Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"EVERYONE OVER THERE SPEAKS ENGLISH"

"EVERYONE OVER THERE SPEAKS ENGLISH"

Jason Ricci


Hello Everyone
This is the long lost sexy Rocker writing from home in Nashville once again at last. So much has happened since last I wrote that I'm overwhelmed at the task of reporting it here or on my site. Incredible internal and external battles have been lost and won on and off the road, with the music business in general and within my own life and that of my band and their immediate relationships concerning all of the above. In short...Shit happens, it happened to us, change is inevitable, wonderful and sometimes difficult here's the news. This will take days to write, Im not kidding:

First I quit smoking earlier today cause I'm sick and I want to live a long time and thought now I might try because after having been through all what I am going to attempt to describe to you all here, I feel I can do anything now. Smoking is one of my favorite things. It's going to suck writing this without a smoke. I love to smoke when I'm writing.

"EVERYONE OVER THERE SPEAKS ENGLISH" - Agent
That was the statement that came from the people that help bring us to you. Those people have never been to Europe before. They called me like a year ago/9 months said "your going to Europe"...I was like cool..."Who's our Road Manager" (I said this because I went to Belgium before to play with like ten years ago.) They responded by saying " Road Manager??? You don't need a Road Manager...EVEYONE OVER THERE SPEAKS ENGLISH" I don't think I really have to say a lot more on how things ended up but I will. I really just want to totally vent the same way Nostradamus or that guy who predicted MT St Helens eruption would have...But It would end up being really unprofessional and not as funny as I would have liked it to be but again here it is anyway in all its unprofessional glory. If I was smoking right now I could do it well and it would rock nuts, here goes.

So any way, We get some one in Europe to drive us around speak French and all that, take care of finding adaptors, Super Reverbs, Bassmans, food, all that kind of stuff. We will call this person "The amphibian" to protect the not so innocent. It's all set up like months before were supposed to leave so we think. The amphibian runs into some problems with the promoters in Europe and our people in the states and for a while everyone hates everyone. I'm in the middle trying to defend my people from the amphibian and vice versa no ones really all right here or all wrong the amphibian has some valid points, so do my folks I'm just trying to get them to get along...Kind of...The other part of this story is every time I get frustrated with this process I just start yelling I'm not f-ing going!!!! F*@this etc. Cancel every thing. So that was mainly my role in everything. Just chilling and criticizing everything then yelling I'm not going later. In reflection this sounds kind of lame cause Europe had some great moments and I had nothing to do with getting over there... I just sat at home and made fun of people and in a way I'm still doing that. But Stuff was whack from the start I knew it would be ahead of time and that's all I wanted to say...then and Now.

So months pass, gigs get booked, we get our passports (not easy) moved around, our agent fights with the amphibian, promoters complain, etc....Bottom line were going...things should be reasonably cool. We have some one to watch our backs there (The Amphibian) and everything should be fine as far as first trips to Europe go.

The Amphibian calls two days before the bands plane leaves and says he needs a plane ticket from Ireland to Belgium in order to be there. I don't have the money. He's pissed...he says he e-mailed me and all my folks like a thousand time about this a long time ago and we ignored him and all this crap. I don't doubt him at the time, but Brady looks hard using a word search with his name, "plane ticket" and "travel can't find any of these e-mails any where. I ask him to send me the e-mail where he explained this to us again if he can find it he does.

The only part of the e-mail that says anything about Ireland or travel or anything reads" I will be returning from France to Ireland after your tour, this will be very expensive". I call the Amphibian and tell him "No offence but that doesn't say shit about you needing a ticket... but why don't you try and come any way buy the ticket yourself, cause I don't have the money, (At the time Brady's eye looked like he was Rocky Balboa from some sort of infection and we couldn't even afford a Dr's visit) and I'm sure later we will make enough of the CD's to pay for it...I CAN'T guarantee this but lets try I need you and I can Guarantee you the initial money I promised you for the tour of course. We spoke a couple more times and basically the last thing he said was that some how I was going to pay for the work he had done already, he wasn't coming, and good luck etc. So the amphibian wants to sue... So now my new Job the day before I leave is to try and find a ride from the airport in Belgium to the first hotel for the Blues festival. I'm pissed, tired, don't want to go and fed up with everything. I'm not excited about explaining to my guys why we are standing in the rain in Brussels Belgium and don't have a ride to our first gig even.
I call my agent Threaten to cancel a few more times, yell, scream, the whole deal...next thing I know the festival promoter Pierre calls me and tells me he spoke with the agent and we got a ride. Done deal the agent got us a ride...But only for one day, for one gig, we got three gigs and ten days. I have to agree to get on the plane and hope it all works out. It does, but it doesn't, here's the rest of the story.

