Egon is on tour in Europe with Madlib & J.Rocc and will be updating us through the end of the month.
Before departing from Heathrow on one of the most turbulent flights of this tour, we received a rather panicked call from one of our soon-to-be hosts. “These ‘peanut butter cups’ you have on your rider…. ‘Reese’s.’ We don’t have such a thing here. But we can get you a tub of peanut butter and some bread if you’d like?” I had to contain my laughter as I talked loudly enough so that J.Rocc could hear me. J.Rocc: “Dude, stop pretending. The only thing you care about on this rider is your wine.”
We arrived on the first warm day of the year, and the day before a national holiday. The highway congested a few miles outside of the airport and our driver’s car lacked air conditioning. Poor us, right? The heat is actually quite comfortable in Zurich at this time of year, dryish, and the sight of the snow-capped Alps in the near-distance somehow makes everything feel cooler. We arrived too late for any record shopping, though Michel from Hum Records offered to open his shop for us the next day. I hung out with my future sister and brother in law and their two children at a lakeside restaurant, marveling at the cows grazing on steep inclines minutes from the city center and sidestepping Ferraris and Bentleys. J.Rocc soundchecked at an empty Rote-Fabrik. And Madlib ironed his clothes.
That evening, after a much-too-expensive (and underseasoned) meal at some used-to-be-old-and-decrepit-now-is-renovated-hip-and-boring type restaurants, we made our way to the venue. Cigarette smoking is still legal in clubs and restaurants in Zurich, and walking into the venue was like walking past a smoldering bon-fire. The back-stage area was conveniently located next to an exit and I often joined the security guard outdoors, watching the smoke billow out into night air every time the door opened.
The crowd, as always, was enthusiastic and fun. Madlib was so impressed that he grabbed the mic for a song or two. I found myself holding a nearly empty bottle of champagne as the night ended and I knew I would regret it the next morning.
I awoke to the news that I had forgotten my camera in my girl’s sister’s car. She and her family live in the countryside outside of Zurich and I knew it would be a trek to get the camera. But, with Basel only an hour away from Zurich, I figured I’d talk the guys into a detour. We arrived at their house on a hill overlooking the Alps and a lake and, though I tried to grab and go, we were all ushered in doors for a chocolate fondue and espresso (my third, Madlib’s fifth). Our driver – actually the promoter and booking agent for our Basel event, Sandro – gave an impromptu concert on the Yamaha baby grand in the living room, and, while J.Rocc called home from the car, Madlib and I gazed at one of the most majestic views we’ve witnessed in someone’s home and wondered how making music could one day afford such a pleasure. It was almost hard to leave and, though Sandro had a keen interest in seeing us through to his home city, he seemed as relaxed and happy in this environment as we were.
The weather turned as we entered Basel, dark, and colder. The rain came soon enough, but by that point J.Rocc and I had already walked the Rhine river and Madlib and I had made our way through one of Sandro’s friend’s record store and the home of an old acquaintance, Rainer Windisch. I met Rainer when he was almost exclusively a funk collector. But over the past three years he’d pretty much sold his entire funk collection and focused heavily on African funk and psychedelia. I marveled at his clean copy of the Rail Band du Mail’s funkiest album (top of my want list!) and Madlib couldn’t believe the sounds from Dan Satch’s 10” of progressive highlife that bordered on Afro-Beat, the only copy either of us had ever seen. We did J.Rocc right, though, buying him some blue-eyed cover of “Get On The Good Foot” and some other James Brown related novelty. It’s always good to keep Baby Gramps happy, especially when it’s raining.
The gig itself was superb. Our first time in Basel and the crowd filled the old Military depot’s smaller two rooms from front to back, listening to every last record. Dimlite came through from Bern, it was a great pleasure to introduce him to Madlib. And our courteous promoters were kind enough to follow our hospitality rider to nigh-perfection, allowing us two bottles of 2004 Leoville Barton and a Merseult that I didn’t recognize, but was good nonetheless. We met Rainer at the end of the evening and settled up our purchases, taking the short walk back to the hotel with arms full of records from Ghana, Benin, Israel, Germany and even Carribean 45s released on Cleveland, Ohio based legend Thomas Boddie’s obscure Caribe imprint.