I toured Europe with Cincy’s Valley of the Sun and lived to write about it
0 Comments · Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Touring the world
is one goal that few bands ever accomplish. It requires a ridiculous
amount of hard work, dedication, time and money.
by Nick Grever
117 days ago
Hours spent in the van, hours spent waiting for sound check in the venue, hours spent wandering European cities waiting for the venue to open, hours waiting for show time and hours spent waiting for the show to wrap up. All of this adds up to lots of free on our hands and not much to do with it. So what is a Rock & Roll band — and its merch and sound guy — to do with opportunity? Why, play Dibs of course.Dibs is one of those rare games that has no end point. No one wins at Dibs; it is played simply to pass time and help spice up the long stretches of mind numbing nothingness that touring sometimes produces. As a public service to other bands in this situation, I would like to provide you with the objectives and rules of Dibs, as I have observed them, so that you may also join in on this wondrous game.First, a few opening remarks on Dibs. One: this game may sound a little inappropriate at times. This fact is not lost on us. But after four hours of staring out of the window of a van and seeing not much more than trees, plains and gas stations, your brain starts to atrophy. Dibs helps bring it back to back to life. Two: if, while playing Dibs, you question your values or moral code at any time, don’t be alarmed — this only means that you are human.Now, on to the good stuff!Objective: The objective of Dibs is to see an attractive person and call dibs on said person. Being that this tour is comprised of five straight men that are either single or separated from their significant others for three weeks, this means that attractive women of all kinds are being dibsed with a speed and fury unrelenting. But if your preferences differ, feel free to switch it up. Dibs is a game for all.Now, the objective is easy enough to grasp, but like all great games of skill and wit, it is easy to learn and hard to master. Which is why we have set up several unofficial rules that I will now place into record.Rules:
A dibs-able person must be within eye contact. This means that I can’t call dibs on a girl that has gone around a corner or into a store and is no longer within my sight line. This rule works in conjunction with rule two.
A dibs must be made with a witness present. No dibs can be called while you are alone: the witness must be able to see said dibs, verify the dibsworthiness and (if you’re lucky) become upset that they didn’t see said dibsworthy subject first. Seeing your friend’s pain is almost as satisfying as the initial dibs and should be celebrated.
If a subject is dibsed, the decision cannot be reversed. This helps eliminate dibs calls made without full knowledge of the subject. There have been times where we’ve each made a dibs call early, only to regret the decision.
On rare occasions, a special call may be utilized. We’ve classified this as a dibs grenade but other nomenclature may be used as well. It allows a player to blanket dibs a group of subjects. For example, when we played at a venue full of women wearing spiked leather jackets with black hair and facial piercings, I threw my grenade like an MLB pitcher. (4a. This power must be used selectively and with great precision. All witnesses present must verify the usage of a dibs grenade and vetoes made by said witnesses render the grenade null and void. A cool down period is in effect for each player’s grenade, generally accepted as one in each town or venue. Larger grenades [such as a grenade meant for the entire venue, such as mine] have longer cool downs and should used sparingly.If a subject is dibsed and then re-dibsed by another player, the witness has the responsibility to back up the original dibsee on their right to the call. If two dibsees and their witnesses cannot come to a consensus, timelines should be discussed and consulted to ascertain the true dibsee.
And with that, you have the basics of Dibs. It is a game with a rich strategy behind it, a strategy that I will leave to you to discover. Due to its never-ending nature, it can keep you and your bandmates entertained for hours. Or at least until you’ve seen everyone who has walked through the door at the venue. Then it’s back to Tetris. Happy hunting!CityBeat contributor Nick Grever recently traveled Europe with Cincinnati Rock band Valley of the Sun and blogged about it for citybeat.com. His other dispatches can be found throughout the music blog.
by Nick Grever
121 days ago
I crowd surfed for the first time ever in Strasbourg, France. And I did it in a hot dog costume.Man, I can’t wait to tell my grandkids this story.
The hot dog spawned from a Facebook Messenger conversation before we even left. As we were preparing for the trip, the group bought me a glow in the dark skeleton onesie. It proved far too comfy and warm for it to be a nightly outfit in dirty, sweaty bars. I know this because I happily wore it around my house on several occasions.
