Touring Europe- Part 1: The Sickness Begins
The sound of Jon puking in the bathroom gives me a feeling of gloom. “Oh god… oh god,” come the desperate cries in between noises of liquid meeting liquid. He had been okay earlier at our show in Geneva. He’d played an energetic acoustic set in front of the eight or so people in attendance with no problems.
Jon is the singer/ guitarist for punk band Jon Creeden & The Flying Hellfish. He has also toured extensively across Canada and the US, playing acoustic guitar as a solo musician for the past five years.
Once we began packing up, he ran to the bathroom, but the door was locked. “I’m going to throw up,” Jon said with a ghostly white look on his face. “Go outside,” I yelled pointing to the stairs. It was all downhill from there.
Jon is throwing up intermittently throughout the night, not able to really sleep until five in the morning. Luckily we’re staying in a comfortable Swiss apartment with an ex-girlfriend of Chris’, Vania. Chris is the singer/ guitarist for Chris Snelgrove & The Last Mile, the other band on this European tour. He’s been touring and playing in punk bands off and on for the past 22 years.
“I don’t think Jon’s coming with us to Zurich today,” I tell Glenn as he wakes up. Glenn is the drummer for both The Last Mile and The Flying Hellfish on this tour, as well as an all-round chill guy. “He probably needs to sleep to get better,” replies Glenn.
Jon wakes up and is feeling terrible. He decides to stay in Geneva to recuperate. If he feels better, he’ll take the train tomorrow to meet us in Lausanne, Switzerland. If not, we’ll be returning to Vania’s after the show anyway.
There’s nothing worse than being sick on tour, you don’t often have a warm, comfortable place to sleep and must keep travelling day after day to the next show. It’s hard to get better under those conditions. Jon’s been a little sick since we arrived to Europe a-week-and-a-half ago and because of his weakened immune system must have caught a virus.
Chris, Glenn and I get into the Peugeot, Boxer nicknamed JCVV or Jean-Claude Van Van we were lent by now defunct French band, Wank For Peace, and head off through the Swiss Alps.
I jump out of the van as soon as we arrive at the Gotthard bar in downtown Zurich. There are a bunch of guys hanging outside smoking. Chris gets out and hugs one of them, I hurriedly walk to the bar to use the bathroom. One of the men in front puts out his hand. “I’m Roger,” he says with a smile.
“I’m Jonah,” I shake his hand, introducing myself.
“We don’t know them,” Chris yells from beside the van.
“I don’t care,” I yell back.
“Nice to meet you, I really have to piss,” I say to Roger. He laughs.
Walking out of the bathroom, I see Roger behind the bar, he is the owner of Gotthard. “What would you like?” He asks, offering us beers as soon as I get out of the bathroom.
“Something local,” I reply. He pours two pints for Glenn and myself.
One of the main differences in touring as a small band in Europe and North America is the way that you’re treated. In Europe, you almost always get a meal, a place to stay and as much free beer as you can drink. In Canada and the US, it’s the exception rather than the rule.
After getting rehydrated, we load in the acoustic guitar, bass, snare drum and a few stands. On this tour, Jon plays acoustic sets by himself with Glenn and I backing him on drums and bass, respectively, when we play loud punk shows as The Flying Hellfish. In venues where the decibel levels have to be really low, Chris will play acoustic guitar and sing by himself. In places where music can be played a little louder, Glenn and I back him in a semi-acoustic, mellow set where Glenn plays a snare drum with brushes and I play at a low volume. When there can be loud punk rock, we play loud punk rock together. It’s complicated.
Tonight, because of the small size of the bar and noise regulations, we’ll be playing semi-acoustic as Chris Snelgrove & The Last Mile.
Glenn and I drink more beers and talk to Ian, who put on the show, Vico and Tom, who are all members of local band Überyou. They’re all really nice guys. Roger’s girlfriend, Theo, shows up with a giant bowl of warm, cold salad she made for us. It has lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, multiple types of nuts, avocados, tons of other vegetables, an awesome homemade dressing and hot handmade falafel balls on top. It is delicious. We all sit down to eat together; band, promoter and owner.
The small bar fills up once we hit the stage. We play a solid set and the crowd seems really into it. It’s unfortunate Jon is so sick because this is the kind of environment he thrives in.
After finishing our set, we drink some more and head to Ian’s place. It’s a very short drive. Once we arrive, we climb what seems like 10 flights of stairs to his apartment.
It’s a tradition of theirs for visiting bands to drink from a giant bottle of whisky, Glenn and I oblige. Chris doesn’t drink at all, so he does not partake. We go to the roof, drink beers, smoke weed, look at the Zurich skyline and talk.
Once inside, we all talk a little more, then everyone else quickly goes to bed except Glenn and myself. We smoke a joint and pour some glasses from the oversized bottle of whisky. We sit in the kitchen smoking cigarettes and talking about music.
I had only really met Glenn twice before the tour. I was playing with Chris in The Last Mile, our drummer back in Montreal, also named Chris, wasn’t able to come to Europe, so the first Chris asked Glenn to play with us. He then asked me if I’d want to play bass for Jon as well. Liking the challenge of playing two sets a night, I accepted. We practiced on two occasions with Jon and one with Chris before flying to Europe, so we’re just getting to know each other.
Glenn plays me songs and videos of his other band, !Attention!, I play him songs from my former band, Hard Charger.
The music from our phones are playing early into the morning. It was a good night and now it’s time to get some rest before driving to the next show.