EUROPEAN TOUR DIARY JANUARY 2005
King of the Road: Sir Lord Gozwinian Goz
Tour Manager: The Space Cake Wrangler
Ben Chasny: Guitar and Darklord Napper
Ben Flashman: Bass and Butt Notes
Noel Von Harmonson: Echo-Electronics, Moustache Broker, Tour Diary Secretary
Utrillo Kushner: Drums and Harmonica-Clad Prisoner of the Night
Ethan Miller: Guitar and Vocals, ESP Billy Goat Spellspinner
“Is this the Donnas?”
Approx 18 hours of transit = big SUXXX. The dudes are jetlagged beyond belief after our SF to Heathrow to Brussels trip mangles us all. 20 minutes away from the airport we stop for gas where Flashman scores a Belgian waffle in a plastic bag. Stay at Lintfabriek punk house/venue first night. After throwing back a few tasty foreign (to us) beers we head for food and find a slippery-floored Belgian/falafel/Egyptian restaurant. . We can't communicate at all we can barely even order. Crazy jams in the restaurant: Ike & Tina, Steely Dan, Phil Collins. Soon after our waiter asked us if we like Egyptian music and we tell him “fuck yes we do, brother!” and he booms it for the rest of the night. But by the end of the meal Egyptian Lover Brother buys us a round of beers. Great food, a few pics with the staff and we head back to the punk squat. Upstairs there are a gang of bunk beds surrounded by graffiti covered walls. The place looks like Gilman Street in Berkeley but with way dirtier drawings everywhere lots of squirting penises and the like. The most intriguing drawing on the wall was a 3'x3′ depiction of an emo-punker butt fucking a nazi skinhead who's sucking a mean vibrator plugged into a wall. Scabies ridden for rest of tour.
“Why doesn't anyone like me?”
Sleep for what seems like forever still wake up tired and weird. Our driver Sir Lord Gozwinian Goz is the coffee king in the morning aside from being a true big wagon wrangler. After coffee we take a nice stroll around Kontich where the punk house is. We see a huge darklord church fortress, a park filled with animal statues, and grab some tasty Belgian black coffee complete with Bobby Brown cover soundtrack. Utrillo and Noel score “I [Heart] Cats 2005” calendars—best calendars of the year for sure. Run back to the crust castle for a gig-sponsored pasta & salad cook-off.
Show is in the adjacent town of Antwerp at the club Kaaiman. We unload the rented gear for the first time tonite–nice stuff but gnarly long and confusing soundcheck. Echo-box has adopted a low frequency buzz somewhere in the travel. Chasny's Hi-Watt is housed in gorgeous antique wood and sounds incredible before he melts it on the second song. Plug him into my combo amp in a desperate move turn kill switch to ten and everything is cool except trying to run the oscillator into the bass rig. Tonite was the best Comets Euro gig of 2005!!!
“We all come from stress goo anyway.”
We expected the crowd to be a little more subdued for some reason maybe just a first show thing. But the Antwerp gang was pretty fucking unhinged for a Wednesday night. Lots of yelling, screaming and general party time drunkenness. The great reception urged us on to be complete retarded drunk monkeys on stage. Because of a mixture of wine, Belgian malt beer and overexertion on stage Ethan was forced to go out the backdoor of the club and barf 3 times really hard into a sewer drain. Barf in beard!! Totally suxx. Some kids are leaving as the vomitorium begins and Ethan feels embarrassed and/or ashamed of puking like a “little sissy” in front of the kids (they were probably impressed!) so he tries to hide behind the tour van for a few minutes. Meanwhile back inside Flashman, Goz, soundman, and Chas try to fix the Hi-Watt which is totally fried, exuding a putrid molten dead machine smell.
Dennis who me met at ATP and gave us a poster of an owl with big testicles (which adorned the wall of the practice space ever since) is there. He has a bunch of buttons of his artwork for sale. Ethan buys one with a big penis covered in warts for Utrillo. Killer! Wild dance party ensues with great DJ jams Utrillo commands the dance floor for a good while.
