Monday, November 8, 2010

* pre-emptive clause

Hey you Feztone Fanatics!
This here is Lew Dacts, the drummer for the Feztones. This is the raw, tell-it-like-is, "more authentic than the real thing" account of the Feztones in Europe. Written in a short-hand, point form style to make sure that reading (and for my sake, the writing) can be done as fast as possible so you can avoid being caught procrastinating at work.  I've made an attempt to look over my chicken scratch notes only to realize that my entries were wrought by alcohol and travel fatigue. Though some details are glossed over, exaggerated or completely forgotten, I've managed to decipher my notes and cobbled together, (with plenty of grammatical errors), a collection of vague memories that perhaps add to the "realness" of the experience. Undoubtedly, your reading will make you vicariously experience the mundane to be an adventure and the most unbelievable event to be something that happens everyday while sleeping off a heavy hangover stuffed inside a van for 6 hours.

I hope you enjoy!

~ Lew Dacts

Fuad and The Feztones are:
Fuad Ramses - Voice and guitar
Rich 'N Ready - bass
Qatar Slim - keyboards
 Tip Hazard - "saxophone"
Lew Dacts - drums

Day 1, Leipzig, Germany

October 22nd
- We passed through Dutch customs quickly and uneventfully.  Nothing to declare.  All the paperwork was taken care of through the promoters on the other side.   A relief but some elements of doubt as the only way to know when promises are delivered is to show up and wait for it to happen when we arrived.
- Transferred to connecting flight and ended up in Berlin.  There was no barrier or security off the plane or the airport.  You just picked up your baggage and headed out the door.  While waiting for our baggage, I heard PA announcements in german that I didn't understand and then this was followed by a noticeably low, sultry and sexy voice announcing, in English, that a bag was left unattended and required security measures to deal with the situation.  I guess not to rise panic, a sexy voice is needed.  I'll try that sometime.
- We met a contact, this random guy named Fred, at the car rental service desks.  Of course we had to navigate through the airport with staircases, escalators that didn't allow luggage carts and escalators that were miniscule.  We back tracked and circulated until we found our meeting spot. 
- Soon enough our guy showed up, with two other women.  We could tell it was the right person because they were dressed in a hip 60's-ish fashion.  They had leopard print luggage and one woman had the hairdo and stiletto heels.  Later we found out she was the poster girl and go-go dancer for the event that night.
- Drove out through the Autobahn to pick up another person, Laurent (forgot last name), who was the MC for the night.   They were all French, and Laurent spoke english thankfully.  They were all 60's music buffs and were all involved in the small, niche revivalist scene in Europe. 
- Continued on theAutobahn for a while and had  a little stop at a gas station.  We were all delighted to find the immediate differences between Canada and Europe.  John couldn't resist the urge to purchase a cherry beer and drink it in the van.  I passed out until our destination.
- We reached Leipzig in the late afternoon.  The Feztones were tired but of course fascinated by the new country we were in.  Leipzig was what used to be part of East Berlin and seemed that they were slow in the development past the cold-war era.
- We arrived at the the venue called the McCormick Ballroom, an irish-style pub.   A cozy wood interior with low ceilings and lots of little rooms and crooks and nannies to hang out in.  It continued deeper in and opened up to a large dance hall with a stage and sound system. 
- We met the owner and manager, Imad, a surly Algerian-German guy.  His fashion style was an interesting cross between a 60's era English chap and tattooed German tough guy.   His disposition was stereotypically german: serious, deadpan and literal.  He joked with us about the "rules" for the band (in german accent): " Ya, you can drrink as much free beeya as you vont, but you are not allowed to give zem avay to your friends.   Especially you cannot get our vimen drunks to take advantage ov them.   (We all pause in confusion.  Strained smiles and an awkward pause)  " You musht use your charm and vit.  Only vee are allowed to get them drunks..."  (forced chuckles)
- They gave us a free meal from their kitchen.  I ordered this sheppards pie thing, but with a deep layer of cheese before getting to the potatoe underneath.  Super heavy.  And beers of course.
- They had a band apartment right above the venue.  The doorway was right beside the venue entrance.  There were 3 large bedrooms with several beds in each of them and a bathroom with showers and toilets.  The standard thing in Europe was to treat the musicians with a certain respect: feed them and give them a place to stay.   And we were glad.
- After settling in, we went down and did our sound check.  Everything they had there had this retro feel to it.   As it was a 60's music night, the theme was observed.  We got a run down of how the night was supposed to happen.  2 bands opening, the first band starts at 10:00.  We start around 12:30/ 1am.  They had a 3-bell system: the first gong to indicate that the crowd should order their drinks for the show, have a pee etc.  The second bell for the musicians to be on stage and get ready to play.  The third bell means the show starts.  A very german thing: organized, systematic.
- Exhausted from travel, we all crashed out until we had to play.  I slept for half an hour or so, but got up to roam around the area.  I got a chance to see the other bands a little too.  The band right before us, "Las Asirpiradoras" (Spain) were so-so.  Very drunk though.  The band before them, "The Branded," were drunker than them.
- Our show  was great.  There were go-go dancers dressed in sexy egyptian costumes on each side of the stage twisting and dancing away during our set.  At one point they even came on the stage between Bobby and John and were gyrating away.  The crowd was dancing and freaking out.  Some people even wore Fezzes in part of the Feztones "egyptian" theme. 
- We were hanging out after the show and having post-show drinks.  At one point, Imad, the bar owner, pulls the band aside and says:  " I haff somesing very serious to tell you.  Please, I musht talk vit you."   So we go over to somewhere a little bit more quiet and he says:  " I'm very sorry to tell you zat I haff a problem.  This is serious.  I noticed zat you haff put zee band banner on zee back curtain for your show, and it is problem because vee have strict rules for advertisement shpace for zis venue.  You musht pay 800 Euroes for using zee advertizement shpace.  Please pay zis now." 
- We all look at each other and realize our predicament.  Immediately we apologize to try to figure something out as we clearly don't have the money.    Imad looks at us, taken aback, and then hangs his head.  He looks up and says: "oh, I'm so sorry.  I have failed.  I have tried to make a joke, but my english izt so bad that  you did not understand my joke. "  A moment where we all looked at each other quizzically as we experienced the clash of cultures:  Deadpan, serious german sarcasm met with demure and apologetic Canadians.   We all lightly chuckled and patted him on the back supportively.
- Elated, we were all glad to crash out, finally at 2:30am.  I set my alarm for 8am to catch the plane the next day.

