THE SMUGGLERS EUROPEAN TOUR DIARY 1997
PART ONE

Hi folks, Grant from the Smugglers here doing a lil' tour diary. Us Smugglers hope you enjoyed the last Japanese tour scribblings, but this time we hopped the other pond. We spent the month of February playing shows throughout Europe, overlapping a wee bit in January and March, and we stormed through the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, Spain, Monaco, Italy, Switzerland, and Austria. We had a blast rockin' in Dutch bakeries, Spanish ballrooms, Italian squats, and Bavarian chalets. Here are some of the ups 'n' downs from the European tour of the Smugglers:

The cast:
The Smugglers:
Grant - voice
Nick - guitar
Beez - bass
Dave - guitar
Bryce - drums
SKA-T - roadie

Friday January 31, Amsterdam (no show):
1.gif (15630 bytes)We enjoyed a smooth plane ride over the Altantic, and we were delighted to see that we got the movie about the pseudo-garage band The Wonders in "That Thing You Do" to sorta psyche us up. Too bad it really, really sucked. We flew into the gateway to Europe - Amsterdam - and were met by Hans, the fabulous dude who booked the whole affair. Waiting in our four-wheeled home for the next month was Gijs (pronounced Heiss - weird, I know) from our European label Konkurrent. The van they nailed for us was a stick-shift Mercedes Benz - a totally domestic European cube van, so don't get excited like we did. As we drove to Gijs' place on our first-night attempt to beat jet-lag (Thanks to some weird, apparently illegal `hormone' pills that Nick's mom slipped him before we left, we all did manage to sleep the first night away.), we actually drove by authentic Dutch canals, windmills, and two girls kissing (dykes - ha ha. Not funny, right?).

2.gif (16493 bytes)Saturday February 1, 4AD, Diksmuide, Belgium:
Just 24 hours in Europe and we had already crossed an international border into another country! After we attempted to master the weird gear-shifting of the van, we headed out on the Euro-highway, driving ourselves, I might add, and found it amazingly simple to navigate. (When it was all over, we figured out that we got lost a lot more in the USA than we ever did in Europe - go figure).

Diksmuide is a tiny, dreary little Belgian town, close to French Normandy, and although we had the first night jitters (at one point I ran from the stage in a torrential fit of diarrhea and limped back with a ring of fire three forced instrumentals later), the little club was full-up with Belgians and Frenchies, more than a few of whom were familiar with the Smugglers to our shock and moderate delight. As soon as we finished playing, they turned the bar into a "rock'n'roll DJ party" and we hung out and drank with all the cool folks. Nick and I of course stayed up latest (Our sleeping quarters? A room filled with bunk beds upstairs above the bar.) and somehow managed to get on each other's nerves and almost had a bad punch-up. A few fists were thrown but the only casualty was a ripped up Pansy Division shirt.

Sunday February 2, Cafe Mukkes, Leeuwarden, Netherlands:
Back into the Netherlands, through Holland and up to the northern region of Friesland to a sleepy little town built around canals and a dairy industry, and famed for "the other leaning tower in Europe," some old rotting church steeple in a parking lot. The really overwhelming aspect about Friesland is EVERYBODY is Lillipudlian-HUGE. Like 7 foot is an average height. It's bizarre... they eat too much cheese and meat or something. They're also all very over-sexed: all the girls in the club wanted to hump the "tiny Canadian boys" and their boyfriends were into it for the novelty aspect! No joke! The promoters of this show, Sitse and Paul, are two fanatical guys with Dutch accents as thick as their cheese. They were constantly trying to set us up with every girl in the place, especially their girlfriends.

Monday February 3, day-off, Leeuwarden, Netherlands:
A first day off already, but it was a Monday so whatever. We spent the day enjoying the incredible freedom of Dutch society, most especially hanging out in a cafe, smoking a ton of hashish, playing pool, Scrabble and chess in an all-legal, drug-induced frenzy.

