fredag 18 december 2009

Moloken's European tour 2009 II

Part II of the tour diary, 22 October - 31 October:

Seventh day and fifth gig: 23 October, Kaktus Rockbar, Mönchengladbach, Germany

Germany certainly has some funny characteristics in urban planning (or lack of it). For example, in Mönchengladbach, a four star hotel placed alongside family flats with the red light district just fifty meters away on the same street.

Another example: something like twenty to thirty pubs and discothèques on a small cobblestone street no bigger than two hundred meters long. The only thing you could do on that street was, simply put it, drink and have fun. And people were packing the place during the entire nights up till sunrise.

Since we arrived at Mönchengladbach pretty late the 22 October we searched for a hostel, but had to settle with a hotel when nothing else was still open in the vicinity. This was supposed to be a four star hotel, and off-course some of us doubted that, but we loosened up as soon as we saw chocolate bars on the bed pillows and entered their sauna with the exquisite tastes from Belgian breweries. Yes sir, we sure lived like kings on this tour, and why shouldn’t we? We fucking kick ass and deserves only the best of the best. Period.

Another thing that struck us is that German clubs and discothèques are open until the owner wants to close it, unlike in Sweden where you have to close at 1 o’clock on a working day, and 2 or 3 o’clock for Fridays and Saturdays, given that the club have a special permit. In Mönchengladbach the places could close at 5 o’clock or even later than that, as long as the place had customers or the owner wanted it open. This proved to be a bit of a trial, especially when you’ve dedicated tons of energy on a gig, the sleeping quarters (which was inside the club) are covered in cigarette smoke, you’ve been active for over twenty hours and barely have anything in your stomach, besides some of the local liquid pleasures.

Besides this we had a wonderful time there, our gig was really good, the owner was a generous and cool character, the audience was very positive, plus that we got the chance to see a really cool band from Germany, Thalamus, and hang out some afterwards. Also we met this dubious guy, who insisted that a mere glance at you is a reason for a fight, which should require one knockdown and five stomps on their face, just to be sure they’re really downed. With this destructive principle he’d broken his both arms at least twice, and was a regular guest at the police station. As a peak of the moment he left us with the words “But I don’t wanna fight, and I have to leave you now, to pick up my younger brother, who always gets too drunk”. I wonder what kind of brother he is.

Eight day and sixth gig: 24 October, Poetic Doomsday II, FZN, Wilhelmshaven, Germany
The next day when we were about to leave the club through the backdoor we met this old fellow who looked like a mixture of a hippie and a hobo (maybe he was both) who insisted we should scram immediately, ‘cause we were trespassing his property. As we couldn’t understand where his property was or why we should run off when we hadn’t done anything wrong we looked stupefied back at him and mentioned the club owner’s name, which was met with silence.

According to the locals, Mönchengladbach had some huge soccer game that evening, which was why we wanted to leave the city before all the fan buses for the game would clout the roads and five thousands cops would litter the streets. Luckily we got out of the city before all this started getting messy.

At first we thought that the GPS might be wrong (again) or that we’d missed some road into Wilhelmshaven, ‘cause we got into this really small neighbourhood and everything looked so hi-we-live-on-the-countryside. We just didn’t know that this actually was a part of the town itself, since it was in the outskirts and all you could see was villas and big houses with lawns. The “venue” was some kind of recreational house for kids, and the “arranger” of the festival was some kind of school consultant in his mid thirties who just wanted the kids to have some fun.

Now, if you arrange a festival, make sure you have a sound technician that actually knows what he’s doing. If he doesn’t, or if he doesn’t care, do it yourself. Because a couple of minutes before it was our turn to play we’d putted our stuff on stage and powered the amplifiers on standby mode, but suddenly two of the amps lost their power. When we alerted this problem to the sound technician he just nodded and walked up to the amps and gave it a glance before he left the place (where the fuck was he going?). Right… The power for these two amps were directed to a portable power box, so we switched the power cables to another input in the box and turned the amps on standby once more. Like a minute before we were supposed to play the amps lost power once again, and we asked around for the sound moron, and this time we found him outside the place, sipping some drink and smoking with his chick, which seemed half of his age. We told him about the problem, and for the first time he actually did something, well at least he tried to do something, which was doing the very same thing we’d already done, which we explained to him, although I doubt he understood a word of it. In the end we started playing anyway – and wouldn’t you know – the amps died like three minutes in the first song. We restarted the song after the amps were on standby for some time, and then amps died again. Ha! This time Kristoffer saw the problem clear: the sound guy had directed a lot of the electricity (monitors, amps and speakers) through a single power circuit with the portable power box, and off-course that’s way too much for a single input to handle. After this funny discovery we managed to do the whole gig without any more incident and the kids loved us. I actually got to sign my first drum sticks, haha!

