Waking up early in the morning from a slumber in a 400 year-old building in the middle of the intimate cobblestone lined German village of Wetzlar, greeted with a giant breakfast from your hosts (the promoters of the previous night's show) really makes you stop and appreciate where you are right in that moment. But that's what this tour is all about. These moments happen several times a day. All of the stress and struggle of being on tour are often washed away by taking a moment to look around and really breathe in where you are standing or driving.
This day was our longest drive of the tour so far, about 8 hours from Wetzlar to Vienna, Austria. Most days and one of the pros of touring in Europe is the drives are pretty short, 2 to 4 hours tops, as opposed to the US, where every day is usually driving 9 hours through the middle of Nowhere, Arizona to get to Somewhere, Kansas. For us, we had it pretty good on this tour. A big comfy Sprinter van with a DVD player, a bunk up top for taking naps, and a driver. A Dutch driver to be specific. A great guy/driver/tour manager named Wouter to be more specific, with a Dutch-speaking GPS. The tour became a quest to be able to pronounce something, anything correctly in Dutch. Dank je well (thank you very much) is easy enough, but I don't think any of us will ever forget links afslaan (turn left) and rechts afslaan (turn right) for a long time, pronounced more like "grechgggggtstsaufshlaaaan". It's important to find these little sayings, games, and inside jokes on tour, and for Loch Lomond this comes easy. Watching Inglorious Basterds in the van big screen while driving through Germany provided the best one for this tour. "That's a bingo!" with a little shoulder shimmy will live on in tour joke infamy. Something as small as this can provide hours of future entertainment and laughing when applied to any number of situations. Someone finally had a good rest stop bathroom experience?* That's a bingo! Ah tour... Another choice quote so far: "Dude you're missing a killer prost over here!" -Mike Young.
*speaking of rest stops, come on America! Get your act together and put those tax dollars really to work! The rest stop toilets in Germany are like inventions from the worlds fair that. Lean themselves when you stand up.
We are fortunate on this tour to have a couple digital cameras given to us by GoPro to document the tour, really neat little sports cameras that are meant to clip on your helmet while skydiving and such. Filming out the van window, walking around historic cities, and our shows, hopefully we can make something out of all the footage back home.
Finally the majestic Vienna, Austria, greeted once again at the venue by cappucino and a meat/cheese/fruit spread to give your holiday party a run for it's money. This is mentioned so much on this tour because coming from touring the states, on an equivalent tour mind you of small clubs/low budget, makes you feel like royalty. You show up to most small clubs in the US, and they kinda look at you sideways and you question whether you're really in the right place. The Vienna show was another "on a roll" shows. Coming out of a little stress and struggle, fine tuning the set, and really working and playing as a band, all led to a great show. It's also continually amazing to show up in a town you've never played before, thousands of miles away from home, and have people singing along to your songs. That's a feeling we'll never forget.
We had a bit of time the next day to explore before heading on to Italy. The morning found Dave and I on a tour of old town Vienna guided by a local friend, always the best to have. Later in the day we got in some good video shoot time with Hayley Young around the majestic palace buildings. Hayley is along for this portion of the ride photographing and making another music video for us. It's going to be pretty amazing to have all this footage in these different European locales.
The next day was our first day off, and we decided to make a stop in Venice on our way to our two Italy shows in Forli and Padova. Italy was beautiful of course, out of the blustery cold and rain of the North for a bit of sunshine, pizza, espresso, and gelato. 3 hours in Venice is actually not that bad, if you've been there before. You wind your way through the tunnel-like streets and corridors, soak in the accordion wafting out of windows, eat gelato on the canal, and try not to get lost. This was a lot better than my last trip to Venice when I fell in a canal during an act of chivalry and spent the next day trying to dry my shoes in a crappy hostel dryer. But thats another story.
Our Italy shows were last minute "semi-acoustic" add-ons. Despite Michael having to use his floor tom as a kick drum for "volume concerns", and one tired and slightly drunken hilarious post-show video interview, they turned out to be great little fun and packed shows. I will say it's a bit odd to be told you need to play as quiet as possible, and that you can't use your kick drum for volume concerns, and then have the sound guy insist on miking every single little thing he can possibly mike. Oh well, maybe it's all lost in translation. This particular little cafe in Padova happened to be the ONLY place for live music in the entire bustling college town. It was crazy packed, and they even did a live internet video broadcast of the show, which I really can't imagine turned out that great. So if you happened to catch that...oh boy. You never know when you're gonna be broadcasted...
Next stop Switzerland, driving up through the bright colored Southern Italian part, through tunnels to be immersed in snow covered Swiss German Alps. Some of my favorite travel posters are from this area. Luckily we had some more time for an impromptu video shoot with an Alp backdrop. Our first Swiss show was in the town of Chur, pronounced "koour" or something like that. Chur is sort of a mixture of quaint village, ski/college town, and surprisingly, a red light district. Another downside, or upside depending on how you feel that particular night, is that most of these venues double as dance clubs. So sometimes you have to finish by a certain time and rush off stage so the DJ can get set up and everyone can start dancing. It actually worked well this night. After taking polaroids with all our new Swiss fans, and signing CDs, we proceeded to dance our cares away with all the college kids, ski bums, and yes, the Swiss Army. Another highlight from the night was a fan who drove 2 hours to see us play and brought us a bottle of famous Loch Lomond Scotch Whiskey. Wow, a band could get downright used to this.
The next night in Luzern we played in a huge music/art complex. Another interesting thing about this kind of tour over here are all the different kinds of places you get put up in, as part of your fee for playing the show. Some nights you get a nice hotel, some nights a hostel or a private residence. Sometimes it's a band apartment, an apartment that the venue owns, which can basically be like a green room with a toilet and a shower. And sometimes you actually are sleeping on cots in the green room. This night however was really nice, a whole complex with our own bunk room with laundry and shower and hangout room. And before the show the promoters set up a long table in front of the stage for a huge feast. I think I've eaten better and more on this tour than I do at home. We recorded these shows too, which I think came out ok. So hopefully we can cobble together some GoPro footage and make a little live video out of all this mayhem and madness.
*At this point in tour the opposite happened than I would have expected. Euphoria. Maybe it was the places and the scenery, maybe it was the food, maybe it was the music and the fans, and the company. But instead of feeling trapped on the middle of tour in the middle of nowhere, just ready to get home, I fell into a kind of bliss. It helps to be surrounded by a great group of friends, all equally excited and motivated by one of the best experiences of their lives. This tour will definitely be a story for my history book.
Our last stop on my leg of the tour diary was a nip back in to Germany. It was a long drive there to Offenburg so we didn't get a chance to see much of the town, but were again greeted with great hospitality. This time however we got something you don't often see on tour, private single hotel rooms! There are two things that are hard/nearly impossible to get on tour in Europe and in general. One is a good wifi connection, and the other is solitude. So to get your own private little hotel room in the middle of a tour is a BIG slice of heaven.
This particular crew of hosts were especially welcoming and amazing. We were treated to an authentic German restaurant dinner before the show. This, by the way does not always lead to playing a great show, being stuffed with wine, steak, and currywurst a mere hour before showtime...but who's going to turn that down? The promotor, Stefan, was an amazing, gentle and fiery man with specks of gold in his heart. He once walked from Offenburg to Berlin (about 470 miles) in protest of the healthcare system in Germany surrounding the care of the elderly, specifically his mother, who he takes care of at home.
And now it's goodbye to Germany again. So long and thanks for all the stroopwaffle. On to France and beyond...