Archive for September, 2010

The next morning we’re supposed to catch an 8 AM train to Moscow (about 3 hours away, but the trip will maybe take 5 hours with the customs check).

We’re scared about going through Russian customs and have been told to make a list of all our possessions before we enter. I make the list quickly. (looking back now I realize I probably left my i-pod in this room when I was making that list of possessions) I am annoyed with Dave for not leaving the hotel right away in the morning.

When we get the to train station there is some issues with our tickets.
Jeff has the wrong reservation code. It’s 7:30. They can’t find our reservation.
It’s 7:40 now. Jeff runs off and finds an internet kiosk and luckily finds the right reservation code. We board the train. Whew.

We are nervous about the Russian customs. We fall asleep totally exhausted.

We wake up when customs comes to check our passports. We fall back asleep.
It seems things go smoothly.
We arrive in St Petersburg and meet up with a friend of the promoter Anton and his girlfriend Olga.
Whoo Russia!

Jeff and I are of mostly Russian descent, but we think none of our family has been to Russia since maybe the 40′ s or 50’s. (we’re not sure when our grandmother or grandfather went back). Our Grandmother left in around 1906 and our grandfather in 1917.
We were also supposed to meet Mikael and Vera some Russian fans who e-mailed us and are helping us get to Moscow. They have traveled to St Petersburg from Moscow to see the show and plan to help us get to Moscow and see another show.
We wait at the station for them, but they don’t arrive (they went to a different station)
We walk to the underground which has a huge mosaic picture of Lenin.

I had no idea they revered him so much. But there is no Stalin pictures despite the fact that it was during his reign that all the undergrounds got built.
The underground is very very very underground. Quite amazing. The escalator just keeps going down.
I’m carrying a lot of stuff so I get extremely hot and sweaty, but it’s still exciting.
We transfer at Dostoevsky station.

We make it to the venue and drop off our stuff and then it’s off to the streets. We walk to St. Isaac’s Church, and get a big meal of various Russian food before going in.
We’re starving so we over-order. One of everything I think.

Fish (3 kinds), cabbage, potatoes, what we call Kasha, pork balls, pickled hearing and other little salad. I think we’re mixing too many foods together.

We walk to St Isaac’s.
Along the way we pass a few tourist stand selling “Russian Dolls”
These are Russian dolls:

I want to buy one for my mom, but figure I’ll wait until later (I soon realize that because we are in Russia such a short amount of time, I need to seize the moment anytime I want to do something)
There are many different kinds of Russian Dolls including a lot of novelty kinds. There some with images of Barak Obama. I love it and I want one, but I decide to wait and I never end up getting and Obama one.

We climb up the staircase of St Isaacs to see a beautiful view of the city.

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The drive to Oslo is beautiful, lots of lakes, feels a lot like the Pacific Northwest in places and also areas of Maine. No Moose sightings today.

There’s a discussion about my lack of technique when I play and my failure to work harder.
Also my failure to look at the audience and also my failure to accept criticism. This is the same “constructive criticism”they’ve been giving me for years. It’s all basically true. But I still feel picked on so I get defensive. I lack a certain amount of confidence to play really well and to look at the audience. I try to discuss my stage fright with Jeff and Dave. They’re surprised.

I was only in Oslo once before, when we toured with Herman Dune. It was a quiet sad little show that time. We had driven many hours across Sweden to get there and not many people came. Also I left one of my favorite coats at the club. Also I was talking to a cute girl at the coat check, but I was too shy  to properly flirt with her (I think I still have that problem).
But now, after the successful Swedish shows I’m optimistic about our current Oslo show, but alas there seems to be only a few people when it comes to show time. Two friends we met in the UK, Hildegunn and Sara live in Oslo now and it’s nice to see them at the show. Luckily the show is not that loud and the place fills in a little bit.
Our competition for tonight is a Kate Nash show with openers Supercute (featuring Rachel Trachtenberg).
The hotel they booked us looks nice on the outside, but our floor is either under renovation or very run-down. The room numbers are written on pieces of masking tape.
We’re supposed to leave the hotel at 6 AM so we have enough time to return the rental car, change money, repack (make sure our weight for the flight won’t make us pay extra) and check in.
I’m a very anxiety prone traveler. I don’t mind losing a little sleep if I can get to the airport or train station a few hours early. I can’t relax until I’m on the flight or at the destination.
Part of this has to do with trying to sneak on our instruments (Jeff’s guitar and my bass).
Unfortunately we don’t leave until 6:20 AM. I drive. The airport is about 30 minutes away.
We make it, but there is a lot of stress and running around the airport a little bit.
We fly into Helsinki. I was hoping to see some Norwegian fjords or any landscape, but it’s a cloudy day.
We land in Helsinki and get a bus to the city Tampere about 2 hours away. I pass out, my body is totally exhausted. Even writing this I’m trying to give myself some mental energy.

