The Miserable Rich – Tour-Diary Pt. 7 "The Miserable Zurich"

Mittlerweile haben The Miserable Rich die letzten Termine ihrer Tour bestritten. Bevor die Jungs hier noch einmal in einem aller letzten Beitrag ihr Fazit ziehen, gibt es nun erst einmal die Berichte der letzten vier Tour-Tage. Wie immer sehr umfangreiches und gutes Lesefutter.

Day 16 – The End Of The World – a Vevey long way to go

Morning comes to us slowly – except for for Carsten who has once again been kept awake by band snoring. He’s pretty resigned to it when we sleep in a band room, and will undoubtedly have the same problem tonight – but will be glad of the next hotel.

Herlinde is nowhere to be seen, but has left us a note to eat anything on the top shelf of the fridge. We bake some brotschen, drink some coffee, and take in the beautiful views of sweet little gardens in full bloom, littered with children’s toys, and surrounded first by wood and brick apartments, and further back, the indomitable alps, peeking out of the cloud.

Another long drive for Carsten today – Vevey is 550km away. We occupy ourselves with weetabix and sleeping, and Carsten drives on and on and on.

We arrive at A Bout De La Monde – The End Of The World – tonight’s venue, and are greeted by Alex and Fred, the soundman and the promoter. They are brothers and Vevey nice people – they get us some absurdly strong local dark beer which tastes like someone has left a stick of iron in it for a year, and set about rebuilding the p.a. after some local d.j.’s have had their way with it, laughing and good naturedly taking the piss out of us all the while.

The venue is a small and pretty French-feeling bar, with black and white pictures of heroes on the walls – Che Guevara, Serge Gainsbourg, Jacques Brel. In the rear of the bar is a small cavern where we will play tonight.

Over dinner – a simple but sumptuous treat of roast lamb, herb potatoes and cabbage, straight into the top three meals on the tour – Fred explains that, while most people run live music to fund a bar, here they have a bar to fund live music. The gigs are always free, with donations accepted via the age-old ‘hat’ system. They are rightly proud of the independence and philosophy of the bar. They get no money from the state – unusual in this part of the world, though nothing new to us Brits – and everyone is paid the same wage – from Fred, the boss, to the barstaff and cleaners. We are all a little envious to hear that musicians get paid by the state in Switzerland, Austria and Germany, provided they play more than 60 gigs in 9 months. Nothing so grand for us in the UK – but Fred’s chirpy generosity, whistling away as he washes the dishes, banishes any feeling sorry for ourselves.

The gig is another weird one. It’s a real shame, but sometimes the nicest promoters have the toughest time getting an audience. There’s maybe 15 people in the backroom. They all seem to be drunk, and offer very enthusiastic support – no doubt led by Fred and Alex – whistling and applauding with vim between songs and howling all the way through ‘The Mouth Of The Wolf’.

Afterwards, we sit with most of them at the bar, drinking beer and trying to avoid the local absinthe. There is a suspiciously Mancunian-sounding voice trying to get attention in very broken French – and we meet Mark, who has left the icy shores of Blighty to take up residence in Switzerland. He’s a big character and seems to be having a great time, getting free booze here and playing along with Fred’s gentle teasing.

I retire pretty early to the seven-dwarf style sleeping quarters upstairs, while Mike and Ricky stay up late with some Vevey drunk art students, getting a Finlay Quayesque performance from Mark into the bargain. Ricky certainly is making the most of the trip and has yet to go to bed until everyone else is fast asleep.

Day 17 – The Miserable Zurich

To nobody’s surprise, we miss the 8.30 breakfast, but the ever-generous Fred gets us some chocolate croissants and brioche, they make us some lovely croque monsieur’s behind the bar, and we wash it all down with a midday beer and coffee before packing to leave.

I take a quick peak at the giant lake shrouded in a misty cloak just a street away from the venue. In other parts of Switzerland, this is known as Lake Geneva, but according to local politics you cannot use the G word here. Either way, it’s very lovely – a what’s that sticking out of the water a couple of hundred metres away? I jog down to find that it’s a giant fork, maybe 6 metres high, sticking out of the water near the shore. A very Dali addition to the tranquil peace of the lakeside.

