Tour Story: European Tour 1999

This is the story of the Mumble & Peg '99 summer tour of Germany as told by Matt Lebofsky.

8/15/99 - Ninewood said that the work shirts (i.e. old button-down short-sleeve deals with random name and company patches) sold like hotcakes during their European tour, so we printed a bunch exclusively for our tour. When we got them we found half of them were fucked up - they forgot to print the black background screen. A lot of dealing with the t-shirt manufacturer ensued, and they agreed to reprint a bunch and ship them to Germany. What a hassle, especially since we ended up only selling about a third of them. This is only a short example of the last-minute crap we had to deal with right before leaving for Europe.

8/16/99 - Virginia hauled the three of us to the airport in Jenya's car. Our flight was delayed two hours. We were flying MartinAir, which miraculously flies directly from Oakland to Amsterdam. Despite being nice and early, there was a long check-in line, and we were carrying a ton of equipment. Luckily, they didn't seem to mind the size/weight of our luggage (drum parts, guitars, concessions, keyboards, clothes), and we also scored the three adjacent bulkhead seats.

The flight was painfully long, aggravated by the hard seats which eventually made my ass throb, and the poor selection of food. I shouldn't have ordered the beef. The computerized display showing our position in the sky was at first intriguing, then a novelty, then rather irritating, and finally a form of extreme torture. We watched Jackie Chan's "Rush Hour" on a 3" digital display in front of us. Failed to sleep a wink. Motion sickness, sleep deprivation, and mild starvation ruled the final hour or so of the journey.

8/17/99 - Landed soundly and rushed off the plane. Long wait for the baggage, a little bit of an awkward moment as the claims checkers were a little upset that we had no forms stating we intended our music equipment to return to the U.S. Past the claims area we met Holger, who we will be spending the next five weeks with. In Holger's Mercedes tour van I quickly examined his CD collection - King Crimson, Codeine, Joni Mitchell, Long Fin Killie.. Phew. We're in good shape with this guy. He could've been a punk-ska nutcase for all we knew.

Out of Holland and into Germany and eventually to Muenster where Holger lives. We're to be staying at his house for the next couple of days as we recover from jet lag. His tall and friendly housemate Andreas made us dinner of delicious salad and a dish containing eggplant, mushrooms, and cheese (editor's note: Matt can't stand any of these foodstuffs, but severe hunger and politeness prevailed). Long chat and beer at the kitchen table evolved into Erik playing the classic 1982 Vectrex Minestorm video game in the guestroom. Supposedly God Speed you Black Emperor stayed here recently and were all over Minestorm as well.

8/18/99 - None of us slept so well, being off schedule by 9 hours. Jenya and I embarked on our own into the rainy town, exchanging money at the local Sparkasse and getting bread and eggs as the outdoor market. Jenya actually speaks enough German to get by. I only know a few words. Holger speaks English rather well and spoils me into thinking everybody does, but when confronted with phrases like "mit senf?" I panicked and froze (editor's note: that means "with mustard?"). Eventually my German got a little better.

Eggs, espresso, and lots of good bread and things to spread on said bread for breakfast. I learned to really enjoy this standard German breakfast. With the day off, Erik, Jenya and I hit the town on foot - churches hundreds of years old, stores in beautiful old buildings. Entered our first record store and Erik has never been the same since. I'll state now that he spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars on vinyl during the course of this tour. Got home and laid down to relax and next thing we know we all napped for three hours. Jet lag city!

After dinner Holger availed to us the use of his practice space. After setting up Holger headed off, and during the first song a lamp in the room fell, knocking another lamp over and blowing all the fuses in the room, leaving us in the dark. By some lucky miracle the room next door shared the same breaker and that band happened to be in and they helped us find the fuse box and get back on track. However, during the next song we discovered the piece-of-shit Alesis Nanopiano sound module I bought just for this tour craps out at random. That's no good.

Holger appeared and brought us back home. Up late discussing music, culture, school, etc. with Holger. Suddenly it was 4:00am and we headed to bed. We then realized we were still wide awake and got back up to watch videotaped episodes of the Simpsons dubbed in German. The voices were all different and disturbing, but we all have every line memorized so it only added a whole new dimension of enjoyment to the show.

8/19/99 - Slept until 2:00pm - Still jet lagged. More bread/spread for breakfast, and then hit the town to deal with my lack of working sound module. Holger used up a favor from a music store friend to loan me a more stable Yamaha unit for free. Practiced again at Holger's space for three hours, Jenya concocted a late dinner, and we went to bed early. Got up at 4:00am and were hardly able to get back to bed. Shit.

8/20/99 - The tour begins. Our early asses were up forever before Holger woke and we hit the road for Koln (or as the French say, "Cologne"). Autobahn traffic slowed us down, and once we got into the city Holger had to drive in circles to get a reference point, and then ask various people on the street how to get where we needed to go. Turns out this is how we dealt with finding clubs in every town.

The club was the Underground, and reminded me of Emo's in Austin. We quickly claimed four beds in the guest accommodation area. Things were harried as this was Saturday night and ten bands were playing as part of a central showcase for this huge annual music festival in Koln. To add to the panic, the P.A. for one of the two stages was stolen last night. Because of that soundcheck was delayed and eventually cancelled, meaning we got to play with completely foreign amps and drums tonight with nary a moment to test the equipment beforehand.

Torsten arrived, along with our backline and his helpful assistant, Kai. Torsten's the guy who booked this entire tour for us, so he was keen on making sure we started okay. And then came Arne, the brains behind the Noisolution record label which released our CD. Also making an appearance was Ingo (a.k.a. Ritchie of Ritchie Records) who spent a couple weeks hanging out in the Bay Area only a month ago, so it was nice to see a friendly face. At any rate it became a real band/label/booker/tour manager meeting-of-the-minds before the music started happening.

For dinner we were given chili and only chili. Erik doused it with enough Tabasco sauce that it became hallucinogenic. Erik then required a beverage, and those who know Erik know he demands his beverages to contain mostly ice, which just doesn't happen in this part of the world. Instead, his pleads for "ice," which phonetically is the same as the German word for ice cream, only made matters worse.

We were the last of five bands to play on the step-child second stage. The first three bands were actually fairly interesting, all in different indie-rock sort of way. In would have been perfect to play then, but there was still another band, Colt, and they were terrible - young and indulgent and poorly performed energy rock that went on and on and ended in a swell of feedback bullshit. Great - we had to follow that.

So we quickly set up all flustered and hurried and played our first show of the tour. A quick seven song set. Thanks to perfect timing, the other stage in the club had Steakknife (the big buzz band of the night) performing at exactly the same time as our set, so the crowd thinned considerably. However, those who remained seemed to like it. After our set I had difficulty breaking down since the assholes from Colt kept stepping over me to sneak to the cooler and steal all the free beer so the guys from Steakknife couldn't get any.

It was a big party at the club after the music ended and I wasn't very tired so I floated around like a zombie not understanding any of the conversations happening before me. Eventually Torsten, Kai, Holger, Arne, Erik, Jenya, and I ended up in a circle shootin' the breeze. While standing there I got my ass pinched twice, but the culprit remained anonymous.

8/21/99 - Got up just in time for the free breakfast downstairs. One thing I must say about touring in Europe vs. America is that in Europe venues have the common courtesy to feed you dinner, grant you infinite supplies of alcohol and snacks, give you a place to sleep, and then send you off with a nice breakfast in the morning. Plus they even pay you.

We loaded out and since we were ahead of schedule we headed into the center of Koln to see the millions of tourists flocking around the amazingly huge old church. Wandered around town, checking out some random public choral performance of early classical works, and eventually settling in at an ice cream shop. Germans know their ice cream (and their bread, for that matter). Once fed, we headed to Minden.

We found the right address after getting lost, asking for directions, etc., but there was no sign of a music venue (called "FKK") - only a huge and seemingly abandoned building - and eerie bells chimed in the distance. We soon discovered this was indeed the right place, and the venue itself was up four stories. From this point on in the tour, everywhere we had to go was on the goddamn top story. Really.

At least there was an elevator. Loaded in and slowly set up. We were provided with a huge guest room teeming with many sugary treats, an endless flow of orange juice and beer, and a bottle of scotch. As sort of a half-joke we told Torsten that we'd require a bottle of scotch at every show. Suprisingly a good number of venues complied, God bless their hearts. We also had a long ass time to set up and really get acquainted with the foreign equipment. Then we were served baked spaghetti for dinner (editor's note: Matt also refuses to eat tomatoes unless under duress).