In Tampere we go to the hostel first. It’s 1 or 2 PM and we can’t get in until 4 PM so we walk to the venue with our bags. The Misfits are playing a venue across the street.
There’s good internet at the club which is not good. We sit in the club/restaurant  for about 2 hours.
I read wikipedia entries for horror movies -from the past 10 years, my new addiction for the past few weeks.
Why don’t I read my book? (Low Life) Or work on a song?

Dave takes  a nap
I Send  a few e-mail messages to friends in Portland, it’s hard trying to feel connected.
No one really writes me out of the blue to give me an update of their lives.
I’ve never been able to find a nice pattern with staying in touch with friends while I’m on tour.
I usually use Facebook and hope everyone follows me,
but that doesn’t mean I’m really able to catch up with anyone while I’m away.
I try to write people individually and ask them what’s going on.

After the show I leave Jeff and Dave and walk to the hotel. Later I find out that there was a sauna upstairs and Jeff and Dave were allowed to use it.
The next night in Helsinki we mention this to the opening bad and they are jealous, supposedly it is  famous sauna. I had no idea Finland was known for the sauna (thanks for the heads up to Mike Nualt).
But I missed out.

The next day (after Tampere) we get a ride to Helsinki. I try to take lots of photos of the architecture.

If there was a band I liked called The Dogs of Madrid. I would probably try and take lots of pictures of dogs in Madrid. (you get it?)
In helsinki I go to the Moomin Shop.
I’m not very familiar with the Moomin who is like the Tintin of Scandinavia. It’s a character created by a woman named Tove Jansen. There’s Moomin world a theme park.
She also write regular books one fo which Marci and I read (thanks Kristen) called “The True Deceiver” which was pretty good. The story is about an older woman who has become very famous for creating some sort of bunny creature. She is both trapped and pleased by her success.
At the Moomin shop I buy some kiddie instruments including one for our friend Jan in Berlin who is where I first heard about Moomin maybe 7 years ago. He got a tattoo of a character from the book.
I buy him a harmonica with the same character on it.

Also in Helsinki is some sort of youth role playing festival. There are multiple groups of kids dressed up like either Harry Potter or Dungeons and Dragons characters and doing various role playing games in a park near the club.

The Helsinki show is fun, but it ends a little weird. We like to put on music right when we’re done playing, so we usually have an i-pod hooked up to play as we finish or tell the DJ to start right away. But when we try this in Helsinki nothing works. The i-pod doesn’t play and the DJ’s don’t play anything, so there’s just awkward silence. So I plug the i-pod into the bass amp and get yelled at by the bar manager that the music has to stop and everyone has to go upstairs to the other bar.
No one told us when we needed to stop so I am annoyed.
Oh well.
A couple start talking to me after the show. They buy me a traditional Finish shot. It’s like a thick licorice liquor. I hate licorice, but I agree to take it. It’s salty and horrible, but I’m glad I tried it.
I also meet a guy who I was in e-mail contact with 6 or seven year ago, who ran a small CD distribution company.

Tomorrow we catch a train to St Petersburg Russia, yay!

