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Archive for December, 2000

Mera’s Tour Diary

Monday, December 11th, 2000

The show last night was at the “Moritz-Bastei”. It was, by far, the most Gothic venue I have ever played in. It looked like a stone dungeon, complete with black iron bars closing off some rooms and torches lining the walls. Load-in was a real bitch. There were three flights of stairs, one up and one down, then one even further down (or vice-versa, depending on which way you were going). The rooms were cavernous and the place was full of secret passages. It was really cool. Not the best, however, for putting on a show.*

11:20AM. We’re on our way out of Leipzig and stopped at the side of the road: Mindy had to jump out and puke. She’s really hung over today. It didn’t help that we were up until 3AM drinking Vermouth. Yuck!

*Back to the plot. OK, so after load-in, it took forever for the crew to get power on stage. There were only two stagehands, and they weren’t the brightest bulbs in the lamp. The stage wasn’t very big, and the setup with the risers made the logistics of going from keyboard to cello and back very interesting.

Once we got going into soundcheck, everything seemed to be OK and I was optimistic. We had decent red wine backstage, which also helped put us (at least Volker and I) into proper show-mode.

However, things started to go south when the video player refused to work again. We went on earlier than planned. During the show I started having problems with the MS2000, which locked up between songs and I had to reboot it. It was reacting to the poor power supply and the fog machine, which was too close to all of the electronic gear because of the tiny stage. Worst of all, the mini-disc player (it plays the drum & sequencer tracks) rejected the disk about halfway through the set, which left us standing around looking embarrassed for about 5-10 minutes. Mindy, Axel and Rodney got it sorted out and we were able to use the backup disk.

Earlier in the day I had the chance to go out to the Christmas Market with Chris, Kelly and Mindy. It was fun, sort of a touch of Renaissance Faire and street fair. There were rides for kids, including a beautiful double-decked carousel that looked as if if had been built in the late 1800s! We stopped in a bookstore and saw miniature books, mostly in German of course, but some in English. They were tempting but I couldn’t afford the 39 marks to get them as presents. This morning Mindy and I got up at 7:30 to get ready to 1) record a new minidisk and 2) find some screws for my luggage, which is about to fall apart. There were no screws to be had after I had walked with Volker to the Hauptbanhof in moderate rain. We were on a mission to get new minidisks, deposit money in the bank, and get other assorted things that people needed. When we got back to the hotel Mindy and Rodney were waiting already in the lobby; Rodney was displeased with our tardiness.

On our way out to the bus, my luggage finally broke. I really need to find some screws for it soon. I’ll have to wrap it in duct tape if I don’t!

12:20PM. Still on the road, and on the way to Stuttgart. I keep falling asleep and my mouth is all dried up and sour…at least I’m not drooling.

12:56PM. We are still driving, after a short stop to let Mindy out to cleanse her ailing digestive system again. While we were stopped I made use of the WC, which was an all-metal toilet. I wasn’t sure if it was meant to be sat upon, but in my case that usually doesn’t matter. Over the years I have perfected the hover-piss! Kelly is a sweetie. She gave me a sticker sheet full of horses! And Chris bought me a Kinder-egg! They rock.

After tonight’s show, we’ll have a monitor guy riding with us, and at some point after tonight I think I heard that Volker’s wife would also be joining us in the van.

1:15PM. I just saw some deer grazing in a field. They’re grayish, not like the deer I’m used to seeing in the States. I love seeing all the forest and fields, and especially lots of horses and farms. I was super-jealous when I saw someone riding a horse at a full gallop through a huge field the day we drove into Glauchau. I wish I could just go off riding like that! Someday!

4:40PM. Coming into Stuttgart. It looks much more modern here than in the other cities we’ve been in, even more modern somehow than Leipzig. Of course, we are hitting Monday rush hour traffic.

My kinder-egg had a hen in it.

Mera’s Tour Diary

Sunday, December 10th, 2000

The show last night went smashingly well! There were 115 people there (I think) and our set really kicked ass! All of us were in much better form than the Rostock show.

11:40AM. Rolling out of the Top Motel in Glauchau. It seems that a number of us, myself included, are more tired today than normal – the gigs are catching up with us and it’s only the 3rd day out.

Yesterday Volker was really worn out from driving 7 hours and he seemed to be having a rough night. I felt bad for him and tried to stay out of his way. We were called back for two encores, and after “Beyond Belief” the audience seemed to be satisfied. I went to the merchandise booth after the show and Kelly reported that not much was happening regarding sales. However after I went to change she came up and got me to sign some of my CDs – I guess people were just taking a long time to decide to buy stuff.

Another plus from last night was that the “Sex, Death and Eyeliner” video was finally shown, after much fucking around with the machine and a few false starts. The audience reaction was mixed.

