Woke up early for breakfast in Brussels on my birthday. Ko and Louisa saw me in the dining area and burst into a rendition of "Happy Birthday" that was surprisingly not embarrassing. They gave me a milk chocolate version of the famous Manikin Piss statue, Ko saying that it managed to group together two of my favorite things…chocolate and a penis. Good call Ko.
After breakfast Pat gave me a copy of Julian Cope's Head On and it seemed both appropriate and thoughtful.
Drive that day was rainy. We listened to the audiobook version of David Sedaris' Naked and something I can't remember made me want to cry, emotions all a mess when away from home on birthday.
Club in Orleans was the same room we visited the day George Harrison died back in 2001. We didn't play there then, but at the last minute changed our rest day plans to include a stay in Orleans because of some drama going down on our TM's homefront. That too was a rainy day, found me faithful lighting candles at the massive gothic cathedral in town, trying my first pain au chocolat, accidentally ordering head cheese at dinner and then watching the Amazing Asthmatic Avenger throw hot dogs at the crowd during his set. I even kept a flyer from that night.
Was thoroughly surprised when out of nowhere the Rockdentist popped in backstage. Louisa and the band had conspired to get him back for a couple days to help celebrate my birthday. What sweethearts.
We had a splendid meal at the club, topped off with some of the most exquisite birthday cake I've ever been privileged to taste, let alone blow out the candles on.
We did "If You Can Want' and "Sun Is Shining" as part of the encore, the crowd sang some hybrid of French/English "Happy Birthday" and the first time ever playing a show on my birthday was splendid.
Hotel didn't have our reservations, so at 3am the promoter was somehow able to get us rooms at another lodge across town. I got my own room as part of the special day, fell asleep unexpectedly and when I woke, was amazed at how well the shutters over the window blocked the sunlight from creeping into the room. Too well, in fact.
Rockdentist and I ventured out early to a record store we were able to get the owner to open early especially for us. But it also made me feel like I was in the awkward position of HAVING to buy something because of the convenience he gave us. I didn't need a copy of the Feelies Crazy Rhythms on LP, but it was unplayed and more of a gesture than anything.
Got to La Roche Sur Yon in good time, with Rockdentist as the harbinger found the vinyl record store in town and was duly unimpressed, while he and Pantano both found stuff to buy. Our backstage passes for the night would be custom-made pins of the We Have You Surrounded cover art, a quirky little move that lets the club stick out from all the others, even though backstage passes for the Dirtbombs are still wholly unnecessary.
Dinner with Stoltz band was at a restaurant across the street and beautifully French in its ability to stun me with its succulent qualities. Our set would end with both drum sets brought onto the dance floor, me shouting James Brown catchphrases as fast as I could think of them and with help from assorted Stoltzers, we quite possibly performed the best rock show to ever take place in that town.
Next day Perigueux, yet another city I'd never heard of before, let alone played a show in. The plus with most of these continental European shows is that the clubs run on some sort of government subsidy. With that, most every club can be counted on to take care of not only dinner, lodging and next morn's breakfast, but also an extremely professional crew and stage gear. And free wireless Internet too. The overwhelming feeling when in these clubs is one of "THIS is how a club should be run!" Supposedly with Sarkozy now in charge the subsidies in France will be quick to go and it's a shame. I was just starting to like the place.
Rockdentist and his unrelenting search for records was admirable, but I had to admit I was tiring by this day. Nevertheless, one of the club workers drove us up the road to the vinyl store in town and we were both duly impressed. I got two Johnny Hallyday 7"s, a US pressing of the self-titled Link Wray album where he gets all singer-songwriter and colored vinyl pressings of the first two Black Lips LP's, unsure whether or not they were original pressings but that uncertainty strong enough to make me not want to leave them there.
Stoltz in Perigueux was flawless…the conflux of perfect sound and perfect light elevated the show to another level…and when Kelley bopped into the Velvet's "I Can't Stand It" during the breakdown of "Mt. Fuji", well, everything could have just stopped right there and I would've been content with life. You know that feeling?
Our set was okay…Stoltz definitely put on the clinic that night. The crowd reaction wasn't blasting, just generally good-natured. We did do "Devil Inside" for the first time in what felt like ages though, so that was a treat.
Day off with French promoter Jean-Luc in Orleans. Drop-off Rockdentist at the train station, sad to see him go. J-Lu's pad is comfy and accommodating…everyone checks email and launders their sweat-soaked garments and soon the backyard clothesline is filled. While I love the idea of the clothesline, I don't like the end-result of one. Machine dried clothes don't feel so…stiff? It's tres difficile to describe, but instantly noticeable if you're wearing it. I was fine though…I brought enough clothes to get me through the tour (or 9/10ths of it) without needing to wash.
