power structures




1 / 24

Bournemouth, U.K

Played at the Winchester public house last night with several noise bands. We were all very tired from the Nantes to Cherbourg overnight drive to catch the 8 AM ferry, but the show went well nonetheless. Alan is the promoter and it was a bit of a new thing putting on shows at the Winchester, a fancy, old, wood-paneled sort of affair that once was a bank.

Together with Alan, we all stayed at his mate, Dave's place. Dave is moving out of his place today because he can't make rent anymore, because he was made redundant at work. Actually, he is laid-off from his job as a construction worker. He says construction has stopped altogether because of the economy.

Monday, 3 November 2008

2 / 24

Bristol, U.K.

Election Day in the U.S.A.

A power strip behind the bar at the Junction, Bristol, U.K.

Bob, the amiable proprietor of the Junction is in a bit of financial trouble since, he says, he's been through it. Since the recent economic problems he says business has been up by thirty percent. Tonight's show was poorly attended, however, so Bob is certainly losing money to pay us a hundred quid. He reassures us that we're not going to be the ones to drive him out of business. He keeps a philosophical attitude after 27 years of putting on shows.

It's about 1:30 AM now. Mark has been antsy all day about the election and he and Dan have gone to try to find some polling results from the U.S.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

3 / 24

Bristol, U.K.

Actually, it is after midnight, so it is really 5 November, Guy Fawkes day here in the U.K., though it is still Election Day in the states.

Four years ago when George W. Bush was re-elected, we were also traveling in Europe. I remember that Europeans were outraged and that they would ask us how it was possible. I would try to explain that I'm from Boston, so how could I know? Asking someone from Boston why Bush was re-elected is like asking someone from Portugal to explain why the fascist party is so strong in Austria.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

4 / 24

Milton Keynes, U.K.

Guy Fawkes Day: we are in Milton Keynes, England, at the home of our good friend, Don McLean, of Action Beat. Tonight will be a new sensation; it will be our first overseas show when we don't have to feel embarrassed about being American.

Don was just explaining the history of Guy Fawkes to us, and how he attempted to blow up Parliament in 1605. The fuse to his many kegs of gunpowder failed and he was caught. He was tried, and then hung and subsequently drawn and quartered. A tradition formed thereafter of burning effigies of Guy Fawkes on the date he was caught. Fireworks have come to be a part of the celebration as well, but they convey an opposing symbolism, according to Don, that suggests the unrealized possibility of blowing up Parliament, which for many contemporary socialists in the U.K. seems like a pretty keen idea. So the traditional festivities for the day now hold dual and curiously opposing meanings... though for most, like July 4th in the U.S., the day is just an excuse to set off fireworks.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

5 / 24

Milton Keynes, U.K.

Still at Don McLean's house in Milton Keynes, England. We arrived rather early, so we've had the afternoon to relax. The tele has been on in the living room continuously with BBC post-election commentary and analysis. It is a bit strange to be overseas, but to still be able to get so much news from the states, and perhaps better analysis.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

6 / 24

Milton Keynes, U.K.

It is morning, and I'm having some Earl Grey tea. We are still at Don McLean's house in Milton Keynes. Don's band, Action Beat, is doing quite well, with fairly frequent tours of Europe and a record forthcoming on the Southern record label. He says that even though he and his mates in the band have loads of debt from going to uni, they have all just decided to get shit jobs to be able to go on tour. Three of the guys in the band are all pizza delivery men, and Don works picking up bottles in some bar after hours. One occasional member of the band got a serious job after college, so he still plays with Action Beat when he can, but they've told him he's not an official member until he has the flexibility to tour. Don says this guy has been promising to quit his job soon.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

7 / 24

Liverpool, U.K.

Stayed at the Life Hostel last night, the home of Ellis, our young (age 22) promoter, and his younger girlfriend, Kat (age 17), and their ten house-mates. They were especially excited to see us because a mutual like of Neptune had been the first point of contact that eventually brought them together as a couple. As the evening wore on, an older couple, Lee and Liz (both 40-ish), befriended Ellis and Kat. Ellis said, We don't know them at all, but they're sound people; they've been giving us really good drugs all night. The evening culminated in a tedious visit to Lee and Liz's flat after the show. Ellis and Kat were quite drunk and obviously very high on cocaine. Everyone had vodka and lemonades, except for Mark, who just sat and drew, and myself. I ate toast. When we finally left Kat confessed that Lee had propositioned her to join him and Liz for a threesome.