We arrive in Brussels after a 12-hour flight. I see Bobby Rush and his tour manager, introduce myself to them and tag along closely. Bobby's tour manager speaks a few languages, so I'm cool. We make it through customs and find the tour bus.... We were a little nervous going through customs cause we had a lot of Heroin...just kidding we were afraid they were going to tax us on each CD we had cause they do that type of crap thats what all that duty free stuffs about. Bobby and a few other bands all get on the tour bus. No one can believe were without a road manager in Europe. Jaws just drop, and looks of pity abound. I feel justified but now angrier then ever. We get to the hotel eat Salami, ham, cheese and stuff (Breakfast in Belgium is assortment of cold cuts on a plate). I go to sleep in this little ass bed...Shawn called them the Japan rooms cause everything was way smaller. All the TV channels were in French and Flemish...some German...It's all like real negative stuff about how we (The US) is this evil, Nazi, Global imperialistic force again I feel justified but angry. I go to sleep listening to French TV.

When I wake up it's like 8:00 pm there 6 hours ahead of NYC so I'm all messed up. I look around the hotel no ones anywhere.... Im starving again but I'm out in the country in the middle of nowhere. I just walk out side down this country ass road until I see this restaurant. I have no money (11 US dollars). I walk in wearing My leather jacket (It's cold) The jackets got all these Ramones patches and band pins and safety pins and chains and all hung all over it. This place is a really nice restaurant and all these families just start staring at vibing and me me. So I walk out and it starts raining. I stand there in the rain for a minute and decide to go back in. This time the French host comes up to me and of course I can't speak French but this time I see bobby Rush all styling at this table with Steak and potatoes and wine and all this food. This Kid ushers me over, Its Mathew Skoller, he's wicked nice and offers me a seat at his table. Before I know it I'm eating steak and his bass player gives me a couple of crappy Indonesian cigars that I'm grateful for. He can't believe I don't have a road manager. I tell him the whole story about our agent and the amphibian...I have a full stomach I go home to the hotel feeling better I practice harmonica, the harmonica has a French accent, I'm not kidding it's annoying...I hope my harp doesn't retain the accent for the festival or permanently...I watch crappy heterosexual soft porn on TV then go to sleep again.

The next day a bus comes to get us to take us to the festival we ride over with Bobby's band...The band likes me a lot and rename me "Satan's Little Sister". I dig the nickname and think about calling our next record that for a while...actually they didn't rename me that until after we played, but any way.

I walk around the festival get some CD"s I've been looking for at the merch table (Delay "Heavy Rotation. And Nick Curran's first independent CD). Some accessories: a bracelet and stuff. I had to have them put it aside cause I have no money ...remember...good but I got it later after I got paid which was a chore and took two hours of me walking around in mud, rain, and wind.

I look at the Bassman it has a solid-state rectifier. I convince them to steal a 5u4 from another rig, they do, and I feel better about life. The show goes great, it rained a lot but we were all under a tent We sold more CD's then all the other bands combined, I get paid and start talking to the promoter Pierre) about how to get to Antwerp for our next gig.

So the promoter hooks up a ride from the club owner Jan. Jan has to borrow a van from his buddy's band and drive an hour to get us. He shows up the next day it's all-good, he's way cool, very funny. Jan Speaks ok English better than my Flemish, knows a lot of bands, tells some good stories etc.... His club is called the Cross Roads It's downtown Antwerp I dig it. We get there; check into our hotel that is nice, but is like 6 floors up this spiral staircase...Steve Johnson would not have made it. By the way Maki sounded good. The room has the Japan beds again and oh yeah there's no phone. I change realize I left three of my favorite shirts in Brussels, bitch about that for a bit and head to the club to set up. Ok also you have to realize everyone in Belgium dresses like me. I'm so bummed! My style is so played out in Europe I plan to go shopping the next day as soon as the sun comes up.

At the Club there are no power transformers for my wireless I was told these thing cost like a thousand dollars in the states but later I find it's a lot more like thirty. I have no cord and no High to low impedance plug so the Bassman at the club is pretty much useless, on 12 it as loud as my rig on 3, except the tone sucks...oh yeah it has a solid state rectifier too. I find it odd that a country that's blues artists spend so much time trying to mimic American blues bands music, to the point of it being an almost classical type interpretation, no improve etc...that these same folks would try and mimic our gear...maybe some of them do, but not to many I met while I was there. So the rig sucks I can't use it. Yan hauls out this little champ I plug straight in, no pedals, put it through the PA, it has no bottom, sounds like a muted trumpet in the hands of Johnny Winter. This will be fine for tonight. Everyone loves the gig except the band and I, but we put our hearts into it. Usually mean it when we play and though I hate it when sound and shit like that is messed up, when you mean it people get that and respond no matter where theyre from. It's real different over there as far as the audiences go because they're like ultra respectful! The Bartenders and waitresses/waiters won't even take drink orders in between songs so there's this silence after the applause and everyone just digs you for a minute. I Wasnt sure though if they were though so I just started another song real quick like, just in case they hated me. They all just sit there and study. Like watching a movie or reading a book or something, real chill like that, in a way it's the deal, in a way it's not...it's not blues, and definitely not Rock and Roll, I think they think its art. Weirdoes.

