So, today I’m not going to take it: I’m getting up, I’m walking around and seeing some stuff. I don’t care if it’s a plastic baby jesus wearing mickey mouse ears and advising me to “take a trip to Tripoli!” Ljubljana is a very nice little town, at least the old part, and from what I can see, which is nothing because of the fog, it’s quite promising. The old town is cool and I hike up to the top of the hill to see the old castle, now a museum and then take the funicular back down, looking at the beautiful fog. Nice fog in this town. Ok, town, check, let’s hit the road.
Zagreb is calling and despite our fear of crossing the Croatian border, we are excited to play in Zagreb because usually the shows are great and our friend Mate is fantastic.
Well, sadly, we hit the border and rendezvous with an extremely truculent border guard (editors note: redundant). He asks for various paperwork, is not satisfied and points to where we came from. See ya! Crap. We need to play this show as all tours hinge on tight budgets-any disruption in income equals immediate financial catastrophe). We sit in our van, freezing, between Croatia and Slovenia and wait 3 hours. Mate shows up, works some magic and we are ushered in, all smiles and nods and good wishes. Phew, that would have been very bad news.
What’s funny about so many of these tours is the scrutiny from police and border guards and so on (much, much better than it used to be), but in a sense, we are just couriers: we come to a town, people of the town come out, donate their own money and we immediately turn around and give it to Exxon or BP or Holiday Inn or Les Autoroutes de France or some other big conglomerate. I mean, we aren’t keeping it, we are just a redistribution vehicle. My dreams of buying a house in Tuscany are a long way off now-you listening, Sting?
The show tonight is one of the best we’ve played in a while-Mate does an excellent job, the place is packed and everyone seems rapt with attention. Very satisfying end to what could have been a very miserable day. Zagreb, te amo!
Excitedly we awake to take on the world-however, the world no longer exists. There is once again fog so thick you can cut it with a knife. It is seriously hampering my ability to be a first class tourist. I will be downgraded to 2nd class any minute and that just makes me angry. The next thing you know I’ll be slumping around demanding hamburgers and Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. Sad, really.
It’s been a while since we’ve been to Lubljana and we are looking forward to being there again. I would tell you about the magnificent drive through the countryside of Slovakia towards Slovenia and all of the quaint little farms and charming little towns but for all I can see, they might be butchering little children and letting loose their 35 meter high 8-legged, winged, fire breathing insect monsters to terrorize the peasants throughout the land. Niente. Nada. I did see some taillights; they looked quite familiar, similar to the same kind I see everywhere else.
We arrive in Ljubljana and, well, it’s foggy and cold and we can’t see anything. It’s good to see Irena, the promoter after all of these years. We dine in a Serbian restaurant that specializes in massive orgies of meat-an alarming prospect for Libor the vegetarian. Tonight there are 6 other rock shows in town. I can assure you that this is not a good omen for us.
Today we go to â€ªPieÅ¡Å¥anyâ€¬, our very first time in Slovakia, which excites us to no end because we can brag about it to anyone who will listen. Anyone listening? Hello? We are playing in another jazz club which is fantastic because it could mean we will be treated well again. Damn, from now on we are a jazz band. Jazzy. With Jazz hands. Why not?
So â€ªPieÅ¡Å¥any? Now we are talking old-first settled, oh, 80,000 years ago and famous for its hot springs and spas. The Venus of Moravany, a statuette of a female torso, was discovered here and is dated to about 22,800BC. Now that is old. The club is cool though â€¬I feel that I’ve been somehow transported back to the film set of “Death in Venice” because everyone is nicely dressed and there’s a strange feeling of something weird about to happen. Perhaps my death? Everyone is sick so that would make sense. Anyway, there’s some strange business going on with us not rigidly conforming to the bartenders strict schedule but we’ll make it through. He takes an instant liking to Katka which forces him to be pleasant to us, even going so far as to say, “Anything you need, just ask.” Wow. Cool! It is short lived since I go to the bar 5 minutes later to ask for a beer and he says, “3 Euros!” Uh, I’m in the bandâ€¦errrâ€¦ “Sorry, too late-you have to tell me you are a musician before you order.” Hey, buddy, what about that little touchy feely exchange we had 7 minutes ago? Whatever. Beer me.
Despite our hotel room being bathed in blood, we awake alive and fairly well rested-some of us. Some of us also don’t feel so good, but that is as usual no ones fault but the god, Bacchus. Bastard. Sustenance, we demand lunch, so we head back to the Jazz Club where, despite having an amazing meal of pork medallions and roasted potatoes the previous night, are still allowed to partake in a fabulous meal of chicken soup, a traditional Czech meal of chicken with spinach and a bready thing that looks suspiciously like bread. My body goes into shock as I ingest this thing called “spinach.” Not alcohol or some other crap? “What gives?” says my liver.
