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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tour recap, Part One of many


Tour recaps are always tough... It's hard to remember everything that happens, for many reasons. First off, we're usually drunk most of the time anything interesting is going on. Secondly, the longer you're on tour, the more things blend together into one continuous stream of sitting in the van, loading in, sitting in the van, sleeping, sitting in the van, getting on a plane, hanging out in an airport, sitting in the van, loading out, sitting in the van, trying to fix things that get broken (strings, shoes, drum hardware, boxes, etc.), sitting in the van, eating, waiting to eat, sitting in the van, well, you get the idea. Oh yeah, we occasionally play music too. Basically the average day consists of the following: 9 hours of sleeping, 1 hour total of loading gear and merchandise in / out of the venue, 1 hour of eating, 1 hour of playing, 1 hour of soundchecking, and 11 hours of either driving in the van or waiting around to do any of those other things. Of course, that's still plenty of time to get into trouble when you're hanging out at a club / bar with access to a large supply of alcohol, so we manage to make the best of things. Sometimes the other guys ask me how I remember all of the crap I write about in these blogs, and really it's the act of writing it all down that jogs my memory more than anything, so while some of the stuff in here is doubtless boring or tremendously unfunny, it at least helps me to make sense of what the fuck I've been doing. So thanks for reading these little travelogues and helping me clear all this shit out of my fairly damaged brain.

Four Countries, Four Festivals, Four Days, and Four Idiots
Brutal Assault, Jalo Metalli, Party San Open Air, and Ieper Festival

...In which our heroes endure international travel at a withering pace, reunite with Leon del Muerte, become somewhat of a (bigger) laughing stock, and endure other pratfalls, trials and tribulations...
File under: miscellaneous shit to throw away next time I move.
The last tour recap I finished chronicled our Summer tour with Macabre, Cephalic Carnage and Withered. The weird thing is that we did that tour with the lineup of myself, the inimitable Wes “Sunshine” Caley, Mike “Hammy” Hamilton, and Rob “Wild Card” Babcock on bass and vocals. We played together for three and a half weeks and became a well-oiled, highly-trained musical killing machine (well, as musical as Exhumed gets). Right after the tour, we headed to Europe for a marathon of four festival shows in four countries in four days, but with our old pal Leon del Muerte on bass and vocals. Even though our bass guitar is (lamentably) rarely audible, it was a bit of a weird dynamic shift playing with two different bassist / vocalists, especially with minimal (and by that, I mean none) rehearsal time. Of course, I've known Leon since around '94, so personality-wise, there was no issue whatsoever, and we've all done this many, many times, so it's pretty smooth. Wes, Mike and myself flew out the Wednesday after the last show (3 days later) to Prague to get ready for our show at the Brutal Assault Festival in the Czech Republic. Leon was at a convention for his job in San Diego and would join us in hte land of Pilsner Urquell and extremely hot women on Friday. 

We were picked up by our driver at the airport, and again we used the great Czech company Fluffwheels, who provided us with a nice Sprinter van to kick around in as well as yet another friendly, highly competent driver whose name unfortunately escapes me at the time of this writing. We headed out to the town Brutal Assault was in and on to our hotel, which, oddly enough was on a golf course and was called "Nova America". Nothing like heading to eastern Europe for a taste of home. We were one of the first overseas bands to arrive and looked / felt pretty out of place amongst the golfers, but the grounds were verdant, rustic and quite pleasant. Wes and I were assigned the “Arizona” room, while Mike and our driver had the “Indiana” room. There was nothing particularly indicative of the states themselves in the rooms, but seeing places from our home country (and not particularly interesting places at that) re-tooled as something exotic was a bit weird. We ate a late lunch, had a couple of beers, and then were asleep by 6 or 7pm. We were all exhausted from being on the road for three weeks in the US and Canada and extremely jet-lagged, so we crashed out pretty hard. The next day we all woke up incredibly early and very, very hungry. I was up at about 4:45 am and simply could not sleep anymore. Fucking jet lag. I went out in the hallway and read a little bit until the sky started to lighten up about 5:30 or so. I figured I might as well put on my headphones and go for a walk out on the course. In the pre-morning light, I saw a family of deer grazing pastorally in the meadow near the golf course, which was nice. I got back by about 6:15 to find Mike wide awake as well. We were soon joined by Wes, and the three of us proceeded to stalk the restaurant where breakfast would be served at 8. After an excruciatingly long two hours of waiting, we hit the continental breakfast with a vengeance. From what I could infer, the staff was not too stoked that we ate about four plates of food each and drank at least 5 or 6 glasses of water and juice. Full and relatively contented, we passed the next few hours changing guitar strings (Wes), reading and napping (me) and exploring the grounds and napping (Mike).

