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"Mars Attacks!" A First Person Tour Account
by Erik 4-A
Originally Published in the Rocket Magazine August of 1998,Copyright Erik 4-A

PREFACE: Granted my Trip with the Boss Martians was an Experience to remember, but upon reflection it was also a good documentation of a band about to "Grow" as well. Currently the Boss Martians have Grown into a "New Stage" of their Carreer (which I am proudly part of!), and the Rocket Magazine is No MORE (it closed it doors in 2000!). I now also have a BIGGER & Better recording studio to work in, which took many years of my Life to do. Things change all the time, but sometimes "you have to know where you came from, to know where you are going." This is one of those Examples.

Read this with that "Grain of Salt" in Mind, as how things once were, but Now we are all looking to the FUTURE!

ROCK ON!-Erik 4-A -2003-

"Mars Attacks!"

     Going on a European Rock & Roll Tour seems exciting, but also a little frightening for those who have never experienced it before. For me, it was all one glorious adventure - being with my friends and playing music. Anyone who says playing Rock & Roll is a great way to make a living has obviously never done it before. You wake up, squeeze into a van with four or five other people, drive 4 hours a day with little sleep only to arrive at yet another gig so you can once again play your ass off for two hours straight in sweat-drenched clothing. And what's the reward at the end of the evening? You get to collapse in some tiny hotel room so that you can wake up and do it all again for the next 3 weeks. Just ask Seattle's Boss Martians who recently returned from their first tour of Europe.

     In the US, the Boss Martians have been hovering on the fringes of cult popularity, carving out 60's informed Surf 'n Garage Rock. Since forming in 1992, the band - whose (then) present line-up included guitarist/lead singer Evan Foster, Bass player Scott Betts, Organ player Nick Contento, and drummer Joel Trueblood - has cranked out more than a dozen indy releases, including the LP's The Boss Martians, Jetaway Sounds, 13 Evil Tales, and a LIVE CD. Their prolificity in the studio is paralleled by a strong commitment to the road.

     I met the Boss Martians when they started recording at my Seattle studio in 1994. We had a good rapport. We were friends I even put out a record for them. So when I had an opportunity to accompany them on their spring 1998 tour to Europe take pictures and sell their merchandise, I didn't have to think twice. I had always heard the wild tales of their tours, now I was going to experience them.

     For three weeks, April 12-May 3, the Boss Martians bounced around four countries, starting out in Italy, then moving to Switzerland and on to Germany and wrapping it up in Spain. It was a wild time. Save for the usual bullshit, some difficulty with the culture shock/language barriers, frustration over inadequate toilets and constant bouts with road fatigue, the tour went smoothly. Our guarantees were enough to get by, but, for the most part, we were given wonderful hospitality. Many of the promoters and bands would fight over who the Martians got to stay with. And the bright enthusiasm of the crowds, ranging from 150-400 per night made it all worth it, and kept the band going even during the most strenuous moments of the trip.

     What follows is our account of the Boss Martians' maiden European tour:


APRIL 13-19, ITALY

     We arrived in Rome, Italy after 16 hours of flying, making connections and passing customs. Despite not recovering some of our luggage (which continued on to Oslo, Norway), landing in the Eternal City wasn't all that dramatic. No red carpet. No Pope to greet us. No key to the city. But we weren't expecting a whole entourage to welcome us. We just wanted to get situated and rested up before the first show, which was to happen the following day. We stayed the first night in a nice hotel outside of Rome located in the coastal town of Fiumicino. It was as good a place anywhere to start out.

Boss Martians in Rome

     The next day we met up with our tour manager Gualtiero Pagani of Rockin' Bones Records Records (the label that's issuing a Boss Martians, "Rocks like a Motherfucker!" EP [now called "Lockdown Party!"]). He was just 23, but had the guts to bring an American rock n' roll band like the Boss Martians to a country like Italy a place where there was not legitimate music scene. Most clubs can't seem to support live music, so they're mainly discotheques. Therefore, the punk scene is about as underground as it gets. In Italy, the Boss Martians were to play "squats" vacant buildings, operated by anarchists, communists or just plain freaks. Likewise the punk of Italy is politically charged: Punk rock is definitely a calling for the masses and a very loud voice to cry out against the government. The only agenda the Boss Martians had was to bring the gospel of rock 'n' roll to the humans.

