"hola marinaro" tour diary - week 1

mike watt and the black gang

"hola marinaro" euro tour '98

joe baiza - guitar
bob lee - drums
watt - thud staff, spiel

steve reed - soundman

dutch dude carlos van hijfte - the man outside the van

performing watt's punk rock opera "contemplating the engine room"

sunday, march 15, 1998 - los angeles, usa

from steve reed:

   well here we go again, another tour is upon us, this time in europe. I've only been here one other time, with legal weapon, and it was exciting and enjoyable. this is the beginning of about three months of touring with mike. I've been with him ten years and I'll go ten more if he wants me to. so bye bye america & hello europe. first stop: amsterdam, holland. also one of my goals os to write my solo record. I need five songs to complete my project, then I'll have ten or maybe even twelve pieces and I'll try to record around mike's touring this year.

monday, march 16, 1998 - rotterdam, holland

from bob lee:

   as john travlota once said to samuel l jackson, "they got everything over there that we got over here, except there, it's just a little bit different."

   left l.a. still wet from a claw hammer/ saccharine trust gig at al's bar (many thanks to chris de young for the early am ride to the airport.) stayed up all night & flew out at 8:30 am, managed to sleep through most of the flight, smart move as we arrived in holland at 7 am, fresh and ready. I met a native american named earl ray on the flight, a very nice guy, told me he was returning home to amsterdam from a us tour, his music being a combination of blues and native american trdaitional music. hope to hook up with him in a'dam at the end of the trip.

   ever heard the phrase "jam econo"? it's for real. the first thing we did was swap our tour van for a smaller one actually a very savvy move as the minivan we now have has more back seat room than the monster we started with.
after picking up gear, checked in to the hotel and headed for the coffee shops (a very enjoyable experience indeed), then for dutch chow (fries with mayo and a "tartaar" sandwich, which mike had to tell me was spiced raw hamburger. tasted great but fearing for my colon, I let most of it sit untouched.)

   walking around by myself later, I visited two other coffee shops, at the first I was greeted by a blast of the most insane, deliberately annoying techno music I have ever heard (later found out this must be the popular rotterdam music called "gabber"), faster and shriller than atari teenage riot by a mile. interesting, but I was in the mood to "relax", you know. at the second, they were playing a more moderate blend of techno and hip-hop, but the clientele included a large collection of what would seem to be hookers and their pimps, heavies of some sort anyways, checking me out and obviously talking about me in dutch, yeck. (for dutch tourists in rotterdam looking for coffee shop action, I recommend the sensi cafe, the first place we went and the only one I would go back to, the most mixed crowd and the only place in rotterdam where I heard any guitar rock.) returning to the sensi, I was playing pinball behind a group of middle aged black men speaking dutch, but peppering their speech with the occasional "oh yeah", "got that right", etc, really weird. from a distance, dutch sounds almost like english until you start trying to follow the conversation, even the speech inflections match up almost perfectly.

from steve reed:

   flew into amsterdam around 6:45 am, about 46 - 54 degrees, light drizzle. flight was pretty smooth, watched discovery channel & davey crockett on the plane, fess parker & buddy ebsen. carlos, mike's agent, and gunther met us at airport. they brought us the van & then we proceeded to utrecht for equipment. pro-tone company, yamaha drums, trace elliott bass, fender twin reverb guitar amp, all workable equipment. back to amsterdam to trade van for a more econo one, then on to rotterdam to the hotel & closer to the gig on tuesday. mike, bob & myself hanging out in the coffee shop discussing the tour. back home I forgot to leave gate key for my truck so katherine can get to work. pretty stupid on my part... trying to call her, got her just as she was going to leave. acting calm, she's going to take care of it.. sorry honey.

from watt:

   this morning we got into rotterdam (via the schipol in amsterdam) after eleven hours of flying and nine hours of time zone change so yeah, things are strange for the body. the trick is to get in a sync w/the current surroundings so what I gotta do now is stay up and go to sleep at the same time these dutch folk do. although I've played in holland many times, this is my first gig in rotterdam. same applies to joe baiza. for bob lee, this is his first time playing overseas ever. so we walk around all day checking out the town and taking it all in. pretty amazing, this town - it looks much different than the other dutch towns because the nazis burned it down in 1940 by dropping bombs on it to make the dutch surrender. they did the next day (right close to where carlos, who books my europe gigs, lives) and later after the war, they had to rebuild the whole town so there's lots of concrete and newer types of buildings instead of the little brick ones you find everywhere else. what I really dig about this pad is that it's a port (one of the worlds biggest) and that reminds of my town, san pedro back in cali. only one day and I already miss it.