So after the show I call my agents younger brother...this guy is the one who set this whole deal up actually. He's like 19 years old maybe a year or two older...any way I'm asking how the hell I'm supposed to get from Antwerp to France for the Harmonica Su Cher festival...he has no idea suggests renting a car etc., I ask him the same question I asked his older brother in the states. "What's the French word for stop?" He's says: "I don't know" I tell him I don't either. I hang up the phone after being mean for a minute then realize this kid is so green it's useless getting mad, I had to apologize later and still got in trouble with his boss later. I know I can't drive...I know I'm on My own, I know The town I'm going to is 8 hours away. The Club owner Jan (pronounced: YAN)((Should of said that earlier)) convinces me to rent the hotel rooms for another day, chill in Antwerp with the band and come to a harmonica event at his club the next night until he can make some calls and try and rent us a van and a driver to get us to our gig in France. Some of you may be reading this adventure story still and be thinking this sounds alright and kind of cool and all but I'm the boss and these guys (My Band) WILL look at me real crazy if things don't go right...Plus all these gigs sent us deposits for the plane tickets over there, so if we don't show we get sued...just like that...well maybe our agent gets sued but apparently he's not really that worried cause his younger brother is "ON IT". So I get back to the hotel walk a couple of blocks in the cold and rain to this store, buy smokes and find a pay phone a few blocks from there. I can't figure out the phone, it won't let me call the states even with the card. I get pissed hang up the phone, think about drinking, go back to the hotel sit on my Japan bed...NO TV, NO PHONE, NO COMPUTER...AMERICAN HELL.

The next morning I awake at 5:00 am go down stairs the guy at the desk speaks perfect English. I like him a lot. Right from the start me and this guy understand each other. Hes like 60...use to play music and all that jazz...Im like Yeah yeah... Then later he hears me practicing and asks me afterwards if I was getting those half tones by over blowing. I was like What!!! He was wacky, too cool. He was maybe my hero for a few days. I drink coffee and smoke cigarettes indoors you can do that there still) and tell him the story. I'm supposed to me Jan at 12:00 in the lobby for an up date on his progress concerning the rental van and the driver. Some of you over sea travelers may be saying to your selves..." Silly American why not just take a train to France".

First off.... Before we go any further with the story, I have to blow up a few myths/urban legends right now that people say all the time and I'm sick of.

1.) Everyone over there speaks English.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Even if they do most often they wont. And if you don't at least attempt the indigenous language when starting conversation it's considered rude...not so different here is it.

2.) You can take a train anywhere in Europe for around ten bucks.

Total bullshit. I know a bunch of you have heard this one too right? It was going to be at least 800.00 Euros for the band and I to take a train to Paris we had to pick up the CD'S at Fed ex...How the hell do we navigate our ignorant us asses from the train station to Fed Ex in Downtown Paris any way (Where the CD's are...hopefully and not at the Amphibians house) Then we have to get back to the train station with all our luggage, the CD's hopefully, and pay again to take this mythical 10 dollar train to the town of the Fest, which by the way doesn't go directly there and no taxis from the town it does go to, to the fest...getting the idea.

3.) (NOT Euro related) BUT...." You can get any type of food in NYC at any time.
Total lie perpetrated probably by New Yorkers who know better and want to justify there intolerable rat race, and New York-centric misconceptions with some kind of promise of amazing convenience and big city grandeur. The truth: If you have a lot of money you might could find some chicken wing-bar food buried in Red hook...Example: If your on the upper west side you could catch a cab, get to some restaurant some one told you about, and maybe pick one thing off the menu that their still serving. After it's over, you spent 50 dollars...(not unlike what we did to get any kind of food everywhere in Europe after 7:00 PM). True story: I couldn't even get dominoes to deliver a pizza at 11:00 pm to a hotel directly across from Madison Square garden on a Saturday in January last year. When I went to the front desk and asked them where do I get some food, the lady looked at me like I was crazy and said Its almost midnight! New York food myth blown up.

(More random pet peeves)

4.) Every state in the US loves to make the joke that it's state bird is the mosquito. News flash guys, every state has this joke and the post card and thinks it's wicked funny and original too.

5.) In every state they also say, with a giddy tone in their voices: "If you don't like the weather in FL wait a minute" A ha Ha Ha! Or: "If you don't like the weather in (insert any and every state here) wait a minute"!!! A hah ha ha! Every place says this and thinks its their own personal little joke...its not, and I'm sick of it...weather changes drastically everywhere folks...sorry...And mosquitoes live a lot of places too.

