As we’re heading for a tour that will take us to France, Spain, Italy and Switzerland we’re publishing the 1st week of Eric’s US tour diary. Enjoy !
03/24/2013 | CHICAGO, IL
After an 8-hour flight sitting next to loud Spaniards, I get through customs and drag my backpack and guitar to terminal 2 at O’Hare airport and wait for Arthur and Pierre-Antoine. Starbucks is the only thing there so I have coffee and a 10-dollar sandwich and proceed to waiting, observing what’s taking place before my eyes: a kind of miniature America. The three Chicago policemen stuffing their faces with muffins, the 100% Chinese speaking table, the blonde college chick punctuating each sentence with « oh my god » and « amazing » over the phone and March Madness on huge TV screens. Something like the perfect appetizer. I meet the guys and we rent a mini van, get over to Jason’s place where we’re staying. On the way there, we stop at Superdawg to get some food. We didn’t know it was a legendary hot dog spot with an old school drive-in system. Greasy America right in our hands. Evanston now! Jason plays in Dianogah, a great band we played with in Lyon in 2008. Jay (of Dianogah as well) and Jason’s wife, Hillary, are here to greet us, we have a few drinks. It’s always nice to see them. As I go out for a cigarette, I’m thinking I’d like to be like them 10 years from now.
03/25/2013 | CHICAGO, IL
I hadn’t seen or talked about baseball cards in so long. Seeing Clive and Arthur (Jason & Hillary’s children) excited and curious about everything from speaking French to playing catch lifted the jet-lag away. After breakfast, we pick up Jason’s Gibson guitar and a bass amp for Arthur and head for the Kitchen Sink to meet Ryan (of Sickroom Records) for lunch. Ryan is releasing the band’s new 7”, our first record on an American label. We head for Ryan’s place and try some of the gear he has kindly offered to lend us. The combination seems to work fine for me but one of the Arthur’s amps he was meant to use is broken, so we try this old Traynor PA that was given to Ryan and turns out sounding pretty good for Arthur’s guitar. We go to Rock’n’Roll Vintage (an amazing guitar and amp store) to get some breakables, and meet Rich of Bear Claw who works there. The gathering gear route ends when we get to Kip’s house (the last Dianogah man) to get a ride cymbal and meet his wife and his little girls, Ava and Isla. To get ready for the tour, we head to the Pile show at Abbey’s Pub and meet Scott (of Bear Claw). Great energy and enthusiasm at the show make it a cool night, but I feel exhausted and can’t wait to get back to Ryan’s to crash.
03/26/2013 | MINNEAPOLIS, MN
First show tonight in Minneapolis at The Hexagon Bar, we wake up pretty early to check if the gear can all fit in the dodge van. Pierre is really good at this. So he make it work. Throughout the drive from Chicago to Minneapolis, we get a grasp of rural America. Bumper stickers to impeach Obama, Pro-Life signs, Hamish villages, religious t-shirts in a gas station where they don’t call 911, if you know what I mean. The climax is our stop in a mini food mall, with America’s best classics (Aunt Annie, MacDonalds, Sbaro, Subway etc.) We end up buying and eating some of this stuff, questioning our choices, What the hell is this place? And why did we even stop here in the first place? We get to the Hexagone bar around 7 pm. As I walk in to the bar and say hi, a guy says: “well, these guys are here to pick a fight!”. TV Sports and Pool tables are the main attractions of this bar in the outskirts of Minneapolis. We check the gear and make sure everything works. Brian and Travis of Buildings are playing and setting up the show. We’ve heard good things about them through French friends who saw them on their recent European tour. The show starts with Hardcore Crayons, then The Yoleus. Their manager comes up to me and asks if I know a band called Tacchycardie from France. I’m kind of surprised that he knows our friend JB’s solo project on Tours’ favorite Cocktail Pueblo records. Small world! We hit the stage, the show is ok but we can definitely feel some tiredness and we’re still trying to adapt to the new gear. People seem to enjoy it. Buildings are the last band on stage their powerful raw edge and stage presence is impressive. Brian and Travis seem kind of pissed off at each other, spitting and comments spring up and make a great punk rock show. I’m truly delighted to have played with them. We end up at Travis’ place, drink some vodka, some dude thinks that when Pierre and me speak French it’s sexy. Awkward.
03/27/2013 | MILWAUKEE, WI
After a cool lunch at the Bad Waitress in Minneapolis, we hit the road to Milwaukee. We get to the venue, a DIY space that is basically a nice house in a cozy neighborhood called Scheme City. We park in front of the house and meet Nate and Jimmy. Nate takes us up to check out this view of the whole city a top a hill. We enjoy the sun setting on the city. The show takes place in the basement, a bunch of kids come down. The DIY space seems to have strong ties with the crust-punk scene. The first band Scowler is powerful and energetic yet messy Converge-ey band, the bass player has amp problems but he insists nihilistically on letting his bass feedback throughout the whole set, pounding on it carelessly like he was waiting for the show to end. I had a great time watching them despite the negative attitude. The second band Eaten by trees is one of worst things I’ve seen in a while. Ridiculous post-adolescent poetry blended with poor musicianship: it sounds awful. I step outside and talk to some kid, who is hardly intelligible, he says he’s feeling like shit that it’s a miracle he is still alive that it had been a month since he came out of juvenile detention. The drugs or the alcohol or both is constantly stopping his train of thought and makes the conversation somewhat difficult. I head to the basement and I see this guy stumbling barefoot on his cigarette. After witnessing these scenes of American trauma and underage drinking, we set up our stuff and play and have a great time. The kids cook for everyone after the show and we end up talking with Jimmy and Nate, very good people. We drive back to Chicago to Ryan’s and listen to the Deathfix, Brendan Canty and Devin Ocampo’s new band and we’re surprised, pretty surprised…
03/28/2013 | CHICAGO, IL
We wake up late and reconnect with our lives ; calling my girlfriend and answering emails. Ryan takes us to the Chicago Dinner for lunch, a vegetarian restaurant with really nice food. And then Quimby’s a bookstore with mostly comics and fanzines, we stick around and I buy a couple of books and then hit Reckless Records. We get to the Burlington around 7pm, sound check and meet up with Rich, Scott and Rob from Bear Claw, and talk with the Canadian band Hidden Towers. We open the show and it feels good and right. Hidden Towers start and after the first drum solo, and the second guitar solo; we go to the bar and talk with Jason and Jay who came to the show. Jay tells me that America has never been so divided, in-between the Christian conservatives and the liberals and democrats. The news sources are entirely different, information doesn’t cross lines so people stick to their views, and it’s easily tangible in the differences in-between rural America and cities, not to mention in between states. We get back in the room for Bear Claw. Unfortunately, the crowd is really sparse. This band works like a rollercoaster; their sound is perfectly mastered. The two basses work well together, Scott perfectly providing the link. They play two new songs that sounded really good! After the show we go to Lazo’s for some Mexican cuisine and listened to the constant battle of mexican music with the jukebox playing awful dance crap.
