Ranges EU Tour 18: Lyon and Freiburg

Ranges Hard Rock CAfe Lyon
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Ranges Hard Rock CAfe LyonDay 3
Tuesday 8 May
Hard Rock Cafe, Lyon, France
w/ Cloud Shelter, Lodz

Everyone was in a great mood. Both nights of tour so far had been great, with good attendance, friendly people, great food and new experiences in foriegn cities. It was a welcome change from America, where people make less effort to support the music scene.

Tiffany and her grandmother provided a breakfast of toast, fruit and homemade honey and jam. The sun was shining with intense heat and we drank in the peaceful noises of birds chirping as we sat in the garden eating.

Ranges Hard Rock Cafe Lyon

It felt like a long drive to Lyon. I didn’t to get to see as much of Lyon as I’d seen of Paris, but Zeidler and I went off to find something to eat while the band soundchecked. We found a neat plaza behind the town hall which featured a stunning water fountain with steam that arose from the noses of the horse statues. We had some difficulty ordering, but eventually managed to order some crepes and had a nice meal before heading back to the venue.

The Hard Rock Cafe in Lyon stands among one of my favourite venues I’ve ever been to. Anyone familiar with the chain will know what to expect – a restaurant/bar, merchandise shop, and plenty of music memorabilia to look at on the walls. This one was relatively new (two years old, I believe), sat next to the Rhone river.

Most dedicated venues feel dingy. I’m sure you know what I mean – gross toilets, graffiti and stickers, sticky floors, dark spaces. Hard Rock was none of these things. It was bright, clean, had good access, they provided a nice meal and a good green room. And as an actual venue it was awesome. It sounded good, and the lighting was fantastic.

Cloud Shelter Hard Rock Cafe Lyon

Cloud Shelter

First up was Cloud Shelter, featuring promoter Jean Sebastian on drums. They kicked the night off with a solid set of post-rock, crescendo rich and dynamic. The place was fairly packed already at that stage, showing that either Jean Sebastian is a great promoter, Lyon has a supportive music scene, or both.

Lodz Hard Rock Cafe Lyon

Lodz

Lodz’s set began with an impact, launching straight into their hard-fitting energetic music. It was gloomy, atmospheric and heavy, touching on Deftones territory. Daylight had faded by this point, and the orange streetlamps shining in from outside added to the visuals onstage.

Lodz Hard Rock Cafe Lyon

Lodz

The lights were simply great, adding a whole new dimension to the experience. Cloud Shelter had Edison bulbs on light stands, reminding me of Ranges’ set up on their American tour. Usually Ranges play with their own lighting rig, synced up to the backing track. But it wasn’t feasible bringing so much gear overseas, with airline fees being as expensive as they are. I’m beginning to have second thoughts about that lighting rig. I certainly helped Ranges to stand out last year, but these European shows have been even better without them. Plus they’re easier to photograph without their own rig.

I’m wondering if the lights are always this good at Hard Rock Lyon, because there were so many photographers in attendance. I sparked up a conversation with one couple who lived about an hour from Lyon. They were simply delightful to chat to. Come to think of it, everyone was friendly and happy to be there. Lyon gives off great vibes.

I’ve seen Ranges play close to 20 times by this point. I’m not even sure if I’ve seen Declaration AD play that many times – and I used to live with them! And I’m convinced that this is the best Ranges show I’ve seen. All the elements were there – receptive audience, good numbers, good audio mix, nice venue, great lighting, and the band played well. The crowd were lapping it up. At the end of the hour-long set the band went backstage and the audience began cheering and chanting for an encore. This placed the band in an awkward situation. Usually they just pay their piece and that’s it. This was a first – having the crowd demanding an encore. They didn’t even have any other songs ready to play. But there’s no way they could get away without a few more songs, so they returned to the stage played another two songs.

Ranges Hard Rock Cafe Lyon

Jerome from Cloud Shelter hosted us in his apartment. Mark, Wilson and I grabbed some pizzas from a fantastic little shop nearby, and we spent most of the night talking rubbish at Jerome’s. They had French alcohol called Pontelier Anis (made in a neighbouring township) that we drank. It tasted similar to sambuca, and changed colour from transparent to cloudy white when you add water.

