Who is Austin Vince?
A better question might be, Who is Austin Vince and what is he doing in the backyard at imogene + willie next Tuesday?
Quite simply, Vince is one of Europe’s most respected adventure motorcyclists. He’s also one of the funniest – not to mention a good friend of our buddy Patrick Keeler.
Patrick is a longtime supporter of i+w; not only that, he’s one of Matt’s fellow motorcycle fanatics and an all-around very nice guy. So when Patrick asked if Vince could share his stories of the road in our backyard next Tuesday, we were instantly on board.
After all, who are we to turn away what has been described as one of the best adventure rider shows in the UK? Additionally, Vince’s show promises to be about much more than just motorcycles. According to reports from his camp, it “covers a massive range of subjects from team building, low budget adventure biking, Spaghetti Westerns, Soviet iconography, ‘60s garage bands, and Super 8 cameras … Best of all, Austin’s message is totally aspirational and inclusive, as he hammers home the simple fact that anyone can motorcycle around the world on pretty much any machine.”
Needless to say, Vince isn’t a one-trick pony.
In honor of Vince’s upcoming presentation (he will be in our backyard the evening of Tuesday, May 8; more details below), he and Patrick emailed a bit last week, recalling not only their auspicious first meeting, as well as highlights of the amazing life of Austin Vince.
I first met Austin Vince in the fall of 1998. At the time, my band, The Greenhornes, were on tour and performing at a music festival called Cavestomp in New York City. Perfectly animated and smartly dressed, Austin was the de facto MC of this event, and with his blazing personality, cropped white hair and contagious enthusiasm, he completely stole the show.
I was convinced Austin was someone famous by the way he held court, and nervously proceeded to introduce myself. Turns out he was a math teacher from Britain on holiday who happened to have an extreme obsession for underground ‘60s rock & roll.
Last week, Austin and I emailed a little about this. Here’s are his memories on the subject:
I think it was in November 1998. It was at a theatre in NYC organized by Jon Weiss, former member of ‘80s garage band The Vipers. I had “tour managed” ? and the Mysterians when they did their first London show back in October ’98. They were being handled by Jon Weiss, who accompanied them over to London. Over the endless hours in the van and backstage, Jon and I became acquainted and I impressed him enough that he offered me the job of stage manager at his next Cavestomp garage rock event. I duly accepted, paid my own airfares, and worked myself up to the edge of a nervous breakdown trying to handle three nights (of shows) with five bands a night.
It was very stressful, but I got to meet my childhood heroes in person and backstage: The Monks, Standells, Chocolate Watch Band, The Gants, Syndicate of Sound, Richard and the Young Lions, and The Blues Magoos. Only Sal Valentino of the Beau Brummels was a disappointment. I watched him charge a senior fan $10 for an autograph. One of the highlights of the event was witnessing a very young band that literally blew me away. Their original songs were staggeringly good. They were called The Greenhornes.
About three years after that show, I got an email from Austin saying that he was riding a motorcycle around the world and would soon be in the United States:
In November 2001, I was just finishing off my second around-the-world motorcycle expedition. We had already ridden across Europe, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Russia and Siberia. We were the first team to actually ride the full width of Russia without putting our motorcycles on the train for the notorious Zilov Gap, a 400-mile stretch of swamp that caused a break in the otherwise complete Trans-Siberian Highway.
The last part of the trip was Japan followed by shipping our bikes to Vancouver, BC. Then we rode down to LA and then east to Baltimore and (took) a boat back to England. Incredibly, our itinerary almost exactly matched that of The Greenhornes, then on a West Coast tour. Hence, I got to see what had become my favourite U.S. band in Portland, OR; Los Angeles, CA; and Phoenix, AZ!
Austin later organized the first-ever Greenhornes tour of the UK. He booked all the gigs, got us the gear, and offered us travel and sleeping arrangements in his trusty van, “The Blue Magooo.” Another first for The Greenhornes: he somehow managed to shoot a music video:
I had always planed to support The Greenhornes on a UK tour, but after my seven months of traveling and not earning money, I was swamped by debt and was desperately trying to get my life on a better course. I had enough names in my address book to set up something like a ten-date UK tour. By then, I was back at school, teaching math, so I provided all the gear for the band, my van, and a former pupil of mine (age only 23) as their driver.
His name was Mr. David Viner. David took The Greenhornes the length and breadth of England, and, at the end of the tour, I used my contacts in the TV industry to blag a full sound studio in Camden, London, to shoot a pop video for them. It was a $15,000 production that with a lot of smiling and politeness we managed to bring in for about $400. It really was a ‘garage’ moment. But as a fan, it was simply my privilege to help get this terrific group as much exposure that a math teacher could.
In additional to being a fanatical garage rock devotee, a math teacher, a filmmaker, and an occasional bourbon drinker, Austin is also an Adventure Motorcyclist who has bravely conquered some of Mother Earth’s toughest terrain. He has been around the world twice on two wheels and has experienced it like no one else.
Mr. Vince asked me to organize a speaking event in Nashville where he can share these adventures – and knowing Austin, this will not be your typical vacation slideshow.
Austin Vince will be speaking on Tuesday, May 8, in the backyard at imogene + willie. Refreshments will be available starting at about 6, with Austin going on at dusk. Bring a blanket! Admission is a donation of $5 or more. All proceeds go directly to Austin, and are greatly appreciated.
Parents take note: Vince’s presentation is a really funny, wholesome show. However, viewer discretion is advised due to some adult subject matter.
For additional event details and updates, and for more background on Austin Vince, see the imogene + willie blog.