Hey there. You may have noticed that the tour updates have stopped recently. My computer crashed and along with it a lot of notes and the Mannheim and Regensburg, Germany updates were lost. We're currently in Russia where I'm rewriting my notes and keeping notes on every day here, so be patient and when I can all the stories (+pics and videos) will unfold here... just... delayed a bit. :(
Rote Flora is my favorite venue on earth. It is to hardcore venues what Notre Dame is to Churches. It's an awe-inspiring Cathedral of Core containing 2 show spaces, a skate park AND a rock climbing wall. For serious. It's something that an American hardcore kid could only dream of, a venue of such perfection that it almost hurts to visit because you know you have to leave. Rote Flora as a building has been around in some form or another since 1888 (housing operas, a cinema, and a department store over the years), but has been squatted (legally) since 1989. BEHOLD:
This was our third time playing Rote Flora. As we loaded in (meaning: everyone but me loaded in) I stood outside taking photos and thinking back to shows gone by. Feb '09 with Bishop. June '08 with Anchor. Reminiscing has a tendency to make one feel old and as I reviewed a little video I took of the streets of Hamburg for a friend and noticed the fine lines forming around my eyes, I really felt it. Walking back over to the entrance to provide moral support for those loading (meaning: take more pictures), I ran into my Hamburgian friend Lexi.
"Yo Lexi, how long have we known each other? I know we met on the Anchor tour but when did we start talking?"
"It was before myspace- I think maybe on friendster. It was.... '03?..."
2003. 9 years ago. God Damn. My shock was obvious. Lexi smiled. "...we're getting old!"
From a rocking chair suspended in some endless nirvanic moment, Father Time tipped his hat to me.
Lexi brought me my very favorite German condiment- an oily fried onion and apple spread that tastes like heart failure. I carefully tucked it away in my purse with the intention of taking it back to the States with me (...but actually devoured it a few days later in the van while driving in Poland.) Inside the big, freezing cold kitchen of Rote Flora we were each given a burrito, then because we are insatiable pigs we immediately went and got Thai food after.
Hamburg is a cool city. It's kind of the quintessential oh-my-god-punks-run-Europe city. At eye level there's political graffiti and gigantic wheatpastings on everything, black-clad kids walk the streets and if you peek into any of the independently run little shops lining the streets you'll see them working and shopping too, flyers for bands you know and like lie pasted every few feet leaving you with the impression that while tonight you may be playing a show, yesterday you missed a sweet one, and tomorrow there will one even better. Looking down and looking up you'll find the old-time grandeur and quirky earthiness that Europe is known for- cobblestone streets, ancient buildings, eco-conscious miniature cars, and folks from every walk of life cruising around on their bicycles (even in the cold.)
Back inside it was apparent that there would be no heat. It was so cold that it was fucking crazy. Like the wild west of indoor weather- no rules, no bullshit, straight shootin' ice. Gloves on, jackets on, hoods up, and breath visible we set up merch and eventually set up to play, and eventually, started playing. The show started late, and like at least half of the shows on this tour the only bands playing were us and Wrong Answer. They played in jackets, we did the same, and at the end of the night we had barely broken a sweat because the cold was that intense. The crowd in Hamburg was fun as always. We video taped the set and I was so excited to show you all... but it got deleted by accident. :(
After the show we stayed with the promoter who lived above a falafel joint, a falafel joint that upon running out of falafel gave us fried broccoli sandwiches instead. They were absolutely delectable. I don't know if I'll ever eat falafel again.
The apartment itself was an efficiency. Now, while we're not the tallest band on earth, Wrong Answer is comprised of freak giants so the floor was a mess of limbs and heads against walls and arms crammed under furniture. Justin had to share the promoter's bed with him because he literally couldn't fit anywhere else. I had to stay in the fetal position all night in order to not be on top of someone else.
Let's talk Euro showers. There are a lot of different varieties, all of which are exotic and weird to Americans. Tonight's shower was an ankle-deep tub with a wrap around curtain. Listen- I don't really know what happened while I was in there but when I got out the floor had at least 2 inches of water on it. Like, 5 or 6 goldfish could have lived there no problem. In a panic I leaped out and frantically mopped with the bathroom mat, and in my haste knocked everything, like seriously everything in the bathroom onto the floor. My clothes. The toilet paper. My toothbrush. I was as graceful as Allosaurus in a ballet. Because the apartment was very cold the bathroom stayed wet all night and dude after dude came out of the bathroom with wet feet, grumbling to me about the ruined toilet paper. Let it be known: I am a moron who doesn't understand how shower curtains work. I don't know what happened that day in the shower in Hamburg, I may never know. All I know is how I woke up the next morning: to the soothing sounds of the Kingdom/Wrong Answer "Symphony Of Asses."
