Sunday, June 03, 2007
French Tour Diary
Paris May 22,07
Well this has been a great trip for seeing my music friends and meeting some new people. The day we left NYC from JFK, our plane was delayed for about 3 hrs, which was no big deal to me (meditation helps!). As I took a seat on the floor against a wall the American Airlines newly made international terminal, whom should I spot but my dear friend, Nels Cline, getting some cash from the ATM next to me. It had been a while since the last time I saw Nels; maybe since the first year he was in Wilco. I was happy to see his lanky body and smiley face. I asked him if life was good and he replied, “life is thriving…” I liked hearing that; it made me feel good inside. Due to that delay at JFK, when we arrived in Brussels we had for sure missed our connecting flight to Lyon. Luckily, American Airlines had already booked us on the next flight, 6 HOURS LATER! We had just been on an overnight flight, not getting much sleep, so I was pretty out of it. As seasoned travelers will know, getting comfy to take a nap at an airport is no easy feat, unless you feel the thought of being shoved into a grand piano is a comfy bed. So what is there to do but wander around and spend money on overpriced food and drinks and Internet access to while away multiple hours? I phoned the promoter to let them know we were re routed but got voicemail. I had been engrossed in reading “Against The Stream” by Noah Levine, but reading was just a mass of blurry lines and headache in my overtired state. Yes, walking around and shopping for things I absolutely did not need seemed to be a good way to pass the hours. Down by the Hermes store, I spotted some hipster musician, tall and thin, with a guitar on his back. He had a similar look to my friend, and collaborator, Khan. At first I thought it WAS Khan, as I knew he had been touring to promote his album, “Who Never Rests”. In my blurry state I surmised it was NOT Khan, and went on waxing philosophical about the evils of Hermes scarves to myself. A bit later I had met up with equally aimless Kiki and out of the corner of my eye I spotted the Khan guy again, this time in the company of a girl. This sighting was out of the corner of my eye, so didn’t pay much attention, as by this time, I had no attention. A second later I heard a singsong “Yoo Hoo” in a familiar French accent. I turned around to realize it was Francoise Cactus, and Bretzel Goring from Stereo Total, friends of mine from Berlin! Now it dawned on me that the familiarity to Khan was a Berlin “look” that made Bretzel remind me of Can. As coincidence seemed to be the mood of the trip so far, it was coincidental that Stereo Total was also killing time with no sleep before returning to Berlin. They had just played the previous evening at Nuits Sonores festival in Lyon, which is where we were headed. It was nice to see them, even for a few minutes, and Francoise said she would cook some “French cuisine” next time I visited Berlin. I will NOT forget that offer! Luckily, by this time, we were both close enough to our respective flights to head to the gates and wait the last hour before departure. I thought to myself, “airports can be THE place to be!”
Arriving in Lyon, we were met by the promoter, Violaine, and driver, Florian. While we waited for the sax player from Violent Femmes to arrive, I told Florian the story of our long wait. As it turns out he had dropped off Stereo Total at the airport that morning and was waiting for us. For hours, before he got word we were delayed. Serendipity continues. We arrive at the hotel and who should be on their way out the door but my friend, Jim Thirwell (Foetus)! He informed us those Kraut rock originals, Cluster, were performing that evening and we made a plan to rendezvous. But wait a second, a phone call in the lobby for me from our beautiful friends, Patrice, Letmiya and Valerie from the great La Feline Bar in Paris! They are in Lyon and want to invite us to dinner. Hell yeah! A plan is made to meet. So, finally, I get to my room, shower, and head out to dinner. After a great dinner I had to call it quits. It had been a long journey and sound check was at 1pm the next afternoon. Being a sensible professional (sic) I hit the sack. Missed Cluster, Jim and others told me it was amazing. The next day bright and early whisked off to sound check and lunch at the festival site. Lyon is beautiful, and from the stage you looked on to the hills with houses and trees. After sound check back to the hotel and napped before dinner and another long long night, as we were going onstage at 3AM! YIKES! Waiting for the rest of the band for dinner we ran into Brian Ritchie from the Violent Femmes, whom I had met way back when they first signed to Slash records in Los Angeles, in my first Gun Club days. He told me he had moved to Tasmania (birthplace of Katy Beale) and we had a mutual friend in Beast of Bourbon’s Spencer P. Jones, everyone’s fave rave and mine. After a great Gastronomy meal, waiting for the van to the festival, I met another friend I hadn’t seen in a million years, F.M. Einheit, otherwise known as Mufti. When I was in the Bad Seeds and he was with Neubauten in the mid Eighties, we both lived in Berlin (West Berlin) and I always found him a warm and welcoming person to know. Many years later, the feeling is exactly the same. I was excited and delighted by seeing him personally and DUG his performance the most. When we arrived at the festival site we ran over to see The Raincoats, one of the “must see” bands on my list. Wow, it was so hot in the room they were playing in, but worth sweating over to see these true originals, sounding fresh and modern and ahead of the game, even the older songs! I always marvel when, without much technical bluster, the bands of the “post punk” still sound so individual and original. It is so much abut the ‘way” they play more than what they play it on! Case in point was the ironical Chicks On Speed, whom was up next. I had delighted in the sarcastic art school student sneer of their first LP, but was not in the mood this night. But the crowd loved ‘em . Then I ran out to the big stage to See The Violent Femmes. Not really being the nostalgic type (or so I tell myself), I was still taken with the songs from their “Hallowed Ground” LP. Maybe I AM nostalgic, or maybe I am just realizing that old songs that people love that we made are just timeless, and that is what works for people. Certainly I loved The Raincoats, dug the Violent Femmes, and still thrill to concerts by The