The show that evening had been a free show (we were paid), sponsored by MTV. Evidently the network had been tossing a lot of money around town because their annual MTV music awards ceremonies were happening in Liverpool.

Friday, 7 November 2008

8 / 24

London, U.K.

Played at Hokaben Festival 08 in London last night, which was organized by Dan Chandler, formerly of Hunting Lodge, now of the band, Dethscalator. He was the main organizer, and things were a bit chaotic at the venue. When we arrived we were an hour late, but Dan and all the other bands were just waiting outside because the club was still locked.

Despite many rough points, and almost no sound-checks (except for a couple of main-stage bands) the evening went off pretty well. There was little in the way of management during the night and the bands were largely left to self-regulate details such as start and end times for their sets. I think the reason things went as smoothly as they did was that Dan had chosen a selection of bands who were generally pretty D.I.Y. and used to operating without supervision.

Toward the end of the evening we found that Dan had forgotten to organize a place for us to stay, but he got his mate, Chris, to offer to put us up. Chris turned out to be ace; a really excellent and sweet guy who lives with one housemate, John. They rent a flat in a large apartment block that was built as a social housing project originally, but which was condo-ized and sold off during the Thatcher administration.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

9 / 24

Bournemouth, U.K

Played at the Winchester public house last night with several noise bands. We were all very tired from the Nantes to Cherbourg overnight drive to catch the 8 AM ferry, but the show went well nonetheless. Alan is the promoter and it was a bit of a new thing putting on shows at the Winchester, a fancy, old, wood-paneled sort of affair that once was a bank.

Together with Alan, we all stayed at his mate, Dave's place. Dave is moving out of his place today because he can't make rent anymore, because he was made redundant at work. Actually, he is laid-off from his job as a construction worker. He says construction has stopped altogether because of the economy.

Monday, 3 November 2008

10 / 24

Paris, France

Played at Le Klub, Paris last night and stayed with the promoter, Jerome, and his girlfriend, Sylvia. At first he was going to have us stay elsewhere because the landlord was coming around to inspect all the apartments today, but then Jerome decided it was alright since we were leaving so early (by 8 AM) for Bordeaux.

Jerome couldn't quite make the agreed guarantee last night, paying us 350 € instead of 400 €. I couldn't be upset, he is so nice and I didn't want him to lose money on us. Also he is currently unemployed (he said he would be sending out some more C.V.'s today.) There were 103 paying customers to the show last night; had there been 120, Jerome would have been able to pay the bar and the other bands and pay us the full guarantee. As it was, he paid everyone, but was a bit short with us. It feels awkward when that happens. Should I be angry and demand more money from our gracious host? -No, I didn't even realize our guarantee was so high for the Paris show. I would just prefer it if promoters would not set a figure that they can't really guarantee... if he had just said 350 € from the start.
Jerome's friend, Elisa, did the cooking for the bands, so Jerome didn't quite break-even; he still owes her 20 € for the food, but there is no rush to pay her, he said. She made the best quiche I have ever tasted.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

11 / 24

Bordeaux, France

After the show at La Central, Bordeaux, France, a young woman named Marie offered me some wine made from the flower of the Sambuka tree, of which her housemate had been the vintner. She was interested in talking to me in a way that made me think perhaps she was attracted. Marie may have had a few drinks and she became animated as our conversation turned to politics. She felt that the only thing different about Obama is the color of his skin, and that his policies would amount to the same as that which we have seen before. She thought him to be an empty symbol of change.

I disagreed and said that regardless of his politics and what he may or may not accomplish in office, the willingness of the American people to elect him, and the general feeling of hope among people I know, already reflects a profound change.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

12 / 24

Toulouse, France

Last night Tibo got us onto a bill at Chez Paul's, which is a performance space at Paul Sabatier University. The school is located about 10 kilometers outside of Toulouse. The night before, Yann had mentioned that the big university at Bordeaux is also located 10-20 kilometers outside the city, and that it had been moved out there decades ago as a response to the student actions of 1968.

I was surprised to find Paul Sabatier University to be a large, somewhat run-down kind of state school with forgettable modern architecture, not so dissimilar from someplace like U-Mass, but perhaps in slightly worse condition. The only men's room I found had several clogged toilets, and one stall in which the toilet was completely missing; in its place, a pool of brown fecal-water. Somehow I thought it would be different in France.