Tuesday February 4, Marquee, Hamburg Germany:
We were all freaked out to cross the German border (Hey, we've all seen "Gotcha" with the guy from "ER" - that's scary stuff.), but the only thing that identified the German border was an abandoned shack! The big laugh for, uh, a long time was the German word for "exit": "Ausfart."
20.gif (13028 bytes)This word caused no end of giggling for SKA-T for the duration of our stay in Germany. When Jim Thompson titled one of his lesser-known smut-sex-crime novels "Wild Town" he musta had Hamburg in mind as an inspiration. What happened in Hamburg is a classic Smuggler-doozy to rival even the famed "I Shit My Pants In Saskatoon" story, back in '90. This Euro-tale occurred on the Reeperbahn, the wild strip in Hamburg where all the action of Europe is based: sex 'n' drugs 'n' rock'n'roll. This is where the Beatles honed their musical-craft, and where sex is a major, legal business and corner stores sell an equal amount of porn mags, chocolate bars and hand guns. It's a wild town.

Of course, like swingin' Amsterdam, Hamburg also has its fair share of red-light districts. They're cordoned off streets where women sit in the street-level picture windows in string bikinis and bask in the red glow of their open-for-business signal. At first we thought they were mannequins, until one of them leaned forward, opened her window and grunted in a coarse German accent, "Wanna fuck me?" We all ran.

After catching our breath at some stripper-tiki-schnitzel bar around the corner, us Smugglers decided we couldn't let such a Karma-free legal sex zone get away, so we decided to pool our money and reward our totally lazy roadie SKA-T (Canada's Ska master) with a little bitta frau-fuckin'. We came up with 50 German marks and told him to go to it.  Apparently we under-estimated the dollar value, as it turned out that 50 marks (about $30 dollars) was only good for a "wank" (handjob) and a disgusted look from the women of the night. SKA-T went for it anyway, and picked a nice ol'gal after strolling and browsing the block a few times. Up they went into the sex-parlour where SKA-T forked over the cash and was explained the rules: "No touching, no groping, no talking, no nothing! Just cum!" Unfortunately, this lass was a little rough on poor SKA-T and he was not particularly stimulated with the situation. So there she was, a-yanking and a-tugging, with SKA-T trying stressfully to get it up and get it on, until he noticed the slick oil painting of Billy Idol in a g-string on the back wall. He was starting to go soft, and she was getting annoyed. "Hurry! Cum now!" Nervous sweat started to bead on the Ska King's forehead. Softer and softer went his little ska-cack... finally SKA-T had to resort to fantasizing about an old girlfriend from high school, spat out a little pre-cum, said a couple of "danke, danke"'s, ran down the stairs practically in tears and we all got the hell out of there.

Oh, the show in Hamburg was a thrill. Lotsa fun. Great crowd of punkers including the cool cats from Stay Wild magazine. The Marquee is only a few blocks away from the Reeperbahn and the red-light district and our sleeping quarters were actually in the dank, wet basement of the club. Dave drank too much Jaegermeister and blacked out for six hours. He came to in someone's kitchen making himself a cheese sandwich. No joke!!!

Wednesday February 5, Gleiss 22, Munster, Germany:
3.gif (17715 bytes)The over-all fave show of the tour was Munster, Germany, because it was a Wednesday night and we weren't expecting much, and we were sitting outside in our van, slipping into the pre-show, nothing to do, feel sorry for ourselves bullshit, condemning the gig before it even happened for pretty much no reason. Just a collective bad mood. When we finally went inside to see the openers (a cool r'n'r band from Spain called Los Ass-Draggers), to our total surprise the place was completely packed with cool kids that loved punk, pop and rock'n'roll music. We had a wild night with over-the-top dance contests (I think a girl with crutches won somehow), kissing contests, and a total of four encores - our most ever, definitely. By the end we had played about sixty songs, every one we knew, we were totally fucked up with exhaustion, soaked in our sweat and the audience's beer, but we had a pure blast. That was a vinyl loving crowd too! In the end, they had bought a grand total of 29 vinyl LPs, which is another "record" for us. (They bought some CDs too, but the vinyl stat is good-good lovin'. Power to the people!)