We played a way-too-long set, not really certain how to handle being the only band on the bill, so the show lacked momentum. However, towards the end a woman in the tiny audience yelled, "Label." At first Erik thought she said, "Mabel," since we were just introducing ourselves onstage and he thought she was in turn introducing herself. Jenya and I understood what she really meant: A bona-fide request for one of the tunes from our new CD. This being our first ever request from a total stranger, we giddily launched into the major-chord-fest that is "Label."

After the set all the others got drunk, but I didn't drink so much since I ate too much candy and my tummy hurt. Holger and Erik got in a long and depressing discussion about all things long and depressing. We all headed to bed around 4:00am knowing full well we had to get up in six hours.

8/22/99 - To Berlin! Our show tonight was around dinnertime on some random stage among several as part of a huge outdoor festival. We drove 400km from Minden to Berlin, arriving at 5:00pm. We were once again lost upon getting into town, and very late as we were supposed to start at 6:00. After finding the festival, parking was impossible. Jenya grabbed her sticks, Erik his guitar, and I just took my bass as we stormed through the crowd to our stage.

Some nice drums and amps were already there. All we did was plug in and play. Strains of Boston and Journey spewed from the PA right up until we started our seven song set. Not much a response came from the hundreds of people who passed by the stage, some of them resting on their way toward elsewhere. One drunk motorcycle chick kept screaming "lauter!" After our short set the emcee of this event interviewed me about the new CD for the crowd. "Give it up for Mumble & Peg!" (clap.. clap.. clap..). So that was that. Holger meanwhile has been parked illegally and we followed him 20 blocks back to the van carrying our crap.

So here we are in Berlin. For the next ten days we only have one show. The original plan for this expanse of time was for us to record, for free, in the well-equipped studio in cahoots with the Noisolution label. For the longest time we thought this would be the highlight of the tour but at the last minute we were bumped in favor of the goth-joke-metal band In Extremo who needed the week to work on an emergency remix Sisters of Mercy cover tune, "This Corrosion." That means we had an enforced ten day vacation upon us with no plans except wander around town and try to ignore the millions of In Extremo posters glued to every conceivable flat surface.

On the other hand, several of our Oakland pals (Nils, Dawn, Dan, Carla) happened to be in town at this exact time for various reasons, most notably since they were performing with Ink Boat as part of an international Butoh dance festival. However, we had no idea when exactly they'd get to town, where they'd be staying, or even where they'd be performing. For those who just don't know, Berlin is an enormous place with millions of people.

Since Arne, who lives in old East Berlin, was still in Koln this evening, we were slated to stay with his friend, Ralf. On the way to Ralf's pad Erik nearly hit his head on the roof of the van when, by complete random chance, he spotted Dawn walking down the sidewalk. We lept from the van and had a jubilant reunion in the street. Yay! Turns out Dawn was heading to meet somebody who lived across the street from Ralf.

Getting back on the plan, we had dinner with Ralf and his mate Jacquelin. Damn nice people. Awesome vegetarian dinner. Friendly chat. Dawn showed us on a map an approximate location where they were staying, where Ink Boat would be performing, and a stream of random digits which may very well be somebody's phone number.

Killed the evening walking around with Holger. Old East Berlin is turning into the hip part of town. Down cobblestone sidewalks to a random pub where we downed a double round of Kilkenny's over the din of street musicians making the rounds and our own philosophical discourse. On the way back, Holger pointed out the key for survival in Berlin: Turkish food stands which serve cheap but filling and rather tasty food, most notably a meat sandwich delightfully called Doner Kebap. We all lived on Doner Kebap for the next week or so.

Holger stayed over at Ralf's as well but would be leaving back to Muenster in the morning.

8/23/99 - More breads, spread, and personal cutting boards for breakfast. Ralf was keen on taking the band out and about. He showed us how to ride public transit for free (which we eventually stopped doing once we realized it was illegal) all the way to Alexander Platz. Big mall. Bought a map. Best 10 marks spent all trip. Ralf showed us around the Platz and all the architectural feats new and old, then he left us to find our way back ourselves.

Not knowing any better, we hiked all the way down the Unter Der Linden Strasse, all the way to Brandenburg gate, and through it (which was impossible 10 years ago), and eventually to the wonderful traffic circle surrounding the Tower of Victory. We were way the fuck out now, but we figured out how to get the public transit back to Ralf's with minimal extra walking.

Packed our stuff and now it was time to head for Arne's. On the way we went to check out the theatre where Ink Boat would perform to see if we could get more info on our friends' whereabouts. The only person we recognized was Butoh Bob, also from the Bay Area. He recognized us and was shocked that we flew all the way to Germany to see him perform. As if. Everybody else was at dinner. Left a note and continued on our way.

Arne's pad was also on the top story of his respective building. Nice top story place. Met Arne and his mate Gundula. Gracious hosts. The evening was simple: beer, conversation, and eventually sleep.

8/24/99 - We had our cutting board breakfast alone as Arne already headed out to the Noisolution office. We decided to go hang out at Arne's office today, so we walked there (about a mile away on foot). Got on Forsterstrasse and realized only then we left the exact address (and phone #) on a piece of paper back at the house.

I'll spare you dear readers (and myself) the details of the next three hours. We were within one fucking block of Arne's office all this time and couldn't fucking find it for the life of us. We waltzed into wrong buildings, scaring the hell out of non-English speaking residents. We then walked way out of the way to find a pay phone. Walked further out of the way to find a phone card so we could use the pay phone. Called Kai at Amadis to get Arne's address. Misunderstood Kai's directions and walked all the way back and still didn't find it.

Fuck it. Erik stayed in that neighborhood to check out some record stores. Jen and I headed by train to Potsdamer Platz since the young Berliners were all raving about it. With all the new construction around town I imagine it must be a very exciting area, but to a couple of jaded Americans it's just another mall. By foot we headed slowly back home through the Tiergarden, passing several naked male sunbathers en route. Stopped in the Room of Silence. Hit the Altes Museum but it was closed due to renovation. Hit the big Dom, and tried to go up in the Space Needle but the line was too long.

Met Erik back at Arne's around 8:00pm (he got lost on the walk back). Per Arne's recommendation we hit the nearby "Korner" bar for food. Not feeling very decisive, all three of us got currywurst mit pommes frites. Yummy and meaty.

8/25/99 - Morning started just like yesterday. Except this time we found Arne's office no problem. There I finally got to check my e-mail (didn't get much worth mentioning). Arne gave us the tour of the office. Lots of cool semi-related companies working there doing promotion, distribution, recording, and various record labels all together on one floor. Cool.

The band headed to the Hamburger Bahnhof to check out some modern art. Closed due to renovation. Boy life was getting repetitive. With no better plan we hauled ass across town to go to the Zoo. Elephants, zebras, kangaroos, elk, buffalo, seals, penguins, flamingoes, and pandas up the ass. Sat on a bench and slurped down a bratwurst mit senf in front of all the caged creatures.

Feet screaming from all these days of walk-walk-walking, we hit home. Actually we went to the "Korner" again for dinner. Feeling completely over-meated, I opted for the house salad, which arrived with two pork chops on top. Always with the pig meat.

After Arne caught his soccer matches on TV he took us around town. First we hit the old East Berlin airport, which is the biggest building in Europe. Beautiful in its big cement blocky-ness. Then we hit all the current hot spots around town. Sat outside his friend's bar "Apotheke" drinking free beers and watching two street dogs humping. Then hit Tacheles, another hotbed of hipness creeping with tourists. Art squats and shit. Hit Alexander Platz again to find the not- so-obvious but really cool empty white room below the street (visible through glass) as a memorial to all the books burnt by the nazis.

8/26/99 - Fruhstuck (pronounced "Froo-shtook" - means "breakfast"). Then called Dan to make plans to meet and hang out nearby. Met he and Carla two train stops down. Nice to see familiar faces with strangely shaven scalps. Spent the afternoon wandering around a couple blocks going to record and clothing stores, sitting around cafes exchanging Europe travel stories, and eating lunch at an Indian joint.

And oh yeah.. we actually had a show tonight. Remember we're on tour and shit? Arne met us back at his pad and drove us to the Roter Salon where we to meet up with Kai and our equipment. On the way Arne was already making excuses about the not-so-great promotion, and the rain, cushioning the blow for the potentially lame audience tonight. Loaded all our shit up a flight of stairs.

