Sunday, August 28, 2016

European Tour Journal Pt 3



And so our journey continues...




MEPPEL - Aug 4


Leaving the Czech Republic proves interesting when we are routed off the motorway on a detour that leads us on winding back country roads. It was actually pretty amazing; unlike the depressed grayness of Prague, the countryside of the Czech Republic is a beautiful place. The towns are like movie sets; you can imagine the history of this place during the Cold War rule of the communists. Somehow they have managed to survive and thrive. Once back on the motorway we drive clear across Germany. It is a hellishly long ride. It takes all day to reach the Netherlands. It is around 7pm when we finally arrive to the tiny town of Meppel.


The club is called Clouso. It's another tiny tavern with a small stage. The owner is a guy named Marcel, who is very cool. He booked us at the last minute when the cancellations opened a few dates. He usually books stuff more along the lines of rockabilly and country, but is stoked we are here. I'm stoked, too. This is an awesome little place. We load in on the tiny stage and are fed an incredible home cooked meal of steak and potatoes. The hospitality and kindness Marcel and his wife treat us to is pretty humbling.


After eating Barry and I walk around the tiny town a bit. It's an incredible place with cobblestone streets and canals. We come across a street festival that encompasses several blocks. There are two large stages erected and we are later told this is a weekly occurrence here. I'm told the bands are cover bands, one being an ABBA tribute act. Shame we gotta miss out. Although there are lots of people walking around it doesn't feel crowded. Nobody seems rushed. The atmosphere very quiet and relaxed. I decide I could live here happily for the rest of my days. Admittedly, I've not seen much of the world, but from what I have seen, the Netherlands is the Best Place on Planet Earth.


We return to the club. The place is filling up. I meet a guy named Bart who has travelled over from a town out towards the coast, about two hours away. He has come alone, and still has to be back in time for work in the morning. It's people like this who impress me the most. The dedication and devotion to this music is amazing. I reckon Bart could teach the Americans a thing or two about rockin'.
 
We do a line check before we play, trying to establish a suitable volume for the room. The soundguy warns us about volume being a bit of a problem and we try to accommodate. Soon we are situated and start the set. It becomeS apparent right away that my guitar needs to be louder. After the first song I turn up - the neighbors are just gonna have to suffer. The crowd is mostly curiosity seekers. They don't know the band but respond enthusiastically. The isn't much room to move and we play a little loose, but still deliver a pretty hot set.


Afterwards we load up and hit the motorway again. We are about two hours away from the Captain's hometown. We decide to make run for it and crash there. The midnight drive is nice. I stare up at the stars and take some time to appreciate what it is I'm getting to do. Jeff and Barry have done all the real work. Jeff has been coordinating this tour with our booking agent Luuk,since the spring. He has had to deal with the added stress of adding shows when previous shows were cancelled. Meanwhile Barry has handled the day-today logistics of getting us from one place to the next. He has driven essentially this entire trip; long grueling hours behind the wheel, navigating his way like a pro. He also is the primary loader/unloader of the van. It's a lot of tough work, the unglamorous everyday truth of what it is to tour. Both handle the business of the band without comment or complaint. It's all part of the deal and the work ethic is pretty impressive.


We arrive to the Captain's place around 2am. I'm exhausted but still take the opportunity to shower before crashing.



HASSELT - Aug 5


Christian Meas - AKA Captain Catastrophy -  has been travelling with us this entire tour selling merch. Originally serving as a sort of mascot for a rock & roll band of miscreants known as the El Guapo Stunt Team, the Captain Catastrophy character is a phantom stunt man wearing a costume that sort of cross-pollinates Leatherface with Evel Knievel. His face is covered with a white mask and a star-spangled crash helmet while sporting a worn out suit. He later became a television personality in Belgium hosting his own TV show performing stunts and wreaking havoc. It was called 'The Captain's Lounge' and had bands performing in a dinky old trailer while he was featured in a variety of crazy situations and stunts. Often accompanied by a fast-talking, wise-cracking southern huckster and self-proclaimed "World's Greatest Manager"called Johnny Kruger, he would remain silent during interviews, creating an awkward tension that usually ended with him scaring off the guests with a chainsaw. Over the years he hosted a pretty eclectic variety of guests, from Eagles of Death Metal, to Neneh Cherry, to Tenacious D's Kyle Gass to the Black Lips and so on. You find a some of his stuff on YouTube.


Nowadays the Captain character is largely retired. Christian is currently in the process of developing a new show based on his life experiences as a teenager growing up in Belgium. He is also busy organizing his own sci-fi/horror convention. So obviously there is a lot on his plate. Many times on the trip he is found doing work on his laptop. He basically put everything on hold when he got the call to help us, and it sure has meant a lot. Moreover his easygoing personality fits in perfectly with our crusty old crew. 


Captain lives with his girlfriend, Elspeth, a globetrotting fashion journalist. She has welcomed our ragged band of ruffians into their home. The generosity is very much appreciated. Their place is really cool; giant apartment overlooking the town of Hasselt. One room of the apartment is filled with a giant collection of old VHS tapes, with multiple copies of many titles from different countries and cover art variants. The Captain also has a colossal collection of movie posters. I spend time rummaging thru boxes and boxes of old horror and action movie posters. He also has a large collection of soundtrack albums, some very rare. It's an impressive collection to say the least.


Everything is within walking distance here, Captain doesn't even own a car. He takes Barry, Gooch and myself on a walk through town. We have some various errands to run. It's a cool place, a maze of narrow streets and countless shops. We stop at a music store so I can get some new strings. Its surprisingly large and full of killer old vintage gear. There are some pictures of famous people who have shopped here, notably Lou Reed. We also stop at a little record shop. I only make a cursory glance at the titles. I hope to find the new Pat Todd record but don't see it. I flip through a rack of t-shirts and spy a killer John Coltrane shirt. I have no cash on me so Captain spots me a twenty. I'm pretty stoked to get it. We then stop by a tattoo studio to set an appointment for later in the afternoon. Jeff, Gooch and the Captain all get small tattoos to commemorate this tour reading "C'MON HUND". It's an inside joke, something we've been saying this entire trip.


Tonight is an off-night. We had an opportunity to fill this date but decided it was too far out of the way. Plus we have discovered that FLAG and TSOL are in town. Captain knows the promoter and scores us some VIP passes. I'm stoked to see FLAG again. I saw them a few weeks before and it was killer. TSOL opening is an added bonus. We pile into the van and drive to the venue. It feels strange to be not playing tonight and I find myself wishing we were on the bill. There are two additional bands playing, neither of which I've heard of. 
We are allowed to park inside the gated area reserved for the bands. We get ushered into the club, a large building where the stage is upstairs. One of the opening bands are already playing. I peek at them but they do not grab my attention. Neither does the second band. Both are decent, and easily better than the stupid band that opened for FLAG here in the states. All the same I suppose I was feeling a twinge of jealousy that we weren't able to open this show.


We get word that TSOL are held up at the border and will have to play last. This means FLAG will play next. Jeff and I go up to the front of the stage. The crew are already hustling the gear into place. I always like to see how a crew operates; their efficiency in handling all the necessary things such as how they mic the gear, establish sound levels and just the little things that nobody really thinks about yet are essential to a good show. These guys work it out in rapid order. I wish we were able to afford a dedicated crew but I'd hold us against these guys just as readily.


