I awoke the morning after the Vienna show and checked the news on my phone just in time to see the first reports of a shooting in Las Vegas. At least two dead and maybe twenty wounded at a country music festival or something. By the time we had left the venue that morning the count would be twenty-five and one-hundred. When I got back into WiFi range in Budapest, the count was fifty-nine and over five-hundred. God Bless America, Land of the Free.
I hardly saw anything of Budapest, the only place on this tour that I hadn’t been before. We loaded in, ate delicious Hungarian Chicken (highlight of the day), I worked behind the merch table and stared at my phone all night, then we loaded out and drove through the night to Zock Astpai’s Punk Rock Manor in Graz, Austria. At the Austrian border at 4:30 in the morning we were stopped by two stern-looking border guards, but after they found out we were a touring French rock band they informed us that they liked metal (“like Gojira?” “Yes, we sound just like Gojira!”) and with a smile they sent us on our way.
At 5:30 we pulled up to the manor house. Formerly a winery, the mansion now houses eight people and a cat. There’s a sauna, a very large and well-equipped recording studio, and an entire wing just for visiting bands, complete with its own kitchen. A huge cellar with 60-foot high ceilings, formerly employed for making and storing wine, but now only occasionally used for large parties, lies beneath the house. We woke up slowly that afternoon and drank French-Press coffee on the covered porch while a steady rain fell. Astpai were recording the finishing touches for their new record, so I wound my way through labyrinthine corridors, past the sauna and workout room, onto the concrete floors of the garage area, past racks of amps, stacks of guitars, and boxes of merch, and through a wooden door into the control room of the studio. There I enjoyed more coffee while Zock recorded some color backup harmonies.
The Flatliners and Prawn had the day off in Budapest, so the show that night was Not Scientists headlining a small bar in downtown Graz. The bar was a basement at the bottom of a steep and long set of stairs. The toilets were located on the entrance level at the top of the stairs. This would become problematic the more inebriated the guests became. I was genuinely surprised no one was carried off on a stretcher, though I witnessed some close calls. Underneath a thick layer of sticky yellow tar, the walls were decorated like a mid-nineties dorm room. Posters from Taxi Driver and the Blues Brothers, band stickers, cardboard cutouts of Elvis Presley and Jimi Hendrix, a poster of Lemmy, and two “Marlboro Country” adverts from the mid-eighties. Bifurcating the bar was a glass and aluminum curtain wall evidently intended to separate the space into “Smoking” and “Non-Smoking” sections. The doors were never once closed, and people smoked freely on both sides of the wall, which meant that we were all smokers that night. Smoke ‘em while you can, Austria. Beginning next year smoking is banned in most bars there. I can’t wait for my next visit.
After the show that night we returned to Punk Rock Manor and twelve of us sat around the dining room table drinking tea and beer and having a good laugh at until early in the morning.
The sun was out the next day, as we packed our still-damp laundry into our bags for the short drive to Ljubljana, Slovenia, our last show in the old Austro-Hungarian Empire. More beer, more smoke, and an impressively manic stage lighting program that should have come with a warning for those prone to epilepsy. The after show entertainment was parking lot party under a spreading hazelnut tree that occasionally loosed a volley of overripe fruit crashing heavily to the ground around us. Again, I was surprised no one was carried off on a stretcher.
Tomorrow promises warm Mediterranean weather and good pizza as we wind out of the misty mountains of the Hapsburgs and onto the northern plains of Italy, past fair Verona, where we make our scene at Seregno.