Thursday, September 25, 2008

Europe Finale: Finally...

We drove straight through the night, straight through Slovenia and Croatia into the bowels of Serbia. Belgrade looked exactly as I remembered it (there's an old tour diary at if you care) and I thought it was cute as our promoter Aleks kept mentioning checking us into our "hostel" when he clearly meant hotel.

So as we lugged our bags up the stairs of the Chillton Hostel in Belgrade I didn't think it cute so more. Our previous trip to town found us in a decent hotel so our surprising appearance at the hostel perplexed me. Later Aleks would explain to Ko that our hotel last time was a "whore" hotel and that he no longer employed their services.

I was excited because there was an old Crypt Records print ad on the wall at the hostel that detailed the release of the Gories Outta Here as set for April 14, 1992. The ad copy curiously states that the CD version would include the A-sides to all the band's 7"s at the time (released by In the Red, Giant Claw, Estrus and Sub Pop).

This is interesting, as you already know, because the CD release includes only the A-side of the In the Red single. It includes the B-sides to the Estrus and Giant Claw singles ("Idol with the Golden Head" and "Ichiban" respectively) while featuring NOTHING from the Sub Pop single.

If Tim Warren is reading this, I'm curious as to how this came about. Mick has no recollection.

Dinner was had at Aleks' mom's house…a wonderful homemade affair of all things Serb. I even partook in a swig of his father's home-stilled plum brandy, stored in a plastic water bottle and vaguely virulent.

From mom's house to SKC club. Decent-sized room. There were openers I didn't watch as the club had free WiFi. Our show was admittedly stellar…while language barrier as present as ever, the crowd seemed like they wanted so much more just to BELIEVE what was happening on stage. There was a gigantic 9'x12' poster advertising the show, featuring a live photo of the band that was surprisingly flattering. We took photos in front of it after we played. We also all slept in the same room, bunk beds like summer camp without the ghost stories or panty raids. Do they still do panty raids?

I hid poems in the books at the hostel and purposefully left my copy of Hitmen there for some enterprising music biz student to find like some long-lost incunabula. Drive to Croatia would prove uneventful, rural and winding.

The Dirty Old Empire Fest was a booking mistake. We clearly should not have been there. We bore no resemblance to the other acts whether it audible, sartorial, dietary, or (probably) morally.

I did, however, devour a delicious cinnamon and honey crepe during soundcheck.

After the second band of breakneck, chucka-chucka super punk rock while eating dinner (menu choices were: sausage, a hamburger, or TWO sausages) I looked at my fellow band members and asked "So how do you feel about a 45 minute version of 'Kung Fu?'"

And so faced with yet another quandary…when playing a show that is obviously mismatched does the band do our standard 45-minute set, hope to maybe win some converts and make a mental note for extra gig selecting scrutiny in the future? Or do you hop onstage middle fingers a'blazing and do your best to try and make a "statement"…whatever that may be?

After a band he would describe as "dub-step" finished their set, Mick would prove a tad apprehensive at the "Kung Fu" proposition. But thankfully everyone's resolve proved steely, hell, we'd even written up setlists (written on paper hotdog trays) for the occasion, and we took the stage to a crowd of absolutely none of our fans with the tickling feeling of playing a prank.

It being the 4th of July AND our 100th show of the year, we deserved to celebrate a little.

So we'd bartered it out and decided not to do merely "Kung Fu" but to intersperse other songs throughout it. The setlist, as we wrote it, was:

War Pigs
Kung Fu
(Mick singing some of Marley's "Exodus", not on my setlist, possibly on others')
Bela Lugosi's Dead
Dance This Mess Around
Kung Fu
Kung Fu
Start the Party

We'd even developed hand signals with Louisa to indicate how much time we'd have as it'd be clear to lose sense of time once wrapped in the enveloping groove. And we did the set exactly in that order…only the whole thing took approximately 30 minutes.

