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souvaris tour diary

Sunday 11 April: Martigny, Switzerland

And so Easter begins somewhat inauspiciously, what with us having to be up at 7am to get a quick breakfast and begin a journey through four countries (Belgium, France, Luxembourg and Switzerland - and we go within a couple of miles of Germany too) that will take us something like 10 hours to complete. No Easter eggs or anything - in fact, we've all forgotten the significance of the day, and our moods are somewhat grim until Benjamin unexpectedly greets us with freshly baked croissants and pains au chocolat. These taste absolutely heavenly to our nutrition-starved bodies, and it is with some pleasure that Jim breaks his vegan fasting to indulge in some Easter pain au chocolat.

We bid fond farewells, and our brave drivers begin a back-breaking journey whilst we try and get some more rest squeezed into Doris. Once again, the Heart of Darkness is coveted by all who do not occupy her, because she is by far the easiest place to get to sleep. The rest of us console ourselves with books, sleep, and listening to album after album on the stereo.

Cut to several hours later: we get stopped by Swiss border police, obviously looking for drugs, significant quantities of alcohol and cigarettes, and some naïve young musicians they can charge thirty euros to for use of their motorways. We narrowly avoid having to unpack the entire van for their perusal by showing them just how crammed in all our shit is. After a hefty amount of nervous waiting around, we finally get the all clear to go, and quickly depart whilst darkly muttering a number of insults and expletives. We are all getting dog-tired and distinctly crabby.

Cut to several further hours later: after some tortuous roads and uneven driving by the enthusiastic but unskilled Mr Whitehead that tested everyone's patience, the Alps finally majestically unfolded in front of our eyes, and our black moods are lifted by some breathtaking sights on an unbelievably clear day, accompanied by some Stars of the Lid and the dulcet tones of Mr William Melvin Hicks, whose classic Rant In E Minor album cracks everyone up. We find Martigny, a tiny town with a population of something like 14,000 with surprising ease, and even find the venue without much fuss. We are most disappointed that Les Caves Du Manoir are not in fact a bunch of caves, but a wine cellar beneath a small mansion that is now an excellent gig space. Greeted by our host and future tour guide Christophe, we unload, squirrel our stuff into the cellar, and wander around Martigny, basking in its mildly disturbing affluence. There's no litter, no dirt, no homeless people - just lots of expensive fashion shops and ridiculously overpriced restaurants.

Simmo buys two small veggie spring rolls from the cheapest place we could find for the handsome equivalent of £3.50. The rest of us salivate, but decide to save our appetite for the spaghetti waiting for us back at Les Caves. Did I mention the food put on by everyone who let us play? Europe is the best place to tour, if only for this reason alone. Tonight, Dan, Aaron and I indulge in second helpings because the food is so good (and we're fucking hungry, and unable to afford bars of incredibly sugary chocolate that Ian's choco-addiction requires), and then we find the backstage area replete with a huge bowl of fruit, another of sweets, and then a load of cake! Switzerland is strange, but at this point we are not exactly complaining.

Actually we are complaining, but at this point in the evening/tour we are obviously a fair way beyond any kind of sanity, so it seems entirely natural and extremely big and funny to us when the genius that is Mr Layton decides that for the night he's from Chicago - an opportunity to mangle an accent and talk so obnoxiously loudly that we cannot help but join in. Cue much light-hearted piss taking of friends made the night before, references from Ice Cube films, and winding up of the poor bewildered friendly soul who dares ask where we came from. All this threatened to blow up in Dan's face when he was asked where he came from by a guy who lives in New Mexico... but somehow he pulled his impression off - the guy says to him, "I thought I recognised your accent. Do you know Steve Albini?" Nice.

What? Oh yeah, we played after a band called Natsat, who were perfectly nice chap s who made perfectly reasonable music that I struggle to remember much of. They had a guitar with four strings though, so I'll let them off. We went on next, and pulled some outrageously sloppy mistakes, but we also definitely had our moments. Certainly not a bad way to end three consecutive nights of fun, and it was nice to stretch our set out to an hour (that's, uh, four songs, played without any long jammy bits or blather) after yesterday's shenanigans. We get a scarily enthusiastic response from the fifty or so people there (the biggest crowd of the night), and the guy from New Mexico's seven year-old son stood right in front of the drumkit for the whole hour. Which was actually kind of freaky, but I guess he was digging it in his own way. We also got Swiss francs thrown at us when we claimed to be poor and starving, which I wish we'd actually picked up, because they're probably worth a relative bomb.

The evening actually improved thereafter, what with more Chicago japery, a really enjoyable set from headliners Honey For Petzi (and Their Incredible Grinning Boychild Drummer) (which sees the band being heckled by a crowd insistent on shouting "SOUVARIS!" in every break between songs for a good half hour or so - we have no idea who's doing it, and are generally baffled and embarrassed), an enjoyably short and sweet second interview ever with our friend Christophe for the local paper, an actual equal number of male and female attendees at a post-rock gig (a rare phenomenon, you can believe me) and a general basking in last-night-of-the-tour fever - a delirium that succeeded in grabbing us all. From hereon in, we've got just about 48 hours until our ferry leaves Calais, and we can do whatever we want in that period. Of course, once the night reaches its conclusion, the first thing for us poor travel/play-weary souls to do is to go to bed.

And what beds we have for the night: our ridiculously handsome payment for our music tonight is three rooms in the three-star hotel around the corner, complete with fresh white sheets, comfy mattresses, insanely powerful showers, and even televisions - in front of which we toast our final performance of the tour - and faithful roadies - with red wine, as a strangely/hilariously compelling Melvyn Bragg-scripted Jesus Christ Superstar blows our minds. We then enter an easy slumber, relishing the fact that we don't have to be up until 11am, and then only to get out of the hotel and to be shown around some of the nicer local parts of Switzerland by Christophe, who is a very nice young man indeed. With Beans safely tucked under the bed, I quickly drift off into a very welcome deep sleep.

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