FLAG takes the stage and I find myself suddenly very excited. All of whatever jealousy and wishing we were playing disappears. I'm feeling like I'm a teenager again - stoked to see one of my all-time favorite bands. They don't disappoint. They plow thru the set and its killer. At the intro part of 'No More' Chuck Dukowski starts speaking between hitting the big bass notes that open the song. I can't make out what he's saying, but Keith holds the mic to him for a second. He's making up some sort of weird poem. Something about death and being truly alive. I can't make heads or tales of it, but he's clearly in his own zone, channeling out something. It's pretty intense


In short, FLAG level the place. TSOL arrive but we decide to split. TSOL are in a van like what we and Negative Approach are using. I suspect it has all the amenities NA's van had - reclining seats, bunk, television... Still, seeing it parked next to FLAG's gigantic tour bus sorta puts things in perspective. Make of that what you will. I nearly bump into Jack Grisham in the parking lot. He doesn't seem to be in too pleasant a mood, so I let him pass.
 
I was duly inspired. We get back to the Captain's and I sit down to restring my guitar again. They are indescribably filthy; caked with sweat, beer and blood. Tomorrow will be our last day on this tour, and we are playing two shows. Everyone else crashes out, but I find it hard to sleep. The last two weeks have whizzed by. This is something I never thought I'd be able to achieve. It's happened so fast that I've very nearly taken it for granted. There's a part of me that very much wants to come back home, but there is also a part of me that wants to go on longer. It's not something I cannot easily reconcile. The road trips are long, the downtime is boring, the load-ins are tedious... but the shows are always killer. The people are amazing, the clubs are hospitable and every day brings new surprises and perspectives. I can't help but think of the NA guys. They do this every year, and although our tours started together, they will be here much longer than us. Even on their first day they seemed so readily acclimated to the whole deal. I probably came off to them like an over-excited mark, completely in awe of what it was I was getting to do. And I am a mark...
 
An unrepentant, goddamned proud mark.



KORTRIJK - Aug 6 - SHOW # 1


This is the final day of the tour. We have scheduled an additional show today so we are up and on the road early. We make a pit stop for some breakfast. The European concept of breakfast is markedly different than here in the States. A sandwich board advertises two rolls and a cup of coffee for 6 euros. The boys quickly deduce that there is an option for eggs, but the order gets lost in translation. They wind up with a plate with a single, sad looking fried egg. I decide to pass altogether. Pretty soon we are back on the motorway towards the small town of Kortrijk.


The club is called the Pit's. This place has become something of legend in ANTiSEEN lore. They first played here in '92 and the response was a wild and memorable show. They've tried to make a point to play here on every tour since, and each time is memorable as the first. Todays show is somewhat unusual as it is scheduled for the afternoon, and has been billed as a "secret" show - a surprise for longtime fans.


When we pull up we are greeted by Bowy, who had came to our shows in France last week. He has in his hands copies of both Mad Brother Ward records. Captian and Bowy both tell me that I have a following over here. I come to discover that I had fifteen minutes of fame, only I never knew it. It happened twenty years ago. In Belgium.


The club itself is a funky place. There are urinals located right by the entrance door. Pissing is a shared, communal deal here. Immediately beside the urinals another door leads to the barroom, which runs along the length of the wall into a tiny stage at the far end. An opening band is set up preparing to play. There is also a narrow stairwell that winds up the back into a small apartment that serves as a backstage. A window overlooks the street corner below. It was from this window that the boys took the picture that appears on the flipside of the "Masters Of The Sky" single. We crowd into the window and create an updated take on the classic image.


They have turned this show into quite an event, with a large canopy and grill outside cooking up sausages. The weather is beautiful. The festivities started before we even arrived. There is already a large crowd assembled out in front enjoying the weather and food. It's like an ANTiSEEN block party - it's kind of hard to believe. Jerom from France has driven up, eager to see us once more before we leave for home. I talk to him for a bit; we have to patiently attempt to translate what we are saying to each other, but he's really cool.


Inside the opening band starts. Their set is comprised of entirely Ramones covers. They're a little ragged and loose but its still cool. They take a break before regrouping for a set of originals. Outside I chow down on some sausages. This place somewhat reminds me of an area in southwestern Virginia where I would spend summers as a kid. There doesn't appear to be much happening other than our festivities. I don't see many pedestrians or cars. I do spot some children standing across the street doing little crazy dances to the music spilling out of the doorway. It seems we are quite literally the only show in town.


We eventually take the stage and everyone shoehorns down in front of us. I can't guess how many people are crammed in here but when we launch into the set they go off. Like, off off. People slam and crash about, swinging fists in the air and slinging beer. We charge thru the set and the room seems to pulsate with its own kinetic energy. They chant along with every song and shout requests. Soon I am drenched with sweat and beer. It blurs by very quickly - I can see sunlight peeking thru the cracks of the doors and I feel like I'm in the Punk Rock Twilight Zone. We reach the climax of the set and it feels as if the place might implode. It's an incredible thing to witness and participate in. When we finish they literally push us back insisting we play more. I mean the actually physically push us when we try to get off stage. They wont let us leave. So we play more.


Eventually we have no choice but to finish. We still have to make it to our next show. When people finally clear the room I am amazed to see the remnants of the carnage left behind: the floor is now covered in an inch-deep pool of beer. Jagged shards of broken glass are strewn everywhere. It's an incredible scene. We load out, careful not to slip and cut ourselves in the mess. We've had a lot of special, memorable moments on this tour, but the Pit's really goes above and beyond.






WAARSCHOOT - Aug 6 - SHOW # 2


This is the finale of the tour, the primary reason we are here in the first place. It is called the Roadkill Festival. We are one of the headlining bands. The festival is a mutli-day affair. Other acts over the course of the event include Honky, Peter Pan Speedrock , the Goddamn Gallows, the Carburetors and Bob Wayne. It is an event not terribly different than the Muddy Roots Festival here in the States, only more stilted towards rockabilly and punk.


We are ushered thru a gate and drive the circumference of the festival site. This is a very professionally put-together event. It encompasses two large areas, each with their own stage. One area is covered with a gigantic circus tent and the other is open air. As headliners, we are scheduled to play inside the tent. We are shown our parking spot and decide to wait before loading our gear in. We have the option of using a backline provided by the festival, so we want to see what the options are.


We are given two wristbands, one for all-area access and one for food. Our dinnertime is set for 7pm. I kill time waking the festival grounds. It has been very well organized and executed. There are about five thousand people here. Vendors bookend the site peddling mostly corny stuff catering to the rockabilly types. The rest is standardized heavy-metal paraphernalia. Nothing rings my bell. I do decide to nab a couple of Roadkill Festival T-shirts as a souvenir. It has our name on it, why not?


We all gather for a dinner of bratwurst and chicken kabobs. I eat light, I don't like being full when I play. We then take stock of what they are offering us to use for gear. Although I use one of their cabinets, I decide to use my rented Hiwatt. It has served me well on this tour and I'm used to it now. Barry opts to use their bass rig, a giant Ampeg set-up. Gooch also uses their drum kit, but keeps his cymbals and snare. We are given a few minutes to soundcheck and are soon ready.


We've put together a pretty strong setlist for this gig. We've also added another surprise - Captain Catastrophy!! We are introduced by a masked ne'er-do-well called "Dead Elvis" who is accompanied by the menacing Captain. Dead Elvis rants and raves a moment then proceeds to light the Captain on fire. Captain stands before the crowd fully engulfed in flames as we lurch into 'Death Train Comin'. It's a pretty cool spectacle.


