Friday, November 2, 2012

Europe/Fest/US: Part IV

10/9 – Innsbruck

Green mountains surrounded us with cotton clouds clinging to their wet faces as we rolled into Innsbruck, Austria. We found our promoter Eric's house who greeted us with a goulash and drinks. We headed down to the venue, Cafe Ararat, which seemed the most inappropriate place ever for a punk show – a tiny jazz bar accented with romantic candle equipped two-seaters and a glazed mahogany bar. An eccentric olive-complexed bartender with a brilliant Turkish hair mustache combo seemed as surprised to see us at his bar as we were to see him. He told us the show was double booked for the night but the first act, which we found out was a going to be a play, would be done in good time.

We walked in to find the production was composed of five or six beautiful French women. We guided our timid goofy smile ridden bodies through the tight maze of tables and old people. Trying to find refuge in the mahogany oasis we hoped not to feel so remarkably out of place in our stale beer attire contrasting with the soft rose complexions of what would soon be the performance. Drinks in hand we squeezed into the audience to find some seats.

The play began with a girl sitting in a lone chair face in hands toward the audience. She began repeating something in German, speaking louder and louder while slowly raising wide electric blue eyes. Turning and falling to her knees she screamed into the floor transferring her weight into her curl tangled forehead and the fat of her fists. She threw herself onto her arched back balancing between her rigid tail bone and the crown of her cocked back head rocking side to side with kicking feet. Undoing one button at a time she exposed soft white breasts while running hands along her protruding ribs that rose up and down with the repetitive frantic words. From a mysterious hand above the stage poured a yellow ooze (which we later found out was egg) splashing across and covering the naked body. She stood up with her wide electric blue eyes buzzing through strands of yellow matted hair into the audience. Exhaling the German words with her last bit of breath she dumped an entire pot of this ooze over her head and disappeared into the back.

I'm not sure what I (Garrett) was doing while this was going on. I think I blacked out from emotional overload, but I bet most of us looked something like a deer in headlights right between the flash back montage and meeting Dear God in the white tunnel of light. A sort of paralyzing euphoric feeling where you don't know what the fuck is going on but the cacophony of worries and wondering is briefly muted and for a moment everything is alright.

Afterward the contrast ensued in punk acoustic fashion and Tim even managed to get all the uninterested old people to shut the fuck up. It was really neat to see people from completely different backgrounds, completely different musical tastes, and completely different cultures being respectful and perhaps even enjoying our music. We actually felt like artists bringing our pallet to people who might never have considered such sounds and experiences.

After that we got high school drunk at a guy Phillip's apartment. Weird liquors in skinny bottles fueled cover songs and tin foil lasagna we scraped out with our fingers. A few Youtube videos and fart jokes later we were knocked out on our ass crumpled up in various places across the flat.

10/10 – Solothurn

Kofmehl is a gigantic warehouse style venue in Switzerland that has set stage for names like Europe, Sepultura, and Drowning Pool. It was now Elway's turn to grace Solothurn with our impressive rock prestige. We began with an extensive sound check taking advantage of the stacks of monitors to make sure our levels were exactly to our tastes. We were then handed our custom printed laminates over a stocked bar lined with various vegetables, fruits, breads, and spreads. All Aboard checked in to our reserved downtown hostel that the venue had paid for while we were guided to our green room which took up half the second floor complete with television, pinball machine, and it's own bar. Showering up and kicking back for a bit while nibbling on a dessert loaf loaded with rich Swiss chocolate we were called down for dinner. A long set table lined with 20 seats made room for our delicious falafel, sauce, and salad meal. Finishing we began warming up for the show backstage hydrating with sparkling waters and dabbing our quenched mouths with clean white towels.

It was finally time to rock. With a crack from a snare drum we rung out to an entire fifteen people in the audience that of which included All Aboard and the six paid bartending, door, sound, and photography staff. We played so hard we managed to get through our set in 30 minutes. The crowd, so stunned and in awe of our technical prowess, hardly could remember to cheer as we exited.

Okay sorry for being an asshole. The few people who came and the staff were really sweet. They apologized for the low attendance and paid us 100 Euro on top of our guarantee because they felt bad. We hung out and drank with them for a while after and celebrated the door girl Lena's birthdays at midnight with a dozen shots of Jaeger balanced on a lined of glasses of lemon tonic. At midnight the first shot was knocked into the first glass and the rest (semi-)seamlessly fell like dominoes into the glasses. We walked downtown to a bar who gave the Americans free drinks (as we deserve, dammit) and passed out in our hostel next door.

10/11 – Ulm

After dragging ass in attempt to get out of the womb-like snare of Swiss hostel bed bliss, we treated ourselves to the standard euro-hostel breakfast fare (shitty cornflakes and toast with jam). I wandered the streets of Solothurn to try to find a place to exchange my techno-chic Swiss francs (look them up, they look like money that should only be used at raves) into normal Euros and then we split for Ulm. We arrived well ahead of our load in and set out about checking out the sights. Ulm is home to the tallest cathedral steeple in the world, and sure enough, it was massive. Too big to instagram even. After realizing that the cathedral wasn't impressive enough to hold our attention for longer than 20 minutes, we took off for Tanke, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite places to play in Europe.

One of the best recurring themes when touring Europe in a punk band is the large network of totally rad squats, clubs and government-sponsored venues that exist in random locations (abandoned slaughterhouses, schools, train stations, etc...) because there is no way that such a thing could exist in the United States. Sure, you come across plenty of fantastic DIY venues and show spaces in the US, but it seems that either the government is more conducive to these things being accomplished with more efficiency and zeal or people are just much more motivated in Europe. One of the finest examples of venue-creating wherewithal in Germany is the Tanke, just outside of Ulm. The venue exists inside of the convenience store of an abandoned gas station right off the autobahn. Thanks to the efforts of a couple of rad people, including our promoter Jo, the once useless concrete lot and building are now home to the occasional dance party or punk show. The intimate and unique nature of the venue basically made the show. All Aboard opened up and got the crowd of 35 or so stoked. We played and it was fun. On of the most special things about the show was an appearance from the Rock Twins, who drove from an hour away to watch the show and brighten the former truckstop lobby with their smiles and singing along. We left the venue for a night out at the local bars. I don't remember much after this point other than chasing a shot of vodka with mustard, Joe slapping Art from All Aboard in the face upon hearing that he hates Scotch whiskey, and eating the last chocolate piece out of an advent calendar I found in the gutter. Smooth move.

10/12 – Trier

Just when we thought it just can't get any better than a punk venue built into an abandoned gas station, we rolled up to Ex-haus in Trier. The venue is a massive complex with 3 indoor stages and 1 outdoor stage. It is an after-school hangout center by day, where children frenetically run about playing soccer or tag in the heavily graffiti'd courtyard. By night, the complex fills up with local punk, indie, or hardcore kids to see a show. All that, and the venue is complete with sleeping quarters and catering fit for bands much better than Elway. We were served snacks and a delicious vegan chili dinner in a room packed with crates of beer. All in all there were 8 crates, or 160 beers in total. Our promoter Flo informed us that yes, all this beer was for us to drink. It was with the same breath that he also mentioned that he fulfilled our catering rider pipe dream and sprung for the bottle of vodka. With 2+ hours left until the show was to start, we began what was sure to be one gigantic collective mistake by polishing off the whole bottle of vodka and about 6 beers a piece before the doors even opened.

As one might imagine, the show was fucking rad. The crowd all seemed to know and love Elway songs, which still hasn't stopped being totally weird. People sang along and danced like crazy, crowd surfed and fell ass-first onto the floor in an overly-excited Three Stooges-style banana peel (spilled beer) slip. After our set, we invited some 25 lingering locals up to the gymnasium upstairs for the most reverb-addled acoustic singalong sesh ever while All Aboard dinguses Nils and Marius wrestled gaily in the background. Post-show, I (Tim) watched members of All Aboard and Elway alike lumber off to bed drunkenly, defeated by the 8-case beer mountain (we finished 6.5/8). I soldiered on and wound up going with Flo to a club in downtown Ulm that played a mix of music spanning from Fall Out Boy all the way across the musical spectrum to Panic! At The Disco. Yuckers. We returned to the Ex-haus and promptly fell into a grave-like slumber.

10/13 – Muenster

Saddled between university buildings Baracke stands as a small venue/bar amongst the local campus buildings. Unlike your typical university owned bar/venue that may be accessorized with sports colored foam hands beside a stuffed team mascot, Baracke proudly flies a flag of red and black. A non-to-shyly decated anarchist space partially funded by the university still bewilders me (Garrett), but then again I guess we've seen weirder stuff since we've been on this side of the sea.

We were immediately greeted with drinks and snacks (which also still bewilders me) before loading in in our newly patented Elway/All Aboard German efficient assembly line load in. A dinner soon served of pasta with a heavy satanic pasta sauce set us in a 30 minute coma. Luckily we were revived by the 150 people or so who made there way in before we went on.

The show totally ripped. A posse of a dozen German's went bazonkers to a point where they woah'd our opener A Song for Eric Solomon to Sing a good 8 measures into 3/4 Eleanor. The maddened crowd continued its debauchery dancing Baracke into a gross whirlpool of a sauna leaving our exit drenched and steaming in the light Muenster rain. Cooling off we were lead to a club where most of the staff of the venue worked afterward.

