We join our heroes, three members of the Fireballs of Freedom, at home in Portland, Ore., still recovering from a harrowing rock-'n'-roll trip. Their adventure began in early September. Mere days after being approached by a promoter through their website, the gentlemen of Fireballs of Freedom found themselves on a plane to Madrid, Spain. From there they traveled to Vitoria, the capital of Basque country, to play at the Azkena Rock Festival in front of more than 15,000 screaming drunks. Thus our tale begins....
JASON PAULUCCI: Someone had canceled before we arrived, and the promoter let us know that we had the option of playing last, after the reunited Iggy and the Stooges with Mike Watt [of Minutemen fame]. The Cramps wouldn't play--nobody would play after them, for some reason--so we were given the last slot between 3 and 5 in the morning.
SAMMY JAMES: We were very honored to be playing after God.
KELLY GATELY: Iggy ruled. He was working out a half-hour before they played, trying to get loose. We didn't really get to talk to him--he was all about working out--but we hung out with Watt all night, a total bro.
JP: A really good guy, the best bass player in the world.
SJ: I'm going on after Mike Watt playing with the Stooges, and I'm asking the Stooges drum tech if he has any drumsticks. And this is a big thing! I tell Watt, "You're like a grandfather to me, I love you, man" and I'm taking pictures of him. And after that shit, we have to go play.
KG: We were good that night; we'd all stayed in the night before the show. We were all sober. Right before we hit the stage, I drew Sharpie mustaches on all the guys, jean jackets, no shirt, super-fantastic sound, we were all in great form.... So we'd played the best gig of our lives, went out partying, everybody dancing, all this crazy shit.... We go to the hotel, didn't even sleep, drank all the booze in the hotel room, and, the next thing we know, it's 1 in the afternoon and we're wide awake. High as a fucking kite, we go back to the festival. People were buying us drinks.... The next thing I remember, I'm passed out in a tent. Apparently, I'd been talking to Steve Earle backstage, having these long, drawn-out conversations that I don't remember.
JP: He kept asking Steve Earle what band he was in. Really nice guy, very political. Writes for The Nation.
KG: After Cherry Valence, I pretty much blacked out. ... Apparently, I'd tried to jump on stage while Steve Earle was playing, telling security I was a friend of his and wanted to sing "Copperhead Road" with him on stage. I'd passed out in this tent. The promoter goes up to [Fireball keyboardist] Roach and Sammy and tells them to get outta the festival and send me home.
JP: I take him back to the hotel and then realize we haven't been paid. I go back and start asking people about the money.
SJ: Security guards, everybody.
JP: They don't understand because I don't speak any Spanish, and they're telling me to get away, pushing. They're pissed at us anyway for acting like cocks the whole weekend; there were rumors going around. So they kinda kicked me outta there, and I walked three miles back to the hotel, and I was ready to get even. I got a guitar string--y'know, the old-style Italian choke wire--and I was like, "I'm gonna go back and get that fucking money."
I went back...and I finally got up to these guys close to the promoter and said that we needed to get paid. Then I stretched out the guitar string in front of them, and they were like, "What does that mean?" I said "Justicia! Justice!"
Right after that, the promoter shows up and hands us an envelope filled with money, and I tape $1,500 under my crotch.
Shortly after their return, top European booking agency Last Tour International signed the Fireballs for further adventures across the continent. Missoula label Wäntage just released a maxi-EP with 17 singles, B-sides and rarities that includes filmed concert footage. The band has begun recording a new album for Estrus to be released in early May before their next European tour.
play with Diamond Tuck and the Privates Saturday, Nov. 8, at Kelly's Olympian, 426 SW Washington St., 228-3669. 10 pm. Cover. 21+.