DAY 12: A FIELD IN NORWAY

DOWN ON THE FARM.

 

More strange light.

A festival in the middle of an oat field in Norway.

The night before the gig, we head up to the site --- a tradition—at the very least, we'll need to check out the catering. Mercury Rev is on the big stage, huffing and puffing away.

The catering on the other hand, ain't bad.

Later that night in the barn, it's a psycho sock hop and the villagers are going nuts. The Tuborg must be kicking in. It's the Others at the Down On the Farm Barn Dance.

The "Others" are the alter ego of the legendary Finnish band 22 Pieskeperto.

We're well inspired. This gig makes me wish I was still drinking. Insanely good.

We hitch a ride back with the Finnish band to the hotel. In the dark van ride, we hold a discourse analysis on the finer points of Bo Diddley. It gets involved. It goes deep.

We make the connection.

Now fast friends, we decide to hang out until the sun comes up -- which, being the land of the midnight sun and all, is really right about now. When Kai, our old friend and promoter, promises to take us out on his new boat for some water-sports on a Fjord.

We take up his offer, and find a deserted cove near the Swedish border to swim in. We anchor outside about 100 feet.

We dock in an all but deserted village for ice cream. We make a sight for the locals. Disheveled but unarmed Americans.

We strip to our skivvies and dive into the breathtakingly beautiful briny—or what our Finnish friends call "Dirty water". Where the fresh water meets the salt water.

We get to the gig by boat Might be a first Call me Captain Willard Danny I'll call you Coronal Kurtz

Love that dirty water

FUN FACTS ON 22 Pistepirkko:

They were formed in a small village in Finland in 1980.

They recently did fifty gigs in fifty days and a film crew dragged along. They released a DVD documentary. There are well captured explosions musically and personally. They might be my new favorite band. A band that in many ways, succeeded where GOR failed, in surviving and chasing their elusive muse across decades. We claim to be brothers. They actually are brothers.

They make their own art. They make their own meals. Finland is the land of the Dark Rye, mushrooms, wild berries and Salmon. Salmon raw. Salmon smoked. Salmon salted. They're northerners. They got the Northern Soul. Artic circle northern. Throw a rock you'll hit Russia northern.

Green On Red play later tonight. After a set by new friend Shannon McNally and her comrades. More unarmed Americans we were glad to meet.

First there's a band from Texas playing the blues. I can't help but thinking that if you shook a tree in Austin, five of these guitar players would fall out... But they play this shit good, those Texans. Even if they're probably packing heat.

We play the gig and close the festival. We get weird. All goof ball grins. All merchandise shrapnel. All pants with sagging pockets.

Visions of Peets coffee, the lower Haight, and Mission Burritos in my head. Miz Finch in my heart.

Almost home.

It can't be over already.

What did Faulkner say? "The past isn't gone. It isn't even past."

 

*********THE END********************

DAY 11 AMSTERDAMN

Strange Light

 

Just cause you don't have real job, don't mean you're making a living .

Across from our row on the train, some German students on their way to Amsterdam to ride bikes 50 K each day, engage us in a "are you in a band?" conversation.

One young girl says to Chris, "Wow, I've never met anyone who's made a CD."

I almost respond, "Yeah well, listen here fraulein, where we come from, it's hard to come across someone who hasn't released a CD." Instead, I carry on pretending that I'm reading. Exit Snarksville. It's Chris's party now.

Maybe I'm reading physics, right? It's possible. Maybe I'm pondering Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, because old Werner was a German and we're in Germany, right?

Or maybe Holland. The architecture just changed dramatically.

Jesus. There's no fractions in space, man.

Wish I had a bike to ride around Amsterdam on. That could be cool. I might just stop off at Wal-Mart and pick up a Huffy. Red, with a funky banana seat. Man, a Huffy.

There was a Wal-Mart just around the corner from the Reeperbahm directly across from the Knust. They sell firearms at Wal-Marts back home. I don't like firearms, oppose them, to tell you the truth. Don't fear the Reeperbaum.

Now we're at the Paradiso in Amsterdam. Itself a Church that's been renovated to a gig. A classic gig. Just follow all the posters, past the Bulldog and the jugglers in the square, you can't miss it.

It's getting crowded out here on

the rock and roll highways and bi-ways. Lots of acts playing tonight. Lots more playing this month.

