Day 12 – La Perouse French High School and Homeward Bound

This was it. Our final day on the Golden Coast. We had agreed the night before to wake up at 7am in order to arrive in San Francisco on time, this, however, proved more difficult than first considered. Many members of AtKM had submission deadlines for around 5am and as a consequence of this had been working through the night. Many cans of Red Bull only result in one thing. The crash! Some of the guys lay face down in their notes, others had literally slept where they studied. Luckily,we managed to leave at the correct time having to, once again pile all our luggage into three cars. Seriously, AtKM should really consider setting up a removals company to fund future tours!

We arrived in San Francisco on time and then took a tram to La Perouse French High School for our final gig and workshop. Once again my sense of direction was challenged and we ended up six blocks away from where we needed to be. Oh well, we needed the exercise after the burgers the day before.

The afternoon comprised of a workshop led by AtKM about singing, musicianship and beatboxing and for a group of under-18 year olds the talent was overwhelming! They picked up some of AtKM’s old classics (“Rave On” and “Black Eyed Peas”) so well that they ended up performing them in the concert. The concert was a great end to the tour with AtKM releasing some of their more dynamic and energetic songs for the upper part of the school. We then said our goodbyes and made a hasty dash to San Francisco Airport to get our flight.

I never sleep on flights but somehow twelve days of tour made me so tired that I slept the entire journey, along with everyone else. The empty flight was a blessing as it enabled us all to stretch out. When we touched down in London there was a glum look on everyone’s face as they looked at the reality of the exams, work and catching-up that lay before them, but what a tour it had been!

Cameron

Day 11 – Santa Cruz

As we awoke on Sunday, it seemed that the travails of the last ten days were finally catching up with the Men. It was an early start in order to leave Stanford and have our final group meal of the tour. This manifested itself in a brunch at the spectacular Counter restaurant, where we delighted in the ‘build your own burger’ set-up. As we ate, the tour awards were given out – highlights include Hugh winning the Hugh Benson award for the third time running, and Josh Darley coming away with the highly coveted Noah Mosley prize.

After much merriment and thank yous to all those involved in organising our fabulous tour, we left for Santa Cruz. The group was apparently revitalised by the meal, as shown by our willingness to invent games on our journey. Before our initial train journey we resorted to a game of catch with a pair of lemons, before they exploded onto the train tracks. Next came what will possibly be the most far-reaching phenomenon to be conceived by AtKM: the invention of the Samsonite X-treme Vortex Case Curling Challenge. It is expected that this will become a global obsession over the next few weeks, so we won’t reveal the details just yet… We arrived in Santa Cruz at around 4.30 o’clock, where we were met by the resident acapella group Acquire, who we would be singing with later. They were a fantastic group and loads of fun, but their name caused a fair amount of confusion initially… ‘ok you’re in a choir, but which one?’ Once we had got this out of the way, we were taken up to the beautiful campus, situated in the middle of a redwood forest.

In the evening we had a brilliant gig to a room packed with audience members on sofas and arm chairs; a relaxed and intimate affair. After each of our sets, we collaborated with Acquire on a couple of numbers, and their bubbling energy certainly rubbed off on us during the massed rendition of ‘Lean On Me’ which ended the show. All in all, it was a great finale to our tour of California’s universities. We headed back what was in essence the Acquire house for food, drink, and for several members, coursework. The music mid-term deadline was at around 5 o’clock American time, and our action packed schedule hadn’t allowed for much preparation, so it was a long night for some. Others got a reasonably early night for the long day to follow. The remaining company enjoyed a night of song, dance, and beating the Americans at their own game – a 3-1 flip-cup thrashing. A triumphant day.

Tom A

 

Day 10 – Stanford

After yet another night of partying and “hot-tubbing”, this time with friendly members of the student body at Berkeley (Go bears!), the men awoke in two different places to two completely polar circumstances. The younger men of the group had been taken to the home of our host and ‘mother bear’, and were greeted in the morning by fresh pancakes with a choice of beef, bacon or eggs. The mature members of the group, who had stayed on at the co-op (halls of residence) where the party had taken place the night before, received a rather more friendly welcome; Several members co-op considered it appropriate to share the contours of their bodies in unexpected detail with the men. A speedy exit was made!

