The final chapter of the Nomad Series is finally off the press and in our store. The Nomad Series book is pretty darn gorgeous, please check out all the specs and then treat yourself to a very nice Christmas/Holiday/end-of-the-world present. Also now available is the Nomad Series vinyl box set. Only 200 have been manufactured and it too is a beautiful looking and sounding piece of work…definitely worth looking in to for the vinyl hound on your list.
November 22, 2012: It was a late night last night and an early departure this morning. Pete and John continued their search for ancient demons below Jared’s room, but failed to gain access to their lair. We hung out and talked and drank with some of the local musicians and journalists and music lovers from the area. It’s a very fragmented music scene in Italy, but it’s very passionate. It’s just difficult finding those little pockets of fanatics, but I would have no problem spending a month here, travelling from town to town, searching: so much pleasure to be found in the journey in this country. In the past couple of days I have signed many covers of rare Junkies vinyl, including a mint condition copy of the Hunger Project single….I think we only manufactured about 500 of those and that was thirty years ago. As I said, there are passionate pockets.
We piled in to the van way too early this morning for a drive that was a couple of hours too long. We are all definitely feeling the pain of enjoying a bit too much of Europe after hours. The gig tonight was in the small room at the newly built performing arts center: a nice building but a bit cold and lacking personality. We were told in Rivoli that the tickets for this show were way over-priced and perhaps that is the reason for the small audience tonight. The audience also seemed to be affected by the more formal surroundings and were a little reserved, but we made the best of it and had a decent night on stage. Since it was an “early” show tonight, 8:30pm, plans were made for us to have a late dinner. So at midnight we sat down with the promoter (who treated us like gold) and his wife and a few of his friends at a beautiful little restaurant, tucked away behind the Vicenza’s main square. We were once again wined and dined and didn’t stumble out of the restaurant until 2am: another excellent meal, another night with too few hours sleep.
November 23, 2012: This morning I forced myself to get up a couple of hours before bus call so that I could spend some time wandering around. Vicenza is a very wealthy city, you can see it in the clothes that the locals are wearing, you can see the prosperity in their skin, the young women positively glow. It is also a spectacularly beautiful city with some of the most stunning Renaissance architecture in Italy, with over twenty buildings designed by the Andres Palladio, one of the most influential architects in the history of Western architecture. If you’re lucky enough to be heading to Venice (about 100 miles from here) try and spend a couple of days in Vicenza, you will be happy that you did.
It was a short drive to Rezzato, back toward Milan, a little town on the outskirts of who knows where. There was not much time to explore the new surroundings today and I had little inclination to leave the hotel before soundcheck. The hotel was originally built as a palace by some no-account Venetian count who took a liking to Versailles and wanted his own smaller version in the Italian countryside. Centuries go by and now the building hosts conventioneers and travelling rock bands….so I guess not much has changed when you get right down to it. Ironically, on the day that we stay at the most glamorous hotel on the tour, we play at the crappiest venue: an old movie theater that has seen better days and a dressing room lodged in its basement that was not only disgusting but had the strangest, darkest vibe. Fortunately we had a decent sized audience tonight and they were enthusiastic and engaged from the first chord. They infused us with their energy and we had a great show, an excellent way to end the tour.
This has been a great little jaunt through Portugal and Italy: enthusiastic fans, great food, new places and some excellent music. Tomorrow we make the long trek back to Toronto and start to settle in to the Holiday season. We’ll be back at it in January, unless the world ends on December 21st, so stay tuned and stay safe.
We flew from Porto to Milan and sat around at the airport for about an hour while we waited for our van and driver to show up. When he finally arrived he had to immediately take his mandated 45 minute break before we could start out on our two hour journey to Rivoli. So we sat around and waited some more: Italy immediately shrugging her shoulders, cocking her head, as if to say, “slow down, relax, time is measured in centuries not minutes around here.” It’s so good to be back.