The stage at McCormack's Ballroom

...of course Statler and Waldor were there.  They moved too!

Imad (with cap) seeing us off at Berlin Airport

Day 2, Madrid, Spain

October 23rd.

-  There are 2 doorways in our bedroom, one that opens into the main hallway and another doorway that connects to the neighboring bedroom.  This 2nd doorway is blocked off by John's bed, so essentially you're not supposed to go through it.  I wake up to turn off my alarm.  Groggy, I  look up and see a guy in his underwear standing in the doorway that connects to other bedroom.  It's the bass player from the other band the other night, The Branded.  He steps over the bed that John was sleeping in and exits the doorway to the hallway. I guess John woke up at precisely that moment to see the guys' underwear clad testicles pass over his face as he climbed over the bed.   John yells out "What the FUCK is going on?!"  and snaps up out of bed.
- John gets up to use the bathroom and finds the guy passed out, naked, while taking a crap on the can.  We all guess that he was so wasted that he couldn't figure out which door leads out of his bedroom and ended up in our room, then, instead of turning around, he just kept going.
- After the rude awakening, we all eventually get up and go down to the bar for our free breakfast.  The spread for breakfast was incredible.  It was incomparable to the cheap, instant breakfasts given in hotels in Canada: a platter of different fruits; a large dish of bocconcini and tomoatoes; an array of german cold cuts;  a basket of buns and croissants; a selection of juices and mineral water; yogurt ; scrambled eggs, sausage and bacon; hot coffee.  All laid out on the bar like a buffet.  We stuffed our selves as much as we could. 
-  Imad was kind enough to drive us to the airport.  He was waiting for us to get our shit together to leave.  Again, he teased us with his german sensibility:  "I told you guys zat vee had to leave in 2 minutes and zat vas five minutes ago.  Do you know vhat zee numbers 2 and 5 are?" 
- I noticed that he drove 180 km/h on the autobahn.  We also knew that he hadn't slept yet from last night's event.  Clearly, he was a seasoned party guy.  He showed no signs of fatigue.
- Imad saw us off to the check-in and we were off.  We landed on the island of Mallorca to connect to Madrid, Spain.  We waited out in the airport for 45 minutes, underslept.  The airline was called EasyJet and it was the economy bargain el-cheapo airline of Europe.  We had to take a bus across the landing tarmac to the plane, and as there were no seating assignments for the passengers, as as soon as the bus stopped and opened its doors there was a made rush to get up the stairs and into the plane to find a good seat.  They also ran out of food after 20 or so people.  I didn't eat anything.  It looked raunchy.
- We met up with our contact, Diego, at the Madrid airport.  We set off in two cabs to our hotel.  Once there, we unloaded our luggage and immediately went off to the venue for soundcheck. 
- There was certainly more of an urban feeling to where we were compared to Leipzig and the temperaure warmer too.  The area we were in seemed a little like being in NDG in Montreal, definitely middle to low class demographic.  As expected, the traffic was confusing with turn-abouts and multi-street intersections.  Fortunately the venue wasn't too far from our hotel and after going there and back, we were able to gain a bearing.
- The venue, Gruta77, was a smallish, dark, dingy feeling rock bar.  Walls plastered with stickers.  The stage was about 5 feet higher than the floor, PA speakers towered over the dance floor.  The "backstage" room was essentially a corridor that connected the hallway from the bathrooms and to the stage.  Sealed in by doorways , there a was length of a bench and shower stall which no one used.  It was tiny.  The stage itself was like a box about 10ft square.  Cram in amps, mic stands, drum kit, keyboard and you get virtually no space to move around.  You had to straddle over amplifiers to get to the other side of the stage.  To top it off, the lack of space meant that we would be blasting ourselves with the sound that was coming from our amps and drums while not hearing the other instruments properly.  Well, what can you do?  We understood the limits of what was there and hoped things would be ok for the show.  John was fluent in spanish so he felt right at home.  He had no problems negotiating what the band needed for the show.