The group reconvened bleary eyed and burdened with ever weary-some luggage to catch the BART (Bay area rapid transportation system, aka metro), destination – Stanford. The journey itself was simple – a 50-minute ride on the BART followed by another 30-minute train ride. The execution proved a little more complex. Although All the King’s men arrived at Stanford train station (aka Palo Alto), only eight of the members successfully made it off the train. The newly formed KCL Men’s Octet continued, heads held high with the smug feeling that they had demonstrated the initiative and intelligence suited to such prestigious surroundings. The remaining quartet continued their train journey; at this point unaware that this would not be their only remedial achievement of the day. Upon successfully alighting the train at California Avenue, the quartet with a combined UCAS point score of over 2000, settled in a coffee shop and devised a plan on the back of napkin. After much thought and deliberation a taxi was called – Crisis averted….

…. well, you would have thought so, but the now infamous quartet achieved a feat unrivalled in the history of transportation blunders! They managed to “miss the taxi” – I’m sure you’ll agree, a truly remarkable accomplishment, even on some of the harshest spectrums of idiocy. To cut a long and frankly embarrassing story short, the quartet did eventually make it to Stanford (via bus), looking rather sheepish and sharing a reluctance to speak of the experience they had shared away from the remainder of the group.

After reconvening and deciding to settle our artistic differences and reform All the King’s men, the group split in search of food. Those with time were then able to enjoy the beautiful surroundings of Stanford and the aptly accompanying weather conditions, whilst caught up on some of their studies.

The time to refresh, in combination with another epic warm up from our ever enigmatic MD Henry S, that culminated in possibly the most energetic version of “rubber chicken” (Don’t Ask!) the group has known, left us in high spirits for what would be an exciting evening performing with Fleet Street and the Stanford Harmonics. In the chilled surroundings of a café located centrally on campus, all three groups performed to an intimate audience who left in a buoyant mood. We met our excellent hosts (the Stanford Harmonics) becoming more acquainted before yet another evening of partying – Life can be so tough in ATKM!

Tom H

Day 9 – Berkeley

The morning of day 9 was never going to be that nice after a big a rave as a band camp party, and waking up to at least half the group strewn across a lounge floor was now becoming the norm. As was becoming a running theme of the tour, someone wasn’t to be seen, this time being Hugh Benson. Having finally identified him in the mesh of bodies we set off to catch the train to Berkeley where we enjoyed the delicacy of bagels and cream cheese prepared on top of Angus’s work. Angus was not happy…

After the relatively short train journey we arrived in Berkeley clad in full AtKM gear including hoodies. This brilliant idea was quickly snubbed as many of, myself included, immediately broke into a quite unforgiving sweat on our walk to our accommodation led by the event organiser, Karen.

We dropped our stuff off and Tom H had given us all an interpretation of plainsong we headed towards the beautiful campus of Berkeley to promote the evening concert with the Berkeley group The Overtones by performing a couple of our songs. If was here where probably the best line of the tour so far was said, when a certain James Way, whilst introducing our final piece, slightly confused the name of the concert “A cappella against Aids” with “Aids against A cappella” bringing slightly more laughs than Henry Southern’s “You can take us home if you want….if you buy our CD for £10!”.

After this performance we had the rare privilege of having a few hours off. Another rarity was having our first salad of tour, the shock of which left some of the group needing a sleep in the basking sun. The rest of us headed toward The Campanile (the 3rd tallest bell and clock tower in the world) in order to see the stunning views from the top. We were not disappointed, especially for the photographers of our group who took some quite stunning pictures of the entire bay area with the mist-clad Golden Gate Bridge in the far distance. After that I retreated to a cafe to do some long overdue work whilst others went to buy Berkeley memorabilia which we were told expressively not to wear in Stanford the next day.

We later reconvened at 5pm in order to give ourselves more than enough time to head back to our accommodation and get changed in time for our upcoming concert. The slight problem, however, was that we had the wrong set of keys which led to an impromptu performance of Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek” outside the house, accompanied by the barking of the neighbour’s dog, whilst we waited for the right set of keys . Particular thanks must go to Cameron who, having run to find the keys, then preceded to iron not one, but all our blue shirts when we eventually got into the house which left him being awarded the title of Most Domesticated Member.

Having just had a few hours off and already having one performance under our belts, all of us were a bit tired and restless whilst in our changing room before our performance. Luckily, however, Henry Southern was on hand to produce another inspirational team talk and with an extra loud rendition of Rubber Chicken we were ready to perform. In the concert itself we had the privilege of not only performing first but also having front row seats. It was another demonstration of the exceptionally high standards of the American a cappella scene with all the groups showing their own unique style. Congratulations must go to Karen and her team for pulling off a fantastic concert for such a brilliant cause.

