Woke up in Groton, CT early Sunday, certainly not looking forward for a tough driving day. Evidently this tour is not designed to be followed by car; had to drive all the way south to Washington DC, only to return up north two days later, and then south again. Phew.
But long driving days do not deter me anymore. After spending so much time behind the wheel, you get used to the fact that time, after all, really passes quickly.
(… That is, unless you’re passing through New York; we’ll get to that later)
Driving out of Connecticut, I came to realize once again what beautiful state it is. Life seem so peaceful here: beautiful surroundings, nice people, nature… I should come for a more in‐depth visit some day.
The pleasant Connecticut drive ended rather quickly; unfortunately, I have very little to say about the drive down towards Alexandria, VA where we spent the night (booking a reasonably‐priced hotel in downtown Washington DC turned out to be an exercise in wasting time. I guess hotels cost so much there because the area is frequented by diplomats and other sort of “important” people who don’t really pay for their accommodation anyway; that’s what taxpayers’ money is good for), except that it was very stressful.
We drove in six (!) states—Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. It was a Sunday, and that fact may have been the one single fact that helped us maintain sanity. Even on a Sunday, the drive was horrendous. I had the “pleasure” to drive through a bit of the New York City metro area (passing through the Bronx on our way to New Jersey); as pleasant as being repeatedly kicked in the nuts.
The weather was somewhat suboptimal for a convertible ride, but we did it anyway as means of maintaining sanity. It was sunny all throughout, sometimes reaching 90℉ and more; we had our fair share of smog inhalation, and switched seats frequently.
It has been quite the stressful drive; undoubtedly, the toughest driving day so far in the tour.
The ride becomes less ugly and more green as you approach Baltimore. The “Balt‐Wash”, which is the parkway connecting Baltimore, MD with Washington DC, is a pretty drive. I remembered Maryland and Virginia being pretty (and hot, and humid) from my previous visit here during the Kill to Get Crimson tour. Back then, the concert took place in Vienna, VA (not too far from Washington DC), at the Wolf Trap Amphitheatre.
After about 9 hours on the road (including stops), tired, weary and sweaty, we arrived at the Holiday Inn hotel in Alexandria, VA—about 15km from the Warner Theatre in Washington DC, where the concert was to take place. Staying at the air‐conditioned room appeared very lucrative, however unfortunately we had zero time to waste as we had to grab dinner before the concert.
There are about one million highways crossing each other near Alexandria, VA—all of them under construction. Most of that construction is a part of the “Putting America to Work” initiative (“American Recovery & Reinvestment Act”), aimed at recovering the troubled USA economy while sentencing drivers to years in traffic. My thought was that if you were going to “put America to work”, you might have been better off thinking more than 10 years ahead and invest heavily in fast, efficient public transport such as high‐speed trains. Then again, that might just be me and my ever‐optimizing mind.
(No patronizing here; Canada isn’t any better when it comes to public transit)
Crossed the bridge into downtown Washington DC, passing through some famous monuments that I so far only saw in newspapers and movies.
Found the parking garage closest to the venue and went out to hunt for food.
Downtown Washington DC is quite boring on Sunday afternoons / evenings. Most businesses and restaurants were closed; we ended up in this place called Shelly’s Backroom, which is some sort of a saloon—people go there to smoke cigars in a dimly‐lit environment, and to unwind. We couldn’t afford taking the risk of not finding anywhere else to eat, so we had dinner in that place, struggling to cope with the stench of the cigars. At least the food was decent, I have to say.
Back to the theatre to collect our tickets, and we split up again. I had to find a place with good espresso in order to feel good with myself, and also had to do some minor adjustments to one of the projects I was working on. Took a seat at the cafe located just outside one of the fancier hotels there on Pennsylvania Avenue—a stone‐throw from the white‐house.
Mental note to self: next time, when you order a double‐shot of espresso, be prepared to pay for two espresso’s. Otherwise you’d be stuck with an $8 bill for potentially‐mediocre coffee.
Went back to the venue about 10 minutes before the show started.
The Warner Theatre is located in Pennsylvania Avenue NW and 13th Street, three blocks away from one of the most famous addresses in the world—1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, AKA “The White House”. Very crowded at the reception hall, where line‐ups to the restrooms intersect with line‐ups to the merchandise stands and for the theatre itself, creating quite the unpleasant mess. Nothing much to say about the external appearance of the venue—nothing too special, in my opinion.
The front row, where we were seated, was very close to the stage, and the stage’s “front line” (namely, where Mark was sitting) was very close to the edge, which was great as it adds a lot to the overall experience.
Other than two drunken humanoids at the right‐hand side of the front‐row, who kept talking to each other during the first part of the show, the crowd was a pleasant one—good to be in a concert with nice, respectful crowd after the notorious Mashantucket experience the night before.
As for the show: no setlist changes, and I’m pretty convinced that we’re through with any setlist changes for the rest of the North American tour.
Judging by Mark’s entrance to the stage, as well as the first part of the show, it was evident that he was in a lot of pain. According to him, the medication he’s been taking for coping with the pinched nerve still causes some sticky discharge from his palms. In my opinion it did affected his performance, during the first hour or so of the show (though not significantly). Things appeared to have improved significantly after Sultans of Swing.
I have no doubt that Mark is putting a tremendous amount of effort in order to give the best show that he possibly can under his condition; it is evident that he’s going through some serious pain, yet still manages to ignite the crowd and give great performances. I never spoke to the guy before and therefore can’t tell, however Guy Fletcher, who has been working with him for such a long time, has mentioned more than once that Mark is a perfectionist; perfectionists tend to get really upset when events beyond their control impact their performance (that much I do know, having been an uncompromising perfectionist throughout my entire life up to about a year ago), and I can only imagine his frustration.
Regardless, I am again wishing him quick and full recovery.
The concert ended at 10:30pm; beautiful night outside and a quick convertible ride back to the hotel. Was so good to unwind after such a long day.