The club was not of the usual college downtown caliber. A dance floor stepped not to a regatonic kick and snare or the bass lined shrieks of dubstep but rather to the likes of The Bronx and The Menzingers. A room compiling of most of the same kids at the show flailed wildly as they tried to mash up an adrenaline riddled punk show and the thrusts of a mainstream club. We grabbed some drinks and tried to imitate our booty shaking slam dancing peers.

Later on in the night most people who still had an inkling of cognitive capacity went home while I stayed at the club and let loose some dance moves I learned from my rave days (which consists of only one move I learned from My Brother and Me). I grew a bit disenchanted finding the last twelve dudes circled around the last three girls (what did I expect I guess) and tried ton find my way home. I fancy walked my way out the door and down a street I must have circled the blocks of for 45 minutes before I realized I had gone the opposite direction when I left the club. Finally finding the apartment and it turning out to be locked I sat on the doorstep phoneless and drunk hoping some tenant would come home at 4:30am and not assume I was some creepy serial killing drunk. Eventually I met back up with the promoter/DJ-guru Flo back at the club walked home with my DJ savior and passed out.

10/14 – Heerlen

After parting with the darling Munster promoter Flo, we drove across the west-German countryside bound for Heerlen and our first ever show in Holland. The show was at a place called De Plu, which is an enormous office-building-turned-squat near to the city center. We loaded up 4 flights of stairs into the show space and set about drinking some cheep beer called Beer bier, eating delicious vegan chili, and exploring the bowels of the immense building. A handful of the buildings 20-something residents were hanging out in the venue along with 2 paying guests and the other bands, one of which was the fantastic Low Derive from Italy, who rock in a Copyrights kind of way. The crowd was a little sparse (totally sparse) and the show was a bit of a bummer, and it ended at 6:30pm or something crazy, so we used the remainder of the day to relish in the Netherlands' legendary soft-drug fare, throw empty beer bottles through the ceiling tiles of one of the more wrecked rooms of the squat, and wander around the random carnival set up in the square across the street from the venue. We ended the evening passing out on random filthy mattresses scattered about the freezing cold back room of the venue.

10/15 – Mainz

The show in Mainz was on the university campus, was extremely well attended for a Monday, and was pretty fantastic. Being that the show's budget was on the university dime, we were able to partake in some pretty clutch dinner at the on-campus restaurant. A real classy place that was no place for two fucking gross punk bands. Promoter buddy Cornelius made the mistake of getting us the bottle of vodka from our rider, which we mixed promptly with some weird fizzy powder shit that tasted pretty great actually. We got proper wrecked before opener Ghost of a Chance (who also rocked with us in Wiesbaden) even played. All Aboard played a rad set and them we ambled our way through one of the most shamefully wasted sets of tour. We repeatedly took vodka breaks in between songs, wherein we passed the bottle around the energetic crowd until it was emptied and cast on the stage mid-song. The audience was pretty stoked and awesome, due largely in part to the presence of familiar buddies German Dave and Mike Kelly, who motivated the people up front by swaying belligerently into them. After the show we made our way to the swank downtown hotel we were staying in (also paid for by the university) and tried to get weird on some mushroom chocolates given to us by one of the Dutch squatters in Heerlen. Our hearts sank in despair as we slowly realized that these chocolates were pretty tame and nobody would be getting any sort of weird. We went about having another couple beers at a nearby bar and retreating to the plush hotel room and the comfort of expensive French linen-lined beds. I (Tim) Brian and Joe decided to make a copious amount of marijuana we were given in Holland our nightcap. None of us ever really smoke pot, but a good man once told me that you should never refuse free drugs, so there we were: getting stoned in a random German hotel room on super-strong Dutch pot. I decided that I would take a shower before bed, which turned into a 45 minute endeavor that involved my being utterly confounded by the seeming complexity of the shower. There were hot and cold water knobs outside the shower across the bathroom. To me this seemed to mean that you had to chose your temperature before getting into the shower. Seemed pretty fucked to me. It took about 20 minutes of high-out-of-my-gourd fucking around to realize that you just turn both knobs all the way up and then you can adjust the temperature with a knob in the shower. I felt like the biggest idiot alive. I proceeded to take a half hour long shame-cry shower and sauntered off to bed to the sound of Joe and Brian laughing hysterically at a German sitcom on the TV that they didn't understand a single word of.

10/16 – Heemskerk

Holland, it seems, is a nation of stark contrasts, because no other show of our entire tour could have been more opposite the Heerlen show than our outing in Heemskerk. Rather than pulling up to a huge trash-filled squat, we arrived at a huge, beautiful anti-squat that used to be a school house. An anti-squat is a building that is renovated by the local university and rented out to students for extraordinarily cheap prices to prevent the building from being squatted and thereafter trashed. We were treated to delicious beer and soup that must have contained god tears or something, because it fucking ruled. We hung out for a bit and listened to the new Crazy Arm record before heading to the venue. The Venue was called Cafe Lokaal, and was a small pub in a large school building. Before we knew it, the building was stuffed full of people watching the rad local openers Translated play their set. All Aboard took the stage and ruled and from there on out, the show was just crazy fucking awesome. During our set, people danced around and crowd surfed, built 10-person human pyramids (the wonderful and charming Irene from Amsterdam, who we met randomly at our San Diego show with Teenage Bottlerocket, was on top of said pyramid). Both Brian Van Proyen and I (Tim) were crowd surfed while playing guitar, which was a first for both of us I believe. The bar kept feeding us fancy and delicious Belgian beers with ABV's ranging from 9.0% to 9.5%. During the build-up in It's Alive!, we got the crowd to get down low on the floor and jump up in unison when the song kicked back in. It was one of the most fun sets we've ever played. The dudes from Sweet Empire deserve a trillion kudos for helping foster such an enthusiastic scene in their hometown. After the show, we wound up at the delightful Jort's place, where we drank a few more beers, compared Dave March impressions and fell asleep with gigantic smiles on our faces. It was nice to not have a repeat of the show in Heerlen, but rather have a show that can compete with the best we've ever played.

10/17 – Aachen

The next two days of tour were both to be acoustic outings, where the only people who have to do any semblance of work are All Aboard's David and I (Tim). This of course meant that for all other involved parties, the prime directive was rampant alcoholism. We arrived in Aachen and tried to quell our gut-wrenching burrito withdrawals but had to settle for veggie burgers and vegan schnitzel with massive piles of French fries. Pretty much the exact moment we finished stuffing our faces, we got word from our promoter Lukas that vegan pizza was being made (from scratch!) at his flat. We wandered over with full bellies and fought our way through a few slices before gathering our shit and heading to the record store down the street for the show. The show was pretty well attended and had a very laid-back vibe. Locals Sink Franatra opened and played a charming set, complete with adorable covers of Danzig and the Weakerthans. David and I played and then it was off to bed with a feeling of impending doom, as we were set to play Kiel, home of booking agent Benny, the next night.

10/18 – Kiel

The perfect storm of reasons to seek oblivion through relentless partying was churning somewhere off shore over the Baltic sea as we arrived in Kiel. We arrived at Benny and his lovely fiancĂ© Maria's flat and were treated to from-scratch tomato soup with noodles and homemade bread dressing deliciousness. We had a few beers and set out for the club where we would be playing that night. The venue was called Subrosa, which is a living contrast between anarcho-graffiti bathrooms and $10 salads on the menu. We set up the PA in relative sobriety, but somehow between that point and the point where David and I played our sets, I managed to put away so much liquor that it probably made Bon Scott tremble and toss about in his early grave. The dudes from Nothington showed up to spend their day off from touring with The Donots in Kiel getting tanked. They brought German bestie Heike with them, which had me stoked as hell. Nothington, Elway, and All Aboard are like the triforce of alcoholic punk rock bands. Together we can dominate Hyrule through our reign of blacked out terror. There weren't many people into the set (apparently, I don't really remember) but I am told that I played a hilariously off-key cover of Basket Case and repeatedly solicited the patrons of the restaurant for their money, insisting “if you can afford a ten euro salad, you can afford to buy a fucking shirt.” What is certain is that Benny and I drank a bunch of Korn liquor and I had 2 whiskeys on stage. We went back to the flat, where we made piss poor drunken decisions ranging from moving a parked sub-compact car into some random hedges right outside Benny's apartment (a collaborative effort between Elway, Nothington and All Aboard), playing Banner Pilot records as loud as possible out the window of the flat while the cops are moving said sub-compact back into the parking space (Benny), pushing Heike through a thorny shrub (Me) or pissing in Benny's cat Meowzers' litter box (Ryan Donovan of Nothington). I'm pretty sure I made out with Benny at one point and he used way too much tongue. I barely slept an hour when Nothington had to depart for some city all the way across Germany. I spent the entire next day with a perplexed “what the fuck have I done?” face. Glory!

10/19 – Hanover
After burning away the majority of our hang over at another fantastic American emigrated burrito spot in Hamburg we set way to Hanover – a city known by the world for their delicious little honey mustard Snyder's pretzels. We showed up late to an acoustic pre-show to find there was no acoustic guitar and that we needed to unload everything to get to an amp. Lucky for me (Garrett) I completely avoided the situation and the entire show getting lost down the banks of a foliage strewn river, one who's dense leaves skimmed the surface and whose reflection lit it on fire. I heard the show was okay.

