Krispy Expands Her Horizons
It’s sad to wake up knowing that today is the last show of tour. It will be nice to be home and see friends (including furry ones) in Philadelphia again, but I wish we could stay longer. Now that I’ve adjusted to our new life (wake up, drive, load in, band plays and I sell merch, sleep, repeat), I feel like I could do this forever.
This time, our hostel in Berlin is pretty hip, and we have a large room all to ourselves. The air conditioning feels like a real luxury. We have enough time to take a gander at the hostel’s breakfast buffet, and it’s German breakfast again. I’m all about starting my day with a cheese, cucumber, and tomato sandwich.
We get moving to Hamburg, pick up some more Club Mate at a rest stop, and arrive a couple of hours early. My first impression of Hamburg is that it seems pretty impersonal compared to a lot of the cities we’ve been to so far. We drive through what seems to be the city center and looks like a pretty standard business district. It could be Center City Philadelphia. I’m starting to wonder how it’s possible that a music scene could exist in a place like this, but then we get closer to the waterfront, and things start to look a lot cooler. There are blocks of buildings that look like an extended radical community center, painted with wild colors, decorated with materials like repurposed bike parts and even an old wooden boat, and surrounded by community gardens and playgrounds. Jarrett explains that these squats that have been here for years, and gives us a quick history of Hamburg. The city has been a leftist stronghold throughout its history, and was one of the few areas in Germany that more-or-less resisted the Nazis. And although the 2017 G20 Summit, where leaders of the world’s wealthiest nations get together to talk international finance, was held in Hamburg, the foothold that radical cultural institutions have in the city enabled a response via massive protests.
So, Hamburg is a place of extremes. On one end there is the wealthy downtown district, the access to the waterfront that represents a profitable shipping industry, and most high-end design shops I can recall ever seeing in one place. On the other end, Hamburg is one of the most well known hubs of anti-capitalist organizing in Europe.
The venue, Hafenklang, is a few blocks away from the squats, but it has a similar vibe. The in-house chef makes us some of the best food we’ve had on tour so far: There are trays of vegan pasta, quinoa and vegetables, salad, hummus, and bread, and it reminds me of potluck community dinners in West Philadelphia.
We find out that the band Pere Ubu is playing on the downstairs stage of the venue while the Screaming Females show is upstairs. Too bad we won’t be able to be in two places at once and catch their set!
The venue also has the first soundwoman we’ve met during this tour. I haven’t brought this up yet for fear of pigeonholing a lot of the bands we’ve seen into the imaginary category of “female-fronted,” but I do want to say that it’s been awesome to see that most of the bands Screaming Females have played with on this tour have at least partially been made up of women. It’s also been nice that many of our hosts/promoters have been women as well. (I don’t like the idea of assuming someone’s gender identity, but without having asked each individual to identify their pronouns, I am referring to persons who present themselves as feminine. I hope the point I am trying to make comes across, which is that it’s been really cool to see non-cis-men out there running the show! And also that it’s super important to continue to support folks of a diversity of genders and backgrounds in the art and music worlds and beyond.)
Once the doors to the venue open, we meet lots of awesome fans, including the man who designed the poster for tonight’s show. It’s an illustration of Marissa leading a horse out of the ocean. In case you’re confused by this concept, surprise! The illustration is based on the cover of a Whitney Houston single for her song called “All At Once,” and he gives Marissa a copy of the single along with a multitude of bonbons. What could be better?
I wander away from the merch stand momentarily to check out the opening band, Clara Bow. They play catchy pop songs that occasionally have a riot grrrl vibe, and they definitely have a strong local following here.
Luckily, Screaming Females fan club member Andrew has been keeping his eye on the merch stand while I was gone and made a few sales! Andrew has been to a couple of shows on this tour and it’s nice to see a friendly face.
By the time the Screamales take the stage everyone is pretty much melting into puddles of their own sweat, but that doesn’t stop the crowd from rocking out. The band plays “Normal” (which they haven’t played in a very long time) because it was requested by the fans from Russia, who are here again! The band ends the tour with a bang by playing “Boyfriend” one more time, and chills run down my spine as Marissa jumps into the crowd with epic blood-curdling yowls. That’s certainly one way to bid Europe adieu.
