the buskers and the followers

Mushroom Tour Day 13: Brussels – Sunday 21st April

The last day of the tour has arrived. Oh, how will this trip be missed and remembered, perhaps as one of the last ventures of foolish innocent youth… we get up in Paris, early again (11am on a Sunday, very early for musicians) and, encouraged by yesterday’s busking success, we return to the park of Buttes Chaumont to charm the children and their parents’ wallets. This time, however, we are not so lucky and we are asked to stop by the park guard. He alleges that he likes the music, but that yesterday a copper had a go at him for allowing us to play without a permit, and much against his will he must stop us. Thus we return home, cook one more pasta dish and set off for Brussels. During the departure comes the first glimpse of the looming nostalgia of the end of the tour, as we bid farewell to Lara, Jiri’s pumpkin. She complains that her Parisian small apartment will feel empty without this band of gypsies.

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On the way to Brussels we have the chance to stop by the Chantilly Castle, which holds the Chantilly Codex, a medieval manuscript which inspired one of Fred’s Projects. Fred and Sophie visit the castle’s museum, but unfortunately the Codex is not on display. Meanwhile, Jiri, Zac and Cesc sit by a nearby river and admire some fishermen pick a dozen fish in half an hour. We have our last motorway Frisby stop and we arrive to Brussels, the first and last destination of the tour. We are due to play at Studio Grez, a venue remminiscent of London’s The Others, homy and cosy, free and untainted by commercial life, a beautiful converted warehouse with a grand piano, a cosy bar, comfy couches, a nice acoustic, rehearsal rooms. It isn’t easy to get in. There is no name on the door, no working doorbell, and the only way to get in is to call someone who comes down from two floors to walk you through a dark tunnel and staircase until you find yourself in this little creative oasis. The night is run by fellow musicians and we share the bill with duo Fantôme (keys, electronics & drums) and a solo Helicon and electronics set. We sound check and rehearse the latest tune by Fred, “The Little Boy Lost“, recycled from The Beguilers, and we are thus hoping to end the tour by performing every tune in our back burner.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/PxC4BpxEbqo]

We have the last supper at a turkish restaurant, in which we play a collective chess game (move and pass it along) and we eat copious amounts of turkish pizza, including a huge egg pizza. These familiar shared meals will be much missed. As we return to the venue, we find the Helicon player packing up his electronics: it’s time to play and the only two audience members are Jiri’s sister and a friend of hers (yes, the audience ploy, it’s all coming back to me). We’ve come all the way to Brussels and it seems  anti-climatic to end the tour with a non gig, so we decide to play anyway, not as Fly Agaric but as collective free improv session with our hosts, Duo Fantôme, and Sophia Fetocaci, a private gig for two lucky listeners. Katka Slavik wonders: “Why can’t I have you in my living room every night?”

Now the tour is drawing to a close. Francesc has to catch a Eurostar at 7am, whilst the others will hang out in Brussels for a couple more days. We have to settle the accounts, which Jiri has been keeping for 12 days. Him and Zac get a bit flustered over how to count the money and exchange currency. We pack up the van and have a last minute scare as we think we’ve lost the keyboard (I’m 95% sure it’s not here). We drive to the neighbourhood of St Giles, where we all will be crashing in different friends’ places.

We have just enough time to celebrate a successful tour: no lost saxophone, no accidents, no lateness, no loss, no fights and we’re still friends at the end of it. We’ve played in five countries, nine cities, eleven gigs, two parties, one park, one auditorium, two TV appearances, fourteen styles, six frisby games, we’ve eaten sixteen goulashes, drunken sixty litres of pivo, we’ve made eighty nine bad puns, two thousand jokes, played a hundred and eleven solos, played twelve wrong cues, five hundred wrong notes, met dozens of  old friends and many new ones and … we’ve got a new song: the polish calypso, the jewel of the crown, the  slickest rhymes this side of Kingston, the testostaroooone song! We’ve got just enough time to quickly make a home recording on Zac’s zoom, in Katka’s flat, at midnight, with a salt shaker and a spatula clave. Now this is what I call a document (watch this space, the single will be available to loyal fans soon). The very last thing we have time for is a huge group hug, a male bonding muddled bear groan, an animal salute between lifelong friends.

Thanks for following this blog, and see you around in Europe soon. So long!

All the Tour Pictures

Youtube Playlist – All the tour videos from the tour
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I0D-EnEfiHs&feature=share&list=PLEBNCUYS-RK1QLYJ3ctTAIMGmQvcOJEZz]