Wednesday, November 14, 2007

How to Tour Europe on Zero Dollars a Day...

Last year I did a brief tour in Europe and England playing drums for my friend Kelley Stoltz. I kept a tour diary that ended up being printed in the unparalleled UK magazine Plan B. I've added some pix here and will also let it be known that this tour was a total financial nightmare. I would scam as much free fruit from hotel lobbies as possible while usually subsisting on one trip to a gas station for a huge bottle of water, some flapjacks and a microwaveable bowl of noodles. And Kelley wasn't getting paid diddley, so I wasn't really in a place to ask for a salary or per diem or whatever (he later made up for it by paying to have my laptop fixed, so I was happy in the end). It was an interesting month. The account below is fairly short-winded due to my limited space in Plan B so I didn't really get in to my week spent rehearsing in San Francisco, what I did for most of the days off, quick visits to Stonehenge and Nick Drake's grave, how I sped through more than 20 books on the entire trip, our time spent at the wonderful Bernie's house in Manchester, how our driver Milan could seem like he was retarded at times and a whole bunch of other shit that maybe some day I'll transcribe from the hand-written journals.

(the band, our day off in Edinburgh)

The whole thing started with me getting picked up from San Francisco International Airport in a vintage bright orange Volkswagen minibus.

My first thought was, “Fucking hippies.”

With Kelley Stoltz needing a drummer for his European tour I was more than happy to help him in the month-long process of losing money.


Sixty people on a Thursday night is the kind of crowd a MOJO magazine darling can expect in London? Jeez. Felt surprisingly comfortable for our first show. Must confess that prior to rehearsals in SF I had only tried to play any of Kelley’s songs once.


Two days off in this nowhere town. Slept until 5pm the first day. County fair is both exciting and desperate. Four guys sharing a room starts to literally and metaphorically smell like a manhole. With my bedside lamp still bright at 5am reading Consider the Lobster, Kelley kindly asks me how much longer I plan on reading. I took consideration and finished in the bathroom.


End of the Road Festival and was excited to meet up with Holly Golightly. Her tunes are comfortable like an old pair of jeans and Bruce Brand is a drummer’s drummer. Ryan Adams “compliments” me on my drum fills for Words saying each one was a leap of faith, somehow managing to come in at the right spot. While I’m still not sure of my intention on said fills, I just don’t like this dude. After saying I reminded him of Bill Kreutzman from the Grateful Dead it took all I had in me to keep from punching Ryan Adams.


Kelley did a hilarious ten-minute mock interview with himself (complete with misappropriated Scotch accent) onstage, somewhat bummed that his BBC Radio interview earlier in the day was cancelled. Someone nailed it as “George Harrison meets George Carlin.” Easily the longest I’ve been onstage without playing music and the hardest I’ve ever laughed.


Low-point of the tour. As if playing a place called the Flapper and Firkin wasn’t degrading enough, the promoter snuck out without paying us. Fine…we’d still play for the six people there. But at 10:45, before we’d even set up our equipment, we’re told there’s an 11pm curfew. We barely muster through two songs before Kelley gets frustrated and walks off. The first (and only) time I ever played wearing a hat. Spent two hours driving trying to find our hotel only 10 minutes away. Briefly considered doing heroin.

Walked through town singing Arctic Monkeys songs to myself. I love the Arctic Monkeys. You would too if you didn’t live in the UK.


Finally a kickass show. Tons of people showed up and we delivered. Made up a meandering psych-jam on the spot. Kelley hammed up Iggy’s Nightclubbin’ and convinced the crowd to sing along. Someone made a birthday cake for Kelley and we handed out slices at the merch table.

Two days off in this nothing town. Saw Clerks 2 and forgot where I was for two hours.


Crowd was worse than sparse. Didn’t affect us as we just smiled and had fun. Definitely the best version of Link Wray’s Rumble we’d play the whole tour.


Walked around town singing Franz Ferdinand songs to myself. Found my way to MONO record store and splurged on Magik Markers and Rita Lee CD’s.