Some of us had chosen to sleep in a house over a Co-op thinking that it was the supermarket as such my group headed back to our accommodation to change before heading to the after party. The Co-op, it turned out, was not a supermarket and in fact boasted a hot tub that, by the time my group had got to the party, half of all the king’s men were already in with Josh Darley serenading Karen with Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On”. The rest of us found ourselves drawn towards the classic game of Connect 4 as we proceeded to trounce our US a cappella compatriots.

As the day drew to a close, we headed back to the house whilst conversing about such topics as the rivalry between Berkley and Stamford and why you would need pockets in your shoes…

The evening ended especially well for one of our members with a romantic setting equipped with lit candles, a comfy bed, a rose petal and a giant cuddly toy lion named Francois. It was the perfect finish to a perfect day.

Day 8 – UC Davis

The day begun waking up from what was at the time, and what would possibly prove to be, the best night’s sleep of the tour. After several days struggling with the symptoms of sleep deprivation- which included grounchiness and moaniness- a good rest was good for morale. Cameron Carr is currently researching further remedies for lack of cooperation.
Some group members spent the morning by some taking in San Francisco’s finest tourist attraction. The Bay Area proved worthwhile for our budding tourists- with sublime views across the inlet of the Golden Gate Bridge to savor. Aspiring Wildlife Photographer of the Year Josh Darley made the most of the opportunity by snapping the seals which inhabit the shores. David Attenborough has put him on hold.

Others toiled away at work/ proved that joint study sessions are not altogether efficient/ that tour is not the most productive working environment. And after an unusually free morning we embarked on our journey in good spirits.
That was, until, we almost lost half of the group. After disembarking the train we had been travelling on, half the group turned round to see the train pulling out of the station… but no sign of the rest of the members. Confusion ensued. As this was the last stop we were not sure what would happen to the train- it was possible that half of the group would end up stranded in a secluded train depot. I was not in the contingent that was stuck on the train but I am told that the language used in response was choice. And French. As men who make their own luck, however, it prevailed that the train was just moving to the end of the platform… but for a moment…

The rest of the day continued without a hitch. Our hosts were lively and enthusiastic. Certainly one of the more entertaining car journeys of tour- complete with German techno and a ride in the boot of a car.
The gig itself- with the Lounge Lizards- was as enjoyable and high-octane as the after party. We were surprised when, as part of the festivities, a whistle was blown signaling the entire gathering to undress to semi-nakedness. We questioned whether this was a usual occurrence or whether it was the effect All the King’s Men had on people. We were informed it was a regular occurrence.

Hugh

Day 7 – Chanticleer

Waking up with the knowledge that you are a YouTube sensation is incredible. The 28 views that we gained over night for our beach boys-esque video made us feel like celebrities. After a quick breakfast we went in search of Ron Burgundy in downtown San Diego.

Not being able to find the panda to see if she had given birth yet we caught the bus to the airport, on the way being serenaded by a plain song chanting drunk guy who told us to be careful in San Fran”si-si”co. Hugh Benson felt at home in the plane come bar with appropriate mood lighting courtesy of Richard Branson and enjoyed a Virgin special Swasson nuff-nuff on the house. This was the end of part one of our tour beautifully rounded off with a rendition of Walking in Memphis across the intercom to our fellow passengers on the way to San Francisco.

We arrived at the European Hostel, given 1.5 stars on TripAdvisor.com, in one of the shadiest parts of town seeing another side to the world’s richest country. This evening there wasn’t a gig; instead we were meeting with one of America’s top a cappella groups, Chanticleer. We had a taste of what life for AtKM will be like in the future with a tour of their offices and a chat with some of the group in the board room. We were then taken down to the basement and performed to five members of the group who then offered us invaluable advice which we could take away and work on. Perhaps the best advice given was the route to Buck’s Tavern where we had burgers, fries and soda, just for a change. We met many lovely single San Franciscan ladies but unfortunately none were interested. More interested were the guys who came over telling us how much they loved England and our king…

We got back to the hostel, our heads hit the pillow and we were out. Another day in Californian touring like royalty.

Josh

Day 6 – UCSD

Waking up in Reverse Osmosis’ house was certainly a treat. AtKM have requested that one of our soon to be famous alumni kindly buys us a pad in central London to rival the luxury afforded to our USC counterparts. Once Tom (but which one?) returned from strengthening the Anglo-American relations with one of our female fans, and Jonny lavished us with some lovely bagels, we were ready for a brief rehearsal before heading to UCSD.

