Salaryman Winter Europe Tour pt 3


Monday Dec 15 - Paris, France

We ate dinner with Christof's brother tonight who produced some press from our Rennes show a couple of weeks ago. Apparently we were the best discovery of the whole festival, according to what Jurgen read for us. It said "Salaryman" right up there in the headlines of Rennes!

We played a pretty lame show tonight in Paris, and I got really upset afterwards, because I wanted to play a good show for these people. I felt like we probably had a lot of great expectations about us and I could tell from the polite smattering of claps after the show that we pretty much screwed up. Afterwards I walked up and down the street we were playing and staying on, which was full of "Sex Shoppes" almost every door and great restaurants and smoky cafes in between, and felt sorry for myself, until finally Pat, our label rep from Virgin, rescued me and took me to our hotel room, earlier than the rest of the band, like a prima donna rock star. I felt bad for abandoning the rest of the band, but they said later (laughing) that they didn't even notice I was gone.


Tuesday Dec 16 - Paris, France - Nulle Part Ailleurs


Today is the day we played on a French TV show!! I realized I had been worried about this day for almost a week now; I guess I was pretty nervous. The TV show is on a station called Canal Plus (Channel +) and it's sometimes a satellite station and other times it's free to the public. The show we were on is free to the public, and on each day from 6:30 to 7:55, and it's sort of a variety show with news and stuff; I guess it's like Saturday Night Live combined with David Letterman. They have all kinds of guests on, from the director of Trainspotting, to Italian actresses that the US has never heard of, (we got the latter tonight instead of the former), and each night they have a band, and the band tonight was Salaryman!!

So we arrived at the station which looks exactly like one of the buildings at Argonne, the lab where Rick and Jim's dad works, and I couldn't stop commenting on it. It was all made out of these huge white plastic-like blocks. We got to eat in the cafeteria, which was incredible boueef-food, and rehearsed our song about 6-7 times on the set. I couldn't help feeling so weird, like I know we had to be one of the more avant-garde bands on there; I don't feel like we play the kind of music that is instantly likeable, but who knows. But I really felt self-conscious.

The set was unbelievable, like part of 2001 or something, and the stage lights made us look so incredibly PRO!! I will digitize this and it will be on realVideo later on the site (and it will WORK, I promise) as soon as I get a hold of a SECAM-NTSC converter!

We rehearsed and then sat in the little dressing room for about 3 hours. I peeked out at the line of people waiting to be in the studio audience and felt my heart rate increase very quickly. 6:46 crept up on us (that was when we played!) and all of the sudden a guy in a headset came to get us; "IT'S TIME!" and we walked out to the backstage area and then they cued us, and I think we were all very, very nervous. All I remember is Howie asking in a very strange-sounding voice, "Are they going to cue us and tell us when to start?" and the guy saying, "No, we are going to just leave you on the stage and then run away!" Sarcastic. Great. You have to come all the way to France to find Midwestern US sarcasm.

Then it was time, and I heard the host mention "Salaryman" and we were walking onto the stage, and I think Rick tripped, and my chest felt like it was going to explode and I could only think of my amp and the little standby switch I had to remember to click on my way past my amp over to "OFF" from the "ON" position in order to make my amp go on, and then Howie started his drums, and I turned on the three things I had to turn on and I felt like I was plugged into a flourescent light bulb for 3 minutes and 59 seconds. Everything became crystal clear, and I looked over at Rick once during it and he looked at me and he was smiling. I couldn't see Howie very well behind the amps, and I was afraid to look over at Jim or at the audience, so I just bent my head down and stared at the computer and my keys and prayed the computer wouldn't crash.

The sound on the TV doesn't sound anything like what we sound like live; there is no bass at all, and I think Voids and Superclusters is a pretty bassy song, but I guess it turned out ok. Much TV attention was paid to Jim's theremin.


And now, the best part! After the show, Pat (shown here with her chum Christof) our label representative from Virgin Records, took us out to dinner! City Slang is distributed by Virgin Records in France, and they have basically been paying more attention to us and pushing us harder here in France than possibly we've ever been pushed in our lives as Poster Children! They got us tons of press and this TV thing I think was basically their doing. If we go to France for a month in Spring, it will be because of them; basically, they are really helping us a lot! And they certainly didn't have to take us to dinner; it's really a great honor. (To me, actually, Virgin Records is still kind of glamourous; for a major label, that is!) So we were taken out to a nice French restaurant for a very tasty, very expensive, and slightly surreal French Dining Experience!


