The thing to see in Edinburgh is the castle, which was almost directly above where we landed with the tour bus. Edinburgh is a beautiful, old city; all the buildings seem to be made of stone. We walked up the castle grounds and got yelled at by a policeman because they were closing the castle. Jim got to go inside, and seemed to be mildly impressed - he mentioned seeing an old cannon. It cost 5pounds to go in (about $7.50) so Rick and I didn't bother. Looking out over Edinburgh from the castle you can see a beautiful panorama which I think is Prince Street, which is where all the tourists go. I took a picture of it, but if you look closely, you can see that the stores on the bottom floor are Burger King, and The Gap, etc.
The show was in a fine club, unfortunately there was no one really there to see it. I am not sure if it was a Monday night thing, or if there was just absolutely no advertising at all. I don't even know if the people liked it. We are having a problem with the amps we are using; they are rented amps (it is hard to bring your own amps oversease so people usually rent them) and they are the type that Steel Pole uses; 2 Marshalls and an Ampeg SVT for me. Rick and Jim absolutely hate their amps - they hate Marshalls; they use Hiwatts, and I consider that Ampeg my arch-enemy. We just haven't gotten used to them yet, I guess.
More Tour Bus
Touring in a tour bus is kind of good, but also kind of terrible; just like I'd expect it to be. The worst part is you have no control. The bus driver is in complete control; there's no stopping at each truckstop for more "snack salads" and no stopping at the 50-foot scale replica of the Jolly Green Giant. There is a VCR in the back of the bus, so we watch a movie once in a while; we watched Speed first; we'd seen it already, and it's kind of a dumb movie. My biggest problem is I wake up in the middle of the night in my little coffin bed, with terrible claustrophobia, lots of smokers on the bus and I don't like smoke. Plus, the bus driver gets irritated a lot, for some reason. Sometimes it is hard to understand Europeans; they get mad with an accent. The other night we walked into the club and watched Mario (bus driver) grab all our non-beer drinks and drag them out to the bus. We freaked - did he want them? Did he think they were his? What were we going to drink? I didn't want to just grab them back - I certainly didn't want to offend him, but we needed drinks in the venue for the show. It was very, very weird. If it was just us and the Steel Pole Bath Tub guys on the bus, it'd be way less scary! The other guy is the tour manager/sound guy, Jean-Luis, and I haven't gotten to hear him talk very much.
Not 'Fuck,' 'Shit.'
Today the bus broke down, parked across the street from the Liverpool club. This seems to have eased any tension between all of us and the bus driver, but he seemed pretty upset! By the end of the day, he couldn't start the bus at all, and he said, "I am just to laugh at this now." (Austrian accent.) He is kind of funny; the first day he talked to us and told us the rules of the bus he was swearing a lot - he uses the word "Fucking" a lot, as an adjective, which is fine, only he also uses the word "Fuck" as a noun. He says, "I have been doing this a "Fucking" long time." Then, "My English is "Fuck." Later he points to a lot of smoke outside the bus and says, "Do you see all this Fuck?" He needs to learn the word "Shit," I think, to use as a noun. I don't want to teach it to him though.
Not "van," "bus."
Anyway, the bus broke down, and it was really hard to ignore it, but that is all we can do. We're used to being in charge, and having to solve all our problems ourselves. Now we just have to trust the guys in charge, and it is hard to get used to this. In fact, both us and Steel Pole still call the bus "the van" accidentally, because that's what we're used to, and the only time Jean-Luis (tour manager) ever really speaks, he says, "it's a bus" really quietly, to correct us a couple of minutes after we say, "van." I'm picking up the rhythms of the Europeans, I guess, and understanding them a bit better. I think maybe they're shy!
Finally, a really good show!
Today Jean-Luis gave us a soundcheck and didn't give Steel Pole one. This gave me time to screw around with that evil Ampeg SVT bass amp until I got it sounding like my $75 Traynor head I'd been using for about 5 years. Jim says he has "come to terms with his amp." I don't think Rick has figured out his yet, although he said he was happier today. The audience looked a bit more "punk" rock though this show, and younger; like a college audience, instead of people who liked the Melvins 5 years ago. (Steel Pole was last over here with the Melvins, 5 years ago.) People actually really liked our show tonight. Steel Pole's sound-effects pedals broke tonight, but they still were excellent, and even got an encore. It was a great show all around, and afterwards, we walked outside to find the bus ON, fixed, and poor Mario wanting to take a nap.