Through the conversation it was eventually decided that I needed an Elvis outfit to wear during shows. I agreed and took a trip to a local Spirit Halloween in search of my tour uniform.
I was quickly disappointed.
Not only did they not have any Elvis costumes, the employee told me that the only place she knew that had one was a costume rental shop across town. The price put the costume way out of my price range. So I had to come up with something just as American (i.e. over the top and ridiculous). I browsed around, shot down the idea of a German beer girl costume — no one needs to see that much of my upper thigh — and stumbled across an area of cheap, lazy costumes. One of which was the hot dog suit. I snapped a picture, sent it to the boys and was met with joyous approval. I was still under my assigned budget so I picked up a Flavor Flav-sized dollar sign pendant and made my way to the register. Now, I was truly ready for Europe.
The hot dog costume has made an appearance a handful of times at shows, typically during the last song of the set or the encore. Sometimes I’ll put it on and rush to the front of the stage to get the guys to laugh and mess up. Being the consummate professionals that they are, they’ve never flubbed a song as far as I can tell.
But recently, they’ve been requesting the hot dog from stage, meaning I have to quickly dig it out, throw it on and run out to the crowd. They usually do so for their own amusement or to drive sales at the merch booth by proclaiming they have the würst merch guy in history. I never said that these guys were comedians …
Now, the majority of crowds just look confused by the sudden appearance of a hot dog at a Rock show but some get it and boy are their reactions spectacular. You haven’t lived until you’ve headbanged with two long hairs in a sweaty Halloween costume. But the crowd reaction in Strasbourg takes the cake.
The show was Punk Rock all the way — the sound was awful, the fans were packed in like sardines and the beer was flowing freely. The crowd had already spawned a crowd surfer, which is an admirable feat due to the fact that the venue is in a basement. Crowd surfing and grazing the ceiling of a club rarely go hand-in-hand. When the band called for the hot dog, I pushed through and found myself in an open pit in the center of the crowd. The final song started and I began my “dancing” and headbanging with the crowd. Pictures were taken, laughs were had, and I thought that was the end of it.
Then I saw the universal “You want to go up?” hand signal. Apparently crowd surfing crosses language barriers. Before I knew it, I was on top of the crowd trying to simultaneously avoid being dropped to the floor or bounced into the ceiling. It was awesome and scary and ridiculous and unbelievable all at the same time. If that’s not a great commercial for Spirit Halloween, I don’t know what is.
Now I really can’t wait for our Halloween show tonight. We plan on having a merch guy who’s all skin and bones, a blinged out bassist and the würst drummer you’ve ever seen.
Hey, I never said I was a comedian, either.
by Nick Grever
122 days ago
For the past two and a half weeks, Arnaud’s van has been home for five full-grown men. While we’ve been lucky enough to not have to spend the night in it at any time, we’ve done pretty much everything else. We’ve eaten in here, we’ve slept in here, we’ve emptied bladders (well, only one … Nick was desperate), it houses all of our possessions on this continent and we’ve had far too many inappropriate conversations in here. It has all the comforts of home … except for TV, Internet, showers, a kitchen or any sort of privacy. But then again, some of our non-moving accommodations don’t have any of those things either, so it’s fine.We even have our own “rooms.” Arnaud usually drives with Ryan copiloting. If you move one bench back, Nick sits in the farthest seat from the door so he can lean against the window to nap. The next seat is empty and holds our various jackets, water bottles, candy and other items a touring band needs. Next to that is me; my seat offers no real advantage other than the ability to get out fast at rest stops when the call of the wild can be heard. Aaron has claimed dominion over the back bench, but two of the seats hold two overnight bags and random stuff (mostly scarves that Aaron has bought along the trip).
The ride is rough; it seems like the shocks were an afterthought and you can feel every bump in the road. Turns make the van shift and roll and the seats don’t adjust from their full upright and locked position. This all adds up for a ride that isn’t very comfortable or relaxing. If you’re wondering how we can sleep in here under such conditions, all I can say is that touring Europe is a very tiring experience, no matter how fun it is.