We packed everything up and headed to the our venue the Rehearsal Room, which as you might imagine, was a rehearsal room. What you might not imagine however is that this practice space was underneath a massive graffiti caked apartment complex complete with living spaces, art studios, some sort of library, bar, theater, steel sculptures (including a skull Statue of Liberty – Awesome), and a half pipe. The practice room itself was down a long wheat pasted corridor of practice rooms (in which people were playing everything from Big Band to drop C tuned metal – Awesome) and hosted a small stage, recording studio, couch, and a ton of delicious little fake meatball things.

We played our set to a rather unphased 50 people packed in a 25'x25' room who asked politely for an encore by gently clapping for like 2 full minutes when we finished our last song. Loading out and driving back to the flat we were staying at we were stopped at a DUI checkpoint to which we passed with flying colors thanks to our hero and saint Dave Aboard while the rest of us cheered drunkenly. Most laid out their sleeping stuff while others of us were threatened with more drinking. Tim and I took a shot of 190 proof vodka, which fueled the good decision of me taking another one that was on fire. I explained a story of once lighting a full shot of Everclear on fire in a friends kitchen, spilling a little bit on my hand, freaking out because my hand was on fire, and spilling it all over the counter setting the kitchen on fire. As soon I was done explaining the flammable properties of 95% alcohol one of the friends of the house dropped his shot and caught the kitchen on fire. We put out the fire and chased the shots with a half glass of 140 proof Czech absinthe. More good decisions followed by going to a friend of a friends birthday party of which the birthday girl was less than stoked to see a random drunk American at her door. About 15 minutes of socializing went down before I puked in a snack bowl and again while running toward the door. Outside I failed to stand up straight and ran backwards into a car. Thanks to our gracious host, Glenn, I was led home and fell asleep promptly on the floor without sheet or pillow. All pro.

10/20 - Giessen

Arriving in Giessen we met up with friends Anni and her adorable watermelon-headed bulldog Gizmo at their uber nice “wow I'm so jealous you can be so into punk rock but afford this” home. After quizzing each other on coffee table tourist facts of NYC we headed to our venue – a hastily graffitied squat/infoshop nestled in an upper-middle class residential community that surely lowered the overall real estate value within 100 meters. The food was a delicious (note: Tim thought they went too heavy in the ginger and cardamom – a true telling of how spoiled this tour has made us) and the free beers came with a side of a dangerously smooth bottle of vodka. Rounds of kicker and drinks were partaken while I spent the hour and a half trying to tune a caved in headed snare drum.

Dudes Turbostaat had next to sold out the venue bringing a solid 350 to the show. Fearing that everyone was there for them and the show would bring staggered rows of blank open mouthed faces for us we were stoked to get some interest and thanks. The bringers of dance Turbostaat went on with full fog machine and laser light back drop - think The Killers meets Alkaline Trio meets Bloc Party with German lyrics. I hopped into the audience and celebrated the last band we would see in Europe with heavy flailing and pretending to sing along while digging my face into the sweaty backs of the beloved German people.

And with great pleasure – Thank you sweaty German people. And the rest of you European and Eurasian and British people. You all took amazing care of us and are very attractive. We had the best tour we've ever had without a doubt. Thank you miles-for-breakfast-eating Frank for staying sober and driving our annoying 14-year-old mouths all over the continent (sorry we destroyed your van). Thank you Leagues Apart for taking us around the UK and Adam Bilboa for sacrificing 5 days of his life to drive us after the van broke down. Thank you all pro All Aboard for letting us fuck up your gear for six weeks, your van for two weeks, and your band forever. Thank you to every promoter and promoter friends who fed us, got us drunk, watched us butcher your show, and then put us to bed after we got too drunk to find it. Thank you everyone who helped us deal with whatever problems it indirectly/directly brought about (ie lost/stolen stick bag, being detained, stolen merch, van broken down, getting a new van, that van getting fucked up, etc). SEE YOU ALL AGAIN SOON!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Europe/Fest/US: Part III

Hello dongs,
When last we spoke, things were a little sour here in camp Elway. We had just been robbed of 3000 Euro worth of merch in Berlin. We had a long way to go, and despite the fact that every show had been fantastic, some covert supernatural force just seemed hellbent on fucking us. This entry finds us sitting substantially prettier, albeit after another set of turd hurdles (turdles?) we had to overcome. Read on.

9/25 – Prague

The morning sun in Berlin bore with it realizations both of the giant bummer that was the previous night's robbery of most of our merch and the fact that, yes, we did get stepdad drunk afterwards and did some stupid shit on the way home from the bar too immature to bear mentioning. Whatever, we dealt with it... Breakfast, frenetic emailing, pulling together of shit, and a whole lot of Woody Allen-style pacing around at a Jewishly neurotic cadence wrapped up our morning. We headed for Prague well-fed, feeling rejuvenated, and quite late for our load in. As ever, Yvy and Steffi proved to be the greatest of friends and the avatars of unwavering German hospitality. Hella kudos.

We arrived in Prague with a little more than an hour to spare before our sound czech (rapier wit over here) and we had Frank park the van in a parking lot near the city center. Frank lives in nearby Zittau, Germany, and couldn't give less of a fuck about showing us around the city center he's been to hundreds of times. He would stay with the van. This meant that I (Tim), with my single previous visit to Prague, would have to show everyone else where to go and play tour guide. This essentially added up to us sprinting though the narrow cobbled streets and absorbing as much of Prague's melancholic beauty as possible in all of 45 minutes. I pointed at some architectural standouts and said things like “There's... uhh... something cool...”. All in all, it was a sad display of ignorant American tourism. Apologies, Prague. Someday I'll take the time to learn about the shit I take pictures of. Fart noise.

Right, we were off to find the venue. We spent a good half hour driving up and down the street that it said the club was on, as we didn't have an address, before finally asking a nice Czech gentleman who, without hesitation, jumped in the front seat and directed us to the club. This entailed driving down a sidewalk through a park. “REALLY? Are you sure?” quoth Frank. We drove a couple hundred yards through some foliage, and lo and behold, there was a cafe next to a lush green football (soccer, yanks) field. We straight up never would have found the place without that rando guy. The show was with a band from the UK called Darko who rip epically in a Propagandhi/Wilhelm Scream way, and it was pretty good. We were showed to the sleeping place by the devastatingly handsome Martin, who put on the show and provided us with yet another round of palate-tantalizing goulash. What a guy. We fell asleep in the company of two of the most adorable kittens and 3 of the nicest and most tolerant Czech girls the world may ever know.

9/26 – Brugge

Our only day off of the whole tour began early and with the intent of making a 10 hour trek across mainland Europe to Brugge, Belgium, where we would hang out with The Menzingers (Of Bob and the Sagats fame). The drive was long, brutal, boring, and tackled without incident or hesitation by driving juggernaut, Frank. Enough cannot be said about his dedication to getting shit done.

We arrived in Brugge and quickly palled up with the bartenders and inhaled a bunch of Duvel. The Menzingers played and it was awesome like it tends to be when The Menzingers play. We sang and danced and drank and ate some weird fried shit and packed six of us into a budget hotel room that barely had room for three. Punx.

9/27 – Birmingham

After passing through the needlessly-stringent UK passport checkpoint and showing our (this time proper) visas to the first native English speakers we've talked to in a fortnight, we loaded onto the ferry in Calais, France and set sail for the famous cliffs of Dover. An hour and some change later, we were driving on the ass backward side of the road to Birmingham, where Black Sabbath is from. The worst traffic of tour came and went without provocation or reason, to Frank's dismay, and we eventually showed up at The Flapper and Firkin, the goofiest-named club ever...

Birmingham was our first of eight shows with Manchester, England's Leagues Apart. This was going to be a special outing because Leagues Apart are a lily white-skinned group of virginal dandies who practically begged on hand and knee that we would take them on tour and teach them a thing or two about drinking. We naturally obliged, it was the least we could do for the pasty descendants of our former colonial masters.

The show went well and was attended well. The stage sound was exquisite. Leagues Apart was great. You always hear cautionary tales of financial ruin and shitty shows in the UK, and this first night assured us that it was going to be just fine. Stoker. The show was put on by professional poker player/punk guy Dave who in addition to putting out a split 7” we did with The Magnificent, also provided us and Leagues Apart with divine accommodation at his house. Three 20-packs of beer adorned the living room floor for about 90 minutes before being utterly vanquished. The end of the beer came far too soon, and we staggered off to bed knowing the next week was going to be pretty fun.

9/28 – Norwich

Narrow cobble stone streets led us past an unusual collection of record stores, guitar shops, and gaming outlets – a middle school hangers dream the Internet should have deemed vacant years ago. After our nostalgic afternoon stroll we unloaded at the venue where Stacey and Frank drove for some 45 minutes trying to find parking on these horse and buggy roads. The set up was quick and concluded with a 2 liter bottle of Strongbow (that in the UK is like $2), pasta and rolls which we handily turned into pasta subs upon finding there was no silverware.

The show opened with maybe the best act we had seen yet, Broken Window Effect, a ghost-buster dressed band with sweet harmonies and tasteful noodling followed by Nathan Detroit a band compiled of young kids that 5 years ago would have made us sound like a drum stick beating a pile of dicks. Before Leagues Apart's set we visited a Tesco and found the best part about the UK - $3 20 packs of mini beers called Bier D'or – a brilliant apparatus that lets the clean PBR-like pilsner never go flat. This aided both bands sets to inspire multiple human pyramids in the crowd.