Each night we climb back into the tour bus after the show and drive overnight to the next show. If you want to wash up after the show, you have to hope the sink in the club isn't too scary looking. We had our first shower of the tour, today, before we played, at the promoter's house, and it was heaven! The promoter made us this incredible vegan meal with rice and bean sprouts and all kinds of nifty food suprises in it - and we sat and watched tapes of The Simpsons for a couple of hours. Steel Pole Bath Tub seems to really love The Simpsons - I think they know a lot of quotes from the show. We were all really happy by the time we left the club, even though we didn't know if the bus was going to be fixed or we'd have to spend the rest of our lives in Liverpool (not such a bad place).
I don't know when we'll see another shower! Hopefully Europe will be easier to tour than England, and there will be actual showers in the clubs.
Tonight we watched "Pulp Fiction," even though all of us have seen it. I guess we'll all get used to this, but it is very, very different. I will not look forward to touring in a bus in the US. Steel Pole says they miss the stopping at the truck stops, too, the buying of food, getting out at different hotels or people's houses; having somewhere other than The Club or The Bus to go. The good part about the bus is that you always have this safe area to go back to, and there's always a toilet in it. It's OK, it's just different. I think we and Steel Pole have been touring for so many years it's hard to get used to touring like this.
Mario and Jean-Luis are outside pounding on the bus. Probably more than half of the 10 of us are still sleeping. I was sure it was policemen or punks pounding on the bus, telling us to move, so I stayed inside my little bunk wrapped up in blankets, scared. I told Jean-Luis that someone was trying to break into the bus, and he laughed and said they were changing the battery. We are parked outside the club and it's almost 1pm. I haven't gone out exploring yet; yesterday in Liverpool we were almost in the center of town and there were stores all over the place; across the street was a "Punk Rock Mall." It was full of blue-jeans, used Adidas jackets, brand new $200 Carhart jackets, and Stussy clothes. Down the street was a Burger King. Down the other side of the street was a castle.
Tonight's venue looks bigger than the others; we've been playing in teeny 100-capacity places, and tonights looks to be about 300-500. Hopefully this means there will be more people in it. London is warm today, probably around 45 degrees and sunny, which will most certainly put everyone in a good mood. I'm having Fun, I think, the kind of fun you have when you taste a new food for the first time, and you're not sure if you like it or not; parts of it you like, but you're still getting used to it. Steel Pole Bath Tub and their music make this experience tolerable; and they say the same thing about us.
Wow!! This was a great show! There were probably at least 200 people here, and a lot were repeat people who came to see us last time we were in London! Whee!! Touring works! Yay! This was the same venue where I saw Royal Trux blow Sebadoh off the stage a year ago. Believe it or not.
Tonight- the ferry.
Steel Pole Bath Tub's label, London Records, has taken them out to dinner, and they sort of offered us to go along, but we politely declined, saying that our label (Warner) would find out and get jealous. So we set out walking through Highbury, London, which closes at 11pm, for a place to eat and finally found Hippo Pizza, where one of the pizza choices was "American Burnout." It was lots of meat. Tonight we take the ferry across the English Channel to Calais, France, and then on to Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
sunrise over Calais, France, from the ferry
I woke up this morning to a loud whirring sound and looked out the window of my little enclosed coffin bed to see a large brush and spray of water beating the side of the bus. We were in a carwash. I feel back asleep and the next thing I knew it was 3pm and we were parked outside the venue. Everyone now agrees that they like touring in a bus; they sleep all night and wake up in the morning in the next town and go walking around all day. I have to agree it is really nice, although I still get claustrophobic in the bus when it's moving and I'm not in charge of where it stops!