But tonight's our night.

Underneath the venue are the backstage dressing rooms—they're murky, underexposed. No windows. No natural light. I go out for a walk. Strange light outside. I lose track of time and end up racing back to the Paradiso in a slight panic after our official start time.

Don't want to lose my job.

Rock and Roll is a funny vocation. Some guys hold on to their jobs by merely having the ability to go 400 miles without a piss stop. Horns or no horns. Some guys leave home for a week and become unhinged. Some don't ever want to go home.

Yessir, everything really clicks in on this gig. We dust off Down to the Bone, a live favorite from back in the day. Transcendent. Jack's focused. Dan's loose and tight.

Chris is Chris. It goes down easy.

Lots of old friends in the house: Paperclip gang, Irish Frank and his girl, Jose and Mart...

Someone asks me after if I'd be willing to lecture at a university for the arts. Why yes. Rock and Roll or Physics? I'm your man.

Nights like tonight keep me hanging around the wishing well. Of course, it beats doing dishes, parking cars, and hanging drywall. We're praying for sheetrock.

Strange light outside, strange indeed.

Day 10:  HAMBURG—Germany, Right?

In Which We Insult The Dead

 

More rules...

War is unpleasant, leads to unpleasant conversations.

6) There're rednecks everywhere.

So much for Dada absurdism. The next morning this e-mail comes into Green On Red via our Shoulder Tap link:

"I have to write and tell you how disgusted I was with the slide show at the end of your set... it was far to long and insulted the dead you pictured.... I left with my wife... you are sick mate... no more shows from me..."

Were the slides a lie? Was the slide show untruthful? Don't suppose they run those images on the Sky channel. Then again, you can always turn the channel from the comfort of your love seat if they do. Oh my gawd, what have we done? We took those peoples hard earned cash and all but held them down and spit in their faces.

That's one way of looking at it.

Dan replies to the e-mail: "I guess you are of the school that war is a romantic ideal that is best left hidden and glorified."

I'd continue the thread, but this really isn't that kind of blog. Besides it "was far too long" not "to long." And how do you tell when you've been rude to corpses?

Now in Hamburg, we're still trying to make out the distinction between gross and sleazy. We agree that sleazy is good. And gross is well....just gross. The state of the venue in Hamburg is debated ad nauseum and never quite settled. Personally, I dig the Knust Club. And it's a step up from the old location where we'd load the gear down onto the stage from a window on the street, IN THE SNOW.

Looks like Daren's fallen again. Yeah, he's definitely got two lumps on his head. This does not bode well.

This is a club show. One of two on the tour. German BBC records the gig. Partly as a favor to Norbert, we agree to this gig. Norbert: A silly man. But a man with heart. Lots of it.

People stop buying CD's and now everyone is out on the road trying to make something happen. But pre-sales look good. Not that I'm asking. I know this because Norbert tells me more than once.

It's way too hot. "Tucson hot" says Edgar.

Tonight a face I've seen around hands me a stack of Bob Dylan bootlegs. Didn't catch his name.

I peruse the covers. One title catches my eye. Later, in my single room, I cue up Important Words as sung by Dylan originally on the Down In the Groove record but later taken off for some reason. Haven't heard it for ages. Takes me back.

1988 was the year. I had gone through a not particularly nasty breakup with my high-school sweetheart. The years of abuse and doing things we couldn't really be proud of had taken its toll. And while I was off promoting Here Come the Snakes (I think), she'd had enough and ran off with an acquaintance who was hanging around this bad experiment of a communal warehouse we'd moved into South Of Market. Matthias, my rival, was a German kid right off the boat. It was later-hose-in for you Chuckie.

And Matthias rode a motorcycle. Very fast. Wow!

That warehouse was later condemned after the earthquake. I'd already fallen through a 3rd story window and walked away from that place on crutches. For real.

ANYWAY, all but homeless, I ended up stewing in London after a tour where Dan Stuart and I traversed the continent in search of prescription drugs playing some lackluster gigs along the way with a new GOR lineup. We got pretty good at the drug thing.

Until we ran out.

Feeling very alone in England. I hid there for a while, not ready to return home. Maybe for fear of breaking up another relationship. My best friend's girl back home was weighing heavy on my mind.

Eventually, she did indeed become my wife, my muse, the brains behind Pa. My best friend.

