Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Europe Part Nine: Italian Beach Blanket Bingo...

After Rome was the charming small town of Avellino. The gig was the Stupid Robot Festival, a phrase that was repeated in classic Homer Simpson intonation ad nauseum by everyone throughout the day. Say it to yourself out loud…it makes sense.

Stage was set up on a soccer field and after check I took delight in kicking balls around with Pantano. I sincerely miss playing soccer and always vow to take it up again, and the joy from the mere 5 minutes of goofing around merely amplified that desire.

Dinner at a splendid outdoor Italo resto. Our promoter, Francisco, would be our epicurean sherpa for the evening, translating the menu for us, making recommendations, ordering choice appetizers and introducing us to his father, who just happened to be mayor of the town.

Chilling with the mayor…this is what the Dirtbombs were meant to do.

Diavola is totally the pizza you need to get when in Italy. It's what we'd know as your basic pepperoni, but they INVENTED it man. Never before a fan of thin crust, the Italians do it better. I would not complain about any pizza I rocked in Italy.

Francisco also told us over dinner that the festival was just put together as an excuse to get the Dirtbombs to play. I thought that was infinitely cool and flattering. Mick busted a few too many strings during the set, borrowed a classy Fender Jazzmaster once he'd run out of usable axes and when he apologized for the continuous breaking of strings, Francisco waved it off, "No, it is GOOD, they think you are destroying the guitar!"

All of these so-called festivals have tents set up for the specific purpose of vending…usually it's crappy hippy jewelry or Jerry Bear-shaped bongs, but occasionally someone will have some decent records or bootleg t-shirts. Avellino had a group who custom-made rock and roll dolls, all hand-painted, about 7"s tall and slightly resembling voodoo totems.

Ko bought a complete set of the Monks and Pantano bought one of two Mick Collins dolls. The creators gave Mick a Mick doll as well. I was told there was also a Screamin' Jay Hawkins doll available. I asked if I could buy a Mick doll as well (never know when I'm gonna need to stick some pins, you know?) and they'd only made the two. As selfless as a saint, Pantano hands me his and I smile widely.

All that needs to be remembered about our time in Mogliano is as follows: unbearable heat, unbearable mosquitos, completely bearable opening band Movie Star Junkies, restaurant owner who tried to make us buy a CD of his daughter singing.

Marina Di Ravenna was completely stupendous. The club, Hana-Bi, has a stage situated so the band plays directly facing the Adriatic Sea. To call it a club is unfair as it was more a resort and we even had to take a 30-second ferry to get on the island(?) it is an island somehow, right? Or is there just no road leading there?

Upon arrival I'm greeted by name by Julian from Liars. Having only met him briefly twice before, I was giddy he actually remembered my name as Liars are, inarguably, one of the most important bands around today. He just happened to be vacationing in town and was looking forward to seeing the show. We chatted a tad before sound check and he still promises to make the edible covers for "It Fit When I Was a Kid" and, even better, said he'd make sure I'd get one.

After check I change into togs and do my part in conquering the sea. I've always been curious as to why celebrities are always photographed on beaches, these big expanses of public land just ripe to be visually captured for sale to the evil 'bloids. And it was with my most recent dip that I realized…beaches are fucking fun! I don't care how pasty white my skin is or that by comparison to the locals my trunks might as well be a pair of sweat pants…frolicking in the water and pulling up clams with my toes and jumping headfirst into waves are all a blast. I need to do that shit more.

Would be the last night Stoltz band would play with us and 'twas bittersweet. As they jammed it was chill and calm sitting on the patio, reclining, and enjoying the laid back vibe of it all. Maybe twenty people watching them, dispensing with ample applause after songs, I was content in expecting a relaxed session.

So we were all caught off guard when by the time we took the stage the whole complex was SWARMING. People everywhere, up on sand dunes, completely crowding the front of the stage, rabidly awaiting what we were about to lay down.

