Hazel plays Europe
Holland to Slovenia:
Jet-lag, sleep-deprivation, and normal pre-performance derangement have me very gradually waking from a mid-afternoon nap. In hypnogogic thrall, I'm hearing a dream-fragment voice warning me, "It's not a dressing-room - it's a killing-room." Seven hours later, when one of the workers at August, the legal squat that's hosting our show tonight, shows me to a remote back room where I can change, my hallucination comes back in a harrowing paranoid bolt.
[August - see pronunciation guide at the end of this page]
Jet-lag aside, it's normal to feel sick, depressed, afraid, angry and irrational before a gig. In fact, it makes for a good show - clearly tensions to resolve.
Tonight, our performance is barely adequate. We have to get used to Laurie sitting in for Brady on bass, the space is cramped, the audience small and stiff. There is for me one small high point. The room is decorated with replicas of automatic weapons hanging on strings from the ceiling, in anticipation of August's hosting upcoming "Euro-Top" (European unification summit - the posters all spell it "eu-Rot-op") demonstration activities, for which this show, in fact, is a benefit. So I'm able, as our set winds to a climax, to pull out my concealed 9-millimeter pistol, threaten audience, bandmates, and myself - then, what the hell - eat the thing in about 6 bites. A killing-room, indeed.
At Siegen, a male voice from the crowd: "You hahve a fucking excellent dahn-sah!"
In Nuremburg, I know we're on a rock-tour when some of our women see something in a local publication and start cracking witticisms about riding black pony-dicks. Is this racist as well as gross? Why is it funny? At home this would not be funny.
Michael Jackson is playing Bremen this same night; we pass the migrating hordes as we wind into town and along the river Weser to our tiny delightful club. It's wreathed in astounding graffiti, encircled by bicycles, and operated by seriously punk-rock-loving women. At dusk, and continuing into the evening, we can hear the bass-line wafting from the stadium a couple of kilometers upwind. Across the street from the vintage apartments that are our lodgings for the night, in an otherwise completely residential street, there is a full-sized, pedestrian-level billboard advertising the Jackson tour, so in all innocence, I ask one of our hosts what is the German translation of the term "child-fucker", only for my incredulous ears to find that it's "kinder-popper". It wasn't difficult, the next morning, to alter the giant subtitle: "King of Pop". Is this racist, as well as gross? Why is it not funny? At home this would be funny.
Our show kicks ass, by the way.
Every rock musician could write a book, a very tedious book, on van troubles. Our first one is minor - the cumbersome sliding door won't close easily, until, I think it's Buck who devises the effective strategem of taking a little jump and slamming your butt into it just as it closes. All eight of us perfect this graceful tactic forthwith. Our opening act for the evening, the brilliant local women's band, the Assassins, have been witness to this manoevre, and at my request for a slogan to define our tour, huddle a minute and come up with "po-stuber" (umlaut over the 'u'), a play on an insult having to do with noses. It's HAZEL: The Do Funny Things with your Butt Tour. Oh well, we can't afford the tens of thousands of posters, illuminated bus-shelter signs, and billboards, in any case.
The sound-man at Korn, our club in Hannover, has worked here 18 years, is named Gary, and after some consideration is willing to list the greatest bands he's done sound for in that time: 2 German bands - Papa Boo & his Viking Jazz Band, and Peter & the Test Tube Babies, plus Husker Du (in 1986), Bad Religion, Faith No More, Henry Rollins solo, and (turning to apologize to Jody, who is sitting right here, and whose other band, Team Dresch, played here last year with the band in question) Bikini Kill.
After the show, Carmelo wheedles me (exhausted, but looking at some rest days) into accompanying him four blocks to the legendary 20-year-old squat Springel, for my first rave. You can't help but immediately get lost in the dark, the smoke, the lights, the beat, and the dancing. It helps to lose my glasses about four times - the rest of the tour, they'll be all duct-taped together. After 45 minutes, the dozen types of directed bizarre colored light-sources shut down to reveal total darkness. Except, all of a sudden, a stylized day-glo person standing stock-still towards the end of the floor. The music starts again, and she or he starts slowly to move, in mostly circular ways and flourishing what look like wings, invisible in the blackness save for violently glowing swatches of color on body, face, arms, wings. In retrospect, I don't think there were wings, only the illusion fostered by motion. As the music rises, the dancer speeds up in deceptively subtle increments, until she is a blur, and her audience mesmerized rigid - the momentum gathering for twenty minutes has arrived at a velocity hard to comprehend, even for a fellow dancer. Towards the end I'm able to conclude that this person is a woman - her sphere of movement is so condensed and swift and practised. On the basis of stamina and discipline and cosmic stillness, my guess is that she's practiced in some of the South Asian forms, but I am an ignoramus.
