Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Dante's Infirmary

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Gareth’s cold threatens to spread through Van Morrison like wild-fire, as we make our way from Luxembourg to Breda, Holland for what may be our most poorly attended show of the whole tour. Perhaps the venue itself should have been warning enough. A very incongruous piece of modern architecture, brown in colour, and shaped like an obese earthworm, dumped onto the main square of town. There are quicker and easier descriptions I imagine, but that one will suffice. So we scrape another chalk line down the bluestone wall, and head from that town, to Ludwigshafen, Germany. Now THIS was an odd show. From what we could gather, the legal drinking age of this town is fifty-three, and further to this, you have to be male and creepy to guarantee your entry into their dimly-lit venues. Still, a marked improvement on the night previous. We take in a spot of MTV back at the hotel. There’s a big festival on in Germany which they’re simulcasting live. Mike and I silently sit through an entire set by the reformed Smashing Pumpkins, too tired to even summon up any glib running commentary. What’s wrong with us? We must be getting sick. Or is it just the fatigue? Whatever it is, I reach for the remote just as Billy Corgan begins quoting Jim Morrison, and we drift away.

The next day sees us making another long drive to the town of Graz in Austria. We’re all sick now. Tonight and tomorrow night, we are in support of American band “Botanica”. We agree to let them use some of our equipment in order to make things easier with the changeover. This however, proves to be a mistake, as their perplexingly confident singer spurs the band on to a completely unwarranted two and a half hour performance, while we sit in an alleyway waiting to get our amps back, and dreaming of our hotel. Our very charming, elegant and aptly-named Hotel Daniel. They’ve gone to great efforts here, to provide the guests with a sultry and romantic atmosphere in the room, right down to providing a glass wall in the shower, which looks straight onto the sleeping chamber. One lover is able to watch dreamily, as the other prepares his or herself for the day. Mmmm, how very delightful.

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Except it’s not really, because it’s Mike and I in this room, and the last thing we feel like doing is studying each other’s forms and cleansing techniques in the shower, so we devise a complex system of averted gazes, wash, get out of there, and drive to Vienna.

And my, isn’t Vienna something else.

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What a glorious looking city. We had two nights here, with only one show to play, so the opportunity presented itself to actually have a look at one of these places we come to inflict our art upon. And Vienna is, as we all know, no stranger to having art inflicted upon it. The various statues and shrines commemorating the likes of Mozart, Liszt and Handel are testament to this, and provided me with the sufficient awe and inspiration recquired to clumsily strangle and grope my way through tonight’s show.

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As I sent mistaken chord after botched lead break through the p.a, I could almost feel these long-decomposed composers’ disapproving gazes from afar. Nearer though, I could actually SEE the disapproving gaze of what is perhaps the most family-oriented monitor guy in Europe.

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Having a photo of your wife nearby at the workplace is not uncommon, so I’m not sure why I should find this so strange and amusing.

I do, though.

What a sweet and loving…….dork.

Having enough time the next morning to wash all of my clothes, but not enough time to dry them, I heave a bag of soaking wet rags into the back of Van Morrison and we make our way through the Czech Republic to Dresden, Germany. If you take the back roads, which we always seem to do thanks to our agoraphobic GPS device and it’s perpetually befuddled operator, you wind your way through the woods where all the prostitutes live in their natural habitat. Or perhaps more accurately, where they hide behind the trees and jump out at oncoming traffic. Strange phenomenon this one.

“Oooh, look at that waterfall”

“Oh, that’s nice”

“Can you see that little cottage with the smoke coming out of the chimney?”

“Oh yes, how cosy it looks”

two minutes of silence

“Look, a prostitute!”

“Yeah, saw that”

three minutes of silence


“YES! YES! How Amazing!”

two minutes of silence


“Uh huh…………amazing view of the lake over there”

Etc for thirty kilometres.

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(This photo depicts our tour manager, Gorka, consulting a map near the Czech Republic/ German border. Whenever this employment of the traditional navigation system occurs, we know we're in a new kind of trouble, and the necessary protective clothing is required)

We arrive in Dresden and take our lodging in an apartment provided by the venue. This gives us our first chance to live “Monkee” style for the whole tour, and we seize the opportunity with all twelve hands. After the show we head back to our pad and stay up all night telling groovy stories, breaking into impromptu musical performances and having tricycle races around the room.

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Which puts us in terrible stead for our show in Arhus, Denmark the next day. Luckily though, the town of Arhus was in equally terrible stead for The Drones coming to play there, so we made a silent agreement with the city that if they don’t come and bother us, we won’t bother them. Twelve or so people didn’t get the memo though, and the show is played on empty bellies through gritted teeth.

We notice as we load out the equipment that the sun is on the rise, which means we’re edging nearer to………


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“We come through the lands of the ice and snow, from the midnight sun where the hot springs blow etc.”

- Robert Plant

We wake at 6 a.m, exchange our Danish Kroner coins (the ones with the holes in them) for Norwegian coins (the ones that don’t), and catch a ferry full of gambling adolescents to Oslo, Norway. We had a good show here (thankyou Yann), but it was marred somewhat by yet another altercation with the booking agent. It seems the four of us threatening to cancel the remainder of the tour unless sanity and professionalism is restored, has become so de rigueur that we barely even notice when it’s happening. Still, our very reasonable demands are met, which means we are able to fly to Tromso, and actually bring Ryan, our indispensable sound engineer, with us. Something that, if you can believe it, was not arranged or agreed upon until we were about to go the airport.

But we made it folks. We made it to Tromso.

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A Norwegian town situated north of north, seven hundred kilometres inside the Arctic Circle. Land of midnight sun, and land of some of the most charming and passionate people we’ve come across on this here jaunt of ours. We were greeted by one of the most stunning views from an airport terminal I’ve ever laid eyes on, and then by our host Egon, the king of Tromso. As he whisked us straight from the airport to the venue, I couldn’t help but notice how strange it felt to be a) in this impossibly beautiful country with it’s awesome glacial surrounds, and a beaming sun firmly fixed in it’s place, and b) to go from one place to another without getting lost.

