Monday, April 21, 2008
Guten tag. I write you from the cozy lobby of the Renaissance Hotel of Karlsruhe, Germany. Thad and I are nestled into our own couches here by the front desk, an unshaven and surly contrast to the hotel's fresh flowers and gentle lighting schemes. European hospitality prevents the manager from asking us to wait in a location more suited to our appearance, like the food scraps pile in the kitchen. In a few minutes Isis will begin to populate this reception area and we'll all head on outta here.
Well, we got to this burg yesterday afternoon and hopped out of the van into a sunshiney town plaza. The Substage, our venue for the evening, must have been a bomb shelter in a past life. It's entirely underground (this is a physical, not cultural, description) and you can hear the tram whizzing by on the street above as you're setting up to soundcheck. When they open the doors up for the first time in the day there's a musty, cold catacomb air that trickles out. I bet that when Mortiis plays here he insists that they keep it shut until a minute before set time. All the better to keep as much evilness as possible in the room. But it quickly aired out and we ate our arrival snacks as Isis began to soundcheck.
The only problem was the club's insistence that strict volume limits were respected. This was the charge of the house sound guy. Since Isis and Jakob each have their own sound person traveling with them, we were the band left with a nervous looking Deiter of a fellow to sit at the mixing board and tell us that everything had to be quieter. But it was out of our hands and I wasn't put on this earth to start fights with sound engineers, so we just rolled with the punches. We wrapped that up in plenty of time and Thad and I brought our guitars to the outdoor loading ramp, running through each of the songs in our planned set. Mike from Isis must have found this to be a fascinating anthropological event because he took about 48 pictures of us doing this acoustic practice. Now that I think about it, it's more likely that he's got about 6 gigs left on his compact flash card and feels the need to fill up space.
The place filled up with dark shirted Teutonics. The Substage had a security guard system in place and tour manager Joris made me eat my smug words of yesterday by providing us with laminated access badges. I tell you he is just plain out to get me. Thad and I took some time at the merch table, selling more over the course of the night than we've ever sold in one night at home. This was - no kidding - about 10% of what Jakob sold which was then - no kidding - about 10% of what Isis sold. Still, though it may have been a miniature baby pony it was a gift horse and I was not about to play dentist. (Flogging a metaphorical dead horse: Jakob merch sales = Clydesdale; Isis's = Trojan.)
A tight timeline for the night meant a short Austerity Program set. This was just fine with me. I was a bit on edge after the slightly sour feeling I'd been carrying after the Beilefeld show. This club's stage was more immediately right up against the crowd and the light guy just kept medium white lights on us, leaving his disco impulses at the door. (Good.) So by the time I hit go on the slightly buggy drum machine, things felt good and confidence came pretty quickly for me. We pounded through 5 songs and I was in better shape than the show before. Despite my awful attempt to speak German as we started, I recovered quickly from errors, played pretty okay and had fun.
Things were not so sanguine on the other side of the stage. Thad's bass amp was inexplicably twice as loud when we played vs. the soundcheck. So he had to immediately do a quick volume adjustment and still couldn't hear anything else for the rest of the set. This (understandably) made him grouchy and he was seen afterwards backstage, methodically emptying the local beir into his churning guts.
Still, I was hopped up on fun energy and must have been more of a pain to be around than usual. Isis was obviously having a time of it during their set - the wirey Aaron Turner looked like a black-clad grasshopper at one point the way he was just jumping around. And did I mention that Jakob had their instruments at last and were also a blast? I don't think I did. So it was an officially good show all around. Unless your name is Thad.
After that we slowly loaded out, belatedly trying to navigate around a small pile of poop that someone/thing had left out by the dark stage door. Thad and I rolled with Jakob back to the Hotel Etap, a less upscale affair that Joris casually mentioned had a common reputation as a good place to bring prostitutes. The rooms were nearly Japanese in their compactness; it was a hotel room designed by the makers of Tetris. But Thad and I managed to get a decent night's sleep. Although I should mention that he had a difficult moment of waking up with all those beers in him, wondering where the hell he was before dangerously descending the bunk bed ladder in near total darkness to quickly get to the bathroom. Actually, I won't mention that.
Just a bit of drama today trying to track down the seven inches that we're supposed to be selling. Between visits to a Christian bookstore, talking to anyone we ran into who worked at the substage, a round trip cab ride back to the hotel, a visit to an international call center and (seriously) running two blocks with a full backpack on to flag down a random DHL truck we did it. Now we've got the longest drive of our journey today - 7 or 8 hours in the van as we traverse to Austria. One Isis member just called me an old man for doing the New York Times crossword puzzle. I was going to retort that it's supposed to be great for staving off Alzheimer's, but I don't think that's going to make me win this argument.
Listening to -
The Field - From Here We Go Sublime
Deathspell Omega - Fas
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