Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Autobahn, Austria/Germany

Things have taken a turn for the much worse. I'll cut to the chase: not one but TWO members of Isis have casually mentioned they'd like to be included on the daily e-mail list for these updates. Of course I had to say yes as I didn't want them to think I'm up to anything secret. Now it's just a matter of time before they come down on me with the heavy hand of violent censorship. Perhaps it will be a nudge down a stairway or maybe some Borax sprinkled into my cheese sandwich. I can only say that they have made their first move and soon these little dispatches of raw truth will be silenced forever. Until then, though, I will continue unabated because I am a man of integrity who will not back down, even under threat of torture, death or mean teasing.

Yesterday's show was at the Arena in Vienna. This was an artist/punker compound of several buildings and an outdoor amphitheatre. The actual venue was real big - stagehands had been hired to help out and the backstage was most easily accessed by an elevator. We'd arrived early and hung around outside for a bit, kicking a soccer ball and soaking up some healthy vitamin E courtesy of our friend Mr. Sun. I'd hoped to get into Vienna and drink it in for an hour or so but the evening's performance loomed ahead and it seemed best to stay local. And so it was kind of a lazy afternoon, wandering through the warren-like backstage.

Thad and I folded and stuffed the 7 inches before our quick soundcheck. Our main technical concern about playing has been the sound of the drum machine. At home, we drag along three big speakers and two heavy amplifiers to our shows; a pain in the ass to be sure, but we hear everything clearly even at high volumes. For these shows we've relied on the house PA system. In Bielefeld, this meant two tinny monitors on stage blaring the sound of the cymbals (and not much else) at my face. At the Arena, however, the stage monitors had more firepower than the house system for most shows we've ever played. Listening that little machine of ours thudding through the massive club PA was oddly relaxing - we'd be able to hear ourselves clearly.

Isis was acting all happy because of the arrival of their weirdest bit of merchandise yet: an Isis action figure. You heard me right. 100 little cardboard boxes, each populated with a miniature statue that somehow conveyed the band's vision through the artistic medium of toy. They were all psyched with the exception of Mike; he was vocal in his disappointment that it didn't fit into the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon he's carries with him pretty much everywhere. "I was VERY CLEAR about this - I told them it HAD to be Kenner compatible - I am REALLY not happy right now..." and so forth. Thad and I made an Austerity Program action figure out of an empty can of diet Red Bull and some of Cliff's beard sheddings but nobody bought it.

Here's a cultural observation I made fussing about backstage - if you set up a room where young men (mostly what makes up the bands playing in these places) will be idle and able to doodle graffiti, roughly one in five of them will eventually use the opportunity to draw a penis on the wall. Just tracing the marker scribblings all over the rooms backstage bears this out - band name, band name, band member name, band name, penis, band name, accusation of band member's homosexuality, band name, exclamation of inhuman sexual prowess, penis ... I would have taken a picture to show this but it's so boring that you'd probably fall asleep just looking at it. Occasionally someone will make a more nuanced political statement like "Capitulism Sucks" (sic) but for the most part this demographic makes shamefully unimaginative graffiti. Taken at as a whole, I'm surprised people do it at all; there's a slight chance that some future race will unearth a piece of one of these walls in a pile of rubble, figure out what the markings on it are about and justly condemn the (then) ancient world of independent rock as the bastion of sophomoric mongoloids.

Eventually show time rolled around. Jakob kicked the night off with their best set yet - filling the cavernous main room of the Arena with their shifting and swelling sound. We were next. Overall it was our most solid night so far - very loud on stage and the songs were working with us. I still need to get a little bit of a better handle on my voice but I think I've just about got this guitar thing under control. The only two caveats were due to the size of the place: Thad seemed like a five minute walk away from me on stage and the audience was on the other side of a security moat. But it felt like a better job of what we're trying to get across than the past two performances. Cliff was kind enough to join us at the end of a song for an all-star rock jam. I left the stage sweaty and happy.

After that Isis made use of every cubic foot of that club, really bringing their thing full force to the metal denizens of Vienna. One thing of note - I was back by the merch table for most of their set. Every time they'd play a song of their most recent record, the little action figures they were selling would slowly turn to the direction of the stage and start to glow in the same tempo as the song. Pretty cool. I chatted with showgoers as I sold some stuff of ours and a lot of Jakob's, giddily sharing my post-set euphoria with anyone who'd let me. Thousands of miles from home, getting paid to make friends and play music. I'm a lucky guy.

As things closed down, I walked across the compound to check on the laundry I'd put in before we began playing. The dryer must have not liked our set because it decided to punish me. When I opened it, after having run a third cycle on the same pile of wet clothes, my beleaguered laundry was still quite damp. I was concerned; I wouldn't have any more access to the building that night but I couldn't carrying around a wet pile of garments. I thought about it for a moment, threw my crap in a laundry basket and headed out into the cool night air. After sneaking into the empty sound pavilion of the outdoor stage, I carefully hung every bit of clothing that I wasn't wearing along the steel structural rods. There was nothing like a clothespin to be found so I was in the inimical position of hoping that wind and precipitation wouldn't throw my things all over the wet field before I could collect them in the morning. One look at the compound's lodging for Jakob and us and we hoofed it across the street to another Etap hotel. Took advantage of Morrie and Lou's hospitality by staying in their room for a bit too long before staggering to bed and passing out.

Today's pretty much just been the van ride. I had happily collected my almost totally dry clothes before we met up with Isis, a relief to anyone who was getting worried about the offensive reek of my post-show t-shirts. Now it's just rainy German hills speeding by as we make our way to Munich. Mike just asked me for the definition of a word in the book he's reading. I had to look it up myself, liked it and went back and included it in a paragraph above. See if you can figure out which word it was.

Listening to
Gas - Konigsforst

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