Of course, the real reason we needed the van is to not just transport ourselves, but all of the band’s gear from show to show without the need for a trailer. And that, my friends, is an experience all it’s own. Arnaud and Nick have set up a system to load and unload the back of the van efficiently at each stop. While I play Tetris at shows, those two play Tetris in real life. Just take a look at this setup and tell me that isn’t almost artistic to see how much crap can be fit into such a small space.
This van has been a constant in our lives for almost a month now; while I can only speak for myself, I have to say that I will almost miss it when I get back home. While the ride might be rough, there was an element of comfort and familiarity in crawling into this thing as we headed towards our next show. And it’s the place where we all really bonded as a group — being stuck in a tin can with four other dudes for six hours will do that to you. It’s been a special spot for all of us.
But, man, I really wish the seats reclined.CityBeat contributor Nick Grever is currently traveling Europe on tour with Cincinnati Rock band Valley of the Sun. He will be blogging for citybeat.com regularly about the experience.
by Nick Grever
124 days ago
One thing that I’ve learned on this trip is that the show’s promoter can often set the mood of an entire night. On this tour, we’ve been lucky enough to have several great promoters who know how to run things and take care of a band, which helps lead to a great show.Our night in Milan did not have one of those types of promoters. Hell, to even call him a promoter is an insult to the concept of promotion. Let’s dive in a little bit and discuss just what potential promoters should and shouldn’t do when bands come a’callin.First thing’s first — it’s always helpful to be at the venue by the scheduled get-in time. When bands like us arrive, we’ll generally have some questions for you about our lodging for the night, dinner, load-in and load-out logistics, etc. This is especially pertinent on tours like this due to the fact that we aren’t even from this continent; a little extra handholding is appreciated.What you shouldn’t do is show up at the venue at 9 p.m. when load-in started at 6 p.m. and not even introduce yourself to anyone.Second, please follow the agreed upon terms of the contract and make sure that the obligations you have are completed satisfactorily. On this tour, Valley of the Sun has two major requests in their contract: a hot meal every night (or a 15 Euro buyout) and accommodations after the show. These accommodations have varied from a promoter’s floor to nice hotels.What a promoter shouldn’t do is tell the band that the guy who was supposed to set us up for the night didn’t show up and won’t answer any phone calls. And this definitely shouldn’t happen at 1 a.m. If it does happen, dig into that suit pocket and pull out some Euro to help alleviate the problem. Don’t leave with your girlfriend 10 minutes later and leave said band scrambling to find a place to sleep.Also, the hot meal part of the contract. Now, we aren’t picky — we will eat just about anything you put in front of us. We’ve had all sorts of chow on this trip and most of it has been pretty awesome. When was the last time you had German cuisine made by an actual German national? Believe me when I say I can still taste that schnitzel.What you shouldn’t do is cook up some cheap noodles, throw about a quarter of a can of tomato sauce on it and use that to feed two bands and their crew. Especially when the staff of the venue is clearly seen eating lasagna in the back room. That’s just rude.The point I’m trying to make (yes, there really is a point) is that tour life filled with crazy circumstances that have to be adapted to and overcome. Sometimes things don’t go our way. Seldom does everything go off without a hitch. Rarely — only in Milan so far — have things gone completely down the shitter. But it’s amazing to me just how many moving parts go into a tour and if there’s one rusty cog, it can grind the whole machine to a stop.In Milan, it was a horrid promoter, but it could easily be issues with transportation or miscommunication with management or the booking agents. There are logistical issues like getting the wrong merch at a pickup (which happened in Berlin) or the GPS could lead us astray. It’s amazing to me that it even works at all, to be honest.So the next time you go see an amazing show featuring an out-of-town band — or even some locals — feel free to throw some kudos their way (and buy a shirt). But don’t neglect the guy sitting at the end of the bar who’s looking a little worn out either.P.S. The picture of the delicious food and the hotel both come from our date in Pratteln, Switzerland. Thanks Z7!
