Our opening moments of London were experienced in a place between consciousness and sleep. I'm pretty sure I saw a statue of a man throwing an elephant by its nose but no one in the band was awake to confirm this. We passed Buckingham palace, a few other things we were too tired to remember, and eventually reached the bus station. It was incredibly cold, rainy, and unpleasant in our sleep-deprived states. We were running on loosely four hours of sleep a piece (except that I'd had an hour or two nap in the green room) so even basic navigation became difficult. Because I'd forgot to pack an extra jacket my Random Encounter coat was used to protect my accordion from the rain as we ran from awning to awning, trying to reach the subway station. It took perhaps 20 minutes to get there, and Konami and I were able to ask the EXTREMELY KNOWLEDGEABLE staff at the station (no joke!) the least expensive way to accomplish the journeys we had planned. After we got our tickets we went through the claustrophobic confines of the London tube. To clarify, there were simply too many people in hallways that were too narrow and I, a person who got a CT scan with no problems, felt claustrophobic in there.
|Just outside the Eventim Apollo, it stopped raining|
After we got through the tube to Hammersmith west (we later learned that we were lucky to have gone to the correct Hammersmith!) we literally walked out of the underground mall across the street to our venue, the Eventim Apollo! The Eventim was significantly larger than our Manchester venue and we were told that a few unique things would be happening at this show, including a guest appearance by Julie Dawn Cole, the actress who played Veruca Salt in the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory film (who Rook got to talk to), the world premiere of three songs: World of Warcraft: Warlord of Draenor, the original Assassin's Creed song by Riva Taylor, and James Bond 007: Blood Stone, featuring the guest piano talents of David Wise (Composer of Donkey Kong Country, Solar Jetman, and Snake Rattle 'n' Roll!)! The band walked (and I limped) to the green room, a significantly larger room than the previous night located on the third floor. We dropped off our stuff, enjoyed a meal with Tommy, and set up for our sound check.
Like with the previous day I spent almost all of my free time watching the orchestra sound check and since it was the same orchestra as the previous night it took time for them to arrive from Manchester, meaning that they weren't able to check until significantly later in the afternoon. Konami and Rook checked into our hotel about a mile away while Kit and I grabbed really cheap sandwiches (2 pounds or ~$4.00 each), beer, and a thank you coffee for the tour manager.
|It really glowed!|
Kaitlin and her parents were coming to the show, so the moment doors opened I hopped outside to see if I could greet them. I was surprised to see some fantastic cosplayers (I had forgotten about the costume contest) on my path to the Lobby, and while waiting I spoke with another person who was also waiting for his friends to show up. I don't specifically remember the context of the conversation but it was nice not to have to wait alone. Kaitlin eventually showed up with her parents, hugs were exchanged (it was the night of our 2 year anniversary), and I returned to the back stage area in preparation for the show.
|I caught part of the show from the audience|
The show itself went very well. The crowd was extremely energetic, our personal performances were good that night (the stress of performing is never as bad as the first night), and in addition to all the guest artists and new songs being premiered the Guinness Book of World Records came out to congratulate Tommy Tallarico and give him two additional awards: Longest Running Orchestra Tour and I believe the Most Concerts Performed by an Orchestra tour in a single year. Someone also yelled at Tommy, mid show, to include something from Tron, and completely unscripted Tommy yelled "You want Tron? I'll give you Tron," and showed everyone that he was in fact wearing Tron boxers. Everyone, including the VGL crew backstage, lost it. It was one of those moments where it seemed too hilarious and random to not be scripted but it was a genuine improvised moment. We had a lot of fun watching the show unfold from the side of the stage and getting to chat some with the special guests. Kaitlin's parents (who had never seen me perform before) enjoyed the show, and I was feeling more confident with my wireless accordion's ability to let me run deep into the audience and goof off. It was a great time!
Before we knew it the show was over, people were met at the meet and greet, goodbyes were said, and we were trudging through the cold toward our hotel, which was about a mile's walk away from the venue. The more we walked the more it became clear that I could reduce the pain from my leg by locking it while walking, making me look fairly silly. Such is the price of comfort.
