photo by Sam Quinn
“There was some mushroom tea in Switzerland and there was a weird—we played on a boat.”
It’s Friday night, just about quittin’ time. John Manson and Dan Madri of local art-punks Gondoliers are across the table from us. Twin Peaks is on the TV—Agent Cooper is sitting in the Black lodge— and the conversation is taking a turn for the weird, specifically the weird world of European touring, D.I.Y style.
“It was an old Tug Boat that had sunk to the bottom of the river and they had raised it to make a bar out of it,” says John Manson. “A bar on every level and they had shows in the basement.”
“—In the hold of the boat,” interjects Dan Madri. “And of course we start setting up and it’s raining and everything is leaking all over the place. It was awesome.”
It’s an out-there venue that fits an out-there band. Tonight’s Whisperings—their latest record, released this past November—is a sawtooth-synth assault with a mangled motorik, an art-tock wig-out of mind-boggling proportions. It’s the sort of music that beckons strange dudes to strange rooms in strange lands.
“They just book a show for you and you don’t really know where it is until you get there. Weird places like school houses,” says Manson. “They squat everything over there—we played in a railway switch station. At the end of the line, where they switch all the tracks they squatted one of those in Switzerland, in Zurich. It was amazing, there were huge cables going everywhere, big dangerous-looking electric terminal. No running water, but they had a bar.”
“Everyone was great especially the squats,” says Madri. “You get a place to stay, they have a meal ready for you when you get there. It’s awesome.”
But the tour wasn’t without its challenges—unlike here in the states, Europeans cap their shows at a reasonable two-bands-per-bill. Which means a band like Gondoliers—who crank out their noise fast and furious, who pummel through a song like it owes them money—needs to bring a little something extra.
“They expect you to play longer,” says Madri “We’re used to playing a half hour set. they kind of get upset.”
“We would juggle, tell jokes,” says Manson.
“John would tell jokes, I would make it so I would have at least one horrible technical difficulty per set,” says Madri.
Clearly these dudes aren’t the Allman Brothers and aren’t going to save the day by jamming hard on some righteous grooves, brah. (Although the Allman Brothers in a Euro-squat does have a weirdly appealing cognitive-dissonance.) But that doesn’t mean the Gondoliers are against mixing it up and making the most of an awkward situation.
“The great thing is you can still smoke everywhere over there,” says Manson. “So I smoked a cigarette on stage and was doing spoken word over drums. It was fantastic, very hep.”
GONDOLIERS W/ BONG WISH + 92 PROTONS + COLORADO GILES + STRONGE. O’BRIEN’S. 3 HARVARD AVE., ALLSTON. SAT. 15 AT 8PM/21+/$8
ROCK ‘N’ ROLL RUMBLE. TT THE BEAR’S PLACE. 10 BROOKLINE ST., CAMBRIDGE. THU 4.10 9PM/18+/$18. TTTHEBEARS.COM