#STUSA18 Blogs 18/19/20/21: The Final Instalment

A note from the Editor: Apologies for the tardiness of these blogs. Consecutive show days combined with time in NYC and a flight back to the UK left no time for blog writing! I hope you enjoy the last (quite long) instalment. H x

Day 18:

We left the old mining town of Scranton to head to our final state of our 2018 US Tour, New York. Famed for its endless energy it could not be more of a change from the small town of Scranton, PA, and we were all so excited for this final stop. But before we were able to experience the magic of New York City, we had two shows to do. The first of these being Valhalla and our performance at Westchester Community College, a venue which the older four in the group had visited in STUSA16. After three weeks of touring already, our sound check was short and sweet and we had lots of time to relax before our penultimate show. Despite being smaller in number than previous venues, the audience at Valhalla were no less enthusiastic and if not louder! After a smooth-running show we headed back to our hotel, ready for our Rockville Centre show and then on to New York City the next day.

Chad x

Day 19:

The Day began bright and early, since we needed to travel to Rockville Center and set up in time for the earlier show – our first matinee, and the last performance of the tour for us. After an uneventful bus journey, we arrived at Molloy College and loaded into the Madison Theatre – a beautiful and modern venue with an exceptional lighting set up, which made Lewis very happy indeed.

In our break for lunch, we took the opportunity to explore the College some more, and the music and performing arts building where we were performing had many treats in store. The sounds of instrumental practice emanating from the various rehearsal rooms, our dinner awaiting in one room, and in one classroom the best discovery of all: a large number of wheeled chairs. In true Semi-Toned style, we could not resist utilising these to the best of our ability, and so began ‘chair choreography’, in which we performed The Chain and Careless Whisper whilst remaining entirely seated. The videos were quite a work of art, we think.

The performance was one of our best yet, having had three weeks to refine our show and continue to improve after each location. As is customary during the final show, we decided to let our hair down a bit (literally, in Greg’s case) to celebrate the end of tour. During the interval, after a very professional first half, Lewis and Will descended like gods from their holy tech desks to visit it us in the dressing room. They gave each of us words that we had to fit into the show, either in song or in speeches. Challenges included: hummus, bumblebee, noodles, metronome and more. Cue a well-polished but very amusing second half of the show in which people tried to shoehorn strange things into peculiar places, such as Jacob Storey telling the audience that the previous song was in fact not ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’ by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and Sam singing ‘We Built This City’ instead of ‘Bump and Grind’ whilst serenading the beautiful Donna who had so unwittingly volunteered to be involved in the song.

After the show, we made our way quickly to the hotel to put away our bags, before heading into NYC in the bus, which we only recently discovered is apparently called ‘Angelica’. When we arrived in the city, the time came to say farewell to our driver, Antonio. Driving nearly the length of the east coast of the USA is no mean feat in itself, let alone when you have to do it with 14 guys who are probably really annoying, sing way too much, and talk about all sorts of questionable things during the drives. So despite us assuming that Antonio must have hated every minute of our company, he still claimed it was the “best trip of his life”, and even shed a few tears during our parting words. It is safe to say that we are SO grateful to Antonio for his company, good humour, and trailer-reversing skills. Antonio – you will be missed!

Wiping the tears from Jacob Westbrook’s eyes, we then went for dinner at the famous Patsy’s Pizza. It was delicious. I shan’t say any more because the readership claims they’ve had enough of us talking about things we ate. We then made our way through the bustling streets of Manhattan to the Rockefeller Center, which we ascended to view the stunning skyline of NYC at night, just as we did at the end of STUSA16. The photo opportunity was made the most out of by all, especially as the Empire State, One World Trade Center and other buildings were lit up in green to celebrate Earth Day. The Top of the Rock had two notable events that evening. The first was a romantic proposal of a couple in the corner, to which the lady said yes and we all applauded. The second was an a cappella rendition of ‘Space Oddity’ by David Bowie. Just like when we sang ‘Samson’ there in STUSA16, the whole of the viewing platform stopped to listen to us sing and celebrate the culmination of our tour. They probably also heard me mess up bar 16, which is something of an Achille’s Heel for me, so sorry about that one.