The venue where Angry Youth Fest was taking place would be better described as a compound. There were 2 levels: upstairs contained the stage, a bar, a kitchen, and warm, clean backstage #1, then downstairs there was backstage #2 (this one a bit cold, a little grimy, and filled with Germans smoking cigarettes), showers, and concrete hang out rooms (stocked with beer and soda.) Germany can always be counted on to feed you right, and tonight was no exception. Coconut curry, vegetable stew, rice, and fried spring rolls. (Vegan, of course.) We ate until we we'd reached the rolling point then all spread out across the venue. I went below to freshen up. While blow drying my hair in the bathroom I was walked in on 3 times- by an Italian, by a German, and by an American. Ahhh, the diversity of a European festival!
Upstairs some kids sold cheap vegan sandwiches, the 7 or so bands on the fest (which in America would just be a show) sat behind their merch tables, and I had a reunion with some old friends from Belgium. After awhile I excused myself to go downstairs and workout in one of the empty chambers of the compound. I could hear members of another band in an adjacent room having what was perhaps one of the most embarrassing discussions about girls I've ever been witness to- and keep in mind I've been on many tours with/around many single and DTF dudes. But these guys were different. Rather than sounding like your average tryna-slip-it-in-er, they sounded like a bunch of 6th graders with only a vague idea of what a nipple looked like which was somehow grosser and lamer. They talked about going to see Oathbreaker not because they liked the music, but just to look at the singer. (Classy!) I heard one of them say something like, "Girls in Europe are like coffee- so many varieties!" When I was done working out I walked through the room they were in and they all fell silent. Usually I introduce myself to like... everyone... but fearing these dorks might cum in their pants if I made direct eye contact, I walked by without saying a word. It's possible they're still talking about it today.
Get It Done who I was unfamiliar with before played an awesome set, and then Wrong Answer played and got one of the best reactions of the night. Mad moshery and such. It's nice when people like the right bands. Actually while I'm on the topic of Wrong Answer, let me just say: They're great. In fact they're kind of the definition of great in regards to a hardcore band. Right riffs, right attitude. They care enough about what they do to make something with depth and quality, but care little enough to keep it fun and punk.
Awkwardness blew over our set like a thunderstorm over a Floridian summer day- quick, fast, and hard. It was excruciating. A set that would never end. A horse shoe so big you could build a house in it. Stares so blank that I wondered if people were taking open-eye naps. Yawns. If you've ever seen us you'll know that I'm rarely at a loss for words, but between songs I bumbled, rambled, and made next to no sense. Ouch.
Back at our table, Dave got his first chance on tour to use his German skills. Dave, for the record, speaks 7 languages (English, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian, Russian, and Chinese... no big deal.) I walked up as our friend Zeger and his friend Mascha were listening to him in awe. Mascha told me how amazed she was at his accent, and then whipped out her phone and said she had to video tape it for her friends because no one would believe it if she just told them.
After the fest was over, we were all hungry. Kevin and I went out to get fries for everyone, and the only place that was still open was a pizza shop run by German-speaking Italians. (Man, where was Dave when you needed him?) After trying to pantomime "fry" for awhile and using every word I've ever heard them called "frite? french fry? potato? ... pomme frite?" they understood.... and told us they could not oblige. They offered us pizza instead. We shook our heads and stood there for a moment wondering what to do while they spoke in fast Italian behind the counter. "Ok, we make." Staying open 20 minutes passed their closing time, these guys made 8 $1.50 orders of fries, packing each one carefully and wrapping it in tinfoil, keeping the orders that came out first in the oven so they wouldn't get cold. This would never, ever happen in Philly. Maybe there's somewhere in America where this would happen (Kansas?) but there is no pocket, no corner, no single shop in Philly where the workers would have the patience or desire to help foreigners, and even if you visited Philadelphia in every single parallel universe it exists in, there would not be a single one in which anyone would stay open late to make fries.
