myearishot.JPGThe Groovehouse, Dresden… last night of the tour. Despite having nearly lost my voice in Zwickau, and all of us being wrecked from the accumulated sleep deprivation and non-stop rocking, we were pumped up. We walked around Neustadt, the hip part of Dresden that had managed to survive the Allied firebombing. The neighborhood was full of life, crazy graf and art everywhere, lots of vinyl shops, restaurants of every stripe. One piece of renegade art declared “Mein Ohr ist ganz heiss” – “my ear is getting hot.” For sure.

groovestation.JPGOur host for the evening was Olaf, AKA DJ Barrio Katz — and what a great host he was. He runs a popular bi-monthly mash-up night at the Groovehouse, and we were his special guest band. In the early evening he put out a spread of meats, cheeses, salads, and chocolates in our room, then later took us out for another round of eating at a dope Vietnamese spot. The Groovehouse was filling up with revelers, and Olaf was warming things up with a brilliant mash-up mix of northern soul, latin grooves, and electronica… he must’ve gone through literally hundreds of tracks.barrioscienceWe took the stage at around midnight and kept the party jumping. We felt bad about playing a short set, but we had to stop after an hour or so — we needed to drive all night back to Amsterdam so the guys could make their next-morning flight back to L.A… We were sad about leaving in the middle of such a great party, the place was packed, and Barrio Katz had now moved into ultra-mash-up-mode, mixing up the classic ska and reggae with the most raging jungle and dubstep. Brilliant! We listened to Olaf’s beats as we quickly loaded up the van and packed in all our luggage. By 3 a.m. we had hit the road.

cominghome.JPGI took the first leg, driving for as long as I could manage to stay awake, then Freddy, ever the trooper, took us all the way to Amsterdam, making it right on time by 10 in the morning. We had survived: sixteen shows in seventeen days — a real trial by fire. And we knew we would be back someday. I said goodbye to Ed and Cez, who were returning to work the very next day, and headed out to Brussels, from which I would be flying on to Israel, to spend a week recovering in my grandmother’s care.

Originally we had nothing booked for this date — and it had been bugging Freddy to no end. But while we were in Jena, Falko Rock, our buddy from Chemnitz, had called with news of a last-minute gig. It wouldn’t pay — but we would get dinner and keep the momentum going. We picked up Falko in Chemnitz and headed to Zwickau, a nearby industrial town that had once been the center for manufacturing the Trabant, an infamous East German automobile. On the way to the club, Falko was recalling how in East German days you had to apply for a Trabant, then wait for years, possibly decades until you got it. After reunification, a lot of “Trabis” were simply abandoned by their owners, and you could pick em up for cheap. Now they’re kind of collectors items — and Green Trabis are supposed to bring good luck.

The club was in a huge warehouse on the outskirts of Zwickau, We walked through before it opened: three levels, eight or nine different rooms, over-the-top metal and goth decor — this promised to be good. Falko did a great job helping us set up sound in a hurry. When the doors opened the place filled up with hordes of young rockers, heshers, and goths. Black was de rigeur, with bonus points for looking super-vampy. Our favorite room was next door to where we were playing, an industrial/goth room, where the DJs were spinning NIN, Cure, and Ministry, the girls swayed in fishnets, and the guys did the zombie dance in their trenchcoats. It took me back to high school days — anybody remember Marilyn’s in Pasadena back in the day? We played around midnight, but it was hard to compete with the neighboring sound systems. Still we managed to attract the outcasts of the outcasts — and those who stayed to watch us were intrigued. Late at night we were on our way to Dresden for the grand finale.

radio.JPGWe loved everything about Jena. Everything. All the elements came together for a true Fosforo spectacular — and on Cez-One’s Birthday no less!. After dropping off the guys to start setting up at the Cafe Wagner, Freddy and I darted off to a radio station to do an interview and promote the show. When we got there, Steve, the DJ and host, was already well into playing fantastic cuts — everything from classic Fugees remixes to Buju Banton anthems. He played five songs off the Fosforo CD and interviewed me in English. We also gave away CDs to people who called in to the show.

