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Saturday, December 04, 2010

TOUR IS OVER IF YOU WANT IT

Hello everyone - greetings from balmy London, where the only thing colder than the temperatures are the sandwiches, and the only thing cloudier than the skies are the mango chutneys. We've always had a thing about bringing great climate scenarios over to the motherland when we come - every summer the clouds part as our plane lands and don't conspire to rain or cover the entire time we're over. Well this time we got our pay back in spades. But more on that later. For now just sit back and let me regale you with tales from the harsh European circuit.

My journey started in London...me and Jonah like to go over there early whenever possible, because of our metrosexual cosmopolitan dispositions, plus I guess his wife lives over here? Anyhow I flew over on my own so I could take sips of wine on the plane without anyone from the band knowing and because it's a bit less stressful. I reserved my seat in advance and bingo'd the bulkhead. Unfortunately, as I learned when I got on, great minds think a like and slotted down between 2 septegenarians who were already trying to rustle themselves to sleep. My speaker input jack was broken so I had to watch Cyrus while keeping the cable slightly in and slightly out of the jack while trying not to spill my vegetarian dinner (curry with rice and a side of cold rice salad...genius) all over my lap while under the influence of 3 1mg ativan tablets.

A few days of lounging in London and we flew over to Lisbon. As you may recall, our original show there with The Arcade Fire got cancelled because of a NATO convention happening there the next day, so that was annoying. Luckily like 5 dudes name Joah were able to throw together a replacement show for us on short notice, which was great. We love Portugal and hope to come back very soon. The next day in Porto was also great, although honestly the only thing I can remember is standing in the middle of a giant street party happening right outside of our hotel at 2am and trying two kinds of Port at the same time. Both were gross.

We got up at a leisurely hour because we are an indie/punk/hardcore band, to make our like 8 hour drive from Porto to Madrid. Tonight was the first night opening for AF and we were all pumped/terrified. Not because we get stage fright or anything or have these legit musican aspirations that would make us nervous for our important performance, but we all have this 6th sense for incoming stress levels and nothing increases our stress levels than having deadlines, appointments, having to work together as a team to solve problems, or having to be on time for things. We were supposed to get to the venue at around 4pm to soundcheck for an 8pm set. When we finally got to the jammed outskirts of Madrid it was pushing 7pm and we had like an entire towns worth of traffic to push through. Plus the venue was a stadium so it wasn't like we could just pull up to the one entrance and drive in. We drove by the place like 5 times trying to get through various police check points and intersections and ended up driving all the way to the other side of town just trying to turn around. Somehow at like 730 we gave up and managed to park the van beside a subway stop so that handlers from the venue could come pick us up for an escort. 15 minutes later two guys saunter towards the van and point to this tiny Euro style van that we immediately follow through some highway catacombs of Madrid that lead us right behind the stage. Our mouths all got a little dry as we tried to maintain our composure while we quickly loaded our gear directly onto the stage in front of a rapidly filling 15,000 capacity arena with the lights still on and no music playing. Feeling thousands of pairs of eyes bore into our backs as we tried to set up as inconspicuously as possible, we realized maybe we'd bit of a bit more than we could chew. Things were ok once we started playing..the lights went off and even though no one had ever heard of us, when we were playing people kind of politely went along with it. If you opened and closed your eyes fast enough to let in the light and smoke in the proper quantities you could kind of trick yourself into believing you were somewhere you belonged.

After the set we made our way to somewhere we definitely all belong - catering. We assumed the food would be pretty good on the tour, but it was flat out great. They hired this company to cook a full men of fresh meals every day. We got there late so they could have told us too bad - instead there was 8 meals put aside for us, as well as 3 desserts and this huge cheese plate on the fancy big board and everything.

Arcade Fire went on and basically the entire place stood up for the next hour and a half and had a giant Spanish flip-out in unisons for the entire set, it was bananas. It's a weird sensation to feel apathy from 15k people - it's just as weird in the other way to observe complete devotion from the same crowd.

After the show we peaced out so hard so that we wouldn't make the same mistake with lateness two days in a row. We drove out of town and stayed at a hotel as far into the Spanish brush as possible. When we got there at 3am the hotel bar was showing a repeat of that days Barcelona-Getaria match, that Barca won 8 to nothing. A lot of pissed of drunk dudes wearing Real Madrid scarves were pacing the bar in a serious way watching the TV. We avoided the mangy cats in the hallways and bunked down for the first of many cold-as-fuck sleeps. We got up 15 minutes later, ate comically large bocadillos for breakfast and bounced.