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(Gareth outside the world's northernmost Hungry Jacks)

This given night, to use the term loosely, we were playing with a local outfit called “The Considerate Lovers”. What a fine band. Great sound, and great people. By the time they hit the stage the venue was sold out, with many people being turned away. Our show will remain one of the more lasting memories for us all. Of all the gigs played, none had been met with such a degree of celebration from the audience as this one. so thankyou very much, good people of Tromso. Having made our way to the oxygen outside, we were met at 2 a.m by completely disorienting daylight and alarmingly visible drunk people, who insisted that we be whisked away to an after party hosted by our new friends in “The Considerate Lovers”. If anyone out there is unfamiliar with the practice of “the walk of shame”, it refers to the syndrome of party-goers making their way home in broad daylight, amongst the more respectable members of the community who are just beginning their day. So perhaps the best description of Tromso at two in the morning on a Sunday, is an entire city of people doing this “walk of shame”. Every stumble, every vomit in the gutter, every fireman’s carry takes place in full, glorious daylight. Marvellous.

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(taken immediately after the show, 2 a.m)

We find ourselves in the house of Andreas and Morit in the suburbs of Tromso, being plied with Norwegian hospitality until way too late in the night/day. Unfortunately, my entire conversational repertoire was reduced to memorising eighteen Norwegian Christian names, and repeating them back to everybody until it was time to leave (I still remember them though. Quiz me sometime).

We manage an utterly pointless forty-five minute sleep, and are slopped onto the aeroplane like mashed potato onto a soldier’s meal tray.

Poor Fi leaves her beloved leather jacket on the plane, never to be seen again. Poor Mike drops his laptop on the floor of the airport terminal, never being able to watch a DVD again. And poor all of us eat cold Norwegian pizza for breakfast and head to our show in Helsinki. A two day car/ferry trip from Oslo. Did somebody say ferry? Did somebody book ferry tickets? Gorka? No? Better book them now then, buddy. What’s that? Ferry’s sold out? We can’t go to Helsinki? O.K.

So no Finnish experience for The Drones, I’m afraid. Would’ve been nice to see Helsinki. The countryside, the people…….the architecture. But not this time. Maybe next, huh.

Still, you gotta turn that frown upside down Drones, for what have we here? Why, I believe it’s four days off!!!

Four days off!!!


Due to the travel-time allowances on either side of the Helsinki show, we have, yes, four days off.

Our next show is in rural Sweden at the Hultsfred Festival, sharing the bill with our peers Korn, Ozzy Osbourne, Velvet Revolver and 50 Cent, so we decide to head to the country and stay close to the festival site (80 km away) in the town of Vetlanda. A small town with a population of ten thousand or so. We spent six days of suspended reality here, swimming in lakes, tenpin bowling and getting to know a comical amount of the locals by sight, as they in turn became familiar with the six aliens with brown hair in black clothes. Not being accustomed to free time, we kept busy. I took a job at “Willys” bagging groceries, Gareth opened up a bicycle repair shop, Fiona waited on tables at “Dangs”, Mike started up an internet café in our hotel room, Ryan taught kids how to assemble Ikea furniture, and Gorka could be seen on the hotel verandah, performing the mysterious ritual he refers to as “working”, which usually involves the shuffling around of many different pieces of paper and long, searching gazes into the horizon.

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The whole town shut down around eleven at night, which took a little getting used to. One particular night, Gareth, Ryan and myself found ourselves in the middle of Swedish suburbia at 1 a.m,, ringing people’s doorbells and sprinting away (I forgot how much fun that was). There may or may not have been one or two letterboxes relocated to new houses as well. This desperate attempt at amusement, performed completely sober, mind you (buying a drink in Sweden is akin to paying kidnappers for Bill Gates’ immediate release).

The festival itself could have been a better experience for band and punter alike, had it not been for the cold, cold wind that blew, and the ridiculous sound restrictions placed on all the stages. This was something we came up against quite often in Scandinavia. The governments here have decreed that anything over 100 decibels (approximately the volume of a hair dryer in a neighbouring apartment) is an unsafe volume level for the listener. So you can imagine the kind of impact our peers Korn might have made. As for Ozzy, “Fiddy” and “The Velvets”, no idea. Maybe it’s not very rock n’ roll to leave the festival for the warmth of your floral and lace quilt, but that’s exactly what we did.

With the Hultsfred festival completed, it is now time to hand in my “Halloo, me normen os Dan” badge at Willy’s and check out of the Best Western, Vetlanda. We noticed though, that the staff here spent five days growing colder and colder towards us for reasons we could never figure out. I suppose all guests, even hotel guests, are like fish (in this case, herring). Fresh at first, but after a few days, start to smell like Mike and Dan’s room (215). On the last night, as we assembled in the lobby to dine out in one of the four restaurants in town (“Dangs”, where Fi used to work), we were ambushed in the lobby by the staff, and made to cough up our room charges there and then. They seem to be convinced we were going to do a runner in the morning. This hurt. For one, Gorka takes too long sitting in the van figuring out the GPS to ever make a hasty exit anywhere, and secondly, these people were like inept, sheltered and uptight family to us.

But o.k, that’s fine. We’re leaving now

I can see the local paper’s headline now:


We drive three or four hours to Stockholm, and play a terrific show at the venue known as “Debaser”. In stark contrast to Ludwigshafen, here were assembled some of the most ridiculously beautiful young things under the sun. In stark contrast to every other show, Gaz, Mike and I fought over the souvenir stand duties, finally agreeing to do it together. Unfortunately none of us could retain our knowledge of basic mathematics, leaving Fiona to take care of the actual purchases while we made the charming small talk.

“Uh…yeah….we have t-shirts. They’re……um…….black….with The…..er…..Drones written on them”

The next day we take the ferry back to the continent, and drive some hours to Germany, the whole time with Louis Prima blaring out of Van Morrison’s ever-suffering little speakers.

