Salaryman Winter Europe Tour pt 2
inside the tour bus - upstairs, looking at the bunks
Today is the last show of the Tortoise, Mouse On Mars, Long Fin Killie and Salaryman package! Also the last day of the tour bus. I heard Long Fin Killie on the stage get an encore and not take it and I wondered why. Then we got on the stage and got cut off from our last song, which I feel is probably the best one; that's really sad. Both we and Long Fin Killie were not too happy in the next hour. We were told we had to get off the stage because there is a strict curfew but there seemed to be at least a half-hour between the rest of the bands. It would have made a great difference in our show to have been able to play that last song, and it would only have been an extra 5 minutes. I was very mad. It also occured to me that Long Fin Killie should definitely have gone on after us, and no one is quite sure why they went on before. Oh well. I'm actually quite glad this part of the tour is over because although the tour bus is quite posh, I really don't enjoy not being able to see out the window. It's like the difference between playing those huge shows with barricades and playing shows where you can get up close to the audience; the close shows are better. I like to experience life as close as possibly.
Well, talk about experiencing life as closely as possible. We had a flat tire somewhere on the autobahn today, sitting off the road with huge trucks racing past us at 120 mph, and we lost an hour waiting for these two guys in racing suits to come and change it; the City Slang van/truck has no jack. It's a mistake we made once before in the US, and we got to repeat it here. Luckily the truck stopped about 100 meters away from an emergency phone!
But I think Keith, our new tour manager for this part of the journey, almost had a heart attack trying to get us to the ferry on time. It's a 6 hour, overnight ferry from Rostock, Germany, to somewhere with a lot of "T's" in the name, Sweden, and it left at 11pm. We left at 9:30am this morning and just narrowly made it to the ferry at 10:50pm. We even had tickets for sleeping rooms on the ferry! The passport guards half-heartedly searched our van and laughed at Keith's american flag underwear and then we were on the boat. Rick and I got our own room and didn't know you could turn on the heat; we were shivering all night long and are both very ill now.
Today is our first Superchunk show, opening for them (as Salaryman, don't forget.) It will be very interesting to see what this audience thinks of us. I have been joking all the time that I wish we could pull out our guitars and play a Poster Children song, but no one seems to think that's a good idea, or even funny.
I have never been to Sweden before, but it's a bit like Denmark; crazy words all over the place, "A"s with the little open dot over them like the Angstrom symbol and Pizza Huts and 7-Elevens. The buildings in Stockholm look more like they did in Copenhagen, Denmark than they do on the European Continent. Let's see if I can describe them; in the cities there are big office buildings with many different colored logo lighted signs on them on the outside, in between floors. I think they are really pretty; of course, you know me and logos. There are what look like menorahs in every house window but I know it's a Swedish thing for the holidays.
I woke up full of sweat and feverish in the van to find Keith sitting in the passenger area of the van and JIMMIE SOUNDGUY driving, and thought it had to be a nightmare, and went back to sleep. Jimmie drove a good part of the 8 hours today; I guess he's pretty happy now. I guess we'll have to start allowing him to drive in the US now.
I'm guess it's good we're not playing a Poster Children show today; every time I stand up for a long amount of time I feel like throwing up. Rick hasn't even said 2 words today. It's a pain being sick in Scandinavia.
Laura, beautiful bass playing goddess of Superchunk, is also sick. She informs us that she is taking antibiotics and therefore cannot drink. She has never played completely sober, she laments. I applaud her non-drinking efforts; I say "it is good that you don't drink while taking antibiotics; I believe that mutating viruses getting impervious to antibiotics will be the downfall of ...uh..."
"The human race" she finishes my sentence for me. "Yeah," I say. "I'm gonna use your bass amp, ok?" "Sure."
Well, it's after the show. I don't know if the audience liked us. Keith Tour Manager says we got a good response. Some people stood near us and bounced their heads, but I heard a guy yelling during most of our set and I can only imagine he was yelling for Superchunk. I don't know what he was yelling. The power went out twice or three times during our last song, Hummous, and worse, the Superchunk guys were watching and didn't even notice it. There was nothing we could do on the stage except hope to recapture the momentum of the song which had died twice during it. Pretty sad. I'm glad there was a curtain at this show!
