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For most of the month of October, Arts Desk contributor Justin Moyer and his band, D.C. modern rock quartet Edie Sedgwick, are touring Europe. Here is his latest dispatch.
Our Driver, D., is a young, handsome, tattooed, Ukraine-born Belarussian who played semi-pro soccer until he was permanently sidelined by a knee injury. For reasons I’ve yet to discern, his parents moved from the Ukraine to the Czech Republic, where he grew up. There is a sadness about him—-the sense that he could be doing something more interesting than driving my band around northern Italy. (Perhaps this is projection.) He smokes Marlboro menthols, the absinthe of cigarettes. He has few memories of communism. He prefers Chelsea to Manchester.
We drive from Milan’s Linate Airport to Torino. No one knows anything about Torino save that the discredited shroud of Turin originated there, and I am the only one who knows that. En route, I pay about 15 euros in highway tolls and about 2 euros for a large piece of foccacia bread at a rest stop. I fall asleep after eating the foccacia and wake up outside the club in the city center. The club is called “Blah Blah.”
We set up on a stage the size of two twin beds pushed together, end-to-end. Our borrowed gear turns the club into an aesthetic nightmare: An orange guitar amp clashes with my sparkling green guitar, which clashes with the speckled, taupe drums, which clashes with the aquamarine bass. Our band looks like a moldy mushroom pizza.
A former record distributor from Pisa whose company went bankrupt after Steve Jobs (RIP) created the iPod shows up. We embark on an epic conversation about the music industry built upon an aging punk’s weakest theme: Things Used to Be Better, But I’ve Moved On and That’s OK. This is fun for five minutes, but lasts 25.
My Italian booking agent shows up to report that our show in Rome is canceled because the police have shut down the club we were supposed to play. He points out that this also happened the last time I was supposed to play at this club in 2009. “I know this sounds made-up,” he says. I ask him what he is reading; he says he is reading The Girl with the Curious Hair by David Foster Wallace. “In Italian?” I say. “That seems a difficult work to translate. Then again, I suppose I read Italo Calvino in English.” This is the smartest, most pretentious thing I have said all year.
Only about 15 people come to the show. Some lie on beanbag chairs that the club has, curiously, strewn about the dance floor. We are paid our 300 euro guarantee anyway, and sell one CD and two records for 20 euro. Later, at the otherwise very adequate hotel, what sounds like garbage trucks drive by our window through the night, raising a ruckus that sounds like the climactic battle of a Transformers movie. We sleep anyway.
The next day, a wave of student protesters file past the hotel. One shouts into a megaphone in Italian. I’m unsure what they are protesting, but would bet that capitalists or Wall Street perpetrated it. “Berlusconi!” someone screams. I resolve to stay on the sidelines. After all, I am an artist.