After a lunch meeting in which we went over the details of our tour with Andreas and paid some bills, we said our goodbyes to Berlin. Berlin’s boho culture left me disturbed.
Tonite was the Seconds – we were looking forward to it. The club was a classic dump, near the Reeperbahn - Hamburg’s red light district that I never saw and I regret it like I knew I would. Our new driver really wanted to go and he was German and I could tell it was going to be too fucking cool but I was feeling defeated and tired and wondering how the fuck I was going to get through this tour. Honestly – I was bummed out by this club – the sun was out when we arrived but we weren’t on the flier and in terms of Euro venues this shit was a totally fucking Midwest, shit-hole, cement bunker, black paint, CBGB’s bummer. That was my first impression. The Seconds showed up shortly thereafter and they seemed just as fried, coming from London and we were going there. Jeannie played the bass and she was a cool lady – totally brash and funny – Brian (also of the YYY’s) was later making a fool of my rudiments on his shoe before they went on – and Zach was saving his energy for the stage. Their road manager initially got on my nerves but that soon became part of his charm and I turned around quickly. He seemed to be a perennially on-the-road type – and American Londoner with a loud and confrontational persona born from a steady diet of loud rock shows which exhibited itself in contrast to our reserved party. We could take it outside but I guess you gotta pick your battles.
Above the club was our sleeping chamber – basically a room with mattresses and sheets piled up in a corner. Cool – I figured that Germans are generally more hygienic than myself even though this bear of a shaved dog named after a German pop star was barking at us when we ventured upstairs and met the beautiful promoter who’s name I’m forgetting. We conversed after the show for a while looking out on the bay and the container ships and the tankers and the lights and whatever else. I had smoked some weed that the Seconds brought from Amsterdam and the dog was demolishing a fabric Frisbee. The promoter LOVED Pearl Jam and I loved her – I wanted her to take me home but she had the good sense to know better. Instead I think I ended up yelling and then crawling onto a random mattress. I mean, face it, at this point in the trip I was about 4 days w/o a shower. The hotels dried up after the garden of Italy drove us from the gates.
Now I was yelling "Du haste miche" over and over and trying to figure out the proper sequence of German phrases that would charm a hypothetical frauline. I forget the German words now. And come to think of it, I’ve forgotten the English – which is why I’m writing this shit down alone.
But let me just say – it was way cool to hang out with The Seconds in a strange city. There was no one at our show but they were amazing.
Afterwards 2 things happened of note: First Bobby, who the more I get to know him the more I realize he has the weirdest luck, was bounding up the stairs to the dressing room to get more beer probably and he absolutely mast-packed his head into a low ceiling beam. He straightened up, and backed down the steps using every last ounce of his consciousness to do so with some class. I went to get him some ice and in the barren darkness of the dirty club and became aware of the nasty pulse of something that sounded like Suicide with guitars. It was Electronicat and it’s French and kick ass. I just bought the record and it still stands up.
Everyone was sitting around trying to figure out what to do. This is when Bobby put some ice on his head and I had my conversation with Holger about going to the Reperbahn and seeing what happened. This is all second hand so don’t quote me but apparently its literally a walled-off street with posted signs prohibiting women. Or maybe just women who don’t have anything to sell. Well so maybe its fine that I fought a dog for a Frisbee and lost.
Once the night was ending and I had met the people involved with the club and gotten to hear their idealism and appreciated their kindness my heart turned back on itself and was glad of the place. But also glad that The Seconds were there to be our audience.
Not Amsterdam but a city in Holland south of there. I’ll remember it some day. The club was called Vera.
Waking up with the sun and a little German boy who was wandering around the hallways of the club I was demoralized and thirsty. We had another long drive and we had the happy dilemma of being sold out of our merch so JC was being cool and trying to arrange for new stuff to arrive somewhere near us. Customs was being difficult, we were being difficult but the weather I think was still nice.