Our spirits were fractured and frayed yet still somehow buoyed, due to the end of this tour being deliciously nigh. All we have left are our obligations in Hamburg, Cottbus, Jena and Stuttgart, with two final shows to be played in Switzerland. Every night, Fiona leads the chants of “Five/Four/Three shows to go, five/four/three shows to go” accordingly, and we sing along with gusto, much to the annoyance of the driver. After our show in Jena, we decided to walk to the hotel as it wasn’t far, and passing a “Southern Comfort” party bus and noticing that there was a karaoke competition taking place inside, I grabbed Mike’s arm and forced our way on board. My patience being what it was, I pushed to the front of the queue in the manner only a stranger in a strange land can, and chose ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine” from the first page that opened in the song list. Mike and I swapped lines like seasoned pros. Expecting to secure nothing but the ire of German Southern Comfort drinkers, imagine our astonishment and gratitude when the crowd broke out into a rabid applause, and the organisers came onto stage with a Southern Comfort prize hamper (hamper consisting of fresh limes, muddling stick, straw cowboy hats, beaded necklaces??, and a big bottle of nasty blue light disco flashbacks), announcing that we had won the competition for the evening. We made our elated acceptance speech, and attempted to leave as quickly as we’d arrived, however the organisers insisted we regale the audience with a version of Men at Work’s “Down Under” before we left. But of course…..

If the organisers are true to their word, the footage will be up on www.southerncomfort.de sometime in the next week. Enjoy.

So what will the next day bring, hmm?

Wearing straw cowboy hats, and beaded necklaces we pile into the van. As we’re about to pull out, a staff member of the hotel sticks her head out of the window and screams out “YOU PEOPLE LIVE LIKE PIGS” (I failed to mention that the hamper was put to use the night previous), but in our defence, the room was NOT THAT MESSY, and besides, I thought German people loved pigs. Why else would they make breakfast, lunch, dinner AND dessert with them? We left quickly, fearing they might wish to gobble us up like the little pigs we supposedly are.

About seventy kilometres out of Jena, Van Morrison falls eerily silent on the autobahn. We pull over, and after several attempts made in vain to get the engine running, make a campsite on the side of the highway. Here we waited, while Gorka made desperate phone calls, not to the German roadside assistance company, but to the Spanish insurance company, who in turn were making calls to their German office, who in turn were making calls to the German roadside company. Well that was the idea anyway.

While all of this was happening, we sat around a fire that we’d made out of Fiona’s tour blanket “Old Yeller”.

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A cumbersome, yellow woollen blanket, acquired many moons back from a forgotten Barcelona hotel. As we warmed our hands, we thought long and hard about what was happening here.

• Van Morrison has ceased to operate.
• Van Morrison belongs to Gorka, our booking agent, and not to a proper Van rental company who could organise a replacement vehicle.
• We don’t know where we are. Remember, even though Gorka Tour Manager has a GPS, he doesn’t know how to work it, and is having great difficulty providing our exact location.
• We could be here forever.
• We certainly will not make it to the show tonight.
• We may not, and most likely won’t, make it to the other shows in Switzerland.
• The tour is over?

Is it really possible that this is how this tour ends?

Of fucking course it is! How else should this extraordinary tour end, but with a smouldering yellow blanket, a confused and crazed tour manager running up and down a highway looking for a road sign, a half drunk bottle of Southern Comfort being passed around, and gathering clouds of grey and black?

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No other way, is how.

Then it began to rain. Rain hard.

26,748 kilometres by road.

48 shows played, 5 cancellations.

The tour is over, folks.

But our battles?


No way.

Stay tuned.

(R.I.P Van Morrison)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

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The very stern old German woman who runs the hotel has let me sit in her office and use her internet, just long enough for me to tell you that as soon as I get a decent Wi-Fi connection the new post will be up.

Thankyou for your the positive feedback.

And very sorry about the wait.

I've gotta go. The woman is tapping her watch and saying things to me that I don't understand.

There is no mistaking her anger though.

Soon. Two days or something. Promise.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Ideas Men

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Thomas Alva Edison

With 1,093 patents to his name, "The Wizard of Menlo Park" gave us among many things, light bulbs and record players. Widely regarded as the greatest inventor of all time, and clearly not an influence on...

Gorka, from Noise on Tour, who when informed this morning that Gareth has lost his voice and the band need to cancel at least one show, makes the compassionate and ingenious suggestion that we play instrumentally until his voice comes back.

Wow! Why didn't we come up with that idea???

(probably because as far as ideas go, it's a ridiculously shit one Gorka)


Monday, May 28, 2007

Three Blurry Weeks

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This posting marks the three week anniversary of The Drones last day off, and coincidentally enough, happens to be a day off itself, in the town of Mainz, Germany. I am now faced with the arduous task of summing up three very blurry weeks of travelling daily, and playing nightly. So here goes. We begin in the town of Poitiers, France…..

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In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses utters the immortal phrase that “man doth not live by bread alone”. This was later paraphrased by Jesus in the New Testament. It is evident to me now, that neither of these chaps ever backpacked through France before they settled down and started working in the Messiah trade. Had this been the case, they would never have come out with such malarkey. O.K, I can cut them some slack. The Drones were fortunate enough to have the odd slice of cheese or ham come our way, but generally speaking, our source of sustenance was largely wheat-based. Now before you say, “hey you imbeciles, there’s lots of gastronomic options in France. What about escargot? Frog’s legs? Why didn’t you try the duck a l’orange?”, let me defend the group by explaining that we simply didn’t get any opportunities to visit any of those fancy things you call “restaurants”. The closest we came to the world of “a la carte” was every morning at the petrol station, where we had to make the difficult choice between a baguette with ham, or a baguette with cheese, both containing the sufficient amount of butter required to wax a surfboard. Of course, we were supplied with platters at the shows every night after soundcheck. Lovingly prepared trays of brie, Roquefort, Camembert, Prosciutto and Jamon.

Ham and cheese.

Pass the wine.

The shows however, were terrific. We were all thrilled with the turn-outs and the enthusiasm of the French audiences. The venues were superbly run, and very accommodating. There was one in particular, was it Poitiers? I think so. Some issues with the rider.

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But apart from that, a massive art-space in the backstreets of town, with an amazing band room, ultra-modern p.a, an art gallery with some stunning works therein, and a greenhouse full of plants, concealing a small p.a, guitar amplifier and a couple of casio keyboards. What? Why? Turns out the staff were hoping that we could “play some music for the plants” before our show.

“Er, pardon?”

“We were wondering if you could play for the plants?”

“Play for the plants”

“Oui, before your jig”

“Before our jig?”

