Lastshow outfits (48679 bytes)The Smugglers European Tour Diarya 2001

As I used to say in grade nine after a particularly nasty hork, shit mama! Weak as it may sound, it’s fun to say and that’s pretty much the only phrase that my dim wits can come up with to describe our most recent European opus. For years and years, The Smugglers always heard stories of other bands touring Europe and just getting chewed up, swallowed and shat out. Bands losing members, getting sick, passport trouble, border hassles, terrible shows, van break downs, theft, ransom, kidnapping, and even being sent home by immigration upon arrival. You name it. Some of our friends’ bands have fled Europe mid-tour or broken up permanently as a result of a particularly nasty Euro-trek. We had always scoffed at these "road wimps" as The Smugglers seemed to cruise through Europe, no tour manager, no driver, just the five Smugglers and Ska-T navigating our way through language after language, culture after culture, hot gig after hot gig with the ease of Pavel Bure threading through a pair of lead-foot defensemen. Until now. In 2001, Europe caught up to the Smugglers and bitch-slapped us real good… to an extent. Our last tour through Europe was back in 1997. Almost fours years have passed, but we still set things up the same way, no driver, no tour manager, just the fabulous fivesome and good ol’ hairy, salty, stinky, never-sober/always horny Ska-T, the Canadian King Of Ska. In the words of the immortal Danny Glover, are the Smugglers finally "too old for this shit"? Read on to find out!

Feb 1, 01 Vancouver / Amsterdam

Even though the flight from Vancouver to Amsterdam is a long one (ten hours) we’re always psyched to go to Europe so we’re up for it. As most people who use flight as a means of travel know, most "in-flight movies" suck. They’re "edited" which usually means key scenes are lopped off with no thought to the story, so if you’ve seen an in-flight movie that doesn’t make sense, this is probably why. On this particular flight we sat through two, yes two, football movies. "The Replacements" with Keanu Reeves, and "Remember The Titans" with Denzel Washington. Nick’s reviews: Denzel good, Keanu bad. Very, very bad. On this flight we did have the distraction of having to transfer in London, which saw Beez getting lost in Heathrow Airport, resulting in him panicking, running through the airport screaming "DAVE!", "DAVE!" at the top of his lungs. He was found, but unfortunately, our luggage, as we found out when we arrived in snowy Amsterdam, was long gone. Yes, a little airline called "British Midlands" managed to lose fifteen pieces of Canadian luggage. Luckily we arrived in Amsterdam a day early, so we checked into a hotel, and checked out the 15 year old hookers in the red light district while waiting for the bags to show up. There’s a joke in there somewhere….

Feb 2 01, The Waterfront, Rotterdam

Our luggage did indeed eventually show up, all fifteen pieces unceremoniously dumped in the snow out front of the hotel by a rugged Dutchman for us to find strewn about the cobblestone sidewalk. Thanks, you Dutch fuck! Shouldn’t say that. We actually really like the Dutch. Nice calm people with smooth accents and cool money. Another Dutchman soon pulled up to the hotel, an old friend of ours named Gijs who is now in the van/amp rental business and we were his guinea pig customers for his recently purchased Mercedes diesel box van.

rubfingers (107663 bytes)And as we began to make ourselves comfortable in what would be our home for the next month, we rumbled down the highway towards our first show in Rotterdam. It was still snowing, but it was that close-to-the-ocean wet Vancouver kind of snow so it didn’t really hinder our progress, nor did we think it would really effect the show. It didn’t, as we had a great kick-off night. Lots of energy and fun, and a first! One of Beez’ many, many ex-girlfriends, who turn up all over the place, happened to be at this show, and so she was our "celebrity" dance contest judge. By total coincidence, she chose the exact same kid who won the dance contest the LAST time we were in Rotterdam! Since we don’t have repeat winners, we then turned the judging reins over to him, played another song, and he handed the trophy over to a very sweet lesbian couple who had been dancing all night. Yah!

Feb 3 01, Gleiss 22, Munster Germany

We stayed the night at the apartment/retro-museum of our old friends’ Edith and Sietse in Rotterdam, and after a sweet but too short breakfast visit with them we were off to Germany already. Munster was the site of pretty much our favourite show from our first European tour, then we missed it the second time, so we were excited to be getting back to this university town again. It’s a very nice venue, run by what appears to be a highly organized and friendly collective, who do a great job making the bands feel extremely welcome. It was still snowing, but was really beginning to stick since we had made our way inland. It made the old town look really pretty.

Sure enough, just like last time, the place was packed and the crowd partying hard by the time the opening band, the Boonaaras, an all girl band from Dusseldorf, hit the stage. Once we got up there, the crowd was rabid, welcoming us in a shower of beer, most of which Beez took straight to the face and onto his glasses, completely blinding him. He spent the first few numbers stumbling around in a panic trying to get oriented, screaming "FUCK!" "FUCK!". The backstage door was also right beside Beez, and once his glasses dried out, he noticed a drunken German slipping backstage every couple of songs and eating some of our food from back there. After about the fifth time Beez could stand it no longer, and basically had what we like to call "a carrot" (see Salt Lake City March 1996), freaking out at the poor drunkard, screaming "If you touch one more fucking piece of my goddamn motherfucking food I’ll kick you in your ugly motherfucking face you goddamn motherfucking cocksucking faggot!!!" Even though the guy couldn’t speak English, I think he caught Beez’ drift, maybe picked up on a few key words, sensed the mood shall we say, and sought his snacks elsewhere for the rest of the night. But that wasn’t all from Beez on this night. No ma’am! For some reason, half way through the show, he disappeared. He just up and left the stage for about five minutes, leaving us to stand there wondering where the fuck he was. Turns out that, again, for some reason, Beez wore a strange, dirty silk undershirt/tank top type thing under his shirt tonight. The undershirt turned out to be rather loose and slippery against Beez’ sweaty, clammy, alabaster skin, causing the shoulder loops to slide down over his arms, pinning them to his side, thus making it "fuckin’ impossible to play my fuckin’ bass". He ran off the stage, disrobed, tore off the undershirt, re-robed, then stumbled back five minutes later, a sweaty, stressed-out mess. The second he got back on stage someone sprayed an entire bottle of beer in his face. "FUCK! FUCK! FUCK!" This, friends, is a string of events that could only happen to Beez.

Besides the beer spraying, snack-stealing and undershirt incidents, the show was hallmark. The audience was really incredible, shouting out requests and dancing frantically all night. We kept ‘em going by playing a long show, and they kept us going by calling us back out for more every time we tried to end it. Thanks Munster, you’re always the best!

Feb 4 01, Underground, Koln Germany

At the end of the Munster gig, Beez met up with an old friend from Berlin and wound up staying out all night long partying, the rest of us stayed billeting with a guy who was once strangled by the lead singer of a notorious Spanish band in the hallway of his own home.

It was still snowy as hell (ooo… a paradox!) as we made our way down to Koln, again returning to this venue for the second time. Our very tall German super-fan (see Weinham Germany, Feb 97/Nov 97) Mitch Useless now books this cool club. Upon arrival we were sad to see the dreaded rock’n’roll jadedness had entered his once joyful, open-minded, energetic face. We’ve seen it a hundred times. We’ll meet an absolutely over-the-top fan one year, then come back a few years later and it feels that the very scene the person worshipped has chewed them up and shat them out its ass. Overexposure to rock’n’roll, like anything, can have a negative effect. Just ask Mitch.

Since it was a Sunday, Mitch was a little worried about the show, but it turned out great with another rapturous German crowd rockin’ and rollin’ along with us. An extremely flamboyant young man won the dance contest, and a sexy young woman won the kissing contest, choosing the rare "Smugglers Yahtzee" (kissing all five of us).

