Last Update: August 2nd, 2001
Most of the following is based on the notes I took on tour, with much filling in of silly details later. I'm still missing about a week's worth of gigs, but I'll get to it very soon...
August 2nd, 2001 –
Today I was reading the only printed newsletter the Kingpins ever put out. It
was written by Ian “Hottub” Hodkinson (keyboard), and it was witty, funny
and a really REALLY good read… I don’t think I have that talent, but
here’s an attempt at a shortened version of our trip!!! (Shortened…!!!
Hahahaha… my idea of shortened anyway!)
May 14th, 2001 and the band prepares to set off to the airport… Finally after 4 years of working towards this exact goal: a European tour, the Kingpins are on their way! I’m not sure I ever thought this dream would be fulfilled, but I’m ready… So the flight goes from Montreal to Toronto and we have a small layover. We played a bunch of video games in the arcade there. Eric put a toonie in the bill slot and broke the change machine, so if any of you were at the airport that day and wanted to play games you’d better have had your own change!!!!!
May 15th. Arrived. Had a beer with the Peacocks (they were taking off just two hours after we landed). Luca (LEECH Records) came to pick us up and brought us to the LEECH office. Later that night when the rest of the band was napping, Bruno and I went our for a beer to the Sansibar where we’d be playing on June 1st. It was a cute little pub with a nice atmosphere. It was a really small place and I wondered how the gig would be… I slept at Madlaina’s house with Bruno and Jonathan. Eric and Josh stayed at Benno’s. Madlaina is the leader and trombone player of the band Peek-a-Boo with whom we’ll be playing. She’s also a sound engineer (and a really good one at that!)
May 16th. Walked around Zurich. I took lots of pictures (none turned out) of those crazy benches they have everywhere in the city, some of them are very creative. The locals aren’t crazy about them, cause the tourists are always blocking the sidewalks to take pictures (oooops, that makes me one of the bad guys… heh heh) Stayed at Madlaina’s again and hung out with her and her roommate Nicole. We left very late at night to get to Paris early so I wouldn’t be panicking about missing the first gig (heh heh… you just never know, the van could break down, there could be tons of traffic…)
May 17th. Arrived just outside Paris really early (like 7AM) and we were having a coffee near the Chateau Fontainebleau before going to Fred’s place (Skarface and NOCO Records) where we were going to pick up some Let’s Go To Work European releases. He has a beautiful home out in the countryside. He’s got a little recording studio in it and does all his mail order out of there too. The coffee house had the coolest pinball machine (not plugged in though). It was called Monster Madness and there were all kinds of funny sayings printed all over it, the monsters were fantastic! I took a picture of it (didn’t turn out…). At the table next to us, there was this old guy looking over the horse race page in the paper and making his picks… I figured this was my big chance (heh heh heh), I asked for his advice, he explained how the betting worked but didn’t give me the “tip” I was hoping for, so I made a shot in the dark and bet $2 (10 Francs) on the trifecta… The first thing we did after getting to the squat was grab a $1 hamburger at McDonald’s, and I bought some milk; it sure tastes different here, it’s not pasteurized, it’s sterilized! But after a few sips, I’m really liking it (of course nothing replaces the milk I know and love…) and since I drink at least a liter a day, I’d better get used to it! We’ve started playing lots of table soccer because we know how seriously Europeans take it!
