THIS JUST IN
VIRGIN OWNS EUROPE
VIRGIN OWNS EUROPE
Boarding a Virgin Train, two hours later we landed in the northern town of Manchester. Virgin owns just about everything. They have their own planes, trains, communications networks, record labels, fast food joints, rocket ships, and stuff like that. One cannot walk but a few feet before stumbling into something owned by Virgin, and this seems especially true of England. So, yeah, okay, we rode a very fast train to Manchester owned by Virgin.
So we were a little late and oddly our host Phillip was waiting for us at the station. I've never met Phillip, and from his FaceBook picture (in makeup), I wouldn't have been able to pick him out of a line-up. But somehow he saw us getting off of the train and ushered us to The Studio where people were waiting to be photographed for Barred For Life.
Before talking more about Barred For Life and the Manchester participants just let me explain that I FUCKING LOVE MANCHESTER. Besides there being so many great bands from Manchester, like the Smiths and Stone Roses and Chapterhouse and, um, millions of other bands like that, there was just such a chill and open vibe going on there. Given that Audrey and I spent half of our time in downtown London dodging commentary and criticism by a consort of frat-boy-looking-douchebags, the open-mindedness of Manchester was both refreshing and chill-as-hell.
Phillip and his crew took us under their wing, gave up their beds and their food to share with us, and three days later it seemed like family to me.
The Studio is a rather interesting tattoo-joint-slash-punk-rock-shop just off of Pickadilly Square. It is just one of about 50 punk-rock-shops jammed into one huge punk-rock-building, and this is where Phillip organized our shoot, which ended up taking two or three days to document all of the people from Manchester with the bars tattooed on themselves.
Tattooist Claire became a fast friend, and on our last evening spent the entire night tattooing our fingernails, and herself, with the bars (among other things; Audrey got her boyfriend's name on hers and I got RISE ABUV on mine, duh). On all of my journies Claire was the first person to tattoo herself in front of my camera and I will be damned if I DIDN'T LOOSE ALL OF THOSE PHOTOS TO SOME RANDOM SAVING ERROR..! FUCK, FUCK, FUCK...
11 people came forward with the bars, or had the bars consturcted on them for this shoot and, and as I mentioned before it took us about three days to do the documentation (and I lost some of them too)...
Thrown in for good measure was a trip to see Jay Masckus (sp?), a few nights of awesome cooking, a trip around the city, drinks in the space shuttle, some well placed showers, a few bottles of wine, more dinner, and a lot of fucking rain. Oh, yeah, and a bunch of rather angry bus drivers that seemed intent on not letting us ride their busses or be helpful in any way at all. Oh, yeah, and there were some museums, some coffee shops that made their cappuccino with milk cooked so long that it was almost merrangue. Okay, so not everything was perfect, but it was not a bad scene at all. In the end it was exceptionally hard to leave that city, however necessary it was.
Then night before leaving the internet made it quite difficult to book our flight to Paris but somehow we managed to score some alright priced plane tickets to Paris. Due to some flight constraints we almost missed out on the opportunity to shoot a man from the south of France in Paris, but more on that later. Long story short, because of a number of unforseen difficulties some events did not work out as well as they could have. But somehow everything worked out and, not only did we get to Paris, but we had a total blast in Manchester.
WHERE THINGS STAND.
I could have called this tour quits after the US and Canada, and this trip would have been a success. However, rummaging through Europe and finding no shortage of amazing people here with The Bars, and equally inspiring stories has made this an amazing success. Just as in the US, some places shit-the-bed and some have risen well above the standards.
One thing that i've noticed about our European shoots, and our European promoters, is that the ones that don't drop the ball are REALLY, REALLY, REALLY seriously amped, and they will work so hard to rally people to the shoots that it warms the heart to watch them in action.
Making phone calls on our behalf, helping us book our trains and flights, speaking to people in their native language, and going out of their way to make us feel welcomed, um, I don't want to come home. It is unfortunate that we will not be shooting in Germany (and most likely not in Spain either), but if I decided that I wanted "full coverage" of cities, towns, countries, and people with the bars I could easily spend the rest of my life (and definitely the rest of my savings) trying to make this a reality.
The fact of the matter is that when Black Flag was a band, and long before we Punk Rock Historians decided what parts of the DIY ethic to attibute to them, they were a relatively unknown band here in Europe. The only facts (if you want to call them that) that I know of BF's European tours is from "Get In The Van," and from that the tours didn't look like they went that well. For many early US punk bands making their way in Europe seemed to be a daunting task. Figuring out tour routes, working with promoters that didn't speak English, and dealing with punk cultures that were not really all that similar to that of the US. Just traveling as a solo traveler in Europe is a humbling experience. In America I can at least call somebody and instantly communicate, so if I need a place to stay or a person to organize a shoot or whatever, the communication barrier is only personal. Here however there is just this huge communcation and cultural barrier from easy flow of information and movement; though it is not impossible.
One thing that I have learned in my many travels is that being humble and appreciative is the best way to move. Making demands just doesn't work, and it just doesn't work for me personally. It is a cool way to live, always being thankful for the little things, and by being thankful and showing it in as many ways as you can just makes good sense. Anyway, I don't mean to be all sentimental here but I swear that so far our hosts here in Europe have been so incredibly helpful that I cannot explain it exactly. And for that, and for their efforts, Barred For Life is going to be an amazing product that represents a very, very broad swatch of people who are all struggling to be part of something bigger than themselves. And, honestly, The Bars are just totally representative of that. Sure, they are becoming a pretty cool HIPSTER tattoo, but it just doesnt' matter. It never has. Hipsters suck. They will always misrepresent everything. The rest of us know this, and it is the "we" that will be represented here. The HIPSTERS CAN SUCK IT, thank you very much.