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Euro Tour: Day 3, Ljubljana

17 Jun

We tried to clean up the mess from last night a little before heading back to the club collect our gear where we met up with Bruno and Sasha. We stopped at a gas station on the way back to Zagreb for eurodiesel and coffee. It was the nicest gas station I’d ever seen. With table service at the open air veranda that had an incredible view of the mountainous Croatian countryside dotted with orange-tile-roofed houses. We picked up our ATA Carnet paperwork which allows us to enter and leave the EU without being forced to pay taxes on our equipment. Then it was on the road to Slovenia. The border crossing took longer than yesterday because we had to present our Carnet documentation to both countries’ custom agents. They didn’t ask to open the van though one agent asked which one was the longhair in Bill’s passport. After a quick stop to change the last of our Croatian Kunas to Euros, we headed to Ljubljana.

The Menza Pri Koru squat was an insane compound with art and graffiti everywhere. Apparently, it use to be a military prison. One of the buildings, the former cell block has been turned into various artist studios. The other building houses a fully equipped venue, dance club, and god knows what else. Joe 4’s soundcheck was sounding awesome and when I told the soundman that, he replied “Thank you. I like music such as this.” The common area outside started to fill up around 9 and a poetry reading started around 10 on the floor of the venue with gallery seating all around. Around 11 people filtered out as the reading ended and Joe 4 began preliminary warm-up/set-up noises. A totally different crowd poured in. There was no entrance fee and the place filled up nicely.

Josip broke a string on the first song so I jumped on stage and readied my guitar and a replacement string. I swapped out guitars between songs like pro roadie and replaced his broken string while he played the next song with my guitar. Not quite his usual Electrical Guitar Company aluminum sound, but serviceable. I swapped guitars back out and then returned to the floor to be treated to the best Joe 4 set yet. The Shellac influence is readily apparent but they bring more finesse and texture to the formula with some truly gut wrenching vocals courtesy of drummer Damir. They are so rhythmically tight sometimes, it’s mind boggling. We couldn’t have chosen a better band to tour with, but it is a bit daunting taking the stage after them.

We played a pretty brilliant set, I think. About half way through, I realized I wasn’t so much listening to Bill and Jason as I was just feeling the music and just fucking playing. The crowd was very vocal and into to it. There was even a fair amount of movement and dancing! I broke a string on “State-Sponsored Terrorism” halfway through so I dropped out during the vocal part and then just attacked by guitar with abandon, not caring about broken string buzzing or the not-quite-right tuning. I thrashed through to the end of the song and people were going nuts. We had one more song on the set list but I figured we should just end it. We got yelled at for more. One girl even threaten Bill, “you play one song more or I will KILL you.” Josip thrust his guitar into my hand and we launched into “Reconsidering The Green Mile.” I pretty much hated playing Josip’s aluminum guitar with its heavy, unbalanced neck and weird thin fret board. The crowd was appreciative and showed it. We sold a decent amount of mercy, though sadly none of the new split 7″ that Fidel Bastro had shipped to us here in Ljubljana. We slept in the backstage area of the club while a dance party throbbed underneath us until 4am.

 

Euro Tour: Day 2, Rijeka

16 Jun

We ventured down the street to find food and coffee and stumbled upon a Piteria, a sort of bakery/restaurant that serves a type of stromboli-like pastry. I had potato (for 3.90 Kuna, less than $1) and the boys had chicken and potato. When we got back Josip was waiting for us. We had a bit of good news in that the bass cabinet just had a loose wire that had come unsoldered — an easy fix. I rode with Josip up to Ljubljana to pick up our rental van for the tour. The hour and a half drive to Slovenia was worth it, considering the same van would have been 20 Euro more to rent in Croatia. We raced back, picked up Bill and Jason at the apartment, met Sasha and Bruno at the club to load out, and then picked up Damir and the rest of his drums at the practice place. Finally around 6pm we were on the road to the seaside town Rijeka.

We found the little club Place and the promoter promptly laid out an incredible vegan spread: delicious vegetable fitters, stir-fry peppers over rice, a bean and onion salad and crusty loaves. Like I said, we aren’t used to people taking care of us like this. Although we were billed on the show poster as “post-hc/noise-rock,” the club calendar branded us as “Stoner/Punk.” The show was sweaty and really good. Joe 4 were on fire. I had thought that they were good the night before, but after they played tonight, I realized they a bit flat on Wednesday. We played well and the crowd seemed to dig it, but no one bought anything and Joe 4 only sold one t-shirt. Afterwards everyone hung out on the street of this really cool thousand-year-old town.