CJ and Wilson slept in the van, fearful that some local goon may try to break in a steal the musical gear inside. Zeidler was segregated to the lounge as penance for his bear imitations the night before. Mark, Joey and I cuddled up in a cozy space in the next room, where we slept for about for about three hours.

Ranges Hard Rock Cafe Lyon

Day 4
Wednesday 9 May
Slow Club, Frieberg, Germany
w/ Nonsun

Touring takes its toll on one’s body. Long days spent sediantry in a van, unhealthy diets that consist mostly of gas station food, and lack of sleep all begin to wear you down. We had a blast in Lyon, but only a few hours sleep before the drive to Frieberg.

Slow Club was a cool venue. Almost polar opposite from the modern Hard Rock Cafe, it was a more traditional style club. They cool thing about it is that it is a community resource, run and operated by volunteers. There was something reassuringly familiar about it. And the best thing about it is that there was a studio apartment upstairs, with bunk beds that remind me of school camps and a small kitchen. Staying on site is amazing – taking away the process of packing up and driving to a place to sleep at the end of the night.

In other ways it was vastly different from other places I’d been. People smoked inside the venue. This was outlawed in New Zealand well before I was old enough to go to bars, so the only times I’ve ever experienced people smoking inside is at casinos in Las Vegas. There was even an ashtray fixed to the wall between the urinals in the bathroom. The staircase and hallway featured artistic photos that reminded me of the band Pussy Riot – controversial images of topless women with ski masks.

Ranges Hard Rock Cafe Lyon

After sound check Joey and I went to check out a local attraction with a friend of Jared’s. Frieburg Munster cathedral, like most cathedrals, is a gorgeous building with large spires, stained glass windows, ornate sculptures and an overall awe-inspiring feel. My favourite feature was the many gargoyles – all different from each other. They had a mass on when we went inside so we chose not to stay long, but it’s always worthwhile seeing even the smallest sample of a new city.

Ukraine-based Nonsun recently signed to dunk!records. They play music so heavy and slow it’s oppressive. Zeidler described them as making Glacier look cheerful. I don’t like that style of music so I stayed upstairs and rested while they played.

Ranges Hard Rock Cafe Lyon

Apparently that rest was inadequate. I helped Mark set up his drums for the Ranges set, and then sat down on a couch next to the bar to watch the set. I managed so catch maybe half, but true to form, I dozed off half way through.

There were only six bunks upstairs so I pulled out a spare mattress and slept on the floor. The next morning I was told that everyone was kept up by loud German singing all night. I was so exhausted that I never noticed a thing.

On to Zottegem, and dunk!festival!

Ranges Hard Rock Cafe Lyon

Photos and words by Joseph James

Ranges EU Tour 18: Ghent and Paris

Ranges L'International Paris
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Day 1
Sunday 6 May
Kinky Star, Ghent, Belgium
w/ Astodan

At 17 hours and 40 minutes, the flight from Auckland to Doha is the longest in the world. Not that I knew this when I booked my flights. I had asked my friend who is a travel agent to help me sort travel to Brussels, and this flight was what she came up with.

I can tell you first hand that spending close to 18 hours on a plane does not do wonders for one’s health. I’ll even go so far as to say it wouldn’t be ideal even in first class. And when you consider that the flight to Doha only constitutes half of my trip to Brussels, you may soon come to the conclusion that I felt slightly worse for wear once I’d arrived at my destination.

Not that I needed to dwell on this. Because once I’d landed and cleared customs I was reunited with my close friends in the band Ranges. Tiredness be gone! Excitement replaced feelings of fatigue. It was like we had seen each other just yesterday.

Ranges Luggage

Regular Will Not Fade readers will know that I joined Ranges on tour last year in America, travelling from their hometown of Bozeman, Montana all the way to the East Coast, up to Vermont for the inaugural dunk!USA festival, and then back to Montana. It was one of the best times of my life, and I grew extremely attached to the guys I was travelling with.