We hit the road for this other country and drove until we ended up lost in what I’ve come to know are the tiny bike-friendly streets of a Netherlander town. Or it was a city but it didn’t quite look like one with the squiggly streets, little bridges and bikers. I know, I know – that’s Holland but we’re moving so fast and we were only here for a night.
We had to stop, Jane got out of the car and went to ask random people if they knew where the Vera was. Were we in a bad Maine joke from Readers Digest? Apparently, because we "couldn’t get there from here." Until the friendly manager of Vera walked the 6 blocks to our van and led us to the door of the club which was covered with hand screened posters for the show. We were the only band again – which was fine and good – until I walked into the space and saw the size. It was a 500-person club and Oneida is pretty unknown.
About this time I start to forget every single name I came in contact with because this is the time that I stopped writing down the journal as it happened. I was so behind, I was so tired, I was so sick of spending every waking hour hunched over the journal that I freed myself from it and now you’re getting the result for better or worse.
Anyway – the kind manager was very tall and very friendly. We were asked if we wanted any particular kind of lights and we were like, "whatever you want." So they set ALL OF THEM UP. It was like a Van Halen show in there. And at times I probably thought it was.
We waited a long time to set up our stuff while the staff got those lights cranked up. In the meantime we learned that the Vera has been in continuous operation for about 25 years and its run like a commune. The walls are covered with devastating show posters – evidence of an oppressive revue of amazing shit. It becomes apparent very, very quickly that your band is a pile of shit and that you should really just go find a coffee shop and start making quick work of whatever’s left of your ego.
So after sound check, after a stroll around the streets near the club, after witnessing a Dutch approximation of Big Brother and the Holding Company doing their thing on the street (fuuuck), we made use of the freedom of Holland and wandered into the nearest "coffee shop". You probably know what I’m talking about and its advanced culture even if you think the stuff contributes to "a depressive affect" which a shrink told me once. I just was looking for a contribution but I really felt like a 4 year old in that bouncing bubble they have at fairs where the old kids are scary and you don’t know the rules.
So Bobby went up to the bar tender (?) and said that were about to play some music so we didn’t want to get "too high". The tender pulled out a loose-leaf binder out from behind the bar, flipped some pages and pulled out a bag of stuff for us to sample. Or maybe it was like a sommelier letting you sniff the cork? What the fuck did we know? It smelled POWERFUL but he said it was mellow so – fine. But there was this wasted shell of a man in a rumpled suit and loosened tie who reached a gnarled finger in our direction and mouthed, "BE CAREFUL." Next time I’ll listen – I promise!
So back at the club the stage manager dude was a tough, grizzled subtle cheerleader who lifted our spirits backstage when we started to really stress about the fact that no one was showing up. We were watching the end of a really important soccer match on the TV backstage – which I’ve got to tell you was just part of the entire backstage PALACE which included 4 rooms, beds, beers, waters and . . . well . . . the weed that we were rolling into a joint. So this kind man had toured with The Ex and Shellac and had the bedside manner of a king, or a king’s doctor. We fired up the medicine and went easy on it.
Very easy on it.
OK – one more easy on it.
He was really cool though – just letting us know that all of this was OK – and that people were always late, and always showed up to see bands, and not to worry etc. But at the same time – he barely spoke.
So it was time to go on stage and I felt like it would take something extraordinary for me to give an ordinary performance. We started into our improv and the lights exploded in my face – and yes I was lit from above and below – I should have been on a hydraulic lift riding high over the sea of 40 odd people because maybe that would have excused the fact that I totally FORGOT the introduction to our song "Sneak Into the Woods." And can I just say here that "I didn’t feel high at all"? That’s the truth. But I forgot the beginning to the song. It didn’t feel right. I started it all fucked up and we played it for a couple of bars and then I stopped in the middle, which is a BIG NO NO, but I really had to.
So I sat there for about 3 minutes trying to remember the PART.
How do I start this song?
I knew it was DIFFERENT than NORMAL.
It wasn’t just "onetwothreefour" you know just a count like that.
"Just count it off," Jane said.