Upon returning to the clubhouse around 3am Chas and Ethan attack the left over Egyptian food from the night before while Flashman fries some frozen “tater-balls”. Made a killer mess in the kitchen looked like fucking culinary porno set the next morning.
13.01.05 Hamburg, Hafenklang
Wake up early at Lintfabriek to insomniac hangovers and a massacred kitchen. Listen to totally weird killer jams on Belgian radio: thick fatale electro to “radar love” to Jesus & MC to tom waits to German hardcore to rap metal.
“This day–all day long we are fucking shattered.”
Today is jetlag day it seems the first day in Antwerp/Kontich was saved by rockation adrenaline and a large grip of beers. Today we drive forever like 8 hours autobahn gnarl for what seems like forever. Hafenklang (“harbor sound”) is located on the icy-winded harbor in Hamburg and is much like Lintfabriek; killer collective/squat warehouse lots more free beer and wonderful home-cooked food. The accommodations in Europe are incredible and much more generous then the two-drink-tickets-and-a-pat-on-the-back like back in the States. Lots of food, places to sleep, clean sheets, heat, etc. A gang of scuzzy, jetburned dead-dog-smelling monkeys couldn't be more grateful.
Comets is the only band on the bill tonight. At the last second we figure out how to run Chasny's amp thru two speakers instead of four but the dead machine smell has followed us and lingers like a haunted stench ghost. The set is a little sloppy but the crowd demands an encore. We feel like this is unwarranted due to our performance but we must indulge them. After a jammed out rendition of “Ice Age” we're still not allowed off the stage. A quick band huddle produces a genius idea and after we had jammed ZZ-Top's “T.V. Dinners” for another 45 minutes the room was finally cleared: Chasny-drums, Utrillo-guitar, Noel-guitar, Ethan-bass, Flashman-electronics its shame nobody had a tape recorder!
14.01.05 Berlin, Golden Gate Club
Get into Berlin after a pretty big chunk of driving the place we're playing is in what used to be East Berlin–we cruise by a section of the wall that's left standing. They're doing a bunch of road construction stuff in Berlin in preparations for the World Cup which makes it take us nearly an hour to maneuver through inane detours. To get to the club we're forced to circle it about a 1/4 mile away for ever… never being able to actually reach it. The area surrounding the club is a labyrinth of stout boxy gray buildings that look like housing projects or prisons.
The venue is housed in a rectangular column holding up some train tracks. There is a makeshift bar inside and small concrete-cave box for a stage. The venue maybe holds 100 people this night it held more like 150. Needless to say the brick room made everything ear-shatteringly loud uber- intense.
“The last two songs were boring but at least the drummer made me laugh.”
The show at the Golden Gate ended around 2:00 AM which apparently was considered an early show by Berlin standards. After playing a super ball shredding set to a dreadfully unenthusiastic audience the band was ready to retreat to a safe hideout for the remainder of the night. Unfortunately this was not allowed. The show promoter, one J. Fitz, insisted that we go out for a few pints before calling it quits. A few of the Comets clan declined while a few braves decided to take him up on the offer. It's hard to say who used better judgement.
After a short cab ride we arrived in front of a sign-less, window-less, license-less illegal bar. Allegedly illegal bars are common throughout greater Berlin. This particular illegal bar was run by Americans with an almost all American/English speaking clientele. Entering the bar we noticed a few familiar faces from the show including Constantine, the club's Greek soundman. After a few beers and getting acquainted with everyone Constantine the Great suggests we move on to another watering hole. His first pick was a place simply known as “The Thai Brothel”. Constantine reassured us that though it was an actual brothel it was also great place to grab a beer. He continued to say that he was a regular patron and everything would be cool. Reluctantly we agreed to join him, though I believe we all had our own secret apprehensions. Sure enough, as soon as we walked through the front door we were greeted with all waves and smiles including the bartender calling Constantine by his Christian name. We ordered our drinks and were quickly whisked away to an upstairs RIP room. This is where things went from awkward to bizarre. Somewhere amongst our conversations Constantine stated unabashedly that he was an incredible pole dancer and a fantastic stripper. He was so confident of his talents that he persisted that he must give us all a demonstration. Before we knew it he had shimmied downstairs and was whispering something in the bartender's ear. Within seconds the house jams were cranked up and disco ball got spinning. Constantine proceeded to perform one the raunchiest yet eerily professional pole dances ever imagined. It was quite a ride and totally fucking surreal. After his little show, Constantine casually suggested we move on to yet another all night bar. Next up was a someplace appropriately named Burger.