When it came time for me to return to New Zealand they invited me on their next tour – this time in Europe – which would include dunk!festival in Belgium. How could I turn down an opportunity like that?

To sweeten the deal, our friends in Tides of Man will also be playing dunk!, as well as a few other people I’ve met along the way, such as Phil from Caspian, Au Revoir and Rosetta. And I’ll also have to opportunity to finally meet many Facebook friends who are part of the global post-rock community.

Reuniting the lads from Montana was emotional, to say the least. We had spent two weeks stuck in a van together in October, meaning that we all knew each other’s idiosyncrasies and mannerisms. David Zeidler from Arctic Drones and Young Epoch will join us in a few days, and I wonder if he will pick up on the absurd in-jokes that dominate life in the van.

Mark standing outside Kinky Star

Mark standing outside Kinky Star

First stop was the gear rental place that is providing the van and backline. We got good gear from them. I don’t know much about amps and speakers, but the drums are a sweet C & C kit. And the van is amazing. Roomy enough for all the gear, plenty of seats, and a loft up top. Having this much space is such a luxury.

Next we drove to the venue, The Kinky Star in Ghent. A neat little club with little regards to safe building codes. The walls around the stage were covered with black and white photos of gigs at the venue, making for a cool wallpaper effect. There were the stairs from hell heading up to the green room: super steep, small steps with no handrail. I’m honestly surprised that no-one fell and died.

I helped myself to a handful of beers from the drinks fridge in the green room and then went off on a wee walk to explore Ghent. I’ve never been to Europe, so this was very new to me. A quaint, idyllic town, Ghent boasts beautiful cobblestone roads lined with pretty cafes and bars. Impressive churches tower above canals, and an imposing castle perches rises up, half encased by a moat. I was thoroughly enjoying my wandering, although the beers inhibited my sense of direction, and I got lost in no time. Not to despair, I’d had the foresight to download an offline map of the region to my phone before I left NZ, so managed to find my way back to the venue without too much strife.

Astrodan Kinky Star Ghent

Astrodan

Astodan opened the show, with a blend of metal and post-rock that trod the balance of heavy and melodic nicely. I still don’t understand how they managed to fit the whole band on such a tiny stage, but it was a great set.

The small club filled up quickly, unexpected for a Sunday night. Everyone appeared enthusiastic, and one punter shouted out “PERFECTOOOO!” after each song Ranges played. Wout from dunk!records attended as well.

Ranges Kinky Star Ghent

Alas, I was losing my fight against jet lag. As excited as I was to catch a Ranges set, I couldn’t stay awake. I caught myself nodding off a few times while standing up, giving me that horrific scare you get from the sense of falling as you sleep. I decided to head upstairs for a lie down, lest I collapse from exhaustion. The guys gave me a good ribbing afterwards for that. I’d been fairly drunk earlier on when I got lost in Ghent, so I guess it looked like I was just sleeping that off.

Ranges played for an hour, which is a longer set than I’d seen them play for most of the last tour. I could hear them as I rested from above, and I noticed that they’d added some more lively songs like “Babylon” to their set.

I felt more alive After a 40 minute snooze. Joey and I headed across the road for some terrible fried substances that they tried to pass off as food. I had ordered curry sauce with my fries, and it came with a sickly sweet sauce, almost a syrup. The chicken burger featured unidentifiable “meat”. One of the issues with not speaking the language is that you just have to hope for the best when you order food. As unappetizing as it was, I hadn’t eaten anything other than airline meals and snacks for a few days, so I wolfed it down.

That night a local promoter named Lut hosted us. She had a lovely place with plenty of beds. She treated us to walnut salami and cheeses before bed. Her shower had two shower heads. I don’t know why, but I thought it was very exciting. Wilson had brought some Man Mountain beard oil for me from America, so I gladly tried it out after my shower.

Outside Lut's house in Ghent

Outside Lut’s house in Ghent. L-R: Wilson, Joey, CJ, Mark, Jared, Joseph (me)

Day 2
Monday 7 May
L’International, Paris, France
w/ Nord, Nordkapp

Ranges L'International Paris

I saw a different side to CJ today. He’s always in control: driving, running things, planning the itinerary, keeping order. But the crazy Parisian traffic caught him off guard. It doesn’t help that none of us knew what the road signs meant, or that the SatNav started to malfunction, or that the other drivers on the road cut us off without warning or a care in the world, or that a zillion cyclists clearly have a death wish and decide to ride as close to the van as possible.
But the final straw was news from David Zeidler.

