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!