2004 Tour Diary: Europe

Another long-lost entry from John Roderick’s 2004 Tour Diary. Also catch the East Coast and Southern U.S. entry

We’ve been in Europe the last month and, in my defense, it was almost impossible to keep a regular journal what with all the sitting around in black berets smoking unfiltered cigarettes and arguing about dialectical materialism in French that needed to get done.

But now we’re back in the States and on a steady diet of chicken-fried everything for a few days and our sanity slowly returns.

Just to recap the Europe tour… well, it’s a lot harder to tour in Europe than it is in America, and I’ve been trying to put my finger on what it is, exactly, that makes it so much different and the best I can come up with is that everyone lives so much closer together over there, and there are so many more people shoe-horned into such a much smaller area, that there is a steadily growing feeling the longer you’re there that you’ll never really be alone again or ever escape from each other or from the narrow mazes of towns for even a moment for the rest of eternity.


This is mitigated considerably by the great people and fun times, sure, but as Americans we are so used to the feeling of endless space and… headroom, I guess, that touring overseas begins to feel a little like you boarded an airplane to take a trip and several hours after you first started wondering when it was going to land it dawned on you that it never was going to land.

That said, the Spanish were unbelievably welcoming and hospitable people and I finally fulfilled my lifelong dream to quietly eat a plate of sardines while the rest of the people at my  table gossiped in Basque; our visit to Austria was highlighted by coffee and cake in a café with (next to) the Cardinal of Vienna(!), plus I finally found an audience that laughs at my Austro-Hungarian Empire jokes, (I have so many!); in Germany we played in a 14th century stable, (the fabulous Toneneburg!), an old slaughterhouse, an East Berlin disco, and then in a rocking club in the center of a village of about 400 people; Belgium opened her arms to us again proving the old adage that the reason Belgium is surrounded by France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands is that she is really popular; and finally the Netherlands themselves, our home away from home, where we were received like conquering heroes, albeit like heroes returning from an unpublicized war of conquest that may have happened a few years ago.

So, that should bring us up to speed.  For the most part no one in Europe really wanted to talk politics, which I found surprising.  I fully expected to sit with my head in my hands night after night listening to over-excited, unemployed 22 year-old German and Dutch political scientists explain to me why George Bush was the new Hitler, but most everyone I met left the topic completely alone.  I think the concept that there are “two Americas” is pretty widely understood now, and no one doubts which America we’re from.

One other thing: let me dispel for all eternity the idea that Europeans are good drivers.  They MAKE great cars, sure, and they typically obey their traffic laws more dilligently than we do, which lends an atmosphere of conscientiousness to the roads, but in actual fact they drive just as poorly as the residents of rural Wisconson, who set the standard for shitty driving world-wide.

So… we returned home on Tuesday and our first show with the Decemberists was Thursday, which gave us plenty of time to brush our teeth thoroughly before setting out on tour again.  Meeting up with the Decemberists in Portland there was a little getting-aquainted period where we sort of sniffed around each other trying to size up what the next month of touring together was going to be like.

Last year there had been a little mock-feud between the Long Winters and the Decemberists that took the form of some good-natured shit-talking from the stage when we played each other’s home towns, and also a little email flame-war.  The nature of the feud was essentially that the Decemberists thought the Long Winters were “meanies” and the Long Winters thought the Decemberists were “sissies”.

But then the feud kinda petered-out, so I asked the Decemberists what had happened to our mock-feud, and they said that they had stopped feuding with us because they were afraid that they might hurt our feelings.

Is that not the SISSIEST THING YOU’VE EVER HEARD??  They are unbelieveable.  I’m sure they apologize to their poo before they flush it.  Anyway, I assured them that whatever feelings the Long Winters had had left the band with Sean Nelson, and they were free to insult us as vitrolically as they wished.  They blushed and talked amongst themselves and after awhile agreed that we were definitely “meanie-heads” or something, and Jen, the keyboard player, punched me softly on the arm.

We played the Sasquatch Festival, which everyone agreed was a total highlight of the year, and then met up in Boise the following night to watch the Preston School of Industry.