The group then split up into subsections: some made their way back to the hotel via train, whilst others stayed out in Times Square to meet up with All Night Yahtzee (yeah – remember them from Week 1?! Feels like a long time ago, right?). It was lovely to see all of our friends again and chat to them about their experiences in the ICCA Finals on Broadway. After hanging out for a few hours, the remainder of us caught the 1.42am train back to Rockville Center and made our weary ways to bed.

Day 20:

But no lie ins for us! Gathering at 8.45am in the hotel lobby, we lugged our suitcases back onto the train and arrived (for the second time) in Manhattan. Tommy’s uncle, Neil, had very kindly allowed us to store luggage in his flat, and after depositing our items we all headed our separate ways to explore.

Some went to Central Park, whilst some headed to 5th Ave to do some shopping and heckle at a certain tall golden building that had lots of security outside it. After a morning exploring either the outside treasures of Central Park or the inside treasures of Uniqlo, we reconvened to check into our Airbnb in Midtown East. Unpacked and settled in, we then went to meet up with some of The Rolling Tones (in Central Park… again). We sat in the sun on some grass and ate some delicious New York cheesecake, and it was lovely to see them and chat about their experience in the ICCA Finals on Broadway. It was a fun meeting of two UK a cappella groups, and an unexpected relief to hear some British accents again!

Ryan, Charlie, Chad and Ludo went to watch Avenue Q in the evening, whilst the remainder of us went for dinner with Tommy’s uncle and his family, and ate more food that I will endeavour not to describe in depth. After a delicious dinner of burgers, nachos, wings, cocktails, sodas, fries, brownies and sundaes, topped off with some slow service, we reconvened at the Airbnb with the theatre gang to celebrate the end of tour more privately, with a few drinks and some light-hearted conversation about our favourite and least favourite moments of the trip, reminiscing about events that felt so far in the past. Conversation continued late into the night.

Day 21:

Our final day in NYC was certainly made the most out of. Many of the first and second years, who had yet to explore the city to its fullest, ventured downtown to the Staten Island Ferry, Brooklyn Bridge and Ground Zero, where there are reports that ‘Alfie may or may not have shed a tear’, whilst conversely Ryan was inevitably excited about the conspiracy theorists.

Others in the group – namely, the majority of boys who are in relationships (and Ludo) – made their merry way to Victoria’s Secret in order to peruse the gifts for their sweethearts back at home. Some of the boys seemed very at home here, whereas others appeared to be a little socially awkward, but I am reassured that fun was had by all. After this, some of the more sophisticated in the group ventured to art galleries. Henry, Tommy, Charlie, Jacob and Chad explored The Frick Collection, an astonishing collection of art in a mansion on 5th Avenue, which contained famous works of Hans Holbein the Younger and JMW Turner. Some others visited the Museum of Modern Art, which contained art which was very different but no less appreciated.

After ticking off the variety of sights left to see in New York, we eventually reconvened to collect our luggage and say goodbye to Tommy, who was staying an extra day with his uncle (which was secretly a good thing, because we really couldn’t put up with another long haul flight of questionable jokes). After saying our second farewell of the tour, we journeyed to JFK and went through all the usual airport processes to prepare for our plane back. Highlights of our time at the airport included Ryan getting irrationally angry at overweight luggage prices, Westy telling a TSA officer to be less rude (and consequently being searched as a result), and me losing my wallet and then getting hailed on the airport-wide tannoy to identify myself at gate 6 and be reunited with my worldly possessions of 6 dollars, a provisional driving license, and my Exeter student ID card.