It’s election day in the UK. To commemorate, Mike suggests we make puns based on politics, politicians and, um, pigs. Politicians are not terribly popular in Britain at the moment. It’s not exactly a shower of brilliance, but we do manage David Camerunt – who seems likely to be the next PM – Margaret Butcher and Squeal Kinnock – two old adversaries from the 80’s.

The drive is extremely slow as the motorway we have paid €40 to use is being worked on, and it’s one lane traffic all the way. Zurich also seems to be being worked on in every part – it’s not the most compelling entrance to the city. Topping it off, our hotel seems to be in the middle of the red-light district, and as we circle the one-way system for the fifth time, trying to find a parking space, the local prostitutes eye us, no doubt marking our cards as nervous stag-nighters trying to get up the pluck to speak to them.

We shower and head to the venue, where any clouds are dispelled by the amazingly sunny disposition of the club booker, Julia. She’s a fan, not just of us but the other Willkommen bands – and so jolly, friendly and positive that we feel like we are friends immediately.

Papiersaal is a great club, a kind of dolled-up wharehouse, with a long bar as you enter the room, and a stage past it on the left. Julia explains that a Swiss bank owns it and is forced to spend money on culture, so has kitted the place out with candelabras and leather chairs, a top-notch soundsytem and everything you need. The guys earn money from putting on weddings and corporate does so that Julia can spend it booking bands she likes. She says it’s the best job in the world, and bubbles with enthusiasm.

Soundcheck is slick and fast, and the food is again delicious. How are we ever going to get used to normality when we get home?

We play cards backstage, drinking coffee to perk ourselves up a bit and listening to Will and Mike play on The Leisure Society and Sons of Noel and Adrian records Julia is playing before the show. And it’s a lovely show – a fine antidote to a couple of strange under-populated evenings.

Afterwards, you guessed it, we drink at the bar. An old student of mine, Roland, and his mate Tom have come over from Basle, always a pleasure to see them. There are also some eccentric local types with lots to say and many questions to ask.

Once everyone has left, the venue team relax – it was the last show of the season, and they are determined to get us all drunk. They get me first, isolating me from the band and getting me to try a local brain-damage speciality called a Flamley. Here’s how you make one –

1 Make some expressos

2 Pour in sugar, but do not stir

3 Drink espresso down til only the sugar is left

4 Burn the sugar, mixed with Schnapps, into a glass of more Schnapps, encouraging the blue flames

5 Pour the coffee residue, sugar and all into a narrow-brimmed glass of Schnapps, sealing in the vapous with the espresso cup

6 Lift cup and snort back the vapours before downing the liquid

The resulting effect is similar to poppers, but with a caffeine kick underneath it. Like anyone who has just had a trick played on them, I’m keen to do it to some other innocent, and go and get the band to join in. Keep it in the flamley, eh?

Three flamleys and a lot of banter later, we bid a fond farewell to Julia and her crew. I am sober enough to realise I’m probably extremely pissed, meaning the chance I might snore and keep Carsten awake. I don’t think he could cope with another sleepless night, so I am tactically swapped into the snorers room with Mike, and Will takes over my bed in Carsten’s room. Mike and I snigger at CNN’s frankly laughable coverage of the UK election until we pass out.

Day 18 – will anyone be Stuttgart?

After a light breakfast we are back in the van and feeling the effects of the flamleys. Its looks like a hung parliament, and although CNN helpfully point out that this doesn’t mean there’ll be dead bodies lying around Westminster, there seem to be one or two in our party. I spend the entire journey trying not to be sick.

We head to the airport first to pick up Mike’s girlfriend, Emma, who will be with us now til Paris. Em’s been on a couple of tours with us, and knows what to expect in the way of conversation She has wisely brought a good book.

We head to Stuttgart with a little trepidation- it’s not exactly our town. The first time we played here, it was in the 500 capacity Schorndorf – a great venue, but a bit embarrassing with only 50-60 people in it. The next time, we played at a lovely little hippy community hall – and they really look after us – but only about 15 people come. After a great time in Austria and before that some of the cities in Germany, it’s been a sticky few days, with only Zurich having a decent crowd. It’s a bit of a comedown when you have to play to so few – and harder for the audience too. And the signs for tonight are not at all good – I’ve already had a few emails from friends saying they cannot find out where we are playing and how to get tickets.