That night, while most of the Smugglers crashed in the accommodations above the club, Nick and Ska-T went out searching the streets for a party. When they eventually stumbled home they found a brown-eyed handsome man standing around outside the club. He explained in broken English that he had lost his keys and had nowhere to go, so of course Nick and Ska-T, being the friendly drunkards that they are, invited him to stay with us. Of course the rest of us, being a little more sober and paranoid, thought this guy was a gypsy killer who would slash us all to death, steal all the money, and then violently ass rape Beez.

Feb 5, The Cobra, Solingen Germany

Turns out we were all wrong about the alleged ass-raping gypsy boy. When we awoke, he was but a memory… just a rumpled blanket and a thank you note was all that was left of our mystery guest.

Our next gig was only about an hour outside of Koln so Ska-T and Graham spent the day hanging out and sleeping, Beez and Dave worked on fixing already broken equipment , Nick went to the gym and Grant peaked ‘round every corner for the handsome gypsy boy.

Solingen is a small, amazing town. It’s one of those rare little spots where the number of great bands seems completely out of whack in relation to their population. Awesome power-pop/punk/rock’n’roll bands like the Cheeks, Dirtshakes, Sonic Dolls, Embryonics, Jet Bumpers, Curly Wurly and many others ALL come from the tight and happening scene of Solingen, or "Hype City #1" as the locals call it (also the name of a great all-Solingen band comp).

As usual the German hospitality was awesome, and the show was superb. It was in a packed little rock’n’roll bar, our fave kind of venue, and even though it was a Monday it felt like a Saturday night. We played a long time, but people just kept wanting to party We dug up at least 30 songs, including two long encores. Nick had been doing a crazy drop/roll/somersault across the stage while playing his guitar in our finale on this tour, but this time, since the stage was so small, he backdropped into the audience. They crowd surfed him as he blasted out a solo, eventually pinning him against the low ceiling.

And you know it’s a good show when the promoters are in the front row screaming their heads off and the owner of the bar (a member of seminal Solingen band The Mods) is up on top of his bar, swinging a spotlight and prancing amongst pint and shot glasses.

After the show a dance party raged on with friends from all the Solingen bands. This is one of the many great things about continental Europe. In North America or the UK, usually the minute the show is over, the lights come on and some bouncer is in the face of the band and the crowd screaming at them to get the fuck out. Over here, the bar closes when the people in it, band included, is tired of partying. WE LOVE THIS. NudeFooze (142070 bytes)What ensued on this night was an intense, drunken Canada vrs. Germany strip-fooze ball game. Dave and Graham beat two Germans, causing the Germans strip their shirts off, but then the Germans surged back and beat Nick and Beez TWICE, causing them to lose their shirts and eventually their pants!! The crowd of shocked onlookers got a full showing of Canadian corn-hole action. Canada was defeated and the room roared.

That night we once again slept in accommodation above the venue, and sure enough Ska-T managed to pick up a girl to try and get some Ska-nk. The only problem was that the girl was in fact USING Ska-T to get upstairs. Turns out she was desperately seeking Nick, who, married with wife, ain’t interested. Ska-T managed to bed the girl in the middle of a room that already had Nick and I sleeping on either side. As Ska-T and the girl were lying there, with Ska-T carefully planning his next move, he noticed a strange rhythmic-liquid sound coming from betwixt the girl’s thighs. Sure enough, she was masturbating up a storm, one hand down front, one hand ‘round back, but to Ska-T’s confusion she had her back to Ska-T!! Then it hit him: she was violently jerking off to a now-snoring Smuggler Nick!!! Ska-T summed up the situation and realized he had to take what he could get. Seizing the opportunity that she was at least in theory horny, he slowly slipped his hand out from his soiled sleeping bag and across the mattress like a hairy, five fingered python. Up and into her sleeping bag he crept, until he slapped his paw firmly on the girl’s ass cheek, grabbing a chunk of butt. The wanking stopped abruptly. For a split second Ska-T thought he would actually get some sex on tour that he wouldn’t have to pay for, until his hand was suddenly wrenched from its ass-cheek grip, twisted into a painful half-nelson and slapped hard five very quick times. Ska-T retreated like a beaten dog. Once he was safely in the corner, like jungle drums in the night the rhythm of the wank resumed. Except this time it was two people doing the midnight jizz spank. Hint: the new person jerking off really likes ska.

Feb 6, The Limelight, Stuttgart Germany

Everyone in Solingen told us great things about this club and the promoter in charge, a fellow named Robin. The Solingen kids said "ask him why he is a cripple!" Sure enough, when we showed up to the cool basement club, the promoter greeted us on a pair of crutches. "Why are you a cripple?" Nick asked. Luckily, Robin gladly told us the story: one late night after a show, Robin locked up and headed out the back door into the alley behind the club. There was little or no light back there and after a few steps, all of the sudden he found himself falling straight down a black hole, landing with a sickening crash at the bottom of a sewer. Yup, some sick fuck purposely removed a sewer grate from the back alley, Robin walked right into it and fell twenty feet through darkness onto metal, concrete and sludge. He seriously fucked up his lower half, had to be removed from the sewer by the Jaws Of Life, was in the hospital for a month, a wheelchair for another two, now on crutches, all part of a year of rehab, but luckily he will walk unaided again. Robin thinks it was the work of some one in the neighbourhood sick of the noise from the club, but the police have investigated and found nothing. The sewer grates are now bolted down. By the way, did I mention that Robin looks exactly like Sam The Sham from the Pharaohs? Slick black hair, satin red jacket and crisp black pants. All he needs is the turban!

Anyhow, after all that the gig was nothing to write home about, so why I am? It was sadly the first official "dud" of the tour, in that we played to a small, detached crowd. After such a great start to this trek, we thought we might be in for a no-miss tour. But alas, no matter how good a tour gets, chances are there’ll always be a dud somewhere, if only to keep the ego in check.

Feb 7, Gaswerk, Winterthur Switzerland

Although we had driven through it a few times, we had never actually played in Switzerland, so today was a first for us and we were excited. That is until we got to their STUPID border. Most of Europe belongs to an economic community which means free trade, and almost no official borders besides the odd sign here and there. Gone are the days of the cold war borders armed by soldiers and checkpoints. It’s so lax, most of the time It’s like crossing between provinces or states. If you aren’t watching for the sign you might miss it. Occasionally there will be some abandoned buildings but that’s it. But SOME countries refused to join this union, and Switzerland is one of them. That means that we were stopped at the border and searched, and went through a ridiculous shit storm trying to get our merchandise through. After Nick and Grant were literally sent to NINE different counters in FIVE different buildings, we eventually found a kid about our age who charged us $30 duty and we finally got our asses the hell into Switzerland.

The Gaswerk is a great community-funded centre in the tiny college town of Winterthur near the German border. The kids who run it advertise well and present a huge spread of hospitality… snacks, dinner, booze and beverage; we were thoroughly spoiled as usual. And although the lights were in our faces and we could barely see the crowd, the cheers were nice and the Swiss kids seemed a hell of a lot cooler than their ass-fuck border guards. Played with a cool opening band called Toxic Guinea Pigs from Basel.

Again as usual, the Euro-promoters always find us a place to stay, and this time it was at the Winterthur army barracks, deserted for the season. (All Swiss men must serve a tour of duty in the Swiss army. The only exceptions? Disabled or homosexual. Upon learning this, Ska-T was heard to mutter "well I guess that pretty much rules out Grant, eh guys?"