It seems in all the excitement we, as a whole, failed to draw-out the jam to a substantial enough length. So as we ended "Start the Party" (us trying to be ironic, ending with that one) we then just went in to the rest of the set as it would go from there…"Get it While You Can" then "Underdog" then "Ode to a Black Man" and finally ending with "I Can't Stop Thinking About It."

Someone from another band said that it took a lot of balls to come out there and start playing like Can, and it was enjoyable on our end, but I think we all hoped it would prove a little more controversial or at least a little more jammy, rambling and take-up a larger portion of our allotted time.

After we played we ate some local traditional soup/stew that'd been simmering over a fire most of the day. Everyone was in agreement that it may have been one of the best things they'd ever tasted. I believe there were at least four different types of meat in it. I do not know what it was called.

After us was a Canadian punk balled called the Real Mackenzies. They wore kilts and sang Scottish-centric songs about how the Loch Ness monster is real and things of that nature. They had a bag-piper. It was all very, very laughable to me.

After ingesting enough of their set, I offered Ko 100 Euros cash to go onstage and lift the lead singer's kilt. She was surprisingly accepting of this offer and as I started to worry, not only about my pocketbook but the resultant melee that was sure to ensue, I was relieved when she was unable to get onstage, the necessary stairway entrance blocked by their crew.

But the singe of the Mackenzies was one antagonizing motherfucker. Just giving shit to the audience left and right. About an hour into the set, someone threw a shoe and hit the singer in the face. I didn't see this and in any other situation I would consider this a very despicable thing to do. But with the unrelenting verbal abuse this guy was spitting a shoe to the face seemed strangely fitting.

This just seemed to push him over the edge. He had a remarkable cut on his face and there was some blood. His dogging of the crowd got more intense (he even called them "fascists) and he openly challenged whoever threw the shoe to get on stage and fight him one-on-one. I'll never forget him saying "When you fuck with a Mackenzie you're fucked for LIFE!"

This goes on for a handful of songs before the singer jumps into the crowd and (as it seems to me) just starts wailing on some dude indiscriminately. The security quickly peels the attack apart and the rest of the band as if to say "fuck it" walks off the stage.

The singer then says "The Real Mackenzies were prepared to play for another hour but because…" and trailed off into some since-forgotten criticism of the shoe-tosser and promise to come back and play a BETTER show sometime in the future, followed quickly by a Chris Rock-approved microphone drop and a provoking full lift of his kilt.

The whole thing left me feeling very awkward and all I could really say was "Jeeez" Some at the festival would claim that the Dirtbombs confrontational set that night merely stoked the crowd into furor that would eventually roil over during the Mackenzies set. I can neither confirm nor deny this, but am flattered if others truly believe so.

We managed to get the van up a muddy incline and to a cabin up the road that felt like the kind of place my parents would take us to during childhood summers, that peculiar half-lived-in feel of a seasonal cottage with it's underused dishware and thin mattresses all bringing to mind the memories of rural Michigan lakeside retreats in the late 1980's.

We barely had time to sleep, I spent most of mine condensing my pack for the impending flight.

Early to rise and arrive on-time to the Zagreb airport. It's a heartfelt goodbye to Louisa…she driving to van all alone back to London (some 18 hours away) but the probable end to her rock touring days as she'd enrolled in university in Manchester to become a teacher.

After sad goodbyes, we check-in for our flight on Hungarian Airlines. We'd been told by promoters that they'd pre-paid a few as we'd anticipated our baggage to be severely overweight (insert Karen Carpenter joke here). So as the wonderfully helpful ticket agent informed us that nothing had been prepaid and that their overage charges were ten euros PER KILO all of our stomachs sank dramatically.

Fevered phone calls and frantic weigh-ins ensued. It became clear there was no way the promoters could have pre-paid this charge as we had no idea how much over our baggage was. The counter lady did us a complete solid by printing up a bill that said we were collectively only 13 kilos over the limit (we were more likely three times that) and we were soon re-assured by our UK booking agent that the promoters would reimburse our baggage charge.

This is, quite possibly, where it all started to go wrong.