Today is Vienna and it will be a homecoming for the chief-friendly faces and a bit of a relief from all the damn nice people we’ve met. We play at the Rhiz club tonight and stay at the Hotel Furstenberg again, which means we get handled with kid gloves. My delirium at more than 2 nights in a hotel is making me dizzy. It also means I fail miserably as a tourist because the only thing I want to do is sit in the cool cafe next door and drink some coffee. Lazy. Old. Worthless.
Yes, it was a dreamâ€¦ did last night happen? Who knows? I do know, however, that I suck pretty heavilyâ€¦ I’m in my favorite city again and what do I do? Stare a stupid computer screen. Moron! Well, in fairness, I feel pretty horrible because last night was a bit of a blowout as we saw tons of old friends. Someone spiked my juice with something called Schnaps, i.e. liquid brain defertilizer.
We hit the road for Olomouc-this is a Unesco town so I’ll be damned if I’m not going to walk around and see some old shit before the day is lost in a haze of nothingness. I never knew it would be so tricky to be a stupid tourist. I mean, I have the stupid part down pretty well but the tourist part is eluding me. First mentioned around 1000 A.D. this town, pffttt, not so old. Libor and Katja are from this town so they are happy to be home and see some friends and family and such. I’m just happy because we are in the town center and this club is really nice. I don’t know how jazz clubs do it-usually pretty swank and clean and nice. Maybe they charge 500 euros per person to come in or something? I don’t get it because I think unless you’re really popular and not dead, like Wynton Marsalis or something, I don’t think jazz audiences are usually that big. Whateverâ€¦like I said, I have the stupid part down so I really don’t need to figure it out.
The meal tonight is pork medallions and roasted potatoesâ€¦ that’s right-not a sandwich, not a crappy cold pizza and not potato chips. We eat but actually “fressen”-that’s german for eating like a pig. I mean, I assume the others did because I was too busy “fressen-ing” to notice. I just heard a bunch of really nasty slurping and burping and scraping sounds from the animals around me. Also, I forgot to eat dinner the night before so I was feeling a bit peckish, as it were.
LU take the stage and the club abounds with the joyous sounds of violin, moog keyboard and so on. Pretty good and great for us because the audience is very appreciative all night. No complaints, whatsoever!
Today is our triumphant return to Prague, one of my favoritest cities in the world. We awake late after apparently ruining our hosts marriage and hit the road. No time for sightseeing because of some late sleepers and who cares? It’s not like we don’t come to Broumov all the time, you know? Apparently the oldest mission in the Czech Republic is here but I guess I’ll just have to take that on faith. We do have time to stop for lunch at a mexican restaurantâ€¦wow.
Today’s drive should be nice, since we will be seeing some Czech countryside and arriving in Prague. There are 2 problems with this: 1. nightfall is at 4 or something and 2. Everywhere we go there is fog. Everyday in every country, so you really can’t see anything but fog and some silhouettes of trees 10 meters away at the most. The rest is just one big Stephen King story.
Tonight’s show features Pinback and we are all pretty excited to see them as well as Adam and the Silver Rocket people. There are some serious difficulties getting the sound check done – they have tons of computers and in ear monitors and so on so it means setting up takes some time. We wind up getting on stage after the doors are open and sit on stage twiddling our knobs in front of the entire audience who are confused about how any band could be so boring. But everything is fine and the show goes off with nary a hitch – we even get an encore, which is rare when you are supporting a band. Pinback plays and they are great and fun to watch, especially from our side of the stage cat seat. Not bad, should do this band thing more often.
The rest is hazy-Adam, local herb infused schnapps and so onâ€¦you know the story.
After a few days of some pretty dodgy and weird accommodations, last nights stay in Warsaw was some type of miracle. Can you imagine a bright, shiny, super clean, super new, super modern, efficient hotel staffed by nice people? You can? Well, I didn’t think I would ever see something like that so give me a minute to enjoy it, ok? sheesh.
Today we go to a little town called Broumov on the border of the Czech Republic and Poland. It’s a last minute show so we don’t really know what to expect. What we get is pretty much a total metal festival explosion including foot on monitor deep throated groaning and full on mettttaaaaaaallllllll!!!!! Which is fine but you know who isn’t metalllllll?… Paramount Styles, that’s who. These people are going to hate us, Really hate us-“bunch of fucking pussies, we should kill them!” Which would be appropriate because there always seems to be some sort of fight when we play. Luckily, I just found out my health care premiums are going up so I’m ready to make that insurance company pay!
My favorite thing about this show is that our backstage room (luckily we have one) is literally in the women’s bathroom. No joke, we have to walk through a bunch of terrified girls to get into our little room, complete with sink, toilet, couch, shower and single hanging lightbulb. If you think hanging out in a girl’s bathroom is a way to meet the ladies, you are sadly mistaken. Luckily my czech is terrible so I don’t have to listen to the girls call me “douchebag” every time I walk through.