Feb 8, Komfelt, Solothurn, Switzerland (w/ The Hives)

SmugsandHives (84941 bytes)Upon waking up at the army base, Graham and Grant were feeling pretty ill, so the rest of the guys took off to do errands. Nick, not known for his keen sense of direction, quickly got lost while trying to get his guitar fixed. A few hours later we were ready to go, but no sign of Nick. We checked back at the music store but nada, and soon ugly thoughts of Nick getting "Pulp Fiction"-ed by the music store owner entered our heads. The mental picture of Nick getting violently ass-raped with a cue ball in his mouth from a Swiss version of the Simpson’s comic shop guy hastened our search. We were just about to tear the music store apart when Nick strolled in, happy as a could be, having simply enjoyed a day in the fresh Swiss Alpine.

Together again we rolled on in our Mercedes tour machine towards another small town in Switzerland called Solothurn. Tonight we’ll play with a band that we have been hearing about the whole tour. Sometimes a flukey thing like that happens when you’re on tour. Another band will have almost the exact same route as you and it will either be shitty for you or for them, depending on the situation. Sometimes they combine the bills, sometimes it just doesn’t matter. For us it’s been Mudhoney in 1991, Rob Zombie in 1996 and Markie Ramone in 1997. This time around it was the Hives from Sweden. They were either right before us or right after us in a lot of cities and eventually we felt we were bound to meet up. Sure enough it happened here and what a great show it turned out to be.

The Hives are indeed from Sweden but speak letter-perfect English, and we immediately hit it off, discussing the four Swedish players we have on the Vancouver Canucks hockey team, the original "Survivor" (it started in Sweden), touring, rock’n’roll, Gearhead magazine, Lookout, Epitaph (their label) and everything else. We even took them on in fooze ball (no stripping this time) and Canada managed to triumph three games to one! Yes! Anyhow, what really struck a chord between the two bands was when we loaded our clothes into our shared backstage: by total coincidence, on this tour the Hives and the Smugglers had the EXACT same stage look! Black shirt and pants with white ties! The only difference was our belts are white while theirs are black, and their shoes are white while our boots are mainly black. Their stage show was also very similar to ours, in that they have two guitarists, a bassist, a drummer, and a singer who just sings, and they’re a high energy rock’n’roll band. There is one big difference between the two bands, however. They have a HUGE HIT in Europe, meaning we opened for them at this show and it was at a large venue filled with Swiss rock’n’roll fans! The hit song is paying off, meaning that they tour in a huge bus filled with video games and movies that they were also kind enough to share with the poor Canadians stuck in the beat up Mercedes van. The Hives are so happenin’ that they are missing a couple shows of this tour to fly back to Stockholm for the Swedish Grammy Awards!

The Hives also found out that we were for some reason having trouble with our Madrid show. After comparing schedules we realized that we would be in Madrid on the same day and once again, these Swedes showed their great generosity by inviting us to join them on their bill in the capital city of rock’n’roll. We exchanged records, t-shirts and email, then said goodbye, hoping to rock with eachother’s bands again in Spain. In our many years of travel we have never hooked up with a band that seemed so similar and so in sync with us. Dave, write a hit for fuck’s sake!

Feb 9, Leon Cavallo, Milan (w/ the Manges)

No trouble crossing the border into Italy, and we were really excited to be back into this country, our favourite country in Europe. Over the past few years, Italy has passed Spain as our #1 place to play and the place where the most people come out to see us. We were hoping that the scene was still going strong. A lot can change in three and a half years.

We pulled into the massive sprawl of Milan and eventually found Riot Records and our good friends Titty and Corrado, a friendly pair who have done all of our Milanese shows. We hung out for a bit, shopping and meeting tonight’s opening band, the Manges. (whose recent claim to fame is that Screeching Weasel covers one of their songs on the new SW record). We headed out to the van to go to the show, all yakking it up. We piled in, revved her up and put it in gear. Then we heard a crunch. You know those tire lock things that some people have as an anti-theft device? Our rental company gave us one and insisted that we use it EVERY time we parked. Tonight we totally forgot about it. And that thing was on tighter than a size thirty pair of Levis on Beez’ butt. After an hour of yanking, anger, swearing in two languages, tears and more yanking, it finally took the muscle of five Canadians, five Italians and one Italian dog to finally wrench it free. Thanks Manges!

manges (121798 bytes)Tonight’s gig was at a massive socialist squat, one of the most famous in Italy, called Leon Cavallo. Because the medium sized room wasn’t available, we were booked into the HUGE auditorium, the one where bands like Fugazi and NOFX play, so we were a little intimidated. The upside of the situation was the Manges. They were really cool to hang out with, and rocked out, doing that spread-legged Ramones punk, the schtick being all four members in matching striped t-shirts.

Once we climbed onto the huge stage there was reportedly about 1000 people in the squat, which meant another awesome Italian show, even if it meant people crowded up against the stage in a room that held 6000. A crazed Mohawk punk won the dance contest, and a very, very sexy blue-haired girl high as a kite on ecstasy snuck back stage after the show desperate to meet Nick To her delight, she found him half naked and covered in sweat in the middle of changing out of his soiled, sopping wet clothes. This didn’t hinder her drooling lust, and she proceeding to crawl all over him as he attempted to flatten his pup tent and explain in very broken Italian that he was "taken" and kindly offered up Ska-T to satisfy her apparently ravenous sexual appetite. Let’s just say she left with an empty stomach.

Spent the rest of the night hanging around the squat with the Manges, Titty, Corrado and other folks from the show, getting drunk on "grappa", basically an Italian version of rubbing alcohol.

Feb 10, Forte Prenestino, Rome Italy

A beautiful sunny drive down the boot, with DJ Ska-T’s camera pressed against the window trying to take a picture of the "Gladiator" house, something he was certain was just off the highway on the way to Rome. He waited in this position for about three hours, fending off our verbal jabs ("Oh… this might be it, Ska-T! I remember in the movie there was an off-ramp right near his house!), until out of frustration he eventually snapped a shot of a house on a hill with a two car garage overlooking a waterslide park.

FortePrenestino (152461 bytes)This venue is pretty much the most unique place we’ve ever played in the world. Another squat, this one is kind of like the squat of all squats. It’s a highly organized community under a communist banner, although once you’re inside not much politics is evident except for the graffiti. The whole place is enclosed inside of a massive stone castle/fort with huge walls and old gun ports, all over grown with shrubbery and trees, hidden in a park.

Our gigs here have always been truly amazing experiences and this one would be different if only for the fact that it topped the other ones before it.

After a great dinner with our sexy Italian agent Carmelo, we entered the main hall and were stunned to see about 1,000 partying Italians waiting for us. It was our best show in Rome, our best show on this tour and possibly any of our European tours. The happy people were packed in and as far back as we could see, dancing and screaming. A huge Italian soccer team flag weaved its way through the crowd and at the slightest notice we paid to it, the crowd erupted further. It was an awesome night.

After the show we hung out throughout the Forte with everyone partying well into the night on Italian beer and ecstasy. Ska-T made out with a girl at the merch booth, we did plenty of interviews and finally took control of the fooze ball table and beat the pants off flakey hippies til 5:00AM. Pure bliss.

Feb 11, Jack The Ripper, Ronca Italy

Certain Smugglers would suggest that the one draw back about playing at the Forte is that the promoters also expect you to sleep at the Forte. The people who run the place are so amazingly nice that you want to stay there, even though you are often in a room that, although recently cleaned for your arrival, is so heavily coated in centuries of dust it’s impossible TO clean. For that reason it seems that it’s just after playing the Forte that we all get sick, but Smugglers Iron Man Nick insisted we stay, Dave backed him, and so stay we did. The accommodations have been updated and are admittedly much better, but Beez said he felt his lungs seizing up upon entry, so he said "fuck it, I’m sleeping in the van".

The next day, as they raised the iron gates, lowered the draw bridge and let us out of the Forte, the only Smuggler feeling like he’d been shat out of the old Forte’s dusty ass? Beez. Sick as a dog.