Later in the tour, people are disbelieving when I tell them I went to a rave at Springel. Everyone knows that disco is driving rock out of Europe - a club will get 40 people for a rock show on Friday night, then have 350 show up the next night for a DJ. Many were the clubs on this tour that, once we finished playing at 1 a.m., installed a disc jockey and packed 'em in for hours more - often with the superhuman Buck and Carmelo dancing til dawn. Anyhow, Springel was always the punk-rock purist hold-out, and it was a signal of the end of an era the day they were forced by the marketplace to hold a rave.
Korn - which means grain, and is located on Kornstrasse - is a pretty great club. It has a courtyard, a bar downstairs, the stage upstairs, and a dorm for musicians on the top floor. It has good vegetarian food, a virtual gallery of rock graffiti in the dorm, and a great political poem on a pillar in the bar. But it suffers from the factors that keep 95% of music clubs from rising above the mediocre: too much beer, too much tobacco smoke, too many boys.
Dear White Fella
Couple things you should know -
When I born, I black
When I grow up, I black
When I go in sun, I black
When I cold, I black
When I scared, I black
When I sick, I black
And when I die - I still black
You white fella,
When you born, you pink
When you grow up, you white
When you go in sun, you red
When you cold, you blue
When you scared, you yellow
When you sick, you green
And when you die - you grey.
And you have the cheek
To call me coloured?
Der text ist idiom
The club in Enger, though unpromising - small stage in a basement, cement floor, kind of dark and smelly, very straight neighborhood - yields up a fabulous show. Without informing us, the Assassins have wangled the opening spot, the crowd is great, and Brady's back - it's like old home week. Two encores.
In a brilliant gift to travelling American rock groups, the German word for freeway-exit is "ausfahrt", a word whose excellent felicity and universal applicability serves us far past the borders of German-speaking countries. It manifests an additional felicity. Our Enger club's green-room (performers' waiting-room) - is a veritable elephant's graveyard of rock graffiti. Oh, to have a camera and map it. And here, joy of joys, is some left by Everclear, a band whose singer, Art Alexakis, we have been going out of our way to annoy for some time now (ever since we got tired of annoying our lame record label Subpop). One of their gimmicks being pretending they're from Portland, we cross paths often, and I can deface their propaganda. In this case, they have written a short, inane message in black Sharpie, then each has signed his name underneath, except one of them now reads, "Ausfh-Art"
At our lodgings late this night, Brady asks our hostess, Katerina, do you like to watch Fred dance?
B: Do you like to watch Hazel play?
B: Would you like to see Hazel without Fred?
That should about sum it up.
Linz green-room graffiti band-names: Anarchophobia. Propagandhi. Practical Carpontry.
The audience is boy-heavy tonight. Our set is disrupted by a crusty-punk (a European phenomenon, crusties are aging punk-rockers likely to be dirty, balding, grizzled, tattooed, arrogant, alcoholic, homeless, incoherent, and German) Tomas, who loudly questions our authenticity, and that of our employer, Time-Warner. Jody is inspired in her taunts: during a lull, as she starts to mockingly sing the chorus to the Eidelweiss song, I can't resist whispering to her, in shocked and offended tones, "Anal vice?" So of course she takes it right up for a verse or three. Jody sometimes notices, often with more than ample cause, that our audience is largely homophobic posers and hosers, at which time she quite openly turns her attention to the minority, talks to them between songs, specifically directs her singing and playing to them, and pretty openly declares war on all the drunk, obnoxiously aggressive boys up front. This night, at the end of our set, she bids goodnight to our fans: "Later, Hosen".
At a prominent spot in the stairwell leading upstairs to the band-members' dormitory someone has written - JEW PEE; by my third trip, I have to write underneath - christian shit. I told everyone a few days ago I thought we should book a show at Dachau - it's right on our route, we could play for all the dead people. They said: "You go play Dachau, Fred," and,"They won't give you a very warm welcome there, Fred". I persist in thinking the dead people would have given us a very warm welcome.
