Saturday, October 23, 2010
However, most of the groups we play with are basically unknown, and one of the coolest things about touring is running into an unknown band that just blows your mind.
When you call yourselves "The Bill Cosby Anarchist Society of America", you've got an incredible task in front of you. When you stand up in front of an audience and introduce yourselves as "The Bill Cosby Anarchist Society of America", you had better not suck. You had better not even be mediocre. You had better blow people's minds. That is why it is a bad idea to call yourselves "The Bill Cosby Anarchist Society of America".
Unless, of course, you are the three geniuses from Montreal who comprise The Bill Cosby Anarchist Society of America.
They are exactly as awesome as their name implies. Imagine Iggy and the Stooges had a baby with NOFX, and the kid had ADD and a severe eye twitch. Songs like "Street Fighter 2 Turbo", "Punch You In The Facebook", and "Q-Dog King Cheese Parking Bitches at Your Mom's Place" do not disappoint in the slightest. We simply can't say enough about how creative and powerful their album ("Fuck It Up Hard", 2010) is. It even includes, in the liner notes, a letter from Bill Cosby's lawyer telling them to change their name. Wow.
Moving along, Liquor Box are a country-punk band from Kingston, Ontario, and they succeed where so many others fail: they actually keep the rebel, outlaw-country spirit alive in the face of the continuing corporatization of their genre. I absolutely guarantee you that Hank Williams watches every single one of their shows from up in heaven, and maybe he even sings along.
Finally, despite all the hype and image surrounding Nirvana, despite the fact that Kurt and Friends made it seem like the whole thing was effortless, it is in fact extremely hard to make music like Nirvana did. Gnosis are a Japanese band whose albums unabashedly scream "GRUNGE IS NOT DEAD".
Again, it takes a lot of balls to try to breathe life into a Nirvana-esque sound, but in an ocean of musicians trying to find the next thing that will electrify the rock world like Nirvana did, a band like Gnosis is incredibly refreshing. Not only do they demolish stages, not only are they louder than loud, their songs actually come very close to achieving what Nirvana did, and that's pretty cool. The fact that they come from Japan makes it all the more impressive. I was under the impression that all music from Japan sounds like the Katamari Damacy soundtrack, but apparently I was wrong.
So remember, the next time you hear someone saying that rock is dead, that there are no good rock bands anymore, you stop them immediately and firmly inform them that this just isn't true. There are three of them.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
DEAR ANYONE who is involved in the rock/punk music scene in any reasonably sized North American city or town, any musician, booker or promoter who has found themselves saying any of the following things:
- "Yeah, the scene here sucks. It's way better in [insert other city here]."
- "I hate the [rock genre] scene in this town: audiences never move around or dance or anything."
- "Kids just aren't listening to [insert rock genre here] anymore."
- "This city is no fun"...
SHUT. UP. ABOUT. THE. GOD. DAMNED. "SCENE". AND. DO. YOUR. GOD. DAMNED. JOBS.
In Guelph, Ontario, after being told by another douchebag "promoter" (who failed to make or put up a single poster for our show) that "punk is dying", we snapped. Ladies and gentlemen, we just frigging snapped. We can't take this anymore. We can't handle the way that people blame their own artistic failures on "the scene" or "the city" or "the kids" and their alleged preferences. Shut up. Just god damned shut up. Maybe it's hard, maybe it isn't, but SHUT UP.
A couple of years ago, a local Vancouver band called Mexican Drug Patrol decided that while their shows were going well, they would be happy with a bigger crowd response, more dancing, more movement. So, they went online, watched some old videos of some of the greatest live bands of all time, and began to re-invent their live show. I saw them on New Years' Eve 2009, and it was probably the most mind-blowing show I saw all year. They destroyed that crowd, and they destroyed the crowd because they took some responsibility for their own performance.
CONTRAST TIME: Before the wall fell, punks in East Berlin were routinely arrested, jailed and raided by the Stasi police. The government sent informers into the punk scene who would report any rebellious activities to the authorities. A punk could find herself being sent to jail on testimony from someone she thought was a friend, a comrade. She could find her apartment searched for lyrics sheets that contain anti-communist sentiments. She could even go to jail just for attending a show.
East Berlin, 1982: No Fun City. Look it up, friends. Then try to tell yourselves, again, that your town just can't have a good rock/punk/metal/whatever music scene because of X/Y/Z.
Now, we all know that it's difficult to carve out a space for rock/punk/metal in any city: that's a given. It's also difficult to start a bakery or a hair salon. Restrictions, taxes, evictions, rental hikes and various economic policies make it tough for anyone who decides to do anything other than live in a box and eat worms. Maybe it's even particularly tough for artists, I don't really know. But what I do know is that a whooooole lot of energy is being put into complaining about why we fail, and that seems like energy that could be used more productively. Like, for example, we could use it to stop failing.
