SUMMER EUROPE TOUR 2005 PART ONE
Five years ago we did our first tour of Europe, and have been to Europe every summer since then in some capacity. It's 2010 now, and European tours for us, while not as posh as some might suppose, are still a far cry from the psychic attrocities that took place on a daily basis on our first trip across the pond as a band. Since nothing funny is happening on this tour we're on right now, I felt it would be a good idea to re-visit what things were like for us a mere five years ago.
The story of this fabled trip begins sometime in the late spring of 2005. Damian and Jonah had been working on their other band at the time Pink Eye, who had just played a show in Chicago. At this point we were already dealing with the pressures of transitioning between a stuck up aesthetic hardcore band, to a full fledged sell-out professional violin friending touring machine. I had played in a band previous to Fucked Up, and had been on a threadbare tour in Europe before, and at this point I was still really punk, so the prospect of touring across the industrial wastelands of Germany and the cultural labyrinths of Benelux offered to me endless delight. We had a mission statement as a band that we would "never tour", but just having completed succesfull tours of the East and West coasts of the US, we decided to just bite the bullet and try our luck in Europa. We didn't have a booking agent at this point, and relied on what was known as the "international diy community" and thus made contact with one Rolf, who played in the band Hellstrom, from somewhere in Germany, and who we had never actually met or gotten any real references from. I would take long lunch breaks at my job at the lightbulb factory to check email frantically to put the final details in place for the tour. Even before we had been to europe, we were "so over" conventional stops like Germany and the Netherlands, and so the only instructions I would ever give Rolf would be to book us in the craziest places he could get in contact with. When we got the tour manifest and saw that included places like Prague, Belgrade, Macedonia and Slovakia, we licked our lips in anticipation of the trip.
In the weeks leading up to the tour, there were some fracturous developments within the band, as there always where during those dark times. Lots of fights, arguments and attemps to sabotage. I can remember several "I'm not doing this" fights after we had bought our plane tickets. When I got a call from Damian 2 weeks before our tour, while he was in Chicago, explaining to me why he couldn't do the tour, it was no real surprise and we moved ahead with a different singer without hesitation. It actually brought resolution to a bunch of fights we'd all been having, and as we sat down as a band to discuss who the replacement singer would be, we left the meeting in the best union we'd been for ages.
This event would however set the tone for the rest of the tour. None of us saw it as foreshadowing that we'd had to deal with a major crisis before we even got on the airplane. We calmly just plunked down for a 6th plane ticket and merrily packed our bags.
I hadn't been on an airplane in a while and at this point for some reason didn't have any anxiety about flying. I can remember saying something about "never getting on an airplane again" after 9/11, and I think I managed to hold out until this trip. Meaning that in 2005 I still had yet to perfect any of my OCD pre-take off rituals that extend to visualizing the take off weeks before the flight, running around the city trying to get high strength anti-anxiety pills without a perscriptions, and obsessive packing in order to make every preparation. It was as a result of my lax attitude toward the lottery of the skies that I was able to show up at the airport with the wrong passport. My old passport had expired in May of that year, but I for some reason carried it around in the same pocket of my backpack as my new passport, probably because I liked looking at it and remembering that once I had crossed the border between Hungary and The Czech Republic, or that once I had boarded and airplane bound for Washington DC (for a protest!).
When I handed the ticket agent the expired passport my brain immediately honed in on the exact location of the correct one - on my desk at home - as I started sweating and playing out scenarios in which somehow I ended up making it on a plane that day. There are lots of ways to wiggle at the airport, but an expired passport is a dead-end.
I called my only friend who owned a car, who also had doubled as our roadie for the last few years. He was at work but agreed to take a break in order to break into my house to grab the passport, hand it off to Josh's girlfriend, who would drive through rush hour traffic to the airport to try and get it to me on time. And by on time I mean that my gate was closing in 30 minutes. You should understand that this is the story of a diy hardcore band touring through Europe. As you will see later, adding expense was not an option - there would be no buying of another flight, no taking a cab back to my house, no re-routing or taking the train from London. As the attendend starting to book me alternate flights that day, and the invisible green dollar signs started hammering down on my forehead, we waited for traffic updates from Stef. 25 minutes later, my backwindow freshly smashed, it somehow looked like we were going to actually make it. We turned to see Stef run through an empty terminal, I threw it baton-like at the attendant, who got me on one of those golf carts you see in airports but never get to use, and that chariot raced through the terminal towards the gate. I was the last person on the plane.