by Nick Grever
128 days ago
Today, I wanted to write about something that all five of us share on this trip. Something we all cherish, hold close and respect more than anything. I want to talk about something that holds us all together on a daily basis. The love of Rock & Roll.Ha ha! Just kidding, I’m talking about gaffer’s tape.Some of you may be asking what gaffer’s tape (aka gaff tape) is. Others of you may be saying that gaff tape is just like duct tape. To the first group, I will say that gaff tape is a wondrous roll of tape with properties that make it perfect for a touring band’s needs. To the second group, I will say, “Shut up, no it isn’t.”Gaff tape comes in a large roll similar to duct tape, is generally black (shiny or matte) and adheres to just about anything. The non-stick surface and a Sharpie is a match made in heaven. And when you go sticky side to sticky side, nothing short of The Hulk (or a knife) will get that stuff separated.But there is one attribute that makes it invaluable: it rips off the roll super easily. Anyone who has used duct tape knows what a struggle it is to get that stuff to part with the rest of the roll. OK, it’s not super hard to do, but when you’re half asleep, in some random European city, with 15 minutes till doors open and an entire merch area to set up, convenience is crucial.To give you an idea of just how versatile gaff tape is, I want to share with you some of the myriad ways we’ve put gaff tape to work.The first is makeshift signs. When you have to advertise what sizes we have left in stock on a shirt, gaff tape comes to the rescue.We also use the black gold to hang our merch when no hooks or other devices are present. Sometimes we use it to keep our expensive tour banners from falling over.Other times, we use it to patch together our expensive tour banners when a certain inexperienced merch guy breaks them.Or even to just hold a water bottle and weigh down a set list on stage.These are just a few of the many uses that gaff tape can accomplish. It truly is a tool that can be applied to almost any problem. I’m pretty sure that we could use it to close a grievous wound and I’d have confidence that it’d hold till we reached a hospital. And that’s accounting for the fact that none of us can say “hospital” in German, Italian, French or Swiss.So here’s to you gaff tape, the one thing on this tour that’s always there for us (at least until we run out).CityBeat contributor Nick Grever is currently traveling Europe on tour with Cincinnati Rock band Valley of the Sun. He will be blogging for citybeat.com regularly about the experience.
by Nick Grever
130 days ago
Before I left, I had a lot of people ask me just what I’d be doing while on tour. The best answer I could give them was, “I don’t know, sell shirts I guess.”
So, in an effort to give you a better picture of what a day in the life of Valley of the Sun’s illustrious merch guy/tour bitch, I give you a minute-by-minute breakdown of what will most likely be our busiest day on the tour. What transpires is a day with two shows and 10 combined hours on the road and yes, it’s as tiring as it sounds.
6:30 a.m.: Wake up before dawn in Frankfurt and get ready for a five hour drive to Munich. Take a shower in a hotel shower that has no door or curtain while using a shower head has no holder on the wall. Listen to Black Dahlia Murder to wake up.
7:30 a.m.: Make a to-go sandwich at the hotel’s breakfast bar.
7:35 a.m.: Help navigate the van out of a hotel parking garage that it shouldn’t have logically fit in.
7:47 a.m.: Begin a five-hour drive to Munich. Naps are taken by most. Breaking the speed limit is performed by others. Who knew a van could go triple digits?
8:50 a.m.: Pit stop number one: water, coffee and baked good acquired. Knifes and soccer hooligans are ogled.
10:43 a.m.: Pit stop number two: water and coffee are released, drivers are switched.
12:00 p.m.: Arrive at venue, take tour of stage and see backstage area. Find WiFi password and begin to use and abuse venue’s internet connection.
12:45 p.m.: Dig merch out of van for festival’s merchandise display. Freak out when an entire box of shirts cannot be found.
12:47 p.m.: Rejoice when the box of shirts are unearthed.
1:20 p.m.: Begin gear load in.
1:30 p.m.: Realize you’ve learned more gear terminology on this tour than in a decade of attending concerts and hanging out with bands.
1:40 p.m.: Rip an expensive tour banner.
1:52 p.m.: Sit around and surf through Facebook and Instagram while band sound checks.
2:45 p.m.: Check to see if ears are bleeding from sound check volume.