- After sound checking, we went to a nearby restaurant/bar for supper.  By then it was around 8:30pm.  The bar had a few people in it already, having drinks and chatting.  We sat down and asked the waiter to give us a sample of everything.   A mixture of fried calamari and potato tots to heavy tomato sauce over potatoes and a dish was just melted cheeses.  Delightful.  But kinda heavy.  By 9pm, the bar was boisterous and happening with locals dropping to have a bite to eat or have a drink.  I guess 9pm is when people have supper in Spain.  Back to the hotel, we crashed out until showtime.
- We woke up around 12am.  There were several other bands for the festival night called Surf-O-Rama, and we were headlining as the last act.  They told us to be there for around 1am.  We got ready and headed down in taxis.  The venue was packed.  Completely.  You had to squeeze between people to move around.  It was deadly hot.  People were wasted and partying hard.  The vibe was amazing.  Yelling.  Dancing,  The crowd pulsed and throbbed. 
- The surf-rockband before us was still playing, so there was time for us to grab a drink and get settled in.  John, Averil and I grabbed vodka redbulls to wake up. 
- We waited a while for the band to finish.  We were all crammed in the tiny backstage room, which, with all the guitar cases and bags and stuff from 4 other bands, space was at a minimum.  You couldn't really sit down.   We had to set up amps and keyboards and stuff, so by the time we actually started it was 2:30am.  But the crowd didn't let up a single bit.   The vibe was incredibly high energy and responsive.  They ate it up and kept screaming for more as Bobby did his Fuaz shtick and John cracked jokes between songs.  They joined in on the choruses for the songs they knew the words to and had their hands in the air.  The band played hard and sweated profusely.  It was extremely hot and there was no movement of air.  All you cold do was wipe the sweat off your face and drink more water. 
- At one point, a dude from the previous band came running on to the stage with a bucket on his head (like a fez) and danced around while we played.  It seemed appropriately for a drunk to be madly dancing on stage with the band, but, for the band it was more like, "who the fuck is this douchebag?  Get him out of here."  Eventually the guy got off stage. 
- When we finished, we were on a high from the performance but completely spent.  I was completely drenched in sweat.  Not only were my pants soaked in sweat, but I would feel squelching sounds in my shoes as my socks were wet too.  The felt fezzes and cardigans that we wore as stage costumes were damp and stuck to our skin.
-  John and Bobby went out in the crowd to hawk Cd's/Vinyl and to chat with the crowd.  The promoters wanted us each to sign their vinyl copies.  Chris, Averil and I stayed backstage, as we were too wiped out to deal with a swamping crowd.  John came back though, cursing the previous surf-rockband: "Those french fuckers took over all the merch space and wouldn't let me put our CD's on the merch table!"
- As we couldn't sell our Cd's at the table, John and I decided to stand on stage and try to sell our shit there.  We went out and I grabbed the LP and twisting to the 60's surf-rock that the DJ was spinning and tried to get people's attention.  We were able to hawk a few cd's and vinyl.
- Bobby recounted a story when he was out meeting the crowd: " Yeah, I was chatting with these Spanish chicks and didn't understanding a single thing they were saying.  So they tried to teach me some Spanish and I was repeating back the words that they were saying to me.  After I finish repeating the sentence, I asked them what the hell I was saying and the chics all pointed at their vaginas and started cracking up..."
- After a while Chris, Averil and I packed up and were ready leave.  The bar owner was kind enough to hail a cab for us and set us up to get back to the hotel.  Once back, I peeled off my wet clothing and hung up all the dank Fezzes and cardigans.  I hoped they would dry a little before we packed them up the next day.  My pants dripped in the closet.  A took a shower and flopped into bed.  John and Bobby stayed behind a bit longer to hang out. They were staying in the other room, so we didn't have to wait up for them.
- The three of us were in bed, and we just turned off the light when we heard a knock on door.  Chris cried out, "you gotta be fuckin' kidding me!" and got up.  It was Bobby.  He was in his underwear and wanted to make sure the cardigans were hung up.  Re-assured, he left.  We all passed out immediately.  We knew that our plane left later in the afternoon so we had a chance to sleep in and be able to see the city the next day.
The Easyjet experience

