Getting where?

Menu Close

Tag: Ben Folds

US May 2015

I didn’t do a lot of writing about this trip while I was on it, because I was SO TIRED the whole time. You’d think I’d learn by now that I shouldn’t try to cram so much into a short trip because of the burnout it causes, but it’s really hard to do that when I go to the US because there are so many people I never get to see and I just want to see as many of them as I possibly can when I get the small chances I do.

I had grand plans to do a lot of travel planning for the big trip, a lot of writing (blog related and not), and a lot of reading, particularly on my two 6 hour train trips, but I spent most of those hours listening to music, dozing, and staring into space thinking about stuff because I couldn’t handle much else at the time. And that’s ok. But it does mean I have a lot of writing down of those thoughts to be getting on with.

Here’s all the awesome stuff I did that tired me out so much:

A day of wandering around Georgetown with Liam and Bobby. A ridiculous brownie at Baked and Wired. Happy Hour Mexican food and a mojito. A brilliant, brilliant Ben Folds and yMusic gig at the Lincoln Theatre.

Driving out of the middle of DC in a rental car, fairly terrified and mostly lost the entire time. Steak for lunch at Kelsey’s house, watching the chickens and talking about life. Dinner with most of her family (who are pretty much my second family) in downtown Frederick. Sharing the couch with Miss Betty.

Buying lots of random stuff in Target while I waited for the rest of the wedding party to arrive in York. Sampling the hotel pool experience. A rehearsal dinner while flanked by some kind of optometrists’ party in one ballroom and a high school prom in another (high entertainment value). The nicest hotel beds. An amazing wedding on a gorgeous day.

Driving back into DC again, terrified and lost again, this time with added Hellish Nation’s Capital Traffic and nearly hitting a pedestrian. Lunch at ShopHouse to recover (very good). A 6 hour train ride on which I did very little aside from think too much.

A dark beer called Duck Rabbit (how could I resist THAT NAME) with Josh. Breakfast with Rachel and their two awesome kids. A trip to the Raleigh farmers’ market. Really good salsa (god I miss really good salsa). Fast food, North Carolina style. Sitting in on a high school creative writing magazine meeting, which was so great and so bizarre and so the same as I remember it. Real North Carolina barbecue including hush puppies, which are one of my favourite things. Wyatt Cenac at a local comedy club (very funny, recommended). Lunch and local beers in Fuquay-Varina. And a super chilled out night of dinner, chat and whisky.

Another 6 hour train ride, not bad considering it was right after a pretty awful day for Amtrak. Again, didn’t do much but doze and think. A mojito sorbet while killing time waiting for happy hour with all the DC Washington College Dramalumni at the District ChopHouse. More beer than I should have drank, which is easy when it’s only $3.50 a pint. A Trader Joe’s dinner back at Liam and Bobby’s while watching a whole lot of Daily Show.

Lunch with my parents at Farmers Fishers Bakers and a walk along the river on a lovely day before my long trip home.

It was a lot, but it was worth the exhaustion. I’m lucky I got to see so many people in such a short space of time.

I was also incredibly homesick on this trip considering how short it was. I feel more like a foreigner than ever when I’m in the US, and I was probably realising that’s going to be standard now. I’m ok with that – I love the UK – I guess I just didn’t expect it to hit me so hard. I was VERY happy to see Edinburgh when I got back (and my fantastic friends who I spent the rest of the day with at the Summerhall FestiveALE – a lovely way to force myself to stay awake and fight the jet lag).


I was under budget again (£1500), which hooray! But as usual with trips to the US, I didn’t have to pay for much accommodation, and lots of people bought me food and drinks and things, so most of the cost was transportation.

Trip total: £1334.47

That’s an average of £121.32 per day.

£899.75 on transport. SO MANY DIFFERENT KINDS of transport. This was Planes, trains and automobiles for real.

£144.77 on food. And I finally got my airport sushi in Dulles on the way home.

£36.28 on entertainment. Ben Folds!

£72.56 on accommodation. Two nights in a shared hotel room in York PA. Pool view. John Oliver on HBO. Beds to die for.

£55.05 on gifts. Stuff for people I was staying with. Chocolate and whisky mostly.

£65.49 on drinks. At least half of this was for other people. I drank relatively little on this trip.