Back in backstage #1, both us and Wrong Answer had laid claim to various floor spaces (leaving the smokey downstairs for the smokers to sleep in), setting up a little fort here, taking over a couch there. Deafheaven, also wanting to avoid the cold and smokey annals of the compound came in with their stuff as well. The promoters from the fest brought in and assembled cots for everyone, and then we all did what we do (the dudes went on Chat Roulette, I did pilates and wrote, Justin hung on his phone, Dave read) while in the background Deafheaven talked amongst themselves. I overheard the singer, George, saying something about someone confronting them earlier at the show, and curious to what happened (and always loving a good old European honesty story) I asked.
There was a photo of their drummer, he explained, wearing the shirt of a band called Hate Forest while they were playing that surfaced on the internet. Hate Forest is NSBM (National Socialist Black Metal) and for those who don't know, The National Socialist Party is literally the extended name of Nazi (Nazional-sozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei) and those involved with that particular movement are fascist neo-nazis. At Angry Youth Fest, an attendee has approached George to ask what the meaning of wearing a neo-nazi band's shirt was, and George explained that Deafheaven is from San Fransisco where these things (fascism, neo-nazism) don't mean the same thing, because they are like, "so far removed" and like "super liberal", but he "like" understood "why he would be so sensitive" about it "given their history and everything."
Let me tell you a story. A friend of mine used to be a racist skinhead. The way he got involved with that scene is through seeing someone he thought was cool wearing shirts of racist bands, bands which he then checked out. He spent several stupid years listening to his friends read from Mein Kampf and talking about how blacks and Mexicans were a serious problem, then thankfully wised up, saw the err of his ways, and lives now with his shameful past (where he has to do things like tell the outspokenly anti-fascist Jewish girl he's out on a date with about his neo-nazi tattoo.) He was floored when I told him about Deafheaven wearing the shirt and downplaying its significance, importance, and meaning. Deafheaven is on Deathwish Records, and maybe you heard, but that's like kind of a big deal. Despite that it was their first European tour and much more popular bands played the fest (certainly not us, but AYS for sure) Deafheaven headlined. A lot of kids are going to be looking to these dudes and KIDS NOTICE EVERYTHING. Look at my friend. Nothing you do is insignificant no matter who you are, but your actions become especially significant when you are in a band, and even more so when you are in a band that's getting popular.
When you wear a shirt promoting fascism, you are promoting fascism. No one is removed- not in "like, super liberal" San Fransisco, not in Essen, Germany, not in the fucking Bermuda triangle. It's so ignorant and second-hand embarrassing that Deafheaven defended and made light of promoting fascist bands (especially because you know they're doing so ironically- though if accused of that would claim the band had some killer riffs or something) when over here in Europe fascist hardcore, metal, and punk is huge, and neo-nazis are a real and constant threat. (When we played Fluff Fest in 2009 there was a display of all the people neo-nazis had killed recently... it was a very large display. We've also played shows that were attacked by nazis, and seen kids have bottles broken off their faces for being anti-fascist.)
Struck dumb by George's words, none of us said a thing. It was too surreal. It reminded me of a few days before we left for tour when I watched a man get attacked outside of my house. He screamed for help over and over and over while a guy threw him into the street and I stood there frozen at my window, watching in the dark, totally transfixed by the insanity of it all. It wasn't until the next day in the van when we all started talking about it that the gravity of what has transpired hit us. Is it kind of lame to write about it here without talking to Deafheaven first? Perhaps. But this blog goes in sequential order and we're not playing together again until later this week and I see no point in stopping the presses for them.
Later, Dave told me that after our set George had come up to him to ask how it went (admitting to not even checking us out, thanks dude) and then said that he "gets the same feeling" watching Oathbreaker as he did from us. Later Justin said, "What feeling? That there's a girl in the band?" Uh, yes. That George has a keen, keen eye. Especially for someone who doesn't watch other bands. Watch out world.
(Also this has become a joke on tour- if anything has a girl involved with it, it "really gives us the feeling of like, seeing Oathbreaker" or, like Kingdom.)
The next morning I retold the story of the Hitler mask in Denmark to another dude in Deafheaven, and he said, "Woah, a Hitler mask? I like, thought they were like sensitive about that over here..."
These dudes didn't seem like bad dudes, just dumb. And Europe, they're on tour right now. If you see them perhaps you could explain your "sensitivity", they don't seem to quite grasp it.