tuesday, march 17, 1998 - rotterdam, holland

from bob lee:

   had my first good dutch meal at the nighttown theater, kudos to the italian chef on his risotto formula! this being my first gig with these folks, I was nervous, but we did ok. steve reed and I met bad manners backstage, they were playing the huge room adjacent to the one we were in, super nice folks!

from steve reed:

   st. patrick's day. mike & I went to the maritime museum looking at old ships & models of ships and their accessories. now it's time for load in & soundcheck at nighttown theater, first gig of the tour. peter (stage mgr), peter (monitor mix guy) and jerry (house sound) are all very nice and their system is pretty good but no gates! which is a bummer. a few drum overtones but I eq'd em out as best I could. show time 9:30.

   (later) the show went well, bob lee was excellent playing the opera, confident, exciting. he really adds a lot to mike's music. hung out with bad manners who were playing next door, very friendly & excellent london folks. we told them we'll see them in l.a.

from watt:

   I wake up and am in sync w/europe! early morning and watt is walking down the rotterdam streets, exploring w/not a trace of jet lag. the intersections are funny here - absolutely no signals or stop signs, just like one big version of how people walk around in new york city: whenever and wherever they want to! pretty funny. I wonder if that would work back home in pedro? ha! anyway, me and steve reed go to the maritime museum to check up on dutch boats. it's pretty amazing in the pad, w/models of boats made in the 1600s and shit like that, amazing. they built these models to train cats how to build those boats. the dutch had colonized indonesia (they called it the dutch east indies) and it was one fucking hell-ride to get from holland to over there so the dutch became really good at boat building and sailing. the models are accurate all the way so as to illustrate to contruction techniques. me and steve reed were totally engrossed by it all. we looked all over for slave ship stuff but could find nothing regarding that. maybe a little denial, huh? all and all though, we really dug it. outside they had a two cannon steam ship from the 1890s you could walk on and explore. it was great and down in the engine room we found more models. this time they were of steam engines, miniature steam engines that actually worked, tons of them. it was a trip. they were used to train students and serve as prototypes for full size ones. good attention to detail, these dutch. I guess that's how they made their living, sailing the sea. well all right.

   the first gig of the tour is tonight. it's at a place called "nighttown" (they just changed the name from "popular"). the cook there is italian and his risotto is fantastic! much respect to him. this is the first time bob lee will have played the opera in front of folks and of course it will be the first time carlos will see it so I'm shitting a pecan log. the gig goes on and I brave through it. I start laughing many times, overcome w/all the feelings the piece brings out in me. sure there's some clams and a some misfires but I think the set is happening and I'm very happy w/joe baiza, bob lee and steve reed. they are quite a crew, this black gang. I'm a lucky man.

wednesday, march 18, 1998 - groningen, holland

from bob lee:

   the vera club in groningen is legendary amongst american touring bands as a great gig so I was looking forward to this. the vera was in its final stages of remodeling when we arrived, so the gig was held at an orchestra rehearsal hall in the osterpoort (museum & cultural center). looking at the walls of fliers from years past in the vera office, I was struck by how many us indie bands used to tour europe, versus how many are over there now or coming soon. it's a different world now. mike was unhappy with the gig but I thought it went alright, we are still working out the kinks of a few things, looking forward to tightening up.

from steve reed:

   walked around the town of groningen, took pictures, and enjoyed the day. kind of cool out, got very cold later but still nice out. the show went pretty well but it wasn't one of our best. i soiled myself during "the 15th" by not knowing where to come in with joe on vocals, but the show was still well received.

from watt:

   today we're going across almost the entire country of holland to play groningen, the biggest dutch town in the north. they trip took like three or four hours! small land, this holland. that's ok w/me though cuz I dig this land. peter wenner is the promoter there at the "vera" and he is an old friend, I've played his place a couple of times before w/fIREHOSE. he's the best. trippy narrow horned rimmed glasses and always a smile. I want to play well for him. I take the guys around the town and they're gassing on how the dutch towns are layed out w/their little streets and stuff, it's a blast. I do two big interviews before the gig w/some very nice people but by the end of the second spiel I start feeling all kinds of doubts. like the talking about myself is wearing on my idead of my own self-worth. I start feeling lame and like a phony and when the show starts, I really start to get scared and feeling small. the gig is very hard to do. I keep feeling tinyer and tinyer, more and more afraid. by the end I even have a little fit. I apologize but still feel terrible about myself. I feel like I've let everyone down, by not having confidence to help bring everything together, we are unfocused and isolated. the folks like it and wants more and more encores but I feel like an idiot. what a bad gig. my fault. this gig was important though cuz I learned a few good lessons, about having to pull myself up by the bootstraps when things get like that for me. I have to not internalize those fears let them overwhelm and do the best job I can pulling my team together and deliver the piece to folks w/heart and feeling. I have a talk w/the guys about this and feel a little better. I tell them it's my fault and my responsibility. they're very supportive. I'm crying and tearing myself up inside as I drive us to the hotel and am glad to finally konk and get off to sleepy town.

