sunday, march 29, 1998 - rome, italy
from bob lee:
thank god for pietro, the promotor, driving out to meet us at the entrance to the city, because rome seems completely impossible to find one's way in, hardly any street signs and the fastest-paced drivers I've ever witnessed. yet another fab meal, centered around smoked mozzerella topped with ham and mushrooms. great opening set by brutopop, hard edged instrumentals in the vein of king crimson or this heat, highly recommended! half asleep, we still wandered to the collosseum at 4am and checked it out, very intense. I'd like to visit here as a tourist, just looking at buildings, arches and statues while speeding past in the Nedcar is overwhelming.
from steve reed:
the most amazing place, julius caesar's rome. wow!!! the roman collosseum, vatican, and the craziest driving I have ever seen since experiencing new york city. man, I've got to come back here again and spend a day just walking around. the history of this town is just spectacular! the show was sold out, or close, and the band performed great. playing here in italy was great, enrico, who travelled with us, was incredible and the people were very friendly. bye bye italy.
thinking while I'm walking down the streets of tiny biella. for the millionth time I tally the pluses and minuses in my head, dividing it by days, hours and seconds. summarizing and interpetating the results, meanings and assessments. on the brink, standing, stumbling toward what seems an inevitable uncertainty. the plague of the prodigal. so sure in my mission w/this piece but so afraid of my ineptenss. I try to get philosophical but it's the feet right under me that stumble my fool-self forward along the sidewalk. old, old buildings - cracked and blistered, mirror my psyche. I am a wreck. anyway, I let steve reed drive first today and sit in the back w/joe baiza to talk about things. of course I find the wrong words and the discussion goes to hell in a handbasket. I halt it to minimize damage. joe feels defensive. later, at a gas stop w/no one but us two together, we break bread and flush out all that shit of the morning and get down to the nuts and bolts. this joe baiza wants things to work and I have so much respect for him. he lets me know it's ok, he gets the picture. I feel like an idiot for the words I choose but am so relieved at him letting us both smooth things out. thank you so much, joe baiza.
rome is something else to drive in. I've never been here and really wanted to play here, my most aticipated gig of the tour. it's hard to describe the way the folks drive, it's like salmon swimming back upstream to spawn. it's one big, fucking crazy flow. I nearly laugh myself to death. we're playing a place called "bracalone ." pietro is the guy who put on the show, not the pad owners, who pietro says are dicks. peitro's from sicily. he's great. we get an opening band tonight, only the third one of the tour so far. their a band from rome called _brutal pop_ and they play some interesting instrumental music, vaugley like _toiling midgets_ or something like that. I dig them. we have a great crowd, the place is packed and we start the piece. joe baiza is incredible. the band's dynamics are right there. well, maybe bob lee overcompensated a little bit in the slow tunes like "...choke hold" or "...cow" but the gig is great. the team is taunt and fluid. I dig it. joe baiza is something else and leads us like a hard charger. we get many encores and this is something else. thank you joe baiza.
after the gig an american from stanford studying in rome comes w/us to visit the colliseum and see the cats. I have to see the cats. the structure itself is incredible, just incredible. the wind has ate pits into its sides but still it stands, tall and intense. we walk around it and see the cats, the heirs of ceasar. they lay on the lights to keep warm and look like sphynxs. it trips me out. I stand and wonder. damn.
monday, march 30, 1998 - driving to barcelona, spain
from steve reed:
travelling twenty hours to barcelona... the italians told us it was twelve! oh well....
we're supposed to get to barcelona tonight so I can do spiel w/some spanish press tomorrow morning. enrico said it would take 12 hours but it ends up more like 22 or something damn! I'm gonna miss enrico anyway, he's a happening cat. I hope to see him soon. the other enrico, who I met in bologna, plays bass and has even been to hermosa beach (to try and find the church) is coming along w/us as far as pisa. it's a beautiful drive up the western coast of italy and I dig it much. I talk a bunch to enrico while driving (the other three are conked) about old punk, templars, semantics and shit like that. I tell him about arcadia. he's very into all this. he tells me he wants to read "foucault's pendullum" by umberto eco, who lectures at the university of bologna. he's a great guy. he went to all my italian gigs except biella. I tell him he should see pedro. I'll show him. I like genuine people, especially in a world of so much fucking plastic. at pisa we drop him off at see the leaning tower from a distance, maybe the top four or five stories of it. it's a trip. I think of galileo. fresh pony (I switch w/steve) and on to genoa. we take a wrong turn and end up touring the city for a half hour but it wasn't steve's fault, the signs were marked all lame. genoa is a port town and we even see an old galleon type ship, complete w/a king neptune cat on the bow w/a trident. it's a mind blow to see. the town looks righteous w/mountains on one side and the mediteranean sea on the other. sun is coming down and we drive into france. just before we get there we pass monte carlo and all the lights down there are blazing. damn. we head into france and roar across the langudoc area, the call this the "corte de azure." damn, I wish it was daytime and we could see it! we finally get too sueno (sleep) and have to conk. we see an econo hotel that bills a 155 franc price (about $26) and pull in. no one's working there. we see this computer screen w/contols and follow directions. you book yourself in, put in your credit card and they give you a code to open the door. the pads are econo but happening and anyway, they're all the same when you close your eyes. at least they aint pump pads w/mattresses full of spodie. I sleep on the deck anyway so it's more a matter of how many dust bunnies you find sticking to your mouth in the morning. I roll around when I sleep, you know. sometimes it's the nightmares, other times I don't know what it is. damn.