Squatting behind the dumpster with my pants at my knees and ass out in the freezing air, I thought of all the times I'd attempted this (only somewhat successfully) and widened my stance. Above me a Swedish flag billowed in slow motion like a gigantic blue bat wing. The hollow clanging of a flag hoist against a pole struck out into the night, dampened by the silence of the snow. The van was parked in front of the empty gas station about 40 feet away. It was just me, my travel toilet paper, and 0 degrees on the side of a desolate and bathroomless Swedish highway. 30 Days Of Night on my mind and a little spooked, I got down to it.
Carefully watching to ensure that my stream didn't do anything wild, I started to go. Instantly a mushroom cloud of steam flew up between my legs. Blind to lower happenings, I started to panic. If I wasn't keeping an eye on things, anything could happen. The stream could break into 2 and go down my thigh or I could just start spraying like a hose, the ways in which I could urinate on myself were literally endless! Cursing, I crab-walked in the snow, whizzing as I went, bent over with my face toward my crotch, trying desperately to monitor my flow. When it was over, I checked my ankles with my one gloveless hand. They felt dry, but then again it was cold I probably wouldn't be able to tell anyway. I jogged back to the van buckling my belt as I went, got under my sleeping bag, and drifted off.
We sat in the van in the belly of a Danish ferry that was about to debark at any second. When they'd announced 10 minutes to docking, we'd all gone down to the auto level and stood around the van because as we all knew, the second the gate opened the hundreds of cars around us would all start driving off, and we had to drive with them. But Justin was missing. We waited, and waited, and waited- and he never appeared. The gate opened and we were forced to leave and Kuba asked the guard where to go when you lose someone on the boat. After an extensive search and about 30 minutes later, we found him clutching his baggage with a lost look on his face. But rather than tell you what happened, I'll let him do it:
We got to the venue, Fryd-1000, early. It was a graffiti covered punk bar, a familiar sight in Europe but never one you get tired of. Inside we met Peter who was perhaps one of the most accommodating promoters I've ever encountered. Within a second of walking in he offered us coffee and tea, told us where the bathrooms were, gave us the internet password, and informed us that our band quarters would be ready shortly- he just needed to finish cleaning them up. There would be showers and laundry, and dinner later in the evening. He then provided us with directions to falafel and cheerily walked away to prepare.
Back at the venue, Peter led us up to the band quarters. This venue- again like so many in Europe- was a magical place where you play and when you're done you walk upstairs to a super-clean room that resembles a summer camp cabin or a really big slumberparty. Bunk beds, mattresses on floors, stacks of towels neatly folded, pillows... it's insane. At least for an American. Peter showed us the level for the other bands first (as well as the beverage fridge which he had been thoughtful enough to arrange by band so that we had a straight edge shelf, since, he explained, we couldn't read the labels and he didn't want us accidentally drinking beer.) It was so dope I was instantly jealous... theeeeen he led us up a second staircase to our room. All jaws fell.
The room was bathed in golden sunshine, glowing like the dream it was. The entire ceiling was a window held in place by huge wooden beams. Anti-fascist murals lined the walls. 2 heavy bags and a speed bag hung, and between two beams there were... are you ready for this? MONKEY BARS. A weight bench and weight set were tucked in the corner, and up the wall there was a ladder to nowhere. I dropped my stufff, kicked off my boots, and jumped up and down from mattress to mattress for like... 5 minutes. Maybe 10. Dave and Anton kickboxed on the heavy bags. Other people flopped down for naps. Kuba sat online on the couch. Life was fucking good.
"Did you hear that the first band crashed their van on the way over??!" I was trying to strike up a conversation with a Danish guy in one of the other bands. His look hearkened back to the Sid Vicious style of yore- leather jacket, tousled hair. Behind us dinner was laid out on a long wooden table in a clutter of steaming plates and bowls. Everyone stood in line clutching empty plates eyeing the fixins. Thick vegan chili, guacamole, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, tortillas. This to a band is like pizza day to a 2nd grader. People milled around, trying to roll their overstuffed tortillas and failing. Forks clinked on plates. Beers and euro-colas went table to lips, lips to table. The Danish punk's face showed no sign of emotion- not for my interest in speaking with him, not for the burritos, not for the band that crashed. He shrugged, said "More food for us.", and walked past me to get his portion.
