65daysofstatic: A Tour Diary - Part 2
Part Two of a glimpse into the road-ravaging world of 65daysofstatic...
I declare Berlin the greatest city in the world. With a history that is steeped in equal parts thriving culture and terrible violence. Uncontrollably sad and undeniably exciting.
In keeping with the ‘Velvet Underground Rule’ imposed by Joe late last night, as we opened up the sky hatches and gazed upon the clearest night sky I’ve seen since Norway two years ago, I rise and dressed in black. Lou Reed has got a lot to answer for.
Another life affirming spring day. Tea, tour wash (a bottle of water over your head in a car park) and a startling realisation that we are 50 metres, on the Eastern side of the remaining Berlin wall. Only startling because I’ve never seen it and have been thinking about finding it since we started 4 days ago.
After a brief discussion about transport we decided not to rent bikes from the ‘Beach Squat’ and Neil, Joe and I headed across the road to catch a Metro to The Brandenburg Gate. I implore everybody who finds themselves here to master the Metro system. Nothing quite makes you feel cemented within any city than riding the trains.
The Jewish memorial. Heading across the street from the heavily guarded American embassy I have sudden sinking feeling. The holocaust unfortunately seems to have been whittled down to the staggering statistics and disbelief. Today I felt the sadness. For the first time I was hit with unbridled wave of sadness and realisation. The horror and the insanity. I kept thinking what a beautiful thing it is to feel that from 2711 rectangular granite blocks.
It is a fantastic memorial that isn’t stuffy or inappropriate. As you walk through, sidestepping children running and laughing, the light streams through from all directions. Making what should be the darkest parts sliced open with light.
The city is not without its scars. One of them we stumble across quite by accident. The bunker is now a grass and sand car park and low grade apartments situated not 100m from the memorial itself. It still manages to stir rather eerie feelings as I crossed it alone to take a picture of a grisly and stark looking silver birch in the centre.
From there we needed respite. At the Fischmarkt we sit in the shade and watch people shop, couples kiss and families take lunch together. A swift Gin and tonic and we hop back on the train for a well timed arrival for load in.
My first major equipment malfunction arrives in the form of a broken stool. Not something you anticipate. As Frank attempted to fix me up a replacement (desk chair/Folding chair/bar stool with over sized cushion) he quite rightly laughs at me. Maybe I should cut out the Guinness.
Thought for the day. Once you remove yourself from real life everything becomes clearer. Decisions are easier and responsibilities are almost none existent. Touring is the simple life.
Legs don’t fail me now.
- John Farnham – The Voice
- David Bowie – Low
- Nothing until Si brings me some whisky. Ahhh…here he is. Thanks Si
It's ten four ten. A WOW!
One of my favourite European pastimes was fully indulged last night at a bar that served gin in ¼ pint measures. Table Football, Foosball or, quite simply, Foos. Frank selflessly allowed me to beat him several times. When he beats me in the next few weeks I’m imagining a celebration of biblical proportions.
Right now we are careering down the A2 towards Amsterdam. Coach, who has already put a heroic amount of driving already, has managed to somehow shave an hour off the journey. I can’t work out how he’s managed to do it, with the maths he’s given me, but it’s a good thing. Si has just brought me a cup of tea and my sore throat seems to have shifted to the other side of my throat. I’m taking this as a good sign.
From the uniformly concrete architecture of Dortmund to the elegant design of Amsterdam and the worst restaurant I’ve ever been to. We should of guessed when the sullen waiter barely listened to our order, got it wrong and then told us we were wrong, walked off and left me with undercooked food.
I walked out. The first time I’ve ever done that. Memo to self. Never eat at The Pancake House near the Paradiso ever again.
Undeterred by terrible food I made it my mission to find a good place for dinner. God bless Google maps. On the other side of the canal, passed the Guinness pub which I shied away from because of the drum stool debacle, in a more upwardly mobile part of town there is an Italian delicatessen. It made the non-existent Italian side of me weep for my nonexistent homeland. 16 Euros later. I had happiness in the form of all things that are pasta.
After a tiring but thoroughly pleasant show I got to hang out at the KONG party. We are all really happy to have them here. They are all fully ace. Jon Lee cracks me up and then we’re talking about his work with deprived kids in Manchester. Mike (Kong’s T.M., affectionately known as ‘Big Slice’) tells me about trying it on with Girls Aloud. I have a spellbinding conversation with Mark about ‘the nature of things’. Must research DNA codes. Fully pro and a pleasure to be with.