During setup Nils appeared. The whole gang (me, Jen, Erik, Nils, Arne, Kai, Torsten, Torsten's pregnant girlfriend Yvette, and the guy from the Roter Salon) went out for Chinese food. It was weird in its non-American preparation. Arne's food contained two pieces of porcelain ("Biting some food.. Losing your teeth..").

Our set tonight was pretty good and we actually played tightly considering the lack of recent practice. Too bad nobody was there to see it. I got plastered drunk on Jager and beer afterward. Nils took a bunch of pictures of the show, but during the small party afterwards the camera, left on the concessions table, got stolen. This was distressing since we knew every person in the entire place by name. Dammit.

I was shitfaced and being obnoxious back at Arne's flat, hugging his life-sized William Shatner cardboard figure, and accidentally dumping a whole tray of condiments out of the fridge onto the floor in a very loud fashion.

8/27/99 - Hungover. Cutting board Fruhstuck. Dire need of coffee. Not much of a plan today. Back to Arne's office to check e-mail and listen to more apologies about last night. More record shops. Felafel sandwich. On the way home stopped in some Turkish grocery stores for dinner supplies. Erik and Jen made nutty salads back at Arne's while I sat on his couch and moped. There was to be a barbecue tonight, but Gundula was working late, Torsten couldn't make it, and it started raining.

Still had the barbecue on the deck. Ended up being a nice mellow evening. Ralf came over. Ate yummy pork chops, salads, breads, zucchinis, sausages, beer.. Discussed CMJ and NYC with Gundula, the band Trio and various politics with Ralf and Arne. Last night's drunken binge made it an early night for me tonight.

8/28/99 - Fruhstuck. Plans today were for me and Erik to go see a soccer game (while Jen and Gundula went museuming and shopping). Arne enlisted me and Erik to help move his friend Pete into his new apartment before heading to the game. We were told it would be quick and not up any stairs. We arrived finding ourselves facing more than a moving truck's worth of boxes and heavy furniture (including a fridge and a washer still full of water). And the new apartment was on the fifth floor. And you had to walk through a large courtyard to get there.

It took a large team of people about an hour to get all this shit upstairs. You're welcome, Pete. By the end my shirt was thoroughly soaked with sweat and my muscles were stiff and twitching. After that bout of extreme exercise, Erik, Arne, and Arne's friend Ali headed on to a cafe to relax and kill time before heading to the stadium.

Pre-game mayhem in the parking lot. Beer, bratwurst, singing, and showing off your team colors. It was Berlin vs. Bremen today. Met some more of Arne's friends before entering, including two Brits, Trevor and Spencer, who wondered what the 'ell two Americans were doing at a blasted German soccer game. Inside the old-school stadium we hit our seats and the crowds were singing various songs. Erik and I pretended to sing along lest we appear on the jumbovision screen with our dumb-ass American mouths' shut and looking confused.

The crowd had songs and random actions for every anomalous event during the game. It wasn't much of a game, though. Berlin scored early, Bremen scored late. The crowd was dealt a disappointing tie, and 90 minutes later thousands of bummed Berliners sulked all the way back to their homes.

Gundula's father was coming to town tonight, so we had to clear outta there. Packed up and Arne drove us and all our crap to the Orph Theatre for the Ink Boat show tonight. We got our tix and hid our luggage behind the refreshments table. Hung out with Nils and Dawn before the show. Hungry, Jen and I went to get some quick doner kebap (sharf, ohne tomaten).

Way too many audience members than seats. Had to sit on the floor at the foot of the performance area. First half was a chilling solo dance piece by a bald Swiss dude with great music accompaniment (voice and noise/drone cello). Second half was Ink Boat. Delightfully funny piece featuring lots of Dan's homemade instruments and Shinichi's mastery, ending with a crushing vocal duet between Nils and Carla. Shmoozed after the show waiting for Torsten to come get our lame asses. During the wait some dog approached and nearly peed on Erik's luggage.

Loading into Torsten's wagon and headed to his soon-to-be-ex flat in Potsdam. He and Yvette hadn't entirely moved out yet so there was still furniture, a stocked kitchen, and a television. Potsdam is 45 minutes out of Berlin and not as interesting.

8/29/99 - It was Sunday. Potsdam is closed on Sundays. So instead of having a day off with nothing to do, we had a day off trapped in a dead town with nothing to do. A cafe was open so we killed time there. Erik couldn't deal and watched German MTV all day, which was presenting him with Bloodhound Gang's "Bad Touch" video once an hour. This song had a long way before becoming a hit in the U.S. as much as 9 months later.

Jen and I figured out the Potsdam bus system and headed halfway to Berlin, that being Dahlem, and hiked 1.5 kilometers to the university art museum there. It was closed like all the other museums, but its collection had recently moved to Potsdamer Platz. What the fuck?! Despite being late in the day we headed all the way back to Berlin to get some fucking art godammit!

By the time we got there we had 60 minutes to see the entire collection. At least it was something. Hungry and tired we took the bus to the Tacheles district for a real dinner. Hit the big Indian restaurant there. Food is so damn cheap and we were so damn hungry we ordered too damn much. They even gave us an extra salad by mistake. We took two full doggy bags all the way back to Potsdam (a 45 minute train ride).

Erik, fried from being a couch potato all day, gladly dug into our leftover food and we all continued to watch TV to round out this wonderful day.

8/30/99 - Still Potsdamned. The town was more hoppin' on Monday. Another whole day ahead of is. Made a trip to the local tourist centerpiece, that being the huge Schloss Sanssoucci. A huge friggin' castle and courtyards aplenty, fountains, long tree-lined trails.. But the castle interior was closed on Mondays. We must be cursed.

Once back in town we bought eggs and biershinken sausages for dinner. Why biershinken and not bratwurst? Well, I wanted to try something different. Ended up being a bad idea. More TV to pass the hours. Bored out of our respective gourds, we hit a pay phone and called Dren at his office. We took turns shooting the shit. No big news on that side of the planet but it was incredibly fulfilling to touch base.

We walked around checking out the night life. Actually quite a few bars. We hit the nicest looking one and got Guinesses to gulp down while discussing our bright future after Potsdam. Went to get doner kebap but the doner was looking pretty hurtin', so we got felafel which ended up being microwaved and was hurtin' even more. Bad idea.

8/31/99 - What passes for entertainment in these dark days? Sitting at a cafe, watching a big dog take a dump on the sidewalk across the way, and then watching several locals planting their brightly colored shoes square into the shitpile's warm, gushy center. For one last hurrah the three of us headed into Berlin one last time. Hit more stores at Alexander Platz. Erik was into finding the Hard Rock cafe. With an actual goal we pieced together clues which led us to the widely overrated establishment. First time I ever set foot into a Hard Rock cafe anywhere. Erik bought a shirt for Virginia and we headed to other various parts of town. Bored and miserable we went back to Potsdam around dinnertime.

Torsten took us out to dinner at his favorite place, which turns out was the same place we all selected at random last night. Good food, over which we actually talked about plans for the remaining part of the tour. Oh yeah. That's right. We're on tour. Without warning a fellow restaurant patron exiting on bicycle incorrectly navigated past our table, spilling out onto it, but somehow only succeeding in knocking over a single candle. Better luck next time.

9/1/99 - Got up at a decent time and Holger was asleep on the living room floor. I never thought I'd be so happy to see his unshaven morning face. Washed up, went out for coffee with the gang. Brought ingredients home for fruhstuck. Torsten arrived and we headed to the stage/lighting company where all our equipment was stowed all this time. Then to the Amadis office where we checked e-mail, went over our notes, and picked up our recently shipped extra set of t-shirts. And that was that. Said goodbye to Arne and Torsten and headed BACK ON TOUR.

The ride to Halle was relatively short, arriving at the club "Objekt 5" quite on time. Nice small town. Beautiful club. Outdoor garden. Amazing food prepared for us. We took a nice long soundcheck to make up for all our time off. Way too much time to kill but that's how tours are. At least we had a show upon us. Jen sketched outside what would be the formative ideas for the cover of our split 7" with Fuck later this year.

By showtime we actually had a nice sized crowd. Played a single long set. What we lacked in tightness was more than made up for with energy from not playing in so long. And there were actual people dancing around during the louder/faster numbers. They even clamored for encores. I think we almost went on a little too long. Afterward some kid wearing a Nirvana t- shirt said we should have played even more. Nevertheless we didn't sell much stuff.

