The bus started loading at 4:15 a.m. and the BOTB was there first, laying in wait for latecomers. The BOTB always came through! A few of the younger members were a bit late, barely functioning, which led to a slight eruption from the BOTB: "We stayed up all night so that you could be late!?!?" Sounds like fun, doesn't it? We traveled to the Porto Airport and the employees who dealt with us at 5:15 a.m. didn't look happy, perhaps because only a few of us looked happy? We were flying on TAP Air Portugal and Phil informed us that TAP was an acronym for "Take Another Plane" just as TWA was an acronym for "The Worst Airline." The small jet was so crowded that they told us all carry-on musical instruments would have to be stacked on top of each other in the lavatory. Couldn't they hide their disdain for musicians just a little bit? The one saving grace was the impressive outfits worn by the flight attendants. I asked one of them if we could mail order a few of the outfits home for our loved ones. She didn't understand my question.
We arrived in Lisbon and proceeded to sweat out if our British Airways boarding passes would be printed in time to get on the flight to London's Heathrow Airport. Bill Goodwin was on the case and was the epitome of calm, collected coolness as British Airways gave several last calls for our flight as we stood a few feet from the gate. Our substitute road manager Mario was new at this and was too much of a nice person to get results, but everyone's hero George Robert seemed to be making some inroads with the Portuguese contingent of British Airways. Finally, tarmac contact and we were the final 18 people to step on the jammed 767 Airbus. After this flight, the BOTB came up with suggestions for airlines around the world. From now on, install depth charges under the seats of:
1. people who are sitting next to each other who insist on talking loud enough to drown out the huge Rolls Royce engines for two hours straight.
2. children who revel in kicking the seat in front of them.
3. said children's accompanying adults.
Upon arrival at Heathrow, several pieces of luggage were MIA for 45 minutes and Bill Goodwin continued his reserved heroism, this time in the form of a baggage search until trombonist Kevin Haines spotted all missing luggage spewing out onto a far carousel (from Istanbul!). Yes Kevin! . . . the BOTB always came through!
The band rode four hours north to Wigan, a city of 90,000. Upon arrival at the hotel, the band learned about British law that closes pubs at 11 p.m., so the only time to visit was before the gig.
The band performed at the Wigan International Jazz Festival in a small performance hall that sold out over 500 seats at $26 per ticket. We figured out that these jazz lovers spent more than that per person at the busiest bar on the tour. The festival runs eight nights and sponsors the Wigan Youth Jazz Orchestra, not unlike our COTA Cats.
During the concert I spotted a tiny red light at the back of the hall. At the beginning of one of Brian Lynch's formidable several-minute trumpet solos I quickly left the stage (Phil later told me that he thought I was getting sick) and made my way to the back of the hall. Sure enough, an unauthorized videotape was in production. I found our road manager Mario and he put a stop to it. Jill Goodwin (Phil's wife and Bill's sister) would have been proud of me! These people feel that since they have made a sizable investment in a video camera, they have a right to videotape anything they wish. If only they would ask permission and offer Phil a copy of the tape, maybe it would be possible. There were dozens of these thieves throughout the tour and we began to ignore them. Anyway, I made it back to the stage in time to play my background parts toward the end of Brian's solo. Brian has released an impressive CD entitled Keep Your Circle Small (Sharp 9 Records C E 1001-2).
The bar back at the hotel had a "late-night license" (whatever the heck that is), but after about 30 minutes some of the band figured out that they'd been up for 40 hours so why not get some sleep.