Andy at Orange 94.0 in Vienna has very generously invited us to do an interview on his show – Musikbeisl. There it is- we showed up, played a bunch of songs, answered questions as inelegantly as would could, performed one song live and then called it a night. Beer, here we come! thanks, Andy! Orange 94.0 is a cool, independent station with real djs who really push buttons when the songs begin and end and really talk, too.
We got back to Vienna and say goodbye to everyone. Once again, we will disperse to our varies hideouts throughout the globe. Interestingly enough, another person going into hiding is Otto von Habsburg. He died July 4th and today there will be a massive funeral for him. His full name is impressive: Franz Joseph Otto Robert Maria Anton Karl Max Heinrich Sixtus Xavier Felix Renatus Ludwig Gaetan Pius Ignatius. Not bad at all-I’d like to see someone outdo that! He was the last in the line of Habsburgs, named Archduke Otto of Austria and before that the Crown Prince of Austria, when he was 4 until it was dissolved at age 6. Not to get all grandiose, but this is a family that goes all the way back to the 10th century and has a lot of big titles like “King of the Romans” and “Holy Roman Emperor” and “King of Bohemia/Hungary/Croatia/Spain/Portugal” etc. etc. etc. You can even throw Transylvania in there – see? got your attention. As an a citizen of a country with a pretty short history after colonization, this is an impressive historical moment.
Well, today is the day we head up to Ostrava. Libor and the gang are ready to go and the heat is unbridled and relentless. Into the massively tiny Volkswagen we climb and head east, heads held high. But alas, as I am the rainbringer, it starts to rain. Again with the rain…it seems to follow me into every corner of every state and every country where I travel. I think it is time to head to the Sahara or some drought stricken province. Maybe even Arizona and Texas could use my help – though, god knows, it would be the first time they would ever ask for the help of a yankee.
Ostrava is right on the border of Poland so I expect to see a pretty varied crowd. Known for its coal mines and steel plants, Ostrava stopped doing most of that in 1994 though it’s still pretty sooty looking. It’s like a kind of Pittsburgh/Allentown amalgamation – they even have a perpetually burning underground disaster site called the Emma dump just like us (see Centralia)! Pittsburgh and Dresden are actually Ostrava’s sister cities. They also have something I didn’t see – a unique drinking street unlike anything in the Czech Republique, I’m told. I assume this consists of bars on StodolnÃ Street where you can drink which makes it… well… not unique in my mind, but I didn’t see it, so what do I know?
The lineup is pretty interesting though most of the bands I know – mono, pil, grinderman, joan as police woman – are all english speaking, which is pretty lame on my part. The Plastic People of the Universe is playing which is pretty great. I just learned about this group but my quick summation: they formed in 1968 right after the Soviets returned to Czechoslavakia following the Prague Spring and began their undoubtedly pleasant “Normalization” process. The band was essentially outlawed and I am told that often they would call their shows “weddings” and everyone would just pretend they were going to a big wedding. Pretty brilliant idea, really. Many of the members were arrested in 1976 which led to the writing of the Charter 77 by among others, Vaclev Havel. So, that’s a pretty darn historical group.
We were pretty much first up on the festival lineup, starting at 7:30 so as not to conflict with another better known band. We were a little afraid no one would show up but we were nicely surprised at all the sizable crowd. It was a great show for us, the Colours of Ostrava festival did an amazing job at setting up the great looking stage and space and making everything run smoothly. We even got to see Public Image, LTD. who I’ve never seen – they were in fine form even though it started to rain in the middle of their set. Nice job, Ostrava folks!
So I fly through Zurich. It’s rainy and awful. California-rainy and awful. Paris-rainy and awful. Antwerpen-rainy and awful. Vienna? It’s close to 12000 degrees here. I feel like I’m on the surface of the sun after a lengthy glacial nightmare. Thank you, Vienna, for remembering that July is typically quite hot unless you are in Australia or Buenos Aires. I am not.