Something we noticed about the Danes we met was their tendency to ask you questions they had literally no interest in the answers to. Here's an example:
A guy from the Danish band interrupted a few of us chatting to ask about our tour.
"You're going to Russia?"
"Yes! For twelve days!"
"Where in Russia?"
"Um... 12 different places?"
...and he looked away.
Downstairs Wrong Answer was being filmed for a spot on Danish news. I sat in the dining room on my computer chatting with someone from back home, telling him about the incredible hospitality we'd been shown in Aalborg. "Wow, they really love you there!" This was favorite band treatment for sure. This show was going to RULE. And it was time for it to begin...
I made my way downstairs full of burrito and coffee, relaxed and clean, feeling more like a bar resident than a band member. Wrong Answer was on stage sound checking. Dave stood behind the merch table. I looked around. Giant green mowhawk. Dread mullet. Spiked leather jacket. A beer in every hand. Every hand on or near the bar.... across the room from the stage. Justin called for everyone to move forward. From the bar everyone looked over with the passive interest of cows watching a passing car, then went back to their beers and conversations. After a couple of minutes, a couple of people wandered toward the stage.
"We're Wrong Answer from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania... thank you... two... for checking us out"
As their set went on people came over and got into it. A line of people locked arms and headbanged against the stage. The mohawk guy ran into the crowd wearing a mask. From where I was standing it looked like Nixon. He took it off and Justin pulled it on and attempted to sing with it on for a song. When it was over, he took it off and looked at what it was. My eyes had been a little off. It wasn't Nixon... it was Hitler.
"Oh jesus I should have looked at this before I pulled it on...." Justin laughed awkwardly on stage. Pames, Ivan, and I stood on the sidelines laughing hysterically. I went over to Dave to get his opinion on doing our One King Down cover.
"I don't think these people know what a 'One King Down' is."
Our set was very similar to Wrong Answer's. Headbanging. Head nodding. Beer sipping. The only thing we sold was a tape, and I think it was more because of the benefit aspect than for our music. After our set I sat on a bench by our table cooling off and a bearded hippy-crust punk came over and offered to smoke me out. I politely declined. He offered again. Again I declined. He offered again, and this time I explained that I was straight edge, and when that didn't seem to register I explained what straight edge means. He stared at me for moment and slurred, "If everyone gives what they have, everyone will have what they need. I have weed..." and I said, "but I don't need weed, so now there's more for you!" He leaned toward me, made some strange movements with his hands, and stumbled off.
So. Here's the deal. We are no one's favorite band in Aalborg, Denmark. In fact they don't even know who we are. Peter is just a really, really nice guy. Before he left for the night he gave me a bag of sandwiches to take with us the next day and told us that any time we wanted to come back to just let him know.
Up in our band wonderland we were met with some other harsh realities. For one, there was no heat in that room. It was around 10 degrees outside. Anton had climbed the ladder to nowhere and saw that it lead to a little storage space where there were the following instructions written:
CLOSE THE WINDOW WHEN YOU ARE DONE HUFFING GLUE
On the level below us the other bands stayed up getting drunk and screaming until 5 am. I sat down there online for awhile and a guy tried to take my computer from me ("I need to check something, it's ok?" "Uh, no dude.") and a few others, while grabbing beers from the fridge spoke in Danish, then in a mocking tone switched to English to say something about not drinking and looked over at me, then as they walked by they all broke into a drinking song (in English) and laughed.
Too cold to shower, I crawled into my sleeping bag dirty and shivering and caught my usual 3 hours of sleep before it was off to Essen, Germany.
I stood in the middle of the venue, my guaranteed-to-stay-warm-to-negative-forty-degree boots on my feet, thinsulate jacket zipped and buckled, hood up over my thick knit hat, gloved hands in my pockets, and absolutely freezing. It was the kind of cold that shuts your body down bit by bit. First with glacier face, snowman hands, freezer feet, and ending with what feels like amateur icicle acupuncture (the sensation of being pricked at a rapid speed with surgically-sharp shards of ice, generally starting in one's thighs moving upwards slowly causing what is it known as "the weather venom effect", which for ease of explanation I'll just say is similar to being bit by a cobra.)