Jena is a big college town, and the Cafe Wagner is a sort of student-run coop near to some of the main campuses. The guys who run the place were super cool to us, hooking us up with the righteous vegetarian fare. In the basement was a band room where we would be sleeping, stocked with a fridge full of Czech Budweiser — that’s the original Budweiser, for those who don’t know. They say Czech beer is the best, and man that is no lie. As we rested in the room, we could hear a hardcore punk band practicing next door.

jenacrowd.JPGPretty soon it was time to play; the room had filled up real nice. There were a lot of dreads and the smell of herb was wafting through the air. Something told me this was gonna be good. The soundman, Benjamin, had taken great care to get our sound right and had set up nice, simple lighting on stage. Sure enough, people rushed the stage soon as we started and did not stop dancing for two and half hours. We gave it everything we had and earned ourselves a double encore. junglists.JPGhappyed.JPGWhen we got off stage it was time to start celebrating Cez-One’s b-day in earnest. First DJ Rote Rude kept people moving with rare and classic ska and rock steady gems. A few more Czech Buds and a tenderly rolled spliff and we were feeling well nice! Steve from the radio station took over on the turntables and started dropping the mad mad ragga jungle joints. It was four in the morning, and although the crowd had thinned, the real dancers had remained, and the vibe was still live. One of the dancers came up to me and said, “man, we have crazy drum n’ bass parties in Jena… I mean crazy, man.. ” No doubt!

In the morning we were treated to a royal German breakfast, and as we didn’t have far to drive, we were able to while away the afternoon in the chill haunts of the Cafe Wagner.

snowbound.JPGVerbier is a world-famous ski resort in the Valais region. As we drove there the snow began coming down for real. We drove higher and higher into the Alps. Freddy had forgotten to bring chains, a fact he chose to bring up as we were navigating through the falling snow. He had remembered to bring snow tires, but had not bothered to put them on yet. “When did I have time?” he asked. “So far so good,” he said, “but we still have to climb a half a mile up.” He seemed to think that pure cojones would power him up the hill — but the ice turned out to be even slicker than old Freddy. The van slowed to a slippery crawl, as a line of angry French drivers began to gather up on our rear. I asked if we should get out and push. Freddy hesitated for a second then nodded his head yes. We all hopped out and got behind the van as the wheels sprayed us with sleet. I’m not sure that our pushing was doing much, and after a bit, the van started sliding sideways along the road. That’s when we decided to just get out of the way.

skiview.JPGWe ditched the van on the side of the road and hitched the rest of the way to Verbier. Eventually we comandeered a car with chains and drove back to the van, unloaded all the gear and got it to the club. Wonderbar is home to the many British and Swedish chalet workers who live their winters out in this mountain retreat. They come to Wonderbar on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, which are their days off. Our timing was pretty bad — not only was everyone partied-out from New Year’s Eve, but we had arrived on the eve of the season’s first big snow, and everyone was resting up for the next day, when they would have all day to tackle the slopes. Still, a sizeable crowd materialized, and as always, we managed to get a few heads nodding and bodies rocking. After a two-night stand, we were ready to head back to Germany.

oberageri.JPGNew Year’s Eve in Oberageri, a small town on a small lake nestled in the Swiss hills, not far from Zurich. Freddy’s friends, Gunther and Corrine own a beautiful pub there called the Limon Bistro. For a long time, Gunther and Corrine had lived on the Yucatan Peninsula, running a small hostel for travelers. Limon Bistro has a funky tropical vibe that they’ve managed to import to the chilly Alps. After sound-checking, we and a bunch of Oberageri friends were treated to a 5-course New Year’s meal that Gunther and Corrine had prepared themselves: word!

