SO I was at a ‘Bipolar Empire’ gig in Whelan’s, Dublin on 10th September 2013 celebrating my birthday when I suddenly realised – on this night 13 years ago I was in Baltimore, USA.
I was in America with three of my best friends, a rented car, a couple of guitars, a bass, cymbals, snare, a kick drum pedal and about 10 gigs to play between Boston and Baltimore.
Back in Whelan’s I texted the lads to mark the ‘anniversary’ of that trip and Trevor replied, “F**k how do you remember that?” I thought to myself – how could I forget!
The 7-hour 400 mile drive from Rhode Island to Balimore was just the beginning.
We were a few days into what would be a memorable and exciting 3 weeks in America ‘touring’ with our old band on a shoestring budget. It was exciting not knowing where the gigs would take us, who we would meet along the way, what adventure we could find… and not knowing if we’d even come back as friends! The whole punk rock DIY spirit of the trip coupled with youthful enthusiasm made us feel unstoppable.
Days before we set off for America I contacted all the bands and confirmed the gigs and drew up our ‘tour dates’ – all we knew was we had to get from Gig A to Gig B by a certain day. No rental car booked, no bus or train times checked, no GPS, no nothing – just myself, Boey, Brendan and Trevor, our instruments, our rucksacks and an A4 page with all the gig dates and venue addresses.
It’s 9th September 2000 and we’re after driving for about 7 seven hours in our rental car clocking almost 400 miles from our first gig in Rhode Island to arrive in Baltimore at around 6pm much to the excitement of Trevor who loved The Counting Crows (and probably still does) and who insisted on singing ‘It’s Raining in Baltimore’… until it actually did rain in Baltimore! He was stoked.
We were delighted to reach the city safely after such a long drive in our jam-packed rented Hyundai saloon, which just happened to be green – how patriotic eh! Fair play to Trevor because he did all the driving as he was the only one with a full licence. Boey sat with him up front while me and Brendan sat in the back and listened to Blink 182 ‘Enema of the State’ and Rancid’s self-entitled new album known simply as Rancid 2000.
After making our way into the city centre it was time to get out, stretch the legs, check the address of the bar and find it on the map – no GPS back then I’m afraid… or if there was we couldn’t afford one.
The name of the venue was ‘The Sushi Bar’ and I can’t recall why it was so hard to find considering I had directions to it on our travel itinerary. Perhaps I only had the street name and not the exact number of the building – I just can’t recall.
Anyway, we found the street on the map and set off looking for the venue. I lost track how many times we drove down that road searching, tired and hungry and with our enthusiasm slowly waning away but we did it many, many times.
Eventually after about 40 minutes of negotiating the one-way system pissed (not drunk pissed just… ya know – pissed off) and staring out the windows we realised that the black dudes sitting on the steps of one building, just like you see in the movies, were getting pretty agitated by us constantly diving by staring out the windows.
Then during our last cruise down the street one of them stood up and stared right back at us, daring us to drive by one more time. They must of thought we were planning a drive-by shooting or something. Needless to say we just sank into our seats and Trevor put the foot down.
Tempers were rising as tiredness and hunger set in further and we decided to do what no man would ever admit doing – stop and ask for directions. “Excuse me,” we asked everyone, “Can you tell me where ‘The Sushi Bar’ is please?”
We were always met with positive, friendly and informative responses with general directions of how to find it. Sets of directions, which always seemed to contradict the previous set. Every time we thought we’d found the right address there was no sign of any bars or live venues. No queues of punters lining the streets, no loud music booming onto the sidewalk – no nothing.
As the evening slipped away and our stage time approached it began to get dark and the only people around to ask for directions from was a hooker on one corner and a cop who, when I think about it now, was parked suspiciously down a dark alley!
I remember pulling up beside the hooker, at first we didn’t really realise what she was but that became very obvious as she clip-clopped in her high heals up to the car in her little miniskirt. I literally rolled the back window down about 1 inch and asked her for directions to the illusive Sushi Bar, which she’s happily provided us with before trying to talk her way into the car with us.
We were a good few blocks away from the original address I’d written down on our schedule when we found ourselves outside an establishment, which had the word ‘sushi’ in its name.
That’s when the penny dropped… and our jaws. For the past 2 hours we had been following directions to countless Goddamn sushi restaurants! WTF!!! Who would have thought Baltimore had so many damn sushi restaurants or ‘sushi bars’ as they are also known. And furthermore what brainbox decided to name his pub ‘The Sushi Bar’ in a city full of… sushi bars!?
Now this would surely test any friendship yet we agreed to take one last drive down the street where the alleged watering hole was originally meant to be and what do ya know – there tucked away, barely noticeable was the most unnoticeable sign you’d ‘never’ seen – ‘The Sushi Bar’. We’re convinced it only opened at like 8pm or 9pm and that’s way we didn’t see it until now.
The former home of ‘The Sushi Bar’ venue on the corner of Hollins Street and Carlton Street in Baltimore
We pulled up down the road and Trevor and Boey volunteered to do a bit of reconnaissance while Brendan and I stayed with the gear in the car. “Don’t lock the doors,” was the instruction we were given in case the guys returned in a hurry and we needed a quick get away. Brendan and I understandably dismissed the request and locked the doors immediately after they left. After all there were pissed homies (pissed off and probably pissed drunk too) in the neighbourhood.
Trevor and Boey returned, and not impressed that we’d locked the doors, with reports that the venue was a dump and pretty empty. Very hungry, very tired and with nowhere as yet to spend the night we decided to cut our losses and get something to eat.
Besides it was fast approaching midnight and 10th September we had a birthday to celebrate, so we made our way to the Hard Rock Café on the waterfront in the heart of Baltimore – it was a lot easier to find. There was a photograph taken of us that night as we scoffed our burger and fries – but for the life of me I tore the house apart this week looking for it to no avail.
Still, good times I tell ya! Thanks for reading,
BTW: Do me a favour, if you like reading these blog posts please leave a comment below as it motivates me to write more!
Miraculously Boey, Brendan, myself and Trevor somehow managed to arrive safely back in Dublin Airport after our 3-week misadventures in America. BTW we nicked those flags, which we found lining the main street of Fredericksburg, Virginia… but that’s another story!