3:00 p.m.: Walk around the venue and people-watch to waste time before show starts.
3:25 p.m.: Set up Nick’s Go Pro cameras around the venue to capture the forthcoming insanity.
3:30 p.m.: Showtime. Festival attendees begin to filter into Valley’s show (Valley is the first band of the day).
4:00 p.m.: A circle pit breaks out for the first time in the band’s history. Horns are thrown liberally.
4:10 p.m.: Remember why Valley of the Sun is my favorite Cincinnati band.
4:15 p.m.: Raid the catering table for a sandwich, pretzel, banana and water. Plan to eat pretzel on the road as a snack.
4:30 p.m.: Settle merch sales with organizers, collect money, pile up CDs, LPs and shirts to load into the van.
4:35 p.m.: Eat pretzel before ever reaching the van.
4:40 p.m.: Call dibs on a festival attendee.
4:50 p.m.: Wait for Ryan to settle up event pay with festival organizers.
5:00 p.m.: On the road again for another five-hour ride to Seigen.
5:05 p.m.: Begin typing hourly breakdown in van to save some time on off day tomorrow and to give my phone a chance to regain some charge.
5:50 p.m.: Pit stop one. Beer from festival is released.
8:25 p.m.: Pit stop two. Water is released and drivers are switched.
10:30 p.m.: Arrive at second venue where bands have already started playing.
10:37 p.m.: Order a pizza at stand outside of venue while we wait for support bands to finish.
11:15 p.m.: Continue eating; this time it is chicken curry in the band apartment.
11:30 p.m.: Final support act has finished. Start mad dash to load gear in from the van to the venue.
11:40 p.m.: Set up last minute merch area in a now desolate bar.
11:43 p.m.: Wait for the band to take the stage.
11:55 p.m.: Sell first bits of merch to those still at the venue. Try to explain that pins are one Euro a piece, not one Euro per handful.
12:30 a.m.: Show starts.
12:50 a.m.: Play Tetris while band is performing and, therefore, no one is looking at merch.
12:55 a.m.: Earn new high score in Tetris.
1:10 a.m.: Band finishes after three encores. A fourth is requested but the band has literally no other songs left to play.
1:15 a.m.: Sell 132 Euro worth of merch in 10 minutes.
1:45 a.m.: Pack up merch once sales dry up.
1:55 a.m.: Pack up van and grab overnight bags.
2:20 a.m.: Prepare for bed after a 20-hour day.
2:25 a.m.: Sleep for 10 hours straight.
If there’s anything that I’ve learned about touring it’s that it’s defined by tons of dead time, punctuated by moments of massive amounts of activity. “Hurry up and wait” is the perfect way to describe it. We rush in the morning to squeeze everyone’s morning routine into a short period of time. Then we spend hours in the van to reach a venue, only to rush to get the van unloaded, merch set out and sound check completed, along with other pre-show rituals. Then we wait for the show to start, followed by the post-show rush to sell merch, load up the van and get to our lodging for the night.
It makes for long days and long nights, with little to no rest. It’s tiring, hectic and stressful and I’m having the time of my life. I could really use an actual shower though, that’s for sure.
by Nick Grever
132 days ago
Remember in my first blog when I said I was worried that I had over packed? Guess what? I over packed.
I’ve been on tour for a week now and these are a few things I’ve learned so far, in no particular order. Hopefully they help you the next time a Rock band drags you across Europe. Or on your next trip to Disneyland.
Backpack space is very important. In my backpack, I originally had a jacket, a neck pillow, my laptop, two books, two magazines and a front pocket full of random paperwork. Now, the jacket is always out and the neck pillow has disappeared because I needed the space for dirty clothes. There simply was no other space for them. Nick, who’s an experienced road warrior (he drum techs for Breaking Benjamin), basically lives out of his backpack, only digging into his carry-on when he needs to swap things in and out.
Everything should have a home. When I packed up for the trip, I was very meticulous and I made sure to check off items when they made it into my bags (traveling puts me on edge). Now that I’m over here, I’ve found it easier to keep track of things when I put them back in the same place every time. Lazily throwing my sunglasses into a pocket only causes me to flip my shit when I can’t find them down the line. And scouring a van while it’s moving at 130 kph is not a fun experience, my friends.
