sunday, march 22, 1998 - vienna, austria
from bob lee:
tonight was the biggest gig yet, at the szene club. met a lot of really nice folks tonight, truly a pleasure. definitely the most sociable I've gotten to be on this trip, although I see none of vienna besides the szene club whatsoever. we also met some real cases, who shall remain nameless, but I would like to send a shout out to sungum, future stars of austria and a great couple of kids, ben from notre dame and david the interviewer, y'all made my day. also, to the whole set of promotors, susanna, irene, paul and gina, who made us feel so welcome.
from steve reed:
I need to call home, I miss katherine and mymom and the dogs, cody, bruno, clara, tank, bunny and chickatina. I've started to settle into hoeme life now that we finally have a nice home, and I am getting older so I'm getting a little homesick. but I'll be fine as we continue our european adventure. also, a young lady asked about the vocalist on "hell hole" (from firehose's "machinery operator" lp) and mike proudly told her about freda rente. so freda, wels austria loves you. the show in vienna was very well attended, sound and lights were great. tried to call home, kat wasn't there.
still snowing we head for the most eastern gig of this tour, vienna. it's funny going down the autobahn towards town - every valley has it's own weather system. in the course of the trip we get snow, big-time snow, white-out, rain, sleet, partly cloudy, total sun w/out any snow on the ground at all. it's amazing, the whole scene can change in just five minutes! what a mind blow. the austrians here call it "april weather" (even though it's still march). I've played this place before w/fIREHOSE, it's called "szene vien." very nice folks here. I do three interview before I play. whew! it's ok though. the gig is great, maybe the best of tour so far even though I break three strings. no matter. an english cat named paul booked all the austrian gigs and I meet him this night. he's nice and we have all kinds of common friends from the old days: billy stevenson, hank rollins, ian mackay, grant hart, paul boswell, etc. we remember the old days and talk about how things have gone all down the years. we both laugh much. good to see someone from them days that is still going. I dig it. one thing I really dig about this gig is that two of my friends from yugolsalvia who have written me for years are here and I finally get to meet them in person, brother and sister stanislav and snezana zabic. they're as great as I imagined them to be. we spiel laugh for a long time, joined by some austrian cats from wels who do yet another interview w/me after the gig along w/two folks from america who now live in vienna (for school). lots of laughs and good feelings. a very nice time to cherish. later at the hotel, me and joe baiza have a long talk about ensemble playing and that is pretty good too. watt is tired and soon conks.
monday, march 23, 1998 - innsbruck, austria
from steve reed:
I'm always very scared to call home because news is usually bad. well I finaly reached kat and she gave me some devastating news. our little yorky terrier was killed bya pit bull! she took cody, bruno and bunny for a walk and bunny and cody were attacked. bruno saved cody but he was too late to save bunny. it's so sad I'll never see bunny again. I feel so sad but I have to keep working, moving and staying focused. my tour has just been shattered with this bad news. also katherine broke her nose in the struggle. when I go away it's always fucked to call home. one tour, two people who were very close to me passed away... it won't always be like this but right now I have to deal with this in my head. well we're leaving for innsbruck in 25 minutes....
(later) did the show with a very econo sound system but it sounded great. stayed the night in a guest house in a resort town, spectacular view of innsbruck.
today's driving mission is two transverse the entire country of austria - from vienna to innsbruck. this takes five hours! it's like driving through the states of new england. we pass the danube river and I think of my slav friends. this time there's lots and lots of snow and we are in some serious mountains. no prob, I take it slow and drive us in all careful. the only fucked thing is having to use the heater to defrost the window. we hate that hot dry shit, it blows out our lungs but we gotta see out the window so we endure that hell. it's worse for me and steve reed cuz we ride up front. small torture though cuz we put it on only for minutes at a time when it's totally necessary. innsbruck is one hell of a sight to see, surrounded by mountains and all in a blanket of snow. it's like a painting. the gig is at "utopia" which is billed as a "kafe - kultur," well all right! tonight we play mostly for young folks which is the first time for the tour. it's a rough gig, lots of problems. one of joe baiza's guitar bridge saddles flies off in one song and the screw that held it in is forever lost - how did that happen? we are amazed. I break a string on the first song, something is wrong. from now on, I'm going to loosen my string when I put it in my case. since it's in a soft case, I think the strings are getting kinked at the bridge. damn. anyway we do the worst version of "the red and the black" that I've ever been part of (maybe) and I'm just laughing and laughing cuz it's just so unbelievable. it's hard understand why things are going haywire. before the gig I did a very long interview w/rupert heims which again had the potential of me having a fucked gig like the second gig of the tour cuz of the introspection but the lessons of groningen are learned by watt and I chase away all the hell on stage by laughing my troubles in their face. rupert is very interested in my work and asks very deep things and talking about d. boon, my pop and kira for two hours right before I played was a potential powder keg and I'm kind of glad for myself being able to use humor as my saviour. just laughing everytime the fear threaten to overtake me on stage. of course after the gig I harbored the usual 100,000 personal incriminations but sleepytown came quick and easy. I drank no whiskey this night.