A few feet away the dudes went in and out the open loading door with equipment, Scandinavian wind whipping in and sweeping away any remaining body heat left from the show. I hopped from foot to foot. I was equipped for nights like these. I made sure to pick up all the necessary winter wear, but man, no amount of impermeable superfabric could protect me from this. I looked over at Robin, the promoter, who wore wet canvas sneakers and a thin jacket. He was standing there next to me, talking about the show, acting like we were two people just hanging out- oblivious to the reality that we were two people slipping into everlasting unconsciousness, that if we didn't get out soon we were sealing our fates as future encino men, that scientists in Antarctica would pity us for the the temperatures we were being subjected to. It was lunacy. I grew up in MAINE and this was way past my threshold for cold, what kind of mutant was this Robin guy?! I needed answers. I asked him how he was surviving wearing canvas shoes in the sub-arctic freeze.
He grinned. "I'm Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeedish!"
When we arrived at the venue food was ready and waiting (couscous, mock chicken strips, vegetables, coffee, juice) and everyone laid into plates and cups and found a place to chill. I sat in the kitchen on my computer. There were big happenings in WTFville at that moment and I was trying to fix things. Kuba, our driver, had asked me a few minutes before what we wanted to do about our show in Truro. I had no idea what he was talking about, so going on that my answer was I wanted to do with that show what we do with all our other shows- play it. He went on to explain that it was a last minute show on the west end of the UK and the next day we had to be in Germany which was an 18 hour drive away. It was his opinion that we could not physically do it. France was on the way, he said, we should have gotten a show there. After a quick meeting of the minds (Dave, me, Justin) we decided that rather than play a show we can't actually play we would cancel Truro and try to get something in Paris instead. I wrote to our booking agent to tell him to cancel the show and starting hitting up Frenchies.
I had maybe an hour before our set and I had to find a show. No clue when I'd have internet again, I frantically messaged and chatted. A lead here, a lead there, a maybe, a no. Stress. Robin and other people from the show came in and out of the kitchen to hang out and chat, but I was engrossed in what I was doing and irritated that I had to do it (it's not easy to book shows on a continent you're not from) that I wasn't really talking and probably seemed rude. The trouble ended abruptly though when our booking agent sent me an email saying that the drive wasn't 18 hours, it was 15. 15 is totally doable, though I didn't expect Kuba to be excited about it. Nonetheless, Truro was back on.
Anger's Curse played a fucking awesome set before Wrong Answer, Wrong Answer set it off as usual, and then we played.
After our set I signed the first autograph of tour, which Justin has made fun of me for since. Here's my stance on autographs in hardcore (which I've written about here before)- they're silly. In America they're a no-go 100% of the time. But over here things are a bit different and I think that rather than explain, as Justin told me he would if presented the opportunity, that I'm no better than anyone else and we're all just hardcore kids not fans/rock stars, I'd like to be accessible and say, "Sure! I'll sign whatever!" While I agree it's a lesson that should be passed on, with language barriers and just, differences here, I think that it would be more rockstar to refuse to sign an autograph than to sign one. So I signed our 7", and yep it was weird in that things-in-Europe-are-kinda-weird way, but I appreciate that anyone likes us or respects us enough to ask (or buy the record, or talk to any of us- I almost never talk to bands I like unless we play with them because I get too shy.)
After we finished loading out we headed to our sleeping place for the night- a sprawling multi-floored community center. We had to leave at 2 am to start our drive to the ferry to Denmark so we all stayed up drinking coffee and hangin'. Robin and I talked vegan baked goods and I worked out in the hallway, Justin chilled on his phone, Dave and Kuba napped, and the rest of the dudes insulted a crazy racist old man from Indiana on chat roulette for at least an hour. The man, while yelling things like, "Your Dad is a faggot and your Mother is a slut!" showed them his SS ring and bragged on his nazi import/export business (to which they showed him their asses), pulled out his antique gun collection and threatened to shoot them, ("Shoot your computer you old racist piece of shit!"), and after Kevin showed him his dick he yelled "I'll circumcise you!" and came back with a samurai sword. He ranted about hating blacks and Jews, and then when the dudes pointed out that Ivan is Mexican and asked if he hated Ivan, he said, "No, I like Mexicans! I lived in south Texas for awhile." REAL LIFE.
At 2, we went back out into the cold, said our thank yous and goodbyes to the very nice Robin, and bid Sweden a good night.