If there are more than 10000 people aged 18-25 in your town, there will always be a market for good, powerful live music. You can either bitch endlessly to anyone who'll listen about how there is no scene, or you can help to create a scene. The choice is yours. But don't expect people who actually work their asses off creating a scene to stay quiet while you trash the very thing they're working so hard to nurture. Mmmmkay? Thanks.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
There, I said it. I know that most of our fans are in Canada and Europe, and are therefore used to making fun of the U S of A. Chances are, you've probably called Americans fat, stupid or politically insane at some point.
But no matter what you say, no matter where you live, and no matter how many Noam Chomsky books you discuss with your friends at the Anarchy Cafe Book Club, you will never be a citizen of a country that has chicken fried chicken.
Yes, America has spent the last 50 years starting wars that have basically ruined the world, but I don't recall driving through B.C. or Nova Scotia and seeing a restaurant called "Neato Burrito".
I don't recall the shots in London being 3 ounces, nor were there 40-oz cans of beer labeled "Big Ass".
I don't recall stopping at a restaurant in Germany or France and eating a grilled cheese sandwich where they grill the cheese before they grill the sandwich.
I don't recall stopping at a random bar in a small Dutch or Welsh city and discovering that it has 348 beers available.
I don't recall ever seeing a restaurant in Canada that sells burgers by the bag.
Every show we've played has been to about eight people: we don't care. We get to wake up the next day and go to some random diner where a nice older lady with a beehive haircut will turn a 100-calorie plate of mashed potatoes into a 1000-calorie plate of mashed potatoes via the river of hollandaise sauce she liberally pours all over the meal without even asking you first.
America is where God lives. And God is fat.
Thursday, September 30, 2010
120 days of writing, practicing and arranging, 28 days of studio, mixing, mastering, panicking, drinking, shouting, barfing, waking up not knowing where our pants were, fighting, crying, baking, being chased by the police down an alleyway in New Westminster and enjoying a Margaret Lawrence novel with some mint tea in a hot bubble bath with Sarah McLaughlan's "Surfacing" on later, it is finished.
The CD Release is tomorrow, and it's the culmination of 5 long years of work in Vancouver. The album is diverse, fast, furious and fun. It's easily the best thing any of us has ever put together, and we're proud to begin our next North American tour knowing that it stands proudly next to any folk-punk album ever made, maybe even casts menacing glances at a few of them, maybe even snickers at them a bit, maybe sneaks backstage to snog their girlfriends.
Thanks to everyone who made it possible, and thanks to everyone who's about to see our new, vamped-up live show on the upcoming tours.
Tomorrow, we polka.
Monday, August 9, 2010
Lady: "And what do you think of your home country of Ireland?"
Seamus: "... what?"
Uncle Touchy: "Too many leprechauns."
Lady: "And... um... how are you finding Switzerland?"
Squid: "... Google Maps".
It was a short interview.
Friday, August 6, 2010
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
When you find yourself going 130 kph in an extremely shitty old van, and the back tire has exploded, and the van is careening all over the autobahn, and the noise inside the van is like ten thousand members of Satan's Unholy Demon Choir screaming liturgies of death into your ears, one thought invariably goes through your mind:
Shouldn't have left the lucky Punjabi dangling van ornament in the Ukraine.
But, oh, this theme was set long before, on Day 2. A big punk festival, a couple of thousand people waiting for our set, I pull my very expensive guitar out of its case and discover that a tiny piece has come loose and is nowhwere to be seen. The guitar won't work without it. We later discover that, because my very expensive guitar was made in America and we are in Europe, it is actually impossible to find a replacement. The reason? The metric and imperial systems of measurement. Day 2, no guitar. Awesome.
We pulled it out though, crashing through an awesome set and ending the show in a new and interesting way. There was this little kid, a pure German stereotype (chubby, blond, loud) dancing in the front row, and as we started to play "Elizabeth", I motioned for him to get up on stage. His eyes sparkled and he ran up to the security guard minding the stage. The security guard shook his head, firmly indicating that no-one was allowed to approach the stage. All we could see through the noise and smoke was this enraged little ball of fire begin to thump his chest and scream at the guard. The guard shrugged and let the kid through. Wow. Soon, he was up on stage, leaping around, screaming into microphones and generally displaying ten times the stage presence of most lead singers I'm aware of.
After the song, we all laughed and hugged the kid, messed his hair and told him to start a band when he got older. A strange, cooing noise arose from the crowd, and we later learned that it was actually the sound of 2,000 ovaries sighing.
No, really, we looked it up on wikipedia.
WHAT NEXT? Mighty Sounds Festival in the Czech Republic! Pretty much the greatest festival we've ever been a part of. Probably our most powerful set of all time, as well, the climax being when the SSB went crowd-surfng 30 feet from the stage and Seamus--displaying an admirable disregard for endangering others--actually threw a huge tom-drum at him. Here's what happened:
We met and drank with Smokey Bastard, a simply fantastic folkpunk band from Reading, England. The highlight of our meeting was bringing about 39 pints of beer into a quiet, hippie-ish hookah bar on the festival grounds and singing English and Canadian sea shanties to all the hippies. The Smokeys ended the session with a rendition of their fantastic song, "Steve The Twat". In general, it was just nice to speak with people who understand both our language and the concept of comic irony.