After the show, a disc jockey puts on hip-hop, and a large young almost-entirely-white Austrian boy break-dancing posse called, on the evidence of their little black jackets, Nobody Rockz, are doing pleasant, though elementary, licks. I gradually head up to the dorm, where Buck is alone, and I remark that I think those kids are praiseworthy in their willingness to give all the younger and inexperienced kids turns to publicly practice their shit. Buck sees none of it, indignant at their exclusion of girls.
Flex is on the canal in Vien (a.k.a.Vienna). It is a very long club, noticably like CBGB's (the New York club that birthed punk), but built horizontally right into the canal wall, and fronted by a classic - it's Vienna after all - rock club mural.
About a year ago, I bought a pin-striped three-piece suit to perform in, but the first time I wore it (in front of the home-town crowd at La Luna), I accidently tore the jacket to shreds. In anticipation of this tour, I learned the rudiments of a sewing machine and sewed it up again so you can't notice a thing from more than 20 feet. But I've held it in reserve to crown our debut in Vienna, the soul and source of Western musical culture, a lifelong dream fulfilled.
I'm at the front of the stage sitting in a chair, wearing the suit, one leg crossed over the other, and reading a newspaper while everybody gets ready. As they lunge into the first verse, I stand, step up onto the chair, fold the newspaper, put it in my inside pocket, remove my glasses, put them into their case and it into my other inside pocket, and as they launch into the chorus, tear off the suit to reveal my flouncy little floral rayon Santa Monica Boulevard thrift-shop number - a Hazel staple. And proceed, if it needs mentioning, to go to it.
On my pre-show bike-ride up the canal to see the Donau (a.k.a. Danube), I've picked up 20 feet of stiff green three-quarter inch fiberglass construction tape in case I might need it at the show. I do end up making extensive use of it, and my last glimpse, as it falls off me and off the front of the stage at the end of the song, is of someone grabbing it as it falls, a precious souvenir.
Our host and boon companion for the evening is the wee hours dj, Drehli. We bond with him straight away, and both bands end up dancing with him halfway to dawn. I think, in fact, that at least one of the eight of us is dancing to 70's disco trash or worse continuously until 8 a.m. It probably helps if your normal inner clock says it's not really morning - more like 11 p.m. the night before.
My mantra as an outsider ("unsuccessful") artist: The business of art is theft. Many of the most successful people in the music business, as in any lucrative business, are like the little red hen's neighbors - they watch discretely as she plants the seed, tills the field, harvests the grain and makes the bread, then invite themselves to dinner. And while the little red hen may never go platinum, she takes comfort in knowing those animals will never produce anything but crap. We're in the van heading east to Magyar-Orszag (a.k.a. Hungary), when this train of thought spins out of thoughts of Dionne Warwick and her sweet and giant and defiant musical idea, copped so skillfully and ruthlessly by Streisand and such ilk.
I return from gazing out the van window to glean this quote from Quentin Crisp (in the U.K. Guardian) on a closely related topic: "Like Madonna, the more desperately I try to shock, the more hopelessly routine my act becomes." Except, he's such a little red hen to her big magpie.
photo by ?
Budapest is full of posters advertising shows by American Jazz and Soul Artists: Herbie Hancock, Jack deJohnette, James Brown, but I misplace my list. Clark Terry, Tower of Power? And I think an Oscar Peterson festival. Damn.
At Pecs, our set goes ok, but our host from Budapest, Daniel, who booked the show, and wants to be sure we get paid, gets very nervous because it looks like I'm seriously breaking a long (18?) succession of white plastic chairs I keep bringing out from back-stage. Towards the end of the set, Jody's unhappy with the language barrier, and has been turning Pete and Brady against the audience, which is pretty small, male, and retiring. She gets out of her drum kit, drags Danny up on stage, gives him a mike, and makes him translate an unfunny and repulsively obscene feminist joke into Hungarian, line by line. Daniel's wholly involuntary performance is, well, valiant.
At the ultra surreal Pizza Hut in Pecs, there is a pair of murals, one of American rock stars, one of American movie stars, painted by Hungarians, not too bad. The rock mural features Hendrix, the Beatles, Chuck Berry, Springstein, Michael Jackson, Bowie, Jagger, Sting, Aretha Franklin, Dylan, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, and Prince.
