BOB’S BLOG 2.26.08: ACROSS THE POND

Well, it’s official, The Blakes have gone international. Jumped the pond, as they might say, and Bob, oh Bob, has all the juicy deets.

To Europe and beyond.

My good pal Ashley Graham scored me a free hotel room downtown for the next couple nights while we waited to leave for Paris. Our flight to Europe went smoothly, although I have trouble sleeping on airplanes and it was a looonnng trip. Lars was with us and he had our entire schedule planned out, so we essentially just had to show up. Our first day in Paris–after a taxi hired by our French label took us to our charming hotel downtown–was spent seeing some of the great sights the City of Lights has to offer, including the Louvre and Notre Dame.

I can’t believe they have all these priceless masterpieces at the Louvre just laying around in the open for any jerk to touch. Being a fan of the seven wonders of the ancient world, I was especially thrilled to see some of the fragments of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia. Notre Dame is unbelievable. Words can’t describe it. French food is fantastic: Lots of bread, cheese, wine, creamy sauce, espresso. Love the steak tartar, escargot, frittes, salmon, fish soup, etc. I had a hard time with the goose liver pate, which is a staple, but I could get used to it. The next day we were driven by Joe le Taxi, the former driver of Serge Gainsbourg, to the Canal + studios, which is located in an area where virtually all of French television is filmed. Here we met up with the production team of Album de la Semaine (the show we were playing) as well as Jean-Luc and Stefan of our label, PIAS. We were treated extremely well by everyone. We were fed and given as much wine and beer as we wanted. We spent the day doing interviews and photo shoots for press and for the show. The show had trouble translating “circle jerks” into French. One young woman from a magazine kept asking us how much sex we’ve been getting now that we’re big stars. Anyway, after a full rehearsal on stage, a live audience was brought onto the soundstage and we were filmed coming out and doing a ten song set. I thought we acquitted ourselves very well. The producer pretty much agreed, but he had us re-do two of the songs and allowed us to do another one. The crowd was great, and they even broke into some kind of chant at the end. After saying our goodbyes and packing up (they had rented gear for us, so it wasn’t hard) we met some fans who were hanging around outside. All in all it was a great experience.

We had some trouble at the Gare du Nord the next morning, since we were taking the train to London but our work permits had not yet been faxed to British customs, or something like that. It was cleared up after a couple of hours, and we boarded and relaxed during our two-and-a-half hour trip. Actually, the train moved extremely fast and I was sitting backwards, so I began to feel nauseous after awhile. I found a seat facing forward and made it through the rest of the trip without puking. Our first order of business in London was to take a taxi to Matt Snowball Music, where we were renting our gear and van for the week. Snowball’s warehouse, it turns out, serves as a storage facility for many prominent Brit bands, including Supergrass, Dirty Pretty Things, Graham Coxon, and many others. We rented a brand new Sprinter and loaded up our gear (I had a nice Yamaha kit), and, as Lars had previous experience driving on the opposite side of the road (hopefully not in the States while intoxicated), he took us to the venue, the Hoxton Bar & Grill. We found the general area without a problem, but one wrong turn sent us on a half hour goose chase. The layout of London is labyrinthine and the streets are very small, so one wrong move if you don’t know your way around can spell trouble. We eventually found the place and loaded in. The person who’s been working England for us, Pat, showed up with her team. They were all great, enthusiastic people. Tara, our friend and radio person for the states, had flown out as well and greeted us at the venue. Our show that night went well enough and afterwards we retired to our hotel. Actually, we got lost and spent over an hour seaching for the damn place. At one point we took a wrong turn and ended up at the Brit Awards, which had just finished up. The next morning we drove up to Nottingham, located in the East Midlands. We again got lost while looking for our hotel, and we were still lost after asking for directions four times. The British do not comprehend how confusing their cities are. We found the place essentially by accident. Nottingham is actually a very nice little city though. We soon loaded in at the Bodega Social Club–located very close to the hotel, thankfully–and did a sound check before taking full advantage of the stuff on our rider that the venue honored, including a case of Asahi, various cheeses, tuna fish, and apples. A fan who’d seen us in Seattle showed up and brought a couple people and we played a very good set (we’re experimenting with setlists and it seems to be working for us). Lars and I went back to the hotel soon afterwards while G & S stayed up to cause trouble.