Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Euro tour update #23 Prague, Czech Republic- Fluff after party/ my birthday!

After Fluff Fest we lounged our way to Prague in our new gigantic van with our friends from Richmond, Hate Edge and Mary. (Dead Vows and their mini-coop went back to Sweden.) We stayed up giggling late into the night and at some point someone realized it was my birthday. I am now 27 years old.

The next morning we went to my "birthday lunch" which was terribly coordinated and no one we invited came (I personally invited all of Fluff Fest during our set. After the set people asked me when and I shrugged. This kind of planning could have something to do with it being a bust.) I got what I had been set on ordering since March when we planned this tour. Vegetable needles with peanut sauce:

Then we walked around Prague:

This was my favorite show of tour. I'm asking Dave right now if it was his favorite as well and he can't decide, but says that it's in his top 3. Pierce is asleep in the loft so I can't ask him. Anyway, point is- this show ruled. It was us, Outrage, Wait in Vain, Reconcile, and a band from Portugal called Together. There were kids from Russia, Finland, Ukraine, and basically everywhere else in attendance. The room was so crowded I couldn't get close to watch the other bands. I played in my birthday dress and felt ridiculous, but that good kind of ridiculous like the kind you feel on Halloween. People laughed with (or at?) me, since I lacked anything to wear with a dress or time or place to do my hair, I paired my beautiful black satin dress with high top tacky-like-Jersey-Shore silver and gold fat-laced Baby Phat canvas sneaks, a plastic cake pin I got at Fluff Fest, and a backwards Wayne's World hat. But really, if any outfit was to sum up my 27 years of life- that would it.

A few words about Kingdom: We're not for everyone. (I think Trapped Under Ice is the only band that can actually stake that claim.) We don't draw huge crowds, we don't sell zillions of shirts, and we probably never will. We're vegan, we're straight edge, we only have 1 breakdown, I sing too fast for most people the learn the words- we're not an easy band. But whatever our appeal (or lack thereof), we're the band we want to be. Being ourselves has grown us accustomed to shows where a small group of people know us really well, the rest look on bobbing their heads. Our sets are rarely filled with Have Heart-style pile ons or Terror-esque mega pits. However, this night was not our average night. Due to Fluff Fest ending the night before and most people's flights leaving Prague the next morning, every kid that liked us in a 6 country radius was at this show.

Our set was amazing. An explosion of dives and sing-a-longs, with no air left to breathe in the humid little venue, and no room to stand anywhere- not even on the stage. At one point during our set I looked out at all the familiar faces from places we've been over the course of this tour and realized that the small group of people that knew us well was not-so-small. And as I watched our old friends, new friends, and those yet unmet all glistening under those green surface-of-the-sun hot stage lights, dancing to melodies written by my dearest friends, and screaming out lyrics I wrote in my tiny pest-infested bedroom... it became clear to me that my life had taken me to the exact point, to the exact place, that I've always wanted to be. And all the things I "sacrificed" to get there? (Going to school, making money, acquiring nice things, etc, etc) I never wanted those things. All I've ever wanted is nights like this one in Prague.

After our set a few kids approached with a chocolate cake that they had baked for me before the show. Out came a lighter and a single candle was lit, and in the company of total strangers, flattered and happy, my laughter blew it out. Then the dudes, some of the kids in the other bands, the kids at the show, and I all devoured the cake in a matter of minutes.

Together had been held up getting to the show and it was assumed they were no longer playing, but during our last song in they came, just in the nick of time. On stage the singer mentioned that it was kinda rad that the opening band playing last, how hardcore seems to have a hierarchy of "headliners" on top and then everyone else below. It was a perfect thing to say, especially as we all lingered in the after-glow of Fluff. This band had only been around for 3 months. This was their first tour. They tore up the stage, and kids tore up the floor. I stood at the back of the pit in my satin dress, smiling. "This next song is a cover..."

They played "New Direction" by Gorilla Biscuits. I have seen this covered one million times. I have seen this covered one hundred times on this tour alone. But the amazing thing about that song is that it never gets old. Dave ran from behind the merch table and I left my quiet observation behind as we charged the stage with everyone else. The band stopped playing and the crowd screamed together, "REBIRTH OF HARDCORE PRIDE!", then the guitars came roaring back in. I forgot that I was on tour, I forgot that my band had played just 15 minutes before- I was another kid at the show, screaming the words we all knew oh-so well, words that were the perfect way to end this evening.

The set ended, people filtered out of the show. Handshakes and hugs, circles of conversation grew smaller and smaller as people left, and eventually it was our turn. Back in the van, Dave spoke in an echo of my own thoughts. He said that during Together's set he had forgotten we were on tour, and felt like he was just another kid at the show, and that it felt great. That was the just kind of night it was. We don't get many of those, and don't think that we ever take them for granted. Thanks Prague.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Euro tour update #22 FLUFF FEST PICTORIAL

I wish Fluff Fest happened every month and I always had a way to get there. This is a perfect hardcore fest. It's where bands big and small from all over the world play in front of thousands of kids who are actually paying attention. Where as many people watch the opening band as the headlining band. People camp around the fest*, vegan food is available from morning to midnight for 1-3 euros and it's delicious, there are no fights, and after the shows end the merch/small stage tents are turned into karaoke and dance parties.

*Unless they are me. The only thing I wanted for my birthday was a hotel room for Fluff, Dave got it for me, and I enjoyed long, hot showers, toilet paper, a lack of insects, peace and quiet, and a soft bed with space to roll around. It was lovely.

(I only took about 5 photos because I was too busy having fun to grab my camera.)

Rad bands that played:

Ray- Moscow, Russia
Glasses- Germany
To Kill- Italy
Zann- Germany
Death Is Not Glamorous- Norway
Fall Of Efrafa- UK
Reconcile- Argentina
Tesa- Latvia

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Euro tour update #21, Bratislava, Slovakia

The venue, Obluda, was perfect. We arrived mid-day and waddled in, still full of pizza, to two merch tables covered in food for us. Everyone but me was able to pack some more in.

I loved this place. It was the ideal venue for everywhere. We should all have this place. It would be amazing. It was a room that any hardcore or punk band could play... some band of 15 year olds could play their first show here and it would be cool, or Bane could play a record release show and it would be sweet. The room was the perfect size, the benches along the wall were ideal for short people who wanted to be able to see over tall people's heads or headwalkers, the stage was the right size and height, the lighting was flawless, the bar had lots of soda for the straight edge kids, band graffiti covered the walls. I walked slowly around the room, reading notes from my friend's bands.

Dave and I sat outside and made this, and went back in when it was about time to play:

Our set was a lot of fun. A few people knew us, and those that didn't watched us anyway, heads nodding along. After we were done people hung around the merch tables talking to us, saying nice things, telling us about themselves. My friend Martijne from Belgium was very randomly there and I was so excited to see him, since I thought I hadn't seen him since our Bishop tour over the winter.