That afternoon we headed over to the festival to make sure our merchandise had been shipped correctly. Not only had it been received, but it was already being sold, which was my main concern. We met up with an American chick from New York who was our contact person for the festival, and she gave us food / drink tickets, lanyards, and all of that good stuff that one needs at a festival. We dropped off our guitars and cymbals in the assigned area, and our driver headed back to Prague to pick up Leon from the airport. Our set wasn't until after 1:00 am that night/the next morning, so we had plenty of time for him to arrive. The festival was organized by Thomas who used to do Bizarre Leprous Productions back in the 90s, and who I hadn't seen in quite a while, so it was nice to catch up with him. The festival grounds were an old military base – and I mean old. There were a number of weird back passageways and a barracks-type area where there was a gypsy squat. Not your typical venue for a metal show. The whole place had a weird, in a cool way, vibe- even though there were some parts where you felt like if you wandered off you would quickly stumble into something out of the movie “Hostel”.

Leon arrived on time and intact and we went for a meet and greet which was fun, and then headed to (surprise!) the artist bar. The artist bar was equipped with a tv that showed multi-camera footage of the action unfolding onstage, so we hung out and had a few beers with the Hail Of Bullets guys while watching Kreator and Suicidal Tendencies on TV. Suicidal was surprisingly awesome. Motorhead was on next, and being extremely lazy and tired from all the traveling, I just stayed in the bar and watched their admittedly awesome set. Then Morbid Angel hit the stage, and we would be following them on the left-hand stage (the festival had two large side-by-side stages so that the audience could theoretically see every band, if they had the endurance) so we headed to our temporary dressing room and got prepared. Going into the show I felt like it wouldn't really be much to write home about, considering the headliners of the day had already played and we weren't even going onstage until just after 1 in the morning. So I was a bit surprised to look out at around 4,000 kids in the audience when we got underway. That was a great boost of energy that we needed, considering how tired we were that day. The sound on stage was a bit muddy, but by the third song or so we were settled in and hitting on all cylinders. The festival set wasn't too different from what he had been playing, but we cut out a few songs from the new record, since “As Hammer To Anvil” was the only new song that Leon had really played with the band extensively. We sent out “Decrepit Crescendo” to our old friend Curby from Obscene Productions to close things out and returned to the dressing room exhausted, but psyched that so many people in the audience were still up and functioning (let alone cheering) at such a late hour. We went to grab a Doner Kebab in the food area and ran into our old friend Jim Mack (who is from San Francisco, so his presence there was an extremely unexpected surprise) on the festival grounds which rounded out the night nicely. Finally we gathered all our shit and hit the road back to the hotel so that we could wake up early the next morning to drive to Frankfurt so we could make our flight to Finland the following day. Sound convoluted? Probably because it was.

"Necromaniac" live at Brutal Assault. 