Rodney is eating breakfast now in the van. While he was showing us all the ingenuity of German invention, he ripped the top off the combination yogurt/cereal container and asked for a trashbag. There was none, so he threw the lid and it stuck to the door of the van, glued by yogurt. There it remains now as a mascot. I’m not touching it!

1:10PM. We’re already checked in to the hotel in Leipzig – a very nice Hotel Mercure! We got into the room to find the TV displayed a welcome to “Mr. and Mrs. Cassandra”! What a very strange and wonderful phenomenon.

Mera’s Tour Diary

Saturday, December 9th, 2000

10:15AM. We are presently checking out of the floating hotel. The hotel is actually a ferry of some sort, and it is extremely bizarre. The rooms were very short and all the doorways had a 5-inch lip that you either had to step over or fall over. Instead of journalling last night, I watched some stupid movie inspired by Planet of the Apes. These two apes were being ridiculed for something, and then they were exalted. We just passed a big carnival and now we’re stuck waiting to push through some accident site. We’re chatting about nursery rhymes and old classic fairy tales to amuse ourselves.

To continue about last night’s show: Sound check was bad, which usually means that the set will be better. This was not to be. The set started out strong and fun. However, Rodney was having some problems hearing from his wedge, and soon after everyone else seemed to be having some difficulties as well. I was having problems adjusting to the in-ear monitors and some of my cello parts were shaky, so I was miserable during the cello songs. During “When I Fall In Love”, I was out of tune with Chris and couldn’t recover from it, and afterward I thought it was time to get back on the keyboards. It was just wishful thinking, however – I was already at the keyboards when “Tell Me” started, and then I realized my mistake. I tried to get offstage but was caught in the cable from the in-ears, so I crouched to the side of the stage. Rodney came over to see what the hell my problem was, but I just told him to just go on with the song and I’d explain later. After the set I was shaking hard, in spite of a great audience response and encouragement from everyone else. We got called back for two encores, which surprised us, as we didn’t feel it was our best performance by a long shot. When the audience called us back for a third encore, we stopped. We had simply run out of songs. Surprisingly the merchandise went well that night too – again, very odd after playing an under-par show. We were lucky to have had such a kind audience. I suppose it helped that we brought out some beer for them during the set.

Another problem with the show was that the video player wouldn’t run, and probably won’t run for the rest of the tour. When Rodney learned about this, he threw a fit backstage and was running around in his underwear yelling about everyone being an idiot. I half expected him to run out through the audience and into the booth like that to fix the machine himself!

4:45PM. We are at Alte-Spinnieri in Glauchau. Our gear is stuck in a traffic jam with Axel and Martin; they’re about 45 minutes behind us. We’re sitting around snacking. The trip here went through Leipzig, which is where we play tomorrow. The scenery is amazing – rolling fields, horses, livestock, old crumbling stone houses, barns and castles, and we even passed by a pony-drawn cart about 5km from the club. One of the ponies didn’t like our van zooming past his nose and was protesting on his hind legs as we went by. This club is nice; marble floors and two levels. There are no pre-sold tickets for tonight, and we are cutting the set down. Rodney suggested playing an Oblivia track in place of the movie, which of course I was glad to have done.

Mera’s Tour Diary

Friday, December 8th, 2000

11:55AM. Rolling out to start the tour! First stop: Steinberg.

12:15PM. Waiting in the van at Steinberg in the parking lot. Again. This is the third day in a row, I think. Volker is at the wheel, Mindy is shotgun, and Rodney just came back. I’m sitting next to him in the middle. Chris and Kelly are riding in the back. All the luggage fits easily in the back of the van, including my cello and Chris’ guitar. Now we’re trying to turn the van around….ack!…let Spinal Tap begin! Wahoo! Watch that wall…!

OK. Coming out of the parking lot, this guy starts looking at us and blowing kisses. Then he came up to the van and was about to try the door, but Volker pulled away before he could do it. Not 30 seconds on the road, and already we’re getting hassled by weirdos!

2:20AM (still day 8, dammit). All I can say is…WOW. I have to admit this show was one of the strangest ever. While we were on the way to Rostock we had to stop at a gas station to pee, and of course we showed up just as both restrooms were being cleaned.

Before that we were crawling through the forest because of a police checkpoint along the small highway. We arrived in Rostock around 3:30-ish, and got to the venue at exactly 4PM. Sound check was a good 2 hours or more, although load-in was quick because Martin and Axel got there way ahead of us and loaded in everything by themselves. Sound check went badly at best.

Too tired…I’ll finish tomorrow.

