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 first dispatch.
I pay $3,650 for four plane tickets from Dulles International to Heathrow. From Heathrow, we will fly to Milan, where a Czech driver will meet us with borrowed gear. I will pay 70 euros per day for the van, 50 euros per day for the driver, 15 euros per day to each of my three bandmates. We are a rock band going to Europe. I am 34 and have been doing this for nine years.
At the British Airways counter, the attendant does not fall for an old trick: Tape two guitar cases together and pretend that they are one checked bag. We pay $60 in excess baggage fees. Singer C. has not flown in a decade and tries to carry what looks like $150 worth of hair products through a TSA security checkpoint. She is unsuccessful.
The flight to Heathrow is blessedly underbooked. I move to an empty row where I lie down and experience REM sleep. I dream of an imaginary recording engineer who lives in Los Angeles in an enormous house that looks suspiciously like Dulles International. (Inexplicably, Washington Post columnist Chris Cillizza also seems to live there.) Like Steve Albini or Quincy Jones, this engineer is much sought after by musicians for his signature sounds. However, because he is a member of an uncontacted Brazilian tribe, he speaks no known human language. Unable to talk about whether the bass “sounds warm” or whether the drums are “punchy,” he just points up when he wants an instrument to be louder, and down when he wants it to be quieter. When I wake, this strikes me as an efficient way of working that should adapted by recording engineers around the world. The “up/down” technique could also probably aid in parenting and romantic relationships.
On the flight to Milan, I read a book about dolphins. The author is eager to convince the reader that dolphins are capable of sentient thought—-something I’d never doubted—-but this excessive eagerness makes me doubt whether dolphins are indeed capable of sentient thought. The author so heatedly rejects arguments that scientists who document “human” behavior in dolphins are guilty of peddling anthropomorphism that I begin to think that scientists who document “human” behavior in dolphins are indeed peddling anthropomorphism. The book’s net effect is not unlike someone explaining why a joke is funny, or a Carrot Top comedy routine. Still, I wonder about dolphin culture. If they had hands, would they play guitars and fly airplanes? But dolphins seem too relaxed to engage in such behaviors. I begin to envy dolphins. Whales, too.
When we land, I find that the white suit that I will wear for the entire trip has torn at the calf. If there is white thread and a needle in Italy, it is now my task to find them among famed cathedrals, bowls of pasta primavera and used Robert Benigni DVDs. I put my chances at 70/30.