Tonight’s show was in a small town on the upper east coast of Italy, a place we had never been. Ronca is a really, REALLY small town just outside of Verona, but unlike some of the tiny European towns that we’ve played in the past that have been disasters (see Plassac France, Feb 97), this one was true to the Italian tradition and was packed to the rafters. It was a lot different than the Forte, being basically a mid-sized pub. It was a great contrast and just as much fun. A very organized and cool collective called the Fog Surfers put the show on, booking an all girl band called The Nasty Shapeless who opened up, dressed in naughty catholic girl uniforms. Nick got a boner watching them.

The audience was very kind and appreciative for both them and us, and after the show we once again partied into the night. That nasty Italian alcohol/poison called Grappa was flowing freely again, with Beez being the main guzzler. He hogged the bottle so much that the locals dubbed him "the Grappa Grandpa".

Feb 12, DAY OFF, Venice Italy

BLUEVENICE.JPG (17253 bytes)The reader will note that this is but our FIRST day off on this tour and our LAST scheduled day off on this tour. We awoke to another sunny Italian day in the little town of Ronca where we stayed in an old hotel on the edge of the town square. Since we were so close to the coast, Nick, Dave, Grant and Graham decided to see the world-famous canals of Venice, while Ska-T and Beez decided to sleep off the Forte’s creeping sickness.

Venice was everything we ever thought it would be. After a train ride from Ronca, we literally stepped off the train into the incredible water city of Venice. Besides the sidewalks, ALL road way really are water!! Like, NO STREETS! We rode the water bus out into the Adriatic Sea and circled the city, then went in to the inner canals and road the gondolas complete with a singing gondolier. We saw Don Juan’s fuck-shack, Mozart’s summer place and uh… some other famous people’s homes. Everything is done by water. Garbage pick up, fire boats, police boats, and even brown UPS delivery boats. The only problem is their sewer system, or lack there of. The entire place, beautiful or not, reeked like raw shit.

Feb 13, Fitzcarrado, Genova Italy

Little did we know that our one day off would prove to be the turning point in the tour. Everything had been pretty much great up until this point. Big shows, fun times, great people, short drives and lots of promotion. We were being paid well and the merchandise was flying. And then things kinda changed. The first sign of trouble was on the highway, crossing the north of Italy towards Genova on the Mediterranean. Dave was having a hell of a time shifting gears, and while the rest of us were basically saying "it’s nothing, shut up and drive" he eventually wasn’t able to change gears at all. We eventually flat out broke down, luckily in front of a truck stop complete with a garage. The crusty old mechanic informed us through a cloud of cigar smoke, a nod to our engine and a finger sliced across his throat that we had busted something or other. $1500.00 Canadian and four hours later, we were back on the road. Ouch.

Our ol’ pal Andrea was promoting tonight’s show, and while our shows in Genova have always been great, Andrea had just spent the month being the Queers roadie in the States. Andrea met us at the toll booth exit, a dishevelled mess, having arrived like ONE HOUR earlier from Nashville Tennessee! Andrea groggily took us out for a great dinner, but unfortunately, for one reason or another, the show pretty much flopped. The people they just did not show up! Are the good times over in Genova? Hope not!

Feb 14, Chateauvert, Valence France

Avid Smugglers trivia buffs (yes you) may note that back in 1997 we played this exact town on Valentine’s Day and it was a fantastic sweat-soaked show for the ages, so we were looking forward for the return. We took our usual drive out of Italy along the stunning French Riviera, through San Remo, Monte Carlo, Cannes and Nice, but then saw some mileage signs and realized we were a hell of a long way from Valence. We called our pal Gilles, the promoter, who freaked out when he found we were on the "low" road. Turns out we were supposed to be on the "high" road through the mountains, and we uh… didn’t read our tour book and uh… took the long way around. Mon dieu!

We eventually arrived but way late, although in time to enjoy another slice of awesome French hospitality in the way of a huge dinner and snack spread. We love France! We can even speak a bit because we’re Canadian!

This was another show run by a great volunteer collective called the Rutabegga Connextion. Organized, very well promoted, and extremely well run are all apt descriptions for this show. Another great night in lovely France thanks to a group of people who really love music. Yes! Sometimes it all really works! This is why we tour! Friends, fun and rock’n’roll! Another cool opening band played tonight, an apparently legendary local band called Mort A Venise (translation: Death In Venice, I think) that had an original sound with two female lead vocals and a horn section. (Actually that description sounds like the Dance Hall Crashers but Mort A Venise had a cool vintage punk/new wave sound as opposed to lesbo-ska).

The show was a solid sixty minute dance party, and once again after the show we hung out for awhile chatting in broken French and English with all the extremely friendly audience members. At least we thought they were all friendly… while we were yukkin’ it up, poor Ska-T was being harassed by a "reformed Nazi skinhead" who demanded free merchandise while wielding a knife and "thunking" it into the merch table! Ska-T is no pushover and held his ground but the strange lad continued to stare us down as we loaded the van and eventually got out of there.

Knife-weilding nazi-skinhead aside, it was another awesome, sweaty show in Valence! Our third time, too! Thanks Gilles and Rutabegga!!!!

manada.jpg (23241 bytes)Feb 15, Jam Club, Bergata Spain

Ok folks, here’s when the tour really gets kinda dark. We headed out on today’s drive, needing to cross France from coast to coast, to make it to the Bay of Biscay on the Atlantic, then dip down over the Pyrenees mountains into Bilbao, Spain. At least that’s what it said in our tour book (which we read this time).

We busted our fucking ass all day to get to Bilbao, which we eventually did. We had no instruction on how to get to the club, and after calling our Spanish tour driver (who was to accompany us in Spain against our wishes), to our rage we found out that we were in fact playing a tiny Basque town called Bergata, which was about an hour back down the highway the way we had come. In other words we had passed it.

This show was a big disappointment for us. We had been looking forward to returning to Bilbao, the first place we had ever played in Europe back in 1995. But now we were begrudgingly making our way back down the highway away from Bilbao, taking an exit that led us through inky darkness to the to the small, dark and kinda dingy town of Bergata, where we loaded in to the small, dark and kinda dingy club. We were in the middle of nowhere. Welcome back to Spain.

With most Spanish shows we play outside of Madrid they get everything right… except promotion. Great sound, good stage, amazing dinners, endless booze and tonight, stunning accommodation in a mountain top chalet. But the reason we were in Bergata on this night was to rock out, and it was almost for naught. About 40 kids showed up, all of whom found out about the show through the Lookout website, or other internet newsgroups. Friends all the way from Oviedo drove over four hours for the show, so we made sure we put on a good one. Turns out one of them was the drummer to Los Ass Draggers, a cool band we played with on our first full tour of Europe back in 1997. A few of the other notable audience members included the mayor and his family from the OTHER tiny Basque town we played back in 1998!!

To add just a dab more insult to injury, when we finally did make it to the chalet we were sleeping at, Nick managed to crack open his skull on the low, sharp beams in the bedroom and bled all over the pillow.

Feb 16, Harley Bar, Benidorm Spain

To our fury, our new Spanish tour manager endeared himself to us by waking us up at Nick’s ass-crack of dawn to get going, like at 6:00AM. So much for enjoying (read: sleeping in) the amazing chalet we were in on this strange Pyrenees foggy mountain top. We arrived at 2:00AM and checked out at 6:00AM. What was the point?

As mentioned, we don’t need a tour manager in Europe as we can drive our own damn selves and navigate… um… fairly well, and even deal with the different languages kinda… ok. But in Spain they INSIST on sending a guy with us. This time it was this Irish ex-pat from Dublin, now working the increasingly desperate Spanish touring circuit. He was basically a nice guy but we could barely understand a fucking word he said. He was a fairly soft speaker, and when he did speak, he did it in a barely audible, thick-as-Irish-moss mumbled accent mixed with bits of Spanish. We didn’t understand a word he said for four days.

