Ollie: Woooo-eeee boy! Do we get around. In the words of Hank Snow, one of Elvis' earliest influences; 'I've been everywhere man'. It was tempting to call this blog 'The Safari Edition’, but more on that later.
These past few weeks have seen us visit some incredible places and, oh boy, we sure have clocked up a LOT of air miles. From the Everglades of Florida to the windmills of Bruges, the manic streets of Colombo, Sri Lanka, to the desert dunes of Dubai, it's been a hectic ride.
But first things first. Exciting stuff... Since our last blog entry we have released two brand new records and have already started booking theatres for our UK tour. The records; 'At Home with the Bluejays' and 'The Buddy Holly EP' are available as Ltd Edition CD/Download from our Bandcamp Store. Dan covered some of the recording process and how much fun we had making the albums in the last blog so check that out for more info. Chris designed pretty much everything you see here. We really should pay him more. Don't tell him that though.
We will be previewing our very first theatre show 'Rock and Roll Revolution' at The Hammond Theatre in Hampton on June 4th at 7.30pm. It's creeping up quickly and we are all hard at work here at Bluejays HQ writing, scrapping, writing some more, collecting footage, documenting interviews, reading, rehearsing songs. If you want to come along you can find tickets here.
Meanwhile, back on the international adventuring side of things... Performing on cruise ships this year has offered us some wonderful opportunities to see places that would otherwise be reserved for 'once in a lifetime' type trips. Last month we had an industry audition in Miami, flying in on Saturday and leaving on Monday. With business having been wrapped up by Sunday morning, ever the opportunists, we decided to hit the Everglades.
Flying through the long sawgrass, gliding over one of the world's slowest moving rivers, a useful bit of trivia there for you quiz buffs... yes, the Everglades is a river, we went in search of alligators. It was an overcast, grey sort of day, which apparently isn't preferable if you happen to be an alligator. We'd almost given up hope, when Dave, our airboat driver and guide, took us out a little further and we spotted this beauty...
A side note on Dave, he wrestles alligators; for real. Well, he wrestled alligators until one sunk its tooth into his arm and he now wears it proudly around his neck. He prefers crochet and tea parties on a Sunday nowadays.
Earlier in the day, Dan was viciously attacked by a kamikaze crow, having been set up with a cheesy wotsit generously offered by myself. Footage can be found below of the assault and if anyone recognises the bird in question they should not hesitate to contact... errr, the RSPB? Or Dan, who will seek vengeful retribution.
A week later we found ourselves in Bruges, where Chris and I went for a morning sightseeing. Windmills, pristine cobbled streets, Nutella waffles, coffee in the square, a Picasso exhibition, boats on the canal, record shopping, belgian chocolate buying for partners and mums... very civilised indeed. I still have no idea why Colin Farrell hates the place so much. It's beautiful.
As previously mentioned, this blog could easily have become known as the Safari edition because next stop; Sri Lanka.
Arriving at Colombo airport is a unique experience, one for which there is very little preparation. Best described as an assault on the senses. First up, having spent eleven hours on two flights we were initially informed that we would have to get on the next plane back to the UK as we didn't have work visas. This was not promising. After an hour of backwards and forwards with the officials we eventually convinced immigration that we were not attempting to seek full time employment in Sri Lanka and that we were in fact just passing through. Outside the airport, trying to find our Sixt driver was like searching for a needle in a haystack, only, the needle had been painted a straw kind of yellow colour and had been hidden way down at the bottom. We eventually ended up with a personal driver, bizarrely it worked out cheaper than driving ourselves, and after four hours overtaking, undertaking and the scariest culinary pit stop we've ever made, we arrived at our hotel. Ahhh, blissful.
‘Udawalawe National Park’ is both an elephant sanctuary and home to a huge number of other creatures great and small. Crocodiles, water buffalo, peacocks, monkeys. Before even entering the park, we were met by this fella, hanging out by the side of the road.
Apparently he's learnt that visitors will feed him if he waits in this exact spot. Bright idea, in fact, elephants have the largest brain of all land animals, unfortunately not something he and I have in common.. His two bird mates in the photo, Stan and Stu, were doing all the talking that day. Safe to assume they were his representatives.
We got so close to the elephants in the park that Chris was able to reach out and pat one. It's important that the band make new friends on tour.
By this point in the day, the temperature was starting to climb and by the time we got back to the hotel for a late morning swim, it was already about 35 degrees. Sizzling. The local food was incredible here and we had a delicious feast of curries, samosas, okra, chillis and chutneys before heading back to Colombo.
The streets of Colombo are manic. Colourful, noisy, bustling, heavy heat dripping down everyone's back. Having experienced a Buddhist temple or two, some beautiful parks complete with donkeys (of course), the local museum and a treacherous tuk-tuk ride it was nearly time to set sail for our next port of call...
At this point in the journey, I split off from the band as my brother lives with his wife in Dubai. I spent a further five days with my girlfriend Perry, staying at my brother’s place and experiencing the Emirati ways. One thing I know that the other boys in the group did, that Perry and I managed later in the week, was scaling the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. Having visited One World Trade Centre in New York earlier this year, it was incredible being so much higher in this beast of a tower. It only takes a minute to ascend to the top floor and the views of the surrounding desert and financial district are incredible.
You can also clearly see the Palm Jumeirah, a man made set of islands in the shape of a date palm tree from the top. Just how much money there is floating around in Dubai is hard to contemplate, the whole place is still very much currently ‘under construction’, but safe to assume it’s plenty.
I discovered that I have something very much in common with the locals; I absolutely love eating dates. Muslim’s are supposed to break their fast over Ramadan with a date, an ancient Arabic tradition… I certainly enjoyed them for breakfast! I’d never tried them like this before… with pistachio, with ginger, with dried orange, chocolate covered… mmm… all of them. What a revelation.
One hot and sticky afternoon, Perry and I went ‘dune bashing’ in the desert. This particular exercise involves a very friendly driver from Pakistan taking you in his 4 x 4, hurtling across the desert sands on two wheels whilst you hold on for dear life and pray that it doesn't topple over. We stopped to watch the sunset with some camels at the top of a sand dune and I can truly say that that was one of my favourite Bluejays travel memories to date.
That’s Perry, not me.
Over the course of the week we visited spice souks, old souks and new souks, took a speedboat out around the harbour, went for some great brunch at a place called ‘Serg and Tom’, had some time chilling on JBR beach, caught up with my little bro, ate too much hummus, enjoyed hearing the call to prayer every morning and best of all, I had a fascinating discussion with these guys about the merits of water retention and the direction in which they saw the development of Dubai’s economic growth…
Elephants, crocodiles, alligators, monkeys, camels… I have been contemplating a new album theme and would like to put forward for consideration; ’On Safari with the Bluejays’, featuring hits like ‘Too Much Monkey Business’, ‘Bird Dog’, ‘See You Later Alligator’ and ‘Rumble’. (please feel free to drop us any other suggestions). Until next time, don't forget to get yourself an album or two and hopefully we’ll see you on the 4th June at the Hammond Theatre. Thanks for reading.