I can tell I’m becoming increasingly more unwell but head back upstairs with Paul, Frank and Joe to have a look at the club. Packed to the rafters with some very happy people. I take a sideline and watch those three tear up the dance floor to some impressive if not a little thin sounding house music. I really enjoy watching people dance when you know that they’re not thinking about anything. It’s all very primal. Expressive and exciting.
- Moderat – Moderat
- Dean Koonz – Cold Fire
The creak of the trams and the rattle and clang from the trains going over the bridge form the soundtrack to this morning. This is the 3rd time at the Luxor in Koln and the sun is indeed shining. Looking out onto the familiar road we are parked on I have a productive morning pairing, first mine, then Pauls socks. (He probably still doesn’t know that I’ve done this). Tidied up my clothes that I’ve exploded around the bus and walk 34 yards to the hotel to make things better. There is a woman in a blue fluorescent puffa jacket asking for autographs and in her heavily accented English she tells me it’s for her son and daughter who are travelling to the show tonight. She is going to greet them off the train, before doors, and give them several signed photos. She has been stood in the doorway to the club for at least 3 hours. What a wonderful thing. We offer her lunch but she declines. We offer her water which she also declines.
The staff are as familiar as the surroundings and Joe gets a big hug from Moly the big stage manager when we arrive. We are about to hit up the enormous music shop just down the road for sticks, skins, power packs and a stick holder as requested by one of the two newly christened percussionists in the band. Dodging past more autograph hunters Frank, Joe and I walk to the music store. A few Euros lighter we race back in a cab to make load out 5 minutes late.
I opt out of the trip to the Indian restaurant, after sound check, and instead go for Pizza, red wine and David Simons and Ed Burn’s Generation Kill on the bus. The pizza (I have this on good authority) is from the best pizzeria in Koln and I have a quiet hour to myself.
Steve (Lulu) and Tom (Griff) from Kong have been bitten by the D & V bug. I suspect it’s the Steak Tartar. Dressed in his red pants which he has ominously painted the word ‘chocomel’ onto the back, Lulu looks like he’s concentrating on not shitting himself. I watch them rip through the best set I’ve seen them play.
Paul Simon’s Graceland is the point of order for pack down and load out.
We nip across the street to Stereo Wonderland and the evening descends into Frank, Joe, Neil and I doing what I think is a powerful, if not loud, rendition of the Momma and The Papas California Dreaming and Queen’s Somebody to Love. Harmonies and fist pumping and everything.
Looks like we’re Oscar Mike.
- LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver
- Bombay Sapphire and Tonic, (Ice, no fruit). Again.
Giant snow capped products of tectonic and seismic activity. We are surrounded by them this morning. The foreground doesn’t quite do the background justice but the background is spectacular enough to obliterate the idea that we are actually in a dusty grey car park.
I’m in the mountains.
Sound of fucking music.
I am writing this from the apartment of Isabella and Flor. I have never met these people but they have invited us into their 4th floor apartment to shower and eat. We sit and talk about touring while sharing tea and listening to the BBC news whilst gazing out the window at the view. It’s quite blissful. I say how pretty it all is and she quite rightly points out because she’s lived here for such a long time she doesn’t see it.
People who live near waterfalls stop noticing the sound.
Frank, Pete and I are escorted to the venue by Flo. We pass through a beautiful Japanese park complete with a natural geyser bubbling away next to a still pond that reflects the blossom and the mountains in all its glorious Technicolor and Dolby 5.1
The stage today is 3m x 4m. I get on it to do what we do every day and try and find some more. You’d be surprised sometimes venues hiding bits of stage. Frank builds an extra foot on the front. We’ll be cosy but we’ll be good. I can see Frank is slowly flagging. He looks like he’s folded in on himself. So I suggest we get out of the venue, which is becoming more and more oppressive and head to a pizzeria down the road that I spotted on our way in.
We sit in the window and sip our domestics as clubbers and partygoers stream past the window. Trying to make it pay. We talk about the tour and eat 2 great pizzas.
We let our dinner go down in the contemporary glass fronted office that serves as our dressing room and I work on some photos. We have a brief visit from Probably Radio Guy and SS had to almost physically make him leave. In a stroke of genius, to counter act the amount of Cheese on Toast Rock (Post Rock) that is being poured over by people next door, someone suggests we start the changeover music with Party Hard by Andrew WK. It was a magical moment. No one can take themselves that seriously. Spring Break.
Tonight’s show serves as a reminder that, if not properly managed, shows can quite quickly get out of hand. With Paul, Si and Joe tight for space and with Frank on the floor we try and try to put on a show whilst maintaining some crowd control. Safety first. Fun last. I’m watching SS on one side trying to hold back the dancers, moshers and general well wishers and watching Frank on the other side wearing a frown so fierce he looks like Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Military precision load out. We’re chasing the show tonight.