"Dude what have you been up to in the last 6 months?!?!" He stared at me. "Davin, I saw you a few weeks ago at Pressure Fest. We talked for 10 minutes." What? I scanned my memory. Nope. No way. Didn't happen. "You kept saying how tired you were." I remembered being tired. (See our first entry on this tour to read about our jetlag and how sleepy we were at Pressure Fest.) I apologized, asked him to forgive me, and to start over again since I was now awake and very curious about him, even though, apparently, he had already brought me up to date once. We talked for awhile, joked about Kingdom being zombies at Pressure (practically falling asleep between songs), and then he confessed that a friend of his had gone just to see us that day and said they were "disappointed" and "had expected more" from us. "Aw mannnn tell her to come see us again!"

I noticed that a lot of the kids at the show tucked their shirts into their pants. Bands shirts, wife beaters, boys, and girls. They reminded me of old men in public parks. I also noticed that the men in Slovakia were some of the most old-school traditionally handsome I had ever seen in my life. First, I caught sight of one Clark Kent by a record distro, then saw another by the bar, then I took a slow inventory of all the men in room and realized that I was at a show attended by absolute super-men- young and old, thin and thick. These guys were chiseled, square-jawed, stern eyebrowed, blue-eyed, dimpled-chin super heroes. It was almost eery. (I write this as an observation rather than a way to inter-flirt with an entire country- I am quite in love with my very own handsome American dude.)

After the show we split up with Dead Vows and stayed with a very nice kid at his Grandma's house. He, his Mom, and his Grandma all lived together, but to accommodate us staying there his Mom and Grandma were staying the night with friends. His Grandma had stayed up waiting for us to see if we needed anything- water, tea, extra towels, vegan snacks. She didn't speak a lick of English and mostly motioned and smiled at us. It was so cute. She whipped up some curried squash before she left, even though we had said we weren't hungry. Just goes to show that Grandmas are Grandmas no matter where you go. :)

We stayed up late swapping stories with the dude we stayed with and his friend (really I mean that I told Dave's stories about working as a mover in Philly- being ordered by his boss to stay in someone's house while they were screaming at him to leave, taking people's stuff hostage and driving off with it to get them to pay, getting chased down the road by said people, etc, etc, etc...) and slept deeply in nice, comfy beds.

Day 2- Slovakia

We arrived at the bar to be met by a huge pot of seitan stew that tasted like an all-in-one Thanksgiving. After catching sight of the people congregating in and around the bar we realized we were in for an interesting night. It looked as if a Slovakian Hot Topic had gone from being a store in a mall to being a store attending a show.

As soon as we set up merch, two thin, tall, long-haired metal dudes toddled over each bought one XL black shirt (these were the only shirts we sold all night.) Next to us a Jukebox offered a wide variety of "extreme" music. Dave pumped in some change and out flowed the sweet songs of Biohazard, Deicide, Cannibal Corpse, and Fear Factory .... that is, until the hour-long song check started. Got to love the hour-long sound check....

...and love of course I mean hate. There are two things that drive me absolutely insane: sound guys at tiny clubs that take their jobs way too seriously and run around adjusting and readjusting mics for hours, and drummers of opening bands that play blastbeats for 45 minutes before their set. You probably agree that both of these types are annoying, but would argue that it's generally a forgivable offense as these people mean no harm. But imagine encountering these people on a nightly basis for a month and a half straight. While you're being fed dinner. While you're trying to catch up with your friends in your very limited time with them. While you're enjoying a few moments alone in a corner with a book. These people's intentions stop mattering. They are no longer eligible for understanding, acceptance, or forgiveness. You want to snatch all the cables and drumsticks out of their hands and hit them over the head with them. You want to scream, "YOU DON'T HAVE TO SAY 'CHECK' INTO EVERY MIC 50 FUCKING TIMES... THEY'RE ON! PUT THEM DOWN!" or, "YOUR DRUMS WORK! STOP PLAYING!" But as much as you'd like to do that, you don't. Nope. You sit behind your merch table and you frown. You exchange tired looks with your bandmates. If you're Dave on this night in Slovakia, you furiously strain your ears, in vain, and eventually give in to the sound check and slump down in your chair, defeated.

While Dave and I grumbled about sound check, Pierce went walking around town. He decided to climb the fire escape of a building (don't ask me why, Pierce is a strange guy.) As he was on his way back down a man stood at the base of the ladder, yelling at him in Slovakian. He was a regular looking dude in normal clothes. Pierce apologized and started to walk back to the venue, when the dude grabbed him and slammed him against a wall. He then, still yelling in Slovakian, dragged Pierce to a room in an indiscreet building where 4 other plain-clothed guys were playing cards. The guy dangled handcuffs in Pierce's face, and flipped him back and forth against the wall, yelling in Slovakian all the while. The dudes sitting down all had guns and handcuffs. Pierce, with no fucking clue what was happening, who these people were, what they were saying, or where he was, gave up his, "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have climbed that ladder!" to, "Does anyone speak English?", and when that was a no all around, to, "Um, ok... welll uh... I'm gonna go now..." The guy pointed to the door, and Pierce left.

W. T. F.

Our set was as strange as expected. Push mosh, twirling, and the two blackmetal dudes with one foot on the stage, one arm raised in the "metal" sign, heads twirling in time with our songs. People seemed genuinely into us and we had a ton of fun playing. Like I said before, it ain't home, so I've come to accept whatever is there to greet us when we get on stage. I pumped my fist to the bass drum, Dave added extra squeals, and as I looked out at the sweaty black-clad crowd, I felt like we were Guns N Roses before they got famous.

After the show girls tried to get Pierce to "go for a walk" with them. They also asked for his number. He had to explain over and over that he had a girlfriend and that he lived in America, his phone didn't work in Europe, and they couldn't really call him. In response, they asked him to sign their stomachs.

Back in the van we all laughed about Pierce's bizarre day, shared our final overnight drive with Dead Vows, to our last show with them, and a show we'd been eagerly awaiting- FLUFF FEST!!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Euro tour update #19, Kumanova, Macedonia

We spent half of the day driving through northern Greece, stopping here and there to pee at gas stations. They were nothing like the gas stations back home. Instead of Taco Bell/KFC combination Shells with a shitter around the back that's out of soap and filled with flies, these were privately owned, landscaped gas-and-snack resorts. Flowers bloomed along stone walkways that lead to huge, wooden doors, where upon entering you were swallowed up by a beautiful wooden room, bathed in sun, with baskets and barrels in every shade of brown and beige. Locally made delights took the place of name brand potato chips. Soft coconut candies. Halva. Huge sheets of baklava sat in oversized tupperwear containers on wooden tables. Buckets of nuts lined the floors. Shelves were filled with stuffed grape leaves, stuffed red peppers, stuffed fried eggplants. A cafe started inside and spilled onto a lush patio. Aging Greeks in loose but stylish clothing talked loudly and drank espresso. This much culture... at a gas station?

Macedonia. Where the hell is that? I knew nothing of Macedonia, had no idea what to expect. I imaged us playing in a perfectly preserved medieval fortress filled with knights and wooden wheeled buggies and probably dragons.