Ok that's over with. Sorry had to get that out in public finally. Back to Euro hell. Jan doesn't show at 12:00 I want to go shopping but can't I have to wait (Poor me). He eventually calls and lets me know its all good we got a ride to Harmonica Su Cher and a probably a driver but it's going to cost me like 500-600 Euros for the whole deal. It's a better deal than that 5 dollar train anywhere in Euro so I gratefully accept and proceed shopping, drinking the best espresso and eating croissants and stuff like that. I buy Brady tons of Belgian chocolate. That Night I drop by the Cross Roads café for the harp show. Bill Barrett is there, he's way cool, and Im into him and his ideas about music he doesnt care what any one thinks and plays very exciting and strange/unique chromatic. He's a really nice person and his wife Marie and I hit off and hang out in the bar till way to late. Did I mention that I skate boarded to the bar? Well most of the way...lots of cobblestone. No its not a good thing but I was glad I had the board. This place really far away from the hotel and I have know Idea how I found it. Buck weed, our bass player, had been M.I.A. For the whole day was at the bar...he had obtained "Herbal supplements that days, as well as an ungodly blood-alcohol limit. He was funny though. Buck doesnt get drunk that often. When he does he gets real emotional, but sincere emotional and says some nice things and mean things about people, places and things you were never sure how he felt about cause the kid doesnt really talk that much. We undertook our walk back to the hotel together. We got really lost and it took us nearly two hours to get back but I heard a ton of great stories about Buck's adventures on his own that day in Antwerp. I can't relay all of them but I will tell you the highlights included a potentially physical altercation with some Tunisians in a bar, 7 different personal apartment/flats visits, lots of illegal activity, ancient swords and weapons, bizarre people who rode bikes from country to country to deliver contra band and a lot of compliment on Buck/the bands performance the night prior which was good to hear cause we all felt we played like ferret poop.

We got back to the hotel I called Brady for the first time in four days. He was worried; it was great to talk to him for a dollar a minute I would have paid fifty.
The next morning our ride arrived at 8:00 AM on time! We all piled into this van. I'm trying to remember our drivers name.... Bart...yeah. So Bart speaks English well. I confirm that the van is free of illegal contraband and we take off in search of France and our supposed hotel that awaits us courtesy of harmonica Su Cher. We drive for an hour or so then come to the border of France and Belgium. Now we had been told earlier another Myth about Europe.

Myth .. 6.) You can drive over any border in Eastern Europe without passing through customs or being detained.

So there we are pulled over on the side of the road in France having the van searched by soldiers with guns and all, who are all sounding really pissed off and suspicious. Bart tells them were famous American musicians so they really start giving us a hard time. They keep asking us over and over are there any drugs in the van...We keep saying no. They keep taking our passports, giving them back then taking them again, over and over, finally they find Tommy our merchandise mans prescription medication for epilepsy. Theyre certain it's ecstasy and take the bottle and T-dub (Tommy) to the back of the van/out of site for questioning. Ten minutes later and lots of angry French sounding words, T-dub and his medication are back in the van. They reluctantly let us pass into France. Welcome.

Were on our way to Paris. It has been confirmed (We Think) by Fed Ex (Didn't speak English) that our CD's (which we paid 500.00 dollars to ship to the Amphibians Father's house in France) are actually, thanks to our efforts, in the hands of a Fed Ex in Paris. We got the address and were going to get them. We need the money for the discs. Tommy paid for them and they are his only source of income on the trip. He had bought his own ticket over there. We have one gig left for him to make his money back.

Driving into Paris was insane! People just run out on foot in front of cars all the time, By the way later on our last day of the whole trip we saw a little girl get hit by a car in Brussels. There's no lanes, no blinkers, everyone goes 65 mph through the city, all the cars have dents in them, its nuts. I can't imagine us driving through this place ourselves like some people wanted us to do. We find the fed EX (Thanks Map Quest) and park like three blocks away. Bart helps us translate to the Fed Ex people and we find out that the CD's are not in Paris, Not at Fed Ex, but in the south of France some eight hours away from Paris and even further away from The town Harmonica Su Cher is being held in.

So T- Dub just emotionally collapses, just gives up entirely except for creative and graphic ideas he verbalizes about destroying the Amphibian. T-Dub crawls into the back of the van, which is closed of by a wall. He climbs back there with all the suitcases, harmonicas, guitars, and skateboards and everything just lies on the floor and goes to sleep for the rest of the journey. From that point on despite some fortunate events for T-dub it was all down hill for him. He hated the food any way and that was the start of the end the CDs were just the straw.

So it's supposed to be an 8-hour drive to Savinua (something like that wherever the festival is) we had already been driving like 8 hours when I suggest we call Christopher Miner the promoter of the festival. Bart is opposed to this Idea. He knows France well, used to be a truck driver and IS NOT LOST. So four more hours later were at a gas station asking directions from the attendant, still not calling Christoph. Cool. After Bart gets back in the van he relays to us that the attendant had told him that the hotel were going to is not a hotel at all really but more of a...."how do you say.... REFUGEE CAMP!"

We drive for another hour into I turn into an asshole and demand we pull over and call Christoph. Ten minutes later Bart, The Band and me the asshole are meeting Christoph at his friends house laughing, eating and talking about the upcoming week. All in all, the journey from Belgium to France cost me over a thousand dollars and at least two years off my already diminishing life span. Just as well.

