I made it to San Francisco, once again last night. I meant to write about the last tours that Camper Van Beethoven did, but I got sidetracked by writing about Pandora and streaming royalties, which got a lot of people mad.
We toured in the US in May, from St Louis to Madison, Chicago, Grand rapids, then a couple days of recording in Richmond, VA, then off to DC and then Boston. Then I got to go home for a week, and finish my Swedish class. (still haven’t checked to see howI did…) Then, off to the UK for four dates, then to Germany/Austria for 9 more shows. Then flew back to Denver for one show with CVB, Cracker went on from there and I went home for almost a month! Now, back to California again, we tour starting in Santa Cruz, to LA, then off to Arizona and Texas. Then I get to drive back to SF, to play at the Outside Lands Festival, and then fly back to Sweden. Man!
So, to start back at the beginning of that list, I flew through Amsterdam on my way to St Louis (via Atlanta.) In Atlanta, I discovered that my wallet somehow didn’t make it past Amsterdam. Now, I’m not saying that I got pickpocketed at Schiphol, necessarily… but I did lose my wallet. Which, in and of itself, was more annoying than anything else; I didn’t have much money in it, maybe $20, but that meant replacing all those plastic cards… like my Swedish ID, and my TSA trusted traveler card… and the bank debit cards (I stiill have a US bank account, as well as a Swedish one. No credit cards, though.) Oh, also the sim card for T-Mobile to use the phone in the US. So a bunch of crap to deal with the next day, anyway.
Replacing US stuff is actually really easy, comparatively. You call the bank, they say, no problem, send you a new card. In Sweden, you have to call the bank, they stop the card. Then you have to specifically request a new card from a different place. This is typically European, they don’t just assume you need a new card when you say you lost the old one. I don’t know why. To replace my ID card was even weirder, because it required going to the tax office to request it an get my picture taken again (they couldn’t keep the old picture on file?) and then go there again in person to pick it up with the paper they send in the mail to say it is ready. Ok,so that’s as ornate as replacing the TSA card, which somehow requires me to have an interview at a US airport sometime…You’d think with all the full-on surveillance and PRISM and shit, they’d just know!
So, I had some shit to deal with in St Louis upon awakening the next day. Not too bad though, as we stayed downtown at some hotel next to a truly excellent sandwich shop. The club sandwich is something that I really do miss about the USA. Also, when we went to the club to do the gig, apparently some friends of the club guys run a St Louis Barbecue (note: it is its own style) place called Sugar Fire and they were fans of CVB so they brought tons of BBQ for dinner for us.
Not a full house, but a good show for a start of a tour. Next day we’re off to Chicago, at the Cubby Bear. We’d played here before, it’s pretty nice, sort of a sports bar by default, it’s right across the street from the baseball stadium. It’s a good place to play though, always full of people, stage is decent, sounds good.
We also got to go by the Chicago Music Exchange, which is always cool. I did not buy a guitar. One day, though, when I win the lottery…
We went from there to Madison, always a very Camper town. I mean, those people are high! Actually, my parents met there back in the 1950s, you know.. they were both coming from East Coast colleges (dad went to Rennselaer Polytechnic as an escape from Brooklyn juvenile delinquency and mom went to Radcliffe as an escape from the dairy farm that her parents set up when they moved to the US in 1939. My dad seems like he was a beatnik, all goateed and painting and shit. When they got married they fled: he took a post-doc in Marseilles, where I was born. You can just hear both sets of parents—his Jewish, hers German: “You married a WHAT!?” After France, off to California, where that sort of thing was allowed.)
So I have a natural affinity for Madison. Plus we played a theatre, which I always like. And got to eat some interesting Japanese fusion food nearby (it is the state capitol, you know, they have to impress somebody.) And at the restaurant, the bar people had some new bottles from their Single-Malt reps that they were trying to figure out, and Victor, Greg and I were there to help. Not too much, of course, we still had to play!
So, weirdly, from here we went to Grand Rapids, to the Intersection, where we’d played before also, which is a big place. Not full by a long shot, but a very appreciative crowd. After the Grand Rapids show, we split up. Victor had to go back to work, Cracker had another show somewhere, so Greg and I flew to Richmond with Sarah, David’s assistant (she works for him at the University of Georgia and now for the Cracker/Camper world.) David was with us for a day, but then he had to go to Washington DC to speak to a group of politicians about artists’ rights and copyright and such, and then Cracker was going to play. So Greg and I continued to work on some Camper tracks at David’s home studio, then we all took the train up to Falls Church to play the State Theatre—without Victor! David Immergluck was sitting in on bass for this show and the next, in preparation for him sitting in for the entire German portion of the tour! He rocked it, he’s an amazing musician.
After this show, we had an eventful journey up to Boston. The trailer had a bearing seize somewhere in Connecticut, so we had a day of waiting around in the middle of nowhere. Eventually we learned something useful, and that is that the best place to deal with trailer parts is marine outlets, because every boat needs a trailer, and those trailers always need repair because boats are heavy.
The Boston show was an outdoor festival where the Boston Pops play, pretty day, nice weather, pretty good festival. Next day, off back to Sweden. Wheeee!
Sweden was nice to be back to, had to do the ID and bank card replacement runaround. But then Sanna was done with her first semester back in the University world and we got to go out to the “summer house”, which is actually an old timber farmhouse from the 16th century. Almost all Swedes seem to have a summer house. Ours is by a lake in central Sweden, north of Örebro by a bit. I love being out there, we grow vegetables and flowers and go fishing, I always write music and record there. I’m avoiding working, because I just have to come back to the states and tour anyway… (that’s my excuse) and we don’t have our own apartment still, so we might as well stay out in the country. Here in late May, the lake was about 13 degrees C, but I still jumped in. Had to.
