Coalesce recently embarked on their first European trek ever, so we asked them to document the journey in the form of a few tour blogs. This is the first blog in a three-part series about their touring, with each blog written by a different member of the band. This entry was written by vocalist Sean Ingram
My experiences outside of the United States are limited to a few shows in Canada, a country that might as well be America except for the small differences; like calling grape soda “raisin soda.” I am the proverbial stupid American that all Europeans supposedly have as their stereotype. I know one language fluently, and all the others I have tried to learn, well, I only know how to say “Where’s the bathroom?” I figured it’s the only phrase I’d really need to know in a pinch, since it’s pretty handy in English too. I have been short with immigrants at their various places of employment when their language skills weren’t to my convenience. In my teens, I identified with many of the ideals of the Republican Party and its world view, especially the view that America IS the world and every other country can piss off. I felt that I could potentially be a stupid American indefinitely until I embarked with my friends and band coalesce on this trip; a trip that couldn’t help but be described as life changing.
My hopes were to broaden my view of the world, and I thought that the trip might put some of the things that confuse me at home into perspective. Also, over the course of doing interviews and press for OX, there were many questions that had been asked of me that I’d never bothered thinking about. I started to think that they must be important, because they were being asked over and over again. I wanted to test some of my answers that I had been giving and see if I was being truly honest with myself and the world. My hunch was that my expectations would be reshaped or reinforced at least once every day, and for the most part, they were—as I hoped they would be.
Day 1: Winston Kingdom (Amsterdam/Holland)
The Jet lag did not really affect us since we were so unbelievably excited to be somewhere totally new. The club was a small capacity place which was a big relief; it couldn’t have been a better first show for us. I had unfairly formed a few opinions in advance of European shows from friends who had been there before. One of those opinions was that European fans are a few years behind in hardcore trends. For example, I’d been told that ’84-era hardcore is huge as hell over there; like, sold out 5,000 capacity venues big. I’d heard rumors that Youth of Today still plays over there exclusively since the money is so enticing. I had half joked that we should do ok then, as long as they are at least 10 years behind. From what I saw, though, this just wasn’t accurate. Aside from one of the opening bands covering a Snapcase song, it was exactly what you would expect at an intimate show in the States. There was also the fact that we sensed more enthusiasm from those at the show; sometimes crowds in the States can be hard to read. We got two encores, which is incredibly strange for us since we’ve still never grown used to doing even one. Europe would prove to be the place where we’d start to get used to them.
Oh and yes, yes, you can buy weed at coffee bars over there for about 5 euros. And the bikes! The beautiful bikes! And the beautiful girls on bikes, too! It was exactly what I, the American, had imagined all of Europe to look like.
Day 2 Corporation (Sheffield/England)
It should be noted that Coalesce is a band of nicknames and inside jokes that borderline on cruelty, but are somehow hilarious and fun-loving just the same. Did you gain a little weight and approach the 200lb mark (what Jes so lovingly refers to as “the Deuce”)? Don’t think it didn’t go unnoticed, and by the way you’re now called “YOUR NAME HERE Two-Bills.” Do you fart in your sleep and stink up the van? As soon as you wake up you will henceforth be known as “King Ausfahrt,” a consequence of our new (and incredibly misused) German vocabulary. Does your face contort in an especially disproportionate way when you sleep? Don’t worry, someone will take a thousand pictures and let you know what it looks like (drool and all). And so on and so forth. The result is constant laughter day and night. To us this is par for the course and one of the reasons we care to do coalesce at all. This trek, though, we had a new, previously unknown member in our group: Daniel, our driver from East Berlin. We were not totally sure how Daniel was going to take to us. He’s a real handsome man that wore a fanny pack across his chest the whole trip and which I couldn’t stop admiring. The man pulled off a fanny pack for god’s sake—I was impressed. It was more than the fanny pack though. We hit it off with Daniel right away. Jes had already done the background work to discover his German nickname (which shall remain unsaid so people he doesn’t know will not mistakenly call him that; it took three days before he told Jes quite frankly, “Please stop calling me that”). We bonded with Daniel from the get-go and after the dude drove us the whole 14+ hours from Amsterdam to Sheffield, we knew he was the type of guy we’d be indebted to for years to come.