For accommodations that night we were put in a youth rehab turned hostel/hotel. We had the entire top floor to ourselves (of course the top floor). A huge lounge area, 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms - all for us. We brought some beers from the club and sat around shooting the shit until retiring to our rooms.

9/2/99 - I was the first one up. As Jen was in the shower an older man who spoke nary a word of English came into the lounge area and piece by piece set up our breakfast table - toaster, bread, coffee, cheeses, meats, yogurts, jams, butter, nutella.. Oh yeah.

A short country drive and we were in Leipzig. Plenty early, so we hit the main part of town. Holger took this time to be alone, buy some more black jeans, and scope out all the pretty young foreign language students at the University. The rest of us wandered around near the University as well. I bought some picks from a music store. Jen found a camera shop and it was like pulling teeth asking them which camera was better in very broken English. While inspecting one potential purchase she dropped it on the floor. Guess we'll buy that one. It was perfectly alright, but the salespeople were sufficiently annoyed at us random Americans confusing the hell out of them for so long. Hung out near the church where Bach used to play some regular gigs. Somehow we got lost finding our way back to the van. Hot and thirsty and without any easier option we actually hit a McDonalds for a beverage and a place to pee. Erik actually got a drink with ice in it for once.

Pretty soon Holger arrived at the van and we began our quest to find the club. There was a movie house upstairs which meant we had to load in early and soundcheck fast, and then wait around for hours and hours until the movie let out before we could play. In other words, we couldn't make any noise between 7:30pm and midnight. Lots of time to kill. Same old story.

Jen and I took a long walk around the ex-East German town. Very bleak and same-y looking buildings. Empty streets. Found a spielplatz and we swung on swings, slid down slides, got nauseous on the merry-go-round, and nearly died on the stand-on-a-slippery-barrel contraption. Back at the club we and Christopher the soundguy went to dinner at a hip restaurant nearby. I got a roasted pepper and potato dish, excited about a non-meat option, but it ended up not being very exciting at all. Christopher, who went to high school in Oregon, told us he used to be a musician (a violinist, in fact) until the day a friend ask him to do some parts on an album and after the very painful recording session he hasn't played since.

Back at the club by 10:00, waiting forever in the tiny green room with bowls of M&M's, wine, soda, and a 9wood sticker up on the wall. Finally we were on. An okay set - we actually worked in "Wrecked." Not many people hung out near the stage except some chicks rooting for Jen. Seconds after our last note the blaring disco/80s mix party started, and everyone left.

Packed up our shit after pounding some beers. We left our shit at the club and walked to our sleeping place. It was a nearby apartment (4 blocks away and 4 flights of stairs up) actually owned by the club for the express purpose of band hospitality. I can't imagine that ever happening in the U.S..

I was pretty drunk and didn't notice Jen and Erik already slipped off to bed. Meanwhile Holger and I stayed up a long ass while discussing vague politics, various sciences and musicks, and eventually computers. Next thing I know it is 5:30am and the sun is rising. Time for bed and I was still drunk. Ugh.

9/3/99 - Peeled myself out of bed around 11:00. Showered in a big bathroom with a big open window such that everyone in town could easily see my ass and penis. Ate fruhstuck. Ow my head. Walked back to the club and loaded out shit out. Bye to the Christopher and the booker (whose name I forget).

It was a long ass road to Babenhausen. I crashed in the back with my head near the speakers on the floor. Holger needed many caffeine refuelings. Arrived in town kinda late. Found the "BDP Jugendcafe" which was a student-union looking building overrun with many, many young people (seemingly from the ages of 16 to 23). They were all very cool and excitable, and it was like the town gave them this place to play and put on shows just to keep them out of trouble. Load in was down a long flight of stairs. Though it was illegal per club rules they snuck in some scotch for us per our rider. Babenhausen = house of babies.

There would be an opening band, a trio of cute young men called "Sunyard" (or was it "Soulyard?") playing cute young songs. As they soundchecked we ate our pasta dinner in the kiddy kitchen. More cheese to suffer through.

Show started at 9:30. Curfew was at midnight. Soulyard played their pop tunes with endearing English lyrics. Our set was fairly short and weak. A nice number of people were there, but we didn't sell much stuff, but one of the club guys later bought 3 of our t-shirts. Jen was happy with the show. I was starting to get bummed out with the general sloppiness and lack of professional integrity. Typical mid-tour mood swing for me.

Tonight we stayed at the BDP house which was a nice big apartment containing about 10 of the kids from the club. We stayed up a bit as the huge table of people listened with rapt attention to the drunken ramblings of Erik. I hit the sack.

9/4/99 - Breakfast at the big kiddie table. Didn't bother with a shower. Thanks and goodbyes to that scene and hit the road again. Another long drive as we headed into Belgium. Uneventful trip. Border crossing was almost non-existent.

Once in Liege it was like pulling teeth to find the club. Weird streets, impossible to locate street signs, lame directions from various pedestrians. As time progressed in this tour I came to realize that Europeans in general are as bad as I am at giving directions. Eventually we found the club.

This club is run by an older couple, Jean-Michel and Michelle, and is a rock club as well as a small record shop and distributor. At some point I browsed the shop and bought an Ex double CD for the equivalent of $8 (thanks to multiple ridiculous exchange rates in my favor). As we loaded in Michelle told us they were housing "refugees" and we should keep the doors closed at all times. I didn't think much of this at first.

Loading in consisted of gingerly lugging our shit down a stairwell of tiny, slippery, and very steep stairs. According the Holger this was quite consistent with fucked up Belgian architecture. When faced with loading my bass cabinet down those stairs Holger said to me something which I repeat on appropriate occasions to this day: "Don't think - Just do." Once loaded onto the stage we had a nice, thorough soundcheck from the soundguy who looked a lot like Chuck.

We were fed big bowls of veggie foods. Meanwhile the opening band soundchecked. A trio of a dude and two women, all with a dizzying array of musical toys. Promising. In the green room there was a sign saying more about the "refugees" and how the club feared "fascist or cop attacks which could be devastating." Huh? This sign made Jen pretty upset about being there. Were these people paranoid fuckups or would there really be a sudden, pointless, violent skinhead attack?

We killed time in our room upstairs (full of bunk beds). The bathroom had a shower that really wasn't separate from the rest of the bathroom. Just a drain in the floor. Back downstairs where we looked at a wall of scary 70's single covers. Watched the opening band get good and sloppy drunk on vodka and become very loud and annoying French speakers. They put on jumpsuits and makeup and hit the stage. A long set of silly improv indulgence, of the cute and untalented and timid variety.

Our set ended up being a real rocker, and we even played "Hangman." Due to the response of the crowd (and the even greater response from Holger) this most unlikely song became a staple in our set for the rest of the tour. Played way too many encores since one drunk guy begged us to continue. Finally Erik ended with an a capella "Lazarus" which shut them up.

Slow load out as the opening band kept getting in our way. Of the three people in that band to give me a big wet kiss on the cheek it was the dude, with his stubbly, sweaty face and everything. Jen and I were both starting to feel the onset of General Tour Illness (GTI). Eventually we crept upstairs, got in our respective bunks and slept. No crazed packed of skinheads broke down our door or anything like that.

9/5/99 - Fruhstuck was coffee, chunks torn from a big round hunk of Belgian bread and smeared with a minimal selection of spreads. The general consensus was to get the fuck outta dodge. Loaded our equipment out of the basement and up those terrible stairs. Once again we had a long trip ahead of us, back into Germany and almost all the way to Bavaria.

Witzenhausen is a totally tiny and quaint town. Not very hard to find the club ("Klampfe") which was in the hub of town - an all cobblestone pedestrian mall with mom & pop stores galore. Loaded in. Tiny bar. Small PA with no soundman. Met the unnaturally redheaded barkeep, Tina, who lived upstairs (where we'd be staying) and sang backup parts on Jud's famous "unplugged" EP.

Set everything up on stage only to realize it wouldn't work (due to various factors) unless Erik and I swapped sides, so we did. One of the other bar women whose name I forget came with us in the van to show us the way to the next village and to the house of Helga, the woman who ran the club and was making us dinner with her hubby.

