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.