On Friday 29 February my band Dacianos supported American Music Club at the venue called John Dee (yeah it’s really called that) in Oslo. Here is a treasure of memories of the event.
“This amp sucks,” American Music Club’s bass player was saying when we arrived at John Dee with our equipment, “if we can get another one..” and he left the stage and disappeared.
Mark Eitzel and I said hi to each other. He was staring into his laptop. “Your bass player wants to borrow a bass amp,” I said.
“I don’t care if my bass player wants to borrow a bass amp,” said the surly one.
Ilmar and Håkon were hovering by the car outside. The drumkit hadn’t been offloaded so I magically succeeded in finding AMC’s bass player and asked him if we could use their drumkit in return for us lending them our bass amp. He agreed. He took a look at the Trace Elliot amp and said “It looks like the future”. This meant Ilmar and I took the drumkit back to Brugata so we wouldn’t have to worry about picking up the equipment the next day.
While AMC soundchecked I explored the backstage. My band had a room to itself, fruit, a fridge full of beer etc. I peeked into AMC’s room and saw there was an envelope on the table addressed to both bands. It was sealed.
When it was time for our soundcheck I met Vudi for the first time…
…He seemed like a warm gent and did his best to be helpful. He offered to move anything that was in our way. As it happened there didn’t need to be much changeover because we weren’t using guitars: our sound is based around keyboard and mallet instruments. As he left, Vudi said to just ask if we needed him.
Dacianos consists of me (voice, piano-keyboard, harmonium), the singer and songwriter; Håkon (drums, glockenspiel, tambourine), who plays timpani with an orchestra; Marius (metallophones, minidisc), an experienced actor and musician; Marie (voice, bass), a singer and bandleader in her own right; and Ilmar (cello), who plays in the same orchestra as Håkon.
When Marie came to the stage I asked her if she’d seen the backstage, as it was where I’d stashed her coat and purse. She said yes. Sarcastically, I said the backstage room had a great view of MÃ¸llergata (if you know Oslo, that’s not a view).
“I didn’t look out the window,” she said.
“It’s the first thing I do,” I replied.
“You guys are so sensitive! Oh, the first thing I do is check the view! I don’t feel so alone in my femininity.”
“Yeah, unless I’m faking it.”
“I am too.”
The soundcheck went ok, apart from the sound of the midi keyboard, which fluctuated up and down in volume. It sounded dreadful in the monitors and there didn’t seem to be anything we could do about it. Apparently the sound engineer could compensate for it out in the room.
I went to Deli de Luca with Håkon and Marie to buy food to eat backstage. I got them to take my food to the venue while I walked home to change clothes and shoes (I live centrally). When I came back I sorted out stuff to do with the guestlist and CD sales, then realized I’d forgotten the tambourine for the third time (I forgot to bring it to rehearsal on thursday, forgot to bring it to the soundcheck and now forgot to bring it to the show) so I went home again.
After a lot of walking in the rain I eventually managed to join my companions backstage, but I could barely eat the noodles I’d bought. Imminent performances always kill my appetite. Waiting to play is the worst part of being in a band. Ilmar’s girlfriend Edda was with us, and a friend of Marius called Marius. I wrote setlists for the band. Marie had already memorized it because the ordering of songs was “logical”, apparently.
At last ten o’clock came round. I knelt on the floor and made my opening comments, ensuring that I mentioned the band name in case it’s hard to remember. I said “I’m Irish but we live in Oslo,” and I introduced the harmonium, the instrument I was playing on the floor that the seated audience couldn’t see because of the monitors. The song was “Lighthouse Beam” which consists of spoken word and noises pre-recorded and played on minidisc, over which I play harmonium, Marius plays the metallophones, and Marie and I sing. We segued into “Quantum Suicide”, which involves the whole band, and I occupied my “normal” position: sitting at the keyboard singing, with one shoe off so I can feel the sustain pedal with my right foot. Someone usually laughs when I take the shoe off.
After that song I explained its strangeness by saying that it’s about the scientific experiment called quantum suicide. Then we did the duet “Sweet Companion” and after that I said we were going to do another song of that ilk.
Marie looked at me. “Ilk?”
“Yeah, it’s a word you don’t hear very often. Some people even say ‘a song of that kidney’, but I’m not one of those people.”
The song was “Absolutely”. It must have been then that I announced we were selling CDs at the bar. I suggested that instead of beer they could buy our music, “kind of like rehab”.
I introduced “Lucette Visits Celine in Prison” by saying “This is not a fascist love song. Far from it.” Fortunately the song is a repetitive kind of epic that begins with a seemingly endless five-note piano loop, because events dictated that we had to stay in that loop for a considerable amount of time, because Marie’s bass mysteriously stopped working. The sound man appeared with a jack cable, which rescued her. Only then did I begin singing.