Pete and I are riding shotgun with Carmelo through Croatia, and perhaps to take his mind off the mysteriously missing houses, the soldiers, or the frequent Tudjman (instigator of ethnic-cleansing) campaign posters, asks me what single book I'd take to a desert island, insuring himself a 25-minute monologue, because you'd want something in multiple volumes, like Proust, or Homer, or the Bible, or Dorothy Richardson, or Dante, or Shakespeare, or Ulysses and Finnegan's Wake, or Crime & Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov. If you disallow all those, what's left? A desert island? Don Quixote.
We are in the green room of the Gala Hala in Ljubljana. As the tour has progressed, the 8 of us have gradually been acquiring nicknames for each other. Buck has turned into Barry. Jennifer is now Gina.
Barry is belaboring the butter.
(Which reminds me, the food we are given by the clubs on this tour is not comparable to the food that American clubs give bands, in two senses. One, American clubs don't give you any fucking food, and, two, when they do, it's dried-up cold franchise pizza, not the exquisite and simple gourmet fare we are getting here. Try: fresh home-made bread with fresh cheese. Fresh pizza or fresh pasta or fresh vegetable stew. Every club we play feeds us before the show, after the show, and the next morning. This is not an exaggeration.
In Europe, the club lodges the bands as well as feeding them, allowing us to finish playing and then go to sleep. What a concept! If you haven't humped bass amps up flights of stairs at three o'clock in the morning after driving eleven hours, you can't know how much this means.)
As we begin to eat around the big table, I notice this American guy just quietly leaning against the wall and watching us, so I engage him in conversation. A couple of others begin questioning him, but he doesn't give very good account of himself, so Barry cuts things short, very politely, "Would you please leave?" We all manage to hide our incredulity at Barry's insolence, except for the guy, who furthers his humiliation by making Barry repeat himself. This remark will get an incredible amount of mileage on the remainder of this tour: "Aus-fahrt!" "Would you please leave?"
Which is not to say that interaction with a veritable slew of new Slovenian friends is at any time less than scintillating. Later, still in the Gala Hala band room, a man in a European accent says to me, surprised, "Oh, you are European?" I'm surprised, too. "No," I say. "But you are wearing a European suit, " he says, gesturing at my outfit. I guess I am already in character.
After the show, some people go hear other bands, but I stay and read - I got a good workout on my bike before the show - getting lost and all - and a really good workout at the show thanks to the great audience. After a while, people trickle back. Brady has seen the Serbian Billy K. (Bill Kennedy is a legendary Portland music figure, whose influence, like Crisp's both subversive and long-lived, is obscurely incalculable. His least contribution to Portland music has been connecting me with Hazel.) Like Billy, this musician in Ljubljana performed cover-songs, but changed the lyrics (Brady's example: "house of the rising sun," to "why'd you fuck my wife"); stopped in the middle of songs to switch songs or simply talk; played songs within songs within songs; and improvised lyrics. He was playing with what Brady characterized as the Slovenian Completely Grocery, the defunct Portland wholesome manic-depressive all-ages bar-band.
I think someone got to see the illustrious Slovenian women's punk band Fregatura.
Italy to Holland
Everyone in this van has been very very funny lately. I don't know why everybody is so up, why we are not having any personality conflicts. It feels so ... unnatural.
Here comes a test of our humor: the Italian border guards wave us aside, and have each of us bring our personal luggage into their examination room. Carmelo has been claiming that when the customs people fling open our van's rear doors and the first thing they see is my bike (even folded-up for travel, it's still so ungainly it's best to load it in last), they immediately believe our story about how we are just tourists, don't notice the amps and drum-cases, and never get anywhere near asking us for work-permits or to pay duty on our boxes of merchandise. This time, the bike's mojo appears to fail.