The stage is another state-of-the-art deal with pro sound and lights.  It sounds great up here and I lean into every song with renewed energy. It's a little odd having so much space but I try to incorporate as much as I can. I stare into the audience, the largest I've ever played to. It isn't "our" audience, but they seem to dig it. A few ANTiSEEN fans cluster up in the front and I spot Jerom from France among them. It's cool to see he has come all the way up here for this.


About four songs in, the bass rig Barry is using farts out. We soldier on without him as the stage techs try to sort out the problem. Eventually we have to stop and allow them to change out the rig. It only takes a couple of minutes, but up here in front of a few thousand people it feels like hours. I can't help but laugh, though. Fourteen shows without problem, and only now, in this big environment and crowd do things go wrong. I don't let it flap me. I'm chomping at the bit, eager to drive this set home. Soon its fixed and it takes a moment to regain our momentum, but then we are back on all cylinders.


After the show we load out and have to say our good-byes to the Captain. There aren't too many people who would drop everything at short notice to come sell t-shirts for a band, let alone set themselves on fire for the privilege. Captain has fell in line and shouldered the load with admirable work ethic and good humor. We take a few pics together with him in his full regalia. I finally cut a classic MBW promo on him, one I had been saving the whole trip. He laughs and strikes back with a wickedly sly comeback: "I never liked your records!" We all laugh. I give him a big hug. It's been great getting to know him.


We have two hotel rooms in town. We have to be up and on the road by 3am in order to return to Dusseldorf for our flight home. We only have about five hours, but its enough time to shower and catch a quick catnap. My clothes are all dirty at this point. I dig thru my bag and get the cleanest dirty clothes that I have. I at least have clean underwear and socks - priorities...



RETURN - Aug 7


We roll out promptly at 3am arriving in time for the hellish process of checking in. There is a woman working the line that is from originally from North Carolina. She sees Barry's British-issue passport and thinks he's mocking her with his accent. She leads us down to oversize luggage check and I see my guitar disappear once more. 


We make it thru all the chutes, ladders, rings of fire, blood oaths and whatever else is required to get declared safe enough to board a plane. And this plane isn't anywhere as nice as the one that brought us over. I'm seated on the aisle. I can't recline and have no leg space. As with the flight over I take some sleep aids and hope to pass out. It doesn't work. I get a few naps here and there, but mostly I'm stuck in this terribly uncomfortable and unnerving flight. The only plus is when we pass over the southern tip of Greenland. Even though I have to crane my neck to peek thru the tiny window, its an amazing sight.


We finally land in Chicago's dreaded O'Hare International. Here we spend nearly two hours getting routed thru another fifty rounds of security clearances, each one staffed with the most unpleasant people available. Once we are thru, we have to navigate the maze of terminals that make up O'Hare, a self-contained city of its own. The entire ordeal is interminably long and arduous, and I find myself actually eager to be back aboard a plane. And I hate flying.


We eventually are boarded and taxi down the runway. I catch a peek of the Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan as we lift-off. Soon the landscape dissolves into a patchwork of fields and farmland before we are above the clouds.


I finally doze off and before I even realize it we are on approach to Charlotte. I am able to spot landmarks from the air as we fly in over I-77.  I recognize the exit below the town of Cornelius and Cowans Ford Dam and McGuire Nuclear Station on Lake Norman. We bank over and across I-485 and I-85. I feel the landing gear drop and can see Little Rock Road, not far from where I once lived. Then we touchdown.


Home again...





In the wake of our trip we are proud to announce the release of  "WE'RE # ONE", a 12"ep of four new songs. It is pressed on multi-colored vinyl, with no two being the same. It includes a download card, a vinyl sticker and a bonus 24 page comic book illustrated by the incomparable Jamie Vayda. Yes, ANTiSEEN are now comic book heroes! Check it out as we do battle on the Planet Of The Apes! Surprise Superstar Guest appearances!! Thrilling action!! Side-splitting humor!! Seriously - this is a pretty great package  - I'd say so even if I weren't involved. All necessary info on www.antiseen.com


Also we make our Stateside return on September 4th in Raleigh opening for the legendary SLOPPY SECONDS. Also on the bill are our old pals KIFF. This is labor day weekend and is gonna be a big one.


Also on the horizon is an appearance at the 8th Annual Hellbilly Hootenanny on October 1st in Asheville with the Barnyard Stompers, Go-Devils, Reno Divorce and a bunch more.
 
Then as if that weren't enough, we return to our hometown on Thursday October 6th at the Milestone Club with the mighty SVETLANAS!! And since we like more bang for the buck, also on the bill are our old friends, the infamous HAMMERLOCK. This is the gonna be the biggest, best punk rock show happening in Charlotte this year, so make all necessary plans - skip school, call in sick to work, break parole, bust outta jail, steal a car, rob a bank, slap yer granny.... do whatcha gotta do!!!

  
And WE will see YOU all SOON!!!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

European Tour Journal - Pt 2

A few quick notes before continuing. On this trip I finally met another longtime friend and fan of the band, Tim McLoughlin. He came all the way from Belfast Ireland to see the first couple of the German shows. It was good to finally meet in person. Also Diste and Olga from Svetlanas were at the Stuttgart show. We will be playing a show together in the near future, but I'll save the news on that for a later date... The response on the last post was overwhelming. Its the most read blog I've yet written, and I just wanna say thanks. It means a lot, it truly does.


So, where were we? Oh yeah -


Meanwhile, back on the road...




UTRECHT - July 27


We part ways with Stefan in the morning. He has other obligations but has generously allowed us to stay at his apartment when we get to Berlin in a few days. Upon leaving Paris we are stopped by the gendarmerie. There is still a state of high alert in France after the recent terrorist attacks there. The officer is very good-natured however. He asks some basic questions and if we have more than $5000 in cash. Barry responds "I wish!" He laughs and waves us along. Soon we are on the motorway.


Once we cross over the border into Belgium we stop at McDonalds. This particular McDonalds is themed with 50's and 60's memorabilia, particularly of Elvis, the Beatles and Marilyn Monroe. It's rockabilly weenies wet dream. There is, however, a particular and peculiar difference to the rest of the theme: a two story tall statue of Michael Jackson which stands in the back corner of the parking lot looming over all. It is guarded by a large fence which is covered in cards, flowers and art in dedication to the fallen "King of Pop".


Bad taste prevails.


We check into our lodging for the night before heading to the club. It's a bed and breakfast that apparently lodges groups pretty regularly. The interior is decorated with random musical things, from instruments to framed portraits of legendary groups. The residence has an honest-to-god thatched roof and is about 400 years old. It's a pretty funky old place but very cool. We are given a key and head out to locate the club.


The roads are a little confusing. The venue is located on the corner of some sort of industrial complex and we are unable to locate the actual entrance to the parking lot. Barry finally employs a little American ingenuity and know-how, jumping a median and driving down a bike lane taking us into the back of the parking lot.


The club is called 'dB's', which I guess stands for 'decibels'. And yes, it will get loud. The staff here are all very cool and helpful. We load in quickly. Soon our opening act arrives, the infamous Philadelphia heavy metal band Eat The Turnbuckle. For the uninitiated, ETB are a professional wrestling themed band, employing lots of crazy stunts like hitting each other with chairs, barbed-wire clubs and jumping thru tables. Their sets are shambolic bloody affairs and it has gotten them a lot of press, particularly after getting banned in Scotland last year. 
 
