Tour Diary 2002 Utah Carol in Europe (Part 2)

Editor’s Note: We normally attempt to date each entry — but as you’ll soon discover, JinJa lost track the date. We’ve identified the entries by where the band is, rather than when…

image image image image image image image

We are in Spain. It is beautiful. The people are beautiful. The streets are beautiful. Everyone drives mopeds and motorcycles. We are doing a radio show tomorrow afternoon and a show at Le Boite. We met our promoter, Sara. She is a cool person. We are staying in an apartment, not a hotel this time. It’s cool. It’s pink and looks very Spanish. Sara said that Michelle Shocked, Allison Moorer, Mary Gauthier and the Handsome Family stayed here. She took us for tapas and showed us around town a little bit. We went inside the club that we will be playing at tomorrow. A blues band was playing Chicago blues. Hayley stood up and sang “I’m a natural woman!” with the blues man. It’s got a nice vibe, glass columns, pretty lights and a disco ball. Our show is at 11 or 11:30 p.m. but we have to get up at 3:00 a.m. to get back on the road. We have to be in Madrid by noon to tape the national television show. Our good friend Gearoid from the US showed up at our apartment door with his sister. I burst into tears when I saw him. We haven’t seen him in a year since he defected from the US to Europe.

We haven’t played a show since the 27th, so we are all very anxious to get back on stage. We are in denial about the drive to Germany, since we will be in the van for four days. We all still like each other kind of.

The city is vibrant and huge. All of us have been awake for over 24 hours now. We are loopy! Sara, our promoter, is the most fantastic person we have ever met. She is so on top of things, professional, fun to be around and she is an excellent translator. Did I already mention that on our first night in Barcelona, she took us to a wonderful tapas restaurant? Grant chowed on octopus and other creatures of the ocean. I stuck to the papas fritas and ensalada.

The next morning Grant and I had to go to the radio station. Sara told us that it was only a few blocks away from our apartment, which would have been cool if we only had one bag. We were dragging our guitar and my sampler through the busy streets. Grant had wanted to only play acoustic guitar, but I insisted on bringing my sampler, keyboard and zip. Of course, when we got to the studio, none of my equipment worked, so we ended up doing it the way he wanted. He’s always right, I am always wrong!

Radio Catalano was the station. The interviewer asked us interesting questions and made us feel completely at home. We performed was “Misfits”, which our tour manager Frits liked best. We also performed “Promised Land” and “When We’re Apart”. I guess we did okay — he didn’t say anything! Ha!

We all decided to do some sightseeing after the radio show, so Frits rounded everyone up to go walking. Sara was our guide. At this point, we had been up for over 30 hours with no sleep, so we were pretty loopy. But you only live once, and Barcelona is so beautiful, we wouldn’t have missed it. The city is huge and feels endless. We started walking through the financial shopping district. It was like Michigan Avenue and the Gold Coast times 50. I can’t believe that I was able to pass up the stores and not go in them to buy stuff. I did get scared when I saw a Starbucks, though. I am not sure that I want American fast food to be in other cultures. On the one hand, every time we tried to get something to go, we couldn’t because everyone takes their time in Spain — they eat at the restaurant. On the other hand, you realize how people rush around all the time in the States.

Finally, we got out of the shopping district and into the open market — there was food, flowers, street performers, fruit and lots of people. We stopped at a tiny restaurant and had some more good Spanish food. We kept walking towards the Mediterranean Sea and the fishing port. The closer we got to it, the more excited our bass player David got. Once we got to the ocean front, he took off and wind-sprinted towards the ocean, along the way ripping off his clothes with abandon. He jumped in! I think that he would have gone buck naked, but Sara said that it wouldn’t be proper to be naked in public in Spain.

We had to get back to the apartment to prepare for the interview with another magazine and the show at Le Boite. We were all dead tired, especially because we had walked two hours to the ocean — and we still hadn’t slept yet. Since we had to leave for Madrid at 4:00 in the morning, we all decided that we would stay up the whole night through, making it over 48 hours of no sleep. Shit!

The interview was held at a restaurant and it was great. Hayley was taking photos the entire time, her flash going off. Everyone was looking at us like we were rock stars. Grant actually got a little nervous because people were staring and pointing. It was fun!