The plane journey went without a hitch, and upon landing in Gatwick we soon had to say our farewells yet again as people peeled off one by one. Now we are all back at our various homes safe and sound, and feeling incredibly anxious about all the university work we haven’t done, we’re all very tired, but it’s safe to say we have certainly had the best three weeks with some of our best friends in some amazing places. If you want to find out more about our antics on tour, our first tour vlog is out now on YouTube, and there will be more footage coming soon – so head over and give it a watch! We are so grateful to Joy & Eric Amada and everyone at Arts Management Associates for providing us with our third tour of the USA, and we should also give a huge shout out to Alfie Davies for being our tour manager for this year; together they have worked tirelessly to drag 14 guys around the States and we couldn’t be more thankful. It is such a privilege to tour the USA each spring, so the biggest thanks should go to all of our venues and their cities for having us and for being such wonderful audiences.

And so concludes STUSA18 East Coast Tour! Thank you to our readers (basically just mums, dads, grandparents and the Amadas) for putting up with our blogs: we hope you have enjoyed them. For the last time, we’re signing off:

Henry, the blog team, and all of Semi-Toned 2017/18.

#STUSA18 Blogs 16&17: An Interactive Blog

Day 16:

Welcome to day 16! In order to progress onto day 17, you will have to complete 5 unique challenges! Good luck…

CHALLENGE 1:

Can you crack the code to reveal today’s topic?

L _ a v _ n g N o _ f _ _k

Did you get it? Give yourself a big ol’ pat on the back if you did, because you just won your first BlogPoint! Being by far the nicest hotel we’d stayed in so far, departing from the Hilton was a sad affair, but it was sunny, and we were loaded with snacks from the show the day before (if you’d thought we’d had enough of Doritos and Reece’s, think again). Thus, we hit the road with a degree of optimism. The first order of BUSiness? Recording a good luck message for The Rolling Tones ahead of the ICCA final in New York!

CHALLENGE 2:

Can you name three a cappella groups who competed in the ICCA UK Semi-Final? If you can, then congratulations friend – you just bagged yourself another BlogPoint!

Now I’m not going to beat around the bush here alright – this blog IS entirely focused around a 9 hour bus journey. BUT, trust me when I say we had some great events along the way. For example, we travelled over the gorgeous, 23 mile-long Chesapeake Bay Bridge! As went through its intermittent tunnels, we tried to see who could hold their breath the longest – I’d offer a BlogPoint for a correct guess as to who won, but if there’s ever a competition to be had, one can be assured that Sam Harper will keep at it until he wins. Crossing the bridge was beautiful, and we even had dolphins jumping out of the ocean on either side of us.

CHALLENGE 3:

Can you hold your breath for a minute? The extra BlogPoint and accompanying headrush will help you enjoy the blog, I promise…

Next up: lunch. The group split into three sub-groups: sushi, Mexican, and McDonalds. And you know what that means… it’s time for Challenge 4!

CHALLENGE 4:

Here are three members of Semi-Toned. Can you link them up with where you think they had lunch?

Jacob Storey

Max Weeden

Chad St Louis

Sushi

Mexican

McDonalds

That’s a BlogPoint for you, buddy. After lunch, we reconvened at the bus for the inevitable politely-competitive conversation about whose meal was the nicest. It sure wasn’t the Mexican, I can tell you that much.

When we finally reached Scranton at 10PM, it was snowing. SNOWING. Having started off in 30 degree heat down in Miami, cracking open the bus door to a brisk zero was somewhat of a shock (to say the least). Regardless, after checking in, we managed to triangulate the position of a nearby chain burger restaurant…

CHALLENGE 5:

Can you find the name of the restaurant amongst these scrambled letters?

HUPSBFOSUGBIGYSHMACDUANOLS FORBTGIFRIDAYSDENYIAVIHOABWPLAGEB

Would you look at that… you, dear reader, are the proud owner of yet another BlogPoint! For those quick-witted enough to have found the name, I want to personally and wholeheartedly recommend the Beyond Burger. Greg, Tommy and I all had it, and it was insane – it’s a plant-based vegan burger that tastes meatier than any others I’ve had before, and it even has a red tinge to make it that bit more convincing. Next time you’re out having dinner with friends/fam, TRUST me, try it. Oh, and if you’re wondering whether this section of the blog is vegan propaganda, you’d be right, because it absolutely is. Do your research folks.