I remember when I first drove from Berlin to Poland in 1989 before the wall came down. The highways were all fenced off so you couldn’t exit into any towns; you could only stop at the official rest stops run by some seriously fat and grumpy soviet era women. The highway was mostly cobblestone, a technological marvel for 1940, so you can imagine what that’s like to ride on for hours and hours as your tiny little brain rattles around in its cage. I suppose if I was pulling a wooden cart and I was being pursued by mongol hordes or black death and it was 1338 I would be pretty psyched to find a road like that. However, that was then and this is now and our tiny little brains are rattling around in their cages on the way to Warsaw.
Today is Veterans Day or Armistice Day all over europe. It’s also going to be 11 November 2011 so two times in one day it will be 11/11/11 11:11;11. You say, “but I don’t care.” Well, I can’t make you care about that just like I can’t make Germans like my band. But hey, life is all about little victories, right?
Speaking of victories, today is a day to celebrate among other things the end of WWI. Yes, that war that ended a little bit less than 100 years and you could make the case that it led to the next big war, WWII. And what do most people take away from that war? Well, for one thing, it really really sucked for a lot of people. You could make the argument that it really really really sucked especially for Poland since Germay practically wiped the Poles and Warsaw off the map and then the Soviets came in and made life pretty spicy for those who loved to party, I mean, who loved the Party.
But I would say one of the big things is that life was pretty hard for the Poles. So why, you ask, on Armistice Day in Warsaw, would 10,000 right wing extremists/nazi skinheads/hooligans show up to demonstrate and mar the celebration of the end of WWI and veterans and bring out the police in full force with tear gas and riot gear? I don’t know. Some people are just assholes, I guess.
I had a bit of a restless night as I was afraid that someone was going to come in from the unlit, haunted, windswept and litter strewn compound and stab me 14-17 times in my sleep and have sex with my corpse. Of course, at that time I probably wouldn’t really care but still, my mundane worries kept me tossing and turning. My clothes are fully pressed now as I have been sleeping in them all night. Libor took one for the team as he had no blanket or rag to cover him; the rest of us lucked out with some old blankets and sleeping bags.
The promoter was very nice to provide us with a delicious breakfast and we sat around a laughed about how he washed a sleeping bag and so forgot it so Libor had to sleep just under a jacket. Ha hah hah! so great. Then after a nice conversation punctuated with “can you leave? I want to go to sleep.” we hit the road! Berlin here we come. And cold here we come too-the temperature has suddenly dropped however much it is that makes you miserable. That much.
We don’t have high hopes for this show since the last time we played in Berlin there were a whopping 1 people here, maybe less. I can’t remember, I drowned my sorrows in drink, something I do pretty much every night. Oh liver, I love you so, please don’t quit me.
Luckily our sprits are boosted because some old friends showed up and we had a nice time and actually quite a nice show. And the place upstairs where we are staying even has heat! Sadly, some of us are becoming quite sick and Blinky Midnight, our leader, decides that it would be best for us if every horizontal surface should be covered with damp snot rags. Yes, you are right. That is disgusting. I’m no doctor but food and snot rags should not share the same space. Just my opinion, though (non-doctor, sadly).
Another short drive and we cross the border into Germany. I’ve never been to Dresden and well, let’s just say it has a pretty turbulent history. There are actually still some old buildings standing but I can’t really gauge how the city is set up. It’s starting to get cold which, of course, pisses me off. Then again it is November so it’s to be expected. At least it’s not snowing like it did in New York in October. That’s just unacceptable.
So we arrive and the people are very nice though I’m getting a squat vibe here, but that can not be because there is a kindergarten on the top floor. We wander around the cold, cobblestone streets looking at H&M, the Gap and Marks and Spencer-typical examples of indigenous german culture and then make our way back to the venue.
There is what I can only describe as a profound lack of enthusiasm for this show. We take bets on the number of people who will show up with Libor being the least enthusiastic better with a wager of 8 people. Even he is too optimistic. In fact, the promoter was worried he was going to take a bath on this show and yet even he, nice as was, didn’t show up until the last song. He proclaimed that, while he was drinking outside so was able to only see the last song, it was very good. That’s a bit of what we call the old “back-handed compliment.”
Since we are on the subject and in Germany, home of the back-handed compliment and the offensively blunt comment, let me list a few of my favorites:
-I liked Soulside (our old band) better, your band (Girls Against Boys) is very boooorring.
-I drove very far to see this show because my girlfriend likes your band. I do not like your band. Can I have a beer from your back stage?
-I was looking very much forward to seeing you but I was very disappointed. You were very terrible and it looked like your singer was very sick. Why were you so bad tonight?
Ahh, but on to better things like the hovel sleeping conditions awaiting us. I look forward to delousing myself in the future. Optimism can only look up!