That was a little ways off yet.

I had hooked up with someone else for a time. We gave and took many things but love wasn't in the stars. And we knew it.

Goodbye Swiss girl. Goodbye Swiss cottage. Mama, I'm coming home.

Broke, having burned through a meager publishing advance, I took a walk one day down around Camden Town and looked into a box of bootleg cassettes and pulled out an advance cassette of a then not released Bob Dylan record called Down in the Groove. I gobbled it up. I got emo with it. Of course, when the record came out, it was universally hated. But not really by me. Dylan's incapable of doing anything uninteresting by me. There was at least one song on there that I never heard again until tonight. It was later taken off the official release for some reason. That's Dylan for ya.

Important Words was originally sung by Gene Vincent. Both versions are great. Yeah, there's a lot more digital reverb on the snare on Bob's version, but trust me, you'll acclimate. And when you do it'll be worth it. It's as good as anything the Wallflowers ever did. And I like the Wallflowers!

Important Words

Important words that mean a lot They say I love you Important words that's all I've got They say I love you

The days, the nights, the hours We spent making plans Have made both of us feel the same Since we first held hands Important words that say I love you They say I do

Ah... ah ah....

Not a bad harmonica solo either. Sweet dreams for me tonight. Got the windows open.

The Beatles stayed in this hotel, remember?

An all-is-fair-in-love-and-war postsript: Took a while, but Matthias and I later became fairly close. Kara remains close to me and Stephi

e as well to this day and she just celebrated the birth of her baby Cash with her husband Erich.

Eventually, Mathias opened a studio out near Hunters Point, equipped to the ceiling with good old German tube mikes. And V-72's for each channel. I took advantage of his good nature and guilt by cutting demo's there and paying him penny's to the dollar. In fact, it was he who rolled that extra little piece of tape that became the whimsical last minute jam that turned into Summertime Thing... That song paid for the whole session.

And then some.

It really is a Summertime Thing.

Oh and Patrick, (Stephies ex-boyfriend) is still very much in our lives. Has two lovely girls, a beautiful wife and was the best man at our wedding, where he addressed Stephie on mic during his speech and said, "I guess this means there's no chance of us getting back together...?" The Counting Crows just recorded one of Patrick's songs. That should buy some diapers.

Happier endings. Are we caught up now or what?

All this typing is making me hungry. A tray of flan would be good right about now.

TBC MONDAY.

Day 9: Koko CLub LONDON

Koko CLub LONDON (formerly the Camden Ballroom)

 

Genuinely Nervous

We're here to perform a concert featuring our classic (their word not ours) album: Gas Food Lodging. (I should point out though, that we are fans of that particular piece of work).

Don't remember too much about making the soulful, tasteful, and yes, brilliant Gas, Food, Lodging. One thing I do remember about El Dorado Studios where we cut our now classic, utterly inspired album is a gold 7"on the wall behind glass for "Willie and the Hand Jive" by Johnny Otis. I'll come back to Johnny Otis in a second.

Green on Red had bought me my guitar weeks earlier. Actually, Enigma Records wasn't big on giving cash, so they'd direct you to a music store way out in Whittier where they had an account. Besides, cash flow and indie labels, never the twain shall meet. Rode a bus east on Whittier Blvd. for what seemed like three days, only to find there were no Stratocasters. I was looking for one since mine had been stolen --at a Gun Club show no less—and I was hoping to replace it.

A 1984 Squire Telecaster was on the wall. So, I took it home. Yep, that damn guitar. Excalibur. I still play it to this day.

Precious metals... Johnny's Otis's gold 7". I'm a sucker for artifacts like that. Great song. Great record. Even inspired great rip off's like "I Want Candy". To this day I listen to Johnny Otis's radio show when I'm in town. It's broadcast only a few miles from where we live, Saturday mornings. Way left of the dial on KPOO.

His "Johnny Otis Show" band features one of his sons on drums and a nephew on guitar. His grandson, the son of Otis' well-known guitar-playing son Shuggie Otis, plays bass.

He's also an author, columnist, politician, actor, printer, painter, sculptor, and has even bred rare birds. Fuck yeah! And we're both from that James Ellroy other valley people don't talk about: The San Bernardino. The smog-bound fatherland. The El Monte, La Habra, Monrovia triangle. The least romanticized sliver of the basin. I think Otis also jars and markets his own Olive Oil or pickles or something if I recall. Been married over 50 years to boot. Cool dude, Johnny Otis. Following the clues, maybe.