It would seem a no-brainer, pairing ANTiSEEN and Eat The Turnbuckle. Our styles compliment each other pretty well. It's somewhat confusing that more dates weren't put together for us on while we are over here, but of course routing has a large part to do with it. They will be headed west after tonight, as we will be headed north. Our European booking agent, Luuk, is travelling with the ETB guys. It gives us opportunity to work out some details for replacement bookings from the shows that were cancelled. Everything is working out smoothly. We gather for a large catered meal of Chinese food. It is awesome. Sitting around a large table, passing the food back and forth, it strikes me that we are like some weird family of orphans, hated yanks in a strange land.


The show is pretty intense. ETB have learned to pace themselves somewhat. Their drummer suffered a broken ankle at the start of their tour here. He plays on with his leg in a cast. They cover the old Cocknoose song "Invader 1 Must Die" and have invited Jeff to join on vocals for their cover of GG Allin's "I Am The Highest Power". Jeff uses his scrub board to deliver a shot to the head of ETB's vocalist, Goldberg. Its quite the spectacle. After their set they all come backstage, bloodied and sweaty. All in a nights work.


We are given a few minutes to do a quick line check. I ask the soundguy to put a lot of my guitar in my monitor. When we start the set I'm nearly knocked over by the sound. It is deafening. I blast away power chords on my guitar barely hearing much else. The set gains momentum as it progresses. We don't have the props and gimmickery of ETB, but we still lay down some serious heat. The crowd really are into it and we get called out for two encores! It was great night of tag-team rock & roll carnage.


We say our goodbyes to ETB and make our way to back to the bed & breakfast. My ears are ringing in an unusual way - instead of my normal high pitched ringing, there is instead a low almost siren-like drone. I wonder if I've done permanent damage and figure I'll be deaf by the end of this tour. I take a quick shower and crash out.




OSNABRUCK - July 28


The club is called the Bastard Club - and is a pretty cool place. The owner of this club has not bent to the demands of the little internet trolls calling for our banishment. He just laughs it off. It's great to have support like this.The stage is located in the basement under the bar. We have to load our equipment in down a stairwell. We are playing with Negative Approach again tonight. They arrive shortly after us. I take a peek at their van during load in. Although it's essentially the same, it's much nicer than ours. It has reclining seats, a bunk and even a TV. They also have their own driver. I'm pretty impressed. The NA guys are all very cool. We help each other loading in all the gear. No pretense or posing with these guys. The stage is pretty tight and the ceiling is very low. Somehow we manage to cram all both bands gear on the stage.


We are fed a really great meatball stew - the likes of which I've never had before, but it sure is tasty. There is time to kill and we all hang out making small talk. It's pretty cool seeing Jeff and John Brannon shooting the shit. Negative Approach was actually an early influence on Jeff when starting ANTiSEEN. It's cool to discover they share so many similar influences. NA's set is, again, killer. They are locked in and fire off song after song with rapid precision. They've been doing a really incredible cover of Alice Cooper's "Desperado" in soundcheck but haven't played it during their set yet. They do, however, also cover the old Sham 69 song "Borstal Breakout" in their set. John invites Jeff to join them tonight on their cover of the Stooges "I Got A Right" and it is predictably awesome.


Our set is great, too. We've been mixing up our set a little every night keeping things fresh. We start a wee sluggish but quickly fall into place. The only slight mishap is when my cables come loose from pedals. I have to make a quick adjustment between every other song. I make a mental note to tape everything down from here on out. We volley thru the set and bring it home strong. I am soaked with sweat and my hands shake. It was pretty intense.
 
Afterwards we sign things for people. I meet Tobi Plumenbohm and a few of his friends. Another guy tells me that he has travelled several hours to be here. I'm always humbled by this. A local band was supposed to open the show tonight but had some sort of trouble and couldn't play. They showed up anyway and were cool folks. I'm able to snag some of the big event posters the club uses for advertising. Osnabruck and the Bastard Club is easily one of the coolest places I've ever played. So many good people here.





GOTHENBURG - July 29


The ride to Sweden from Germany is a long one. We get an early start to make time, which takes all day. We pass thru Denmark on the way up and are stopped at the border. The officer is actually very friendly. He goes thru the process of examining our passports but makes small talk. This is nothing like American police. I keep thinking of the rude Highway Patrolmen we encountered in Wilmington a few weeks prior. They could learn a few things from the border guards in Denmark.


The traffic is awful. Several times it comes to a complete standstill on the motorway. We find ourselves sitting for twenty and thirty minutes at a time. There doesn't appear to be any reason for the delays, its all totally random. We cross two channels that were once only serviced by ferries. Now there are gigantic modern bridges. At the shoreline there is an old lighthouse, a strange juxtapose to the modern engineering of the bridge. We creep and crawl our way into Sweden. We arrive about two hours late to Gothenburg.


The club is called Pustervik. It is sort of like the place we played in Nantes, with a state-of-the-art sound and light system. Only this place is even larger. We've arrived so late that the opening bands are already soundchecking. The soundguy abruptly stops them so we can load in. They have to take their stuff down and wait. I almost feel guilty about it, but I don't question it. Clearly the staff has their priorities, and tonight, we are the priority. Unfortunately there are strict regulations on noise here. It takes some work to achieve a stage volume that is allowable. The soundguy is really cool about it. Ordinarily I ignore their requests, but since he is working with me instead of against me, I comply to his wishes as best as I can. We get in a quick soundcheck and it isn't great, but will do the job.


We are fed a weird dinner of some sort of tomato sauce and pita bread. Its really tasty but I find myself wondering where the noodles are. A lot of clubs seem to be in the habit of serving vegan dishes. We are unabashed carnivores, so sometimes the offerings leave much to be desired. The backstage greenroom is actually up several flights of steps. Its probably the nicest backstage I've ever been in. There is lounge area with sofas and small stereo. It has a classic country CD in the system, which is a bonus. The opening bands don't seem to appreciate it, however. There is a refrigerated cooler full of beer, water and soda, a table full of snacks and chips. There are also two private bathrooms. I manage to lock myself into one of the bathrooms much to the hilarity of the others. The greenroom is so comfortable we all nearly doze off. It has been a pretty hellish ride here and we are all pretty beat. I notice that it is already 9:30pm, however the sun is still low in the sky. It occurs to me that this is the furthest north I have ever been.


The stage is huge and  there is a curtain that is closed between every band. We get our stuff ready and begin the set with the long droning notes and feedback wash of 'Death Train Comin' as the curtain opens. I'm not happy with my stage volume but there is nothing I can do at this point. It's do or die. I'm so caught up in trying to stay focused that I barely notice the giant plumes of smoke emitting from the fog machine. We reach hit the end of the song and I hear Gooch freaking out. I can barely see him for the smoke, frantically swinging his arms. "Somebody turn off the goddamned smoke!!" Barry is double over in laughter.
 
We blitz the rest of the set. I am pleasantly surprised to see the floor of the room basically full. I was somewhat concerned we would be playing to fifty people in this giant space, but the turnout is great. There are some pretty rabid fans up front shouting out songs. We reward them with some of their requests. They reward us when one of the girls up front lifts her shirt. Not a common occurrence at an ANTiSEEN show, but a welcome one!


After the show we discover the opening bands have taken all the beer. I find it somehow endearing. They are nice kids but they don't seem to care anything for us. The promoter on the other hand is stoked. He is called "Junk" (pronounced 'Yoonk' ). He had a really cool poster made for the show and I am able to snag one. He assures us he can book an entire tour of Scandinavia if we ever wish. He has really stepped up and pulled off a great show for us here. It is a surprising bonus that we also have our own private rooms at a motel nearby. I take a long shower and crash out. If every show was like this, I'd never want to come home.