After the show, we have approximately two hours to sleep before we have to wake up at 3:30 AM to get back to the Netherlands, return the van and gear, and then catch our flight back to the States. Luckily, we get to stay right next door in an apartment that is part of the venue. There are rows of comfy bunk beds, plenty of clean towels, and tags all over the place from bands who have stayed here before. This room in a city of anti-capitalist squats feels like a part of history, but the real question is: What’s next?
We have our first German breakfast this morning in Koln. Downstairs at the hostel, a breakfast buffet is decked out with rolls, bread, cold cuts, cheese, hard boiled eggs, yogurt, cereal, and coffee & tea. I love it. Maybe sandwiches for breakfast are going to be my new thing.
Next we’re headed to Berlin, and we’re making good time. Along the way, tragedy strikes: Marissa’s trusty inflatable pillow has a pinhole leak in it. Like a true genius, Marissa fixes the hole with a paste made of white out and glue stick.
But, this turns out to be an omen of things to come. As we’re waiting at a light on a highway off-ramp entering Berlin, the driver of the car in front of us opens his door and walks towards us.
The man speaks to Jarrett in German, then points to the back tire and says “Kaput!”
Jarrett goes to investigate, and sure enough, the tire is completely flat.
We pull into the nearest gas station and get to work. Mike and Jarrett find the spare tire under the van, and the jack. I grab the driver’s manual out of the glove compartment. It’s all in Dutch, but miraculously the book opens right to the page about how to locate the vehicle’s jack points. (Wonder how many times that page has been needed before?)
Mike and Jarrett quickly get the spare tire on there (luckily, it’s a full sized spare), Marissa attaches the old tire to the bottom of the van where the spare was, and we’re back on the road. Great teamwork by all!
The bridge on Mike’s bass has also been in need of a repair, and we have just enough time to drop Mike off at a local guitar repair shop, Guitar Doc, before they close. Then the rest of us head to the venue, Kantine am Berghain, to load in.
The venue is one of the larger ones on this tour, and has a nice outdoor beer garden area. We have enough time to get everything set up without feeling rushed. Mike shows up after walking over from Guitar Doc and says that they fixed his bass in approximately one minute. Things are really comin’ up roses.
After sound check we get veggie burgers and eat outside. I get to meet Nikita, who is the Screamales’ European booking agent, and it’s nice to finally put a face to the name.
We also drink Club Mate, which is a popular pick-me-up here in Berlin. Since I drink so much coffee, it doesn’t really phase me.
The first band, Bechamel, goes on soon after that. I am excited to hear a German band playing hardcore punk. Some of their songs lean more gothy or more grungy, and they are all fun to hear.
It’s another sold out show (!) and Screaming Females open up the set with Bell. They play Skull for the first time on this tour, and there’s a few in there that haven’t been in heavy rotation, including Rose Mountain and Expire. The crowd cheers for an encore, and, in typical form, Marissa says “this song’s on that new album that I’ve been talking about” amist laughs from the crowd, and launches into I’ll Make You Sorry.
As usual, we reject the party life in favor of sleep, and head to our nearby hostel after loading up the van.
We wake up in Amsterdam, say hello to a floppy cat, and before we know it, breakfast is before us. Our host has set us up with a lovely meal of various types of bread, jam, Dutch gouda cheese, and homemade espresso. The generosity of the people who have been putting us up has been wonderful, and we are so grateful!
Then we’re off, headed to Köln for our first of three shows in Germany. I take the wheel again for a little bit. After accidentally peeling out in a Belgian parking lot, I am good to go. I have the hang of highway driving now, at least.
Our drive to Köln is one of our shorter ones so far, and we arrive to the venue with plenty of time to set up and for soundcheck. After that, we have some free time to hang out at the venue and have some snacks and beers from the green room. It feels like the first time I’ve had down time all tour, and I immediately feel relaxed.
