Montreal journalist, videographer and musician Jonah Aspler has been keeping tabs on his European tour playing bass with Jon Creeden & The Flying Hellfish and Chris Snelgrove & The Last Mile (Prevenge) for the last few weeks.
He has been documenting the colourful misadventures and fortunes of the tandem tour with friends, from making hockey friends in smoke-filled punk rock bars to succumbing to debilitating stomach viruses.
Check out his latest entry below, which focuses on the worst fear of any touring musician; a van break-in. Stay tuned for more of Aspler’s stories from the road, and check out his previous entries at https://medium.com/@jonahaspler.
Touring Europe- Part 4: The Longest Day
“Where are my hair-clippers?” asks Chris, looking through a plastic shopping bag he’s been keeping items in. “That’s weird,” I say, looking on the floor in front of the back seat of the van. “No one takes anything out of that bag.”
“My hat that ties the bag together isn’t here either,” says Chris. We’re leaving a gas station about 45 minutes from Vienna, on our way to Zurich. “Pull over,” he says. “I think we’ve been robbed.”
We look through the van, opening up the back and unloading all of the gear. My bass is gone, so is Chris’ acoustic guitar. “What the fuck!!!” says Glenn angrily. Besides the bass and guitar, a pair of shoes, the hair clippers, a bottle of absinthe, half a carton of cigarettes, a bottle of vodka, an iPod, a baseball hat, a travel pillow, two pairs of headphones and half of Jon’s merchandise have all been stolen.
My bass is a Lado Legend, handmade in Canada. I’m very angry about it being stolen, but I brought this one to sell at the end of the tour so I could have some money for rent when I get home. Chris’ acoustic is a high-end Taylor that he loves; we only have one more acoustic show on this tour, but he will be continuing on a two-month long solo acoustic tour after we leave.
I look at the keyhole on the passenger side door. The shape has been changed; it’s definitely been tampered with. There’s a cage separating the back bench from the gear, where they were able to pull my bass under and Chris’ guitar over it, but weren’t able to get any of the amps.
These things seem to happen in the most unexpected places. Many people have told me Eastern European countries are sketchy. We played in Spišská Nová Ves, in the center of Slovakia yesterday. The bar was tiny, so Chris and Jon played acoustic while Glenn and I got loose. It wasn’t sketchy at all; people were extremely nice, buying us drinks all night and we ended up sleeping in a kindergarten, which was kind of strange, but cool.
We had a day off yesterday, since we had a 1,200 kilometer drive from Spišská Nová Ves to our next show in Zurich, we decided to break things up by staying in Vienna overnight. We found a nice hotel that had a special on a room that sleeps four for 50 Euros.
There was a parking spot right around the corner from the Mocca Hotel. On our way back into town, we stopped by Arena Beisl and spoke to Norbert, the promoter from the other night. We asked him about parking our van in the neighbourhood where the hotel is and he told us it was a very safe area.
After checking in, we walked around and found this great vegan burger joint. Since it was still early, we wandered the streets and checked out the nearby sights for a few hours. Once we returned to the hotel, Chris went to the van to get his bag. Jon, Glenn and I waited outside, drinking the beers we had bought.
“Someone left the van unlocked,” said Chris as he returned with his bag. “I checked both doors when we left before,” I replied, thinking that was strange, but not dwelling on it since it seemed that everything was still there.
In the hotel room, we showered, drank beer, checked the internet and watched some weird movie on Austrian TV. The next morning, we drove around until we found a place to eat and left the city in the afternoon.
Now I’m parking the car while everyone else goes into the coffee shop in the gas station to use the internet and figure out what to do. We still have a ten-hour drive to Zurich, so we don’t want to go back to Vienna. Glenn contacts a guy he met at the show we had played in Vienna two days ago who’s also a police officer. He tells Glenn we need to file a police report, but we don’t have to go back to Vienna to do it.
Chris, Jon and Glenn are putting out the word online with people we know in Austria about our stolen stuff. Chris contacts Vico from Überyou who offers to lend me his bass for the rest of the tour, which will allow us to continue. Jon finds a police station that’s 10 minutes away in the next town. We head out there so we don’t have to double back.
Jon, Chris and Glenn go into the small police station while I wait in the van. I figure the more people, the more confusing this could get. After about 20 minutes, a female police officer comes out with a camera and takes some pictures of the van.
Glenn comes back out after another 10 minutes. We’re there for another hour-and-a-half while the report gets filed and the cops in Vienna are made aware of the situation. Around 7:30 pm, we hit the road again.
Chris drives for a few hours then I take over. At about 3 am, we come to a toll before a tunnel, which is closed. I see someone in the car ahead of me talking to a man who works there. The worker goes back into a building in the distance. After about 20 minutes of sitting in the van, I go up to the front car.
“Excuse me, do you speak English?” I ask.
“Yes,” the man in the driver’s seat responds.
“Do you know when they’ll open up the tunnel?”
“It should be about 10-15 minutes,” answers the man.
“Thank you,” I say as I walk back to the van.
The tunnel reopens and we continue driving.
We arrive in Zurich about 5 am. After parking, we walk a few blocks to the Überyou apartment we had stayed in last week. The buzzer wakes Tom up; we forgot to let him know we’d be late. He graciously welcomes us in.
After getting ripped off, dealing with bureaucracy and travelling for over 14 hours, everyone’s exhausted but in a positive mood. When bad things happen on the road, it can either tear a band apart, or make the bonds stronger. Luckily in this case, it’s the latter.
The sound of Jon puking in the bathroom gives me a feeling of gloom. “Oh god… oh god,” come the desperate cries in between noises of liquid meeting liquid. He had been okay earlier at our show in Geneva.
The bathroom is covered in brown vomit. Chris is standing in his underwear wearing yellow rubber dishwashing gloves, cleaning up his puke. “I’m feeling fine,” he says with a smile. After the sickness that incapacitated Jon, I hope he’s right. Earlier that day we pulled up to the QWERTZ bar in Lausanne, Switzerland.
“I don’t know who these Austrian guys are, but they better stop breathing down my neck or I’m gonna put them to sleep for a long time,” says Mitts, the very large guitarist from New York hardcore band Madball. “I think they’re just drunk,” says Glenn of our new Viennese friends.