Thursday, February 23, 2012

European Tour Journal - Week 2

Day 8 (January 2nd): Hamburg's Gun Club w/ Warsong

Everyone sleeps in. Wake up groggy and we wander around Hamburg for a couple hours to see the sights, and clean the van to get ready for week 2. At show time we drive up to a new venue in Hamburg, the Gun Club. Gun Club is situated in a side street just off the Reaperbahn, so parking a giant van is a fucked idea.

Tonight's show is the Gun Club's first, and our first show with a totally intimidating band. Warsong is a new band from Spain with members of Insomnio and No Escape, so they're all weathered pros. We're nervous as shit, so we go first, cramming the 4 of us up on a stage about 3 meters wide. There's an insane turnout for a monday show in a new club. BUT, for the all the nervous angst, we do really well.

Warsong takes the stage and is completely magnetic, really driving punk that I hate to call melodic, but a fitting follow up to the other bands these guys have been in. Really solid show, everyone's crammed up front.

After their last note the pressure slowly lets out of Gun Club. We load out, pack and park the van at Will's place, and we and Warsong walk past the St. Pauli fishmarket to this bar on the waterfront. Everyone is playing this great game, what I'm told is a schoolyard game called "Running Circle". Get this: put 40 drunks around a ping-pong table, everyone with paddles in their hands. They start to hit the ball back and forth while moving around the table, each person gets a turn at one volley, if you fuck up, you're out, until 2 people play for the last point. Everyone tries to teach the Americans the rules, we all botch it quick. Stumble back to Will's, tomorrow is Belgium.

Day 9 (January 3rd) : DNA in Brussels

6 hour drive wayyy east to Brussels. Somehow we manage to make it a 10 hour drive with constant fucking around at every roadside stop. Driving through Dinklage Germany, Shaun buys himself a beef jerky meat tube, that comes cased in a disgusting plastic condom "fur Frische!" And so, like a bunch of 9 year olds, we taunt the only girl on the bus by holding it close to her face, or putting it in her hair. This keeps us occupied the whole drive into Belgium.

We pull up to the club in Brussels, a big town with a less-than-legendary punk history, The Kids are from Belgium right? The club, DNA, is in this sort of hopping part of downtown. Looking in the front window, it's full of a construction crew, putting in a new bar, installing lights, sweeping the floors. Not sure if we've completely fucked up, we go in and ask the promoter if we're playing (there are no flyers out front with our name on them), he insists we are, and shoves the soundguy at us, a sweet guy named Nico. Nico hobbles together a sound system from underneith buckets, and takes us around the corner for belgian fries slathered in mayo and roumalade. We return to the club, verify that we're the only ones on the bill, shrug and soundcheck.

Tonights' show will top off at 20 belgians, but some of the sweetest and most generous. Everyone bought records and shirts, some wrote reviews of the show (choice robo-translated quote: "Ashley Hohman , a girl you class not the radius pinup scatterbrained, with Ben, she directs Sodom or Gomorrah, I am not informed!") The beer was free, we got paid enough to cover gas, and are left on the sidewalk with nothing to do in a huge sleepy town. We walk the streets for a few hours and decide to go into the flashiest casino on the main strip. Shaun loses 40 euro on slots. Ben loses the entire night's door-money on a spinning color wheel game. I'm pretty sure a guy in the smoking lounge called us "yankee swine".

We slide back to the van, trying to decide where to sleep tonight, blaring 60's girl group music out the side door and hollerin' at every drunk unlucky enough to walk down the street. We look at the map, tomorrow is a day off and the following is our show in Zurich. We have to cut through France to get there, and the french border is 2 hours away. Most of us have never been to France. Fuck it, we sleep in France!

Day 10 (January 4th) : Storming the Castle

We wake up in a fancy rest-stop just south of the France border, with a breakfast megaplex and bathrooms that don't charge 50 cents for you to poop. Heaven. Big breakfast of oranges and ham and croissants and coca-cola. True thing about the french: their nationalistic government doesn't educate them on neighbor's languages for shit, so the veil of communication is extra thick. It's not that these people are rude, they just expect you to Parlez Francais or Die. We heft the rest of the 5 hours to the educated Swiss border.

