Tony MacAlpine European Tour Part 14: The Italian Job

March 11, 2012 Mezzago, Italy We rolled into the little hamlet of Mezzago, about 45 km outside Milan, with a couple hours to spare. Rested from our long boat ride, we were greeted with a sunny day, pretty and friendly people, and an easy, flat load-in with plenty of help. While we were setting up, we had access to unlimited proper Italian espresso, sandwiches, and the works. They had a great Belgian beer on tap that I loved. So far, so good. Mezzago is a pretty little town of about 35,000. Bloom is a venue that seems to be part of a community centre. There’s an old movie theater and dance studio on top (where our dressing rooms were) and a little bookstore with cool Italian hipster-liberal selections and vegan snacks in the front downstairs corner of the venue. The vibe was great. Next door was some kind of gathering of senior citizens, lots of older folks standing around jawing it up and going in and out. After we got set, Aquiles and I spent some time repairing the hi-hat again, and then we had plenty of time to kill, as we had a late start to the show. I took a nap, then hung around in the sun chatting with Mike and Eric over espresso. Not bad. We all did a quick soundcheck and made way for the local band that was also on the bill. While they soundchecked, we tasted some of the brews they had on tap, and Tony’s and band played foosball loudly. I declined, as competing with Tony in any contest that involves hand-eye...

Tony MacAlpine European Tour Part 13: Keep It Greece-y

March 9-11, 2012 Athens, Greece Adriatic Sea Venice, Italy We arrived in Athens with plenty of time to spare. After getting the last few blog entries together over coffee, we loaded into Kytarro Live with the help of the promoter and their stage crew, who were great guys. Not the worst load-in, but not the best either: flat streets, but about 200-300 m and around the corner to where the bus was parked. Kytarro Live is a nice venue: a big room, nice PA, competent engineers, decent backstage facilities. We got set up and fed and watered with a couple hours to spare, so Doug, Sean, Nili and I decided to try and see some of Athens. After a brief discussion on the street, we decided to walk to the Acropolis, about 2 km south. This proved to be educational, but clearly not advisable. We ended up walking straight through what appeared to be the worst parts of Athens for nearly an hour. We did see several showbills posted on the way, clear evidence that the promoter had done his job. After we’d reached the foot of the Acropolis park, we wandered around a bit, checking out Hadrian’s Library (from 152 AD) and the local shops and sights. I successfully haggled for the first time, and we saw many cats. We took a cab back to the venue and got set for soundcheck. I napped whilst Tony and band checked, and then AC got to it. We were nearly done when the hi-hat stand popped ANOTHER rivet, this time at the top of the chain. We stopped soundcheck, as...

Tony MacAlpine European Tour Part 12: Greece Is The Word

March 8, 2012 Thessaloniki, Greece After the soul-crushing events at the Turkish-Bulgarian border, we roll into Thessaloniki two hours late, as per usual. It was raining. We dragged the gear through cobblestone streets (I now hate cobblestone streets) into the 8-Ball club. What can I say, but “hello, basement.” The club was cold and damp. Upstairs the catering was set out, which was ok, but we were being taken care of by this greek lady who was chain-smoking the entire time. We kept asking for them not to smoke, but they would just light one as soon as we left the room. Soundcheck was a debacle. Our FOH guy (again, Mark Strickland, also Tour Manager) is fine with a nice PA and an instrumental band, but put more than a couple mics, or a less than ideal situation, and you see the shortcomings. As bad as that went, the actual show was worse. Nobody but me could hear anything, and all I could hear was Eric venting his frustrations on his keyboard. His solo in Desolate Supreme was, shall we say, unique? In that song, his solo is followed by mine, and I was the only one who could hear him clearly. By the time we got to my solo, it was hard to hang on. We got through the rest of the set alright, and the crowd was fairly positive. Let me take a moment to give you a picture of Tony’s band. Aquiles is one of the finest double-bass players in the world right now, and I’ve seen his mind-blowing chops up close. There are no tricks...

Tony MacAlpine European Tour Part 10: Everybody Loves Sofia

March 6, 2012 Sofia, Bulgaria We rolled into Sofia a little late as per usual. I woke up at 11 or so, and I was blogging when we met the promoter at the load-in point. Bad news: the load route was heartbreaking. Good news: we didn’t have to lift a thing. The day went by kind of slow and relaxed, which is a recipe for disaster for this group, I’ve learned. Aquiles had played here doing a clinic previously, and he’d said the crowd would be great and the club was nice. He was right on that score. As the mid-point of the tour, Aquiles wanted to change all the batter heads. He had a friend bringing some extra hardware pieces from the local music store, and a couple heads. I went to the trailer to find our extra snare heads to discovered they’d been left somewhere along the way. Not good. We got one snare batter from the local guy, and a 16” floor tom batter to replace the one that we’d changed earlier. So we now have the the beat up spares only. Hmmm. The upshot was the kit sounds great, and we added another crash, bringing the grand total to six. The Paistes sound fucking incredible, just wonderful instruments. The rack has been getting so cold and so shaken up during the night that the fittings are working loose. In Hungary nothing fit right. In Romania, it fit perfectly. In Bulgaria, it was back to tweaked. When we start setting the kit, Aquiles and I just look at each other and shrug. There seems to be...

Tony MacAlpine European Tour Part 11: Anybody Wanna See A Turkey?

March 7, 2012 Turkish-Bulgarian Border We rolled into the border about two and a half hours behind. Apparently no one had any idea how bad the roads are in eastern Europe and our trailer rig just can’t take any more speed. We had to have some welders come and fix the hitch assembly in Bulgaria. We all had to get up and walk our passports through. Then we had to go through customs. Then we had to get our visas stamped. Blah, blah, blah. Net result after over six hours’ wrangling with the locals: ONE temporary work visa for a driver (we have two); 135 Euros for tourist visas for 9 of us; no signed and stamped carnet from the UK so we couldn’t get the gear cleared. By the time we’d gotten to this point, our driver had reached his legal limit for hours on the clock by union rules. So even if we’d been waved through, the gig was still four hours’ drive. The drivers are prevented from over-driving by a keycard system that cannot be negotiated with. SOMEBODY (Mark Strickland, Tour Manager) dropped the ball on the gear manifest and fronting the visas for the drivers. Our gig had to be cancelled (biggest pre-sales of the tour, of course) and we are currently sitting in front of a Burger King in the travel plaza, catching up on emails and such. Sheesh. So much for Istanbul. Next stop (hopefully): Thessaloniki, Greece. Update: This debacle finished with several more hours of sitting, followed by a customs/border check system that seemed designed to induce sleep deprivation. Once we were...