“Oui, before your jig”

“What jig?”

“The jig tonight”

“Ohhhhhh, the jig, oui”

“Oui. The plants thrive from music”

“Have you heard The Drones?”

“Oui. Of course”

“O.k then”

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We were chased out of town the following day by irate French artists, hurling dead plant matter at the van.

Another show which has managed to hold it’s grip on the slimy walls of my memory bank, was the jig in Paris. Something of a debacle, to coin a French term. Our scheduled performance here was moved to a different venue with two days’ notice. A very different venue. A venue the size of a well appointed latrine, with a home stereo system for a p.a, one microphone stand, and run with cartoonish arrogance by a French “rocker”. When I say “rocker”, I refer to a particular brand of rocker we often come across throughout Europe. The creeper-wearing, denim clad, “eight ball” rocker, with the pocket-chains and the super-glued quiff. This particular feller didn’t even know we were playing at his bar it seemed. We figured that if the owner of the establishment wasn’t aware of the show, not many other people would be either.

So after a brief conference, we decide to cancel the show in favour of a stroll down the Seine, arm-in-arm with each other, maybe take in a show at La Cage Aux Folles, followed by a romantic dinner, just the six of us. However, just as we were making our way out of the latrine, we were accosted by a small group of lovely Frenchies. They seemed crestfallen upon hearing the news the show was to be no more. They told us they’d been looking forward to the show for months, and that many of their friends were coming. Hearing this made our crests fall just as much as theirs, and we duly informed them that they had made us feel guilty enough to play the show. And we’re glad we did, after all. Turns out it was more “Tardis” than latrine, as we managed to cram about fifty lucky chain-smokers into the venue, all gasping for air, and all gasping for the right words to describe the incandescent flare that is The Drones live show. “Very noisy”, somebody finally suggests.

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Later in the night, our ever-wonderful friends Dimi and Sophie have us, and the rest of Paris back to their apartment in Menilmontant for aperitifs and foie gras. The night was long and lovely.

As for the rest of the country, I’m sorry but I just don’t remember much. This is not due to any excessive behaviour, mind you. This is more due to an excessive amount of jigs.


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They all said “jigs”.

Now if I recall correctly, we left you hanging onto the edge of your seat in great anticipation of our meeting in Bilbao, with the head administrator of this beguiling musical odyssey. Issues we’ve had with this tour have been piling up on the table at a furious rate, and now we finally have an opportunity to discuss these problems with their chief architect. But before we do, there’s a show to play.

Tonight had us playing in Bilbao, Spain, to a large audience alongside California’s “The Angry Samoans”, and Sweden’s “The Soundtrack of our Lives”. We were in the middle slot. Now I hope this doesn’t come across as overly-arrogant, but here’s a chance to be the delectable filling between two slices of white bread. Unfortunately, the whole sandwich ended up resembling something in the bottom of a twelve year-old’s schoolbag.

The Angry Samoans show was mystifying for all the wrong reasons, and The Soundtrack of Our Lives, played as if our lives were spent living inside a busted sauna, eating meatballs, while The Drones had one of those metal-fatigued shows where everything decides to fall apart in the performer’s hands. Gareth suffered an inordinate amount of string breakage and fractures to two sections of his beloved Fender workhorse, rendering it virtually unplayable with several songs left in the set. This, as well as yours truly suffering a blow to the side of the head from an errant drumstick, travelling at the speed of sound (Mike assures me it was an accident), made for an exceptionally difficult show to get through. Luckily for us, we have enough performances under our belt to give the impression that things are going well, and we leave the stage whispering “I think we got away with that”, Basil Fawlty style.

After a brief period of relaxation backstage, watching forty-something Californians drawing dicks and tits on posters, we are greeted by you-know-who (YKW). Now, YKW also happens to be the organiser of this particular show, so he is a very busy man tonight. Still, we will surely have enough time to sit him down and explain our problems and between us, resolve a few issues.


What we got was about thirty seconds of chit-chat, and then as soon as “point one” was brought up, suddenly YKW becomes a busier man than ever. He excuses himself, and we don’t see him for the rest of the night.

What’s that all about G?

So what could have been this:

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Or at the very least this:

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Just becomes this:

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And we continue on to Barcelona.

Unfortunately we arrive during what these lazy buggers describe as “siesta” and our soundcheck becomes non-existent, so we head to the hotel, dump our luggage and go to a guitar shop to get some much-needed repairs made to our overstretched equipment. On the way there, we accidentally get to see some of Gaudi’s wonderful architecture, and I wonder to myself how many more buildings might exist like this in Spain if more people had decided to stay awake during the afternoon.

Alright, alright, alright. I’ll lay off. I mean, who am I to even comment on a country, who’s blackened band rooms, budget hotels and petrol stations are the only things I’ve actually seen?

It is a country not without it’s many charms, but we’re at ten shows in a row now, and losing our senses of humour, balance and hearing at a frightening pace (for the record, a day off is when we neither travel, nor play. Some nights we don’t play, but spend several hours in Van Morrison. Ten shows in a row is the longest stretch of travel/gig on the tour). Plus we all smell terrible. Really terrible.

The show itself was passable, but the celebrations of a ten show run without any fatalities were far more enthusiastic. Aided by our good friends Lilith and B.J, we got quite drunk and hit the dance floor with a vengeance. Possibly a little too much vengeance, as I was duly escorted out by security for my passionate interpretation of “West End Girls” by the Pet Shop Boys.

It was time to leave anyway.

Woke up the next morning a little sore, and headed east for our run of shows in Italy. A two-day drive meant we stopped over in Nice, France, for the night. Although we arrived at ten in the evening, we still managed to find a great restaurant and soak in the opulence of the French Riviera for a couple of hours before retiring. The next morning had us fumigating and delousing our clothes together in a nice, Nice laundrette. In a matter of hours we were in the town of Faenza in the north of Italy.

Italy was for the most part, very agreeable with The Drones. Our venue host, Marena, was an absolute delight. When she wasn’t preparing incredible food in the kitchen, she was putting microphones on the drum kit. We were wondering what our chances were of securing her as the new tour manager. She was serious too. When she set yet another plate of heaven in front of me at dinner, I blurted out:

“Thankyou Marena. I love you!”