tuesday, march 24, 1998 - graz, austria
from bob lee:
mike got stopped by austrian police, just walking around outside our mountain hotel resort today, apparantly because he "looked wrong." (I don't understand, the german kids recognized him as "the guy from that tv show which title translates 'man of the mountain'.") oh well, we got on our way soon enough. eating my first good salsa of the trip as I type this (santa maria tex-mex taco sauce, not the salsa from la fogata but far better than the ketchup / tabasco mixes we been getting).
from steve reed:
the death of my little dog bunny has totally wrecked my tour vibe. I cry about her a lot and I'm trying to stay focused to get through the next 3 1/2 weeks. my dogs are like my children, I love them very much and she will be greatly missed. we're in graz today, show at the theatro. the house crew is trying their best to get it together, but I'm only praying that everything works. sounds pretty good, bob's monitor is trashed but I'll make it work.
(later) The show came out great and mike said the team was great. the shows here n austria were all very good, systems sounded good, the fod was great and the crew was very helpful. bye bye austria, on to italy.
the ho for last night was an old farm house (from the 1600s) way up a mountain overlooking the town. snow everywhere. I take an early walk, slipping on my ass from the ice. after finding my footing again, I then take very small steps as I continue my journey. I have the incredible good fortune of getting rousted by the local gendarmes (that's what they call the police) for looking like watt. they give me the third degree, examine my passport, ask me when and where to I'm leaving their town for, take notes and then send me along. boy, do I feel like hanging around this fucking part of the universe. just like home in some ways, huh? some things are the same every where. in the van, joe baiza relates the same kind of hassel he got on a train in germany. he said they even tried to extort money from him. "if it quacks like a duck..."
the most southern of the big austria towns is the site of tonight's gig, our last one for this land. it's called graz. finally there is no snow on the ground. this is a beautiful place too. the promoters of this gig are stefan and martin and they are both great people. we have a very simple rider which is basically a few beers, some water, a bottle of beam, and some chips w/salsa that will make us shit fire. stefan says he has to search all over town to find some salsa (it is austria). it's called "taco sauce" but it's not too bad. the chips are covered w/chili powder but still it's ok. after soundcheck we chow at this restaurant where I have trout. it's the whole fish grilled w/massive amounts of parsley. it is fucking great. we go to the gig after a long spiel w/martin about his days in the scene and how it is now. he is philosophical and has lots of fun explaining the waste and drivel of rock star economics. we completley agree w/him and laugh for a long time. lots of folks we meet, no matter what the land, know and understand that the emperor has no clothes on. still, the myths percevere. we laugh ourselves silly then head over to the venue which is called "theatro" and is where, explains martin, hippy plays are put on. more laughs.
for me, this is the best performance yet of the opera on this tour. I am confident, bolstered by the trout and the team pulls w/me admirably. some cats in the audience even danced to "walking the cow" during the encore. I'm so happy w/our work and stefan and martin for bringing us here and making it happen. this is why I keep wrestling the bass after all these years. I promise to send martin some habanero peppers so he can learn to shit fire too.
wednesday, march 25, 1998 - driving to bologna, italy
from steve reed:
traveling to bologna, I finally got a grip on the bunny disaster, I feel a lot better after two days. arrived in bologna and met enrico who will be travelling with us through italy. he took us to dinner, which was great, and to the link club where we will be performing.
