Thursday, October 23, 2008

October 17 - LUGANO – Auditorium Shredfest

The breakfast here is similar to the one in Budapest, with the exception of eggs and boisterous Americans. There is also table service and half of the items at the buffet are bread or pastry related (and probably contain loads of butter). Not wanting to eat to heavily on a show day, I had my typical bowl of yogurt and cereal drizzled with a bit of raw honey. I will say that yogurt was more lush and creamy here – my guess is that it was of the full-fat variety. The coffee was robust and French pressed, served in a nice single-serving heavy sterling silver carafe with a side of steamed milk. Not a bad way to start the day!
Apparently the caffeine took a while to hit my bloodstream, because it took me 20 minutes to figure out how to work the shower. After I solved the puzzle (turn the handle left or right, idiot), I met up with Eric to check out more of the town. It would figure that it was dreary outside – I forgot to take photos of the sun-drenched scenic town the day before. No matter; we sauntered down to the river, went in a couple shops and still took some nice photos.

The town square was definitely bustling despite the dull and clammy Saturday. Entertainent was even included – there was a clown on a stilts and a quintet happily singing and strumming what seemed to be traditional Italian folk songs.

Soon enough we realized our bellies were rumbling, so we stopped at a vendor who was selling pastries and sandwiches on artesian breads. Eric got a Caprese (he couldn’t resist after yesterdays yummy salad). I got a grilled vegetable panino on ciabatta. The sandwich was handed to me wrapped in wax paper, still warm from the grill. He burnt the bottom a bit – which I loved – but the medley of eggplant, zucchini, baby carrot, onion, and sweet bell pepper was still slightly cool enough to offset the heat of the bread. Amazing.

Money shot:

By the time we made it back up the hill it was time for Eric to leave for the venue to set up his drums with Andre. I stayed back and left with Adrian an hour later. We sound-checked, playing a little quieter than usual for fear that we might blow out the eardrums of our audience. See, we’re playing in an auditorium at the radio station, where an orchestra performed last night.

Some cool jazz guys are playing there soon as well… not exactly a place where we can really be a POWER trio. It reminded of the time we played at the Villa Montalvo, a theater situated in a very ritzy section in Saratoga, California. We were part of a concert series there, which usually features tamer acts (think classical or new age). Older, wealthy residents subscribed to the series and enjoyed this soft, pleasant music weekly. So basically we weren’t really performing for Adrian Belew fans, but rather a retirement community. It was simultaneously disappointing and hilarious to watch the majority of the crowd squeal with horror as we started our first song. They ran for the doors, pressing against their ears so hard I thought they’d surely pop some blood vessels. I find it really comical that our most viewed clip on Youtube is from this show … we probably had 20 people left in the audience by the time that was filmed. Anyway, we didn’t want a repeat performance of this, so we turned down as much as possible…
After we got our sounds dialed in, we raced down to the hotel to drop off our stuff and get something to eat. We knew where we’d be eating tonight – Argentino. We sat down inside (there was too much cigar smoke in the heated outdoor patio) and Adrian requested that I take a picture of him Italy. “Sure,” I snickered, “but you’ll hafta remind me – we’ll be there on Wednesday.” I’ll confess it was confusing – I had to keep reminding myself that we were, in fact, in Switzerland.

Soon after the photo was taken, dinner arrived. Adrian got a plate of (you guessed it) tagliatelle, but this time, it was al pommodoro. He deemed it the best of the pastas he’d had so far in Lugano.

We were amused (and tempted) by the Pizza Yankee, which was topped with french fries and ketchup.

Eric got a vegetarian pizza, which was topped with spinach, green beans, onions, zucchini, and mushrooms. Of course I had a bite. Of course it was delicious – the crust was crackly, the sauce sweet, and the cheese mild and gooey. The vegetables definitely seemed like an afterthought, merely there for nutritional value – over-boiled, but still good, whatever.

Seeing as how there was nothing interesting beyond pizza for vegetarians on the menu, I got an Insalata Vegetariana (aren’t most salads vegetarian?) Again it was without description, but I just went with it, asking for some rucola in case it didn’t normally accompany the dish.