Much to our mounting frustration, for some reason or other a Madrid show had not come together. This was sad as Madrid is our biggest city to play in Europe next to Rome and the shows in years past have always been pretty insane. Instead, our Spanish bookers came up with a gig in the beach resort town of Benidorm, which is all fine and good, except it is back on the other side of the fucking country, on the Mediterranean, where we had just come from! Fourteen maddening, cramped hours later, cursing our silent Irishman, we made it. As we were on the outskirts of town, the cell phone rang. It was our Madrid pal Francisco who, to our shock, was wondering when we were getting in to Madrid… to play our show with the Hives!!! As the reader may recall, back in Switzerland the good souls in the Hives offered to help us out with a Madrid show, adding us to theirs, but we never received email confirmation. Then again, we hadn’t been able to check email since the van broke down due to time restraints and crazy drives.

According to Francisco, we had been advertised as playing with the Hives for the past week, the word was out and it was going to be a great show!! Since Madrid was about five hours behind us and Benidorm right in front of us after fourteen hours on the fucking highway, that cell phone almost ended up getting chucked far into the Mediterranean Sea, with our Spanish tour manager tossed right after it. FUCK!!!

Benibeach (141268 bytes)Even though we were in the throws of agony, we soldiered on and indeed there were plenty of plusses about this show. The club was a classic Spanish rock’n’roll bar (complete with a ten foot python in a cage beside the stage) run by a big Smugglers fan, and the club really was RIGHT on the beach. Like, there’s the club, then a seawall walkway, then palm trees, then a beautiful white sand beach and the blue Mediterranean beyond. And even though it was February, the weather was warm and the resort full-up. The only slight problem is most of the transient residents of this seaside villa were bloated, sun-burnt seniors vacationing from Britain and Germany.

Nonetheless the promoter continued to treat us like kings, providing a ridiculous four course meal and all the alcohol we could stomach. The club filled up with happy people wanting dance and party, most of whom were thankfully under the age of 50 and of Spanish descent. In the end we had a pretty great time surrounded by flowing booze, sexy people, a ten foot snake, and lots of merchandise sold, but our selfish thoughts of Madrid definitely lingered in the back of our minds.

Feb 17, Magic, Barcelona Spain

We stayed at a hilarious Medieval-themed motor lodge in Benidorm; basically the façade of a castle on the outside and a bunch of trailers on the inside.

Waking to sunny skies once again, we headed back down to the club to pick up our gear. Upon arrival we were shocked as we turned onto the main beach boulevard to see it absolutely PACKED with seniors. Lobster-red, naked and saggy, all cruising the strip by any means possible: wheelchairs, walkers, cripple-scooters, a slow limp, you name it. The rest of the band took off to run errands before another long trek to Barcelona, so Grant and Ska-T took the opportunity to hit the beach. And you know Ska-T has been on the road for awhile when he says "yo G, check out the set o’ tits at three o’clock". Grant almost barfed in the sand when he saw the object of Ska-T’s desire: a naked grandma with tits that looked like my grandpa’s ball sack, hair and all.

Besides the beautiful scenery on the drive to Barcelona, it was another nine hour grinder, the only things keeping us going being road signs that said vaguely humourous things like "St. Penis" and "Lesbo Villa". High-brow stuff like that.

Beez is always proclaiming to us all that Barcelona is his FAVOURITE CITY IN THE WHOLE WORLD. It’s always Barcelona this, Barcelona that, he loves it, he visits it every chance he gets, blah blah blah. Funny thing then, about all the ridiculously BAD LUCK Beez has encountered in his "favourite city in the world". The avid Smugglers fan may recall that on our first ever trip to Spain, it was Beez, carrying all the gig pay from the night before in his BREAST POCKET, who was ROBBED in broad daylight by a six year old gypsy girl who conveniently switched a flower with our money when Beez knelt to say "Hola young gypsy!" And it is also a funny thing that when Beez and his wife CC visited Barcelona but one year ago on holiday, that Beez had his wife’s PURSE, filled with cash, credit cards, a camera, passports, plane and train tickets etc, STOLEN right out from under him while munching lunch on a patio! Nonetheless, this is still, according to Beez, his favourite city in the world. We were all eager to see how it would go.

The club was a cool one, a basement joint that filled up quick thanks to good work from the promoters. Cheers to Eddie, Mimo and "CNN" for doing a great job. The opening bands were fun too. First up was an Angry Samoan/Ramones tribute called… wait for it… the Angry Ramoans, and after that, featuring basically the same people as the first band, the all-original punk rock of Berlin 80. Very nice people, very entertaining rock ‘n’ roll.

Being the cosmopolitan centre that Barcelona is, people at this show were from all over the place, including different corners of Spain, as well as folks from the USA, Germany, Australia, and Slovenia. It was a hell of a night and a hell of a show, but we cannot forget Beez, oh no! At a great show in his favourite city in the world, during the very first song, Beez’ bass cord broke! In the second song one of his strings broke! And finally, during the third song, the actual bass guitar broke, swinging down like a guillotine, rendering Beez useless as he frantically dropped to his knees to attempt a fix-it job, all the while yelling "FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK!!!" Thanks to Berlin 80 for rescuing Beez in his favourite city in the world and loaning him their bass.

In Spain the rock’n’roll goes late. We didn’t finish our show til about 3:30AM, and when we were done, the bar just turned up the records even louder. It was AMAZING. Blasting at full volume to a packed, dancing house was an awesome mix of the Dictators, Donnas, Kinks, MC5, CCR, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Groovie Ghoulies, Joan Jett, the Damned, and yeah, even more Smugglers, because in this country, for some reason, they have the most obscure Smugglers records. It always surprises us. Nick, Beez, Dave and Grant crawled out at about 6:00AM, and Ska-T and Graham eventually stumbled out into the morning sun at 7:00AM after scoring some free coke from a Spanish ska-migo that Ska-T befriended.

Feb 18, Machine A Coudre, Marseille France

Even though we only had about two to three hours sleep, it was a good morning: we got to ditch our Spanish tour manager and head back to France. We shouldn’t be so mean – the guy was nice, we just didn’t need him and seven people for four days was way too many in our tiny van.

Everywhere we went, when people heard we were headed to Marseille, some folks said "be careful, it’s the most dangerous town in France!" while others said "it’s a fabulous town, let it all hang out!". We tried to do a bit of both.

Sure enough, the club was in an extremely gritty part of town, where walls were covered in graffiti, like REALLY covered, the narrow streets were filled with garbage and the sidewalks were lined with junkies, beggars and thieves. That said, the club was great. Quick: what does machine a coudre mean in English? If you shrieked "sewing machine!" you’re right, fucker! So that was the deal. Built in to each of the tables in the little bar were old-fashioned sewing machines. The couple that ran the place, Corrine and Olivier, were very nice, and quickly won the hearts of Beez and Dave since they were both wearing matching black leather pants! (An item that has been on the shopping list of Beez and Dave all tour).

We were a little concerned about attendance for this one since it was a Sunday and we’d never played Marseille before. A nice but small crowd showed up and we had another very enjoyable show from beginning to end. The dance contest winners were a circus couple from Glasgow Scotland who re-enacted a blow-job with the trophy, and to top the night off, Beez serenaded the crowd with Ringo Starr’s "Photograph". Grant slow-danced with a French punk chick during the song!

The ugliest thing staring us in the face in Marseille? The twelve hour drive to Paris the next morning.

Feb 19, Espace B, Paris France

It is understandable if this is starting to sound redundant but the really, really long drive from the very bottom of France to the top was starting to take a toll on us. We were stumbling around the rest stops like zombies. And even though gas station food is a lot better in Europe than in North America, it’s still pretty crappy and has a sickening sameness after five or six hundred kilometres.