£60.57 on miscellaneous. A bunch of random stuff at Target and a bunch of cold and heartburn related medicine. FUN.


In which I realise there IS such a thing as too much research

Another reason to be excited about DC

Delayed (again)


In the headphones


Ray Charles

Lucy Schwartz

On the Kindle

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter by Richard Feynman

Keeper: A Book about memory, identity, isolation, Wordsworth and cake… by Andrea Gillies

In-flight films

Shaun the Sheep Movie (SO MUCH FUN)

Wild (more on which later)

Another reason to be excited about DC

I’ll be in the US in a month and I’ve got a pretty packed schedule while I’m there. I’ve been pretty slow about figuring out what it is I want to do on the few days that haven’t been planned out yet so I’m starting to get to critical ‘figure it out or wing it’ stage now.

Initially, I really wanted to find a regular swing dance night in either DC or Raleigh, NC to check out. While I’m generally socially terrified to rock up to something like that on my own, I know Lindy Hoppers are a friendly bunch, and it would have been really cool to see how stuff goes down in a different city. Plus I’m sure I could have dragged a friend with me and peer-pressured them into taking a beginner lesson. However, it seems The Jam Cellar in DC is on a Tuesday and The Lindy Lab near Raleigh is on a Thursday. And naturally, I will be in DC two Thursdays in a row, and in Raleigh on a Tuesday. WELL PLAYED, ME. So that’s unfortunately out this time around.

So last night, I went back to check the website of the 9:30 Club in DC (the best concert venue ever ever ever) to see if there had been any schedule updates. To my surprise, I found that Ben Folds is playing a sold out show on the Friday I bugger off to Frederick for the night. I kicked myself for not knowing about that, because to see Ben at the 9:30 Club again would make me so happy I can’t even explain it to you. But then I saw a wee link to the Lincoln Theatre show he’s playing on the Thursday that I AM in the city. And it’s NOT sold out.


I AM TOTALLY GOING TO SEE BEN FOLDS (for the eleventy-billionth glorious time) IN DC! Liam and Bobby are coming with me and they’ve never seen Ben live so that will be EXCELLENT.

Now I just have to figure out what to do during the day. It may be time for a trip back to the Smithsonian Air and Space museum, because after spending $45 on a Ben Folds ticket, free stuff is definitely a draw. Also: SPACE. Also: horrendous freeze-dried ice cream. (And regular ice cream, obviously.)


Ben Folds and the Royal Northern Sinfonia in Manchester

Me and Ben Folds.

With Ben Folds outside the 9:30 Club in Washington DC, summer 2002 Ben Folds Live tour.

First, some back story: I discovered Ben Folds Five in middle school, and my love for them is as vast as the sea of time between now and then. A girl called Jen (who was super into Britpop and was listening to Oasis and Blur long before anyone else I knew, so was therefore the coolest person ever to my middle-school self) let me borrow Whatever And Ever Amen one day and I was hooked.

I saw them live twice before they split, and I’ve seen Ben live on his own more times than I can recall. In 2012, when Ben Folds Five announced they were getting back together after 13 years AND TOURING it was like someone telling me I’d won a small jackpot. I got to see my favourite band playing together again, in Glasgow of all places, and it was even better than I wanted it to be.

I will never, ever turn down a chance to see Ben live, so when I heard he was back over here playing with a full orchestra, I jumped at the chance. It was a great excuse to see a new city, and perhaps fitting it should be Manchester, the home of so much of my original BF5 hookup’s most-loved music.

This was also my first ever time seeing an orchestra in a proper music hall, which was super exciting and made me feel all fancy. (I even wore a dress.) Classical music isn’t really something I know much about, so Ben’s piano concerto was a good way in. It’s a very different thing from his usual fare, but the piece had such personality. And around that, he played a really good variety of his songs with full orchestra backing, ‘Steven’s Last Night in Town’ being the ultimate highlight. Between the melodica and all the layers of vocal harmony on the original track, there’s a lot to work with there. It spread impressively over the crazy wide range of instruments in an orchestra and was such a treat. I kind of wanted it to last forever.

