a word's-eye view from mike watt on the first two gigs
ever done by the stooges on the continent of europe
thursday, september 11, 2003 - vitoria-gasteiz, spain
arrived at the airport here in bilboa (the big port town in the basque part of spain) around 11:30 am. I actually left pedro on saturday night (september sixth) and flew to nyc so it wouldn't be such a hellride in the plane (breaking the trip up into two parts) and to visit some eastcoast friends. I spent three nights w/jim o'rourke in downton brooklyn, close to the manhattan bridge. he's really great peeps w/a generous heart. I got in at 5:15 am on sunday and damn if he wasn't up when I arrived at his apt after working all night in a studio. later that day, we went to kim gordon and jutta koether's "the club in shadows" art installation on the lower west side of manhattan, right near the hudson river. the next night, kim's husband thurston took me to see this cat, edgar oliver, read two chapters from his upcoming book, "the man who loved plants" and do a monlogue of his. it was great. tuesday, thurston took me to see the premier of sofia coppola's "lost in translation" movie after recording during the day w/jim o'rourke and steve shelley at sonic youth's studio on murray street for this album that's of james joyce's poem, "chamber music." it's got thirtysix parts and I was give part nine. wednesday is when we actually got the takes we wanted after spending the day before learning what I wrote. when we finished in the late afternoon, I took a car service to catch my flight for paris on air france. it was a fun few days in new york, totally packed w/stuff going on for me. jim o'rourke played for me tons of records I'd never heard before - this cat has a deep knowledge of music and tried to soak up as much as I could. people like thurston and him really widened my perspective and I love it. I even got to give my friend elizabeth a book from raymond pettibon's first show in italy. the only lame thing was missing out on chowing w/jimbo. oh well. there was a time when it was automatic I would stay w/jimbo if I was going to be in nyc. those were the days when he lived on canal and they're long gone. lots of good memories though.
my flight wasn't 'till 7:45 pm but I've found getting to the airport early is way, way better than getting there close or late. my nerves just don't need the stress so I camped out by the gate and read nick tosches' latest novel, "in the hand of dante" which I'm about two-thirds through. it's a great book. some very heavy/ugly scenes but it's really made me think about stuff in my own life and running through my head. I highly recommend it - great writing too. I got some beef jerky for the flight and was very much tripped out when the lady at the register asked me for fifteen fucking dollars - what?!?! talk about a fucking burn-ward, airports are always doing shit like this, taking advantage of you not being able to go somewhere else. assholes. I really wanted to give it back but she had already rang it up and there were all these folks behind me and maybe I lost a little nerve. boy, was I mad though. I took my fucking jerky and got on the plane, a big 747 jumbo jet - don't fly on these much. my seat was way in the back, row fifty and luckily the plane was half full so I got empty seats all around me. in front was another story w/some asshole pushing back in his seat and crushing my knees. I asked, "what's up brother? you're fucking killing me!" aren't you supposed to be in the "upright position" anyway for take-off? luckily, he played musical chairs w/a bunch of different seats a left me the fuck alone. it's so great when a plane ain't filled to the brim w/folks. the flight's six hours and I konk for half of them - they give you one of them konk masks which is good cuz I donated mine. it was a kind on too - one jimbo gave me - lined w/some soft stuff and w/a velcro strap instead of elastic bands to hold it on. I get into de gaul airport just after eight am (paris time is six hours ahead of nyc) and there's no gate - they put you on a bus instead. this goes to a terminal where I have to get on another bus - it goes right past the plane I came from! it gets me to the terminal where my next flight leaves and there's only a half-hour 'till it leaves. damn if there's just one cat checking passports for like hundred of folks! I get close and this family from russia cuts right in front! I guess their used to working lines and cuz of the little ones, I don't make a fuss. I just make the flight by a few minutes, whew. tour co-boss eric doesn't, damn. I meet these guys from atlanta who play in a band called hermano and it so happens they're playing the same festival we are. nice cats. one of them heard about the illness that almost killed me and wants to hear the whole story so I tell them and they get grossed out. sorry. we take this little jet to bilboa in spain. only takes an hour and a half. this lady lorena is there w/a big sign saying stooges and takes me to airport coffee shop while she waits for ron and scott to arrive. the coff ain't a bad idea since I'm gonna try and stay awake 'till night time so my inside clock can get synced w/the time here. the asheton brothers arrive in like thirty minutes and soon we're in a van w/lorena driving us to vitoria-gasteiz, about sixtyfive kilometers (forty miles) away. the lay of the land is sort of like eastern tennessee, some grades and curves - lots of fir trees and fog laying pretty low all along. the basque part of spain has different folks than spaniards and their own language. I've never seen a 'k' in a spanish word and the basque language has all kinds. the letter they don't use is the 'c' one. trippy.