We were off again. And it was fun def – but not transcendent – at least from my seat.
And then the show was over and it seemed like no one really cared.
I spoke with this girl from New Jersey who was in school there. She told me that there was a RIOT outside. For real. The whole city was in a RIOT. Because there was a rival soccer team in town and the fans were also there so they took the shit to the streets.
"Don’t go outside," people kept telling me. There was an ancient bar in the club from "the middle ages" people said too. So I smoked some more weed and went down into this black painted basement, with really low ceilings that might as well have been the FUCKING MIDDLE AGES. After some freaking out, the ceiling started to want to come down and devour my head. This was after I tried to explain to Holger what being high felt like. He didn’t smoke and maybe he was a straight edge? I’m not sure. If there’s anything that will make a sensible pot smoker sound like an idiot, its describing being high.
"Its like, you know, just the top of your head gets lifted off."
And now I really NEEDED to go outside. But there was a riot raging out there apparently and they had totally locked up the entire building. I went out anyway – Bobby came with me.
The streets were a swarm of people and I was swept up with the current just walking down the streets and feeling paranoia. Everyone seemed to be about to get into a fight with ME.
I turned a corner and suddenly a familiar face loomed out of the fog. It was a woman from the club with a huge bunch of people.
"COME WITH US – WE’RE GETTING SHWARMA!" she screamed at me.
What a wonderful idea. I would go to get shwarma with a group Dutch people while the rest of the town fucked off at a riot. I think we were supposed to go back to the club and pick up Jane or else Jane and me were supposed to go pick up Bobby. But we didn’t – whoever it was. We got some fucking shwarma and holy shit it was good.
About an hour later we were walking back to the club and a Dutch hooligan was yelling, "Oasis!" in my face. I think it was meant to be an insult – like I looked like Oasis?
But now we were locked out of the club. Through the windows the Middle Ages was ignoring us. I pushed through the locked doors (don’t ask me how) and was met with another familiar face.
"What do you WANT?"
"I played here tonight."
"I know who you are," he said with contempt.
"Can we come inside? I just want to get back to bed."
He made us go around the side of the building. Maybe the door was open?
In fact – I remember maybe venturing back out into the night but then what happened??
Shit I don’t know.
I signed the guest book the next morning.
A farmhouse in Belgium with a French woman in fishnet stockings and Quiche
There it was. An old walled farm on the campus of a school, in the middle of a tiny town in French Belgium. Apparently the German and French parts are basically different countries and it goes deeper than I can really cover in the tour diary. Check with Churchill on it.
But we were to be the opening musical prelude to the screening of "Some Like it Hot" – perhaps the strangest bill we’ve played – but it was early – and at this point in the tour I wasn’t angry with this.
And we played in the stone barn with hand carved granite horse troughs and an assortment of redistributed wealth. You know – random chairs and stuff.
The farmhouse was also a relic of another time, threatened by a construction site on all sides – the town and college was trying to kick the residents out and set up offices in their farmhouse home.
They were trying to fight it. I hope they win.
Our host was a gracious late 30yo who looked as if he was 22 or so. And he even had a beard. That was shocking. He was a friend with The Ex. Not so shocking after he told me about all the benefits and community work he was involved with. He was also a tremendous cook!
That’s where the quiche and the French girl came into it. And let me just say – can you get more French girl than mini-skirt, fishnets, and fancy shoes? She might as well have worn a beret.
Then we played our show with filled stomachs but it was fun ‘cause our improv was APPROPRIATE. The barn was resonant of a million things.
And then in my exhaustion, as the night grew cool, they started "Some Like it Hot" and reached nirvana. It was like I could finally be by myself for a moment. Touring is being with people all the time and I craved an excuse to be alone. It was funny to watch an American movie with people reading subtitles. Bobby and I kept laughing at different points in the film.
After the movie I went into the farmhouse, into the kitchen and like a famished maniac ate an entire quiche that had been literally burned to a blackened crisp.
I didn’t want company even though it was available outside. I heard Jane saying that we hated Bush and I went to sleep.