By far the best part of the festival was when one of our van keys broke in the lock and the other key was with an unbelievably drunk and completely missing Seamus. We could not get into the van. We sent massive search parties out into the night, scowering the festival for the tent of the saucy young wench he'd certainly gone off with. Two hours later, no luck. We somehow managed to score a ride back to our hotel, and came back the next morning to the festival grounds.
Ten points to the first commenter who can guess where he was.
A few days later, we found ourselves in Kiel, northern Germany. We arrived backstage to find an opening band putting eyeliner on each other backstage. Um. After finishing a set in a basement room which literally rose to an eyeliner-melting 46C during the show, I jumped off stage and immediately began complaining loudly to the locals about how all the buildings were so new, shiny and uninteresting, like the town had no history. One of them quietly informed me that Kiel had been a major centre of U-Boat construction during the war, and had thus been utterly demolished by the Allies.
"Oh," I said. "Um... gotta go!"
The next day, Rupert the Bear found himself back in Hamburg, the place where on year ago he had literally lost his head. After the show, he agreed to come out with us for "a beer". We rambled over to Hamburg's legendary Reeperbahn and entered the official pub of FC St. Pauli, the world-famous soccer/football club. We approached the bar, ordered some beers, and suddenly realized that the bartender was wearing a Dreadnoughts' shirt. He informed us that he was also the owner and that he was going to bring free beers over to our table until we were stinking drunk. "A beer" indeed. We laughed, smiled and sang all into the night, like children, fully unaware of the horrors that the following day would bring us.
Now, I don't know the names of the people who manufactured and installed the rear right tire on our van. All I know is that they had better take particular care to never encounter me.
A few hours after the "incident", we were driving like mad in a newly rented van to a festival in southern germany. We were supposed to arrive at 6 PM, and our ETA was 10:30. The festival organizers were nice enough to move the music plans around to accommodate us, and another band offered to let us use their gear (since most of our gear was lying in several pieces in what was left of a van). We arrived, caught some of the other acts, and heroically pulled out a headlning set at one in the morning in the pouring rain and suffocating mud. We finished, thanked the previous band for their gear, and learned from the organizers shortly thereafter that they had decided to charge us 100 Euro ($130 CDN) to use the gear for 30 minutes. This was deducted from our pay for the night.
If a band, any band--even Nickelback--had been through what we had just gone through and we had something they needed, we would give it to them to use, no questions asked.
We take consolation in the fact that we will never, ever be:
(1) The worst folk-rock band in the entire world, complete with terrible songwriting, computerized fiddle/accordion noises and the worst vocal performances since Bob Dylan accidentally swallowed a frog during his live rendition of "Ave Maria", and
(2) The kind of horrible human beings who can charge a group of people who just narrowly escaped death money for basically no reason.
The following evening we played a festival headlined by some extremely famous german "hip-hop" band. I don't even remember what they were called, but I do know that putting our merchandise table next to theirs was a massive mistake. They were repeatedly swarmed, and I mean swarmed, by huge gangs of 12-to-14 year-old girls, each wanting a poster, shirt or body part signed.
Now, the Dreadnoughts are no enemies of real Hip Hop, in fact, ten points to the first commenter who can name the Dreadnoughts song with A Tribe Called Quest line in it. However, we were forced to watch in disbelief as the group repeatedly passed drinks out to the crowd of teenaged girls, and gasped in horror as many of the same girls made it absolutely clear that they wanted to be taken back to the hotel later that night. One or two of us stuck around for the "set" of "music", and concluded that the majority of 12-to-14 year-old girls should probably be put in manacles every day at 4 PM for their own good.
Despite The Incident, we have currently made and played every show on this tour. This is largely because of Clemens Schlink, our german friend and roadie, a man who is kind, loyal, generous, and willing to take insane trips across the European wasteland in order to secure another van for us. Also, he is the world cup-stacking champion. You think I'm making that up? Nope.
Today, we are finally equipped with a brand new, huge, pimp-ass tour van on the way back to the Czech Republic. We just visited a small Swiss town to deposit some money, and we stopped at a red light outside the bank. We all lurched forward violently as a huge "BANG" echoed from the rear of the vehicle. Someone had rear-ended us. Hard. Three hours with the cops, a million forms, injury reports, and a few nervous phone calls to the rental company later, we are now back on the road. What. The. Fuck.
Rest assured that the next time we see something, anything Punjabi, we are buying it and hanging it from the rear view mirror. Since the old one went missing, things have been slightly... off.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Luxembourg is the second-largest country in Europe. Its borders span from the southern banks of the Be'chech river all the way up to northern Irkustk, and it is covered with majestic rivers, breathtaking mountain ranges and a nagging sense of meaninglessness and anxiety.