w/get to the hotel in the middle of town and I go to get more coffee. damn, their coff is strong! I traded twenty dollars for a little over fifteen euros and the coff is just one of them. they got this thing called a tortilla here but it's nothing like the ones back where I live. for them, this kind of a tortilla is this cake-like thing: a layer of potatoes on the bottom, then a layer of tuna next, then a layer of ham and finally a layer of fried scrambled eggs w/pimentos on top. trippy but it tastes great. I go hoofing around town and find this little store where I get a plum, a pear and a plum tomato for .55 euro (about sevety cents). spain is econo! another thing about coming from where I live is seeing all these people who speak spanish looking nothing like the folks who speak spanish back home. that's cuz latin american folks are mixed w/the native peoples who lived there before spain came. the chow too is hardly spicy at all, nothing like cali - no chilies! I'm not complaining, just noting the differences. I go back to my room and take a bath. nice long and deep tub but it sure is narrow! not bad though. feels good to wash the airplane rides off - all those hours in a metal tube, sucking down other people's farts along w/your own. my knees and ankles are sore too from all the hoofing on the cement back in nyc. my hands are a little also - we must've played that tune I wrote for that joyce poem like a hundred times! that was really fun though. I got to play kim's bass which is like my little gibson but w/just one pickup. sure has great action, whoa - one of the best gibson eb basses I've ever played. well, I did get the chance to play the cream bass - bruce gary (the drummer of that band the knack) had traded a chapman stick and some money to jack bruce for it and my friend harvey kubernick took me to the valley (tarzana) where he lives and I actually had that bass in my lap and was jamming on it. man, did that thing wail! righteous. he showed me a video of the albert hall gig which was cream's last gig and it had the same marks. there was also a letter of authentication that jack bruce had wrote. what a trip. kim's is the next best one I played and though it doesn't have a preamp like the one I put in mine, I boosted the high mids and cut the lows on the amp of her's in the studio and got a pretty good tone. I didn't get to play the cream bass amplified but it differed from any other eb-3 I've seen cuz it had two pickups, front and back where all the kinds of seen have just a big one by the neck and a little one by the bridge. anyway, I'm really spinning out on a bass tangent here - back to watt in spain: I start reading the tosches book when the phone rings and it's this belgian lady genivive who saw me play w/the asheton brohters and j mascis last december in tilburg, holland. she's in the same ho and wants to visit so she comes to talk. I wanted to get a stamp for this postcard I wrote but things close from one to five in the afternoon - siesta. when things open back up, she goes w/me to get a stamp - they sell them in the tobacco shops - and then she wants coffee so I get some more w/her and talk in the shop. she's way into the stooges and also thinks I'm some kind of philosopher or something. I think that's comical. I mean, she asks me things and I answer her. I run out of gas after a bit though and say bye. talk to scotty on the phone and he's says to come on up to his room. his bro ron and eric are there too so we're all talking about things. I'm trying hard not to konk until night time. scotty got some 'dines (real spanish sardines) and some baguettes so I chow on that - I use a comb the ho people put in the head for you (they come wrapped in plastic) to dish the 'dines out on the bread. so does ron. scotty gives me some pistachios he brought from michigan. like an idiot, I'm sitting on his bed and foul it pretty bad w/crumbs, 'dines and pistachios shells. I didn't do on purpose, I'm just a fucking klutz. I sit on the deck for the rest of the time. the guys are watching some "miss italia" beauty show on tv (in spanish) but I'm on the other side of the bed on the deck and can't see anything. the caffeine is wearing off but damn if I ain't got funky feeling in my gut and nerves - I drank too much or it's too strong and I'm not used to it. eventually I fucking konk but at least it was around ten. scotty wants to go out for chow somewhere and I get rousted but I have to bow out - too tired. I continue my konk in my own chamber.