After the show we sat happily emptying our fridge of beer. Edda hadn’t noticed anything strange about the piano sound so it must have been fine for the audience. Marius appeared without his friend. I asked him where Marius Junior was. It got a laugh but I doubt they realized it was a joke borrowed from Dostoyevsky. The other Marius was waiting for him downstairs, and our Marius made a big point of saying goodbye, even though he would, he claimed, be down watching the AMC show; we didn’t see him after that. Ilmar gave him some words of appreciation; Marius had not been playing with the band for all of 2007 and had never played with Marie and Ilmar until these recent shows. I’m also very glad to have him involved because he can be very good at directing arrangements. Although I write the songs I like it when he takes on that role sometimes.
I went down before AMC started. When I moved through the crowd three English tourists told me how much they loved our set. I gave them a dacianos.com card (very useful for remembering how to spell our name). Marie was already in the audience at the front of the stage, sitting with her friends Zuzu and Emil (yeah, there really are people called that). There was a chair where I could sit next to her.
I find many of Eitzel’s songs a bit heartwrenching to be honest…
…so at some point I in my history I vowed not to attend AMC gigs, or Eitzel solo gigs, alone. Last time I saw Eitzel was in Oslo and I went with Jon Platou Selvig; and the last time I saw AMC was in London and I was with Julia Mayer. So I was glad to be with Marie. But I took the opportunity to sneak upstairs to see if they had opened the mysterious envelope. They had. It was from some guy from outside Oslo who was asking for autographs. The second page was blank; no-one had signed it.
I rejoined Marie and at about a quarter to twelve she wanted to join her friends at a club and if she wanted to get in she had to be there before midnight. She was concerned about whether I had enough people to carry equipment because Ilmar and Edda had to split early, but I said something encouraging like, “Do what you want to do,” which is what I would say to anyone I love. After all, why stay? Doesn’t everyone normally spend their friday nights out chasing rainbows? Luckily, she had the heart or good sense or both to take the bass with her; this made things easy for us later on.
Håkon took her seat. At this point Eitzel was doing “Firefly” solo, introducing it by saying, “My mother died and I was doing her drugs”. If you’re an AMC fan you’ll be interested in what they played. Mostly the new album. A couple of things from the last one: “Another Morning” and “Home”. Surprisingly, some choices from the “San Francisco” album: “The Revolving Door” – I loved that when I was 21 – “Wish the World Away” and “Hello Amsterdam”. Hardcore fans would have enjoyed “Blue and Grey Shirt” and “Johnny Mathis’ Feet” and the final encore, “Jesus’ Hands”, played by Eitzel and Vudi as a duo. And of course the night was peppered with mad audience interactions, like Eitzel offering to sell his wallet (containing “a maxed-out credit card and thirty euros”), charging an extra 1000 euro if he “wiped his ass with it” etc. etc.
After the show, I met Vudi by the stage door and he said he saw most of our set and really liked it.
“So, you’re a friend of Mark’s?” he asked.
“Yeah, even when he’s behaving like this.”
A door slammed.
“What, slamming doors?” asked Vudi.
I gave him a copy of In a Weird Chalet. I always feel slightly embarrassed giving people that CD: there’s no Marie and no Ilmar on it and the stuff we’re doing now is so much better. At least I sing properly on it though.
Mark said, “You can take your bass amp. Sorry for borrowing it.”
After the second time he said sorry for borrowing it (!) I picked it up and smiled. “We’re still friends, right?”
“Yeah… Sorry I wasn’t around earlier, I’m coming down with the flu.”
“Hey, it’s ten years since I first met you. We’ll continue to meet in circumstances like this.”
“Yeah, I know… It’s awful.”
I told Vudi about Teddys and then we left. Håkon and I had the responsibility of carrying the stuff. My keyboard and accoutrements in a bag on my back, the keyboard stand in his hand, and then between us the bass amp with the harmonium on top. It’s a five minute journey but it was seriously extended by taking breaks from the heavy load. Once we deposited our stuff at Brugata we went to Teddys, the bar below it. Håkon might not be the most talkative guy in the world but we’ve shared some experiences and know a lot of the same people, and those are essentially relaxing things in a drinking companion. So we were having this interesting conversation about Oslo and Dublin when we were interrupted by two women who took an interest in us once they realized we rehearsed upstairs in the same lair as Origami Arktika. One of these ladies was called Eva, who professed to be the “highschool sweetheart” of Arktika’s singer Rune Flaten (photographed in my last blog entry smashing up stuff in Sound of Mu). I tried to convince her that Rune Flaten is in fact the Devil but she was having none of it.
Eitzel, Vudi and their drummer appeared. I stood up to shake their hands. Vudi took off his glove to do that. A genuine dude. Mark said, “I can’t believe you’re still skinny and you still have translucent skin!”
They weren’t staying. “We can’t afford to drink here,” Eitzel mused. I looked in my wallet. I could easily have bought a round, but I misunderstood. “We don’t want your money,” said Mark. “We were just on our way to our hotel.” So they were just dropping by to be nice and say hello. Sweet guys, really. When they were leaving I touched Mark’s arm and said, “Take care of yourself. See you on the next round.”