COPENHAGEN - July 30


The ride back to Denmark is relatively short - only about three hours. We make a stop at an exit for some gas and some food. There is a McDonalds that is offering a Chicken Big Mac. Being one to explore regional delicacies, I of course order one. It is awesome, something I wish was available stateside. The Danes and the Swedes have really got it figured out. They're way ahead of us, I tells ya!


We arrive in Copenhagen early. Nobody else has showed up yet so we have to wait it out. Barry takes a walk and much to his delight, discovers an English style pie shop. Some guys arrive to open the place up. They seem quite young to me, but I'm terrible at guessing ages. Tonight we are playing with Negative Approach again. This will be our last show together and tonight we are opening for them. They arrive a little later and soon we have everything loaded in.


The club is called 'Underwerket'. It is a tiny space located in the basement of an arts and crafts center. It is a dank, dirty place, a basic no frills punk rock club. There is barely room for our stuff on the tiny stage. We are lead upstairs to a kitchen area where we are fed more weird vegan food. I don't know what it is, some sort of beans and giant flour tortillas. It's pretty tasty though. I fill up and head back downstairs. The backstage is a cramped room full of junk. There is nowhere to go so I wait it out.


An opening band arrives and ask if they can share our stuff. We let them. They are a duo, only guitar and drums. Apparently this is some sort of side project for them. They also have another band where they play different instruments. They are nice kids and seem pretty eager, but they also drink all the beer. We all find it pretty amusing. John Brannon sums it up succinctly: "We were kids once, too."


Our set is a hot one, figuratively and literally. The room is packed. There is a guy right down in the front in a wheelchair. He's going apeshit, thrashing back and forth in his chair and sometimes even toppling over backwards. Its a trip to watch. I have no room to move on the tiny stage. The sweat spills into my eyes and onto my guitar. At one point the crowd surges forward as people slam into each other. Somebody falls across me and slams into my amp rig. It looks like he is broken in half, but he pulls himself up and leaps back into the fray. It is a chaotic set but we play strong.


NA follows with a blistering set of their own. It is clear that this is indeed their audience. As violent and shambolic as the crowd was during our set, they are more so now. They swing their fists and pile on top of one another, a wall of sweaty bodies in a tangled mass of denim and leather. It's an incredible sight. Tonight they also finally add their cover of Alice Cooper's "Desperado" and also a cover 4-Skins "Chaos". Jeff joins in on "I Got A Right" again.


After the show the wheelchair guy comes backstage. He is missing a leg. He's pretty drunk but polite. We sign stuff for him but he wants to just hang out. He tells me and Barry that he ordinarily isn't in the wheelchair but he has recently injured his good leg. He then tells us about how he lost his other leg as a kid when he got hit by a train. He shows us large bands of scars all across his body. He has developed a wicked sense of humor as a means to cope. He shows me tattoos that read  'NECK', 'ARM' and 'HAND' at their respective spots with large arrows. Above his missing leg he has 'GONE'. He smiles wryly and says that this way he can keep inventory. His sense of humor and positivity is humbling and inspiring. He is one of the more memorable characters I've met on the road.


Load out proves difficult. Everyone is nice enough but they don't seem too concerned with making any room for us to carry our stuff out. After several polite "excuse me's" I finally just start bumping people out of my way. I don't like to be rude, but sometimes its called for I guess. The NA and 'SEEN guys help each other load out. We are both staying at the same place tonight, but they opt to hang out a bit while we head on.


The place we are staying at is a hostel. It feels like a summer camp. Its actually pretty nice - although we are all crowded in the same room. Still, we have our own bathroom and I am able to shower. I climb up on the top bunk and am asleep in no time.


 

BERLIN - July 31


Before leaving Copenhagen we round up with the NA guys one last time for pictures. Its been a lot of fun meeting  and playing with them. Hopefully we'll get to do it again. We talk of maybe doing something in the fall. We'll see. We all pile into our vans and go off our separate ways.


Our van's A/C seems to be on the fritz. It's already uncomfortable enough, but the heat makes it rather unpleasant. The ride back into Germany is long and rather boring. The only excitement occurs when a huge hawk kamikazes into the van, leaving a huge dent. It probably killed the bird, and it later proves to be a pretty hefty expense on us for the repair.


We have no shows scheduled for today or the next. We spend our downtime in Berlin. Stefan Walz, who traveled with us for the first few days of this tour has allowed us to stay at his apartment, as he is out of town. We stop to pick up the key from his girlfriend, Dawn. She has her own cupcake shop, 'Cupcake Berlin'. I feel self-conscious when her assistant comes to the counter. She is very pretty and I feel ashamedly grubby. Dawn is really cool. She generously gives us a box of cupcakes with the keys to the apartment.


It is getting dark when we finally locate the apartment. We settle in, exhausted. Stefans place is in an old building. The apartment is huge, with high ceilings and ancient hardwood floors. I wonder if we are on the 'old' side of Berlin, the side once controlled by the communists. I wonder if this building is a relic of old-school communist architecture. There is a large study that Stefan has filled with all sorts of collectables; old models, toys, games, masks and a library of cool books and records. I stare at it all afraid to touch anything. The stuff lines the walls from floor to ceiling. I feel like I'm in some sort of museum. The value of all this stuff is beyond what I can probably imagine. Its pretty cool.


I make use of the washing machine and then we gather in front of the TV. Captain has been hyping an old movie for the last week and we finally have an opportunity to watch it. It is called 'Stunt Rock'. I can't rightly discern the plot, but it basically follows Australian stuntman Grant Page around Los Angeles while filming a movie. Along the way he befriends a hard rock group  called Sorcerer. They employ theatrical gimmicks with magicians during their set. There are also two pretty blondes along for the ride, because... because.


It's a lousy movie, but we all love it. After the movie I crash out.


BERLIN - Aug 1


Day two in Berlin. There is no sense in moving the van and losing our parking spot, so anywhere we want to go has to be in walking distance. I don't feel much like sightseeing any way. I sleep most of the day. Later in the afternoon Barry and I walk a few blocks over to a large city square. There is some sort of festival happening. I don't know if this is an everyday thing here or not, but there are performance groups staging little plays, puppetry and even robotic animals including a fire breathing mechanical dragon. There is also a large market of people selling all sorts of random stuff. It's like flea markets and swap meets here in the states - mostly just junk.


Barry and I hit a place offering fish and chips - it's mediocre. We then spot a shopping mall and decide to give it a walk thru. It is a giant three level monstrosity, a paean to the crass commercialism. I am reminded here that people are the same no matter where on Earth you are. They are driven by an innate sense of self-worth as defined by what they possess. This mall is no different than anything you find here in America. The superficiality of plasticized consumerism laid out in gaudy fashions, high tech gizmos and flakey novelties.



GOPPINGEN - Aug 2



When people got word we suddenly had some open dates, they jumped at the opportunity to secure us for their own towns. Although it was short notice, people quickly rearranged their personal schedules to allow for our shows. We actually had several offers we weren't able to accommodate due to routing, time and cost. We still were going to do some crazy cross-country runs to make these shows happen, and if it were possible we wouldn't have lost any dates. Sometimes circumstance prevents you from making everything happen, but I'd qualify the effort as a success.