We finally pulled in to the beautiful, sprawling city of Paris France pretty much on time, and drove in to the massive plaza of Porte de Orleans to meet our ol’ pal Jon Von. Jon is currently living in Paris, and has his own band called Les Drageurs. Jon has been a great friend of the Smugglers for many years. We met him way back in 1989 when we opened for his then-band the Mr. T Experience, and then Jon set up our first-ever show in San Francisco in and around 1990. Over the years we’ve stayed at Jon’s place countless times in SF, and have dragged him along to Disneyland with us as well. Now he was once again helping out the Smugglers by setting up our first-ever show in Paris, France.

We met up with Jon without any problems and winded through the exciting, crowded boulevards of Paris, passing the church of Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, and the Arc de Triumphe. Then it was over the Seine River and into the rough and tumble neighbourhood of the show.

Upon arrival we were met by our good pal Gilles, who traveled all the way from Valence to see us again. He ended up being a great help with our show, doing lots of translating and generally looking after us. Thanks again, Gilles! To cut to the chase, much to our excitement the show quickly packed out early and was underway. A local band called Flytrap got the show going, a duo that reminded us of a French Leather Uppers By the time they were finished the room was thick with smoke and sweat, like so much you could barely see four feet in front of your face. Here’s a quick fact: Parisians smoke. SMOKE A LOT. VERY MUCH A LOT. LIKE ALL THE TIME CONSTANTLY.

parisgroup (132067 bytes)The Draguers took the stage next and cranked out classic Jon Von garage-punk, only this time around Jon is doing all the singing in French, because, hey, the guy likes a challenge.

After hearing all about Paris’ lackluster audiences, we played to an amazing crowd of sweat soaked French freaks who danced their asses off. The dance contest went a tad awry when a good old fashioned cat fight broke out, with the winner being attacked by another disgruntled and completely tanked dancer. This fight erupted about six times, with the drunk lady constantly trying to snatch the trophy away in violent charges towards the winner. Quite bizarre.

The show wrapped up and the Smugglers and Draguers capped the night over cous cous and wine. It was a hell of a first night for us in Paris, thank you Jon Von!

Feb 20, The Underworld, London England

We spent the first half of the day driving towards the French shore of the English Channel, aiming the snub nose of our Mercedes van towards the "Chunnel". The official name is the "Euro-Tunnel", an incredible underground train tunnel that whips you and your vehicle from France to England or vice versa in a matter of minutes. The only drawback is the cost: $500 Canadian for a twenty minute ride.

To be blunt, and with all semi-due respect to our British readers, this was the day of the tour that we were pretty much dreading. For some unknown reason, unlike the rest of Europe, the UK pretty much ignores all forms of hospitality for bands. For instance, two nights ago in Marseille, even though the show was at a small club, we received an amazing two-course meal, all the booze we could drink, stacks of chocolate bars, pastries, fruits, vegetables, juices and bottled water. We also usually get very nice hotel accommodations. In the UK, all of that gets flushed down the toilet. Maybe because they gave us the Stones and the Beatles and Blur (in that order) they feel they owe the rest of the rock’n’roll world nothing. Whatever the case, it’s been a struggle in the past and we were praying this time it’d be better.

Our London show was the best of the last bunch of UK dates we did on the last tour, so we had high hopes for tonight. The Underworld is right in the heart of Camden Town, directly across the street from the Camden tube station, a block from Camden Lock and directly under the famed End Of The World pub. Pretty much anyone who has ever traveled through London has been by this corner. Most of the Smugglers had, including Beez and Grant, who at separate times traveled through and drank here, both wondering if they’d ever be in a band that would actually play here. Sure enough, here we were.

After a few dishes of Thai chicken from the upstairs pub that tasted just a "wee bit funky" as they say in the UK, the show got under way in rapid fire procession. Four bands played tonight: Jet Suzette, a female fronted punk act, the Sires, a fuzzy garage group, and Jesse James, a very cool Social D-esque band with a mix of blaring horns, loud guitars and strong vocals.

Our show was fine, and although we were exhausted from the days and days of endless drives, and that Thai chicken was starting to act up a little, we don’t get to London everyday so we rocked it. There was a fine crowd of people there too, but the absolute milli-second the clock hit curfew (while we were still playing) the club cut us off and IMMEDIATELY kicked us out the back door into the alley and all the patrons out the front door onto the street! We had all sorts of friends there that we weren’t able to hang out with so for those of you who came out that we didn’t speak to, thanks, and we’re sorry we missed you! Piss in the Underworld’s mail slot the next time you’re passing by their front door at 4:00AM! "Ta!"

Of course the club provided zero accommodation, but the Jesse James guys were nice enough to let us stay over at their flat. Absolutely desperate to get some sleep, we all immediately crashed in the living room for the first good night’s rest since Italy, a week ago.

After only about half an hour of sleep, I (Grant) woke up feeling a reoccurrence of that strange, Thai-like "funkiness" in my tired tummy. I tried to ignore it. It got worse, but still I ignored it because I was too fatigued and annoyed to deal with anything else tonight and besides, I’d never had food poisoning and I wasn’t about to get it now in a stranger’s apartment. Before I could put a period to that thought I was dashing down the hallway, one hand covering my mouth that was already spraying puke like an erupting volcano, and the other covering my cornhole that felt seconds away from a shit storm. I burst into the bathroom and shoved my head in the toilet, retching and lurching until I had puked half of Thailand into the bowl. After about twenty minutes of dry-heave hell I thought it was pretty much done and stumbled back to bed. As soon as I hit the pillow I was up again, running down the hall, puking everywhere. This time I was in the bathroom until I was gagging on stomach bile. Once again I tried to go to sleep but to no avail. Cursing Britain’s total and utter lack of food hygiene and their sickly culinary relationship with South East Asia, I spent the next several hours in the bathroom, gagging and lurching forward constantly even long after there was anything left to barf. Then it happened. My arch-enemy whom I know so well was lighting up and ready to blowtorch my asshole from the inside out. I’m talkin’ ‘bout some red hot shit. Yes folks, here’s the picture: I was on all fours, completely naked, delirious, sopped in sweat, head in the toilet barfing, when the shit hit like a Winnipeg flash flood. Hot, venomous excrement shot up my turd tunnel and exploded past my quivering shit flaps, all over the bathroom, sadly in the opposite direction of the toilet. And then the shit hit the fan. Really. As I wallowed on the bathroom floor, facedown in my own puke, dung and defeat, the bathroom door opened. What stood there was the British equivalent to a Greek God… the owner of the flat, the guy from Jesse James, a stunning sculpture, needing to take a piss, clad in but the tiniest g-string and NOTHING else. And he had a piss-boner. And here I lay, on the floor in the fetal position in a puddle of my own poop ‘n’ squirt, a soiled and shamed Canadian Ambassador of Rock ‘n’ Roll. It was the lowest point of my professional career, but I still managed a peek at his fabulous abs!

Realizing through my delerium that a house full of others may need the "bog" or whatever the fuck they call it over here, I pulled clothes onto my clammy body and staggered back to my sleeping bag. And then… GOD SAVE THE QUEEN NO! It hit AGAIN!! Immediately I was back in the bathroom puking endlessly, and AGAIN not able to put ass and mouth into the toilet at the same time, so AGAIN molten shit burst from my Johnny Cash-esque burnt ass crack, only this time it went straight into the shit-catcher known as my pants. YES, I shit my pants AGAIN. (The truly trivial Smugglers fan will note that Grant also shit his pants in Saskatoon Saskatchewan, July 1993). By 7:00AM I had finally drained every ounce of fluid-poison from my body, including eventually shitting and spitting blood. I crawled back to my sleeping bag and passed out in a quivering heap next to the rest of the snoring Smugglers. So much for finally getting some sleep.