Rivoli is a small town in the far North West corner of Italy, in the shadow of the Alps, a few kilometers from Turin. The gig and our accommodations for the past two days are located in a beautiful hundred year old compound that once was this area’s slaughterhouse. True to the period and to the impeccable aesthetic of the average Italian builder, this purely functional compound had a flow, grace and attention to detail that you would be hard pressed to find in North America. The main building, the actual slaughterhouse turned music venue, is a beautifully articulated circular building: it is round for no other reason but for the pleasure of creating a round building, the aesthetic of the art nouveau movement at the turn of the 20th century pushed the builders in that direction and one hundred years later it is still a thing of beauty, a pleasure to look at it, walk around and work in. Our rooms were housed in what was once the ice house, which, we were told, had cellars beneath it which extended five levels below ground (Pete and John spent a lot of energy trying to pry open a hatch in Jared’s room to see if these cellars could be explored, but there seemed to be something on the other side keeping that hatch from prying loose….). Another of the out buildings in the compound was the old livestock barn which has been turned into a restaurant: there aren’t enough stars in the Michelin guidebook to describe how good the food at this place is. Upon our arrival the promoter generously treated us all to a true Italian multi-course meal. The steak, sausage and pork was grilled in the courtyard over wood-coals, the pasta and bread was made on the premises, the desserts were the sort of thing that I will fondly dream of for years and the beer was as fresh as any cask ale that I’ve ever had, unpasteurised, brewed locally, and meant to be drunk within a several mile radius of the brewery, not bottled and carted around the world and drunk from plastic cups. And of course the wine flowed freely, but I was concentrating on the beer. We spent a good three hours sating ourselves…there is a reason that the Romans took so easily to Bacchus…man, I missed this country.
The slaughterhouse was abandoned in the 1970’s and sat empty for a few decades, filling up with pigeon shit, until one man came along with a vision to create a space dedicated to music: the playing of music, the recording of music, an archive for Italian folk music, a place to learn about the countries folk music traditions and a repository for musical instruments from around the world. This vision was supported by the local city council and the result is an educational, cultural and entertainment resource for the community and region. It’s an amazing space with a myriad of rooms, each holding a small treasure trove of musical history. The main performance space has been tweaked and lovingly shaped and it has grown from being a nightmare of hard surfaces and crashing sine waves into a live but tuned room. Jared said that it was one of the nicest sounding rooms that he has ever played in with us, which is saying a lot, considering the many multi-million dollar concert halls that we have played over the years. Needless to say we had a great night of music, the audience was intense and passionate, really and truly listening….man I love this country.
November 18: There is a leisurely pace to this little tour. Today was a day off and this morning we piled into a small van and headed up the highway to the city of Porto. Three hours later we took up residence at a cafe along the banks of the Rio Douro and settled in to enjoy the perfect weather and this incredible city. The old city of Porto is carved out of the cliffs that rise from the river. Centuries stacked upon centuries. The streets and alleyways create a maze that twists and turns and switches back on itself. The only way to find ones way out is by heading downhill, toward the river. Around every corner looms a dark, haunted looking church, vampires peer down from perches high above the alleyways (not the cute Kristen Stewart/Rob Pattinson variety, but the creepy Klaus Kinski kind). It’s an amazing place. Some of us also sampled one of the local delicacies, some call it a Frenchie, some call it a Drunk Mans Sandwich and some call it something else in Portuguese. I call it disgusting…two pieces of bread, covered in melted cheese, with a fried egg on top and sausage, steak, ham and whatever other scraps the kitchen has on hand, inside. Then the whole thing sits in a putrid, spicy gravy. I guess it was kind of like going to Philadelphia and ordering a Phillie Cheesesteak, but not nearly as good for you …..one does strange things when one is in an unfamiliar time zone.
November 19: The gig tonight was not in the old town but in a more modern part of the city in the Casa De Musica, which is the cities main concert hall. In direct contrast to the cities ancient past this building looks forward, far forward into a galaxy far, far away…it boldly goes where no man has gone before. It is a futuristic mess. The building was designed by Koolhaas in the early 2000s and I suppose it is an attempt at breaking away from the traditional European concert hall, perhaps an ironic twist on a theme, but it is a perfect example of form (gone mad) over function…perhaps it looked good as a scale model. The building is a strange, indefinable, multi-sided shape that sits on a huge undulating marble platform (a skateboarders paradise). Ironically the space age materials used on the outside already looks worn and dated (in many ways the outside of the building reminds me of one of our local Toronto architectural calamities, the ROM chrystal…impractical, ugly and dated within a week of its completion). The inside of the building is concrete, stainless steel, plastic and neon. While walking around inside it’s hard not to flash on scenes from The Andromeda Strain, or expect to meet Lord Vader and a dozen storm troopers coming down the hall. Our dressing room had these fantastic, huge windows jutting out at 45 degree angles over the skateboarders below, it reminded me of the lounge (10 Forward) on the Starship Enterprise (for all you Next Generation fans). Apparently the future is a very uncomfortable place with lots of hard edges and harsh light…although there is the occasional cool window and sliding remote control door to keep one amused. The performance hall itself is enormous, not necessarily in seating capacity but in the actual volume of space….it is vast. Don’t get me wrong, we felt honoured to be asked to play in such a prestigious hall and loved the opportunity to do so. Once again, we had a very appreciative and enthusiastic audience. We had a very good show although not as consistently strong as the night before. What can I say…Portugal rocks….we had a blast….we hope to return soon.