On a separate note, once we were at the restaurant, we came upon quite the discovery. Following our free educational outreach shows at Norfolk Academy on Tuesday 17th, one particularly enthusiastic member of the audience had taken it upon themselves to create a Semi-Toned fanpage on Instagram. Now we just need a catchy hashtag for our fans to use… something quintessentially British… #queendom?

After dinner we made our way back to the hotel. Some of us hung out in the pool and played some games (during which Sam smacked his head on the side, resulting in a lump the following day), and the rest of us headed up to bed. All in all it was a long day, but, as ever, we managed to make the best of it.

Time to tot up your BlogPoints folks! You can find the answers to the challenges below:

1: Leaving Norfolk

2: Any three of the following: The Bristol Suspensions, The Accidentals, The Songsmiths, Pitch Fight, Academy A Cappella, The Other Guys, The Rolling Tones, The Northern Lights, The Oxford Alternotives

3: Did you manage to hold your breath?

4: Jacob Storey: McDonalds, Max Weeden: Mexican, Chad St. Louis: Sushi

5: TGI Friday’s

Alfie x

 

Day 17:

Still recovering from the longest journey of tour the previous day, the group passed the morning very quietly, some members only leaving the hotel in search of a slightly more appetizing breakfast than that which was on offer there. Feeling well restored, we piled into the bus to get to the next venue. I couldn’t wait to perform again – we had had 2 wonderfully lazy days but I, along with many others, were itching to don our blazers again. The theatre was fantastic, with a comfy green room, long corridors and lots of space.

Now we are in Scranton, PA, which is where The Office US is set, this is the perfect opportunity for budding directors Ryan and Greg to fulfil their vision that had been materialising over the last few days: Semi-Toned’s own version of ‘The Office’. Keep up to date with our social media for further news on this!

After soundcheck, we decided to amble into Scranton in search of supper, the lady in charge of the theatre wishing us good luck as we left, which was slightly unnerving to say the least. North Scranton was a little reminiscent of a certain song in our set by The Specials, as we barely saw any of its inhabitants!

Deciding that delivery was a better course of action, we made our way back to the theatre and ordered pizza. This was mostly delicious, however the unhappy few who ordered the ‘Sicilian’ received a rectangular, thicker and rather greasier delicacy, inducing some pre-show queasiness.

The show went down a treat however, and we were lucky to have our show opened by the brilliant Voices of the Valley, a 27-strong school a cappella choir. We even managed to grab a few photos with them afterwards!

We retired to the hotel very drained indeed, and, excepting a few members of the group who were keen for a swim, we gratefully collapsed into our beds. Only two shows to go, followed by some time off in NYC!

Ludo x

#STUSA18 Blogs 14 & 15: A Norfolk Holiday

Day 14

We arose bright and early from our very comfortable hotel beds to embark on our three-show day in Norfolk, VA. After an exquisite hotel breakfast early in the morning, despite our exhaustion we made our way to Norfolk Academy where we had our first student outreach (a 45 minute abridged version of our full show) performing in front of the middle school there. We were met with such great enthusiasm by the children of Norfolk academy, and when greeting them after the show they were eager to get pictures and lots of stickers! (Nearly breaking our sticker bank I might add).

After a mere half an hour break we were back on stage performing for the senior school. Highlights of this performance include a mid-show standing ovation for the solo of our incredible beatboxer Max – the students we greeted afterwards were seemingly in awe of the ‘inhuman noises’ Max is able to make.

After this second 45 minute show we had a three hour break for lunch, during which we ate at the amazing hotel restaurant ‘Saltine’ which specialised in seafood, just like many restaurants in the naval city of Norfolk.

After lunch every member of the group retreated to their rooms for a short siesta to recharge before our full hour and a half show at 7:30 that evening.

