Friday, January 15, 2010

"Party at the Bread Factory": Magnolia Electric Co. Fall Tour Diary Chapter 8: Frankfurt, Germany


The word of the day today was the word that means “fear of the number 13.” If there was anything to be feared today it was the 700 km drive between Vienna and Frankfurt. I’m going to go on record again and say that I would rather do 700 km in a van during the day than 700 km in a bus overnight unable to sleep and covered in filth. I’ll probably say this a lot in my yet-to-be-written account of our last tour, but touring on a bus for a band our size without a crew is the equivalent (in my opinion) of spending hundreds of more dollars per day to be less comfortable, less clean, and more cramped all the time. Of course, the ideal is that sleep comes easy and you wake up and enjoy the city. For me this was impossible. I’m sure some of the other guys loved it. Not only was it annoying to me, but all that money we could have saved by traveling the way we are this tour would have been nice to come home with. And it’s a lot of money. A lot. This may not be true in America. My friends Cryptacize are currently on a bus with Sufjan Stevens and the band – that makes sense. Why use three vans and a trailer when you can use one bus? But what we did was a waste. All that said, I was looking forward to the drive, however long. I don’t think Jan was, since he had to do the driving and because we had to leave at 8:00 a.m. after going to sleep around 1:00 a.m.

The Furstenhof breakfast was in full swing when I made it downstairs at 7:20. I put together two hard-boiled egg, butter, and cheese sandwiches, wrapped them tightly in napkins, shoved them in my coat, and proceeded to drink glass after glass of juice, glass after glass of water, and coffee. When one tours on a bus one does not get free hotel breakfast. One can clear the dressing room the night before of the meat, cheese, and food that has been sitting around for hours and touched by multiple, grimy hands, and then put it in the bus fridge and hope that at no point does the bus power turn off. And then, in the morning, when it’s all you’ve been eating, you want nothing to do with it. As many have said, this is very much a first-world problem. But the point, again, is that for far less money we could have been afforded these luxurious comforts that come along with touring in a van. One just has to put up with sitting/sleeping/hanging out in a van for a few hours a day. I think the trade-off is an obvious one.

We got in the van and started a little after 8:00 a.m. I rode shotgun. The van’s a big white Mercedes sprinter, a nine-seater with a full sized loft. It has a DVD player in it. It’s straightforward and just fine, more comfortable, for sure, than our (my) van in the States. Problems, though – it has a weird transmission noise; it ran out of oil when Jan drove it from the rental place; it looks like a band trashed it before. Luckily those Germans know how to deep clean, so it’s absolutely fine.

Jan said we would have to wait and only take, maybe, one half hour break down the road. An hour in I felt like I was in high school again; ie, my stomach began cramping terribly and I realized that maybe the pizza right before bed, all that juice, and all that coffee was the wrong cocktail to take before a van ride that was not supposed to stop. But when I explained the urgency of the situation, Jan reluctantly stopped. The prison toilet was welcoming – stainless steel, with paper towel like toilet paper. No toilet seat. It didn’t matter. And then I was a new man and we were back on the road.

Castles? Check. Medieval bridges? Well, I don’t know, but they looked like it. Nuclear power plants? I think. Also, wonderful Austrian radio. We listened to the station Jason was supposed to have been interviewed on the day before and it was awesome. So much for that. At least we got to listen to it on the way out of the country. The playlist went from Jay-Z to Nina to Flaming Lips to Austrian and German acts we’ll never hear of in the States.

I spent most of the day filling out postcards, playing Mike Tyson’s Punch Out, hearing weird Eddie Rabbitt songs on German radio, eating those sandwiches, eating peanut butter flavored puffy snacks, and chocolate. I drank water and sour cherry nectar. The drive took a long time and we started to feel the “winter blast” the Weather Channel had been telling me about in Prague. All of the magazines at our rest stop had naked people in them. All of the strudel looked good. I could not find pre-mixed Campari and soda. We drove and drove and then we arrived at Brotfabrik almost two hours late.

In 2007, at an undisclosed German club, the promoter thought that our request for black socks was actually a request for hashish, and so that’s what was waiting for us at the club. When we told him we actually wanted socks he went out and got those, too. The socks and the hashish were split amongst some of the band members. I forgot about mine and, on the trip from wherever we were to Frankfurt, I realized I still had it and should probably get rid of it. In Spain a few years earlier a friend of mine told me he ate it to help with his stomach problems. I know that marijuana is used for such medicinal purposes, and, having been experiencing similar problems on that particular tour, I decided to injest the tiny bit that I had, thinking the most that would happen would be a slight euphoria not unlike that experienced with far-worse-for-you pharmaceuticals. For a couple of hours everything was fine. I played cards, I read, I listened to music… and then, all at once, it happened. I felt like I had entered that ride at old fashioned amusement parks where you’re in a cylinder against the wall which turns into a gyroscope and the floor drops out and you’re pressed against the wall and, fuck, you wish you hadn’t ridden that ride (and, in my case, your parents laugh at you for screaming bloody murder – fun!). Mark noticed the change and may have even caught some pictures of it. I was so out of my mind that I thought it was over for me, I was going to die, and I was going to die in a van, in traffic, in Germany. Of course I didn’t, but I have a very hard time remembering anything about that particular show. I do know we got yelled at for not playing long enough, which was probably valid. As we approached Brotfabrik my missing memory was filled in a little.

Brotfabrik means “bread factory,” so I assume that’s what it used to be. It’s a complex in a Frankfurt suburb which is far nicer than the weird, steel dance clubs we have played in Frankfurt in the past. The pre-show was somewhat unremarkable. We were late so we had to rush through soundcheck. Chris Brokaw played. We played. We played an encore. We ate a delicious creamy pasta dish after dinner that, somehow, tasted like Thai food. It must have had a little bit of chili sauce in it and it was full of basil. Mikey and I worked on booking a hotel room for a day off in Italy. Unremarkable, really. The show was pretty good, though.

Because of the “world’s largest book fair” or some shit there were no affordable hotel rooms in Frankfurt, so, despite already having driven all day, we had another hour and a half to drive to Wurzburg to an Etap. Etap, an Accor hotel (the owners of Motel 6 up through Sofitel), is a fully-automated, very plastic, and cheap place. They’re usually clean and the parking’s easy because they exist, it seems, only in and around car dealerships, Burger Kings, industrial parks, or nothing at all. We arrived around 1:30 a.m., found our rooms, and were pleasantly surprised that the Etap chain now features free wifi. A bunch of German music videos tucked us in and we slept.

1 comment:

  1. Black socks!!! That's a good one. I gotta tell Seth to put that on our rider next tour. Also, I agree with you that the sprinters rule. Though, I admit I have no experience with touring in a bus. Europe rules. I'm headed back in may to spend the summer in Berlin. Hope all's well!