Aside: Also, after a few remarks from people who read the previous entry I wanted to clarify something about the previous night and future nights where we didn't rent a hotel. It's not that we're utterly crippled by debt, it's that we cannot justify paying a few hundred dollars for a hotel to try to effectively get 4 hours of sleep. The stress from spending that much money would probably keep us all awake anyways...
|Not Pictured: The Shower, which was missing a shower curtain, soap, and shampoo|
The hotel itself, which was extremely expensive, even by English standards, offered coffin sized rooms with a beds that might as well have been carved from stone, and blankets that were as stiff and useless in the situation as a giant sheet of rawhide. Despite the physical discomfort most of us were able to fall asleep fairly quickly... That is, until about 6am, when a woman from the hotel decided it would be okay to literally just open the door and walk into our rooms. She did this to all three rooms. When it happened to me I thought perhaps that the sound of the door opening was from Moose going to the bathroom or something, and was confused to see a woman from housekeeping just standing there, creepily staring at us. After what felt like two minutes she eventually said "sorry" and left, slamming the door loudly and waking the rest of us up. It was weird... We suspected that she was secretly trying to get a glimpse of something indecent, which she wouldn't find in our rooms, and this only seemed to be confirmed as this phenomenon literally happened on the hour, every hour until about 10am, when Moose finally fully woke up to give her the towels to the bathroom (which she claimed was her reason for waking us up every hour).
|Adam's Diner has AMAZING food, generous portions, and fresh squeezed orange juice!|
Eventually we gave up on trying to sleep (largely because we had surprise plans for the day I had planned but forgot to tell the others about until the day of) and went to Adam's Diner nearby for breakfast. We didn't see anyone named Adam there, but the ladies who ran the place were awesome, going so far as to go out to purchase soy milk from down the block for my soy hot chocolate! The food was very British, fantastic, and memorable. Moose ate it entirely too fast and vomited about ten minutes after, claiming that he was sick. He was shaking from exhaustion, so we let him go back to the room to sleep, though he probably just ate too quickly. It's worth noting that he reported that even after the hotel lady returned the towels she returned to our rooms a few more times for seemingly no reason at all (even after Moose had said that the room would not require cleaning). Normally I'd say shame on us for renting a cheap hotel, but for the price we paid I can't really say that... this time.
|Photos in the London Eye|
The rest of us took the tube to the central part of London and went sightseeing! Despite a torrent of rain (and my shoes getting soaked) we had a blast! Perhaps we shouldn't have played the song of storms the previous night... We were unable to find umbrellas for sale cheaper than $30 so we just got wet. While crossing the Thames River Konami's hair randomly got a huge volt of static electricity and stood perfectly on end. We saw some was statues and for the most part I did an extremely good job of remembering the layout of London from my last visit! We saw Big Ben, Parliament, the statue of Boudicca, Big Ben, Parliament, the London Eye (complements of my mother), the London Dungeon, Big Ben, Parliament, and had a late lunch in the Sherlock Holmes Tavern, a place riddled with Sherlock Holmes memorabilia, a stuffed hound of the Baskerville head, and a full size replica of Holmes' room on the second floor. Just before dinner I'd noticed a man in full bomb-squad gear leave the building so I supposed that if there were any trouble earlier, it would be safe to eat there now that he was leaving.
|"Hey look kids, there's Big Ben, and there's Parliament!"|
I must have said that at least 10 times, each time with genuine enthusiasm
|Konami was shocked to see the Thames River|
|Parliament, Big Ben|
Collectively full and content on a day filled with adventures we returned through the tube to Hammersmith Station, only this time the subway was so crowded that only two of us could fit on the train at a time! Seriously, there was no room to move or navigate once inside the subway and at any given point I found myself in physical contact with at least four people. I couldn't lower my arm after raising it to waive at Rook. It was most unpleasant to begin with and then someone nearby sneezed...
We picked up dinner (cheap sandwiches and beer) at Tesco in the Hammersmith station, and when I was sent on another task I totally lost track of what I was doing when I found a shop that specialized in only selling chocolate chip cookies. To clarify, these were AMAZING cookies... So I bought enough of them to warrant using my credit card (8 cookies) and ate to contentment. I remember not if my other task at hand was ever accomplished, but it didn't matter anymore. I had amazing cookies. I bribed the rest of the band with the cookies and they too forgot I'd been sent on a task. Incidentally there are no pictures of the cookies because they did not survive long enough to be photographed, or perhaps a potential photographer could do nothing but consume them. Back at the hotel we listened to the mixed tracks from the Big Blue EP (being released for free on Saturday on www.music.RandomEncounterband.com!!!) for the first time and gave Strader our final set of revisions because apparently that's how we roll in a time-crunch situation. I used a hair dryer to dry my shoes which created a mist of poisonous foot toxins that drove everyone out of the room shortly after. We collectively concluded that we would be big spenders (this is utter sarcasm), "sleep in" until 4am, and simply hire a taxi to take us to the airport the following morning (as opposed to the tube). We hired a taxi online, and passed out shortly after. We were on top of the world.
|Mr. Sherlock Holmes's delightful Tavern|