Sunday 6 May
Kinky Star, Ghent, Belgium
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Monday 7 May
L’International, Paris, France
w/ Nord, Nordkapp
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.
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?”
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.
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.
All words and photos by Joseph James