Tuesday Dec 17 - Drive to Bordeaux

We're driving on a road called A10, in the southwest middle of France, marvelling at the sunset. I don't think I've ever seen such a sunset in my life, except maybe in the southwestern US. The colors are flourescent, orange and magenta, neon.

Tonight we had no show. We got plastic French hotel rooms with space-capsule bathrooms inside, and then we went around the corner to a little French restaurant and had more beef, the most incredible meal I've eaten maybe in my whole life. It was a steak and beans and a tomato and onion salad and a piece of chocolate cake (with no flour) that made me dizzy when I ate it, it was so good. I still don't know what I'm ordering here most of the time, but you're pretty safe if what you order says "Boeuf" somewhere on it. It's always either a steak with gravy or without, just like in Germany it's either a sausage or a steak.


Thursday Dec 18 - San Sebastian, Spain!

The third tire just blew on our way to the Spanish border, and even though we had all the right equipment now, it still took us around 30 minutes to change it, because the lugnuts wouldn't come off. In the end, physics and muscles and guts combined to help change the tire; I kept reminding everyone we should put water on the lugnuts but everyone pish-toshed me and finally Howie actually got the water and poured it on the tire. Jimmie and Keith kept yanking on the torque wrench with its handles parallel to the ground while Rick proposed a better way for them to use physics, and that's when the lugnuts started unscrewing. It's a good thing Jimmie has been practicing chain-punches, building himself up in his virtual prison, the van, every 10 minutes each day, because it made him strong enough to get the lugnuts off. Meanwhile, Jim, grinning, proposed to Howie, "Hey Howie- let's have a rock fight!" and the two proceeded to throw rocks at (just short of) each other beside the road.

The terrain is really different here; there are lines of really tall, thin trees with puffs of leaves only on their top. Howie says it looks like Vietnam. It's also pretty warm out; on December 18th I'd say it's pretty close to 60 degrees outside. The plants outside look kind of like they belong in a tropical climate. Jim comments on the clouds, "Look at these lovely little puffy clouds; they look like little biscuits in the sky." There is sand in the side of the road and now I see the Pyrenees up ahead of us. I have never been to Spain!!

Basque font is crazy! It looks like some sort of weird clowny-western font that you'd see in the Adventureland Theme Park in the US somewhere. On top of it, as Keith told us a couple of days ago, there are Xs in the middle of every Basque word. It all looks pretty strange to me!

later...after the show.

I'm sitting in the hotel room, shaking my head in disbelief. After the show I had a wonderful time attempting to speak Spanish with la gente outside the club. But after that, right before we were leaving, around 1am, a small child came up to the van and was asking for stuff. He just stood outside looking at us. I told him we had no pesetas, which was true; I said we were from the US and therefore had no pesetas to give him. He just stood there and Howie was saying, "What you see is what you get, kid." What he sees is a van full of equipment, clothes, computers, bottles of water, and crap. "All we have in here is water," I said. "Would you like some water?" I said proudly, because I could say it in Spanish, and he nodded quietly. I gave him a bottle of water. It was unopened; I supposed he could sell it. Then he pointed to his mouth and said, quietly, "hambre." I thought, wow, that's a new euphemism for 'cigarette'; I hadn't heard that one; it really means "hungry." I said, "none of us smoke, kid." He shook his head no, "Hambre."
And then I realized he was saying he was hungry. There was an orange in the van, and I, feeling mighty proud that my top-notch highschool career afforded me the power to remember the Spanish word for Orange, asked him if he wanted it, (yes, please), gave it to him, and he said, "Grathias" quietly and walked off into the night. And then, too late, my pride in my upbringing subsided.

I wish I could go back out and find this child and give him everything he'd ever want in the whole world.


Friday Dec 19 - Madrid, Spain

yesterday we made Keith drive two hours out of his way so we could see the new Guggenheim.

I have places in my brain for Spanish but not for German.

I learned Spanish quite easily in highschool, and should be able to pick up German just as easily, right? But I can't figure out where to store the words. I am trying to figure out where I have all the Spanish stored in my head, and then I will attempt to fit some German and some French in it there, too.

