Monday, May 29, 2006

Bologna Monday 29 May 2006

aaahhhhhh........ITALIA!!!!! Bella!!!! more on this later.

ever heard "Bremen Nacht" by The Fall? Fantastic number. So we were in World Cup land and there was very little evidence to suggest that the Germans are ready for the biggest sporting event in the world. No flags, posters, souvenirs, nothing. In England and Holland, you couldn't move for being tripped up by world cup feverabilia. The Schlachthoff is a venue that has existed for years.....I first went there with The Membranes in the late 80s. Not much has changed....the people who work there nowadays are still as friendly and caring towards the bands who play there as they always were. I can't tell you how much of a difference it makes to your working day when the staff at the venue treat you with respect and put in energy into making your stay as pleasant as possible. Breakfast when you arrive, showers, internet access, food all day, and a clean environment. Found out that Desmond Dekker died that day, and so we had some Desmond playing as walk-on music. The audience outside the venue was a mash-up of punks and new goths and oldies. Turned out there was a grind band playing downstairs. Kids were getting lashed on cheap booze outside and comparing their mohawks and blackness of their make-up. Inside at our show, friday night was alright. A moshing and a leaping we shall go.
Dresden got a fair old battering by Bomber Harris and co. some 60 years ago. But walking around this beautiful city, especially near the Frauenkirche, there is very little evidence of atrocities from the past. I'd heard about right-wing organisations and skinheads taking an active part in extending the hand of friendship to foreigners in these parts, so walking through town as I did, I had my Oi! antennas set to maximum alert. I saw one skinhead with 20 holer Doc Marten's and a "Cocksparrer" shirt on with his girlfriend walk towards me. They didn't notice me until about 10 paces away, but a firm stare into their eyes and they sharply diverted their attention and walked elsewhere. Take that ya tosser! The hosts at the Star Club are wonderful people....always welcoming and they really look after you. Excellent show too. Went searching for World Cup souvenirs in the afternoon....took me an hour to find one store that sold measly, crappy number of items. Pathetic. I'm looking forward to attending Holland's first match against Serbia-Montenegro in Leipzig on 11 June.

Vienna...last show with "The Drones" from Australia. Check out the track "Australians In Europe" by ..... yup... The Fall. Gave "The Drones" a masterclass in table football. Ruey their drummer, was champion of Australia at table football when he was 7 years old! But against the cock o' the north, he was no match! If you are ever in Vienna, be sure to check out the museum for Hundertwasser....master artist, architect, anthropologist, etc

And then to Italia!

In Dresden we were joined by Luisa and Livi. Livi is Italian and comes from Bologna. And our first stop in Italia was....Bologna! Got up early to go to town and with Livi as our wonderful guide. Caught the splendid square in the centre of town which had been invaded by schoolkids....they were entranced by the fountain with Neptune on the top and bare-breasted ladies who spouted water from their mammary glands. Masterful design. Wandered through the small cobbled streets admiring the fruit and veg...cor blimey guv. A beautiful medieval city with splendid buildings everywhere, and the townspeople live life to the full....the oldies gather in the square and debate the latest bit of scandal to hit the country (stand up Moggi with yr Juventus bribing buddies), ladies looking stylish and bashing everyone with their umpteen shopping bags, and babies always get preferential treatment in Italy. If there is a crowd of people in front of you or a restaurant is packed, you just have to hold Hannelore up where she can be seen my one and all, and she gets treated like a queen. They love-a da bambinos! Livi took us to a fantastic little restaurant in one of the many back streets of Bolgna, and we had a magnificent lunch. So simple and yet unbelievably tasty. The whole process of going to, and being at the restaurant becomes a wonderful event. You spend hours talking and drinking, plying your way through about 5 courses, and just enjoying each others company. Extremely civilised and highly enjoyable. After lunch, a siesta is vital! But not possible when soundchecks have to be done. Aargh!
In Roma, we repeated the same process as the day before. We drove through town and took in the Colosseum, and old town, and straight to a small restaurant which was only known by the true Romans. It was like joining a secret society for the privileged few. The food was fabulous. Great company, the wine flowed, the restaurant mamas scurried around us like busy bees, and we lived like emperors. Exquisite pastas, sensational artichokes, sexy salads, trippy tiramisu, and espresso to kick start yr brain (and ass!) into gear. In the evening, dinner took so long to prepare...hey its need to hurry.....that we were still eating when we should have been onstage! I had to have my food packed and rush back to the venue to start the show....late.
Torino....the huge charm-free Teatro was near the Juventus stadium.....horrible place. Managed to go into town in the early evening and walk around the majestic town square and palace. Mussolini, in his infinite wisdom, had designed and built a huge ugly tower overlooking the town square. Completely out of touch with the surrounding architecture. Well done Benny. The 3 shows in Italy were ok......I thought the audiences were a bit laidback.....kinda like Australia was. I had expected kids to go mad, but I guess they were just being cool.....just like their new fellow countryman.....Morrissey!