Feb 21, The Rio Brandford England CANCELLED

Yup, you read that right. This will be a strange day to remember for the diarya since I don’t remember this day at all. Obviously, by the time the rest of the guys woke up, I was still sort of awake and totally fucked. Completely dehydrated, I was moving in and out of consciousness, and even though I was wrapped up in my sleeping bag the one thing I do remember is being freezing cold. According to the rest of the Smugglers, as soon as I woke up I was a raving idiot (more than usual). I yelled obscenities at the other guys and the residents of the flat, demanded they do bizarre errands for me, and had no idea where I was. So basically it was a completely normal morning. Just kidding. According to Beez, I spent a good deal of the morning fixated on a movie poster of "China Town" on the wall. I was also saying weird, freaky things to the other Smugglers about their parents (causing Beez to actually call his mom in Kleinberg Ontario to make sure everything was all right, just in case food poisoning had suddenly made me clairvoyant). When our host entered the room I barked nasty things at him about the Royal family, such as "get the Queen Mum over here so I can shit on her chest!!" and things like that. When the guys tried to help me by giving me vitamins I put them in my ears thinking they were earplugs, and when a plumber showed up to fix what remained of the toilet from the night before (no joke), much to his confusion, I violently accused him of stealing and then hiding my toiletry bag from me.

The rest of the band’s reaction to all of this insane behavior? Do something we have never done in our twelve proud years of rock’n’roll service: CANCEL a show.

As I raved on in the background, Beez managed to get a hold of the promoter up in Bradford, as well as our agent in the UK and our agent in the Netherlands, explained the whole thing with profuse apologies, and got off the hook for the Bradford show. At this point, as much as we don’t want to admit it, the four healthy Smugglers let out a huge sigh of relief. Instead of driving another six hours to the north of England to play a show with me in serious sick bay, we could instead drive three hours west to Nick’s aunt and uncle’s place in Wales where we could relax and recover with space, heat, privacy, and comfort.

The guys managed to pick me up and drag me from the London flat flailing and screaming, into the van, where they "arranged" me onto the back bed, threw some sleeping bags on me, and that was pretty much it for the rest of the day and night.

When we eventually made it to Swansea, Wales, I again put up a hell of a delirious fight, but they got me into the house and into a bed, a bed I managed not to shit, piss or puke in, so things were looking up.

Our special heartfelt thanks to the guys in Jesse James for their hospitality. We’re sorry Grant was such an idiot! Nice abs! Grant would like to be in a threesome with you and Prince William!

Feb 22, Football Club, Bridgend Wales

When we first received the itinerary for this tour, the Welsh date jumped out at us for two reasons: one, we had never played this country, and two, Nick’s family is Welsh through-and-through and he was particularly excited to play his homeland. Little did we know what a mess we’d be once we actually got to Wales.

Even though I spent the entire day in bed I just couldn’t shake the hazy delirium, the crazy talk, or the diarrhea, so again the guys made a big decision and another Smugglers first: tonight the Smugglers would play without Grant. They figured that since the Smugglers had never played Wales, and if they stuck to songs that Beez or Dave or Nick could sing the lead on, maybe the Welsh would never know the difference? We decided to go for it, and on the way to the gig they would drop my sorry still sick ass off at an extremely grungy hospital.

Over here in the UK they’ve got what you call a "two-tier" health system. That means that, if you get sick and you can afford it, you go to the GOOD, NICE, CLEAN hospital. If you can’t, you go to the place I went: decrepit, dirty and disgusting, catering to drunken, violent and abusive situations. While I was there, hooked up on an IV to get fluid into my system, a parade of Welsh fuck ups were in and out of the emergency room, including a drunken mother insisting her son had been bitten by a spider, which the doctor quickly diagnosed as but a zit (or "spot" as they call it over here); a car-load of drunken teenagers with various broken bones inflicted after driving their parents’ car into a brick wall on purpose; a badly beaten woman with a broken leg, dragged in by her equally drunk husband who likely inflicted the wound When the husband was informed of his wife’s badly broken leg, he yelled out for all to hear: "that blooody bitch! A broken leg, aye? That’s all I fookin’ need, yeah! Oi!!!". A real sweet scene.

hospital bed (115810 bytes)My doctor was a strange woman that was part Jamaican/part Welsh which meant I didn’t understand a word she said, but when a normal doctor eventually arrived he informed me of what was suspected: food poisoning combined with exhaustion. His suggestion: cancel the remaining shows and go home to Canada immediately.

Back at the show, I apparently didn’t miss too much. It was in a make-shift "football" (soccer) club in the middle of nowhere, put on by a kid-promoter. Come showtime Beez, Dave, Nick and Graham played to about fifty statuesque Welsh heshers. Even though there was barely a PA, a stage or lights to speak of, the guys did indeed pull off a show without me, trading off lead vocals to about a dozen songs. The dance contest apparently hit an all-time low, dominated solely by two sweaty, possibly retarded morons taking up an empty dance floor with WWF moves, hence Dave's refusal to declare a winner. Ska-T could barely sell merchandise let alone hit on teenagers because he couldn’t understand a word any of the kids said/grunted. Graham felt the barmaid summed the gig up best when she bluntly asked him "why are you here?"

Feb 22, The Foundry, Birmingham UK

After the guys got the fuck out of Bridgend, cursing Nick’s once-proud Welsh heritage every mile of the way, they dropped by the hospital and wheeled me back into the van. When I weakly informed them that the doctor said I’m not supposed to play anymore shows and that I’m supposed to go straight home, Beez blew his stack. "Shut the FUCK up, LAWRENCE!! You ARE playing Birmingham tonight and you ARE going to LIKE it! Tomorrow night you ARE playing Brighton, and the next night Tilburg. After that you can take your sick, faggoty ass home, you little fuck! I’m completely hoarse after singing to a bunch of mentally handicapped Welsh children in a cardboard shithole with no PA, STAGE, OR STAGE LIGHTS ANYWHERE NEAR ME because YOU were in the fucking hospital! I want to go to the hospital TOO, because I LOST IT about two weeks ago, but I CAN’T, can I? I DESPERATELY NEED THERAPY. But fuck it! It’s too late! I’M FUCKED. It’s time to toughen up, princess! It’s time to ROCK OUT WITH YOUR COCK OUT!". Couldn’t argue with that. Susan's final speech on "Survivor" was nicer than that. And so away we drove to Birmingham. Huge thanks to Nick’s aunt and uncle for their overwhelming hospitality!

This is starting to sound a little sad, but there was little point in Beez’ speech, or even showing up to this show. We were surprised to see this club on our schedule, as the last time we were in the UK we were scheduled to play here but didn’t. We got caught in a traffic jam on the highway and arrived a little late, nothing ridiculous, like an hour or two, but the club had locked its doors and stuck a sign on it saying "SMUGGLERS CANCELLED". Total bullshit. Here we were again a few years later, hoping for the best, receiving the worst. The club appeared to have done little or nothing to promote the show, and even though it was a Friday night in the second biggest city in the UK, it was a pathetic turn out. And not only was there hardly any one there, the "crowd" that did show up were completely indifferent, save for two Lookout kids right at the front having a good time. But oh did we get pissed off. Was it just two weeks ago that we played a Friday night in Milan to 1000 people? What the fuck does Milan have that Birmingham lacks? Who knows… as I was still feeling the effects of my illness, I was surly and mean, berating the audience and crowd with insults, enraged that we were wasting a Friday night of half-tank quality Smugglers rock action on their undeserving pimply, stinky, hairy, dentally screwed British butts. We even managed to clear the room of the few people that we were, save for the two Lookout kids! Unbelievable.