It was pretty good – acceptable show-day food. It featured tomatoes, corn, and carrots, cucumber, cabbage and radicchio. I asked the waiter for some cracked pepper (none on the table – gasp!) and he quickly brought over the mill and a mysterious tin pot. Curious, I poured a little on my plate and realized that it was pepper infused oil. Fantastic, I thought – something o spruce up a pretty boring plate. I’ll admit I went a little overboard with the stuff – I rendered my meal almost too spicy to eat. Recalling what the experts say about fiery foods being good for metabolism, I ate another piece of bread from the basket. It was probably burned off on the walk back up to the hotel anyway.
The show was fun, albeit different from our usual experience. We didn’t blow anybody’s ears out, and we actually got some response (it’s difficult to get a seated crowd excited).
After the show we set out to find an open bar (at 11). I wouldn’t have even started to drink but there was local wine backstage. How could I refuse? Eric and I each had a glass – er –plastic cup of Merlot (only red there). I’m normally not a Merlot fan, but this was entirely enjoyable. It reminded me of grape juice, but not in a cloyingly sweet kind of way – more like an “I could drink this bottle with breakfast” kind of way… not that I would do that or anything… Anyway, with the taste of wine on our lips, we set out to find a place that would serve our little posse of hooligan musicians. Around the corner, we stumbled upon a quaint little tavern called the Triangle Bar. Two of our fans happened to be sitting outside at the patio, and they clapped as we walked by them and into the entrance. A drunk was leaning on the bar, his face pushed into his hands. He slowly raised his head to acknowledge us, but as if it weighed 100 lbs, it fell right back into its place. The bartender scowled at us as he wiped down the counter; he was closing up. We explained to him that we had just played across the street and his face immediately lit up. He apologized profusely for not having any food prepared. “You see I close soon, but you can have a drink if you like.” He poured our drinks and told us (with a thick Italian accent) about his own musical career. “You see I am a drum player. I played in England a long time ago. I own this bar now, and I’m old – 60. But we played classic songs. You like the Beatles?” Eric started slapping the drum solo to “The End” on the lop-sided formica table. He raised an eyebrow, “You know this one?” The owner wrinkled his forehead. Adrian began to sing the guitar solo, strumming along with his air guitar. The old drummer grinned, “ooh!” and started tapping along, using his chubby forefingers as drumsticks. “You know Italian music?” he asked over our banging. We looked at each other and shrugged. He began to sing and tap to a traditional song and Adrian claimed he’d heard it before. The drunkard bobbed his head, singing softly and out of rhythm, practically drooling on the counter. The barkeep waddled over and said to us, sotto voce, “I pretend to close,” he glanced back at the drooping, slobbering sot, and slowly brought his eyes back to us. “But you stay here. I make you some food.” He arched his back, winking at us. “It’s too bad you didn’t tell me you were coming! I have to close! Yup, it’s just too bad. Ok, time to leave.” The bar darkened, a sole buzzing fluorescent light providing the only radiance in the room. The alcoholic slowly pushed himself away from the bar, head lowered, body swaying. He looked like a zombie from a bad horror movie, a dark silhouette bending amidst the eerie blue glow. The owner nudged him along out the door. His feet barely moved, as if they were cemented to the floor. We brushed past him and turned back to our new friend, “Ok, nice to meet you! Thanks for the drinks!” He winked at us again, “Ciao! Bye-bye!” We waved and stepped outside. We hung a quick left into the shadows, and then another, so we were standing in the dark, behind the building – of a strange pub – in Switzerland. We looked at each other anxiously. “Hey guys, I don’t know if this is a good idea,” Adrian advised. “This could get really weird.” “Well we can’t just leave,” I said. “The owner will surely see us running away.” Just then we looked up to see the drunk stumble into the street. He raised an arm to his head, to shield his eyes from the brightness of the streetlamps. He dug around his pocket with his free hand and came up with a mobile phone. He dialed a number, probably his ride. No answer. Clenching his cell, he looked both ways, trying to discern the right way home. I guess he figured it out, because he started to walk away from the bar, down the road. We slowly crept out of the darkness, making sure to keep a nice distance between our fellow patron and us. He was halfway down the street when he stopped. We feared he’d recognize us through his swirling haze, so we halted our motion and sat down at the bus stop located conveniently to our left. We whispered to each other again, trying to figure out what to do. Somehow we convinced each other that it was, in fact, a good idea to go back into the potential serial killer’s bar. After all, we didn’t want to be revealed as deceivers. We stood up, but paused again as we noticed the drunk stop, turn around, and saunter back our way. He angrily tried to dial along the way. He marched passed us, the stench of booze trailing behind him. He stopped at the bar, and we concluded that he was asking the owner if he could use his phone. We decided to give up, and that we should probably say goodbye so that we wouldn’t offend our new friend. He understood, and I could tell he was angry the drunk for ruining a potentially fun evening.
At least we weren’t getting hacked up tonight. Who knew what “food” he was going to serve anyway… Special tonight: Tender American Rock Group Ragout over Fresh Tagliatelle topped with Shaved Aged Guitarist – 30 Francs.

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