Should I have brought a journal along on this last European tour? No... Yes... well, I have the feeling it wouldn't have made much of a difference. I would have still sat in the van shocked into paralysis because we were all still getting along smashed into a van for the past few weeks. I am hoping that many of the unbelievable good memories will manifest themselves once again. I want to talk endlessly about the creation of Gubland where you could only get a visitors pass to spend the day with the Gubernor Scott Conway. It's a land that was created for Gub, so that he could be excused from the planet earth without feeling bad. We are all slightly insane, we all have our oddities and Gub stands king. On this tour we learned to respect and trust his strange meanderings and tangents including the one about him "loving us more than Jesus" or wanting to ride on the shoulder of a giant from gig to gig. It amazed us that this bulky, bearded mad wanderer charmed every European he met. We learned that he was kind beyond measure.
Can I even begin to tell the stories of Phillip Hill? This is the man who manufactures bits of hysterical history at least once a day. The only guitarist I know who doesn't sweat and can go at least a week without a shower or changing close and still smell fresh as a powdered baby’s bottom. He can drink for days and only sleep while standing up for a few minutes and still he shows up on stage on time and plays all the right notes and rhythms. It's unbelievable! He eats faster than anyone I know. Liz asked him how he can enjoy the taste if he swallows the food before even chewing, and he responded, "I don't taste it with my tongue or my teeth I taste it with my stomach." It is hard to relay the humor in his many costumes and mutations. He transformed himself into Idiot Boy with his ears sticking out and his belly making him wobble as he walked unevenly around a dressing room in The Netherlands. He then put on a cape and Gub stuffed a shirt under it and he turned into the hunchback roadie and spoke grimily as he said to us "The venue is ready for your performance master." But none can top his masterpiece transition from Phillip Hill to Vultar for our final show in Gemert. All it took was a silver silk cape and a large Halloween tarantula which he fastened to the back of his cape like Ming the Merciless and wrapped it around his face like a mustache similar to an Amish Lemmy. He played the entire show with dead seriousness and we all laughed until we cried when we watched a video of it later that night. I know that I come from a band that helped to inspire this kid from Nashville but the tables have turned and I am in awe staring at the talent of this boy.
Bice, who started this tour as an unknown to the European's is my rock. The Italians even put a question mark above his head on the poster for the show in La Spezia. They didn't know what I knew. They didn't know that he was one of the loudest, most intense, spontaneous drummers that they would ever see. They didn't know that he was going to impress the beJesus out of them. They didn't know that his facial expressions alone would make them pay attention to that guy sitting helpless behind a bunch of cymbals and drums. And Bice didn't know that each night would be a party, and each night he would say, "Johnny, this can't go on. Tomorrow we go straight to our hotel and get some sleep." And the next day would come and there was Bice at 3 or 4 in the morning dancing and arguing and hugging burly Swedish and Scottish men, promising to return and toasting to our health every five minutes. Every night we'd laugh ourselves to sleep as the sun rose above our cheap hotel rooms scattered along the deserted highways across Europe. Most of all the business was taken care of for us on this tour but still Bice and I, men who need to take charge would work out all possible ways in which to expedite parking, leaving, arriving, drinking, setting up equipment. We would confuse ourselves with our over thinking and then we would stare at each other and say, "At least we have options." On my Birthday card he wrote that he has never enjoyed playing music with someone as much as he enjoys it with me, and it made me smile because it was exactly what I was thinking but hadn't yet said about him.
The night before leaving for our first show we sat in our booking agent's (Manny from Teenage Heads) living room silent, embarrassed. Why embarrassed? Because while I was away visiting my friend for the night my band got drunk, drunk, drunk and stumbled into Manny's house and woke up his two kids and wife (who had to work in a few hours). Bice, yes the responsible one threw up in the sink and even Liz stumbled around the bedroom with heavy feet. And Phillip tore the cover off our soon to be driver and yelled, “Who the hell are you?” I was not there to witness these stupor riddled shenanigans but Manny informed me when he picked me up from the train station, sitting with our soon to be driver Carmen, that my band had reeked havoc and kept his family awake late into the early morning. Luckily he said it with a bit of a grin, and I knew that instead of getting mad he would spread the word and gloat over the infamous night. And also he would never get tired of offering Bice a barf bag for the tour. (Side note: Bice never barfed again, it is not a regular occurrence for him and so his physical shows of humility and verbal apologies to the family were earnest and copious.) And here is where we met our Swiss Miss, Carmen Fiechter, who we would lovingly name Caramel, and then Caramel Apple, and for a short time Dirty Whore, but that's a long story that doesn't involve anything whorish. It soon became apparent that this bleach blonde petite punk girl spoke more languages and had more spunk than all of us put together. Though we also soon found out that she couldn’t parallel park and that she drove slower than my mother, but she was endearing and took care of us and all other business professionally, promptly and with extraordinary cuteness and finesse. No promoter would refuse her money owed or the courtesy deserved. She took the best pictures of the tour; she has an eye for a frozen moment that speaks volumes about relationships. Even though we made fun of how she said “Guddemn!” and even though we accidentally taught her how to snore louder than anybody else in the band, she happily became one of us and it was a sad moment when we had to say goodbye.
And then there is Liz, my girl. I gave her the challenge of taking more control of being the front (man) we talked about having her move around more, and she was overly concerned about faking a stage performance. She didn’t want to be ingenuous. I told her to be ingenuous for a moment and more than likely the honesty would follow. She surpassed my expectations and now we are a stage of musical jumping beans bouncing into each other, dancing and smiling. We are told by audience members that the fun we have and the compassion we show for each other is infectious. There really is no front person in this band but Liz floats as an individual among us, an angel fraternizing with grungy devils. She is my dream come true, a sign that there is life beyond Weasel. She is the voice and she instinctively feels my musical and emotional intentions and incorporates them with her own. That is a gift.
This has turned out much mushier than I had expected, but I can’t help it. The memories are flooding my brain and they can only escape as mixed and magnified emotions. I can’t help but see the poetry made manifest by the magical combination of these musicians, my friends.