Over the Channel on a Boat with Chips some Seasickness, Dover’s White Cliffs, Left Side Driving and Mental Deterioration
Must say, on the boat I noticed that the Brits weren’t the most beautiful of people. We had run into another band coming from the UK – I think they were about to spend two months in Europe – they were a punk band from Jersey and we eyed each other warily. They were a band, we were a band – something about that diminished us both and the façade of our uniqueness was shattered.
We rode onto the boat and entered the ferry’s class system. The fish and chips were in the back with the engines, which when the boat left the harbor simulated an 6.5 earthquake while I bought my 3 Pound plate of chips alone because I was too hungry to wait for group meal. We split up naturally on the boat finding remote corners, secret spots; sun or shade. I found myself in the middle of a shattered world, there was a family with a couple of kids, and at the time I thought it looked pretty terrible. An indication of my state of mind is how I interpret the representatives of cultural expectations. Why just the other day my kind mother said it was too late for me to get married. I mean who says I want to get married – but what if I did? Now it’s too late?
About the time I did away with hunger, my hunger gave way to a crippling headache, so I went for a coke in another ersatz country lounge for the middle classes. I got a bag of crisps and filled out my dance card with an afternoon of seasickness. Seasickness without the payoff mind you – but my head didn’t know the difference. Nothing would mitigate the pain, the congealed and clinging dull, oppressive pain that settled into my cranium. And it was cold on deck so I sought out the sun.
I found JC and sat on the deck with my head in my hands trying not to move, trying not to think too hard, trying not to look at the people. Jane was absorbed in the White Cliff of Dover that was on evidence when we got his photos back. There’s a full roll of the cliffs.
So this was the state of mind I was in when we climbed back into the van and drove out onto Englandtown and started to make our way into London from the coast. Trapped in another nightmare of captivity – the van had no legroom – sitting in the back equaled frozen joints and loss of feeling in my legs. This also was not a happy contributor to my head while the choked streets of London loomed.
There was another struggle to find the Buffalo Bar, a tiny basement club in the middle of Coventry? I might be wrong but the area had a college town feel and the place we played in 2001 was around the corner. So memories of that disaster were in the air.
There was no parking, so we waited down an alley as Bobby went to find out what was happening. We watched an unsavory type eyeing a passed out drunk on a park bench. This predatory side-street turned into a bit of a show down as our presence seemed to send the bad guy away with bitterness in his eyes. The drunk shook awake, looked around with confusion and his eyes fell back into his red face. He didn’t notice his unwitting guardian angels.
We loaded into the tiny Buffalo Bar, met the great people there, and were delighted to see that Michigan’s own 25 Suaves were there and in need of a show. They had been beaten down by England and were at the tail end of week of cancelled shows. We’d been there. The UK chews them up and spits them out. Oneida barely survived it last time.
The Buffalo Bar is a strange anomaly in a city that has basically done away with recognizable music venues. People don’t tend to see a lot of live rock in London so clubs have the shows early in the evening so they can make way for the late night dance parties. Everyone’s got to make a living but this doesn’t make for a fun time for bands. Anyway – the Buffalo Bar is the one oasis of rock love in the desert. Good people run it so we could accommodate the Suaves.
After our sound check we had a brief respite down the street at a Middle Eastern restaurant that was perfectly good and I ate my fill and started to feel normal. People were speaking English, which was primally comforting.
Apparently it wasn’t enough.
Back at the club we saw our friends Everett and Steve from Careless Talk who decided to put me on the cover of their great magazine – so I can’t fault their taste. But does that mean I love myself? Gratifying as a photo in a magazine is people – it doesn’t change the taste of the shit in my mouth.