Avocado Green Telephone Booths
Rick is eating his "after show sandwich." Finally we are in Europe so we get huge plates of meat and cheese and bread and spread, and we can just suck on that stuff all day and night. I walked up and down this street outside the club looking for a place where I could buy "Hagelslag" which I think is chocolate sprinkles to put on bread and butter, but all the stores on this street contained the same thing: fruit, vegetables and hair extensions. It was very, very weird!We played a show tonight but we had to start so early that there really wasn't anyone there when we started, which was too bad. Maybe next time, I guess. I wish we could argue and say, "Let us start later, so more people will see us," but I just don't have the energy. We'll just have to hear them say, "Gee, you should have started later," later. It was a good show, anyway.
Steel Pole Bath Tub made me cry today, they were so good. I should try to explain what they sound like, although I am terrible at that kind of thing. They are very rhythmic and pounding, and their songs are angry and sweet at the same time. I've heard them called "art-damaged noise." They are a 3-piece and the guitarist and bass player both have tape-cassette machines with foot-pedals that they step on during songs to allow tapes to play along with the music; this is really, really cool, because it really adds an element of chaos to the show. I have seen them in the past and know that they put on one of the best live shows of any band. They have tons of records out and side-projects. The newest record is "Scars From Falling Down" and it is their major-label debut, and it is fantastic. One of their records was recorded with Steve Albini, one of their side-projects includes Jello Biafra. They are very, very quiet offstage, too, like us, and one of them is a computer programmer. They seem quite intelligent and friendly.
This was the first night of us being fed vast amounts of food. We came into the backstage room around 3pm and it was already full of food. We kept eating and they just kept restocking it; meat and cheese and spread and Nutella (hazelnut chocolate spread) and potato chips, and we just kept eating, for hours. Around 8pm, they brought out dinner, and we were already stuffed. Written all over the wall in the dressing room is "Grotus" and someone wrote "sucks" next to half of the Grotus's. Also written on the wall is "Hey Didjits! It's my birthday! Have one on me!, Signed, Johnny Machine" and a couple of obvious Johnny drawings. (Johnny was our 5th drummer, right before Howie, and now Johnny is in Tortoise.) Someone drew a huge picture of an emaciated-looking Lou Reed (or maybe a member of Grotus?) with his brains sticking out of his skull and a flag sticking out of his brains, reading "Superchunk." The words "Steel Pole Bath Tub" were written all over the walls, from bands whom they were friends with, saying "hi." It's nice to be sort of back in the "punk/indie rock element," where people all know who all the bands we love are. Sponge road crews probably never heard of Tortoise.
Steel Pole Bath Tub and the rest of the show
We finished our set and people seemed to really like us. Steel Pole went on and by the time they got to their encore, I was just standing still; I couldn't move. I think I got the same feeling during their last song, "Hey Bo Diddley" that I got once from watching a really great Sonic Youth set, really close up, just sort of a wave of bliss, mixed with absolute, beautiful pain. I can't explain it, but if you've felt it, you know what I'm talking about; sort of an out-of-body experience. They could have kept on playing forever, and I would have stood there forever.
Saturday March 2, Bremen, Germany
All I know is that we have a day off tomorrow, this is a small stage and it better be a good show. I woke up today and noticed we seem to be parked at some sort of "squat" house, where people once lived. It's a "youth house" now, it's completely torn up with grafitti everywhere. We went walking down the road and there wasn't a lot of stores around, just factories. There was a lot of families walking around; we walked through a park and came to a big river filled with soap. It smelled like laundry detergent; Rick said that Saturday must be "washing day" for the river. It's weird to go out walking around the cities because if you do something wrong, someone can just start yelling at you, and you'll have no idea what they're saying. People walk all around you and you can't understand them. I hate not knowing German.
Show in Bremen
When I got on the stage I noticed a couple of hippies with Pantera shirts and bandanas around their heads standing around the stage, drunk as hell, and it became apparent that they were going to be part of the show. It was hard not to hit them with my bass as we played. The rest of the audience was very polite, but by the time we went back upstairs to the dressing room which was filled with drunken Germans, I was fuming and terribly frustrated. "How'd the show go?" they asked and I basically told them that if it had gone any worse that I would have killed myself. Stupid girl. I get way too worked up sometimes. Everyone else in the band seemed to enjoy the show. Day off tomorrow.