Sometimes you find words of wisdom at the airport.

Bobby, hanging out at Mallorca airport

Day 3, Villadossola, Italy

October 24th

- I woke up to the sound of the phone ringing.  Chris reached over and answered.  It was John.  He was calling because he read the flight information wrong and realized that our plane was leaving sooner than he thought.  That meant that we had to get to the airport as fast as we possible or we would miss the flight.  Fucknuts!  You gotta be fuckin' kidding me!!
- We all sprang out of bed and frantically packed our shit and ran downstairs to the lobby.  As soon as everyone was there, we hailed some cabs and peeled away to the airport.  We asked the drivers to get there as fast as possible: "Vamanos!!"
- Once there, we ran for the check-in counter, plowing through crowds and skipping the winding line-up lanes.  When we got there, they had closed  check-in 5 minutes ago. The airline staff gave us stern looks and gave us a bit of a hard time, but, with enough pleading, they let us check our luggage and got us signed in.  Thankfully John was able to fire off in Spanish and helped things tremendously.  We still had to pay the extra baggage fee at another counter and check our guitars and basses at the bulky baggage department.  We ran from one counter to the next, with one of the airline staff tagging along, jabbering commands rapidly into her walkie-talkie to warn the people ahead that we were coming through in a rush.  We passed through security quickly and thankfully no one was held back.  We ran to our gate to find a gigantic line-up snaking out, unmoving, so we knew we had made it on time.   Phew!   What a way to wake up.
-  We were all pretty frazzled, so we went to a nearby coffee kiosk and grabbed a quick breakfast.  Espressos, water, juices, pastries were consumed in a zombie like state.  From one crazy night to an even crazier morning.  John apologized for the misinformation.  Well, it didn't matter because we made it. 
- Once on the plane, we were able to settle down a bit.  By now we were all feeling the jet lag and fatigue of travelling and having to perform until late at night.   Our sense of time and space were completely disoriented. 
- We landed in Milan, the skies overcast and a bit of rain.  Once through the corridor-thing that connects that plane to the terminal,  we went through sliding doors which opened up to... a gift shop.  What the fuck?  We took a turn through the corridor of the gift shop and ended up with more shops.  We back tracked and went the other way, which led us through another corridor.  We aimlessly followed the little picture of a suitcase and the little arrow that pointed in endless directions.   This lead the entire crew of passengers through a meandering path that lead one direction, and then doubled back through staircases, moving sidewalks, hallways, corridors, more gift shops, cafe seating area (complete with napkins and wine glasses), sections of the Departures zone, and then finally, baggage retrieval.  We lost about half of the herd along the way.  At some new turn or section of the airport, people would get confused and the crowd would thin out.  It was totally like a Spinal Tap "Hello Cleveland!!" episode.
- While we were navigating through the airport, at one point we were on a hall way that had windows looking out onto the landing tarmac.  We could see a luggage truck with a long train of luggage being pulled behind it.  It was the luggage from our plane because we could see our guitar cases.  We saw a suitcase fall off the pile and it was left behind, all by itself, in the middle of the landing tarmac, vulnerable to some airplane or random vehicle to run it over.  Abandoned and the owner of the bag now screwed.   We were chuckling because we saw that happen and John said out loud: "Suckerrrr!!"   Of course, it could've just as easily happen to one of our own bags.  But it didn't. 
- At the baggage carousel, we claimed our bags and gear quickly and made it out of the Arrival zone.  We met with our contact, Salvitorre and his friend, Luka, almost immediately.  Salvitorre was our driver and tour manager for the next 7 days in Italy. 
- We threw our bags in cars and had a quick espresso while standing up (Italian style).  We headed off for a 2.5 hour drive to North (or was it South?) to Torino.  I passed out willingly.
- I woke up to see that it was getting dark and raining.   We were somewhere in the country and I could see hilly mountainsides on both sides of the highway.  We were right at the foot of the Alps and  you could see fog and the snowy tips of the mountains if you looked up. 
- We stopped in some clustered area of houses which was kind of like a small town.   The venue itself was on the second floor of a large building.   The surrounding space around the building was large and it looked like a community space of some sort, but was long in disuse or abandoned.  Perhaps in the summer it was filled with people, but in late October on a rainy sunday evening, there was no one.  It was chilly outside and the temperature was dropping.  The mountain atmosphere was fresh and refreshing from being in busy cities and airports. 
- Once inside the venue, called The Titty Twister (after the Robert Rodriguez movie "From dusk till dawn"),  we saw there were a few people hanging out and having drinks.  This gig was definitely one that was off the map, so there was little pressure to care too much about it.  We still had to play though.
- There were long tables in the bar, and we munched on chestnuts and drank wine when we sat down and relaxed for a bit.  Then we got our luggage and gear inside and did our soundcheck.  The band bedrooms upstairs were minimal.  I noticed how the floors and staircases and interior finishing were some kind of marble or stone.  Not a lot of wood like in Canada.  This was a common thing for Italy, and I guessed that at this point in their industrial development more stone than wood was available to build their houses with.  Or maybe it's just an Italian thing....
- Right after sound check we sat down and had supper.  Polenta and gorgonzola cheese with sausage.  You passed around this gigantic wedge of Gorgonzola cheese and cut yourself hunks of it into your polenta.  Then you stirred the polenta around and you had this giant blob of polenta and cheese.  Rich and delicious.  The sausage was great, not fatty.  All meat.  Fatigue was thick in the band at this point, and it was a bit of a challenge to be drinking so constantly since we landed in Europe.  We were enjoying the quality of wine, but water was becoming a necessity.
- After a bit of rest, we came down and played.  It was nice to hold back a bit and  not give out as much energy compared to the other shows, but play we did.  Thankfully we played a shorter set and got a round of applause from the few spectators in the bar.  Nothing crazy.
- We packed up and headed up stairs for some needed rest.
The Alps

Inside The Titty Twister

You know, I'm not sure I really trust this menu...

... how about choosing from this one?

