Today Is The Day European Tour Diary 2011, Part Two

By Jay H. Gorania

Here is entry two in Jay H. Gorania’s European vacation 2011 on the road with Today Is The Day.

April 9 – Dublin, Ireland

The next morning, we were only looking at a brief drive southward to the Republic of Ireland. We ended up having enough time in Dublin to check out a metal store at which we ran into Boston’s PanzerBastard. Counter to the bleakness of the band’s material, their singer Keith Bennett’s demeanor was upbeat, to say the least, and his beer sharing gesture was definitely appreciated.

The store’s black metal-rich content was extensive, but what made the greatest imprint upon my memory was the CD I flipped across from a Japanese band called Cutthroat, featuring members of Sigh. The CD was entitled Rape! Rape! Rape! How pleasant.

But after having some surprisingly delicious burritos (in Ireland?), we made our way to the venue. The show’s opening local band, Drainland, a negative Neurosis-like sludge band, was easily one of the best of the entire tour.

Up next was Retox. Rather than “working the crowd,” or puffing his chest out in generic alpha male form, JP’s demeanor as a frontman is interesting in that, on the surface, it seems that it’s a self-serving form of catharsis. His biting vocals–like the band’s songs–are blunt, brief and to the point, mirroring his nature as a conversationalist.

In between one of their songs, a fan bellowed “Springer,” and briefly chanted, “Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!”

Not amused, JP snapped, “Wrong band.”

The crowd member was referencing a prank JP and some of his friends pulled on the Jerry Springer show years ago in which JP kissed one of his male cohorts just to toy with the show and its audience. (Part 1, Part 2)

April 10 – Sheffield, England

Back in England, we arrived at the venue with ample time on our hands, so Curran, Ryan and I walked around the streets under a bright, beautiful sun. A couple of cute, barely skirted girls drinking wine hollered at me from across the street. When do chicks do that?!? Picture the stereotypical kind of hollering a construction worker would direct toward women. I crossed the street, and the attention was nice, and they were too, but it was obvious they were nothing but trouble.

I caught up with Ryan and Curran at a large park next to some bars and restaurants. It was clearly a college town. The park was filled with young adults boozing under the sun, playing soccer and frisbee. We set up shop and laid down to relax, chat and people watch as we choked down a mickey of cheap vodka. The wine-drinking girls caught up with us and proved to be more trashy than classy and as intellectually stimulating as an episode of the Jersey Shore.

“Do you like weed,” the blonde rhetorically inquired with a slow, weed-hindered delivery and thick British accent, before she and the black girl, in evil harmony, said, “We love weed.”

After a brief line of simple questions about the town and what the girls did as far as school or work, the blonde’s response was humorous, if nothing else. “We like fun, not serious.”

Trouble. Pure trouble. I’m sure that I was probably shanked in an alley by these ladies in an alternate universe in which I made poor decisions in this situation.

April 11 – Derby, England

The next evening we had supper with Napalm Death’s Shane Embury and his wife, who were kind enough to travel from Birmingham for the show and to hang out. Shane definitely enjoyed Retox’ set, which definitely was one of their most energetic of the tour.

Retox’ impressive resume will surely garner them attention (The Locust, Swing Kids, Holy Molar, Some Girls, etc.), however as an independent entity, they’re definitely impressive. With the utmost sense of urgency, Retox plays spastic, fast punk rock that’s edgy, metallic, aggressive and filled with attitude. And yes, from the get-go, the fact that dudes from the Locust are in the band is obvious as far as style and substance.

April 12, Manchester, England

Deep thoughts – by Ryan Jones. Former Napalm Death drummer Mick Harris, along with Napalm Death’s guitarist Mitch Harris, should form a band with Iron Maiden bassist Steve Harris. This band will be called Harris.

April 13 – London, England

Outside, on an empty back street near the downtown area venue, Today is the Day was doing a photo shoot for Terrorizer magazine in the afternoon. Retox’ bassist Thor and I were just a stone’s throw away waiting for them inside the van. In the midst of casual conversation, I couldn’t help but wonder how Thor was given such an atypical name.

Did his naming entail a source of Scandinavian pride exclusively, or was there a racist element involved, by chance? However uncool, and admittedly prejudicial, my thought process might have been, I suppose I couldn’t help but think this could be a possibility since he is blonde and extremely fair-complected, and, well, because he’s from Idaho, a place that’s been known for having well-organized, vocal white power organizations.