We were so early for the Barcelona show it wasn't funny. At least no one at the venue when we got there laughed. We immediately understood the advantages of being early - an extra meal at catering. At 4pm we sat down for our second lunch of the day and felt like Victorian era Kings as we grazed on 4 types of salad, copious bread baskets, more cheese, delicious soups and pastries. We actally did a soundcheck and spent the rest of the afternoon feeling very professional. In the afternoons the venues are full of activity. AF has like a 35 person crew, 4 lorries (tracktor trailers) and 4 buses. They get there early in the morning after driving through the night to set up the stage and lights and PA, which they assemble and disassemble like a giant lego set every day. Ironically enough, we have never had a smaller van than the one we did on this tour. So small that we had to put most of our luggage in the carriage where we all sit rather than in the back with the gear. Very cramped, plus there was a table welded into the middle part for card games or some other outdated European time-passer.

That night was a big party. A lot of friends came to the show and we spent the night in the dressing room getting festive and eating way more food than we all should have. We had a day off so the party spilled into the next day. We all hung out late whereever we stayed and got the first good nights sleep of the tour..I got up at 3pm and spent the day walking around Gracia, I think. And we also wound up at the market were we spend too much money on chocolate truffles, got our picture taken with real truffles and bought rare but mediocre fruit (mangosteens, gold kiwi and lots of dates)

Instead of cleansing or exercising (actually Jonah and Ben went to the gym) we binged on our day off and ate dinner at a tapas place where even though there was like 25 of us, we got too much food. Zach had never been to Barcelona so we took him to see Sagrada Familia after dinner. At midnight on whatever day it was there was almost no one outside, and the few families we did see on the streets didn't even look up as they walked by. We were tourists so we galked even though we'd all seen it tons of times, and sat in the park across the street to have deep thoughts for 2 minutes before we raced back home because we had to pee.

We rose early the next morning to make our show in Bordeaux the next day. We got there late as usual after stopping 10 times for baguettes and McDonalds. The show was grim but fun and we didn't get to see any of the town. Still getting colder. We tried to buy fancy wine but couldn't find the stores that were open after midnight so we just said fuck it and bounced.

We were all very excited for the Marseille show because we were told it was a cool town. We were almost late again and didn't have time to see anything but planned some shit for the next day, which was another off day. The show was in "Le Dome", which is exactly how you'd imagine a French interpretation of a US-style arena - this weird dome that looks like its half buried underground, and inside its like the basement of a library except it holds 5000 people. The show was more of the same - we were ok but weird, AF was amazing, end of story. We drove around town after wards looking for a hotel and honestly went to 10 places that were all full before heading north and away from our nice day off in Marseille. After literally 3 hours of driving around looking for a hotel that had beds we found one outside of Avignon, which we visited for a minute the next day (it was pretty).

We finally got our 2nd day off (split over one night and the next morning/afternoon) in 4 days in Lyon France, a place we all knew nothing about. In ended up just looking like a mini version of Paris with less desperation. We booked a hotel somewhere just north of downtown and spent the evening dining at the hotels very weird buffet restaurant and chilling (Literally) in our submarine-sized hotel rooms watching movies alone on our laptops. Some got up early the next day to catch a ride into the city with Bram who had to fix the first of many problems with our "van". We got dropped off for breakfast at the Paul Bocuse Market ("Les Halles" of Lyon). I watched Ben and Jonah eat tons of stink vegetables (ie seafood) and got some pears and more pastries. Zach bought all sorts of weird pasta and wine and snacks and stuff that I think all got lost? At least I never saw him eating anything. We wandered north and wound up randomly in front of Mere Brazier, a fancy old restaurant. We tried to eat there after being basically whisked up from the curb into the lobby by a very pro-active doorman. A bunch of suits got dropped off behind us and walked past us and into the kitchen. The Maitre D asked if we were with them, humouring us because we all had on gross hoodies and boots. We actually did try to get lunch but he told us they were booked up until next year because at that point he was probably so annoyed in a French way that he was this close to flicking us onto the curb or pulling us away with a giant cane. We cursed him as we walked away in search of more democratic food and ended up in a gross teashop trying to read the French news.

We made our way to the venue, stopping every 10 minutes for more pastries. Then it was time for lunch at this place Ben found. Theirs looked great, mine not so much. Hard to eat in France if you don't eat ham or snails or frogs legs of pot au feu or whatever. I think to make fun of me, I got the oiliest cous cous ever made. We were close to the venue so we stumbled towards it with basically 3 or 4 full meals in our bodies before 5pm. On the way there we passed the prostitution section of Lyon, which consists of a bunch of white vans (bigger than ours) with candles on the dash so you know they are open for business. Then we ate dinner and almost died from food exhaustion for the like the 7th day in a row.