friday, september 12, 2003 - vitoria-gasteiz, spain
I pop at like five am and read my tosches book 'till the chow pad in this ho downstairs opens up at seven. I'm one of the first ones there and everything's fresh. what a layout too: I get two fried eggs, toast, bacon, chorizo (different than the style back home - they're little pieces of sausage links rather than what we have which is the ground-up kind that's usually mixed up w/scrambled eggs), peeled pear halves in syrup (like five of these!), prunes, watermelon, cantaloup, orange and tomato juice plus coffee - it's quite a shovel for watt. I can dig it. jos, the longtime helper guy for iggy comes down and tells me about the illuminated stage backdrop and light box for ig to stand on that he made. sounds interesting. eric, the tour boss from the j mascis + the fog days and brought on board for the stooges by ron joins us, as does soundman rik and the talk goes to how you can't get that redbull energy drink into france. that leads to talk about stimulants in general and jos says in england speed is more of a "social" thing there and a "private" thing here. rik agrees (he's from england too). whatever, it was a fucking nightmare for me. they also both concur that the u.s. kind is way too strong. I haven't had "sulfate" or whatever they were calling their's but teeth missing in my head can attest to good ol' methamphetamine - it's fucking poison (and not just physically). I had enough of that shit a long time ago, definitely a mistake for me. end of sermon.
I go back up stairs and read the tosches book 'till w/have to bail for soundcheck a half hour before noon. waiting in the lobby, the ho people say I can use the 'puter so I get some emails out (my ma had written yesterday cuz it was sep 11 and she was worried) but soon we're a short van ride to the venue which is an outdoor affair w/two huge stages facing each other about a quarter mile apart. I find out the acts will alternate so there's no lag in set up (one band going up on one stage while another's playing on the other one). the weather was pretty gray this morning and rain even looked likely but the sun's won out and I think everything'll be dry. I'm using what's been rented for all the stooges gigs I've done: two ampeg svt-II pro amps w/an 8x10 cabinet for each. after going to a direct box, there's a y-splitter box from my bass feeding both amps in parallel. the spanish cats are very nice to work w/and there's no 'tude from them at all. looks like we're going on at one am now instead of the three in the morning time that was originally planned (thank god) so we're the first ones soundchecking. jos sings "no fun" (iggy has never soundchecked w/us but I totally understand that) w/us and we're done. rik is a great soundman w/a great work ethic and really great to be around. I like hanging w/the crew guys - the same w/ron and scotty - all righteous folks that have no hang-ups to take out hissy fits or whatever on me. it's a great group of cats w/no hierarchy bullshit. road manager henry always treats me w/respect and also fun to be around. same w/the cat ron brought from ann arbor for his guitars, chris - it's good peeps too. I'm use to rolling w/just the guys who are on stage w/me so the whole crew thing is a little different but it's not hard w/the way this outfit is. much respect from watt for that.
the rest of the band goes back to the ho but I stay here at the venue. I'm not much for coming and going so much, makes me nervous. I like to be where I'm playing 'till I'm done w/the gig. now usually I'm w/the boat and make that the center of my universe but this is a different call so I have to make the little portable dressing room thing they got here for us that. a portable head is brought right near but when I try to piss in it, I'm told that "only iggy pop pisses in this." ok, I hoof over to a head I'm "allowed" to use. henry, the road boss, is still on the grounds, taking care of things and asks me if I want chow. folks working for the festival bring some tortillas (almost just like the ones I ate yesterday except w/out the tuna - still totally a cake compared to the ones back home but it tastes wonderful) and these things called "chipolitos" which are little squids stuffed w/their own tentacles and cooked in their own black ink. that might sound weird but it's delicious! I chow a bunch. always been a big fan of squid anyway, lots of it back home in pedro. there was a couch in our little space but after konking on it for over an hour, I'm woken up and it gets moved to space the cramps are gonna use. no prob, I'll use the desk in henry's "office" since they say we can't use our room 'till after eight tonight. I use my clothes sack for a pillow and konk on the deck. I wake up in a couple of hours and have to piss and henry asks why I'm headed towards the ones far away when there's one right here. I tell him what I was told and he says "bollocks" (funny slang but I know what he means). he says I can piss where I tried earlier and I can use our little room cuz no one's gonna use it but us. I take him up on the head thing but go back to konking in his space cuz I don't want to cause any trouble. there's always communication problems it seems w/big events. all in all though, these spanish cats are super-nice. I just think some things are misunderstood and also, even though I have a pass, I think it's hard for the staff folks to actually believe I'm in a band, let alone the stooges. it's ok, I like the unassuming thing anyway. also, I don't like making mountains out of molehills - it's just not worth it. I do take a little walk first and see the jayhawks soundcheck. I talk w/gary, who I've rapped w/before, a nice man. he almost died last year from the same thing that almost killed bob dylan a little while back - a membrane growing around the heart. we both find it funny that our ages, instead of talking about rock and roll cliche stuff, we're trading sickness stories! I go back to where we're camped out. luckily I have the konk mask they gave me on the plane and getting to sleepy town is no problem at all, I'm out within seconds, 'pert-near. it's rest I really need cuz we're not going on 'till one in the morning (which is still way better than the three in the morning that we first scheduled for) and my inside clock is still off w/these parts.