And tonight we are sleeping on a guy's floor who lives 20 minutes outside of Stockholm, at his parents' house. He says "it's ok, his parents aren't home right now." Those of you familar with past Poster Children tour reports will recognize that saying. Don't all people in Sweden have guns? Or is that Switzerland.
The kid's house we stayed at was a little cottage with beautiful old furniture in it and china and crystal chandeliers and old pictures. After the guy dropped us off (His name was Henrich but I don't know how to spell it) he left at 2am to practice with his band, until 5 in the morning. His parent's didn't come back; he said, "If my mom comes back and sees you guys here she will kill me. But don't worry, she won't come back." He has lots of bands stay at his house, he told us. It's pretty great that he let us stay at his house; we really would have been in trouble if we couldn't find any floor to sleep on last night. This guy was the Tortoise promoter's friend, too, and Tortoise isn't even playing around here. Very, very nice.
The most amazing thing about that house actually was that Jim has this really strange white and black speckled sweater he's been wearing all tour - and when we walked into the house, Jim found laying on the stairs of the house the SAME sweater, the SAME color and pattern!! Just the neckline was a bit different; there is one extra stripe on JIm's sweater on the neckline. And this sweater was from Norway. Jim's was from LL Bean. Now is THAT WEIRD, or what?
Jim, "Nature Boy", notifies us that we are very close to the 60th parallel North, way norther than I've ever been in my life! The sun woke up with us today at around 8am, and it began setting yesterday on Stockholm at 3pm. It's about 40 degrees outside though, and obviously foggy, with a light dusting of snow on the fields we're driving through. When we pass a lake, it's a strange milky-silver color and mirrored, because the water on top has melted over the ice. We pass mostly farms and pine forest with what looks like a whole lot of birch trees interspersed with the pines. The road we're on is a two-lane highway, but the lanes are wide enough for cars in the same lane to pass each other. In Scandinavia, there seems to be a lot more English influence, and everyone knows English and seems proud to speak it to you. I remember when I was young, thinking along with everyone else about Star Trek that it is unrealistic that everyone in the universe speaks English, and now I'm wondering if that isn't part of a joke.
We were a bit worried about this border crossing because sometimes you have to have a list of your equipment or something like that, but either inadvertently or not, Keith sort of blew past the border probably around 50 miles per hour, without stopping. No one came out to shoot us, so we made it into Norway fine!!
Today, as we walked into the club, Keith informed us that the local big radio station had been announcing that Supertramp was playing and playing Supertramp songs all day long today.
There was a graffitti drawing of two penises "battling" on the dressing room wall; one of the Superchunk guys called it "dueling penises." We treat it like we're digging in a cave and finding ancient hieroglyphics. I remarked that I had never seen that before; I usually see just one penis with balls and sometimes it's spurting. The "dueling penises" is a very rare find; as Laura said, "yeah, you don't see two of them together like that too often."
I ran outside to see a parade of hundreds of people walking down the street carrying torches in the night; it was beautiful. I had no idea what it was for! Later I mentioned it to Howie and he said, "yeah, and did you hear they were blasting that Elton John "Diana" song during the procession? I think it was some kind of Lady Di march!"
The crowd in the Oslo club was very subdued, especially when we played. Some people liked it I guess. I'm not sure if I'm happy or sad to be discovering all the places in Europe where Rock Music still lives on, and whatever we play hasn't made it here yet.
The guy whose floor we were supposed to sleep on was sick tonight so we couldn't sleep there and had to get a room at a youth hostel in Oslo. The youth hostel was spotlessly clean dorms with gorgeous furniture and feather bedding; we had two private rooms for about US$80. Man, I'd stay in these more often if they were all like this!