After the show we went upstairs to find the room we loaded in through had turned into a club. After loading out through the back door I danced for a bit to a mash up of House of Pain and Blink 182 and we took off to our friends Dan & Laurens apartment. Settling in we left the slackers and set sail into a Saturday night of Norwich culture arriving at a bar called New York, New York. The lasers and fog machines gave a rich atmosphere to traditional English Jig of ass shaking and arm flailing. Tim tried his luck at the art and fell on his ass. We stumbled back to our friend Stef's apartment to find we had no recollection of how we got to the apartment or any idea of how to get back to the van. After walking the wrong direction for some blocks a guy with a stroller pointed us in the right direction to where we followed clues back to the van.

9/29 – Leeds

We left Norwich in an uncharacteristic hustle so that we could witness what we assumed would be a hilarious spectacle when we would stop at Adam Bilboa from Leagues Apart's parents place in Lincoln. Turned out that the folks that gave this unthinkable person life are actually just the best. We were provided with coffee, tea, pizza, veggie burgers, pasta, and even clean laundry; all with a sugary dose of British charm. Thanks mom and dad!

We took off for Leeds, intending to be at the venue at the designated load-in time of 6:00. We got there pretty much on time. The next 3 hours were something of a totally convoluted mess, as the PA had gone AWOL, and the promoter and bar staff had to scramble to accommodate the show. The PA showed up around 9:30 and the 4 band show got underway some 2 hours after the expected start time. The show was free, and thus well attended, though a significant portion of the clientèle couldn't give a baker's fuck about punk rock. The gaggle of bored-looking and really nonplussed Brits was punctuated by the first of 3 UK appearances from Scottish buddy, Rachel. She tossed about so ravenously and sang along so loudly that it made it seem like a whole crowd was going apeshit. She warned us that the next two nights would be drunker and more ferocious. Stoker. Pretty decent show, given the rough start and all. Cheers to Reece for throwing it all together.

We crashed at Leeds buddies Ben and Luke's place. The rest of the night was spent drinking, listening to an English football chant on vinyl entitled “Brian,” which we would later adopt as the official theme song for Brian Van Proyen, and generally carrying on. On to the land of bagpipes and kilts!

9/30 – Dundee

It isn't so often that the way you imagine a place looking before you ever visit is actually exactly what it's like in reality, but Scotland looks exactly like how I imagined it, with it's foggy moors and sprawling green hills speckled with grazing sheep. Beautiful country. It seemed that nothing could ruin the... wait, what's that? Frank's van has either sucked up a family of dying kittens into the gearbox, or first gear is seriously fucked. We pulled into Dundee with the uneasy feeling in our loins that things with our tour steed were going to get worse before they got better... No matter, we made it to Dundee.

Our decision to visit Dundee, of all Scottish cities, was made advisedly. Last year at Fest, we made friends with a large group of enthusiastic Scots who were without a doubt the most stoked Elway fans there. We got drunk and crashed hotel room shows, played acoustic sing-alongs, some of them kidnapped Brian and got him out of his mind drunk, and I played Scottish buddies Andy and Sam's wedding in front of the No Idea house. We left each other's company feeling like legitimate friendships were made, it was no ordinary fest interaction. We knew that the Dundee show was going to be a special night, but we had no clue just how amazing it would be.

Turns out that a collective of people in Dundee called Make That A Take got a ton of people together to donate money to buy replacement shirts for the ones that were stolen from us in Germany. There were more than 60 shirts screenprinted, including a few hoodies and a single baby shirt. Far and away, this was the most touching, kindhearted, amazing thing that has ever been done for us by anyone. The sentiment was so overwhelming that, coupled with the emotional push and pull of homesickness and the general zest for life that touring entails, I was nearly moved to a joyous sob. Really, enough cannot be said about the caliber of friends that we have in Scotland. On top of all that, we were given some of the best food of tour (some vegan chili and casserole with pasta and bread) and far too many bottles of Buckfast, which is essentially like Mad Dog 20/20 with 8 cups of coffee in it. Morale is high as fuck at this juncture. Opening band Trails from England just tore the roof off the place. Scottish locals Uniforms were hilarious and energetic, Leagues Apart were as charmingly wasted as ever, and served to remind us that, just as Rachel said, shit was going to get real at this show. In a drunken stoked-rage, she nearly choked out Adam whilst singing along. With a single intoxicated wave of the arm, she sent entire swathes of neighboring Scots flying about. She was clearly excited to be there. We played and it went mental. Loud Scottish-twinged choruses rang out louder than the PA, and people were all smiles. Rachel is just wasted at this point. She sways back and forth like a cyclone of fun, bowling over the random audience member occasionally and falling teeth first into the floor over a monitor speaker two or three times. It was a perfect show.

A few minutes screeching down the darkened streets of a nighttime Dundee, we made our way to Scottish friend and forensic scientist Neil's place, where we polished off a few more wayward Becks before slinking off to sleep knowing that we were in the best of all possible company. Seriously Scottish folk, thank you so fucking much.

10/1 – Manchester

Nerves were aquiver as we hopped in the van for the five hour journey to Manchester. Would Frank's van make it, or would this be yet another episode in National Lampoon's Elway's European Vacation? Turns out it was a little of both. We made it to Manchester, though by the time we came to a halt at the venue, both first and second gears were making the same discordant screeching noise. It was pretty clear that something was fucked underneath that hood, and our time with the van (and Frank unfortunately) was drawing to an unfortunate close. The rest of the details aren't super exciting, but it ought be noted that Adam from Leagues Apart just straight up saved the fucking day and sorted a new van and a new plan for us. A great guy.

The show in Manchester was okay. It was a Monday, and the crowd of 30 or so was Englishly catatonic. We'll get 'em next time I suppose. A short stroll to a nearby Kebab shop for some late night heartburn, and we were of to Francis from Leagues Apart's flat to get high and watch “Nazis at the Center of the Earth.” Which, for the film hobbyist, is amazing. Cheerio.

10/2 – Cardiff

After finding out that there would be no hope of a tow home back to Germany for the beleaguered Frank, we dropped him off at the Renault garage in Manchester, where he would begin an enormous undertaking of a 1600km drive back home with an entirely fucked transmission. We award him with the Elway medal of honor for his courageous trans-European drive.

So yeah, our van and driver are out, the show in Manchester was sort of a dud, and we're just ambivalent to it all. It turns out strings of unfortunate events tend to dull the senses after a while. We headed to Cardiff in our swank as fuck new Mercedes van that would be our home for the next 5 days.

The thing about Cardiff is that when I was on tour playing drums in Nothington, I played my first ever European acoustic show in Cardiff and it was really great. There were a ton of people there who knew the lyrics and sang along, and it was a really heartwarming experience. Nothington had to leave the next morning, but the amount of partying crammed into our 10 or so hours in Cardiff was monumental. All these experiences led me to believe that, should Elway come to Cardiff, it would be a similar story. It turns out no amount of past experience could have prepared us for the ridiculousness to come. First off, the show was great, and again I was taken aback by the seemingly disproportionate amount of enthusiasm for our music. Local pricks Hipflask were hilarious and entertaining, particularly their song about MD 20/20, which sounded exactly like what MD 20/20 would sound if it were a song. Leagues Apart were pretty stellar too. Throughout the show, promoter buddy Owen (or Pizza Foot, as he is affectionately known to me after having drunkenly stepped in 2 pizzas before falling down 2 flights of stairs) got us about 4 beers a piece at the show and assured us that back at his flat there would be several more. Well, upon arrival at Owen's flat, we discovered that “several” meant “like, more than 100”. At a modest 12:00am with a short drive the next day, we saw a long night's worth of work ahead of us. It took a while, but the select ragtag squad of drunks from Elway, Leagues Apart, and Cardiff locals went the full distance to ensure that every beer in the house was vanquished. Francis, drummer of Leagues Apart, turned 24 at midnight and that was all the excuse he needed to get utterly shitfaced. The night marched on, and slowly whittled our once powerful drinking team down to me (Tim), Francis and Andy from Leagues Apart (the latter of which ended his night by vomiting violently in the bathroom while the former sang an improvised puking song), and 3 or 4 Welshmen, who it seemed just never, ever stopped drinking. We reached beer's end and passed out in hallways, on stairs, in bathrooms, and wherever we could seek refuge from the impending morning hangover for a few hours of sweet slumber. Best/worst night of drinking so far on this tour.

10/3 – Exeter

The Exeter show was supposed to be in Plymouth, but due to a series of unfortunate happenstances the promoter ended up canning it two weeks before. Luckily, local best dudes in the world Bangers got us a last minute show in at a bar called the Cavern – a cement and brick underground lair true to its name, a bootleggers palace if it were 80 years earlier transplanted across the Atlantic with a small pet shop for an entrance.

Upon loading down eroded and shallow steps we were greeted with a tantalizing 'Merican spread – French Fries (as backward island monkeys call them, “chips”), pizza, and salad. Some beers arrived and were quickly decimated. We wandered streets, checked our internets, and played pinball for a while until the show began.

I (Garrett) had sort of a shitty show. After a while miles start to wear, clubs seem to repeat, and appreciation for being in some totally new town of a country never treaded surrounded by cathedrals and castles goes unnoticed (also, ol' 100 beer Cardiff killed us. Actually, I completely blame Cardiff). The bands were pretty great though. Bangers slayed.