We arrive at the promoter’s café. Reiner is a lovely, lively and eccentric man, and makes us feel at home at his place. He runs a night here in Stuttgart called Silent Fridays, with poetry and some acoustic bands. When our UK labelmate Liz Green played here, they pulled in 250 people – but tonight looks a little different.

Reiner explains that they have had to change venues five times for this one gig. It was initially booked for Peasant from the US, but he has remained stateside meaning there’ll be just one band tonight. The first place they booked was double-booked (industry speak for ‘found a bigger band who wanted to play the same night’), so they planned an open-air concert. Then the unseasonal rainy weather began, and a wild goose chase looking for a venue in the last week. The Silent Friday crowd, and most of Reiner’s friends, are going to a party somewhere else tonight, and the venue that has finally been chosen – the day before we arrive – is a hip-hop club out of town. We are told they will be starting up the breakbeats about halfway through our set. Reiner has done one gig there before. I ask him if it was a success. No.

Meanwhile there is nothing on our website or any of the venues websites that says where we are playing – and all the posters say the wrong place. I ask Reiner if he thinks there’ll be any crowd tonight. He says he doesn’t know. I ask him what his feeling is – he says ‘I have no feeling about tonight’. Gulp.

Ah well. Reiner is such a nice man, with a gently amused nature – we put a message on Facebook about the venue, and try to forget about it all. The food at Reiner’s café is excellent, and we get into a local dish called Heslach – a kind of goulash. Very hearty.

On the outskirts of town and almost impossible to find it may be, but Zapata is an awesome club. Arriving mid afternoon, we wander through this epic wharehouse, eyeing up the disco balls, the silver painted VW pick-up and wattle and daub walls. Reiner is putting out giant white cushions in a big pile to add to the festival appeal, and with several hours to kill before the doors open to tonight’s couple of people attending, we occupy ourselves shooting silly videos of bell ringing and (very) amateur athletics.

Some friends of mine arrive, telling me that the usual entrance to the club is closed, ready to be used later for the hip-hoppers, and if they hadn’t known me they would have given up and gone home. More good news.

In the event, we play in this enormous club to about 20 people, including some late arriving friends of the soundman, and someone who looks like a hippy Ché Guevara sauntering in four songs from the end. I try not to stare.

It’s a bit humiliating for everyone – including the audience – in such a giant place with so few, but the ticket price remains the same, so we try to put on a good show. I start by congratulating those who are there for actually finding the place and getting in, not an easy task. I find my stage-banter has morphed into the kind of mood I adopt when teaching. Not very rock ‘n’ roll.

We at least manage to give those that are there a little memory, going over to play on the cushions for the encore. The barmaid tries to console me with ‘Es war zehr schoen’, but I’m feeling pretty exhausted and low now. 13 gigs without a day off and a couple of hard, disappointing nights after the highs – it’s all starting to wear a little, and I’m trying to keep the negative thoughts under control. As Carsten says, being on tour is a bit like being on drugs – all the ups and downs, and no way of telling what’s the reality and what will happen next.

At the merch stand, people ask Carsten why we keep coming to Stuttgart. They are more puzzled when he tells them about the towns we play in to big crowds. It feels like we won’t be back in a hurry. An obviously dejected Reiner takes us for kebabs and pizza, which we eat while watching the passing revellers from the beerfest before half-heartedly saying ‘see you next time’. It’s definitely the nadir of the tour, but we’ll at least have a nice memory of Silent Friday’s main man.

We’ve decided to get the hell out of Dodge, and drive back to Hazelwood’s studios in Frankfurt tonight. I pass the journey watching ‘Defendor’ with Woody Harrelson, which does a decent job of removing me from time and place. On arrival, Carsten thanks us for flying Air Hazelwood and welcomes us to Rödelheim where the local time is 3.15 and the temperature about 9 degrees, apologising for the faint smell of tune pizza. He’s has been a comic revelation this tour, and the humour is appreciated at times like this.

Day 19 – Saved by the ‘home’ crowd

The decision to drive back last night was definitely the right one. Waking up in the familiar surroundings of Hazelwood, yesterday seems a far-off memory. Mike and Emma make mushrooms and sausages for breakfast, with Will maintaininging his role as poached egg master. Then the Brits arrive.

