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Catching Up, Vol II: Apparently This Is Normal

Hello, friends! Rob here.

My previous post, much like the most recent season of True Detective, jumped between different timelines to heighten dramatic tension and deftly manage audience expectations. I imagine Mahershala Ali and I will be competing for many of the same artistic and humanitarian honors during the next awards season. Anyway, the Europe flashback concluded with our travel day from London to Amsterdam, and the present-day timeline left off when we were in Texas. Let's see how that trip to Amsterdam is/was going:

We arrived in Amsterdam well after sundown and everyone immediately went and hit the town. Now, I know what you're all thinking- "Amsterdam, maaaaan- did you guys like, get super high on drugs or what?" I'll tell you this much: I don't know. What I do know is that a funny thing happens when you tell your friends your band is going to Amsterdam: your friends book plane tickets to Amsterdam. I met up with a few such friends and went looking for food near our hotel. After trying three or so places that were closing up and couldn't seat us, a kindly hostess gave us directions (every local I encountered spoke impeccable English) to a nearby gastropub: "go to the end of the street, turn left, walk past the ladies, and then it'll be there on your left." I'm not sure what I thought she meant by "the ladies." Maybe a fountain or a statue or something? Lotta fountains and statues 'round these parts. Heck, she could've been talking about an underwhelming San Francisco landmark (it's just a row of houses! They don't even do anything!). She was not talking about any of those things, but rather two blocks' worth of scantily-clad women standing in windows and illuminated only by red lights, because of course. That was not where my mind went. I can't help it if I have the pure golden heart of a child.

The gastropub turned out to be cozy and buzzy and intimately-lit. We chowed down on impossible burgers there, walked back past the ladies and closer to the heart of town, where we found a whiskey bar that was outfitted to look like an old library, complete with one of those precarious ladders that you had to climb to get to the restroom. The menu was roughly the size of a phone book, and I took a while to pick a whiskey, despite doing it with the benefit of zero expertise and virtually at random. And then, inevitably, they were out of it*, so the bartender came back with three bottle of similar whiskeys and, after he took the trouble of comparing/contrasting their respective bouquets and flavor profiles with that of my original "selection," I just pointed at one of them, which was obviously the most expensive of the three but whatever I just really needed this to be over because this bartender was definitely fed up with me. Fun night.

*: Don't tell anyone, but my superpower is ordering the thing that they're out of. This is particularly true with draft beer. It seems like it would be a curse, and for the most part it is, but sometimes, when the tap sputters out mid-pour, the bartender will offer the resulting half-beer for free on top of whatever I order as a replacement. THIS IS THE SECRET TO MY YEARS OF SUSTAINED EXCELLENCE. Speaking of the old "well, if you're just going to throw it away..." discount, this one time I was at D-Mac's in New Orleans with some friends when we noticed that they had placed a cup under the tap on their Jagermeister dispenser because it was dripping. The cup was almost full, and we asked the bartender what she was going to do with it, and that's how we ended up with a pint glass full of room-temperature stag piss for five dollars. It's worth noting that Jager is concentrated hell-juice and none of us had really bothered with it since college, so this was ultimately a pretty punishing venture. But a good deal is a good deal and, despite being one of the worst decisions I've ever made, this was the deal of the century.

Our hotel in Amsterdam was nestled along one of the innumerable canals spiderwebbing through the city. Amsterdam was everything a wide-eyed American could hope for in an old-world European city- a perfect labyrinth of peaked roofs and cobblestones and streets older than their own names. Yet it was still somehow one of the easiest cities to get around. In fact, let's do some ranting:

In Amsterdam, I took public transit from the hotel to the venue and my years in the United States did nothing to prepare me for how simple it would be. This venue was on the other side of the IJ, which meant I had to take the subway to Amsterdam Centraal [sic] Station, walk up a few flights of stairs, board a goddamned ferry, and cross the water to get there. In Dutch. And it was a easy! And cheap! The ferry was free! Of all the things that a progressive-minded individual such as myself might find enviable about European society (education, health care, the ability to go three days without a mass shooting, bicycles, etc.), the foremost may very well be public transportation. Robust American transit networks like one might find in New York or Chicago are few and far between and still pale in comparison to what seems to be the norm in Europe. Let's all push our cars into a lake.

Amsterdam was probably the wildest show of the tour. The "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" cover went well enough in London that we decided to break it out again at the end of the Amsterdam show. The crowd was asking us to do "Soulfight" (which is completely unprecedented), so Dave said "we'll do it if you guys go absolutely nuts on this one." Amsterdam called our bluff pretty hard, breaking out into a full-on mosh pit- the first in band history!

That was awesome, but in remembering it I remembered that at some point during that show I saw a person in the balcony throw a punch at somebody. Over the years I've seen a handful of fights at our shows, ranging from a quick shove or a drink splashed in someone's face to a full-on melee on the basketball court of a small university that resulted in a few minutes where we had to stop playing music and just use our mics to urge everyone to calm the hell down. Several people were escorted from the room by campus police. There was blood. The reason I bring this up is not to tell you not to do that (although seriously, don't. Its fucking lame.), but rather because it's weird that, whenever there's a fight brewing in front of me, one of the soon-to-be-culprits will inevitably give me this knowing look, like, "ugh, can you believe this? I know right? I can't even," like I'm automatically on their team or something. I don't care if I high-fived you earlier in the set; if you're about to be altercating at a Revivalists show- regardless of fault- then we are not buddies. I want no part of this. Squash it or walk away. I'm not going to mediate your garbage fire. I don't have your back. I don't care how certain you are that your cause was righteous and your actions just when you punched that guy in the face and dumped your drink on his kid.  Real talk- from where I'm standing, you both look like assholes. Even the kid looks like an asshole to me. We're all supposed to be on the same team here. Hug it out, then go to separate corners of the room.