Tibo arranged for us to stay at a squat in town. The squat is a sort of complex of several houses together within a gated area. In the main communal living room there were several computers, a fireplace that smelled of recent use, and a framed front-page newspaper article on the wall with the image of a graph depicting the recent stock market crash.

Friday, 14 November 2008 (drawing done 13 Nov.)

13 / 24

Espoey, France

Played in Lons, just outside Pau, France last night. The venue, Localypso, is a little converted garage space in a mostly industrial section of town, operated by a collective. Alexis is a member of the collective, and we stayed with him and his girlfriend, Gwen. They live about a half hour's drive from Localypso, at the base of the Pyrenees in Alexis' family home. After Alexis' grandmother passed away the house was empty, so Alexis' parents said he could live there for free. He is now the fifth generation to occupy this house. It is a good situation for him because he works only part-time at a high school and he has time to focus on music and the collective.

The collective has been around for just a few years and they hope to obtain some funding from the city soon, so that perhaps they can start to create some paid part-time positions. Right now they all just do it because it is what they like.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

14 / 24

Espoey, France

At the base of the Pyrenees Mountains we stopped at a gas station to use the facilities. As I entered, a loitering man made uncomfortable eye-contact with me. On my way back out he asked me a question. I apologized for only speaking English. He translated his request: he was looking for a ride in the direction we were going, if not across the mountains, then perhaps just 10 kilometers down the road to where he could catch a bus.

I deferred a moment, and stepping aside put the question to Mark and Dan, who were just then exiting the facilities. They both did not want to take on any hitchhikers.

Returning to the man, I told him we could not take him. He said he had seen it in our faces already.

I wished him good luck.

He said, And I also wish you good luck. May you never find yourself in a situation where you are in need of help and others are frozen.

Sunday, 16 November 2008 - Drawing
Saturday, 15 November 2008 - Text

15 / 24

Mojomatic, Montpellier, France

In Montpellier, I misunderstood Greg of Marvin at first about how he lives. He is subsidized as an official musician. But he meant that it is difficult to live on those funds. To be professional musicians, Marvin must play 43 official shows in a year (meaning shows which are declared and pay taxes.) 4 or 6 (I forget now) must be shows where Marvin is able to get at least an 800 € guarantee. Most of that money goes back to taxes however, and each of the 3 members of Marvin are able to keep 80 € each from those shows. In exchange for the taxation and the difficulties of having to play so many official shows, each member of Marvin receives from the government about 1,000 € per month to live.

Sunday, 16 November 2008 - Drawing
Wednesday, 19 November 2008 - Text

16 / 24

Montpellier, France

Greg, I forget, do you work at another job, or are you able to live from music?

I think neither of those two possibilities is true. I don't have a job, but I'm not able to live. Everything that I earn from music is taken from my social payment, you understand?

Yes, deducted from your unemployment?

Yes, deducted.

Greg from Marvin set up the show for us last night at Mojomatic (formerly Les Penuts) in Montpellier with the local band, One Foot Dancer. He made a photocopied poster for the show that featured an image of despairing stock-brokers watching prices plummet on video monitors. He said that he found the image on a website called, brokerswiththeirhandsontheirfaces.blogspot.com

Monday, 17 November 2008

17 / 24

Marsaille, France

Driving into Marsaille at dusk, there was so much sprawl, and graffiti and urban decay, we all had a sinking feeling and were asking ourselves why we were returning here. The evening turned out to be great, however, and we all revised completely our opinion of Marsaille. Felix, one of the residents at L'Embobineuse, who had so terrorized Kevin on our last visit for failing to clean the toilet after he shit, was transformed this time. He looked younger. Gone was his harsh demeanor and Hitler-style moustache, replaced by warm smiles.

Throughout the evening, during both musical acts, and well beyond, Felix, assisted by a woman (I think she said her name is Kinoo), engaged in a continuous performance: Felix struck sensuous and provocative poses atop a large table, wearing only a pair of flesh-colored Speedos, while Kinoo removed all his body hair. Felix is a tall, hairy guy and it was a lengthy and involved procedure. First Kinoo used an electric razor to shave down the length of his hairs all over, then she applied adhesive strips, yanking them off to pull the stubble up by the roots. At last she cleaned up certain regions one hair at time with tweezers. During the adhesive yanking Felix sometimes yelped in pain when hairs were torn from a tender part, then he would laugh.