thursday, march 19, 1998 - nurnburg, germany

from bob lee:

   I scored an awesome poster tonight of a german duo named herbert & schnitzi, two very severe and unhappy looking folks who seem unlikely to entertain anyone from the looks of 'em. the guitarist from hauser, the opener, explained they are a comedu duo with a monthly tv show, he could not understand why I liked the poster so much. "german humor... you have to live here to understand." nevertheless I am stoked. I met a heavy metal tape trader who knows my former neighbors lost breed's records! they are still fairly unknown in l.a. (now known as the vengeance bros., minus their lead singer), but he has both their lps. come to think of it, they only came out in germany so maybe not so strange... met a lot of great folks tonight at the after-hours smokeout, and got my first sight of das ich, another poster I must get a hold of before we go. guy looks like a robert crumb drawing of a nazi rock star. I miss a cue tonight and mike dents his headstock trying to get my attention. "i wanted to hit you in the fuckin' head!! ha ha, just kiddin' bob lee." I promise to uh, ha ha, do better next time.

from steve reed:

   drove 7 hours to nurnberg from groningen, arrived at the hirsch club and quickly made myself a sandwich. after soundcheck, a hot meal so I already like this place. show, lights and sound were very good, great reception from the people. vocals were good and the group performed excellently. on to salzbug, home of mozart!

from watt:

   hell-ride to start this morning off. we leave groningen early to do a 600 kilometer plus drive to the bavarian part of germany. the autobahn is well made and mainted and it's smoothe sailing. carlos rented us a volkswagon minivan (1998 model not from the 60s!) and it's a good drive. we got it packed tight w/the gear which we also rented in holland (that's why it's expensive to tour in europe) and although I got to keep the accelerator floored to do the speed limit (130 km/hour or about 81 mph) the ride is fine. the scary thing is the motherfuckers who speed like big dogs on the road. there's usually only two lanes and when you move out to pass a truck and you see what was just a little dot in your mirror come up and almost plow you, it's a pants shitter. big time. terrible drivers everywhere. they probably think the same when the come to the usa so that's that. another thing is navigating towns that have no grid plan to their streets. hundreds of tiny little alley-sized streets make up their towns. anyway we get to the club called "hirsch" which is an industrial part of nurnburg. I think the building must have been a factory. it's my first time playing this town. christian is the promoter there and he's great. we have a fun gig. I see ole and kai from sony germany there and of course they're great to be around - I dig them cats a bunch. using what I learned the night before to help me, I think the gig is really fun. lots of encores and niceness from the folks. I have some connection to the internet (although I have to use that shitty fucking america online service overseas here cuz they're wasn't any other option - steve case, the aol owner is mini-bill gates dip fuck monopoly ineffecient asshole who has a one dumper of an online service in my opinion) and kira sends me an e-mail saying to stay calm and peaceful. good advice for this idiot watt indeed! a can gets used to administer us hash and I feel good about recovering from last night's nightmare. good lessons for me to learn though, everything can teach you something if you open yourself up to listen.

friday, march 20, 1998 - salzburg, austria

from bob lee:

   visited dachau today, chilling in spite of all the third reich footage I have seen, to see some of those same photos and then stand in the square where these events took place. tonight's show is at the nontaal, a cultural center. I spend the early evening listening to an african drum workshop in the adjacent room. the show is a good one (i am watching mike very carefully now) and we are treated to a great meal and many drinks by willy, the local promotor, at a fine italian restaurant.

from steve reed:

   gearing up for 5 austrian dates. on the way to salzburg we stopped at dachau, 1st concentration camp in germany. it was pretty amazing to go to a place like this where so many countrymen, women and children were put through so much hell. I'm glad I finally visited one. next I woud like to see one of the american camps. back on the road to salzburg and now it's starting to snow. we arrived on the scene and and discovered a great deli platter! I mean great!!! and it was good...

