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So Long Astoria is 15 years old—can you believe it?? To celebrate, The Ataris embarked on a 22-city, 23-day tour across the UK.

To say this tour was an easy breeze would be nothing short of a blatant lie… but we wouldn’t trade it for the world.

For starters, a delay on our flight from the states (and the scammers at Easirent car rental – Gatwick) forced us to postpone the first night of the tour. Consequently, we had to make up the show on 1 of our 2 days off for the month, giving us the longest stretch of shows without a day off, possibly in the history of the band. Nonetheless, we were thrilled that we could make up the show and most everyone came out on Valentine’s Day singing loud to show their love and support.

It certainly doesn’t end there.

About halfway through the tour, our cute little tour monster (Ford Fiesta–yes, really) got a flat tire in the middle of nowhere, just hours before our Plymouth show. In a spark of luck, another motorist on the side of the road had a can of Fix-a-Flat and sold it at a fair price in the name of rock and roll. If you know anything about Fix-a-Flat cans, it basically coats the inside of your tire with some sort of witchcraft that allows you to drive a short distance so you can try to pull your life back together.

We cautiously drove to a repair shop a few miles up the road, only to realize there is no spare tire. “Okay, that’s lame, let’s just repair or replace the existing tire… the show must go on.” The mechanic looked at the tire, confirmed there is a small puncture and told us he could expedite the service to get us on the road and our way to the show. Great! Things were looking up.

Well.. we thought so.

“You guys have the key for the tire?”

What? A key? So, it turns out rental cars in the UK require a special key to remove tires to prevent someone stealing the killer 12″ Fiesta wheels. Easirent totally left that in the glovebox or something, right? Right? Bueller?

No. And without it, that tire wasn’t coming off.

Fast forward 20 minutes of angry phone calls with Easirent (which can we stop for a second and acknowledge the level of absurdity of their company name? They were anything buy easy to deal with.) we learned that there is a rental location only 10 miles away from the repair shop. Our tire was slowly leaking air, but we had no choice if we wanted to make the show. We decided to take it slow and try to make the journey in hopes to figure out a solution or swap out the car.

You ever see this scene of Just Married where Ashton Kutcher and Brittany Murphy are in a tiny-ass car going like 22 miles an hour down the highway? Yeah, this was totally us.

After snailing our way down the highway to the Sleezyrent car rental, we learned that not only did they not have the key we need to resolve tire issue, they didn’t have a comparable vehicle to make the switch. We weren’t about to take no for an answer. After a few calls to corporate they agreed to swap out the vehicle for the only option they had, a slightly larger model.

You should have seen the look on our faces. We were all moving around the new vehicle like that scene in Step Brothers where they’re stoked on having “so much room for activities.”

We rolled up to the Plymouth show in our new fancy whip. Okay, it wasn’t fancy… but compared to the Ford Fiesta, a go kart would have been an upgrade. Everything was looking on the up and up. Until we started looking ahead at the weather forecast.

The headlines all read: “SNOWMAGEDDON HEADED FOR UK,” “BEAST FROM THE EAST,” “WORST WINTER STORMS IN 50 YEARS TO HIT.” Look, I’m from Minneapolis; you can’t come at me with these headlines unless it’s about to get real. It got real. And it may have been fine if the country were equipped with the plows and systems in place that we have back home, but that simply wasn’t the case. The first storm hit from the east on our way to our show in Edinburgh. We were chuckling because it really wasn’t snowing much at all. Little did we know, just a few miles up the road conditions were a complete whiteout. Visibility zero.

A road closure notification popped up on the GPS right as we saw the white wall of the storm. “Okay, maybe this is legit.” With more road closures popping up, and no way around the storm, we franticly searched for options to get to Edinburgh. Train closures and crazy traffic reports confirmed that this storm wasn’t a joke, and ultimately the safety of everyone was at risk. We made the decision to turn back and hunker down for the evening. We had no choice but to cancel the show. Edinburgh is one of the most rad cities in the UK, so the fact that we had to cut the show was a real bummer for all of us.

We woke up the next morning in Newcastle with a fresh perspective and the readiness to continue with the tour. That’s when we got the word that our support band, All These Years were stranded on the A1 (pretty major highway – check out the photo!) and have been for several hours. With road closures behind and ahead of them, there was no sign of them getting out anytime soon. They were carrying all of our gear and merch for the tour. We had a show in a few hours and not a single piece of gear, no merch to sell, nothing. Missing two shows in a row was not happening. Not only could we not afford it, more importantly we were not about to let down another sold out crowd.

Calls were being made, people were ringing in favors, the sound crew and local band were all coming together… and somehow, someway… in just under an hour, they miraculously were able to pull together a full backline of gear for us to use for the night. It was one of those situations where I was convinced nothing good was coming out of it, but it was one of the most memorable nights of the tour. The local band, Good Friends were one of the best local support acts we’ve ever had on a show. Not only were they incredibly generous to let us use any gear we needed, they were arguably the top act of the night. Seriously, check them out.

Storm 2 was on its way. You’re kidding right? Nope. Winter storm Emma was coming in from the west and residents were urged to stay home. The UK hadn’t issued a “red” weather warning in years, but somehow it happened twice within a few days. It was getting close to the end of the tour. We were all trying to prepare for the long travels ahead of us, but this storm and a storm over the Northeastern US were getting dangerously close to messing with travel plans.

Luckily, storm Emma shifted a bit south and didn’t impact us too much aside from a few flurries and nasty winds. We were able to finish out the tour with a sold out night in Peterborough and made it safely to the airport. The tour had come to a close.

Memories were made this tour.
I witnessed a man in a chicken costume crowdsurfing during Boys of Summer.
I observed a man and his son in Bridgwater share a toast during his first concert ever.
I experienced a collective group pull together a miracle show in the final hour.
I shared the stage with incredibly talented musicians and groups that I would never have met.
I met distant family members that I knew nothing about a few years ago.
I saw my buddy Steve’s new band LOWLIVES and witnessed them successfully pull together a broken UK tour.
I learned that a Ford Fiesta can fit way more inside than you’d ever imagine (it’s seriously a real-life clown car).
I reunited with friends from yesteryear and made a handful of new ones.
and once again I traveled thousands of miles from home to fulfill my childhood dream.

I can’t even begin to express the magnitude of my appreciation for people who continue to support independent music. Touring can be rough at times, but getting up to play music in front of a packed house each night makes all the trials seem trivial. From the deepest part of my heart, thank you to everyone who came out and made this tour an incredible success!

And of course, a very special thanks to the support bands Slimboy and All These Years, as well as all of the incredible local bands that rocked out and shared this experience with us.

Hope to see you all again soon!

-D