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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Whiskey Daredevils Tour Diary — Day 6: Selestat, France

Posted By on Thu, Jun 25, 2009 at 9:00 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.

I feel absolutely terrible after that German wine. I should have known better. Anything in a big giant bottle that was willingly served with a comp meal can’t be too good for you. I make the resolution to go “straight edge” for a while as I foggily try not to puke during my morning grooming ritual. We all get together after several phone calls are made to our rooms to make sure we leave prior to Noon. (They must be really concerned at the front desk, because they call every ten minutes from 11:30 on…)

The short walk back to the club seems a lot longer in the morning. There was no attempt to load out the gear last night as the scene had descended into complete and utter madness. It was like a Mad Max New Year’s Eve before Robert busted out the vodka. What happened after that is only rumor and conjecture.

After the brutal load out, we finally get underway to France. I have never played in France, and wonder how we’ll go over. On all my previous trips there I have only heard the really shitty techno music that gets played exclusively in Euro dance bars and low budget porn movies. Various bottles of all sizes begin to clink and clank around the back of the tour van. Gary has been dubbed “The Squirrel” as he has taken to collecting all the leftover food/drink from the backstage areas. He then stuffs it into any available area in the very backbench area where he has taken up residence on all the drives. I think it is because he has about four Euros to get him through the next four weeks, and is stockpiling for the long winter ahead.

The Squirrel, at this point, has taken bread, various sodas, water (still and sparkling), individually wrapped “fun size” candy bars, a banana, an apple, beer, pate, and perhaps fittingly, some nuts. I don’t know for sure because he won’t answer a direct question with a direct answer. In another interesting turn, it appears he isn’t keen on sharing any of his ill gotten booty. For example, when Leo asks him for some snacks during the drive, Gary feigns sleep despite being engaged in a conversation only moments before. Strange…

We arrive in Selestat, a pretty Alsace town. This region has gone back and forth over history as being French to German to French to German back to French. That has left the culture as sort of a blend between the two. Also, despite not being very far at all from the German border, the people look different somehow. It’s not like there are people in berets bicycling by smoking hand rolled cigarettes with baskets of baguettes. It seems everyone is a little more likely to meet your gaze, and the women offer smiles to passersby. Everyone is less guarded I suppose.

I walk around the little town and stumble into a small wine shop. I always look for hard-to-find wines when in Europe, and this store looks perfect. I have a special place in my heart for Bordeaux and Rhone wines, and actually have a decent amount of knowledge on the subject. The shop is small, about the size of an Airport newsstand. Despite the small size, a young clerk stands in the middle of the room while an older man, presumably the owner, stands behind the counter. I don’t know why there are two employees, as if we added another customer I might break out in hives due to claustrophobia.

The men greet me with a “Bon Jour” and eye me suspiciously as I browse the inventory. The older man says something to me in French (which I don’t understand) that seems to me to be “By the look of you, I doubt you will buy anything and we are wasting our time even staring at you. Despite this undisputable fact, I will offer to you this strictly ceremonial offer of assistance.”

I look at them and say “No parlez vous francais. I speak only English. I am an American.” They react to me as if I have said, “I have come here to drop my pants and defecate on your floor. I am no more educated than a typical farm animal.”

The older man quickly emerges from behind the tiny counter and guides me through the store, which is assorted by region. I nod understanding, and continue to browse, ignoring the piercing stares and tense silence from the two of them. I reach for one of the more pricey Rhone wines available in the store, a 2006 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe, and place it on the counter. The old man looks at me and says, “You drink tonight?” I plan to take this home, and let it age for years, and say, “No…This wine must rest.”

This is a very important exchange of information, as I have demonstrated that I will not drink the wine “too young” before it has the chance to blossom into its full potential. They now know I understand what they have to offer. I am one of Them. “I will take this. Do you have any older Lynch Bages?”

The floodgates have opened as both men scurry to help me. “Ah! Ze Bordeaux! No..No Lynch Bages, but this is very good…very good.” I look at the off vintage 94 Pomerol and sniff “No. 1994? No.” in a very condescending manner. Suddenly I am in control. Ze tables have turned, eh Monsieur? I buy the Rhone at a very good price, and leave the shop.

The club tonight is Le Tigre. It’s a clean room with warm wood floors and walls. During the day it appears to be a popular hang out, with various scenesters hanging out in the sun drenched tables in front of the open windows of the club checking out all the passersby. The patrons eye us suspiciously (as only the French can) while we do the load in. You can tell they are trying to figure out if these American shitbags can actually play.