Some of you may know of Zeidler as a writer from Arctic Drones. Apparently he’d figured that organising a few small shows in New England had earned him the right to write the Ranges tour blog – the same one that I’d been promised exclusive coverage of. Typical American, deciding to muscle his way in and take over my established position. Anyway, the guy didn’t even attend the first show in Belgium, and decided to join us in Paris. He hadn’t even been on the city for ten minutes before managing to get pick pocketed.

So picture this: you’re driving through a foreign city. The road rules seem unclear – or at least nobody else seems to stick to them. Suicidal Parisians on bikes keep pulling in front of you as you navigate. You’re entering a busy roundabout without lanes and you get a message from Zeidler: “Help, I’ve been pickpocket and need to get picked up”. As you can imagine, it was all a bit much for CJ.

Joey jumped to the rescue, ordering an Uber to pick up Zeidler and get him to the venue. We found the street that the venue was on, parked the van, and had some time out. Thankfully for Zeidler, he was able to ask his parents to send him money via wire transfer, so wasn’t completely without funds.

L'International Paris

Mark watching Nord at L’International Paris

Our promoter was Tiffany, a lovely girl in red overalls who runs post-rock events in Paris. She, and Guillame the sound guy made the night a total breeze.

L’International had a bar at ground level, with an underground room for the music. There was a perspex window between the stairs and the stage, giving you a good “side of stage” view from the stairwell.

After load in I set off for wander around Paris. I didn’t have any set destination, but simply wanted to experience some of the city. Narrow alleyways opened into grand courtyards. Countless apartments lined the city blocks, with balconies that feature ornate cast iron railing. Impressive churches, cathedrals and other such buildings stood out every block or so. The most impressive sight I found was Notre Dame.

Earlier that day Mark had mentioned wanting to see some art from notable Parisian street artist Space Invader, so I took a few photos of some I saw on my walk.

When I got back to the venue I showed Mark. “Where did you see this?” he asked, gripping me tightly, “Is it far?”

Nord L'International Paris

Nord

So we set off on another venture onto the streets of Paris. We were surprised to find a few Invader pieces within a few blocks of the venue, as well as a handful of imitations, and an Andre The Giant paste-up by Shepard Fairey, who featured along with Space Invader in the beginning of the Banksy documentary Exit Through The Giftshop

Mark was grinning madly, happy that’d he’d achieved his goal of finding some Invader art.

Nord L'International Paris

Nord

We arrived back at L’International in time for the second act Nord. Mathy riffs gave an upbeat feel to the music, and I loved the singing – not something you come across much in post-rock circles.

The turn out for this show was great. We thought that Ghent was good, and Paris was even better. Ranges had a great set, and everyone was on a big high following on from it. Tiffany told us that many attendees hadn’t even heard of Ranges, but still showed up anyway.

We were stoked. It was a good audience, good sound mix, and fun time. The guys in Ranges were pleasantly surprised to see some beers from their breweries available. and everyone was in a good mood.

Tiffany took us back to her grandparent’s house to stay, squished into two rooms on the upper floor like sardines. Zeidler sounds like a bear when he snores.

Ranges L'International Paris

All words and photos by Joseph James

Album Review: Man Mountain – Infinity Mirror

Man Mountain Infinity Mirror cover
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Last year I spent two weeks on the road with Ranges, touring across America with them as they promoted their latest record, climaxing with the inaugural dunk!USA festival in Vermont. They teamed up with a few other acts along the way, playing multiple dates with: Tides of Man, Vexes, This Patch of Sky and Man Mountain.

I’ll forgive you if you weren’t familiar with Man Mountain before now. It is hard to maintain a presence with only four recorded songs out (The 2013 EP, To Call Each Thing By Its Right Name, and 2015 single “To Be Made As New’). I have a feeling that this début album, Infinity Mirror (Spartan Records) will change this, and earn Man Mountain deserved awareness within the scene.