Creature comforts are nice, but not totally important. I brought a lot of reading material thinking this trip would have plenty of van time to catch up on my books. So far, I’ve reached for precisely none of them. I read my two magazines, sure. But one was on the plane and the other was only a day ago. While we still have over two weeks, so that might change, I wish I had used that space for something more important, like more clean socks.
Jeans are amazing and should be respected. I only brought one pair of denim for three weeks on the road. The boys brought two: a live-in pair and a show pair (Rock & Roll is a sweaty affair). Jeans take up a lot of space and, as long as you don’t spill goulash on them or something equally as traumatic, they can last you for a long time in between cleanings. So if you’re ever on a long road trip, do yourself a favor and save some space. One pair is all you need, just Febreze them once or twice and you’re good to go.
Cleanliness on the road can be hard, but don’t skimp. Road butt, swamp ass — call it what you will but sitting for hours on end will do harm to anyone’s rear end. And when showers are not always guaranteed — along with the supply of hot water, wash cloths or towels — then it’s important to keep some stop gaps handy. Baby wipes are like touring gold. They let you wipe down your pits and keep that fresh feeling in between shows and showers. Small bottles of hand cleanser are great too. Touring is dirty business, soap isn’t always on hand and when you’ve got five guys crammed into one van, germs could be disastrous. So toss a bottle in your bag and don’t forget to scrub up from time to time.Leave things at home that you don’t need. This was something I sort of already knew, but I didn’t understand the true extent till we got over here. For example, when I arrived I had my house key, my mail, two keys to my parent’s house, my car key, our tour laminate (geek out moment here: we have tour laminates!) and a few key chains. On Day 1, Arnaud added a van key to that pile. Later I learned that I would usually be keeping track of any apartment or hotel keys we got too. This added up to a key ring that was obnoxiously filled. I sounded like a janitor when I walked around. So I ditched all but the few that I actually need here. My states keys are safely stowed in my backpack and my pants aren’t weighed down with useless crap.
Don’t leave home without a towel. South Park’s Towelie and Douglas Adams were right. I didn’t listen and I’m sorry that I didn’t.
by Nick Grever
135 days ago
Let’s take a moment to talk about Rock venues in the States, shall we? In my mind, there are two distinct types: you either have the nice, well-kept venues that often lack a certain spark that make them truly special or the dives that feel like a Punk Rock haven but smell like a dirty sock filled with cheese. You have to choose between fantastic atmosphere or a bathroom that’s actually been cleaned since The Sex Pistols were the next big thing.
Well, my friends, it seems that you can get the best out of both worlds; you just have to hop the pond and check out European venues. On this trip, I’ve been in an underground hall converted into a bar, a warehouse covered in graffiti and stickers, a youth center filled with murals slapped in the middle of a small town (and next to a church) and a venue in Berlin filled with so many weird and wonderful knick-knacks, I can’t wait to get home and start redecorating a little bit. I wanted to share some pictures and highlights of what we’ve seen so far.
The venue in Freiburg was called The White Rabbit and it was located underground, down several flights of stairs. The entrance was narrow but opened up to a large, cylindrical structure. We guessed that it was used as a bomb shelter or wine storage but the real origin was even more intriguing. It was originally the town’s coal chamber; the building above it had been leveled during the war and had been rebuilt.Hamburg’s venue was the most surprising so far. As a Metal kid through and through, the graffiti and sticker-laden walls of Hafenklang instantly appealed to me. It had an industrial air about it and it felt just dirty enough. The wall adornments actually gave the place an artistic element. Somehow, hundreds — if not thousands — of taggers managed to create a cohesive composition worthy of any modern art museum.Berlin has the honor of housing my favorite club yet. The Bassy Club was full of odd and awesome artifacts. I’m a big fan of weird decorations and this place was absolutely chock full of them. When we walked in, we all went into full tourist mode and started snapping pictures left and right. I now fully intend on finding a cow skull and making him a new light fixture when I make it back to the states.Special kudos goes to Berlin for being an awesome city. We got a few hours to roam around and we ran into some sort of festival and found an awesome “Horror Rock Bar” called Last Cathedral. Sadly, it wasn’t open when we were walking around, so Nick and I had to resort to pulling an Immortal pose in front.CityBeat contributor Nick Grever is currently traveling Europe on tour with Cincinnati Rock band Valley of the Sun. He will be blogging for citybeat.com regularly about the experience.