After our performance we longed to see Nailed To Obscurity, which we’d we hooked up with on Myspace, and some passages in their songs brought back memories of old Swedish death bands like Katatonia and Opeth but also the old British band Anathema. Sweet!

When it comes to drinking, Swedes have had a reputation for consuming alcohol in a gluttonous way, to the point where they even don’t remember their name and defile themselves all over the place. Now, we wouldn’t consider ourselves as one of these stereotypes, but if you put up a truckload of beer and drinks, the chances of falling down into a Neanderthal-mentality isn’t that far fetched. And this was indeed the risk when the guys in Nailed To Obscurity invited us to a local nightclub in Esens, not far from the place were one of NTO:s guitarists, Jan-Ole, had his parent’s house and their Bed and Breakfast (which is where we slept). On the outside it looked like a normal pub, except it was called Whiskey. Just the mere name gave us a warning clock, and the first thing I noticed when I entered the place was an older guy with two pints in each hand, exceedingly drunk, shouting hoarsely to some German pop tune with an equally old and drunk lady doing a jitterbug beside him. And since there was some kind of special price for the evening (buy anything and you’ll get two for the price of one), plates after plates with Jim Beam & Coke and beer kept coming. Amazingly no one got shit-faced, and we slept like babies.

Eight day: 25 October, Esens, Germany

Seeing the Atlantic Ocean, with its calm and silent waters beneath a dusky sky and herds of sheep’s sitting and shitting on the grassy hills besides the clam-covered shore, gives you a sense of surrealism. Like H.P. Lovecraft meets cheap entertainment, or maybe I’m just talking out of my ass.

Anyway, this was another day off, and we took our time exploring rural commodities, sightseeing and frowned at all the dubbed series and movies on German TV.

Ninth day and seventh gig: 26 October, Rote Flora, Hamburg, Germany

A few misconception of squats may be that A) there’s no organisation going on (as a non-party political statement), B) the place looks like it’s gonna fall apart at any time and C) there’s a strict approach to what kind of band may play there. Once again I found my prejudices burned like a slug in the sun. For starters, these people really were good at what they did, and they were serious about it. Not like tight-ass serious but rather confident albeit serious. Secondly, the place had fallen into decline, no question about it, but it wasn’t creepy. It hadn’t gone to the point where you’d avoid sleeping on a couch in risk of getting rat food. Third, the venue didn’t have the unitary looks and attitude you’d might expect. All kinds of bands played there, and nothing seemed taboo. Great place and great people.

The only depressing thing that day was when we drove into the Hamburg area and saw see these huge factory complexes, refineries and old concrete buildings with their facades covered with smog along the highway. Pretty dismal things, reminding me of an old trip I once did in Estonia and Russia.

Since a lot of people smoked pot at the venue (which was kind of irritating since none of us smoke anything), there was a thick haze covering the higher space of the scene. We all got high on passive smoking when we were supposed to play, fortunately without any incidents and everyone seemed to enjoy us highly, although some sat in the corner with their bumps and blood-red eyes. Later on we got to the arrangers apartment and listened to old death vinyls. All in all it was a good gig, excellent people working there, and a good experience.

Tenth day and eight gig: 27 October, Meisenfrei, Bremen, Germany

Another prejudice you might have is the German discipline, alongside the long tradition of civic respect for authorities and a sense of order. German discipline means you come six pm sharp and not a minute too late; you do exactly what the boss tells you to do, even if it seems utterly stupid or unnecessary complicated and so forth. You get the general idea. So far I haven’t seen a single one with real German discipline, except the sound technician at the Meisenfrei club. Everything had to be done his way, a very methodological and precise walkthrough of the sound with nothing left to coincidence. Besides that he really was an effective professional, although our low humour gratefully took advantage of his job mentality.

Another thing that you might expect is that when you’re playing in front of people sitting down at chairs, like a jazzy house band at a club venue, is that the performance’s supposed to be strictly formal and sterile, no improvisations allowed and between the songs there’s the compulsory dry hand-claps by people in tuxedos and Cabernet Sauvignon in their 20 Euro glasses. Okay, a bit of an exaggeration, again, but you get the picture. Again this was not the case. The crowd were cheering us as if we were a revelation of some sort. We had an excellent gig and afterwards we got the chance to see the infamous crab-pose, which everyone seemed to know about, except me. Now that I’ve seen it up-close, I admit it do resembles crabs crouching threatening with their short legs astride. Just before we left Bremen that night we were able to participate in a local ball game, which took us one beer each and a smashed apple to fully enjoy. We drove half of the night through Germany and Denmark back to Malmö, Sweden, before we crashed in a friend’s flat.