May 18th. Walked
(and walked, and walked!) around Paris. I brought Jon & Josh to the Eiffel
Tower, Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe – all on foot… The show ROCKED!!! An
old friend of mine from Montreal came by to say hello and saw the show. His wife
had just given birth to a little girl Elfi that morning! I dedicated “Don’t
Stay Away” to them later that night! I checked my ticket at the off-track
betting place… I lost… Oh well! I’ve already reviewed this show so will
just let you read that! But some items of note: Our friend Fred took the train
in from London just for the show… and his friend flew in from Italy just for
the show!!! WOW! More table soccer…
Paris, France - May 18th, 2001 at La Flèche d'Or
We drove in from Zurich a day early just to be sure that no matter what happened (major catastrophe on the highway, vehicle breakdown, a band member missing the plane, etc.) we wouldn’t miss the first show of our very first ever European tour…
We got to Paris mid-afternoon on May 17th. We weren’t sure where we were going to stay, but I knew that the club provided the accommodations for the next night; so I figured that was the best place to start our search. When we pulled up, a reggae band was setting up for sound check. We met the stage manager and he said that it would be no problem for us to stay in the same place both nights; it was a squat run by the club… It was an abandoned office building and there were a dozen cots set up in what was probably once a boardroom. Some areas were really sketchy and I was nervous about not only leaving the van parked in their little gated entrance, but also leaving our stuff in the squat. Finally, I decided I wasn’t going to worry about my stuff, this was an adventure, and if I’m meant to lose everything I own, then so be it. So we left our luggage locked in the van and walked around town! The place ended up being the safest place in Paris we could’ve possibly chosen! The people who lived there were so nice and helpful.
Anyway, the next day I showed Josh and Jon around Paris as I’d been there (I worked there for a very short time some years ago). The Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Jim Morrison’s grave (this one was for Paddy, we took pictures, but the one with me on it didn’t turn out… find out more on that later when I write about Kontich, Belgium.) We also visited some other notable sites… My legs were completely dead as we set up for the show. The sound check went really well, and everyone was in a great mood from all that crazy sightseeing! I found out our show would be broadcast live on the web that night, so immediately sent off a quick message to my Topica list (you guys)… Dinner was great (some chicken thing with rice, wine and baguette – of course! Not to mention the great coffee…) So 10 o’clock rolls around and the place is pretty empty. I’m talking with George whom I’d had e-mail contact with for only a few weeks. He’s a fan who knows us from here, but is living in Paris now. Anyway, the place is a perfect size, the stage suits us exactly, and the atmosphere is very good. But… “Where is everybody?”. This is when I was reminded of how late Parisians go out. I had forgotten from my last trip going out to a nightclub at 2AM which was open till 6AM… Anyway, the place filled up slowly but surely over the next hour and we hit the stage to a packed dance floor. I also found all my energy back (even my legs!!!) Partway through the first set we brought up a very special surprise guest! Our friend (who also played on Plan of Action) Simon Angell (ex-Gangster Politics) had been living in Morocco for a while, but now he was living in Paris! He came up for several songs and played us some sweet solos… (Sidebar: Simon is now back in Montreal and Jon took off to Switzerland for over a month… news on that later too!… so we’ll have Simon for the Warped Tour)
We played two full sets that night, and the crowd was just fantastic. They danced and cheered loud between songs, and all in all had a great time! We signed a bunch of autographs at the end of the night, and people told us they really liked what we do.
This was a great way to start off our little adventure!
If you’re ever in Paris and you want to hang out in a place run with a laid back atmosphere that puts on good shows, then the “Fleche D’Or” in the 18th (rue des Bagnolets) is your bag! http://flechedor.com/
May 19th. Le
Havre… People like the high-energy stuff here. Bizness are really good (and
fun), the food was great – it was prepared by Laurent (leader of Bizness) and
his partner (wife?). The club was pretty cool. It was what you’d expect in
Europe, this would be hard to find in North America. It is a small café with
room for 40 people comfortably, plus table soccer (called Kickers or Baby Foot),
which the guys played lots, and a pinball machine in the corner. There’s a
small bar with charming staff. You walk through to the back of the club, go down
these very windy stairs and an all-concrete basement with no windows awaits you.
You can fit about 50 people down there without getting on each other’s nerves.
