Love Songs | SoftCore Across Scandinavia April / May 2005.  Bay Area, California punk band goes to Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway.
The Cast
bradley roberts jackson huffman
Brådlëy Jåcksøn
seth strong craigums
Sëth Cræigüms

Love Songs at the oakland airport with mom.
In an effort to get the tour off to a SoftCore start we asked my mom to drive us to the airport. Plus, she brings cookies. Lots of them. And we all know how Love Songs feels about cookies...

For anyone who hasn't flown in a while I'd like to point out that US Air is budget. Not only does one have to pay for meals if one wants one, not only was there only one bathroom for the whole cabin, but we had to endure the flight attendants going seat-to-seat trying to sell US Air credit cards. I didn’t buy a meal but if I did I bet I would have had to bus my own tray when I was done.

May someone's mouth always be open for pictures.
May someone's mouth always be open for pictures.

Seth, chatterbox that he is, struck up a loud conversation with a city waterworks person from Richmond. The conversation began when the 60 year old stood outside the restroom (located directly in front of our seat) and said, “Had a vasectomy so I gotta stand up and let the balls drop every so often.” He was as discreetly as he was classy, which is to say Not Very. The discussion then moved on to dykes, “orientals”, and Richmond’s criminal element. Too polite to ignore the guy, Seth’s only reaction was to humor him and try his best to clarify each close-minded blurb so that the rest of the cabin (within earshot) didn’t think Seth was an idiot as well. Chances are it didn't work but I wouldn't know because I put headphones on and pretended to listen to a cd player with no batteries.

I have lost many, many hours of sleep over how we were going to sneak through German customs with over 200kgs of merchandise and equipment. Turns out I needn't worry because the only thing the customs officer asked was if I was bringing in cigarettes. They didn’t ask about the boxes of t-shirts and stickers and buttons and CDs. They didn’t ask about the guitar cases and drums. They didn’t even ask Seth or Jack, who were both bringing in cartons of cigarettes. They asked me, the unreasonably staunch anti-smoker, if I had cigarettes.

Jack packed such a small amount of luggage that he was able to carry it all on his bicycle and ride over to my house the night before we left.
Jack packed such a small amount of luggage that he was able to carry it all on his bicycle and ride over to my house the night before we left.
 
Germany! 10 straight hours of open mouths!
Germany! 10 straight hours of open mouths!

Now's a good time to warn you that
there will be naked pictures later in this journal.

I secured a rental van from a guy who once did sound for a WHN? Show in Germany. His name is Robert and in addition to renting out vans and backlines to touring bands he is also a professional snowboarder and hardcore bass player. His operation is called Gate To Hell.

love songs in germany gate to hell
Our van, Bertha.

Sadly, no one in Germany seems to rent out a vans without their own driver anymore because of insurance, people leaving vans in foreign countries and flying home, people sub-renting out vans to other bands for more money, etc. Being from the west coast where a typical tour drive is 6-8 hours we felt a driver in Europe (where drives are rarely over 4 hours) was unnecessary, if not annoying. There are just so many stories of drivers being idiots or (as would most likely be the case in our situation) drivers ditching bands who are idiots. Think about how volatile it could be spending 24 hours/day with someone you’ve never met for 4 weeks. What happens if that person doesn’t mesh well with your band? Heck, bands themselves have enough problems getting along on tour let alone including a stranger. Plus it’s more expensive and on and on… So anyway, Robert lined us up with one of his mates to be our driver but a week before we left the guy got a DUI. A possible substitute driver named Tanja was arranged but she wasn’t going to be confirmed until the day we got on the plane. If she showed up to the airport to pick us up, she was our driver. If Robert showed up to pick us up, we drove ourselves.

gate to hell rented van
Jack chose this seat for most of the trip.
It was unique in that the bucket seat combined with the extreme curvature of the seatback mixed with the inverted headrest made Jack look all of 12 years old.
Especially when sitting next to Seth.
seeth schwabstedt

So you can imagine our chagrin when Tanja arrived at Frankfurt airport to pick us up. On the three hour drive back to her and Robert’s office she proved to be a very apt companion and all-around fun gal but we were really hoping to do it alone. As luck would have it we were going to do it alone as she was merely driving us back to Dortmund to do some paperwork. From there we were going to be driving ourselves, and there was much rejoicing. Yay.

On the drive it was discovered that it was perfectly within the law for passengers to drink alcohol in a moving vehicle. Jack and Seth burst into tears of joy and emerged from the first gas station with a couple bottles of Germany’s cheapest beers.

We filled out all the paperwork at the office in Dortmund and were then set free to clumsily drive our newly rented Fiat minibus into the Arctic Circle while making various stops to Lite Rock our fair-skinned brothers and sisters of the Norse territories. Amen.

The van’s idiosyncrasies were made clear immediately. In idle the whole vehicle shakes like a Harley. This was particularly annoying when we’d stop and ask directions because the rumbling was so loud and jostling that you couldn’t hear the response. Instead you’d have to give the van some gas which would bring the engine down to a hum but also cough up clouds of diesel exhaust in the helper’s direction. Also, we had a top speed of only 60-65 mph. The seats were not only uncomfortable but also inverted, like a bad skate ramp (though I imagine this would have been convenient if you were reading a book that was perched on your lap but I don’t know, in the 4 weeks we had the van I only sat in the passenger seat about 6 hours). I found sleeping on the equipment cases in the back far more comfortable than sleeping in the seats, except every time the driver made a turn you slid from one side of the van to the other. Interestingly, the only comfortable and fully reclinable seat in the van was the driver seat. It's just too bad the driver has to, you know, drive. But all in all the van performed superbly. We only had to put oil in it three times the entire month and it got good gas mileage, and most importantly – it never broke down.

dirk scott jones
Dear friend and country-music lover, Dirk, bares an eerie resemblance to Local Legend Scott Jones from his outward appearance right down to his Extreme Niceness.

We found his rural burg around midnight and he (husband and father of a one year-old) was up waiting for us…with a full dinner, including a case of beer and vegan cookies. After catching up we retired to the vacation suite he rented out for us next door. In it were beds for all four of us (good thing we had no driver or we'd be a bed short!), a kitchen and a shower.

Like I said: Extreme Niceness. < next >