After the show, Beez asked the promoter for proof of any advertisement whatsoever, and the answer he received was one for the ages: "I didn’t think anyone was coming to the show so… Oi! I didn’t fookin’ advertise it, mate!" Well then why the fuck did you BOOK the show in the first place you stupid Mr. Bean fuck?!?

Next stop Brighton, our last stop in the UK, thank the ugly Queen!!

Feb 23, Free Butt, Brighton UK

The one thing we had going for us during this ugly stretch of the tour was weather. Unlike the dark and gloomy gigs, the weather was sunny and beautiful. Even in Wales when I was laid up and crazy, the other guys were able to go on an apparently amazing hike along the Welsh beaches and rolling hills, scattered with wild horses and ancient castles.

BRIGHTONTOO.JPG (14511 bytes)Today’s short drive down to the southern coast to Brighton was very nice as well. We arrived in Brighton in the mid-afternoon so we had a few hours to see the sights. This is pretty much a pure-tourist town, with a broad boardwalk, piers with carnival games, and a long strip of hotels. This of course was the location of the famed mods versus rockers riot, chronicled in the film "Quadrophenia". Ska-T claimed that he had seen the film 18 times, and so as soon as the van was parked he went scurrying off to revisit all the locations in real life. The rest of us checked out the beach as the sun set on the English Channel. Some of us sat in cafes and relaxed, Dave found a gambling hall at the end of one of the piers, and the rest of us strolled the beach. Finally some peace of mind in England.

When we eventually made it to the club we were excited to see a great poster made for the show, bright, bold and uh… ah fuck… wrong. "From Winnipeg, The Smugglers". Oh well, Winnipeg’s a cool town, at least it didn’t say "from USA" the usual default homeland Europeans give us when they aren’t exactly sure where we’re from. (After talking with Buzz, the very nice promoter, he admitted that the only Canadian bands he knew [Duotang, Propagandhi, Weakerthans] were all from Winnipeg so he took a gamble that we were too).

Starting with the cool poster, this show was looking great. A good venue with a nice stage and a good-looking PA, and lots of people. Opening for us tonight was the London band Jesse James who we were happy to see again. Not too sure if they were happy to see us after the mess Grant made, but they put on another great show and are definitely a band to keep an eye out for. Brass and rock ‘n’ roll are a great mix! Just ask the Sonics or Rocket From The Crypt!

So we finally got up there and were ready to finally blast one out…. until the POWER WENT OUT during the FIRST SONG. GREAT START! We had to stand around like a bunch of dummies as the club desperately tried to fire up some juice for us. They shouted at us that our Marshall stacks were too powerful for their PA but we just went through twenty clubs without issue! Nonetheless they got it fired up again and we played the rest of the show as hard as we could, and hung out and partied with lots of nice people once we wrapped it up.

The other notable at this show was the presence of Ska-T’s sister, who lived in Brighton. This was the first time that any of us had actually seen a relative of Ska-T’s, and we didn’t really know what to expect. Before we actually met her, Ska-T desperately pleaded with us "no mad cow disease jokes guys, please!!" We’ll see…she turned out to be a real sweet treat, but her Briton boyfriend took the cake for "personality of the tour". The Brits, like the Australians, are pretty obnoxious to begin with, but this guy broke the scale. Picture an English version of Crocodile Dundee with down syndrome. I mean this guy was tall, drunk, loud, brazen and IN YOUR FACE. Don’t get us wrong, he was very friendly, but the definition of obnoxious. Granted he had a few problems: he’s an admitted schizophrenic, chain-smoker, and alcoholic. That said, he and Ska-T’s sister invited us back to their flat to spend the night, where he "entertained" us by yelling in our faces with the thickest cockney accent… um… EVER. The guy sounded like a fucking pirate. "Make yee-selves at ‘ome blokes! Me fookin’ fla’ is thy fookin’ fla’! Oi!"

Feb 24, 013 Bat Cave, Tilburg Netherlands

YES!! The day has arrived that we will FINALLY LEAVE the UK!! But there is more to tell before we do… the second our host woke up, he lit a cigarette, popped and beer and came out to wake up us… in nothing but the tiniest pair of black bikini briefs that would have been tight on a six year old girl let alone a bloated Brit. He stood over Graham and Dave, shouting "Oi! Ye gonna sleep all fookin’ day, yeah?" And that was the very first thing Graham saw on this lovely morning. A Brit’s ballsack, hanging over him like a soggy teabag in a tight, black sack, surrounded by pubic hair and pasty thighs.

While brushing his teeth in the bathroom, Nick couldn’t help but notice our host in a framed picture from somewhere tropical: there he was, again in bikini briefs (red ones this time), wearing a tie-dye tank top, a pair of red "John Lennon" sunglasses, a Corona in one hand and a live iguana in the other. That pretty much summed this guy up, but hey, he was nice, he dates our roadie’s sister and he provided us with accommodation and a good story so…um… thanks!

There was a bit of tension on the drive back to the Chunnel. As his speech of a few days ago may have been an early indication of, Beez had pretty much had it. He just wanted to go home, and his stress-level was at a fever pitch. The guy was worrying about everything: how long the drive was, where the Chunnel ticket was, which Chunnel ferry we would catch, whether his plane would leave on time tomorrow, you name it. The rest of the band’s reaction: "who cares and shut up".

We eventually made it to the show after battling a vicious snow storm through Belgium and into the Netherlands, but we were so happy to be back here. Upon arrival, three big Dutchmen greeted us, hugged us, and loaded our equipment into the venue. Another showed us to our beautiful dressing room with adjoining bathroom and shower. In the dressing room was a fridge packed with beer, bottled water and juice, and on the table, sandwiches, chocolate bars and fresh fruit and vegetables! We love the Dutch! After a confidence building sound-check, MUMMYPEEP.JPG (50298 bytes)we met the opening band Mummy The Peep Show, all the way from Japan, who we didn’t know, but they’d seen us in Japan. Then the venue served both bands a huge dinner of steaks, which we were able to have with our booking agent Hans and our equipment and van owner Gijs.

The show was lots of fun, played to a warm, friendly Dutch crowd. We had a great night. Mummy The Peepshow was the kicks too, although their bassist was dangerously ill and practically fainted after the show from exhaustion. I knew how she felt.

That night we said our heartfelt goodbyes and thanks to Hans for booking the tour, and we made the drive back to Amsterdam for one last night in our usual Amsterdam hotel.

Feb 25, HOME!

Our last day here, finally heading home. Graham, Ska-T, Beez and Dave left earlier than Nick and I, and save for the slight disturbance of Beez running up and down the street outside the hotel at the crack of dawn in the snow frantically trying to hail a cab screaming "PLEASE! STOP YOU FUCKERS! I’M GOING TO MISS MY FLIGHT! I HAVE TO WORK TOMORROW!! HELP ME! HELP ME! Helll…p…. mmm…eeee…..", Nick and I got to sleep in as the four of them eventually headed to Schippol for their flight. That day, Nick and I took the trolley around town and did the emotionally charged walk through Anne Frank’s house. Go see this, it’s amazing! Read the book, too.

And so that’s it, a tough tour but another wild journey for the Smugglers. Once again, thanks for all the hospitality, kindness and effort that so many people put into this tour. Most especially, thank you to Hans at Slavetraders and Gijs at Smoef for providing everything we needed to make the tour possible. And even in the UK, when venue hospitality sometimes came up short, there was always friendly people willing to share their homes with us… sometimes they got a little more than they bargained forVENICETOO.JPG (12617 bytes)(shit/puke), and sometimes we did(alcoholic/schizophrenic/chain smoker). Thanks again to all, see you next time! Beez is allowed visitors in the psyche-ward on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Just kidding.

See you in the front row,

Grant Lawrence

Your Smugglers