Luxembourg contains twelve million people and eighteen thousand Frenchmen. Its capital city is Grargh and its three principal provinces are Grbpl, Shrbplpppl and Bleen. Luxembourg is ruled by a rotating 23-member Grand Council and men's choir, selected every four year by national elections. According to the country's constitution, Almost all Luxembourgers are eligible to vote, except for convicted felons, traitors, men who own property, women who don't own property, people between the ages of 23 and 52, Aquarians, Saggitarians, and (quote) "ne'er-do-wells".
Its main exports are maize, yarn and motivational speakers. Due to European Union trade restrictions and policies, Luxembourg is forced to import most of its food directly from Yeurbonia and Poland. This has created a moderate malnutrition problem in much of the country, where rural Luxembourgers are forced to subsist on a diet of lima beans, Bok Choy and discarded Coffee Crisp wrappers.
Luxembourgian history is dominated by the Great Belgian War, which began in 1221 and continues on to this day. The tiny and otherwise insignificant Atlantic nation of Belgium, enraged by 1219's Belgium Can Lick Our Balls Act has conducted terrorist guerilla warfare on Luxembourg for centuries, stealing property, burning villages and even forcing a small French quadrant of Luxembourg to join Belgium itself.
Luxembourg's national anthem was written by Gary Young in 1629, and it is called "Plant Man":
Luxembourg's future is a great unknown. The natural, hard-working and efficient mindset of the average Luxembourger is a great source of stability and economic growth, but unfortunately the increasing pressures of globalization, external threats to national security and an as-yet-unexplained increase in Invisible Scary Skeleton attacks have disrupted the nation's natural harmony and peacefulness. In spite of these challenges, Luxembourg soldiers on, a shining beacon of reason and progress in the European polity.
This message brought to you by The Dreadnoughts and The Luxembourg Tourism Board.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
Monday, June 14, 2010
I know that it is now time to bring out my Secret Weapon. I take the dice, place them in the cup, look up to the sky, cross myself, place the cup near my mouth and whisper: "let it ride."
I slam the cup upside-down and lift it up quickly, the entire bar breathlessly watching for the result...
...Although I'm fully aware that none of you is going to believe what happened next, so I should probably tell you how I got into that situation. You see, the Dreadnoughts were contracted to play the "Ink n' Iron" festival in Long Beach, California, opening for punk rock luminaries Swingin' Utters, Stiff Little Fingers, Hepcat and the incomparable X. We flew a day early from Vancouver down into the sun, sand and palm trees, and found ourselves staying in Inglewood, a poor but vibrant black/hispanic community beside South Central Los Angeles.
We downed some beers at an El Salvadorian pupuseria, a place we visited solely because any food called "pupusa" has got to be worth trying (hunch: correct). The dude behind the bar liked us, at least until the Stupid Swedish Bastard asked him: "hey, when do you get off work?". The bartender's eyes widened and he made it crystal clear that he was not homosexually oriented. The service declined noticeably after that, all because the SSB is apparently one of the eight people in the world who do not know that "when do you get off work?" is universal code for "I am a creepy asshole who wants to fuck you".
With this towering success under our belts, we decided to go back to our hotel. That highly responsible plan was quickly destroyed when we walked past a small, raucous, hole-in-the-wall bar with Mexican accordion-polka music blaring from inside. If you've spent any time with us at all, you know that eight thousand Samurai warriors couldn't have kept us out of there.
I tell you, dear readers, there is nothing that two dozen surly occupants of a Latino-only bar love more than three weirdos, a hippie and a troll walking into their bar, especially when the invaders are whiter than a terrified polar bear who's drowning in a giant pile of chalk.
Several uncomfortable seconds passed before we whipped out a very clever trick we've used at the native-only Savoy bar on East Hastings: we bought the bar a round. This, as everyone knows, is universal code for "please ignore the fact that the White Man is responsible for 60% of the world's problems and 100% of yours".
Mexican polka, endless rounds of Bohemia beer, dancing, shouting, singing, and surrounded by illegal immigrants with three jobs each: that is how the Dreadnoughts like to be, man. As we took a taxi (punk rock!) to the festival the next day, we wondered how weird it was going to be to go from that to a tattoo festival where we're not allowed to swear onstage and we get to sit backstage with Stiff Little Fingers and 12 free cans of Bud Light.
Answer: very weird. We have nothing against tattoos (except, occasionally, our grunting, sweaty bodies) but we don't really get the point of covering yourself with them, slicking your hair back and gurgling over sparkly cars from the 1950s. I'll take our beautiful 2007 Dodge Grand Caravan anyday, but hey, whatever floats your ocean liner.
(in 2057 will people go to Dodge Grand Caravan shows?)