By the looks of it, the venue could easily be a new hip bar in Philadelphia. It’s very clean and nicely lit, with exposed brick columns and designs on the walls made of reclaimed wood that tow the line between interior design and art installation. One of the walls has a projector facing it that projects outlines onto the pieces of wood that are attached to the wall. Every once in a while, the outlines wiggle.
Screaming Females is playing with Moaning, a band that is coincidentally enough from Los Angeles. They are a friendly bunch, and we all hang out in the backyard of the venue. The bands have the whole backyard area to themselves, and the green room is a separate structure made out of reused ocean containers. It’s all very well-put together, the food is amazing, and our host Ben is super nice. Köln the city has a similar vibe. Everything seems very organized and tidy, but there is lots of art and graffiti everywhere. Köln satisfies something deep within my psyche, but somehow, it all seems too perfect. Add “things that seem too perfect” to the list of things that freak me out, right after “bathrooms”.
Once the doors open, fans are streaming in with surprises. One fan brings an amazing painting on canvas of Marissa that his mother made, and he wants to ask the band to sign it. I hold it behind the merch stand for him and people ask me if it’s a poster we have for sale. Some fans from Russia show up as well! Then, someone shows up with a vat of strawberries, hands it to me, and walks away. It all happens too fast for me to say “Danke,” so all I come up with is “thank you!”
Moaning opens up the show with their set of gothy indie rock/pop songs, with guitar, bass, and drums, and also synth and drum samples.
Next, Screaming Females play to a packed room. The crowd seems rather polite but are still grooving and cheering. I finally succeed in taking some decent Polaroids of the show, so I am satisfied. The crowd chants for an encore, and the band obliges with Hopeless. We have a great night of selling merch even though we are almost completely out of T-shirts. People really want to collect as many Screaming Females LPs as possible.
At the end of the night we hang out with Ben a bit and tell stories about Death By Audio, a beloved DIY venue in Brooklyn that was forced to close after Vice Magazine turned their building into its headquarters. One time, Screaming Females played a Halloween show at Death By Audio, and the show organizers had turned the entire venue into a maze that people had to find their way through in order to reach the stage where the band was performing. Finally, by the end of the night, people went rogue and tore down the maze. The band was worried that the artists who built the maze would be upset, but it turned out that destruction was all part of the master plan.
At the end of the night, we walk through Köln with Moaning to our hostel. It’s a nice, tidy little spot. Have I mentioned those adjectives about Köln yet?
We wake up in Paris and quickly hit the road. Our hotel is pretty different than a typical U.S. hotel. It’s more like a hostel, with shared bathrooms in the hallway. I’m a little freaked out by the bathrooms because each stall is in its own windowless closet, like an airplane bathroom.
I’m edgy about the bathrooms because recently I had gotten locked in the bathroom in my own house and had to break myself out. After attempting and failing to take the door lock apart using a set of doll-sized miniature tools that my friend Dawn had sent me (side note: I love miniatures), and that I had coincidentally displayed decoratively on a shelf in the bathroom, I ended up having to break the door down by kicking it. So I’m feeling a little claustrophobic, and also a bit worried that I am developing a phobia of bathrooms. A very inconvenient phobia indeed.
So, oddly enough, I am am looking forward to gas station bathroom stalls. Even though they usually cost 50 cents to use.
This brings me to something that has been on my mind for a while now. You see, every time we stop at a rest stop, all of the members of Screaming Females have a routine that has always seemed weird to me. They all just automatically go in, get whatever they want, and meet back at the van. There’s no discussion about this routine, or conversation about what food items look the most appetizing once inside the rest stop. Everyone just does their thing, with no dilly-dallying. I’m used to it by now, but it always has felt strange to me because I’m the person who always wants to wander and check out everything in the store and crack jokes about weird ads. But now I’ve accepted that this is the ritual of seasoned road dogs.