Our flight would be a brief hop over to Budapest. The 30-seat prop aircraft was charming in an Iron Curtain-leftover kind of way. The half-hour spent in the airport was spent hiding poems in the terminal bookstore and being thrilled at getting a Hungarian stamp on my passport.

Flight from Budapest to Malaga was filled with the most annoying sniveling little European shits I'd ever come across. Loud as all get-out, pounding on the back of my seat and not letting up one iota the entire two-hour journey. My vasectomy was scheduled immediately upon landing.

Baggage claim at Malaga was a bad scene…anything checked-in in non-EU countries was supposed to pop out of a secured baggage carousel (this would mean our luggage) even though the particular flight was from Hungary (a EU country) some of it ended up at the regular reclaim.

To confuse us even more, Mick's suitcase, Troy's bass and suitcase, Pat's suitcase and the cymbal case (with all of his cymbals and mine inside) all failed to pop out on either of the merry-go-rounds. So we sat around while Pat did his damnedest to try and communicate to airline rep (who understood little English) that the forwarding address was in Detroit, our time in Spain actually only amounting to a handful of hours.

Deflated, we poured into the van with what was left of our luggage and were chauffeured the frustratingly sunny route snaking through the craggy, coast-bluffing Spanish landscape. Through the two and a half-hour drive, no more than five total sentences were spoken.

The other problem thrust upon us was the topic of our set time. We were scheduled to take the stage at 2am. This would usually only be a mild inconvenience (the Spanish like late nights) of personal preference, but today would prove to be a logistical problem.

Our departing flight from the Malaga airport was scheduled for 7am. If we went onstage at 2am, played for the hour and a half they wanted us for, then hopped into the van immediately thereafter, chilled for the two and a half-hour ride and it puts us there at 6am at the EARLIEST. This simply would not work.

The promoters were told our flight details with ample time to prepare around them so it was all the more confusing. Being the night's headliners though was not without its perks. We politely but FIRMLY made it clear that we needed to be at the Malaga Airport no later than 5am. Our driver put the call through and we were swiftly moved to the midnight time slot. Nice.

We had approximately one hour to gather ourselves at some day rooms at the hotel. We all saw toreadors in the hallway. From there to the festival, taking place in an old monastery, designed to look like a prison, clearly a metaphorical device that struck us strongly after our month of riding relaxing/imprisoning see-saw.

Upon entry we happen upon Holly Golightly and Lawyer Dave, good friends who'd stuck around after their early show to catch our late one. We hadn't anticipated seeing them, so this was a welcome surprise in the middle of a day that was pretty shit otherwise. We swiftly figured shit out on stage…Mick borrowed some cords, Troy a Fender P-bass, Pat and I cymbals, and once 'twas all in place, we barreled through the set.

I was particularly fun with the crowd when I took the mic…I got handed an old-style accordion fan, scolded a high girl who kept on sitting on the barrier (who then tried to dance with me) and dragged the ending of the set out for all it was worth. By the end, in an effort to rid my homecoming baggage of any excess weight, I took to throwing any of the drumsticks I had left. While atop the bass drum I was aiming for a window, no bigger than 36"x24", at the top of the building about one hundred feet away.

I probably threw about six sticks total (Pat threw one that failed to leave the stage) and lucky number five actually made it through. I was overjoyed. Off the stage and into the van, snoozing through the van ride back to the airport. We made it easily. With Mick headed to NYC as his final destination we said goodbye there. The four of us then made way to Paris.

At the gate in Spain we happened upon four guys who looked completely out of place, well, as much as someone from the Dirtbombs can judge someone as so. Intrigued, I mustered past the "don't annoy people" bell in my mind and made conversation. They too were musicians, and once I mentioned Detroit, the older, more-respectable looking one of the bunch perked up. Come to have it, he was from there. The man was Kenny Garrett, world-renowned jazz musician who's played with the liked of Miles Davis and Marcus Belgrave. As someone who knows absolutely nothing about jazz, even I was immensely impressed.