We had a great show once again, we performed well, but the crowd always makes it more fun because everybody was into the music. The soundman at Le Boite was Marrrrrrrrrrrrrrco. He hooked us up with some fantastic sound for the night. Grant broke a string during one of the songs — his worst nightmare. But I think it looks cool when he plays so hard that the strings break. David was jumping all around the stage and Greg was cranking his kit in the back. Our friend Gearoid was sitting at the front with his sister. I almost cried again when I saw him down there…he reminds me of home.

After the show, we met a fan that had heard of Utah Carol because of Communication Arts Magazine. Our web site, designed by Speared Peanut, is featured in the recent Interactive Annual. He loved the web site and thought that he would never be able to see us live, so he was pleasantly surprised when he saw on our site that we would be in Spain. Meeting people in these foreign lands who are coming to see us because they like our music is wonderfully intense. Right now, I can’t think of anything that feels better than this.

Grant, Hayley, Gearoid, Annmarie (Gearoid’s sister) and I went back to the apartment to hang out. We had two hours until we had to get on the road to Madrid. I don’t know what kept us going because we were over 55 hours at the point of no sleep. David, Frits, Greg and Sara went back to sleep for a bit. Sara was going to be in the van with us on the way to Madrid, so we now have seven people in the van. “The Van” is going to be a song title on our next album.

Frits hadn’t slept either, so we were really worried about how we were going to keep him awake for the next eight hours of driving in the dark to Madrid. Hayley decided to sit in the front and blab to keep him up. It worked — that girl can go, man! Sara was up front, but she couldn’t keep her eyes open. I was keeping my eyes open to back-up Hayley. It was kind of scary, actually. We were yelling at the sun for it to come out. It finally came out at 7:00 a.m. and we celebrated like pagans. As I am writing this, it occurs to me that I don’t know what day it is. Everything is backwards.

The imagery out the window on the way to Madrid is breathtaking. It reminds us of the American West –the colors are blue, green, dark yellow, red and brown. The mountains are everywhere as we are driving through them. My ears are popping.

We finally get to Madrid and are blown away by the sheer size of it. Traffic here is worse than the Kennedy Expressway in Chicago at rush hour. Unfortunately, our schedule is so friggin’ tight, we have no opportunity to sight-see at all (except for outside our van window). So this is what it’s like to be on the road with a band! None of us have every done this before, so it’s the trip of a lifetime. From the highway we drive directly to the television station to prepare for the show. Our performance will be taped now and then shown on a national television show. Walking into the television station was very surreal. I was like, “How did we get here? We are in Madrid on national TV.”

The station was packed with people — soundmen, make-up people, seamstresses, lighting guys and cameramen. Everyone there had heard our music and knew who we were. In Spain, when you play at a club or whatever, the people listen to your music in advance so that they are prepared to do a good sound check. Frits was helping us get set up. Thank goodness he is here. I just don’t know what we would do without him on this tour. He knows about all the backline, the conversion stuff, he speaks the same language as the soundmen, knows all the code words. He’s actually been setting all my stuff up as we go. I am so slow moving, I can’t get it together. Anyway, we set up and rehearse some songs, soundcheck…we sound really good. Everyone is pumped to do the television show. This was a huge moment for us.

We finally went to lunch in the cafeteria. Luckily, there was a meatless soup for me, so I chowed on that with bread. Everyone else had fish. Hayley ordered soup with chickpeas and ham. She found a piece of ham bacon in her soup that had pig hair still in it. It was so gross. We ate in five minutes, then ran off to wash our faces, change clothes and get ready for the show. I had told Sara to tell the make up people to just powder the guys’ faces, but they got full make-up. It was hilarious! I got an excellent make-up job, I insisted on the natural look, and that’s what I got. I was really happy with what she did to my eyes — I had gold metallic shadow on my eyelids, but it was subtle. I wish that I could get my makeup professionally done every day.

We get to the stage and had to wait for an extra half an hour on stage because one of the cameras didn’t work. The show was taped so they brought in people to clap for us after every single song. There were about 25 people and they were mostly young girls. It was hilarious because they were standing in a row right in front of the stage. I felt like we were in a pop boy band. They were dancing along to our songs, smiling; it was fun. I was a little nervous because the show was taped so I felt like I’d better not screw up my organ solos. Grant was all the way on the other side of the stage, which was strange. Greg and David were behind us tearing up the place as usual. We were in awe of things in general. Hayley was pumped because she had all this excellent lighting for her photos.

We videotaped the whole experience on our camcorder.

