Here’s a little backstory as to why I have come all the way to America, I feel like it’s relevant:
I know my friend Jamie Shields from The Blind Melon Forum. Back when I was around 16/17 years old I had heard about Blind Melon from a school friend of mine who thought they were the best thing ever. I was home from school, alone and learning about the internet. Before that, computers were just those really boring boxes in school with telly screens on them and no Nickelodeon. So I looked up Blind Melon, and found the song “Change” with a picture of a really pretty girl next to it, Shannon Hoon, whose voice sounded a bit like Janis Joplin, but better. Turned out he’s not a girl. He’s just a very pretty and talented man.
It didn’t take me long to find The Blind Melon Forum, which back then was just a black page with “Blind Melon Forum” written on it and a few people writing messages to each other about what their favourite songs were. I immediately signed up and began swapping music. This was back in the day when people actually gave their home addresses to each other and sent bootlegs & copied VHS videos in the post. Which is how I ended up with most of the Blind Melon stuff that I own. This is where I met my very first MelonHead friends, Jamie Shields, Amber Kileen and Carrie Herbst and Tonya.
Ever since then I heard about The Shannon Hoon Vigil which celebrates his life on his birthday, where the fans gather with Shannon Hoon’s family and friends, share their stories and play music. It had been going on for a good ten years before I knew anything of it and I wanted to go so much, to meet these people who were affected by music as much as I was. At that age music felt absolutely monumental to shaping who I was going to become, and Blind Melon definitely changed my outlook on life. We all have that one band, or that handful of CD’s that changed things for us at that age, it usually stays with us.
I went to my first Shannon Hoon Vigil when I was still a teenager. I saved up everything I could from a shitty telesales job where I was meant to be selling timeshares abroad to people without them knowing what they’re getting into. I wasn’t good at it at all. I’d end up talking to old people all day about what’s on the latest Eastenders plot. I somehow managed to scrape the money together and when all of my peers were getting ready for college, I fucked off to the states for three months, looking for myself, or something else equally deep and meaningful, because that's what teenagers do.
I visited my Blind Melon friends and attended the Vigil as well as Vigilstock which is a tribute concert on Sunday night before the weekend is over. It was all a quick, blurry, drunken, emotional, hilarious and eye opening adventure for me.
I did it all again when I was 20, the last time I crossed the great big pond to the States was in 2009, when I was 22 years old and still completely lost. So that’s how I know Jamie and many many other Melonheads. They were just as crazy, and lost as I was. I think we all were a bit, like the lost boys in Neverland. That’s how I see it anyway.
We’ve all grown up a decade now so we’re all a bit less mental, sort of. It means a lot to me to be able to do this trip again, but this time with a partner in crime. It’s great to be able to bring my best friend, and partner, Doozer McDooze (aka Paul Short) with me, to show him something of my world he hasn’t seen before, and to introduce him to the people who have been there for me for half of my life, even though they live a billion miles away.
At Jamie’s house we slept on a blow up double mattress on the floor in the lounge. She lives in a small, but beautiful apartment above her landlord in NY.
She has a balcony which overlooks the mountains and trees, and she’s only an hour away from New York City. That’s where we stayed for our first few days, eating breakfast and drinking tea on the balcony each morning. I think this is the right time to mention that Americans don't know what tea is and they don't have kettles. They think a cup of tea has to have a lemon in it and no milk! Bloody weirdos.
Tuesday was our first day there, Jamie took us out to the woods and showed us where people rent out “camping spots”, it’s not like campsites in England where you put your caravan next to a shower block and a sweet shop. There’s actually designated firepits and what looks like stonehenge bus stops dotted around in the woods. I’m not sure how it works exactly because I didn’t see a reception and there were no signs to tell you how much it costs to stay there, but it was a really stunning wooded area. It was nice to just walk around for a bit and try to digest the last 24 hours. We also went to a Cider Farm and bought ACTUAL real Cider, that was made on the farm. It was a little over priced but definitely worth it. As the first thing we bought in America, I think we got our priorities right!
That evening we went to a sports bar to eat, and then headed off to another bar where Doozer was set to play a gig with Jamie. Jamie Shields is a fantastic musician, she’s talented, pretty, and haunting. She can sing pretty much anything. Her gig was at restaurant/bar in NY. This was to be our first taste of what those sort of gigs are like over here. The bar was quite nice, the drinks were really expensive. $7 for a pint, and you have to tip the bar staff. I thought that was a bit naff to be honest, but I found a really nice beer for $4 which was a bargain. Jamie’s set was brilliant, the candle lit atmosphere suited her, I didn’t expect anything less of her. Doozer McDooze played in between her two sets. He was an intense bag of jet lag and nerves. He played his set like he was a weeble on speed, he couldn’t stand still and the best bit was that he didn’t give a fuck, he didn’t even try to calm himself down, at that time I felt like it was probably the best gig I’ve EVER seen him do. I’m not sure how the audience took it. One minute they were listening to one of the most beautiful and haunting performances, and the next they’re being shouted at by an adrenaline fueled Essex Boy. The audience looked like they were a mixture of confused and bewildered. It was amazing.
...TO BE CONTINUED...