Eleventh day: 28 October, Malmö, Sweden

This was another day off, and we took upon ourselves the civic duty of investigating the local cuisine, such as Falafel. The vegetables were rough but the gooey sauce was intoxicating to the brink of madness. Sadly I forgot to glutton on the Lebanese baklava I found downtown last year. We also had to bid Mr John Palm farewell, since our deal was to have him start driving us from Malmö, on the way to Europe, and end when we came back to Malmö. The next day it felt as if we were missing someone in the bus.

Twelfth day and ninth gig: 29 October, Café Mic, Vänersborg, Sweden

When it comes to playing on a stage far from home, there are some things you generally take for granted. First, if you ask the local arranger if the crowd is sympathetic to outside bands, then he/she will most definitely say yes. Now, if you ask the bands playing there if the crowd will leave as soon as the local heroes walk off stage, then they will surely say yes. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that it’s safer to trust the local bands rather than the arrangers, something we didn’t considered this time.

Secondly, there are some things you also take for granted when interacting with other bands. Good manners are one. For some this isn’t so important, for example those who borrow several cymbals, hi-hats and pedals on a gig without a simple thank you, not even when you take their snare drum and tune it after being asked to do so five minutes before they go on stage. Ungrateful douchebag are just a few of the vocabulary alternatives I’d choose, but let’s leave it there.

Off course the PA had to die when the second band, Hope Over Fear (awesome band), got up on stage. But besides this annoying incidents, and the fact that the arranger hadn’t put up any posters about the gig (what did you expect?), we got a warm greeting from the crowd that were there, and the show went pretty well.

Thirteenth day and tenth gig: 30 October, Underjorden, Göteborg, Sweden

This was the day we’ve all been looking forward to. It seemed that many people would be going to the gig, and the feeling was that this would turn out to be a really great show, even better than Bremen or Hamburg. We had our deadline to reach the venue, Underjorden, and we barely made it in time (although there wasn’t like a fire to put out, but hey).

If there something really annoying when it comes to big cities, then it’s those that lack urban planning. I bet if you look at the road system in Göteborg from a satellite photo you’d think it was a huge fucking pit of worms crawling over a city, because that’s how it felt like when we tried to find that little exit to the venue on the highway. But the roads were intersecting each other all over the place and off course the GPS went nuts over every little turn and zigzag. Luckily we found the exit, like the fourth time we turned around on the highway and got to the venue and rigged up our gear.

If you look at an old theatre venue you’d think: this is too big for this crowd, they’ll be spread out. But somehow the whole place was nicely filled and when we got up on stage and did our thing it was magic. One of our best gigs ever took place here and the response was totally awesome. We’ve never had this good performance so far, maybe in Trondheim last year, but that gig wasn’t even close to this crowd’s reaction.

Afterwards we mingled around and met interesting people. One person, a subject of the special substance usually found in places like Christiania or Amsterdam, seemed to be in a state of crisis and needed explanation why everyone was alive. Ultimately this strange exhibitionist found his nihilistic superior and imploded in an outburst of what seemed like rapture and began speaking in tongues, which was when we left him to his own devices and evacuated the premises.

The day after we began the long way home to the northern regions of the brake tracks in the britches called Sweden. It was depressing going back to the routines of ordinary life, but hey, that makes the return to the roads much more fun!

Moloken's European tour 2009

Here is the tour dairy of our European tour october 17 to 21:th October (part I):

First day and gig: 17 October, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Söderhanm, Sweden

On the late evening we embarked on a smooth and relaxing trip southwards. Before we left Umeå there was the typical matter of packing everything smart, since we brought all of our gear, except the PA-speakers. Luckily we didn’t have to resolve to Tetris.

After hours in the van exploiting toilet humour and bizarre remarks about trivial matters, we arrived at Söderhamn, our first venue, and started unloading all of our equipment on stage, and asked the club where the sound technician was. As it turned out, there was no technician around and no one there had a clue about sound engineering (!), which is why Kristoffer took upon himself to do two jobs at a time: live engineering and playing. Luckily he didn’t have to grow four arms or mutate into Mr Fantastic to manage this task, since it was a small stage and we could place everything as if we we’re rehearsing. We did a good gig, had great live sound, the food the club served was awesome, and not only the drunkards in the front of the stage were enjoying themselves. And as it turned out, our sleeping quarters were two rooms in the hotel above the club. Sweet!