A record store dedicated to U2? You’ve got to be kidding me. Bought Everett True’s Nirvana biography. Finished it in less than two days. Utterly brilliant. Show was whatever, highlight being bass player Kevin (engineer for the Residents…or is it member of the Residents?) getting schizophrenic electric piano from a state of utter non-working to almost perfect by heating it up with a hair dryer. Wow.


Last show with tour and equipment support from Kendall’s Seven Seals. Great dudes whose songs felt “eh” at the beginning but ended with me singing along every chance I got. First week of uni and the city streets are a veritable flesh parade. I miss my girlfriend more than ever. Watching drunken couples argue in the streets is the closest I will get to actually experiencing an Arctic Monkeys’ song besides “Despair in the Departure Lounge.”


After cancelled shows in Aldershot and Cardiff, the first continental show was amazing. The Juke Box Shop is my favorite record store of the year and I dropped a quick 100 euros on 7”s (Jacques Dutronc, Elliott Smith) but make the trip pay for itself by finding the Kurdt Kobain Go Team single for a fiver. Free internet, five star hotel and a gourmet dinner…it was like England never happened.


Radio/webcast of a 5-song set made me imagine playing on “Beat Club” or some other long-forgotten German television broadcast. Mom watched it live and said I needed to shave. Following day off we visit the Rijks Museum and the Van Gogh museum and I left feeling cultured. Subsisted almost exclusively on Febo automat burgers and fried snot.


Spent two hours at Da Capo record store and still didn’t get through all the 7”s. Found myself racking my brain whether or not I really needed a bootleg Sonic Youth 7” or a Kelley Deal 6000 single. With the Dirtbombs I would just buy both. The show featured excessive smoke machine use. Afterwards we cruised the “Red Boat” district, a kilometer-long stretch of prostitutes stationed in houseboats. Brilliantly fascinating.

Take Root Festival in Assen was awkward. Kelley and Kevin got shocked relentlessly onstage and the performance suffered terribly for it. But the food was worth it. Hopped in the van and made the trek to Rotterdam. Second show of the day fared much better, with a decent crowd and a fulfilling effort on our part, though loading out through a sea of idiots at a disco is one of the more frustrating things I must do in my life.


A semi-festival in both rooms of the Paradiso, including the Hidden Cameras, I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness (more like ‘I Love You But I’ve Chosen to Play in this Shitty Band’) and to my surprise, Dan Sartain. Spent every free minute I had with Dan, catching up as if we were old friends. His set was nothing short of breath taking and his new record Join Dan Sartain is flawless. Night ended with Dan gobbling a hash brownie way too quickly. He wore ripped up bath towels for socks the next day.


Days off driving are boring, resulted only in an argument with Kelley whether gummy Cola bottles or gummy bears are better. I say cola. He say bears. A friend of Kelley’s handed me his cell phone when I asked if he had spare original pressings of the first two Dungen lps. I find myself leaving a voicemail for the guitar player in the band. Watched the Detroit Tigers destroy the Oakland Athletics live on Swedish television. Probably the best thing to happen the entire tour.


The Kelley Stoltz act may single-handedly bring down the socialist arts-supporting government of Sweden with paid attendees of the show totaling seven. After-hours swimming and sauna at posh hotel is the perfect ending to a confusing but enjoyable month.


BlackJack- said...

i requested discount city at the gig in dublin. kelley couldn't remember the words or music and concluded that i must be a cass fan... highlight of the set was kelley's broken guitar being abandoned in favour of an egg shaker-

Anonymous said...

Two questions - Is the UK actually ever enjoyable to tour and what was the Elliott Smith single you picked up?

cassdetroit said...

Elliott Smith singles from Belgium - "Waltz #2 (XO)" and "Baby Britain" and I'd been searching for them for ages.

The UK can be enjoyable, but the incessant rain, dodgy food and overall weakness of the dollar are always bummers. The past few Dirtbombs trips have been pleasant and I think that's all you can hope for in England. I think everyone can agree though that mainland Europe is FANTASTIC to tour...lodging, magnificent food and gracious fans.


Colin said...

One day we'll teach you that England is only a part of the UK and not the whole thing :P