tuesday, march 31, 1998 - barcelona, spain
from bob lee:
great news received while checking my messages... backbiter's 2nd lp is finally coming out!!! (this is a band I've played in for 7 years, we've been trying to get this put out for the last 2.) mr. reed is also very pleased, he plays bass on part of it. barcelona is gorgeous, we had a few hours to wander around, although I was again foiled by siesta time and kicked out of four different cafes. got to practice my poquito de espanol on 3 beautiful ladies who greeted us at the club. great gig tonight in an al's bar type venue (for those not from l.a., I'm talking about a small, crowded room with not much of a p.a. but lots of energy.) had my first taste of absinthe, and didn't get halfway through the glass, felt a headache coming on after 2 sips. back to estrella damm, a great spanish beer. dudes came up to me, "are you also the drummer for tom waits?" I explain that no, that's steve hodges, who had to do something else, I'm here instead, blah blah.. they look very disappointed and ask, "so... do you also know tom waits?" I am too wasted from the absinthe & beer to come up with a good lie, I'll have to think of one in case this happens again.
from steve reed:
arrived here in barcelona, weather's great hung out in the park & took pictures, drank beer & ate a sandwich with bob, joe and henry. joe & I walked to the train station and took pictures, it was huge! thinking about family back home, missing them very much, I'm a little tired and stressed but I'll make it like I always do. met unai, who will be travelling with us through spain. seems to be a nice fellow. jodi the soundman at magic club had a very econo sound system like al's bar, the monitors were toy and the show wasn't really advertised so we;re thinking "cave" (ie, nobody comes), so we were all surprised when people kept coming in, filling the club. it was a great show and the audience loved it very much. they listened very quietly through the opera. on to madrid. also my picture taking has gotten 100% better since the last tour when I got very frustrated with it. joe baiza says they tell a story.
we continue along the mediteranean 'till we cross the southern flank of the pyranes mountains and cross into spain. the border guards just wave us past, no look at the passport even. I like this open border stuff inside the eu (euopean community - their version of a "united states of europe" or something like that. next year most of them will go for one money, the _euro_). for cats who are touring, this is great but you talk to a lot of folks who live here and they're kind of scared of it. different perspectives, I guess. I can understand their point but from where I'm looking at it, the more things are open, the more I can get my spiel across. this is how I make a living and point my endeavor: telling and acting out ideas for the folk. the looser things are, the better for me. I am the forever auslander except when I'm w/my cats in pedro. then I'm home. besides that, I'm a journeyer, dancing for my supper. I need the openess and am grateful this part of the world seems to be a little more liberal about folks traveling about.
anyway, this is my first time ever in spain. the map carlos provided was quite a joke! a fax of some barely readable scribble to begin with! no street names are legible. however, there does seem to be a big sort of plaza (like a wheel hub w/spokes coming out) and I shoot the van toward that and then to the ocean and right out of the blue - there it is! the "magic," a kind of a rock place that is sort of like al's bar in downtown los angeles. nice folks there. we meet our spanish promoter, unai - he has his own label and has just started to bring bands to spain. I thank him much for bringing us aboard and start to do the interviews that were supposed to be done in the morning but cut due to the fucking hell-ride from rome. the spanish writers are great to talk to and are very sincere about what they write about. they know a bunch about me and my history but have no idea what the opera really is. I talk w/four of them right in a row and it's not boring at all cuz of the enthusiasm they bring to the spiel. when finally done, I have my first spanish meal: a spaghetti w/orange sauce that's fucking great! I'm surprised w/how little spice is in the chow but I guess I'm used to mexican and mexican chow is not spanish chow, I now am finding out. still, it's good. I look over a steve reed is draing about five gallons of grease from a chicken he ordered. bad choice, I guess. however, he did get the spaghetti also and dug it big time.
