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Prog Blog: Meniscus In Europe (Part 3) Tour Diary

Written by Mike Solo on 3rd August, 2012

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Sydney’s MENISCUS have recently wrapped up their first European tour – here’s the final instalment of guitarist Dan Oreskovic’s tour diary (following on from Part 1 and Part 2).

GENEVA (8/7/12)

I woke up at a service station, about an hour outside of Milan. I was really groggy, so I just stood outside the van, stretched, and then sat back inside and tried to go to sleep. The next thing I remember, we had arrived in Milan to stop for lunch. We found a cafe near the city centre that served some excellent pizzas, pastries and coffee, so for about an hour, we tried to soak up the atmosphere, while we enjoyed good food, coffee and cigarettes. I wish I had more to say about Milan, but feeling absolutely terrible, I was keen to get back in the van and continue to Geneva.

Alison managed to peel herself away long enough to indulge in a brief shoe-shopping experience, while I was just on the hunt for a clean toilet to use. To sum up our experience… Thanks Italy, we ate your food, drank your coffee, bought your shoes, and used your toilets, all in the space of an hour. Ciao.

I woke up again, this time to the most beautiful scenery I’ve seen on the tour: The Italian Alps. Though we didn’t really have a lot of time, we just had to stop and look around, take photos, and just absorb the environment. The mountains were steep, and layered, making the perfect backdrop for postcard-esque photos. The rocky hills seemed to disappear into thick fog, giving a greater sense of height and majesty. We took a quick break at a truck stop that gave us views of the glacier, and we were able to drink some of the fresh mountain water that was flowing down. Though I’m still feeling very ill, I couldn’t pass up this opportunity. I’m so glad I didn’t sleep through this one.

The venue, L’Usine, was by the river, and it had all the makings of a great live venue. A smaller stage and larger stage are on opposite ends of the room, divided by a large partition wall. The bar staff were cool, and the sound guy was one of the nicest I’ve met so far. Sound check was a breeze, and we pulled a really heavy sound in that room. Later we found that Nirvana had played on the same stage in 1989 to an audience of ten people.

We were served dinner shortly after sound check, and it was really nice to have a light, fresh meal, as opposed to the numerous pizzas and fried foods we’ve been served over the course of the tour.

The flu I’ve been battling over the last few day has now progressed into a chest infection, so I was feeling quite low. Lily, a friend of Marty’s, gave me a sachet of something resembling lemsip, which really worked…for about 2 hours. It lasted long enough for us to put on a decent show, then the illness hit me like a ton of bricks. Not a good sign…

We also did really well on merch sales, something that has been relatively consistent on this tour. It was a welcome influx of cash, given that we spent about 150 euros on tolls from Zagreb to Geneva.

After the show, the staff – Amel, Damon, and Tamara – showed us up to the rooftop, accessed via a rickety ladder and roof hatch, to which we had 360 degree views of Geneva. We brought some bottles of wine and sat up there for about an hour drinking and sharing stories. We also had a view of the square below, where numerous shady characters were loitering and dealing drugs to people who obviously knew where to score. Amel informed us that at night, this is one of the most dangerous places. Muggings and beatings are common here. Even the previous night they saw a woman being beaten by a group of men. So we were glad to be viewing the area from our lofty perch.

After a brief history lesson about Geneva, we headed back down stairs to our rooms and slept.

These were some of the nicest and most genuine people I’ve ever met. The Following morning, Amel rode her bicycle to the pharmacy to pick up some flu medication for me. That’s the kind of people they are: just so happy to go out of their way for you.

METZ (9/7/12)

Best Gig Ever.

Well… not really. We arrived at the venue in Metz, a 5-hour trip from Geneva through some of the worst traffic on the tour so far. The venue itself had changed because of road works outside, meaning there was no access to the venue. The promoter frantically tried to re-book us, and the only place left was a small cafe in a little street, surrounded by other cafes.

The main problem was that there was no stage, meaning we’d be setting up basically on the floor next to the tables and chairs. Secondly, there wasn’t enough room to set up our gear. Thirdly, as we loaded in, the cafe owner looked at us in horror, and immediately proceeded to argue with the promoter in French. We don’t speak the language, but we certainly knew what they were talking about.

We sat and waited for the outcome of that conversation. Florian (actually he wasn’t the promoter, just a friend of, who had the unenviable task of finding our replacement venue) came over and said everything was OK, but we knew that wasn’t the case. The cafe owner, who didn’t speak English, asked how loud we would be, so Cam opened up his snare drum case and, with his fingers, hit the top skin. She nearly jumped a metre back from the noise. The next discussion (and this is the part where I usually get annoyed with people that don’t understand the concept of a rock band) was about us turning down and playing softer. After we went back and forth, trying to explain that we simply can’t play that way, and that even us playing ‘softly’ would still be too loud, they finally decided that cancelling the show was the only real option.

(Important lesson learned: when supplying information to venues/promoters/bookers etc, make sure that you specify the minimum stage size required for your band, and if possible, the DB level of a typical gig. Transparency is the key here, and it would have saved us the tolls, fuel and time to get there.)

It was kind of a blessing in disguise for me, as I was really struggling with the flu, so I was at least grateful for the night off to have a rest.

Florian was devastated, as he was a big fan of ours and he really wanted to see us play. A few fans that had come down to the venue also had to be turned away. The support band were also really keen on the show, but they also knew that pursuing to play in this venue would have been a fruitless exercise.

Florian’s mother catered for us. After a few minutes, she came through the door, and one-by-one, she brought in pots of excellently cooked pasta dishes, and fresh fruit and vegetables from her own garden. It was a bitter sweet affair: on one hand we couldn’t play, but we met some really nice people, and had a great meal.