Meeting the Fans. Rome!

     For their first show of the tour (April 14) and only one in Rome, the Boss Martians played in a mansion that had been converted into a club. It also had a hostel for touring bands where we stayed that night. The place was huge. Joining the band on the bill that night was an Italian surf/instrumental outfit called I Cosmonauti, who thoroughly impressed the Boss Martians (no easy task). When it was their turn, the Martians kicked it into high gear, commencing their tour with a high-octane combination of West Coast surf 'n' drag and good old Frat Stomp rock and roll. They stunned the Italian audience, giving it a rock 'n' roll beating, American style. The surf party festivities would continue well into the wee hours of the morning and the Boss Martians wouldn't get to bed until 4 a.m. (which would turn our to be the case for the rest of the week).

The Tourmobile Part 1

     The next day Evan, Scott, Nick, Joel and myself piled into the tour ship -a well-used 1981 Fiat van. Upon receiving word that the band's gig in Perugia,Italy had been canceled (the club had sustained serious structural damage from an earthquake that had rattled Italy a week prior), we drove the 250 miles to Parma, the home of Parmesan cheese and prosciutto ham. It was also the home town of Gualtiero, who put us up that night in a rather classy old world hotel (it seems his family runs the local Pasiteri that supplies all the hotels in Parma with their sweets and cakes). To our surprise and pleasure, Parma was a clean city, much cleaner than the crowded, dirty Rome.
Gualtiero Pagani & the Boss Martians

the Italian MTV Interview!
     Tour stop number three was in Verona. The Boss Martians were interviewed by an Italian MTV-type station. It was rather comedic and sort of reminded me of an episode of "I Love Lucy" (where Lucy is in a Parisian police station trying to answer questions through six interpreters). We finished up all that fun, just in time to get to the show. The maniacally insane Italian punk rockers witnessed first-hand the power on supercharged American rock 'n' roll, full on. They danced frantically, two fans had came all the way from Trieste in the northeast of Italy to get autographs and see their heros and join the crazy Boss Martians throng.

     Our drive to Genova on the Italian Riviera (Port of origin of Christopher Columbus) took us through several winding mountain passes and was a bit nerve-wracking, even though we were practically crawling. (Top speed in the van was about 65 m.p.h.) The city of Genova lies by the sea and stretches across many hills and valleys. The streets are tight and several large bridges connect the city. The view was scenic and surreal, to say the least.

     We played a club called Che Guevarra, located in an old salt factory that had been transformed into a communist youth center. The room was stone, musty, dark and cavernous, even with a ceiling 30 feet high -not exactly optimal conditions for good acoustics. Naturally, soundcheck was a nightmare. During the show, without warning, the Martians exploded into the Sonics' classic, "Psycho." And to everyone's amazement, the entire audience sang along word-for-word. By the end of the night, in the midst of a nasty thunderstorm, the opening group, an Italian band called the Mods, who had a Spencer Davis Group meets the Pretty Things take on rock 'n' roll offered to put us up. The visiting Martians hit it off with them pretty well, and following the show they bunked at their houses.

El Paso Club in Turin
     After fewer than six hours of sleep, it was back on the road for four-hour drive to Torino (a.k.a. Turin -as in "The Shroud of Turin"). The club, El Paso, was a sight to behold, seeming like a scene of Dante's Inferno happening in the Munster's House. Smoke permeated the building like fog in a graveyard. Wrecks of old cars all cut up and welded back together in perverse Satanic forms protruded the club's exterior and interior. The bathrooms were unusable -nothing more than a rancid hole in the ground. "It looked like Ruston on a Saturday night," joked Joel.