With a 50-minute lay-over we were set to kick and scream our way through De Gaulle to be certain to catch our flight. Luckily the airline was prepared for the situation and as soon as we exited the jet there was a representative holding a sign that read "Detroit" and we hopped into a minivan with a handful of others and were whisked through passport control and security and boarded our flight home with time to spare.

Arrival at DTW was alright. Pat and Troy, with no checked luggage, simply left the airport once they got through customs. Ko and I waited and waited and waited and after too long it was clear OUR bags were now lost. It would be a little over a day without our luggage but it turned up and besides a crack in my snare drum case it was no worse for the wear.

Mick, Pat and Troy's luggage, somehow routed through Germany, would take a few more days to arrive. Without enough time for them to deliver the baggage before we left for NYC, Pat trucked out to DTW to pick it up.

Troy's bass case curiously contained no bass. A classic Rickenbacker he's used for over twenty years had vanished, somewhere between Croatia, Hungary, Spain, Germany and Detroit. There's no way to place a monetary value on such an item and equally no way to track an object that was in your luggage. It was a somber note to end a tour that was, in almost every other way, triumphant.

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.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Europe Part Eight: Wet Grass, Bare Breasts and Roaming Roam...

First day in Italy, Rovereto and it would be the first of a plethora of outdoor shows. Sound check was interminable in the most depressing of ways that I actually began to count how many times I hit each drum…my floor tom maxing out at 105 hits (while the next day it was a reasonable 102). Having rained earlier in the day, the whole space carries one of my top five least favorite aromas…wet grass.

I guess I just equate wet grass to rain-delayed (or rain-cancelled, or worst of all, rain-soaked) soccer or baseball matches of my youth. I never liked a wet competition…slipping and sliding didn't level the playing field, it merely turned a game of skill into a game of chance. That, coupled with the even-more-nauseating concoction of wet grass stains and sweat and let's just talk about something else.

With absolutely NO carpets around to put our drums on, the first suggestion of putting kegs of beer in front of our bass drums worked ok for Pantano, but mine still kept on slipping. Seriously, there were at least half a dozen runners/loaders working there, would it be that much trouble to get one of the fools to drive into town and just turn up two old rugs from anywhere? The front door of a restaurant? A carpet scrap store? Your own house for chrissakes? How do you have festival and not have ANY CARPETS FOR THE DRUMS?

Luckily a stage tech came correct with a much better plan. Armed with some scrap wood, a handful of nails and a hammer, he battered those pieces of wood into the drum riser old school-style and the problem of the sliding bass drums was a problem no more.

After check to the hotel and they've graced us with 5 hotel rooms. That means almost everyone gets their own room. If that weren't enough, they all have individual air conditioning units and free WiFi. Bonus! Mick and Troy end up bunking together as they were the last to get their own rooms and I strip down to my drawers, crank the AC to 15 Celsius and catch up on

Dinner in the hotel was magnificent. I had some pasta, in some kind of sauce and a desert of a kinda ice cream thing then chilled more in my solo room.

Arrived back at the site after El Tres played. I actually wanted to see them…during check they did nothing but covers, but COOL ones at that…"Blue Moon of Kentucky" and a handful of spot-on renditions of Morricone tunes (not the easiest things to pull off). They were followed by the Mojomatics, dressed in all black, playing a vague amalgamation of R&B and garage. I can see why some may like it, but 'twasn't my cup of tea.

It seemed the rain had thinned the crowd and if we were playing in front of more than 100 people I'd be surprised. Sort of a shame figuring how big the stage was and what a big production it seemed (Bad Manners would be playing the next night and I had to listen to the rest of the band do their own approximations of their C-level Two-Tone Records "hits")

The view of stationary lights in the distance in the Italian Alps was mystifying. Under cover of darkness it was impossible to even notice the existence of the mountains. Instead, lights of homes or other buildings on the cliffside appeared to hover motionless in the blank evening sky. It's a strange phenomena one witnesses rarely.