Day 4, Alessandria, Italy

October 25th

- I woke to complete darkness.   As my consciousness slowly coagulated into wakefulness it took me a while to orient myself and discern what reality was.  My dreams were mixed in with the confusion of my sense of time and my understanding where I was geographically.   I got up and got dressed.
 - Coming downstairs, I see John already awake and he already investigated and the espresso machine behind the bar A few espressos were quickly fired up.  Soon afterwards he stepped out with Silvatorre to grab some breakfast to bring back.
- Venturing outside, I was at once amazed at the sight of the Alps.  We were truly at the foot of the mountains, where you can see the the rise of the terrain rising up at an extreme angle.  The vegetation was lush and thick.  Very serene.  I shot back my espresso and let myself wake up.
- As other band members woke up and came downstairs, I puttered around, taking in the view.  John came back with yoghourt, fruit and croissants.   The typical Italian breakfast is espresso with a pastry, but John made sure that we had something substantial as he knew that basic needs of nutrition and health were tantamount.
- We took our time eating and having more espressos.  Luckily the bar staff had a laptop, so we were able to quickly fire off an email or two to our friends and family back home.  As it turns out, it would be the first and only time would have access to the internet and have  the enough time to email.
- We  loaded up our gear and away we went to the town of Alessadria, the hometown of Silvatorre.  This was our day off, so we were able to relax and take in the scenery for the first time.
- As we entered the outskirts of the town to our hotel, Bobby noticed a large pillar with a bronze cast eagle mounted on it.  Being the historian, he soon figured out that this was the few places in italy where the italians had lost a battle against the Napoleonic expansion.  The eagle signified this historical precedence.  It seemed likely, as there were large fields surrounding the area where a battlefront could be appropriately staged.
- We arrived at the hotel and noticed a weird, incense like smell in the hallways.  Probably the detergent used for the carpets.   Thankfully we finally had rooms that were properly equipped and we were all to ourselves.  Bobby and John shared a room while Averil, Chris and I took another.  The bathrooms had a bidet and  a towel rack that was also heater.  Genius!  Those italians got their priorities right.  You can wash your ass and  have nice, toasty towels!
- We got settled in and then wanted to check out the town so we got our jackets and umbrellas and headed out to the bus stop.  We eagerly waited in the pouring rain.  No schedules of course.  John went across the street to a car dealership and ask when buses go by.  The guy had no idea.  We waited a bit more and then our patients broke and we decided to head back to hotel and see if there was bus schedule or any information to reassure ourselves that something was going to happen.  Nope.  Our impatience costs us as we found out that the bus comes by every 30min.  We went back to the stop and sure enough, we had missed it.  Another 30 min.
- The bus finally arrived.  We didn't pay to get on, it was some ticketing thing and we didn't have it didn't matter or something.  The town itself was very... what you imagine Italy to be like.  Old looking buildings, narrow streets, cobble stone roads and stone sidewalks, tiny cars.  The first thing we did was find a coffee shop and got warmed up with some quick espressos.  I was really diggin' the Italian coffee culture:  super fast service, shoot back your espresso at the counter, and then leaving.  No lingering around.  In and out in 2 min. and moving on.  Of course, you could hang out and sit down, but a coffee was something as fast as dropping in to say hi, a quick little chit chat and then you're on to the next thing. 
- We wandered around the main shopping area and took it all in.  Eventually we stopped at a bar and had a beer.  Around 4/5pm there's something equivalent to tea time, where people would go to the bar and have a drink.  Of course, food is always served with alcohol, so at times the bar would serve you something like bruschetta or pizza or focaccia bread or something.  Some bars just have everything out, buffet style.  And toothpicks.  They leave tooth picks out so you can quickly spike a morsel of food and pop it in your mouth.  No need for plastic forks.  We settled on a bar called the Hemingway. 
- From there we called Silvatorre and met up with him.  He drove us to a wine store a little ways away.  The owner was a friend of his, so we hung out there chit chatting for a good 2 hours.  Of course, we got to sample their amazing wines.  And we're not talking like a meager sip or half a glass.  In italy, when you sample something, they pull the cork and expect you to drink the whole bottle right there in the store.  We sampled about 3 different bottles, some grappa, and some sparkling wine.  Of course, there was some cold cuts and cheese to go along with it.  All right there in the store.
- While we were drinking, a girl came up to us and asked us if we were the Feztones.  It turns out that this girl so an article in the local paper so knew that there was a 60's frat rock show happening.   She was an international student from Uruguay and was there to study video game development for her Masters.  Back in Uruguay, she knew about the Gruesomes so she was happy to chit chat with Bobby and John.  Famous quote from her: ".... I know I am kinda nerdy and like very particular music and electronic devices and things, but yah, that was too nerd for me..." (some dude played some song that was in a Zelda video game for her, for real, on a flute).
- We left the wine shop and I was loaded.  Silvatorre drove us down to a pizzeria and we sat down for some authentic pizza and beer.  The menu had 50 different pizzas to choose from and it took us a while to decide.   It was indescribably amazing.
- Dear mother of god.  What the hell are we eating in North America?  It's certainly not pizza.  It's some bastardized, deep-fried pub-food idea of the delicacy called pizza.  
- For dessert, through rather weak attempts to refuse it, we had those little puffball cookie things covered in a chocolate mousse sauce.  Goddam.  Those Italians are killing me.
- We finished things up with espressos.  And of course, more booze.  This time it was a type of grappa called Limonata: you guessed it, lemon flavour grappa. 
- We hauled our fattening asses back to the hotel where we thankfully went to beds in our clean beds ( we always do the bed bug check ) and quite rooms. 
... do buses even go by here?  Maybe we should go back and check at the hotel?


More Alessandria

Man, you could put these things on an axle and freakin' drive with them like a car.