So we pile all our stuff into two tiny cars and head to the REFUGEE CAMP. Now the Refugee camp... and that nickname has become a big joke now. Christoph thinks it's hilarious and has assured us that the location is not a hotel but sort of a YMCA like establishment that is very comfortable. We arrive. We are led past a desk, down some stairs, all looking very abandoned, yet clean, and into a room that contains sixteen or so bunk beds and a communal shower area. It's very late, Very Cold, There are some insects, not many, enough though, no towels, no soap were tired we go to bed, we don't complain, we don't care, we know it sucks, no one has to say anything we know were pissed were going to sleep.

The next morning I awake to absolute chaos. There are French people everywhere, very excited, there is a lot of urgency in the air I am told to get up and come quickly. The back of my throat hurts and my lungs burn...I have no tooth paste. I put my clothes on from the night before and pile into a car and we head into that town I can't spell or pronounce.

I forgot to tell yall... The night prior to this Christoph had brought us to house briefly before the refugee camp. At his house we ate and discussed more thoroughly the week ahead. He played French songs with this great chromatic playing friend of his for us, he sang, he was sexy. What he told us sounded so relaxing and fun, he even told us he would be lending us his blue van so we could come and go from the Refugee camp to town as we please as the Camp was at least a mile or so from town where all the food, cigarettes, coffee etc. were....

So we find out over the course of that week that the van is not going to be left in our possession...food is provided at the refuge camp...but we have to walk/hitch a ride into town. Not too bad right? Stay tuned.

I arrive in the town I can't spell for the first time with the band. It's beautiful and quaint...Too Quaint" as Christoph describes it. It's on a river (Su Cher) and is filled with castle-like and genuine castles, cobblestones, bars, coffee and antique shops and houses older than our country. We were brought to the concert hall witch is gorgeous, immense and perfect for such an event. I'm impressed. The sound company is unloading and I'm told a bassman will arrive shortly for me to test. Christoph leaves taking with him Shawn Starsky to go fetch more equipment. Shawn was a champ the whole trip, never bitching, totally cool. Christoph relays to me that he will be back in a couple of hours or so to get us and bring us back to the Refugee Camp. I go exploring with the rest of the band. We find coffee, cigarettes, beer and all kinds of little shops immediately but after they had closed for a government imposed mandatory two-hour lunch break. Leaving us on foot in this tiny town where no one speaks English, everyone looks at us crazy, and nothing is open. People are strange. When youre a stranger. Faces look ugly. When your alone- Jim Morrison

I'm feeling more sick every minute and return to the concert hall to find the Bassman (Amplifier) and it's owner there. He doesn't know who I am or that the Bassman is for me and speaks no English...his name is Julian. I look at the rig and the tube configuration it's just about perfect minus the green Jensens, which are fine for Europe considering what I had been playing through prior to this. I ask to try the amp and am told sternly "NO!", not by Julian who doesn't know what I'm saying, but by the sound company present who may or may not have known what I was saying. The reasons for my denial are unclear to me. So I put four folding chairs together in the back of the hall, lie down listening to French sound checking, and cough and sneeze myself to sleep for a few hours.
I awake on my own and make my way outside and down the main road where I find the Maki, Buck weed and T-dub enjoying beers with the locals. I soon meet some of the other performers mainly Bare Foot Iano from Australia and some of the fans/mediators of the festival. At last I am in the company of people who speak English again. I explain my misery concerning transportation, The refugee Camp, no towels, insects, my health etc, and I am instantly, that moment, and thus forward treated with kid gloves, and viewed as the arrogant, American, difficult diva/fag.
I'm fairly use to this treatment, perhaps because I do display these character defects fairly often, but I've attempted to relay the facts from our/my point of view up to this point and hope my remaining readers are feeling some empathy for the band and myself.
Bare foot Iano is wild. He's got on 80's Hawaiian clam digger pants (Remember Jam's) and a cowboy hat with an open shirtless leather vest and yes he's bare foot. He's funny as hell and instantly I kind of like him. My real friend ship though comes later from my buddy "Sonny Side Bob" also known as Robert pronounced ho-bear. Bob is terrific. He speaks seven languages is a well-studied harp player has lots of chops good loud tone ( acoustic!) and a great sense of humor. He gives me a ride back to the refuge camp where he is staying as well and we stay up all night talking about everything. He tells me all the stories about how he went to all these black juke joints and Mississippi and all. I' had been to some of them too...were busting up, he tells me " I don't Fuck with the Bothers" I'm rolling...now he's terrific. I love him I teach him some triplet licks and how to bend over blows...he knows everyone, all the harp players...alive dead and in between, he's a quick study to the point where I actually don't want to show him any more. I give up we stay up way to late till some of the other artists arrive back at camp and an impromptu Jam ensues with Bare Foot on guitar, harp players taking turns and a trombonist. The trombone puts an end to the jam as the Refugee camp owners scream at us to stop then slams the door. We all go to bed ...before I lie down I go to the bathroom/ showers there are still no towels, it's still cold, there are still some bugs, the music's over for the night I cough up a little blood then go to sleep with an extra blanket and the taste of iron in my mouth.