We met the promoter at his house. He was far more hardcore kid than medieval knight, which bode far better for our show than my imagination's Macedonians had. He brought out dinner- roasted potatoes, some kind of wheat-meat (which, btw, is very tasty and very cheap in eastern Europe- like .80 for a bag the size of a box of cereal), and a stew. I made myself a plate and sat on the stone steps beside his house, flowers bending in the breeze next to me, kittens playing at my feet. I took a bite of the wheat meat, and traveled back in time... back to... what was that flavor? I chewed in fog, scanning my memory bank for what I was eating. Ribs! Ribs so soft they're falling off the bone! I looked down at my plate. That was fake, wasn't it? It was stringy like meat. It smelled like meat. It tasted like meat. Oh no... But he kid had said it was vegan. Hmmm. Dave went to find out. "So, this stuff is really good... what's it made of?"

Wheat gluten. It was wheat gluten!!! Holy shit! I couldn't believe it. I scarfed the tender vegan ribs, the "chicken" stew, the roasted potatoes. Shit, this is one of the best meals I've ever had. The day was off to a great start. And it was going to get better.

Kumanovo is an interesting, culturally rich little city. Pierce, Dave, and I all wandered around town and all agreed that it was one of the nicest places we'd been in awhile. Buildings curved around corners, fell and rose with hills and dips, squeezed together so tightly they reminded me of a sandwich with too many things inside, like at any moment a building could pop right out of the ground and shoot up like a rocket (or like a pepper out of a Govinda's cheesesteak.) Old was crammed next to new, things distinctly Macedonian were smooshed in with things western. For example: next to the bright, modern venue teeming with punk rock kids was a blacksmith. Like literally, a single middle aged man with blackened hands in a sooty room with no floor, nails and axes and sickles that he had made hanging around him, and in the center of it all, an anvil. Then next to him was an ad for the new Ice Age movie (dubbed in Macedonian), next to kiosks selling little toys, crackers, pinwheels, next to a sprawling nike store, next to a small, Macedonian dress shop, so filled with women that I could hardly get around.

As we wandered around and back to the venue, next to the woman selling chocolate popcorn made in a movie theatre popcorn popper, Dave and I saw a man charring corn cobs on a tiny broken grill. We went to investigate. Vegan, 1 Euro. We were in. While our cobs cooked we talked with him and the popcorn lady in simple english. They couldn't believe that chocolate popcorn wasn't a common thing in America, the corn man was in a gypsie band. That was about all we could talk about before we ran out of words, and our corn was done. The man salted them and put them back in the husk, then handed them to us. I'm not sure how, but the grilling has almost made the kernels gummy, which sounds gross but was actually delicious. We munched all the way back to the venue, which had filled up, and after a few games of spider solitaire (a most addictive game that came with my computer), it was time to play.

The crowd was a mix of hardcore kids, alternative types, and other young, interested parties that I wouldn't be able to categorize. Surprising to us, some people knew the words. I felt really relaxed all day and hadn't bothered putting on a bra (which I always wear but this day I was like, "fuck it, I'm in Macedonia... I'll just air out."), which I hadn't thought I'd notice- and I hadn't as we walked around- but as I got to jumping around on stage... holy shit. I felt like they were going to bounce and break right off of me. It was painful, like running up the stairs in the morning before you get dressed... ladies, I know you feel me on this. By the second song I had given up being airborn in any way, even walking across the stage was done carefully. God damn.

It'd be awhile since some good ol' European honesty, so after our set we got a dose. "You guys are good..." Oh, thanks! "... but your drummer is killing you." Oh... thanks... (for the record our drummer was a fill-in)

After saying our thank yous and goodbyes we piled back in the van for another overnight drive, this time to Budapest- but before the van door closed, a little kid that is best described as a real-life Macedonian version of Bart Simpson, walked over to us with a smirk on his face that read "watch me fuck with these chumps", held his hand out demandingly, and shouted "MONEY! MONEY! MONEY!" Some people in van the van said no, some laughed, Dave told him that some people across the street looked like they had money, I told someone to close the door, but before any of this reached the kid or be done, good ol' Hell-Bent reached out and shoved him. I'm serious. He actually pushed a 9 year old.

"Dude did you seriously just push that little kid?" Silence. If I disliked Hell-Bent before, I fucking hated him now.

Next to the van, the seemingly unharmed Macedonian Bart Simpson lit a cigarette. We pulled out and drove silently into the night.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Euro tour update #18, Athens, Greece

I awoke to people yelling "We're at the beach!", stumbled out of the van, and peered out through sleep-crusted eyes at a beautiful white sand being gently lapped by calm, clear, blue ocean. The sun beat down on my shoulders like I have never felt. I am going to burst into flames. I rubbed my eyes and looked for shelter. Ahhh, there we go. A giant straw umbrella offered a little bit of unoccupied shade a few feet from the water. I ran over, under, curled into a fetal position, dug my hands into the large-grain sand, and fell back asleep. After a time I sleep-walked back to the van where it seemed most everyone was eager to get to Athens. (It's like, kind of a famous city or whatever.)

We waited for awhile, baking like cookies in our seats. "Where is everyone? Let's go!" A few feet from where we sat waiting, 2 Dead Vows guys lounged in the blazing sun. I went over to let them know that everyone was about ready to go and psyched to spend time exploring Athens. Hell-Bent gazed out at the ocean. "Yeahhh, well I'm pretty comfortable here." Oh, well shit. Hold the presses, this dude is comfortable. Eventually we all piled back into the van, some of us- not yet fully awake- had, as was the usual, already become annoyed.

At a gas station I found a variety of stuffed grape leaves and eggplant (in a pull-top can, ready to eat), and stayed awake long enough to devour a dozen or so olive-oil soaked dolmas. I fell quickly back asleep and woke up as we were driving through Athens. I tried to summon every memory I had of Athens from history class. Very little emerged. Shit. I even made flash cards.

Despite my ignorance of the exact events, people, and just about everything else, there was a feeling I couldn't ignore in Athens, even just in viewing it from out the van window. It felt like being in the core of civilization. The old, white buildings, their columns reaching beyond my scope of vision, ancient stairs climbing towering buildings that blocked the sunny sky above. Graffiti covered everything, everywhere. Personal and political, the sentiments of the city were scrawled on the walls in a multitude of languages. Despite that Athens seemed fairly clean (not like, say, Philly, where heaps of trash lay rotting in, on, and around almost every street), it felt almost dingy. Like it was Greece's favorite pair of white canvas shoes, worn to death, having walked through the ages, but still managing to look as good with cut off dickies as it did with togas.

We met up with Jim, the promoter, outside the club that was strangely named "Texas" ("Dude seriously we came all the way to Greece to play in TEXAS?") He said the magic words ("You hungry?"), which lead to a cafe where we ate "Greek junk food"- which was to become both our obsession over the next two days and a life-altering event. See, this "junk food" was so fucking amazing that I couldn't put it down to take a photo. Imagine this: a fresh made pita (not pocket like we Americans are used to, but a fluffy, doughy face-sized circle of soft bread), warmed on an oiled grill, filled with fresh sliced ripe tomatoes, paper-thin onions, fresh parsley, and.... are you sitting down? FUCKING FRENCH FRIES.


