Monday, August 04, 2008

Europe Part One: The Tale of the Invisible Mick...

My main luggage bag was 10 pounds overweight at check in, so for those keeping score at home, three pair of 36x32 Levis, the 1998 paperback edition of A Gentle Madness, a soft cover copy Hitmen and twenty-one pair of Vater Power 5A wood tip drumsticks just happen to weigh exactly 10 pounds.

You see, when this happened on a domestic New Zealand flight, they were just looking for a reason or loophole to NOT charge us that overweight fee. What they ended up doing (I shit you not) was adding the weights of EVERYONE's checked baggage and then calculating the average weight per bag so as to have a reason to let us slide.

But my question, and I'm sure it's been asked and answered a billion times before but could bear repeating, is: When they ask you if you can take some stuff out of one bag and put it in another, don't they realize this isn't changing the weight of the plane at all? I mean,it's not like I threw away my jeans and my drumsticks. No, I stashed them in my carry-on, in the cavity of my snare drum, etc and all that shit was still bound for London. I mean, does it REALLY matter if it's all in the same bag or not?

Mick spent his week off in NYC, so his flight plan was to hop on some wings at JFK and get on over to Detroit and be on the same flight as the rest of us to Gatwick.

He'd texted me earlier saying his flight had been delayed and that'd he'd be the one sprinting to make the last boarding call. When I looked at the arrivals board, it said his flight was to arrive at 9pm while ours was set to take off at 9:15. Damn.

So I was able to catch the first goal in the Red Wings Stanley Cup-winning performance that night, pensively waiting to see the tall swath Mick cuts chugging down the moving walkway, damned if he misses the flight.

But I see nothing. Once I'm in and settled in my seat on the aircraft, with one of the flight attendants trading nervous glances between the passenger list and his watch. More people filter through, giving me belief that there's still hope for him yet.

I send a pre-emptive text message to our tour manager saying it's quite possible Mick will miss the flight. I try calling him at least a dozen times with no answer. And finally, at about 9:10, they close the flight deck door and tell us to turn off our cell phones.

Fucking hell. It will all surely be a nightmare. Maybe Kelley Stoltz can sing the songs. Maybe we can just do a 45-minute version of "Riders on the Storm" or our exercise in noise karaoke. Hopefully the dude will have the smarts to figure out how to get to London in a reasonable amount of time though, as the flight we were booked on was set to arrive at 10:10am the day of our first performance. Not only is it a crapshoot playing a show on the days you fly, but it's also leaves you almost zero wiggle room for cancelled or delayed flights and the success of the tour (in terms of morale, performance and even financially) is left to hang in the balance.

Once we hit cruising altitude, Ko saunters over to my seat and I say "so I guess Mick missed the flight" with equal bits of melancholy and perturbation in my voice to which she replied "I saw him get on the plane."

Hmm…now although she is known to gobble copious amounts of barbiturates prior to take off, Ko sounded somewhat coherent with her claim. But there's no way…he certainly hadn't boarded the plane before me, and I sat watching with bated bitching waiting for his entrance.

Ko had probably just seen some other black guy get on the plane and just blindly thought it was Mick. Stuff like that happens all the time. There was absolutely no way he got on the plane without me seeing it.

So a little later in the flight I turn around and see the guy standing in the aisle and chatting with Pat.

Well damn. Problem averted, with the only consequence of it all being me looking like an absolute nut cheese.

Flight felt over in minutes. Skipped through customs with the greatest of ease, all of our luggage arrived safely and soon enough we were on our way to the wilds of Finchley.

After a quick munch on some fish and chips, we made our way to Viner's storage space, containing a cornucopia of assorted Dirtbombs ephemera and effluvia from tours long ago. Blackula t-shirts, shirts where we tried to reappropriate the Tamla label design, half a box of If You Don't... CD's (which it seems NO band members have a personal copy of), the green sparkle Premier kit I slowly destroyed over 5-week tour in 2004, the sweet Mapex snare I'd nonchalantly left after a trip in 2005…it was all there in a musty, dank storage space locking horns with spider webs, Sights CD's, Datsuns' amps, Soledad drums and all other specters of tours past.

We pulled together the necessary bits and bobs to put on a Dirtbombs show and then made way to ULU.

Club was alright, in the university, dressing room far too far away from the stage, had to walk past a swimming pool to get there, but the inclusion of a honest-to-goodness bed in the greenroom was a welcome surprise that I was more than glad to reward with my sleep.

Even though my bass drum had been stewing in some stagnant water inside it's case, the thing sounded fresh and fine. My snare drum (cracked and left with what at times appears to be an egg-shape) barely needed a tuning despite the fact it'd been susceptible to some extreme weather conditions and was never even a case! Makes me question on why I ever even left the thing in the UK, my new Gretsch replacement just never fully kicking my ass like it should.

After check spend quality time chatting with Kelley's drummer Dean. I reiterate my proposal for the Dirtbombs to record for the newly forming Sub Pop Singles Club and also offer up my unparalleled services to run the whole goddamned thing.

Ben Swank shows up not long after and it's just like old times. I miss that guy like a death row inmate misses his pornography. I venture out for vittles, Kelley suggesting some overpriced hippie place called Organic Planet that, besides some cookies, had absolutely nothing I wanted to eat. Instead, a walk up the street found me at a carryout Japanese place that left me very pleased with their chicken noodles. Tasty.

