RACOON IN THE US OF A - Tour report part I
Wednesday December 5th and we are driving from San Diego, CA all the way to Tucson in the Arizona desert. ‘Sinterklaas’ (our Dutch version of Santa Claus) is due to climb through the chimney of every Dutch home tomorrow to drop of candy and presents to the kids, ours too. But here on Interstate 8 Sinterklaas couldn’t be further away. Just like everything here seems so overwhelmingly distant. Alright, it’s a cliché but, Jesus Christ, so true: this country is HUGE. What a great experience for us, provincial-town-boys.
Our first US tour started almost a week ago, when we flew into San Francisco which is supposed to be one of most European-looking cities in America. And yes indeed, we immediately liked the vibe here. The monumental Golden Gate Bridge looks simply amazing. So as a good Dutchmen would and should we immediately rent some bikes to get across. What a blast!
We’re still a bit uneasy when we take the stage at Slim’s for our first US show on this tour. But the San Franciscans seem to be into it and the awkwardness slowly but certainly fades.
The next day we need to get up pretty early for the 6 hour drive to Los Angeles that we have ahead of us, a trip through hills that have clearly suffered from the recent fires and through enormous but deadly boring fields populated by thousands of cows behind barbwire, “Cowswitz” as our US sound guy Mark Arnold calls it. Living here…? No thank you, not in a million years.
The City of Angeles is well… BIG. And the air is tinted a nicotine-like yellowish color by the smog of the millions of cars driving the huge freeways that take you across and right through the city. The vibe here is different from San Francisco and breathes a survival-of-the-fittest theme. It seems like its every man for himself in this place.
Nevertheless, we do like Los Angeles and Los Angeles appears to like us. At least the crowd at the Troubadour does and seems to be ‘digging’ the sound of this obscure band from Holland called Racoon. The Troubadour turns out to be an old and established club, where seemingly most of “the great of the earth” have set foot on stage at one point or another and where bands like Coldplay and The Killers have set up so-called ‘secret gigs’, so we’re told. Reputedly this is also the club where Elton John took the stage way back for his first ever US performance. And yes, now Racoon too… After the show we hang out a bit with the club owner, who’s asking us when we’ll be back and who keeps comparing us with the likes of The Kinks, “personal friends of his”… yes yes. We even manage to sell him a shirt and an album and some singles to give out to his personnel. People are nice here.
Equally nice is our US publicist, who greets us with the sort of enthousiasm you only encounter in the USA. Haha… Congratulating us what seems to be a million times on the show and thanking us for the best birthday-present imaginable. What do you know? Let’s drink another beer and celebrate!
Pleasantly wired and a little buzzed from the Stella (yes, they have that here too), we head back to our hotel in Hollywood. The next day’s gig is in Anaheim, a one-hour drive south of L.A. Although a different city, to us it feels like just another part of L.A. Driving into Orange County down the Interstate 5, the smog remains equally tangible and there’s not an inch along the freeway that’s not entirely plastered with billboards… definitely a consumer market.
The “House Of Blues” in Anaheim is surreal. Located right at the entrance of Disneyland, it’s probably the last place on earth where you would look for a rock club. Like everything else, Disneyland also comes super-sized and over-the-top and makes our Dutch theme parks look like playgrounds. Sure enough our kids would love it. As for me personally, not my cup of tea…
The venue itself is very nice though with balconies and a general setting that remind us of Paradiso in Amsterdam. And the responses we are getting from the O.C. crowd exceed our wildest hopes and expectations. The Racoon sound seems to settle well into the ears of the Californians: another good show, a lot of Racoon records sold and one step closer to getting our name out here. These are slowly starting to believe that this trip might possibly turn out to be more than just an awesome road trip. So Mr. Mouse, beware! You haven’t seen the last of us.
On Monday we have a day off in Los Angeles. It’s tempting to drive around the city for some more site-seeing but we’ve got more important business to attend to today. Over in Holland, Michel Shoots and Attie Bauw have just finished the mixes for our new album and have uploaded the whole thing onto a server so we could have a listen. The listening session takes place at the house of our Belgian (top)manager who’s moved here 2 years ago and settled into a real Californian bungalow in the hills. Well, it must be said, this Monday turned out to be one of the most beautiful moments out of my musical career and this probably goes for the 4 of us. Of course we knew that the songs were good and that the performances in the studio worked out well too, but hearing them for the first time in their final version, almost made us break out in tears, while we are all thinking“My god, this record is good, did we do this?”. We are totally loving the mixes. Those 2 guys in Holland did an awesome job! We’re seriously impressed and are now aching to send this record into the world.
Back to the tour. It’s Tuesday and we’re on our way to San Diego, to a club called The Casbah. The Clash immediately comes to mind. No way to get it out of my head again: “Rock The Casbah, Rock The Casbah ! And we do. Although the crowd was more “conservative” than the previous nights, we shouldn’t complain: another batch of CDs sold and some more friends made. For this tour our host The Lemonheads are made up of – besides Mr Dando of course – legendary punk-rockers Bill Stevenson and Karl Alvarez, who we haven’t seen perform since their Descendents days about 10 years ago. It’s a pleasure and an honor. They rock.
So Wednesday comes and here we are. While my kids are entertaining Santa Claus (or the other way around), we are taking off from San Diego to Tucson, driving like a tiny fly on Interstate 8 right next to the Mexican border. We’ve just passed Calexico, so the soundtrack in my head adjusts accordingly to the music of this desert outfit . A road trip in the US feels like driving through a songbook. Every city, every street, every village and every club seems to have its own dedicated song. This adventure has only just started and already it has been an unforgettable experience for us.
But we’ll never forget our roots. We’ll keep in touch. Have a nice day!
Stefan de Kroon