We had a great time: we saw that Gunther had Mezklah and Very Be Careful CDs in his collection — Cez started DJing with a mix of the CDs we had brought and the dope vinyl in Gunther’s collection. We rocked a righteous reggae roots romp. Gogo, a great punk rocker from way back, and a longtime friend of Gunther’s, really wanted to hear Police and Thieves. We had never played it, but we tore into it anyways, and made Gogo come up and sing it — he had a great lazy sneer of a delivery.

guntherhouse.JPGCez and I went back to Corrine and Gunther’s house to sleep, but Ed, Gogo, Gunther, and Freddy stayed up late into the night talking punk rock and drinking Boxer Beers. In the morning we discovered that someone had stolen our stack of CDs — whoever you are in Oberageri that took our music, watch your back! The Karma Police knows about what you did and is on the lookout for your music-thieving ass.

churhotelChur is an amazing city. With a history of human settlement more than 5,000 years old, it is probably the oldest city in Switzerland. Nestled in a deep valley near the source of the Rhein, it’s surrounded on all sides by steep mountains. The club we were playing at had opened just the night before. We would be opening for Satanico, a cool bunch of dudes, mostly from Venezuela, based now in Amsterdam. They play a lot of churpath.JPGLatin Metal, but once a year they do a tour in Switzerland playing Santana covers. An explosion of languages erupted over dinner: Spanish, German, French — I was speaking Hebrew with Robbie, the half-Swiss, half-Israel promoter of the show, and with one of the Dutch-Israeli guys from Satanico too.

churlightI was feeling pretty sick, so after an unexceptional set I decided to make it an early night. In the morning I woke up to walk around and quickly found an alpine path up one of the mountainsides. One of the amazing things about Chur is that under the low-hanging winter sun, the city is perpetually in the shadow of the mountains that surround it. Around 11:30, when I had hiked pretty high up on the path, I saw the sun suddenly break through a narrow gap in the hills and shine its light on half the city below. It seemed like every church bell in the city was going off, as if to mark the appearance of the sun. By the time I had descended, the sun had disappeared once more, leaving the city in its accustomed shadow.

peak.JPGTo get from Switzerland to Italy there is only one thing to do: cross the Alps. Although we were passing through spectacular scenery, Cez-One kept himself covered up underneath a jacket, achieving maximum visual and sonic enhancement for his PlayStation Portable, refusing to acknowledge the outside world. We drove past Montreux, an impossible city that straddles the steep mountainside as it descends into Lake Geneva, then into the Rhone River valley, a deep glacial cut through the craggy snow-capped peaks. The van proved impressive, handily climbing up to the Great St. Bernard Pass at 8,000 feet , through a miles-long tunnel that spit us out into the Italian Alps, and down the steep slopes into the Po River Valley and Italy’s industrial heartland.

thedallop.JPGMadly Pub is special. Built out of a crumbling Italian villa on the side of the road — seemingly in the middle of nowhere — with Guinness on tap and the deeply side-burned Johnny (Gianni) to guide you through the throngs. We got there and learned that a local band was opening up. They are called The Dallop, and they had only been together a few months, this being their first or second show. A few years ago Italy passed a law requiring that all clubs and pubs have no-smoking areas — and it was a great relief to play in a smoke-free room. What with all the singing and jumping around we were doing on stage, and illness on our heels, it was hard to keep our throats and lungs from getting thrashed. I hope the other nations of Europe follow suit soon — it’s a matter of public health!

The Dallop fans, mostly from the nearby town of Borgonovo, started showing up in droves, excited to see their hom-town heroes playing. Many of them were wearing hand-painted Dallop shirts and hand-made band buttons… oh to be young and in your first band. The Dallop played some great punk rock, with everyone in the band singing great hooks. The lead guitarist broke a string on the first song. I ran up and gave him my guitar, then changed the string on his guitar while they finished out the song. He seemed a little shocked about this — but that’s how we do! How many times have the guys from Mezklah and Fitter done the same for me?

cityhall.JPGMany Dallop fans stayed to check out our set and although half of Madly Pub seemed to be ignoring us, there was a sizable group that was paying close attention. The dancing never really took off, but when we finished playing we managed to unload a grip of CDs! We hung out for a bit, and then were taking to out sleeping quarters: the town hall. piazza.JPGIts a beautiful medieval building whose top floor holds cots for visiting bands and other penniless passers-by. After a lovely morning cappuccino in the piazza with Johnny and his girlfriend, we were on the road back to Switzerland — this time over another impossibly jagged mountain pass.