Wednesday, June 19, 2019
Day 3 from the van, bustling along from Vienna, Austria to Munich, Germany. I hope we get to go on the autobahn to see Turbo Porsches going 400km/h piloted by red-cheeked dudes in lederhosen. Not totally sure if the picture will be completed by them drinking from ornate steins and munching on comically gigantic pretzels, but if so you'll be the first to hear about it.
Last night was a venue that we'd actually played at before: the Wein Arena. This is a true compound of multiple buildings, at least four different stages, band rehearsal spots and plenty of Austrian anarcho-punkness. The place used to be a slaughterhouse but these days the only things getting killed are packs of cigarettes and love for cops. Band stickers all over the place and "no air conditioning - it's very expensive and besides you know very bad for the environment."
Thad and I were excited to use the laundry facilities, which is actually a bit of a lie because it's facility in the singular, not plural. As in - one dinky washing machine that is very Euro-eco and takes 2 hours to wash 40 napkins which it had just started doing when we got there. I sighed and dropped our bag of underwear and t-shirts next to the machine and wandered out to revisit the weirdness of the place.
Sumac, Tomas and Hein (Sumac sound-dude) were staying in the mini-efficiency hotel across the street while Daniel, Thad and I were regelated to the band accommodations in the club. This was an airy apartment room in one of the separate buildings that felt like a youth hostel that had been molested by Sharpies. Sumac dialed-in their sound levels while the rest of us attended to our various task compulsions.
Light bled color across the sky as twilight settled in. Daniel Menche has been up first each night - his gear a pile of interconnected circuits and home-crafted bastardizations of "regular" instruments. Daniel's performances are a compelling contradiction; when you meet him you're quickly drawn in by his self-effacing presentation. Add that to the fact that he occasionally seems like he's briefly glitching in/out to another dimension and you might be forgiven for guessing his solo perfomance would be either twee or distracted.
That would be wrong. Every night he's been getting on stage by himself in an empty room; frequently it's just him and the sound dude and one or two loners killing time by looking at their phones. But a low, shimmering drone will start to swell from the room's speakers, moving from near-background noise to a noticeable presence to more, more. Soon other sounds appear - a low beat, a modulating, high whine - and the whole time it's Daniel like a sunburnt warlock in front of a cauldron of wires and strings. Then the sounds begin to shatter into fearful shards, like the room has been swarmed by hundreds of metallic wasps.
And now he's whipping around on stage, a yard long steel fan blade pressed pressed against his windpipe, catching a long, sonorous vocal overtone that glide in and out of the storm that's becoming more overwhelming. It stretches time into a kind of poisonous taffy, and part of you urges flight from the room while another part wants to just crawl into the speaker and disappear inside it all.
Ten minutes later, it's Daniel backstage, sweaty and bug-eyed. "Man, have you seen the power adapter for my Ipad? Fuck. I keep losing this shit in the dumbest places." The duality between bouts of personal haplessness and total, punishing performer control almost seems impossible.
As for us, we were a bit more ragged than the night before but we made up for it by just going for it. It was really hot in the room (no AC, remember?) and we used the furnace feeling to full effect. (Good alliteration there.) Sumac came on after us and do you remember that part in Lawrence of Arabia when all the local dudes are like "Lawrence, do not try to cross that part of the desert by yourself in mid-day, that is the Devil's Anvil*"? Well, I do and about half of the crowd had the same look on their face that had Peter O'Toole cleaning up at the Academy Awards. Glorious, sweaty punishment. On a Tuesday.
Afterwards, when the crowd had left, I sang my Tom Jones-ish version of "Darling Nikki" while we loaded out and got a few charitable chuckles and Aaron hated it.
Woke up for an early departure and spent a good 10 minutes retrieving all of the socks and shirts festooned around our room. The laundry made it to 95% dry which is well past the threshold of being able to stuff it back in a watertight bag in my backpack, right? We'll see. Also, please feel free to write me back and explain why I only seem to have 4 pairs of underwear for a 10 day trip. Did I lose one? I've only had like 2 beers each night, so how would that have even happened? Enough gear and sweatshirts to merit a bantam-class boxer's weight but "better not pack a fifth pair of underpants, gotta stay light on my feet for this trip."
Long drive today. Daniel's van mini-fugue today covered why it's okay to mansplain to another man. "See, I read this book about the cultural history of butts and it explained how the whole thing about high-heels is really biological. They make your ass stick out like Kim Kardashian with the table and the champagne. Have you ever seen a baboon's ass? Biological. Evolution."
He claims that the book was worth reading.
*Or something like that. It sounded really badass.
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