Tour diary: U.K.’s Blossoms take the West Coast

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Blossoms, Tom Ogden, Charlie Salt, Josh Dewhurst, Joe Donovan, Myles Kellock

Blossoms may be one of the hardest-working bands in the business right now. The indie rock quintet from Stockport, a blue-collar city on the outskirts of Manchester, has been touring relentlessly since releasing their full-length self-titled debut album in 2016. The album, coincidentally, was the only one that held on to the No. 1 spot on U.K. charts for two or more consecutive weeks other than Adele.

Frontman Tom Ogden, keyboardist Myles Kellock, guitarist Josh Dewhurst, drummer Joe Donovan and bassist Charlie Salt performed at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco recently on their latest tour; their second American trek since last autumn. They packed in psychedelic instrumentation with breezy pop hooks at the sold out gig.  The show was one of many the band has lined up in the States this summer. They quickly moved on to Coachella and have appearances on the horizon at New York’s Governors Ball, Lollapalooza and a return to Glastonbury, among many others.

Salt, whose grandfather’s scaffolding yard hosted the band’s early practices, kept a journal for RIFF during the beginning of the tour. What follows are his observations of Portland, San Francisco and Blossoms’ first Coachella appearance.

— Roman Gokhman

12Portland, Oregon. Doug Fir Lounge: Portland has always been a place on the list to visit. Having read the mysterious tale of D.B. Cooper, the most dapper aircraft hijacker of the ’70s, (definitely a future book title that needs coining, the city has continued to enthrall and we couldn’t wait to play

Blossoms, Tom Ogden, Charlie Salt, Josh Dewhurst, Joe Donovan, Myles Kellock

Joe Donovan at a Portland vintage shop. Photo: Joseph Light

there. The day was kick-started with a hearty all-American breakfast of carbs, carbs and more carbs, leaving us adequately prepared for a stroll around downtown. On first impressions, it’s

hard to believe a city nestled in the heart of America’s Pacific Northwest bares so many similarities with our hometown of Stockport. It’s relatively sleepy, industrial and  even the weather struggled to rise above a measly 12 degrees [Celsius; roughly 54 degrees Fahrenheit], something we’ve become accustom to living in greater Manchester all of our lives. Anything above 15 degrees [59 degrees Fahrenheit] is classed as tropical.

Blossoms, Tom Ogden, Charlie Salt, Josh Dewhurst, Joe Donovan, Myles Kellock

Blossoms frontman Tom Ogden, pre-show. Photo: Joseph Light

Our perusal of Portland found us in and out of thrift stores, record stores and camera stores spending our ‘Benjamins’ at an alarming rate, before we had to return to the Doug Fir for soundcheck. To our surprise, there was a jovial chap in the crowd adorning a Stockport County shirt, which instantly made us feel at home. All-in-all, the show was a success and despite the veil of jet lag hanging over us, we were able to pull off a killer performance. Onward to Frisco…

***

13San Francisco. Bottom Of The Hill: We awoke to the aroma of Folgers ground coffee bubbling away into the percolator, something that’s quite pleasant and cozy, even if you don’t drink coffee. Anyway, the bus rolled over San Francisco’s black sheep of engineering, the Bay Bridge. Overshadowed by the neighbouring not-so-golden Gate Bridge. Still, a magnificent sight for us Stockfordians. Having been to SF last year, we kinda knew what to expect: stay out of the Tenderloin District.

Blossoms, Tom Ogden, Charlie Salt, Josh Dewhurst, Joe Donovan, Myles Kellock

Charlie Salt at Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco. Photo: Joseph Light

So after having a tremendous heuvos-rancheros brekky in the Tenderloin District, we parted ways with one group heading to the Fort Mason area, and the other to Haight-Ashbury, the birthplace of the psychedelic movement and a hotbed for the mentally insane, as we soon discovered. A couple of pairs of Levi’s STA-Press slacks and a decent copy of The Boss’s “I’m On Fire” 7-inch in the bag, and we were back to the venue.

Bottom Of The Hill is a dark and dank dive bar complete with a decrepit exterior neon sign, hanging on for dear life—perfect. The venue is stooped in musical history with the likes of Oasis, The Strokes and Elliott Smith gracing its stage over the years. You can feel the ambiance immediately as you walk into the place. With soundcheck underway, we couldn’t help but notice a familiar face at the back of the room, looking suitably cool and flicking through a box of 45s. It was Corey

Blossoms, Tom Ogden, Charlie Salt, Josh Dewhurst, Joe Donovan, Myles Kellock

Myles Kellock at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco. Photo: Joseph Light

Duffel, pro skater and fan of the band. He mentioned he’d be jockeying the night in between bands and after the show too. Great guy.

After another belting show, with a capacity crowd, we were suitably buzzed and came off stage all smiles. It was a real pleasure to play at Bottom Of The Hill, and each one of us mentioned that it reminded us of the very first venue we played in Manchester, Night & Day Cafe.

The bus started its engine and began the 14-hour journey to the desert.

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14Indio. Coachella Festival: As we entered Indio, we were met by a palm tree-lined approach toward the festival site, a view that we’ve only ever seen on a movie screen. Even the heatwave that lay across the highway was reminiscent of a still from Easy Rider. Half-expected Dennis Hopper to rock up on a Harley!

Blossoms, Tom Ogden, Charlie Salt, Josh Dewhurst, Joe Donovan, Myles Kellock

Pre-Coachella breakfast on April 14, 2017. Photo: Joseph Light

The festival is a complete sensory overload and luckily, we had the evening off to acclimatize, watch a few bands and soak up the atmosphere. We stood and watched a very lobster-faced Mac Demarco play the Outdoor Theatre Stage (The one we’d play the following day) to a packed-out bunch of scantily clad festivaleers.

The following morning we awoke to a cloudless sky and an intense humidity as we left our tour bus. The factor 50 [sunscreen] was soon applied and we were ready for anything. Although this was our very first Coachella, and opening up a stage early is a difficult and daunting task, we were greeted by a moderately sized crowd, the majority of which sung every lyric, which slung us into a great pace even before the first note was played.

Blossoms, Tom Ogden, Charlie Salt, Josh Dewhurst, Joe Donovan, Myles Kellock

Frontman Tom Ogden on-stage at Coachella, 2017. Photo: Joseph Light

We still find it incredibly humbling to travel to all these distant places and be well-received by fans. “Grateful” isn’t the word. The set maintained a healthy groove until the very end and we were more than satisfied with our debut performance. The best part about the whole thing is that we get to do it all over again next week! We don’t want to go home.

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