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Friday, June 19, 2009

Whiskey Daredevils Tour Diary — Day 2: Belgium

Posted By on Fri, Jun 19, 2009 at 9:30 AM

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The Whiskey Daredevils just returned from a road trip in Europe. Frontman Greg Miller fills us in on what happened.

The family that put us up is unbelievably nice. The mother is a skinny blonde that dotes on her husband. He is a full bodied, bearded man that has just suffered from a botched operation that has left him without the use of his left eye. In the States we would sue everybody like crazy (and win) from the sounds of this debacle. That doesn’t seem to be an option here, and he regards the loss of his eye with a “whatta ya gonna do about it?” shrug. We had been there just a few moments last night when he arrived, dusty from working on a house with his brother. He walked into his house to find three strangers, and sat down not really even looking at us. It wasn’t like he was pissed or anything. It’s just that he didn’t seem to think it was odd that two Cowboys and a German were sitting on his couch at Midnight. I offered him a beer with a gesture (he didn’t speak English), he shrugged “yes”, and we drank silently with each other.

With that solid relationship, we woke up in the morning to join the entire extended family for a Mother’s Day breakfast al fresco. The daylight revealed that their house was more like a “complex”. Bicycles were being modified by the youngest brother in the back lot in various stages of completion. An empty shed had been converted into a recording studio by our host, drummer of the band “The Horny Horses”. A 33-year-old van of undetermined origin sputters to life in a cloud of blue grey smoke. The wife, daughters, and sons all fill in each others sentences as they tell us the story of how they drove this rickety old truck to Tunisia just to get spare parts. “The good news is no one bothers us or tries to rob the van, because they think we are gypsies!” they gleefully tell us.

They are a fun eccentric family like a slightly tamer version of Augusten Burroughs’s family in his book “Running with Scissors”. Everyone is smiling, and they exude a great creative energy. You can tell there is always something happening over at there at the house. I would also assume they probably drive some of their neighbors crazy with the unpredictable goings on. For example, if they had told me that their father was building a rocket ship out of scrap metal, and asked me if I would like to go on his planned trip to Pluto, I would not have been shocked.

We eat outside at a large table, enjoying fresh pastries and cheeses. We shower, and help take the table back inside to the dining room before bidding our goodbyes. We drive away trying to find Gary and Michelle’s hotel, and realize about 30 minutes later Ken and I left our bags at the house. Oh yeah. We don’t know how to get to the house. Or what the name of the town is for sure.

Incredibly we find our way back to the house after several wrong turns. (It’s amazing how much of Belgium looks almost exactly the same. Everyone landscapes his or her home almost identically. There are no plants next to the foundations of homes. The home sits squarely and unadorned on the lot, with all bushes places near the street. Why is it that way? I dunno. Maybe they like the orderliness of it all.) . Luckily the front door of the house is wide open. Of course, no one is home. They just left the door to the house open after they noticed we left our bags. Like I said, these people are the best.

The first show is a Bux production at the Boothill Saloon. Bux has already arrived with his trademark homemade Mad Max motorcycle to make sure things are going as planned. The show is supposed to be the end point of a day long road rally. When we pull in, several Belgian Hell’s Angels have already taken over tables in the sun and eye us while we load out onto the patio. You know that image you have in your mind of a “Belgian Hell’s Angel”? That’s exactly what they look like.

A band of 17-year-old kids called “Adios Pantalones” sets up while a stubby dog patrols near the grill. The bass player has a giant pompadour and a “Demented Are Go” t-shirt indicating that lots of songs about zombies are on the way. I take this opportunity to directly address one of the biggest issues I have on tour…

While playing, I generally stretch my pants out while jumping around. This leads to them getting unusually loose for their size. By Day 3 of any of these jeans, I worry my pants will start to sag off my ass so much we’ll be known as “Plumber’s Crack and the Saggy Bottom Boys”. Now on the last tour I attempted to wash my pants during off time, but I was stymied by Europe’s aversion to using effective clothes dryers. That led to me having clean, but still saggy ass pants. That’s not good.

This time, after considerable thought, I decided to buy pants one waist size too small. I reasoned that they would stretch out during the shows to become my actual size. It makes sense, right? The problem, of course, comes on Day 1 when I would be packed into these jeans like a sausage. However, this pain would turn to long-term gain if I could get past the initial “muffin top” stage. I retreated to the van, and after some effort, put on my MTJs (or “muffin top jeans”), and joined the fast growing crowd.

