On Tour With Watford’s Biggest Musician Fan... Not Named Elton

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This article originally appeared in the September 23rd issue of our newsletter, The Raven. Subscribe HERE.  

We don’t want to name names or point fingers, but some people occasionally label Watford as a cookie cutter club. The fact that the sterile confines of Vicarage Road look like a big box store from the outside does not help. But the truth is, if this season’s Liverpool play Heavy Metal Football, then Walter Mazzarri’s Watford is at least Rock N’ Roll. Only Liverpool, Arsenal and City have scored more goals through five games than Watford’s 10. 

But The Hornets’ rock ethos extends off the pitch beyond Étienne Capoue, Troy Deeney and even Harry the Hornet (we see you working, Harry). The club’s most famous fan is the Rocket Man himself, Elton John. One of Watford’s biggest fans on these shores is an English guitarist who now makes his home down the Jersey Shore. Ian Perkins is the guitar player for Brian Fallon and The Crowes, one of JW’s favorite bands. He’s also one of the gents behind Asbury Park FC clothing line. In honor of Watford’s back-to-back wins, including last week’s 3-1 thumping of Manchester United, we wanted to know how a musician copes with the ups and downs of Premier League fandom on the road. We asked for his Three Best Football Stories from The Road. You can read them below. Rock Stars. When it comes to football … they’re just like us.

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Ian Writes:
1. Easily my favourite recent memories of watching Watford on tour have been the last two weeks. After finishing a European tour up at Reading/Leeds festival and being so close to Vicarage Road for the Arsenal game, not going was nearly as heartbreaking as the result. I got to stay home with family for a week or so, but it lined up with the international break so no Hornets for me.

We then flew back to the West Coast to start our U.S. tour, and after a shaky start to the season, Watford were back with an away game at West Ham's new stadium. Anyone who follows the Premier League on the West Coast knows the drill. Waking up at 6 a.m. and watching your team lose is no way to start the day, so when Watford were 2-0 down my day was already over. Then the goals start flowing, we win 4-2 and I'm walking around like I own LA.

Two days later we play the Late Late Show with James Corden, we know he's a huge Hammers fan so our friends at Fender manage to find a Steve Harris signature bass for us to give him. It has a huge West Ham badge on the front and he looks genuinely happy when we hand it over to him, calling his mate into the room to show it off. His face then changes as he says, "We were awful at the weekend though!" That was all I needed to hear, the perfect setup that any underdog football fan dreams of. I replied, "Yeah, I know. I'm a Watford fan. We were just too good."

Thoughts soon turned to the next game, Manchester United at home. I spend the whole day before telling everyone who will listen how we are going to get beaten but I'll still wake up at 5:30 a.m. to see my boys play some of the world’s best players. Hopefully we can get one goal and make a good game of it. 6 a.m. rolls around and I'm awake in my new home shirt, drinking coffee and hoping for the best. As the game starts, we are driving from Texas to Oklahoma, so I'm relying on tour bus WiFi. But right after kickoff we hit a huge storm and the signal drops. Thankfully I have a good support network. There's so few Watford fans that we all know each other. I have family at the game giving me updates, the NYC Hornets are sending me videos and then Capoue scores and my phone goes mental. We pull out of the storm during half time and regain signal so I can watch my boys put on an epic display, winning 3-1, with Deeney smashing home a penalty in injury time and everyone knows it's beyond United. I'll be talking about this game for the rest of the season and maybe, just maybe, it will take the place of my Liverpool story from when we beat them last season. Watford fans have never had it so good. 

2. Watching Premier League games on the West Coast is tough but not so long ago Watford were just another team in the Championship with only three sides to our stadium. Catching games live was almost impossible. May 2013 we were on tour in Australia, and Watford are in a semi final second leg game against Leicester. We start 1-0 down from the first leg but we are home and up for it. I check the TV listings, the game is on. I check the time difference, it's going to be late evening. I check our set time, it's the same time. Don't get me wrong I love to play music and it's all I ever want to do but the one thing that might make me not want play is a semi final game where we win, it’s a trip to Wembley and we lose, its another season in the Championship. I play the whole show not knowing the score but it's in my mind the whole time. All the different scenarios are playing in my head, most are bad. We finish the set and I run off stage, grab my phone and it's 2-2! EXTRA TIME! I get the TV on and me and the boys watch what might be the greatest few minutes of Watford football ever. An injury time penalty for Leicester, a double save from Almunia and I'm losing my mind. Blow the whistle, let's take it to penalties. I think I flipped a table over and then someone says "I think Watford are going to score"! What?! DEEENEEYYYY! Troy Deeney in the dying seconds of the game smashes in one of the best goals of all time and instantly becomes a legend. If you haven't seen that goal you have to look it up, then watch the Sky Sports commentator forget how to speak, that's how good it was.   

3. Not every football memory involves an actual game. A few years back we have a day off in Cincinnati before we play a show the next day. USA are hosting Mexico in a World Cup qualifier in Columbus but just too far for us to go. We watch the game in the bar, USA wins and we don't think anything else of it. The next day at the show I take a beer to Danny our merch guy and he starts telling me that there's a football fan wandering around trying to find me and if I don't want to talk to him I should leave. Someone wants to talk football? I'm not leaving. Turns out the fan was USA kit man and all round legend Jesse Bignami. We find each other and the conversation starts with an introduction and a picture of him and Klinsman on the bench at the game the day before. He instantly becomes my new best friend. We talk for a while and he answers all my questions about the new kits and footballs that I never thought I'd know the answers to. Then he asks me "who's your team?" I tell him and without hesitation he says "Jay DeMerit's team?! I'm going to text him right now!". Wait, what? My new friend is about to text Jay "Captain America" DeMerit, captain, goal scorer and man of the match from the 2006 playoff final?! He texts back and offers to show us around if we make it to Vancouver, his new home.

Later in the year we end up making it to Vancouver and went out to dinner with Jay, the same day that Ted Talks were holding their annual event. We meet up at a hotel and are surrounded by academics from all over the world, talking about things I have no knowledge of. I'm completely out of my depth until Jay leans over and asks "is there anything you wanted to know about Watford?" Yes Jay, yes there is.

I'm lucky enough to call Jesse and Jay friends of mine now, every now and again I have to pinch myself that this is my life and being a Watford fan really isn't that bad.