The next day, while like most of our Italian days would find us sweating our balls off in a van with no AC and temps boiling, was a bit more exciting as it would be the first trip to Rome for everyone in the band.

My first and most lasting impression of the place was one of disgust at the complete proliferation of graffiti in every goddamned corner of the ancient city. And most of it wasn't even good graffiti under the veil of artistic protest. No, it was a lot of shitty tags, a fair amount of long-winded political treatises and occasionally the random etching by conquering centurians of millennia past.

The club was a decent, non-air conditioned room. Another long soundcheck makes me realize my favorite time of day is the completion of soundcheck, only because it signals the most amount of time until another soundcheck. I putz around free wifi for the duration of our time there and vaguely enjoy the cold pasta dinner coupled with bread and olive oil.

The room would royally pack out. Intellectuals and Margaret Doll Rod opened, amongst others, but I watched none of them. The crowd would only amplify the heat and it would become, arguably, the Dirtbombs' sweatiest show ever.

Thankfully, the crowd was amply amped and it merely propelled us to play that much better. I called Rome "the birthplace of graffiti" during the encore and got a chuckle out of the band. I also said I used to have a crush on Margaret Doll Rod when I was 15-years-old and that hers may have been the first bare breasts I'd ever seen with my own eyes.

Upon completion of the set, I went to the bathroom sink and easily rung more than a pint of sweat out of my shirt. My jeans were thoroughly soaked as well and surprisingly my boots even seemed wet. We load out through the crowd of disco dancing demi-sluts and find our way to the hotel that feels more like someone who happens to have three rooms each with a bed and a futon in their apartment.

I take a cold nighttime shower and the sounds I make underneath the wintry water spout are hilarious to me. I had to be brave though and ultimately it aided in my getting through the scorching night.

We awoke early the next morn with hopes of being touristy. As it was a Sunday and St. Paulo day, the Vatican was immediately ruled out. Sights were set on the Coliseum and the Forum with approximately two hours to kill.

As I walked down some steps approaching the Coliseum, I was astonished to see an old man pickpocketed by a girl no more than 9-years-old. The girl appeared to be in cahoots with a seemingly pregnant woman as the scam was to offer the unsuspecting man his wallet back for a price.

I didn't let the shadiness of it all bum me out as much as I left the craftiness of the operation impress me.

Line to get tickets for the Coliseum was 40 minutes long and it was suggested one needed at least an hour to view it all properly. Or we could get a proper tour guide for 10 euros extra per person and be taken directly into the Coliseum for a guided viewing. I decided I'd rather just peek around than feel rushed, so we passed up paying for anything and took some photos from the outside.

All around there are "actors" for lack of a better term, dressed as Roman soldiers and offering to take pictures with you, you know, for a little donation. As I made my way away from the Coliseum towards some huge white building down the street with all kinds of statues and fountains in front of it, the blinding sun was soaking everything and everyone as a celestial equalizer in terms of oppression. I had not an umbrella nor sunglasses, but felt strangely happy to be walking around.

My highlight was using the digital photobooth in subway station, immediately followed by using the pay-per-pee toilet in the subway station. A more disgusting and vile shit-torium I have never been privy to. Ice cream and Gatorade lessen the heat's affects, but ultimately, just to wander 'round the ancient town two hours in full was as timely treat as any. That last sentence was so gay I promise to kick my own ass for forgiveness.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Europe Part Seven: Churching...

Bordeaux…I used to play baseball with a John Bordeau (I don't think there was an 'x' at the end of it) he lived down the street and I always had the best time hanging out with him. I think his mom had us pick boysenberries from their backyard.

The crew in B-d'oh always takes care of us and this night would be no exception. Dinner was some fancy duck and the ice cream dessert just put it all over the top. Openers were Bob and Lisa (of the Bellrays) doing their acoustic thing. I am completely unashamed to admit that I thought Lisa's plaintive voice accompanied solely by Bob's solemn acoustic guitar was way more my speed than anything done as the BellRays. I think there's a Myspace and even an EP dedicated solely to this side-project and I suggest y'all search it out with utmost speed.

