we ended meeting a Spanish girl and her friend and hitting the town dancing and singing. Great fun.
The whole reason that I landed in Manchester though was to catch a train to Nottingham that Saturday to perform at a music festival called The Hockley Hustle on Sunday. My American friend, Singer/Songwriter Emily Cavanagh, and I both had performances scheduled for the festival.
Emily and I had to convene with one another at some point and she mentioned she was staying with friends in Ashton under-Lyne which is a small city in the English countryside just east of Manchester. She mentioned that her friends Paul and Rachel insisted I stay with them and we all meet and have a good time. Paul and Rachel were so friendly, warm, welcoming, politically progressive, and very Mancunian (which to me is cool).
They had 4 boys and were fostering two young girls, so you could tell they loved to give to people and serve people, it was in their blood. Furthermore, Paul insisted that I try to the “national dish” or Chicken Tikka Masala at a local Indian restaurant. I was very impressed with how much I enjoyed it, not having much Indian food before, I really enjoyed it. Paul like George was a die hard Man U fan, and truthfully I had yet to meet a City fan in Manchester.
Paul was gracious and took us to the train station the next day so Em and I could board a train to Nottingham. I really felt akin to Rachel and Paul as they were testament that a kid that is 4,500 miles from home can find a kind set of folks to help him out. Cheers to that!
As far as the music festival was concerned, I was not only blessed enough to play my own set at a place called Wired in Nottingham, but was able to perform as Emily’s guitar player for her set at a pub called Herbert Kilpin.
To further my sentiment about the kindness of the English, upon arriving in Nottingham, the organizer for the festival, Tommy, arranged for us to have places to stay. I ended up meeting an Artist named Heather who allowed me to crash at her place. I also talked a bit with her boyfriend, Simon, about British Rapper Mike Skinner, also known as “The Streets”. He was pretty shocked an American knew who The Streets were…I was pretty stoked about that! Simon and I also discussed the political strife in their country around health care, because while their health care may be free, it is also difficult to get necessary treatment in a timely manner.
The Nottingham City Centre was also VERY CLEAN and very nice. It twisted and turned much like Manchester and found everyone to be very kind from the sound man we had named Nigel to the locals that were organizing the festival.
Our sets, in my opinion went incredibly well and the feedback was awesome! I performed “Half the World Away” by Oasis as a cover in my set as homage to all the dreams I had as a boy to travel to England. After the festival we indulged in good fun by getting sushi and drinking more beer.
Please listen to Emily's music at www.EmilyCavanaghMusic.com, she's really great.
London (to start)
Entering London was one of those moments where you have heard about a city your entire life, but never been. London was a big bustling city that seemed to be a breathing machine. The traffic was bonkers, the prices of everything were pretty insane, and all of the things you have heard about your whole life was there. I do not think I could live in a city like London because it is just too in your face the whole time, you know? Living in St. Louis isn’t bad for that matter given the fact that it is not an uber overpopulated city. London was very cool, but I see myself in a city like Manchester. I will have more on London upon return on November 8/9 to hang with my friend Jon. Jon was also the person who made Emily and I’s sets at The Hockley Hustle even possible, because the festival organizer was his step-brother. Jon lives in St. Louis but is from the UK. There is deep history in London and I am excited to be visiting it again soon.
I will say I did go to a few pubs and met some very kind people in the Westminster area of the city where I was staying. I met a Liverpudlian in London named Callum who was super friendly and went out of his way to chat with me. Sadly enough he was an Everton supporter 😂, but otherwise a kind person who was more than happy to chat all about England with me. I noticed the folks from the Northwest (Liverpool and Manchester) were all very kind and were willing to carry on with me. That was very enjoyable. After meeting Callum and chatting I went to another pub and met a bartender named T. T was outgoing and from South London and had the accent to match. He taught me all about Grime music and mentioned a few artists to listen to. The one that stuck out the most and I enjoyed the most was named Skepta.
Well, it took awhile to post this but I will be posting another soon, wifi has been spotty where I currently am, in Prague, Czech Republic. In fact I am completing this entry on a train from Prague, Czech Republic to Ulm, Germany as the Czech countryside passes swiftly by on my right side and you can hear the train chugging along as the horizon changes shape as we navigate through the hills.
Until next time, Cheers!
I have had spotty wifi, so a review of Prague to Frankfurt shall come in the next week more than likely.