At any rate, we made it to the airport in time to fly to Finland, but after our driver dropped us off, we were informed by the Finnair guy (who was a real dick about it) that we could only take one carry-on per person, or we would have to pay over 300 Euro total to check our “extra” bags. Who the fuck ever heard of one carry-on?!?! Anyway, we called our driver, had him turn around and come back to the airport and consolidated our baggage, since we'd only be in Finland one night. We got back and boarded the plane without further incident aside from some dirty looks when the same asshole took our tickets when we boarded. Once we were in Finland, everything seemed a lot nicer. The JaloMetalli festival is in Oulu, in the north of the country (yeah, in the north of the north) so we had to catch a connecting flight from Helsinki to Oulu. The Helsinki airport was ultra-modern, ultra-clean, and ultra-expensive. It was everything that an American thinks of when they think of Scandinavia- modern, forest-y, sterile, polite, and very, very blonde. I have never seen so many people with all natural platinum-blonde hair in my life. On the flight from Helsinki to Oulu, we were basically the only people on the flight who weren't blonde. I have never felt so not-white in my life! Oulu is a beautiful tourist town in the north of Finland where people go to ski and relax – kind of like Aspen or Lake Tahoe from what I could gather. We were picked up from the tiny airport by van and drove into town to a very nice hotel where we immediately went upstairs and went back to sleep. By early evening we were up and showered and headed to the festival. Jalo Metalli is a bit of a smaller festival, maybe 1500 people total in attendance, and we would end up missing basically every band we wanted to see there (but I did pick up a sweet Oz longsleeve – “Turn The Cross Upside Down” still totally rules!) but we got there while Sepultura was onstage.

Just like at Brutal Assault, we were playing afterthe headliners, which wasn't really all that cool, but what can you do. This night our time slot proved to be more of an impediment than in the Czech Republic, as the crowd was beginning to visibly thin out by the time we actually played. The crowd that stuck around was a bit lifeless, until we ended the set, when they suddenly got really loud and enthusiastic and demanded an encore. Of course, since we hadn't rehearsed with Leon at all, we basically had prepared our festival set (40 minutes) and that was it. We all said the same thing when we left the stage - “where was all that energy for the first 39 minutes?” If you want to check out pictures and a recap of the whole day we played, you can check it out here

After our set, we met up with the Evildead and Napalm Death guys backstage and made plans to hit the bar in town. We were scheduled to leave the hotel for the airport at 5am the next day, and since it doesn't really get too dark in Finland during the summer, the bars are open until 4am. It seemed pointless to try to sleep for 4 hours when we could be drinking, so we went back to the hotel where I took a really quick shower and we hit the "Nuclear Bar". Yes, that is the actual name. How badass is that? Several "Nuclear Girl" jokes were made by Wes and I to the amusement of nobody (unless you have the "Drawing Down The Moon" record by Beherit you won't know what the hell we were talking about, and even then you probably won't think that's particularly funny) . The "Nuclear Bar" is basically the city's rock bar, and it was pretty full of folks from the festival. We met Antti Boman of my personal favorite Finnish band, Demilich, and hung out with him for a while, as well as our aforementioned friends from America (I say America, since Mitch and Danny were the only Napalm dudes that made it out to the bar).

Eventually 4am came around, and we headed to all night food truck to grab some food. By this point, we were all pretty wasted and feeling good. We ended up standing in line for well over a half hour with all the other folks that had let out from the various bars. A really nice local Finnish dude whose girlfriend oddly lived in Hayward of all places was our guide around the city. Somehow we ended up talking to some locals who were also really drunk and found us hilarious. I remember asking “What is Finnish food anyway? Is it just the shit that Sweden doesn't want that washes up over here?” Or something incredibly witty and culturally sensitive like that. A woman behind us was not amused (her boyfriend seemed to think it was funny, but couldn't show it) and let us know in no uncertain terms. I apologized and told her that I knew I was being rude and I didn't mean it, and that of course everyone knows that the national dish of Finland was “penguin shit”. This didn't go over too well either. I forget exactly what happened next, but I think one of us was riding some random Finn's bicycle around the small park where the food truck was located, and the woman was eventually dragged away yelling and screaming by her boyfriend. Of course we all thought we were exceedingly funny and clever (in our defense, some of the people around us were laughing as well). We finally got some sandwiches that I have to think tasted considerably better than penguin shit and we headed back to the hotel to gather our belongings and get back to the airport. By 7:30am we were dead tired, sleeping on the floor of the terminal. We wearily boarded the flight back to Helsinki and sleep-walked our way onto the connection to Frankfurt. The Sepultura guys were on the flight as well, but we were so out of it we didn't even make their acquaintance.