Our first setback begins at soundcheck. Due to a local noise ordinance, all the open-air windows must be shuttered. This effectively makes the room temperature rise up to 80+ degrees and puts a stop to all airflow. The club is empty, but it is already very warm. The soundcheck itself takes forever as two techs fiddle back and forth with the knobs. Despite the club being a small room, all the drums and amps are miked like we are headlining Lollapalooza. The volume is so high, the left side of my head literally begins to ache. “Hey…ah…you think we can take the overall stage volume down?” We either have a language barrier, or these soundguys are going to do whatever it is they want to do. The volume is crushing. My only salvation comes from getting Gary to move his Marshall away from my skull. He claims to be unable to hear it that way, which seems impossible, as it is as loud as a squadron of Harrier Jets at take off. Still, he plays ball and turns it slightly away from me.

The opening band is called “Cheeky Cherry” which might be the worst band name ever. Unless, of course, they are a 1980s hair metal band, which I pray they are not… The singer, Erik, kinda looks like Dee Dee Ramone did about 2 weeks before he died of an OD. We learn he used to work at a notorious club in Germany that probably put some miles on him. It would be easy to fall into “weed on rock night, ecstasy on Rave Thursday, tequila and acid on Friday Night Dance Party, and a little cocaine to get you through Saturday”. My guess is this is how he may have spent some of the 1990s. Good guy though…

It’s too hot to stay in the club, so I go to the van to chill out. It is there that a “significant development” occurs. I am going to have to shit again. Soon. Very soon. The Pasta Bolognese pre show meal has shot through me like a bowling ball. The Immodium? Only a tissue paper defense. I am going to have to find safe haven.

The club is not an option as it is WAY TOO CROWDED. The people have arrived to stare at the Whiskey Daredevils, so I will not have the privacy needed to handle this transaction. I will have to seek out a nearby brasserie. Like some kind of anal fixated Goldilocks, I set out to look for a place that is “just right”.

First place? Too crowded… The Doner Shop? Not crowded enough to walk past the owner seated at the outdoor table by the door and destroy his bathroom. Maybe this restaurant? Oh-oh…No one but the owner inside slumped over the hostess station. I then pass by a civic building with a door cracked open. Perfect.

As I can’t read French, I don’t know what the hell is going on in there. It looks like it is downtime in some crafts show, or before some awards banquet. I really don’t know or care. I just need a facility. Now. Right now. The problem is I can’t find it. The entrance area doesn’t give any indication. I walk into the hall area and three people that had been talking animatedly stop abruptly and stare at me. Nope. Not in here. I walk backwards muttering “Bon Jour…Bon Jour…” as they continue to stare. I spot a staircase going up. It’s worth a shot. I finally see the finish line. As I approach the bathroom in this near empty building, I hear a flush from the inside. I don’t have time to wait this guy out, and I will risk having to explain why I am inside this building in the first place if I must. I just have to get in there.

A man about my age frowns at me while he eyes my Uncle Scratch’s Gospel Revival t-shirt and my cowboy boots. I slide past him in the tight quarters to get into one of the two stalls as he harrumphs disapproval. I sit down and “get to work” while he washes his hands. As he leaves, he pulls a real dickbag maneuver and shuts the lights off, leaving me in total darkness in the windowless room. What an asshole!

It was then that “The Miracle of Selestat” occurred. As I sat in the darkness with no idea of where the TP was, my eyes adjusted to find the Uncle Scratch t-shirt had been printed in glow in the dark ink, and was bathing the entire area in a warm yellow light. Praise Jesus and pass the toilet paper!

The show itself was as hot as I had feared. I was wearing a thick poly cowboy shirt with fringe that made the sweat pour out of me like I was sitting in a sauna in a snowmobile suit. We play pretty well, but Gary breaks strings on both main guitars. At one point he painfully switches out a guitar going into the solo of “You Shook Me”. In the time it would have taken me to do an oil change on the van, he switches the guitars out while Ken and Leo hold it together. He should have finished the song with 5 strings and changed out afterwards, but his almost incomprehensible lack of showmanship has bit him once again. Dude is playing technically great, really great, but he has to become more aware of what the crowd needs. We get a super over the top response for an encore, but Gary sheepishly doesn’t want to do it, as he would have to change a string. Jesus. I force him to retune the slide guitar and we play “Long Gone”.

The crowd is very nice afterwards, and shyly speaks to us in their rudimentary English. Those more confident in their language skills offer more in depth conversations. These French are very a curious people. They are a jumble of contradictions that I find fascinating.

The owner of Le Tigre is a dead ringer for Paul from the Beer Mug in Erie PA. Just like Paul, he is very generous, and gives us six bottles of local wine and sparking wine for us to drink on our journey. “In 16 years of owning this club, you guys are one of the best bands that have ever played here. Thank you! “ It’s a really good night.

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