   (later) sound check, performed a great show, broke down equipment and ate again. what a life, huh? right now it's snowing hard, it's wild man! I guess our austrian visit will be in the snow, oh well, only three more days.

from watt:

   after a few blow-bys and loops (remember, a loop can never come before a blow-by) we make it out of nurnberg and head to salzburg via munich. I ask the team if they want to see dachau cuz they've never been there. it's just north of munich. it was built in 1933 and was the first of a long line of concentration camps the nazis used. when we pull into the parking lot, some tiny snow flakes are floating around. I remember when I was here before and it was very heavy on me, walking on the same ground so many had suffered on. I felt I could feel the spirit of the land itself trying to give up such a great wieght. the guys were pretty affected too. everyone said they were glad they came though.

   we get back in the van and head the rest of the way to salzburg. the snow then really starts coming down, it's intense. not storming but just a gentle carpet of white coming down, it was incredible. now salzburg is located between a river and high cliffs w/a castle sitting on top of this big hill. the cliffs are pretty sheer and go up maybe a couple of hundred feet up and were all white from the snow, it was quite surreal.

   the gig is at a place called "arge nonntal" and is run by a great guy named willie. he's also a writer and showed me his first work that's been translated into english. it's an excerpt from a story about a guy named bellmer and his encounter w/a psychiatrist. great work. he wants to record the set so he can use a song for a compilation of acts that's played his pad. I say sure! again, I think he's great. I play really hard and like the gig. we blew some clams but overall it's good. bob lee is really coming around. he only had two weeks to learn the piece and he's not really used to this watt stuff. sometimes he burrows his head down though and it's hard to get his attention. I knock a big chunk out of my headstock trying to get his eye. I started laughing big time. joe baiza blew a huge clam in the wire song "the 15th" and didn't realize it 'till he had sang the whole verse - in the wrong fucking place! more laughs from watt. it was a good gig and the cats at the show were very nice to us. every gig so far has had us playing like six or more encore songs. much respect to them. us black gang are still working out the fine points and dynamics but I'm very proud of the team and what we're doing. we're trying to make the room breathe. I know the piece (opera) is a trip but I just got to play it for folks. it's so important for me at this time. it makes sense to me and gives me a sense of purpose. I can imagine what people might think but I just got to tell piece. it makes me feel real and not a fraud. my eternal thanks go out to my team and those who come to check it out. watt's a lucky man.

saturday, march 21, 1998 - wels, austria

from bob lee:

   on the drive to the club, I spot a place called the flamingo bar, on the sign is a blond woman, naked except for what appears to be a diaper. what kind of adult entertainment are these people into? I never get to find out, during my walk through town at about 5pm on a saturday everything from bars to bakeries is closed! the shops have already closed and the bars don't open till 9. the show goes very well, best one yet, feeling more confident about dynamics & getting used to watching watt's subtle method of conducting the band. my normal tendency is to shut my eyes completely for most of the set, possibly a reaction to sweat and smoke, possibly as a method of zoning out, but I'm getting over it.

from steve reed:

   first day of spring! but it's still snowing here. when we arrived at the gig folks were sitting around, no sound system and the stage wasn't ready. they said one hour, I thought to myself "this is going to be the first tough one of this tour." I was wrong- the setup was quick and the system sounded great! so far on this tour, all the europeans are down, very supportive and helpful. every show on this tour we've had stage mixes from the monitor board which has been a dream come true. I hope it will stay this way throughout europe and all the way through the u.s. tour.

from watt:

   willie took us to an italian chow pad after the gig last night and we spieled and spieled about all kinds of subjects. like I said, he's a writer and is very sharp. I learned many things talking w/him. by 3 am, he had to bail and we kept drinking whiskey 'till five! not too much though, no hangovers or shit like that. I wake and start walking the town - snow everywhere like I'm in one of those bubble scenes where you shake up the little diarama and watch all the flakes settle. the shit was wild but not too cold so there was no ice to slip on (remember, I got bad knees). I walked to the train station and got some stamps to send out postcards. my link w/my american connects.

   we drive w/some pretty heavy snow coming down but I stay steady and take my time. cali guys don't make the best snow speed racers, huh? it's only a hundred miles too. the gig is at a youth center called "alter schlachthof" which means "old slaughterhouse" which it was. a nice guy named hansi is running the gig. very low key in approach, the team here is very competent. no rock and roll asshole too hype bullshit. I dig it. the gig is a blast too. bob lee is playing great as is joe baiza. steve reed is there for me more than any man has ever had and I'm that fortunate. after the gig some wels folk spiel w/me about things (their land, my land) over whiskey and the whole scene is great. oh yeah, the chow was great too - bits of ham and potato slices mixed w/curly pasta. a big thank you from watt.

read week 2 of the tour diary

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