After the show we layed our stuff out at a house nearby and all agreed we were exhausted and would sleep immediately. After deciding this, we stayed up for a good few hours watching Youtube videos and giggling like 12 year olds.

10/4 – London

We showed up to a gridlocked downtown London where we took an accidental site-seeing tour thanks to a “shortest distance” programmed GPS. The palace was neat, the clock was cool, the bridge was nice. We made it to the venue and went separate ways for a bit. After following what looked like a giant egg for while I (Garrett) ended up in the business district right around 5pm when suit coats and ties were flooding out of large glass doors. I played the game of weaving through the fast walking funny jabber while dodging confusing left laned round abouts - a game I would imagine I was the only one having as much fun with. It was weird to see people my age armed with a brief case and haircut making in a week probably more money than I will see in a year. I sort of imagined myself as such a person while weaving, getting out of my niche position that I'm really really good at (I'd say regional tire tread design relations manager) and meeting up with friends for a casual beer before returning to a comfortable flat with a girl I love. I'd be financially secure backed with a resume listing the places I've worked and the skills I've earned. A promising future where I wouldn't be constantly trying to figure out ways to make money while trying to sweet talk my $10/h job into not firing me for taking so much time off to tour Europe. Meh whatever I get to tour Europe.

After meeting back up with my dirty hoodied friends at the venue we ate some burrito and grabbed some beers. We were told we couldn't drink inside but we could hang out on the fire escape that had a cool view of some rooftops and was right next to a restaurant vent that made everything smell like delicious fried food. After about some 30 minutes we were yelled at for drinking on the fire escape. We moved into a tiny room between the venue and the fire escape to where we were also told we couldn't drink. I think the guy's words were along the lines of “sorry guys, but everyone is here to make us money.”

I don't want to sound like an entitled rock star prick, but when all the money you earn is going to travel expenses which also leaves you broke because you can't work it's nice to get a few free beers out of the deal, or at least a spot where you can bring your own shitty $3 three liter bottle of hard cider. Plus everyone knows we play WAY better drunk (uh... or at least talk shit better) so we will make you MORE money if everyone is having a good time.

Anyway. Enough “I deserve this” rant. The show was fun. The band that opened up was awesome because they sang songs about historic events. Leagues Apart found a giant plastic fruit hat. Elway still managed to get drunk and talk shit. I tried to steel a beer from atop my high horse and was caught.

Afterward we drove into South London to stay at a buddy Chunks house. We found a $2.49 meal of the most amazingly disgusting fried bean burger, french fry, and drink combo to which we sided with a pool we made of ketchup, mayo, and some orange sauce that was probably already mixed ketchup and mayo. Slovenly and revived, we could now drink more, which we did. Some went to sleep while Stacey and I celebrated her last night by being force fed Guinesses. Once the cans were gone Chunks took off on his fixed gear and 45 seconds later showed up at the front door with two bottles of wine and a bottle of Malibu. The force feeding continued without skipping a beat until we both passed out sideways under our half full glasses.

10/5 – Monchengladbach

We bid farewell to the sleeping members of Leagues Apart in the kindest way we could imagine; we let them sleep and pulled a Cherokee fade. The lack of an earnest farewell in no way means we weren't incredibly sad to have to part. Leagues Apart are some of the best tour mates ever encountered, and I would bail any of them out of jail if I ever had money. We also bid farewell to best friend/merch slinger Stacey, who was Heathrow-bound to fly back home. We Elways and the saintly and ravenously attractive Adam Bilboa took to the motorways en route to Dover, where we would catch the ferry back mainland.

The funny thing about being on an extended European tour is that you tend to develop an attachment with Germany. Although the primary language is not English, there is a soul-crushing lack of decent burritos, and we are still thousands of miles from anything familiar, Germany feels like a home away from home. We were so excited to finally be back in the land where the beer and food is free at every show, and we would meet up and party with the dudes from All Aboard!, that we scarcely noticed France, Belgium, and Holland blowing by before we arrived in Monchengladbach.

Precisely as we expected, the show was fantastic. It was All Aboard's EP release show, and scores of familiar German faces filled the club. At a certain point my recollection is going to fail me, due largely in part to a liquor called Flimm that was consumed in quantities that would make Jim Morrison's skeleton blush. Adam Bilboa, relieved from his 5 day spat of driving duty, drank himself into a vomit-soaked oblivion that made the last few nights of modest alcohol consumption seem hilariously puny. All Aboard ripped throats, it was clearly going to be fun to tour with these ass-clowns for the next two weeks. We stayed at the club after the show long enough to drink a metric dickton of beer and schnapps, but left once the after-show nu-metal party was starting to kick in. We ended the night by watching an episode of Family Guy rife with Nazi jokes through one drunk eye. “It's so funny because everyone in this room is German.” quoth Rufio.

10/6 – Nuremburg

After transferring all of our merch and gear into our new tiny rented trailer, (a feat which required the most ridiculous game of tetris I've ever been privy to see) we bid farewell to Adam Bilboa, who was heading back to Britain to return the swank Mercedes. See you at fest, dong.

Fast forward a few hours and the van-turned-clown-car operation that held us and All Aboard arrived in Nuremburg. We loaded into the venue, soundchecked, checked out the city center and castle, and had a few beers before realizing that, oh my god, the promoters gave us not only delicious snacks and vegan curry for dinner, but they actually provided us with the bottle of vodka we only half-seriously put in our rider. This was going to be a great show.

A few screwdrivers and some delicious dinner later, the doors are open and some 150-200 people file in. Openers King Lui Von Beethoven rip ridiculously hard, All Aboard again makes us look like a bunch of unpracticed hacks (we are) and our set quickly becomes a contender for best show of the tour. We played for 80 minutes or so, and had tons of sing alongs, crowd surfers, mic grabbers, dancing maniacs; the whole shebang really. At one point the crowd started singing “It's Alive” without provocation. That was an awesome first. Post show, we hung around the club while two Djs spun a great mix of punk songs that made it feel like Fest time, especially considering we were gulping down tequila and schnapps shots like it was some kind of mission from god. We arrived back at the sleeping place, where everyone but Garrett opted to pass out. Garrett went back out, made and subsequently destroyed some memories, and returned to the flat in time to talk about nothing in the kitchen until the sun rose. Great show.

10/7 – Regensberg

What better way to chase away a hangover than to go to a museum documenting the Nazi rise to power? Before leaving Nuremburg, we decided we'd get proper touristy and go check out what all this National Socialist riff-raff was all about. We parked the van and trailer near a zeppelin field some might recognize from a film called “Triumph of the Will” and made our way to the nearby museum. I (Tim) visited the museum last time I was in Nuremburg, so I opted to visit a nearby biergarten for a hefe weizen or three instead. The next couple of hours were spent getting bummed out on the reiteration of historical atrocities through film, artifact, and photograph (David from All Aboard sardonically declares “It's photoshopped!” with a sense of humor about WWII that is uncharacteristic of a German). With the frightening revelation that entire nations of normal people can be swayed into the demented socio-political agenda of a genocidal propagandist and shitty painter barely consoled by video footage of Nazi higher-ups listening through headphones that they were to be executed like the sycophantic collaborators that they are, we set course for Regensberg.

The show was an intimate acoustic affair in a quaint little cafe/bar lit partially by candlelight. David from All Aboard and I played our sets without microphones or amplification and commanded the attention and silence of all of the 60 some people that showed up. It was a great time. After the show, Nuremburg buddy Jana played us a few of her beautiful songs on acoustic guitar, while Brian Van Proyen proceeded to really go for it in terms of drinking. We taxi'd to the sleeping place and passed out abruptly. Shaboy.

10/8 – Vienna

Vienna is a city known throughout western history for it's music. Mozart, Bach, Brahms, the cream of the Baroque crop, and now Elway... Surely we would do our damndest to ensure that the historical legacy of Vienna as a musical epicenter would remain steadfastly intact. The show was sparsely attended, though the 20-30 people there were all very enthusiastic and we were thrilled to see so many people having a blast on a Monday night. Props to promoter guru Klaus, who made us some delicious vegan chili with pumpkin in it. We returned to Klaus' flat after having to perform some electrical surgery on the trailer to van cable thingy to ensure we would have tail lights. We passed out rather early in comparison to the last few nights. Phew.

Well shit, that about brings us up to date. I just want to belabor the point the best I can that we can't thank you Euro-people enough for your enthusiasm for our band. It seemed inconceivable that we'd ever make it to Europe, let alone make it here and have a modicum of success. Cheers!


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Europe/Fest/US: Part II

9/14 – Hiedleberg, Germany – Villa Nachttanz

Garrett Carr explains our first night in Germany, stream of consciousness style:

Hallo aun Deutchland!