During the drive, Ashley pipes up "Man we have the day off, I wanna be in a fucking CASTLE!". We cross into Basel, and there up on a bluff is an enormous burg. We creep the van up this steep drive, the castle's visitor center is definitely closed, but the gate is wide open. We're all so stoked. We creep in and start to take photos:

Wrap up the night with Chinese food down in town, hoping for a place to drink after. With no luck, we drive to the outskirts of Zurich, buy an overpriced english-language erotica magazine, and sleep it off in a Shell parking lot.

Day 10 (January 5th): Dynamo in Zurich

We decide in the morning to get some breakfast with more home flavor, so we make our way to the Stars & Stripes American Bar and Restaurant, an american-themed restaurant with an atmosphere like a Cracker Barrel, teaming with oil paintings of John Wayne. No one really warns you about this, but Switzerland is about twice as expensive as every other nation in Europe, so that made our meal of half cooked french fries and Cadillac Nachos the worst 70 dollar meal anyone has ever had. Fuck.

On to Zurich. We park and load in, and greet our host Ian who's stocking the bar. He's super friendly, and tonight is a celebration for a two year anniversary of his punk booking night at Dynamo, a huge 4 story youth complex right on the Limmat river. We hide in the back and eat food, and meet the other four bands on the bill: Obstrusive (street punk from Ravenburg), Shady and the Vamp (mean garage from France) and Hysterese (fast melodic punk from Germany) who we'll be playing 2 shows with on tour.

We play a really great set after Hysterese, atleast a crew of young kids in Nirvana shirts are way into it. We load off, and watch Shady and the Vamp stomp the fuck out of the room. The locals are way into Obstrusive, who apparently are really well established in Europe. We file out to the main hall and a giant 80s skinhead dance party has broken out. Drinks:

Drinks. Shaun conks out and is hoisted to the sleeping quarters next door. More drinks. A guy named Sven tries out his english on us. Drinks. Arguments about american punk bands, indescriminate dancing, rubbing bald heads. Everyone falls into their bunks.

The next morning is spent hungover and tearing through packages of cheese and english muffins. Trying to wake people with elbow drops and Billy Joel songs. Ian points us in the direction of Mannheim. Hysterse and Doom Town are off to their next show.

Day 11 (January 6th): JUZ in Mannheim

We pull into Mannheim and are the first kids there. The JUZ Mannheim is a long established political youth center in the old city. We're let in by a grinning Johan, a bald-beglassed volunteer who sets up shows at the JUZ. He helps us load in to the backstage/gameroom of the JUZ. Merch is setup and dinner is served, an insane feast of bread and goat cheese. The doors open and kids start to show up in huge waves.

We play first and like all of the shows on this tour, everyone is mysteriously excited. We play super tight, and people buy a pile of records from us. When Hysterese starts up, people are going off the walls. Warsong gets a really warm reception as well. We spend a lot of time talking to Litty, a local record disto/label hound, who points me to some St Louis punk graffiti in the back of the JUZ:

The beers, like all of tour, are free, and everyone is Mannheim wants to debate midwestern hardcore, or american political jingoism, or who can out kicker who. Beautiful:

Late that night after most of the bands have gone to bed, Shaun challenges the members of Hysterese to feats of strength:

The next morning we drag ourselves out of our concrete bunker bedroom to make way to Munich.

Day 12 (January 7th): Kafe Kult in Munich

Most of the drives at this point in tour are cake. 3 hours across the beautiful Bavarian country. Kafe Kult is nestled in a corner of an industrial housing park outside of Munich. We pull in and load, warmly greeted by the volunteers who run the space. It's a long practice space with a great venue inside, tall stage. We're really excited about our show that night, it's been set up by Michl from Taken By Suprise records, and we're playing with Blank Pages, an amazing band that's just released a great 7 inch.

The night, like all nights, starts with an amazing meal. Tonight it's bavarian Kartoffel soup and vegetables, bavarian beers and snack crisps. We soundcheck and then everyone gets stuffed, joking around while waiting for the crowd to show up, mostly hiding in the backstage room and talking shit with the guys from Blank Pages, flipping through Michl's distro.