Travelling around the backroads of Sweden
We're driving through more Swedish pine and deciduous forest and silver lakes, booming JAMES BROWN on the stereo. I put down the "Out Of Control" book that someone sent us for now, because it had the word "cognition" in it too many times (twice = too many) - I have no patience for artificial intelligence. RIck has just finished his book, _Galletea 2.2_, so I pick that up and start reading it, only to find out that it too is about artificial intelligence. And now my interest is piqued; a million years ago, before what I suppose they call connectionism, I took an AI course at University of Illinois only to find out that AI was just figuring out methods of searching already written knowledge databases using (admittedly cool) recursive languages like LISP. Now, I've been away playing in a band for a million years and there are brains and neural networks that can learn and learn to learn. It's like someone applied a whole new dimension or recursion to the whole AI field and now I'm jealous. I wish I was back in school. I want a pet brain.
This was a huge place and it was pretty well emptied out when we played. People were definitely here to see Rock. In fact, I think Keith was tactfully trying to say that the guy who jumped on the stage, sat down and started smoking, with his back toward us was making fun of us later on, out at the t-shirt booth. A lone guy in a Tricky shirt stood in front of us as we played, and clapped. He got in on the guest list; Laura let him in. Oh well! Bye bye, Sweden!
OH YEAH!! The Germans LIKE the Salaryman!! There were people even trance-dancing crazily at this show, at the Knaack club, where we've been many times before.
Tonight I had the feeling that we had tapped into something really, really special, when Christof, the guy who signed us to City Slang (who owns City Slang) hugged me goodbye. Like he really cares, like he really believes in us. And Keith, the tour manager, is his brother-in-law, and he's doing this all for free. It's like a whole family deal. I felt all good inside.
YOU HAVE NO SENSE OF MELODY!
Rick had a dream that he was trying to write a jingle for tourism for some town, and Bob Dylan was also there and was writing a jingle for this same town. Rick said that his jingle was better than Bob Dylan's, and Bob Dylan got mad, didn't like the jingle, and yelled at Rick, "YOU HAVE NO SENSE OF MELODY!!"
It was driving me crazy that I couldn't remember this club, and no one could describe it to me well enough. When I walked in the door, it all came back to me; our first German show of the Steel Pole Bath Tub tour. It came back to me because Poster Children grafitti was written all over the walls of the dressing room. In fact the people at the club all looked at us and said, "Ah, Poster Children!" That felt nice.
McDonalds, and a Story that is almost Baroque in its Complexity
The other day on the ferry, as I waited in a cafeteria line for a big toxic scarlet hotdog and some french fries, an old woman carried on a complete conversation with me and I had no idea what she was saying. She was walking around me, poking me in the back, and nudging me, "blaga, blaga, blaga, " poke, poke, nudge, nudge. "Yah, huh?" she agreed and smiled with me. I just nodded. I probably looked scared. Then the woman behind me in line got into a fight with the girl at the counter and the woman in front of me just looked at me like, "what the hell is the problem with these people?" as the poking woman continued talking to me and nudging me. It was actually pretty funny.
Another instance of language barrier was when I walked into the venue's office in Cologne, and there were two people sitting at desks going, "Salary-man! Salar-y-man! Ho ho ho!! sal-a-ree-man, ho ho ho.." I listened to that for a while and then finally yelled, "What the HELL are you laughing about?" They told me they were having a discussion about how to pronounce our name.
The worst though, is today, in McDonalds. A 1-foot tall little girl spoke to me in the bathroom, and I had no idea what she said.
Another thing that happened in McDonalds today was Keith told us another great Kiss Roadie story. This is an amazing RUMOR. It goes like this: (little kids stop reading now please):
Word has it that Paul Stanley has to have a therapist on tour with them, because of an incident that happened to him when he was young. When he was 15, he slept with his sister and got her pregnant. The mom forced her to have an abortion. Now, the memories are coming back to haunt him, and he has these periods of time where he is obsessed with wanting to suck a man's penis. (I don't know what one thing has to do with another, it's not my story.) So sometimes he will run off the stage during a soundcheck, and Gene Simmons will make a note of it and say into the microphone, "She needs a little more bass in her monitor."
Rick and Howie's response: They both laughed hysterically and Rick said, "That story is almost baroque in its complexity.