Back to the present. After a brief domestic squabble back at the hotel, over the hang rights with his kid, Dan's wife Nuria says, "He'll be bored at the club."

Dan says, "No, YOU'D be bored".

Dan wins and Dan Jr. makes the hang while Nuria hits the cultural hot spots and museums. This comes in handy. It's nice to have a midget to crawl under the stage and retrieve things—not to mention sound check that kick drum mic.

I think to myself, see nothing wrong with Nuria's hips.

Daren on the other hand, doesn't look well. That lump. Is it growing a twin?

We arrive at the Koko mid day. I suggest Danny take his guitar to Denmark Street and have it set up to play in tune. The tuning thing—he seems to have taken a late interest in it. Much to my surprise, no second thought, he hops in a cab headed for Denmark Street. Taking suggestions. Now that's growth. Got some real affection for dude right about now.

With some time to kill. I get my mischief on. As the opening band (Gravenhurst) are setting up kind of nervously, I stroll out onto the dark stage to introduce myself.

I said, "Hey fella's, I'm Chuck."

"Oh yes, yes, yes. We know who YOU ARE", they replied.

I said, "I just want to take this opportunity to thank you guys for doing the support slot. It's going to be a great gig, but I do have to level with you on one thing... you weren't our first choice but..." They roll with it. At the end of the night I'm very impressed how they get themselves and all their gear and their girlfriends in a Honda Civic. These kids got game.

Actually, weeks earlier, our representation asked us for some parameters on choosing openers. After the band kicked around some loose guidelines, Danny suggested we ask for "bands that would hate Green On Red". Ya know, like Deerhoof, or the Deaf Mutes?

Damn, we always were the anti-social types. Paisley nothings. As a rule; Dishers are rarely takers. Hard to imagine those alleged backyard Barbeques where it would all come together, just like back in the 60's and Suzanna Hoffs would sit on Jack's lap. Oh the camaraderie!

The vibes ran out fast. They always do. Tom Stevens told me, "yeah, by 87 it got downright creepy..."

GOR called it quits around then. We never weighed our options as they disintegrated around us.

But now it's yesterday once more.

Barry Hogan is the impresario of this series. He's a young man with great taste, a big heart, high voice with an Australian accent. Just hope he has somebody else's money to spend. We insist that he introduce us and I'm touched that he seemed genuinely nervous. Maybe it's the lack of paying punters and the juicy guarantee he's contracted to pay that's making him nervous?

We surprise ourselves and overcome the ten songs with relative ease. But not without tangents. (I really should talk more about THE MUSIC, but that elusive shit is hard to melt down... really is...and other people do it so much better.)

During the show, Dan makes an aside about blossoming into a full-on card carrying grown up since we made the record. Chris throws out into the mike, "Say what? You of all people, grown up?" And we enter into a debate right there on stage. How do you define grown up? How low does the bar go?

You have a valid driver's license. Car insurance. No outstanding warrants. No outstanding student loans. A place to live. Anything beyond would be gravy— bourgeois even.

We Shall Overcome was the last track on Gas, Food, Lodging... (still is actually.) It's a spiritual closely associated with the civil rights movement. Dan allegedly tore the song out of a hymn book—none of us were really all that familiar with the song when we originally recorded it in 1984, 1985 or so. But in the Reagan era, it took on a new meaning to people. We like to think.

I'm not really sure.

Well it did, it took on a new meaning. Just ask George Pelecanos. Or we could ask my Quaker pals, hicks, who marched with the orator, people who grew up singing that song. Toughest guy I ever met can sing that one, can't hit a note, but he knows the words.

We'll be closing the show with the song tonight. Of course we will. Somewhere along the line, we came up with the idea of producing a slide show to accompany the song.

Besides, this is a theatre man. Nervous theater, but theater. Chasing the clues.

Initially, I push the dada absurdist approach. Springtime For Hitler! Tristan Tzara toothpaste! Milk and Cookies for everyone! Bandying concepts around, I suggested that if the Misfits hadn't already dumped grape-flavored Flavor Aid on the audience, mocking the Jonestown Massacre back in 1978 maybe we could do something like that.