     Later on stage, the Boss Martians had a crowd of about 400 people in a frenzy. (Fire codes, forget about that, not in Italy!). The band kept up the momentum, playing one encore after another, including a Link Wray medley of "Rumble" and "Jack the Ripper." While we sweated like pigs and had trouble breathing because of the smoke, people doublefisted bottles of wine and smoked what ever they could (legal or not) and various dirty dogs scurried underfoot. Despite the reception, we were happy to leave the "nut farm" and that we had a nice new hotel to retreat to.

Playing the Punk/Hippie Comune!

     The Boss Martians' brief stay in Italy came to close in the rural setting Vigevino, where they played the equivalent of a punk/hippie commune located in the farm country of Northern Italy. The atmosphere here contrasted drastically with that of the previous night's. The atmosphere was far more relaxed and easy-going. Strange enough, Vigevino reminded us of Yakima and Spokane, or Marin County in Northern California. It was really beautiful and detached from the rest of the world. We were told that people drove many miles to see the show, including some hardcore fans who followed the Boss Martians from Verona.

     Exhausted and a bit weary from the strain of travel, the Boss Martians first leg of their maiden European tour had been a hit. We were making enough Lira, (Italian dough, and we're not talkin' pizza crust!) to make traveling and accommodations work out O.K. We were all astounded by the turnouts, enthusiasm and energy the Italian crowds brought to shows. It's was unlike any Northwest audience the band had ever played before. People went nuts and generally had lots of fun dancing without much of the scenestering that happens so much at home. People actually had a genuine love for the music and they were more than willing to express it.

Next stop, Zurich, Switzerland.


April 20, Switzerland

Boss Martians in Zurich

     Driving through the Swiss Alps in a four-cylinder Italian van requires patience. We might as well have been limping up and down mountain passes in Montana in a Volkswagen bus. Our van finally delivered us to Zurich late on a Monday afternoon. It was a holiday, celebrating the first day of spring (which in Switzerland is April 20, one month after our first day of spring).

     The Boss Martians played a club called The International, which seemed appropriate for traveling Americans. Because the show fell on both a holiday and a Monday, our expectations were low. But by the time the band took to the stage, droves of people had filed in for the surf-n-drag explosion. Playing for more than two hours, the Boss Martians not only exhausted the crowd and themselves, but also about every song they knew how to play. The club's owner was extremely pleased by the night's end, for the Boss Martians had squeezed more people into his club than any other American band previously. We sold merch and signed autographs for over two hours after the show. Signing everything from very rare original 7" to T-shirts.

Boss Martians playing the International!

     The next morning , we met up with Evan's uncle who teaches English there in Zurich. It was nice to hear a familiar accent.


April 21-24, Germany

Evan & Nick at the Underground in Germany

     Having conquered Switzerland, the Boss Martians set their sights on Germany. After yet another marathon drive‹this time on the Autobahn‹we landed in Koln, where we are met by Ritchie (a German with a pronounced Cockney accent!) of Screaming Apple Records, the booking agent for a large club uniquely named The Underground. For the show Evan, Scott, Nick and Joel are paired with a German garage band the Cave 4. Jurg, the band's guitarist reminded us of Phil Collins on a really bad hair day. Joel had met Jurg once before when the Cave 4 had supported his other band, the Untamed Youth, when they rolled through Germany a few years back.

     What was strange about The Underground was that it had two stages, with bands playing simultaneously in either room. An English band called Penthouse was playing on the stage opposite to their American counterpart. As soon the Boss Martians fired up the verb, the crowd swarmed leaving Penthouse to play to themselves. Richie "The German Cockney" told us it was probably the best Tuesday night attendance the club had ever seen, and that the Boss Martians were welcome back any time.

Das Boot Club in Wurtzburg

     One day later, the intergalactic surfers rumbled a club in Wurzburg called Das Boot (The Boat), which sat on a barge on the Main (pronouced Mine) river. The audience was small and comprised primarily of German working class who sported rockabilly pompadour haircuts with the sides shaved clean (skinabillies?). In Central Germany, country and western and rockabilly are the musical styles of choice. Now well into our tour, we were starting to feel the affects of constant travel and the cramped conditions inside the van. Appropriately the band blew off a lot of steam on the stage.