That night I awake several times with a terrible flu like symptoms I have only ever experienced, with this much severity, maybe once in my life. The cold air burns the inside of my lungs and it feels as though a baseball has been lodged in the back of my throat. I try repeatedly to swallow it, but it's my throat not a baseball. I know I'm real sick and fear for my performance, dreading also a week in the Refugee camp with no heat, no TV, no English all that shit Americans like.
I awake the next morning to the same chaos of French urgency. We are being told we must switch rooms immediately...I argue and explain my condition to christoph. He's genuinely concerned and we make arrangements to late that day bring me to a Doctor friend of his in a town not far away. We switch rooms to a better more private location in the camp where there is one room with two Japan style about a foot apart. The room is maybe 8 feet long and six feet wide...I'm happy. The other room is a five-bed room with one single Japan bed and two bunks. My room is the one with two bed it has a private shower, Toilet and sink...I also get towels and take my first available shower in three days. Christoph picks me up later and we head to the doctors office. Christoph use to be a nurse...he knows medical people. It's some knifed of French Holiday Like French Easter translated resurrection so I get luck with christoph's medical clout and I see a doctor whose office is in a back room in her house. She's wonderful and has a warm smile, No English, but I feel better in the presence of help. I'm told I have bronchitis and am prescribed some antibiotics; dissolvable stuff and throat lozenges form the pharmacy, which opens for Christoph only that day! Lucky me. No that wasn't sarcastic. Christoph was the best to me. On the second day there I saw this poster in another pharmacy that had all these crazy species of domestic cats on them with little French names under each one. It totally knocked me out but they wouldnt sell it because it was a prom for some cat food or something. Any way I told christoph about it...he goes into the place and two minutes later I have a poster that says Races DE Chats.
I take my meds, and ride with christoph back to town. That night we go to a jam held at a small bar that resembled " The Slaughtered lamb"... was it? Anyway the Bar from the movie an American Were wolf in London. That movie would later come into significance much more again in my adventures...stay tuned sole reader. The jam is Barefoot Ian playing guitar, Buck Weed playing piano (He Plays everything) and various harmonica players. It's completely acoustic. I try to buy a beer for Bob (Sonny Side) It takes a while...Shawn is trying to pick up French girls, Maki is making progress with one from Venezuela that obviously speaks Spanish and Im trying not to cough on people and look happy. There's a film crew there from a Big Time local TV station (The town has like 300 residents) theyre filming and interviewing people about the harp fest it's all very merry. I meet Ben Bouman and from Marble amps and Slidell Harmonicas as well as some other great people and just as I'm blending in I'm asked buy Bare Foot to sit in. I played my first note then a hand comes from behind and some what violently, definitely urgently yanks me back two feet. I nearly loose my balance and as I'm trying to figure out whom to punch the camera guy yells at Bare foot to stop playing so he can film the piano player (BUCK). We were playing music...in a bar...they stopped us to get a shot of Buck and laid hands on me in the most rude and confrontational manner possible. I was appalled...Shit...I'm the damn headliner here...I didn't even want to play in this rustic werewolf dump any way. Later. I find a seat and describe the scenario to my immediate neighbors Bob and Katarina (a good friend of Christoph's) again I am the ungrateful, over reactive, Diva/fag. Fine I already told you I was use to it...doesn't mean I like it. So here's the kicker: right as I settle down and get involved with an unrelated topic of conversation with Bob, the French TV producer interrupts us and asks in English if I would return to the stage and play again so they could get a shot of me! I ask him if he's familiar with the term circus? He is, he assures me. I then ask him if he would like me to do flips or juggle like a good American monkey. He gets the point and leaves without further incident.

That night the best jam took place outside the bar in the cold with four harp players...Ben Bouman, Sonny side a another guy who's name I forgot and myself. It was a one- chord train jam that lasted ten minutes and ten different tempos...the cameras missed it, the audience was us, it was pure, it was perfect, it was music for the sake of music.

I feel the need to now let you know that some very great people will be left out of this story despite my best efforts...chronologically events will be blurred and documented wrong and I will not care enough to go back and change them I am taking that liberty with this piece...by the way this is the seventh day of me attempting to write this piece and more will be reveled about these seven days and the hurdles the themselves have brought. In short I started smoking two days ago and despite my health deteriorating back to very sick again... I feel much better.
My down time in Europe was filled by a great book I was reading for the second time some ten years later by an author named Dennis Genpo. It was a very comical and thought provoking Zen excursion called the "Eye never sleeps". I would get occasional peace from this book and in general felt capable of dealing with the events at hand thanks to the philosophies I was learning again. Dennis Genpo has a great way of westernizing Zen thought. I was less self conscious of my outwardly perceived "negative" image and felt rather complete and unashamed of my American delusion and diva-esque label as a result of this book all the while making an effort not to let my emotions dictate to much of my behavior. I failed mostly but not as bad as I would have minus the book.