Things turned ugly in my head very quickly after the music started and the lights went low and I found myself in the DJ booth feeling a profound IRRITATION. And I don’t use the word "profound" lightly. It was an existential IRRITATION at the cellular level – shit, at the MOLECULAR level. It hit me without warning in the middle of the perfectly good set by London via Austin group Todd, as I was trying to get my drums in order. At this moment I questioned my ability to perform – despair muddled with contempt for all and all; for I and I. I really could not see myself up on that stage playing Oneida music – I knew I had to do it, and I knew I would do it and this was a living nightmare. Nothing else comes close to describing this feeling. Bobby and Jane approached me with the set list and I told them in halting sentences that I was "FEELING. . . REALLY . . . BAD . . . SERIOUSLY FUCKED UP." The emphasis was enough – they knew I was for real – and because they are cool people (aww) they gave the show over to me for better or worse. In a way – they had no choice – it would have been mine anyway – which would have been infinitely worse.
So Todd finished and it was time to set up. I did this part automatically because I could, not wanting to understand that I was about to play.
Listening back to the performance is not fun – we taped it.
I sat at the drums for 5 minutes before I started playing, Bobby and Jane just stood there waiting for me.
Eh. . . I’d rather not go into the rest but I did end up taking off my pants just because at the time I didn’t have a choice.
Anyway – after the show this drunk girl came up to me and was like, "Hi, I’m _____. You gave me recommendations of places to go when I visited Brooklyn."
Sure, I remembered the emails – never met her, was pretty shocked at how beautiful she was. Then she just turned away with a strange finality. Weird.
I was just standing there feeling empty so I walked up to her again and started talking. We didn’t talk about much – I learned that she lived in a trailer apparently which was something she thought was "white trash." There’s something that doesn’t translate when the person who thinks she’s white trash has an English accent. All I really wanted was for her to take me home – but the trailer was not for visitors and took hours on the bus and she wasn’t going there anyway. She was staying on the floor of a friend of ours who lived a little closer. He was the only journalist who’s liked Oneida since before our first trip over there in 2001.
So it was late, and I wasn’t going home with anyone and I felt particularly hollow, insular and inhuman. We loaded out and drove about 45 minutes through the streets of London and I sat and watched the cemeteries go by in deep regret of what I had not tried. I could have asked her what she was doing the next day – maybe we could have met up. I was in that desperate state which accompanies exhaustion and mental illness – it was sweet though – not entirely unpleasant. When we got to Tony’s house he was waiting for us, bleary and a little confused but he stayed awake as we drank some beers and I asked him if he knew our friend’s email where this girl was staying. I was going to write to him and tell him that I really wanted her to come to the show the next night. It was undignified but it was the best I could muster – I had no other option.
Of course the instant I sent the wretched email off I felt profound regret but at the same time I didn’t give two shits about it. I was gone.
Saturday – The Underworld with The Heads
I woke up with oppression on my mind – everything Oneida was distasteful – and I’m sorry to say this included the members of the band too. See – we love each other. We’ll do anything for each other – I trust this implicitly – I’m not worried. But I was sweating the small stuff as we walked to get an English breakfast – which is, if you must know people, as humble as you’ve been told. No one gives a crap about food in this country – and the cruel sun was hammering down on my little head and I had left sunscreen in the van back at Tony’s house that was 15 uphill blocks away. But I didn’t care – I ordered my food and walked that damned walk to get the sunscreen. In disgust, I was blaming my band mates for the state of the sun – a truly ludicrous state of mind but true for whatever reason.
We ate our food and I just had to go back to Tony’s house and sit and read a book about Oasis that was really cool actually. I sat in his small kitchen with my grimy clothes just evaporating themselves into the air and tried to off-set my depression with talk of the Labor Party’s relationship to Blur (who apparently have some song on a Mars probe) – modern life is rubbish.
This respite, while the other guys went wandering on the neighborhood, was welcome and revitalizing in a small way. Little things mean a lot on the road – the longer you spend on the road – the less you need to do just to cope with the personalities – which just magnify in close quarters. I was feeling better when Bobby stuck his head in the kitchen to say hey. We had to get to the Underworld for load in.
