Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Nurse the Hate: Euro Tour Diary 2015 Day 7 Utrecht

Day 7 Utrecht Holland

Cars fly by us on the Autobahn.  I have somehow once again bungled my opportunity to rent a Porsche 911 GT in Stuttgart and drive as fast as an F1 race car on the highway.  I need to get one of those.  The 911 drivers appear to be much more content than we are chugging along in our LSD Trips van.  Then again they probably aren’t listening to the Alcohol Stunt Band like we are, the magic of Chris Crofton winning new converts in the Fatherland.  We cross into the Netherlands and stop at a truck stop where Christoph hurries in to secure two packs of Chocomel, some insanely rich chocolate milk drink in slim Red Bull size cans.  Also available are cans of Elephant Malt Liquor, Europe’s version of Colt 45.

Christoph tells us about the last time he “spoke to the Elephant”.  He was unemployed briefly so his favorite thing became going out on a Monday and getting totally wasted.  He really liked the idea of people thinking “what the hell is wrong with that guy?  It’s Monday for Christsakes!”.  So in this particular incident Christoph and his friends get three giant cans of the Elephant and knock them back in short order.  These things pack a 10% wallop, so this is no joke.  In no time at all they arrive at the hardcore show where he is already almost totally incoherent.  He keeps the party going at the club outside with friends.  This activity hits him like a freight train.  By the time the headliner hits the stage he is literally sleeping on his feet in the back of the venue.  He is totally comatose at a hardcore show.  It reminds me of the time our old bass player Tony fell asleep in front of the Cynics backline at the Electric Banana.  It seems impossible.  When his friends eventually carry him outside, he barfs all over the entrance of the club, making it impossible to leave the show without sashaying through his vomit.  Rock and roll.  I immediately start texting his friends in Germany to get a copy of a picture from that night. 

We roll into the Bed and Breakfast to get the keys to where we are staying.  It’s a pretty weird scene.  A tiny road is abutted on either side by canals.  Central casting has sent people pedaling through on bicycles.  Ducks lazily cruise in the canals.  We struggle to not drive into a canal with the big van.  The B&B is an old farmhouse, and by “old” I mean 1600s.  Not 1965.  There is a really nice sort of hippie family that runs the place.  We have stayed here before and I remember how friendly everyone was in the morning.  The main room that must have housed the animals has been converted into some kind of jam area with small amps and bongos.  I have a vision of the family doing shaky versions of Grateful Dead songs.  Crazy steps that are really little more than ladders are the only way to get upstairs to our loft room.  There are six bunk beds with a handwritten sign suggesting crawling out a space if there is a fire.  Hmm, that’s reassuring.

As we check in we see a middle aged guy with a man bun in the driveway smoking a hand rolled cigarette or some hash.  It’s sort of hard to tell which.  Gary blows right by him dragging his suitcase to the ladder, I mean “stairs”.  I stop to introduce myself and am surprised to find out that he’s American.  He invites us to see him play some rock n roll tonight at a club, which turns out to be the same club we are playing.  His name is Brother Dege and he is the opener.  I see Leo working his way into his inner circle after the gig after he mentions that this is his first show after a stay in Amsterdam.

We leave for the club at the same time as the Brother Dege crew.  It has become apparent it is very important for Christoph to make it to the venue before those other guys, so much so that he drives across a pedestrian walkway and almost knocks down the fence to get there first.  Another small victory for Christoph in a contest only he was aware of entering.  I’m happy for him when the Brother Dege van drives in as we are unloading.  A victory for German precision.  We roll the road cases into dBs.

dBs is one of those Euro clubs that is a co-operative performance space, bar, practice space, café, coffee house, meeting place, and maybe school.  The club itself is a medium sized space with a massive professional sound system.  A little blonde Dutch girl adjusts the lighting rigs.  The sound man has a shaved head, as all sound men must.  It is so professional here it is almost a shock to our systems.  I always like the air of chaos in a room.  I like to wonder what is going to go wrong.  This seems to be engineered to make the performance ideal for both stage and audience.  Danny, the show minder, is a really nice kid that makes sure we feel comfortable.  I saunter over to the bar to peruse the Belgian beers on offer.

I am delighted to see LaChouffe on tap.  That little gnome has never let me down, though it is a dangerous devil to dance with more than once.  I stay with what I know and bypass a couple of other beers with smiling cartoon characters on the labels.  If there is one thing I can impress upon you it is the need to treat these smiling Belgian beers with the respect you would a rattlesnake.  The more harmless the label appears, the greater the chance you will wake up with a new Korean wife and a tattoo on your forehead.  In fact, I will bet that is what happened to the lead bartender, who sports a tattoo of a flame on his forehead.  I sit contentedly with my LaChouffe amongst the animated patrons and wait for Brother Dege to begin.

The guys in his band have never played together.  This is literally their first time.  Dege yells out chord changes on the trance hippie blues.  These guys are all really good players and adjust to where Dege decides to go.  There is a lot of fog being blown around on stage and he sings some song where he says the word “motherfucker” about 58 times.  People seem to like it pretty well.  They finish and we get set up.

Remember how I said that this gig was engineered to take out any chance that anything could go wrong?  Literally two seconds into it my boot heel catches my microphone cable and it goes dead.  I grab Leo’s mic from the boom stand and sing the rest of the song from the limited area allowed by his chord.  I sort of look like Tony Bennet in a cowboy hat barely able to move around.  A short time later Gary breaks a string.  I didn’t know he broke a string because I didn’t hear him say anything about a broken string, so I assume he is tuning and have a quick intro.  “Ladies and gents… This is the song!”  I look left and Gary’s face is scrunched up trying to needle a string through a hole in his guitar.  Oh shit.  It is not easy to fill a long stretch of time speaking off the cuff to people that don’t speak English as their primary language.  I do my best.  It wasn’t that good.  Gary winds up switching his guitar out and we finish the set.  It is surprisingly very well received and we even get a couple of encores led by some guys yelling out of their diaphragms.  "YEEEAAAAGGGHHHHH!!!!"  I need to learn that trick.

The club clears really quickly.  We head back to the farmhouse.   It’s raining.  We try not to drive into the canal and drown, which isn’t easy as Christoph is as blind as a bat and refuses to get glasses.  We were instructed to be quiet when we get back by the woman that runs the place, so we retreat to our bunks and open some beers called Kompaan Bond Genoot.  I don’t know how to pronounce it, but they were good.  Eventually I have to go to Europe’s smallest toilet, which is right down the hall.  I have been in bathrooms in pleasure boats which are larger.  I literally cannot square my shoulders to urinate in the toilet so have to turn at an angle with the door open to accomplish the task.  I make a note to try and launch an Operation Mad Ape in there in the morning just for the experience.  

Tom, the slide player for Brother Dege comes by to hang out.  We talk about his home of Galway Ireland, and what he claims to be a vibrant roots music club scene in Ireland.  If an Irish promoter is reading this, we will come over to play.  I’d really like to see what’s doing over there.  Tom is a friendly guy.  It was nice to have met him.  He gives me some contacts over there which I put into my phone; undoubtedly to forget about and wonder what they are when I re-discover them in a few months.  I climb into my top bunk to discover Sugar stole my pillow.  Damn her.  I struggle off the bunk to scare up a new pillow.  Mission accomplished I climb back up and spend the night knocking a stick used to open a rigged skylight off the ceiling into my legs every 30 minutes.     


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