Everyone was very nice, though, our set went well and getting to hang out with the Utters and Hepcat was just awesome. The Dreadnoughts actually made quite a splash amongst all of the Famous People, and not because of our music. Let's just say that I have, on my laptop, a YouTube video of an extremely well-endowed walrus doing something very... nice to himself with his big, floppy, whiskery mouth. I showed the video to the singer of Swingin' Utters, and I guess word got around the backstage area, because a couple of hours later an older Irish gentleman approached me and said: "Hello, we haven't met, but I play guitar in Stiff Little Fingers and I understand that you have a video that I have to see."
This is now our strategy for becoming famous: make sure that no man, woman or child in the world thinks the name "Dreadnoughts" without also thinking "walrus video".
We took another taxi (punk rock!) back from the festival and despite the fact that it was 1 in the morning the SSB and I went straight back to mexican polka bar, where we were greeted with a cheer and several shouts of "andele!". Which, as everyone knows, is universal Spanish code for "buy me a beer, white boy!".
We also can't go anywhere without running into racists: this is just a fact that we've learned to accept. From the sieg-heils in rural Quebec to the Polish skinhead who insisted that a black hockey player has never existed in the history of the world, we've really seen a lot of this stuff. But nothing prepared us for the "Deport Obama" bumper sticker on the LA freeway.
Or the guy who looked at me in the elevator and said "man, it's good to be white, isn't it?" Umm.... what? Congratulations, America: you have produced racists that make European neo-nazis look relatively tame.
The more we travel, the more we realize how utterly stupid racism is. Walking into that place was like diving into a cool pool on a blistering-hot day... I felt like we were back in the real, actual world again with real people. Despite the fact that we invaded their bar and the fact that most were registered gang members, just about all of them were friendly, cheerful and curious to learn about Canada. Racism is stupid. In fact, as everyone knows, there is only one kind of person worse than a racist, and that's a goddamned Frenchman.
Anyway, It felt so good to be back that I decided to celebrate by losing my passport. So while the rest of the lads flew home the next day, I was in a barely controlled panic trying to find the stupid thing so I could get home. It turns out that a Canadian passport dropped on the ground in an area full of illegals is not likely to be returned. Right now, at the Saskatchewan border, there's a guy from Bolivia who speaks eight words of English trying to convince the border guard that his name is "Nicholas Andrew Smyth".
I quickly devised an alternate strategy for dealing with the situation: instead of running around in a controlled panic, I was going to just go back to the damned bar and drink my problems away. Round three. I hung out with Joselyn, Benito and the owner's son all night, a certain walrus-themed video may or may not have been merrily passed around, and the fact that I was laughing, drinking and singing along to Spanish accordion music while the other Dreadnoughts were enduring a 6-hour layover in Denver made it all particularly sweet. Hey, guys: suck it! Did you join the mile-high club with each other? Ha!
But, gentle readers, I drank a little too much, made a few too many friends, and when they taught me the dice-game, I found myself betting 100 DreadBucks on one round. I needed to roll a full house, four-of-a-kind or a five-of-a-kind to beat Jocelyn's three sixes and win all that money. Odds? Around one in 20. Ayyy. Sweating like an athsmatic pig, I rolled, lifted the cup, and everyone stared in disbelief at a five, a three, and...
...three sixes. A tie.
Let it ride.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
This diagram should be attached to every west-to-east tourist map of Europe.
One country per day, west to east: that was the (rather absurd) plan on this one. We picked up Cock-Face, our god-like German roadie, and headed for Switzerland. We had a successful and relatively normal night, only drinking heavily until the early, responsible hour of 4 AM.
Pilsen, in the Czech republic, was next. Again, things went relatively smoothly, but dear old Seamus got the disaster ball rolling by chugging a bottle of vodka on stage, slicing his belly up with broken glass and almost dying in the backstage bathroom while a bizarre Czech lady kept shoving her fingers down his throat to induce more tummy-evacuation.
A refreshing two hours of sleep later, we all piled into the van for a 13-hour drive to Poland. Accumulated sleeplessness began to take its toll, and we began to turn the van into a cross between a madhouse-circus and an infant's crib:
Oh, and hey, you know, leaving so early in the morning should have got us to our show on time, except for one minor problem, which was that southern Poland was FUCKING UNDERWATER.
The drive was hell. Pure, traffic-choked hell. Second only to the France drive last year where I was nearly eaten by wolves. Actually, sometimes I think that I actually was eaten by wolves and that my soul is currently inhabiting some bizarre, video-game plane of existence. Allow me to explain.
We pulled into our venue in Sanok, Poland, only to have a burly chap at the door tell us: "show cancelled. No show."
Wide-eyed, panicking, delerious from lack of sleep, we ran/drove/crawled around the town until we discovered 300 people waiting for us at another bar. We screamed up in the van and were immediately mobbed by Polish friends and organizers. It was good to be back, and for a few brief, shining moments, it appeared as though things were looking up.
Around an hour later, I realized how wrong we had been, as I lay convulsing on the stage, the last remenants of 240 volts coursing out of my body and dissipating into the ground.