I could build monuments to this sandwich. I could paint beautiful portraits of it. I could get stranded on a desert isle and be happy to have it as my only company. Oh french fry sandwich, we adore you. Come back to us... come back to us.

Back in Texas, we noticed something strange. The entire club was dedicated to the movie "Sin City". Stills from the comics were blown up and wall papered over the entire place. A giant still of Elijah Wood as that creepy dude in round glasses was printed over 2 giant, swinging doors that lead to the "WC" (bathroom, remember?) I went to the bar to get a soda. A dude with half his head shaved and manicured, black fingernails handed me my sprite. Beside the merch table there was wallpaper with a life-size photo of a windblown goth girl.

As the night progressed we learned that Texas was actually a goth club. Had we not been told that we eventually would have figured it out by the synthetic pink hair and furry leg warmers paired with vinyl skirts that wandered in and out (staff?)

Before the show started Dave got some (more) french fries at a place next to the cafe we had been hanging out at. He came running over to me demanding that I try them. There was something on them, a green herb of some sort. I took a bite. Holy shit... oregano. The heat of the fries had warmed the spice and the result was... words, I don't have them. Let's just say I don't plan to eat fries without oregano ever again. Pierce and I each went to get our own herbed fries, then headed back to Texas to play.

The stage had an awkward fence around it, kind of a mini-barrier. For someone as short as me this was kind of a bummer, but, as always, as soon as we started playing I forgot about it and had a great time. At one point I looked out and saw Peter, our driver, moshing. The crowd in general was pretty chill, I kind of got the vibe that they hadn't seen many bands like us before. People nodded, and watched intently, and after it was done we were swarmed by thankful and supportive words. It was a really great feeling. Not every scene is the same, and I like that. I met someone in Finland who told me that he felt a bit "Americanized" by hardcore, and I've thought about that a lot ever since. I've stopped going into shows in foreign places expecting it to be like a show at home. Why would it be? Why would I want it to be?

We stayed with a very nice kid in his flat on the outskirts of Athens. He said the magic words and we all went marching through the streets in search of more fry sandwiches. "This is the best place for it in the whole city" he claimed as we walked into a shoe-box sized Kebab joint. He was right. Jim had bought us our sandwiches earlier, so here we learned yet another delightful fact about this food-of-the-gods- they only cost 1 Euro each. We bit into our first sandwiches on the trek back to his apartment and realized that one sandwich each was surely not going to cut it. Life is short, and our time in Athens was even shorter. We went back for seconds and thirds, which brought us to 4-6 servings of french fries each that day, with no stomach aches, and not a single complaint.

Athens Day 2.

A show fell through in Macedonia which left us with a day off to explore Athens. Can't exactly say I was bummed. We woke up to more miscommunication (or lack of communication) from our tour mates, who had decided that we were all going to the beach then to Jim's house (where we were staying that night) in northern Greece. After we reminded them that we couldn't go to Jim's house until 2 am when he got out of work (the always-thoughtful Hell-Bent suggested we call him, ask him to give his house keys to a friend who would then meet up with and give them to us, so that we- 9 people he barely knew- could sit in his house, alone...), we decided we'd split up and meet up in the evening.

Kingdom went to do historical stuff, Dead Vows went swimming. We hung in places where such little characters in time as Plato and Socrates used to kick back in their togas and philosophize, we saw an ancient Greek village that had be unearthed and preserved under a clear floor, and we took pictures of stray cats living on the ruins of the Parthenon.

This was the hottest day I can ever recall. The sun felt like it was inches from the earth. I bought a parasol from a vendor and even in its shade, I felt like I was made of sweaty lead. How are my legs so heavy? We climbed centuries-old stairs but after a time I cared little of headless statues, or pillars, or excavated graves (which, actually, I found quite distasteful. "Here lies a little girl still in her grave, which was found in a field, covered in rocks that were believed to protect her in the afterlife, layed by her family.") In the end, our thirst for liquids outweighed our thirst for knowledge, and we trudged down the hill from the Parthenon to the newly built Greek Museum, where we were met by free, ice cold glasses of water.

After we met up with Dead Vows, we grabbed some more french fry sandwiches. We reached Jims late and fell asleep as the sun was rising. In the morning, it was more grape leaves. The grocery store we were at had two options for orange juice, both 100% juice, both in identical packaging. I asked Jim what the difference was. "One is made of Greek oranges, the other not." Wanting to have a much Greece as possible in my last hours there, I grabbed the Greek juice, and drank it all the way to Macedonia.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Euro tour update #17, Sofia, Bulgaria

I flipped to the Bulgarian section of the 'Lonely Planet Guide to Eastern Europe'. Sofia was a modern and metropolitan city, blahblahblah, local bars, blahblah, and... what the... a VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT?

Dream House, according to Lonely Planet, had 18 vegan options and was moderately priced. No sooner had we parked then we had entered the coordinates into the GPS and started walking deep into downtown Sofia. "There it is!!" We raced up the stairs and went tumbling into the restaurant. We hadn't had vegetables in almost a month. Every night we were fed, sure, but every night we were fed breads, potatoes, pasta, pastries... every vegan thing on earth BUT a green vegetable. Some of us are vegans that love vegetables (like me) and were salivating all over ourselves at the prospect of having some kale. Or, lord help me, a piece of broccoli. The hippy staff stared at us incredulously. "Do you think this is the Irish Pub? 'Cause that's downstairs." No no, we assured them, we're here for your vegetables.

And we got some. And it was perfect.

Everyone got mushrooms and tofu:

But me, I got the coconut almond curry:

After eating everyone but Dave and I headed back to the venue. We explored the city, coming across some confusing english graffiti:

As well as loads of strange shops and a mile long vegetable market.

One thing we had noticed on every corner were little carts boiling corn. We went over to one. The woman, using the international language of pantomime, showed us that the kernels were scraped from the cob and put into a dixie cup. Dave and I ordered one and watched her scoop some corn into the cup, then dump salt, and... shit.. was that cheese?... and... oh fuck... butter? I pointed at the cheese and butter and mimed puking everywhere, then pointed to another cup and the salt, and said "sorry" over and over. She understood, laughed off the loss, and made up a salt and corn-only cup. It was DELICIOUS.

We waddled back to the venue full of curry and tofu and corn, and were met in the backstage with gigantic falafel sandwiches. Full as we were, we found room.

I did a video interview for a Bulgarian vegan website behind the venue, where immediately after I got locked in a conversation with a very drunk thuggish hardcore kid who had been peeing on a wall next to the video camera. Our conversation lasted all night, weaved in between bands and outside the venue. He kept asking me what it meant to be hardcore. This was very reminiscent of the drunk punk in Bistrita, Romania, difference being this guy was extremely entertaining, completely lacking in woes, and kept yelling, for no clear reason, about the Cro Mags. He told me about the Bulgarian hardcore scene and how I may think it's cool, but it really wasn't. For example, he explained, he had a friend that was super down for the core, but then he brought up some 80's hairmetal band to her (I cannot for the life of me remember which one) and she didn't even know who they were. He wanted to know if things were that bad in America.