Nothing makes you feel like a proper band douche than copious amounts of lanyards - the fancier the better.
We finally got back to Germany and piled in the van to head out to the Party San Open Air festival. I don't think any of us remember the drive there at all, we just slept the whole way. We woke up in a small town called Bad Berka where our driver was having a bit of a hard time finding the festival. Usually these European festivals are in relatively small towns, where there's enough room to set up big stages, tents, etc., so you end up in weird little out-of-the-way places more often than not. One thing that is a good indicator that the festival is actually happening is that you'll see a lot of long-hairs wandering around a small town with patch jackets, and there was a distinct lack of long-hairs and patch jackets on the streets of Bad Berka that day. Our driver frantically consulted his notes to double check the address... And lo and behold, we had two sets of information, one indicating that the fest was in Bad Berka, and another indicating that it was in Schlotheim... But the most recent info we had indicated Bad Berka. A few phone calls and texts later, we discovered that the fest was indeed in Schlotheim – about 45 minutes away. Of course, the road we were supposed to take was closed due to construction. This was a night when we were scheduled to play at around six in the evening – so time was running very, very short. We had already cancelled the meet-and-greet we had planned for 3:30 that afternoon and it was already after 4:00 when we had arrived in Bad Berka. The folks at the festival were kind enough to swap our spot with Taake (who were total gentlemen about it) so we were still able to get onstage and perform, but they had also announced to the entire audience that we had driven to the wrong town. Which, needless to say, did not reflect well on our competence. As soon as we rolled up, people started ribbing us, asking how Bad Berka was, etc. Whoever thinks Germans have no sense of humor, think again. It's not that funny, and it's moderately humiliating, but it is a sense of humor. We got there as Taake was taking the stage and we had about an hour to get our passes, sort out merchandising, our backstage, beer, catering, change clothes, tune our instruments etc. etc. So... it was not the most relaxing day. But by the time we got onstage, everything was fine and we came out and had a pretty kickass set. I want to again thank the Taake guys for switching with us at the last minute so that we were able to get out and play this killer fest. I got to see Hail Of Bullets again, and they had sprung for pyro (which was way out of our budget) so their set was complete with flames and explosions, making it extra epic. Luckily, despite the fact that it looked like it was about to rain the entire day, precipitation was not forthcoming and we were able to enjoy our day there in the mud without getting drizzled on the whole time. We headed to the bar for a while and hung out for a while, then hit the merchandise tents where I got a sweet Witchfynde hoodie and grabbed a Scorpions “In Trance” shirt for Wes. By the time At The Gates was playing, we were all incredibly tired and split a little early to head to the hotel, which was a bit disappointing, but very necessary. We finally got to shower and get a bit of sleep before grabbing breakfast and heading out to Belgium early the next day.

Here's an interesting video that kind of gives a sense of the whole vibe of Party San that some dude put to one of our songs.  Pretty cool overview of a German Death Metal festival for those of us on this side of the Atlantic.