Being a Ben Folds show, it couldn’t possibly go without some audience participation – three-part harmony for ‘Not the Same’ and the whole hall yelling ‘fuck’ at top volume multiple times, while also periodically dissolving into laughter, during ‘Rockin’ the Suburbs’. And improv, of course! We were treated to a dramatic, soundtrack/score to the Bridgewater Hall’s fire procedures. (‘I’ve always really wanted to yell ‘FIRE!’ in a crowded hall.’) He taught every section of the (properly solid and badass) orchestra what he wanted them to play on the spot, and then had two people from the audience do the voice-overs. Totally brilliant.

Apart from the gig, I had an absolutely brilliant time in Manchester. I couldn’t have asked for a better two days. The weather was almost criminally perfect, which made the city look fantastic and have a completely chilled out English summer vibe. It also meant I got to do all my eating and drinking outside, and plenty of wandering about.

My first stop was the Museum of Science and Industry, which I was excited to see, but because it was so nice out, I ended up buzzing off after about an hour and a half because I couldn’t bear to waste the weather. I did learn an awful lot about gas-powered energy and sewage and sanitation through the ages, and I love stuff like that. If the weather had been bad, I’d have loved to look around much longer – the place is ENORMOUS. And I would have paid for the Collider exhibition, which looked pretty exciting.

I wandered towards all the beer gardens along the water I’d seen on my walk in from the train station. The Pixies were also playing that night in Castlefield (what a choice of gigs to have!) so there were lots of people about for that, and I listened the soundcheck as I sat outside having a pint and watching the boats come through lock 92 on the Bridgewater canal. (I totally want to take a canal boat holiday now. Watching people with their dogs and their cups of tea leisurely waiting for their boats to raise or lower in the lock convinced me it is probably an ideal way to spend a week.)

After the start of my day drinking, I walked along the canal and the river out to Salford Quays so I could check into my hotel and change for the night. I also had a wander around MediaCityUK while listening to Radcliffe and Maconie on 6Music, which is my usual afternoon work listening fodder. Total nerdy thrill knowing they were broadcasting right there.

I made my way back into town and had a pint at Cask, which I’d spotted earlier in the morning. It reminded me of Starbar in Edinburgh (one of my favourites) with more great real ale choices and an even better jukebox, if that’s even possible. I wish they’d done food, but as they didn’t, I went to a Mexican place, Lucha Libre, that had cracking fish tacos and a decent margarita. (But totally disappointing guacamole. Tex-mex joints take note, you live and die by your guacamole. You can’t afford to screw that business up.)

Then after the gig, on local recommendation, I went for a pint at The Britons Protection, which had loads of great beer and a big beer garden out back, which they didn’t boot anyone out of at 10pm as they usually do in Edinburgh. Score! I sat on my own for a while but the Pixies gig must have let out just after Ben, because a whole load of folk filled the place in and I ended up sharing a table with some guys who, upon hearing they’d chosen the Pixies over Ben, were totally torn up about the fact that they’d missed Ben Folds with an orchestra (I was equally bummed that I couldn’t see the Pixies). Usually, when I say ‘Ben Folds’, I get a lot of blank looks, but I was delightfully shocked that these guys were fans. We had more beer and there was good talk about music and Manchester and travel and life. It was such a perfect end to the day.

More great beer and food the next day, including breakfast with my friend Kate at the awesomely named North Tea Power. I had a good wander around all the indie and vintage shops in the Northern Quarter. Affleck’s endless caverns of music posters, pins, tshirts, and hair dye would have made my teenage self weep with joy, and I actually didn’t let myself enter any record shops for fear I would not be able to keep my ‘no buying stuff’ will-power in check. I had another al fresco pint and an extremely tasty hanging kebab at The Oast House before heading back to Edinburgh on the train.

I’m not the best at being social and outgoing, particularly when I’m on my own, but when I told my friend Jen (different Jen from middle school, of course) I was going to Manchester for this gig, she said the best thing about the city was the people, and she was right. Mancunians are absolutely lovely and friendly. They’ve got great chat and they love, love, love their music. They made it much easier than usual for me to come out of my shell, which is what I need more of in life. I wouldn’t hesitate to go back for a gig, or even just a pub crawl.

Ben Folds with the Royal Northern Sinfonia, 10 July 2014, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

Eating and drinking
Warehouse Cafe at MOSI
Dukes 92
Lucha Libre
The Britons Protection
North Tea Power
The Oast House

Premier Inn Salford Quays

On the kindle
How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran

In the headphones
The Stone Roses
Foster the People