"FATHER! PLEEEZE!" I shouted, momentarily convinced that I was going through a scene in Return Of The Jedi and that some masked, caped, black figure would remove me from this torment by heaving the Emporer down a large shaft. As it turns out, the only large shaft involved in the situation was the one we were currently getting, the phallus of Poland's electricity system. Which in this case had neglected to install grounding pins in our plugs. 5 songs in, show cancelled, no show, no sleep, no beer in the van, fucking Kourrva fuck.
The following day, we awoke fresh from two hours of sleep in order to make our way to the Stare Misto festival in Lviv, Ukraine. None of us had visited the Ukraine, so we were quite excited to be going so far East. However, I am a seasoned world traveller, and I know that you should not expect a foreign country to conform to a list of Hollywood stereotypes. So I tried not to expect a land full of soil-tilling babuskas, corrupt policemen with kalashnikov rifles, ornate churches, chickens running free through the countryside, and roads that have not been repaired since the 1917 revolution.
You can guess where this is going.
"KOURWA! KOURWA CHEEKENS!" shouted Leo, our driver, as he fought desperately to avoid both the fowl beasts and potholes the size of cider barrels while travelling at roughly 125 kph. Leo was, I am not making this up, a movie stunt driver in the Ukraine for many years.
Babusya-ladies in traditional dresses stood in line at churches, tilled the fields with hoes, and were easily mistaken for large, wobbly potatoes. Vodka didn't actually run in streams down from the hills, but it fucking might as well have. It was everywhere, including in giant pools in our bellies shortly after entering the country. Oh, and how did we enter the country? By leaving a stack of bills on the dash and looking away as a border guard casually reached in and ganked it.
Repeat after me, class:
We played well at the festival, a main highlight being when I informed the 15,000 people that we had only come from Canada in order to have sex with each and every one of them. It was only later that I noticed that many of them were children, but you know, whatever. We don't really like grape juice, but we do like wine, if you're mowing what I'm growing there.
Coach (somehow) crowd-surfed off the 40-foot stage, we bashed out old and new songs, finished, and ran backstage . We were eventually mobbed by dozens of autograph-seekers. In all honesty, though, meeting and signing autographs with Ukrainian kids was one of the coolest things any of us have ever done.
Things got better: Goran Bregovic took the stage. He and his huge band are, to my mind at least, the best live gypsy/russian/balkan group in the world. We waded into the crowd and joined these heartbreakingly cool traditional local folk-dances, where hundereds of people formed circles within circles within circles and danced around each other in different directions. At times, all I could do was try not to be overwhelmed by the sight of it all: young, beautiful, happy people dancing and shouting and laughing along to their own traditional folk music.
Let's just say that if I ever have to sit on a fucking lawn-chair at some Canadian folk festival again and listen to some brain-dead weirdo covering Joni Mitchell on a harp, I'm going to think about the Stare Misto festival. And then I am going to kill myself.
Anyway, that night, we made it back to our wonderfully lush hotel around 11 PM and prepared to get the first solid 8 hours of sleep we'd had all tour. Nothing, not a single thing on god's blue earth could have kept me away from that.
"Oh, look," someone said as we walked through the lobby towards our rooms. "There's a bar."
Seven hours later I went to bed after endlessly slugging vodka out of a jug, ranting at anyone who'd listen about how eastern europe needs more feminism, and accidentally pissing on a tabby cat outside the bar. Kourwa Blotch.
One final show awaited us in Poland, and it was excellent, with great bands, old friends, no violent electrocutions, and a woman who showed us this:
... wow. We're not sure how we got so lucky as to have developed this awesome relationship with so many Polish people, but it's happened, and we're gonna milk it for all the free vodka it's worth.
Now, I know what you're thinking right now: "What about pierogi? Where are the usual pierogi stories?" Well, we did stop at a restaurant for some excellent pierogi (the best yet, actually), and sitting across from us was an older Polish man who, at 10 in the morning, was clearly obliterated on some form of hard liquor. He ordered food in slurred Polish while swaying back and forth in his seat. The waitress eventually brought him his pizza and well...
Friday, April 16, 2010
Monday, April 5, 2010
We are currently making our way through the rugged, rocky terrain of Montana, in the midst of a 56-hour drive home. The drive is long, tiring, and I’ve just been fed the devastating news that not only is Hannah Montana not from here, she doesn’t even visit.
Thinking back on this tour, a lot stands out, and it’s hard to think of how to describe it all here.
There was the first show in Victoria: my mum brought us a huge bounty of Merridale Cider and the opening band was called Lesbian Fist Magnet. Result: Guaranteed Success!
The near-constant stops for poutine: a culinary obsession of ours. We have consumed something on the order of 75 poutines between us in the past two weeks, and some of us are beginning to take on a decidedly “pregnant” look. Luckily, I hear that look is “in”.
