Tuesday, January 5, 2010

"Which way is North?": Magnolia Electric Co. Fall Tour Diary Chapter 7: Vienna, Austria


I woke up later than I wanted to but still before breakfast had ended. The plan was as follows: Light breakfast, quick jog down to the historical/museum area of Vienna, back for a shower, two hours of work, and then meet with the band to head to WUK, the club we were playing in Vienna that night, for soundcheck/gear check/etc.

Breakfast consisted of a roll with butter, hard-boiled egg, and cheese – a breakfast sandwich! Also, glasses of juice, water, and coffee. I made another sandwich and saved it for later. I got up to the room, changed into my running clothes, strapped on my iPod touch, enabled my Nike+iPod thing, set my goal as the burning of 400 calories, stepped outside, and started to run.

And I ran. When I reached the halfway point I had not even seen any of the museums – bonus! I would burn more calories this way. Ah, there they were – beautiful old buildings lining the streets, full of art, and natural history, and books. I might as well follow this line and see it all, right? I reached 400 calories and knew that I would at least double my goal. Ooh, parliamentary gardens! Parliament! Beautiful gothic cathedral! I might as well, go back on the parallel street. 800 calories! But where am I? And why have I already run five miles? Does that mean I have five miles to run to get back? Better keep running. Oh shit, it’s already been an hour, and where am I? There’s an animal-rights protest. And there’s the Corso Palace. Maybe this biker can tell me where I am, but if I stop running I’ll never make it back, and, oh shit, I don’t have any money with me. "Excuse me, sir, do you speak English? Can you tell me where I am? And which way North is?" Better keep running. Ah! There’s the National Library… and there’s the street I need! And here I am at the hotel. And here’s the iPod Touch telling me that I just ran 9.16 miles and burned 1,700 calories. I really didn’t mean to do that.

I gave myself time to stop sweating, told Mikey about my running error, started to feel the ache, and took a long shower – a shower I could have only dreamt about on the bus tour. It involved shampoo, conditioner, soap. It involved a full-size towel. It wasn’t in a bar or a truck stop. It involved shaving, moisturizing, taking time. It was excellent. Now it was time to work.

I went downstairs and attempted to connect to the internet. Success! I employed Microsoft Excel to help sort out some 2010 OAH Annual Meeting scheduling issues. Yes! Oh, it’s time to gather my suit and pedals and guitar because it’s time to go to the club! Awesome. This is going well today, surprise after surprise. Who is this gorgeous woman asking me if I’m Jason? Oh, she’s looking for Molina, and she’s from Vienna’s coolest radio station, Radio 4. He has an interview and live performance at 3:30 p.m. Great! She and I converse, tell jokes, talk about the weather in detail, and Jan arrives. He starts working out the details. Wait a minute, there’s something wrong – he seems concerned that she’s going to just put Jason in a cab and send him to the club. She explains that Vienna is small and cab drivers know everywhere. His concern, however, is something beyond the cab driver knowing. She explains that she will, well, explain very clearly the situation to the cab driver. No, he says, it’s more complicated than that.

I’ve already mentioned that one terrible show in Vienna. Well, once you’ve had one terrible show in the town, you never forget, and, surprisingly, it repeats. Athens, GA. Berlin. Montreal. These places scare me. Oh, here’s Jason! Oh shit. Yes, I see why they’re concerned. Traveling has gotten the best of him. I know that he’s been sick but I also know that he (and I) have, more than once, drank ourselves silly on international flights because of nervousness. And this poor, beautiful woman has to shuttle him to the radio station where he will do a live performance on the coolest radio station in Vienna. Uh oh. After minutes of trying to explain what’s happening Jan finally gets us all to move out and we leave Jason in the hands of Nina. He mumbles “I’m sad” while we walk out. I say, “don’t be sad, we’ll see you soon!” and we’re out of there. Poor, poor Nina.

Jan explains that Jason was in that state when he got off the plane. Visions of a ruined show dancing in my head, all I could do was laugh. Then he gets a call that Jason has canceled the interview (it really would not have been much of one, or, perhaps, it would have been the funniest YouTube moment ever for Magnolia). Poor, poor Nina. She wasn’t even supposed to do the interview, but her colleague got sick. Poor, poor Nina. But what about us? What were we going to do? An incapacitated singer was just left at the hotel. We hoped that he would sleep it off and that, in four hours, we could put on a good show. The odds, and the history of shows in Vienna, were against us.

We got to the club; we unloaded; we unpacked; we found out that multiple things were fucked up. The keyboard amp was without castors; my power transformer was outfitted with a tile case around the plugs, disallowing my pedals to be plugged into it, completely eradicating it’s necessity or usefulness; and, the worst, Sal’s bass cab, an Ampeg, which has fuses built into it, had burned out fuses. No problem. Wait, the fuses are siliconed in there. Oh shit. All this on top of the fact that, if we had to play right now, it would have to be all instrumental and would feature our singer laying on stage, asleep. Ok, time for some catering.

The catering was nice, and fairly standard, but definitely fresh and delicious. The water was there. Everything we needed except for equipment that works and a full band. Things started to work out; I discovered a duct tape solution; Sal would go direct and monitor through the sidefill; Mikey’s amp wasn’t a big deal, really, but it was still fucked up.

We went through merchandise, of which we have a ton… except for Josephine LPs, which keep getting lost by UPS and redirected improperly. No biggie. Now Jan leaves to pick up Jason. All of us are worried, I think, although none says anything. He shows up. He’s coherent, albeit still a little ... incapacitated. I don’t see him for twenty minutes and then, when I do again, he’s even more coherent and says his “medicine is wearing off.” He explains what he’s on and it sounds like nothing you should be taking along with alcohol, which he also smells like. Either way, the show is in a state of save.

Chris Brokaw, on tour with us, plays, and he’s great. We play and it’s clear that we haven’t practiced, but we cover it up by jamming wildly and taking chances. The show turns out well. People like it. And then we sell a lot of shit.

We pack up, clear the catering, clear the stage, load, meet people, drink an open bottle of wine in the van. Then, on the way to the hotel, we get stopped by police as a drunk driving checkpoint. Luckily, Jan has not been drinking. I still freak out about the open bottle of wine but he assures me that they only care about him. He passes and we get home. We take the guitars. I get some train station pizza and slather it with garlic oil and hot pepper flakes that are actually hot and it’s delicious. I call Nicole and she’s busy administering an exam so it’s off to bed… but not before I meet Dominic from Kilians, a band from near Cologne in Germany. We trade names and promise to check out each other’s bands on YouTube.

In the hotel room Mikey and I debrief and then I beat Bald Bull 2 in Mike Tyson’s punch out, then being leveled by Don Flamenco 2. Fuck Don Flamenco. The bed feels strangely like that horrible bus bed and I have trouble falling asleep. But, as always, it happens eventually.

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