The first day of tour for us now is as a rule the chillest. Half of us have already been there for a few days on vacation, and are chipper and ready to hit the road. Back then the first day was always the longest and most hellish. This would have been the case on this tour as well, since day 1 was one of the most arduously boring days of my life, but it would pale in comparison to what we'd go through on the days that followed.
We'd arranged through a friend of Jonah's to hire a 16 year old dutch kid named Martine to drive us. He'd never done a tour before, and his first day was an 800 kilometer drive from the airport in Amsterdam, to Copenhagen, with a stop in Hamburg to pick up our gear. We also learned that day that he chained smoked, had gotten his license a few weeks before the tour started, and lived in Haarlem, which is the poshest suburb in the entire great nation of Holland. He also really liked bands like Antidote and The Abused and that stuff, and pretty much hated every other kind of music. He was also mean in a perfectly Dutch way. He immediately started making fun of us in the airport waiting room, and then drove us to his mansion in Haarlem so we could rest up for our intense drive the next day.
That night we played at OCCII in Amsterdam. It was awful and should be forgotten. We were still tired and jetlagged, and hadn't done many practice with our replacement singer Michael (The Beav). Dutch people aren't subtle, and they let Beav know how they felt about the show afterwards - that he was terrible, subhuman, etc. Not a pretty sight.
In America we were in control enough to be able to book a tour with no stupid drives. We've been touring nonstop for like 5 years now, and have still never had to dead-head it across the country. The longest drive we've ever had to do was like 14 hours between San Fransisco and Portland, and a similar drive through the rockies between Vancouver and Edmonton. Those are the high water marks of distance abuse for us on the continent. In Europe it's different because Europeans are different, have different schedules and weird rules. Thats why last week we drove through Cologne 3 times in 3 days on our way to 3 different cities all within a days drive of Cologne (and almost every other city on the continent). That's why I once had to drive over night non-stop from Vienna to Rome. Europeans will tell you it's because of vacation, and that "everyone is away there right now so you can't play", but really it's because they hate you and want to watch you drive 19 hours a day for no good reason, as you drive by 15 ancient cultural centers and perfectly good places to play a concert, on the way to where your show us. So thats why the first drive of our tour drove through 4 or 5 places we could have played instead (and 3 that we would play later on that tour).
We left at around 6 in the morning, and got to Hamburg in time for rush our. We had to go through a long tunnel that was jammed and sat there for an hour and read newspaper articles about terrorism. We loaded the van up with the biggest amps we'd seen in our life and got back on the road. At midnight, we finally arrived in Copenhagen, watching the lit Tivoli signs blur by as we raced to make our set time. We didn't have proper directions, because this was before ipod translator aps, and GPS machines, so we had a book full of broken english directions and half-printed and pixelated road maps to try and make sense of. Asking people out the window for directions was harrowing at the best of times, but tonight we were looking for a squat, and go no help. We circled a few blocks for 20 minutes, on the phone with the promotor who toyed with us, telling us to look for "a giant park" and that it would be around there.
Somehow we made it and set up and went straight on stage. We were excited to be in what was at that time the international center of DIY punk. Ugndomhuset, which has been covered on this blog in the past, was a great place to play if you were a cool Danish punk band. If you were a bunch of future-sports fans from Canada, no one cared. Lots of people showed up to hang out in the back room and drink cider and be beautiful. We played to a handful of people, spending most of the set wondering what everyone was talking about in the other room.
We slept in the squat that night - our room was where the police scanners were. Because there could be a raid at any moment, someone had to stay up all night every night and listen to the police scanner. We thought maybe that was a tad dramatic that night, but then a few years later the building was raided by the police and torn down. Apparently the room was haunted or something as well.