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Posts Tagged ‘USA’

We’re driving, as fast as we can, through Louisiana, Alabama and eventually Florida. We’ve got three days, racing against the clock, trying to get to our target position as soon as possible.

There’s little time to sleep or eat. On average we’re getting about four hours a night before setting off again and racing past landmarks we had planned to see. There’s a sense of guilt that we’re racing across half of the southern of the USA, stopping only in Alabama for petrol, rather reminiscent of that epic Top Gear episode but without the hillbillies chasing us. This is important, something we would regret if we don’t do it. Our last chance.

Over eight hundred miles later and we arrive on the coast of Florida in Titusville, we skip Cocoa Beach just in case we can’t get onto the pier (apparently the best spot to see it), amongst the million people who are trying to do exactly the same thing, searching for a spot on the beach, by the side of the road or rather bravely on the edge of a bridge, about to become a piece of history.

It’s only seven in the morning, some people have been here since the day before and we look totally unprepared as people roll up in campervans or grab their fold out chairs and begin to cook bacon sandwiches on portable stoves. The pair of us only have jumpers to sit on and some gone off Pringles.

For most of the people here, space shuttle launches have been a main part of their life, the staff in Wallgreens across the road have a certain sombreness to them but keep a cheerful face as they serve people buying STS 135 t-shirts by the dozen and an insane amount of ice cold coffee.

Others like myself have always intended to come and witness one of the most amazing pieces of scientific history. Today is our last chance and there are strong levels of anticipation amongst us, everyone is whooping and cheering, listening to NASA radio. Claps are heard as they give the final go ahead for launch.

The atmosphere is electric and everyone is so lovely to each other sharing food and spare camping chairs, swapping thoughts and stories about the last mission. The southern hospitality obviously spreads all the way down past the concrete city of Orlando, all the way to the space coast.

Those last five minutes seem to last forever, the past three days have been so stressful that as the crowd start to count down 10…..9…. I can’t help feel relieved and of course extremely emotional…..6….5…..4….3…..2….1… Suddenly, the bursting yellow flames of the burners appear in the distance and the giant mega tonne shuttle lifts off. People are fist pumping, whooping and cheering as the rocket speeds into the sky. It’s hard to remember that there are four people inside, their bodies being pushed to the limit as they speed off high up in the air towards the international space station 50 miles above the air.

The solid rocket boosters fall of as supposed to and the amazing rocket goes up into the clouds. Everyone is chanting USA, USA as we finally get the delayed sound of the super shuttle at full speed above us. I was awestruck, a tear running down my cheek. This country just sent a giant plane with fuel attached to it up into the atmosphere, the crowd are patriotic and everyone has come to say a final goodbye to the space shuttle programme. If there is a time for the country to be able to chant USA USA!!, then today is the day.

People shake hands, swap email addresses, finish taking the final pictures, eventually stop whooping and cheering, but no one can really stop talking about what they have just seen. We have all been part of history today with record numbers of people being witness to the final mission.

When we eventually got back to the car, we journeyed to Orlando to decide what to do now. Everything we seemed to do that day seemed entirely insignificant from watching brits waddle around outlet stores and spotting theme parks to see which one we wanted to go to. After much debating about what to do and where to go, we headed out of Orlando. We’d got what we came here for anyway, something that will stay with us forever.

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After what can only be described as a triumphant set at Glastonbury, U2 were ready to rejoin their final leg of the US tour. While the band were headlining the pyramid stage, people had begun to queue in Nashville for a concert that was going to happen days later.

U2 had only played Nashville once before on the Joshua Tree, when they were starting to turn into the massive band that they are now. There was a lot of anticipation for this gig, people had waited for over 20 years for the band to return and now it was actually happening. the venue was vanderbuilt University stadium, the same venue they had played on their debut performance in Nashville. According to a local, they had wanted to play a bigger venue that belonged to the Tennesee Titans however the Titans declined as they didn’t want their pitch ruined. Honestly I am thankful, it was the smallest venue I had seen the band play in for years, it seems fitting that their most intimate gig would be in Nashville.