Winterthur....I've had problems sleeping in that damned sleeper bus. The bed/coffin is to small for me to fit into properly, the airconditioning is cranked on full so we get Arctic conditions the whole night, people stumble and crawl through the galley and chunder aloud without actually thinking of the other mateys onboard, and the baby has been singing operettas at 4 in the morning. Last night was pure hell. I got up at 4.30am having "slept" for 3 hours and that was it. The other thing on the bus is that if you go through long tunnels (as you must do when you are in Switzerland) the vent system of the bus picks up all the disgusting fuel fumes from outside and spreads the love inside the bus. So with the airco blasting arctic winds at 100mph, you get bursts of diesel fumes pounding your lungs. I love the smell of diesel in't mornin'...........
Read John Robb's fantastic book until Winterthur and then crashed into the afternoon at the hotel. Plus these busdrivers are a w.e.i.r.d. breed. The current ones LOVE their house rules....check out the photies. Tonight we have a 1300 mile drive to Barcelona for the Primavera festival! mmmmmm.....lovely!


Friday, May 26, 2006

Bremen Friday 26 May 2006

That was a long day in Antwerp. Stuck for more than 12 hours in an industrial dumping ground, with the town miles away and nothing of interest around to visit or to stretch the mind. I have to say that John Robb's new book about punk rock (an oral history of British punk rock) is a cracking read and has been a great way to escape from the mundane aspects of being stuck on the outskirts of Antwerp. Everybody dragged their heels looking for something to do. J has been immersing himself in HBO lesbian series "The L Word" on dvd....could only hear grunting and shouting coming outta his 'puter speakers. Kevin gets crackered and lies in a heap on a couch with eyes that barely open, and Kyle scans EBay for money to spend on high end audio gear and plunge his debts into regions unknown. Lou, Kath and Hanny are always at the hotel and Murph inevitably always ends up at the hotel to sleep before the gig and return for brews and stick action. Dan, the tourmanager either is out taking arty photos, or in front of his 'puter planning the next Sonic Youth live payday, and looking forward to being in a touring group that isn't as high maintenance and dealing with a band manager who isn't hanging over his neck the whole time.

The gig itself was mediocre in my opinion.....bass rig falling apart, Louis all tiddly onstage, the sound never tightening up even with a full house, and crap mixing desk provided by the promoter. The in-house crew turned up in the morning expecting a big desk and all the trimmings, but were instead provided with a shitty little home studio desk and we were forced to improvise around it all. The gobshite promoter had the audacity to come up to me at the end of the night and complain about the band being too loud! I gave him an ear full and some more for not being accountable the whole f@#$*ng day for serving us shite gear! Why couldn't we play in the AB in Brussels? Some local artist painted a picture of the band whilst they played. He was the only winner in Antwerp. He told me about painting The Fall a couple of months ago, and MES was impressed (and drunk enough) to tell his group to give the painter the band's backdrop!

Today we are in Bremen at the Schlachthoff.....the old slaughter house! Lets see who gets hung, drawn and quartered today!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Utrecht Wednesday 24 May 2006

"country road, take me home, to the place that I belong....." Greetings fans from the fine city of Utrecht. I just need to board a train and I could be in my home town within an hour......BUT I can't. For I am twiddling knobs for the last time before the summer kicks in with the group that is known as "Dinosaur Jr." A final 2.5 weeks of sonic righteousness and we will all be able to rest our ears. But i and i is naht complainin' is lovin' it!

