Saturday, September 26, 2009

Hey There! It's been a while!

I would like to apologize for my severe lack of posting during our recent trip to Europe. I have a couple legitimate excuses, for instance I only had access to the internet about 10% of the time, if that. The rare moments I had online were largely spent talking to family back home, since I couldn't use my phone. On top of that, my job was a bit different, so I was getting used to some changes. Mainly, though, I was feeling a little burned out from the consistent three or so months of touring, so any free time I had besides working/calling home were mainly used to sleep or walk around wherever we happened to be.

Excuses excuses! I'm back, well rested, and ready for a few more months on the road! I wanted to thank everyone I've met on the last tour that said they've read this blog (especially the one kid who there's a picture of below, you're awesome!), and that encouraged me to keep going, I'll try not to let you down this time. I've realized, too, that when I blog about things that happen on the road, I tend to remember more details, and therefore gain a little more from the experience. It's different from writing in a Journal, cause I get to discuss what happened and gain perspective from others. You're not about to start hearing about my feelings and personal crises, though, so don't worry.

On October 5th, I'm heading to Pittsburgh to meet up with the band, and then we'll be heading back to Europe for the Antidote Tour. We got to do a few shows with Ghost Of A Thousand on our last run, and we had a great time. Their guitar tech really hooked me up a few times, which was really nice, and the band was a lot of fun. Of course we have a history with Alexisonfire, but I still have not met anyone from Four Year Strong, so I hope they're nice guys!

The last tour went well, overall, I guess...

We had my new friend Thomas out with us running sound. He's from Graz, Austria, and was able to play translator/interpreter if we needed it. He's a great sound engineer and tech as well, and as a person very positive and fun. I hope we get to see more of him on the next tour.

We have a new tour manager, Neltie, who was really great and had to deal with a few pretty heavy crises, but got us all through them. She'll be with us on the next run, so if you see a tattooed, official looking black cloud walking around, say hi and try to cheer her up! Apparently she just helped pull a man from a burning car that flipped over along the highway in Florida, saving his life. I'm not making that up. Ask her about it.

First off, our bus was cursed. We had to let our first driver go for a number of reasons (including him screaming at a hotel clerk about a situation that Neltie had already resolved, essentially being a dick), which was done more or less professionally but made for a tense couple of days. While he was our primary driver, we were somehow routed through a boarder crossing into Croatia when we were supposed to go around the country, and promptly turned away adding hours to our trip and stress into Neltie's life. After he was gone, our bus power got fucked up in Czech, caught fire, and fried most of the electronics plugged in on board, including the lights and AC unit. If all of that wasn't bad enough, about 20 minutes from the airport on the last night of tour, around 4am, our trailer blew a tire. It was completely shredded. Marc and I had a time trying to put on the spare, exhausted, with a few rusty tools. There's a picture capturing our excitement below somewhere.

I enjoyed riding on that bus though (I enjoy riding on any tour bus, it's much more luxurious than a van or SUV, which are my usual modes of transportation, even without power or AC or light) because, like most euro buses, it had windows in the bunks. You'd think this would be the norm, right? But in US buses, the bunks are just little cubbyholes closed off on one side by a curtain. I loved being able to enjoy my insomnia by staring out the window at the moon dancing over alien landscapes, and eventually seeing the sun rise and the little villages we would drive through come to life. There's something very magical about Europe for me, especially Bavaria and the area surrounding, that makes me feel inspired and lucky just to be passing through there.

The festivals we played were an eclectic mix of organization, chaos, huge bands, and 80 year old men singing traditional Czech folk songs. I think Pukkelpop was my favorite. I got to see Dinosaur Jr and 50 Cent on the same day with about 30,000 other people. Some of these festivals were bigger than anything I've ever been to! Of course Redding and Leeds were massive and everything they were rumored to be. Czech was weird, fun, but weird. I think I'm allowed to say that, cause those are my people. I slept through my day off in Budapest, not seeing much (I'm bad with jet lag), and spent way too much of my (and Chris Head's) money on a day off in London. I owe him like 70 pounds, which, with the current conversion rate, equals out to about $40,000 I think.

But you know what was not expensive in the UK? Getting sick.