We arrive to the venue in Amsterdam early, but a fan is there waiting for us, and he came all the way from Slovakia! He explains that his sister lives in Amsterdam, so he is often here, but he is really excited to have made the trip this weekend to see Screaming Females. He brought gifts for everyone including a bunch of wooden tulips for Marissa!
We manage to get a little walking time in, and stop in a coffeeshop that is called “The Dolphin.” Its walls are completed covered in murals and 3D faux sea creatures. Good to be home in Amsterdam.
Back at the venue, the merch stand is poppin’ off before I even have a chance to finish setting everything up. I get things straightened out as the first band is playing their set. They’re called BlackboxRed and they sound cool. Just two people in the band, and they have teched-out drum parts and samples. The vocals are emotionally intense with a note of Sleater-Kinney in there.
Screaming Females take the stage after that, and ease into their set with It All Means Nothing. At first I’m not sure if this crowd is going to be as excited as the crowd has been at every other show so far. But by the time the song revs up to the chorus, people start boppin’ around, and then when Marissa rips into an extended guitar solo they are eating out of the palm of her hand for the rest of the set.
At the end of the night the promoter, Marijie, puts us up in her lovely apartment in Amsterdam. No late-night Amsterdam party life for us – we’re all passed out by midnight.
Early start at the TraveLodge: We need to hit the road at 6:00 AM to make sure we can get on the ferry that will take us from the U.K. to France. This weekend is a bank holiday, so lots of people are traveling, and the ferry company sent out an email saying that there could be 90-minute delays.
So, we are tearin’ through the country roads and it feels like there is a roundabout at every intersection. It’s making me a bit nauseous so I decide to try and sleep. Next thing I know, we’re approaching the entrance to the harbor.
Luckily, our ferry ride goes pretty smoothly – we seem to have beat the rush. The ferry has an awesome vegetarian English breakfast in the food court: Don’t mind if we do. Jarrett and I finally get to play a game of Magic while Marissa draws in her sketchbook.
After disembarking the ferry, we drive through the port of Calais and head towards Paris. Jarrett points out that this is where thousands of migrants camp out, trying to enter the U.K. The encampment that had received the most media coverage, the Calais Jungle, was evicted a couple of years ago, but our global refugee crisis remains. In our dystopian world, we get to drive freely, right on through the area where thousands of people were held in fenced-in jails.
My first impression of Paris is that it was a lot different than I was imagining. I guess I’ve had a stereotype in my head that everything French would be fancy and ornate. But as we approach the city, all of the structures look grimy and there is graffiti art everywhere. It doesn’t have the feel of an ancient city like Rome that has weathered the years. Instead, most of the buildings look newer but still worse-for-wear. There are tent cities everywhere made by people living on the streets. I’m sure things are different in the more touristy-areas of the city, though.
We arrive at the venue and try to figure out load-in logistics. The language barrier is suddenly an issue again. I’d gotten used to the mostly easy communication in the U.K. and realize that I am totally unprepared for France. I should have tried to learn some basic French. This is going to be an interesting night.
Jarrett and I go for a walk through a park before we have to load in. We walk past a science museum, and there is something called a geode there, but I can’t really figure out what the geode is, exactly. The science museum building brings to mind the word “dystopian” again – it looks just like the set of the movie “Brazil.”
We keep walking and end up in part of the park that has a carnival-esque feel. There is a playground designed to look like a giant dragon with candy-colored metal scales and a humongous slide that comes out of its mouth. There are also lots of geometric, modernist red structures called “folies” everywhere. Everything here is creatively designed in a way that I don’t entirely understand. It’s pretty fascinating.
Back at the venue, we have the usual routine of load-in, soundcheck, setting up merch. But (joy of all joys!) there is a cheese plate in the green room with a giant wedge of brie cheese. I’ve been waiting for this the entire tour: The legendary French green room cheese.
We have a little free time to chill out and chew the cheese before the show starts. The band has an interview as well. I download some maps to my phone over Wifi and then I go wander around in search of postcards. It’s fun to explore a bit on my own. A couple of people on the street speak to me in French and I just smile and nod. Bonjour!