Each of us, I dare say, is worried for a different reason, as we watch Carmelo do likety-split Italian explaining, and the guards gradually and thoroughly search our bags and persons, until they zero in on me. First they make me explain pizza crusts saved from lunch in my jacket pocket, which they then give back. Then, four or five loose aspirin & ibuprofen and an envelope of plantain leaf for cuts and sores, which they set aside. Then from a black plastic film canister, the man plucks the thumbnail-sized twelve-chambered almost perfectly spherical paper wasp-nest I found on the stone window-ledge of a closed shop on a narrow cobble-stoned street in Linz, Austria, 5 days previously. Carmelo cuts the tension with some very rapid Italian that has nothing to do with wasps - he gestures to me and reaches the word...ballerina, when comprehension floods into their faces and a collective, "Ahhhhh !" - exactly the same in Italian as in English - happily concludes our ordeal.
It is some time - during which, I blush to relate, I dance around a little and harass my van-mates singing, "I'm the ballerina," - before it's brought to my attention that the word he spoke was 'ballerino', a male dancer, a distinction English tellingly neglects to make.
On the van tape-deck: The Beastie Boys - Paul's Boutique, The Fall - live, Seminal - live, and Assalti Frontali, friends of Carmelo's whom we are to meet in Rome, Italy's answer to Public Enemy.
The club in Ljubljana was in a squatted military barracks called Metalkova, the club in Giulianova is called Indhastria (retro-trendy Russian spelling, we're told), and tomorrow we play in the squatted Forte Prenestina. A regular military-industrial complex.
Giulianova is heaven. Indhastria is attached to a white motel and a simple dining room, just off the beach and the warm blue Adriatic. The opening band, the Student Zombies, are right down our alley - instant mutual admiration society. The audience is sparse but warm, and the stage a great and versatile novelty for me - hard shiny black plastic. After the show, a man in his thirties standing near me at the bar turns to say, "What you do is quite brilliant. And I know what I am saying - I have worked in the theater many years." Better than heroin.
i wanna be sedated (photo by pete krebs)
I've caught a whiff of the heroin scene more than once on this tour. It's upsetting that certain addicts always seem to have the time and the money, and, worse, a level of sophistication about politics and culture that always, always, dovetails with a carefully-reasoned iron-clad philosophy of inaction.
At the fort in Rome, this huge outdoor stage would swallow most nightclubs. The audience numbers maybe 2000: almost all boys, short-haired, metal-heads by the look and vibe. They have no idea what to expect other than all-night disco when we're done, and we're righteously fagged-out from travel and sleep-deprivation and hurry-up-and-wait before we start. Fortunately, Jody steps up her game. Two-thirds of the way through the set, two drunk men directly in front are going at her with increasingly hostile shouts, looks, and gestures, so she stops playing and calls through her mike for security to come take them out. 2000 boys are left waiting. Lots of cat-calls, no response from the Forte authorities. So she goes, "Would some macho lesbians - we know you're out there! - would some macho lesbians please come up here and remove these fucking drunken assholes?" And I swear it is not 5 seconds before a couple of calm buff-looking women are at the scene and commencing to instruct the trouble-makers. Of course, now "real" security guys arrive, and amid some yelling escort the jerks out. The crowd has been increasingly restless through all this shipwreck, but all is now patched and righted, and we sail through the rest of the gig. Providentially, this great expanse of stage has come furnished with a very tall and unstable step-ladder.
From John Gregory Dunne in the New York Review : "(Jackie) Robinson became what Stanley Crouch calls a 'poet of resentment', in much the same way that Charlie Parker and Miles Davis were. 'This guy didn't just come to play,' Leo Durocher said of him, 'He come to cram the god-damn bat right up your ass.' " This is Jody.
Actually? This is Hazel.
This night, in the Forte's guest-band dormitory, a few moments after lights out:
Jennifer: We're sleeping in a Roman fort.
Jody: This is not a Roman fort.
Fred: If it's not Roman, what is it?
Jody: Stationary ..... Got you, Fred.
As we head up the northwest coast of Italy, Carmelo slips a cassette of Italian covers of 60's classics into the tape-deck:
Rolling Stones - Paint it, Black & a cross between Heart of Stone and Time is on My Side
Beatles - Norwegian Wood
Procol Harum - A Whiter Shade of Pale
Monkees - Last Train to Clarksville & I'm a Believer
We Five - You Were on My Mind
Mamas & Papas - California Dreamin'
Each one of these songs gets crucified. California Dreamin' is all-male, with the flute break played on hammond organ. Interspersed with these cheesy ersatz atrocities are a few songs, not so much covers as imitations of dramatic romantic early 60's top-40 ballads (think Leslie Gore), by a certain Catarina Casseli. Who is good.