Shows sometimes pack in 200!!!! I think we were fortunate enough that this was a
somewhat last minute show and so it was completely packed, but we sure did get
hot and sweaty down there! There were lots of punks at the show. There was this
one guy who looked a bit off, his skin was quite red and he had a hunched back
and his face was slightly twisted. I asked about him and was told that when he
was younger he shot up some cleaning product (something Chloride)… He had a
few punks looking out for him and seemed to totally dig what we were doing, he
was dancing away and bumping into people and having an absolute blast! At first
I felt really sad, but then I saw how much fun he was having that night and
figured at least he still has some pleasure. We stayed at Pierre’s house; he
is a big ska fan and was very welcoming. I slept in his little sister’s room,
she must have been about 4 years old, it was so cute! The bed was a little
small, but hey… He and his brother Grégoire sent us off the next morning with
a box of “Frosties” (the French name for Frosted Flakes) and a bottle of
Coke!!! Plus I got to keep the prize from the cereal box (those little dinosaur
heads with clacky jaws that you put on the end of a pencil… yeah, small things
for small minds eh?!!!! Hahahahaha) On our way out of town we had to stop in the
middle of the road because these two dogs were busy doing the nasty… They were
pitbulls and nobody wanted to touch them to separate them. There was a cop just
looking at them – and he didn’t look very impressed or happy… I took a
picture of this crazy scene, but it didn’t come out (see May 22nd
to find out why).
May 20th. Kontich,
Belgium. What a great place, and it’s run by volunteers! I met Klaas who
booked us here, he reminds me of my Dutch Uncle Harry. Jonathan is all happy
because he’s met his teen hero, Dick of the Subhumans! And I’m pretty happy
because I was a big fan of Culture Shock when I first got into ska. I liked his
lyrics. Jon got really drunk and passed out in the van while Eric and Bruno hung
out all night with his idol! I couldn’t figure out why he slept in the van
when there were a bunch of comfy beds upstairs…. I left a message on one of
them, as they are all marked up already. If you ever go there, walk to the back
room and look directly ahead of you, bottom bunk (Dick slept right above mine).
Not much going on upstairs when you drink I guess *chuckle*. The guitar player
Phil was really cool, and pretty “hot”! They enjoyed our set. Citizen Fish
played before us. Marcel, a Dutch skin I met in Montreal came from Holland for
the show and brought some of his friends. His friend
WILLEM (sorry Jan Willem!!!) had on the first
Kingpins shirt ever… Even I don’t have one of those, I think there were only
a dozen or two made, and we couldn’t afford to give them away free to band
members (we were numerous at the time - 1994!). I got a picture of us together
(none worked…). Just one thing,
the kickers table was busted…! Jon locked the keys in the van and somehow woke
up inside on the couch downstairs in the backstage area! We took lots of photos
in the backstage; there are all kinds of band pictures on the wall (including
our friends Planet Smashers and Peacocks). (same - nothing). We lost the foot
pedal for the guitar amp and almost got lost… One thing I’ve noticed, I’ve
never seen more cows on the side of highways as I’ve seen in Belgium!!!! And
I’ve driven through Canadian farm country, and New England; this is the BEST!
I kept having to lie down and close my eyes, or else I’d be waving at all the
herds of cows in the fields (don’t ask!)
May 21st. We drove
through Holland for a little bit and I bought some of my favourite childhood
candy. My mom’s Dutch and I’ve been here a few times (mostly when I was a
kid). We arrived in Gutersloh, Germany in a tiny but very quaint little pub.
They have an office desk on the ceiling with stuff on it (phone, stacks of
papers, ink jar with fountain pen, etc.) it’s really cool, so I took a picture
(nope, still no good pics…) The bar guy is really cool and offers us the house
shot called a “Happy Happy”. Just to give you an idea, it’s half Pernod
(not exactly my favourite drink), which tastes licorice-y, and half Jagermeister…
I absolutely hate Jagermeister… The cinnamon-y after-taste is okay but the
drink itself… eeeeek. So you can imagine a mix of both. Well, I figured
“When in Rome…” so I had one, it wasn’t completely horrible. They kept
putting them in front of us during the show. Jon had decided that night he
wasn’t going to drink (he didn’t feel so hot after Belgium!) so I wanted to
be polite and drank his shots every time there was a round… Ooooooof, not so
happy happy!!!! Especially not the next morning… Serves me right!!! No one
believes me that I was just being polite… I’m not really sure I do either,
the jury’s still out on that one! The kickers table was nice, and really
cheap, so we played a ton there! Andre the punk who booked us was super cool.