The crowd at Norfolk Academy that evening were just as enthusiastic as the children earlier in the day and just as large in number! The show went by without any major hiccups at all. One particular highlight was our closing song, Crave (from the film Hidden Figures), because it has ties to the local area: Pharrell Williams, the artist, was born just a few miles from the venue, and the film is about a NASA base just outside of Norfolk – so the song had an amazing reception!

At the post-show reception we greeted the audience and had drinks, chocolates and canapés kindly provided by the Virginia Arts Festival. It was also lovely to meet some of the VAF staff and sponsors that the group had met a few years ago. After a long and exhausting yet rewarding day of performing, we arrived back at our hotel and promptly fell asleep in order that we could fully enjoy our day off in Norfolk the next day.

Chad x

Day 15

A note from the Editor: a full day of sightseeing and exploring in Norfolk meant that we all separated into many smaller groups: so in the interests of capturing all the events, this blog has multiple authors, each describing their respective days. Enjoy! H x

Henry:

After a group brunch at the Granby Street Bistro and Deli (much sought-after by us oldies, following our delicious brunch there two years ago), some of the group went for an explore around the downtown waterfront city area, making the most of the Naval Base views, particularly impressed by the USS Wisconsin. Others headed off to the beautiful Norfolk Library to get some degree work done (how sensible of them). Later in the day, a few keen photo/video fanatics headed out to get some pictures of the beautiful sunset across the harbour before dinner.

Ludo:

Whilst some of the group ventured further afield to explore, Ryan, Westy, Max and I only made it as far as the fifth floor of the hotel, which coincidentally housed the pool. There began some pool games, which we played for over an hour, even enticing other people to join us along the way, making for a very raucous game. We then basked in the warming sun, with Henry and I soaking up the rays until the early evening.

Chad:

Charlie, Greg and I made the short car journey to to the beautiful Virginia beach in search of dinner. After strolling along the beach as the sun set, creating an orange tint on the horizon, the three of us found ‘Hemingway’s’, a restaurant specialising in seafood. Greg and Charlie, in true British style, ordered (an incredibly tasty) fish and chips whilst I ordered battered shrimp tacos with mango chutney. After our beautiful meal we walked down the boardwalk towards the pier, now lit up in the darkness by white lampposts, and got battered by the strong sea breeze. We then rejoined the group at the hotel for some TV, and then chatted on the rooftop pool terrace until the early hours.

Ryan (ambitiously written in verse):

We decided we were to split up for dinner.

It was Greg, Chad and Charlie that had a winner

Eating fish on the beach, bathed in the sun’s glory,

But for the others it was a grimmer story.

A disappointing Ramen on the waterside;

My personal anger was hard to hide.

A post meal ice cream raised the mood

And we quickly forgot the frankly awful food.

Then it was back to the hotel to get rested

And watch a show in which we are highly invested:

‘Cunk on Britain’ (we would recommend)

And it brought the day to a perfect end.

Alfie (continuing the literary theme with a prosaic acrostic):

Neither I nor Jacob Storey had “brunch”.

Of course, we still went out to eat; we shared lunch at D’egg. One of us had steak, and the other had tater tots.

Rather than catching up with the others, we thought we’d extend our lunch date to a full-day affair.

For anyone who knows me and Jacob IRL, you’ll know that we’re not the most exercise-inclined members of the group, so we took a look at the cinema listings and embarked on a quest to the mall.

Oh, and I forgot to say: we bumped into Sam in the lobby.

Luckily for us, Ready Player One was showing, so we rolled up to the box office and bought tickets.

Knowing the book version well, Jacob was disappointed by the film. I mean, I enjoyed it. I just wanted to see some dudes shooting robots, and boy, some dudes shooting robots did I see.

Veraciously hungry, we met up with the others for dinner at The Waterside.

After dinner, Jacob, Sam, Lewis and I convened in chéz Davies-Storey to watch South Park and eat dangerous quantities of chocolate.

Finally, after Sam and Lewis had gone, Jacob and I tucked ourselves into bed for the last night in Norfolk ahead of the long journey to Scranton.