He and I play-argued all night about hair metal's place in hardcore, about how listening to bands like Sick of It All and Bulldoze affects your every day life, about any and everything with no clear purpose for arguing, and no clear agreements (or disagreements) reached. Some kids circled around us to watch us debate veganism. At this point he could barely stand, wobbling with a beer in his hand, slurring, "Yeah..., but whyyyyyyyy???". I tried, through my laughter, to make points in simple enough english for him to understand, and I'm pretty sure I failed.

Our set was fun, per-use, it's always a pleasure to play for kids that appreciate it. After it was over my drunken friend gave his approval of our music, but complained for the rest of the night that our set was too short. (It was 25 minutes...) "You call that a SET?"

Outside I recorded a shout-out for a Bulgarian hardcore radio show, which was a little weird. I couldn't figure out where to look. At the recorder? At the guy holding it? At the street? I kept laughing in the middle of "This is Kingdom from...hahahaha" or, "You're listening to I Hate...hahahahah" and in the end I think the dude wished I had been more creative with what I said. What do you say for a radio shout out? I don't know about these things!

Outside the venue with a few kids:

After the show we went to a falafel joint where we got the greasiest fries I've ever had in my entire life. The dudes ate more falaf and we, for once, loaded in the van with full stomachs and headed for yet another overnight drive, this one to Athens, Greece.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Euro tour update #16, Romania part 3

Day 6- Bucharest.

If I prayed I would have done it today. Lord, save me from this unforgiving land. Give me the patience to make it through this broiling, air-conditionerless day in the van. Don't let me pass out before we find food, or if I do, please let me wake up to a pizza.

After a long drive and at least an hour of inner-city traffic, we met the promoter at the venue. He and his friend squeezed into the van, saying that we were going to his house to eat and we'd come back to the venue after. I've mentioned this before, but shows in Europe are done in a certain way. Bands are always given a warm vegan dinner, provided a place to sleep and showers (and more times than not, breakfast as well.) Even super DIY tours have "riders", including ours, which states these things clearly (though it hardly needs to be said since that's just the way things go over here.) So when he said we were going to his house to eat, based on both experience and our "rider", we kinda expected that was what was going to happen.

We navigated another 20 sweltering, barely-crawling minutes through the city before finally arriving at the promoter's house. We were staying there after the show so we dragged our bags up, and waited for the dinner we had been told was the reason we were there. And we waited. And we waited. No signs of food, no smells wafting through the air, there was nothing relating to food in his house other than our hunger. After a time, I asked the promoter when dinner would be ready. In response he opened his fridge that was bare save for some meat and a couple of peaches, scanned the empty shelves, selected a vacuum-packed sausage, and placed it in my hand. Um.

Some wires had obviously gotten crossed somewhere, probably somewhere deep in the language barrier. This wasn't a problem, we were accustomed to such miscommunications. And luckily we're all pretty resourceful and self sufficient vegans. We could just find food on our own.

I patiently explained to him that none of us could eat sausage because we were vegans. At this he seemed annoyed, and told me didn't know "what is a vegan." I explained. And this started what from now on can be known as the The Most Frustrating Night Ever.

While I was holding a Romanian sausage in the kitchen, everyone else was in the living room with the promoter's friend, who had turned on the TV and asked if anyone wanted to watch the porn channel, and was confused when they opted for cartoons instead. This was made a tad bit stranger by the fact that everyone in the living room was a dude, and the friend was a dudette.

After about an hour of foodless, pointless lounging, I asked the promoter if he could lead us back to the venue where we could unload our gear then wander around on our own to find food. The venue was dead in the center of Romania's biggest city, and in the time we spent in grid-locked traffic I had noticed loads of little restaurants that we could eat at. He responded with a ticked off, "There is no vegan food there." (Which was quite a claim since he had just told me not but 60 minutes before that he didn't know what vegan meant.)

We managed to get him and his friend to get back in the van with us to take us to the club and let us loose to find some grub. The promoter sat passenger and directed our driver. We parked in an area that looked outskirty and not at all like what I remembered the blocks surrounding the venue to look like. I asked where we were. "The mall, to find vegan food." Shit.

Being a vegan in moments like these is akin to being given a Korn CD cd by a family member that knows you like "heavy music." You want to seem appreciative, but it's an awkward combination of humiliating and frustrating. ("Oh yes, it's great... I love it... I'm just gonna keep it here in the plastic wrap... man I hope the record store takes this back...") I explained to the promoter and friend that food courts generally don't have anything vegan so it'd be best, instead of wasting time there, if we just got back in the van and went to the venue.

He was unconvinced."We look first." No no, I pleaded, please, I can promise you that we can't eat there. Let's just go to the venue. "We'll just go in."

He walked ahead, determined. This was terrible. My stomach was eating itself. We wanted to see Bucharest, the capital city of Romania and home to some 200,000 stray dogs and the biggest building in the world aside from the Pentagon. Dave jogged ahead and asked for walking directions to the venue, but the promoter said no. We were stuck.

On the 3rd floor of the mall we were met- as expected- by McDonalds, Burger King, and KFC. I explained to the promoter, again, that weren't able to eat anything there and we'd really like to head to the venue, which was in the center of the city, where we knew we could find food. He scoffed at me. "There is no vegan food there."

It had been a bad week. I was down to my last nerve, and now I was a hostage. It was more than I could bear. I had reached my breaking point. I, in a not very calm manner, told the promoter that I had been vegan for a very long time and I knew how and where to find myself food. I told him to stop telling me that there "wasn't any vegan food" when he didn't even know what a vegan was. "We're not asking for much, we just want to go to the venue."

He and his friend exchanged looks. Then the friend said, "....But don't you want to eat?"


Back in the van, we made it clear, for the zillionth time, that we wanted to go to or near the venue. We parked in an area that looked urban, and I asked if we were at the club. "No, but this is the city. We take you to a place with many restaurants." Sounds good! We wandered through Bucharest, poking our heads into Kebab places, hoping for falafel. "There is a place with many restaurants up here." He led us on, and up to a large, new building. "...In here!"

We filtered in and were met with a familiar sight. We were in another MALL. We had left the suburban mall to come to the urban mall. To another food court. To another KFC. Oy vey.

We went through the same "no no, we can't eat here" and the same "well, we'll just check" and the same, "no seriously, let's go to the venue now" and the same "don't you want to eat? You're running out of time" and the same high-strung me shouting, "YES WE WANT TO EAT THAT'S WHY WE HAVE TO LEAVE!"

At the bottom of the mall we found a supermarket. The only option we had at this point was to buy food to cook at the promoter's house after the show. At the door, the promoter looked at us like we were idiots. As we entered the supermarket he called after us, "They don't have vegan food there....", annoyed that we were wasting more time. But of course (duh it's a supermarket) we found loads of food. Romania in particular is easy to find even specialty vegan food- for example here we got a soy and gluten version of "Bolognese Sauce"- an italian sauce that traditionally is made with Veal, Pork, and Beef. When we checked out the promoter was shocked. I'll admit to feeling a bit smug walking out with my pasta, my shopping bag a non-verbal "I toldya so" to that naysayer.