When we finished, we were all pretty relieved, mostly because we knew that we were one step closer to getting some sleep. It’s a double-edged sword — on one hand, we don’t want to miss anything; on the other, we are so friggin’ tired that we can’t see straight anyway! We finally get to drop our stuff off at the hotel. The hotel was surprisingly awesome, so plush — marble floors and baths, mirrors everywhere, plush beds. But we had to leave quickly because we had two interviews to complete for two more magazines.

The journalists were downstairs waiting in the hotel lobby. The one journalist asked us an interesting question about the Chicago music scene, implying that in Spain, they think Chicago has a movement like Seattle did in the ’90s. The city has such great bands, like Tortoise, Brokeback, Wilco, Vandermark 5, and Handsome Family, to name a few. It’s hard for us to tell, because we live there, but we felt so proud that they thought we were part of it. Chicago is a great town to be in if you are a musician, because you can make lots of connections, the clubs are friendly, the musicians all know of or actually know each other — but I have to say that Europe is a great continent to tour in. The kindness of strangers…

Our show was at a club called Moby Dick. It is Halloween! But in Spain it’s not that big of a deal. I keep thinking of my ma’s house on Halloween — orange lights all over the trees like Christmas, pumpkins everywhere, lighted mannequins on the lawn. There is nothing like that in Spain, but at the Moby Dick, the whole place was set up like a haunted house. For a moment, I thought we had entered a bar in Lincoln Park in Chicago.

The sound check went fine because as usual, Frits took care of us. My equipment worked perfectly. Grant’s guitars were fine, strings all set (he replaced them and stretched them the morning before). We were downstairs in the dressing room; there was graffitti all over the walls, lots of drawings of gigantic penises for some reason. What’s with that? We saw them all over the walls at AB Club in Brussels as well. Hmmmmmm. Frits has also been selling our CDs, t-shirts and promo booklets. He’s got this wonderful merchandise cart that displays it all really well, and he’s a good salesman, although his wife, Sylvie, is probably better at it (ha-ha). She sold more CDs than he did!

In Spain, the people never sleep. All night long, people are partying. One thing for sure: we all talked about how we could live there. Sara told us we could stay with her when we come back. We want to bring her with us to Chicago. Sara would like for us to return to Spain in August for the Festival Internacional de Benicassim. She said that there are 40,000 people that go to see music over the course of several days. It sounds like exactly what we want to do next year at the end of summer. We met a guy named Pepe, who decides on who to invite to the festival, so maybe he’ll ask us to play there.

The show tonight was the best we’ve had so far. And we forgot to tape it! Damn! We were so fucking tired that we just let it all hang loose. We had a ball. Everyone changed his or her spot on stage so the chemistry between us changed — for the better. It was fun looking at all the people in costume for Halloween. I couldn’t tear my eyes from the horned red devil man who was running around the bar half-naked.

(As I am writing this, everyone is the van is asleep except Frits and me. I am a paranoid type because I keep looking up to get clues from Frits to see that he is still awake enough to drive. I half expect to find us turned over in a ditch on the side of the road.)

After the show, I convinced Grant and Greg to hang out with me and dance for a while. The club was turning from Utah Carol country pop to the all night disco. All the freaks were out and that’s where I wanted us to be. Greg, Grant and I stayed a while so I danced with Greg and Grant watched. It was fun. Later, Grant and I went to dinner. (Earlier David and Greg actually went to a Subway to eat dinner! But Greg said that the Subway sandwich that he had here in Madrid was the best Subway sandwich that he ever had.) I told Grant that if he didn’t take me for a good vegetarian dinner before we left Madrid, I would leave him for good. So we went trekking around and found a place called VIPs. I had a fantastic pasta dish and Grant had salmon. They actually had a no smoking section!

Back at he hotel, we crashed for the first time in a few days. We were all too tired to enjoy the amenities.

Leaving Spain
In the van again on the way to Germany. Berlin is our first city. The crazy thing is that we will not be in Germany until Monday, and today is Friday! We are now on the road again. Frits is beat even though he got eight hours of sleep. We have to travel back through Spain to get to Germany. We stopped off to a small town a while back. The houses are all built in the rocks. There are abandoned brick structures. We can’t figure it out…what they mean, what were they used for. Today is All Saints Day, so everyone in Spain is off work for the next two days. It’s a celebration. While we stopped in this little town, it was dead quiet there. We were wondering where all the people were, what do they do, where do they go to dinner if they eat out. I half expected a Twilight Zone thing to happen where we walk into one of the houses in the rocks and never come back, or maybe we go into a time warp or another dimension.

