My name is Keegan McInroe, and I am a singer-songwriter from Lubbock who’s been living in Fort Worth off and on since 2001 when I began my four years of study at Texas Christian University. Over the course of my ten- plus years writing, performing, and recording original music, I’ve played hundreds of shows and traveled thousands of miles throughout the United States and Europe. My latest tour is a four- month trek and ramble north, east, south, and west around the Old World. Whether you’re a fellow musician, a fellow traveler, or simply a reader who loves a good tale from the road, Texas Troubadour Abroad –– my bi-weekly travelogue published here on the Weekly’s website –– will have something for you.
“When I do eventually drop, I pray to God that it’ll happen in one of three ways. Firstly, on stage or leaving the stage, then secondly in my sleep. And the third way? You’ll have to figure that out for yourself!” — B.B. King
I was somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean when the wine and exhaustion took hold. The sensation of stemmed-wine-glass-vertigo in my hand roused me in time to observe the spilling of a fine Spanish red into my lap. Meryl Streep broke into the hundredth song of Into The Woods. I tossed the remaining wine back and gave a quick look around to see if any of my fellow business class sophisticates had observed my little accident. All other seats were fully reclined to sleep position. Lights out. I began a clean up in the dark.
My crotch and undercarriage would smell of fermented, musty grapes the remainder of the day. Mysteriously, magically, my new jeans would show no visible stain.
My journey back to Europe had begun the day prior after an all night mini-bender in Fort Worth. All night mini-benders in Fort Worth before European adventures have become tradition.
The plan: an early morning airplane from DFW to Minneapolis, followed by an evening flight to London, arriving in time the following day to catch a two hour bus to Swindon for the tour’s opening show with an arranged full band of merry locals. A guaranteed jolly ‘ol “knees up” “cracker” — two colloquialisms I’ve just learned and taken the liberty to conjoin for maximum potentially-educational effect.
Sadly, I would miss the raised knees and the cracking at The Bee-Hive in Swindon. After a ten-hour layover in Minneapolis involving a brief visit to the Mall of America to unsuccessfully search for Mark Twain’s A Tramp Abroad and check out the in-mall rollercoasters, I was bumped from the evening flight to London — a casualty of flying stand-by on a Delta “buddy pass.”
The flight unexpectedly filled up, I became the lone stand-by left behind, and the Swindon gang of music makers would have to get their knees on up without me.
I slept at the Minneapolis airport cuddled between my guitar bag and a moving walkway, long sleeve shirt for a blanket, leather duffel bag full of various items with hard edges and unique shapes as a pillow. I got cold several times and woke up. I slept on my hand too long. I slept on my other hand too long. I drooled on my pillow. Five hours. Off and on. Sleep, stolen peacefully in broken bits from discomfort and frustration and airport intercom announcements and lonely vacuum cleaners humming along vast corridors.
I caught a flight to Philadelphia early and treated myself to a stale toasted Dunkin’ Donuts breakfast sandwich. You get what you pay for. Or less. In an airport, typically less. I smirked and grimaced through a few chapters of Bukowski, bits of plastic cheese in my beard. There were a few women I took notice of, as usual.
CNN reported something as news.
Finally I was called to the departure desk and given my official ticket to board. A stand-by no more. Business class, no less. Rags to riches. I enjoyed a glass of champagne while the peasants boarded coach. At cruising altitude, I started in on the wine.
Arriving to London with my newly cultivated fragrance, I read the news of B.B. King’s death as I queued at immigration. My certificate of sponsorship number was in order, a necessity for playing in the UK, so I cleared immigration without incident, sat down in a café, and listened to King’s “Live at San Quentin” album. A friend had given me the music last summer, but I’d yet to hear it.
The first words sang from B.B. King’s mouth to the inmates that day: “Hey everybody, let’s have some fun! You only live but once, and when you’re dead, you’re done, so let the good times roll!”
I mulled over the loss of the blues legend. I mulled over the rocky beginning to the tour. I pulled from my iced latte. I could hear the smile on B.B.’s face as he sang. I wasn’t feeling smiley. As a slightly superstitious person always happy to look for signs and meanings where I “find” them, I began to wonder about my missed flight, missed gig, spilled Spanish red, wine-mildewed wardrobe.