She fixed a steely glance on me and said:


Then walked away.

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The next two shows in Italia were in Fossinone, and Pescara, respectively. Fossinone was a little strange. We played in a converted petrol station in the industrial badlands, to around a hundred people who preferred to stand outside the venue during the performance. Earlier in the day the venue owner’s son and daughter were outside kicking around a soccer ball, being very loving and cute with each other. Tour manager, Gorka thought he’d join in with them, and impress us with his deft touch and finesse. But there was nothing impressive about watching a thirty-five year old guy kick a couple of little kids’ football into an impenetrable field of blackberry vines. And there was something downright devastating about watching a couple of brave little troupers kicking around a burnt cob of corn instead. Maybe it’s the fatigue, but I almost broke down and cried watching this. On behalf of that guy, we’re very sorry kids, one day we’ll come back with a shiny new soccer ball.

We promise!

Then on to Pescara, where the crowd was slight despite the efforts of Paolo the Champion. I don’t know. Maybe it was the French Jazz/Rock/Fusion band that opened for us, maybe it was the Champion League Grand Final being on that night, or maybe it’s because Italy has a very strange attitude towards rock and roll music. A few people there told us this. It has a strong grip on it’s past, as far as the arts go. A real classicist bent. A reporter there told us that the only music festival they have in Italy is a family based event, where the best performer wins a prize! Maybe Melbourne should put one of those on. It is odd though. Can anybody out there name any Italian bands? We can’t (The Three Tenors doesn’t count, Gaz).

The next night was a blast, though. A show in not so ancient Rome, with Dirty Three. It was just the tonic. We played a good show, and then had the pleasure to recline side of stage and watch one of our favourite bands in full flight. Something a little odd occurred between the two performances, however. While we were mopping ourselves up and getting our breath back, we received a visit from two delegates of the Australian embassy. It was a truly surreal moment, reminiscent of the scene in Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Look Back”, when he gets a visit from the very proper lady of the manor. These very eloquent and important-looking people told us how delighted they were that we had played, even though they were only able to listen to us from outside the venue (an Italian tradition). They gave us some strange embassy-merch, told us that if we ever have any issues with the Italian government that they would help, and then asked us if they could “possibly speak with the classically-trained violin player, who now plays loud rock music”. We informed them that he was on stage about to play, and they took their leave. Strange.

As I mentioned before, their show was a highlight of the tour for us, and we were very flattered when Warren Ellis dedicated a favourite of ours, “Everything’s Fucked” to The Drones. “The hardest working rock and roll band in the world, ladies and gentlemen. They’ve just played a hundred shows in thirty-two hours, and they need new socks, underpants and clean hankies, so please give generously”. Fiona’s request of “Sue’s Last Ride” was honoured, and they left the stage to rapturous applause. Lovely gentlemen they were. There was talk of a tour together, at some point in time. We shall hold you to that chaps. Thankyou for the show.

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But shit! We have to leave in the morning! What about that Colosseum thingy? We race back to the hotel, dump our bags, and get the concierge/janitor to order us a cab. At around 3 a.m, the cab shows up, we jump in and say “Step on it, Mario!” Mario steps on it. Mario puts a freakin’ whole through the floor. At a cruising speed of 140kmh, we are taken to the Colosseum, and come face to face with all that incredible majesty and horror. As far as old things go, this one takes the tiramisu folks. We leave after a while, very happy that we sacrificed some of that precious shuteye.

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Two more shows followed in Italy, which were once again fatality free, and then a festival here in Mainz, Germany. A festival which at first seemed downright scary in a fun for the whole family kind of way, turned out to be a real humdinger. Hundreds of writhing Germans, and our first encounter with en masse bodysurfing. After the show two little guys about the age of ten came backstage, and made us write all over their arms with a permanent marker, and declaring in a very thick German accent that Gareth is like “Dracula with a guitar”. Which he is, of course.

I have to stop writing this claptrap now. We went to a fucking disastrous sushi train earlier, and frankly, I’m a little frightened for my life. I have never seen sushi that colour before, and canned peach and pineapple on a plate is surely a sign of a restaurant a little unsteady on it’s feet. Let’s face it, the last time the two countries teamed up it wasn’t a roaring success.

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I’ll check for spelling mistakes later.

Over and out.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

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Very sorry for the lack of action, people.

We've had a show every night, bar one, since the last post.

Internet access has been as scant as our collective brain power.

However, we shall return in around three to four days.

Hold tight.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

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Grenoble, France (13)


This, due to an unhealthy obsession with the WWF as an early adolescent, is the only association I have ever been able to make with the town of Grenoble, in the French Alps. Thankfully, this is no longer the case. The next time somebody casually drops the word “Grenoble” into a conversation, I will be able to conjure up an image of a quarter-filled adult cinema, which is where we played tonight. Okay, so it wasn’t an adult cinema, but looking out into the audience, and seeing the dark shapes fidgeting in their seats while the more rabid gentlemen sat right up the front, one couldn’t help but feel like a tired and haggard pole dancer, as opposed to a tired and haggard musician. So this,

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plus this

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Are the two images I now associate with Grenoble, in the French Alps.

The day began with much promise. I drove into Grenoble with the Dimi Dero Inc. folk, as I’d been playing truant in Paris the day before with a friend, running through the Catacombes (The Bone Express) and plonking out on the grass in front of Sacre Coeur for most of the afternoon. When we arrived, we were immediately whisked away by the venue owners and promoter for dinner. During this dinner, I realised something a little disturbing: These dinners are starting to irritate me a little bit. Well, this particular day anyway. I was tired. I needed a shave, and a little lie-down before the show. I didn’t need conversation, nor fish covered in orange cream, a salad of raw shrimps and cantaloupe and of course, more fucking bread. But it is considered very disrespectful to decline the dinner in France, so having propped my eyelids up with toothpicks, I smiled and nodded through the meal, then when the time was right made my leaving sounds, checked into Hotel Splendid, found my room, collapsed on the bed, wondering, among a thousand other things, about the footy scores, had an argument with a friend back home via text message, slipped over in the shower and hit my head, but not hard enough, pulled disgusting, filthy shirt, after disgusting, filthy shirt, out of my suitcase, chose one to wear, and then headed back to the venue, to play for twenty five people. The atmosphere of this place, this anomalous place, was as electric as a balloon that had been rubbed on a kid’s head for two minutes. Dimi Dero Inc. played a fine opening set to all the flashers and lechers in the back rows of the theatre. Then we played (I think I will no longer describe actual performances unless something unusual occurs while on stage. Just assume that they are brilliant unless otherwise informed). And having just written that in brackets, something unusual occurred while we were playing. Just before beginning “Motherless Children”, the last song of the set, Mike suggested that we get the entire audience up on stage to dance, and they duly obliged, while I happily sat in a chair in the fourth row, playing along.