Speedfinger Shultz!

     A couple hundred miles away in Kassel, Germany at the Lolita Bar, a local guitar hero named Speedfinger Schultz (never heard of him) lent the band his amplifier for the show ("He veel keel you eef you break hiss amplificator!" the promoter warned us). Showing up fashionably late for the surf-rock party, the 300 or so people in attendance went berserk. In fact, two skinheads went overboard, they knocked each other out while dancing to the surf-rock staple "Surfin' Bird." The band thrived in this environment, yielding one of their best shows of the tour.

     The Boss Martians' rampage on Germany ended in Berlin, where they played yet another imaginatively named club -The Garage, a nighttime dwelling located in an area of the former East Berlin known as Pankow, across from the abandoned Cuban Embassy. It was a depressing sight. We were surrounded by run-down, low-rent apartment complexes. While the buildings looked dour and neglected on the outside, on the inside they were actually beautifully maintained. The audience was a hard crowd of East Berliners, except for one woman who was from Tacoma, who happened to be living there with her German boyfriend. Years of communist rule seemed to have made the crowd reserved and suspicious of foreigners. Nonetheless, the Evan, Scott, Nick and Joel informed the throng that it was quite all right to dance to rock 'n' roll, by the end of the show they all loosed up and cut the rug.

the Garage Club (formerly) in East Berlin

     We finally made it to our hotel at 3:30 in the morning, and for everyone, the late nights were starting to take their toll. The next day we bid farewell to our Italian cohort Gualtiero Pagani who had served us well as a driver and tour manager through the first couple of legs of the tour. Yet, his tour of duty was far from over, as he had to drive the Fiat van all the way back to Italy. At 11a.m., we boarded a flight to Madrid, Spain by way of Paris, France. With Germany, Switzerland and Italy in rock 'n' roll ruins, it was time for the Boss Martians to take the Spanish bulls by the horns.


April 25-May 2, Spain

     We landed in Madrid to find out that Nick's Vox Jaguar organ -a key ingredient for the band's sound had missed our connecting flight in Paris and was stuck in Charles de Gaulle Airport. Fortunately for us, the promoter, Kike (pronounced kee-kay) Louie had made arrangements for the band to use a Vox Continental organ (not quite the same, but close enough), which belonged to Los Nitros‹the opening the band the Boss Martians were slated to play with that night at El Sol. It was a miracle, considering Vox organs are hard to come by, especially in a small country like Spain where they were never popular.

     Despite not having slept for 28 hours, the groggy but determined Boss Martians hit the stage in Madrid at 1 a.m.. After a strong set from the band's saviors, Los Nitros, the mighty Martians unleashed a flurry of surf-informed flamenco standards like "Malaguena," "El Aguila" and "Linguica." Upon hearing these the Spaniards went completely nuts. They danced fandangos and moved to the vibe. The Music of the Waves (as the Spanish call it) had crested and broke over the audiences and slammed right into the sweet culture of Espana. The Boss Martians were off to a hell of a start.

     After that climactic night, the quartet would try do it all over again in Castillion. But before we could get there, we would have to retrieve the late-arriving Vox Jaguar from the airport, as well as pick up Joel's wife, Renee, who would accompany us on our adventures the rest of the way.

Castillion Spain

     The band at this point seemed to be finally succumbing to fatigue. Precious sleep time at night diminished as the travel distances between cities increased. And there were still seven days left of the tour. Making matters worse the drives to venues were long and arduous‹even in the comfort of a six- cylinder, 1997 Citroen full-sized van -because the Spanish highway system was in a state of disarray and disrepair. Some of the highways we traveled over weren't even on the map. They were also dangerously narrow.

     We drove through Valencia (the city that supplies Europe with its fresh oranges and houses the castle featured in the movie El Cid), reaching Castillion just in time to hit the stage and sweep the audience off its feet. To everyone's relief, it was an early show and we had the next day off, so there time for recovery before making the monster trek across Spain to the city of Orense.