Tonight’s support is UK labelmate Denis Jones, of whom we are fans – and it’s great to see the Wasp film-making team, Joe and John, who have done a couple of videos for us and will be doing visuals for Denis tonight, along with our manager, Humble Soul impresario and all-round saviour Howard. With Denis’s girlfriend Katie on board for the trip too, suddenly the studio kitchen is filled with bantering Brits making tea and telling the tales of tour and their gig the night before in Leipzig. Lovely, and I can’t help feeling a bit of pride in the Hazelwood HQ we get to use, remembering how blown away with it I was when Will, Mike and I first came here nearly three years ago. Good not to get too complacent about it, and the fresh eyes help.

Ricky and I squeeze in a much-needed run to get the endorphins circulating again. I show him where we saw the beaver a couple of weeks before and, what do you know, there’s two of them there – an adult and a baby – and they’re being hand-fed by a local family. Horsham (awesome).

We do a quick circuit of the local sights – the angler’s rest, the beachbar, and head back for showers and the gig. I’m delighted to have kept up with the younger, model-fit guitarist, and kid myself that he was going at his normal speed.

The venue is great – and Brotfabrik is just that – an old bread factory – but now a plush 500 capacity venue. After the last few nights, I’m a bit afraid there’ll be a little crowd again, but Carsten is confident of 200+ tonight in the label’s home town, which will be fine with the seats in – so I try to banish these negative thoughts and be helpful.

Generally, the mood is good, and after a hasty soundcheck that I get called away from for a local radio interview (sorry guys!), we watch Denis’ soundcheck, wondering at all his gadgetry and how he does what he does – go see him and you’ll know what I mean. As my girlfriend says, he’s halfway between a musician and an air-traffic controller. We also marvel at Joe and John’s backstage contraption – an upturned drum sat above a speaker and filled with a layer of ball bearings. When the sound from Denis’ show is pumped through the speaker, the vibrations make the balls bounce, which the Wasp boys film and relay onto the screen behind Denis, creating a realtime video for the sounds. It’s a kind of synergy of sound and sight, maan. Way cool.

We warm up with some merch bell renditions of Superman, the Flintstones and, er, Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush, then head out to watch Denis’ show. It’s a corker, and despite being an early show, the venue is already three quarters full. By the time we are on, all the chairs are full and there’s plenty of people around the sides. We don’t care if lots of them are on the guest list, a crowd of 220+ is just what the doctor ordered after last night.

The last time we played in Frankfurt it was in a pokey punk club, and there is some fear before the show that it could be a little stiff in a seated venue. No worries on that score though, as the audience is wonderfully warm and friendly, joining in happily on Poodle and Wolf, cheering loudly between songs, and a small well-oiled group even waltzing during Somerhill and dancing through Chestnut Sunday. They aren’t happy when we play all the songs Ricky knows, so we trot out a muscular and pacy version of our old opener Early Mourning to finish the second encore – to rapturous applause. Tonight’s up there with the great nights of the tour, and we revel in it at the bar with the Hazelwood guys and the group of friends I shot a funny little local advert with last year.

Joe and Katie are dancing around in the now empty venue, and there’s a general joyous mood. The call goes out for a party at Hazelwood, and after an extremely incompetent display of carpark football from the Brits, we bounce into the studios to find Fakir on the decks and three full fridges of booze. John is flabbergasted by it all, and there’s a high level of banter and dancing. Rhys dresses up as a chrysalis in some kind of army sleeping bag – a disturbing but cute sight. Even Carsten is getting drunk tonight, and he keeps plying us with booze long after the Denis Jones gang have teetered off to the hotel in gales of laughter. I manage a couple more, but again it’s Ricky who has the stamina to keep him company til 6.

Top night, and a great way to finish the German dates.

Was bisher geschah:
The Miserable Rich – Tour-Diary Pt. 1
The Miserable Rich – Tour-Diary Pt. 2
The Miserable Rich – Tour-Diary Pt. 3
The Miserable Rich – Tour-Diary Pt. 4
The Miserable Rich – Tour-Diary Pt. 5
The Miserable Rich – Tour-Diary Pt. 6

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