Dirtbombs show summary as told by one compliment from a satisfied fan: "It is the first time a rock and roll show makes me cry. Thank you."

Afterwards we climb into the van and follow the Bellrays crew to a late-night kebab shop and we bond a little. Good times, not-so-good kebabs. It seemed our band was merely prolonging the inevitable.

Hotel Stars is as close to a bane of the Dirtbombs' existence as there is. Apparently a chain, we only ever stay at the Bordeaux franchise. First trip I seem to remember awkwardly watching hardcore pornography on regular television (as is available in France) with Mick making even more awkward comments.

Second lodging was a stellar experience…our van got broken into and all of Mick's guitar pedals stolen, along with a1/2 bottle of rum, ten "This American Life" cd-r's, a stash of Dirtbombs t-shirts and three matching track jackets as seen on the cover of the If You Don't Already... album.

Third time would be equally as charming. With the temperature hovering fairly close to hellfire levels and with no air conditioning available in the entire country (it is the French way) Pat and I are left to stew in our room and even with the window completely open, we sweat the night away, never really achieving a state that would resemble what we'd usually call sleep.

To top it all off, Hotel Stars has an absolutely stupefying nautical theme. Each room has rope lining the inside and it just might be the stupidest thing I've ever been witness to. I believe one comment on Trip Advisor says the place stinks of "sweat and vomit" and I could hardly disagree.

Lyon would prove much more fun. Meet up with the Stoltz crew after some time apart and it's a gas. Upon arrival at the club I had a nagging headache so I was sidelined for the impromptu stickball game they scared up outside, but I regained my composure in time for the meaty dinner and conversation catch-up. Someone produced a hacky-sack and I found myself partaking (out of sheer boredom) for the first time since freshman year of high school (stall!)

Stoltz band was solid. Decent middle set by local soul impresarios the Buttshakers. Dirtbombs weren't too shabby either.

Sleeping arrangements that night would be at an off-site location (Grrrnd Zero) that seemed to be one floor of an office building converted as the headquarters for this arts collective that puts on shows and puts up bands. Stoltz band had two rooms but also had to leave at 4am for flights. Dbombs had two rooms, I indulged in a late night cold shower (what a pleasant delight) and killed the night on free Wifi.

I woke early in the morning with my sights set on St. Jean Cathedral. I hand-scribed the pedestrian directions from Mappy and was excitedly off for the proposed 50 minute walk. Somehow, the first turn I'm supposed to make, I fuck up and go the wrong way. I get some help from some kind locals and while I'm close to being where I should, I never really do get back on track.

Instead, one in every three or four street names I'm supposed to be on appears at the precise moment I begin to doubt my sense of direction. I know I need to cross two rivers, I know the church is at the bottom of a hill, but all these superfluous streets start to bogue my high.

Luckily, my instincts prove well. While never feeling completely discombobulated, I followed my instincts and in no time the building was within striking distance. In spite of getting royally turned around, I still make it there 10 minutes earlier than Mappy had said I would. I walk fast, I rule.

A trip to a church is like a trip back to grade school. As a Catholic school student for 13 years, there's a strangely comforting feeling in finding a place, thousands of miles away from home, that almost instantly feels inviting and familiar.

Up until the age of 13 I went to mass two times a week. Like it or not, that stuff stays with you. And while there was no mass said on this day, merely being in the sanctuary was enough to put my mind at ease and let me forget about the grind.

Inside there's an amazing astronomical clock…one dial tells when the Holy Days fall not just for this year, but as far back as 1959 and all the way until 2019. On the same axis is a disk that lists every day of the year and names the relevant patron saints for each date. The regular 24-hour clock is mighty extraordinary as well. Based on the day of the week, certain figures on top of the structure (it is at least twenty feet tall) whether it be Christ or other Bible heroes, show their automaton selves and begin to move. My description completely fails to capture the grandiosity of it all, but it's very, very impressive.