Ottawa: a crowd of chanting, clapping-in-unison university students outside Ottawa University walked past our car. Their beaming, fresh, optimistic faces contrasted with our scraggly, sunken, gin-soaked visages. Squid Vicious, ever eager to do the right thing, rolled down his passenger-side window and offered them a curt suggestion:
We spent most of the time in the van either playing Travel Trivial Pursuit or discussing vegetarianism and the state of the North American agricultural system. Oh, god above in heaven, how I wish I were making that up.
Montreal: a massive mosh pit culminating in a “Wall Of Death” which actually caused serious injury to several audience members. We also consolidated a new club: the Gintlemen’s Club. This is an extremely exclusive club consisting of anyone who has drank two shots of gin with us, pounded their fist on the bar and shouted: “GINTLEMEN’S CLUB!”. The shouting is important.
Winnipeg? Winnipeg can go and fuck itself.
Finally, Chicoutimi, a sad and happy night with a bizarre ending. Fred Simard, ever the gentleman, supplied us with gobs of poutine and 18 litres of Quebecois Hard Cider (10%). We played one of our best shows of all time and made merry well into the night. On a more serious note, we met Joe Desgagne’s mother and father and talked with them for a while about Joe and Claudine. We signed messages for our departed friends and received an incredible gift: the roulette wheel we used to play Epic Drinking Game “Let It Ride” with Joe and Claudine the last time we saw them.
Joe was too tipsy to play the game properly at the time, so he just left all his chips on the number “26”. Thus freed from the responsibilities of playing, he just drank when he was told to drink and gave a gleeful holler whenever the very unlikely “26” came up and he was allowed to distribute a ridiculous number of drinks to his friends. He spent that night grinning, laughing, dancing, and shouting “Twenty-Six! Vingt-Six!!” at everyone and anyone.
As we left the venue this last time, thoughts of the recently departed Joe firmly in our mind, Squid suddenly decided to pull out the roulette wheel and declare that we had to spin it one last time in his memory. He threw the ball around, spun, the wheel in t opposite direction, and shouted: “Let it ride, folks, let it riiiide!”
And, dear readers, you must be assured that I would not ever make this up in a million years: the ball landed squarely on black 26.
Monday, March 1, 2010
The last time we saw Joe and Claudine, we had just been treated to a booze-soaked private show in their home basement, a fully decked-out bar they called the Unnipek Pub. Ono the wall was a large mirror with the phrase "Cider is Good For You" etched into it. We drank obscene amounts of their liquor for free and they helped us to invent the World's Greatest Drinking Game: "Let It Ride", a spectacular game with chips and a roulette wheel. By the end of the night, everyone was tired, happy and nicely drunk.
It was one of the greatest nights we've ever had, and it will always stand as a testament to Joe and Claudine. We did not know that the poutine we shared with them the next morning would be our last together, and we did not know that our good-bye embraces would be final. However, we do know that they were among the finest people we've ever had the chance to meet on the road, and we will never forget them.
Faire toujours veiller un rayon de sa gloire
Sur les tombeaux de ses enfants.
-Octave Crémazie (1860)
Saturday, February 6, 2010
When we think back on this particular trip years from now, one word will leap out of our memories: "cold". Europe has just experienced its worst winter in decades, with temperatures dropping to -23C in Poland itself. This normally would not be a problem, unless you are travelling in a van which has inexplicably lost its heat and also you are surrounded by people who think that a good solution for this problem is to fill the engine with bits of cardboard.
Good god, I wish I was making all of that up.
It started when the heat stopped and a little red light came on. Things got very cold, but we (somehow) made it to a gas station and warmed up with some food. We had barely turned our backs when we discovered that eight Poles (tour manager, opening band) were standing around our open engine and stuffing cardboard into it. Their theory was that the extreme cold was preventing the engine from getting hot enough to heat the van.
If you think about this for five seconds, you realize that it is completely, COMPLETELY retarded. But our brains had frostbite and we somehow allowed them to gum up all the airflow in the engine with cardboard.
We drove away. Predictably, the engine temperature shot up to 130 C, which is techincally, as a mechanic might say, "very bad". Suffice to say, we took the carboard out and continued to FREEZE OUR BLUE, ICY BALLS OFF. The engine refused to cool down. The irony of freezing our blue, icy balls off while simultaneously having panic attacks about the engine overheating was not lost on us.
Somehow, we managed to keep our spirits up:
It took a couple of days and some horrible nights to get the van fixed, and let's just say that we will probably never be that cold again. Let's also just say that we broke down some traditional gender barriers by using each other's heat to stay warm. That's all I'm going to say.
This entry will be too colossal to read if I try to tell you everything else that happened. But I can summarize: we got on a major polish TV station and screwed it up by shouting Polish obscenities too often, we lit Druzil on fire on stage, Squid Vicious gouged his head open by smashing a beer glass on his head, I nearly broke my leg in a vodka-assisted fall in Krakow, one of our shows was run by the Polish mafia who decided to take a ton of extra money from us without warning (our response: "well, your money's worthless anyway, isn't it?"), our van door fell off, and (FINALLY, on the last day), we were able to eat proper Polish pierogy:
Nonetheless, the shows were huge, incredible, and filled with excellent (and, as I've said, insane) people.
