It's around 11:30 pm on a Wednesday night in Berlin, Germany. I'm sitting in our van outside a club called Festaal Kruzberg. Inside, a sweaty, hairy, shirtless mass of Americana is ruthlessly pounding their way towards oblivion onstage. Fittingly enough, it's the Fourth of July. No, I'm not in the parking lot of a Bear-themed bath house. Ladies and gentlemen, this is a band called O'Death. And they rock really really really really really really hard. In an Appalachian sort of way. This might not be your cup of tea. I'm not sure it's even mine. But they definitely rock. And now we're labelmates over here. Yay City Slang!
The band that played before them is called Beach House, and they rock too, albeit in a fully clothed and not particularly hairy (I'm assuming. They kept their shirts on) sort of way. Beach House is a lesson in subtlety, and I love them for it. Their names are Victoria and Alex, and they're really nice, too. They're from Baltimore and I've been listening to their album religiously for the past two months or so, on recommendation from my best little friend in Texas, C.J. Davis.
Well anyway, we're about to go onstage. I'll type more later, if my hands aren't too bloody.
(three hours later)
Boy did that show suck. Now I'm sweaty, partially intoxicated, and typing from the same van seat I was in before our set. I fell asleep in the venue after we played, so my contacts are crispy and hard against my eyeballs, and I have to blink like a hummingbird's wing in order to see straight. It was my personal worst performance of the tour. I've started playing with shoes on for the first time of my life because there's something about going barefoot on rented bass pedals and hi-hat stands that grosses me out...like shaking a friend's hand after you just watched him pee in the men's room without washing afterwards. Playing in shoes brings about a whole new set of unfamiliar issues, because I can't feel how hard I'm stomping. I've decided it's the lesser of two evils though. Excuses, excuses. Yes, I sucked.
Also sucky was the fact that O'Death played before us. We should have played second, and let them headline. The place was packed and rowdy for them, and consequently sleepy and dwindling by the time we got onstage. Not that I blame these Berliner crowd folk. It's a weeknight, for starters, and a rowdy band like O'Death playing before a wannabe artsy-fartsy band like Menomena is not unlike watching Andrew W.K. open for Snow Patrol. After partying hard, you don't want to just lie there. So yeah, half the crowd left, we sucked, and now it's goodbye Berlin. Sigh.
Now we're driving back to the hotel. My prediction: I struggle with getting wi-fi in my room to contact my neglected wife before collapsing on my much too-small bed before waking up in two hours to empty my neglected bladder and then collapsing again only to wake instantaneously to the sun piercing through the useless curtain and into my hangover-addled skull. And then it's onto Paris. God, I want to go home. But even that requires another plane trip.
(the following afternoon)
Wow, that all was very negative. Forgive me. I should be more optimistic when placed in the fortunate position of being able to tour the world. I should save all the crabby remarks for twenty years from now when we'll be lucky to tour the state fair circuit. I can see it now: Pitchfork Media Presents! The Class of 2003 Reunion Tour! Starring The Rapture and The Unicorns, with special guests Menomena! Coming to a casino near you! Ugh.
Stay positive...stay positive...ok. We spent the day before the show in Berlin doing interviews to promote the upcoming August 31st release date of our Friend And Foe album. It's amazing how well-researched and thorough the journalists are over here. We've become so exhausted from thinking of clever, unique ways to answer the five following questions in the states:
1. So why the Muppet obsession?
2. So why the computer obsession?
3. So why the bathtub obsession?
4. So why the anagram obsession?
5. So why the Muppet obsession?
I mean, I know we're not exactly the most famous band from Portland here. We're not even the most famous band from Beaverton...I can only imagine the amount of repetitive questioning bands on a much larger popularity scale must face. What does James Mercer reply with when asked about Zach Braff? What does Colin Meloy say when asked about his extensive knowledge of literature? What does Isaac Brock spout in response to a question about Johnny Marr (or self-mutilation)? I am curious about all of this. I'm sure these NW icons wouldn't falter in situations like we were in recently, being asked, "So what's it like being the white TV on the Radio?" (to be fair, Brent did a pretty good job by responding, "we prefer to be known as the Korean Los Lobos"). Sheesh.
Back to "staying positive". I guess I should offer some sort of disclaimer here, like, "We here at Menomena LLC hereby wish to express our gratitude to every journalist everywhere who has taken time out of his or her busy schedule to acknowledge our existence as a band, regardless of his or her chosen method of questioning or critique." Far be it for me to callously bite the calloused hand that feeds us. However, I do wish to specially thank these kind European journalists for doing their homework. They could have been talking to the Kaiser Chiefs or Kasabian, but they chose lil' old obscure us instead. Thank you from the bottom of my humble heart. The rest of the literary world would do itself a favor by following in your brilliant footsteps (by the way, I sing on tracks 4, 6, 7, 11 and 12, and my flawless drumming is featured throughout).
We're driving to Paris now. I know I'm totally ignorant, but the fact that you can just up and drive to Paris on a whim here is slightly mind-blowing. Maybe after the show we'll casually choose to sail a junk to Hong Kong, or perhaps hop a Great Glass Elevator to Saturn. You can do it all over here. Well, all except for playing a decent show, evidentially. Agh. It's time to break the cycle, Staind-style. Onward, Christian Soldiers!
Photo: The impossible to photograph Danny Seim. Courtesy of Flickr user "Sooper Dooper"