The barman and owner loved our show – they were really nice to us, and we
played extra long just cause we were having a good time! We stayed with (and ate
at) Jurg, Carsten and Christian’s place - political skins. When I was going up
the stairs I kept seeing swastikas everywhere (on posters mostly), and
everything was written in German, so I wasn’t quite sure what kind of place I
was in, but they were totally anti-fascist. Jurg taught us a lot about German
history, and about the local goings on. The next morning I was ill after
breakfast (gee, I wonder why…!)… No more Happy Happy for me! My voice was
very tired too. Already in Belgium I was straining.
May 22nd. Koblenz, Germany. Saw the :True Love: Shop (Label Store), it’s really nice. A little bigger than Stomp, and there’s more clothing, and tons of vinyl! I met Klaus, the owner, and Jan from Black Pearl Records who booked us at the “Circus Maximus”. We talked a little about the Toronto ska-Punk Coop; somehow he’d heard of it – actually, knowing Steve (my friend who runs the co-op) he probably initiated contact with overseas label! The show was absolutely wonderful! It rocked… (I may use that expression a lot, but when it fits…) This girl Yvonna gave us a special message from The Peacocks, he told her she HAD to come see the Kingpins live – so that was super cool, it was really nice to get a message from those guys, even though they were in Canada touring with the Smashers at the time!). Actually, it wasn’t exactly the first message we got from the Peacocks… In Kontich there are those photos of all the bands that have played there, and right by the door, there’s a hand-written message from the Peacocks “To all the band we’ve played with”… (that’s us…) so I put my own little message to them which I hope they see next time they play there “We love you Peacocks – The Kingpins” I talked with this girl Francesca who is in a local ska band, as singer! And there was a professional photographer who took some B & W pictures of the show,.. Unfortunately I haven’t heard from him yet, but maybe someday I’ll be able to post some cool shots of that show! That night we stayed at Jan’s place – really cool!!!! He has this one big room with 8 mattresses on the floor… it was very comfy! So here’s the deal on those photo I’ve been talking on tour so far… After the show we3 were backstage and I notice that my camera read like 27 pictures, and I though “That’s weird….” So I took a bunch of non-photos, and the counter kept going up… I knew I didn’t have more than 24/27 pictures on the roll, so I opened my camera… It seems that all my photos till now had been taken with a roll that was already rewound!!! So my first 20-something pictures that I thought I was taking… I wasn’t!!!! What a huge disappointment… I told the guys “It’s not funny… Well, okay it is, but it sucks…” And it certainly does suck… I want to see those cool shots I took, and now I never will! Oh well, I loaded a new film in…
May 23rd, 2001 - Leipzig, Germany (old East Germany). The way we came into town, we drove by an unbelievable amount of abandoned factories with broken windows… What a desolate place! The environment was very gray, until we got towards the center of town and the more modern structures. The Zorro Club is in this huge old abandoned radio factory. It’s now a squat. They had a kickers table, so we played all afternoon until sound check! We ate a veggan meal (yummy) and installed ourselves upstairs where we would be staying. We set up our merch booth in this half-VW van and waited for people to come. It was looking dismal until just before we went on… We played our hearts out but people didn’t really react very much. We had about 15 people dancing and 150 people watching. I was a little taken aback… but was later told that we put on a rocking show, and that people loved it! If they had hated it, they would have left. People in East Germany don’t dance like mad and get into bands so to have anyone dancing was an amazing feat (I wish someone had told me before, cause I thought maybe they hate us… even though they applauded and did all the normal crowd stuff). After our set, they started with the disco music and the big party well into the night (the last songs played around 5:30AM and it was SO loud we could totally hear it from where we were sleeping… In other words, when we had to get up and leave at 7AM we were really exhausted! We had to drive to Berlin to do a live performance on Berlin radio!