And a special BONUS: keep an eye out in the next few days for our first vlog coming your way, with footage from our time in Florida!

#STUSA18 Blog 13: We’re Back in Norfolk!

The group were woken from slumber early in the day in Wilmington for a long journey to Norfolk, Virginia. No one was awake earlier than Antonio, our hero of a driver, who rushed to the garage at 8am as a tyre had got a nail stuck in it and needed to be replaced. Once this had been done, we hit the road but not without much debate of who shall sit in the dreaded back seats of the bus.

The six and a half hour journey passed without much drama, plus lunch at McDonalds and various unhealthy snacks. We arrived in Norfolk with a lot of excitement, as some of the group that have been around long enough to remember STUSA16 had visited the city before and had loved it. The rest of the group were excited to stay in the nicest hotel we had stayed in yet. Neither the city nor the hotel disappointed and the group immediately took advantage of their surroundings, with half going into the city centre and the other half going for a swim at the hotel.

Before long, we had to set off for our outreach show at Harbor’s Edge retirement home. It was a shorter, more stripped back performance than we have been used to on tour, with no mics or choreo. This gave us a different experience and we had loads of fun performing. After a reception where we got the opportunity to speak to members of the audience, we returned to the hotel.

You could have been forgiven for thinking that, as we have two outreach shows tomorrow and a full show in the evening, we had an early night. However this was not the case, as we went for a late night swim to round off the night. A small group had a game of pool before journeying round the corner to a pizza restaurant that cooks huge 28 inch pizzas! Needless to say we only had a slice or two rather than a whole pizza. Except for Jacob and Alfie, who threw themselves in at the deep end.

Eventually, everybody found their way to bed to build up energy for the big day of shows that tomorrow would bring.

Ryan x

#STUSA18 Blog 12: Adventures at the Azalea Festival

A few of the group, along with our driver Antonio, arose excessively early to make their way back down to the beach to watch the sun rise and get a morning surf in before the day ahead. The morning broke over Wilmington, the beach, and the Atlantic ocean, and whilst Ludo, Greg and Lewis rode the waves, everyone else was still tucked up in their hotel beds.

Later in the morning, once everyone was awake and ready for the day, we all made our way into downtown historic Wilmington. We visited the local city hall and theatre, called Thalian Hall, to meet with a local presenter and the Executive Director, Tony. Expecting this to be a brief formal meeting to discuss our potential performance there in 2020, it unexpectedly turned into him showing us around the theatre and giving us some history of the town and the building. 20 minutes into our informative tour, we were given the opportunity to sing a few songs for Tony on the stage.

After we had left Thalian Hall, it was decided that it was time for a spot of brunch. Led by Tommy, we made our way to riverside restaurant ‘The George on the Riverwalk’. The food was delicious and everyone left the restaurant wholly satisfied. Following our meal, we took the opportunity to explore the downtown riverfront area, especially as the local ‘Azalea’ festival was going on whilst we were there. We had a slow walk along the river, and much to our delight we discovered that the people of Wilmington are obsessed with dogs. Namely, we encountered lots of puppies. Cue everyone freaking out and taking lots of photos.

We continued our explore of the town, perusing the market stalls and the street food options (which we probably would have eaten, had our bellies not been full from brunch). After a while, most of the group decided to make their way back to the hotel to do some degree work or watch some TV, but four intrepid explorers stayed in town for what was to be an eventful afternoon. Ryan, Max, Tommy and I had planned to go and visit the local serpentarium, in a bid to meet (I quote) “the world’s most deadly and dangerous snakes” and a crocodile. However, much to our horror, the serpetarium was closed on arrival due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’. Instead, we walked next door to the Museum of the Bizarre. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures inside, so we cannot share any photographs with you. However, artefacts included: shrunken heads, Nazi trophies, a lock of Alexander Hamilton’s hair, Satanistic memorabilia, electrotherapy tools and old murder weapons. Though the others found this very exciting, I was completely freaked out and only just about managed to get round without screaming. Mainly because the museum reminded me of the last episode of Black Mirror Season Four. (If you know, you know.) My freaking out was aided somewhat by the jump scares and moving statues scattered around the museum. Having made our escape, the four of us then got an Uber back to the hotel to rejoin the rest of the group.