I get back in time to see the first band, The Maggie’s Marshmallows from Prague. I really like them. They sound a bit like Shannon and the Clams. The singer also plays bass, which I always admire, and the bass lines are cool as heck. Next up is local favorite Wonderflu, playing grungy, sometimes heavy rock.
By the time Screaming Females take the stage the room is basically a million degrees. But, it doesn’t slow anyone down one bit. There is a lot of headbanging going on, especially during A New Kid. Fans are already flocking to the merch stand in moments of inspiration before the set even ends.
At the end of the night we are all totally soaked in our own sweat. We pack up and head over to our hotel. We were supposed to stay with one of our hosts, but he had to cancel because of the horror of all horrors: Bedbugs.
Tomorrow we will return to our homeland-away-from-home, Amsterdam.
Jarrett is determined to swim in the ocean at Brighton even though a bunch of people on the internet have told him not to. But by the time we arrive to a rest stop just outside of town, his resolve is wavering. It’s cold out and the sun is nowhere in sight. Maybe the good-for-nothin’ internet is right this time.
This morning he and I had gone for a walk around Richard’s neighborhood in Bristol while Mike and Marissa slept in and/or cuddled with Richard’s two cute dogs, Pickle (small, soft dark fur) and Kayla (also small, mop-like). We had wanted to check out the graffiti in Bristol, which is well-known for its street art.
Yes, Banksy is from here: I don’t know why Banksy has been a recurring theme on this tour, but I’ll take it.
Of course it was raining this morning and we got more-or-less drenched, but managed to see lots of street art, including the famous Banksy mural on the wall of a community center called Hamilton House, before we had to hop back in the van.
Now, as we approach Brighton, the sun is beginning to peek through the clouds. The van warms up and I take off some layers. Our first stop is a local radio station where the band does an interview, and then we have a little bit of free time before load-in. We decide to walk to the harbor.
“You gonna go in?”
“I would need my swim trunks,” Jarrett shrugs.
But once we make our way down the rocky shoreline to the ocean, we discover that the water is warm. Next thing we know, Jarrett is in the ocean in his underwear. The rest of us hang out on the beach, and Marissa draws faces on rocks with a paint marker.
Throughout the day I think about Bristol. I still really like it there. At the same time, it seems like the more-or-less accepting attitude towards all of the street art might be leading towards a familiar pattern of gentrification. It’s something that I always struggle with when it comes to my own role as an artist. How can artists support themselves and local communities without becoming pawns for city developers?
Maybe there is no other answer than to keep trying to resist. The DIY culture we came up in means a lot of things, but at its heart it’s about supporting and caring about one another. You never really know how things will turn out, just like when you jump in the ocean without knowing what you will do with your wet clothes after that. It’s one of the things I love about Screaming Females – they’re in it for the lifestyle and the community.
We have to hurry back to the venue after that to load in and grab some dinner before the show starts. The opening band today is Personal Best, and it’s nice to see them again. We have fun drawing over all of the nasty graffiti of male genitalia in the green room. I get to watch most of their set this time, and enjoy their earnest brand of rock. I bet they would find a lot of new fans if they toured the U.S.
Screaming Females jam out a lot in between songs this time, and play several that they haven’t so far on this tour, including Fantasy Lens and Rotten Apple. Tonight they save Glass House for the encore, and fans are yelling out every word. You better believe it’s another great set.
At the merch table, a friend of the band named Michael stops by. He lives in London and went to the show there as well. Jarrett is sad that he didn’t get to see him tonight.
Breaking news: We are fully equipped with modern technology at the merch table today. Our host at the venue is helping us out a bunch by taking credit card payments for us. We chat briefly about art collectives, including the gallery and print shop I’m part of back home called Space 1026. You probably could have guessed, but I’m feeling super lucky to be able to go out on this tour and encounter an international network of art spaces and communities.
Oh, and have I mentioned yet that Mike has been doing a great job of spreading the international brotherhood of Baloney?
After the show, we head to a TraveLodge so we can get an early start in the morning. Tomorrow, Paris!