At the venue the show was already half over. As he was setting up merch, Dave saw a dude in a vegan straight edge shirt and ran over to ask if there was anything around to eat. We were starving. Turns out that about a stone's throw from where we were was a restaurant that made their own tortillas fresh as you ordered them and had a delicious and cheap vegan burrito. Oh weird. So if we had gone to venue when we had originally asked we all could have eaten and had time to see the city? Good thing we went traipsing around every mall in a 100 mile radius.

While a local band played Dave and I ran out and took a 15 minute tour of the city around the venue. Ancient cobblestone, second floor iron balconies, all the things that give European cities their charm. Handsome men and women with fresh flowers in their hair sat under huge candle-lit umbrellas eating and drinking, laughter filled the streets. Strangely, we did not see a single stray dog.

We hung out with the vegan straight edge kid who told us about how hard veganism was in Romania, and how he ate a lot of nuts and fruit. Yikes. I told him all about the amazing vegan food we have in Philly, from vegan cheesesteaks to our namesake- Kingdom Of Vegetarians. He was green with envy. It's always inspiring to meet kids like him- those for whom upholding their beliefs is difficult, but that fact does not lessen their commitment to it.

Before I knew it, it was time to play. Bucharest seemed to have a solid hardcore scene. There was a decent turn out at the show and people were wearing shirts of familiar bands. A handful of kids had talked to us and bought shirts or referenced this blog (thanks for reading!!), so we knew that we'd be playing to some interested folks, which after the last week, was a great feeling.

On stage while the dudes were tuning my stomach started feeling funny. Within a minute I really had to go to the bathroom. Within two I was on the verge of exploding. At three, the guys were ready to play and it had become apparent to me that if I so much as jumped I would crap everywhere. "Dudes... I have to shit... NOW!!!" I leaped off the stage and pushed my way through the hundred or so people who were expecting us to play. I barely made it to the toilet. And once I was there, it was no quick and easy thing. I was there a good 5 or 6 minutes. Back on stage, the guys pretended to sound check for a few minutes, and after that became awkward, they did an improv jazz sesh. Are you kidding me, am I seriously making over a hundred people wait because I have diarrhea? I washed my hands quickly, making sure not to soap the tops so the Xs wouldn't wash away. I ran back on stage, the crowd seemed not to know what had happened. Whew.

Our set was great, people moshed, sang along, and stage dove. Despite that it had been a hard week, and an especially hard day, we forgot about it all. I tried playing in flip flops but after the mic cord got tangled in them several times I kicked them off. Bad idea:

After the show I felt refreshed. I felt forgiving of this day. I didn't blame the promoter who I had resented so deeply just hours earlier. He was probably a real swell dude. Back at his house we all watched a movie together on soccer hooligans. We had a pasta feast. It was our driver's birthday. (By the way, Peter was our new driver. He was a super rad dude from Budapest who had more hardcore tattoos that anyone I've ever met- including a straight edge tattoo that was the Earth Crisis X, the Morning Again X, and the Judge hammers.) I took a picture of him in "paradise" (the promoter's hot, humid living room that had tropical wall paper)

Everyone slowly wandered off to bed. Only Pierce and I stayed up in the living room with the promoter- Pierce online, and me sucked into the soccer movie. At a lull in the movie I thanked the promoter for the show and told him how much fun we had. He in turn apologized for the food. I told not to worry about it, and about the vegan tortilla place by the venue, "just so you know for next time a vegan band swings through". At hearing about the restaurant the promoter became an apologetic wreck. "I am so sorry, I didn't know, I didn't know what a vegan is, my friend I asked said you eat salad and nothing else, I'm so sorry, if I had known... OHHHH IF I HAD KNOWN!"

Then I felt like an asshole for getting so upset earlier, and the promoter and I sat there apologizing and reassuring the other that it was ok.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Euro tour update #15, Romania part 2

Day 4- Cluj Napoca

This was a small, fun show. When we were done playing the kids cheered for another song, but I had already walked off stage and back to our merch. They ran back, picked me up, and charged the stage with me over their heads. Once I got my footing, we played, laughing through it all.

Day 5- Bistrita

This day was brutally hot. The kids we stayed with took us to a public pool, and upon entering we noticed that about 1/4 of the women were not wearing tops and about 2/3 of the men were in speedos, including one old man that very obviously stuffed. If his penis was real, it was about as big as a pineapple. The water was the coldest I've ever felt, just a couple minutes inside and not only were we freezing, but our bodies actually ached.

Dave and I walked around the parts of Bistrita near the venue. Every block had 2 or 3 second hand shops and everywhere we looked we saw ads for xerox machines.

Pierce sleeping like a mummy in the venue, pre-show:

The show was attended mostly by the bands that played it, including a Hungarian band we played several shows with called Think Again. There were two rapmetal dudes that never left the couch they were sitting on, and one drunk punk that parked his weary rear on the 3" tall stage.

After the show I sat reading a book under a street light. I was tired of Romania. I longed to eat and be full. I missed to be able to drink tap water. I felt terrible for the promoters that were losing money on these shows. (One promoter said he was cancelling all the rest of his shows for the summer after our shows bombed.) The whole week had been uncomfortable and awkward. We were at odds with our tourmates. We were going broke. Wahh wahh wahh. My mind wasn't a place I wanted to spend time in anymore. So with my nose in a book, I was transported away from it all and far back into American history, which had a hell of a lot more problems than our shows in Romania. I relished the moment to myself, until the drunk punk from the stage sat near me.

At first he pretended to be on the bench for his own reasons, examining his finger nails, looking at his shoes. Then he scooted down, closer and closer, until I held up my hand and told him he had come quite close enough. Through pierced lips he slurred, "What aaaahre youuuu rheading?"

There went my momentary solace.

"Well, nothing now that you're here talking to me."

He was too drunk to notice my sarcasm. He was lost in a boozy thought, and seemed the type to share it when it stumbled its way out. Accepting this fate, I closed my book.

"These people," he motioned out in disgust at Think Again, Dead Vows, the promoter, the 3 kids that liked us, the 2 rapmetal dudes, and the rest of Kingdom, "they don't accept me. I hate them. I want.... I want...." he searched for the proper words,

"...I want to fuck them."

At this I smiled, and asked if he was saying he wanted to have sex with them.

"No... no... FUCK THEM!"

I suggested "fuck them UP", and explained that "fuck them" meant he wanted to have sexual relations with them, perhaps without emotion or strings attached. He laughed. "Yes then, fuck them UP."

As he stared out into the crowd, I stared at him. Piercings climbed up his ears like ivy, faint white scars covered his arms. He was in his mid 20's, sitting out in the bug-filled night with me for company- a hostile hostage at best- translating his woes into english in hopes that I may understand. To be this angsty this late in life, to feel so misunderstood, to be the lone punk in a sea of hardcore kids, weighed down not by the hundreds of studs on his jacket, but by the years he's lived feeling outcast by the outcasts, was kind of tragic. A wave of empathy swept me. In a way, I could relate. In a way, I think most of us can.

We sat quietly together for a few minutes. Then he asked, in earnest, what punk meant to me. I asked if he meant the music, the idea, or the lifestyle. He pondered that. For 20 minutes. I went back to reading, Drunk Punk a few inches to my side, scratching his chin and murmuring, "Hang on... I almost... I just... Uhhh...", and before he could clarify, I had to go.