Again, the entire trip to Belgium was spent fast asleep. The Ieper Fest was a bit different, as it was primarily a Hardcore festival with a few Metal bands sprinkled in for variety. Apparently the fest had been straight-edge until a few years prior, which would have been a major problem for us. I think beer was the only thing keeping us going for these four grueling days. There was no meat served at the fest, though, which was kind of interesting. The fest itself was outdoors in a muddy farm area, as it had rained the last few days. Again, we were lucky weather-wise in that skies were blue and clear. We met up with Anthony from Tombs and had a couple of beers with them and their tour-mates The Secret, both great bands and great dudes. I caught their set and they were fucking massive. We played second to last in the tent stage, right before Decapitated, and the show went over surprisingly well with the hardcore crowd. It was a totally different scene from the previous day in Germany, where it was an exclusively Death / Black Metal crowd, but it was a lot of fun regardless. Our final night in Europe was spent in a bare-bones hostel, with all five of us (band + driver) bunking in the same room, which wasn't as cool as having three hotel rooms like we'd had the last three days but it was by no means terrible either. The only bummer was that there was no delicious European breakfast buffet awaiting us in the morning. I always love the Muesli, yogurt, fresh fruit, meat, bread and cheese that most European hotels provide. We left early that morning for the Brussels airport and eventually California.

"Forged In Fire" live at Ieper Fest

We were shocked when we went to check in at the Delta counter and they told us that Wes' guitar was considered “oversize” and they'd have to charge us $250 to check it. I argued with the really hot chick at the counter first, who then called her manager over and then I got into with him and started swearing and getting pretty hot under the collar, but it was all to no avail. We were stewing over this bullshit while we were getting ready to go through security and I was already planning on calling the airline to get the money back as soon as we got to America. I realized (having been fucked over by airlines several times in the past) that I should probably get the names of the people I had talked to. They were dicks about that too, but I was pissed off and not to be dissuaded. We went through security and were waiting at the gate when Wes' name was called to come up to the ticket counter. My only thought was “what now?!?” Having flown Delta (who I DO NOT recommend to anyone) several times this year, Wes had already had one guitar case totally smashed by their baggage handlers, and had another bag of his sent to the wrong airport, and they had lost my guitar and a box of merchandise on two separate occasions (I eventually got both of them back, but it was still a major fucking hassle). I decided to go up there with him, half in an effort to help him sort out whatever bullshit they were about to conjure, and half just to see what it could possibly be. Instead, they gave us back the money we had paid for the oversize charge, stating that they didn't realize his bag was a musical instrument, which was exempt from the charge. Now, Wes' guitar case is literally shaped like a fucking flying V. And, three out of four of us have long hair, and WE'RE ALL CARRYING MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS, but somehow, they "didn't realize" it was a musical instrument. What a bunch of assholes. Anyway, feeling moderately vindicated (they had somehow managed to charge us an extra 40 Euro for some other bullshit anyway) we finally boarded the plane and headed back to the states for some serious rest. I for one was looking forward to having a couple of months off, buying some new gear and of course, catching up on some proper sleep.

To give you an idea of how much traveling we did, we left Wednesday from Los Angeles to Prague (with one connection) - about 5,900 miles, then we rode from Prage to Frankfurt Saturday, about 315 miles, then flew about 1600 miles from Frankfurt to Oulu (with a stopover in Helsinki), then flew out the next morning - another 1600 miles back to Frankfurt, then drove another 175 miles to Party San, played, got up the next day, drove 450 miles to Ieper, played, then drove 90 miles to brussels, and then flew another 5600 or so miles back to Los Angeles. All told, we traveled about 15,730 miles in six days. Gnarly. When we told our friends in America what we were doing everyone said - "That's awesome! You guys are so lucky!" When we told our friends in Europe what we were doing everyone said "That's insane! You guys are fucking retarded!" In the end I think they were both right. 


3 comments:

  1. Another great write up! I love reading about your creepy adventures. You need more pictures of kittens to spice it up though. METALLLL!!!

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  2. Thanks Corpsie! I will make sure to snap more kitty photos for you on the next tour. The next one will probably be creepier though, because Rob will be featured again.

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  3. this is the first time I read this blog and I think I will read it from now on, it's cool that you take your time to share all those things!
    and yeah being a little retarted it's part of being a musician (i'm a musician myself and I say it in the best way) cause you really need to be nuts to do all those things that make it worth it!

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