Ever been somewhere where people ignore you so completely that you start to wonder if you might be a ghost? This was our experience loading in at the show in Örebro. The running theory (my theory anyway) is that we had actually died the day before this show and our spirits had continued on, pushing forward into Sweden's cold-as-the-grave north completely unaware that when our lives end, so does our tour. That's literally the only logical explanation I can think of for a bunch of people refusing to move even an inch for people carrying heavy equipment, completely ignoring pleas to step aside, or standing directly in front of the merch counter while members of the bands they went to see acrobatically maneuver around them in a desperate attempt to set up. And why else would someone set their soda down on shirts AS they're being laid out if not that nothing we were doing could be seen by the living eye? Ghost bands, ghost gear, ghost merch. Makes total sense. Coffin closed.
We were fed in a freezing back room of couches and inflatable mattresses, all coated in a thick layer of crust and dust. It was the kind of place that makes one think of scabies. We slurped thin lentil soup and bread* ("Ah, prison food!"), shoulders up to our ears and jackets zipped. Then we got news that this room was where we were sleeping that night. Everyone's eyes scanned the tiny filthy space, everyone's jaws hardened, and I... I just wanted to cry. No shower. No heat. No clean spot to sit. No room to even lay down with fully extended legs once everyone was packed inside. These tour times are straight misery, the moments where you promise yourself you will never tour again. Then we got more news: Some of us could stay with the promoter, but not all. Others would stay in the little room. Eyes darted around. Who would stay? Who would go? Without a second thought, I knew that I was willing to turn on each one of my tour mates in order to secure my place at the promoter's.
After the news sunk in, depression settled in some camps and alliances formed in others. Justin and I both agreed that we were going to be among those who went to the promoter's, then, to ease the guilt, Justin added that he was sure everyone would get picked up in the morning and brought to the apartment to shower... so it wasn't really THAT bad. But we both knew otherwise.
Back in the venue, a blond scruffy-faced dude gave me more news: A guy who had booked us/Anchor in '08 and split the show with the door money WAS THERE, AT OUR SHOW, RIGHT THEN. The scruffy dude went on to tell me how surprised he was that the guy had dared to show his face, but perhaps the guy had thought we'd forgotten. Now, I forget just about everything (boyfriend's birthdays, my social security number).. but one thing I always remember are the times I've been fucked over. I looked around the room for the guy and smiled. Dumb motherfucker.
I'd been given a description of the guy by the scruffy dude and I walked around the venue checking faces. Seeing someone that looked vaguely familiar and fitting the description I approached, grabbed him by the arm, and leaned into his ear. I asked if he'd booked us and Anchor a few years back in the area. He shook his head no and laughed. "Are you sure? You look reaaaaallly familiar...." He shook his head NO emphatically, kept laughing, and said, "It wasn't me! It wasn't me!" I apologized for mixing him up and watched the rest of Elapse's set. After, scruffy dude asked if I found the guy. I relayed the story of my mix up and he said, "No! That was him!! He denied it?!!! Wowwwwww...." We looked around... and the guy was gone. I ran outside to try to find him, but it was like chasing a ghost. Disappeared without trace.
Another newsbreak hit the venue floor: ALL of us were staying with the promoter! Eelief and guilt. I felt like Boromir attacking Frodo- sure, everything was ok and my loyalty was back in the right place, but I had to live with the shame of what I'd done (or in my case, thought.)
Each band was resurrected on the stage and the oblivious crowd that had frustrated us all night was awesome and appreciative. The show was so much fun.
After, we went to a place called Max Burger (which Wrong Answer is infatuated with) where I can perfectly illustrate to all the Americans reading this the difference between Europeans and us. Curious if any of the sauces were vegan (to dip fries into), Vini, the promoter, asked the girl at the counter. Let me tell you how this would have played out in Philadelphia:
"You wanna know what? Pshhhhh... I dunno. You wanna see what? The ingredients? For real? Pshhhh. We don' have none. You wan' me to get the what? Package? Fuuuuck I aint' doing all that...."
This is how it played out in Sweden:
The girl behind the counter listened to Vini intently. Her face showed honest concern. She grabbed a list of laminated nutritional info, read for a moment, then told us she didn't believe any sauces were vegan. Then she told us she was going to double check (and we did not ask her to or make a big show of disappointment, we honestly didn't really care that much) and read the ingredients on the box of every sauce they offered, came back solemnly and said, "They all have egg but 1, the sweet mustard. I am sorry."