Pete pretends to sulk, so Carmelo pretends to cheer him up, "But Pete, fun is for cool people." As we walk around the Bilbo (a.k.a. Bilbao) waterfront, Pete does a British anti-terrorist commando bodyguard bit that gets us going pretty good. A few days ago, Gina has bought an Italian surfing magazine, and in the interim, has stuck up a photo of multiple world-champion Kelly Slater by the door to the van. After a long stretch on the road, we are disembarking, and she goes, "Bye, Kelly" as she gets out. Pete immediately replies in a tiny menacing voice, and the dialogue gets steadily out of hand from there. When we tell Ovarian Trolley how by some mysterious selection process we have been given free shoes by companies like Converse and Simple, Barry quips, "Tell them we're 14, 16, and 17 and related to each other." In the retelling, none of these sound very hilarious, but in the event, one or another of us was close to convulsions.
In Elorrio, I've thrown out my back, and am just hanging out in the van while Carmelo drives a young Euskadi (Basque) to pick up tonight's P.A. system. Later, Carmelo reports that this young man has asked him,"Who is that guy? His face looks like he has lived a thousand stories." Carmelo adds, "And you have..."
French women's bands:
PPI - Pervers Polymorphes Inorganises
Bernadette Soubirou et se Apparitions
French bands with woman singers:
At one point on the road, Carmelo plays 2 songs from the Rush tape, then puts on the Blonde Redhead tape for maybe the15th time overall, whereupon Jody and Gina jump into a debate on the relative merits. Rush is the legendary Canadian 70's dinosaur garage/stadium metal power-trio, whose singer Geddy Lee saw our show and very reluctantly posed for a photo with Pete and Brady (who were creaming themselves) in Toronto 2 years ago. Like most metal divas (or would that be divos?), Geddy sings like a woman screaming, and it is the very uncertainty of the question whether the resulting humorous irony is intended or not that makes the band, despite its cheesiness, so endearing to some. Blonde Redhead is an etherial 90's Finno-Japanese cross between the Mamas & the Papas and Yoko Ono, and in practical terms, more suitable than Rush for multiple play for eclectic ears on a long freeway trip. Which is not to say that Jody did not conclusively win the argument with her concluding 20-minute harangue. One did notice, however, that her clear rhetorical victory failed to move the frighteningly fair-minded Carmelo to put the Rush tape back in.
It turns out to be a fabulous club in Lyon, called Pez Ner, a term derived from Antonin Artaud (avatar of 20th century theater who advocated making actors and audience into "victims burnt at the stake, signaling through the flames"), and meaning Balanced Nerves. Great employees, great stage, great audience, great dormitory, great food, and the inimitable Stephane. I'm later to find that Stephane booked our show here, but my first encounter with him, I am sitting at the long club-employee meal-table, trying to read the French promotional material on the group HXA (osh-eeks-ah) the New Art Ensemble from Russia, who have recently played Pez Ner and whom the workers there are swooning over and bemoaning that they drew an audience of 20, versus the disco crowd of 375, when my ears prick up to hear my own words in an unmistakeably French voice: "Brady, tell me what means this 'cleave-the-scalp-of-the-shortstop line-drives of pure rhythm' ?" , a phrase composed to describe, appropriately enough, Brady's bass-lines for Hazel's publicity-bio, written by me three years ago, and a trifle mystifying to a non-baseball-savvy Frenchman, who has apparently memorized our band bio.
By the time Brady has explained line-drives and shortstops, I have inserted myself into the conversation, and Stephane turns to me, "Fred. Tell me why did you shave the bird?"
I admit to have shaved for the tour, in general to confound expectations, and specifically because I was tired of being stereotyped by rock journalists as a hippie, an egregiously derogatory epithet that ought only to be used by those it describes. I understand that other minorities don't have the option to "shave the bird". Nevertheless.
Now Stephane asks about the word Hazel. I get to the part about "oil of hazel", a jocular reference to the efficacy of a good drubbing on the character of small boys by routinely sadistic schoolmasters retired from the British military who carry embossed hazel wands as indicators of their regiment, symbols of their rank, and instruments of their power. Stephane hastens to understand, "Sort of like, cleave the ass of the shortstop...?"
