The CLIVE PARNELL BAND undertook a mini tour of the USA. Clive Parnell writes about his experiences.
"Kansas! What are you going there for?!!" That was the question of the immigration officer at Chicago, USA. A valid question given Kansas does not normally attract tourists to it. Kansas City is famous for a few things: BBQs, U2's 'Last Night On Earth' video shoot location, the fastest growing city in the US and of course the Wizard Of Oz. Unfortunately we could not kick our heels and be there like Dorothy, so our journey took us from Edinburgh via London (150 CDs picked up en route, hastily!), Chicago and 15 hours later, Kansas.
The Clive Parnell band touch down: Gary Francis (bass and navigator), Andy Weir (drums, guitar, tech, backing vocals - not at the same time though), Clive Parnell (vocals, guitars and bargain hunter). We are met by Indigo Echo's US promoters Val and Joori, Val in a pick up, Joori in a 1978 BMW 530. Gary and Clive go in the BMW and Andy (your legs are younger than mine), Weir goes in the pick up along with our gear including Gary's bass case imitating a coffin and doing a good job.
Kansas City is divided into two states, Kansas duh! and Missouri. We drove from Kansas to Missouri in a couple of minutes across the flat, and I mean flat, landscape. We were in Kansas to play four gigs all in coffee houses. The Christian music scene in the US is big and there are numerous coffee houses in Kansas and the surrounding areas.
We were staying in Missouri and combined our time on the first day between practising for the gig and shooting some hoops on the basketball court/driveway. (Jet lag? What's that?) The first gig was at a cool coffee house in downtown Kansas City. The New Earth Coffee House has played host to great CCM bands and artists, Sixpence None The Richer, Phil Keaggy, Plumb and Sarah Masen were all playing there the same month we were there. The New Earth is a big red brick building similar to a coffee house featured in a TV series like Friends. The entrance has a neon light with incense burning in the hallway quite a hippie vibe.
We were a bit nervous about our first gig Stateside. This was a muso audience with a line up of two local Kansas bands and us from Edinburgh - they probably thought our style would be punk rock, Blur or Oasis. However, a pre-match meal of BBQ chicken (Kansas is famous for it, you know) and loads of ice cream set us up for our gig. We set off with our debut CD title track "Listen" which went down pretty well, although you could tell this was a muso crowd as they did not get up, they just sat down and scratched their chins. It just shows you American audiences can be reserved too, the crowd of 100 people ranging from 18-45 seemed to warm up as the gig went on and we got some positive feed back. The main encouragement was a guy connected to the Metro Vineyard church who met up with us later and prayed for us. He recognised the compassion behind the music and said this is what will be prophetic for Britain.
Next stop on this Mid-West tour, Westport Coffee House. We played two gigs here, the first one being an unplugged gig to people munching on their doorstep-style sandwiches and drinking Clive's favourite American soft drink IBC root beer (tastes like mouthwash but he loves it). The second in this busy coffee house was an evening gig. There was a real cross-range of people, students and couples looking lovingly into each other's eyes.
One of the great things about this part of the USA is the way a coffee house is on okay place to go. It is not a little Christian ghetto selling tuck shop food; it is a credible place with gorgeous food, great decor, good music and both Christians and non-Christians coming through the door. We have to develop this in the UK.
Our evening gig went on to about 11.30pm and towards the end we had some homeless people come in and sit down. "Behind The Face" on the CD is about a homeless person's struggle with life and faith. During this song they were clearly moved and after we finished one guy shouted out, "That is me! People ignore me everyday. Amen man." Little did we know God would touch the heart of a homeless man in Kansas.
Our last gig took us to upstate Missouri Kearney, where we played in a truck stop. Yes, that is truck stop, and plenty of trucks were there too. The churches in this area had the vision to enquire about a burger bar that had closed down. The owner allowed them to use it for a youth event once a month and they converted it into a venue, yet another example for UK churches.
This was by far the most kicking gig we played to a crowd of 80 high school kids who were up for it. Our live set mixes songs from the CD, new material and a couple of covers. We played a Hootie And The Blowfish cover (massive band in the USA) and from that point we had a wild crowd.
We have a hidden track on the CD which we were forced to play. It is a quirky British tune that we put on the CD for a joke but we have never seen a crowd go as wild. You will have to get a CD to see what we mean!
Well, gigs over we spent the rest of the time visiting shops, shops and shops and tried to cope with the -15 degree temperatures along with the massive snow fall, which made life in the 1978 BMW rather interesting (let's start praying the brakes won't lock 200 meters before every set of traffic lights).
We came back tired but encouraged by our visit and enthusiastic about trying to communicate what God has put on our hearts. A return visit is not out of the question. Bigger gigs next time possibly in the summer when we don't have to wear about 10 layers of clothing.The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.