The place fills up. A bunch of kids have driven in to see the show, and it's only the two bands. We start and have a really tight set, everything clicks really well on stage. After we're done the bass player of Blank Pages confides in us "I heard you on the internet, I think not so good, but now I see you, and very good live, but not internet." We're sure the fuck better than these clowns. Blank Pages goes on and everyone in the room goes off. An insane live show. After the set Michl takes over the PA and starts ipoding endless hits. We and the members of Blank Pages run the dancefloor and start acting like total clowns. More drinks and dancing, more flipped stools, more bar dives.

At some point in the night we raid the kitchen to make some late night grub. Endless provocations from Blank Pages, and Alex and Shaun get in it:

This goes on until sunrise. We catch some sleep before breakfast, when Michl takes us to the beautiful Augustiner Bräustuben, an enormous brewery in downtown Munich (it was used as the set for the chocolate factory in the Johnny Depp version of Willy Wonka).

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

European Tour Journal - Day 7 - Scandi Drive

Day 7 (January 1st): Oslo to Hamburg Drive

We roll out of Yenni's place at 9 AM on New Years Day to discover that we're not all there. Band members scattered all over Oslo during the previous night. We catch word that some are up the street, others crashed with Kenneth from Endless Tinnitus. After 2 hours of sleuthing, txting, and aimless driving around Oslo, we find everyone and head to load out.

Back to the studio to find clothing and gear we shedded the night before. Instead of making the friendly attempts to cross the language barrier, the americans and europeans have devolved into grunting and pointing. Everyone slides into the van, and we set the GPS for Hamburg.

The drive will take us the long way around the Scandinavian states. Ya know how Europe has that cock-n-balls on top of it? Well Oslo is about at the urethra, and we have to drive down and off the underside of it's baggy foreskin. 14 hours. Luckily Europe's cock is the most beautiful in the world. The drive out of Norway is through long strobing tunnels that feel like riding in a Ridley Scott film, the fog is thick on Lake Vanem, and we're driving across some of the tallest bridges in the world, spanning deep valleys with vibrant villages at their base. It's a perfect driving day.

Will, No More Art's only american member, insists on having his annual Burger King meal. We pull off the freeway and spend a good hour basking in the bottomless fountain soda and dipping fries in weird sauces with strange fucking consonants in their name.

Make it to Hamburg, everyone peels out of the van. Doom Town is welcomed with a hearty meal by our hostess Nagi, then we watch Uncle Buck.

TOMORROW: The Gun Club w/ Warsong

European Tour Journal - Day 5 & Day 6 - Oslo


Day 5 (December 30th): the Boat to Oslo

It takes 8 hours for a passenger ferry to cross the strait of Skagerrak. That's exactly the amount of time it takes for a healthy nap, 5 smokes, 2 book chapters, 3 dances in the on-ferry nightclub, 240 euro spent in the duty-free on booze and cigarettes emblazened with scathing warnings, and getting kicked out of the on-ferry nightclub.

We start the trek to Oslo by parking the van in the bowels of a massive ferryliner. 7 stories tall and packed with sleeper bunks, smoking lounges, and various flavors of nightclubs and pubs, tiny delis and a casino. We make our way to the top, drop our bags, and everyone crashes or wonders off to explore the ship.

The cool kids all head straight for the nightclub, complete with videoscreen lavalamp animations, discoball, and a cover band of guys in their 50s called "Happiness Dance Band." We load up on litres of Carlsburg and lounge in style for a couple hours. Then we raid the duty free for booze and smokes, cheap here but worth their weight in gold to the ripe nation of Norway.

When we disembark it's already dark in Oslo. We meet with our host and promoter Yenni, and his friend Tor. Everyone hops in the van, with minimal static from the harbor police, we're on our way to Yennis to drop off gear. Then straight to Endless Tinnitus Studios, a 30 year old punk/hardcore recording studio close to the harbor in Oslo.

We and No More Art are recording a few songs there tonight. We meet with Kenneth, the engineer, who's a really friendly and laughable ginger. We set up and like usual, No More Art goes first.