J-Lu pulled together an amazing homemade French meal that we ate outside and could not have been happier with. The hospitality of everyone we'd encounter in France is beyond reproach. Watched Turkey's amazing victory over the Czech Republic in the Euro Cup and then J-Lu DJ'd for us as we sat and relaxed. I took advantage of the ample time to write.
Next morn was a quick skip over to Paris and La Maroquinerie. We have a rich history with the club…the cover photo to If You Don't... was shot backstage there and that same night would be one of the more-memorable performances in Dirtbombs history. Being a hop away from Pere Lachaise isn't bad either.
Was surprised to see that Gnarls Barkley would be doing two nights at La Maroq starting the night after our show there. Called my friend Josh who plays with Gnarls immediately and made plans to make plans to meet-up.
With much time to kill after soundcheck, I farted around online without much purpose. Somewhere the recesses of my brain burped up the name Bimbo Tower, a Parisian record store I'd attempted to email a year prior with absolutely no success. I found the address, asked a club employee if it was nearby and got no response.
Said worker came back a half-hour later and said he pulled up directions online but couldn't get them to print, that it was a 10 minute cab ride from the club. He then disappeared again.
Another half-hour or so passes before I decide to just look up the directions myself. Using the invaluable pedestrian directions on the Mappy website, I found that the store was only 2km away. That was nothing. I dutifully copied down all 17 turns listed as the route from the club to Bimbo Tower, the projected 40 minute walk time nothing more than an empty challenge for me to beat.
It's good to know that Mappy follows in the MapQuest tradition of giving you enough directions to get just close enough to your destination that you can smell it. I was shorted one final turn on my quest, but with the goof-up ended up on a more ostentatious boulevard that was worth the time I spent walking up and down it.
So with some wonderful help in orientation from locals, I find what's essentially a back alley with no visible storefronts and only once right in front of it does Bimbo Tower become visible. I walk in, beaming with pride, and excitedly ask for the one item that was the impetus for my trip…Pulp Music.
The shopkeep looked confused for a second and upon my repetition lights up and grabs a 7" for me…brought to my attention as offered on the S-S Records distro list over a year ago but in a criminally low quantity to which they promised not to order any more. Instead, S-S pointed me in the direction of Bimbo Tower, emailed them and never got a response. And ever since then I'd been searching high-and-low for the record amidst the plethora of Jarvis Cocker-related items that'd turn up in Internet searches.
The record is a reissue of a single released in 1979 and although known as Pulp Music, that's actually the name of the label while the performers on the record are Anne Bean and Paul Burwell. Apparently the original issue came inauspiciously with the words "PULP MUSIC" and the signatures of the two artists on a plain white sleeve, so it's easy to see where the confusion comes from.
Feeling on a roll, I also picked up two Billy Bao CD's and an LP of his I'd never seen before. Everything in the store was appetizingly tempting…I grabbed three more random French 7"s with interesting packaging and while the lathe-cut section and small-press books were calling, I did not answer. I complemented the man on the shop, offered him a spot on the list (he declined, but did know we had two drummers) and found my way back to the club with self-satisfying ease.
Back at the club I proudly display my treasures to the band and when I pull the Pulp Music single out, Mick's eyes widen and then deflate in dismay. He asks to look at the single and then proceeds to tell me that he's been looking for the record for twenty years. I sheepishly tell him "I THOUGHT I should buy more than one."
Josh had reservations for dinner and wasn't looking like he'd make it to the show, but he said if we jammed really long to close the set that he might be able to catch that. I was a little bummed, but let the unparalleled chicken fillet in absolutely mouth-watering sauce cheer me up. The chocolate mousse for dessert was just, uh, icing on the cake?
Halfway through the middle band, Josh texts me saying he's blown off dinner and wants to know if he can roll to the show with some guests. I go to the box office, literally cross Charlotte Gainsbourg off the list and put him on plus infinity, completely buoyed by the thought of him showing up. I will not argue that this is bordering on unsafe man-crush territory, but I do tread lightly.
The room was packed and we sparkled. No subsequent verbiage necessary.
Aftershow celebration is downplayed for the fact that we have a 16-hour drive to get to Castellon for our show the next day. I'm able to chat with Josh while breaking down gear, he's beyond kind in helping us load out and although we had mere minutes to catch-up, as I said before, it is an unbelievable treat to unexpectedly run into friends in foreign locales and it seems those encounters merely amplify the friendship.
Conversely, the 16-hour drive started smoothly with a viewing of Borat and slowly descended into conditions that were just chilly enough to notice the temp and were only slightly uncomfortable. Nothing was distinct enough to totally prevent me from sleeping…lack of pillow, immovable table at my lap, window to my left, rain, car in constant motion…but all combined were just enough to give me those slight teases of deep, REM dreams…the kind where Automatic For the People is rightfully given the credit it deserves and Monster is given the generous pass it could so greatly benefit from.