for some reason, I come out of my konk just as the festival (called azkena which means "last" in the basque language) starts and the first band goes on, paniks, who are from bilboa. they're really good. I get to meet the singer j. ramon when they're finished and he gives me their latest cd, saying he saw me play his town when I brought my opera through in 1998 w/the black gang (that was my first time ever playing in spain). I'm feeling a little frail still so I head back for more konk. I pop in time for the cramps, who are the band on our stage before us though we'll go on after the jayhawks, who are on the other stage. I haven't seen the cramps in almost a billion years. they got a bass player now which is different than when I saw them last (just two guitars and drums behind singer lux interior) and nick knox is no longer in the band. ivy still is though which is great. earlier, I had met two folks who work w/them - russell, a nice cat tattooed totally all over who's from san diego and gave me cds of his band the millionaires and bob, who's the manager and saw me play when he was young punk rocker. he gives me a cramps t-shirt, thanks much. they both told me very nice things, much respect to them both. the cramps come on and I get some pictures w/my little digicamera. lux has gotta be older than iggy but is in pretty good shape as is ivy. she plays great. the both are pretty much kicking up some serious dust and I'm digging it. the bass cat has a solo in "human fly" (one of my favorite cramps tunes) - wild! the moon is full tonight, perfect. towards the end of their set, lux is slowing down but his behavior is actually getting wilder - breaking wine bottles, throwing the monitor wedges, climbing all over everything - intense. a really, really good show by them. I'm fired up - not that I wasn't already getting ignited by my upcoming stooge mission, just now from a slightly other dimension in addition. I love playing w/these stooge cats so much.
my compadres get here from the ho about midnight. I had already put on a new set of strings on the little bass and chris wants it to tune it. usually, I'm pulling on them big time cuz they're easily stretched w/you're laying into it at gig time. he gives it back and I'm just warming up on it. ron goes into his pacing mode, he gets like that before the gig but it's kind of more intensified by steve mackay (saxman) yammering away. steve's a sweetheart and everyone loves him but he can get to yammering and it drives ron crazy. steve speaks some spanish cuz he was married to a cuban lady for a while so I tell him to quiet it up in spanish but I guess it's too slang and he just keeps yammering away. ron is livid! scotty's just in his chair, doing his drumstick thing on his thighs. funny about scott, he'll pick a chair before the gig and stay in it the whole time, going right back to it when the gig's over! all three of these guys are beautiful folks and I love them much. iggy's in the space next to us but comes in time to time 'till the cigarette smoke just gets too much. he's in good spirits - we all are... it's the first stooges gig in spain ever!