Just a few things to nibble on with your drink

Alessandria at night

Families usually bring their bottles to be refilled, but Bobby just drinks his daily quota on the spot

We got loaded here on quality wine

Day 5 Alessandria, Italy

October 26th

- I remember waking up at one point at night and I couldn't figure out why.  What I do remember was that I was extremely thirsty and hot.  Very hot.  I was sweating.  I fumbled around a bit, drank some water and I kicked off the covers.  I figured it was from all the drinking.  I rolled over and eventually dozed off again.  I remember waking up at another time and hearing someone getting up and fucking around with the light swithces.
- The next morning I woke up and headed downstairs for free breakfast.  Again, I am impressed by the standards in Europe.  The breakfast buffet was very nice.  A spread of cheeses and cold cuts, tomato and boccocini salad, eggs, bacon and sausage, fresh fruit, freshly cut melon, fruit salad, pastries, a selection of breads, buns, croissants, yoghourt, juices, coffee, mineral water. 
- At the table, I was talking about my interrupted sleep and realized that both Averil and Chris experienced that extremely hot temperature and slept poorly.  We all had a laugh because no one had made the effort to get up and open a window and instead were rolling around in bed suffering.  Chris woke up to fuck with the thermostat, but the thing was busted and/or he couldn't figure out how it worked. 
- Our gig was in the same town, so we had the day to wander around again.  It was a nice sunny day.  We faithfully waited for the bus and got into town.  Bobby had a map with him and saw that there was a Citadel or historic buildings close by.  The bridge that would take us directly over no longer existed, so we walked along the river, over a bridge and to the other side of the town.  After a bit of a walk, we got to this old military fort used in the 1800's.   There was no one around except for the repair crew that were working on the side of building.  We wandered around the old architecture and marveled and the chiseled bullet marks.   
-We decided to keep going in the same direction as before, hoping that there was another bridge but to no avail.   We were walking in something that was more or less a highway and we were getting farther and farther away from any accessibly to transportation for pedestrians.  We stopped at giant supermarket, kinda like Costco, and called some cabs. 
- We cabbed back downtown, and appropriately as an Italian, we decided we needed to eat and drink again.  We walked for a bit and found a fish store.  They had raw squid, prawns, clams and small fishes on display.  We discovered they fried it up right on the spot so we decided to get some and munched away.
- We meandered about the town and ended up at another wine store.  We eyed the varying prices of wines and wondered what the wines were like that sold for over 100 Euros.  We did a tasting for one wine while we browsed around.
- Eventually we met up with Silvatorre and went back to the hotel to get our gear for the show that evening.
- The venue was a cocktail bar and didn't look too likely as a place where people would go to see a show.  It was pretty swanky with this designer interior and all.  It turns out that they had to put a stage together and set up a PA system from scratch to make the show happen.  But that was a normal thing to happen as the bar was known for having bands or shows to happen. 
- We sound checked with the minimal equipment that they had.  I felt sorry for the few people that were seated in front of the stage as they finished up their meal.  We essentially blasted them away out of their seats; as soon as we started playing they got their coats and left.
- The bar fed us a unique supper that evening.  The first course was plate of pasta with cooked vegetables.  For the main course each person got a large hunk of soft and mild Ricotta cheese with a side of cooked peas with seasonings.  And bread.  It was strange to have mainly cheese as a meal.
- We puttered around for a while until show time. I was sipping the bitter and delicious cocktail called the Negrino.   It looked like there were going to be no people.  However, about 10 minutes before we started, it got packed.  Unfortunately there were still tables out in front of the stage, so although there were lots of people crowded around, they were about 30 feet away from us. 
- Despite sound issues, it was a good show.  When we returned to the hotel, we opened a bottle of wine we bought the other day and drank some more before going to bed. 

Delicious seafood

... yeah man, didn't you know the Italian virgin Mary was black?

The deserted Citadel

Dudes, I'm gonna freak out if this is where we are staying tonight

My empire has expanded even to Italy!

He may seem nonchalant, but he's just checkin' out the ladies...

... all we are missing are pig nipples

... of course my line of custom wine is doing very well too.

The venue in Alessandria

Um, did we just tape the banner to a glass vase?

Now that's second largest pine cone I've ever seen!