Martian Posters in Orense Spain

     The drive to Orense was a long one. We had to backtrack to Madrid and then catch a highway that would lead us to the northwest of Spain (which, believe it or not, seemed much like the Northwest in the U.S.‹cold and rainy). Along the way, we encountered plenty of detours, but only got lost once. As a result, we arrived tardy to our destination, so the show had to be rescheduled for the following night. Lucky for us, we had a day off to burn anyway. And who were we to complain? Not only could we take the rest of the night off, we could also scope out the sights of Spain the next day. Honestly, though, the only thing on our minds was SLEEP!

Martians & Friends in Gijon

     The Orense gig wasn't nearly as eventful as the one the next day in Gijon. Gijon is a resort town nestled on the beach on the Atlantic coast. What more could a surf rock band asked for? Perhaps a little sun. Which we got. We saw several wet-suit-clad Spanish surfers, and were impressed that Atlantic Ocean is damn cold! The Surf wasn't Up outside that day, but it was raging inside with the Boss Martians. The club was located right across from the sea-wall, so you could hear the waves crashing outside while the band played, like the reverb Fender guitars inside.





Gijon waterfront by night

     
As we piled back into the van for the umpteenth time for yet another date with the dyslexic Spanish highway system, we could feel the tour winding down. Two more shows to go. Two more shows and one plane trip until we could crawl into the comfort of our own beds. That on our minds, a couple more days of driving and playing seemed manageable. Upon pulling into Arranda de Duero -a tiny pitstop smack dab in nowheresville -we were reminded of Moscow, Idaho of all places. College kids from the University of Madrid would flock there on holidays to party. It was May Day weekend‹a big deal in Spain, evidently‹and easily the rowdiest crowd we encountered the entire trip turned out for the big rock show. What it boiled down to was the Boss Martians laying down the soundtrack for the free-for-all that was erupting all around them. It seemed like a scene made for a Roger Coreman movie -My Crazy Weekend With Drunken Spaniards All Around. And of course, as the night progressed and blood-alcohol levels rose, things got out of hand. The Boss Martians soldiered on undaunted, as all the crazy Spaniards danced and screamed lyrics to songs they didn't know like the Riviera's "California Sun" and Sam the Sham and the Pharaoh's "Wooley Bulley." Even after the Martians quit playing and the sky started getting lighter, the party kept going.
Evan, Scott & Ronald at a Pitstop

     When we pulled out of Arranda de Duero, we saw the carnage of the previous nights party. But we had to forge ahead to Bilbao in the heart of Basque country‹near the French border for the final show of the Boss Martians European invasion. Although we had very much enjoyed our stay overseas, we were completely exhausted and most of us had lost weight, we were all coughing up smoky chunks of all the clubs we had been in from our lungs. We were tired but excited, knowing we were in for one of our longest days of the trip.

     We arrived at The Palladium Club, the Martians set up and soundchecked. I decided to skip the show to sleep in the van, for I was the one who volunteered to drive the five hours all the way back to Madrid the same night so we could catch a 7 a.m. flight home the next morning. After the band finished their set (which, from what Evan, Scott, Nick and Joel told me, was remarkably good), we loaded out, packed up and hightailed it to the airport.

MAY 3, Home!!

     When you've been out of the country, out of touch and out of reach for three weeks, there is no better sight than seeing the faces of friends and loved ones when you step off the plane in your homeland of Seattle. Three weeks may not seem like much on paper, but in a van with the same group of people day in and day out, it feels closer to an eternity. But we survived. And had quite a bit of fun, too. The Boss Martians, sluggish and haggard, gave a gallant effort in their quest to conquer the European underground. With packed house after packed house as their witness, they came out on top. Yep, they wereEurope's favorite Martians. (They even came home with a chunk of change, too.) Ah, but who cares? Not us; we just wanted to get some damned rest.



Lost Again!, #@$&*!
Tour Photos by Erik4-A

Drawings by Pat Moriarity

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Contact Vagrant Records | Last update 10/25/2003


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