Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Timeless Travel

It seems fitting that this tour started 3 weeks ago in the woods of Norway, and ended yesterday on a beach in Spain.

No more high seas adventures for me. I'm off the clock. I am done being dragged, feet first across Europe. It's time for me to settle back into my bed for a few days and then wrap my face around some delicious food.

I've missed out, as that kind of behavior is restricted on the high seas apparently.

I had that feeling, crossing to Dover from Calais, that I was returning to some sort of civilized place, like seeing the lights of Vegas crawl out of a dark desert. It saddened me because I know how much less civilized England actually is, but the very fact that I can order food in my native language makes it seem that much closer to home. Maybe I'm the uncivilized one, or maybe I have just grown tired of Eurodisasterland.

We had another dawn ferry crossing. There are always many on a European tour. Just one of the many hurdles that lay ahead of me before I made it home.

The blow of being up that early was softened only by a big, greasy English breakfast accompanied by a sidecar of condiments including HP sauce in little bubbles. It was so satisfying to sit down to a plate of beans and toast smothered in brown sauce, and read through a British gossip rag and lifelessly poke at a tomato on my plate. Three cheers for ferry food.

Customs is and was a treat that early in the morning. It's usually a string of disconnected questions from disinterested officials designed to trip you up when it is already six in the morning and you are unaware of the location of your other shoe much less the planned routing of the next two weeks of you life. I think not.

We turned up for half a day off in London, followed by a small club show in Camden. This was the first thing I saw when I entered the dressing room. It was completely empty, and I therefore took it to be a sign of further unpleasantness to come. I was mistaken, as it was soon fully stocked to the brim with delicious cups of ice cream. At the end of the night we filled a palate with uneaten frozen desserts, and were forced to eat them, one by one as there was no freezer on the bus. There was a pile of empties in the downstairs lounge large enough to shame a giant, and enough upset stomachs to prove it.

This was the second thing that I saw in the dressing room. Gibson had filled a spare room with a dozen or so guitars and a few amps at the hopes of selling a few to visiting bands. I could care less about a 50's stratocaster, but I was immediately drawn to a Hetfiled-style Explorer with a mirrored pick guard. None more black, and reflective.

The Latitude Festival in Suffolk was a bit of a breeze. 
We turned up unwashed and exhausted to find this in the otherwise empty dressing room:
Mustard, pita bread and a bar of soap.

I ran straight into a bunch of good friends when we turned up. It was like sinking into a warm bath, only that warm bath would be outdoors in a big, muddy field somewhere in England. Allen was out doing Frank Fergusson. We had some lunch and caught up a bit, and then he wandered off to watch Steven King movies on the bus. I watched Franz later on and thought it was a bit of alright. It was very bright and everything sounded quite a bit like that ELO song.

I saw British Sea Power, who are old friends from early Interpol touring days. They were a bit unhinged a few years back. I remember their bass player diving head first into the crowd one night and coming back missing both shoes. Instead of buying another pair he put on all of the socks that he had in his suitcase and finished the tour with what looked like a pair of swolen, wooly feet. Things haven't necessarily improved on their mental health front. They turned up with an eight-piece Bulgarian choir and 3, crank-up air raid sirens. When the din and clatter of the sirens died down all you could hear was the otherworldly spookiness of the choir's voices. This is what could only be described as haywire. If you have a spare minute read their enchanted US tour diary.
Here's a brief excerpt:
Howard came down to La Sala Rossa to say hi. He told us his 4 year old daughter had called their dog a “fucking beast” today. He seemed both devestated and proud.

No more Euro food for a few months at least. I'll miss you 'direct from the USA' label who disguises shitty German peanut butter as something other than pure, concentrated crap.

No more shall I sit down to a tall glass of Nordic mist. I tastes very much like viking sweat and melted butter, and is therefore disgusting.

We did a show at the Manchester Apollo, which was where The Arcade Fire tour started last year. My friend Andy came out to help with the lights. It was a really good time all around, and therefore an anomaly among the shows on this tour. Take a swift kick to the good ones, positive outlook on life.

Birmingham Academy was basically a furious blast of chaos and filth. Just as I had remembered it.

Brixton Academy was a bit of a nail-biter trying to get everything up and working before doors. I was fortunate enough to have some good friends out at the show. My pals Jerry and Priscilla from Mexico had a layover en route to Morocco and decided to come out to the show, and my friend Sandra came out to take pictures. Good times. We managed a stealthy beer afterwards in one of the shadiest neighborhoods that I know of. That same night someone got stabbed a few blocks from the venue, bringing the total stabbing deaths in England to 2o this year alone. Suddenly France seems pretty inviting.

After 2 days on the bus we were dumped out in the middle of a hot festival site. Benicassim was to be the last stop on the tour. One show, and then a four hour drive to the airport where we were again dumped out at 3:30 in the morning.

I saw The National play their last show of what seemed like an endless tour. They were pretty much broken, but it was an incredible show all the same.

And I watched Leonard Cohen soundcheck. What a classy old bastard.

The beach at the end of the tunnel. Albeit swamped with pink and bloated British tourists, it was so inviting that I had to brave the blistering Spanish heat to walk down to the sand.

Shit luck. When there is no 13th aisle, I suppose I'm the big winner. Still, getting on a plane and staring down an 11-hour flight with nothing between me and home but a thin blanket, an Anne Hathaway movie, and some regurgitated chicken salad never felt so good.

It was lust, really. Today I'll be trying my best to put a bit of emotional distance between myself and anything that has happened prior to the last eight hours. I have flown stormy skies.