NEWS March 2003

 


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Haze & Treebeard Italian Tour March 2003

Thursday
We set off at the somewhat unearthly hour of 6am, picked up Paul Chisnell in Chesterfield around 6.30 & headed down the M1. By 11am we'd reached Dover & started the search for customs, to get them to stamp our Duplicate List (system used for temporary export of musical equipment from the EU). We remembered it was at the far end of Dover from the ferry terminal, but despite driving round & asking at the P&O office, we couldn't find it, so headed for the ferry. After much to-ing & fro-ing we were weighed, got our freight ticket & were sent back out to find customs. We found them cunningly labeled as 'Harbour Marina' & went through the usual procedure of explaining how the Duplicate List system works (they always try to get us to use an ATA Carnet - but this costs 300 so we never do!), and where they need to stamp it.
By the time we were back at the docks the next ferry was at 1.45pm, so we made it to Calais for 4pm (local time - you lose an hour). France passed as uneventfully as ever & by 9.30pm we were in Nancy where we had booked a Formule 1 Hotel for the night. These are great little cheap & cheerful Motels that are scattered all over France. You book by internet & get in by Credit Card, so you don't need to know a word of French! Paul & I shared a double bed, with Chis perched precariously in a bunk bed above us. We'd picked up a 24 pack of Grolsch on the Ferry, so this and a packet of peanuts did for supper.

Friday
The plan was a leisurely drive across Switzerland - the gig was in Lugano near the Italian border, about 4 hours drive away - but French customs soon put a stop to that! We hit the French/Swiss border at around 12.30, to find it closed for lunch. At 1pm a miserable woman appeared, who wouldn't stamp our documentation because the equipment value (17, 000.00) was too high! We showed her the UK authorization to use the Duplicate List system (which nowhere mentions a maximum value), but she just said UK customs always get things wrong. She said we could try and get the Swiss to deal with their side of the paperwork, then we'd have to come back to the French customs when her boss arrived at 2pm. The Swiss stamped our docs as required, so we were just waiting for the French. Her boss obviously gave her a good slapping (we wish!), because she came storming back, stamped the documentation with ill concealed fury, & warned us never to do it again.
We strongly suspected her of tipping off the Swiss customs, because as we went through the check-point where we had to show the stamped documents to get back onto the Motorway into Switzerland, we were pulled aside & asked to open up the van. After checking that we didn't speak French, German, Dutch, Italian or Spanish (come on we're English;-)), they asked if we had any CDs. I showed them our CD box, dutifully labeled 'Promotional Material - Not For Resale' & explained that they were promos for Radio Stations, Promoters, Newspapers etc. They had a good think about this & decided that they needed to charge us Swiss VAT on all 'merchandise' that we were taking into the country. They would give us a receipt so that we could claim the money back for any CDs we had left when we left the country. So 110 Swiss Francs poorer & running late for the gig, we finally got through customs at around 3pm. Moral of this story - if you're going to Switzerland - go via Germany!
Fortunately, due to advances in mobile phone technology since our last trip, ever our cronky old Orange phones worked pretty much everywhere in Europe. (Though I'm rather suspicious of the 'Big Brother' implications of the 'welcome to France' 'welcome to Switzerland' 'welcome to Germany' etc. text messages I kept getting - no wonder Bin Laden gave his to his best mate!)
Anyway, we managed to call Daniele to warn him we'd be late for the show, he'd already picked Tim up from Milano airport, so they were waiting for us when we arrived at 6pm. The show was at Officina della Bira in Bioggio, nr Lugano, a real ale pub that brewed it's own beer, so we should have been in heaven! In practice we had to keep the volume down, due to it being a glass & concrete building too close to the neighbors. So although the sound in the room was good, tiredness & poor stage sound lead to a less than spectacular performance. We had been asked to play a mix of popular covers in with our original stuff, so the set went:-

 

As well as the obligatory Comfortably Numb for encore we played Human for Francesco & Marina. Gordon & Chris Jellis arrived during Mountain, having been driven from the airport by Ernesto, so we all headed back to the Hotel in downtown Lugano after the show for a beer or two (there was still plenty of Grolsch left from the first night - we don't drink that much (anymore)).

Saturday

Daniele came to pick us up at noon, taking Chris J, Gordon & Tim in his car, with me, Paul & Chis following in the van. It soon became apparent that Tim was in a bad way, every few miles Daniele was pulling over to let him throw up in a hedge. He'd been taking it easy on the beer (so he tells us), so I guess it must have been a dodgy pasty on the plane, or maybe a little too much sediment in the beer! We finally made it back to Daniele's to meet up with his wife Elisa & baby Alice, and were treated to an excellent Italian meal, and more beer. Except for Tim, who took the wise option & retreated to bed for the rest of the day.

