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!