Mera’s Tour Diary

Thursday, December 7th, 2000

10:15AM. It’s the day before the first show. We will likely have a shorter rehearsal; Volker has to leave at 8, and Chris is going to a meditation at 7:30. We still need about one more day of rehearsal than what we will get, but we’ll just have to make do. We got a lot done yesterday – we’ll be OK. I’m getting a little nervous now – just some pre-show jitters. I’ve got the pre-show adrenaline going already!

9:05PM. I’m sitting in the rehearsal studio with Mindy as she copies the backing tracks to minidisc. We did not rehearse at all today because we blew a fuse the instant we tried to power up. We couldn’t contact the people who rented out the space until much later in the evening, and we couldn’t locate the fuses on our own. So we spent the day changing strings, cleaning instruments, and planning. I put a new set of strings on the cello and noticed a vast improvement in its performance. If all goes well, I won’t break any. Hooray!

Right now I’m just going over my parts for cello, waiting for the songs to get dumped onto disc. I’m putting the songs into my hands as well as my head as I go along. Rodney just picked up Kelly from the train station, and then after being here all of 5 minutes, they decided it would be a better idea to go back to Rodney’s to let Kelly drop off all of her stuff.

Today Axel, who will be our soundman for this tour, dropped by to see how rehearsal was going and get an idea of what our setup is like. I like Axel because he likes hot sauce.

Tonight Martin came by with his truck. We loaded all the gear into it, and Martin left. He’ll meet us at Rodney’s tomorrow to pick up merchandise. The current plan is: we load the people and luggage into the van tomorrow morning at 11, then roll out at 11:30. I’m excited!

12:30AM. Still day 7 dammit! I have finally seen the large jackrabbits that have been rumored to live in the lawns and gardens here. I saw two of them distinctly tonight sitting upright and watching us as we drove by in Mindy’s car on the way back to the apartment. They were huge. Images of Watership Down danced in my head. I am really enjoying the opportunity to see birds and other wildlife here that I just don’t see in the States – like Magpies, for example. They’re beautiful birds, almost like penguins in their markings. Rodney told us all the Magpie rhyme and before I forget it, I should write it down:

One for sorrow,

Two for joy,

Three for a girl,

Four for a boy,

Five for silver,

Six for gold,

Seven for a secret never to be told!

Mera’s Tour Diary

Wednesday, December 6th, 2000

Awoke about 45 minutes later than yesterday. Out of bed at 8:25AM, stretched immediately, and went for a shower. I refrained from getting my hair wet because I didn’t want to bleach the tub again. Currently it’s about 10:30AM. I had a fine breakfast of cheese and cookie (the bread was too stale to slice) with OJ and coffee. Today’s plan is for Mindy to pick up an En-Voice compressor for the cello and then pick us up to go to rehearsal. Undoubtedly we will start later than the targeted time of 12PM. I hope today goes more smoothly than yesterday.

12:15AM (still day 6 to me, dammit!) Rehearsal went much better today. Volker was feeling better and was able to participate, which helped us out a lot. After rehearsal Rodney called Kelly and confirmed that she should come on the tour to do merchandising. Since Martin will use his truck it will save a lot on space, and Kelly is a good friend to Rodney – so it all worked out happily!

Mera’s Tour Diary

Tuesday, December 5th, 2000

10AM. Volker called to tell us that 1) he has the flu, and 2) Martin is offering to drive his truck on the tour! That is excellent news – we get a gear truck now! No more worries about getting all the stuff in the van. Martin also wants to bring eight scanners instead of four; we definitely won’t be lacking for creative lights during the set. So cool!

11:15AM. Mindy should be here any second now to pick us up for rehearsal. If we start at 12 we’ll at least get a good 3 -hour start on yesterday’s rehearsal. Overall, things are looking good, but we still need lots more practice.

9:05PM. I am completely exhausted. Rehearsal was pretty rough, although we got a lot done. Rodney told Volker not to come near the studio today because he is afraid of catching Volker’s flu. This was unfortunate, because we needed him there for most songs. I can’t write anymore – must sleep now!

Mera’s Tour Diary

Monday, December 4th, 2000

11:25PM. Just to recount the day: I woke up at 8:15AM after having vivid dreams involving the sale of odd, brightly colored masturbational aids in the setting of an old or abandoned venue or shopping mall with a defunct restaurant inside of it. Very strange.

Early in the afternoon I went shopping with Chris and Rodney. This was after I managed to break the nozzle on my brand-new, expensive hairspray bottle. We got a big bottle of bleach for me to use on the bathtub, which soaks up blue hair dye like I’ve never seen. I am now relegated to bleaching out the tub every time I get my hair wet. Otherwise, I have been told, we will all be in BIG TROUBLE. Fair enough. I can’t wait until we get to the hotels.

