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!

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