It's hard to tell what time it was exactly, but it must've been around 5:00 or 6:00 AM. Judging by the sixty or so utterly wasted people inside Burger it must've been well past the witching hour. People where lubed and loose, really loose. Poor Noel was left on a barstool in what can only be described as being in a state of suspended animation. Mr. Fitz and I hit the beer drenched dance floor. The music was terrible, the dancing was sloppy, men and women were scraping the edges of the apocalypse and loving every second of it. Constantine was missing; he disappeared into the bathroom dwellings doing what only the devil knows. After a succession of horrid songs (Beastie Boys Fight For Your Right To Party, The Kinks “You Really Got Me”, The Knack “My Sharona”, etc.) I decided to take a break and recharge my batteries. While siting in a corner minding my own debauchery I was suddenly accosted by a drunken German man in an unflattering running suit. Without introducing himself he screamed ” I want to fuck you now!” I was a little taken back but not enough not to reply. After all I didn't want to seem like a pussy Yank. I politely replied “You're an attractive looking man, but you're not my type”. Unfazed he responded with “No, I want to fuck you NOW!” “I want to fuck you NOW NOW NOW!” We were at a standoff. He wanted to fuck and I didn't. I decided it was time to find my cohorts. Constantine resurfaced only to be in some sort of fistfight with a man who he accused of trying to steal his drink. It was definitely time to leave Burgerland. We stepped out of the bar into complete daylight. The hustle and bustle of Berlin had already begun. The working squares were on their morning commute; students were on their way to school, while the scumbags were trying to figure out what bar to go to next. We tried unsuccessfully to go to another bar named No Donuts but were turned away at the door. With no other options we decided to hail a cab and try to get some much needed rest. We arrived back a Fitz's apartment at 9:00 only to jump into the van at 9:30. It was a day for the loft.
“I'll go out after the show but I don't want to become some sort of prisoner of the late night.”
15.01.05 Munster, Germany
Chasny to the opening band, Spacebrains, from Germany: “Man, it would take our band ten years to get as tight as you guys”Spacebrains: “Ha! You will never be as tight as US!”
16.01.05 Den Haag, Amsterdam
One band played tonight and American band called “Comets of Fire”.
17.01.05 Amsterdam, Paradiso
The show is at the historic Paradiso which is an incredibly massive building that boasts loads of beautiful stained glass and ornate ceilings. Amsterdam is the most incredible city I think we've ever seen. HOWEVER, at any given moment there are four ways for a pedestrian to get mowed down, they are:
This took nearly six hours to fully learn but luckily no RIP's.
Weirdest line-up ever: Comets followed by solo acoustic Jeff Buckley dude followed by American Music Club.
18.01.05 Brighton, U.K., The Hobgoblin (Upstairs)
Initial nightmare turned into excellent scuzz-rage sweatbox. Our show was moved from a venue called “Free Butt” much to our (aesthetic) disappointment to a 60 capacity upstairs bar clueless (sorry) soundman with an even more clueless/useless PA system. “You guys are about 75% louder than you need to be.” Thanks, dude. After at least 50 people must have been turned away outside this place turns into a screaming, scathing, rage cave. Everything, everyone dripping soaked in beer and sweat. At the end of the set this group of people start doing this eerie death chant we fear is some sort of riot-call. Turns out it the chant we recorded on “Field Recordings”. Legendary show for sure.