up the ramp and onto my side of stage. I got a red t-shirt on, I'm trying to wear a different one for every stooge gig I do. they're all kind of too big cuz there from my days when I was bellin' more - I really only wear these kind of shirts under my coat when I pedal my bike in the mornings or a long sleeved kind when I paddle my kayak, I prefer shirts w/buttons but it's very much ok to do this for these guys - an honor. we go straight into "loose" - man, what a tune to open w/and the spanish folks are really lit up! on stage here, the sound is kind of lame, ron sounds tiny. I trust rik out front mixing us - you gotta trust your knobman cuz there's no way you can run sound from the stage, especially these big ones. scotty is really swinging on the drums, what a fucking righteous groove to plant some bass in - he makes very happening for me. iggy is wild and tearing it up, very much our bow of the boat. w/him plowing ahead like that, how can one not follow in the wake and give it all you got? when we're done, "down on the street" comes immediately right up and we're chugging on that one. when it's time for ron to solo, iggy jumps up on my bass amps. I still get overwhelmed by this and tonight I get down and play on my knees, looking up at iggy while the bass pours all into my face - sixteen speakers about a foot away w/the amps all the way open, driving them hard (it feels way different in the face than against the back of your legs!). "1969" is next and we've really gotten tighter on this one. I used to think we were playing it too fast but that's cuz I was comparing it w/the album and like ron says, "live is different." it sails on some righteous wah-wah leads. iggy tells the folks he wants to play an "animal song" and we're into "I wanna be your dog" - whoa! the spanish folks are singing along so loud, I can hear it over the sound system, everyone is so focused on us. not that I can tell all that much cuz I'm watching iggy 'pert-near the whole time except for glances at ron and scotty just to check in. iggy is so much an inspiration for anyone w/a machine in their hand and trying to make it come alive. I have to go all the way over to ron's side of the stage to hear him start "tv eye" off so I'll be right there - tons of bass are coming out of my side's monitors and hearing him is a little tough from over there. my mission is to stick these cats like glue. I play right in front of scotty's kick drum, 'pert-near touching it w/my back so I got kick drum thumping right through me. I've notice iggy switches the second and third verse. he does a lot of changing things around, coming into sing when he wants to - no autopilot in this band, you gotta stay totally aware, moment to moment but I dig that. this isn't player-piano time, running paper w/holes punched in it through a mechanism. iggy then talks to the folks in spanish, telling them about the next song we're doing, "dirt." iggy sings it really, really good - this tune means a bunch to me, always has. ron rolls right into "real cool time" and I blow my first clam of the gig - I space on the fucking chords! what an idiot - how many times have I played this? instead of e to g to a to g again, I went from e to f# to g to a - aaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrggggggghhhhh!!! I only did it the first time around though and inside my head, pummel my self hard for being such a dumbfuck. at least I was in the right key! I look over to the stage starboard and there's lux and ivy - I noticed them before but now I see how their eyes are glued to us, watching every everything and I point at lux and give him a big smile - he smiles back. that's wild. iggy asks folks to come up on stage but there's a big barrier and the stage is pretty high up - one cat does get on though and dances all over on the stage, coming up to me and getting crazy on his knees. we're into "no fun" and iggy's trying to get more cats up but it's not possible for them. he implores them in spanish even. too high up to dive in (it'd be human cannonball time), he gets down in the vacant area between the stage and the barrier to press flesh and rally the emotions on. I run over to ron's amps again for the beginning of "1970" and keep my head in the speakers to get that rush I got when I was a boy and first hearing this tune on the record. I still can't believe I'm getting to do this! we play it good, scotty really is fired up tonight. steve comes in near the tune's but it's hard to hear him. I see his mic is pointing down! he must've hit it w/his sax. damn, if he'd just open his eyes, he'd see that but he's playing w/them shut tight. we finish and iggy yells "fun house" so I pump out that lick. the band comes in and it's ferocious - wow. iggy's dancing up quite a storm - doing this side-shimmy thing that's a blast. he is something else. we go straight into "l.a. blues" and I get pretty intense on the little bass - maybe a little too much cuz when we kick into "skull rings" (a song from iggy's new album that him and ron wrote), my lowest string (the e one) is like a whole step flat! fuck, I don't realize this 'till after the gig and I'm wondering why iggy had the band pull out except guitar and then drums. what a fucking bozo, my second big clam this gig but definitely the worst - it was through the whole tune! I must've not pulled the strings hard enough before the gig and then when I went to town on the freakout scene in "...blues," I fucked things up. stupid watt. idiot. that was the only bad string and I got it right for "not right" (ha, that's funny) but christ, "skull rings" pivots on the open e the whole tune! pinche cabron watt pendejo!!! we're tight for "not right" and then into "little doll." iggy spends a lot of time down in the gulf between the barrier and the stage for this one. we get really tribal and I see steve playing his maracas like five feet from the mic - his eyes are stil closed! iggy has us do "...dog" again and the gig is done. we run down the ramp we came up on and he's into a car w/nina and they're off for the airport in bilboa where we'll join them in a while. whew, what a gig!
