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It’s the morning of the last day of the Hawks/Tony Gilkyson UK tour, or, broadening our parameters, the summer US/UK tour. Forty-three shows, 30 states, 10 counties, two and a half systems of government. It’s a lot for us to digest.

But we do, and also digest the cereal and fruit in our odd hotel? B&B? boarding house? not far from last night’s Musician club gig in no nonsense industrial Leicester. It’s a gloomy gray day, just the way half the band members like it. Tony, Kip, and Shawn are off to a radio interview/performance in Swindon, and Rob and the two Pauls are scheduled to do a voiceover session for a Nottingham family theme park. Much to our disbelief and skepticism. But sure enough, the theme park people call us on our cheapo UK cell phone, tell us to come over. We drive the rainy streets to a factory warehouse next to the Musician club, head up the concrete ramp, and sure enough, dynamic duo Dean and Dan, wife/husband team, greet us cheerily and escort us into the factory, past vivid molded plastic Wild West animated figures, life size, with hydraulic actuators jutting from their flannel shirts and cowboy hats. Robot builders paint, sculpt, polish guns and rifles.

How did we get this unlikely and impromptu gig? Apparently our a capella singing at sound check won the animators’ hearts. Now we’re drinking big cups of coffee and reading scripts, internalizing the motivation for a talking horse, a nervous bank teller, a cowboy getting a tooth pulled, a slick bandito.We also arrange two songs for barbershop quartet minus one harmonies, which we pull off to the delight of the producers. We then step into the sound booth one by one for our voiceover acting debuts, the aforementioned characters farmed out amongst Rob and Pauls. Great fun, mostly first takes, our faux/cartoon Western accents dazzling the blissfully uncritical Brits (actually, we did a pretty fine job, those hours watching old cartoons finally paying off). Dean and Dan pay us, take us out for Chinese food a rainy walk through industrial alleys, regale us with their daring tale of capitalization and entrepreneurialism (they do theme parks all over Europe and UK), and we’re on our way.

We missed the great Avebury Stone Circles south of Swindon, which Tony, Kip, and Shawn assure us were amazing, but after an arduous rainy traffic snarled trek to Swindon, we stumble into the Magic Roundabout, a massive traffic circle with its terror multiplied by five outer traffic rings surrounding the center roundabout. We closed our eyes and dove in, escaped onto the right exit and found The Beehive on charming Prospect Hill.The word Swindon conjures up the genius British comedy series “The Office,” and its lovingly psychotic portrayal of grim office politics. The actual Swindon town has a few gray business monoliths, but the Beehive is on a sloping ridge of back to back older houses, with a mid-19th century brick Baptist church across the street. Charming.

The Beehive is a classic pub, wood floor and ancient looking bar. (This is the norm in the British Isles. The Mecca of venerable drinking spots) We crowd our way into the rear of the narrow pub, set up our gear, play our last sets to a reserved crowd that becomes quite animated after the show, buying lots of CDs. British reserve. It’s real.

The guitar amp on hand is a solid state Marshall. This is perhaps the ultimate oxymoron.
The mystique of the tube guitar amp is not mystical at all. It’s like the mystique of flossing,
or seat belts. Solid state amps just don’t work. They don’t sustain, and they let you down in the heat of battle. Why? We leave that to the scientists to answer. But the guitar players on this tour have learned a harsh lesson–better to plug into the board than into a solid state amp.

But this harsh lesson is but a shiver in the warm and cozy evening. We bid farewell to the Beehive people, load up our vehicles. Hugs all around on the rainy street, end of tour. American Country Rock Heroes Tony, Kip, Shawn, Rob, and the Pauls are feeling very good about this adventure.Paul L stays behind to sleep in a gloomy room over the Beehive. He’s off to Ireland for a vacation with Victoria. Hawks, Kip, and Tony drive to Heathrow, where an airport Travelodge awaits their weary arrival. What airline security madness awaits them next morning?