We go to get some food with Yenni and Tor, and ask about what's good in Oslo...
Tor: "Authentic Nowegian food? Have you ever eaten whale?" Whale meat is only legal to purchase in Norway, Japan, and for some Arctic Alaskan people. "Fuck no I ain't! Where can I get!?" Tor and Yenni walk us to a small market, and Ben plunks down 40 euro for a pound of whale flesh. Stalk back to Yenni's and Tor cooks us an insanely good veggie meal. Refusing to touch it but giving Ben good tips about whale prep: just pan-seer it, it'll taste like fishy-liver-garbage no matter what you do.

Back to Endless Tinnitus to do our part, Kenneth is encouraging and we kick through our songs before midnight comes. Then back to Yenni's to goof off and sleep.

Day 6 (December 31st): New Years Eve / Show at Endless Tinnitus
We head back to the studio after breakfast and mix over the tracks a few times, then start to clean up the studio space and get ready for the show. They only have shows about 4 times a year, and the space is about as big as a typical american basement show.

As a new band on our first trip through Europe, we have to find more to ways to make money than just records and t-shirts. Luckily: booze, cigarettes, and everything is astronomically more expensive in Norway, so the scam is to buy them cheap on duty free, sell them fair at the show. It's New Years, everyone's going to need to get very drunk.

The show went great, and ended just in time for a hail of fireworks and trash smashing outside. Everyone screaming Cocksparrer and circling burn barrels. Drugs and imbibing, screaming and steady snow. We were all dizzy and upside down, falling on each other and getting lost and recognizing the faces we should know better. At one point Ben is startled by Jorn from Mayhem while trying to wake up Shaun, who, despite the amphetamines is sternly passed out in the mixing room. Grinning ear to ear, and everyone is spitting champaign. Sleep doesn't come until 8 AM the next day.

That day we will drive 15 hours across Sweden, if we can find everyone in the morning.
TOMORROW: Swede and sweaty...

Friday, February 3, 2012

European Tour Journal - Day 4 - Aalborg

Day 3, Day 1 & Day 2

Day 4 (December 29th): 1000Fryd in Aalborg, Denmark

If there's a lot of driving ahead of you, try to start your day with Entombed's version of "Night of the Vampire".

Pull into Aalborg and the venue, 1000Fryd. We load and setup merch, smoke lots of cigarettes, and check out the place. Peter, one of the proprietors and trim blond danish giant, points me to the lot a few blocks away: "Ok to park the van, left, then straight until you see the statue of bull's testicles, then straight 2 more blocks and make a right at the statue of the woman with the goose. Park behind."

On our walk back we spot "Friends american restaurant and buffet." Sorry for the bad framing, but in the photo above, Shaun is leaping for joy.

Sound check then dinner. The folks at 1000Fryd prepared us an unmatched vegan bounty, shredded beet salad, beet hummus, and a mountain of hearty breads. Everything on the plate turns a deep crimson from sweet beet juice. In the dining room is a full fridge of Thor beer for the bands, but we have our kid gloves on after the tough drinking from the night before.

Show time, No More Art is way tighter than their first show. We play and things are still a little groggy, but everyone in the audience is really stoked, the show's flyer described us as "it is American quality here. As a Harley - just faster." We get paid handsomely, apparently the good people of Denmark lawfully compensate performing artists, so much of the night's payout is government supported, helping keep places like 1000Fryd operating as strongly as they have for so long. Fucking paradise.

Shows over, we run the streets in search of pizza and to try out our algebra of Dollars/Euro/Danish Kronor. Some of us narrowly dodge the gauntlet of red-light-lulus, and a trouncing by local freshcuts. I think thats what was happening, the only words we got were "fucking yankee pussy." Check for your passport, just keep walking.

1000Fryd has what is undoubtably the cleanest bunk room in all of Europe. Immaculate construction, wayyy too many mattresses and pillows, and a huge game table that makes drinking games a pleasure. Peter comes up to talk with us for a long time about Danish isolationism, pastries, and the best way to j-brake a diesel Mercedes Sprinter. We book our ferry ticket, 300 Euro for a one way trip across the Skagerrak into Oslo.

We wake to baked goods, sandwiches, 4 litres of orange juice, and 20 beers. Snag it all, pack it into the van, and book it to the ferry for our 8 hour boat trip into the heart of Norway.

TOMORROW: 2 Nights in Oslo

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