After a quiet late afternoon spent either a) napping, b) working, c) watching TV or d) trying to not freak out at absolutely everything, the group split it two for dinner. With this process come both good and bad things; being smaller subgroups results in better service and quicker food, but it means that afterwards we all inevitably argue about who had the better meal. In this case, both sides firmly believed they had won: some opted to stay in the hotel and have gourmet sandwiches delivered, whilst others ventured out for burritos (recommended by Trevor from Liquid 5th, who recorded our EP with us – thanks Trev!). Either way, both groups were happy with their dinner, and such concluded the day.

Henry x

#STUSA18 Blog 11: A Wilmington Rainbow

Rather drained from our exhilarating performance the night before, we had difficulty rousing ourselves for our long drive to Wilmington. However, with the help of a hearty breakfast, we were on the road again.

Halting for lunch temporarily, we split off to explore the various eateries on the side of the highway, including Chick-fil-A, Magnolia Wok and Chipotle. A food coma then took over most of the group, and the rest of the drive to Wilmington was very soporific. This was not to deter Greg however, who immediately investigated surfing options in Wilmington and encouraged us to pile back into the bus for an evening trip to the beach.

Little did we know what an gorgeous sight would await us! Whilst Greg, Sam and I took to the waves, (with degrees of surfing success descending in that exact order), the heavens unfolded, and the most vibrant double rainbow appeared in the sky, whilst a brilliant golden sunset bathed the coastline. Of course, we all grabbed our phones and cameras, and snapped endless pictures.

When the surfers returned, we returned to the hotel, stomachs rumbling. We headed to Bills Front Porch Brewery and Pub, where the few lucky members of the group who are of age sampled some of the crazy myriad of beers on offer. Then, feeling well and truly full, we wobbled back to the hotel. Some enthusiastic members of the group (Tommy, Charlie and Chad) opted to stay up until the early hours of the morning to watch the livestream of Beyoncé’s set at Coachella, whilst most others completely crashed on reaching a nice warm bed, wanting to get a good nights sleep before exploring Wilmington the following day.

Ludo x

#STUSA18 Blog 10: Arrival in Aiken

Having finished our stay in “cockroach hotel” (christened thanks to our driver Antonio having found a cockroach in his room), we were more than happy to be departing sooner rather than later. We loaded up ready to head to our next destination: Aiken, SC. We continued our coach journey with surprisingly little air con debate. The journey was made easier by beautiful greenery that could be seen en route, which was a welcome sight after the less tantalising vastness which had been witnessed elsewhere.

On arrival at Aiken we decided to find a place to eat before we continued on to the venue. We found a local grill restaurant and sat in the garden out the back. The aesthetic was beautiful and made for a lovely lunch, with the food matching that of the scenery.

Next stop was the University of South Carolina Aiken (not be confused with our previous venue, USC Beaufort). The venue had its quirks, most interesting of which was the seating in which a middle “v” was created with a singular seat being left in the very front middle, with no one to their right or left. It can only be assumed that such a seat was created for the most important of aristocrats.

The sound check gave everyone an opportunity to iron out any small mistakes they’d been making in order to improve the show even further. After a delicious dinner at the venue, we were all eager and raring to perform. On went our blazers, ironed shirts and polished shoes, before we headed to the stage for our beginners’ call. Will, our sound technician, as has become tradition on this tour, offered some wise words of wisdom through our in-ears before cueing us all in to begin our opening song, ‘Let’s Get It Started’.

The audience was very responsive, being fantastically enthusiastic throughout our set, and wonderfully kind to us when we went to meet them all in the foyer at the end. A particularly touching moment for me was when a group of people said that the show was exactly what they all needed after a difficult week. It’s great to know that our performances are bringing joy and excitement into people’s lives and that they enjoy what we do!

