Show 1 and 2, April 22 and 23, 1994, Irving Plaza, New York City
Two years went by with many letters written to Rob without any response.
They were in England and we didn’t hear anything about them in the U.S. press until they were planning to tour. Finally they put out a new album and Meghan and I made plans for the upcoming tour which was kicking off in New York once again. I was in grad school, only had two classes, had a car and was ready to go.
We went to the show at Irving Plaza and went backstage. I thought Jon would remember the interview from the day before. When he came out, he was distracted. He said he had been in the middle of a technical discussion with one of the sound guys. I thought he just didn’t remember us. He told Mark, the manager, “Take care of my friends and make sure they get upstairs.”
After some deliberation, I walked over to Rob and before I could say anything, he said, “You’re Amy, right? Give me a kiss, then.” And he leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. “I got the Bill’s (bar) card you sent me. Thanks.”
“What have you been up to in the last two years?” I asked.
“Four months in a 6 by 9,” he said.
I looked at him and he grabbed my arm. “Don’t go away,” he insisted. He was surprised that I hadn’t heard that he had been arrested as an accessory to attempted armed robbery. He was driving a car when his friend tried to rob a convenience store. This explained why he looked unusually tired and gaunt.
“Are you coming to tomorrow’s show?” he asked. “Do you have tickets? Mark, put them on the guest list.”
“I interviewed Jon yesterday,” I told him.
“You did? You should have interviewed me.”
“I’d like to interview you. Do you have any time at all?” I agreed to meet him at sound check the next day.
Even though it was April, it was about 40 degrees on Saturday. We went over to the club and were too early for sound check (no surprise). And we couldn’t get in. We stood waiting around outside on some stairs next to the rear entrance for over an hour. It was ridiculous and we were a pitiful sight shivering behind Irving Plaza. The guys from the opening band, Queen Sarah Saturday, came by and looked at us.
Mark came by and said he’d remind Rob about the interview. About 15 minutes later Rob walked out with two other guys, looked at me and said, “Oh, I totally forgot about that” and kept on walking.
I looked at Meghan. “What was that? Is he coming back? Should we wait for him?” Feeling about two inches tall, and very upset we went back uptown to our hotel. My friend from high school, Paola, set us up with a great room overlooking Central Park at a hotel she worked at- it was wonderful. We declared a clean slate, enjoyed the show later on and ran into the boys at a bar and tagged along to a party.
Things were going well and it was only our second show with the boys. Here we were at an after-hours party with the band and an MTV personality. Members of the Charlatans almost always had a drink in one hand, usually Jack Daniels, and a cigarette in the other. Jenna, the party’s hostess danced around the room with a bottle of Jack in her hand and small paper cups, handing out shots to everyone. She was so happy and friendly.
For the first hour or so, Meghan and I hung back and observed the scene. Lead singer Tim Burgess stared at us like he recognized us. I walked over to Rob who was talking to someone. He saw me out of the corner of his eye and put his hand up to take my hand. I sat down next to him and we talked for a while. I told him about school and he told me about his daughter and the British Racing Green colored house that he lives in. I was so happy that we talked throughout the night and ended up finding out more about each other. He said that he’d been tired all week so that was why he forgot the interview.
For most of the night, we talked to Ryan Pickett and Chris Holloway from Queen Sarah Saturday. These North Carolina guys had that southern charm and were very funny. I think they were easy to be with because they are our age and American so there wasn’t a culture gap (unless you want to get into the North/ South thing, which seemed another issue altogether). Within a week we were their new pals whereas it still seems to be evolving with the Charlatans. They also did everything themselves and didn’t have as many perks as the Charlatans.
Jon was at his finest. He was in the kitchen, tongue wrestling with a bitchy publicist—she hadn’t been very friendly at all. I couldn’t believe it. That must be one of the perks of the job as a record company flack. Yeah, I was slightly jealous.
It was hard to compete with some of the girls that were around sometimes. Girls that hang around bands are more sexually aggressive than I am. They tend to throw themselves on the boys and flirt incessantly. It’s hard for me to get noticed or taken seriously. Someone said he thought I was about 18 instead of 24!
At one point, I was walking up from the lower level. Rob stopped me and said, “Amy,” and took my hand and kissed me on the lips. Weak in the knees and shaking, I ran over to Meghan like a junior high girl. “Guess what just happened,” I gushed.