Helga's house was totally cool in the old school tiny German village sort-of way - parts of the house were over 300 years old. We had dinner of pasta and salad. Jenya and I also had tea since we were feeling kind of crappy. Sat around the big table and chatted. Good people.

Back to the club. Not much of a turnout. Plus our pay tonight was only door money which amounted to nothing. Not much of a response from the audience except during our quietest number ("Focal Point") there was a brief brawl between two drunk patrons. My back was turned to the audience as my keyboard was resting on my bass amp so I missed all the action. Sounds of a rowdy foosball game (which they call "kicker") from the next room overpowered us at some points.

Kind of a bummer, but on the flipside it was much better than a day off. We got fed, given a place to sleep. Tina had a cute cat named Felix which brought us dead mice during the night. Her housemate, Rene, had a Sony Playstation with every game except Pa-rappa the Rapper. We played some kick boxing game well into the night. Topping all that this house, of all houses in cities big and villages small, was the first that had an internet connection, and it was an ISDN line of all things. I finally got to check my e-mail and even had the bandwidth to write e-mails back.

Since we had the next day off and Munich was on the way to the next gig, Jen called her old high school pal, Paul, at the very last minute to say that she was in Germany and ask if she and her band could crash at his tiny pad tomorrow night. Kinda awkward as Jen hasn't spoken to him since staying at that very pad with Giant Ant Farm under very similar circumstances. Plus Paul's a doctor now and very busy. However he's a moonchild like me and willing to always help out a friend.

It got pretty late pretty fast, maybe due to all the little bottles of Jager.

9/6/99 - Felt pretty shitty, but not completely sick. Damn GTI. For fruhstuck we ate in Tina's kitchen the usual solids and fluids. Tina presented these foods one by one, each with some minor commentary, the best of which was "Many birds united in salami." We still use this phrase in regular conversation. Did a load of laundry which came out all green.

It was slow getting on the road. Erik and Holger disappeared to the bank. Jen and I wandered around town stopping in various stores for road supplies. Eventually met back at the eis shop adjacent to the club. Loaded out.

The road to Munich was long, even longer thanks to traffic. We stopped for overpriced dinner at a reststop. Jen was freaking out, and rightfully so, having called Paul last minute, and here we were already running late. Plus the directions to his place were shitty so we didn't arrive until 11:30.

Still, Paul was very gracious. I heard stories about him from Jen so it was nice to meet him. We gathered around his kitchen table which quickly became cluttered with wine bottles and filling ashtrays. Paul needed to get up at 7:00am but stayed up past 12:00.. 1:00.. Pleasantries and old-time stories. Erik had the right idea and crashed to sleep on the floor in the den.

It was soon 2:00am and things were getting ugly. Holger is a bad drunk, the kind where the personality changes and emotions from left field are plopped onto your lap. Of all nights for this to happen at its worst.. I leave out the grim details - more or less he picked a fight with Paul about being a doctor based on his own traumatic experience. Talk about making an awkward night even awkwarder. My only defense was to keep quiet and sneak off to bed.

I'm not sure what happened after that. I believe, in rightful protection of her friend, Jen made sure Holger knew he was totally belligerent and out of line. The air may have been cleared, but not after inconveniencing and probably completely offending her friend who she hadn't seen in years. Well, these freakouts are typical in the middle of long tours.

9/7/99 - Didn't get much sleep which did wonders for the healing process of my GTI. Paul already left for work, but there was a pall over breakfast. Holger got bread and we used Paul's spread. Did dishes. Erik left a nice note and some CDs. Hit the road.

Holger gathered our passports but we didn't need them to cross the border. Austria had a vastly different and beautiful landscape. Tall mountains that never ended. Lots of tunnels. Long tunnels. Lots of tolls for the long tunnels. Stopping for coffee I discovered Austrians generally don't like Germans very much.

Into the fair-sized city of Graz, we had a hard time finding our way. Finally one pedestrian who knew the way hopped into the van and helped us navigate towards the venue. Another downstairs venue. There was a Big Austrian Guy running the show, who I'll refer to as BAG.

This was kind of a bullshit gig. Real bullshit. Tuesday night. The stage was in the back of the bar which was skinny and long. The stage was completely covered in tile and nobody working there understood the concept that we needed a carpet or else the drum kit would slide all over the place. It was like pulling teeth to get somebody to procure a rug for Jenya. Soundcheck was delayed because of this, and during all this time we were deafened by bad 80's butt-metal. We ate dinner in the meantime. Weinershnitzel with pepper sauce.

Finally soundchecked and then had to quickly go on and play two whole sets. Nobody cared since there was no cover. Lots of blank stares and occasional silences between songs. Once we stopped, the butt metal began as well as the dart game right by the stage. We seemed to piss off these local dart champions as we dared to unload in front of their game.

However, we got put up in a three star hotel a few blocks away called "the Three Ravens." Carried our bags down the silent streets, checked in, and headed upstairs to our rooms.

9/8/99 - This was pretty much a lost day. Got up early, had breakfast in the hotel lobby (a free buffet). Jenya and I got down there first and the hotel staff made us move to another table - we're not sure why. Erik and Holger arrived. Food and coffee and sitting around as Holger called Torsten to book us a motel near Munich. Meanwhile watched the hilariously stupid end of the Ralph Macchio classic, "Crossroads," dubbed in German.

On the road back into Germany and into Munich. With our day off we did nothing really. Lots of traffic getting into town, so we got to our Etap one-star Hotel (located in the boonies near some factories or warehouses) kinda around dinnertime. We had dirty laundry up the ass so we first drove around trying to find a laundromat. Asked various pedestrians but nobody helped. We confused one kid who didn't know what a laundromat was. Fuck this.

Instead killed the evening going to a Thai restaurant with the slowest service in the world. When we got our table it was warm so we decided to sit outside. By the time we got served the sun had set and it was windy and cold. Food was a little expensive, but actually pretty good. This cured mine and Jenya's Thai food withdrawal.

Back to Etap. Hung in the "bar" - really just people buying bottles of beer from a vending machine and loitering in the parking lot watching mice bounce around between cars.

Each room in the hotel was identical. We had two of them. Everything was pink and white and plastic. The bathrooms had a shower with no door, but there was a squeegee to gather water across the floor and down the drain. Quaint.

9/9/99 - After showering I was wandering around the room all nekkid and the cleaning guy entered - I dropped behind the bed and he left. Jeez.

We all drove to the center of Munich where we found a washsalon. We loaded in, figured out the system. One machine turned 6 DM into one wash token, as well as dispensing single servings of bleach and fabric softener. We went out go find fruhstuck.

At a nearby cafe we all ordered the same egg/potato/toast breakfast. It took a long time to prepare, but they compensated us by making extra potatoes. Being in the Bavarian part of Germany, we got a basket of pretzels with our meal.

Holger and I went back to deal with the clothes. We didn't have enough change. Finding change was a chore. The jeweler next door didn't have change. Two other nearby stores refused to give us change. Finally a beverage store coughed up the coins and we were back in business.

We all killed time on this main strip, mostly hanging out in some music store trying everything but buying nothing. After 30 minutes the clothes were still wet (too many jeans).

We spent the next couple of hours in the hub of Munich. Jenya and I separated from the other two and hung out mostly in the antique toy museum, which was totally cool since it was in this skinny tower up many spirally stairs. Little rooms were off the stairwell containing various exhibits, the most fascinating being a Barbie-through-the-ages with so many damn Barbie variants I almost peed my pants.

Over to Rosenheim - a short jaunt. Holger knew the club, "Vetternwirtschaft," having played there with Porf. The woman who ran the place, Andrea, was a tall bass player and computer nerd and very hospitable. Cool club. Neat metal sculptures in the parking lot. Got fruit and other treats. There was an opening band that arrived called "Natalie Flanders" who were friends of Arne's.

We loaded in and began setting up. The sound guy was really clueless, being kinda new to the game. He didn't know what a "snare" was. We also came to find the PA wasn't set up properly - a nest of wires behind the mixing desk, none coming from the amp. Holger superceded the soundguy and tried to rectify the situation, but since it was such spaghetti we moved the amp right on stage and plugged the mike right into it. No direct for the bass or keyboards, no miked drums, etc.

Natalie Flanders played - cool indie rock stuff, but the room was unventilated and quite hot so I couldn't stay inside. We then set up and played our loud rock set in the wet heat. Mild reaction from the crowd. Sold a couple things. Hung out a long while afterward as we were staying with Andrea and she had to attend to things.