the gig was a trip. tiny-ass monitors, like w/maybe a five inch speaker each (no shit) and only four mics. one for bob's kick drum and then one each for steve reed's, joe baiza's and my mouth to use for singing. totally econo but the gig goes great! fantastic vibe from the room and the boss is bringing me up bourbons as we wail along. never got his name (he spoke no english) but much gracias, jeffe! he had a rock and roll mullet type haircut but fuck it, it's how you treat folks when it's time to be judged for you actions and this patron was great. we play pretty good too, I dig the way the team can play the room, no matter where we are. this is a sign of real growth. the only bummer is I didn't get to see hardly any of the town which I've heard from many folks to be great. oh well, maybe next time. thank you, barcelona.
wednesday, april 1, 1998 - madrid, spain
from bob lee:
appropriately enough, we play tonight in a boat-shaped club. cool opening set by ampa, from a town near bilbao, who will be with us for another day. the rhythm section look like pissed-off hassidim! the set is enjoyable, although possibly the crowd was filtered by a major football match going on just 2 blocks away, seems like the lightest of the tour so far, but those who make it seem to dig it a lot. my mood is killed by american alt-rock of the 3rd eye blind variety pumped in my face during the break down. just as I wonder, "how much worse can it get...", it does. fortunately we get outta dodge in a hurry. madrid looks like downtown chicago, at least what we see of it, very americanized, although I am grateful to find a subway sandwich chain at breakfast.
from steve reed:
d boon's birthday... I only saw him perform three times but I always thought he was an amazing artist, jumping around and playing hard. I never knew him, but spoke to him a couple of times. I hear wild stories about him all the time. we could have been good friends. 18 more days on the road then back to our loved ones for four days, then out again for 47 gigs in 50 days.
the club, moby dick, is a ship, the most perfect place for the opera. paco had the sound system set up well. monitors sounded pretty good, lots of head room. people at the back of the club were a little too loud for quiet moments, I had to tell them to shush. quiet please! it seemed to work.
to get to madrid, unai says we must cross a desert so we're off early. the drive is spectacular. imagine arizona and new mexico w/old castles and no billboards cluttering the view. there is one type of billboard that's allowed, it's just and outline of a big bull painted black. it's an advertisement for a brand of cognac but there's no writing - the form of a big black bull. it even has big balls hanging. from far away it looks like a trip, they put them on hills so the fuckers almost look real. they're maybe ever fifteen or twenty miles. when you look close, you see where farmers have made pastures and fields in the spaces between the mesas and rocks. it's a trippy scene w/the orange/red clay checked w/bright green patches. I keep thinking of don quioxte and sancho panza - what a great book cervates wrote! timeless. I keep looking for windmills but see none. unai tries to find el tobaso on the map, this is the land of la mancha but we fail to locate it. damn. anyway, my mind drifts w/dreams of the old knight and his bud sancho. I think of dulcinea too. damn.
they city of madrid is kind of sterile, all cement and new and not very interesting. there's a big soccer game in town so the traffic is backed up out the fucking yang. after such a long crawl-along we make it to the gig, a club called "moby dick" that's fashioned after a ship - the perfect setting for the opera and on d. boon's birthday too! I do a televison taping where the cat asks excellent questions and it's a lot of fun to do.
d. boon is on my mind this whole time. I send out a big e-mail to my flow list telling my friends about his b-day and to think of him. I would never even been on this journey and writing about it if it wasn't for him. he's still such a big part of my music and outlook on things. I always stop when I see something trippy and think "what would d. boon think?" he's still such a part of me.
in a way, this makes the gig kind of heavy for me and I'm a little weird about it. the opening band is called _ampa_ and they are led by andres, who's the brother of a friend of mine - both of which I dig much. they have a pretty wild sound and the lady who sings sure has the pipes, she sings and wails strong. there is a strange feeling about the club, however. some kind of lame rock and roll vibe that is kind of crummy. ampa plays kind of untogether and it's kind of a tough gig for us, trying to hold focus while the disco people are just waiting for this little punk rock show to get over so they can get us the fuck out. we get lots of encores though and I'm happy to play for the true believers who interested in what I'm trying to do. after the gig, they're very genuine and want to talk. I meet a sony international rep and try to explain the merits of the label and the promoters of each territory developing a relationship when tours their land. I'm assured my words will be carried upstairs to be heard and felt. this makes the idiot bassman from pedro happy. maybe I can offer some advice on some things, huh? the man in the van w/the bass in his hand. I give lots of hugs for just getting a chance to have my say w/someone paying attention and seeming to care. I wonder later if I came off to self-important and blew the whole thing out of the water. hope not, just trying to say my piece.