I completely missed openers the Kits and laid out on the bed and slept thru Stoltz.

As we rumbled into the ride of "Leopardman at C&A" I was chafing at the two bright as Katie Couric's disposition lights situated approximately one foot from me and aimed directly at my ass. Clearly this was some sort of mix-up, as none of these lights were present at soundcheck and of course a professionally run club such as the ULU wouldn't have the bush league ignorance to not even mention such an irritating lighting choice to the band before hitting the stage, right?

Wrong. I dealt with it for two songs, feeling the hair on my upper, outer thighs being singed with each whoop and whoosh of the lighting mixer. By the time we hit "Get It While You Can" I'd had enough and turned around to kick (with authority) the light on my left. That seemed to get the message across as the burning-core-of-the-sun-lamp usage dropped exponentially after that move.

While singing during the encore, the mic unexpectedly chipped one of my incisors. A small price to pay for an enthusiastic, dancing crowd (and even moreso by London standards) who were into what was, admittedly, a pretty solid show.

The Stoltz guys knew to take the stage when we started berserking during "Kung Fu" and even Swank got in on the action, monkeying around on the drums like he actually knew what he was doing. All of this, it should be noted, happening after someone on the show crew gave me the ever-foreboding fore-finger-point-to-outside-wrist indicating something regarding time.

We met up with Simon Keeler afterwards, him pissed and effusive with praise. Coming from someone who's seen us as many times as he has, through different line-ups and setlists and disasters, I will gladly take it.

Later onward to a true metal bar with drinks named after Zeppelin songs. Simon went on to claim himself the most metal person in the bar, having been to all 12 of Metallica's UK shows on the RIDE THE LIGHTNING tour. He even said he was more metal than Troy. And that's a mighty claim.

Woke up early next morning to hit the Diskery in Birmingham with my main UK record sleuth the Rockdentist. This man has not only an encyclopedic knowledge of the tiniest of record sellers on the isle, but also a resourceful memory for who still has what records in stock, what price they were asking and what condition it's in. Basically, he's the kind of guy I wish there was more of and am infinitely grateful to have him on my side.

Diskery was a place for digging and I haven't been much of a digger lately. I did find an original 7" copy of ELO's "10538 Overture" and that was enough for me, but as always, Rockdentist pulled a stack of stuff he thought I might like. The worst part is more often than not, he's right, he's got my taste nailed and I end up spending way more than I thought I would be.

Of the four times we've played Bham, three have been at the Bar Academy and one at the Carling Academy next door, so I have more than a working knowledge of the offending, surrounding areas. Hungry and not wanting to take any chances, I waltzed over to the exact spot I knew a Subway sandwich shop would be awaiting my standard order.

Subway on tour is a standby, the old reliable. When in doubt, Italian BMT that shit out. When they were still running the SubClub promtion I had, at one point, stamps from four separate countries on one card. Impressive, I know.

Before showtime Ko's fuzz pedal properly died. This would be a harbinger of things to come. The unnecessary barrier in front of the stage was more befitting of a Slayer gig and seemed to dull the crowd. We got absolutely NOTHING back from them and caused us as a band to offer up that much less. And it was hot on stage to the point of suffocation. I think Pat had a drumstick dramatically fly out of his hand on two separate occasions, on top of the fact that Ko's replacement fuzz tone was off, as was Mick's purple synth pedal for the second night (that's what soundcheck's are for, genius). We couldn't end the set fast enough.

Once at the hotel we all took joy in the prospect of post-show food. After scaring up a menu and writing down everyone's personal orders (a 15-minute process) my attempts to use the room phone for a local call was met with notification by the front desk that I would need to submit a credit card to facilitate telephone usage.

Fuck that.

I couldn't connect with Louisa's cell phone so Rockdentist went all the way back to his car to retrieve his. From there I'm greeted with the most surly telephonic reception since Johnny Rotten stopped taking calls for the BBC. Greeted with "Pick-up or delivery?" I answer "Delivery" and am immediately told "No delivery, too late" to which I then say, "Ok…uh, pick-up then." To which I'm told "No pick-up for phone orders, you need to come in." In trying to reason with the man, I said "Even if it's a big order?" and he says "Yes" and I reply (at this point, I'm PISSED in the American sense) and shoot back with "WELL THEN WHY DID YOU PICK UP THE PHONE?"

Rockdentist would step up as MVP, navigating the labyrinthine one-way road system of Birmingham to the offending pizza establishment and arrive an eternity later with our grub. The mediocre pepperoni pie I had coupled with fairly bland garlic cheese bread was easily the high-point of the day, and that's more a testament to an incalculably shitty day than the quality of the food.

I've never had a good time (fuck it, even a decent time) in Birmingham and don't feel I ever will.


Anonymous said...

Impressive (Subway card and the blog entry).

I hope the Dirtbombs do make an appearance on the Sub Pop singles club. That would be truly awesome.

Anonymous said...

I hate Birmingham, Michigan too!
ever since Tiny Tim's closed down

Anonymous said...

they let black people on planes now?

ipecac said...

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