May 25th, Day off in Berlin… Walked around a bunch. Saw where the wall stood, some pieces of it are still intact, as a matter of fact, some artists are trying to preserve some pieces of the wall as a reminder of what could happen, I think this is a good idea. You don’t need to keep the whole thing in everyone’s face all the time, but if you keep some of it, at least people will be conscious that it CAN happen… I found this really cool ska record shop under a Doc Marten’s shop and bought some really cool super-old 45’s. Josh bought a Harrington jacket and a Fred Perry shirt. I also bought lots of silly souvenirs (including a magnet for my friend – ooops forgot to give it to him when I saw him… some cool postcards with a piece of the Berlin wall in them to send to Stompie and my mom, and my partner… and some stickers which I might put on my new touring van…) We had a long drive to the next show in Narbonne (18 hours…)… So I try to remember what everyone told me about touring in Europe “Yeah, it’s so cool, cause everything is only a few hours away”… Yeah, okay… but maybe just to make us feel at home, you’ll throw in an 18-hour drive? Sort of the equivalent of Toronto to Thunder Bay… Heh heh…
May 27th. We had a short drive to Perpignan. Beatrice who runs the club is wonderful! She and her dad own the club “Crockmore” and are charming! We felt right at home. The club is really cool ,and Bea decorated it all goth and stuff… Her dogs Louis and Nuts are adorable! It was unbelievably hot and few people came out (the club is usually closed Sunday nights) but everyone who came had a blast… After the show, Johnny took over as DJ and played a bunch of heavy punk and really heavy metal and we partied for a long time…
May 29th Toulon,
France. GREAT little pub! Eric got to set up his drums ABOVE the doorway… The
food in the restaurant upstairs was terrific… mmmmmmm… Jean-Philippe and his
radio DJ partner booked the show, and encourage ska music in the area. They took
good care of us! Tonight I get my own hotel room for the first time on tour…
wow… what can I say!
May 30th Basel, Switzerland. Tonight we play with Reel Big Fish. A couple hundred kids showed up for the show. We arrived right before doors opened (oh well, forget about sound check I guess…). The organizer was good to us (does this sound repetitive? It might, but it is absolutely true… people treated really well in Europe, with lots of respect…)… We arrived late because there may be a lot of “Ausfahrt” (exits) on the highways in Switzerland, but not many “Einfahrt” (entrances)… so we had a detour or two to take after filling up on the side of the highway!!! But that’s not as bad as the opening-opening band “The Fairlanes” who never made it till 11PM… something about a late plane, then a delayed train, etc.! The show went very well, I did merch and talked a bunch with Reel Big Fish’s merch guy Matt, he’s really nice. The kids seemed to really dig what we were doing (lots of dancing)… and Jon stage dove during the RBF set (I later heard that they specifically requested from the bouncers not to allow any stage diving… heh heh heh…) What a long drive we had from Toulon though… I’m so burnt! And it is IMPOSSIBLE to credit my VISA anywhere on this continent… aaaargh, when is that going to become a standard request… You know, you have this cash on you in a foreign country and you want to put it onto your credit card (cause frankly 19% interest is ridiculous…) and there is no way to do it… People in banks look at me like I’m asking for something unreasonable… Stupid credit cards, guess they’d rather charge me more interest than make it easy for me to pay… So there, that’s ONE of my several credit card rants… “Don’t even get me started!”
May 31st Wil, Switzerland at La Remise. What a great looking club… There are flames halfway up the 20’ high walls… So my black dress with the red and yellow trim will be perfect! The outside of the club is full of graffiti on the outside, but by now we are used to that because almost all the places we’ve played at are completely graffiti-ed (particularly the squats). We are playing with Reel Big Fish again. This time the Fairlanes are here… The club is fantastic, it sounds good and looks great! We played really well, and the kids danced their hearts out again for us… They made these beautiful laminates for the show (Thomas from Skalendar wanted mine.,.. but hell, we don’t get nice lammies like this, so I’m keeping mine as a souvenir.. sorry!!!) We hung out late with RBF, I talked with their sound-man Tom for a long time, and I hung out with Lutzi, Julian and the crew drinking for a couple of hours after the show! We drove back to Zurich that night and stayed at Madlaina’s & Benno’s places.
