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...