We have been trying to tour Europe for about 5 years now. There are bands who have gotten over here with only a demo tape, but for one reason or another ($$), every planned European tour we’ve had has fallen through. It’s a constant source of frustration for us.
It’s terribly expensive to tour Europe. You have to find someone to pay for plane fare, and then food and hotels and rental equipment and a van. We’ve had tours fall through at the last minute due to lack of funds, we’ve even had promoters advertising us playing in Europe, shows we’ve never played. In this music business, I’ve learned to never count on anything great to happen to us until AFTER it happens.
But this time, we made it. We finally got over here! Most of the shows we played just on our own, without even an opening band – sad, because an opening band might have drawn some more people, and we could have met more Europeans! But it still seemed worth it! But who knows when we’ll get back here again. *sigh*
We played 5 shows in Germany, 2 in Switzerland, 1 London, 1 Paris, 1 Vienna, and 1 Amsterdam, and 1 Copenhagen. Crowds ranged from 15 – 400 people. We were the only band on most of the shows; except once we opened for God Bullies and another time we played with our friends, Girls Vs. Boys, who were dismayed to read a huge article in the English press describing them as teen idols and sex symbols. The shows were fun, the audiences were very polite. They don’t jump around as much as American audiences, that’s for sure, and when they want more, they politely say “encore.” You wait for them to scream and jump around, and they never do, and then you walk off the stage, and then they come up to you and say quietly, “Why did you not play more?”
Fast Food? Hello?
They have McDonald’s, but I never did see a Taco Bell, the restaurant of choice of Poster Children (7 layer burritos with no ‘meat’).
People from Champaign everywhere!
Almost all of our European audiences contained at least a few people from downstate Illinois, where we’re from. People’d be yelling out some old songs from “Flower Plower” and we’d look out at the audience, confused, and the guy would yell, “I’m from Normal, Illinois!” In Paris, there was a whole group of Champaign people. We are spread out all over the world!
ML, our manager turned us on to these fist-sized, hollow chocolate eggs, found at stores and gas stations all throughout Europe. They have a little plastic capsule inside, containing a very, very well made toy inside that you usually have to assemble! It’s a wonder that children don’t die from choking on Kinder Eggs. Some of the many prizes we got in our eggs included small, plastic Eskimo Fraus, one with a papoose, another holding fish, small plastic cars, little painted dinosaurs, and the inevitable cardboard puzzle (boring).
Every band who tours Europe comes back with stories of being fed tons of food. It’s true, each evening when we’d arrive at our dressing room, there’d be a huge array of cheeses, meats, hard rolls, and butter. Each breakfast, the same. After each dressing-room meal, we’d get dinner. Each day we’d fill ourselves up so much on this stuff that we coined a new phrase: “Cheese Poisoning.”
The toilets are very different in Europe. They sort of have this dry inspection shelf, and the water flows out to wash down your waste after you push a huge button on the top of toilet. I almost fainted once from the smell.
Hotel Bed Spreads
Instead of the icky plasticy fire-proof blankets they have in the Motel 6s in the US, in European hotel rooms you find a 6 inch thick down comforter, and down pillows. They really know how to sleep in style in Europe.
Switzerland has too much money and the people are too beautiful
In Zurich, we played at Rote Fabrik, an amazing club that I know is good cuz Fugazi’s gonna play there next month. This night I hated our show, though, and after it, I sat outside next to the lake on the dock and felt sorry for myself, almost crying. Here I am in one of the most beautiful places on earth, I think, and we can’t even play a good show. As I laid on my back, listening to chimes off in the distance across the lake, staring at the sky, thinking about the stars, half-crying, I heard this weird shuffling noise and looked up and there was the biggest, fluffiest white swan I’d ever seen, floating down the lake, blue in the moonlight. Every so often you need a jolt to remind you that you’re still alive. The swan looked like a merry-go-round seat. ML (our manager) says that it is Spring and they are looking for mates.
In the center of Copenhagen, there is an area taken over by squatters, people who just decided to live on this land, right in the middle of the city. It is supposed to be a Utopia, an artist’s society, and seems run by Situationists. The government had tried to close it down over the past 20 years and had not succeeded. There were pamphlets everywhere explaining what the club had gone through to survive! The area is called “Christiania” and looks sort of like you’d expect; the parking lot of a Grateful Dead concert. We were told to take everything out of the van that we ever wanted to see again. We played at a club in the center of this area, to many happy people. Really good sandwiches.
Paris and Didier
This was the one of the highlights of the tour: A person named Didier (I hope I spelled this right) who works for WEA, our record label in France, took us out after the show. We saw the Eiffel Tower at midnight, unbelievably awesome and HUGE. Apparently it is being painted dark green right now – it gets a new paint job every 7 years. The lighting is astounding. Rick remarked that it is one of the few buildings that actually incorporates its infrastructure with its artwork. We walked around underneath the Tower for a while, in the gravel, marvelling at its hugeness. It’s so great to see it at midnight, when there aren’t a huge amount of people around. Didier told us that there is a restaurant on the bottom floor that is booked 3 years in advance, and already booked for New Year’s Eve, 1999.
I ate shrimp wrong
Didier took us out to a restaurant – it was around 1am now, and we knew we were driving all night to the next show, but heck, we weren’t gonna be at the wheel. We had wonderful conversations with Didier, about the future of the internet, and Americans ripping off French movies and redoing them worse (La Femme Nikita/Point of No Return). Didier seemed worried about what would happen to record labels in the future if everyone could just self-publish on the internet. We decided that even though there will be lots of self-uploaded music on the internet, record labels will still be needed to be able to lend some credibility to certain bands out there. And Warner Brothers will probably have to fight Microsoft for a band like Girls Vs. Boys.
I felt pretty smart with this big label exec asking us questions about the internet, until I ordered a shrimp cocktail and when I got it (this is something I still feel really stupid about) I noticed that there were little eggs stuck in the shrimp – I cleaned them off in the water-filled finger bowl, and wondered in my silly, midwestern way (we don’t have shrimp in Champaign) why such a nice, fancy restaurant would forget to clean the eggs off the shrimp. The last time I had seen something like this was in science class, when we were dissecting crawfish. Later I found out what I began to suspect after the 4th egg-laden shrimp, that the eggs are a delicacy. Someone in England later remarked “The French will eat anything that moves.