Tonight we play at WUK in Vienna with Joan As Police Woman. It promises to be a good show, especially since the outdoor garden has more beer than you can shake an Austrian stick at. And it’s outdoors. And it’s really hot. And there’s a lot of beer.
Last night I had a tour nightmare. A tour nightmare is a kind of panic dream that most people probably have; mine just happens to pertain to tragic tour mishaps. Usually, it entails showing up late to a show, completely unprepared and embarrassing yourself horribly. They are pretty funny once you wake up, at least for me, especially since they are over. Last night’s episode was a good one. We were playing in a fancy nice club, let’s say le Botanique in Brussels, since I just played there. We were somewhere, I don’t know where, when it was announced that we were supposed to be on stage and we were already 5 minutes late. We went to the stage and the stage manager looked at us disdainfully but I wasn’t that worried. I got onto stage, assuming that I had already gotten the drum stuff together and soundchecked but alas, I had not. The drums were there but not completely set up correctly. No big deal, I thought, just move this here and that there and I’m ready to go. Upon closer inspection, I noticed the the cymbals weren’t really set up on the right stands, so I quickly rearranged them and Scott turned to me and said, “ready?” I said, “yep, no problem…” They opened the curtain as I was putting the hi hat cymbals on the hi hat stand instead of whatever weird way they were arranged… Since this is a dream there is no explanation as to how everything could be so screwed up. Anyway, getting ready to start the song I noticed that the bass pedal wasn’t on the bass drum… oh, wait, the floor tom was using the bass pedal as a leg… oh and all of the drums were set up in front of the carpet which meant that the drum set was going to slide all around. Pardon me, non drummers, for this boring story. There is actually an intricate magic to making drums work and it can all go horribly wrong if it’s done incorrectly. Then I noticed that there was a wooden clothes dresser right next to the floor tom. Wait, there was also a stack of chairs between me and the left crash cymbal. Wait, there’s a ton of dusty old furniture piled high all around me on stage and the bass drum just fell over. I have to stop the song we are playing and frantically grab drum pieces and furniture and move them all around. Scott looks at me in total desperation and I say, “no, no, it’s fine…” but it is not fine… I’m surrounded by piled high dusty furniture that seems to be moving in on me. They close the curtain and the crowd starts booing and nothing is working right. Then I open my eyes in panic. Hang on, I’m not even on tour! Bizarre. Bizarre especially since I was essentially attacked by a bunch of old furniture on stage – where was the outrage at that, Scott? Not, “oh my buddy is being attacked by 19th century antiques” but “dude, what are you doing? You are always screwing up!” Thanks. Sheesh.
Well, sorry to say it but we are unable to come to the UK at the end of the month. We were looking forward to playing the Dot to Dot festival but we couldn’t square it financially. Lame, I know, but we aren’t personal friends with Warren Buffett. Our deepest apologies to everyone that helped us and we hope to have the opportunity to make it up to you one day. Plus, that crazy volcano just erupted again in Iceland so maybe we are lucky…
Well, we did it. We survived a brutal 2 day tour including all you can drink beer, all you can eat cheese and bread and so on. It was a hardship but we did it because we are a team – a team that stands up for each other and says, “yes, I WILL have one more beer.” I went to sleep at 5 and woke up at 9. Why? Was it because my deluxe suite was facing directly east and thus 1200 degrees kelvin? no. Was it because of the construction noises outside despite an economic global meltdown of epic proportions? no. Because of cultural guilt – how often are you in Brussels with a whole day to see stuff? For me, it seems like every year at least, but I’m not everyone. And everyone can’t see the city, so let’s go. It was a beautiful sunny day and there was plenty of stuff to see and a nice relaxing lunch to look forward to before I took the train back to Paris and the chief went back to Vienna. It’s sort of like a James Bond movie without any killing, cool soundtracks, people with absurd names and life or death situations.