Originally, I was going to drive back to Maryland and Meghan was going to go back to Boston by train but the weekend went well and I got caught up in the excitement. It’s addictive. As tiring and frustrating as things were, the good points were so great. One positive moment where you get that accepting “you are cool, we like you around” feeling.
show 3, April 25, Lupo’s, Providence R.I.
We arrived at the club around 8:30. We were sitting at a table off to the side when Rob saw us and came all the way over to talk to us.
“I don’t think we’ll play for too long,” he said.
“Why not?” I asked.
“My keyboards are all messed up,” he said sullenly. “Do you want some beers?”
He went backstage, came back with two bottles of beer and took off to see what was happening with his keyboards. They had to cancel the show. Queen Sarah Saturday put on a great show despite the disappointed crowd of Charlatans fans. Toward the end of the set, an upset Rob quietly surfaced behind us. He bought us drinks and disappeared again. After the show, we knocked on the door of the tour bus to tell Rob that we were taking off.
“Okay, goodbye, give me a kiss. Will I see you tomorrow?”
“I’ll be in D.C., and we’ll both be in Boston and Montreal,” I said.
Show 4, April 27, Radio Music Hall, Washington, D.C.
Two days later, I drove back to school mainly because I was afraid to miss out on anything. I thought I’d work on a project that was due the following week. Instead I only had time to go over to my school paper to file my Charlatans piece. Radio Music Hall is a dive in a run down section of D.C. around 8th and Rhode Island Avenue. I went by myself but luckily could park on the same street that the club was on. The club itself is like an old gym. There’s a small balcony around the top with bleacher seats and then open cement space in front of the stage.
I did not see or talk to any of the Charlatans, although I didn’t look that hard. Nor did I want to muscle my way backstage I probably could do it if I wanted to but I’d like to be invited backstage, not be a crasher. I was relieved that I knew the guys in Queen Sarah Saturday. As bassist Chris Holloway said, the Charlatans did the “rock star thing.” They pulled up to the back door in their tour bus, did sound check, got on the bus, played the show, got back on the bus and took off. I hung out with Chris while the Charlatans were playing. He was such a Southern gentleman. He kept getting me water and always told me where he was going when he took off anywhere.
I was out by the van talking to Chris and lead singer Johnny came by and said, “Did I do something to offend you?”
“No, why, what did I do?” I said, stunned.
“Well, great smirk then,” he said, walking away.
Show 5, April 29, 1994, Axis, Boston
The Charlatans came in. Jon now had cropped hair with sideburns. He pointed at his hair, smiling. We gave him the thumbs up signal. After the sound check, they came over to say hello. I gave Jon a copy of the article that I had written on them that had been in The Diamondback on Wednesday when they did the D.C. show. I nervously waited while Jon read it. “Amy, that’s fucking brilliant,” he said, handing it to Martin. “I don’t know about the youthful part,” 29-year-old Martin laughed. “Can I keep this?”
“I want to go check out the blues band next door,” Jon said
I told him that I wasn’t really into that type of music.
“You don’t like the blues,” he shook his head. Then he put his arm around me, “Well, you’re the reviewer.”
Show 6, April 30, 1994, The Spectrum, Montreal
Even this far into the tour, Meghan and I always worried that someone would forget to put us on the guest list after our eight hour drive to Canada. So we went right to the club around sound check time.
“Mark, am I all set on the Guest List for tonight?,” I asked the manager.
He smiled and said, “I just put Amy Steele +1 on the list and photocopied it.”
I laughed because I knew that they just expected me to be at a bunch of shows.
After the show we went on to a party with Queen Sarah Saturday and the Charlatans were also there. This place had an old warehouse vibe to it. The walls were different colors and there was art-deco vintage furniture scattered around. The atmosphere was too surreal (it was like Park Avenue in Montreal), so I went to a bar with Chris from Queen Sarah Saturday. We were going to go back to the party but ran into his straight-faced publicist, “Are you having fun?” she asked, obviously annoyed and surprised that I had met the band on my own.
I walked to the van to be greeted by a very drunk, happy Johnny (Queen Sarah Saturday) who had just come back from a strip club with Ryan (he had lipstick kisses on his cheeks), “Come to Toronto with us. You’ve come this far already. Just get in the van,” he said. Instead I just kissed him goodbye knowing that it would be a long time until we would see them again (if at all).
I didn’t even get to say good-bye to any of the Charlatans, which was upsetting. I really regret it. I thought that my chances of seeing Chris were better than seeing the Charlatans since he lived in Chapel Hill and not abroad. But how wrong I was. I guess it was a waste to try to get to know Chris and I invested time I should have spent in getting to know the Charlatans.