Shit was electric. The crowd propelled us into rocking that much harder. The fact that it was a free show may have also helped. By encore time we beserked…I headstood, rocked the mic, drummed in the middle of the crowd, made my way onto the roof of the little beach shack we were playing by climbing on top of a bouncer, partook in some soul clapping…you know, all that good shit.

Troy followed me up on top of the roof but finally managed to one-up me by actually jumping off it into the crowd's receiving hands. Gotta admit…that took balls.

"Granny's Little Chicken" with added instrumentation from everyone in the Stoltz band dragged on for some time in what started off feeling cool, turned a little hokey, veered slightly toward annoying, then at about the half-hour mark was grandfathered into sheer brilliance, especially with Pantano keeping that same chippy beat for the entire time.

I walked off around half-way through and chose to watch the rest from the sidelines. Stoltz blowing like Sonny Stitt on the sax was supreme.

Julian effuses with praise after the show and I can't help but be completely excited by it. This is the drummer from one of my favorite bands telling me how much he dug the show, how jealous he was of not being able to bring his drums into the crowd, how he saw me test to see if the roof could hold my weight, or in his own words, how we "completely destroyed the crowd."
What can I say to that? Chatted more with him and was still easily excited just about making the connection with him. Not to mention being able to share touring stories and speak with someone in English too.

Said g'bye's to the Stotlz's at the hotel. Was sad.

Drive to Lodi the next day was pleasantly punctuated by a stop in Rimini. Louisa's mother does booking for the Grand Hotel there and we were invited to spend the afternoon checking the place out.

Let it be known that I am so far completely removed from being a cineaste that it's laughable. But when I'm told that Fellini used to hang out at the hotel, that prominent portions of 8 1/2 were filmed on the premises and that he himself actually died at the hotel…I begin to perk up and pledge to learn more about this mysterious Italian filmmaker.

We started with lunch on the beach. Quite a tasty buffet with classier Italian fare we were all quite pleased with the delicousness and scrumdiddlyumsciousness of the meal. The portion of the beach occupied by the Grand Hotel is situated directly in-between numbered beaches 8 and 9…supposedly one of the inspirations for the name of Fellini's previously mentioned masterpiece.

After lunch we took to the pool and swam. The next day the hotel would be celebrating their 100-year anniversary. The place legitimately has a 5-star rating. It is beyond beautiful. I think we all kinda felt like we were sticking out like sore thumbs, but that hardly detracted from the enjoyment and relaxation we took from those couple of hours. If you ever get the chance, the Dirtbombs enthusiastically endorse the Grand Hotel in Rimini. It is exquisite.

Lodi would be bit of a let-down. Again with the mosquitos, we all getting eaten alive and such. Mick's guitar problems are merely amplified, being outdoors a lot of our shit became wet merely through condensation and just a general feeling of disconnect permeated through the performance.

When Mick commented afterwards that we should be fine, that the rest of the band's gear wasn't fucking up, I without thinking uttered "I kinda feel like if one of us looks bad, we all look bad" and I was happy with how that came out. No matter how awesome I could've played, if the rest of the band isn't on the same page, there's no real point to it all. The rest of the band agreed and it felt like we were all just a little bit closer after having figured it out.


nandoluc said...

marina di ravenna show was one of the greatest i've ever been. you all were amazing. some pics on my flickr.
can't wait to see you again.

Anonymous said...


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."


I asked if I could buy a Mick doll as well (never know when I'm gonna need to stick some pins, you know?) and they'd only made the two. As selfless as a saint, Pantano hands me his and I smile widely.

you know, you're kind of a dick.

Anonymous said...

i,m pretty sure ben has never heard sonny stitt.
and he hates bobb trimble . i luv him anyway .

hey kids, ask ben about the official new greatest rarest and arguably best cass release ever . seriously , alone time w/ blackwell .beat happening. one sided lathe cuts et al . we're talkin' magic.

Leyland "Lee" DeVito said...

"Stupid Robot Festival"... oh, I see.