The festival began on Thursday and Sonny side and I rode down into town past musicians hoofing it back to camp in time for dinner. I saw the distance home and determined in my head that the walk home/ to town would not be that bad if I had no ride.

Each day held two performances by two separate bands. I will tell you only about the performances I liked. I will say however that the diversity in musical styles was so eclectic and wonderfully rare that little to no competition existed between performers and the music remained like it or not always fresh and exciting.

The First band of Harmonica Su Cher was my favorite. They were sort of a avante gaurde jazz ensemble that included guitar, double bass, trombone and harmonica. All the players played percussion on there instruments. The trombone tapped its slide. The bass slapped the strings and beat on the body, the guitar stroked muted strings and the harmonica player (Chromatic) played the washboard on his super 64 chromatic using metal guitar finger picks against the raised Hohner script and bells and pearls attached to the harp. They were amazing. Technically, emotionally and spiritually moving!
The other band played after them.
After the performance another jam was scheduled in a different bar across the street. The hosting band was a group of bohemian spinal tap like blues guys that were all from different countries ranging from Madagascar to Austria. I don't think any of their first languages were French, I know they spoke no English other than Stevie Ray Vaughn Lyrics. Buck weed became big fans of these guys and immediately attached himself to them for the rest of the trip. They had something in common with Buck that transcended language and brain cells.

So I'm feeling really sick, can't stop coughing, and Im starting to sweat despite the cold temperatures. Bob wants me to jam at the bar. I hear the tone of the wireless mic played through the Pa and decide my health is more important for once. I try to procure a ride back to the Refugee camp but despite my best efforts over the next thirty minutes end up having to face the fact that if I want to leave then I'll have to walk. I'm not fazed and think it might be enjoyable. What follows next is funny: If you called me that week I was in Europe you would have gotten a message from me proclaiming my exit from the music biz and entrance into the field of crypto zoology

After reaching the end of town witch took ten minutes I found myself next to the river at the last street light and end of the sidewalk. Before me lay a dark stretch of road. When I say dark I mean pitch black, you have to understand how black it was. The trees formed a canopy over the highway blocking out any moonlight or starlight from the sky. Both sides of the road had thick woods following them the right being thinner because of the river but impenetrable darkness despite its width. On the left hand side of the road there was the last building of town which stood alone and ominous an old solid stone tomb like structure with one window only on the side about two stories up in the middle, very awkward. It looked to old to be inhabited and not the type of shelter you would expect any one to live in any way. More like an old fort or something. The One window it had faced me and it flashed on and off with white light dancing behind a sheet draped from the inside. It was so wrong, so stereotypically haunted and a foreboding warning that the road ahead would hold other numerous natural and super natural occurrences that may kill me or at best leave me with the story I tell you now.

I thought to myself about how recently I had been not so secretly wishing for death or at least a hospital vacation and decided this trek into darkness was a necessary testimonial of the truth of my words, so I didn't go back to town and get a ride...I walked past the window and into the black, dark, cold silent road. A birth canal into a new world. Transformation. Death maybe.

As I walked away from the last streetlight the darkness completely digested me. It was so dark I could not even see the yellow lines in the center of the road just under my feet. I walked in the center of the road away from the woods on either side without fear of traffic, as there was a higher chance of being run over by horse and buggy than a motor vehicle.

