Simon Godfrey's Letter From America

Forms; there must be a special place in hell for those who create them or at least there bloody well should be. I have completed more of the little bastards in the past few months than any sane person should ever have to face in one lifetime...

The reason for this is because two years ago I met an American woman, fell in love and have recently chosen to leave from my home of 48 years in London, England to go live in America, a mysterious place we pre-paid Oyster Card city train commuters know only as ‘Outside Zone 6’.

Granted, there are many things that have initially confused this poor, simple Englishman upon arrival in the new world; the direction of the traffic, the enormous choice of goods in almost any shop and the extraordinary ability of strangers to strike up conversations with each other in public without instantly dying of embarrassment.

Thankfully the one constant between these two great nations is a common desire to make and appreciate magnificent music. In this respect, I am right at home. I have experienced the music scene in the USA many times before as a working musician, enthusiastic fan and a grumpy, shambling creature in search of a good curry.

My love of progressive rock in particular has also brought me into contact with many interesting people, places and livestock over the years. Within my first week of arriving in the city of Philadelphia full time, I found myself still fighting off the effects of jet lag and propping up the bar at one of my adopted home’s more celebrated live music venues The Electric Factory, a characterful space which holds a maximum of 1500 people, waiting to see Manchester stalwarts Elbow take to the stage.

The last time I saw Elbow was at the opening ceremony of the London Olympics in 2012, which required the Hubble telescope to negate the distance between my seat and the stage where they were performing. To witness them in a more intimate venue like this was both a real thrill for my ears and a welcome rest for my eyes.

The show was special in another way as I was watching the proceedings in the company of the band Echolyn, an outfit from Pennsylvania who have plied a similarly adventurous and uncompromising path through music for over 20 years.

It was also a delight to see both bands talking and swapping music stories after the show. A curious member of the British road crew asked me why I was wearing a t-shirt from Hull In Yorkshire, when my accent clearly betrayed my South London roots. I had no good answer for him but happily being fellow Brits, neither of us took it any further for fear that we might learn something interesting about a total stranger.

At the end of the evening, I and the members of Echolyn parted company swearing eternal drunken friendship. The band’s singer Ray Weston attempted to steal my hat as we said goodbye but as I was hyped up on entirely too much caffeine to counter the jet lag, the altercation looked more like an intense line dance than an actual fight.

As we exited the venue and we went our separate ways, a leaflet for future events was thrust eagerly into my hands. The young lady doing the thrusting, seemed to regard me as the kind of gentleman who obviously needs to see Mastodon or indeed the marvelously titled three piece punk band, Front Bottom. She might actually be right.

Once I turned the corner, I turned the leaflet over and spied a printed a form on it. Pulling out a pen, I drew a huge cock across the words. Somehow it seemed like the right thing to do.

Jerry Ewing

Writer and broadcaster Jerry Ewing is the Editor of Prog Magazine which he founded for Future Publishing in 2009. He grew up in Sydney and began his writing career in London for Metal Forces magazine in 1989. He has since written for Metal Hammer, Maxim, Vox, Stuff and Bizarre magazines, among others. He created and edited Classic Rock Magazine for Dennis Publishing in 1998 and is the author of a variety of books on both music and sport, including Wonderous Stories; A Journey Through The Landscape Of Progressive Rock.