handsome dick from the dictators comes by it's great to see him. his bass player, adny comes by too. there's a lot of nice folks who say hi and we wait while the truck gets loaded up w/the equipment. tomorrow's gig at a race track 180 miles south of paris and we're flying in this rented private jet. I get a little book of my friend gomez' art from a staff cat but I look and look and can't find him. damn. we get taken to the airport in a van (we ask lorene to drive a little slower this time!) and join iggy in this little jet can hold maybe ten people. it's got three motors though and we take off w/much, much torque! I've never been in one of these and it's intense. there's like a stewardess lady and she brings us these fruits, cheeses and things rik calls canapˇs. the fruits are great: kumquats, these chinese things called lichees, fresh cranberries still on the vine, tiny bananas - like the korean ones mister kim has shown me in pedro, kiwis, greengauges (sort of like a small green plum), grapes. the canapˇs are like little breads made like crackers w/trippy toppings. all good stuff though. I apologize to iggy about the tuning fuckup of mine in "skull rings." I don't give him an excuse about the strings being not stretched out enough, I just tell him I won't let it happen again. it bothers me I let these guys down like that but they're very nice about it. I feel so drained - gigs take tons out of me and I feel so out of gas but being on a plane like this for the first time still keeps me alert - even w/my konk mask on my head (I keep pulling down and then up!). the flight's like a hour and a half to bourges, france and a van takes us to this ho called hotel du bourbon. it's like five in the morning. whoa. I konk in a matter of milliseconds.
saturday, september 13, 2003 - nevers, france
I pop at like eleven - way past time for the free shovel these europe ho's have set up for morning chow. oh well, that's ok - I'll go out and hoof. I go up the street and to the train station to get a sandwich ("jambon et fromage" - ham and cheese) w/a cocacola. whoa, 5.15 euros - almost six bucks u.s. much more expensive than spain. being w/out a bike to pedal or a kayak to paddle, I have to hoof for exercise. it's been like this all week at the all the pounding of the feet on cement has got me kind of sore below the waist - especially the ankles, which are swollen a bit. my knees are pretty bad (surgeries on them in my early twenties) but pedaling has made them a lot stronger than w/the ankles. however, I need to move just like I have to read - I need each or both my head and my body will wig. there's a flower garden as a memorial to french soldiers who died in north africa from 1952-62 and I use the little nikon digicamera to try and capture as much eyegifts as my mind can. they're righteous and get me all happy. I see lots of bees, both bumble and honey, doing their thing w/the pollen action and even see one of these tiny hummingbirds. it's not the kind I've seen in my town which are maybe four inches and have a solid black beak but tiny, like an inch and a half or so and the beak is like one on a mosquito - like a three inch piece of wire and you can see the nectar go up in gobs. trippy. the wings jam so intense that they're impossible to even see except for this slight blur of flury on each side. it's not scared of me cuz it chows up nectar on flowers right in front of my face! it darts between the blooms like no one's business, incredible to watch - pretty much a mindblow. it sure is a neat garden. I go back to the ho to take my coat off (it's bright yellow - maybe my insect and bird friends thought I was a big flower!) and see the promoter, alain. he tells me about this marshes and canals on the east side of town and I should check them out. he's a nice man. I first hoof into the center of town looking for some stamps. bourges is an old town w/lots of interesting tiny streets, none of them laid out in a grid, all curving about. at the post office ("le poste") I find this place where the let dogs shit on gravel but it's empty (and shitless) so I sit on a bench there. a metal sculpture of louis XI is next to me and I'm wondering what kind of a kind was he. no crown and he's got his chin in one hand while wearing an intense grin. maybe he was kind of nuts? I have to read up on him. damn, le poste is closed but a tobacco shop across the street has what I need (funny how it's the tobacco shops in europe that have the stamps). I then make my way for the marais de bourges - the marshes. it's a trippy place, kind of hard to see cuz of all the walls so I take some tiny side streets. one of them isn't a side street at all, it's actually a driveway and the automatic doors close behind me - oh no! most of the pads in the older parts of towns over here don't have front yards. what they usually have is big doors that lead to a courtyard behind the walls. luckily though, I found the switch that opens the doors up to allow my escape. I don't know how I would've explained my way out of that one if someone would've apprehended me. I didn't mean any harm, just trying to see the canals. have to be more careful. these towns are laid out so righteous, their own little worlds and so very interesting to inhabitants of track home and mall land (at least this one). I could hoof around all day and wonder on the trippy shit. however, I have a gig to play.