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Long drive to Stockholm from Copenhagen, listening to the Moth, This American Life and finally as we arrive the amazing “Private Press” band The Dandelines. “We’re the children of Sunshine, we come from god the father, we come on down from heaven, to seek our looooove”
Sung by a group of what sound like three 10 year old girls.
(“Private Press” is the newest “inside-tour-joke.”)
During the drive I spot a moose in a field. “Moose! Moose!” I yell. Waking up Jeff in the back who gets to see it as does Dave, who pops his moose-seeing-cherry (he’d never seen one before)

Stockholm is beautiful, but of course we have no time to see any of it. There’s a marathon happening. We’re playing another Debasser club, like we did in Malmo but this one is very stinky. But the food they serve is a lot better. Back in Debasser in Malmo we were served a classic Swedish dish, “The Sandwitch cake”  Look it up online. Smörgåstårta. “Like a very big multi-layer sandwich. Comes with many different fillings and toppings”  it was not for us.

But here in Stockholm we get some nice pasta with cream sauce and salad, hurray for salad on tour.  My old friend Camilla comes to the show, I haven’t seen here in maybe 3 or 4 years.
We do a brief catch up, but it’s so loud in the club it’s hard to have a proper conversation.
Am I getting too old for loud clubs, or am I just to tired to yell over a sound system and strain my ears to hear what people are saying. I say ‘”what?” “what”? a lot.
Dave and Jeff think the show was mediocre and the same for Copenhagen. I suppose both shows had their good and bad points. I play sloppy sometimes and sometimes I play well enough.  Both shows I was pretty nervous on stage, my anxiety creeps in even though I can hide it well enough during some of the rock songs and jump around. I can perfectly understand how a lot of touring musicians get really drunk before getting on stage. It’s too bad I don’t quite know how to do that.
They only give us beer backstage which I’d need to drink 2-4 of if I wanted to be drunk on stage. I don’t want to drink 2-4 beers.

After the show we discover the club has booked us a lovely hotel. We arrive and there’s a some sort of big party going on in the street. Or maybe this is a typical Saturday night in Stockholm. Lots of drunk people, cops and trash. We go to a kebab shop and eat fried eggplant sandwiches. After my first one I order a second to fill the void. ug, too much.
I eat half and we head back to go to sleep.

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for jack lewis.

the toaster at work is on the outs.
it takes probably 15 minutes to prepare toast. yep… toast.
it’s surreal.
a slow-cooker, that.
i have no pictures.

see you in ten… with toast.


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Woke up this morning in a hostel and looked out the window to see a goat sticking its head out of it’s little house. Taking its time, not wanting to come outside.
It looks like a little farm just over the fence next to the hostel. Once one goat left his shack another’s head appeared in the doorway, eventually there were multiple goats walking around.
Last night we played Copenhagen for the first time ever. It was our third show of the tour and maybe it was the show but I think we’re all feeling a bit mentally drained already. We were the only band playing so we played about 90 minutes and it was one of the last remaining bars that people could smoke in so it was filled with smoke. There was no stage and the audience was right up against my microphone and in my face. It gave the evening a lot of energy but it also made me very claustrophobic. I was also scared someone would smash into my microphone which would smash out all my teeth. (which did happen once, but luckily I did not lose any teeth) The room was so small I was right in front of a huge bass amp and the drums all of which was punishingly loud. The loud volume might have made me nauseous or perhaps it was all the smoke in the room

Before the show Dave (who had played Copenhagen before with Johnny Flynn when they opened for Mumford and Sons) showed Jeff and I around Christiania, the park/commune/sovereign nation in Copenhagen. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freetown_Christiania) It’s pretty weird.  The park is maybe half the size of Central Park with a big lake in the middle.
Near the tourist entrance there are multiple little tables where people sell copious amounts of hash and marijuana. I’d heard of Christiania for a few years and I was excited to finally see it. It’s a combination, hippie, punk, anarchist, classic European institution which is also in danger of getting shut down.
On one entrance it reads Christiania and on the other, “You are now leaving the EU” A lot of buildings and shacks people have built over the years.
There are multiple graffiti signs that tell you that photography is not allowed. When Dave was here before a friend of his took some photos and was promptly reprimanded by some sort of punk security guys who took his camera away and threatened to keep it if he didn’t erase the photos.
I don’t take any photos at first. We walk around the lake and when’s it’s quiet I snap a few. As we leave and go “back into the EU” I snap a few more form outside although I’m very nervous I’ll be yelled at.