As I stood up I told him not to wait for acceptance, that if he felt there wasn't space for him to make it, and if anyone had a problem with that he should tell them to eat shit. I don't know if he wanted advice, and I certainly don't know if I'm really qualified to give any, but I felt like I needed to offer him something. He responded by sinking his head into his hands dramatically. As we pulled away in the van he was still there, alone under the street light, consoling himself, or making plans to fuck everyone, I don't know. Either way, I waved goodbye.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Euro tour update #14, Romania part 1

I'm going to post a few short updates so I can get caught up. Mary told me my entries were too long anyway, so I've stripped the words and put in lots of purty pictures for those short on time and/or brains. (Hi Mary... get back in the van? Tell Josh his shelf is waiting?)

We spent an entire week in Romania. I have never so thoroughly disliked a place or so desperately wanted to leave. In general the country was unfriendly, the towns uninteresting, and the shows a combination of the two.

(Despite that though, we did meet a few really rad kids, and we did appreciate the shows people set up for us there, the homes that were opened to us, and the food that was given to us!)

Day 1 and 2- Timisoara- Independent Voices Fest.

We played day one of this two day fest. The roster of bands was diverse- from hardcore to crust to punk to grind, including but not limited to bands like Fist A Ferret from Austria, and Rise and Fall from Belgium. The crowd was mostly crust punk and almost entirely drunk. (Beer was free at the bar, but soda or water cost 1 Euro.) The promoter and a few of his friends seemed to be the only kids who knew who we were or had any interest in hardcore. Our set took place very late in the night so I was surprised by the amount of people who stayed for us. We realized later that our set just fell at a good time- right before the band that everyone had come to see, a political punk band called Aktivna Propaganda. (The next night there was maybe half the crowd as day 1 at the fest and by the time Shipwreck and Have Heart played at 2 and 3 am only about 30 people remained, about 2 or 3 that cared, the rest who would have been equally as happy jumping around to a British girl-pop group or an Indonesian Judas Priest cover band.)

After the show someone yelled "The Nazis are here!", and people quickly filtered outside and stood in a chatty crowd, no one exactly sure where the Nazis were or what was going on, and before anything got cleared up (as far as I knew) another person yelled, his fist in the air, "Come on! We're all or none!" With that, the crowd marched together down the dark street, ready to meet the Nazis face to face. I lingered by the venue, thinking.

See, something had dawned on me. In Finland when there had been "nazis" I had run outside ready to "escort" them away, and in Moscow when I was told there may be fights with Nazis at the show we had said they could count on us. But in Timisoara I realized that if cops came to the fight and arrested us, we could get deported. That would end tour. So I weighed what would do more to fight Nazis in the long run- my inexperienced fists or our (anti-fascist) message, 60 something nights in a row in however many countries. The choice was obvious to me. I am self aware enough to know that my talent lies more in my words than my bulging biceps, so I resigned myself to the van.

A few minutes later everyone came back. I'm not quite clear on what happened, I heard various stories about everyone making a retreat while a few young girls stayed to try to fight the nazis themselves (or maybe they didn't realize others had left?), and the Nazis threw glass bottles at their faces. 2 girls came back bloody and went into the venue to get the shards pulled from their heads.

The next day we went to a chinese restaurant and everyone working there was a white Romanian. This was very strange to us. Over the course of our week in Romania, we did not see a single Asian person and in no "ethnic" restaurant of any type was there anyone on staff but Romanians.


Day 3- Brasov

Brasov had flooded the day before we got there so our show was moved to a tiny, and mean T-I-N-Y, basement bar. This was probably my least favorite show of tour. It was cramped, smokey, people spilled beer on everything. I could barely make it through a song without a coughing fit, we couldn't move without slipping on the beer on the floor. After the show Dave and I met a guy who said he had come just to check us out. He explained the he liked Korn and all sorts of nu metal, but that he had seen Madball once and had his life altered, and now he loved hardcore, too.

Brasov's slogan is "Probably the best city in the world" (they sound confident huh?) and the city sports a Hollywood-esque sign that reads BRASOV. It was a really old and beautiful city. Oh! And the one chinese restaurant I went into was staffed, predictably, by white Romanians.

notice the satellite coming out of the windows? gotta get that HBO...

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Euro tour update #13, Cultural Differences (Uzhgorod, Ukraine)

There are a few reasons I tell you all that I do. For one, I value journalistic honesty. Two, I like a well-rounded story- not one that omits the bad to stay safe and cheery, and not one that focuses only on the good as if shit never hits the fan. I'm not objective and I am forgetful, but I do my best to recall these days as accurately as I can. My goal is to give you a true sense of what our tours are like. That said...

People who have not toured tend to have this romantic vision in their minds of what it's like to be a hardcore band on the road. I very much wish that what these people think goes down on the road was actually what went down- non stop partying, laughing, moshing, trouble making, forging life-long friendships with the people you're in the van with- but very rarely is this actually what happens. About 90% of tour is down-time. It's sitting in the van. It's washing your hair in a gross gas station sink. It's being so tired by the end of the night that you barely smell the cat piss in the carpet you're sleeping on. However, the other 10% is fun. That's the 25 minutes you play every night. The occasional day with enough time to fuck around in town, or go swimming. The rare times you have enough money to go out to eat, or get to check out a museum. The times you do actually get along with the people you're in a van with. But even these things can be a drag because after spending 24 hours a day and 7 days a week with your bandmates and whoever else you're on the road with, you may just be so completely annoyed that you find yourself unable to have any fun no matter what the situation.

I know a lot of people in a lot of bands both "big" and "small", hardcore, punk, and metal, and while every one of them enjoys tour, every one of them also hates tour. A friend in one band that tours full-time told me that he and his bandmates, who used to be best friends, don't talk at all anymore. Another marveled at how Kingdom all got along, saying it had been ages since he even shared a single laugh with his bandmates. Another friend of mine got ditched by his band in a state far from his home in the middle of tour. Screaming matches, fist fights, tantrums, tears.... this is the tour that people don't imagine but is very real. People who get homesick and have mental breakdowns on the road. People who leave their bands in the middle of tour because they miss their significant others. Some of this stuff has happened to us as well, but I'm actually talking about other bands right now. You get the idea though, tour is hell and the only reason we do it and put up with it and each other is for those 25 minutes a night and that 10% chance of fun. Anyway...

In Europe, generally bands on tour together share a van. So now that 24/7 is shared by people who hardly know each other, or maybe don't even know each other at all. To have 8 or 9 different personalities in a van together for a month and come out at the end sane requires constant work from everyone. Compromise and communication, understanding and patience. And this, from 8 or 9 people, is a bit much to ask.