the race track we're playing (magny-cours circuit) is like an hour away and we're supposed to go on at 9:45 pm so we bail at seven. as we drive first through the town and then the countryside, ron marvels at how things are and wishes we could have a few days to check shit out. I agree and that's why I try to pack in as much as I can cuz I'm not over in these parts all that often. when you get out of the towns, france is very rural - lots of wheat and corn fields. we see much livestock out grazing, steers w/white hides. you can smell the fuel in the air as we get near the track. you can also hear the motorcycles. this is a formula one race track but what's going on now is a twentyfour hour motorcycle endurance race (called bol d'or). we have to drive around the outer edge of the track to get where we need to be. pretty incredible to see this bikes jam by - 180 mph in the staightaways and then down to like twenty for the hairpins. whoa! you can tell the track's not the smoothest cuz I see one bike have it's front tire skip into the air and almost looked like that cat was going to lose it. lots of fire coming out of the tailpipes, man o' man! it's real dark now and the car iggy is in has to run interference for us to get through the masses of folks. there's tents set up everywhere and bon fires going - pretty wild. the take us up into these dressing room kind of trailer jobs. the opening band, a french one called a.s. dragons are playing now. they're kind of synth-pop in a way but not too sugary. on the table is five big hunks of cheese and bread. there's never too little of that here in europe! it's really good but I can't eat too much before I play. we got all our stuff cuz we're heading to the airport we flew into last night and taking that same private jet to ho northeast of paris, near charles de gaul airport so it simplifies flying home tomorrow. I'm wearing this light blue shirt don dalton gave me a few years ago. it's got a r. crumb drawing of a cat from "the monkey wrench gang." he's on his knees praying for an earthquake "to come at the right time." I get the little bass and pull some intense stretching on the strings. no tuning problems tonight for watt! I'm going to be watching that tuner close also, just to make sure.
I'm told there's like forty thousand people to see us and man, it's heads and heads as far as you look. there's lots of bottles, I wonder if it's going to be a toss-fest? I'm not worried - what happens will happens - I'm just so excited to be here and playing w/these cats! this will be the sixth gig (starting w/coachella back in april) and I'm still lit like a switch. I warm up on the little bass in the room. ron tells me some nice things about my playing last night, like the glisses I've thrown in to ramp up parts. he says I'm getting more confident and relaxing a bit. inside though, I got a stom of emotions raging. on stage too, I shake my body into a frenzy - it's one way I can keep from getting so self-conscious - I still don't know if I'm really a born entertainer, I got into this to be w/my friend d. boon as a boy. what a trip where life has taken me now - playing w/THE STOOGES, here at a motorcycle race in france - what a fucking trip! ron paces much like he usually does before the gig. I ask him how he can go on w/out warming up on his guitar, just hitting it cold like that and he says it's weird too but that's the way it's been going these gigs. I know my fingers would definitely cramp up big time. scotty has chosen his seat and is pounding up beats w/his sticks on his legs. you can bet good money he'll be returning to that same seat when we're done, his "throne." he's always calm and says much good things to help us all relax. steve is yammering but not like last night. the opening band finishes and it's our turn. things have been pushed back just a bit and it's ten o'clock.
henry leads us to the tail-lift of a big truck and it elevates us up to the stage. whoa, what a sea of folks in front of us! right away, ron gets us into "loose" and we're off - wow, the sound on stage is the best I've ever hear for me playing w/these guys - you can hear everyone perfect. the band is smoking. the french cats are way into it and to our relief, no bottles or anything in flying towards us. we're doing the same set as last night so "down on the street" is next. then 1969," "I wanna be your dog" and "tv eye" - what a whirl of swirl heaving energies to and fro, damn! no clams tonight, I'm focused tight. I check the tuner frequently also but never long enough to lose my attention on our floor boss, the ig. he's on fire! again, the stage is high and w/a big empty "moat" between the stage and metal barriers so it's hard for him to physically connect w/the folks like he likes to do but he's making some serious attempts. the only real problem is asshole bouncers beating the living shit out of people (aren't the same all over the world?). iggy's had enough and he stops us in "dirt" to call the dogs of some kid that's getting pummeled big time. he brings him up on stage w/him. funny, the kid has a shirt on that says "dirt" on the back, wow. in "real cool time" and "no fun," he gets some folks up on stage w/us - almost a dozen which is 'pert-near a miracle w/the goons and their ways. it's about now when ron's guitar starts acting up, lots of static coming from the amps. too bad cuz we had such great sound up to now. he gets it together enough for us to launch into "1970" but in "fun house," steve mackay has to carry us on sax while ron switches guitars - I think that's where the problem is and the reverend folks (ron's