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Euro Tour: Day 13, Prague

27 Jun

I woke up with a sore throat and a runny nose but some juice and coffee went a long way to making me feel human again. The ride to Prague was a continuation of a conversation I had with Jason the night before. This morning Josip joined in the discussion about the tribulations of being in a band. This tour has been fun, but as far as a smart “business” decision goes, it’s been a disaster. We are losing money and show attendance is slim at best. No one knows who we are or gives a shit. How long do you go on paying your dues before you just say enough is enough? I mean, we feel like we have forward momentum with our music and our playing and our recordings, but there never really seems to be an upward curve to people knowing about us. Unsane played to 80 people in Zagreb recently. If a band of that notoriety and stature limps along like that, what chance in hell do we ever have to be heard? Despite what Bruno keeps saying from the back seat, life’s NOT all about bitches and money. I don’t want to be famous or to be rich. I just want to be able to be known and respected enough to roll into a town and know that some people are looking forward to it and will come to the show. You can’t become known if you don’t tour and it’s almost impossible to tour if you’re not known.

The show at 007 Strahov did a bit to restore some self confidence for both bands. There were probably 30-40 people there and they were there specifically for this show (advertised as “old-school noise-rock”). There were kids up front singing along to our songs. WTF?!?! There were a few mistakes during the show, but it didn’t matter. In fact, it almost seemed to add to the show — to increase the visceral impact. Having people right up to the lip of the stage, savagely banging their heads, fueled our performance and Bill and I hurtled across the stage at and away from each other, always in danger of banging our heads on the extremely low ceiling. Bruno was besieged at the merch table afterwards. Quoth he: ” they were attacking me.” The promoter, Petr was super cool. He gave us a great spinach and potato curry for dinner and was really enthusiastic about the show and our performances. He even arranged a secure parking spot for our van and an awesome clean hostel. All in all, a great night. Too bad the whole tour wasn’t this great.

Euro Tour: Day 12, Ansbach

26 Jun

We waited around forever, for Bruno to make his toilette. So long, in fact, that we had no time to go to Andy’s house for coffee, showers, laundry, and internet. I was most disappointed about missing out on laundry. It’s day 12 and I have one pair of clean socks and underwear and no shirts. My jeans are pretty much able to stand up by themselves at this point. It wasn’t to be. The traffic to Ansbach was continuously bunching up and we didn’t roll into the small town of Ansbach until around 7pm. We never asked, but it appeared as thought the club was some sort of Christian youth center. I kept cringing as the Croats kept tossing around the MFers, but our hosts didn’t seem to notice or mind (or just seethed indside?).

The bass amp started buzzing again during sound check, so we popped the back plate and discovered yet another connection had broken. It appeared as though it was an attenuator circuit that wasn’t being used, but Jason soldered it back together anyhow and it seemed to take care of the problem. The show was supposed to start at 9, but since no one had showed up, they kept pushing the start time back. Finally after ten, Joe 4 played to a ground of six or seven kids. They really dug it, banging their heads to brittle metallic fury of the Croats. What a great band. I still haven’t gotten tired of seeing them night after night. We played to the same group of kids. They also watched enthusiastically as we pounded through a pretty darn good set. I’m not sure the people that ran the place were so keen — the emocore before and between bands seemed to indicate that ours was not the genre of choice. The flat we stayed at was clean and comfortable. I climbed into a little loft in the living room, kicked off a couple of YouTube uploads and went to sleep.

 

Euro Tour: Day 11, Berlin

25 Jun

Sasha loves Berlin. He had been bugging everyone to get up early so that we would have more time there before the show. I dragged myself out of bed at at 9:45 only to find everyone still sleeping and none of the equipment broken down or packed up from the night before. We finally got on the road after noon. The drive to the autobahn was a gorgeous little road crowded on either side by trees and we sped by fields of wheat, cows, and pretty little brick houses. The gas stations have their porn magazines proudly displayed and everyone seems to have machines in the mens room selling travel pussies. The approach into Berlin was through Russian built tunnels but would have been much cooler without the snarls of traffic. We finally found the Hauscherer squat in the northwest. This neighborhood is purported to be one of the worst in Berlin with large immigrant populations (largely Turkish). As we told Thomas from the squat, anyone describing this as a bad neighborhood has clearly never been to Detroit, Chicago, or even Milwaukee.