Second day and gig: 18 October, Oden, Karlskrona, Sweden

We woke around 8 o’clock, loaded all our stuff in the van and drove off towards Karlskrona, 800 km south of Söderhamn.

After we’ve been driving several hours on the E4 motorway along the east coast and through the Stockholm area we began to think that we would be at our designation in no time. Sadly, when we got through Linköping we only found smaller roads towards Karlskrona, going zigzags through places no one’s ever heard of. It took us over two hours of long monologues why Gehenna’s last three albums is the crème de la crème, cursing, and human errors regarding the GPS due to above mentioned factors, plus low sugar level, to reach the venue, Oden, in Karlskrona.

The people at the venue were very friendly, efficient and knew what they were doing, plus they made a tasty vegan soup, although some of them looked like they had woken up in a dumpster. After the first band had done their show (a surprisingly good crust band by the way, given that I normally never listen to crust) we got up on stage and delivered an awesome gig. Even our bed benefactor for the evening, who has a keen (or shall I say picky) eye (and ear) for musical errors, couldn’t find anything special to complain about. The last band was a hardcore band, Trophies, and they delivered some pretty good tunes that night. That night we ate Brie cheese and tasted some exotic, dark beer from a small brewery in the US before we went to sleep in a cosy house in Malmö. Sounds like luxury, doesn’t it?

Third day and gig: 19 October, Martha, Kiel, Germany

With our bellies filled with sandwiches, yoghurt and off-course the compulsory morning coffee (well, at least I’m obliged to do so, everyone else is into that whole oh-we’re-so-aware-of-what-we-eat-thing, except when they stuff themselves with candy), we headed south towards our home country’s old enemy, Denmark. Apart from my weak mimics of the Danish language and the usual jokes about Danes, nothing special occurred. We drove through Denmark within an hour or so – it went so fucking fast that we barely saw anything of the country.

On the autobahn, all we saw was the road, landmarks, fields after fields with barley and wheat, and occasionally the outskirts of some small town or shithole. It was a bit dismal. It took us about two hours to reach Kiel.

When you’re going to a place, and have sent advertising stuff to the arranger, like the whole layout for a poster, you could assume they just print it and place it on boards, right? Wrong. Many times, you can be sure these so-called “arrangers” haven’t done jackshit to let the people know you’re coming to town. No posters, no advertisers in magazines, no nothing…fucking hacks. Not this time though, no sir. Whoever put up all these posters for the gig did a helluva job, as the streets were littered with them all over Kiel.

Although we had a somewhat hazy conception on how we’re supposed to get to the venue we reached the place after a phone call with the mysterious arranger for the evening gig, whom we only have had a brief contact through e-mail before. For all we knew he could actually be a she. We parked our car outside the designated street number, but something was very wrong with this picture. There we stood, with our parked van right in front of an old car shop, at the end of a small street intersecting a bigger one. Neighbouring the car shop stood some poor remains of what seemed to have been old work shops and garages with gates nearly falling down from its hinges, and all the buildings in the vicinity had lost their paint a long time ago. Seemed like a nice place, right? In like five minutes the enigmatic arranger arrived. He had all the visual qualities resembling an old biker, but he was a really nice guy.

Now, this isn’t a joke, but the venue was actually below the car shop, and you could enter the club by walking down a ramp inside the car shop! That was the most bizarre thing I’ve ever come across. Imagine playing in like a bomb-shelter below a car shop. We became most anxious to see if this club would live up to our growing fantasies about a REAL underground gig.

Some confusion arose however when the badass-look-alike arranger informed us that the venue was being cancelled due to some sketchy reasons, and by that time all the bands had already arrived at the car shop. He promised us however to try and arrange something else the very same night. Yeah right! So we waited and hanged out with the other bands at the spot, among them the dudes from Geisha for a half-hour or so before Mr. Arranger phoned us that he’d gotten us and Geisha another gig. If it were in Sweden, getting us inside another venue the same date would never have happened for sure, so we were very grateful for that turn of events.