playing two guitars this detroit company called reverend makes) will have to get on that. he's undeterred though and charges hard. steve's got his eyes open tonight and his sax is blowing good into the mic. I make sure I'm in tune after the blowout on "l.a. blues" and for the first time since I've been playing w/these guys, I can hear my voice in the monitors for singing backup w/iggy in "skull rings." kind of makes a slight difference! I made sure before we kicked into this tune that my e string wasn't in the sad shape it was last night - tonight it's right on e and I'm very happy. I can't believe I let that happen last night. anyway, can't dwell there - we're in the here and now right this moment and it's wild. iggy keeps telling the crowd he's got love for france and they're sending it back likewise. scotty stretches out the ending so long that the end hit somehow gets misunderstood by ron as the start-off for "not right." oh well, we're playing tight enough that we're still all together and not confused. good eye contact w/these guys, lots of good communication and not "separate world" action. I don't know how bands have any fun doing that. for me, ensemble playing is interesting conversations w/the instruments and the singing to make the music really come alive - not just executing "parts" in a dislocated fashion. iggy says "little doll" but then asks for the lights to come on and I space on that a little for some reason. he hollers "turn the lights on and play the fucking little doll." I snap out of it and get to what I gotta do - get that pharaoh sanders "upper/lower egypt" riff happening! we play it probably the shortest we ever have for some reason. iggy feels out the vibe though and we all totally trust his instincts. we finish up like we have been, w/a reprise of "I wanna be your dog." it's wild, all the way. trippy w/the sax too, steve does a great job. we're off and back down on the tail-lift and then iggy jumps in the car w/nina and they're on their way to the airport, we'll meet them later there. we wait for the truck to get loaded w/the gear - it was rented in england and jos is going to drive it back, taking the ferry over the water. his backdrop thing he built and the lightbox iggy sometimes stands on worked out great. good job.
really, fine work from all the cats involved and upmost appreciation from watt to iggy, ron, scott and steve in the band and also henry, rik, eric, chris and jos in the trenches right along side us - plus art back in states. much, much, much respect to this crew of folks - I'm quite honored to be able to be on board w/them.
I meet ron's old french friend, bernard. he's broken his leg and is in a cast. I hope he heals up quick. there's a nice cat named tivo too. the chow folks make us up some good eats - I have this beef in a wine sauce w/some salad. you don't even need a knife cuz the fork cuts it so easy. then we're in the van for the hour ride to the plane and I lay out on the deck cuz damn if my bones ain't really sore - I shook myself silly tonight, it was fun as hell. we get to the private jet and this time the pilot lifts us off at an intense angle. me, sitting backwards almost have my eyes come right out of the sockets - it's that intense. everyone on the plane is laughing. the flight is less than a half hour and we land at the same airfield that charles lindbergh came in on in his "spirit of saint louis." we get to the ho and I konk immediately, it's about four. it must be cuz I was so exhausted cuz my mind was totally blown and still reeling. damn.
sunday, september 14, 2003 - san pedro, ca, usa
my flight's at 1:15 pm but I take the early shuttle w/the rest of the guys - I've learned that way early is much better than even close to being a little late. fuck it - my nerves can't take it. my terminal is different than the other guys so watt is solamente. they wrote the wrong "hall" on the ticket so I have to hoof it to the right one. damn, is this case heavy that I carry the little bass in. she'd get smashed to pieces if I didn't do it this way though - not too gentle w/stuff w/these loader guys. I'm worn out pretty good but keep my mind together by reading this "in the hand of dante" book by nick tosches. I can't say enough good stuff about it, really a thinking-provoker for me this trip - a way wild read. so many parallels w/me and it, am I crazy?!?! I even underline parts that really grab me, I'm so into it. I go to board the plane and the security cat scrutinizes me much - no beard or glasses on the idiot in the passport photo and that's not what he has standing in front of him. I take my glasses off and give him a better look and he lets me past. merci. my seat is next this older tiny lady from greece who's very nice. not much english in her skills but he does ok - I help her w/the little movie screen and it's controller. she's a nice person to have next to you on a twelve hour hellride. somehow I konk for half of that but these last two gigs keep tumbling and tumbling through my head. I relive almost every note we played, what an impression this has all made on me. I finish the tosches book right before we land. great. a little bit of grief from a customs guy - he wants my bass case propped up sideways in my cart but hey, it's no problem - I am very much not into looking into a hassle w/anyone. I just want to get back to pedro. no search like is usually the case w/me and kristin has come to pick me up. now it's my turn to yammer and I can't stop talking about this wild week I've just had. whew, a real "o-mind" for sure.
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