We first stop in a little town called Giegen. We are staying here tonight with another old friend of the band, a guy called 'Evil'. In advance of our arrival here, I sorta pictured what this 'Evil' character must be like - probably a big scary looking tattoo covered biker goon, right? Wrong. 'Evil', Although a large man, Evil is a soft-spoken, clean-cut professional looking fellow who runs a high-end bathroom remodeling business. His home is a compound containing the office and warehouse of his business with his apartment above upstairs. It was a really nice place, very modern and comfortable.


He rides with us on over to Goppingen. Goppingen is a tiny hamlet in western Germany. The countryside is beautiful here, a far cry form the dirty and dizzying hustle of the larger cities. Here there are Old World remains of old castles and buildings that harken back to an era when the New World was little more than a rumor. The history of these hills is almost haunting. There are still modern buildings of course. At one point we pass a large warehouse and Evil tells us that it is the world headquarters for Nuclear Blast records. I joke we should o get a record deal. I somehow doubt they would take us...
 
The roads here are narrow, cobblestone alleys that we virtually block with our van. We arrive to a tiny tavern that is hosting our show for the evening. We are met at the door by the promoter, Christoph. He is another longtime friend of the band. He and Evil are part of a contingent known as the "Ulm Boys". Christoph's clearly stoked to be doing this show, as are we. 


The club is called Zille. We load in to a back room. There is a cramped corner where we will play. No stage, no lights and a tiny vocal PA. Talk about DIY punk rock!  There is no opening act, only us. We cram everything in and its obvious already by the vibe here that its gonna be killer. People are already starting to arrive and soon a large crowd is congregated out in the street. There's a very palpable sense of excitement. Captain sets up merch at a table beside the bar while people queue in line for admission.


We are given the go-ahead and start our set. The room is jam packed. People are standing on tables and chairs. There is absolutely no room to move but we drive into our set. Everyone is crowded around us and signing along with every song. At some points they are so loud it almost sounds like a choir. The crowd is aggro, but not violent. Everyone is having a blast. Tonight feels very special, and will be one I'll remember for along time.


We return to Evil's place and after a quick shower I peruse his DVDs. He has a copy of the great documentary 'Heartworn Highways'. Evil, Captain and myself plop down and watch it before finally sacking out for the night.





PRAGUE - Aug 4


The ride to Prague was long and dreary. I decide the sun never shines here. The city of Prague is highlighted as a European tourist destination but if such places exist, we never saw any of it. The city I saw was dirty and depressed. As all other major European cities, graffiti covers every available inch of space. I imagine there isn't much wealth here.
 
The club is called Modra Vopice. In a certain respect, it reminds me of the kind of place you'd see in Austin, such as Emo's or Red 7. There is a building with a bar and a stage but along one end the walls can be opened to the outside. Another stage stands outside. There are picnic tables situated between the outdoor stage and the indoor stage in a sort of courtyard. Off to another end is the greenroom.


Tonight we are fed steak, a real treat after the weird vegan food we have been getting. There is plenty of beer in a large refrigerated cooler, but mostly I just drink soda. the green room is plastered from floor to ceiling with posters from prior shows here. They've hosted all the big punk and metal bands as well as more obscure acts with some of the most ridiculous names imaginable. Some favorites were 'Burning Butthairs' and 'Begging For Incest'. You can't make this stuff up.


People come up to the door of the greenroom and request autographs. Everyone here is very reserved and polite. We invite them in and sign whatever they have. We are somewhat surprised to discover the soundguy here is a character who we once met many years ago in Atlanta known as 'Czech Mike'. He worked for the Impotent Sea Snakes and was also loosely associated with GG Allin . He comes to the greenroom to welcome us. He looks completely different from what I remember, but still boasts the physical scars of those wilder, woolier days. He talks a bit about the miles between then and now. He seems very healthy and happy.


It's another big crowd. The turnouts here have not been in any way disappointing. There seems to be a lot of GG fans here, no doubt attracted by ANTiSEEN's recordings with him. Czech Mike asks if a friend of his can read a poem he has written before we play. We of course say yes. We also decide to open our set with 'Violence Now' - and when we do, the place erupts. The crowd are probably the rowdiest yet. The ricochet off one another as they slam and thrash about. Its a great set.


Afterwards we sign more stuff. Everybody congregates out on the picnic tables and watch as we load our gear back in the van. As we finally finish and climb in to leave they all stand and applaud. Getting a standing ovation as we pulled out of the parking lot in Prague is something I will never forget. it was pretty amazing.


The only hiccup of the night occurs when we are informed by the promoter that we have lost our hotel reservations. Instead we are directed to another hostel. It takes a few minutes to locate. It is a rather dumpy place, nothing like the hostel in Denmark. We have to share a single tiny room for the five of us, and a bathroom with the rest of the floor. There is, naturally, no air conditioning and the window opens to an alley. Its pretty miserable here but I still mange to sleep pretty good.


We still have a long ride ahead of us...   




-TO BE CONINUED -

Sunday, August 14, 2016

European Tour Journal Pt 1

So I've finally achieved something I never thought I'd get to do - tour Europe. It was an experience I no doubt will remember for the rest of my life. This was an opportunity afforded me though the hard work and history of what Jeff and Joe built, and I will forever feel indebted to them for it. Luck is merely when opportunity meets preparation, and I'd say we were very prepared for this opportunity. We played some of the best gigs this line-up has yet had.


Anyways - it went something like this:




DEPARTURE - July 21


We all met at Charlotte Douglas International Airport early in the afternoon. The process for checking your baggage is long and tedious. After standing in a short but slow moving line, we are greeted by a lady who was very pleasant. Probably because it was her job to begin tallying expense after expense for the size and weight of our stuff. We have our guitars and two cases full of merch and other assorted necessary things such as Jeff's washboards. It wound up costing us about triple what we had anticipated. Soon we were off to the next obstacle - the dreaded NSA security checkpoint.


I understand and appreciate the necessity of the security, however the process leaves much to be desired. Lines are interminably slow and the officers are not exactly the friendliest or jovial of characters. I mean, sure - we all hate our jobs, but to take it out on the people you are hired to serve seems a bit... wrong. I somewhat obnoxiously smile as I kick off my shoes and shove my bag down the x-ray. I'm given a grudging approval and awkwardly scramble to reclaim my stuff so as to allow the person behind me their turn at needless humiliation. I put on my shoes and head on down the concourse to our gate.


Our flight is an overnight one, so I decided it best to try to sleep on the flight. I gobble some sleep aids before boarding. The band is not seated together. I find myself with a window seat and nobody next to me. I'm somewhat anxious as we taxi across the tarmac - I've not flown in about fifteen years. I never cared for air travel. The plane soon speeds down the runway and we are born aloft. My ears pop as we climb in altitude and banks sharply. I have an incredible panoramic view of the city. It's quite the sight from up here. The plane climbs higher and I lose my sense of direction. The pills are kicking in. My last conscious moment is noticing what appears to be the coastline...




ARRIVAL - July 22


I awake at intervals feeling cold. I am unaware I've been given a blanket and pillow, instead curling up as best as I can to sleep more. When I finally awake I notice the orange hue of sunrise on the horizon. Below is the country of Spain - but it may as well be another planet. The landscape is dark with the odd illuminations of small town street lamps in glowing orange scribbles amid the darkness.