Those are just the things we remember. Multiply it all by 4 and that's pretty much what happened to us. Fuck. Kourrrrva.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
"Normally" is really the key word, there. Instead of doing these things, we decided to:
- Drink 16 litres of cider before the show,
- Run around the venue with the words "fuck Ireland" written all over our skin in black sharpie,
- Threaten to beat the living shit out of a banjo player in another band,
- Barf on stage,
- Empty about two pints of Seamus' blood onto the stage via his mangled elbow,
- NOT cut a plush sheep in half, (definitely not. we don't even know which sheep you're talking about), and,
- Play a show which was later described--charitably--as "disturbing" and "avant-garde",
Thursday, January 21, 2010
So, we made it to Switzerland. A few days ago we played a big indoor festival called "Ska-Fest". We were excited about this for two reasons:
1. We were playing with TALCO, an incredibly good Italian folk-punk band with horns and violins and all kinds of awesome, and
2. We had a golden opportunity to make fun of ska music.
You see people, ska is generally terrible music. The reason is is terrible is that it sucks and we hate it. The reason there are so very many ska bands in every single city in the world is because most children are forced to play some kind of horn instrument in high school band. Then, as adults, legions of these musicians get a little baked while listening to Sublime and realize that they might get laid if they join a band. The songwriting and stage performance seems to be of secondary importance.
So, meeting Talco was something else. They blew everyone else off the stage...
...went backstage and were promptly annihilated by an Albertan drinking game taught to them by a certain Canadian punk band. Not only were they incredible guys, they also had that distinctly Italian inability to resist peer pressure. The result? Two soused folkpunk bands shouting, throwing things and generally terrorizing the rest of the (ahem, ska) bands.
Now, The Dreadnoughts generally do not believe in being poseurs. That is to say, we sing about getting drunk and going on adventures and doing utterly stupid things, and we do all of those things. We like to play big festivals with other so-called "party" bands, because we get to see if they, you know, actually put their cider where their mouth is, actually walk the walk.
Suffice to say, at this festival, we emerged as the undisputed champtions of The Walk. We destroyed the stage, we lit things on fire, we ran screaming through the halls, we valiantly leapt to defend the honour of damsels in distress, we poured obscene amounts of beer into our gullets, and most importantly, at the end of the night, one of us had to be carried out of the venue by Squid Vicious and the president of our record label.
And ska music? Well, ska music got the full treatment. We'd just finished "Ivanhoe" for around 200 moshers, and I got on the mic:
"Hey, do you guys like ska music?" The crowd roared their assent, throwing their hands in the air.
"Why?" I countered. "Ska music is terrible."
(Some laughter, a few scattered boos.)
"No, some of you seem to think I'm joking. Ska is terrible. It's all exactly the same. You only like it because you're white and that means it's the only music that you can dance to."
(Here, we all parodied that ridiculous "skanking" dance that ska fans do).
The boos became much louder. "OH!" I shouted. "Can't handle the truth, eh? Hey guys, wanna do a ska song for them?"
We broke into an easy two-chord ska breakdown, complete with our best trombone imitations into the microphones. The crowd began to dance wildly, and we soon ground the song to a halt. "wHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?" I shouted. "Didn't you SEE HOW EASY THAT WAS? JESUS!!!"
Anyway, Martin, our aforementioned label president, told me the next day that this was the best thing he'd ever seen and that he was sick to death of ska music. This is rather unfortunate for him, as he does happen to run the biggest ska label in Switzerland. Hmmm.
Also we went to Belgium. For some reason.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
We'll begin with Rupert the Bear and his injury (and subsequent recovery) in Hamburg, Germany:
Then, we go to a report by Seamus O'Flanahan, describing his favourite parts of the tour so far:
Coming back from Copenhagen, we encountered -20C weather, high winds, and snow drifts. We quickly learned that Danish men are 60000% more manly than we are:
In Kassel, Druzil displayed his extraordinary talents for the locals:
Finally, today in Spangenberg... Squid Vicious decided to concoct an entirely novel dish, the Choco-Herringdog:
All in all... well... fuck.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Our plane leaves at 6 AM, in four hours. We were going to try to smuggle some cider on board until that feckin' eejit tried to blow up a plane by lighting his ballocks on fire or whatever it was and now there's no liquids at all. Bugger.
The new countries on this tour are Denmark and Croatia. Croatia is exciting: we hear they have incredibly creative ways of getting completely annihilated there.
As for Denmark, well, there ARE rumours that Uncle Touchy has spent one previous night in Copenhagen, and if you talk to the right people they'll tell you that he may have emptied an entire bottle of Absinthe down his gullet and thrown a television out of a 5-story window. Uncle Touchy would just like to set the record straight and remind everyone of how viciously inaccurate the rumour mill can be. He also drank a beer.
Stay tuned for videos, images, and our new "scratch-and-sniff" blog entries! Mmmm!