We took a walk for a drink and a fantastic falafel sandwich and then back to the squat to set up. Our friend Andy from Dublin (now Berlin) showed up soon after and we hung out exchanging insults round-robin style between Croats, Americans, and Irish. Later our friend Carl from Madison (now Berlin) showed up with a couple of other visiting American friends. The music room was cool, but the stage was bizarrely set up — an odd shape in the corner that made it almost impossible to set up in any kind of coherent way. Joe 4 played a good set with Josip in a USoT t-shirt. I climbed on Josip’s back during “Johnny” and sang the chorus over his shoulder into the mic. The crowd was sparse but appreciative. Andy had asked that we play songs from the first record so we obliged him with six. We all felt that it was the best we had played all tour. Damir and Josip politely and not so politely, respectively, demurred. The eye (or ear) of the beholder and all that… After the show I talked with Carl for a long time about the messed up state of Wisconsin politics and the human drive to exploit. I’ve been re-reading George Orwell’s 1984 in the van and this conversation just served to fuel my hopelessness. Josip tried to lighten the mood with ridiculous drunken antics to no avail. After much discussion about going out on the town with Thomas, we all just crashed in the squat’s band dormitory.

 

Euro Tour: Day 10, Neu Tramm

24 Jun

The Hafenklang staff gave us an amazing breakfast and after load out and a bit of walk about, I took the wheel for the two hour drive to Neu Tramm. We had all the usual adventures getting out of the city without GPS and then again trying to find the small village but we pulled into the squat compound around 5. The place is right next door to a nuclear wast storage facility housed in a WWI military complex, but the setting is forested and idyllic. Again, we had an fantastic meal, though this time with meatballs for the carnivores. We snoozed, played fooseball and hung out with Jason, a Seattle transplant living in the squat.

The show was very thinly attended, but Joe 4 played their new instrumental “Neuro” flawlessly and to great affect. They were incredibly loud though; louder than I’ve heard them so far. We played well, thought the sound was a bit weird. My guitar was lacking in low-end and the vocals sounded at times distorted and at others oddly hollow and ringy. We were coaxed back to play one more song by an incredibly vocal group of audience members who would not shut up until we played more. I think everyone was a bit down later on partly because the discrepancy between the expectations set up by the promoter and Bernd and the actual number of people in attendance. Still, they made it right, even going so far as to go person to person to collect a bit more in donations.

 

Euro Tour: Day 9, Hamburg

23 Jun

Crawling over the snoring Americans and Croats, I wandered down the street to a grocery store to buy bread and cheese and coffee. I sat in the sun outside Jeroen’s place until deciding to kick the rest of the crew into consciousness. Now armed with directions from Google Maps, the Croats managed to find the way to Hamburg, though not without the usual shouting and cursing at each other. Hamburg is a huge port city and despite the horrendous traffic on the outskirts is remarkably likable. Hafenklang is right on the river and there are huge cargo ships loading and unloading right across the street from the club. We were greeted by Thorsten from the band Lars Bang Larsen and Martin the club manager. They had gotten our message about the guitar cabinet input jack that had self-destructed in Leiden and their tech had it replaced in about five minutes. Jason borrowed a soldering kit and swapped out one of the switches on Josip’s Ben Adrian pedal.

