Saturday, June 4, 2011

More about Europe - and not the "final countdown" one, even though John Norum is totally rad

Where were we.... Oh yeah, still in Europe. Since posting part I of our European Vacation - yes, that's a Griswald reference - we've been to Mexico City and Maryland Death Fest, but those stories will come later. Also, I have a bunch of photos I'll upload next time. Anyway, here's the exciting conclusion of our last saga - four dumbshits let loose in the old country - or, how I learned to stop worrying and love Europe.

Leaving Italy and heading back to Germany, we drove through the alps once again, and I actually was awake for most of the drive, taking in some truly breathtaking scenery, and taking over the iPod for the first time on the trip. That was a nice change of pace. I had finally almost got over my jet lag, now that our trip was winding down of course. Exhumed has always had our most solid following in central Europe – Germany, the Czech Republic, Belgium and Holland. As we headed into the home stretch, we were playing to our strengths – drunken Germans who love blast-beats and presumably shit-porn. We had never played in Munich itself, and we were all psyched to be in the beer capital of the world. I personally love German beer, it's my absolute favorite, with Belgian beer being close behind, and the beer in Munich was exactly what I love about German beer. Not too heavy, refreshing, mildly effervescent with a full, but not overbearing flavor. So delicious. The club had built in accomodations (not totally uncommon in Europe) so we weren't going anywhere until the following morning. We posted up in the bunk room and got ready for the show. The stage was a little weird, very long and horizontal but not deep. It didn't really matter though. The place filled up quickly, and we saw a lot of Rotten Sound, Napalm Death, Dead Infection, etc. shirts. Always a good sign for us. We tore into it and the kids were loud and obnoxious, just the way we like it. One of the better shows on the whole run for us for sure. Also ran into the drummer of one of our old favorites - Dead. A split 7"was discussed, and hopefully the project will actually materialize and not just be drunken yammering. Admittedly, it'll be impossible for either band to top the cover art for Dead's "Orgasm Through Sleazy Vibes" EP.

After we played we retired upstairs to meet with our agent Marco, who works for the excellent Avocado agency. He was a nice, straightforward guy who spoke plainly and directly – what the fuck kind of booking agent is that?!?!? Anyway, it was a positive meeting, we started working on more plans for Fall, and then it was time catch Atheist and get sloshed. Done and done. We just partied all night, and it was a total bro-down, or brodeo. Either way, it was just the four of us and our ever patient driver, Mat. Kelly and Chris from Atheist stopped in for a drink, but soon we were getting stupid and loud. I managed to only break one beer bottle, and graffiti an excellent picture of our personal mascot, Ted Sanchez on the wall. Success!

The next day, we weren't even that hung over, by some blessing of the beer gods, and we headed off to Tilburg. Again, this was well-trod territory for us, having played the awesome 013 venue a few times already. We were sharing a dressing room with Atheist and one of my favorite current Death Metal bands, Hail Of Bullets. Martin from HOB informed us that the Heineken was his, but we could drink as much of the other beer as we wanted. That sounded like a dare. Anyway, I ran to the local music store to grab some new strings and after getting the guitars stage-worthy, met up with the affable American expatriate Pip Soret from Relapse Europe. Got to hang out with a lot of old friends, Harold from Legion of the Damned, John and Kyle from Incantation, Jason from Misery Index, Frank Van Liempd, our old publicist, and a lot of other folks who I can't exactly recall at the moment. The vibe of the whole day was just awesome.

We were pretty warmed up and tight (at least for us) by now, so the set felt great, and it went down awesome. I have to admit, I love playing bigger stages, much more room to run around and interact with the kids and shit. Caught Misery Index and Hail Of Bullets crushing it, drained many, many beers and headed off to a Formule 1 hotel, which anyone who has ever stayed at one will tell you is one of the worst hotels ever. We had two rooms with bunk beds – it was very “Stepbrothers”. You also had to keep pushing the button to turn the shower on every 45 seconds or so, or it would just turn off. Oh, Formule 1, you don't even have continental breakfast.

We got up to fly to Greece pretty early the next day, but our driver, who had up to this point been very on the ball, misread our flight schedule, so we totally missed our flight. Getting this sorted out was very time-consuming and expensive, which Mat very professionally took out of his pay, stand-up guy that he is, since for once- it was someone else's goof that caused the delay! I love it when I get to say that. It's pretty much always our (if not my) fault when things go wrong, haha! Anyway, after a bit of a delay and some food, we were back on track. Wes and Leon flew from Amsterdam to Frankfurt to Athens, and Danny and I were routed through Munich. I actually got a hold of the promoter before we left and gave him our new arrival info and things were back on track. All things considered, a pretty minor hiccup.