Thanks to a lying and confused GPS we drove wrong for some time and had started asking the locals before we reached the right club, and since this venue looked nice, was above ground and didn’t have somewhat dubious neighbours we felt more secure. Now, originally the venue was only supposed to have one band playing that night, and now there were three bands the same night. The first band didn’t seem very happy with this, which is maybe why they sat in the backstage with sulky faces and drank beer for themselves. As usual there’s a tiresome wait before going up on stage, which is why some alcoholic beverages and small-talk is the best way to kill some time. When Geisha got up on stage we became witnesses to the controlled chaos they manifested. With every inch of the stage packed with pedals and effects, they certainly created an interesting atmosphere of sounds. When it was our time to play we noticed how small the stage actually was, and once again I felt like being packed inside a sardine jar. The gig itself went really good and the response was indeed positive, and we finished off with an extra number. Our main contact in Germany, Thomas, took us after the gig to his friend’s flat to eat some veggie food (what else?) before going to his own apartment. That night we slept on the floor. Not so comfortable, but at least my head was lying on the belly of a huge teddy bear, hence why I felt like a prince when I awoke the day after.

Fourth day: 20 October, Kiel, Germany

If there’s anything we might take for granted, coming from a pretty high standard of living in Sweden, then it’s hot water and electricity. In lack of both those luxuries we searched for a public bath and got to this swimming hall, but the whole place were booked for some swimming school or some kind of shit and the freaking cashier had closed for the day, so we said fuck that shit and committed our first crime in Germany, non-paid public showering. When we left the swimming hall we must’ve looked like five hooligans, ‘cause some retired folks passed us by and murmured that the swimming hall must’ve been robbed.

If there’s anything else you might take for granted in Sweden, then there are high prices on alternative food, and if the prices are actually low on an alternative restaurant, then the place is usually pretty filthy and worn-down. That’s why at least I got surprised when we found this nice place in Kiel which was fresh, served really good stuff and had pretty low prices.

Since we didn’t have a gig for the evening we just hanged out the remaining of the day with our host, inspected some pubs and the local beverages before getting some shut-eye.

Fifth and Sixth day and fourth gig: 21 – 22 October, De Rots, Antwerp, Belgium

First: If there’s anything you’d expect from arrangers and the personnel at a venue then it’s the simple gestures of social competence, you know, greeting you when you arrive, recognizing you’re here to do a job, maybe lend a helping hand in-case you might need it, and afterwards bid you farewell and so forth. You know, freaking normal manners.

When we arrived we barely were noticed by the club. It was as if we weren’t there, or maybe we were something tiresome, something the personnel had to endure for the time being. Or maybe the club people could only see things in a five-dimensional way and we had to wear special masks in order to be recognized, who knows? I’ve never seen this level of indifference towards a band before, like they didn’t care at all if we’d play or not. Okay, since I come from Uppsala I do know another place which has the same low social quality towards bands, but that’s a story to cry about some other time.

Second: If there’s anything you’d expect from the audience then it’s that they actually watch the show, and not sit at the bar with their back against us. It was as if we were the same old boring house band, playing the same old tunes for the five hundredth time, and the morons sipping their beers at the bar just want to be left alone in their own misery, now that the wife has left them and taken the kids along with the house and the car, but left them the mortgage, the insurances and the kids’ welfare to pay. I’m exaggerating, but you get the general picture of the whole scenario.

This was the worst gig we’ve ever done. We could have more fun playing at a coal power plant for Mr Whoever’s retirement party as far as I’m concerned. Playing in front of robots (or more like playing behind them) isn’t so exciting and talking to robots is not so funny in the long run. But what a heck, you can only try and do the best out of the whole mess. To outweigh this debacle we left the venue after the gig to spend the night inspecting Antwerp’s pubs and found some good Trappist beer and nice company along the way.

When we were about to leave the venue and their hostel the day after it took us three hello and good morning before Mr Record guy, with the shop inside the venue, to greet us. Maybe this place was uniquely packed with real misanthropes, but I doubt that since he jumped from whatever he was doing when I shouted at him. Anyway, our mood was boosted by the last night, plus we had time to walk around in Antwerp like hello-I’m-a-tourist-poster stamped on our foreheads. While Patrick and I cultivated our sophisticated taste for the fine arts, the brothers and John did their best to equal that in the somewhat trashy cultural sphere.

Oh, I nearly forgot: When we entered Antwerp we saw lots of these orthodox Jews bicycling around the streets with their big beards, Mormon clothes and Babylonian haircuts, so we assumed there had to be a temple nearby, but then we started seeing them everywhere, for only that day. The day after no one was around. Funny, since you never see them in Sweden, only on TV and usually it’s something about the settlements in Israel and fanatic Zionists.