today is a drive day w/no gig, the first day off of the tour. we cross the alps into italy, the home of my mother's people (her ma came from the dolemite part in the north, her pop came from sicily in the south). the drive is pretty spectacular. we get to bologna after about a seven hour drive. we meet enrico, who will be w/us for the four italian gigs. he's a nice guy who has a lot of knowledge of the old days, a big record collector - even has clawhammer records (bob lee's band in l.a.). he takes us to a pad to have dinner and I order rabbit. it's great as is the fish ravioli, damn. we talk about the dirty three, the pop group, tricky, the fall, pere ubu, captain beefheart and all kinds of bands that all of us like - he knows about all of them and weird enough, he has the same opinion as stefan and martin (and paul in vienna) that everything happening now is so generic and cookie-cutter. what a coincidence, huh? must be something to it. he tells us bologna is a college town and the most democratic in perspective. half of it was destroyed in the second war by nazi bombing cuz of it's railroad beng being central to italy. he's toured w/lots of bands and has lots of stories and says he digs getting to chow w/bands who will rap about stuff and are curious to know shit. well all right enrico!
thursday, march 26, 1998 - bologna, italy
from bob lee:
we spent yesterday driving here, met enrico the italian promotor who will be travelling through italy with us. I'm glad he's here, real nice guy and very knowledgeable about music, also because very few people speak english here, or relativelyfew compared to the countries we've been in. I have attempted to speak to a few shop keepers and been greated with icy stares for the most part. but the town is beautiful, I gave myself seriously sore feet walking around town this morning. definitely glad to be out of the snow, I have become a true so cal weather wussy. it's a bit chilly, but finally feels like spring. sipping "irish cappuccino" & writing postcards in a little cafe, I feel very privileged to be here. second opening act of the tour: luciano chessa, a guitarist/ banjoist with a rhtyhm section. fascinating blend of pop and atonal elements, nothing like sonic youth... kinda reminds me of l.a.'s karen reitzel. luciano was kind enough to give me an lp,I hope it survives the journey home. our show is excellent, the most spirited crowd yet. really a great night, polished off by listening to watt sing me the highlights of his favorite blue oyster cult songs over hash in the hotel room. he wants to start doing "cities on flame" or "e.t.i."., so be sure to yell these out if we come to your town.
from steve reed:
took pictures of the town of bologna. it was a nice, chilled out day for me. the show came off great with cries of"encora! encora!" the piece is a little harder for the italians to understand but it was well received by the audience. not too much english here but they try very hard to understand you and help you understand them. I love these people.
I wake up early and start walking the town (usual tour procedure for me). walk off that whiskey and visit the downtown. see a statue of ungo bassi w/a mason emblem near it's base - strange for catholic italy. must've been an ally of garibaldi, huh? something like that. after ungo is a great arch, I'm on the via galleria and this is a gate from the old inner wall of the city. on one side of the arch is a machine that lets you get a clean syringe if you give it a dirty one. there's a few dirty ones lying around, blood still in them. jesus christ! I keep walking and get to the old church and walk into it's courtyard. paintings on all the roofs and walls of emblem after emblem of coat of arms and royal shit like that. talk about all the different families and signs, damn! bologna has the oldest university in europe and I walk by that. I walk by the train station that was bombed ten years ago killing all those people. bologna is a railroad town too, being in the center of the country. I see the military headquarters w/a guard out front. he stomps one boot as he salutes his boss coming in.
the gig is in a pad called "link." it's a former pharmacutical warehouse of the government that was sqatted and is now a youth center. lots of stuff there: music, plays, a real neat cafe downstairs. I had some great soup, mushrooms and beans, blowing my taste bud's fucking minds, mmmmmmmm. I dig it. a band called _luciano_ opened up staring this very modest cat named luciano (of course) who is planning on studying next year at davis in northern cali. him and his band are great, he plays electric guitar, acoustic guitar and banjo. although he's singing in italian (which is a beautiful language and must be easy to write lyrics for cuz every word almost ends in a vowel). our gig is good, the folks here being very warm and interested. I give them the opera w/both fists and they bring us back for mutiple encores. I'm very grateful and tell them so. enrico says he digs the gig too, it's his first time seeing us. we talk a bit and this enrico is very much in the know about the music scene. he knows about almost everything except maybe _the mentors_ and couldn't believe the main man was a cat named "el duce." I told him I'd send a cassette of their classic works.
