Rock & Roll Italy is a four-part series where Seattle musician and occasional NadaMucho.com contributor Mike Spine shares stories of his most recent international DIY tour, this one through Italy with his band At the Spine.
Leaving on a month-long tour is never easy for musicians who are not of fame and fortune. There are many questions to answer before leaving on a one-way ticket into the unknown: Where will we sleep? Will we get paid for any of the shows or sell any merchandise? Will the gear and sound be good? Will the band get along or implode under the weight of the vices, sleep deprivation and spending so much time together?”
With these questions more or less answered, my band mates and I arrived sleepless in Milan, Italy on April 2 after traveling for 24 hours. How did we come to be touring Europe for the second time in a year? Well, in mid-2012 I connected with a few Italians who had posted or tagged a photo of one of the members of Mudhoney I am “friends” with on Facebook. We began chatting online and formed a relationship. Three of them arrived in Seattle later that August for what can only described as “a pilgrimage to their Mecca of rock and roll.” They played some shows with my decade old Seattle band, At the Spine, and we became fast friends.
Fast forward to December 2012. I left Seattle on seven month around-the-world ticket garnered by a decade of creatively hustling credit card airline miles. I desperately wanted a break from 17 years of slogging away as independent musician/public school teacher/activist in the states. I had a broken heart from a divorce and was tired from four years of incompetence from my employer, Seattle Public Schools. By April of 2013 I made it to Italy where my new friends helped me play more than a month of great shows. I was treated with much respect, kindness and hospitality from my new friends (as well as their acquaintances and some familial ties separated by immigration from Italy to the coalmines of Black Diamond in Seattle over 100 years ago) that I vowed to come back soon with my band. So here we are.
At the Spine’s first show in Milan on April 4 was in the musty basement of a “communist” (not that uncommon in Italy, despite the CIA’s best efforts to wipe out the left here post WWII with Operation Gladio) bar hosting several punk bands, centered around a Nottingham UK band called Resistance 77, who have been playing for 33 years. The crowd of 50-100 people were predominately punk of the spiked hair/anti-racist skinhead sort, which is not a great match for At the Spine, who are more in the vein of a hybrid between Fugazi/The Clash/Built to Spill.
The highlight of the night was four piece The Svetlanas, anchored by wife and husband duo Angela and Diste (intense on stage front woman Angela on vocals and husband Diste on drums) with the boisterous and sometimes dangerous Steve Armeli on bass (also covering bass duties for At the Spine on most of this tour) and Sporte on guitar.
It was a good warm up show, but not exactly our crowd and the UK band in prearrangement with the promoter got almost all the door money to cover their flights. Resistance 77 thought we were great, though, and kindly bought our albums and gave us much praise for being and doing our own thing and doing it well.