Before I could utter the words “bad omen,” I received a message from my friend, Croatian animator Saša Đuračić, a.k.a. Undertoon, that our recent music video collaboration, Everybody Knows (There’s a War), has been nominated for Music Video of the Year at the Split Spot Festival. The screening to determine winners is May 29 and 30.
I brightened and made my way down to the Heathrow tube station with a new bounce in my step, breathed in the familiar metallic electricity of the London Underground, and slowly but surely made my way into the city, rocking back and forth along the track, rocking back in harmony with the road.
The world had the blessing of 89 years of Riley B. King. And I had the blessing of arriving and surviving the opulence and comfort of business class stain-free, four months of open road stretching out before me like an eager lover ready to be explored, inhaled, and potentially destroyed by in innumerable ways. Thrilling.
The tour kicked off that first night in London at a pub in the Battersea area I’ve often called home since 2009, The Lighthouse. Many old friends and familiar faces. Two nice stewardesses from the flight and a lovely mother and daughter duo, also from the flight, on holiday for Mother’s Day. Fort Worth musicians John Stevens, Brandon Bumpas, and Neil Schnell, who are on tour with Lannie Flowers, were amongst the crowd, and they were joined at their large round table, front and center, by a couple of nice German girls I met at TFF Rudolstadt last summer. A wonderful Italian friend brought me homemade tiramisu.
After the show, I made my way to another good friend’s flat, where I was to be put up for the evening in a room he’s converted into a home studio. I must have looked peckish. Without provocation, he prepared what seemed at the time the best hamburger I’ve eaten in Europe. Dark rum in hand, belly full, feeling loved, and nodding off amid deep, controversial conversations, I finally slept.
Mr. John Stevens got me on an opening slot for their gig the following night at the Shoreditch basement venue The Workshop. I was glad to stick around long enough to catch my first Lannie Flowers show, and then I headed north to meet my dear old buddy Andrew Balkwill and others at a pub in north London, where more music making was in full swing.
An ambulance carried a young, barely responsive patron away, drugged and almost beaten by her friends. I had cheap, late night Chinese and drinks poured by a cute, impish short-haired barmaid with checkered pants pulled up well over her navel. Vodka and soda. Tequila shots. The dregs of a pint of Peroni found its way to my shirt. Back to Andy’s for more vodka and Peroni. No pretty barmaid. Political conversation. The sun came up. A few of us saw it.
The next afternoon, I had a gig at Proud Camden, a converted old horse hospital right in the midst of the famed Camden Town markets, complete with seven former stables that can be rented out for a night’s pleasures. I observed at least one stable equipped with stripper pole.
I was offered and accepted a set later that evening in the venue’s outdoor Secret Garden, which boasts its own hot tub, and caught a bit of The Rolling Stones cover band, The Rollin Stoned, inside on the main stage I’d played earlier. My feast for the evening was three tiny chicken “wings,” as well as a lager posing as a pale ale on the menu of some forgotten bar, a vodka drink around the corner, and back to Andy’s flat for more drinks and a decent night’s sleep.
I awoke, enjoyed a communal home-cooked breakfast with the house mates, and made my way via bus west from London about 80 miles to Swindon. It is here I sit and relay these goings-on now in the kitchen of my friend Jon Buckett and his partner Jenn, and may I just say: crumpets are delightful.
Jon and I met last summer at the Mostar Blues Festival in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where he was playing keys in the band of former Robert Plant guitarist, Innes Sibun. We hit it off, and I came to see him later in the tour when I was in England.
The last two days I’ve had free. I had to shell out 65 of the Queen’s pounds for a new MacBook Pro power adapter. My off-market brand charger had begun displaying visible movements of electricity, which seemed unsound. The poker game I’d been eyeing turned out to be a bust. There’s been plenty of drink and other imbibings and some guitar picking and a very comfortable bed. And I just finished a radio interview and performance with Jon at Swindon’s 105.5 Community Radio.
Tonight I get to make up last Thursday’s missed gig with Mr. Buckett and a couple of other musicians at a pub called The Roaring Donkey. Tomorrow I bus back into London and catch a flight to Bilbao in the evening.
The first week is in the books. I feel good. I feel strong. I feel the rumble of great adventures these coming months bubbling under toe. The road is my home. I’m alive. Yes sir. Let the good times roll.
May 20, 2015