Before we hopped on the train to San Diego, the Men had a brief opportunity to do some last minute shopping in LA. Notably Tomos, after his disastrous day recently losing various bits and bobs, acquired a new camera battery – the Men were now sharpening up their act to make sure they looked their best as T-man was trigger happy on the camera for the rest of the day; boys and their toys! Also Angus (or Haggis as he is now known in the States) bought a new harpsichord (code name for the AtKM America football) as the first one didn’t even make it on the plane over! May Harpsichord Mark 1 rest in peace in the depths of Somerset House.

After a relaxing journey to San Diego on the Amtrak trains (I thought we were sitting in first class!) we were enthusiastically greeted by our hosts, the UCSD Trebles (an all female group). For the rest of the afternoon we gave harpsichord its first run around on the beach at the beautiful Scripps Pier. Many of the Men – despite warnings from our hosts about the cold temperatures – also went for a refreshing swim in the Pacific. The jolly afternoon on the beach was topped off with some of the guys singing their stunning version of ‘Somewhere Beyond the Sea’ with lots of tomfoolery ☺ Check it out here: http://youtu.be/6DXR8JXkz88

A quick change and a bite to eat at the UCSD food court (for the first time this trip we managed to avoid pizza and burgers, trying the delights of burritos or a Chinese at the infamous Panda Express!) and the Men were ready for what turned out to be a cracking gig! Our hosts, the Trebles, as well as putting on a yummy spread for all participants and spectators (thank goodness ex-AtKMer Noah Mosley wasn’t there to gobble up all the cakes and chocolate!), sang beautifully and we were truly impressed by the high standard of singing by all the groups at UCSD which also included: The Tritones and the aptly named, Acamazing! Post-gig we were delighted, as ever, to speak to some of the people who attended the performance. We were in for treat, however, as we also got the opportunity to meet some students on exchange from the UK who kindly came to support us.

Afterwards we were grateful for a quiet night and celebrated our joint concert at the UCSD campus bar. Our hosts were so accommodating and we were honoured to discover that we are the first UK group they have hosted. They were amazing and we certainly hope to return the favour in the future. Bring on San Francisco tomorrow!

Henry

Day 5 – USC

Day 5 of our epic US tour kicked of with the men scattered all over Santa Barbara, as always the assigned time and place for meeting was forgotten but eventually the men met up at Drew’s house – possibly the coolest guy we’ve ever met. San Barbara had the feel of a town which was always on holiday and run by the students. We were, therefore, sad to leave this hip sun swept town and head back to LA.

Another long train journey was made slightly more exciting my a man having a heart attack, hopefully this was not brought on by ATKM singing but one can never be sure! Public transport was not on ATKMs side with our singing once more being halted – clearly the bus driver didn’t want to ‘get it on!’

A hummer greeted us at our next stop – USC. The outdoor gig in the ‘archways’ saw our set much improved with all the guys feeling the groove and singing their a cappella hearts out. Anither splendid gig!

It’s the little things which make ATKM tours special. Tom A’s spectacular fall over his bag in the centre of LA was defiantly one of these! Bring on day 6!

John

Day 4 – Haggis Writes the Blog

As the single least witty member of All the King’s Men, it is a source of great bemusement as to why I have been tasked with recounting the events of Day 4.  But oh! what a day 4 it was!

Having enjoyed our first college gig the previous night, 11 of the 12 men reconvened in the morning, each with the same pressing question. And not of the ‘where-are-we-going-and-why?’ ilk, or ‘who’s going to get the bagels?’, but more importantly: ‘Where the hell is Josh Cooter?’ Little did we know that he had been soundly asleep like the baby of the group he is in our generous host’s room, and had probably slept better than the rest of us. Leaving the Claremont College’s amazing hospitality behind, we were flattered to be recognised at the station by some locals, before hopping onto a double decker train back to LA. This was followed by an enjoyable 3 hour bus journey up the beautiful route 101 to Santa Barabara, where we would be privileged enough to perform with the four a cappella groups of UCSB.

The word ‘chilled’ doesn’t really do justice to the afternoon, and it was just what the doctor ordered. An informal and relaxed joint concert was combined with some exceptionally high standards in a cappella singing, and gave the Men a real insight to just how big the genre is out here. Special mention here must go to man of the march Tom Hindmarch, who managed to seduce a girl onto the stage mid-performance before Hugh Benson. This was followed by a trip to Giovanni’s for some really quite lovely pizzas with our hosts, and was definitely NOT our second such excursion in as many days.