In addition to Daniel, we had our two most trusted friends with us: long time bosom buddy Dan Askew (AKA Danimal, AKA Danny Two-Bills, AKA Dangelina—more on this name later though) and long time roadie/merch guy/bosom buddy Spencer Benavides (AKA Biddy, AKA the guy who snores – loudly). A coalesce tour is simply not a coalesce tour without these two guys with us. If coalesce is a family, and the musicians in the band are brothers, and Dan and Biddy are those two cousins that you always look forward to hanging out with during vacations and family get-togethers. We’re stoked that we met Daniel because he is the first guy who fit the profile for our cool-ass Dad. Not only did this guy kill it behind the steering wheel, he kept us in check as well. None of us brought a cell phone on the tour (and only two of us brought laptops) and since that is our main way of telling time back home, we were constantly wondering what time it was. Daniel was the go-to man for these sorts of things. “What time is it, Daniel?” “When will we be there, Daniel?” “What time are we leaving, Daniel?” “Who are we playing with tonight, Daniel?” Yeah, it was definitely us who forced the Dad-role on him; he didn’t apply for the gig. It’s quite possible that he thinks of us as his lame ass step-kids…
We were able to take our first 30-minute ferry ride across the English Channel (which turned out to be more like 3 hours) in the middle of Daniel’s 14+ hour onslaught. He slept like a MoFo during that ferry ride; the rest of us wandered around the boat in a daze, eventually falling asleep on benches like hobos. Meeting the English customs people trumped the ferry ride though. It’s a funny thing; I have always considered the UK/England/Britain to be “Europe,” but they’ll be the first to tell you that you’re no longer in Europe when you cross that channel. “We have our own bloody currency, you are in England now.” Misconception two was duly noted. And the British humor was not without some introspection either, as the older portly lady checking our passports displayed when aptly recognizing Jr’s role as the normal receiver of so many intra-band jokes (again, not cruel, but fun-loving).
The show in Sheffield was at a club called the Corporation. They have a deal where they separate the kids into 2 areas of the club. There is a barrier in front of the stage, and a barrier surrounding the middle of the club as well. People over 21 in one area, under-agers on the other. Everybody has some bars somewhere in their vicinity. I think I even signed a petition to end this practice, so I know they’re aware that it’s whack. This night was the first night that we really started to feel the jet lag, but it was also the first night that we realized how much more hospitable European promoters are than those in the United States. The night in Sheffield started my love affair with salami sandwiches. And it wasn’t just the promoters; the sound people were always easy-going, approachable, helpful, and good at what they do. This proved to be the standard everywhere we went, not just in Sheffield. It was our common experience every night. And the hospitality and kindness didn’t stop with the promoters and sound people; all of the people we met who paid to see us play were just the same. All in all, I heard Jes say nearly every night how great the people were. In fact, this was the only tour I remember hearing Jes say how happy he was—every day.
Sheffield and Amsterdam down: two great shows, two great cities, and tons of great people.
Day 3 White Rabbit (Plymouth/England)
We were only 3 days into the tour when we started to get used to hearing “I’ve waited 10 years to see this, thank you so much for coming.” We had been warned in advance by some of our friends at home that fans in Europe (England too) are very blunt and will come off as rude sometimes. In fact, they’re not rude but painfully honest. Instead of lying by only telling you that they were stoked to see you, they’ll let you know where you biffed a beat or riff, or that you sound better on recording. We kind of expected the worst in this regard. See, coalesce has a saying: “Blood and scars, not computer chip guitars.” Feeling always comes before proficiency. We’ve never cared if we play a song live like we recorded it on an album. So when we received compliments in Europe, we took them to heart. Plymouth was the first night that the shit really hit the fan, and so we were really expecting some backlash audience criticism (I mean “honesty”) after the show.
This club was perfection. Small, compact, in the crook of an underpass next to a bus station. The promoter was extremely cheerful and friendly, and couldn’t stop apologizing for the turn out. In America they put that blame squarely on the band, but this guy was taking the blame himself. It was so estranging. In the end, I think we finally convinced him that playing to 40 people (is that number too generous?) is what we do; it’s when we do our best actually. This was the show I think Jes was waiting for. The club was kind enough to give me a bottle of Jack Daniels for my throat, and since there were only 40 or so folks, we got the club to give us a plate of shot glasses. Right before the first song started, we got everyone drinking with us. There were a few shots left over, and before the first song was over Jes came down hard on the edge of the tray, throwing whiskey all over everyone and getting it in my eyes. I didn’t see much after that, but it sure felt right. This small group of people gave us three encores so we just kept playing until we couldn’t breathe or walk anymore. I think we played 20 songs that night. It was an incredibly intimate night and one that might have tied with two others as our favorite show on the tour.