Later, at the same table, Barry explains how hard it was for him being named Buck Bito: "If it wasn't Fuck Bito, it was Buck Libido."
All along our route, people have been claiming, to our increasingly dubious ears, that Vera is the greatest club in Europe. And so it proves to be, in its unassuming way. And Groningen is a spectacular little city. Imagine one of the great American college-towns like Ann Arbor, or Austin, or Athens, but in a thousand-year-old stone metropolis.
Job has Gary, the Korn sound-man, beat, longevity-wise. Job is Vera's doorman, has worked there 22 years. Absolutely everyone has played here, but his favorite bands in all that time have been: Bo D, Doc Sam, Freddy Fender, and Hector Jimenez & his Texas Tornados. Hmmm.
22 years ago the main University student political group in Groningen split into two factions, the political and the cultural. The cultural wing started Vera and the political wing more or less withered away. Which is not to say that Vera is not as intensely political as the groups that run 9 out of 10 of the venues we've played over here. Possibly more so, if only on the basis of how well they cover the bases in the area of presenting live music. They are owned and governed strictly co-operatively by their employees.
They put us up on the top floor of a very sweet and comfortable little hotel five minutes by bike over cobblestones from the club. They have made a beautiful poster advertising our show, and give us the remainders. They have seen that we got some promotion in the press, and given us a four-color 2-page spread in their house zine. There is a nice big stage, a nice big room, and great sound. The food is superior Thai takeout - just right.
The stage crew is there to help me every time: when I'm done with a chair or prop, someone is there to catch it. After I jump on the tv, causing it to explode, a guy runs at my signal and fetches me a broom. When I want to slow-dance with the 9-foot, domed-foreheaded, Dracula-collared alien-ambassador figure that stands amid the stacks of equipment backstage, a clearly fragile and laboriously constructed theater-prop, it is the club manager who helps me manoevre it up onto the stage.
Three encores. What can I say ?
Carrying out the remains of the television after the show, I pass by Jennifer who looks at it and gives me her grin and goes, "Nice set."
The next day, I ask Carmelo how late he stayed up. He goes, "Buck was cute and drunk - I was wet, stoned, and wasted - and the women were frightened." I don't think I need to know what the hell this means.
Somewhere around the border to Belgium, we see a billboard with a prominent slogan. Since we have learned to expect the use of English in mass advertising, even though the words are in Dutch (or is it Flemish?), we read them as though they were English: "We doen wat we beloeved," it says, and I distinctly notice little murmurs of agreement ripple through the van.
Carmelo tells us about the time the Milan cops had him in custody for setting up a strictly illegal show at a squat that had spawned a riot, and how he wiggled out of it by giving them an e-mail address for the "responsible parties".
In Leuven, outside of Brussels, my note-taking for this journal reaches a wierd genre-crossing epiphany when, mid-performance, I'm concerned I'll forget some little observation. Might as well go ahead and incorporate writing in my little notebook into my shtick.
Going-on 6 thousand miles, it's getting tiring to be in the van. There is a small flurry of 500 rummy. I kill Gina, and my rapaciousness brings to mind certain aspects of band-touring culture. A few days ago I've received an e-mail from Sara that says (though in a separate context), "Males tend to compete continuously on every level, and even the least competitive man can be drawn in, in a group of 3 or more."
On our last morning, I wake alone in the huge echoey upper story of the ancient mammoth waterfront grain silo that is our squat/venue, called Silo, and locate the film-can with the ibuprofen for an unprecedented morning headache, and make a very small discovery. After a while, Carmelo emerges from somewhere down the long hallway of studios, and even though we are now rushed to get to the airport, I get him to accompany me to where I know there is a window open, looking magnificently out over the Amsterdam harbor. I open the film canister and introduce two newly-hatched Austrian yellowjackets to their new homeland.
August - ow-khoost, stress on 'ow'
Nuremburg - nyoorn-boorg
Siegen - zee-gen
Bremen - bray-men
Weser - vacer
Linz - lince
Tomas - toe-moss, stress on 'moss'
Drehli - dray-lee
Pecs - paich
Daniel - don-yel
Danny - donny
Croatia - cro-osh-ya
Ljubljana - lyoo-blee-on-uh
Stephane - stef-on, stress on 'on'
Job - yob
Silo - see-low
Amsterdam - ahm-ster-dom
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