Whatever gets you through the night.\\

Gerona, Spain (14)

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Departure time: 12.00 p.m.

Well, it was supposed to be anyway, except we were waiting in the car park a little while longer for a member of the entourage to show up. Turns out he felt like having a little lie-in, and woke up at twelve. Which is fine I guess, as long as the member isn’t the tour manager, or anything. Ahem. So, after a pretty passionate discussion about responsibilities and job descriptions (“Have you even DONE THIS BEFORE??”—“This is how I do it, man”----“But…do it?…Huh?....wha?”) The Partridge Family hop into the car and head south to Gerona, Spain, some six hours away. We probably should have left at ten thirty in reality, because we turned up very late. The staff at the venue seemed a little put out by our tardiness, but were willing to make some compromises. Then something strange occurred. At the behest of the late guy, we were made to cut our soundcheck down to twenty pointless minutes. While monitors were still sending jolts of feedback through our skulls, and while Ryan was still unpacking microphones, late guy was ordering an end to it, using throat-cutting gestures, and lots of wrist /foot-tapping. This bugged us all. A lot. Something had to be said. Something was said. Said loudly. Very loudly. Boy, was I loud (“AND DON’T YOU DARE TELL MIKE TO SHUT UP AGAIN!!!)*. The others came over after a couple of minutes, stepped over my shaking, foetally-positioned body, and offered the late guy a trip for one, back to from whence he came, with one hundred Euros spending money. Bizarrely enough, he refused to take the prize and wanted to play on for the cash. He’s a trouper, I’ll give him that.

(And just quietly, between you and me, reader, things have been a little better since. A little. Will it last? Of course not. Shut up.)

Tonight’s dinner was at The River Café. A modern brasserie/shrine to Bruce Springsteen, situated approximately 7.3 million km from the venue, near the New Jersey Turnpike. The owner was very fastidious when it came to making all things Springsteen related. Even the waitresses looked like “The Boss”. Our “Nebraska” era waitress, brought over our first course of “Corn in the U.SA”, followed by our mains of “Dancing in the Duck”. Everybody had a hungry heart that night, and ate with gusto. Towards the end of the meal, a dishwasher wearing a bandana, burst through the kitchen doors, screaming “I’m on fire!” From out of nowhere, a huge black guy wearing venetian-blind sunglasses came over and beat the flames out with a tenor saxophone.

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And keeping with my policy of not describing actual performances unless something truly amazing, strange or even mildly interesting occurs, we shall load the van up, have a little kip, and head to…..

Perigeaux, France (15)

It may be worth mentioning at this point, that we are now three days into our ten-in-a-row stretch. When we began working on this tour back home we stipulated with the booking agent that we wanted one to two days off per week. Through experience, the band has learnt that these nights off are very helpful when it comes to maintaining it’s collective sanity. This request, along with a request for a van that is visible to other drivers on the road*, has been duly ignored by said booking agent. It is not advisable to play ten shows in a row, in any situation, but when you factor in seventy or so hours in a car, criss-crossing Europe like a massive fucking shoe-lace, eighty more decibels of noise a night than is healthy, a van that actually seems to shrink if you leave it out in the rain, and not enough time to sleep, it goes from being not advisable, to some of the worst advice going around. Hey, Gorka in Bilbao! Hey Booking agent! Hey you! Do you read this? Huh? We’re coming to Bilbao (as I write) in three days!! WE HAVE A COUPLE OF ISSUES!! ARE YOU COMING TO THE TABLE?? PLEASE COME TO THE TABLE!!

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Pardon me.

So we’re late to soundcheck again, but this time it’s because the Spanish-speaking Global Positioning System in the car, wanted to visit his great grandmother in a remote village in the south of France.

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After a tearful reunion between piece of hi-tech equipment, and confused old lady, the GPS finally leads us to our gig in Perigeaux, near Bordeaux. Soundcheck completed, we are lead to the dining room for the obligatory, long, sociable, lactic French meal. I don’t want to seem ungrateful. I really don’t. It’s just that after sitting in a car for five hours, then unloading half a ton of black boxes and soundchecking, all you really want to do sometimes is nothing, Sweet nothing. I think perhaps The Drones were a little unsubtle tonight about not wanting to hang around for dinner. As twenty or so staff and friends stood over on one side of the room, drinking their incredible wines and making happy French noises, there we were on the other side, using plates or bits of bread as pillows, or walking around the room trying to find wireless internet hotspots. Some guests of honour, we were. Our apologies, Valerie and staff. Finally Mike and I check into our room, our really weird room with no curtains or bathroom door, and catch half an hour of the Eurovision song contest. It was a jubilant feeling, knowing we were to visit several of these countries over the next few weeks, not needing to feel musically-intimidated by them in any way, shape or form. I’m not sure who won (apart from “songwriting”), as we had to leave before the end, but we took a lot of strength and inspiration along to the venue that night.

And we had a great show! Lots of people! Lots of cheering! Lots of thankgodforthatIthinkIwasgoingtotopmyselfifthiskeptups!!!!

Our very own Eurovision.

But this is only the third show of ten in a row. Will we maintain? Or will we implode in the van, covering the windows in blood, guts and half digested croissants?

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Stay tuned folks, for more adventures through France, and our exciting and much anticipated boardroom meeting in Bilbao.

The guitar player.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Utrecht, Holland (10)

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Utrecht is a charming and elegant Dutch city, and it would be unfair of me to label it as a mini-Amsterdam, but sometimes life is unfair.