Thor candidly disclosed that his parents are white supremacists; his father, in fact, once belonging to the white power skinhead movement. By virtue of being an open-minded dude, inherently, he didn’t follow that path. And where his lack of a racist world view came at odds with his parents was when he began to date women who were not white. Since then, his father’s views have mellowed, and Thor’s relationship with him has improved. But considering that he has ongoing struggles with a less than ideal family situation, I find it amazing that he’s such a well-adjusted and overall good dude.

After finishing up their photo shoot, TITD jumped back in the van and we rounded up the rest of Retox for the show at the Underworld that proved to be a highlight as far as both bands’ performances on the tour. Playing their old songs with the same stripped-down, rocking style as that of their new album, Today is the Day seems completely revitalized.

London was the final show at which both TITD and Retox played together. We parted ways with Retox, who had a few more dates before flying back to California, and we headed toward Holland for Roadburn Festival and to meet-up with the co-headliners for the mainland Europe portion of the tour: Soilent Green.

April 14 – Tilburg, Netherlands @ Roadburn Festival

After zipping across the English channel via the “Chunnel”–the undersea rail tunnel connecting England and France–and clawing miles across Europe, we arrived at Schiphol, Amsterdam’s airport, to pick up Louisiana’s Soilent Green.

They were initially slated to co-headline the entire tour with TITD, but Crowbar (whose drummer Tommy Buckley is Soilent Green’s longtime, original drummer) had a major North American tour alongside Saint Vitus and Helmet that came up and overlapped the time period during which TITD was already in the UK. Even though he just wrapped up the Crowbar tour, and literally just got off a Transatlantic flight, Tommy Buckley’s energy could have rivaled that of the Energizer bunny. That’s just how Tommy rolls.

Collectively, Soilent was rambunctious and lively in spite of their flight, and their obnoxious, loud nature was definitely an instantly suitable fit for my obnoxious, loud nature. See, while I definitely warmed up to Retox, it took some time because they were more calm, their humor was more dry. While a Retox dude was more apt to be sipping green tea and running through his smart phone, a Soilent dude was likely to be guzzling a beer and spouting off a politically incorrect joke.

At any rate, at the jam-packed Roadburn Fest, I had the opportunity to catch one TITD song as they performed to a full-capacity side stage.

Other than that, I might have heard a random doom riff or two when I was running through the venue doing merch-related things. Sadly, because the merch area was in a building beside the venue, I missed out the late show from Godflesh, who performed Streetcleaner in its entirety. What made matters worse, for me, is that a dude passed my merch booth and, while on the brink of tears, proclaimed, “Godflesh! My life is complete!”

The next day, Steve told me he would have let me close shop early had he known how badly I wanted to see Godflesh. Doh!

April 15 – Schwalmstadt, Germany

After asking several non-English speakers for directions and bouncing through some country dirt roads, the time-consuming nuisance of finding Schwalmstadt was finally over. Judging by the tranquil town center, filled with seniors and more seniors, the turnout wasn’t going to be spectacular. But I was eager to see the venue.

I could envision it. A place called the Bunker in small town Germany must be dingy and dirty and fit for the likes of intense German black metallers Bethlehem or Tsatthoggua. Or perhaps the venue would be filled with denim ‘n leather wearing long hairs who worship classic German thrashers Kreator, Sodom and Destruction? While the venue itself was exactly what I envisioned, I was let down as soon as I saw a show poster for Elektroboys. “Ze Elektroboys at ze Bunker beat lounge,” we joked.

Then while loading in, a short, frumpy fellow who looked like Nintendo’s Mario approached us. He even had the mustache, overalls and little hat. And he was filthy. “You from America? Band? Good?”

When the show was underway, the opening band proved to be as ridiculous as everything else in this town. They were a friendly batch of youngins playing metalcore by the numbers, yet their fans starting doing some kind of zombie dance, which was quite amusing.

I didn’t detect the slightest hint of prejudice coming from their fans–they were quite friendly, generous and sociable, in fact–but it was certainly, ahem, interesting when one of them drew a swastika on one of the joints they shared. This sparked a raucous bout of laughter. However off-color the “humor” may have been, they seemed harmless. I…think.