Spring break question mark?
- People singing 'Mountains' – Biffy Clyro
A gentle knock and I’m awake. Not wide awake. Frank, Deaf Pete, Joe and I share pastries, fruit juice and tea over a thrown together utility trunk table and Peli case chairs as we set up. Its real boys own stuff. There are lots people we know working this show. Another European indoor festival. Luxembourg. A rather dapper looking Sasha from Mutiny on the Bounty gives me a warm handshake and makes me feel at home.
After sound check the other bands start arriving. I have a fun half an hour talking to Joe from Tubelord. We talk about our mutual record label. Berlin. Moving to Berlin. Bowie and The Thin White Duke (did he go to Berlin and come back with a drug addiction or come back clean?). A lack of community in the UK music and arts scene. His relief to be out of the UK is clearly palpable. He’s a very engaging and all round good dude.
The sun is shining and I ruin my washing. Slice also ruins his washing. My Health t-shirt has turned from all the colours to none of them. Afternoon drinking with Kong solves that. It’s the kind of session that reminds me of drinking with Mike Diver at Hove Festival in Norway. Cheers, Mike. We are in the middle of nowhere and a fruitlessly uninspiring trip to the super market confirms my own disinterest with rejoining real life. Si and I find a quiet spot in the remaining sunshine and eat pasta. He tells me about the PETA interview he’s working on. Can’t have medicine without animal testing. It’s a troublesome subject.
The whole group spends a gruelling 5 hours from dinner to stage time. It inevitably runs late. I spend the time alternating between sitting in a chair, talking to Kong and hanging out at the merch.
I do, however, have a very pleasant isolated 20 minutes pouring over a seemingly local distro that is set up. Most of the vinyl I’ve never even heard of but to my absolute surprise I find the music to the cult, puzzle, point and click computer game Machinarium. On 12” vinyl. Also pick up Growing ‘Live on gorgeous clear blue. I end handing over 40 Euros (the rest of my P.D’s)
There are fucking ants all over my computer.
40minutes to go.
I meet 2 guys, Frank and Raphael, after the show. They have driven over 1500km to be at tonight’s show from Italy. When I point out that we’re in Italy in 2 days they just laugh and say that they will be there as well.
They are Adventuring. They are Adventurers.
- Tubelord – Playing right now.
- The Wind Up Bird Chronicles – Huraki Murikami
- Jack and Red Bull.
Roma. The skylight is open and I can feel the heat on my palm as I hold it out of my bunk. It’s a bus park. It looks like the place where vehicles go to die. Stalking through the discarded shells of Trucks, Tuk Tuks and Morris Minors in amongst the undergrowth are a pride of stray tabby cats. Panthers. We empty some cases from the bays and everyone rejoices in the sun. SS buys us a wonderful surprise breakfast. Marmite on toast, croissants, coffee and tea. Our rides here.
Paul and I jump in the back of David, our hosts, tiny blue Citroen Saxo and race through Rome towards the hotel. A note on Italian roads.
This isn’t Nam, Smokey, there are rules.
This is Italy and there are no rules. Everybody seems to be doing everything all at once in their cars. Shouting, eating, beeping, pulling out without looking and crossing the road at the same time. It’s almost symbiotic in nature. Streaming past layers of graffiti painted on top of graffiti we ponder Italy’s accident statistics. I love this country.
We walk from the hotel past holes in the pavement that are filled with cherry blossom. It looks as if someone has hit a seam of it underground and it is exploding upwards. At the gate of the Init we are greeted by another old friend: the venue cat (Dudes Cat) who keeps us company the whole day and tries to steal our food.
The working part of the afternoon starts with Deaf Pete fixing the PA which is the start of a series of technical problems. I skip out with Si and our driver, Alex, to what only can be described as a music mall. I finally get some new cymbals and head back to find Pete still fixing the PA. He is frowning. A lot. I clean and re skin my kit. At one point sealing my drum key inside the drum. That’s what I refer to as a ‘drummism’. Like pulling on a door for ages until you realise you have to push it.
There are people dancing on the PA throughout the entire show and Si ends up in the audience during Tiger Girl.
The night ends with me DC, Joe and I harmonising to Jeff Buckley. I find out I can sing and get pissed at the same time. Multi tasking.
This is day 17 out of 44.
26 gigs to go.
See you on the road.
Thanks for reading.
- Radiohead – In Rainbows
- In the sun.