Though successful, to go from that to playing in Pisa (home of the leaning tower), where we played to a full house that knew our songs and sang and clapped along, was mind-boggling.
We've been playing out for several years, and I'm still always pleasantly surprised to see folks singing along. But Pisa, which was by far the most Mediterranean feeling place we visited, was something new altogether. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Before the show, we were brought by the clubowner to a very very out of the way restaurant. We sat down, ordered the local dish - a bowl of Trippa (tripe, which is not made pickled like it is here in New Hampshire) - and sat back to relax for a bit.
Now, I mentioned it didn't get much more foreign looking than Pisa, right? Well, in the most exceedingly bizarre musical moment of the trip (not tripe), what CD was playing in the restaurant, but Son Volt's "Straightaways" album. Weirdness galore.
So we ate the tripe, noticed we were late (hey, we're a band, that's what we do), and ran to the club. Trippa is cow stomach, which does not mix well with running. So I made the mistake of complaining about it during our set, and of course, the owner of the restaurant was there to see us. Oops.
The club in Pisa was called "Borderline," full with Tex-Mex motif, and they loved us. It's difficult to explain how grateful we felt, to be so far from home and to be so well accepted by the Italians. It's an incredible feeling to discover fans in a place like Atlanta, but this was something different altogether.
Even stranger, they would say "Do you like Old 97's? Do you like The Derailers? Do you like Jay Farrar or Jeff Tweedy?" Truly incredible.
After leaving Pisa, we played in Pavia, at a club called SpaziaMusica. This was about as close to Borderline as Stalin is to Sam Houston. By which I mean, SpaziaMusica was a Communist Club. There were pictures of Lenin, Che, Stalin, Castro and best of all, Bruno, the owner.
Bruno may have been a dyed-in-the-wool Red, but he loved American music, and the walls of the club were cluttered with signed pictures of groups who'd toured through, and all of which were framed in Red. Bruno even drove a red car.
Ironically, we sold a lot of CDs there. That night we were interviewed by national Italian television. They asked us what our influences were, and how it was that we came to play American roots music when we were from New Hampshire.
The whole tour was well promoted. We were well fed. We were paid in full, people paid attention, and we slept in hotels that ranged from okay to honeymoon quality.
In other words, it was nothing like our American touring experience.