So, that’s it. I walked around, looked at a bunch of stuff, went to the flea market at Place du Jeu de Balle which apparently is amazing. It means Place of the Ball Game or something. I didn’t see any ball game but I did see a whole lot of expensive stuff. With the dollar at $1.45/euro, everything is pretty expensive, I suppose. I saw lots and lots of belgian chocolate that all looked worthy of eating by the handful, especially since Easter is in the air and they’ve got their marketing mojo finely attuned. All in all, not a bad day of culture. All for you, brain. Don’t say I never did anything for you.
This is where it all happens – Brussels! Governments collapse, citizens speak french and dutch, they mix metaphors, they eat cheese AND chocolate, they have babies named Hercule Poirot. We are playing in a complex called Le Botanique – an old arboretum transformed into three concert spaces, a museum, a restaurant and a beautiful outdoor garden/terrace space where you can get sunburned while watching Big Banks in the distance melt down. Impressively, the government helps pay for this (I believe this to be true which should stand as fact). Today there is a reggae band playing in the big hall and we are playing in La Rotonde – the central domed atrium, i.e. the most awesome part of the whole complex. It’s exceptionally well run and after walking around Brussels and seeing a bunch of old shit, I, as an american, am compelled to shovel as much bread, cheese and chocolate into my gourd as I possibly can. Surely, I will regret this one day – that being the future, I do not care, for what has the future ever done for me? Nothing. Nada. Niente. Rien. Nyet. Thanks a lot future. See you tomorrow. Anyway, this place is a little bit like playing in heaven if heaven had a smoke machine and an alarmingly strong smell of beer soaked wood. I am very happy to play here and the sound is perfect. I am a rock legend tonight in my own mind, which is all that matters. Simon makes some extremely ominous noises, Chris throws a little fairy dust on it and Scott warbles and gurgles and we are off! Done! Check! Now we fade into the darkness, mundane, grey and obscure. Time for the house party in fairyland – down the street we are transported into some sort of half Patti Smith “I’m in the gutter” and half “this is a Cinderella story” house party. We are in a four story house where the first floor has extra high ceilings and doubles as a concert space for big parties. Wow. Some guys have all the luck, and some parties have all the Barbara Panthers. GrÃ¼ss Gott!
Today we wake up in Simon’s amazing place in Antwerpen – it’s a massive loft that makes even a hardened New Yorker drool. Wait, that’s all New Yorkers do anyway: drool over real estate. It’s a New York malady. What can we do? We thirst. We hunger. Anyway, it was cool and we are off to meet up with Chris to get this “tour” started. It’s a massive 2 day 2 country tour-whirlwind, jetset, mind boggling. We are off to Utrecht and Simon has offered to drive us in his belgian chariot – though I’m pretty sure this car is japanese. Utrecht will be the first show and it will be exciting to hit the road again. We are playing with a band from Utrecht called Sideditch – a very nice bunch of fellas who daringly play with glow in the dark drumsticks on one song. What’s not to like? Sadly, the concert hall is pretty far outside of Utrecht so there’s not much chance to see the town for us map challenged alcohol chasers.
Today I take the train from Gare du Nord to meet up with the chief at the Brussels airport – he’s flying in from Vienna full of sausages. I’m excited because I love the train and going to any of these train stations is always fascinating. Really brings out my 8 year old train geek side – hopefully I’m able to subdue that in everyday social situations. The Thalys is really fast – only about 1 1/4 hours to Brussels from Paris. The trick is buying a ticket and making the airport train connection while dodging heroin addled crusties with their cute little rabid dogs. That is a tall order since apparently you have to have a belgian credit card ONLY to buy a ticket from the machine. I know I can be thick but I could not figure out any way to buy a ticket from these machines that take no cash. There were no ticket windows anywhere that I could find so I missed the train. In fairness, I had about 4 minutes to get off the Thalys and get a ticket and figure out which platform the train was leaving from. Anyway, I missed the train and wound up taking this old beaten up empty ghost train. It was really cool though I did think I was going to end up on some train spur somewhere murdered by an axe wielding belgian. Well, it all worked out, I met the chief and Simon picked us up and we are setting off for the bar to have the best beer in the world from Lara from Intergalactic Lovers.