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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Europe by Night

posted by on January 31 at 2:47 AM

It’s almost over, this month-and-a-half long gallavant across Europe—from Sweden to Italy to Spain to the UK and beyond—with two young, pretty (and by now pretty stinky) rock and roll bands. My fingernails are filthy, I smell like a garbage truck, and I’m sure I’ve accelerated my hearing loss, but it’s been worth it for moments like two nights ago, in the London suburb of Guildford (see below the jump for details on that show) and the thrill of clandestine tourism. At every border, we have to fake not-being-in-a-band beacuse of the work permits (explaining the tons of musical equipment in the back is always an end-run around logic: “we brought all this over to play one free festival in Utrecht… no, seriously”). And our sightseeing is always after dark, usually tipsy, led by some local rocker who is weary of his own city and amused by our interest.

The cathedral at Reims was my favorite. It was this, but menacingly lit from below, seen on a deserted January night, after a couple glasses of pastis:

It’s almost over and everyone, I think, is torn between wanting out of this rolling madhouse and not wanting it to end. It is how I imagine a typical small-time rock tour: Did I mention everybody stinks? Everybody got a cold. Nobody was never-drunk and one of us was drunk more often than the rest of us would’ve liked. Some of us took some drugs, others of us took others, none of us took all the drugs, and a few of us didn’t take any. Everybody shared. A few of us cried. One of us drunkenly pissed on my pants. (It wasn’t me.) Some of us went home with strangers. Some of us tried to go home with strangers. One of us drunkenly asked our hostess in Logrono, Spain: “I don’t want to fuck you, but can I sleep in your bed anyway?” To which she replied: “Everyone here is really hot, but I’ve made my decision. [Somebody else] is already in my bed.”

I don’t want to come home. I can’t wait to come home.

In Guildford, England, the bands--Holy Ghost Revival and the Clorox Girls--were booked to play a small community center. (The venues have ranged from big-time rock clubs in Berlin and Barcelona to a tiny brick-and-candles cafe in Reims to anarcho-crusty squats to this flourescent-lit hall that is a homeless drop-in center by day and usually dead at night.) The audience was mostly round-faced, pimply teenagers in everyday clothes, but there was a clutch of twentysomething punk-punks with their leather jackets, mohawks, and menacing glares. Those types usually like the Clorox Girls (they play fast), but usually grimace at HGR, who begin their set with some pompous metal-piano ballads. Watching the band seduce the audience each night, provoking instant hate with the soft first act and then converting them with the sinister, glam-metal second act, has been one of the joys of the tour. Sometimes the fundamentalist nartards turn against Clorox as well, who play a happy, Beach-Boys kind of punk. Standing in the freezing cold outside a Paris squat while Clorox was playing, I tried to end a tedious conversation with a Czech punk:

Me-You should go inside, see the band.
Czech Punk-I don't like. This music. Is not truth.
Czech Punk-This not truth. [Shrugs.] Is too "la la la." Too smile.
Me-Truth can't wear a smile?
Czech Punk-[Shrugs.]

The Guildford crowd fell in love with HGR (even the punk-punks, whose ringleader was a chubby Irishman who swigged hard cider out of a two-liter bottle and called everyone "my lovely") and then went bonkers for Clorox. At one point, someone commandeered a couch from a street corner and came crashing into the hall, hoisting (sometimes unwilling) audience members into its seat and hauling them high overhead like bier-bearers on speed.

For the final number, Clorox played Wooly Booly, which segued into Kumbaya--all the sweaty, drunk crowd sitting cross-legged, clapping, and softly singing along, then rocketing back to their feet for the screaming chorus.

For the final-finale, the singers from HGR (my little brother) and Clorox sang a soft lovesong. We all grabbed (sweaty) partners and waltzed. The pimply teenagers loved it ("never seen nuffin' like it"), the punk-punks loved it ("the lovliest Americans we ever seen... ") and we loved it.

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I love reading about your travels! It makes me want to go back to Europe sooo bad! You describe it perfectly and it makes my heart ache (Jesus, can I be more cheesy?)... Have fun and enjoy the rest of your trip!

Posted by caitlin! | January 31, 2007 11:13 AM

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