We stayed overnight in a partially renovated apartment that Josip’s friend Raul arranged for us. Sasha and Bruno went off with friends and us Americans hung out with Josip and Damir. I went to sleep straight away but apparently there were some shenanigans that involved Bill falling off an air mattress and taking a face plant and Jason’s air mattress deflating while he slept. I’d also like to point out that although I had thought that Jason snored loudly, he pales in comparison to Josip and especially Damir. I thought Damir was playing a trumpet in the next room.

 

Euro Tour: Day 1, Zagreb

15 Jun

After a shower at the hostel, we walked down the street to find coffee. We found a bakery on the corner with a pretty Croatian girl behind the counter who seemed very amused at our pointing and six-word vocabulary. We walked back to the hostel with our small coffees and large pastries and hung out on the patio until Josip collected us around noon. We went to a music store (a brand-new Peavey/Paul-Reed-Smith-type store staffed with metal heads, the kind you can find in any mall in America) to exchange so Josip could exchange some cables. We had lunch at a sort of swanky hipsterish restaurant that served really good Croatian food. The boys ate various kinds of fried meat.

After lunch, Josip dropped us at their practice place so we could get a feel for their gear and run through a few songs. By the time we got things sounded pretty good, Damir (Joe 4 drummer) showed up. After a couple of more songs, Josip returned with bassist Sasha. We hung out and watched them run through a few songs and then we loaded up and went to the club. Tvorinica Kulture was a brand-new club with a brand new sound system and some kind of stand-offish bar and sound staff. The promoter Nenad was super cool though. We sound checked and then hung out on the sidewalk patio out in front of the club.

The night’s technical difficulties began with the first band’s first song. Nikki Louder’s bassist broke a string right out of the gate and Bill came to his rescue. The rest of their set was great though — a frantic Sonic Youth inspired ball of noise that we all quite liked. They were from Slovenia and we’ll see them again in a few days when we play there. Joe 4 was up next and despite a fried bass amp and several broken strings, they were great. We are lucky to be playing the entire tour with them and having the privilege of  seeing them every night. We had to use the club’s bass amp  since ours died, so Bill had to figure out his sound in approximately 60 seconds. I broke a string during the second song and the sound that had seemed so great at sound check now seemed sort of thin and oddly disjointed. We played fairly well but it was a bit weird. We sold one LP and three CDs, which, according to merch guy, Bruno, was “quite an accomplishment in Croatia.” After the show we stayed at an apartment owned by the club for housing tour bands. A bit spartan, but more than adequate. We are definitely not used to people taking care of us here.

 

Euro Tour: Travel Day

14 Jun

The flight from O’Hare to Toronto was uneventful except for the fact that, this being his first time flying, Jason was beside himself with glee and acting like a kid about to ride a roller coaster. Our flight from Toronto was delayed three hours until 11:30 — half an hour before Air Canada employees were set to go on strike. We snuck in under the wire and spent a restless night over the Atlantic. Before trying to get some sleep we each occupied ourselves with the seat-back in-flight entertainment gadget. Jason watched “How To Train Your Dragon,” Bill watched “I Am Number Four,” and, seeing how it was an Air CANADA flight after all, I watched a Rush rockumentary.

We arrived in Paris to find the case containing all our LPs smashed and barely holding together. Fortunately the vinyl was OK so we borrowed half a roll of packing tape and soldiered on. We had heard that there was an Air France strike as well and were concerned about our flight to Zagreb, but it turns out the strike was only “how do you say in english…? the people on the ground by the airplanes.” Apparently the staff involved in the actual safety of the airplanes did not affect our flight so we checked in, flew through security and waited for the final leg of the trip.

After napping on the terminal floor for a couple of hours (Charles deGaulle is not nearly as dirty and disgusting as we were led to believe) we boarded our flight. Actually, we walked down a long hallway, then a stairway, and then outside where we were herded into waiting bus. After a really long, circuitous route that involved tunnels and construction sites, we were deposited in front of a waiting Air France plane. It was so old that it had ashtrays in the arm rests. It was smooth flight nonetheless and we touched down at 9:15.

We had a bit of a scare getting through customs. They asked if we had anything to declare and we said no. Then then agent pointed at our guitar cases and asked what they were. When we answered guitars, he asked where we were playing a concert. We said, “no, no, just vacation.” When asked what we were doing here, we just said that we were visiting friends in Zagreb and they were picking us up. He slapped my brand new flight case and asked, “new guitar or old guitar?” “Old guitar,” I answered. “Do you have papers for this guitar?” He stared unblinkingly when I said no. Finally his scowl turned to a look of exasperated annoyance and he jerked is head in the direction of the exit and said “OK.” And we were through.