The club is an awesome place with a great music room and stage, a comfortable backstage area, an a nice clean band flat around the corner. Again, we were treated to an incredible vegan meal with the ever-present (but delicious) vegetable fritters. Attendance was sparse as Joe 4 started playing, but a knot of enthusiastic onlookers clumped in front of the stage and obviously impressed. Bill and I jumped on stage a few times for sing-alongs of our favorite songs. Lars Bang Larsen played next. They were very German both in terms of appearance and sound. They had a teutonic restraint that worked best with grinding baselines and spoken/shouted vocals. At the they end of the set, they invited Bill and I up to sing on Conspiracy of Conscience, the song on the split 7″ we share with them. We wrote and recorded the vocals back in March and (obviously) had never had a rehearsal with them. Still, it was fun and I think came off pretty well. Bill dragged Sasha up on stage for the howling parts and despite his initial bewilderment, rose to the occasion.

Our set was a bit loose, but what we lacked in precision, we more than made up for in the rock. I fell off stage during Echota when I jumped and then lost my balance. I staggered backwards and knocked a monitor off stage on my way to the floor. Unhurt, I scrambled back up but had totally lost my place in the song. We stopped, Jason counted it off again, and we played it again without incident. Later during the last song, my boot caught the smallest of lips in the stage and I went down again, taking the mic and stand with me. I managed to keep playing this time. The small crowd enthusiastically demanded another song and since our German label boss, Bernd, was in the audience (and plays in the new-wave cover band, Boy Division) we quickly decided to play Shadowplay. I broke a string during the lead at the end but soldiered on and to rather tumultuous crowd response. After the show, we had a great time hanging out with Bernd and with Peter and Thorsten from LBL.

 

Euro Tour: Day 8, Leiden

22 Jun

We woke up in a place that reminded me of the Project Mayhem squat in Fight Club. The bathrooms reminded me of the first scene in Saw every time I had to use them. After everyone checked their e-mail and Facebook on the squat’s computers, we headed into the Amsterdam city center. We wandered along the canals, stopped at the train station to change money (and pay .50 euro to take a piss), eat some sandwiches and fries, drink some coffee, and stop into a coffeeshop. We managed to find our way to Leiden (sans GPS) and made to a club early for the first time on tour. We had a drink in a little bar and then hooked up with Gabry from the the band Boutros Bubba, who helped us set up the show. We loaded into the tinniest room I have ever played in. Then went upstairs to hang and to eat a fantastic vegetarian meal.

Boutros Bubba played a great show. They reminded me of Hoover or Unwound with some spazz-jazz influences. Joe 4 played a great show, but were somehow restrained — holding back. Despite a few stops for tuning and Josip’s heckling, we played a pretty good show. We had neglected to write a set list so we called out the songs and it worked OK. I met Ivica from the Dutch band Gone Bald and we discussed our love of old guitars and Touch and Go and AmRep bands. He has been playing our stuff on his radio show and seemed genuinely happy when we played some his favorite songs during our set. We stayed with Jeroen, BB’s guitar player, and the size of our accommodations matched the size of the venue last night. Josip, Sasha, and I spent some time messing around trying to download updated maps for the GPS unit with little success. We may have to navigate the old fashioned way — with maps!

 

Euro Tour: Day 7, Amsterdam (Cancelled)

21 Jun

We spent the night with Jean Louis and his roommate Gael in Beauffont, a little village outside of Paris. I think some food, some sleep, a shower, and some coffee did us all good and we tumbled into the van for the drive to Amsterdam in much better spirits. As we pulled away Sasha reminded us that was the first day of summer and Bill’s birthday. I drove most of the way to Amsterdam with Sasha and Damir figuring out directions as we went because apparently Josip’s GPS unit doesn’t know anything about Holland.

We finally found the ADM squat on the waterfront after many consultations with bus-stop maps. The 46-square-acre compound used to be a ship yard but has been a squat on and off since the 50s. After driving around aimlessly we called our contact Berk. He appeared out of from between two piles of junk and admitted that the gig had totally slipped his mind. In addition, he had just had a hernia operation that morning and was totally out of it. So the show was not going to happen. He introduced us to some other residents who took care of us though. They led us upstairs to a huge open warehouse floor and produced a couple of crates of beer, some pizzas, and an amazing salad with produce from the ADM garden. Despite not playing a show, we had a good time hanging out and listening to music.