Another fan came inside the cafe and was really disappointed to hear that we had to cancel the show, so we invited him to join our dinner, and he still bought some merch! (so basically we figured that we don’t even need to play anymore, just turn up and sell merch) we signed some CDs for him and he bid farewell, imploring us to make it back to Metz next time.

A quick group photo and goodbyes later, we were on our way to Germany….

OFFENBACH (10/7/12)

Not having played last night, we decided just to drive straight to Frankfurt and spend the night there, so we’d essentially be at the venue. This was a great idea as it allowed the time for some sightseeing. One of the things we noticed about Frankfurt was that it was a very business-orientated city, and perhaps the funniest thing we saw was a giant statue….of the Euro. Tibor made the remark that in Eastern Europe so many countries have statues resembling liberty, freedom, independence etc, and Frankfurt has a statue representing money.

We bought some coffees and then a few of us split up and headed off in different directions. Alison, Marty and myself went to the museum to see the Jeff Koons Exhibition, which was a nice experience. Some of his ‘sculptures’ are incredible. Following the Exhibition, we walked by the river and stopped at a boat cafe and had lunch before returning to the van to head to the venue. Offenbach, basically an outer ‘suburb’ of Frankfurt, was only a 15 min drive away.

The venue looks like a series of warehouses that have been converted into a live venue, cinema, cafe and office/accomodation upstairs. There was also a nice field across the road, which featured an outdoor cinema. This was one of the better venues of the tour. Load-in and sound-check were hassle free, and dinner was waiting for us upstairs (an excellent vegetarian dish).

It had the makings of a great show, except for one small thing. We were due on stage in 10 mins, and there was not a single punter in the room. We were thinking that this was finally going to be the show that Meniscus played to an empty room…

Somehow, as we walked up onstage and picked up our instruments, a crowd swelled into the room (seemingly out of nowhere) and were waiting in anticipation. No matter how unlikely it seems, we always somehow are able to get a crowd at these shows, even when there’s no local support act. I was still feeling really down from the flu, but after seeing the audience, I switched back into show-mode, and we delivered.

It wasn’t our tightest performance of the tour, but we pulled it off, and as the punters walked out of the room with Meniscus shirts over their shoulders, I felt that once again we had won over a new set of fans. Job well done.

MUNSTER (11/7/12)

Still feeling sick, I slept for most of the drive to Munster. Arriving at what could be described as some sort of community centre, we were told that this was going to be an all-ages show, our first on the tour. The venue itself was a cafe/bar with a live room off to the side. The promoter was quite young, donning an Isis shirt, and genre-correct hairstyle. He informed us on arrival that the sound guy had called in sick, so we had to ask Nuno to do sound for us. Not a good start.

After hooking up all the PA gear and stage monitors, we discovered that basically there was no way to control the subs, meaning that there would be virtually no bass frequencies coming through the PA. We also learned at this time (after we had already set up our gear and taped down leads etc) that there was going to be a support band, and they needed to use our gear. Normally, we don’t have a problem, but it’s really frustrating to find out 1 hour before the doors open.

Dinner was Tofu and grilled vegetables with hot chips. We dodged the pizza bullet again…

The support band started, and after 3 songs, their guitarist broke a string, and had no spares with him. The promoter came over and asked me if I had spares, but because I use custom gauges specifically for my tuning, I was unable to help. So they cut their set short.

This was our second last show for the tour, so I was keen to make the most of it. Given the troubles with the PA, I thought the set went really well. The punters were happy, and they stayed for an encore, then formed a huge line at the merch desk after the show. Later, we found out that we had fans that had come from Turkey to watch our show, and another group that drove from Cologne. It’s this kind of thing that blows you away…

JENA (12/7/12)

I woke up in the morning with mixed feelings. On one hand I was saddened that this was the last day of the tour. On the other hand, it’s the start of a much-needed rest, as we’d all been exhausted physically and mentally.

The drive was about 4 hours. By this time I wasn’t really paying any attention to the scenery. When you look at Europe from inside a van, things all start to look the same.

We reached Jena, a small town (population 100,000) which primarily consists of students, and found the venue entrance. The whole town was beautiful. It had that real classic old Europe look to it, much like a postcard. The venue had a great vibe, and the staff were really great. They even served a three-course meal for dinner.

The others went to explore while I restrung my guitar, and by the time we were all together again, it was time to get up on stage and rock out for the last time. We played another great set to a really appreciative audience. It was a pretty emotional affair, knowing after this we’d all be going back to our day jobs. So we made sure that we’d make it count.

After the show, we celebrated in style. We almost drank the bar dry. Even after the staff went home, we stayed and continued to party. The sound engineer kept procrastinating about packing his gear up because he just wanted to keep drinking with us. Once the sun started coming up though, we decided that it was time to retire, so we bid them farewell and made the short walk to the hostel.

THE BEST OF THE REST

With so many experiences, it was hard to identify a standout moment. Though it was a lot of hard work, it’s been a rewarding experience. I think we’ve all grown as a band, and the shows we’ve done here will live long in our memory…

Best Show – Fusion Festival

Best City – Budapest

Best Support Band – Deadmen (Le Havre, FR). They were all great, but these guys really stood out for me.

Best Venue – Tie between: Big Buttinsky (Osnabruck, Germany), and L’Usine Geneva (Switzerland)

Special thanks to Mike Solo @ Bird’s Robe Records, Nuno and Fluffwheels, Tibor @ Horizon Music Booking, and all the venues, promoters, and fans for coming to our shows.

– Dan Oreskovic, Meniscus, July 2012.

Watch Meniscus live http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ilvs-5CIPqk

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