It's the morning of July 5th, our second day here, and the trip is already in full swing.
Around noon on July 3rd, we met in Kenton Hall for our grand sendoff--coincidentally, July 3rd is Neil's birthday-- Happy Birthday Neil!
After some minor passport panics, we loaded the bus and headed for DFW. Our first flight took us from Dallas-Fort Worth to Frankfurt-- an uncomfortably long 10-hour flight. The plane was atypically hot as we boarded and taxied the runway. I couldn't wait to take off and have some oxygen pumped into the cabin (this had to wait). After about 20 minutes taxiing the runway (apparently the pilot decided to drive to Europe), the captain informed us that the breaks have become "too hot" because the outside temperature in combination with the long taxi. The obvious solution: turn off the plane and wait for it to cool down-- in the Texas sun!? 30 minutes later and about 15 degrees hotter, we finally left the runway. It took about an hour for the temperature to regulate itself-- what a start to the trip!
After a connecting flight to Zurich, we drove through the winding mountain roads and arrive in the Swiss town of Brienz. Located in a Valley at the base of several mountains and along side a bright turquoise lake, Brienz is quite possibly the most beautiful place I have ever been. This location provided a million photo opportunities as well as a gorgeous backdrop for our first European performance. We played a quick 30 minute set at the Brienz "Mini- Montreux" Festival, located on Lake Brienz directly across the street from our hotel. Our sound engineer Phil Bulla produced a surprisingly high quality recording despite the difficult playing conditions. Let me elaborate:
1.There weren't enough stands for the band-- we are 3 larger than a typical big band, we were short 3 stands. Guitarist Tim Goynes read off of a chair, Sean Foley (trumpet) read off of a low table, and Justin Stanton (trumpet) read off of a stack of milk crates. The remainder of the band read off of wire stands-- which are less than ideal for supporting the 5-6 page charts that we typically play.
2. The drum set was rather "interesting" The bass drum was huge, not to mention that the front head was torn and taped back together using scotch tape. I'm pretty sure that the drum heads on the toms were painted black to match the shells of the kit. Our drummer Ross Pederson worked a miracle: after removing the front head on the bass drum and carefully tuning the toms, the kit actually sounded pretty good!
3. We were all completely exhausted. In typical fashion, the band pulled it together and made it through the set.
The highlight of the night was the evening celebration. According to our tour guide,lake Brienze is filled by melted ice from the mountains-- this seems logical considering the number of waterfalls feeding the lake. This body of water is extremely frigid-- I know this from experience: half of us decided to go for an early evening dip-- refreshing to say the least. After a quick escape from a approaching flock of swans, we wandered down the narrow village streets in search of and after-hang. Unlike the U.S., most everything in small mountain villages closes at 6 pm-- somehow we stumbled upon an open bar. We met locals of similar ages and mingled with them for quite some time. Jiri Levicek received a lesson in Swiss culture and showed great enthusiasm for national Swiss pride. (The One O'clock is friendly bunch that manages to make friends wherever it goes) After a few hours of mingling, we retired to our rooms to get some much needed sleep.
Now, off to Montreux!