“Adois Pantalones” lived up to expectations by playing songs concerning zombie coffin girlfriends with plenty of enthusiasm. More and more bikers rumbled into the outdoor party to knock back Mel pils in the hot sun, and chow down on the chicken, ribs, and sausages on the grill. It’s starting to get really crowded when Mosh arrives.

Mosh is our German label head of Knock-Out Records. He is in his traditional uniform of black zip up hoodie, work pants, and black boots. In this part of Europe, the clothes you wear help to immediately identify you with what your political beliefs are, musical taste, peer group, and overall spot in society much more than here in the US. Hell, in any one day I may wear a suit, t-shirt with cargo shorts, and jean and cowboy boots. There your uniform choice is much more significant. If you wear “this”, then it means “that”. A shirt is just not a shirt. A hat is not just a hat. More on this in a moment…

We start to play facing directly into the sun. It’s really hot. (This IS Belgium not Brazil, right?) The sound is really iffy as Gary is too quiet despite having two giant amps cranked up. While we address this issue with the soundman, Leo speaks up about getting sunburn on his head. Out of nowhere, a small swarthy dude provides Leo with an authentic German WWII Nazi SS helmet complete with swastika and SS logo on the side. (I think it was his motorcycle crash helmet.) It’s hard to really convey to you how politically incorrect it was for Leo to wear this as a sun guard. It would be like if you were watching the Braves play in Atlanta and decided to shield your head with a Klan hood. But please note, it was the Angels idea. And if THEY think it was a good idea, then Gosh Darn It! I think it’s a good idea! (If anyone sees photos of this on the web, please believe me when I say we are not affiliated in any way with any white supremacy organizations or Nazi political party. Think of it more like when Tom Cruise dressed up in that crappy WWII movie he was in last year.)

We finish better than we started and have to hustle out to make the evening show in Rumst. We sell a bunch of t-shirts and CDs, and someone wants me to autograph a drumstick. “Kid, Don’t end up like Leo -Greg” We bust ass over to the Ace Café and our second show in pretty good time. Leo is feeling good about himself as he got positively loaded last night, and scored some hash from Bux. “I’m holding…I’m holding.” He repeats over and over like a kid with a Xmas stocking. While Leo and I drive with Mosh, he recaps his evening with me.

His night last night consisted of heading out to a local tavern where everyone bought him heavy duty Belgian Ale. (Leo, of course, had no money.) Leo, Bux, and a couple locals retired to Bux’s farmhouse where Leo finally ran out of gas and crashed out in the living room while they watched a movie. In the morning Bux’s ex-wife dropped his kids off a little earlier than expected for weekend visitation. By arriving early, the kids got welcomed by Uncle Leo in his underwear while Bux enthusiastically humped his girlfriend upstairs. Hello kids! Enjoy some trauma!

The Ace Café is a small café heavy on rock n roll vibe. Chris, the owner, has paid attention to all the details. Wood plank floors, authentic motorcycle posters, and garage sale treasures are everywhere. It just feels like a good room.

We can only play until 10p due to a local noise ordinance. With our arrival at 8p, this means we have to play right away. After the last two weird venues, it feels good to be back in a club setting. We play, and sound like we are supposed to sound. The club is full with Gary’s girlfriend Michelle and her friends standing right up front. Heads start to bob, so we must be doing OK. The room is hot and smoky, just like it should be. At one point I put a sombrero I find on the wall onto Gary’s head while he plays the flamenco part of “Senorita”. He VERY self-consciously knocks it off. I don’t know if I have ever met anyone so worried about being “cool”. Ironically, it is this very visible concern about being “cool” that may put him in the most danger of appearing “uncool”. I would recommend going with the flow a little more, but what do I know? I’m a guy in muffin top jeans standing around in Belgium.

We eat a spicy pasta meal after the show and load out without incident. We have rooms in a hostel nearby that is “8 minutes away”. Michelle gets the directions from Chris, and we drive around the town of Mechelen for over an hour trying to find the hostel. Once we finally find it, it’s yet another puzzle to figure out how to get in. We’re like a bunch of amateur safe crackers standing outside the keypad entryway. When we get in (at last) we crash in the extremely clean rooms that are reminiscent of a minimum security prison. I wonder if I’ll need to shank anyone in The Yard tomorrow before breakfast.

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