Monday, 17 November 2008 - Drawing

Tuesday, 18 November 2008 - Text

18 / 24

Lyon, France

Pierre Desenfant was trying to explain last night why doesn't like the French system of musician's subsidies: because he feels it kills alternative music. Maybe it's alright for a band like Marvin, who play something more people can like, but for my kind of music it doesn't work.

To be Professional, musicians under the French system must ask for a certain amount of money to play a show. If the venue is putting on an official show with Professional musicians, then they can qualify for state cultural subsidies for the event (which they need, to be able to pay the elevated Professional level artist's fees.)

So the French tax money goes to pay for those musicians who can play enough official shows (events which are taxed) in a year to qualify for their professional status. As Pierre described it, it is sort of financial loop that supports only main-stream kind of music and actually can make things more difficult to foster a supportive scene for alternative/fringe music.

In previous trips to France the musician's subsidies had always seemed utopian to me, but now I start to see the other side. It also explains a bit why we don“t see very many really experimental bands from France.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008 - Drawing

Wednesday, 19 November 2008 - Text

19 / 24

Lyon, France

We got to spend almost two days in Lyon with Pierre. It has been two years since we saw him, but as he said, it felt like only two weeks. I returned the lucky stone to him... his turn to hold onto it for a year or so.

Pierre was the sound engineer for us last night at Le Sonic, the venue on a boat. Pierre has been working there for a year or so and is a bit frustrated with it. It may be closing in a couple of months because they aren't making any money. They had applied for some cultural funding from the city, and things looked good for a while, but they kept getting put off for a month or two, and now they have finally just received a letter telling them not to expect any funding.

Ground Zero, now in a different location from where we played it several years ago, seems to be the only alternative music organization that is getting any funding in Lyon these days. Pierre says this is typical of France, that when they decide to fund one thing, they just forget about everything else and let them die. There are rumors that Ground Zero has obtained all the city funding by black mailing some city official. Because they are so well funded, they can put on many shows for free, or at least keep the tickets very inexpensive, so other venues, such as Le Sonic, have difficulty competing.

We had a relatively high (for us) guarantee last night: 400 €. At 8 € each there were just about enough people there for Le Sonic to break even.

Pierre was additionally frustrated by the appearance of the younger step-brother of one of the two owners of Le Sonic, who arrived with his girlfriend, probably did not pay the entrance fee, and proceeded to drink for free all evening. This is the sort of practice that could really sink the place, since the margin of profit is already non-existent. To exacerbate matters, the step-brother and his girlfriend were really two of the most irritating people.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008 - Drawing

20-21 November 2008 - Text

20 / 24

Queen Kong Club, Neuchatel, Switzerland.

At the Queen Kong Club in Neuchatel, Switzerland, we met Alan, an energetic guy with a seventies style moustache and large glasses who helped us unload equipment; Laurent, the DJ and poster designer who didn't have a lot of English, but seemed to speak poetically and philosophically on any topic that came up; David, the more quiet but also friendly sound engineer who sported ten years of dread-lock growth trailing down to his buttocks; and Danny the friendly Dutch-Frenchman who helped at the bar and with cleaning.

The club was in a big building with practice spaces, a flat with various bedrooms for bands upstairs, another larger club with a big stage, and a restaurant.

On the main stage next door there was a big show with four bands. Dead Sexy, Inc. from Paris played, and also a band from Tokyo who I think were called Toxic Sonic, and two other bands. They all had eye make-up and hairspray and glam-punk outfits that looked as though they came from Hot Topic. Our show in the small room (Queen Kong Club) was only less than half full, but the big show next door had even fewer attendees. The bands, who shared the flat upstairs with us, were in good spirits, and to their credit they really threw themselves into the performance and put on a good show despite the lack of audience. The promoter for their show was friendly, but perhaps a bit bummed... maybe he lost a lot of money on the show.

Alan was the boss of the Queen Kong Club and paid us our guarantee at the end of the night. I asked him if he was losing money on us, since it wasn’t very full. He said they lost a bit, but that this was typical because it is a relatively new thing that they are open on Thursdays, and people still don’t know about it. Lately he said, they lose a little on Thursdays, but make it up on Friday and Saturday. If they are still losing money on Thursdays in six months, they will reconsider their plan. For now, he said he was very glad to have us anyway and we are welcome back.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

21 / 24

Neuchatel, Switzerland.