Anyway. I think we're almost in Brussels?

There was a strong hang after the Amsterdam show. Bus call the next day felt like taking a left hook straight to the jaw. Of all the countless lies I've told myself at 2 AM, the most insidious would have to be "I'll sleep on the bus/van/plane tomorrow." I just can't do it. No matter how sick, tired, or hungover I get, once I get out of bed and into tomorrow's mode of conveyance, I am aggravatingly alert.

This may just be because my heath improved and my jetlag subsided over the course of the week, but I think Brussels may have been my favorite city. I certainly made the most of it.  Our hotel felt like it was situated at the absolute epicenter of not only Brussels but all of Belgium. During Freshman orientation at Tulane, my tour guide drew our attention to these blue safety phones dotting the campus which could be used to call university police at any time. Apparently they were placed strategically so that one of them would be visible from anywhere on campus. I think that when they made Brussels, they did that, but with staggeringly beautiful historic buildings. I could hardly duck through a single twisting alley without finding myself in the shadow of some centuries-old cathedral or iconic statue:

(this is why I don't take a lot of selfies)

What were you expecting- a statue of an impish young lad relieving himself into a fountain? Pish tosh, you philistines. That's the Muscles from Brussels himself, Mr. Jean-Claude Van Damme. I rented a city bike and went on what turned out to be a pretty lengthy pilgrimage to get there, but it was well worth it for the picture, and I got to see what the city looked like outside of the Grand Place area where we spent most of our time.

Speaking of short-term rental vehicles, I know they're kind of annoying and it's impossible to look cool while riding one and we're probably on the verge of seeing a Vox article about how they're giving children radiation poisoning or something, but gosh help me I love those motorized app scooters. They're perfect for mid-range city exploration. For reasons I can't fully elucidate, when I'm on tour I HATE Lyfting to and from restaurants unless we're going somewhere specific in a big group. If I'm just trying to step out for lunch, it feels like admitting defeat to call a car both ways just so I can make the 1.4-mile trip to the nearest Vietnamese place. Scooters fix that. Plus, they're just dangerous enough to be fun without being too dangerous. UNLESS you're in Brussels, where they don't throttle them. I swear I got one of those little bastards up to like 30 mph on a downhill run. It's a miracle I still have all of my fingers and teeth.

I wasn't there for it, so my account is missing a few details, but when our bus was parked outside the venue in Brussels a few members of the crew heard a noise from inside the cargo compartment, and when they went to investigate, a gaggle of stowaways poured out onto the street. Apparently they had seen the English plates and were looking for a ride into the UK. They were combative when confronted- one even pulled out a pocket knife- but our bus driver wearily them shooed away, claiming that this kind of thing was not too uncommon.

The show in Brussels was in a gorgeous, intimate rotunda adjacent to the city's botanical gardens. Yes, fancy. Our friends in Sweet Crude had a show there the following evening with Tank & The Bangas, so they were in town. We all went out after the show and things got pretty loose. I've always loved Belgian beers because they combine the opaque density of motor oil with the double-digit ABV of wine and still manage to taste good. As a bonus, they were all cheap as hell compared to what you'd pay for them at a bar in the 'States.

The evening wound merrily down, and the next morning tour was over. A few of the guys stayed in Brussels or went back to Amsterdam or on to other cool places, and a few of us took the bus to the airport to fly home. Multiple people  slept through their alarms and almost missed bus call. Brussels is awesome.

Another side effect of my traveling separately from the rest of the gang was that I had a three-hour layover in Copenhagen on my way home. I can't quite put my finger on it, but something about the Copenhagen airport gave me a pretty serious Dr. Seuss vibe. Anyway, despite having arrived at the Brussels airport with time to spare, I had ended up having to sprint a little to make my flight out due to an unannounced gate change and the rustiness of my French, so in addition to the fresh set of socks and underwear had I packed for the transatlantic flight (a fresh pair of socks can be dynamite for morale) I now needed a non-sweaty shirt and pair of pants. I bought some overpriced athleisurewear and a t-shirt with a viking skull on it and ate some surprisingly good sushi off of a conveyor belt, and just like that I was stretched out in a sparsely-occupied section of an Airbus (maybe your international flights wouldn't be so undersold if you offered complimentary beer & wine, Scandinavian Airlines) and bound for home.

* * *

A few weeks ago, I did my customary barricade dive during "It Was A Sin" in either Tucson or Tempe (can't remember) and there was a guy right in front of me taking video with his phone, and I reached for his phone because I was going to grab it and take some EPIC selfies while I was down there, but unfortunately, due to my inability to express myself verbally while there's a saxophone in my mouth, I think I gave this poor fellow the impression that I wanted him to put his phone away, so he turned it off and put it in his pocket! I accidentally ruined some dude's sweet video! My man, I swear, I was only trying to make it even sweeter.  This is the kind of thing that keeps me up at night.  Also, I know the whole "put your phone away and have an experience" thing is pretty hot these days, but playing in front of a sea of cameras doesn't really faze me. Just- for the love of God- don't take video with the flash on.

Oh yeah, so, tour is over. What a tour! What a blast! I packed for nineteen different climates! We made two distinct trips to Austin!  We finally played Key West again (including an epic jambush during Honey Island Swamp Band's set at the Green Parrot)! I spent St. Patrick's Day with my brother! We did ACL Live! We found an all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant!

That, ladies and gentlemen, is damage. It's also Connor, who at the moment this picture was taken had just consumed his own bodyweight in raw eel.  (Plus Ed coming down with a case of the goodtimes.)  Anyway, I wanted to keep this side of the update relatively short since the Europe part was pretty meaty, so that's what I'm going to do. See you whenever.