Loaded on out, then went with Andrea to her hip apartment, of course on the top floor of her building. We had four floor mattresses in the back room where the computer and stereo were situated. We stayed up a bit in her kitchen, admiring the three-story cat ramp nailed to the side of the house, listening to an Attwenger Duo CD. Erik crashed first. Jenya and I soon went to bed as well.

The speakers were right by our head, and the Attwenger Duo's final track lulled us to sleep. We were about to completely doze off went Andrea came in and started a Neubauten CD. Good God. We put in ear plugs.

9/10/99 - Woke up with several bees buzzing around our room. Yet another breads and spreads breakfast. I checked my e-mail on Andrea's computer. Slow going getting the crew ready to leave. With our free afternoon we headed into town.

We went in Andrea's tiny convertible. Good day for that. However once into town we realized it was 1:00pm, not 11:00am like we thought. That gave us about 20 minutes to enjoy downtown Rosenheim. Still headed to the CD store but didn't do much else except meet at a cafe. So much for sightseeing and hangin' at the Bavarian Oktoberfest (yeah, it's September).

Back to Andrea's pad, loaded out, said schuess and hit the long road for Austria. It began raining as the afternoon grew old and the mountains grew large. For a short stretch of road Holger picked up a green-dreaded hippiechick and her pup at a gas station and we took her 80 silent kilometers down the road. Her dog sat dutifully silent beneath her legs during that stretch.

Border crossing was easy. During the long stretch of highway we were suddenly flagged down to have a pop car inspection. They do that around these parts - stop motorists to check to make sure their emissions were within spec. Fair enough, except these Austrian state workers didn't know from German cars (it was a Mercedes van, after all), so it took fucking forever for the three stooges to hook up the pipes and wires to get their readings. Of course we were fine, but they broke the hood as they forced it closed. Holger shouted, "asshole!" and got out of the driver's seat to fix it (a common problem, I guess). He muttered some angry words at the inspectors and we headed back on the road.

We found Lustenau and began the usual hunt-for-the-club. This club was "Culture Factor Y" and was another one of those big warehouses converted into a full-on haven for the children to hang out, put on shows, etc.

Loaded in around the back using a huge outdoor lift, and then inside using a huge indoor lift. Had sandwiches/drinks waiting for us in the green room. After setting up we had to deal with a taped interview with a college radio type. It was short and painless, except for the part where we answered questions.

We played two sets. Good guarantee, which seems to mean nobody cared and nobody came. We seasoned the first set with "Broken" and during so my bass fried for some reason - all loud notes were cracklin'. Erik played a solo version of "Birthday" as I replaced the battery. Still cracklin'. Was it my bass? The amp? The pedal? PA? Cable? Oh, fuck. During set break I removed the stomp box from the equation. Things were a little better but it began happening again towards the end. Erik broke a string. We got the worst reception ever for "Doing Spending Time." We plowed through "Hangman" and called it quits. So much for our two Austrian gigs.

The bass problem turned out to be a combination of a loose jack on my bass, but moreso the transformer for my amp was right on the stage and getting wobbled a little too much by certain bass frequencies (which we tried desperately to fix during soundcheck but couldn't thanks to all these big exposed pipes up near the ceiling).

Erik and I hit our complimentary bottle of scotch in the green room pretty hard. Lame show. Slow load out. Erik took the big sandwich which we barely touched earlier.

The only plus side this evening was we got a four star hotel this time around. A fucking nice place. Jen and I had room #1. This was on the first floor! Inside the room was a full bathroom, a couch, and TV with pornographic ads, a mini wet-bar, etc. We hung in Holger and Erik's room a bit, out on their porch with a better view. Then sleep.

9/11/99 - We got up incredibly early for our complementary breakfast. Though the food was good it was questionable as to whether or not it was worth losing the much-needed sleep. Check out of our rooms and headed off the Basel!

The Swiss border was literally yards away from the hotel. We heard the Swiss crossing would be the worst, with a good possibility the crossing guards would go through our shit and tax us for potential commercial sales items. However, we were waved on though after they quickly scanned our passports.

On the way we took a brief detour to the big lake. Clear, blue, and quiet. We sat in the sun on the polished rocks. Erik revealed his Cape Cod roots when he expertly skimmed rocks upon the still water. A brief, relaxing squat. Then back in the van.

Got to Basel in the late afternoon and to the club, "Hirscheneck." It was located on the corner of a hip little street with outdoor seating. Met Michael who was managing the whole shebang, and he quickly set us up with salad and drinks which we ate in the open air. I soon learned that the Swiss really know their food preparation. Even the salad was exciting.

The venue was downstairs from the bar/restaurant, and the accommodations were two flights up very rickety stairs (some rooms with well-used mattresses covering the floor and some Ninewood stickers on the windows).

With time to kill I went off to walk about town by myself for once. Didn't go very far. I sat on a bench in the middle of a less occupied quad and wrote in my journal, then headed down to the Rhine river and traveled back in time.

When I made it back to the club I found Hannes had already arrived (Hannes was in Giant Ant Farm with Jenya until the band broke up and he moved back to his Swiss homeland). Long time no see, and it was especially nice to see a familiar face as always. We chatted about how easy it is to make a living as a musician in Europe as opposed to America, and about the upcoming art exhibit featuring well-preserved corpses cut open and positioned as sculptures. Had a great dinner of pasta and respective fixins.

Showtime! Pretty bad show. We learned later that Ninewood had a hard time here as well. It was bad only because nobody came. It was a nice stage, an okay sound situation, and we played as well as we could to the less-than-10 paying customers. It was the usual set, and afterward everyone left the performance area as I sat on the stage alone, watching the mirrorball reflections dance around me, listening to half of the Idaho debut CD.

At least we didn't have to haul equipment until tomorrow. Left the shit on the stage and milled about as Holger suffered through the token manning of the concessions stand. Hannes had an early day tomorrow, but decided to hang out and spend the night here anyway. We took a stash of alcohol up to our rooms, had some drinks and laughs and hit the hay hard.

9/12/99 - Hannes already left by the time we all got up with a note in his place. We slowly made our way downstairs for breakfast. We were the only people there who looked, and probably smelled, like we slept there the previous evening. Delicious yum-yum food.

We had some extra time before having to get on the road, so we tried to find our way to that art exhibit with the dead bodies, but after asking various people at the supposed locale we found it wasn't going to open until the next day, and it was already "sold out." Oh, well.

On the road back into Germany. Our next stop was Freiburg, home of Ritchie Records and Flight 13 (who distributes all the Vaccination Records titles on this side of the world). In fact, we were going to spend the next couple of days with Ingo and his girlfriend, Heike, and their roommates which we barely saw during our entire stay.

Anyway, we headed on up to Ingo's place and loaded in. Nice house. We were actually interviewed by some local dude for his local zine. A tape interview. It was kind of silly, and included us listening to various random songs and saying what we thought about them before we knew exactly who they were. You know the drill.

We did have a show to play tonight, at the Swamp up the way, where everybody knew Ingo and it was all chummy. However, it was a tiny little cafe/bar type place and we had to play very quietly. Usually this is a bummer but we enjoyed whipping out the quiet tunes we haven't played all tour. And about 20 paying customers actually showed up - the bar was apologizing for the bad turnout, but it was the best turnout in like a week. At any rate a nice mellow Sunday show and now we had two days off.

Headed back to the pad and had a mellow evening to wind down. Well, mellow except for Holger, who drank a bit and got a bit obnoxious. During a lull in conversation he slammed his fist down on a cutting board, startling me and Jenya, and shouted, "Good old rock! Nothing beats that!" Jenya responded with, "What the fuck is your problem?" This simmered down into chat about Holger's last three long-term relationships.

9/13/99 - Ingo headed off to work at the Flight 13 record store, and we all caught up with him there once we woke up, washed up, and got our shit together. Cool store. Erik, of course, began his methodic sifting through vinyl. I bought a few CDs myself, including Motorpsycho's "Trust Us" and Alboth's "Amor Fati." I also got to surf the web/check e-mail.

We then headed into town for a bit, which was real old school. All the cities we've been to have had old-ass churches, but the one in this town was almost 1000 years old (if I remember correctly). In the busy hub of town I got a bratwurst mit senf und zwiebeln. I've been getting a bratwurst in every town, and this one pretty much pushed me to the limit.