The Underworld was akin to its namesake. A basement cavernous, flat black painted dungeon of a place – that did shows and then hosted a dance party afterwards to pay the bills. Rock is subsidized by dance music – which is how it oughta be – I know some people find this offensive or something – but people just want to feel good and dancing gives you that. Rock gives me a door into myself – its very isolating at its essence – it highlights my isolation. I think dance music is by definition less beholden to this kind of thing. I don’t know. Anyway – it pays the bills so we hit the stage around 11pm I think.
So I wore my white pants and we loaded in, set up on stage, did a sound check and ventured out to find some more mediocre sustenance – and what do you know! We found it in a sweltering fish and chips place that refreshed my ennui. So this was the last European show, we were back in London – an indifferent city; your two faced friend who calls you up when she thinks you can help her score some weed. I wasn’t sure if she was going to call tonite.
We were trying to get the Suaves on the bill again for this show but it wasn’t happening – it was too strict at this place so I called Pete and I told him that we couldn’t have them on the bill.
"That’s cool – we’re at a castle right now – just chilling the fuck out. Its good."
We talked about how fucking hard it is to tour and we got cut off in the middle of it. It is hard – I mean – so what that its hard – I ain’t crying – but that doesn’t make it any easier. I was standing in the British equivalent of a frat bar drinking a pint with Jane and JC just feeling like a freak; really alienated by everything. Bobby was off somewhere.
It was a total heat wave – there really wasn’t anywhere to get relief. I wandered off to one of the side streets and stopped at this crappy bookstore and browsed until they closed the doors. Then I went back to the club and someone stopped me and knew I was in Oneida. I remember an exchange that was kind of strained – a couple of kids were big fans, and this third dude was just too cool for school – didn’t seem to like anything – not sure why he was there to see us – or if was there to make me feel smaller. God sent him.
But then I saw our UK journo friend and he was with his gf and the woman from the night before – I was kind of hoping she didn’t come because – well I was too nervous to really deal with it. She didn’t even look at me when I greeted the group – she just stood there looking bored. But I said hello anyway and she kind of returned the greeting. Fine – whatever.
We got some drinks in the bar before the doors opened and we talked about the Melvins and other rock things. X just kind of stood there and I was thinking, "Wow, why did she come, why did I ask her to come, why am I just talking about rock bands with this guy???"
We got to talking eventually though – which was nice. It made me feel human again. The doors opened up and we all went down into the Underworld.
White Circle Crime Club weren’t terrible but The Heads were truly inspirational – it was their first London show in 2 years and they had brought a light show along with them which flashed shards of multicolored light along with the driving energy of the performance. It was like seeing a punk Hawkwind – it also brought me back from the dead. Apparently they usually play for a lot longer but we were in London where they love their schedules.
Before the Heads started we met the insane guys in charge of Rocket Recordings who released the vinyl version of Anthem of the Moon and who release Heads records and will be doing a single with us as soon as we get our shit together. I loved those guys – they were crazy in the best possible way – full of energy – cursing London – insisting that we visit them in Brighton the next time we came over – which we will happily do next time.
Anyway – The Heads were amazing and really set the bar for our set which was a serious struggle for me get ready for – but the audience was great and we had the pleasure of a light show provided by the kind dudes of Rocket (if I’m fucking up the details of this and you’re reading this – you can set me straight – this is just what I remember). So anyway – the show came off really well and even the great Geoff Travis was there and said hello after the set and told me that we reminded him of Soft Machine! Hey alright! I’ll take it.
So – in order to make room for the ecstatic lovers on the dance floor they seriously rushed the ecstatic lovers in Oneida out the door. The set ended, the house lights came up and they literally dragged people away from the stage and dragged our gear out onto the street. I’ve never been a part of a scene quite like this but they couldn’t kill my good feeling.
Thank god we ended the tour like this.
But X was nowhere to be found – I looked and looked around but she was gone. I thought what I thought and we drove back to Tony’s for a second night with our great friend Lisa from Three Gut Records who’s doing Secret Wars in Canada! Alright.
So that was the tour people. Thanks for waiting.
Kid Millions Dec 6, 2003
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