Having finished our gig, we made our way to the post-show reception to meet some of the VIPs in the theatre, including the mayor of Aiken and the Chancellor and Dean of the university, as well as the theatre’s donors. It was a pleasure to talk to many of them over a glass of wine and find out more about Aiken. We were extremely privileged to be performing in such a wonderful venue in front of a brilliant audience.

After leaving the theatre, we checked into the hotel and all retired into our rooms to sleep after an exhausting few days of consecutive shows. Coming up next, we have some time off in Wilmington, NC, before arriving at the Virginia Arts Festival!

Westy x

#STUSA18 Blogs 8/9: A Bus Journey and a Birthday

Day 8:

After an early breakfast at our hotel and a delayed departure due to finalising our 2018 Edinburgh Fringe Show (which is still a secret – but get excited) we started on our ten hour bus journey to Beaufort, South Carolina. We travelled equipped with an already half-eaten apple pie and various other snacks, generously given to us by our hosts at the Crosby Theatre in Troy to last us on our way.

Our route was more scenic than previous journeys, taking in the picturesque Alabama countryside. In order to capture the stunning scenery for both our own memories and for the sake of the group’s social media, we decided to make a short stop and take advantage of the fact that our Sound Engineer, Will, had brought along his drone.

Scared that the scorching southern sun would burn us if we remained out of the shelter of our bus for too long, the group journeyed on through Alabama and over the state line into Georgia.

For lunch the group split up, half going to TGI Fridays and the other half going to Chilli’s restaurant. We each consumed our respective body weight in food to sustain us on our longest journey of tour, and pressed on for Beaufort.

We arrived at our hotel close to 10pm in the evening, a 12 hour journey if you include rest stops, and a few members of the group promptly went to bed after an exhausting trip. The majority of the group, however, gathered together to share Dominos pizza (not as good as the UK I might add) and watch some TV.

Chad x

Day 9:

A bright day in Beaufort, SC began with excessive laziness as the group had a lie in until 10am, deciding not to brave the sub-par hotel breakfast we have become all too familiar with. Instead, the decision was made to take a trip to the waterfront at Beaufort for an early lunch, to take in the views and to celebrate the birthday of our wonderful President, Henry Edwards, who was turning 21!

Beaufort did not disappoint! It was beautiful and the group made the most of this, walking along the side of the estuary and having a leisurely lunch in Panini’s On The Waterfront (don’t worry grammar nerds, I’m not uneducated, Panini is apparently a name and therefore the ‘s’ is possessive and thus has an apostrophe). It was here that Henry had his first legal drink in the USA – perhaps a little early in the day, but it’s 5 o’clock somewhere… Outside the restaurant, we met someone who was coming to our show that evening, who happened to have a baby goat called ‘Rabbit’ as a pet, which was utterly adorable, as was the puppy it had made best friends with.

We took a stroll along the high street and were amazed to see a traditional American town. It was at this point that we came across a store with our poster in their window. We got chatting to the store owner and upon request, performed the American National Anthem for her and passers-by in the street. It went down well, we even got applause from a family sat in a car across the street! We decided to reward ourselves with Frozen Yoghurt (or Fro-yo as the youth are calling it).

We rushed back briefly to our hotel before departing for the University of South Carolina and our venue for the show. Upon arrival, we found a lovely note for us from the venue attached to some treats to remind us of home, including liquorice, hob nobs and toffee!

Set up and soundcheck went swimmingly and there was a real buzz among the group. We had high hopes for the show but they were met by our amazing Beaufort audience who made it so much fun for us. Pat on the back for Tommy for pronouncing ‘Beaufort’ correctly (‘Beaufort’ like ‘beautiful’), as we were helpfully informed we would have been booed off stage if we had pronounced it any other way.

After the show, we came back to the hotel and after some final casual celebration for Henry’s birthday, we went to sleep in preparation for the drive to Aiken in the morning.

Ryan x