July 22nd, 2007

Tour Diary: Part 2, July 10-17, 2007

The flight to Greece is relatively painless. We have a lot of crap and try to sort it all out before we arrive at the airport to prevent getting hit with outrageous overweight fees on luggage. We manage to escape any major dings thanks to our tour manager Oliver Nielsen and backliner Theo Thorne. The two of them counted and weighed everything the night before even brought a scale to make sure as airlines are getting more strict. We are all dazed from the early morning wake up call as we stumble into the airport, pass security and into the nearest cup of coffee.

Greece proves to be very relaxing and very hot which makes the Tucson contingency slightly homesick as we walk from the hotel to the nearest restaurant sweating as we go. We are on a night off and celebrate with fine Greek fare. The waiter showers us with a steady stream of small plates or Mezedes. Some of our favourites are the octopus, saganaki, and revithia keftdes. After dinner some take a stroll to the beach, Oliver and I head to the hotel’s rooftop lounge for the spectacular view of the ancient sites all lit up at night.

Tuesday July 10th and my day starts a little early as I am taken by car to the Greek State radio and do some interviews. I ask about classic Rebetiko singers and am handed a list of the following names from the 1920’s-60’s; Sotiria Bellou, Marika Ninou, Markos Vamvakaris, Vassilis Tsitsanis. Seems that our band’s music and Greek music share a love for the minor blues, maybe this is why we’ve had so many great concerts here in the past. Our only Greek show this year is held at an olympic baseball field in the suburb of Hellinikon in
Athens with Sophie Salomon, A Hawk and A Hacksaw and Beirut. Like most mediterranean shows the set up time and technical details are relaxed, so we hang out a while soaking up the sun and say hello to friends in AHAHS and Beirut. We ask them if they want to join us for a couple of songs in the encore which proves to be wild and bombastic, just the perfect medicine for this crazed Greek crowd. We end the night with a Les Negresses Vertes cover, “Zobie la Mouche” and an a cappella version of “Take me out to the ballgame.”

The next morning we board the shuttle to the airport with fellow friends in Beirut bidding goodbyes at the check in desk as we head to Darmstadt, Germany. Still waking up by the time we arrive to the club we scramble for a fast sound check as the doors open early tonight. Dinner here is incredible, the cook at the Centralstation venue serves up spicy Indian fare and fine wines. The show that night is a little jarring as we have been playing outdoor festivals in a higher gear. It takes half of a set to adjust to the more subtle dynamic. After the show the rain starts to fall outside as I walk around the town making long distance calls to home.

Our Swiss bus driver Axel from Pilot Reisen Bus Company has been very helpful and has offered to sell tshirts and CDs at a few shows. Normally the bus driver sleeps during the day on the tour bus and drives all night,
but since his drives are short on this tour he has been getting involved with the show. A big thanks to you Axel!

We meet up with longtime Tucson friend and musician Chris Cacavas in Karlsruhe for an open air big tent festival. I had a bit of a cold from all the flying, but feel leagues better after the show and join Chris and the band at the local rock n roll bar called Alte Hackerei. Great big pilsner beers on tap, foosball, birthday partying and an old stained glass window that reads, “wiener in freund”. Hot dog!

By now the band and crew have their sea legs staying up till 3-4am drinking and watching bad movies on the bus, ya know stuff like Claude van Damme and Arnold Schwarzenegger a month of “final fight scene Friday night specials.”

I wake up the next day, Friday July 13th, to the sound of a massive PA system checking a kick drum, over and over and over until I get up and put my headphones on. There’s no escaping it. The bus is parked alongside several other sleeper coaches in a sprawling outdoor area at Nuke Festival in St Polten Austria. Crazy title. It’s hot and humid today, even the backstage is hot because there is no cooling. No swamp coolers or nothing. Air conditioning is too expensive, so everyone just sweats together. We meet members of the French group Babylon Circus and invite them to play a couple songs with us. We make a party out of the rehearsal backstage, exchanging anecdotes about the festivals in Europe and enjoying some of the local Austrian red wine, which is surprisingly very, very good. The show is a lot of fun, and even more so thanks to our new friends in Babylon Circus.

Saturday is a rough travel and show day. We fly to Finland to play for the first time ever at the Ilosaarirock Festival. Wishing we all had a day to stay, watch more of the local bands and see the sights. The show was a lot of fun and seemed too short. We’d love to return again.

Ahhh another travel day, this time we have a night off in Kassel Germany. Martin and Volker meet up with their girlfriends. The next day we play at a small tent near the River Fulda. Some of the group manage to wake up early to go check out the Documenta Art Exhibit. The show that night is alot of fun, good friends, family and location. This is one of those events that you wish you could invite all of your friends to, it is hard to explain, but there is always a great vibe.

The next day we travel a short distance to Erlangen to help celebrate the E-Werk Kulturzentrum’s 30th anniversary together with Lambchop. Here’s some photos from the show, check out James Murray’s inspiring projections and lighting. At the end of the night we join bands to cover a few Vic Chesnutt songs “When I ran off and left her”, “Maiden” and the signature tune “As Time Goes By” from the classic film Casablanca. If you haven’t seen it, you will thoroughly enjoy it. Then go see Cesar et Rosalie.