I saw it at all the ice cream shops around the country, but I finally had to get it for myself. What did I have to get? Spaghetti Eis. That's right. There's this silly ice cream dish served everywhere that looks like spaghetti and sauce, but it's just vanilla ice cream strands with strawberry topping and coconut "parmesan cheese." Damn that was good.

Jenya and I also went on this ridiculously difficult quest for eye drops. Trying to explain "eye drops" to someone through a rather thick language barrier is more difficult than you could possibly imagine. This ate up the remainder of our afternoon and we hit the train back to Ingo's flat.

Tonight we barbecued, which was pleasant as hell. A nice, cool night. A nice backyard. Good company - Ingo and Heike were gracious hosts. Kinda returning the favor when Ingo stayed downstairs with Dren and Lorrie just a couple months ago in Oakland and we showed him around town. Anyway, lots of yummy pork, beer, etc. Food, folks, and fun. Night fell and we worked our way back inside.

9/14/99 - Another day off in Freiburg. This time Ingo had most of the day off, so we took the train to a different part of town. Hit a comic book store, a record store.. Back to the same hub of town as yesterday, this time we made it to an outdoor cafe which served Schwarzwalderkierschtort (a.k.a black forest cake). I've heard that shit was good around these parts, and it was indeed yummy but it was no match for spaghetti eis. Found Holger hanging at the edge of the activity at some crafty stands looking to buy the perfect black square ring.

I believe it was during this outing Holger and Erik stopped at the local Sparkasse to turn some foreign money into German money. Holger actually put Erik in charge of exchanging all our Belgian francs for marks. We found out two days later that the sneaky bank used the French franc exchange rate - a difference of hundreds of marks in their favor. According to Holger this kind of bullshit happens all the time to touring musicians. He was able to get Sparkasse to cough up the dough at a later date. But anyway..

One more round at the Flight 13 store. More record sifting and e-mail checking. Then back to the flat. Dinner tonight was simpler - pasta and salad. Activity for the evening was a nice long walk in the dark back streets of the town past some major bridge construction to this hideaway bar.

Of course, the whole town was there. Cool club, serving some mixed drink special of which we ordered six or seven for us all, and we sat outside at a table all the way in the back away from the dance music and bar mayhem. It was so dark I didn't realize I was right at the edge of a huge lake until halfway into our visit. More discussion about music and the differences between Germany and the various cities in the U.S.

A long walk back and mellow out before bed. Back on the road again tomorrow. Sigh.

9/15/99 - Bye to Ingo and Heike and on the road back into Switzerland. A short drive expanded by a long time at a rest stop mall where we all lost each other. Into the town of Winterthur and finding the club "Kuz Gaswerk." Another kiddie-run club, sorta.

The stage was downstairs, loaded in and set up. Kind of a chore moving things around behind the stage to find outlets that worked and reached our equipment. We knew fairly quickly this was going to be a lame gig. The soundkid kept aiming the bass drum mike backwards despite our suggestions otherwise.

But dinner was great. Upstairs was a kitchen with an older cook and he made a delicious pasta meal with breads and salads and drink. The band and the younguns who ran the show sat around the table and ate away. Yum. Then it was showtime.

Nobody was there. Even less than our previous lowest attendance. But there was quality. One of the guys who did show up was a total freakazoid denim-wearing metal dude who kept looking at our picture on the poster and at us on stage as if he couldn't believe we were the same people. He liked the loud stuff. A pretty forgettable show but we got paid quite well, thank you.

And our accommodations were kinda weird. We had some rooms in this nearby hotel which used to be, or at least seemed like it used to be army barracks. Even the bedding was dark green like camouflage. And there were no separate bathrooms in the room - we had to share one down the hall. Early bedtime because we had a long drive tomorrow.

9/16/99 - Jenya and I got up to find Erik and Holger already split. Did they aim for the free breakfast downstairs? Well, I checked it out and they weren't there. So we packed up our shit and went outside to look for them, getting locked out in the process. It was cold and rainy, so we had to run with our bags all the way around the building to the front to find some shelter and wait for them. They arrived shortly, having gone out for coffee. This pissed of Jenya since she desperately needed coffee herself.

Fair enough. On our way out of town we hit another coffee shop. This also afforded us the time to shop for a certain confection Holger told us about called, "Negro Kisses." We three Americans were floored that such a food existed, especially in this part of the world, but sure enough they did. Huge chocolate covered cream puffs with such a terrible name. Yeesh.

Anyway, we headed 420 kilometers to Traunstein, back in the Bavarian parts of Germany. A great little town. Probably all the same houses there since 1600. The club itself looked like an old barn hundreds of years old. Oddly enough it had some linux machines in there and I surfed away to my heart's content during some down time.

By the way, the club was called "Festung." Since we weren't far from Munich Jenya called her friend Paul and he gave the social thing another chance. The band and Holger sat outside and got served a delicious rice and vegetable concoction which I ate gallons of. Paul arrived, and Holger tried to act on his best behavior while he was around. Talked for a while. Paul's a nice guy. I think we have almost the same birthday.

Paul stuck around for the first couple of songs but left early having to drive two hours back home and everything. And guess what? This ended up being a sleeper hit of a show. The room was small, but it was packed. And people were actually interested. And they even came up to complement me after the show. And there was great music being played by the bartender before and after our set. That was a nice morale boost.

We stayed upstairs in the bar owner's house (he lived right above the club). Stayed up a little too late but what are you gonna do?

9/17/99 - Woke up and walked down to the club, where we were served breakfast. Pretzels and other breads and spreads. We left quickly. Today we had a 600 kilometer drive ahead of us. Oy.

On the road to Dresden we made pretty good time. Hit the club ("Scheune") still in the daylight hours. We loaded in using a tiny little lift that disappeared up from the basement and reappeared right next to the stage. Cool. Then Jenya and I went to take a walk.

Down many streets with cobblestone sidewalks. The cobblestone was grouted with dog poop. Blocks and blocks of walking, under a tunnel where we actually saw our poster up on the wall (Wow! Actual promotion!), and past a weird outdoor group karate performance. Eventually back.

Holger was actually kind of out of it, possibly due to slight food poisoning. This was not good news, but not terribly surprising considering all the raw pork dishes he proudly ate as we three squeamish Americans sat by and gasped. He did make it through dinner, which was Indian style served down in the attached restaurant. We sat at a table on what used to be the stage where Jenya performed when Giant Ant Farm was out here years ago. Supposedly they don't have shows in the restaurant anymore, which is too bad since we had to play the big stage upstairs.

I took a walk by myself around the block. Dark streets at this point in the night. I needed the crisp air and scary feeling of being alone in a city where nobody speaks my language to amp me up for what will be a terrible show.

And what a show. This audience space could accept hundreds of young rockers. Instead there was a void barely filled by about five paying customers, a bunch of non paying types, and Holger turning green by the concessions stand. We opened with "Outside October" which we played rather quietly. Maybe too quietly as the unexpected loud noises from the smoke machine scared the shit out of us as it started coughing and spewing forth smelly fog, enveloping poor Jenya and her entire drum kit before I had a chance to save her. It was so fucking Spinal Tap.

We left equipment on the stage and headed to our rooms downstairs. Holger was pretty much done for the night. A little bit of drinking and then retiring to our respective bunks. One more show to go. Why do all the big city gigs suck?

9/18/99 - Holger threw up all night but was better in the morning. Still, he didn't eat our free breakfast, which was various selections from a nice American-style egg brunch menu served at tables outside. And we didn't have a very long drive today.

I'll take this moment to point out it was now Saturday morning and you should pay attention to how little sleep I get during the next three or four days.

Our final show was in Singwitz. This town is so small it isn't on maps or roadsigns and is usually referred to as "Bei Bautzen" as it's by the town of Bautzen. Oddly enough this show also had our biggest guarantee.

Since the maps were no help, it was hard to find the place. The sheer nothingness of this town was rather disturbing, especially as we approached it the houses were either nonexistent or under construction. Feeling lost, we nearly wet ourselves when we saw four big piles of rocks right next to the road (this is a Blair Witch Project reference). The club itself was a huge nondescript structure completely shrouded by corrugated metal.

How pleasantly surprised we were when we entered and there was a lovely stage, a good sound system, many nice tables and chairs. There was even a clean green room, but not a lot of food. Once again Jenya and I took a pre-show walk. The street ended in more construction and up a hill. A beautiful sunset over wind blown fields of tall grass. On the walk back it got real dark and frightening. This was diffused when some guy pulled up and asked us for directions. In broken German Jen described the road ahead would eventually end in an impasse. The man said then said the German equivalent of "shit."