The stained glass windows were all impeccable and finding out some had been blown out during World War II was sobering. Churches have been on that same plot of land since the 800's. Napoleon was received in this particular building.

I came away from the cathedral feeling humbled. When my mind starts to wonder about all the shit St. Jean has seen, it makes my petty problems like being tired on the road or missing home seem petty and insignificant. It left me feeling aligned, balanced, back on track. I only wish that my grandmother could have been there with me. She and churches go way back…she's basically God's biggest fan and to go to a church with her is a whole other humbling experience. She knows the name of EVERYTHING…shit like the sacristy and the narthex and all kinds of other fancy words that only ever get used in dusty books. She would have loved St. Jean and probably could've have been the tour guide.

Onward to Winterthur, a new town for us. Club Gaswerk was quite professional. We'd been told that because of the European Cup the club had passed on booking bands for the month of June…it would just be too much of a conflict and hassle. But apparently when the Dirtbombs name was offered, they wanted to see us so bad they said "fuck it" and booked us anyway. I like.

The food prepared for us was mouthwateringly brilliant. Shish-kebabs, amazing salad…I hate to say it, but one day in Switzerland trumped every meal we had in France. Opening act was big screen projection of the semi-final Euro match between Germany and Russia. We played well to a small crowd of about thirty or so, but when implored to clap or dance they merely stared at us like we had dicks on our foreheads.

Sleep would be at the venue that night. Upstairs from the backstage was a room with a fleet of bunkbeds. We would chill most of the night in the backstage area, swatting flies and stewing in our own personal juices and as the ladies in the party expressed concern about the impending snoring situation, Ko slept in the van outside, Troy curled up in the theater room of the Gaswerk complex, Mick, Pat and Louisa slept in the actual "artist apartments" and I konked on the backstage couch having promised Ko that I would let her inside in the morning with said couch abutting on said door making the job quite easy.

Bern and the Reitschule are like family to us Dirtbombs. Kat and Sabine have taken care of us since our first trip there in 2002 and it's always a delight to see them. With loads of time to kill after soundcheck I venture into city centre with Mick.

With another Euro semifinal match that night (Spain vs. Russia) the whole place was abuzz. There was a massive screen set up for people to watch and along with that came a substantial official merchandise tent, plenty of places to buy beer, and individual restaurants outdoor grills each accompanied by a flat screen TV to optimize the dining experience.

I strolled around looking for fancy Nikes and Adidas with no luck. I bought an ice cream cone (straciatelli) from a vendor on the street. Hid poems in paperbacks in what I would assume is the only bookstore in town with an entire floor dedicated to the English language. I found post card stamps within view of the Baby Eater statue. For lack of a better description, it's a goblin on top of a fountain platform with babies crawling all over him and him squarely pushing one into his mouth. You should look up the image when you're bored (if you're reading this, how can you not be already?)

Ko's fuzz pedal crapped out before we could even begin. She found a temporary fix and said she couldn't do "Sherlock Holmes" so we replaced it with "Sun Is Shining" (as we need at least, or lately, at most, one slow jam in the set) and going straight into "Motor City Baby" it was like a setlist of old.

We didn't want to do an encore and the crowd wasn't terribly demanding of one. I expressly said backstage "What is something we all WANT to do?" and no one had an immediate answer. We came up with some standard encore bullshit and all hobbled back on the stage.

Before we could play a note, Pat wisely calls "dub time" and we start with an unnamed, only-really-ever-done-before-at-soundcheck-that-day groove that ambulates into "Shake Shivaree" then back to dub, then to "Can't Stop Thinking About It" which settles back into the dub, which then finds its way to "Kung Fu" which naturally crests into "2+2=?" which again morphs into the dub cipher and then finishes strongly on the last verse of "Kung Fu."

We had a right-on blast doing it and it was probably the only right answer to the question I'd asked earlier. We were all very, very pleased.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Interruption from Tour Diary Bullshit: I've Been Interviewed...

You can win a free unheard of Cass record if you ask a seriously good question in the comments over at...

It's not like you're doing anything better.