Fun fact: Jim Jones was such a wacko that he bought the budget version: Flavor Aid not Kool Aid. Kool Aid will not hesitate to roll out the lawsuits I'm warned. Come and get me, I could use the publicity.

Kidding aside, there's an opportunity here to take the focus off of us while we're playing the song and point it somewhere more—dare I say? meaningful. And we know it.

Hooded Abu Ghraib prisoners and war images spring to my mind. We continue to riff lightheartedly. I suggest we invite the audience up to hold hands during We Shall... get a couple hundred people up there. Turn off all the lights, run the slide show, Dan can hold a candle or better yet, a flashlight—stick the flashlight in his mouth. Dan joining in on the fun, says, "Pictures of babies with their faces ripped off, tanks rolling over Grandmas! No one's overcoming anything, anytime soon. Then I spray the audience with my Uzi... think of the residuals."

(Lowbrow? Maybe, I don't call it anything, but this is the way we talk when there's no one around, by the way).

And so do you.

Confronted with the never before seen grotesque war images—these weren't in my issue of Time magazine—on our computer screens, we sober up right quick. Clearly, the no flinching, straight from the heart approach, is the way to go.

Dan points out "it's not like we won't provide the yuks that we're known for before we get to it".

The Kool Aid deal might be overkill. It's possible people will be throwing up in their curry as it is. Either way, something to look forward to. The mystery. How will it go down?

Dan further points out that the combination of a sickeningly idealist song together with images of the worst man can offer might stand on its own sans mocking. And that "heart is the hardest". Word. Now that's leadership, George.

After we pay $700.00 to a kid with connections to Marilyn Manson—or was the Manson family? (I forget) to assemble the slide show. (actually, his name is Kevin and he's the brother of the guy with the connections), the DVD gets stuck at UK customs. After all our self imposed wind up, it's almost all a BIG NOTHING. No problem, Kevin resends the slide show as an attachment at the zero hour.

And I boot up the G4 and pull it out of the air.

Even with the occasional uplifting image of hope scattered in there if you look hard enough, the slide show is a grotesque display. It's pretty fucking disturbing. A bit of a downer really. We'll make our point for sure. The war? Yep, make no mistake, we're against it.

After attempting to rehearse the song with the slide show, it becomes clear that it would be hard to mug in front of those images. We'll play the song straight faced -- and start the slide show after the last chorus, while we head into some apocalyptic feedback in the key of A minor. In the dark, all the stage lights off—Horrible feed back. Purposeful feed back.

The slide show ends up repeating in a loop setting. We can't stop it. It goes on and on.... Not exactly how we planned it.

The feedback was unpleasant too. We hope.

We made our point.

Not a bad gig really. We tried to do some good.

We visit with a lot of old friends backstage afterwards. Chris Carr and his lieutenants show up sans Crossbows and mace. Unfortunately, a few friends are held back by the gorilla staff. It gets loud, smoky, weird. It gets heated back there. Dan Jr. stares on taking it all in. Is he in heaven? Or is that just me projecting?

CURIOUSITY KILLED THE CAT. MEET ME AT THE OL' MOUSE HOLE.

Day 8: LONDON

Blackout Due Perhaps to Aerial Attack

 

In a cab with Lex, Chris and Carsten in route to Birthday party for our friend Kathleen.

Ah... the mighty Thames. "That's what stopped Hitler." I don't know about that but I heard Bob Dylan say that to John Lennon in a bootleg film clip of the two of them riding around in a black cab one time. Now they tell me the Mighty Thames is running mighty goddamn dry.

But I'm from California, right. Yeah. Right.

"Fancy a cuppa?" It's party time South London style. Some new friends, some old friends. Neighbors too. Kids, grown-ups and a nice pleasant garden to sit in. A man could get used to this.

Chris volunteers to man the kitchen and cook for all the guests. Cheesecake with berries and more cream for dessert. Like I said, a man could get used to this. (Note to self: "What's with all the food obsessions?") Life is sweet. Mike Leigh knows what I'm talking about.

No one mentions the Kaiser Chiefs or the Happy Chef or the Chieftains or The Naked Chef. We listen to Neil Young's latest and talk about the war. There's a war going on—that's something we can all agree on.

It gets late. The acoustic guitars come out signaling the time to find a ride home.

Now that was a day off.

The Sabbath, you know? Maybe a smart move.

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