We had a night off here in mini-Amsterdam, which was spent crossing canals, pointing at old things, eating Greek food and enjoying the comforts of a three-star hotel (“Hey Mike. Come and look at this. Towels!!”). There was a Spanish rock band staying at the hotel, which pleased our tour manager greatly, as he was able to stay up all night in the bar, telling them what a bunch of pricks we were, no doubt.

The next day had us playing at DBs. A rather strange venue in the middle of an industrial park, on the edge of town. After yet another triumphant soundcheck, in which Gareth and I entertained the others thoroughly with our twin guitar suite of Jimi Hendrix’s “Manic Depression”, we were treated to a Chinese meal from the venue. The pork was fluorescent pink, the rice had large slices of processed ham and fried eggs on top and the beef in black bean sauce was like staring into an abyss, but still, being in this land of generosity and respect towards musical outfits affects me so, that I relish every glow-in-the-dark morsel (I side-stepped the ham). As I write, I’m struggling to think of one venue back home that would go to as much trouble as this place, and places like it all through Europe, to make a bunch of scruffy noise-merchants feel fed, watered and welcome. Generally speaking, the European attitudes toward music and musicians are quite remarkable. They value the contribution their artists have made over the past dozen or so centuries, which have helped shape and inform who they are as a people today. The artist is seen as a vital contributor to society, equal to the engineers, doctors, and the various other pursuits otherwise described as “proper jobs”. As many Australian musicians/writers/painters etc. would know too well, the general attitude at say, a barbecue with all your uncles, aunts and parent’s friends, is more likely to be “How are you Dan? Still doing the music thing? Oh well, keep it up mate. Listen your Dad’s got my phone number. When you wake up to yourself, give me a call and I’ll get you some work in despatch” than “Ooht! You are moosician? How very wonderful!!” which you may hear at a Hollandaise barbecue, I don’t know.

Point being, it takes a little getting used to, this generous, passionate and encouraging approach to the artist that they employ over here. It’s a pleasure to experience, though one should be mindful not to get overly acquainted with such a thing. Before you know it, you’ll be back in the country where it’s shape and information is for the most part, supplied by the people who can run and swim fast.

Not a terribly large crowd tonight (if your serious about shaping and informing a continent’s culture, you have to do a lot of shows to small audiences!!), though a gritty and sincere performance, they did receive. Sincere that is, until Gareth decided to stop singing in English about convict/cannibal, Alexander Pearce, and affect his “Dutch” voice instead. It’s a very quiet, slow and moody tune (“Words from the executioner to Alexander Pearce”), and very hard to play properly when you’re facing the wall behind you, with tears of laughter rolling down your face.

Having realised that as artists, we’d done nothing in Utrecht, to justify a free Chinese meal, we don the collective hairshirt, and head to Bonn, in Germany.

Bonn, Germany (11)

If anybody has been following the course of this tour with an atlas handy, you may have begun to notice a maddening “dartboard approach” to the booking of these shows, and it has only just begun.

So we drive five hours west of Utrecht, to play in a train station in a town several miles out of Bonn. Forgive me for not recalling the name of this town. For convenience sake, we call it Bonn. O.K?

If you say “Bonn” in France, people think you’re saying “good”. If you say it Germany, people think you’re saying “Nunawading”, or the equivalent of. Our show tonight was a last minute addition to the tour, no doubt so the agent could make some last minute pesos off a venue stupid enough to offer a guaranteed amount of money, in spite of there being no time to promote the show, put posters up etc. Needless to say, there were very few people in attendance. Maybe, ooooh, eight or nine. I hope it was worth it to somebody out there, though it’s hard to imagine it could have been. We had an American band supporting us at this show called……….oh………who cares? They were a self-described “Trucker-Punk” band, all seeming to be revelling in the fact that they were in Bonn, far away from their snotty kids and nagging wives. The amount of enthusiasm they mustered for this utterly pointless show was commendable. Not even the fact that three members of the audience seemed to be asleep, put them off their many “Cheech and Chong” routines, yelled verbatim through their microphones between songs, and their endearing repertoire of fart-based humour, served with a side-order of racism for good measure. Meanwhile, we were back in the band room, fantasising about hanging out with all of their nagging wives and snotty kids, instead of them.

Then we played.

Then we packed up.

Then we went to the hotel. A little place, run by an elderly couple. A very sweet couple with a distinct bloodline running back to the Wonka clan. Even though it was like sleeping in a giant cuckoo clock, it was a delightful place to kip, with a traditional German breakfast thrown in.

Then we went to sleep.

Then we woke up.

Then we had breakfast.

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Then we drove to……

Den Bosch, Holland (12)

Still have that atlas handy? Funny, huh?

Tonight’s show was in support of American band “The Black Lips” at one of the better venues we’ve encountered so far, called the W2 in Den Bosch, Holland. A great room with a cracking public address system, and very hospitable and helpful staff. The Black Lips were friendly folk, asking after people in Australia who we knew as well, and letting us use their equipment. We played to a healthier sized crowd tonight, and played well enough.

One thing I haven’t touched on yet in this diary, is the world of small-scale, music merchandising. The Drones have a selection of t-shirts and albums in the van, which are hauled out at every show, and which are attempted to be sold at makeshift little souvenir stands, set up by one of the band members after soundcheck. Any money that the band itself might make on this tour can only come from the proceeds of these little stands, lest we succumb to a more overt form of prostitution. Sales are often a good gauge of how the show went that night, and going by the progress the stand was making this particular evening, I had to rack my brains and remember if anybody in the band had actually killed someone in the audience by accident. Having drifted off into my regular pumpkin-hour catatonia, I adopted the unusual and experimental technique of yelling at people to make them buy something. The first person I yelled at was so dumbfounded, he had no recourse but to dig into his pockets and hand over the necessary amount of Euros to buy a copy of “Wait long….” My colleague in retail, Fiona, was suitably impressed, and asked if I was to yell at any more people or if perhaps we should just cut our losses and pack the stand up. Not having much voice left, we opted for the latter.

Our next show was to be in Haarlem, which is a phonetic spelling of the way Bono sings it in the song “Angel of Harlem”.