After a fairly nondescript flight, we arrived in Athens – our flights landed within 20 minutes of each other's – and Danny and I quickly found Wes and Leon in baggage claim. Amazingly, all of our luggage was already there and things were looking good. The driver was there waiting for us, and he was a super nice guy. He took us by the Acropolis, even though it was closed, which was truly awe-inspiring, even from the remote viewing area where we were. Greece was a breath of fresh air after the sort of stiflingly organized nature of central Europe. Here the city clearly sprung up spontaneously, erupting in tangles of labyrinthine, serendipitous urban quagmire. The streets were dirty, there were weird hookers on the corner, graffiti everywhere, rubble in the streets from a soccer-related riot / street brawl. It was kind of like being back in the Oakland or Hollywood, except without the burritos. I can't wait to come back to Greece, hopefully on vacation and really soak in this amazing place. Again, we had an uncharacteristically nice hotel, even if it wasn't in the greatest neighborhood. We were warned several times about the neighborhood, which was kind of funny. I just said, “Dude, I used to live in Hunter's Point – I think I'll be fine”. Bay Area peeps will know what I'm talking about there. At any rate, the dinner at the hotel was delicious – the eggplant in particular was great. We headed to the venue and had a few beers before hitting the stage. This was definitely an Atheist crowd, who eyed us a little suspiciously at first, but warmed up quite nicely and the show turned out really well. Great to go out on a positive vibe. I had been checking out Atheist sporadically every night, but in Athens I caught their entire set and was really blown away at how good they are – not just at playing their instruments (that too), but they really are a band that sounds like no one else. We interrupted their set to bring them out Jager shots and Danny and Leon even stage-dove during “Piece of Time”. Epic stuff!

After the show, we headed back to the hotel, where Leon crashed out. Wes, Danny, and I wandered around town until we heard some cool-sounding folk music coming out of a basement bar, so we wandered downstairs and grabbed a very large beer and an amazing sausage sampler plate. The music was great, the vibe was awesome, and it was one of those you-can't-plan-this-shit kind of travel moments that makes the whole grind of touring totally worthwhile. I felt really lucky to be sitting in a random bar somewhere in Athens drinking good beer with old friends and enjoying truly local color. Afterwards, we made our way through the hooker-lined streets and got back to the hotel. As Wes and I were heading to our room, I heard some girls in the hallway and poked my head out. They asked me if I was in a band, I said yes. The only thing I could think to say next was “You guys want some beer?” Before we knew it there were three obviously very under-age Norwegian high school chicks drinking beer, chewing tobacco, smoking cigarettes and taking shots of Absolut in our room. How random is that? Anyway, no this wasn't some weird “Barley Legal” Letters-worthy encounter (c'mon, I'm 35 years old here, what kind of guy do you think I am?!?!?), but it was a pretty random and funny end to the night. We dozed off about 4am or so and got up around 8 to fly home.

I took a quick shower, rousted the boys and we piled in the van. We were cutting it pretty close time-wise, as usual. It turned out that didn't really matter, though, since our flight was delayed by three hours (exactly the amount of time we would have had to catch our connecting flight). The wait in line took forever, and the wait for the flight seemed to take even longer. In our hungover (as usual) states, we saw a smoothie stand, and invested way too much money in the worst fruit smoothies I have ever seen. Eventually we were headed home. I watched Black Swan on the way back, which was pretty good, and got some rest. I couldn't even drink on the flight this time, I just needed a day off. That didn't stop the other guys, though, but the party vibe had definitely mellowed at last. We hit JFK, went through all the ridiculous TSA bullshit in customs, and barely made our rescheduled connecting flight to LA, where we learned immediately after landing that Bin Laden had been killed. That was kind of a trip, and I couldn't help but be stoked and feel even better about getting home. The last hiccup was that our merch box was lost by Delta, so I had to stay even longer and fill out a bunch of bullshit paperwork. Leon and Danny headed off with their significant others and Wes and I were picked up by the ever-affable Mike Abominator from Gravehill, driving my car which he graciously allowed me to park in front of his house in Orange County while we were gone.

On the way south to the OC to drop Mike off, we hit the closest Del-Taco and I ate waaaaaaay too much. From there, Wes and I drove north to Ventura County (about an hour north of LA) and I continued on to San Luis Obispo County (about four hours north of LA) where I arrived at about 5am and finally got some well-deserved sleep.

My trip:

Strings broken: 1
Beer bottles broken: 3
Pieces of Luggage forgotten by Exhumed: 3
Clothing items lost: 2
Books read: 2
Instances of vomiting: 1
Shits taken outside: 1
Exhumed Tattoos: 1
Favorite condiment: Butter
Travel days: 11
Showers taken: 7
Drawings of Ted Sanchez: 1
Calls to my parents: 4
Band arguments: 0
Farts: 1,000,000

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