Cave In makes a guest appearance in he journal. Hey fellas.
Le roi Xavier.
Sunday, June 23, 2019
This may be the part of the journal that makes for great literature because you will look back later on and say "ah, that is foreshadowing, just so brilliant". It feels like the wheels are starting to come off the train a little bit here. I'm repeatedly convinced I've left something behind (may be true in the case of my utility knife, def. the case for a few Sharpies), tech gremlins are creeping in to gear, even my machined-from-aluminum guitar that has one teensy design flaw is like "hey, even one teensy design flaw can shut the whole thing down, ha ha check this out."
To wit: this guy on the train sitting across from Thad and I had the pop tab snap off his Minute Maid can. He's spent four minutes trying to open it with the butt end of plastic fork.* It is a command performance of tiny pathos but some nervous spot in my brain is like "uhhh, it's happening to all over, not good, not good."
Just Thad and I at this point. The big green SUMAC-van rolled into Clisson, France for Hellfest - a sprawling and massive heavy metal occupation that may trigger memories of 1943 for Clisson's oldest residents. The three day affair absolutely dominates this small and very quaint town in the just-as-you'd-imagine-it French countryside. The two of us hopped out, gave hugs and thanks to Squad-SUMAC, and hopped a taxi to the train station. Hundreds of black-clad festival goers on the route over, pouring out of cafes, putttering in line at the station. We were headed in the right direction: out of there.
I'd set up last night's show a few months ago via a correspondence with Xavier, a guy who runs a really dedicated music review blog and who was into us. "Yes! Come to Rennes, we will pay you and put you up and have friends play the show!" Not common, that. Maybe even unbelievable? But as we stepped off the train in Rennes, there was Xavier - black t-shirt, happily gaunt face, quiet smile. "We will go to where you will be staying, yes?, and you can maybe get a shower and coffee if you like."
So we smushed our guitars, bags and boxes of merch into his car and drove through the pretty charming Rennes. Along the way, Xavier told us about KFuel, the co-op of which he's a part. When he was young, he and other friends got frustrated that no bands would come to their town as it wasn't on a route most booking agents could sensibly book bands into. So they created an organization to promote and run shows on their own. It mixed their youthful passion for music with idealistic politics and a DIY spirit. Twenty-five years later, Xavier and a few other core members are still at it as other co-op members continue to revolve through. Leftist DIY punks aka Justin's Kind Of People.
Did the pit stop of the apartment of Helene and David (yes, just like the fruit basket company, which served as a good mnemonic name-remembering device.) And then to Mondo Bizaro, a club with a show-room capacity of under 100 that felt a little claustrophobic even in the golden daylight of the afternoon. Yes, fine.
Thad and I set up to sound check as others drifted into the club. Some of the borrowed gear worked, some of it didn't, we made do. Up in the second floor backstage room (about as big as the actual performance space) Xavier sat us down and deliberately provided us with fresh bread and delicious cheese. "You are in France." (He really said this.) Thad was sipping a beer; "no beer, red wine". We complied and could feel the warm late-afternoon air gliding in through the open window. I sat back on the couch and inhaled. We are sometimes gifted with small moments of magic on tour and this was one.
Back downstairs the KFuel crowd and friends had settled into an outdoor courtyard to cook out and catch up with one other. Mostly middle-aged folks like myself, not seeing any reason to give up their love of loud rock music in late-night clubs. The first of three bands started and our one outside friend of the night showed up - the dapper and friendly Matthias. He had saved our neck at least two times getting records over to Europe; I was happy to ignore his hand oustretched in greeting and just bear hug him.
Things ran late. No one seemed to care. Friends had filled the small club and I was worried we were going to poison the fond camaraderie with our very intensive application of negative energy.
I was wrong.
As I had noted in a previous day, we open with a slow-burning that builds to a crescendo. The payoff is held back until, after near silence, we land it. Last night, when we hit the explosion that releases that coda, the room just went nuts. 50 or 60 total strangers (to us), as into it any about any group of people has ever been. In our natural habitat - tight room, low lights, deafening volume - we quickly hit the mainline of the thing that our band does and I will tell you: these cats were ready for it. I was well-rehearsed enough that tech hiccups and the threat of losing my handle on things couldn't stop it. We were on and, in that small, black room, they were having all of it.
Afterwards things got loopy. Turns out about 1/2 of the people were happily wasted, so there was lots of requests to sign things and friendly arms put around shoulders to confide an important (drunk) point. Thad and I kept it clean and eventually piloted our way out of there with Xavier, back to Helene and David's. It was just about 2AM and we had to be up for a 7:50 train.
No matter for our hosts. They'd brought back the opening bands (Helene was in one), David was carrying a half-dozen wine glasses from the kitchen, some were laying out the leftover snacks from the backstage room. We could only smile at their bubbling enthusiasm that another phase of the night was beginning; no, we were done. A couple of "bonne nuit"s from us and we hit the sack in another room.
Up four hours later and Xavier gave us a ride back to the train station. (He'd gotten exactly 70 minutes of sleep. Xavier, you are a hero.) Up next was a hodgepodge of trains, stairways and wallet in-and-out-of-the-pocketing that kept thing busy for the next five hours. The good news is that we are now nestled into the Eurostar, Chunnel-bound and exactly where we should be for our final show tonight. The bad news is that our $25 foldable hand truck is definitely not going to make it back to NYC and probably not even to the club tonight. Gonna be fun, fun, fun when that thing decides it's at the end of the road.
Actually not fun. It will suck.
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