August 10: All good things must come to an end, and I’m getting spoiled by travelling with friends to cities I’ve never been, then hearing 32 of my favourite songs at the end of it. This is my last day with Sebadoh, and it’s starting out hysterically.
The lads have allowed me along for the ride in the SebaVan, a sexy Benz Sprinter that holds their gear and my ass. (Click on all photos to embiggen.)
We had to get going early (10am) and so Jason and I are outside chatting and having a smoke. There’s no sign of Lou. “Do you know what room Lou’s in?” Bob asks. I shake my head, no. “I have to give him back his pants.”
“What the fuck?” I ask, laughing. Turns out that late last night, Lou put his jeans on an open window sill and they blew out of it. Conveniently Jason, Bob and Mattias were outside chatting when the trousers fell from above, and behind them. “We thought it was a body or something and didn’t wanna touch them,” said Jason “but then we walked over and saw that there was a Sebadoh pass attached to them!”.
Lou is reunited with his pants (“Bell-bottoms! Do you know how hard it is to find proper bell-bottoms?”) and comes down to the van, hair scruffy and laughing. We load up the van and head off. Lou picks up a conversation we’d started the day before, about the Muppets. He loves the Muppets, Grover in particular. We get into a friendly argument over the name of the guy who wears a salsa outfit, and hits fuzzy animals to make noise. Lou tries to insist it’s Pepe Prawn and I insist that it’s just a normal name, not an animal muppet. (I win: it’s Marvin Suggs) It’s no wonder Bob and Jason plug themselves into their iPods/computers.
We make a couple of roadside stops. At one of the petrol stations, an American guy starts chatting to Lou. He’s driving to Köln…for the Sebadoh show, and has been at the previous two in Germany. It’s a nice moment and underscores the new/enduring interest in the band. He’s not the only one, several fans are driving across Germany to see ’em.
Lou and Jason hang out, waiting for us all to reassemble. A vast discussion about moldy water ensues.
We head off again to our next stop: the backline rental company, Gate to Hell. Located near Dortmund in Lünen, Gate to Hell has a huge warehouse that’s probably like a candy store to musicians. Sebadoh’s been having trouble with their twin reverb amp (turns out you can just pull a plug out a bit more – who knew?) and want to give back a few things they’re not using. And they’d like a new drum carpet, thanks very much. So they unpack the van and go in to test out the amp.
While the guys are standing around being nerdly musicians and talking shop, I wander over to Gate to Hell’s neighbouring store, Novum Fachmarkt…
….Not to be confused with Novum Fuckmarket, which it pretty much what it should be called. It’s a GREAT enormous and random-Canadian-girl-friendly erotic sex shop. Of course, the guys all want to check it out, but they’re pros. And nice. Decent. Plus, they’re not here to fuck about. Me? Not so much. I, uh, check out the wares. The girl on her knees on the sign outside LOOKS SO INVITING!
The van is loaded back up and off we head to GEBÄUDE 9 in Köln. It’s a sparse cement-y room with a back bar in some cool grafitti’d area, near some highway overpasses. I’m getting a good tour of Germany’s warehouse districts. The views are incredible! This what I saw of Hamburg to Köln:
We arrive in Köln about 5 or 6 hours after setting off. At the venue, we meet a Canadian security guard originally from Ottawa. He tells us a joke while we all eat our faux-Vietnamese meals (half have tasteless neon yellow tofu stuff, the rest of us have tasteless brown stuff): Q: “How many Canadians does it take to screw in a lightbulb?” A: “None. Canadians don’t change light bulbs, we accept them as they are.” The Americans laugh. The Canadian laughs. #Funnycosit’strue
After an al fresco dinner on picnic tables in the alley by the venue, the band do another photoshoot with Jens. Seems “the Australians” want some exclusive shots for the band’s upcoming tour. So they head out to find a good backdrop. Jens discovers a log upon which the three can perch. Jens is very professional…and bendy.
While Jens is all business with the snapping, I snap in between snaps. “I never know what the hell to do with my hands” one of the guys says…and the band laugh and relax. It’s nice to see. There’s some good chemistry now in Sebadoh 5.0.
Jens walks the band down to another part of the alleyway to shoot ’em in front of a new wall. It’s kinda rad, so I beg the pro to take one of me with ’em. He obliges, as do the band, because they’re nice like that. See the pic at the beginning of this War & Peace? Rilly cute, right? I keep snapping the inbetweeners. In this photo, they’re looking at me! (Not really. They’re looking at graffiti and posters on the walls. Apparently Jon Spencer Blues Explosion is coming soon!)
Following the photoshoot, Lou and I go ’round the corner to record a wee video that I promised to the team at the Edinburgh Edge Festival where the band play this week. Here it is. (Though they edited out the bit where Lou says he can’t understand a word that Scottish people say. If you wanna see the whole thing, go here.) And while I’ve got the camera, time to get goofy:
Let it be said: Lou Barlow is a very honest man.
Anyway! The show is strange. The room is filled, which reassures Lou, who’s played there solo, to a much emptier space. The crowd seems totally wrapt, but utterly silent and are clapping politely in between songs. It’s not that Sebadoh aren’t connecting – all shows have been super-tight, and epic in their own ways – but the vibe is odd. The band are working hard. “What day is it?” Lou asks out loud, wondering if the day of the week is having any affect on the crowd, and gets the answer that it’s der Mittwoch. “It feels like Monday at 8am” jokes Jason.
And things get even more silly….
…when Jason decides that for fun, he’s going to wear Lou’s glasses through “Two Years Two Days”. Like me, Lou’s pretty blind, so he doesn’t notice. But Jake does – he has to play most of the song with his eyes closed. We spring the surprise on Lou after the show and all have a good guffaw. As we do when Jason and Lou fling open the door from backstage onto the alley as people are leaving…
“Goodnight!” they chirp cheerfully.”Thanks for coming!” they wave as the crowd leaves. It’s funny. Nobody in the band knows what to make of the show itself but then, suddenly, the guys are approached by countless fanboys at the door, asking for autographs, holding merch. “Maybe it was just that their heads were exploding internally with your awesome,” I suggest. “You never know.”
Oh and by fanboys, I mean fanBOYS. The above pic is of my fave one-of-three boys who had driven 300km from “nowhere, it’s a cow town” they told me, to see Sebadoh. They looked like they were 12 years old and we all kinda fall in love with them. “So, do you have to come into Köln normally to see shows?” I ask. “No, just for Sebadoh”, they say, starstruck and I take a pic of them with Jason and Lou. It’s astoundingly sweet. Next generation, and all that.
Oh! Here’s another bumps on a log pic! Hey Lou! Over here!
Soon it’s time head back to the Holiday Inn Express and we all huddle in the lobby where there’s free wi-fi. It’s my last night with the band and we celebrate a late check out the next day by drinking beers and surfing the web. RAWK! But soon, it’s bed. After check out, I get a ride with the band to the main train station, near Köln’s massive cathedral. Bob is starving so off they go for lunch. I bid them all farewell and wheel my bag towards the great big church….I suppose I should do some sightseeing, right?
Thanks for the beauty of the ride, Sebadoh, you’re made of amazing.\m/