As receptions go, the UCSB guys certainly do not disappoint, as was reflected by the after-party at which all the groups present. Choicest highlights of the day include:

  • Breakfast bagels with cream cheese (followed by fruit for lunch)
  • Impromptu performances of ‘Walking in Memphis’ at station platforms
  • (Mexican cab driver to AtKM:) ‘I wouldn’t worry about the sharks, they don’t go for white guys… only Mexicans’
  • (Angus when meeting host) ‘Hi, I’m Angus’… ‘Ah hey, great to meet you Haggis’
  • John Roberts’ new imitative dance game which, having begun with 4 AtKM members, finished with an Anglo-American coalition effort of over 20.
  • Sleep

Angus

Day 3 – Angus tells a joke

With our bodies gradually adjusting to the eight-hour time difference, most of us surfaced at a more reasonable time. In the ‘freshers’ dorm, Josh Cooter and James had a little violent disagreement over the right to the first shower – the law of shotgun, it seems, does not always hold true… Priority should, of course, have gone to the birthday boy Tom Aldren, who was instead serenaded with one of the worst renditions of ‘Happy Birthday’ in recent memory.

While the ‘old men’ of the group elected to stay at the hostel, catching up with the ‘LAGs’ (Lovers And Girlfriends) or reading a spot of D. H. Lawrence, the rest hopped on the bus for an essential session of retail therapy. With soothing jazz music piped through the speakers it was a gentle start to the morning, as the boys stocked up on hot-weather clothes. James is smugly pleased with his new, offensively blue Levi shoes, which he picked up at a steal for $15.

In what was to prove the order of the day, the management team were late back from shopping, resulting in two missed buses for the other shoppers. It later transpired they were buying Tom’s birthday present, a Spongebob Squarepants T-shirt. The missed buses and subsequent late departure meant that we were unable to catch our train to Mont Clare and had to resort to a bus. Cameron’s much-maligned sense of direction was once again put to the test; after once again dicing with death on the freeway, we found the bus stop. To pass the time, some wit came up with the idea of inserting Hugh Benson’s name into various well-known song titles. Despite some absolute crackers, honourable mention goes to Tom Hindmarch for the Baha Men classic ‘Who Let the Dogs Out’ (Hugh! Hugh! Hugh!).

The bus journey itself was highly eventful. Not only did we witness the LAPD pulling a car over in a scene straight out of ‘Traffic Cops’, but the bus was delayed by HALF AN HOUR by a passenger who insisted on putting his bike on the front. This meant we missed our first performance of the day, a small outdoor set in order to promote our concert that evening. On the bright side, Angus, Jonny and Cameron got talking to a rather intimidating, tattooed man who raps under the alias of AntiComma, and soon discovered the value of the old adage ‘Never judge a book by its cover’ after swapping stories of home life, music and beer.

At last we arrived at Mont Clare, home of Claremont College. After dropping off our bags we were taken for dinner at a pizzeria by two of the six groups performing that night, Mood Swing and the Shades. The difference between a cappella in the USA and the UK is staggering. Whereas ATKM are one of only two groups at King’s College London – the other being our talented female counterparts The King’s Chix – Claremont College has TEN. The hosts from Mood Swing and the Shades welcomed us warmly and had a rare understanding of British sarcasm. Angus was even emboldened to try one of his stock six jokes on the Mood Swings’ MD, Laura; it has to be said that this was only the second time such a joke has got the desired reaction. Our performance that evening to a packed theatre of 700 people went down a storm, with several people remarking that ‘the English boys are going to get lucky tonight’. They were roundly disappointed to learn that only five of the Men are single! The level of applause we received was astounding, with a standing ovation at the end of our set. The afterparty rounded off the evening nicely, with drink and conversation flowing in equal measure. Several of the Men went with Mood Swing to the famous IHOP pancake bar in the small hours of the morning. It was a good experience but probably a step too far for our stomachs, with many promises to eat healthily the next day. Without wishing to embarrass too many of the men – now why would we want to do that?? – the whereabouts of several of the tenor section were unknown for much of the night. (Pauline, before you ask, Tomos was on his best behaviour!)

Tomorrow we head to Santa Barbara for a performance with Naked Voices. Many thanks to our hosts from Mood Swing and the Shades for giving us lifts, paying for our supper and generally ensuring we had an amazing time. Also we want to say a massive THANK YOU to everyone who’s reading the blog, and we hope you enjoy reading about our adventures in California over the next week and a half!

Jonny

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