Cramps or Jerry Lee Lewis. Timeless music can still challenge and thrill, even my own material after a while. I have to remember that everyone in the audience is not an old curmudgeon as me! Even curmudgeons can change their mind and melt and give. I guess I learned that giving is NOT pandering. DUH! Please, at my age! So after FM Einheit’s hypnotic set I was ready to finally play at 3 am. France has always been great to all the bands I have been in so it was a good feeling from the time I got onstage until I left. We threw in a lot of “oldies” for this set, and I was glad we did as we were met with screams. Nice end of the evening. I am glad I bought a new suit for the occasion! Next day we checked out of the hotel, said bye to Mufti and headed to catch a train to Lillie, where we would play that evening. As luck would have it, we were traveling on the same train as The Raincoats, in First Class I may add! That was fortunate because We got to meet them and I got to tell them how much I enjoy their music. They are cool folks indeed. At Lille, we bode farewell to The Raincoats and were met by the promoter and taken to the hotel, which was luckily next door to the Venue. This evening we played early, opening for the popular French band Las Wampas. It was great, as we had played so late the night before. Also it was great that they had a super young audience, which was different from my usual peer group age audience. I really felt like a dirty old man, and loved it! Andre Williams-ville here I come! After our set it was good to meet some fans, sexy fans, while I manned the merch stand, although my more “hardcore” fans dismissed Las Wampas, I was glad they came to see and support us! Me, Danny and Kiki hit the hotel early, as we had only slept a few hours and were off to Paris the next day. I thank the promoter and bands that made Lille a cool experience. Wake, coffee at the station, and then a train to Gare Du Nord. Lionel, Sarah Jane and Barbara, and Barbara’s sister with black hair met us. To the hotel, and luckily, it was a day off in Paris. My friend and sometimes collaborator, Julee Cruise with Pluramon, was performing that evening at a David Lynch visual art exhibition at the Foundation Cartier, I had been in touch with Marcus from Pluramon via Myspace and luckily scored one ticket to this most coveted special event. I had not seen Julee or Marcus since the three of us performed at my record release / 25 year recording anniversary party at the dearly departed Tonic in NYC last year. Usually held in an outdoor garden setting, the show was delayed and moved indoors due to rain. I was happy they didn’t cancel. But this meant waiting outdoors in the rain for over an hour. Luckily, I brought an umbrella, and more luckily I ran into Fred whom had been at the Lyon festival, and he gave me a place in line. Also ran into Pascal from Le Vueve Electro, a friend from the past years. When Khan and me first met Pascal, he looked and dressed exactly like Fassbinder! While waiting, who should walk right up thru the crowd but David Lynch himself! Everyone was surprised and dumbstruck, so unbelieving what they were seeing, as he nonchalantly got to the entrance gate, the crowd broke into polite applause. Suddenly the rain stopped and everything and everyone took on a surreal quality. Funny how his suggestion is so ingrained in our psyches that you are suddenly thrust into his world, just by seeing him walk by! I don’t take drugs or drink anymore, so this kind of “tripping” is always welcome, just like his films! Finally, we are let in the downstairs gallery of the exhibition where Julie and Phramon will perform in a theater in “Eraserhead.” How perfect was this going to be seeing Julee Cruise sing n a David Lynch theater set with David Lynch sitting in the front row? Well, it was fantastic. They did an entire set of Pluramon/Julee songs, which sounded fantastic in this small room. Julee played my favorite neurotic, extreme characters I have grown to love since playing with her in our “Khan” years. I dug the Phramon songs very much. I was also impressed that they saved “Falling” and “The World Spins” for the encore. People were freaking out!! Tears and Goosebumps through the room. I caught up with Julee and we had a love-fest of friend and comradereship-ness. As we caught up on personal stuff she told me that it was the first time DL had come to see her sing. Then I knew I had witness a both special and historic night for Julee, and David Lynch! All of us (me, Julee and Pascal) assumed David had “left the building” as he was whisked away at the last note of the set. But just as we said that an aid said “David is in the next room, come say hello.” It was great to see he and Julee reunite for this night. Also it was great to be introduced to David Lynch and shake hands. He has a warm eye-to-eye greeting. I can tell he is a mediator, certain calmness. I have recently taken up meditation myself and whish I had started years ago – what a difference it makes. Anyways meeting David Lynch was COOL! Pascal got an autograph and we left to let Julee catch up in private. Thanks Julee, Marcus and Phramon. Can you believe none of us had a camera?
After me and Pascal went back to LA Feline to wind down, but all our band and friends had gone home. It was Sunday night, our friends had got back from Lyon, and so I don’t blame them. In the bar across the street we ran into a few people I had met the last time we played and I watched them all get drunk while I drank Perrier. Then to the hotel to sleep. The next day, Monday, was filled with eating and shopping. A lot of the galleries were closed on Mondays, so I didn’t get to see any art. After the souncheck Kiki and me bought jeans and tripped around the area, on bridges and generally ate and stopped at cafes for coffee. The show was fun again at Le Club. Blutt, featuring our friend Baldo, opened the show. I met great people, Randy Kaye’s sister Kourtney, and cool band guys. I recognized lots of folks from our last show at La Feline last December. For a Monday night, it was a cool, intimate turnout. The DJ was great, whoever it was; I didn’t get a chance to tell him. Thoroughly wiped out, I called it an early evening. Maybe it was late! The next morning we had a last band breakfast and me and Kiki went to the David Lynch exhibit and freaked out. Fun. Danny stayed on for the holidays in Switzerland and Kiki and me flew back to NYC where I caught a train to DC (made it!) and Kiki to a flight to Austin, TX (did he make it?). More on that next blog….