Day 6, Cesena, Italy

October 27th

- Woke up at around 8am and thankfully didn't have interrupted sleep like before.  We had the window open.  Same wonderful breakfast as yesterday.  Packed up our gear and away we went to the town of Cezena.
- The countryside of Italian was pleasant.  Rolling hills, expansive fields, mountain ranges in in the horizon.  We stopped by the truck stop for a bite and stretch our legs.  I was amazed at how the truck stops are, in addition to a gas station and having a sandwich bar/ coffee bar, a fully stocked dry goods store and restaurant.  What you buy as gourmet sandwiches and European luxuries in Montreal was what they served at the truck stop.  Amazing boccocini tomato sandwiches.  Piles of premium chocolate.  Giant sides of Prosciutto and various cured meats.  A selection of cheeses.   Dry pasta.  Coffee.  Wine.  Fruit juice. 
- We continued on, and I noticed the landscape change industrial buildings and factories and such.  Eventually we got to a town just outside of Cezena.  I noticed that there were a lot of asians in the town.   Peculiar.
- The venue for the night was called Sidro Bar, and it was the local place around town where rock shows happened.  The owner/manager was named Leo and was friendly.  The bar was small, but the stage was big enough for us.  The drums there had this awesome leopard print on them.  At this point I was cursing every time I had to pick up the hardware bag for the drums.  I guess it was borrowed form someone, but clearly it was left in the basement or something in disuse because some cat had pissed all over the bag and it fuckin reeked of cat piss.  It was so rank that even the hardware had a faint, pee smell.  And cat piss is the WORST.  Our van  had a distinct raunch to it when we left the bag inside.  I would wash my hands every time I touched the hardware bag. 
- So anyways, we sound checked and needed to eat.  It turns out that we were crashing at the bar owner's place that night but we wouldn't be able to go there until after the show.  This meant that we were stuck at the bar all night.  We couldn't find a room where we can relax from all the traveling and get away from being in a bar.  A little disgruntled, we accepted our condition.  Dinner was also served at the bar, but it was disappointing pub-style pizzas with some salad.  I'm sure we everyone would have like to eat something a little bit more substantial, but we were a little stranded in that Silvatorre was supposed to be driving us around and feeding us and essentially this is all we were getting.  What was difficult was the lack of fresh vegetables, where our diet until now consisted a lot of breads and cheese. 
 - Thankfully we were able to go downstairs to the basement where at least we had a space that wasn't crowded with people.  We sat down in wobbly chairs amongst empty beer kegs and random boxes of crap and supplies.  Someone had set up a home recording studio down there so there was a room down there set up with gear.  He would be able to record the show for that night.
- There were these French dudes from Africa having drinks and John was chatting them up.  It turns out that one of them had been to Montreal before.  During our show, they saved our asses in that they were the most enthusiastic people dancing and having a good time.  Everyone else kinda sat on the fringes of the bar, standing and just watching, kinda bopping around.  Oh, and the bar maid didn't have underwear on.  You could totally see her crack, but I guess she didn't care.  When she turned around it would always catch your eye 'cause her pants hung real low and her shirt was too short for cover.
- We were pretty tired after the show, so Chris, Averil and I just sat around downstairs for a bit.  John was up there hawking Cd's as usual.  Eventually those french dudes became really annoying as they got more drunk.  They kept laying into John to go hit on Italian chicks, but then cock blocking him by being really aggressive with their own attempts. 
- We loaded our shit in the van and we're all ready to go and we're waiting for John to get in the van because he found some people to chit chat with.  Bobby was all miffed because everyone was all cleared out of the basement and he thought we were coming back tomorrow to get our gear and hadn't packed up his shit.  He had trouble getting it together because he was also drunk.
- We got to Leo's place and found it to be pretty nice.  He had a room dedicated to bands to crash there as there were several places to sleep with bunk beds.  Averil got her own room and all the guys slept in the band room.  I had interrupted sleep because there was this orchestra of snores going on at night, and I couldn't figure out who was who.  Occasionally a fart or two would make accents. 

Day 7 Cesena, Italy

October 28th

- The next morning I got up around 10 or 11am to see John and Chris watching a Ray Charles dvd.  Leo was also a niche era collector and had all sorts of cd's and videos and books and stuff on soul and rock music of the 60's.  John had a lot in common with him in that respect so had a lot to talk about.  I browsed through some books and discovered this photographic book that depicted the 70's era of "erotic comedy" tv shows.  It was basically nudy pictures but from a classic comedy show, and I could only guess that the premise was there would some kind of dramatic situation and of course the central woman would end up being topless or naked.  We were cracking jokes because Leo ended up giving that book to John, so now John had this italian book of nudy pictures at his disposal.
- We had a day off again, so we took our time sitting around in the late morning. After a few espressos, Leo and Silvatorre drove us down to a part of the town and we ended up in a quasi- famous restaurant.  Apparently the chef there was extremely successful and even had some kind of TV attention, his food known to be of exquisite quality within traditional italian cooking.
- In the restaurant it seemed like the middle of lunch hour for people.  It was very quaint and oh so traditionally Italian.  We sat down at a large table and essentially told the chef to serve us the works.  I swear that afternoon was a multi-orgasmic culinary experience.
-  I learned the Italian words for each course that was presented to us:  Antipasti (before the pasta - a garlicky dish of steamed arugula and spinach), Primo (first course - a tagliatelli pasta), Secondi (second course - a platter of pork, chicken, lamb and sausage), Insalata (salads/ greens - we also had roasted potatoes), Dolci (dessert -  A creamy cheese cake of fluffy ricotta and manicotti with a vermouth and sambuca based flavouring.  Bits of crumbled chocolate and raisins soaked with the alcohol.  Tiny crunchy cookies on top.  Oral orgasm. ), espresso and grappa.  The chef would serve us in person and stand there and watch our reaction as we took our first bites.  We were not obliged to show a superficial delight in the food, as our enjoyment was completely genuine.
- As we slowly made it out of the restaurant we thanked the chef. In this post-orgasmic high, food slowly churning and digesting in our stomachs, we made it back to Leo's place to get our luggage and gear.
- We loaded up, said our goodbyes and headed out to Valcenza. By then it was mid afternoon, I took this time for a little nap in the van. 
- I woke up to see that indeed we were already in Valcenza, but Silvatorre was looking for directions to our hotel for the night and was a little lost.  We made it out to the countryside and circulated around a little, our GPS indicating we had to go down this dirt country road.  As it was dark by then, it looked like we were turning of into oblivion, but after making a few calls to the hotel, we discovered that the GPS was correct. 
- We drove down the dirt road and ended up in front of these large gates.  The place was some kind of ancient Mansion or something.  I mean, fucking huge and very old and fancy.  This was our hotel and it was very .... regal.
- We got our rooms, which, each had different luxurious accomodations.  John's room had a fire place. 
-  Bobby, Averil and I shared a room, and we had a separate living room and kitchennete.  When we got to our room, we saw this gigantic bee on the floor of the bathroom.   We got rid of it, and then 5 minutes later we noticed a huge millepede crawling around.  Fascinating. 
-   After settling in we wandered around the building a bit and discovered the upstairs of the building.  There were bedrooms there as well, but it all connected to this giant sitting room/living room with a huge fireplace.  There were people already there and found out they were from Texas on a business trip.   Averil and I went up these back stairs and explored the depths of the attic floor.  I hoping we would find something scary and weird, but they were justy empty bedrooms.
- Appalled that we were hungry again, we set out to eat a late supper.  We ended up in this pizzeria with, I swear, over 100 types of pizzas.  We scoured through the menu and had another culinary experience. 
- Satisfied, we headed back to our hotel/mansion and crashed out. 
Inside the restaurant, where we had oral orgasms.