This ended up being one of our best shows. Maybe it was the relief from being at the end of this long tour. Maybe it was the fact the sound was good and quiet so we could hear what everyone was doing. Maybe it was because it seemed like the entire population of this town actually showed up and were amazingly enthusiastic. We had many encores, the final of which was Erik doing a solo rendition of his new song which would eventually become "Paddock." So the final moments of our German tour I spent drinking a soda offstage.

Torsten and Arne were to come to this show and send us off in grand fashion, but Arne couldn't make it after all. Torsten did come, of course, since we had all his borrowed equipment and Holger had all the tour money. As we wound down Holger and Torsten went over all their books and everything was in order. Holger handed us a fat wad of cash for all the t-shirts and records we sold. Awright!

We hurried up the packing and loaded it into Torsten's van. I breathed a sigh of relief that that huge, buzzing transformer never did electrocute me after all. Goodbye, T.

So now all that was left was to get on a plane back to the U.S. on Monday morning. However, we needed to drive as many as 800 kilometers to get from Amsterdam from here. So we decided to drive through the night to Holger's place in Muenster. Holger was still not 100%, so Jenya actually took over the driving. I sat in the front seat, wide awake. I can't sleep in cars unlessly painfully hungover.

Jenya was crashing around 5:00am, and needed to rest. Holger was still in no condition to drive. Erik was unwilling to drive, as was I. So we stopped at a rest stop. Erik and Holger continued to sleep in the back. Jenya dozed right there in the driver's seat. I was stuck.

At this point I might as well start calling it the next day..

9/19/99 - Killed time buying a hot chocolate from a vending machine and looking at all the weird candy and trinkets in the rest stop shop. Eventually had to pee out the liquid. That killed a couple of minutes. Walked back and forth and back and forth. Bought a gumball. I kept checking on Jenya every half hour which pissed her off as she just wanted to sleep.

Two hours later we were back on the road again. I got a spot in the back and tried to sleep but couldn't. Ugh. We arrived in Muenster around noontime. It was like returning home, being back at Holger's pad which we stayed at during the first days of this journey. Reunited with his cute cat that drank directly out of the faucet. In a daze we all napped.

Got up as the sun was setting about five hours later. Ugh. Holger and us went to the supermarket to get groceries with which to make our final real meal together. Mostly an egg and sausage concoction. Went back to the pad, cooked it up, and ate it up. Oh yeah.

Repacked all our musical equipment in airport check-in formation. We didn't lose as much of the t-shirts as we had hoped. Yet we had 1000 marks' worth of records and multiple bottles of afri-cola to take back. So there was lots of cramming.

To the airport! Our flight was early Monday morning, but it made sense to leave tonight and just stay up the in the airport as opposed to trying to get back to sleep now and get up early and drive through morning traffic. Oy. So we left Muenster around 11:00pm and headed to the Amsterdam airport.

The drive was oddly exhilarating.. The sense that our long travels were reaching a final coda. The cool, dark night air. Or maybe the blasting techno music Holger pulled out at this late hour. Once again, I didn't sleep in during the ride.

Holger parked and joined us for the first hour or so in the airport. It was now 2:00am. Our flight left at 7:00am. We all bought token meals at the airport McDonald's. Same old sugar beef no matter what country you're in. Quaint chat about what's next in our lives on our respective sides of the planet.

The meal was done, the hour was late, and the conversation was drying up, and so Holger chose this moment to exchange farewells. He said, "I really don't like long goodbyes." And so we fulfilled his wish, shook hands, waved, and he disappeared. Insert metaphor here.

Well, shit. Now we had about four hours to kill before getting on an eleven hour flight. We hit the cafe. I struggled to write in my journal but couldn't keep my thoughts straight. Browsed at some of the airport mall stores. Climbed up to an indoor patio deck where I had fantasies about spraying bullets into the crowd below.

Around 4:30am we figured we might as well find where we were supposed to check our luggage in. I was kinda nervous anyway about our check-ins being overweight and wanted to get this over with. We were quite shocked to find that hundreds of people were already waiting at the MartinAir lines. Of course, we picked the slowest of six queues.

When we reached the front they weighed the pieces that would actually fit through their check-in entryway. I think we were a couple pounds over but they didn't bother to charge us for it - not worth the trouble. The remaining pieces, like my bass guitar, keyboard, Erik's guitar and Jenya's drum case had to be brought to the over-sized check-in area.

Erik and I dealt with this. We placed the pieces on the conveyor belt, which suddenly began moving, carrying the objects towards the gateway into the void. Eight feet later the belt stopped. This wasn't cool since my our cases were on the thin sides (i.e. ready to topple over any second) and we didn't have a chance to lower their center of gravity before they were dragged out of our reach. Erik took it upon himself to climb up on the conveyor to reposition the cases on their flat sides.

Then the conveyor started again. Two attendants were there, but neither seemed to have control of anything. Anyway, Erik nearly fell over on his ass, as he was standing on it when it began moving again. And then the gateway opened, revealing a long, steep passageway heading downward into hell. Erik lept off the conveyor for dear life, no sooner than the drum case, positioned perpendicularly to the motion, entered to hole and began tumbling down the slope with alarming speed. I could only stand and stare and watch it accelerate. The gateway closed before I could see its final resting place hundreds of yards in the distance.

We complained to the staff but due to colossal indifference on their part not much could be done except hope everything was okay and wait to see how it ended up upon arrival. Great.

Now we had two more hours to kill. I wrenched my brain to stay awake. We found our way to the gate. Jenya had the right idea - she crashed to sleep on the ground. Despite having more or less been up two days straight I felt I should force myself to stay up so I might have the chance of sleeping on the plane. Once again, I'll consider this day over at this point though I didn't go to sleep.

9/20/99 - Finally boarded the aircraft - the tiny tube that would contain me for half a solar day. Erik sat in a different aisle away from Jenya and I, which allowed us all the get extra seats to stretch out a bit. This didn't help. My ass already hurt from sitting around the airport. I braced myself for a hellish eternity of forgetful movies and food that was both bland and scary. We took off without incident.

And I couldn't sleep the entire trip. Hell. I did nothing but stare and wait and pray for distraction. There was very little of that. A couple trips to the bathroom. Two meals. A conversation with same weird dude, also from Oakland, who was a old-school rock n' roller. The only pleasing part of the entire trip was the clear skies over Greenland, seeing massive, cold, blank hills where nothing green could grow, eventually to be enveloped in solid ice which evolved into a jigsaw puzzle of icebergs floating in the clear ocean. Impressive.

To break up the journey the crew came around to hand out some yummy-looking pop tarts. However warm and inviting, Jenya and I nearly barfed when we found the tarts to be filled with runny, unidentifyable meat.

Watched the little monitor and the animated plane advancing one pixel every five minutes as we headed down over Canada - lots of farms in huge, square lots, each one slightly different shade of clay. Suddenly the northern Rockies exploded up from the earth. I was so happy to see Montana beneath me. I was effectively back in America.

Two hours later we approached the airport and landed soundly. Going through customs in Oakland was hardly as exciting as in Amsterdam. And it took a shitload longer, if only because our luggage was the last to arrive. We watched hundreds of people speed through customs with their bags, trunks, and even cages with live animals, all before we even saw any of our stuff.

Everything eventually arrived and seemed fine, except the drum case, as was no surprise. It had a giant dent in the side, and one of the castor wheels was completely useless, rendering it impossible to steer. Since we were the last through customs, the tired staff took once glance at our collective heap of crap, checked our passports and waved us through.

Jenya ended up complaining to MartinAir about this, but they made it impossible for us to do anything about it. Example: We had to bring this drum case to a registered luggage expert for an estimate of the damage. Fucking whatever.

Virginia arrived in Jenya's car. Hooray! We threw all our shit in, and headed back to their house where my car was parked this entire time. It needed a jump to get started and then I headed home.

Due to time zone difference, it was still only noon this same day. For the record, I now was awake 62 of the last 67 hours, and still considering staying awake until night fell to help me get back on schedule. Jenya was smart and had a little nap. I talked to housemates, hallucinated while taking a long shower, watched "Naked Lunch" on video, ate dinner, and finally.. finally.. Zzzzzzzzz.zz..zz...

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