Strutting through customs picking up guitars escorted by our delightful driver Frank into our new sprinter chariot we are fed fresh fruits and sandwiches to Hiedleburg exiting in search for our venue circling dirt roads and an old graffitied train station building where inhabitants and live music suspiciously spill onto tracks instead we park and walk toward town in between cobble streets and peeling plaster off dimpled brick trying to order coffee and failing bearing right into the ally of a second hand store where a lady between musty suit coats and bowlers tells us of a castle setting forth with a yodel we navigate winding pedestrian channels once where 900 years ago horses and bucket headed soldiers approached the now sited deteriorating castle walls and we climbed steps weaving through neighborhoods reaching the courtyards and paths spanning the tops of walls looking out over red chimneys stuck on black and gray spotted rooftops fast forward we pull up to a set of sliding gates and enter a lot hosting a 3 story mural wrapped building and wooden tower that provides sound and projection for outdoor stage container units lining the perimeter serving function for bathrooms and band bunk beds adjacent to fire pits and a giant pipe and net made 8 person hammock loading into the basement we wander amongst the rest of the house finding themed art string rooms including telephone wire webs and LCD headed manicans we are served rolls with various colored spreads and cheeses fed funny named beers and caffeinated club-mattes followed by a burrito dinner and 60 person packed basement of dancing kids calling for 3 encores the last being for 10 more songs where some quick German math let us off with a few less upstairs the party continued with DJs spinning a punk rock mosh pit while others surrounded a fire handfulls of drink tickets to a spray painted ply wood bar fueled further attempt of speaking German concluding with rejection or making out with handsome dudes meanwhile upstairs the dance party was mixing punk rock into new wave into drum and bass into techno where the few hundred people who once saturated the house and lawn began to fade we crawled into our storage bunker quickly passing out and awaking to a spreaded breakfast and a grip of money followed with “there was too much money – here's more money” and departing.

And since I'm writing this – just to note – this space was entirely collectively run by a bunch of rad volunteers who throw events for the sake of music and art. A venue able to host, feed, alcoholically inhibit, and pay all within a not-for-profit framework. A successful example of what could be with enough dedication, organization, and relentless passion to party.

9/15 – Wiesbaden Part 1
It was sometime around playing our first or second song in Europe that we realized that the prospect of writing 50+ interesting and expansive blog entries was going to seriously inhibit our ability to party, so from here on out, it's going to have to be more concise (re: party friendly).

Our first night in Wiesbaden, I was going to play an acoustic show at our friends Mike and Rufio's flat. These two dudes are rad, punk loving American drunks living in Germany, so we had a sneaking suspicion that shit was about to get drunk. Lo and behold, the small apartment show was packed with rad buddies from America and Germany, socially-lubricated via a bathtub packed full of PBR pinched from the nearby military base, and much better German beer, the name of which escapes me. I played for 45 minutes or so, and then we proceeded to party at a bar some 20 minutes from the apartment called Clatsch (or something). The combination of jet lag and the liquor/beer/wine intermingling in our stomachs meant it was time to get lost as fuck on the way back to the apartment. I asked for directions in German and followed them (Frau France, my old German teacher, would be proud as fuck). I passed out in a Taun Taun shaped sleeping bag and slept soundly to a flourish of beer farts. Nice.

9/16 – Wiesbaden Part 2

Rolling up to a giant graffiti caked warehouse we unload into a the chain dangling decommissioned slaughter house. The room we load into is not the venue, but a place we are told the government said no one is allowed in due to the city rendering the squat's structure unsafe (so instead was paying them 50 million Euro to build a new one). Pretzels and spreads introduced a stuffed pepper lentil entree sided by salad and all the Becks beer we could drink. We chatted with Banner Pilot about their tales of Russia and I took a gleeful walk with their merch guy Joe who repeatedly solicited German teens who spoke little English for weed.

After the show we proceeded to empty the coolers of Becks and a bottle of vodka a nice girl Anka bought for us. We met up with Tim's friends Heike and Benny, the latter who, after consuming the last quarter of said vodka, threw my water away because it was not beer. The night ended in a hopeful drunken entourage that we would find a bar but rather wandered a few kilometers of blocks before settling for convenience store beer and a park across the street.

9/17 – Leipzig Part 1

We arrived into a neighborhood scrolling with punk rock paints spattering what seemed every wall in Leipzig. Streets walking with tattoo faced moms and feral dreaded children showing patronage to their local DIY squatted movie theater or anarchist bar. Along side a park with a giant trampoline and three story slides being played about with drink in hand. Needless to say – we were stoked!

The show was acoustic at a bar called Black Label that resembled an old Irish pub if it were out drank by a bunch of punk rock kids. Out back was a burrito cart called Atacolypse that not only had the best name for a small mexican style joint but had some of the best vegan fake meet burritos any of us has ever had (if you are one of the many who believes Germany has no good Mexican food anywhere – be sure to pack your wrong mouth with the fajitas). It was a pleasant surprise to see Steffi, who is one of the greatest of all Berliners to ever exist. The show was a balanced mix of Elway songs and crowd pleasers including a heavy German-accented Journey cover. Afterward further drinking ensued and we passed out in the care of our friends Zgonne and Jenny.

9/18 – Leipzig Part 2

On our second day in Leipzig, we awoke in the loft of Zgonne and Jenny's apartment to a gorgeous panoramic view of the city. We pointed at various architectural standouts along the morning skyline and hatched a plan to assemble the bleary-eyed, hungover crew of buddies strewn about the floors and go see what all this shit is about. First we checked out Volkerschlacht which, near as this writer can tell, is a monument to Napoleon's defeat at the hands of a large congregation of armies and quite possibly the most badass building ever constructed. It looks like Duane “The Rock” Johnson would live there. Next we saw the Leipzig city hall, which makes San Francisco's usually-beautiful city hall look like a tenement for fecalphiliacs. We saw a few more very tangible examples of how beautiful architecture in Germany can be before heading back to the flat for some mind-destroying vegan goulash, which we consumed with a bestial zeal that brings to mind Jack Nicholson's seminal performance in “Wolf.” Tasty. The show was in a small bar/showspace called Kulturehouse Manfried, and it basically ruled. Openers Sick Times brought just that with a loud and fast, German-accented hardcore set. We played to the apparent delight of about 60 Germans, and kept the momentum going throughout the 90 minute set. Our Fort Collins bestie turned Berliner, Gretchen, whom we had not seen in what seems like eons, along with Berlin promoter and all around awesome person, Yvy drove down from Berlin to surprise us. The look on our faces was pricelessly vibrant with excitement, as if mom just told us that, yes, we can get the super-soaker slip-n-slide. Post show hangs ensued at the Black Label, where most reminisced and told stories of the road to a background soundtrack of Brian Van Proyen and local dingus Michele arguing the finer points of their own intoxication using only loud grunts. We returned to the flat and cuddled the night away. Cute shit.

9/19 – Berlin Part 1
After the standard German tour breakfast of rolls and spreads (perhaps my favorite part of tour), we bid adieu to Zgonne, Jenny, and the still-drunk Michele. We packed the van and headed to Berlin. We came to a halt in Neukon (misspelled) near Steffi's house. First order of business on Yvy's daylong Elway agenda was to macht schnell to a small pub on the corner for clutch A.M. Beers. Good idea. We sat around Steffi's place and talked a bit before heading to Cassiopeia, which it should be noted is a very fucking cool venue located in a former GDR railyard-turned-DIY-show-and-dance-club-bonanza. There is no more apt way to describe it. Before loading in, Yvy and Steffi proceeded to voraciously disembowel and previous notion we may have had about what a good Falafel is. The place we went to is simply lightyears beyond anything we've ever had in the US. Previous falafel gold-medalist Mahmoud's in the east village of New York City pales pitifully in comparison. Jesus Christ... Just Jesus fucking Christ, it was such a good falafel. The show also ruled, and the crowd was warm and receptive, as it typically is in Germany. We played something like 70 minutes, which would be absolutely batshit in the US, but is starting to become routine for us here in Europe. After the show, we ventured back to Steffi's house to sort out details for the next morning's highly-anticipated trip to the Russian Federation.

And that's when shit got fucking real...

9/20 – Moscow Part 1

Before we get into our exploits in Russia, I must first say that there is no possible way that a trite couple of paragraphs about each show can do justice to just how awesome the people in Russia were to us (this excludes police, as we shall soon discuss). The shows were so amazing that it really does make the five years we've been playing seem like the most worth it endeavor ever. Okay, here we go.

We left the Berlin-Tegel airport after navigating the sophisticated and seemingly-senseless minefield of airline bureaucracy that AirBaltic laid out before us. Something in the counter lady's eyes seemed to scream that we were about to get hosed real fucking bad (it's called foreshadowing, folks). We boarded a small puddle jumper and flew to Riga. Now, Riga is in Latvia, and even though the modestly-sized airport is not likely to be a microcosm of the country, I can say with imminent conviction that Latvia is a country populated and run by total fucking babes. Every single Latvian man and woman in the angular, modern terminal carried with them a beauty that was simply crygasm inducing. So by the time babetown the customs lady and hunktown the busdriver led us on our way to our plane to Moscow, we were writing with excitement to get to Russia. We arrived some two hours later in Moscow to the news that one of our guitars had not made it on the plane in either Berlin or Riga (“We have no way to know this” quoth the AirBaltic representative who totally should have had a way to know.). It seemed that I (Tim) would be borrowing from Russian randos for the duration of our stay in Russia. Whatever, no problem... 45 minutes of red tape and wildly gesturing with my hands to try to make up for a language barrier as looming as the iron curtain later, we were in a van with promoter Iliea, bound for Bavasky Zamov somewhere in the massive city center. We arrived nearly 2 hours later (Moscow is massive, and the traffic makes Los Angeles seem like Big Spring, Texas) and were greeted by Russian booking agent, Dima, who should carry a sceptre for being so unrelentingly fucking awesome. We met up with a lot of familiar faces from my outing with Nothington in Russia earlier this year and it became clear that, yesinfuckingdeed, we were about to have a fucking great time. A Russian 'that guy' sauntered up to each of us and offered us some drug unique to Russia that is, we learned later, primarily tobacco filled chicken feces with various chemicals. You are supposed to put it in you lip like chewing tobacco. A hearty “fuck that shit” issued from my now very sour tasting jowels, and I went about making new friends. After consuming generous helpings of vodka flavored with honey and hot chiles (great stuff), Russian cognac (also great) along with a homecooked pasta dish that tasted like what I imagine a reacharound from Adonis would feel like, we headed into the club. 3 very energetic and awesome Russian punk bands opened the show, and there was a very palpable and positive energy in the room. I couldn't imagine a more fitting setting to spend our fifth anniversary as a band (9/20/07 was the date of our first practice). We played our set and shit went absolutely bananas. A constant barrage of crowd surfers and broken English singalongs lit up a small room in Moscow for another marathon 80 minute set. I was sweating like a priest on a playground, and I was so smitten by the exuberance of the show that any worries about my lost guitar or anger toward the supid AirBaltic evaporated. It was perfect. We rode the subway to my friend Pasha's flat, where we were treated to a sort of Latka/Knish operation coupled with rice and vegetables that nicely punctuated the first day of what seemed like was going to be the best time ever. No high is really a high without a low to compare it to though, as we would learn the next day when the atmosphere of excitement and wonderment detoured into squalid shittiness...