Um, so, how do you... uh... what ?

Leo's sweet pad

Grab something quick at the truck stop

This is our second room, aside from the bedroom

This is the grand living room.  Notice the Texans on the couch

Yep, those are friggin' mussels and unpeeled shrimp on a pizza

This is the back entrance to the mansion

... and then I stood there all night for this photo

This is where Bobby, Averil and I slept

Day 8, Piacenza, Italy

October 29th

- I woke up around 10am and crept out to the courtyard outside it was sunny and brisk outside.  I took in the countryside scenery.   Very serene.  I headed out the breakfast room. 
- John and Silvatorre were already there.   The table was exquisitely laid out as I poured some coffee and made myself a bowl of cereal with yoghourt.  A dish of eggs and bacon was also served.  The proprietor of the mansion took us on a tour of the grounds and the basement. The building used to be a convenant back in the day and was built in the 1400's -  around the same time Montreal was most likely just a camp site in the St.Lawrence river.
- The rest of the band woke up and we all piled into the van.   We had the entire day free so Silvatorre wanted to take us to see some historic sites of the region. 
 - Our first stop was an old look out point/ building at the top of a large hill.   Historically it was the middle point at which merchants and such would know that they were exactly halfway between the ocean and France.  I guess it was strategic for wars as well as you could see over the town and the entire lay of the land. 
- Our next stop was an ancient castle but it took us a while to get there as we had to circumnavigate blocked roads and got lost and such.  We were driving along the hill where one side was the hill and the other side was a sheer drop and then we came across a road block for some construction work.  There was no warning until we came upon it, and we had to do a precarious U-turn on the narrow roads. 
- We arrived at a large stone castle complete with a small village within the castle walls.  We checked out the village and then had lunch at the village restaurant (antipasti: prosciutto, primo: 3 types of pasta, dolci: 3 types of local cheeses [soft rind brie, parmigianna, pecorino], a citrus mousse and tiramisu).
- We had this ongoing joke where you would mime upturning the table we were sitting at in complete disgust of either a)the quality of food or b) the type of service.  Of course it was all facetious because the food and service ANYWHERE was exceptional. 
- Satisfied, we headed out to another ancient castle.  This one was on a bit of a slope and we had walk up a long brick road.  Inside the castle walls there was an art gallery featuring a collection of historic paintings and religious items.  We also checked out this old church, where aside from the main chapel, there was a little one off to the side with pearl white walls.  John was in there checking it out:  "man, the acoustics in here are pretty good!"  And farted loudly. 
- I noticed in the courtyard that there was a restaurant that specialized in local mushrooms.  Unfortunately it was only open during the peak tourist seasons.  Otherwise I would have totally been in there.
- We headed back to the castle and loaded up our gear.  As we were in the city, we stopped by a pharmacy because John was running low on his sleeping pills and wanted to go hustle some prescription stuff from the pharmacist. 
- With no success, we drove off to the venue called Baciccia.  It was quite large and in addition to the bar area, there was a dining area and a small living room/ reading room.  We loaded in and sat down for supper. 
- After some prosciutto and ham for antipasti, gnoccchi with beans for the main, we had time to kill before the show.  People were steadily entering the venue and it was filling up.  This was a popular place to go for Friday nights but as it was a 60's frat-rock night featuring yours truly, it was quite busy.
- We decided to get into our outfits outside as there was no backstage and made an entrance, fezzes on heads, winding through the crowd.  The show was probably our best as the crowd quickly warmed up to us.  It certainly helped to see a line of girls in the front, dancing away and cheering as we played. 
- Afterward our set and while we packed our gear ,  the DJ came on and started playing out some classic frat rock tunes.  The crowd continued partying and dancing.  Bobby was happy to hear his favorite tunes being played out, so with Averil, he hit the dance floor and mashed out his twister moves.  We all had great fun, as it was the first that we could hang out and party with the crowd and enjoy ourselves after playing for the first time.
- Though the fun didn't last too long, as Chris didn't want to stick around too long and people were getting tired so  our departure from our best night came to a quick end. 
- We trooped back to our mansion and quickly fell asleep.  We knew we had to get up early the next morning.
Italian countryside

... seen from where this building is

Again, we eat and we are satisfied.

What was that crap? This restaurant sucks!

Dude, do you really have to do that in the fountain?

Some pretty old stuff

How could you not love this?