I'm off to London today in a few hours, for a week of training for my new job. I'm excited; haven't been to the UK since 8/31/01, Beulah's final tour over there. How much has changed since we were treated like royalty by the nice people in the small town of Resolven, Wales. For those who don't know the story, when Beulah was beginning to take off, we signed a licensing deal to a small label based in Oxford called Shifty Disco records, who soon brought us over to the UK to play a few clubs, mostly in Oxford, London, Manchester and so on. In 2000, one of our Oxford shows was attended by quite a large group of fans (that word would turn out to be quite an understatement) who had chartered a bus there all the way from tiny Resolven, Wales, a four hour drive. Between songs they were chanting our names like we they were singing songs at a soccer match. Later, when we went for a curry (as the English put it), some of the kids from Resolven spotted us and all poured into the Indian restaurant, and proceeded to start singing the entire Beach Boys' Pet Sounds record a cappella and then a few Beulah songs from "When Your Heartstrings Break" (better than we could, I might add). At one point one guy picked up a recipe book and started reading dramatically from it and it was really quite compelling.
Fast forward a year or so. The beginning blurb in "Coast is Never Clear" paid homage to them, and then Shifty had an idea for the "Coast" record release: Rent out the Miners Welfare hall in Resolven itself, and put on a record release party there. As we crossed into Wales, past Cardiff and started the uphill journey to Resolven, we were all struck by how beautiful the country was. It sort of reminded us of California’s redwood forests, but with 12th Century castles perched atop the hills along the horizon. When we arrived in Resolven, a town of about 2,000 people or so, it was clear that word had gotten around because everyone knew who we were. I was not surprised by this, having been born in a town of similar size in Wisconsin. For better or worse, word gets around fast. Everybody knows everybody.
We were treated very, very well from the moment we arrived. The Mayor and his wife were extremely hospitable. He told us old stories about the mines in the town, wishing they were still open and that he would “go back to work there the next day” if he could. She made us sandwiches, drinks, basically waited on us and seemed somewhat put off when we thanked her as if she wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary!
The night before the gig, we stayed in Neath after a BBC radio session in Cardiff. Things got a little rowdy and I’m surprised we didn’t get kicked out. There was a karaoke bar across the street from the hotel and the guys from Resolven band El Goodo (some of whom were singing a cappella that night back in Oxford) and a bunch of their friends came by to whoop it up. At the end of the night, we were all a little soused and the El Goodo guys started towards the mike to sing Elvis songs like “Suspicious Minds” by getting a running start and sliding across the bar room floor flat on their bellies.
The gig in Resolven was a good one, but I remember the night more for what happened afterwards. First, we went to the pub after hours. UK law stated at the time that pubs close by 11pm. Well, I don’t suppose the Home Secretary would have gotten a tip that the pub in Resolven stayed open on our behalf long past that. We figured we’d be sneaking in to have a quiet pint with a few of our closest confidantes whom we’d written back and forth with since the Oxford show. When we opened the door into the pub, it seemed like everyone in town was packed in there and they cheered like we were the home team coming back to town as League Champions. Buying our own drinks was certainly not an option. Laughing heartily while a number of different people stood up on the bar tables to tell tall tales and pay a tribute to each Beulah member, past and present, certainly was!
We had a full European tour, including a few more UK dates planned for late October, early November, but it was not to be. September 11th was less than two weeks later and, as it turned out, we would not play a show in England or Wales ever again. I’ll always remember the experience at Resolven, Wales on August 31st, 2001 as the final, triumphant personal high point from a now bygone era in the history of the world.
Anyway, I don't think I'll make the trip up to Wales this time. I'll be getting to know London a bit better. But my wife and I do plan on a trip over there in 2007, to Ireland, England and Wales. I will no doubt look up Resolven then. For now, it's cheers.
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