April 16 – Bern, Switzerland

Arriving at the left-leaning artistic collective/venue Dachstock was kind of special. It was the same venue I went to with TITD in 2008 for the show at which Unsane’s Chris Spencer jumped on stage with TITD, and then-opening grindcore band Complete Failure recorded their amazing set (review on Hellbound.ca). It was great to see some familiar faces still working there.

The large, barn-shaped venue’s green room area was filled, once again, with an extremely generous supply of snacks, cheeses, meats, chocolate, and weed and hash! The buzzing murmur of coffee and wine drinkers outside drew my attention to the green room’s window, providing a view overlooking the collective’s courtyard area where there was a live DJ and a showcase of paintings displayed on easels.

Before the show, we were led downstairs to a classy restaurant. There was enough wine to kill The Real Housewives of Orange County, and our mouths were watering at the prospect of BBQ ribs. They were filling, but the Swiss apparently aren’t aware that BBQ ribs aren’t simply ribs covered in tomato sauce, not that we weren’t thankful for the food. (For the entire tour, Soilent Green singer Ben Falgoust brought a spice shaker from New Orleans to flavor what he and guitarist Brian Patton, who does double duty in Eyehategod, regularly described as bland and boring European food).

During soundcheck, the very cool promoter that we knew three years ago asked me what TITD’s tour film entailed. Knowing well that there was a liberal/PC ethos at the heart of the collective, I didn’t really want to say there’s a regularly occurring image of a woman masturbating with a close-up of her genitals.

“You know, there’s just a variety of artistic images.”

A matter of minutes into TITD’s set, a somewhat muscular, big-boned, aggressive woman working there–who shot down my effort to woo her in 2008–looked me in the eye from across the bar. Stomping toward me, she sarcastically said she “might as well be watching YouPorn. Are you aware of our manifesto? What are you going to do about this?”

“They’re playing,” I replied. “There’s not much that can be done. You can talk to them about it after if you’d like.”

She yanked out some reverse psychology from her bag of tricks. “Well, I thought you had some authority, but I guess not.”

“No. I don’t. No authority.”

She looked agitated as she bit her lip. “Are you aware of our manifesto? This is degrading.”

To be honest, I had no idea what the va-jay-jay in the film was all about, but I had to say something, so I tossed her reverse psychology hot potato back in her lap. “It’s not smut. It’s an artistic statement. A vagina isn’t something shameful, in spite of what you might believe. This is art.”

It worked, and she stormed back to the bar. At the end of the evening, a cool chick told us there were others who were pissed off at us because of the film.

Pissed them off? What pissed me off, to be honest, was the fact that their manifesto’s framework essentially facilitates the kind of PC censorship that stabs the heart of artistic expression…um, whether or not I knew what that expression was in this case. In any event, I can’t say that I lost any sleep over the ordeal.

April 17 – Budapest, Hungary

There was a packed house in Budapest at a venue that had an American country theme of sorts. The cartoon painting of a bent over, nude native Indian woman was enough to let me know that this wasn’t the most authentic country bar in the world. It was about as authentic as the wannabe Pantera/Black Label Society opening band that I heard playing as I had supper.

As soon as TITD jumped into things, Steve’s guitars and vocals were basically absent in the mix, though on his end the monitor was screaming at him. After the first song, he smiled and began. “I love Judas Priest. It was my first concert. It was so loud. It was awesome. But that concert, I’m hearing all of that through the monitor right now. TURN IT DOWN!”

The mix accordingly shifted from bad to not-so-bad, but Steve had more to say to the crowd. “I’m illegal. I don’t have a passport.”

You see, shit happens. We didn’t notice until it was far too late, but Steve’s suitcase, including his passport, was left behind at the Swiss venue. We had an illegal with us, until we got his damn passport back, anyway.

After Soilent’s set, one fan told Ben he’d “seen a lot of good gigs in (his) life, including Slayer. You are one of the best.”

A couple of other show goers weren’t worshiping him though. Since Ben told the crowd that I am “big but not strong,” for shit-talking’s sake, a couple of Croatians jokingly urged me to violently respond. Looking at the knife I had at the back of the merch booth, which I left there for safety, one of them said, “He was talking shit about you. You cut him.”

Sean Palmerston

Sean is the founder/publisher of Hellbound.ca; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.