03/29/2013 | CHICAGO, IL
We get up late and head to Lula’s, a fancy joint with nice food and hipsters with tatoos and beards and plastic things stuck in their ears. Oliver Lemasson is on the wine list… a 12-dollar glass though. We order and I notice through a mirror this a guy really looks like Thurston Moore. After Lula’s, we wander through the streets of Chicago, Arthur’s looking for some shoes, Pierre wants to buy a cymbal. We step into Guitar Center, which turns out to be some kind of psychedelic experience, with people playing riffs all over the place, Green Day, Pantera… whatever. Reuniting all the worst music gear produced worldwide. We hit Chicago music exchange; a ridiculously expensive museum. Pierre finds a good and pretty cheap 70’s crash/ride. Hell Yes, we’re out of here. We get back to Ryan’s and sort out stuff on the Internet like the last Italian shows we are trying to book. We get to Garden of Miracles around 7:30 pm, it’s the last show at Jeff’s and Ryan’s practice space, the room is small but well organized. The first band called the Bookoos, is set up, a bunch of 40 year old men drinking, their show is kind of useless. We set up after with the gear available on stage. Before the show, we went to a gyro for a quick dinner, the food was horrible. After we play, The Conformists set up, they are one of the bands we were looking forward to play with before the tour started. Their show is great, funny and mastered with a truly unique sense of songwriting and showmanship. They are great guys too; we can’t wait to play with them again tomorrow. Allie from the Kitchen Sink, a place we ate at earlier in the week is very talkative and running out of superlatives on the French language. Some guy wants us to play on a song he’s written; I’m still waiting for that e-mail.
03/30/2013 | ST LOUIS, MI
I drive down to St Louis with Ryan. We cruise down the poor areas of Chicago, it kind of reminds me of The Wire episodes. Then we get to Schlafly’s, it’s a restaurant crowded with families eating out on a Saturday night. We get a burger and a beer from their quality brewery. Brett who books the shows is a very nice guy. The Conformists set up the PA, and Kisser opens the show. Their performance is promising. We set up and play and it’s a fun show for everybody. We’re all very excited to see the Conformists play again and now we can’t wait ’til they come over to France again. As soon as the show starts, all the families seem to evaporate and a new crowd come in. We have a couple of beers after the show; the Bière de Garde is especially good. Two guys from the kitchen come up and talk with us. One is from Albania and talks about his life story coming to the US, through Italy and then bringing his mother over. We smoke a bowl with them and head back to Patrick’s (The Conformists’ drummer) parents’ house. The house is old and Patrick’s parents have just renovated it, from top to bottom. There are a couple of freaky dolls in my room but it’s by far most comfortable stay so far. I wake up and parts of the family is there for an Easter brunch. Patrick’s mom is an all-over hyperactive mom, there’s food all over the table (French toast, bacon, omelets, sausages, bacon, fruit…) we chat about cultural differences, the decline of St Louis, and Patrick’s father has a great sense of humor, much like Patrick’s. A great night and morning in St Louis, thanks to the Conformists!
03/31/2013 | LOUISVILLE, KY
We step into Zanzabar and the place is packed with loud Cards supporters. The NCAA basketball game in-between Louisville and Duke is on and everyone’s drinking and cheering. I stare at the spectacle with joy and hope that the Cards win so the party will go on! They win but the people exhausted by their Sunday drinking haze leave. It’s a warm and sunny Kentucky Sunday. Louisville is an important city for me since we listen to Slint in the mid-nineties and opened for Shipping News later that decade. I have always felt intrigued by the town and its musical community and it was major influence on me. It’s nice to see Todd (Shipping News, Shannon Wright, Dead Child…) there. Alcohol Party starts the show. The crowd is 20/30 people spread in front of the stage, we play and the reaction seems to be mixed, Anwar Sadat ends the show with a powerful punk rock set of 20 minutes. It felt like everyone was cold but finally talking with bands and Joe the sound guy from the venue and half of Karate body. I realize it was just me. We chat of wine and other beverages with Joel, our host for the night, tasting bourbon and talking about the Louisville scene. He is a pretty amazing guy! I stumble on the living room couch and fall asleep. I wake up when a flying beagle manages somehow to leap over the couch and runs around the house to finally escape under the back yard fence. His girlfriend Kim and Joel have an amazing record collection, divided in two separate rooms, she takes us to a fish and chips joint close to a Hunter S. Thompson wall painting. He’s from Louisville too. We thank them for their kindness, and take off to Nashville.
To be continued.