Saturday, April 26, 2008
Leaving Zurich, Switzerland
Hey! We're back in the van. Now it feels consistently less like a constant gray March day when we wake up - the sun's been out for a few days now and we're enjoying the postcard show of Switzerland sweetly gliding by our windows. We've listened to a few demos in the van and the group has agreed to sign a few of them to Roadside Records. These cruel bastards I'm traveling with.
Boy it was a bear to get out of Italy yesterday. Miles of traffic jamming up to the border and those Italians sure don't like to politely wait their turn in line. But the matter-of-fact Swiss flag eventually arrived. There was a mild clenching of teeth and other body parts as we encountered the soul-penetrating glare of the customs agent, but a curt wave of his hand and we were home free. And it was about as glorious a ride as we could hope for after that. Towering mountains, proud forests of evergreen trees, robust waterfalls poring over rock faces, sturdy hand-built cottages and fertile young Swiss Misses carrying wooden buckets filled with milk everywhere. Okay, maybe not so much of that last part but Jesus is this ever a pretty country. We drank it all in, lazily sharing opinions about life, music, bodily functions and family in our pine-green Euro bus.
I have a complaint. The fates guiding our way along this trip are getting annoyingly unsubtle in the life messages that they convey. To wit - last night's nightclub was directly across the street from a plaza hosting a traveling circus. And so we were greeted in Zurich, Switzerland by the sight of romping elephants. Aaron Turner and I battled to get their names to put them on the guest list but were both S.O.L. in our attempt. The venue was weird - a disco that is obviously a more chic place than we were used to. This had its ups and downs - the food they provided for us on arrival was a sublime assortment of cheeses, bread and fresh produce. But the show had to be over, done and loaded out before 11PM as the club-trash were going to take over and do pure white cocaine and listen to bip-bip music. The bands all had mixed emotions about this. While we liked the idea of getting to bed early and having logistics settled up quickly, it would mean short sets and a rushed feel to the night. But a deal's a deal so Jakob started their 25 minute set while the sun was still blazing outside. The floor and chrome lined balcony filled with black t-shirts and facial hair.
Thad's amp has, as the New Englanders like to say, officially shit the bed. Maury from Jakob is lending us his gigantic tubed Ampeg and we quickly scurried to get things taken care of as soon as they finished. I don't know if it's something different about the crowds or we're just obviously better but we've been getting more of a reaction from our pre-set level check these past few nights than our whole first few night. Sure, I couldn't hear Thad at all and some oddfellow began aggressively trying to talk to me in the middle of one of our songs. But we're just shrugging stuff like that off these nights and throwing it back into the songs. At one point mid-set I realized I could see myself in the gigantic bar mirror at the back of the room. I gave brief silent thanks to the fact that I don't wear glasses when we play and couldn't see myself playing. 5 songs, a 1/2 liter of sweat, 27 minutes. It was good.
Mike from Isis later told me he felt very locked in during their set. I like this band - there's enough texture vs. straight up jugular rock that different things stand out over the course of this tour. They're also a joy to watch because they're very good at what they do - night after night they're all able to easily convey the deep physicality of their complex songs. After they were done they took a deep breath and quickly broke things down. Thad managed our trickle of merch sales in the powerful but lonely Swiss Franc; I helped lug amps off stage and play frisbee with discarded drum heads.
The hotel where we were all staying was a bit on the cheap side considering all the money we'd just made for the club. Stern Joris was on the phone securing other arrangements but Thad and I said screw it, claimed our room and went for a walk in night-time Zurich. It was Friday and we strolled along the river, trading thoughts on a well-worn subject: How Odd It Is That We Are In Europe Playing Metal To Strangers. The city provided a pleasing setting for such a walk. The night was mildly cool, the stone Swiss buildings were dramatically lit and the dark river had ebbed from high tide and was quietly rushing beneath the bridges. Too bad such a romantic scene was wasted on the goofy likes of us - I'm sure either of us would have happily murdered the other for the chance to stroll back to the hotel with our respective wives. We turned in relatively sober and early though Thad later confessed to heading downstairs to have a drink or two with the Kiwi Drinking Squad. Me, I was curled up in my sleeping bag and blissfully out for the night.
By breakfast, provincial Americanism had begun to creep into our attitudes about Euro culture. Sure, the bread is amazing and the cheese is exquisite and the coffee is reliably better but would it kill them to scramble an egg every now and then? Christ. We lamented our plight in a trendy, white trimmed cafe-bar before meeting up with the rest of our crew. Now it's back into the land of the Euro as we speed towards France. Lou (driver/sound: Jakob) is excited with the pending arrival of the Koala - a nickname for the girlfriend who allegedly crawls all over him. The rest of us will probably politely introduce ourselves to her and then stew in bitter hatred of him for the next two days.
Machito - Kenya. I think I'm the only one in the van liking this record.
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