The night before we played Malmo at a big club called Debasser. we were nervous there wasn’t going to be anyone there (500 capacity), but luckily there were about 85 people which felt felt like a good size.
The Promoter Daniel was very sweet and DJ’d great songs all night long. Every time he put on a new song we either knew what it was or wanted to know. One track in particular confused us. It sounded like The Fall, then it sounded like Eddie Argos, then it sounded like the Hold Steady. I asked. It turned out to be “The Legend” AKA the music critic Everet True.
We didn’t get to see much of Malmo, but we did stop in a vegetable shop in the morning where I bought a couple carrots. And also a bakery whee Dave bought  a delicious cardamon danish.
Today is a long drive to Stockholm maybe 6-8 hours total.
We’ll cross back over the huge bridge that connects Copenhagen and Malmo.
I also shaved last night.
I’m still taking my Gaba, (a diet supplement) which my roommate Stephen recommended to me for anxiety relief.
There are some off-putting moments of downtime on tour, when I suppose I should be reading (I brought Luc Sante’s Low-Life on this trip, but have yet to be engrossed by it fully- 5 pages in), but don’t. It’ these moments when tour feels like a black hole.  Listening to a Terry Gross interview with Brian May of Queen he talked about working on his PHD for 30 years and collecting photos while on tour. Jeff has a new song called something like “Time Trade” that’s pretty guilt inducing about this.  It’s about having a project/interest that you work on that you constantly get better at. For him it’s drawing comic books and now doing historical research. I always want to find that something that I can do and build on so I won’t feel like an empty shell in 10 or 20 years. I’m not sure I’ll find it.
I’m trying to do this comedy/variety show video/internet project, but I’m not sure how satisfying and/or enlightening it’ll be in the long run.

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I took 2 Tylenol PM before boarding our flight to Oslo., which allowed  me to sleep  for most of the 7 hour flight.  We landed in Oslo.
At the passport control we were a little nervous about saying we were playing shows even though we felt it is usually not a problem in Scandinavia. We went through separately. My customs officer asked if I was playing shows. I nervously said yes, in Sweden and then in Russia. “Oh” she said “that’s a big trip” “yeah I said and France and Italy” “That’s a lot of travel” she said
“Yes it is I said”
She smiled and stamped my passport.
The same happened with Jeff.
We rented a car. I felt pretty rested. We got a stick shift and tried practicing in the parking lot. I was having some trouble finding the sweet spot and the engine started smoking. Jeff drove it a round a little bit and it seemed okay, but then we had to go up a hill to exit and he kept stalling out. Quite stressful as we inched up the hill one stall out at a time.

Then we got a message from Dave who was meeting us at the show in Goteborg that his flight was canceled. He’d miss tonight’s show and meet us the next day in Malmo.
We decided to pay extra for an automatic.
I started driving the first leg to Goteborg and immediately felt very tired. I don’t know if it was the Tylenol PM or if I was just tired but I soon asked Jeff to drive. I fell asleep. And soon after he decided to pull over at a gas station and we both slept a few hours. We woke up and I drove us the rest of the way to Goteberg. we drove through what looked like some lovely Swedish lake country.
At the Sweedish boarder we were stopped at customs and asked what we were doing. Nervously we said playing shows. Again the customs woman was nice. She gave me a breathalizer (it was Noon) and sent us on our way.
We arrived at the venue safely and here I am sitting at the merch table typing this.

Now it’s the next day. We’re in Malmo.

We played last night  with and American band MV and EE who went to Suny Purchase with Jeff, butneither knew the other. They are friends with a lot of the same Purchase/My Kisco/Exile on Main street crowd.
Also a surprise: Jens Leckmen is “DJing” at the show.

We saw him at Jeff’s show in Melbourne (he lives there full time) He was spending his summer  in Goteberg to try and work on some new songs.
He played some fun songs off his laptop before the show and in between the sets.

Today we successfully met up with drummer Dave and are now getting ready to play.

That’s it.

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