We went up the mountain, David took off for the top where he laid out for a while to get a suntan. I was afraid that there would be snakes. Grant went running after the sheep that were going through the town. The herder was shaking the bells, like the bells in our song “Cowboy Pop Song” on our new album. He taped the sound and videotaped the sheep. The herder was making noises to get the sheep to stop and go, and the sheep dog understood the messages as well. The town was so interesting, with its narrow streets and sheep poop everywhere.

Four days on the road to Germany. Oh my god. I am still in denial. Greg came up with a new seating arrangement in the van: one person in the front and four in the back. Whatever. We’ll make it. We were going to go all the way to Barcelona to find a hotel but Frits is getting too tired. I think one of the other guys is going to have to take over at some point, even if it’s only for an hour. It’s scary driving in Europe because you have to watch out for the other drivers.

We met a nice person at the gas station stop. His name is Gil. He told us of a nice town to stay in before Barcelona. I speak a little bit of Spanish, so I was able to order meatless sandwiches for the gang. But I didn’t know how to say cucumber or bell pepper. But the sandwiches were delicious! Finally a good sandwich.

We are fighting over the computer right now so I have to ring off.

Vilafranca de Penedes, Spain
We make it to the next town in Spain, just outside Barcelona. We drive around for a while to look for a hotel. The first two hotels were not too good, but we finally found one called Hotel Domo. It was pretty nice, and it had Internet access. The manager was very helpful; I am totally getting better at my Spanish! He and I were talking in Spanish the whole time. I like it when the folks realize that you are trying to speak their language so they try to help. Anyway, he recommended a restaurant that served pizza and pasta. At first, when we got there, Frits was totally like “I don’t like pizza.” So we walked around for a half an hour through the narrow cobblestone streets. It seems like there are no old people in this town. All of the people are teenagers. Greg said it was probably like a suburb of Madrid, where all the families live. We walked. Lots of people and cars everywhere, music playing all in the streets. That Sunday, there was going to be a big festival to celebrate the Saints, I think. There were little girls playing in the streets, or practicing for the festival. All the restaurants were pizzerias, so Frits had to give in. The place we went, Sant Bernat, had the best food we have had so far. The pizza was the kind with the extra thin crispy crust. I had fresh pasta. I was so happy.

Back through Spain, to France and then onward to Germany
In the morning, I got up to try to upload some new files to Splendid, but discovered that the Internet access in the hotel was only 28.8 kbps…ugh! So I gave up. We stopped at a fruit market before we hit the road. We’ve been eating a lot of junk food, so we bought a bunch of apples, platanos, pears, oranges and tangerines. Yum yum.

Greg invented a new swear word today: fuckfire. He’s havin’ a helluva time in the van. He’s a trooper, though, with all of his back problems and stuff. He has to be symmetrical when he sits to avoid back spasms and he’s so tall, he can never stretch his legs. He claims that he’s six feet two inches, but that’s not possible, because when I look at him, I look up higher than I look at Grant, and Grant is six feet two inches. David is meditating the entire trip, looking dreamily out the window, running around the petrol station parking lots with his bare feet. I think that he’s having a good time.

Hayley has a few days off, finally. She’s been working non-stop since we got to Europe and talking about her husband Dan the whole trip. Dan sounds like tons of fun. He may meet Hayley in Amsterdam and then travel with us to England. Because we are on the road for so many days, Hayley can finally take a break, and maybe even take some photos for her own portfolio. She made all of us cheese sandwiches. She’s a lot of fun to have on the road — always smiling, always happy and laughing.

Frits is back on the saddle. Grant just asked him if he could make it all the way to Lyon, and he’s like “Yeah, baby! EASY!” Thank god, because I really don’t want Grant to drive the friggin’ van. Grant is the same, stable, calm and diplomatic. Always on the look out for cool things, full of good ideas. Me, I’m crabby because I didn’t get my tea today. I was frowning for about an hour this morning, dreaming about sipping from a hot cup. So, I had a piece of chocolate and my attitude corrected immediately. I have learned my lesson about Europe: if you are a tea drinker and you like to drink tea all the time, you need to get a travel mug. There are no carry out cups in Europe anywhere. It’s making me absolutely bonkers! Anyway, I am going off on a tangent because I am going road crazy.