Thursday February 6, day off:
Spent the day driving outta Germany listening to SKA-T snickering, "Ausfart... hee hee hee." Then we entered the back-end of Belgium and drove into the ancient little town of Tongeren, the oldest settlement in the country. Dude, there's still the relics of the Roman wall surroundin'er! We spent the night hanging out at the club we were playing the next night, getting to know the local kids and being introduced to Belgium's un-official national sport, Table Soccer, or Foosball. Whatever ya call it, we were hooked and played and drank all night.

Friday February 7, Club Sjofaasj, Tongeren, Belgium:
Although most of the clubs in Europe are open to all-ages, this was the first show that seemed like a North American all-ages show. There were a ton of kids there on account that it was the last day of school for awhile. The strange thing was, Tongeren is such an isolated town yet all the kids had NOFX, Propaghandi, Queers, Mr T Experience and Pansy Division shirts. The place is run by a very cool guy named Mickey with a lot of savvy. Oh my god, so many young girls too.... The irony of some of the fans singing along to the DJ's selection of "Like A Virgin" was simply too ironic to bear....

Saturday February 8, Salle Polyvalente, Plassac, France:
Crossed into France and drove the lonesome highway all the way down to a tiny, my-noot town on the Atlantic Ocean just north of Bordeaux, which is just north of the northwestern Spanish border - gettit? Plassac is a spooky, dark, grey, dreary little place, and the first locale we hit where no one actually spoke English (you know those French - it's just "moi moi moi" - JUST KIDDING!). Luckily, being from Canada, this shouldn't have been a problem since French is our second language and we all took it in school for twelve years. Unluckily, we are two shades lighter than retarded and forgot it all (at least for awhile... we slowly picked up on it, especially Dave). The show was put on by a local community collective and we were their monthly dance. The guy in charge looked like a cross between Harvey Keitel, a viking, and a pigmy and was a very happy, very physical, very drunk Frenchman. He wore those glasses where they magnify the eyes like 20 times larger than reality which made this dude even weirder, especially when he was trying to hug and kiss us.
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The audience here really didn't know what to make of us. For the first time ever we truly felt like some sort of pathetic Sha-Na-Na good-time rock'n'roll rental review show, as some of the adults tried to dance, and the teenagers thought we were totally square and hung out in the parking lot and smoked. Even SKA-T saw us in a new light and thought we sucked.

The town collective did treat us like kings though. Our backstage was the town museum (no joke) and they put us up in a beautiful hotel, high in the hills, in the middle of acres and acres of vineyards. It was quite incredible, and not just because the hotel was run by two gorgeous young twins.

Sunday February 9, La Casamance, La Rochelle France:
Known as the "Gateway To The New World," this is the Atlantic port town that all the explorers took off from back in the day. Like Cartier and Cabot and all that. Anyway, our show was at a tiny club where the backstage/sleeping quarters were bigger than the actual club, so after the gig we hosted the party in the band apartment (which featured the graffiti "Joe Queer was here - and HATED it!") where we were staying. After our guests drank all of our whiskey and beer and ate our dinner and snacks, these French fuckers went nuts! They were spitting in our faces, horking on our show jackets, smashing bottles on the floor and the beds, spilling wine on our clothes, and this was all in some apparent "appreciation" of our show. Mon dieu, those people were O.O.C! Beez eventually had a minor carrot (see Salt Lake City, February '96) and threw everybody out.

Monday February 10, day off:
Spent one more day wandering around the small winding streets of rainy La Rochelle and slept another night in the cramped and soiled quarters of La Casamance, but we were happy for the free accommodation!

  Europe-Part Two