oh, d. boon.
thursday, april 2, 1998 - bilbao, spain
from bob lee:
this is, for what we've gotten to see of these cities from the nedcar, the most gorgeous town yet. a seaside resort town with a brand new guggenheim musem... wow. finally got to have tapas at a real spanish tapas bar, a series of finger foods, each more delicious than the last. a really fun gig, great set by ampa to open it... they remind me of l.a.'s tongue but less brutal, some parts sound like gloria estefan, but great playing and a very intense lead singer, ruchelle (sp?). ampa takes us out for drinks and hash afterwards, mike gets to teach them the coke can method. these bars are pretty loose, I've been seeing people whip out the hash at every bar we've been to. right next to our hotel is a strip bar called tiffany's. which advertises, alongside the cuban dancing girls and dude in a sailor suit, a musical trio made up of sax, accordian and drums. andreas from ampa has seen them before & says they are great! my curiosity nearly gets the better of me but unai, the spanish promotor, insists "this is a place you do not want to go." which piques my interest even further, but oh well. many thanks to ampa -andreas, tista, cuervo & ruchelle - for being around & showing us a great time.
from steve reed:
nice town, not as populated as madrid. finally going to have traditional spanish food. it was great, everyone loved it!!! this town is very beautiful to me. I would like to come back and bring katherine on a shore leave. she would love it. the weather is like california but windier. it's a very romantic place. the club is cool, sound system throughout the room. everybody enjoys the sound. all clubs should have systems arounfd the entire room, you can keep volume down and still fill the place with music. the palladium club is a great place. also I thought up a name for my new group: the steve reed quartet, sextet, octet. joe & bob think it sounds cool. actually joe baiza thought of it! bye bye unai, you were great.
we drive into mountains and to the atlantic ocean, the first time we've seen it since rotterdam. this town is bilbao and it is in the basque country. pretty harbor town, reminding me of back home in pedro. boats, barges, docks and channels - damn. then, right by the venue, sitting next to the water is the guggenheim art museum - one incredible piece of archetecture. wrapped in a metal skin (and I do mean _wrapped_), it looks like either five boats coliding into each other or a cubist painting of one boat in a bunch of dimensions. it's great. we're too late to go inside. so we marvel at the sun setting on the bright metal exterior, shimmering the many shining spangles that flow on its skin. damn. we chow tapas later (traditional finger food served in bars here). great octopus and stuff like that on little breads although I am tripped out on the relative plainess (spice wise) of the chow. I guess the chile flavors and stuff in the latin food I eat in l.a. is more from the indian side of those folks and not the spanish. the spanish chow is like other european stuff. dig the tapas, dig unai for turning us on to it. unai know lots about the scene and it's such a trip to meet folks who geographically are far away but at the heart are so close. even still, I feel I appear such a weirdo to him. he must think I'm out of mind. he's nothing but the best, however and I very much dig him. all these cats along the way in all the pads, such trippy links in the big chain. I stop and wonder. damn.
the gig is in a downstairs part of a pad called "the palladium." ampa once again opens up. this is andres home town. it's also the town of the great painter gomezbueno, who now lives in venice (the cali one) and sometimes comes to pedro to join watt on his bike ride around his town in the morning. I'm happy to be playing his town. the vibe of this pad is much better than in madrid, the boss here (forgot his name, fuck my alzheimered brain) is great and ampa really pumps tonight. they play great. we have a fun gig too. one basque cat asks for my hat (one that some alaskan cat gave me in l.a.) and of course I cannot refuse so now for the rest of the tour I will go hatless. it's ok, w/this stupid beard, I'm nearly hidden anyway. he goes down the streets w/his friends, laughing and talking in their speech. a friend of his tells me he plays bass and I'm even more glad he got the hat. oh alaska, still the only state I haven't played. one day, one way, I say.
friday, april 3, 1998 - driving to basel, switzerland
from steve reed:
travelling through france to get to switzerland, ten hours straight so far!! we arrive tomorrow.