Hotel Saint-Jean/Le Jardin de Bagatelle
We stopped off at another small French town to sleep and eat. We stopped at the first hotel we saw ’cause Frits is getting anxious again. Grant and I went inside to check it out and it was okay — except for the four flights of winding stairs that we had to get our luggage up. Travel tip: bring small suitcases. Anyway, everyone was hungry, but I really needed a break from the whole group so I told Grant that we needed to go to dinner without the gang. We took Hayley with us and walked around town to the “restaurant row”. It was pouring down raining. I was the only one who brought an umbrella, but we still got soaking wet. We walked down the street for a while, trying to pretend like we could read French. We walked into three restaurants and got turned away each time. I am not sure if it was because we were dressed like shit, soaking wet, non-French speaking or just plain American. Every time we walked into one of the restaurants, all talk would stop and everyone would turn around and stare. Anyway, we stopped in to look at this intimate, quaint restaurant, and there was one table open. The owner at first seemed uncertain, but then she let us in and put two tables together for us. She was very handsome, with long black hair tied back in a ponytail, chiseled severe features, vintage blue and dark metal earrings. She was very pale, but her eyes were very friendly and warm. She spoke little English. As we sat down, everyone stopped talking for a minute and stared at us, but then resumed eating. There were only five tables in the restaurant. It turns out that there was only one cook. The menu was price fixe, which usually scares me, but they had a wonderful menu. I ordered an onion tart, turkey medallions with mushrooms, potato and for dessert, and an apple tart, which was made on the spot. I don’t like French food in the States, but this food here is the best that I have ever had. Hayley had whitefish with curry sauce and basmati rice, Grant had a meat terrine, white fish wrapped in bacon. All of us had the apple tart. We were there for three and a half hours, which was wonderful. You can never sit comfortably and eat slowly in the US for that long.

We met some English-speaking people at dinner. It was such a warm experience for us.

Walking back through town, I found myself thinking about living in Europe for the rest of my life, traveling through the different small towns, eating different foods, meeting people, learning different languages.

Our room was miniature but clean and cozy. We all slept pretty well. The next morning, Grant, Hayley and I went into the town and walked around. We found a huge farmer’s market full of fresh fruits and vegetables, flowers, rotisserie chicken and a string trio with two cellos and a violin. I was on a mission this time to find my hot water, which I finally did. Frits told me how to say “hot water” in French: low sho (L’eau chaud, I think — Ed.). I know that it is spelled differently, but that’s how you say it. I’ve been walking around Europe with my tea strainer and loose tea, desperate for a to-go cup.

Grant found a photography museum for Hayley. It was pretty cool, because the first photograph ever taken was by a French guy named Nicephore Niepce, who happened to be from the town we were staying in.

It was refreshing to see Frits, Greg and David again. We hadn’t seen them since last night since we abandoned them at the hotel.

Onward to Germany
We got on the highway again. Damn, another day on the road. At least the scenery is beautiful. We are leaving France…au revoir.

Entering Germany, the border was completely deserted. Greg said that when he came with his family seven years ago, there were border guards with machine guns. Maybe it’s my imagination, but the vibe in Germany is markedly different than the other countries — can’t quite put my finger on it. We haven’t gotten to Berlin yet, but we are at a rest stop to get a bite to eat. The food here is the closest to American food that I have had so far: steamed broccoli, baby salad greens, hash brown like potatoes, red pepper and cucumber salad…

We’ve left the rest stop. Grant has decided to drive the van after all. He’s actually pretty good at it — very calm and methodical. I think it may be a little easier on the autobahn. Oh, it’s Sunday! There are no trucks to freak us all out. That helps.

Then we got stuck in a traffic jam for an hour. The autobahn sucks. I thought everyone sped on the autobahn…

· · · · · · ·
If you’re in Europe, it’s not too late to catch Utah Carol on tour:
November 2002
Tue. 05 Germany: Dortmund: Subrosa
Wed. 06 Germany: Münster: Gleis 22
Thu. 07 Germany: Hamburg: Golden Pudel Club
Fri. 08 Netherlands: Amsterdam: radio
and Netherlands: Amsterdam: Crossing Border Festival (venue: Melkweg)
Sun. 10 UK Leicester: The Musician
Mon. 11 UK London: The Borderline
The dates/venues may change, so please visit the band’s booking agency’s web site for updated tour information.