 

Euro Tour: Day 6, Paris

20 Jun

We unloaded all our gear into the super-tiny basement room of Cafe de Paris and then hung out and wandered around. We sat in the McDonalds across the street (where, yes, they really do have a Royale with Cheese) to use their wifi connections. (Sylvain had already posted pictures and videos from the Nice show.) Bill and I took a walk so he could change money and I could buy a new electrical adapter to replace the one I left in Ljubljana. I was successful; Bill was not.

Our host Jean Louis showed up with his band Strong Silent Type around 6 and things got going around 8. The first band was a sort of jazzy experimental thing. Jean Louis fronted a nu-metalish thing with a bit of crust. Fueled by a bottle of Jack Daniels, Joe 4 took the “stage” in their underwear with hospital booties (courtesy of Bruno) on their heads. They were ridiculous and awesome. We, not so much. I think the lack of sleep and stress of the drive made us cranky and our performance suffered. I blamed it on Bill and Jason and walked straight out of the club when we finished. In retrospect, it was all me and my shitty attitude.

 

Euro Tour: Day 5, Nice

19 Jun

We had great showers and coffee with Paride and decided to take the mountain “short-cut” to Nice instead of the motorway along the coast. It turned out to be hours longer, but really a fantastic drive. Tunnels and swtichbacks up and down for four or five hours. The van’s brakes were so taxed and heated that they squealed for an hour after we got out of the mountains. We met up with Sylvain and Stephanie of Stella Peel and hung out in their apartment for a while before we headed to the venue in the old town. The streets were so narrow and closed off that we had to unload in a big square 100 meters around the corner from the club, Tapas Movida. We changed strings and hung out at tables in the alley until show time.

Stella Peel are a cool sort of pop rock band with a drum machine. Musically, they were nothing like our bands and A LOT quieter. We were all convinced that everyone would leave by the time Joe 4 were done with their second song. Not only were we wrong, people stuck around and by the time we went on, the small room was pretty well packed. Not only did people stick around they were really into it. Because the stage was so small, Bill had to set up on the floor and the crowd swarmed around him while I spazzed on stage. Some garage-rock proto-punkers from Paris, Fuzz Vox, played after us and rounded out the night nicely.

Because the drive to Paris was so long and Josip and I were worried about trying to round everyone up and get them going early in the morning, we decided to start driving right away. Josip drove until about 4:30 a.m. We all grabbed a couple of hours of sleep in a rest area and then I started driving at about 6:30. Josip took over again after a few hours when I started to get sleepy. We finally arrived in Paris at around 3:00 p.m.

 

Euro Tour: Day 4, Verzuolo Italy (Day Off)

18 Jun

When we found Bruno and Sasha in the morning, we discovered that Bruno had cut his hand last night. It was really pretty bad and despite the fact that we had a long drive ahead of us, we took him to the hospital for stitches. We had some coffee and then hung in and around the van (or WAN as our Croatia comrades keep pronouncing it) for several hours while Bruno got fixed up. Finally we hit the road to Italy. Originally tonight was supposed to be a sort of in-studio party/show at Josip’s friend Paride’s studio. Paride made the offer when our show in Modena was cancelled a couple of weeks before the tour. However, due to Paride’s travel schedule, it turned out to be a day off. It was a bit disappointing not to play a show, but it was a nice evening.

We arrived in the little village of Verzuolo around 9:30 p.m. and followed Paride up a long rutted dirt road up into the mountains to his house. His Oxygen Studios is on the ground floor of his house and boasts a beautiful 2-inch Ampex recorder and a custom-built Swiss console. Paride plays in a cool band called Kash and has recorded with Albini in Chicago. Next year, Steve is coming to Italy to record Kash at Oxygen. Josip is already planning to record the next Joe 4 record here,Paride and his wife pulled out all the stops with an amazing meal and coffee on the patio overlooking the lights of the village in the valley.