There's nothing like getting the UK leg of any tour over at the start, so that you can look forward to the pleasantries of mainland Europe later. This is exactly what we did. We began the tour in Glasgow. The crumbling inner city is patrolled by "neds" (surly looking,stunted, pale, youth wearing sports casuals who roam in packs, speak an indecipherable language, and carry enough menace and threat to bring down the walls of Jericho). A couple of years ago, I was in Glasgow with Lou and Jason to play a show there as part of the "Sebadoh" reunion. We arrived at Central Station just as many Scottish football supporters were returning from Hampden Park. Lou and I went to the toilets downstairs and used the urinals. There were a bunch of neds there, but all was quiet whilst I was there. I returned upstairs without any problems. Lou returned to the surface 5 minutes later all shaken up. He said the young hoodlums had surrounded him whilst having a pee, and poked him and kicked him, calling him "speccy" and trying to harangue him. Lou was more shocked by the fact that he was being attacked by 8 year olds, rather than the fact he was being attacked at all! I was happy to see many friends during the day. Visited Mono record by Dep and Stephen Pastel...and bought the new single by the 1990s just after it had been delivered fresh off the pressing plant. Who should enter the shop as I bought it, but John McKeown...mastermind behind the 1990s.

Ajay, John (1990s) and Dep (Mono record store owner) at Mono Records, Glasgow

The day the agent picked for the show was also the day of the Champions League final. Now I certainly wanted to watch the game and not participate in the show until after the game. But no, we had to start at the beginning of the second half. I watched the first half in a pub with Noj, and Mig and assorted friends, and the strange thing was that there were alot of supposed Arsenal fans there. It turned out that many Rangers fans were donning Arsenal colours for the night, because, if Barca were to win, Celtic would get an automatic spot in the Champions League next season. Nothing like a wee bit of sectarianism to add spice to the evening. I wore my 1970s Barca shirt, and was not happy to return to the venue with the arse a goal up. But through text messages from friends in the second half, I was able to keep up to date and announce the result over the PA during the performance. Happy people in the audience.
Edinburgh......brimming with history on every street corner, a treat to the eye. Walked down the Royal Mile, visited the castle and hit Princess Street. More neds everywhere, but the warm sun had beaten them into submission and they lay in the park with no energy to pester the people.The gig was fab. Packed venue, moshing a gogo and crowd surfing. However at the end of the gig, one cheeky chap reached over to where J's pedals were, and stole his Germania pedal. He made a run out of the venue followed by audience, crew and security. But he got away with it....for now. A bunch of people came to us afterwards and said they knew who he was and the police also came down and made a report. Tedious and boring, the whole affair.


Camber Sands....All Tomorrows Parties. This is possibly the greatest festival ever. Only 3000 people in attendance, in 2 indoor venues, everybody gets a chalet to sleep in ( a bed at the end of the night people....bliss!!!....and a shower). And the 3 days and nights are filled with fantastic bands. Dino played the first night and put in a fantastic performance. J was fired up having seen "Eater" perform, and Lou and Murph were fired up having watched on ATP TV the "Minor Threat live at 9.30 Club" show from back in the day. The 2 days provided many musical highlights....Eater, The 1990s, The Gossip, Joanna Newsome, Lightning Bolt, Dead Meadow, Teenage Fanclub, Magik Markers, etc etc etc. The pub stayed open till 5 in the morning and the festival chalets were party centres, where you would chalet hop and meet old friends wherever you went.
Manchester....a return to my old stomping ground. My guestlist was filled with 30+ names. I hung out with Denis and Mike in the morning and with Mike's great son, Paul. Paul entertained us, showing us that he has the potential to be a great television star of the future......gameshows may soon have an enigmatic, good looking Mancunian fronting them. Fat Mark came down from Preston with a minibus full of people for his stag night out. He introduced the band with great aplomb, but had the ignominy of having the band arrive onstage 3 minutes after he'd finished the dynamic intro!
Manchester and Preston in da haus

Mike Nolan and Paul (future star of Granada Land)

friends in Mancunia

hotel manchester

Birmingham....jeezy creeky....not only could we not find a curry house in the centre of town (this IS curry town surely?) but we couldn't find a restaurant for love nor money. What do Brummies do for food?
Bristol....Hannelore - Lou and Kath's daughter - has eaten at a restaurant everyday, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. She plies through her dish with her hands, and eats half the food and deposits the other half on the carpet every time. Tonight it was the turn of Wagamama, Bristol. Check. Add to checklist. Another waiter / restaurant owner in stress. Tonight was the last night with "Dead Meadow".....fab band and stoned immaculate. We will miss these kids. Now get me outta Blighty.