Uzhgorod marked the halfway point in our tour with Dead Vows. Tour with them had started on a sour note when they came to pick us up at the airport with a van already packed full of their things, as if they had forgotten we were coming as well. Their extra equipment and superfluous personal items seemed an insult as we tried to cram our instruments and merch in the back. Worse still was that we had invited them and were being treated as an afterthought. For most of the tour they ignored us. Within a few days I wondered why they had even agreed to come, as they appeared not to like us or our band, and seemed completely at odds with the crowds we liked and the bands we dug. I spent a lot of time trying to talk to them, and even the members that were nice seemed disinterested in getting to know me. One dude was hell-bent on hating me from the beginning, and of course succeeded despite that we never interacted. I finally gave up trying to make friends and buried my nose in "A Voyage Long and Strange" by Tony Horwitz.

This was our final day with our first driver. He had accrued a speeding ticket that was coming out of the tour's money, and as Dave went to pay him for his 2 weeks of driving us he brought up the idea of splitting the ticket 3 ways (between us, Dead Vows, and the driver), since the speeding was his deal, not the tour's. I was sitting in the venue when this happened. Hell-Bent-On-Hating-Me ran in and told me were having an urgent tour meeting outside and everyone needed to be present. He seemed pretty upset so I braced myself as I walked out.

Hell-Bent argued that the tour should cover the ticket since the driver was only there for the tour. Dave mentioned that the driver was the one speeding, not the tour, so the tour shouldn't be punished. This went around and around, maybe we'd split it 9 ways, maybe 3, maybe 2, and I lost track. Turned out the ticket was only 70 Euro, and as that fact surfaced, so did a text from the dude who organized our tour saying it was up to the bands to pay the ticket. K, settled. But things were tense. I could tell the Swedes had some things on their minds and I knew that some of us did, too.

So here came the inter-band meeting of gripes.

I actually didn't have any problems that I hadn't brought to attention before, but I stayed to hear what everyone had to say. The Kingdom camp started. Our guys were upset with the Swedes for carelessly throwing our stuff around the van- like taking our things from seats, putting them on the floor, then stepping on them. Or moving our personal items without asking us. (There were a few times when we couldn't find our stuff... like computers.)

Another problem was seat claiming. On other Kingdom tours, on the first day of tour we'd all pick a spot in the van and never leave it, but Dead Vows like to change seats nightly. So we worked with that. (Or tried.) After a show was done we would put our things on the place we'd like to sit only to come back 15 minutes later to have our stuff thrown around and our seats moved. This frustrated Dave especially as he and I like to sit next to each other so we can use each other as pillows (and aren't particularly comfortable resting our heads on anyone else.), which was common knowledge around the van.

These problems were brought up calmly by Pierce and Dave with an "I'd appreciate it if you didn't move my things without asking me", and "Davin and I like to sit together, we don't care where, we just like to have 2 seats together which is why we put our things on them." To the latter, Hell-Bent exploded at Dave, saying that seating was first-come-first-serve, and that if seat claiming was allowed what would stop us from calling seats days before we sat in them?! We explained that we weren't trying to call a seat for the distant future, just a seat for the night, 15 minutes before we were to sit in it, and was that really asking too much?

Something to know about the van we were in is that there were exactly as many seats as people, and one of the seats was TINY. Even for me at 5' 3", it was excruciating to sit there. It was located between the driver and the passenger seat and had no leg room at all (this was taken by the shift stick.) One of the Dead Vows dudes always sat in the passenger seat. He explained to me a few days before this meeting that he liked to be up there to watch the GPS. Hell-Bent spent a lot of time in the mini-seat, I did a couple shifts up there (much to Dave's chagrin), but generally it was always occupied by Swedes. We just assumed they liked it. Well, they didn't.

First issue they brought up was how they didn't want to be the only ones crammed of front. The dude that always sat in the passenger seat said he was unhappy that he was always in the passenger seat. (Which seemed a bit odd to me as I had been under the impression that he liked being up there, since he had given me that impression by saying that, well, he liked being up there.) We were all surprised by this problem since we had never thought they wanted us up front, but in fact were under the impression that they didn't want us up front. Some days we would get to the van and see two of them already occupying the front with spots left for us in the back, which would, obviously, lead us to believe they wanted us to sit in the back and them in the front. I couldn't believe this was a problem that hadn't been mentioned before since it would have been instantly remedied and we all apologized and explained how we had no idea that they were unhappy.

"We'll sit up there, all you had to do was tell us you wanted us to!"

"We Swedes", they explained, just helped people when they saw they needed it, and took turns as they saw it was necessary. But how on earth were we to know that they needed help if they didn't tell us? And how on earth could we tell they didn't want to be there when they voluntarily put themselves there over and over? We explained that when we needed things we asked for them and assumed that when other people needed things they'd do the same. "We aren't mind readers, you just have to talk to us." They explained that they weren't like Americans, bossing people around and making demands. (I tried to imagine how that generalization might look in our situation. Rather than saying, "Does anyone mind sitting up front? I'd like to sit in the back today." they imagined that a demanding American would say, "YOU! You're here, right in the mini-seat, and there ain't shit you can do about it. G.W FOREVER!!!")

Next issue from the Dead Vows camp was they they'd noticed that they did more equipment loading than us, and that "not everyone loaded." Pierce always loads, Dave loads and sets up merch, Ryan always loaded... so who could they be talking about? As I realized they meant me, I said, "Oh, you guys must be talking about me. I'm sorry, I'll load if you need me to." then I laughed that I'd probably never loaded since this band formed in 2006 since my talents lay more in making contacts and plans than lifting things, but I'd be more than happy to drag some guitars in. (For the record, I kept good on this. I even refused help every 3 feet from kids at shows who saw me tripping over everything I carried. Problem ended up being that I rarely got the opportunity to do that since that we would play last and Dead Vows would load out while we were still selling merch and talking to people, or they'd start loading without telling us and be done by the time we noticed.)

These problems probably seem absurd now. But that's tour. Something that sounds petty to write now becomes the single most important thing in your life. Your leg room is worth losing friends over. Finding your marzipan chocolate bar crushed leaves you screaming at everyone in earshot.

There was more shit said that was amusing, more crossed wires that were frustrating. No one fully kept their cool (me included), no one fully grasped (or wanted to grasp, perhaps) what the other was saying. After the meeting, things got easier for awhile. We took turns in the front. Our stuff got stepped on a bit less. Everyone but Hell-Bent was nice. I genuinely liked some of the people in Dead Vows, but it was obvious that we were poorly matched as tourmates.

Cultural differences aside, the fact is that Kingdom can't tour with bands that do not love Hatebreed, because unless we have "Satisfaction" in common, we just don't have much.

(I would like to add that as I write this we are sharing a van with second half of our tour tourmates, Rhinoceros, and quite coincidentally Hatebreed just came on. But I was so worried after this day with Dead Vows that perhaps Rhino might start harboring easily-remedied grudges against us that I asked Joe, who's been sitting up front every day, if he was comfortable. "Yeahhhh... why?" I told him that, well, if he wasn't then just say the word and someone else could sit up there for awhile. He looked at me like I was a lunatic. "If I'm not comfortable, I'll just sit somewhere else." Whew. I can now put my psychic non-abilities to rest, no mind reading with be required for the next month.

And also, what I said about that 10% chance of fun? So far, on this leg of tour, it's been met and exceeded. Luv u Rhinozzz! <3)