Laura from Superchunk, man, they all photograph so well

When we went on stage tonight in this huge 600-capacity room, I had already decided the audience here in Spain wasn't going to like us and that I didn't care, anyway, and I was just going to have fun up on the stage. It was all going to be about us, and not the audience. I'm glad I decided that, too; I had a great time on the stage tonight, and at the end we got polite audience claps, and I didn't care at all. We screwed around with our songs a bit and at the end, the last thing the lyrics said (I'm using the computernow to play a realAudio file, instead of a TV set) was this: "It went directly over our heads."

Superchunk told us that tonight they were staying in the poshest hotel of the tour, and I was excited for a minute until I found out that we're not staying in the same place. Oh well. Tonight we are staying in a really scary-looking part of town, in a Hostel, and I have no idea where Keith is going to park this van. There are wall to wall cars outside on the street, and people walking all around the bars on the streets. People are partying everywhere. I was really afraid to see what the hostel looked like; the outside was really scary looking, but inside, it's spotlessly clean and beautiful! We've even got CNN on the TV!!


Saturday Dec 20 - Barcelona, Spain

Keith drove the van up this morning to the hostel and it had a broken window in it! There are window-glass crystals all over the van; someone had broken the driver's side small window, gotten into the van and stole all our cassettes and CDs and portable CD players. Both Jimmie and Howie lost CD players and and all their CDs, but Jimmie's expensive earphones are still here. They didn't take any of our books. Keith lost an entire box of tapes. We are just so damn lucky that they didn't get into the back of the van, where all the guitars and keyboards and amps were. But the driver's side door lock is jammed too; apparently they'd tried to break into the van using the door first and that hadn't worked.

Welcome to Montana

Well, apparently the north part of Spain, where we were in San Sebastian, is nice and tropical-looking, whereas the entire middle is Montana. The terrain is just brown rocks and mountains and shrubs; it looks exactly like Montana crossed with Arizona and New Mexico. The cities are VERY few and far between; we have at least a 6 hour drive today and we passed through only one small city so far. The rest is just Montana. Oh yeah, and once in a while you see a castle off in the distance, up on a hill, or the remnants of one.

There are also these huge black cardboard bulls near the side of the road, one placed every 100 kilometers or so.

...later...

I thought the audience was really cold tonight. It took me a while to calm down after we played. We didn't even try to sell stuff tonight; it was a big crowd and they were there for the Superchunk rock, so I felt like we just got on and off the stage and let Rock live on. A nice thing happened before the show; someone recognized us as Poster Children! A couple of people, actually. And Poster Children has never even played in Spain!


Sunday Dec 21 - Flight Home

We spent the flight home stuffing our faces, arguing about the movie "Contact" that played on the plane; I am now convinced that George C Scott actually would have made a better president than Clinton (in the movie, at least) and Rick and Howie are right for complaining about the use of photoshop or whatever US$99 program they used to airbrush the president into that movie; it dates it and makes it look stupid. After yammering about its merits and disappointments of the movie and ragging on Zemeckis for a while, Howie finally said, "there wasn't enough humor in this movie. They could have had some weird-ass aliens and shit." Then we got some ice-cream. Then we made fun of Howie for reading a Sylvia Plath poetry book for a while, saying that he was just doing it to pick up chicks. After that we calculated the crossover between Farhenheit and Celcius, it's -40 degrees, in case you wanted to know. I postulated to Jim as we were waiting in line for the bathroom that the other 3 bathrooms that hadn't opened in at least 3 hours contained dead people in them, and that the people in first class didn't even have to get up to go to the bathroom; they were allowed to just crap and pee in their seats. Nothing like a little scatological humor to crack you up after you've been awake for 24 hours straight.

By the way, the US is the only country I've been to so far whose airports charge for the usage of luggage carts.


Epilogue

I had been wondering all throughout this whole tour how anyone could even like Salaryman. It is still very foreign-sounding music to me. Rick keeps assuring me, "well, you like it, don't you?" and I answer "yes," and he says, "well, we're just really lucky that we have found a bunch of other people who also like it!"

I finally got to listen to our new single; we brought some home from Europe with us. Rick had deleted the final mix he did so we hadn't heard it for months.

Anyway, now I think I am closer to understanding why people like us. That single sounds damn good, if I do say so myself. Good job, Rick!