by Nick Grever
139 days ago
Saturday night contained a lot of firsts. It was the first time I ran merch, the first time we played in Germany, it marked the first appearance of the hot dog suit and the first time I said “fuck you, asshole” in German.
We got a late start on our trip from Antwerp, Belgium to Oelsnitz, Germany. Alarms weren’t properly set, showers were needed all around and the beds were comfier than they first appeared. Once we got our shit in gear (and loaded up on croissants) we were on our way. Ahead of us was one of our longest drives on the tour, a seven-hour voyage across country lines. The trip was punctuated by two pit stops; during one we saw a new bride run into the bathroom while still in her wedding dress.
A quick note on European bathrooms — they’re fantastic. You often have to pay for entry, but in many ways it’s worth it. We stopped in one gas station that had completed the checklist for being a dive. Porn mags on the racks? Check. Dirt and grime everywhere? Check. Attendants who seem to be hopped up on some sort of … something? You know it! So I wasn’t too hopeful when I dropped my 70 pence into the bathroom machine.
But man, oh man, was I wrong. The toilets are automated and include a self-cleaning system. It’s majestic. You can buy a vast assortment of sexual tools in the vending machine (part of the aforementioned checklist), but the rest of the bathroom was absolutely spotless. And when you’ve been on the road for four hours and nature comes a-callin’, this is a gift from on high.
Our GPS had us snaking through small German towns and we didn’t see anything resembling a venue. As we reached the end of the directions we still didn’t see anything. So we pulled up a little bit further and there it was: a graffitied beacon of Rock & Roll in the midst of beautiful German countryside. We had arrived.We parked, met the promoter, met the support and got to unloading. I start grabbing the merch boxes and dove right in. And by dive right in, I mean that I stared at them blankly until Aaron came over and explained how everything worked and gave some suggestions on how to set up. From there, my retails skills came back and I became a folding, sorting and styling machine. I gave each style of shirt their own home in a box, put out a size run of each, spread out the small stuff and waited. And waited. And waited. And ate some homemade goulash. And waited some more.
Finally, the crowd began to build — and our game of “dibs” began anew — while we waited for our slot. Finally, the boys hit the stage and the crowd started to wake up. But, still, they needed a little push, a little something to get the mood just right. It was time for the hot dog costume. I slipped it on, ran to the front, got a laugh from the boys and the crowd and made my exit.
It seemed to have worked.
As the set wrapped up, the merch sales started to roll in. Thankfully, it wasn’t super busy, so I was able to get a feel for pricing, exchanging Euro change (who buys an EP with a 50€ note!?) and trying to translate thick German accents.
After the show finished, the party started up and it was a fun one. Nick was throwing down peppermint shots, courtesy of a fan. Ryan had to dodge the advances of two older women who had a bit too much to drink (and then drank some more on top of that). I, on the other hand, spent my time with a lovely young lady named Jenny and her friends as she gushed over her love of Barney Stinson and Nirvana. She also taught me all of the major German curse words and phrases when her friends got jealous of the attention I was getting. I wish I could’ve remembered some of the words; they will surely come in handy sometime on this trip.
Finally, the free beer was safely stowed in our bellies and it was time for bed. We found our hotel, made plans for the next day, stripped down and passed out.This morning we’re on our way to Berlin for show number three. We actually left on time today so we should have some time to see the city (and replace Aaron’s broken double bass pedal) before we get down to rocking.
Spinal Tap moments: 4.CityBeat contributor Nick Grever is currently traveling Europe on tour with Cincinnati Rock band Valley of the Sun. He will be blogging for citybeat.com regularly about the experience.