19.01.05 Bristol, U.K., Thekla
the show is in a boat. Initially this sounds totally surreal and exciting. However, upon further inspection (and soundcheck) we come to the realization that boat designers need not consider any acoustical principles in their planning. Standing ANYWHERE in this thing is like having yourself fired out of the end of a canon inside of a cave. There is no escape from the reverberation–even the dressing room behind the stage is haunted with ear blisters. The Comets dudes are forced out into the freezing icy howl to escape to an enormous half-enjoyable drinking hall that too much resembles San Jose. We roll back to the boat just in time to throw on our Tony Joe White warm up CD on the PA to set the mood right (and weird) before jumping headfirst into another maniacal scorcher. The sets have been getting more and more intense by this point. Everyone just goes fucking apeshit crazy the whole time whirling instruments around over their heads, flailing around, slinging sweat all over everything and everyone even Flash has been headbanging with us. The energy onstage is remarkable and I'm beginning to think that once the first riff kicks in that its also becoming uncontrollable. Comets dudes also miraculously avoid any utterance of any “rock the boat” jokes.
20.01.05 Nottingham, U.K.
Got to meet crazy Kid Commando from Sweden as they were playing this show, too. Man, those guys are some funny dudes. Shortly after meeting them we were compelled to ask them to start a white funk band with us they accepted. They felt so comfortable and trusting around us that they told us about their “Where is your banana?” song what? They were also nice enough to give me some jams and like an idiot I left them behind.
I don't know what happened. Our set is over and the floor is covered in broken glass. There are broken glasses scattered on the floor and onstage and Flashman has blood all over his face. Turns out his headbanging got a bit out of hand tonight and he managed to catch his nostril on the rod coming out of Utrillo's hi-hat stand. What are the chances of that? Luckily he didn't polish any gray matter up there and the next day you wouldn't have noticed a thing Flashman's just lucky like that.
21.01.05 London, U.K. Royal Festival Hall (w Julian Cope) & “Secret” after show set across town.
Last night turns into an intense double header. After hearing that the Royal Hall had been sold out for a week (was it really?) we accepted an offer to play an unadvertised second show that night with the help of Artrocker Magazine where they would supply amps and a drumkit so all we had to do was get there and start rocking again before jumping on a plane back home a handful of hours later. Arrive at the illustrious Festival Hall around 1pm and sit around for about 2 hours. Finally meeting Julian face to face felt like seeing an old friend. Big bro-hugs were in order and it seemed like we'd known each other for years. Julian has a plan that our set will be bookended by a pair of sets by him. Two drum kits, side by side with a riser for each with amps for each band curving out from either side in a sort of crescent moon configuration quite a stage set up. Playing approximately 15 feet away from each other, this set up inevitably makes the stage sound nightmarish. The songs sound foreign to us during the set which is disorienting on the one hand but somehow sadistically exciting on the other.
“Three cheers for the knob-twiddler!”
After the gig we hang out with Julian a bit more and pack up to head across London to the Boston Arms club to turn it on one last time. It seemed like the bar had already been rocking all night; a few bands had played earlier and there were still like 200 people hanging around. The nice people who put this together had arranged some amplifiers and a drum kit making it only necessary to bring the Noel rig inside. With everything virtually already set up for us we're ready to roll in a matter of minutes. Before we know it we're clicking back into “Antlers” and the room turns into electric insanity. After the nerve baking experience that was the Royal Festival Hall just hours before, this sweaty, beer-soaked-nook-of-a-stage felt like a return to for or maybe a welcomed and warm hug from an old friend (who's soaked in beer and sweat and has puke breath.)
Thankyou one million times: our two dads: Sir Lord Gozwinian Goz and the Space Cake Wrangler, Julian Cope, Simon and Nita, Steve and Stevie, J Fitz, Sub Pop and EVERYONE else we met along the road (even the sound guy from Brighton), keep in touch, we love you all.