I met my first and only homeless person in England after this show as well; an extremely well-dressed guy in a puffy snow white coat. He told me and Jr to fuck off and go back to where we came from. For some reason this made me laugh pretty hard since that’s what silly white trash people say to foreigners in U.S. too.
Day 4 Underworld (London/England)
Ah, London. I slept all the way in, so I was starting to finally overcome the jet lag. We didn’t get to drive around in a round-about indefinitely saying “look kids, it’s Big Ben” a million times over, but what we did see captured how I had always imagined London to look like (even through the eyes of the Griswalds).
Our First stop was the Maida Vale studios at the BBC. In some feat of miracle, someone contacted our booking agent and invited us to record a live set for BBC radio. I liken it to another time when someone from Apple computers called me to book coalesce at a store opening. Surely someone had made a mistake in their planners. Unlike the Apple thing, though, this BBC thing actually happened. I can’t express how excited we were about this. We got to do 4 songs and despite the fact that we were a little awe-struck by the environs, the experience was totally comfortable and incredibly enjoyable. I think this is going to be my number one memory from this band when we pack it in for good. We were all sharing Jes’ sentiment that afternoon: we were crazy happy. Nellis called the burned cd with the originals on it for his collection, so if that thing ever goes up on Ebay someday we’ll know who put it there (and we can verify that there really is only one).
This was the date we met and paid our merch company. They guy I worked with came out and it was hilarious to see him take off from the show with pockets full of food and soda from our dressing room. At last I had finally met a man after my own heart! The guy was totally cool and I had no problem understanding that it takes a little more motivation than loud obnoxious music to get a dude out of the house to go to a dirty show.
Playing London was so similar to playing New York. There is a special energy when you play New York City that it’s just impossible not to play your hardest. London has the same feel. The show was a complete blur, the true criterion for how I judge a remarkable show from a good show. I also judge a good hostel from a bad hostel based on how many cockroaches I share a bed with, and how many full frontal nude dudes I have to witness because the shower is separated from the sleeping quarters by a weak and dirty curtain. London = remarkable show, not so good hostel. London was the first night we had a large turnout (“large” for us is anything over 300 people) and it was great. The sound guys were excellent (shout out to Costa, Jes’ favorite sound guy of the tour!), as usual, and the show was really wild. It was the first night that we told Jes he needed to calm it down some, and it was the first time (ever) that we had a bar of soap thrown at us when parking our van to walk to the hostel (we’ve had stuff thrown at us, but bars of soap are hard). Jes did calm down a bit after that show, and we moved the van after the soap incident for obvious reasons.
Day 5 Trix (Antwerpen/Belgium)
We finally got to hook up with Torche and Kylesa at this show and we quickly became good friends. There is something great about touring with other bands; more people in the pot or something. But this was different; these bands were exceptionally cool to be around. No pretension, no competition, no ego-bullshit; just great conversation, great laughs, great music, and great memories.
One of the promoters had already started drinking before we arrived and he never really stopped throughout the course of the night. At one point he pushed a shopping cart full of drinks and food down four stairs, only to follow it up later by yelling at us and the Kylesa people for not watching the entirety of the opening bands’ sets. It was pretty funny really (until he singled you out and wanted to talk—then it got uncomfortable). Voivod headlined this show. All I really knew about them was that someone from Metallica had recently been affiliated with them. Once they arrived, we mistook the band’s singer for Jason Newsted. I mean, come on: the resemblance is freaking uncanny! Nellis and Jes quickly informed me that it wasn’t Jason Newsted, but his close friend and confidante Nason Jewsted (they just swapped the first letters, calm down). That night I found a shower right behind the stage, and was so wiped out after our set that I took advantage of it during Voivod’s set. Naked headbanging behind the Voivod-ians that night. There were some serious diehard Voivod fans there, and the raddest thing about them was that when Voivod finished playing there were still more than a handful of these drunk metal dudes holding their glasses in the air, headbanging to the sounds of the bands loading out. No music; just horns and glasses in the air, full-on air guitaring, and headbanging. Metal fans are a devoted bunch. Next stop, Hellfest, the reason we got the chance to do this at all…
For more on COALESCE visit their MySpace page. Their new (incredible) CD, Ox is in stores now.