On the Road: The Hazey Janes take to Europe with Wilco
Dundee band The Hazey Janes report back on their dream tour in support of Wilco in Europe
One-thousand, three-hundred and eighty-five miles ago
An early start (one of many more to come) finds us plowing down the east coast on a crisp autumnal morning on our first proper foray in to Europe. A brief overnight stay in an eerily quiet and misty Arras and before long we’re already pulling our way towards Switzerland. On either side vineyards stretch over the Champagne Ardenne region creating a somewhat picture postcard scene. Zurich, however, takes a disliking to us and a monsoon ensues from the moment we arrive until the minute we leave for the Italian border the following day.
The first date of our tour with Wilco finally comes and we arrive in Padova, thanks to some shrewd driving from tall Doug Wilson, in high spirits. Mr. Tweedy & co are already soundchecking so we decide to explore the surroundings, surveying an abandoned Brutalist building and Teatro Geox’s uncanny resemblance to an aircraft hanger. During our soundcheck we negotiate the language barrier with the local crew and appreciate the dizzying number of guitars Wilco’s tech has to keep in tune, before making haste for dinner. Being on a tour like this has its advantages and a hot meal in catering definitely plays a big part in fueling the pre-show good vibes.
The gig itself flies by; the crowd are enthusiastic yet polite, and even break into applause at our basic Italian between songs. We keep our set reasonably short and to the point, first night nerves telling us we should keep things running smoothly for our hosts.
By the time Chicago’s finest hit the stage the crowd swell to about 3,000 and the band gently sweep into opener One Sunday Morning. The sound out front is stunning: Nels Cline grinds and twists wild. Mikael Jorgensen, sitting behind a periodic blinking owl, stabs at piano, organ and synth. Glenn Kotche bashes away effortlessly at the kit and various percussion. Pat Sansone hops from his Wakeman Corner to his Tele Caster. John Stirratt glides along on bass and with Jeff Tweedy’s sandy crooning, together they to and fro in a perfect autonomy. At Least That’s What You Said, Heavy Metal Drummer and Via Chicago are fat, heavy and played with venom, however Jesus, etc. seems to highlight what the band have come to mean to people with every person, young and old(er), in Teatro Geox singing the words.
After the show we do surprisingly well at the merch stall and meet some lovely Padovians before heading back to the dressing rooms where we chat with John Stirratt and Nels Cline about tonight’s gig. They’re warm and friendly, complimenting our performance while we do our best not to sound like overzealous teenagers but calm, normal people. With the humid load out done and the drive to Florence now in the back of our minds we stick what’s left of the rider under our arm and head for the van.
“You broke my heart in sixty-seven places” * - Florence
Tonight’s venue, the Obihall, sits on the banks of the Fiume Arno. We arrive with a couple of hours to kill before load in, so we ditch the van and follow the river along to the amazing Ponte Vecchio. The inordinate amount of tourists in Florence does little to affect the staggering beauty of the place so we wander further into the heart of the city to take in the Piazza Della Signoria and the breathtaking Duomo. An unfortunate yet comical incident with a street mime artist leaves Alice with a faceful of white greasepaint, but the sights and sounds of such a beautiful city leave us in high spirits looking towards tonight’s show.
Back at the venue a giddy couple have flown all the way from Brazil for the gig and are standing outside brandishing a placard proclaiming their love for WIlco, a rather touching sight. Despite a few nerves our show goes well, we re-align our setlist and we can already feel the confidence building. The onstage sound helps, thanks to the skills of monitor engineer Senio. Wilco have switched their set around too and it soon becomes clear we’ll be hearing a huge chunk of their songbook over the course of the tour. The set climaxes with Glenn Kotche standing on his drums, before leaping into “Kamera”.
Over at the merch stand we have a chance to meet some of the beautiful and cultured people of Florence. It’s starting to look like this part of the night will become a highlight of each day, the people are warm, welcoming and seem genuinely into our music. An excitable couple inform us that they’ll also be seeing us at a few of our Spanish shows next week. True dedication. The earlier incident with the mime is completely forgotten as Alice gets a cuddle from a ludicrously handsome Firenzean fireman.
Back at the hotel we toast the day and head for bed, inspired. Tomorrow we venture north to Turin via the winding greenery of the East coast.
* The title of this entry paraphrases a middle-aged Madrid fan’s reflections on the events of Lisbon, 1967.