June 2nd Chur, Switzerland. This gig is up in the mountains. As we drive through Switzerland into the Alps, I now understand why the Peacocks weren’t so impressed by our Rockies… I can’t explain it really; you need to experience it for yourself (both the Rockies and the Alps). The Rockies are really spectacular because you drive into them and they grow and grow as you get closer. But when you are heading West (or East) you simply drive through them. The mountains themselves are beautiful because they are young and jagged. What makes the Alps so cool is that they are spotted with little villages. They are much higher, though they don’t necessarily appear to be because the roads climb gradually, but they are much more picturesque… The Safari Beat Club is a really cool club. You can tell that a lot of thought, and a lot of care, has gone into the place. The walls and bar and ceiling are covered with eclectic cool things that you won’t find elsewhere… Mike & Spike who run the place are very nice. We have to drop by the police station to get a permit to drive into the old city (it’s all pedestrian, no vehicles unless you have special permission) Mike also owns the restaurant upstairs called the Safari Eat Club (!!!!!!!) I tried ostrich for the first time in my LIFE… yummy! We had a great show and signed lots of autographs after! Lutzi and Julian (& girlfriend) were there again and they brought their friend Raphael with them. He’d been sick the last couple of days, but he was the number one Kingpins fan in Switzerland (he even pulled out a Let’s Go To Work” original release – not the Euro one…) and even a Watch Your Back. I signed all his stuff, gave him a signed poster and we got to talk a bit… He danced the whole show… He said we were the best, and that there should be more “true” people like us… That was pretty cool in my books, and I’m glad he got to see how much we loved what we were doing! YAY…. Earlier I’d been playing kickers. They had a two-player table (with only two handles for each player, one with the goalie, and one with 2 forwards) and the barmaid at the back wanted to play against me. I won, but I think I was lucky – or just well practiced from playing every day for the last week! She was absolutely drop-dead beautiful and super nice! As a matter of fact, the entire staff was great! Gush, gush… We drove back to Zurich that night (after dropping Lutzi off on the way back) and got home pretty late…
Strasbourg, France - June 9th, 2001 at La Laiterie
Imagine getting up early in a little “Auberge” not far from Lyon and driving the equivalent of Montreal – Toronto to get to the very last gig of the tour. “Tonight”, you think to yourself, “is probably the most important show of the tour.” You see, we’d been booked at the best (and best-known for ska) club in town “La Laiterie” where they have spectacular Skafests. This was to be Skafest 17. You pull up for load-in a little ahead of schedule. The promoter walks up and says: “You guys are the only band playing tonight”. WHAT? Holy cow… That very morning Dr. Ring Ding cancelled for throat problems, and in the afternoon they got a call from Skarface that someone’s dad was in the hospital and they had to urgently return to Paris.
After about an hour, and while we set up our gear, the promoter decides that to make things right, they will open the doors tonight for a FREE show, and refund anyone who had paid the $20 ticket. The Kingpins would host the Skafest 17. I was SO unbelievably nervous before the show; I was pacing in the backstage room and looking down into the foyer of the club at people and wondering what they were thinking. Some folks had come from far away to see this show. I later learned that many of them had been enticed to come see the Kingpins because they’d heard about our other shows around the area, or from friends in Belgium, Germany and Switzerland! The club was just great. The stage was huge and there was a heavy curtain in front of it, this is a great effect to open a show, the curtain being drawn! Anyway, we’re set, and the curtain is parting. The crowd is already cheering, clapping and screaming in anticipation… We kick into Supernova and you can see some heads moving and a couple of people already dancing away! By song 3, we’ve got the front half of the crowd as a dance floor! By halfway through our extended set the crowd surfing starts… During the sax solo of Shame and Scandal, I call the crowd to a certain spot and lean back and surf almost all the way to the back of the club, and right back on stage exactly in time for the next chorus (the crowd knows the song and when to get me back…) It wasn’t long before the crowd was going completely nuts. After each one of the last 5 or 6 songs, you could’ve sworn you were in a stadium at a soccer game. The “rrrrrrraaaaaaahhhhh” is just overwhelming! We did 3 encores and they still wanted more! After the show, we hung out with everyone in the foyer and met people from all over! Some old friends had come from Lyon to see us (the Lyon show was replaced by another – more later) I can’t wait to go back to Strasbourg and the Laiterie! I’m in love with the club and their awesome crowd!