We land in Madrid. We are changing planes here. The Madrid airport is a massive complex of multiple terminals, towers and runways. We are first herded through another ridiculously long line to another checkpoint. It is staffed with agents less amiable than their American counterparts. I present my passport, which has not yet been stamped. The agent looks at it and then at me. His brow furrows with suspicious contempt. I half expect him to say "you bourgeois American capitalist swine!! I have ways for making you talk!!" Instead he doubtfully sneers "this is your first time travelling to Europe?" I meekly smile. He stamps my passport and I am free to pass.
 
We have to take a subway train to another terminal to meet our connection. This building is less crowded and less hurried. We are boarded quickly. This flight I am seated with Gooch. I fall back asleep as we taxi for take-off. I sleep the whole way.Gooch later reports he watched another passenger methodically pick his nose and unashamedly consume the harvest for the duration of the flight. Welcome to Europe.


We land in Dussledorf, Germany. We lurch towards baggage claim eager to collect our stuff and be on our way. We go to the oversize baggage claim only to discover our stuff is not there. Barry goes to figure out what the deal is. He discovers our stuff is still in Madrid and wont arrive for another day. Although we are scheduled to play tonight there is not much we can do. We still have to meet up with the guy bringing our rental gear and truck, so we move on.


The rental equipment guy shows up in a big fire-engine red Mercedes Sprinter van. It is loaded down with our gear for the tour - Barry's bass rig consisting of a giant 4/10 cabinet and two heads, Gooch's drums and my chosen tools: two Hiwatt heads and an Orange speaker cabinet. We explain our problems with our guitars and merch being stuck in Madrid. "Don't worry", He assures us. "I'll fix it." Long story short, he is able to have our stuff expedited straight away. They promise to deliver it to the club the same day. We are skeptical.




COLOGNE - July 22


We arrive to the club in the late afternoon. I am feeling somewhat swimmy-headed which I figure to be jet lag. The club is called The Underground. It's a funky place, a compound of garishly painted buildings surrounded by a high wall covered in large event posters advertising upcoming shows, including our own. There is a small courtyard between the buildings with a few scattered picnic tables. These are occupied by the members of the legendary Detroit hardcore punk band Negative Approach. I'm tripped out on the fact they are opening the show for us tonight. They are some scary looking dudes. We already know the drummer, John Lehl. He also plays for the Meatmen, whom we toured with two years ago. Their bassist is Ron Sarkowski, who played in the Necros and the Laughing Hyenas. Guitarist Harold Richardson was in Easy Action. Then there is, of course, vocalist John Brannon, the real deal - a legend and a survivor. We make our introductions, and they are all really cool and good natured. When they hear of our problems with our missing guitars, they step up and generously offer us use of their own. I'm pretty humbled by this. We have four shows scheduled with NA, but I wish we could do the entire tour with them.


I am also introduced to two other guys, both of whom will be travelling with us. The first is Stefan Walz. Stefan is an old friend of the band who toured with them on some of their other trips over here. He will only be with us for about four days. The other is Christian Maes, aka 'Captain Catastrophy'. The Captain has signed on as our merch guy for the entire trip.
 
The owner of the club tells us that he is friends with the owner of a music shop about a block away. The music shop has offered to rent us guitars for the night. Barry and I are led over to the shop and inspect the inventory. The stuff we are offered is serviceable but we opt to take NA's offer to use their stuff instead. I spy some used pedals and am tempted to purchase one, but I don't. Better save my money.


We return to the club and I get a quick rundown with Harold with his guitar and pedal. I run it into my rig and dial in my sound. It's not perfect but will do the trick. His distortion pedal was one I nearly bought back when I joined the band. Harold is a much more accomplished and experienced player, but has no arrogance. He selflessly helps me out and I really appreciate it.


Shows here in Europe generally run early, unlike American shows which try to capitalize on the late bar hours. I prefer the early starts. NA's set is at 8:20 and ours is scheduled for 9:30. Oh, and generally there are only two bands on the bill, unlike American shows which overload their bills with four and five bands. However in Europe modern convenience beyond plumbing isn't high on the priority list. Most of the buildings are old and are in some sort of state of repair. Whatever isn't already scaled with scaffolding is covered in graffiti. Seriously - graffiti is the primary paint on every building in every city, no matter where you go. Central air conditioning is also a rare commodity. Windows are opened and  - if lucky - a fan to circulate the air. It is however, generally cooler here. In fact this day is abnormally warm, with a high temp of about 80. In Europe it isn't customary to use ice in drinks. This is something I never understood. Cold drinks is a no brainer, right? Wrong.


NA start their set and are great. They are tight and powerful. I feel a weird juxtapose of intimidation and inspiration. There is a big crowd here, probably over two hundred people. I have resigned myself to the fact we aren't going to be properly equipped. I am tired, jet lagged and queasy. I walk outside for some fresh air and prepare myself mentally. Then, almost beyond my belief, our missing gear arrives. As promised the airline has expedited it from Spain and delivered it straight to the club. I am so elated I nearly hug the delivery guy.
NA finish their set and tear down their gear. I'm so pleased to have my stuff I forget about my fatigue and queasiness. I forget to be nervous. I forget that I'm even in Germany. In fact it takes about three songs into our set before I even realize 'hey - I'm playing in Europe!'. We are a little loose but it plays to our favor. I think the set is great and have a lot of fun. We blast thru the set and audience is into it. It's over too soon. Before I know it we are loading out.


We have reservations at a hotel, which turns out to be a very nice Radisson. I shower and zonk out almost straight away.



STUTTGART - July 23


I awake early and fumble through the protocol of the continental breakfast the hotel offers. I probably come off as the stereotypical oafish American fumbling for every scrap of food offered. They say you are never truly an American until you visit another country. Judging by the sideways glances I receive, I discover this to be very true. The Damned Yankee.
We are soon rolling down the highway towards Stuttgart. Stefan makes a brief detour to stop by his hometown and visit his parents. They are very nice and offer us coffee and cake. We spend some time on the front porch of their home enjoying the afternoon before moving on.


We roll into Stuttgart around 5pm. The club is located on a street corner with no parking close by. We have to improvise parking to unload our gear. The club is actually in the basement of the building, so we also have to lug everything down a flight of steps. It is called appropriately, the 'Keller Klub' or Cellar Club. It's a cool place, covered in the big event posters favored by European promoters. We are playing with NA again and they are already here and loaded in.


Barry has to park the van several blocks away, and then we have to go feed a meter every two hours. I make the trek twice, taking in the sights of the city. European cities don't really have skyscrapers like America. They are instead comprised of sprawling mazes of apartment and office buildings, which are seemingly interchangeable and indistinguishable. Again, everything is covered in graffiti, scaffolding or event posters. The citizens look like extras from central casting. Euroboys in silly fashionwear not yet trendy stateside stomp about in a manner as if to say 'I know I dress like I'm gay, but I'm not.' The word "metrosexual" is apt. Girls mingle in packs, all of them attractive and disinterested. There is an overwhelming feeling of boredom here. I feel like an ogre among them. 


We play another great set. The room is packed. I couldn't guess the actual number, but its a great turn-out. They aren't as rowdy as the night before, but they seem to know all the songs and are with us the whole way. We drill this set out a little better, a little harder, a little faster. This seems to be the pace we will have for the rest of the tour. We have practiced hard and it is paying off. We really have hit stride and it feels good to deliver.
 
After the show we seek out our hotel. All our reservations were made in advance and the information provided to us in paperwork that also details each venue, promoter, phone numbers, addresses and other necessary details for each date of the tour. We find the hotel and shuffle to our rooms. We have four rooms to divide six ways - Jeff and Barry claim single rooms while Stefan and Captain share a room as I do with Gooch.


