It’s hard to believe that ten years ago, today, I celebrated my 40th birthday in Slovenia. I had just joined The Mars Volta earlier that year and we were on tour in Europe. I woke up early that day and remember sitting up in the front of the tour bus, driving through a long tunnel before realizing we were not in Austria anymore, but in a completely foreign place.
I always remember my first trip to a new location vividly, and I still clearly recall this particular time we were in Slovenia just before playing an art squat venue in the city’s capital, Ljubljana. We stayed at a small hotel and shared hotel rooms; I roomed with Jon Theodore (the rhythm section always stays together). The bathroom was a small, modular one that kind of smelled like mildew so Jon decided to sleep in the bus. I stayed; I hadn’t told anyone in the band that it was my birthday and felt a little lonely, but was grateful that I was turning 40 on a tour with a great band in a beautiful city to which I’d never been.
We had the day off; it was early in the morning, I couldn’t sleep so I went downstairs to get coffee. A hotel employee asked me if anyone in our group was expecting a fax because there was one from the US that had just come in. I figured it was for us, but I when I took a look at it, I was happy to see that it was actually a birthday fax from my family. They had looked at our tour schedule and figured out where we were staying from the only information I sent them which was this memo with tour dates:
19 TRAVEL TO UK ( FLIGHT INFO BELOW)
20 ARRIVE UK – HOTEL LONDON
21 rehearsal TERMINAL STUDIOS UK – HOTEL LONDON
22 rehearsal TERMINAL STUDIOS UK – HOTEL LONDON
23 Reading Festival DRIVE TO LEEDS
24 Leeds – After show drive back to London -HOTEL LONDON
25 OFF – HOTEL LONDON
26 RADIO ONE SESSION – ( same studios as before) – HOTEL LONDON
27 LONODN PROMO ? – DRIVE TO ROTTERDAM ( TIME TBA) – HOTEL ROTTERDAM
28 Off HOTEL ROTTERDAM
29 Lowlands , HOLLAND- DRIVE TO BELGIUM
30 Pukkelpop -, BELGIUM – DRIVE TO GERMANY
31 Terremoto , GERMANY – DRIVE TO HAMBURG
1 Off – HOTEL HAMBURG
2 Hamburg – Schlachthof – DRIVE TO FRANKFURT
3 Frankfurt – Batschkapp – DRIVE TO MUNICH
4 Munich – Elserhalle – DRIVE TO SLOVENIA
5 off – HOTEL SLOVENIA
6 Ljubljana – Metelkova – DRIVE TO ITALY
7 Italy (Bologna) – HOTEL BOLOGNA
8 Off -DRIVE OVERNIGHT TO DORTMUND
9 Dortmund – TBA – OVER NIGHT TO GRONINGEN
10 Groningen – VERA
11 Amsterdam – TBA
12 FLY AMSTERDAM / LONDON / LAX
It felt so comforting to read words from my family. When our tour manager asked later what the fax was about, I admitted it was my birthday. He wished me a happy birthday to me and saw from the fax that it was my 40th. He proceeded to let everyone in the band and crew know that it was my big 4-0 so we all went out that night to the art squat.
I had never seen or been to any place like Ljubljana. The squat was called Metelkova and was an ornate set of buildings in an old Yugoslav army garrison. I remember we all headed out to a fenced area where there were individual warehouses and buildings that had been turned into art installations, bars, housing and hostels. It was pretty amazing walking into one spot after another, seeing such a vibrant art collective and doing it themselves, living the way they wanted to live. I remember being in one of the spots that was made into a dark, CBGB’s type bar, having a drink while Motorhead blasted through speakers, then walking next door to another bar and the whole room had a completely different vibe. This bar was blasting Dead Or Alive and everyone in it had big hair and white make up. Every location was unique and had it’s own identity.
It may have been my 40th birthday, but it was a youthful, new and exciting experience that I’ll never forget and it rejuvenated me. We spent the rest of the night just hopping from one spot to the next; to this day I’d say it was one of my most memorable birthdays.