And just about when I got adjusted to being home, had to fly to London to start a new tour! Easy-peasy, as my daughter says. No jet lag this time (for me, anyway.) We all came in separately, I took the train and tube and walked dragging my gear to the hotel. Went across the street to the pub for a meal and a pint, the Queen’s Arms… which must have been the Tsarina, as everyone in there was Russian, for some reason. At the hotel, we met up in the bar and then met another American guy who was there as music supervisor for a big old Hollywood movie, was present for orchestra recording at Abbey Road Studios. He actually invited us over to watch, but there was no way we could do it, sadly.
The first UK show was at Dingwalls in Camden Town, where we had played last on July 4th, 1987! We had the full band, with David Immergluck on pedal steel and mandolin, and Victor back on bass.
This UK tour was the first time we’ve been here for a few years, and it showed. It was like starting all over again. Die hard fans, some new ones, but not many people overall. Nice to see kids in the audience, though! We seem to have crowds of 20 year olds and 40 year olds and no 30 year olds…?
Camden, of course, is a nightmare of kitsch shops, but our UK tour manager, Dave, was more like a concierge, and knew the places to get good (vegetarian) food everywhere. That was excellent, we had Kurdish food nearby. Then walked through the scary Camden Market and saw weird shops of crap and rave culture.
Despite jet lag, we played great. Onward to Brighton the next day, Bobby (tour manager) was hungover and called the hotel in advance to make sure the pricelined rooms had two beds each. Unfortunately, he used the wrong nomenclature, (can’t remember what it is in England, Double beds or Twin beds?) and Brighton is a giant gay resort destination, so they were completely nonplussed to hear him saying that two grown men would be in each room… and of course when we got there, the rooms had one large bed each.
Again, Dave showed us where to get excellent food. We played a cavernous dingy punk club, which nevertheless sounded great. Another fun show, though David Immergluck sat it out due to being sick. Next day was a hellish drive past London up to Manchester. Took all day. A very interesting look at British culture, that. The roadside stops were very entertaining. One had a large group of gals out for a “Big Boozy Weekend” (as their t-shirts all said, with their nicknames on them.)
Manchester show was at the Deaf Institute, where again I think we played in 1987. Another good show, for us, not a large place so it looked crowded.
After this, up to Scotland to play King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut in Glasgow, yet another venue we had played in 1987. Glasgow has always liked Camper, we’ve strangely always been popular in Scotland. I love Scotland, it’s beautiful and weird. I got a new (used) tweed jacket at a second hand shop. Took a nice walk around downtown Glasgow. At the venue, a traditional dance combo was playing downstairs, all in their 70s or so… nice little pub action.
A nice weird dude (I mean, who’s not really) handed me a little baggie of his homegrown after the show, so I wanted to break out the bottle of Spanish wine I’d been carrying since London (was part of the backstage rider) and have a puff. But back at the hotel, well, they weren’t into that. The hotel was basically at the airport, right across the street from the terminals. Same hotel that had some big parking lot explosion a few years ago. Our rooms were small, so we went to the lobby to have a drink, but they told us we couldn’t drink our beverages there. Weird. So we went out to the van. Bobby, a native Californian, made a pipe out of an apple and a Vitamin Water bottle and a beer can tab for the bowl. Amazing work. So we proceeded to smoke Scottish pot and drink (wine, in my case.) A dude came up and knocked on the window to ask if we were “Smithson Coaches” or something, and we appropriately scared him off… but in a few minutes, we had knocking on the side door. Opening it up, a huge cloud emerged over the two Scottish policemen standing there. “Alright, wot’s all this then!” They were fairly young, but reminded me of nothing else but the bobbies in the BBC shows like George Gently, as they stood there with pen and paper taking notes. They asked what we were doing, we told them that the hotel people wouldn’t let us drink in the lobby, so we came out here. They wanted to know if we were going to drive… which of course we weren’t… and then they took our names and addresses. On paper. I told them my ID was all upstairs, but no matter, they just wanted to write things down. Now I was really high, so extremely relaxed about all this, because I thought it was like a TV show. So I told them I would have to spell it all out because I lived in Sweden and it was spelled funny, and Frank lives in New York and Bobby in California… I think they started to realize that this could be a hassle to proceed with. Then one of them asked what we were doing there, and I said we’d just played King Tut’s, the officer asked which band? I said Camper Van Beethoven, he responds: “Take the Skinheads Bowling”. Exactly, I say, we still play it.
Well, now they were very happy. The one officer says he plays in a band also, that recently started playing again. And so now they are our buddies, they said, well, we just wanted to make sure nobody was going to drive off after “drinking.” So we say, no problem, and all load out to head inside… I think Dave the driver was shitting a brick. They made zero mention of the pot smoke. As we pass them in the lobby, we ask if they want a CD? So the cops come up to the room and get a CD, and find some of their band on their iPhone to play for us.. I sneak off and go back to my room, which I share with David Lowery, and tell him about what just happened, slightly incredulously.
Next day, Glasgow airport to Dusseldorf. The airport lady decided to fuck with us due to all our gear and the weight limitations, but in the end, we just rearranged things and told her it was all sorted (it wasn’t) and suddenly everything went through. Ok!
Next I’ll attempt to remember Germany shows…