It's a funky hotel. No air, of course. I shower and sack out. There is an Iggy Pop concert on TV. It is followed with reruns of a weird German version of Top Of The Pops from the early 70's. Most of the acts featured are German, but everey third or fourth one is some classic British or American act. My last conscious memory is Gooch exclaiming "Nazareth!" and the banshee wail of Dan McAfferty...



TRAVEL DAY - July 24


I wake up early. Too early. I watch an old rerun of the 'A-Team' dubbed in German. You haven't quite lived until you've seen Mr T dubbed in German... I make another awkward attempt at breakfast. Apparently the average European breakfast is bread, bread and a side of bread. And coffee. I opt for the bread and skip the coffee. Coffee gives me the shits.


We formulate a travel plan for the day. Our next show is located out towards the western coast of France in a town called Nantes, about 9 hours away. Stefan chooses a spot in central France called Orleans. We pack up and hit the road. I feel extremely out of sorts and am very tired, but unable to sleep much in the van. It's deceptively tight and the seats don't recline. We cross the border into France and I take in the countryside. We past vineyards, hop gardens and fields of sunflowers. Its a beautiful day and the trip is pleasant if slightly uncomfortable.


Jeff gets a text from our booking agent. There is trouble. Some kids on the internet have decided we are Nazis and are now staging a vendetta to have all of our shows cancelled. We ultimately lose a couple of shows in Germany and Austria because of it. Fortunately there are those more sane and sensible. The promoter in Osnabruck refuses to be bullied. Several people seize the opportunity to book us on the newly opened dates, so we don't really lose any traction. Outside of Germany the movement has absolutely no effect whatsoever. People begin to clown the kids online, mocking their stupidity and self-righteousness. Personally, I am worried they will be agitated enough to come to our shows to start trouble. Barry laughs it off and Stefan assures me these are merely keyboard warriors. "They wont come out. They never do".
 
You almost have to choke on the irony - these people call themselves "anti-fascist" yet are the enemies of free speech, artistic expression and individual liberty. They cry, kick and scream until they get what they demand - without regard to reason or logic. There is only room for their opinion; facts need not be given credence. Yet they have the guile to make baseless claims against us, without defense.


You tell me who the true fascists are.
 
We stop for the night in Orleans, staying in a pretty nice hotel. We awake the next morning and visit a 300 year old cathedral at the towns center. Its architecture is amazing. Stonework masonry and stained glass that demonstrate a dedication to craft that seemingly no longer exists today. This stop would prove to be about the only sightseeing we would have time for.


We had to boogie...



NANTES - July 25


The town of Nantes is located on the western coast of France. The weather is beautiful here, it almost feels like spring. It takes a few minutes to find the club which is situated along a string of restaurants, bars and other venues along a harbor front. The sidewalk is like an unending patio of umbrella covered tables populated by a diverse array of people enjoying the evening. Today is Gooch's birthday and he is in a grand mood.


We have to roll our equipment about fifty yards to load in. The club is called 'Le Ferailleur' - in English, "The Junkyard" - however it is actually one of the nicer places we've ever played. The bar is located out in front, open to the sidewalk. A door on either side of the bar leads to a large room dominated by a giant stage with state-of-the-art lights and sound. It's all very impressive stuff. We load in and soon retreat to the green room which is upstairs behind the stage. It is a small lounge with a kitchenette on one side and a bathroom and shower on the other. A large 50" TV dominates the wall above one of the plush sofas. It is tuned to a closed circuit feed of the stage. Somebody cooks dinner and I enjoy some wine because hey, its France.


Captain introduces me to a guy called Bowy. He is one of the guys who runs a club in Belgium called 'The Pits'. He has driven down to see the shows here in France. We are scheduled to play a "secret show" at the Pits the day before we go back home. It's a place that ANTiSEEN played on their first tour and they loved it so much they make a point to play there every time they are on tour here.


The opening bands are stoner-rock metal bands. This kind of music isn't exactly my thing, but  the first band, 'Mammoth Storms' are really good. Sometime bands transcend genre into areas that defy category. Their take on the standardized Sabbath riff-worship is augmented by more atmospheric forays minus the pretention. They were pretty cool in my book. I talk to the drummer after the show and discover they are from Sweden. We tell him we are to play there in a few days and he assures us the place we are playing is very cool and we will have a good show.


Eventually it is our turn to take the stage. I was curious how many people would stick around, as we are really the odd band on the bill. I'm pleasantly surprised to find the room is basically full. We charge into the set, and all the professional sound equipment and lights makes it feel like I'm playing an arena. No more quickly than I find myself in the zone - that magic spot where you feel like you can do no wrong. This is when a string pops on my guitar. Ordinarily I have a back-up guitar, but it was too much of an expense to bring two guitars with me to Europe. Fortunately I keep my wits and change strings quickly. The crowd takes the opportunity to sing 'Happy Birthday' to the Gooch. It was unsolicited and unplanned and pretty cool. We carry on another few songs before I pop a second string. This has never happened to me before. All I can do is laugh. I dramatically yank the string from the guitar and the crowd cheers. They are with us. The band plays a muted impromptu version of 'Fornication' while I quickly make the repair. We catch traction once more and pull the rest of the set off without any other troubles.
 
After the show we load out and find our hotel - a tiny cramped efficiency that seems more suited to dwarfs than us husky Americans. The bathroom is about the size of a closet. I shower and lay down. I find it hard to sleep. I put on my earbuds and try to come down from the action of this day. This is not like touring in America. Every day is a new language, new customs, new protocols. I feel very alien in this place. I am passing through too quickly to adjust to the culture and climate. It's all very exciting yet exhausting. You scarcely have time to process any of it before you're off to the next chapter.



PARIS - July 26


We had hoped to make a trip up to the Normandy coast to see where the Allied Invasion took place in World War II. Unfortunately we just didn't have enough time. We drove directly to Paris  There was no time for sight-seeing here, either. I caught a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower off in the distance from the window of our van for about fifteen seconds. We manage to navigate the maze-like streets of Paris until we found our destination.
 
The club is called 'Le Mecanique-Ondulatoire' or 'The Machanical-Wave'. It is located on street that is really no more than an alleyway. As with most places in Europe there are few places to park and load-ins are difficult. This club is in an old building and the stage is located in a basement tunnel. The stage is tiny and the arc of the ceiling is so low I fear I'm gonna hit my head. The soundguy is actually a girl, a cool chick named Roxanne. we set up and soundcheck quickly. I make use of the downtime before the show to change my strings.
Backstage I see Bowy again and he introduces me to a guy named Jerom. Jerom is from a town two hours south of Paris. He is very excited and has us all sign things. It's cool to see people like this over here. Everybody here is very cool. I feel like I am patched into some secret network of underground musical exiles. We may not speak the same language but we understand each other perfectly.


When we finally get to play, I find the stage even more restricted. This is a far cry from the previous night, but the vibe in this room is killer. I anchor myself in what little space I have and bash away. It feels great to play after all the long hours cooped up in the van and sitting around backstage. The crowd is young and very into it. I don't know if they even know who we are but they go off, slam dancing and throwing their fists in the air. Before I know it we are into our encore. I'm struck just how good it all sounds. We are really playing and performing great. Tonight it all ends too soon. I feel very elated when we walk off stage.

- TO BE CONTINUED -