And so on a hot Summer’s evening, the familiar Space Odyssey starts to play and the lights dim. the crowd are about to be treated to one of the biggest shows on earth. Starting with Even Better Than The Real Thing, the crowd are captivated as the claw comes to life and those mega Irish rockers go straight into the hits, following on with The Fly and Mysterious Ways. It is almost the same set as Glastonbury, but in this case, the crowd had already been won over.

There can’t really be a gig in Nashville without paying tribute to Johnny Cash and tonight, Bono pays a fitting tribute by performing The Wanderer, a song the band have never performed live before. It is beautiful and the crowd are loving it. there have been a couple of gigs that I have been to where Bono’s voice hasn’t been the best but tonight it is ultimate perfection. there’s a big cheer as he finishes the song and talks about the time he spent with Johnny and June.

Surprise songs included Miss Sarajevo which was highly impressive, everyone whooping and cheering as Bono hits those high notes and of course the oh so beautiful Stay which almost acts as a nice intermission between all of the energetic, well known hits.

They return to the stage and start with a snippet of Amazing Grace. as a visitor in  this part of the world it felt amazing to be stood in a stadium with 40,000 Americans singing their heart out. In my mind, there was no where else I would rather be.

The band then hit us with ‘with or without you’. when they play that song you know the gig is coming to a close. It always gets me when you heard everyone singing along to the ohs at the end. Bono and co feel this too as they all look like they don’t want to leave.

Just as you think it’s over, you see Bono point at someone in the crowd and ask “what do you want to play?” and yes for all those u2 haters it sounds hillarious but Bono gets a blind man up onstage. Apparently he wants to sing a song for his wife Andrea. the rest of the band have already gone offstage but come back looking somewhat bemused. The man is given bono’s guitar to play and so he starts to strum. Bono gets him to keep going and so he begins to sing along, Larry gets back on the drums and Adam puts his bass back on and the audience are treated to all I want is you by u2 and their special guest with his face beaming. The song finishes and bono shocks everyone by saying to him “you can keep the guitar.”

And so the night ends with that really, what an amazing band, what an amazing crowd and what an amazing town. The band give one final wave and promise they won’t leave it long until they are back again. And this time, no one seems to doubt them.

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The Drums, a three piece band from Williamsburg, New York have been talked about for a while now. After being mentioned in the bands to watch in 2010, they had a lot to prove to everyone. Now they’re finishing off 2010 with a member down (Adam Kessler left the band earlier this year leaving the band as a three piece.)

They released their debut album earlier this year which includes radio favourite “Let’s go Surfing” which also appeared on the H&M soundtrack for months. Highlights of the album are “Best Friend” which although having upbeat lyrics explores the idea of losing a friend and not being able to see them any more. “Down By The Water” is probably the slowest track on the album and probably the love song on the album, it’s simplicity is rather beautiful.

If you want to really know what The Drums’ music is about, you have to see them play live. The Drums’ live shows are where the music really comes to life with their enthusiastic but melancholic tales that Johnny sings to the crowd. They’ve got energy live that is hard to re- create on CD.

When they play live, Jacob can’t help but make you laugh with his dancing and bowing to the crowd while Johnny sings in such a serious manner, sometimes it’s actually quite frightening. They are also so grateful for the cheers and applause and after each song always thank the crowd and every now and then Johnny shouts “We’re The Drums and we love you!”

The Drums are the type of band that feed off the crowd and love nothing better than catching up with fans after the show, talking and having photos taken with them. It doesn’t matter what the subject of the conversation is, they always turn it around to….”so tell me about you.” What lovely guys!

The Drums have stopped for a break from their hectic touring schedule and haven’t said how long they’ll be on a break for however bearing in mind how much they love playing live and how much they love English crowds, it won’t be long until we see them back here soon.

 

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