One would never want to say that this type of tour is “hard work”. That would come across as so much whining and as being completely disingenuous to the systems analyst sitting in traffic as part of his ninety minute morning commute or the business manager cramming herself into the subway on route to another useless morning meeting. Drudgery is hard work and this is far from drudgery. Yes, it takes a lot of planning and frustrating false starts and the occasional leap of faith, and the hidden expenses usually gobble up most of the less-than-expected-income, but once you have partially rid yourself of the nausea of the twenty hour journey and your body stops throbbing, and you get over the $1700 excess baggage fee, you find yourself on top of a wrought iron viewing platform designed by an apprentice of Gustav Eiffel, with a 360 degree view of downtown Lisbon, with lively Rossio Square to the North, Sao Jorge castle sitting high above the city to the East, the skeletal remains of Convento do Carmo sitting within a stones’ throw to the West and the vast port of Lisbon, the one-time commercial center of the world, to the South. It is then that you take a long, deep breath and think…”I am one lucky son-of-a-bitch”.
And to top it all off, once you have finished aimlessly ambling through the streets of Lisbon and marvelling at the centuries old alleyways, nooks and crannies of the Alfama district (Lisbons oldest neighborhood), you get to go and play your music in front of 1200 excited people who have been anticipating your appearance for months. I don’t say this out of any desire for self-aggrandisement, but simply to, once again, say thank you to those of you whose interest and appreciation for what we do has allowed us to live this fairytale existence for the past twenty-five years. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
The gig tonight was at the relatively new and exceptionally beautiful Centro Cultural de Belem. A cultural, marble palace built in the late 1990’s, back when the economy allowed for such “frivolities”. It is just up the street from the world famous Belem Patisserie, so we journeyed down there after soundcheck to check out their renowned custard tarts (the secret recipe for which is known by only three people in the world). They were unbelievably tasty…such hardship, but someone’s got to do it. It was a fantastic gig tonight in front of an appreciative and enthusiastic audience: an excellent start to our little working holiday.
We are off to Lisbon tonight and are looking forward to seeing our Portuguese and Italian friends over the next 10 days. These are tough times in Southern Europe and we hope to provide a much needed distraction, if only for a couple of hours. The rest of you please follow along on the Tour Diary which we'll be posting as we make our way through the chaos and the beauty.
In the meantime here is another excerpt from The Neighbours Dog:
Unfortunately there has been some coordination problems between us and our Spanish promoters and the two shows in Barcelona and Madrid have been cancelled. Anyone that has bought tickets will be able to get a full refund from the agent that they bought them from. More details about ticket refunds should be coming to you via the ticketing agent in the next few days.
We are so sorry about the cancellation. We know that times are tough in Spain these days and we looked forward to visiting your beautiful country and exciting cities and playing some music for you. We are determined to get back there soon.
We are off to Europe next week for a two week tour of Spain, Portugal and Italy….pretty tough, eh? We are very excited to see our Southern friends (and enjoy a bit of their weather and whatever else they have to offer). There may not be much money floating around those countries these days but there still isn't a better place in the world to spend time than Southern Europe.
Here is a video of a performance that we did in Germany two Novembers ago. It was 1:30am, we were the last act of a two day festival jammed in to a tiny venue and on a tiny stage, Alan had been in a coma all day having been stricken by strep throat and we were all feeling the effects of having spent the previous day in Christiania….a lazy, hazy, surreal performance. Enjoy.