I had to go to the hospital while we were in the UK (stoke-on-trent). I had an infection that had been festering for a few days and was pretty painful, I won't go into specifics, but it's something that I have actually dealt with in the US before with my insurance and our health care system. Can you see where this is going? We took a cab to the emergency clinic and walked in to a nearly empty waiting room. I filled out half a page of information, and was asked to wait. Within 15 minutes I was SITTING IN FRONT of a doctor. No nurses, no pain scale, no insurance, no nothing. A doctor, asking me what the problem was, was sitting in front of me. We discussed, he handed me a prescription, I walked across the street and filled it. After half and hour and about $20, my questions were answered and problems solved. For a similar outcome here, I've payed hundreds of dollars (I still have collectors calling me) and waited multiple hours, and that is WITH insurance.

The UK has the NHS (National Health Service), a single-payer health care system that began in 1948 with the mission on making health care FREE to the average man regardless or employment, wealth, or anything else. In fact, it's 3 core principals, available on the NHS website, are-
* That it meet the needs of everyone
* That it be free at the point of delivery
* That it be based on clinical need, not ability to pay
The NHS is also one of the leading employers in the UK, employing about 1 in 20 people. What a concept! I guess there's a reason that the UK is listed as 18 on the WHO list of leading health care systems in the world.

It's amazing that 60 years later, when implementing health care reform, our government refuses to even bring this concept to the table. We still can't imagine a world without the hands of the wealthy and the insurance company CEOs in our gaping sores and abscesses along side our doctors. What most people don't see in a single payer system is that it won't replace these hands with those of the government. It's within our power to make it OUR system, but right now it looks like that power has been taken away. Obama dropped the ball on this one. I don't see any positive outcome with the options on the table at the moment, and after experiencing what we COULD have, I'm that much more upset. Even if it was never to be, beginning the discussion about health care without the idea of a single payer system is a concession to the right.

I won't get too deep into it, I'm no good at political rants, but check out Democracy Now's coverage, what I've heard has been good.

Also check out this new blog we're following! The band forgetters is a new trio out of Brooklyn featuring Blake from Jawbreaker/Jets to Brazil, Kevin from Against Me!, and Caroline from Bitchin'. They haven't recorded anything yet, but Blake has been using the interest in his new project to blog about some social and political issues and be read. I found it interesting, I hope you do too.

Alright now I'm just rambling! I look forward to keeping you all up to date over the following few months. Here are some pictures from various adventures and bored moments in the old world;

See you soon,


Manu * said...

Geez, all this time without news, then we get to know that the bus got f*cked up and you got sick, I mean, wtf LOL

And, btw, I LOLed at the 6th photo!!!

Take care and keep the rock going \o/

A fan from Brazil xx

pax said...

wow. seemed like an interesting tour :) [just saw the area4 concert on tv, i wish i was at frequency or feldkirch...] hope to see you in vienna :)
pat's "meal" really looks delicious o.O :p
fuck schwarzenegger...
i'm surprised to see austria's health care system at place 9 o.O italy on second rank made me lol ^^

glg from austria,

Pepper said...

'Bout the NHS bit I've never had it work that efficiently round my area, A&E is contantly crowded and you'll never see the same doctor twice, which can be problematic.

Still wudn't prfer private haha :)

Max said...

Yeah, I certainly don't assume that that experience is the same for everyone, but that experience is just unheard of here. Also, I'm no expert on the NHS, i suppose that when I was researching it, simply the concept of a health system who's core goal was to make care free for everyone was amazing. Where in the UK are you?

Pepper said...

Plymouth in the south west corner, where all you big bands don't come ;)

Yeah the experience does differ alot depending where you are aparantly. Defo better than private healthcare though IMO, alot of people I know would have major problems affording the care they need.

Leo said...

hey, max. thanx a lot for "not let me down" and for posting the photo of me!

we will see us on nov. 1st in vienna!

much respect from austria


KillBoY said...

Experiences with the NHS vary massively, based mostly on time of day. I am yet to personally have a bad experience (and touch wood I never will) though my dad has had problems. He thought he had MS for 7 years before seeing a specialist who said it was rubbish... that is more the ineptitude of his individual doctor rather than with the NHS itself.

Whilst it is not perfect I wouldn't change it for the world.

Still it is good to hear from you Max and I hope you're well now. Not had much luck with buses recently have you?

Ugg Australia said...

What beautiful photographs, I love the colors :)

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