Man Mountain David in Columbus

As I mentioned, I’ve spent a bit of time with the band. Man Mountain shared a four dates with Ranges on tour, and we all hung out over dunk!festival weekend, so I came to befriend them all. I remember standing outside a venue one night after the show, and Bryan shared with me about how Lowercase Noises influenced him to start playing ambient guitar music, which led to him joining the band. It’s a big effort because he needs to travel a long way to attend band practice, but is totally worth it because his friends in the band are awesome. And he totally has a point – they’re all genuine, down-to-earth guys who all share a love for the film Face/Off. Plus Mike has one of the greatest beards I’ve ever laid eyes on – who wouldn’t want to be in a band with a man that facially talented?

And their music is great too. Their playing casts a hypnotic spell. There are certainly a few videos floating around of me dancing along to the music, caught up in the immense magnitude of it all. It’s a shame that Man Mountain didn’t actually play dunk!fest, but they are more deserving of a slot on that festival than many of the bands who did play.

I love the DIY ethos that many American bands work by, the way that they create things for themselves. When Man Mountain played they would use flood lamps with foot switches to give visual oomph to the climactic passages of their music. It’s such a simple idea, and about as budget as it comes when you think of dynamic lighting rigs, but it packed such a punch. I can’t listen to their music without visualising that searing yellow beam.

Man Mountain Columbus

Something that stands out for me on this release is how well recorded it is. Mike Kalajian (Circa Survive, Prawn, Moving Mountains) mastered the album, and did an excellent job. By the sound of it, the recording process was somewhat experimental too, with the guys really taking their time to nail the sound. Things sound clear, crisp and articulate. I wish I had a copy of their vinyl record to hear the album in its full glory, but tell you what, it still sounds darn good just through middle-of-the-road headphones.

Jacob Goins just kills it on the drums. I already share a bond with him over our mutual love for Into It. Over It., but after hearing his playing on this record my opinion of him has skyrocketed. He showcases so much finesse and technical ability with taste. He’s not a hard-hitter, nor does he demand your attention, but he plays damn well, albeit subtly. The open/close hi-hat in lead single “Memory Trace” makes me think of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” – hard to pull off so precisely. And the excellent polyrhythmic intro of “Elysian” could just as easily lead into a Karnivool song.

Unlike your traditional model of lead guitar playing intricate melodies and rhythm guitar just filling in the rest with chord progressions, Mike and Bryan take turns playing dominantly. Like alternating sine waves, the two almost volley off each other. One will swell up as the other retreats, just for the opposite to happen soon after.

This music doesn’t attract many hyperboles. It’s middle of the spectrum – not especially fast, heavy, calm… But it is good. Nothing extreme – just done really well. Delicate and dynamic, with plenty to pay attention to.

Man Mountain’s music is reflective of the personalities within the band. At first unassuming and pleasant, and once you dig deeper you find quality gold inside. Understated, remarkable, and brilliantly crafted and recorded, Man Mountain’s début album Infinity Mirror is worth paying attention to. Listen with headphones on for the full immersive experience.

Man Mountain Mike in Ypsilanti

Infinity Mirror releases March 16th on Spartan Records. The 300 vinyl pressings have already sold out, but the record is still available on CD or digital download.

Man Mountain have also remastered their two previous releases, available for “Name Your Own Price” via Spartan Records or their Bandcamp page.

Man Mountain are

Mike Reaume – Guitar
Bryan Cowles – Guitar
David Reaume – Bass
Jacob Goins – Drums

Man Mountain Ypsilanti

Man Mountain links:

Spartan Records pre-order: http://spartanrecords.limitedrun.com/products/609477-man-mountain-infinity-mirror

Bandcamp: https://manmountain.bandcamp.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ManMountainMusic

Twitter: https:// twitter.com/ManMountainBand

Instagram: http://instagram.com/man_mountain

Soundcloud: http://soundcloud.com/manmountainband

 

Review by Joseph James.

Photos taken by Joseph in Ypsilanti and Columbus in September 2017