Damn Van Posted on Thursday 18 February 2010

I promised myself that I wouldn’t moan too much about our recent means of transportation in this blog. We hired a crappy van, get over it, I thought. People don’t want to hear about you having to travel through wintry blizzards huddled shivering in a draughty bucket of bolts, feet frozen to the icy puddle that is the floor, musty patches of damp extending across peeling grey panelling, and butt-numblingly hard seats. Don’t bore people with tales of multiple flat tyres, batteries that have to be removed at night to stop them being flat by morning, rear bumpers falling off, and doors that don’t close properly. So I won’t.

Caught with a flat, well, how about that…

Instead, I’ll talk about some of the happier times we’ve had on this, our first real European tour. Taking up the blog baton post-Berlin, it’s fair to say both Cologne and Munich shows were a success. Specifics fail me, however I was left with a general impression of enthusiastic audiences and all-round good vibes. Next up was Switzerland and a ridiculously quaint town called Vevey. A thick blanket of snow completed the picturesque alpine splendour of the place, so we holed ourselves up in the dressing room, hooked up to the wi-fi and grazed on hummus and cashew nuts. Not bad turnout for a small town none of us had previously heard of. Nice to know we’re making inroads into the more obscure crevices of Europe. The following day was Zurich, and again a pretty into-it crowd though nothing major to report.

Making the most of the second flat tyre incident

The next show was Brussels, playing in the Duyster festival. The set up seemed to be one large room, one small room, and close to 2,000 people milling about. As nice as it is to hear that shit loads of people were queuing and vying to cram in to see us play, the fact that the small room (in which we were playing) held no more than 300, it was inevitable most people would be disappointed. And despite Cathy vanishing before the show and having to start without her, it was a great gig, and one of the most enthusiastic calls for an encore we’ve had in a long time.

It was then back to Germany to play to a room full of Hamburgers. Side-stepping the obvious puns, Hamburg was another good show to a packed-out venue. What most sticks in my mind, however, was the absurd cornucopia of foodstuffs that constituted our rider. Not that I’m complaining, I love a good spread. But dozens of packets of jellied sweets were probably not required.

Fanfarlo in frankfurter form

Denmark was a new country for me, I didn’t know what to expect, especially from the weird quasi-independent pseudo-new age enclave of Christiania in Copenhagen, where it turns out we were playing our next show. We were met at the venue by thick clouds of hash smoke and graffiti scrawled on every available surface. Trudging around the area post-soundcheck people were out in the snow, huddled around flaming oil drums, a few stalls offering several varieties of cannabis resin, a shop selling Christiania t-shirts and other tourist tat…anyway, show was another good’un, job done, bishbashbosh.

Next stop Sweden, Gothenburg first, which was all good despite the stage being a massive bass trap that caused everything to vibrate so much pedals were literally jumping into the air. Actually the sound was a bit rubbish, and the place turned into a cheese fest of a club within two minutes of the set finishing. Stockholm was better, large crowd and party atmosphere. Club after seemed pretty cool too, and the queue outside composed of an absurdly good-looking crowd. However, exhaustion had set in, and our hotel was a long drive away, and turned out to be 20km longer when we missed the motorway exit…suppose we couldn’t blame the shitty van for that…could we?