The venue was Halle Tony Garnier, one of the biggest buildings I've ever been in. A "small" section of it was carved out of it to make the set up, but it seemed like the hall went of into the distance in either direction for miles. It was like how you would imagine underground secret government buildings to be (I guess the ones where they have rock concerts) or keep indie rock aliens - massive long shadowy corridor building. Shakira is gonna play there soon.

Luckily, we had another impossible drive to look forward to, so we started towards Italy overnight (I think). The show was in Vicenza, impossibly close to Venice but still not there. Plus it was outside Vicenza, so we can't even really check it off the list. The women doing the show took us for a great dinner...the show was ok.

It started snowing in Italy and hasn't really stopped yet, more than a week later. Our trip the next day wasn't meant to be long, but was in a storm. After Bram got back from an early morning tire-change (we drove over a nail the night before) we drove halway up some mountain and had to turn back because it was too steep and snowy for our vehicle. We arrived too late for lunch but not late enough to miss sound-check. The Germans tolerated us and we tolerated them right back. Arcade Fire was great again. All night we watched the snow pile up on the ground at an alarming rate.

Oh boy were we late for the show the next day in Dusseldorf. We thought Madrid was bad..this time we loaded right onstage from the van, plugged in and played. No one was into us. Every show we played on this tour I would just watch girls make mortified faces at us all night. Damian waded into the crowd and this middle aged woman just recoiled. It was intense and hilarious. This was our last night on the tour and because of the ridiculous storms we almost had to leave early, but we traded sleep for goodbyes and got on the road to Utrecht at like 1am. We got to the hotel at 330am in time to get up at 630am to make our ferry at Calais. Which of course we missed because we went to the wrong entrance. We hung out in the parking lot waiting for the next one and finally got back to England at 4pm at Dover, thinking this was more than enough time to make it across the (small) country to Bristol. Unfortunately for us we got to England at the same time as the biggest weather crisis in the history of the world - some light snow in the south. This managed to jam up traffic basically in the entire country and it took us 9 hours to drive 100 miles and we missed the show. Plus our UK driver was too stuck to even make it to Dover so the guy who rented us the van who was just planning on driving it back from wherever he got it alone (plus he brought his dog) had to drive us to a gas station somewhere so we could rendezvous. So he got in the van, his dog got in the back and we continued our struggle.

The new van was Shangri-La - it was like a movie theater inside compared to the old one. Even though we got to bristol like 6 hours late we were all very content as we checked into the B and B.

The rest of the shows were all great in the UK. Liverpool was at The Kazimier, which is an old school Jazz style club, whatever that means (what they thought it meant was that the club was in the shape of a heptagon [more like HIPSTERagon amirite] and painted black and white like an american apparel shirt). Plus it was rightnext to Cream which is "La Hacienda of the North" - if La Hacienda nights were all 17 year old girls wearing sexy-Statue of Liberty costumes with no coats in minus 20 weather and packs of guys dressed up like football players (the American kind) than either the person who told me that (Russ) is lying or I've been subjected to some serious historical revisionism about what Madchester was like.

ANYHOW NOW WE'RE BACK. We're doing a CBC thing that I just told you about on Friday AND A SECRET SPECIAL SHOW ON SATURDAY ON QUEEN STREET THAT THERE IS NO WAY YOU WILL EVER FIND OUT ABOUT. I'm not even kidding, unless Damian tweets about it by accident or somehow Joe Cornilisse finds out.

4 Comments:

Blogger Tender Branson said...

That's my kind of secret. Too bad about the Arcade Fire show.

7:01 PM  
Blogger sonicmoremusic said...

Josh's dads birthday party....and Mike my last name is Cornelisse....u still have to add me Brotha...Cheers

10:42 PM  
Anonymous Smart arse said...

You should take a few ideas from Arcade Fire, to increase your popularity. You need:

1. An oversized front man, with a funny name. It needs to be someone who's prepared to get into the audience during shows - the fans will love it.

2. Get more band members and while you're at it get a woman on board - this will demonstrate you are not sexist and will appeal to lefty music fans. Also women have great rhythm.

3. Get some classical wind and string instruments - violas rock.

4. Write some songs with biblical references and some about life and stuff. Introduce some metaphors into your lyrics.

5. Release some singles and give the proceeds to charity.

6. Go indie.

4:11 AM  
Anonymous Astrocoast said...

Seriously dudes, your show at ZDB in Lisbon was the best of the year for me. If Damian still remembers anything from it, I was the guy who commended him right after the show. FU will always be welcome here.

9:48 PM  

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