Louis McBarlow and wife

Hannelore in restaurant

Utrecht....the Dutch don't know how to rock as an audience. Too laid back for their own good. But tonight, there was a moshpit! Lawdy mama I is agonna faint. Had a strict curfew, before Euro techno all night get mashed and rutt club started. Too many flashing lights, too much smoke, tall and cool looking people everywhere. The oldies went to bed.
Antwerpen tonight....playing in Belgian warehouse. Techno would sound good here, but Dino soundcheck sounded like bag of nails being thrown down stairs and amplified to max. We will see how we do tonight. Great food prepared by chef though. Thats half the battle won of any day....get one decent meal inside you, especially before the show. Now lets sample the fine Belgian beer wares............

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


The Bent Moustache ponder on setlist for the show

The Bent Moustache with webmistress Hedwig

The Bent Moustache arrive at the Vera

The Bent Moustache at the Afsluitdijk

Just like the Beatles

The Bent Moustache "tour" report

Last week proved to be a busy week in our band schedule. 2 gigs and a radio show! Hey, thats alot for us. We've been trying to get shows everywhere, but Dutch venues don't even reply to our requests for shows, even though you send them cds and bios. Its either sheer indifference, or the live experience is slowly dying a death over here. Strange that, as they never have a problem filling their agendas with Yank or Brit bands!

On Monday 1 May, we played in Amsterdam at the Bitterzoet. A fine venue this is too. I never knew of its existence before. A good alternative to the Paradiso / Melkweg duopoly. We rehearsed during the day and brushed away the cobwebs...and boy were there a few. In the evening we made our way into town in Wilf's old banger.....just the 3 of us with all our gear squeezed in....elegant slumming.....but we wouldn't have it any other way. 2 bands played before us...Dusty Blinds from Amsterdam. An excellent 3 piece...2 gals and a guy....on that whole Sleater-Kinney tip, but better. The other band...The Enablers from San Francisco...were just awful. Our turn arrived and we did a luxuries afforded to us. The set itself was good, with a couple of numbers played a wee bit too fast, but the energy was there. I felt strangely reclusive re. stage presence....couldn't look at the audience. Afterwards, my showbiz adviser, Uncle Siem, gave me good hints on how to wow the crowd, but I already knew these and would have to ensure I carried them out in force next time.

Thursday 4 May....we hit Zaan Radio for a live broadcast! It was Remembrance Day and at 8pm the nation observed a 2 minute silence. A strange experience is that. Sitting in a radio studio surrounded by radio bods who all actually keep schtum for longer than 10 seconds. We played 2 sets of about 20 mins each, interspersed with interviews and tracks from our favourite records. All the kids from my football team listened and were especially wowed by the fact that I gave them a big shoutout. There's nothing like getting a request played over the ethernet when you're young. Bob and Ditmer were our special guest musicians, who played bass and sax respectively on a couple of numbers.

Saturday 6 May....our big day out to Groningen. This was the first gig that The Bent Moustache had done outside of our region. And what a place to start. The Vera club....probably my favourite venue anywhere. The rush that you feel when you wake up in the morning knowing that you are going to be performing that night was there in full effect. Nothing can beat that feeling. Loading in the van is a more pleasurable experience than normal as you are preparing for an event that means alot to you, and you are united with your bandmates / friends / your gang. The strength of feeling between band members is even stronger at this time as you are on a road to glory. We hit the road on a beautiful summer afternoon, joined by our good friend Ditmer Weertman who would play sax on 3 numbers. I manned the wheel north. Great music poured out of the speakers and the kids sat back, reading the newspaper, talking, staring out of the window. Petrol station stop and fuel up on ice cream. We stopped at the halfway point on Afsluitdijk (the long road that stretches over the water at Ijselmeer...a great piece of Dutch engineering) to admire the view and have a break. Arriving in Groningen, we met several old friends at the Vera. Exactly a year ago, Dinosaur Jr. pitched camp there for a few days to rehearse, and play the first show of their reunion tour. For many of the staff, it was interesting for them to see me not behind the mixing desk, but onstage. Hedwig, our webmistress, was also there, and very nice it was to see her too. The gig took place in the cellar bar, and was nicely filled for our performance. The general feeling amongst the band was that it was a cracking show, and this time I took uncle Siem's showbiz tips and did my best to wow the crowd! The Groningen kids were down for some good house rockin' on a saturday night. Left the place to head back home happy and intoxicated.

Live at VERA Groningen I Photos by MarkS