At dinner in Neuchatel, I asked our Swiss hosts whether they were glad not to be a part of the European Union. They said they were and they felt that the Euro currency had really messed up the economy in some of the wealthier countries such as France and the Netherlands.
Sure we will change, we must change, but the Swiss have a reputation among neighboring countries to be very slow, surrounded by mountains, away from everyone else.

Friday, 21 November 2008 - Drawing

Saturday 22 November 2008 - Text

22 / 24

La Sarraz, Switzerland

For the first time we have toured Europe without playing Espace Autogere in Lausanne, Switzerland. At first we were supposed to play there, but then the show was moved because Espace is closed for renovation. Espace Autogere was a Pro rock club years ago that went out of business, but then was opened as a squatted club. No one lives there, but it is run by a collective. This last year they were feeling a bit burnt-out after many years of operating, and the collective decided it was time for some changes. They have some new members now, some new energy, and they decided to completely re-model inside: to move the bar and make the stage modular and a bit lower so that it could be suitable for other kinds of events besides only rock concerts.

Je' was our contact for the show, and when he realized that Espace would not be ready, he moved the show to a venue called La Bille in the nearby village of La Sarraz. This was a fun show and some locals came as well as a number of people for Lausanne, who drove the twenty minutes to get there. La Bille is connected to an artist's metal-working shop and there are lots of cool metal sculptures around the bar. Suspended over the entire bar is a big, metal track-system. In the corner of the room you can wind a crank that operates a ratcheting machine which sets in motion an enormous, two-foot diameter, steel pinball that rolls down the track, all overhead, around the room, through the system and back to its starting point. The people who operate the bar say that it has only ever fallen out of the track once.

Friday, 21 November 2008

23 / 24

La Laiterie, Lausanne, Switzerland.

There are now twelve people living at La Laiterie, our old home-away-from-home in Lausanne, Switzerland. They said things have been going pretty smoothly for the last year or so. A little more than a year ago there was some trouble, and three of them had to go to court, where they were found guilty of squatting, but then allowed to continue. The English fluency wasn't really there to explain this legal oddity to me, but they said it had something to do with a young, energetic judge, and that it turned out alright, since they are still there (and have been for four years now.)

Much progress has been made since our last visit, two years ago. They have added a composting toilet, one floor above the regular toilet, which is essentially an out-house in a closet, built such that one can shit into a removable bucket. When finished, one scoops out some saw-dust from a container and sprinkles it over the fecal matter to desiccate it somewhat and to keep the smell down. The addition of an air-duct venting up to the roof makes it almost odor-free. When the bucket fills they move it to a composting area in the garden.

Even more exciting and impressive was the addition of solar energy panels on the roof that collect power into a closet full of recycled car and truck batteries. The batteries are used to power a secondary lighting system. Many of the common areas at La Laiterie are now wired with a dual electrical system: a twelve volt system that is enough to power low-wattage fluorescent lights which usually are adequate to illuminate these spaces; and the original 220 volt system that draws from the grid. These lights are used when the batteries run down, which they are apt to do after about three days of dark or rainy weather.

Water is heated by running it through specially black-painted copper tubing inside of long, clear, plexi-vacuum tubes in a roof-mounted panel, maybe 8’ by 10’. The solar water heating and electrical technologies are chiefly due to the efforts of two of the residents who work for a company that installs solar-energy-collecting systems. All of that which they have installed at La Laiterie are recycled materials that they have acquired for free or inexpensively

Friday, 21 November 2008

24 / 24

Colmar, France

Last night was the large, pro-venue called Le Grillen in Colmar, France, near Strasbourg, with four other bands. I've never seen such quick change-overs between bands, with several stage hands helping to move amplifiers and drum equipment.

Our old friend, Pierre from Strasbourg organized the show. His little record shop went out of business a hear and a half ago, and now he has the official government job to be a concert organizer for the area. It is nice that the right man was chosen. He said he has been putting on about five shows a week, but that his girlfriend told him he needs to slow down.

The sound was really strange on the big stage at Le Grillen; so different from sound check. We requested no strobing or flashing lights, but there were still some roving, colored spots that moved around a bit and smoke from the smoke machine. We decided after the show that we should have Regina include in our rider no flashing lights, no smoke machines. That fake fog makes me cough.

One Second Riot were on the bill, and they played very well, but it as a bit incongruous to see Pierre Desenfant (from Lyon) on stage singing I'm not a hero with crazy, heroic green spots arcing across him and Arnaud, and piercing the wall of fog behind them.

Saturday, 22 November 2008 - Drawing

Sunday, 23 November 2008 - Text