wake up in the morning and start to walk. damn it, last night unai got us down in a small parking garage that was more like a goddamn groundhog tunnel home. there was no way the nedcar was going to fit. even a small scrape w/a fucking pole (fucking ninety degree angle tinyturns down there) and so now we have a small dent on the door. damn, and I was trying so fucking hard this tour (well I guess I do every tour) but this how it goes. I walk all morning sifting thoughts in my head. last night, that bass player from ampa tried to get me drunker than was smarter to do but my reason prevailed and I left all of his free beers and whiskeys on the table in front of me and walked away. I did drink a bottle w/mr. reed and mr. baiza after the gig though (hence the "say when" to the other cat's liquor) and the walk was good to push any remaining pollutants out and get both the joints (watt's joints really swell the morning after a gig) and the mind flowing. I walk by the water and think of pedro. I come to the other side of the guggenheim and start to take the bridge that crosses the channel to it but stop halfway cuz it's like four stories up and there's just this little hand rail and I have intense vertigo. instead, I watch the orange sun rise and relflect agianst this incredible building. damn.
time to leave the basque country and cross the border from spain to france and make our way to basel. no gig today just one big drive through france, heading from the border to bordeaux (where the wines are grown that perry likes to drink and I got turned on to when I helped the _porno for pyros_ cats on a couple of tours) and then east to st. catharine. we konk at one of those econo pads like we did at the corte de azure a few days earlier but this one's called "quick palace" and is even cheaper (145 francs, like $25). a lot of the route was highway instead of motor way so we saved on the payage (tolls) and got to go down the middle of a lot tiny french towns. it was a trip. I kept waitning for saunders to signal for kirby and little john to go join cage and doc, like some scene out of that "combat" series we used to watch as kids in the early 60s. freaky how sometimes those old memories cling and then just pour out, where and whenever - just something subtle setting it all off. damn. I start thinking of d. boon again too.
saturday, april 4, 1998 - basel, switzerland
from bob lee:
advice for those driving through france... eat early! we found a hotel last night in clermont at 10:30, and no food to be had, except for a beer out of the vending machine. but they do have cheap hotels, we got 2 double rooms for around $25 each. long hell-ride to basel, very happy to be here!
(later) another fun show! great people, an excellent meal... I dig this continent. the promotor has booked us four single rooms, instead of the usual two doubles, and mike tries to convince the dude to give us the doubles instead, which confuses the poor guy who can barely understand english, let alone pedro. "we jam econo on this boat." "aahh.. yes, four rooms, one bed in room." nothing english on tv but I do get to watch the A-Team over dubbed in german. I have noticed that no matter what time I turn a tv in europe, there is women's figure skating on. not sure what to make of this.
from steve reed:
came here one time before with legal weapon, also we're back in cold weather. here at the kaserne I noticed a legal weapon sticker! real cool, I'll tell kat & brian that people still remember them. I thought the show went pretty good, sound system powerful with plenty of head room, crew helpful and people very friendly. I met a french girl that was impressed that we were over twenty and still touring around. that was cute if her to say. she said I taught her the lesson that age is only in your head. (my mother tells me this all the time). she also wants to come to america one day, she was very nice.
return for watt to the "kaserne" in basel, switerland. there's a new boss, frank where formerly felix, who did the last two shows was. this one of those young people social centers you see in europe. they put on plays, do art showings, poetry, music, etc. they're neat kinds of pads that we don't have much of in the states. the closest thing to it is like playing colleges back home. like every pad we've played on this tour, the people are great. we play tonight w/a german band (from freiburg) called _geshmeidal_ which they said meant nothing (not the word "nothing") in any language. they were dreamy sounding and singing in german. good band. one of them had a sweater on. felix came and saw me right before showtime. gave me some info on these two books he had in swiss german. he was hoping I could find enlish translations in the u.s. I'm gonna try. one was on kafka. our gig was good, I talk about small stuff... here's our typical end of a set: we come off stage and start talking about some things I noticed during the gig and what they thought. joe baiza has a good idea about keeping it fresh: have a little danger in the music. bob lee wants to get tight. this is good dialog. had to start and stop two songs over, "the red and the black" and "154" but that's ok. it was funny.
after the gig this swiss cat named andy starts talking w/us. he's funny. he talking about a lot of things, he's been around. he says some strange stuff all night. ask bob lee! at the end when we're bailing he says: "we swiss have no identity" and frank (the boss) says: "you're drunk, we're southern germans." all of us laugh tripping on that, go to the ho (walk across the road) and soon konk.
read week 2 of the tour diary
read week 4 of the tour diary
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this page created 12 apr 98