The evening's gig was only a few miles away at the Milonga bar in Lipomo, so we took it easy, listening to PFM & Sulutumana at Daniele's, before heading off for the show at 5pm. The Milonga is a big place, a sort of cafe bar, nightclub, restaurant, pub, but the stage was still a tight squeeze for the five of us, especially as we had all the Haze electric gear as well as the Treebeard acoustic stuff. The sound system was extremely good, with a friendly and efficient crew, who we were please to hear were also doing the sound for us the next night in Erba. Then the news broke, the bad news was they wanted us to play two hours straight through from 11pm-1am, the good news was - it was an international women's day event & they were expecting up to 1000 women! Hallelujah!!! They had started rolling in at around 9pm as we sat down for pizza & rewrote the set to make it as commercial and danceable as possible. We then headed to the hotel for a few hours rest & returned to the club, just in time to start at 11pm. The place was packed! With a fair few guys as well as the girls, but a very young audience. We were a bit worried that our rather quaint brand of progressive & folk rock wouldn't go down, but we should have realized - we weren't in England anymore!

We started acoustically as Treebeard, then Chis moved to drums, then Paul to electric guitar & me to bass, then Chris J & Gordon left us to do a few songs just as Haze, returning at the end for a few final electric Treebeard songs

Runaway successes of the show were Losing... With or Without... & How you remind me, the whole place was bouncing, with even lighters held aloft during With or Without!

Gordon, Paul & me all have wireless systems, so we were prowling round the audience at every available opportunity. After the show the DJ reverted to common or garden universal dance music and we were offered an unlimited bar tab! Unfortunately we're not as young as we once were, so after a couple of beers it was back to the Hotel (for another couple of beers).

Sunday

Another leisurely start, as we just had a couple of miles to go to the Teatro Excelsior  in Erba, so we called in on Sandro Palavacini, a long time Haze fan, for more excellent Italian hospitality, three course meal, more beer, even if Gordon did insist on Cafe Latte instead of Espresso after the meal! We were due in at the Teatro Excelsior at 4pm, but the PA crew weren't ready for us, as they had to soundcheck Sulutumana first, so we ended up wandering round Erba eating ice cream. We headed back to the venue for 6pm to set up & soundcheck. The theater was larger than the one we played three years ago in Como, but not as plush, and we had to fit the equipment around Sulutumana's seven piece line up.

By nine pm there was a good crowd in, maybe 300-ish, so after an introduction from a local TV presenter we were off!

We gave it the full over the top Treebeard treatment, Paul, Chis & me charging around the theatre with our radio pickups, Paul even making it to the balcony, to polite applause from the old ladies up there! We had hoped to play a couple more, but the show had started late (no one could finds the switch for the hall lights!), and Sulutumana were getting jittery. I don't know what they'd expected, but it was nothing like us! We cleared the stage & Sulutumana quickly got on with it. They were smooth, suave, polished and well rehearsed - all the things we aren't! We were told they were traditional Italian folk music, in fact one of the best, they'd won best traditional band in Italy only the year before. What I hadn't realized was how Latin American it sounded, which shows how much I know about European folk music & suggests I'd forgotten what 'Latin' meant in the first place. They were extremely good & went down well, but cut their set very short & had a few words with Daniele, the promoter, as they weren't too happy with us. Maybe we shouldn't have got quite so over the top! Anyway, we all kissed & made up at the end & swapped CDs, so hopefully all's well... If proper Latin music is your thing, check out their website www.sulutumana.net they've got a fair few CDs out.

Monday

No lie in today! Tim, Chris J & Gordon had to be up at 9am for their flight form Milano, while Paul, Chis & me surfaced at the ungodly hour of 6am to start the long haul back to Belgium. Daniele picked us up from the hotel & accompanied us to the the border, to smooth our passage. In the event, the border guards weren't bothered - obviously about as happy as we were at being up at 6! Switzerland & Germany passed uneventfully & we made it to Verviers in Belgium at 3pm - that's about 550miles in 9 hours! The hotel was perfect - there were even three sheep in an adjoining field - they must have know we were coming! Paul & Chis had done al the days driving, so they got some kip while I tidied the van (we'd kept all the cans & bottles we'd drunk for recycling back home!), and tried to work out if we'd made any money on the trip

Two hours later we were up & off to the Spirit of 66 an excellent venue in Verviers town center. Club owner Francis Geron always treats us to excellent hospitality, even though we don't make him any money! Tonight was no exception, efficient friendly soundcheck, all the Chinese food we could eat, and Belgian beer in the dressing room fridge. Oh, and 11 people! Some of whom had traveled from Germany to see us (hello Thomas!)

Set 1

Set 2

encore

An inordinately long version, I might add! We were ready to wrap it up a couple of times, but Paul just kept right on going. He later said he realized it would be his last guitar solo on foreign shores, so he was determined to make the most of it!

Tuesday

A relatively uneventful (and compared to our last trip easy) drive home. We did a quick booze stock up Calais, got a truckers only ferry at around 2pm, which for some reason took nearly 2 hours to get across the channel & were back in Sheffield for 9pm.

Once again, thanks to Daniele & every one else who made it possible. Lets hope it's not a three year break before we do it again!

Chris


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