1:00PM. Mindy had been in our company for about an hour. The four of us went to Steinberg to pick up the Access Virus that Rodney is borrowing for Mindy to use. We had lunch at a little Greek cafe with two of the Steinberg guys, who said they’d be at the big Hamburg gig on the 18th.

At rehearsal we managed to get through “Realm of the Senseless”, which we called “Realm of the Cigarette” because both Chris and Volker take a break during that song. We also go through “When I Fall In Love”, “Valis”, “Second Shot” and “Voices” – all of which are now mixed down to minidisc.

Mera’s Tour Diary

Sunday, December 3rd, 2000

9:00AM. Drinking very strong coffee and getting ready to shower. Was able to wash out my top to rid it of drool and sweat from the plane ride. Hooray!

7:30PM. Back at Rodney’s. Went to rehearsal today around noon; loaded in vast amounts of gear to a small studio. The studio itself is in an industrial area of Hamburg, and best of all, it seems to be someone’s house! We got through “Dion Fortune” and one other song before Rodney had to return home. We plugged through all the songs that called for cello, and put off doing the rest because we had power supply issues with the MS2000 (we didn’t have a Euro supply for it). At least we were able to get the J-Stations working. In total, the four of us (Volker, Chris, Mindy and myself) rehearsed 8 songs to the CD.

By the time we got back to Rodney’s place, Heidi had returned from holiday. She greeted us warmly and stayed briefly, but then left to stay at her boyfriend’s place.

Rodney found the German power supply for the MS2000, which should make for a better rehearsal tomorrow. I’m so tired. I have to stay up to do some programming on the J-Station tonight, though – and I wish I had the energy to go to the Hamburger Dom, which is a big carnival and tonight is the final night. Rodney’s pissed because the BBC is doing a documentary on him and they wanted to film him there, but as the festival is ending now they won’t be able to. The “beeb” will at least be around to film the last CX performance of the tour in Hamburg, which should be really good.

Mera’s Tour Diary

Saturday, December 2nd, 2000

At some point, midnight (by some clock) was reached and it is now December 2, 2000.

8:00AM Amsterdam. Sitting in the gate (at least I hope this is the right gate…D62…there was some confusion…). The CitiHopper won’t leave until 9:30AM. Long wait. Fortunate, in retrospect, that the second flight was delayed. I am worried about the cello – it was SO cold in the air – hope I can still play it. Debating if I should walk around. My bag is really heavy and I’d just as soon not bother. I don’t want to have Guilders to deal with – though the thought of buying little cheeses is extremely tempting. BTW, feeling gypped re: airline. Northwest has been and will be the primary carrier for 2 of 3 legs of the trip. And – the “vegetarian” option sucks! They even had the nerve to serve the general passengers vegetarian pasta. Even the breakfast/snack is different – they get a yogurt and muffin, but I get a cold, dense bagel with PB&J. I have, however, eaten more fruit in the last day than I have in two weeks. Better for me, I guess.

9:05AM. Waiting to board. Watched the luggage get loaded onto the plane. Where the hell is the cello!

12:50PM. Hamburg. All went well at the airport; the cello’s case was slightly the worse for wear but the cello seems OK. Hooray for bubble-wrap! Volker Zacharias and Rodney both met me outside the baggage claim, then we went to Volker’s car and parted company with Rodney. He stayed behind to wait for Chris, whose flight was coming in about an hour later than mine. Volker and I went to Rodney and Heidi’s apartment, unloaded my stuff, then went to a grocery store to stock up for everyone. I stayed at the apartment while Volker went off to get air mattresses and his bass, which he was bringing to Rodney’s.

1:00PM. Rodney and Chris arrive. I let them in; Chris tells me he had me paged at the airport as “Admiral Mera Roberts”. He wasn’t expecting to meet Rodney. He gave me my J-Station, but it comes with 9-volt AC which is difficult to get here. I’m stinky but satisfied that all’s well so far.

8:50PM. Completely ready to go to sleep. I’ve been crashing all night. Today we went to an electronics store to get power adapters for the J-Stations and some 9-volt batteries. Later on Mindy Kumbalek, the other keyboardist, met us at Rodney’s apartment. She drove to Hamburg from Berlin with her car completely full of keyboards, rack gear and large pieces of metal she uses for drums. I’m afraid I left a poor impression with her, as it wasn’t long after she was there that I passed out with my mouth open in the living room. After that, Chris, Rodney and I watched “The Italian Job” and dined on pizza but I kept passing out. I think German pizza is even worse (if that’s possible) than California pizza. What’s so hard to get? Even I can make a better pizza than these places. I guess it takes a true Chicagoan to really know, understand, and create pizza the right way! OK – it’s off to sleep now. Rodney gave me a white sheet with some bloodstains on it. He said “oops – someone’s had a period on it. You don’t mind, do you?” Of course not. Just so long as it’s been washed.

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