9/21 – Kovrov, Russia

We awoke to a mild Moscow morning, some delicious breakfast at Pasha's place, and a 5 hour van ride to Kovrov before us. We loaded into a van driven by the Russian John Candy and headed east. We learned along the way that 1. Kovrov means “Carpet” and the city is the birthplace of the AK-47. Gangster shit. 2. Small kiosks speckle the side of the highways in rural Russia, clusters of them selling the same odd items in seemingly infinite quantities (giant stuffed bunnies, inflatable rafts, lampshades). 3. Russian Pear soda tasted fucking awful and 4. Kovrov is a small town, and because the original plan to have a show in nearby and more punk-friendly Vladimir fell through for logistical reasons, we were going to be one of the only punk bands ever to play there. We arrived in the small industrial town, and after wandering about in confusion trying to find the venue (this included Garrett taking a piss in what he thought was an abandoned lot and subsequently getting yelled at ferociously in Russian and kicked in the ass), we loaded into the small bar on the second story of an old brick building. As local punks began to congregate on the street corner and mingle with groups of kids who drove in from Vladimir and beyond, we decided now might be a good time to meet some seriously cool folks. We set to drinking way too much vodka in an alleyway strewn with broken bricks behind the venue with 15 or so various Russians. The language barrier, though present as ever, seemed negligible when alcohol and music are involved. We returned to the front of the club to discover that another group of people had shown up. The sidewalks around the front of the venue were now occupied by something between 15 and 20 Russian police officers, armed with assault rifles. We were told by Dima that they were there to make sure that everything is civil and that there is no uhh... monkey business going on with our punk show. Nearer to our set time, the small militia of bored-looking Russian cops was joined by a pair of Russian plainclothes immigration cops who looked like the sexy russian equivalents of Daniel Craig and Colin Farrel respectively. They were at the show to ensure that the American band had proper documents to be playing shows in Russia. We played our set and again, people went fucking crazy. The cutting out of everything electronic, the broken microphone stands, even the out of tune guitar couldn't stop everyone in the room from getting stoked. We finished our set and walked off stage to the news that we would be packing everything up and leaving out the back door out of the view of the police in short order. The cadence of Dima's words and the look in the eyes of locals suggested that now is not the time for fucking around, and so we obliged as quickly as we could manage. We loaded our shit into John Candy's van and got in as fast as we could, but before we could get the fuck out, a swarm of cops surrounded the van led by the sexy immigration duo. We were told that we need to come to the police station for questioning. Pants are beginning to be shat at this point. We arrived at the station and were sat down in a hallway in the company of a guy with an AK-47 while the sexy duo and a few other cops talked to the promoter in the adjoining office (I hesitate to call it an interrogation room). It was at this point that we noticed that Joe was beginning his 25th birthday in a Russian police station. Fuck yes! What followed was a seriously grueling 4 hour process of asking questions of each person and fingerprinting me and Joe because we didn't have our passports. We didn't want to be there and neither did these cops. They seemed sour about it. They asked shit like “What your musics about?” “No singing politic?” “Have heard any Russian bands? (baiting me to say Pussy Riot)” After a while tensions seemed to be alleviated by mutual interest in sleeping. Colin Farrel explained to me with all of the 4 English words he knew that “I guitar, favorite group Dire Straits.” We were given the paperwork documenting that we were in violation of our tourist visas by playing a show, so we would have to pay a fine to be assessed later. Much ado about nothing. All the questions about politics, lyrics, and music were just small town cops trying to root out foreign insurgency or some pitifully conceived notion of doing good police work so Putin will invite them to dinner or some shit. Basically a lot of boredom punctuated by brief moments of either humor or worry. No bother... Back to Moscow to continue to violate the terms of our visas!

9/22 – Moscow Part 2

The van ride from Kovrov back to Moscow seemed much shorter in the early morning, as there was no traffic and it was impossible not to sleep. Russian John Candy delivered us safely back to Pasha's place, where we took a 3 hour power nap in preparation for a day of touristy awesomeness and a rad show. We woke up and took the train to the city center where we saw Red Square and St. Basil's Cathedral, The Kremlin, 0km, and a bunch of ritzy restaurants and shops that would make Marx want to kill the shit out of himself. We ate at a pretty awesome vegetarian restaurant and met up with darling Russian couple besties Anna and Dima, who are seriously the nicest people we've ever met on tour. We went to the museum built in the apartment where Bulgakov lived when he wrote The Master and Margarita and nerded out hard. We then headed to the Konkrete Store. Now, when I was in Nothington and we came to the Konkrete Store, it was bare none the most insane show I've ever played , yet somehow still we were utterly unprepared for the pandemonium that would ensue. The Konkrete Store is kind of like Zumiez, if Zumiez were impossible to come by. The store sits in part of an old factory turned shopping center/art space. On the day we were playing, the whole place was having a huge festival, which meant that our show would be outside on a stage that was nothing more than a stack of wooden palates, and in front of some 250-300 people. Mix that with the usual craziness of Russian punk shows, and shots of vodka chased by garlicy pickles, and you've got a recipe for a crazy time. The combination electric/acoustic show lasted about an hour and consisted of Elway as a 3 piece band (The amp Brian was trying to use blew up) or as a 4 piece where I just frontmanned it, and a night ending acoustic singalong sesh that was epic. Crowdsurfing on an actual surfboard, a move that I saw when Nothington played, was revisited heavily. Enormous circle pits erupted. Fucking people rained down from the roof of the factory into the crowd like the most awesome 9/11 interpretive dance you've ever imagined. Throats were destroyed in singalong glory. It was the best show we've ever played. Glowing with the sweat of victory, we set our course for the train station for the overnight train to St. Petersburg.

9/23 – St. Petersburg

The trains in Europe rule. Transformer dining tables become beds and turn a dismal 9 hour train ride through towns with names like “Nuclear Power” into a gentle rocking sleep. There's a weird feeling when waking up with a bunch of other strangers – a feeling provoked by soft careful movements and heavy eyes that's usually reserved for close friends or lovers. Everyone on that train was our lover.

Arriving in a rainy St. Petersburg we dragged our gear to a taxi that took us to Sveta and her friend Anna's apartment. We spent most of the afternoon there recovering from our former Moscow and Kovrov shows watching the heavy rain run off large concrete sky rise apartment roofs. We set to the grocery store in the evening to show Russia what a real burrito tastes like but were missing about 75% of the ingredients so we settled for some rad pasta.

We again dragged our gear through the rain (including our 50 pound body bag of merch that gained a few pounds of water to the underground) this time to the underground that would take us to our show. Arriving at the first proper venue we played in Russia we were somewhat excited to play on gear that would blow up or fall apart when playing. The show was cool – kids got down – at one point all the way to the ground to form a row boat of sorts. The show ended, we went home, drank some more, sang acoustic songs and passed out in each others arms.

9/24 – Berlin

The morning was abrupt, rising at dawn to take our sorry, sleep deprived asses to the airport. We said goodbye to our friends Dima, Anna and Sveta and filed into a cab. A whole school-year's worth of gold stars were awarded to our cab driver for the stylish track suit and 6am techno jams. We exchanged strong verbs with the Air Baltic check-in employee to not lose our fucking guitars this time, blah blah blah airport, security, we boarded the plane and promptly passed out. We arrived in Lativa, the only thing lifting our weighted eyelids was the chance we would miss the gorgeous visage of every unholy Latvian sex god/goddess. We boarded the plane, relieved to see that our guitars actually made it board. As we delighted in the fact that this would certainly be our last transaction with Air Baltic, the stewardess and head sky-cunt reprimanded Tim for taking a pillow from the business class. We talked her out of a police report and a criminal sentencing to death.
We arrived in Berlin, greeted our beloved Frank and recouped Tim's guitar from a crag-sized entangelment of lost baggage. Sustenance was immediately sought and found at a nearby pizza place. Bellies satiated, Berlin homegurlz Stephie and Evie guided through the streets of Berlin for some warp-speed tourism and sight seeing. Old ass churches, old ass buildings, old ass parks, old ass monuments, we saw it all. It was cool, but we were sober. Time for some mood altering substance abuse.
Flo, the owner and operator of the Ramones Museum, greeted us with some Helles beers. We gathered in front of the marquee for some pictures and sharpied the Elway name on the visitors wall alongside museum guests such as Dead to Me, Against Me!, Nofx, and Blog Author and the Name Droppers.
The acoustic show at Ramones museum went so swimmingly (drunkenly) that I scarcely noticed that 90+ minutes had passed. I played a Radiohead song even... We set our sights on a bar near Steffi's house, but first we had to get robbed real quick... More on that soon.