friday, march 27, 1998 - florence, italy
from bob lee:
we got to see very little of the town but I have discovered my new favorite dessert: profiterole, chocolate mousse covered cream puffs, although the dish in the dessert fridge looks like a pile of road apples. the show is in a disco resembling a mini-hollywood palladium, kind of scary but to my surprise it is decently filled by the time we play (around 800, the most so far!) gary lucas, one of beefheart's guitarists ("doc" and "ice cream") came by to check out the show and say hello, all right! another good set, followed by new wave disco. these italian hipsters are very attractive but they dance like my high school mates in small town new jersey. met some more great folks, one of whom gave me a line on hot spots in madrid, and nearly had a heart attack watching us drive the wrong way down a one way hill road trying to find the hotel.
from steve reed:
between 7-800 people showed up & I thought the show was very good.
florence, the land of dante is next for us. lots of hours of late teen years were used by watt to pour over the pages of "the devine comedy." I really loved that book. especially the hell part, the "inferno." anyway, as we drive into town, I can't see anything due to the small side streets and know nothing of what the town is like. damn. the gig is at minature version of the palladium or something. it's called "flog." it's pretty mersh. the boss is named enrico also and he's a nice man. he's also got a great flannel. although we get like 800 people at the gig, some are definitely there for the disco after. gary lucas comes to the show and says hi before we go on. due to the big stage it's hard to keep focus but the florentine kids are great and hold the course even up against such a sick wind. they bring us back for more. we're have problems w/timing and dynamics but in the end it's like the chours from that blue oyster cult song "the red and the black": "it's all right!" amen.
saturday, march 28, 1998 - biella, italy
from bob lee:
tonight's gig is in a small town between milan and turin, isolated on a country road, like the outhouse in lawrence, kansas. graffiti on the wall: "we came here to drink beer and worship satan!" we were greeted by a number of friendly folks, some of them from the band punched bra (?!?), whose tape includes the track "military police (a song for mike watt to play)". another amazing meal, my first experience with a "cheese course". I think tonight's set may be kind of slow-paced, burrrp.
(cont'd) really enjoyed the show, although the crowd vibe was weird... about 30 folks up front screaming, another 150 or so sort of wandering about & chatting during the set. but I enjoyed it a lot. hi to vera, jessica and the members of punched bra whose tape sounds straight outta the poptopia festival (kinda poppy, kinda rockin'.)
from steve reed:
talked to katherine this morning, things are runnng ok back home. steve is working with her landscaping, and she had authorities pick up the dog thatkilled bunney. the owners have threatened her and now she will need to talk to the police about this situation. please god, protect her while I'm gone!!
babylona is the club in biella, only place in town to play. looks good, great sound system, hoping for another great show.
I wake early to take my walk but we're in florence suburbs and there's nothing but houses and non-descript streets. damn, florence is hidden from me. I find out dante isn't buried there either - of course, the kicked him out! serves them right then. we drive for biella, a small town in the north of italy between torino and milano. it's like an italian version of a roadhouse, out in the middle of nowhere by farms and stuff. it's called "babylonia ." the boss, aldo, brings us to small trattoria and like everywhere else we've chowed in italy, the chow is fucking great. I forgot to say about last night's chow w/the black rice and pesto plus the righteos salad and pizza (there's a least two main plates to an italian dinner) but that was good too in florence. tonight in biella I have a righteous whole trout and it is flying into my mouth w/mutiple shovel-loads. at the gig some guys who have a band called _padded bra_ give me a tape of themselves and a cake that was baked by one of their mothers. there's these two girls who are studying to be sound engineers who give me a letter and have tons of questions to ask about music. so very sweet, these cats - all of them. very genuine, no jive. I also do three interviews and everyone is very intent on the particulars of the punk opera. I happily abilge them, digging the fact folks want to know. we wait and wait to play and finally around midnight get to go on. and there's no opening band! anyway, it's a tough gig. I again get the doubts big time and it seems the band is splintered and not bound to the will of the piece. the dynamics are lost too. my fault probably from being such a cowardly leader. the audience is very nice though and so forgiving. I must have a talk w/joe baiza in the morning.
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