This is Europe: even at a fast food restaurant people care. Caring about a stranger's desire for fry sauce. Wrap your mind around THAT.
We parked outside of Vini's apartment complex and walked in the excruciating sub-arctic temperature through the maze of entrances and into his place. Inside, we got to know Vini better. What a cool dude he is. Originally from Brazil where he once lived with my/Dave's friend Leo (who now lives in NYC... talk about a small fucking world), he moved to Sweden and felt like he was meant to stay. He became a father, gained sole custody of his little dude, who as we were learning this was running around beating up Pames and Ivan. He works in a women's prison as a... crap... counselor? And he plays in a band called Chain Reaction. Sometimes you meet people on the road you feel really lucky to meet, and he is one of them. Also, for breakfast the next morning he got us.... are you ready for this?....
VEGAN CAVIAR. In 2 varieties.
I didn't try it, but the general opinion was "salty."
Thank you to everyone in Örebro. You were interesting, nice, fun, unexpected, and Vini, let us know when you come visit!
*The soup was delicious and the bread was excellent. A note on talking about accommodations and food: There are times here where I may sound ungrateful, like above where I called the soup thin. Do not misunderstand me, I/we are ALWAYS, always grateful to be fed and given a place to stay. But just because we are grateful does not mean that we don't notice when soup is thin, and even when that soup is delicious, I'm not going to leave its lack of substance out of my description. JOURNALIST HONESTY.
We approached the venue skeptically. The address was right, but... this was it? A library? A library full of middle aged Swedish people and creamy complexioned children? A library with middle aged Swedish people and creamy complexioned children all sipping warm beverages and eating sugary snacks at the quaint little cafe in the back? With local art being displayed? And a room in front hosting an in-progress tumbling/acrobatics class?! This was where our show was happening?
Our walk into this pleasant Swedish community center was akin to a bunch of gutter punks sitting down to Grandma's Christmas dinner. Awkward fucking contrast.This is a part of Europe I'd forgotten. It's not all playing squats and graffiti-covered venues, hardcore across seas can be a quirky animal.
Daniel (the promoter) and Jenny's place (where we were staying that night) was just up the street, so out we trudged into the blistering cold and snow to be fed THE MOST DELICIOUS VEGAN HOTDOGS ON EARTH. Bummer for us, and bummer for you (unless you live in Sweden), they are only in Sweden. But let me just say this- Justin (of Wrong Answer), a staunch believer in the 3-fast-food-meal-a-day meat-filled diet, said that it was probably the best hotdog he'd ever eaten.
Speaking of Justin... after we'd all cleaned our plates several times Daniel offered him more food, and Justin, looking over at the treats baking in the oven, shook his head and said, "Naw, I'll just wait for dessert." Daniel, seeming somewhat startled, carefully explained to Justin that the desserts were not actually for us, they were to sell at the show... but maybe, he went on, if some were left Justin could maybe have some? (Since then there's nary been a situation where one of us doesn't offer ourselves dessert- or better yet, ask Justin if he's planning on waiting for some. "Hey you guys wanna grab falafel?" "Naw, I'll just wait for dessert.")
"Now this is D.I.Y."
Daniel was watching me pull tiny bits of gum from my mouth to attach the back of our tape insert to the front. We were in an office building in downtown Stockholm where all the workers were shoeless (I added my boots to the shoe pile at the door) and I had to pretend to be Swedish (i.e.: not speak) if anyone came by to ask why we were making nearly 100 double sided color copies. It was a lunatic operation. We had started early- ridden the subway into downtown Stockholm with the dudes and split off to make a master copy of the tape art. Seems like an easy task right? Just pop on over to a print shop/office store and you're golden, no? No. Not here.
We started at a mall where Daniel asked shop after shop if we could use their printer- including the information desk at the entrance. This seemed insane to me. Can you imagine asking the mall information desk to make a couple color copies off your thumb drive for you?! I trailed behind him, the mute coffee sipping English speaker, feeling guilty for needing/receiving so much and such absurd help. Daniel told me later that if we'd been working on a school project he would have given up. It's all about priorities you know? Ours were making photocopied inserts for a small run of 2-song cassettes that almost no one on earth would ever see. Punkorities.
Outside perfect snow globe snow drifted down slowly. Ivan, a Los Angeles resident, had never seen snow before. Fucking Europe. Shock and awe man, shock and awe.