Haarlem is quite close to Den Bosch, and only a twenty minute drive to Amsterdam where the concurrent show is to be played, so we were quite happy to be staying relatively still for the next few days. That is, until we were informed by our tour manager that this show has now been cancelled, and instead we have a new show lined up back in Germany, seven hours away. Sure, the show is not listed on our website. Sure, the show is not listed on our booking agent’s website, and Suuurre, the show is not listed in any way on anything, anywhere in the universe, but “yeeeeessss we have gig there now”.

“Nooooooo we don’t.”

“Yeeeesssss you do.”

“Nooooooo we don’t.”



What do you think reader? Should The Drones decide to do this show in Germany in front of less people than the show in Bonn, then drive the next day to Amsterdam for eight hours? Or should The Drones politely decline and take the day off in Amsterdam tomorrow?


Amsterdam, Holland (13)

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Beautiful Amsterdam. Making inelegance elegant since 1178 A.D.

On the second day of our mutiny in Amsterdam, we played at the ornate and elegant Paradiso. A beautiful old theatre with two mezzanine levels, standing room only. Another show supporting The Black Lips, and the much better of the two. This time at the souvenir stand, Fiona and I were happily run off our feet for twenty minutes or so. One of the more interesting sales I made, was to an older, larger gent, who was insisting I sold him the girls medium t-shirt I had as a display-only item on the table. Perhaps as a gift? Upon making the exchange, he immediately ripped his own shirt off, and managed to squeeze into his brand new acquisition. He looked like a living, breathing Aphex Twin film clip. He attempted to celebrate his purchase with an animated gulp out of his can of Fax, yet only managed to destroy the re-sale value of the t-shirt. Meanwhile the crazed gypsy who was dancing up the front like an autistic Stevie Nicks, managed to break through the wafer-thin wall of security at the merchandising counter, and attempted to taste what Mike had eaten for lunch. As Mike was struggling for air, her perspiring, giant husband approached the counter. Uh Oh.

Turns out they’re both big fans.

He offered Mike his leather jacket.

And quite rightly too. From a strictly performance-based perspective, this had been the show of the tour, and might I say, I think we all deserved a creepy and sweaty leather jacket.

Later that night saw Gareth, Ryan and I making a complete spectacle of ourselves in a jazz club near the red light district. We found a table, and sat down in front of some of the most perplexing and downright awful scat-singing known to mankind. Initial shock turned to uncontrollable laughter, and we took the none-too-subtle cues from several of the patrons, and excused ourselves, settling ultimately in a terrifying Latino bar.

The next day was an ever-so-rare entire day off in a beautiful city, with nothing to do, and nobody to see. Lap it up Drones. The next one of these is in mid-June in Helsinki, but that that is a long way away.

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I woke up with every intention to take in the Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank’s attic and to walk along at least seven canals, but with the rain falling soft and steady, I opted to sit in the café downstairs for most of the afternoon, reading, writing and staring out the window. If you think this is a tragic waste of a day off in Amsterdam, I can assure you that it was an entirely pleasurable inactivity.

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We had a fine evening planned. Some Italian food, and then back to The Paradiso for a performance by Low (Mike had blagged us onto the guest list the night before). We’d had great luck with food in Amsterdam so far, and tonight’s meal was no exception. Upon stepping out of the restaurant though, we could hear something coming. What sounded like a train approaching through an underground tunnel, turned out to be a few thousand football fans barrelling down the street, heading in our direction. A waitress calmly told us that we should get out of there as fast as possible, as the riot police will be arriving soon, and once they do, you are considered part of a riot.

“What happened?”

“Holland beat Spain in the football today”

“Why are they so angry”

“They’re not angry, they’re happy. Just in a very violent way”

So of course, we split. Everyone except Gareth and Ryan that is, who seemed to need a canister of tear gas to explode very near them, in order to get a wriggle-on. As The Paradiso was literally battening down it’s hatches, we made it inside at the last second. To walk out of a soccer riot, and into a Low concert, is one of the more pronounced contrasts you’ll experience in life. They were exceptional. Playing mainly off their new album “Drums and Guns”, they had us spellbound all night. What incredible voices they have! What beautiful songs! They control their dynamic range so well, swooping and soaring at will, and never hitting too hard. It’s all in the voices. At one point, Alan Sparhawk very casually asks the audience if anybody has a place where he and Mimi can stay while they’re in town. I quietly wonder to myself if they have the same tour manager as us.

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Watching them play tonight made us all feel at peace with our choice of career. After what has been a very trying three weeks or so, for this, we were very grateful.

The next morning, we checked out of our hotel, all very relieved that not one of us had fallen down it’s stairs and broken our neck (that most of us hadn’t anyway), and bade goodbye to Amsterdam.

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Rouen, France (13)

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(Nothing mock about that tudour)

There was much debate over the pronunciation of “Rouen”. We’re pretty sure that it’s “won” as in won-ton, but with a little Frenchy sound at the start.

Rouen is famous for being the town where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, and after The Drones blazed their luminescent trail through town, it still remains famous for that, and for that only. This was perhaps not the greatest sounding venue we’d played at so far, but by George, it was certainly the oldest (est.1585). The Emporium Gallorium. Emily and her team of enthusiasts were terrific hosts, at great pains to make The Drones of Arc* feel at home. Thankyou Emily. The band room was more dungeon than anything, and the local man who ran the p.a resembled a hunchback with a half-decent back doctor. “Chiro” I believe we dubbed him. He had a real bee in his beret about Ryan touching his desk. But Gorka sorted him out the only way a Spanish guy who speaks o.k English, and a French guy who speaks none, can. In a very long, drawn out, and frustrating way. After much confusion, Ryan was allowed to touch Chiro’s absolutely terrible p.a, and we were allowed to soundcheck in the exact same place Joan of Arc’s cousin pulled beers. We met up with the support group tonight, our very good, froggy friends, Dimi Dero Inc. and had a fine meal of homemade quiche, wine, bread, cheese, wine and bread.

A very loud show it was. Like playing inside of a stethoscope. But when you get that "old dungeony feeling", you can’t help but have yourself a good time. The Drones, Dimi Dero Inc. and the locals celebrated a deafening performance with some French moonshine, sending everybody to an early night’s sleep in this place.

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The scariest sight a stumbling bumpkin could imagine.

Didn’t fall down them and die, though.

More photos to come.

*had to be done