Lu from Joe 4 was there to meet us. After driving around the city looking for our hostel we pulled up in the alley and were promptly yelled at out the window by two different neighbors. We did recognize several of the curse words Lu had taught us in the car ride. After 30+ hours of traveling we crashed.

 

Mickey’s Tour Send-Off

11 Jun

Two days before flying to Europe, we played a send-off show at our local watering hole. We had put out a call for requests for the set list and ended up with a great 10-song set comprised of both oldies and new songs. Our friends Canyons of Static opened the show and with addition of Northless guitarist, Nick Ehlert, they sounded more massive and more awesome than ever. We played really well and had a blast. My brother, in town from Boston, pointed out that it appeared as though we all played as if we were 100% into it, believing in the sound we were making. As I said to him, there is no reason to do it otherwise. We fly to Paris Monday!

Noise abortion: UW Memorial Union Rathskeller

8 Jun

USoT @ Memorial Union, photo by Michelle Damitz

We were asked to play a local band showcase series outside at the UW Student Union. We arrived to threatening skies and were informed that show would be inside. So we humped our gear from the outdoor stage to the indoor one.  Sound check was basically a half an hour of the kid behind the sound board telling us to turn down. After we agreed to turn down three or four times, he seemed satisfied. After our first song, the building manager told us to turn down again. We did. After our second song, the student promoter asked us to turn down again. We did. After our third song, management again asked us to turn down. We did.

At this point, I told the crowd that we would just be turning down after every song until no one could hear us. Things started getting blurry after that. At some point I thought the soundman said we were “fine.” At one point I responded that all we could hear was drums and that we couldn’t turn THOSE down. “Why not?” was the reply. “Because they are acoustic instruments,” I answered. “I’m not a musician. I don’t know what that means.”

We played a few more songs and several management personnel confronted us and told us to turn down again or they would shut down the show. I dutifully started to turn down, even though all I could hear at this point was drums, but Bill, who had been crouching close to his amp and the monitors to hear something/anything, astutely pointed out that he couldn’t even tell his amp was on. “I’m done,” he told me and walked off stage. I addressed the crowd: “Fuck you. We’re done.”

Later I pointed out to the promoter that we had, in fact, not been shut down and that we had finished our set (albeit a truncated six-song set) and as such we expected to be paid. She reminded us that we had signed a contract stating that we would not exceed 104 dB. Not owning a dB meter or really knowing how loud that was, I pointed out that it was a rather artificial condition. She told me that “once you play a few more shows, you’ll understand…” I was remarkably civil as I pointed out that between the three of us, we had probably played more than 1000 shows. That shut her up. We’re still waiting to get paid.

Last Madison Dates Until 2012

5 Jun

Upon returning from Europe, The Sons will be on hiatus until 2012. There are two remaining domestic opportunities to experience the live spectacle:

  • June 08 Union Terrace, Madison. With El Valiente. 8pm. FREE. All Ages.
  • June 11 Mickey’s, Madison. Tour kick-off with Canyons of Static. FREE. 21+

German-only Split 7″

5 Jun

Fidel Bastro from Hamburg Germany is releasing a split 7″ to coincide with the European Tour. This extremely limited edition record will be on red vinyl with one of 8 versions of a clear sleeve. The Collective will endeavor to return with a few copies for the domestic party faithful. The Sons song is entitled “Mimetic Contagion” and is told from the point of view of a political prisoner. The flip side is by the instrumental Hamburg band, Lars Bang Larsen, and is entitled “Conspiracy of Conscience.” USoT throat-torturer, Russell Hall, sings on this song as well, putting himself in the place of the prison guard watching the aforementioned dissident.

Noise Is Too Strong Tour

4 Jun

Noise Is Too Strong TourThis summer The Sons will be joining our Croatian comrades Joe 4 for a 3-week European tour. We fly to Paris on Monday June 13 and then on to Zagreb where we’ll be picked up by Josip Tuesday night. Wednesday afternoon we’ll get ourselves familiar with Joe 4’s amps and drums and try a quick rehearsal before the first show of the tour in Zagreb that evening. Then it’s 19 straight days of shows. Hope my voice holds out.

Revolution LP Selling Steadily

1 Jun

The Sons’ latest record, When The Revolution Comes, Everything Will Be Beautiful, is selling steadily, the limited edition colored-vinyl LP in particular (CDs also available). Only 300 copies were pressed and The Sons copies are likely to be gone after the European Tour, so don’t procrastinate.

Order online at our Bandcamp site; or the Phratry or Sacred Plague sites. Digital distribution is now in place, including eMusic and iTunes (Amazon very soon). Be advised though, all three records can be downloaded for free at Bandcamp.