Alles Liebe,

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Europe/Fest/US: Part I

Before we dive into your regular scheduled Elway blog programming (dick/fart jokes, descriptions of vegan meals, braggadocios [and unnecessarily verbose] explanations of how drunk we got/are getting at shows), allow me to get cheesy for a second.

Sometimes, when the trammels and various ennuis of being a 20-something college student weigh particularly heavy, it can seem like a good idea to forego monetary comfort, professional success, and personal hygiene so that you can play in a traveling rock band.  We all took the plunge, and I am pleased as punch to say that I can earnestly tell this blog's readership (all 8 people) that it has been various shades of totally fucking worth it.  As a good friend of mine says:  "Don't mistake this for complaining 'cause I'm satisfied."  Almost exactly five years ago, on September 20th, 2007, 10-4 Eleanor practiced for the first time.  It might surprise me if I could hear how much we've improved since those days, though I fear that I might be giving us a bit too much credit.  We drank and played shows in living rooms and basements and dive bars, did some touring, recorded a few records, made tons of amazing friends, and so on...  The point is that playing in this band became a sort of cathartic escape from the idea of having to get our shit together, but never did it ever seem like the kind of thing that could take us to another state, let alone another continent.  The very fact that I am writing this from an apartment in Wiesbaden, Germany is a testament to what we've managed to accomplish with what was essentially a distracting hobby.  We have you guys to thank.  If it wasn't for the people interested in our band, I would be handling clinking fistfulls of piss and blood viles, Brian would be stalking some laboratory wearing a respirator over his old Link 80 shirt, Joe would be counting fucking blades of grass on the government dime (a job he actually did), and Garrett would be trying to fix your broken serpentine belt with only bike tubes and shoe goo.  Instead, we get to be across the world for the next 6 weeks or so.  That's pretty cool to me, so thanks.


9/8/12: Fort Collins, Colorado
Tour kickoff day.  Our last day in town for 2+ months.  For most of the day, the excitement of playing what was shaping up to be an awesome show at Road 34 was quashed by a towering anxiety monster that seemed to constantly bellow "You're going to forget something, you fucking dick pig!" or "You're going to ruin this tour for everyone and wind up working at the adult bookstore."  Turns out the anxiety monster cowers pitifully in the shadow of the much-mightier booze monster, because once we took to drinking, it seemed like we couldn't fuck anything up.  A.M. Pleasure Assassins opened the show, and I'll be fucked if it wasn't one of the best sets I've seen from a Fort Collins local in what seems like forever.  Think Fugazi+Fifteen+Braid+Flaming Lips.  Huzzah.  Next up were super friends Sour Boy, Bitter Girl.  I spend an awful lot of time hyping these guys, and I will continue to do so forever so long as they persist in exceeding my expectations of what an amazing band should sound like.  Dudes played a great set, jussayin.  We played next and it was truly great to see such an energetic and rad crowd.  One of the very greatest hometown shows we've ever played.  Goodbyes were said, shots were taken, a few tears shed, and we packed our shit into Vanzig and went home for a few hours of sleep beside our significant others, or beside two very drunk dudes who homoerotically wrestle the night away and accidentally break your computer (Garrett), or beside your treasured canister of hair product (Joe).  We woke up bleary-eyed with hungover sights set on Omaha.

9/9/12: Omaha, Nebraska
We arrived in Omaha well ahead of show time, so we spent a while thrift store shopping for last minute tour needs and scoping out a pretty rad skate part where a couple of BMX riders were doing shit that seemed fucking impossible to me.  We jetted across town to Benson, where we met up with Andy and Angie of Hear Nebraska.  We sat in their back yard and drank beers and bullshitted until it was time to go to the show.  The opening band was called The Shidiots, and they played a Guttermouth-y, NOFX-y kind of 90s punk rock peppered with drinking references and lyrical insistence that people who shop at Whole Foods are dicks for some reason.  We played a quick, semi-tight set to a thin crowd consisting of Andy and Angie and our PayPals (They work at PayPal, get it?) and a few stragglers.  Good times and alcoholic beverages were had.  Elway blog alumni Letter Z, a man who gets far too drunk to be a lawyer, yet is still somehow a lawyer, made a welcome appearance, though we were in too much of a hurry to get on the road to stay for a few highly stoned rounds of Jeopardy.  Elway has a storied history with the city of Omaha, in that it has historically been where we stop to play an underwhelming show on the way to or from Chicago.  That, we are continually reminded each time we play there, is an unfair assessment.  Yes, it is true that we've never played to a huge crowd there, and this show was no exception, but we have managed to make some very excellent friends.  To them, we say "thanks, brochachos."

9/10/12: Chicago, Illinois
We found ourselves in that now very second nature Chicago scenario wherein we ascend the stairs to Matt "Shaboy" Marti and Rachel "Richard Gere" Rolfsmeier's apartment in the morning after a drive that could only be aptly described as "total bullshit."  We knew something was amiss when we entered the apartment with the air completely devoid of Thin Lizzy's The Boys are Back in Town.  "What the fuck?" we pondered.  It's the way we've always done things here in Chicago, but Marti and Rachel had job things to do (whatever) and we showed up late because the suburbs decided to take a gigantic traffic shaped shit right there on the 88.  It was time to eat brunch, goddamnit.  When considering the bevy of seriously awesome locales to stuff your face full of delicious vegan brunch in Chicago, I'd say that though there are several other places that are comparably good, the Elway seal of approval goes to Pick Me Up on Clark St.  We gorged ourselves on delicious vegan food, and shit was right again.  The story from there is familiar.  We played our third show at The Beat Kitchen, which is quickly becoming my favorite venue to play ever, with three totally ripping openers.  Devon Kay and the Solutions, Dowsing, and Sass Dragons all managed to nicely sate the musical palate in different ways.  The show was super well attended given that it was a Monday night, and we played yet another super-fun set in America's super-best city.  Post show drinks were practically inhaled at The Gingerman Tavern, courtesy of Katie Jegroote and I'm pretty sure I should have thrown up.  Standard.

9/11/12: Never Forget Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
The incessant honks in support of the Chicago teacher's strike shook us out of a sound, blackout slumber. Our stomachs churning with the unforgivable combination of whiskey and a heart-seizing portion of Wrigdog cheesefries, we skipped over our brunch rendezvous and set our sights on Pittsburgh.  6 hours later, with pockets horrifically gouged by toll fares, we checked in at 222 Ormsby. This we be our second time playing here, and we were amped to revisit the house turned venue complete with plenty of floor space, a lounge, and a loud as fuck PA system.  We dropped off our gear and masterfully steered Vanzig down the narrow hills of Pittsburgh like a Maddog 20/20 sponsored bobsled team. The prize? Some pretty passable vegan grub at Over The Bar, a bicycle/bar food themed restaurant. The show was awesome. Kids sang along and another timid tuesday night in Pittsburgh was transformed into a tantric punk rock noise orgy. Not bad. After the show we slammed some Yeunglings and seared our palates with habanero veggie burgers. The denouement took place alongside the river confluence, our beer bottles glistened in distant city lights while we were consumed by conversation atop the wreckage of an abandoned yacht. Pretty. Fucking. Awesome. 

9/12/12: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Our excitement to arrive in Philadelphia, eat some killer sammies at Govinda's, and hang with hometown heros Luther, Rob Lately, The Holy Mess, and One Win Choice was punctuated by innumerable traffic lights and haunting habanero farts from the previous late night. We received our variable feast of vegan pepper steak and faux chicken Philly cheese subs and ate among bestest friends Drew, Anika, Dave, and Dan who drove down from Brooklyn for the show. Once satiated by good food and great company, we headed to the Cracker Factory in order to drink, sing, and sweat in a musty basement with our buddies. The handsome dudes in Cry Baby played first and set the precedent for a night of rocking tunes. Rob (shaboy) Malloy upped the ante of attractiveness and musical amusement with his solo project Rob Lately as his crooning acoustic songs of new found love provoked gushy sentiments in a 90s-alt rock fashion. Downtown Struts upped the punx with a Rancid cover while the gents in Luther closed out the night spectacularly with their thrashing. The evening that followed was dangerously drunk and fun. Just ask Garrett, who woke up in some random parking lot with dicks and lighting bolts sharpied all over his hungover facade. The next day we woke up at Greg's (of Menzingers fame) and sought out pizza. Our final task before leaving for Europe was to sucker somebody into giving us a ride to JFK. Luckily, stoned to the bone Andy from Luther was kind and stupid enough to brave traffic and bordom to help us out. Eight hours, some inflight boozing, and a handful of Lorazepam later, we made it to Frankfurt, Deutschland.   

To be continued...