I judged the gradual curves in the road not by the invisible lines under me but from the sand on either side of the road which I could see just enough as it was wider than the lines and lighter in color. I approached a large object on my right hand side. Just as I got close enough (about four feet) able to tell that it was a small camper pulled off to the side of the road. Some one inside the camper started banging violently on thin metal walls of the truck. I jumped a foot, picked up my pace and in ten steps the camper was silent and behind me to dark to see any more. My heart raced faster. I forgot about my cold as adrenalin took over and I began to sing a song off of the second Big Brother and the Holding Company record, self titled, witch featured the first appearance of Port Author Texas's little rocker Janis Joplin. The song was "All is loneliness" and it felt apropos and kept my mind off of the fear while providing a histrionic, and challenging (for me) vocal part. I stopped singing for a second to remember the lyrics when I heard what some of you will doubt. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRrrrrrrr! A f..cng Growl!!!! From the woods a god damn, stinking growl. Here is where American Werewolf in London comes back into my story. I had even thought of the scene while commencing the walk back to camp through the dark and now just like in the movie, just like the first werewolf scene I hear the growl, only it's darker, and in the movie there was two people together walking, and this is not a movie. Is the growl real? I heard it. It was close, just beyond the tree line of the forest on the left hand side of the road. I slowed my pace for fear it was not a Werewolf or my imagination, but a real dog, waiting to attack should I show fear and run like prey. I started to sing again and wondered when the woods would end. Occasionally I looked behind me, it was too dark and made things worse like you hear about when looking down from a great height. I stopped singing again and at the same forgotten lyric I heard after a second of silence the deep angry growl slightly closer and certainly directed at me. It was maybe 100 yards from the place I heard it first. I was being followed, stalked, preyed upon. Finally without warning because of the darkness the canopy overhead ended and the woods cleared on my left where the beast was. I knew from my drive I was close to the road on my right I would need to turn at to go maybe 200 yards to the refugee Camp. It was still so dark that I actually walked past the road on the right by ten feet before seeing the woods on my right appear again and realizing I had just passed it. I found the road and as I made my was up hill 50 or so feet I could make out the side wall of the camp the lights were off but I was almost back and the growling and my singing had stopped entirely for at least ten minutes. Up the drive way and to the door I relaxed until I reached to open the business like glass doors of the camp and my hand pulled the cold metal door grip in vain. It was locked! I knocked rang the bell, yelled and pounded on windows all around the front of the building until I remembered the two doors behind the building that wouldn't lock. They were the doors that were attached to the first room we had stayed in with the communal showers and sixteen beds. They could not be locked from the outside, I had been giving an ancient looking skeleton key to lock them, and had tried earlier in the week to do so and was worried for our guitars and stuff, however even once locked they would pull open any way with the slightest effort. I made my way back down the driveway and into the back gravel parking lot to try. The darkness was back and I could barely see the doors. I tried pulling them open but they were now dead bolted from the inside I yelled very loudly the word "F*CK!" after that the silence was louder than ever before and from that silence I heard once more the growl. This time there were two growls instead of one long one like: GRRRRRRRRR......Grrrrr the second slightly softer and more contemplative. I wanted to cry. I ran this time not worrying about imitating prey. I was prey. I jolted to the front of the building where there was slightly more light, Rang the bell, pounded on the door and finally collapsed out front of the camp, my back against the locked glass I was thinking of breaking. It started to rain. I heard the growl one more time and almost didn't care as the rain fell on my head and leather jacket. I was sick, and afraid and alone in the foreign countryside of France. I was pissed that a few nights earlier they had shut our jam session down for volume but couldnt be bothered to wake up for all my yelling, pounding and doorbell ringing. No one cared about me. No one would believe me. No one could ever know what I was feeling at that moment. After thirty or so minutes a car pulled up to the camp and I knew I was not alone any more and would probably not be eaten alive. So that's the wolf story. Im going to have to wrap this up a little quicker here.

Finally after some rest and relaxation we got a great sound check. I did some fun teaching seminars with Sonny side as my translator, had a great lunch with Dave Fertig and his wife, and got to hang out with Ben Bouman some more. That Night at the show The Band and I together feel we had one of very best performances ever if not the best. We heard this was recorded off the board and though I don't really ever like board tapes I'm still sort of anxious to hear this one. The next day, thanks to Christoph and his friends, we were set up with a ride back to Brussels it cost significantly less than our ride down to France but still managed to drain the last of our funds/profits. The ride was long but we were all happy to be going home. We got to Brussels checked into a hotel and crashed after taking a cab into to town to get some very hard to find food at 11:00 pm. The next day we awoke Maki had already boarded a shuttle to the airport (He was leaving a day before us) so Buck, T-dub, Shawn and I decided to go into Brussels. I have been asked not to really tell a lot about that day so I won't. The guys crashed one last time in Belgium, one last time in Japan beds and I watched Spanish TV all night too excited to sleep and with no alarm clock and no available wake up call I was not going to miss that plane home to Brady.

The next morning we got to the Plane, and flew home to the good ole U.S. of A. On the plane ride home a 12-hour and a six-hour lay over, I didnt smoke just chewed nicorette gum thats what gave me the big idea to quit. So there was more believe it or not I left out a whole mess of things but no one probably read this far any way all the way through unless they were looking for their name. Sorry man.

Recent updates since being home.

Good News

1.) I quit smoking for a week.

2.) Brady and I moved into our new house, which we painted together and had a wonderful time being together even with all the stressed out event you will read about later.

3.) I got a few studio sessions at home which brought me some much needed cash and had fun doing them.

4.) Brady is real close to finishing an even better, more interactive website for the band. Coming soon!

5.) McDonalds again.



Bad News.

1.) My cold got worse when I got back forcing me to cancel three shows plus other developments caused me to miss my Harp seminar in Atlanta.

2.) We have sunk three thousand dollars into our Van over the last month and upon arriving home found it necessary to fix the Catalytic converter, the breaks, and get a tune up this was another 2,000.00$ It also took way more time than expected causing more gig cancellations. The van is still not really road ready but were leaving anyway. After 1,500 shows over the last five years I have missed 9 which has as I'm learning given me the reputation of UNDEPENDABLE!


3.) I went back to smoking after a week.

4.) Moving sucks obviously.

1 comment:

JulyMorning said...

Very interesting to read your blog. I would like more stories)) Julia.