|Sneeze Tour Diary|
SNEEZE TRAPPED IN FRENCH FLOODSSneeze, seven shows into their UK/Europe tour, are on a high after playing at the legendary Paradiso, Amsterdam, to hundreds of tall Dutch girls (and, no doubt, a handful of stoned Aussies, blearily wondering how the fuck they had made their way back to the Annandale). It has been a tour of extremes - only three nights before, rather than dancing till dawn in "a classy Espy", six of the eight members of the Sneeze tour were trapped in a tiny, low-lying triangle in the south of France, unable to find a road that hadn't been cut off by 'inondations'.
"That's not a flood, it's a puddle!" we scoffed, citing France's history, when it comes to a crisis, of simply surrendering. "You will sleep in Orange tonight!" declared a baby-faced gendarme. One traffic jam followed another. We took it in turns to get out and walk, piss, push over-heated cars, talk in heavily-Aussie-accented Spanish truck drivers, play hangman and twenty questions - Tom was Andre Agassi, Adam was Agatha Christie. We doled out rations of sugar peanuts and 'giant corn' and studied the map over and over, as if hoping to discover a little road that we simply had failed to notice before. "Head north-east," directed Simon, confident of his superior Australian survival skills and his inner compass. In six hours, we had travelled less than 30 kilometres. Now it was getting dark. We gave up hope of making it to the St Etienne radio show that evening, unsure even if we'd get to the gig in Münster, scheduled for the next night and still 1200 wet kilometres away.
After ploughing through a foot of water, only to find yet another road cut off, we sent Adam (our french speaker) to get some answers out of a trio of locals.
They were clad in shorts and gumboots, and had long, curling moustaches. "Give up. Stay in Carpentras." We arrived at "Carpenters" at ten pm. We had left Barcelona twelve hours before. Tired, wet posses of travellers were already tromping despondently around the town, knocking half-heartedly on hotel doors, "Hotel complet! Hotel complet!" The six of us didn't stand a chance. We ate pizza, eyeing off the tables - anything! Anything horizontal would be better than a night spent upright in the van. "In here, it leaks," said the restauranteur discouragingly, putting a lid on our red-gingham tablecloth dreams.
We drove slowly around town, looking out for a park with a cost grandstand, or a shopping mall with a covered courtyard and benches. Our spirits lifted briefly when we caught sight of a Maccas, with a kiddies' playground - we could sleep in the plastic-ball room! In the tube-slippery-slides! But, of course, McDonalds was a step ahead of weary travellers - we found the playground secured with about twenty padlocks. We resigned ourselves to a car park, where others cars had misted up with sleepers' (or try-to-sleepers') breath. Where were the school halls and gym mats and grey blankets and CWA tea urns and cheese sandwiches that seem to appear in the smallest Australian emergency? Tom laid out a towel on the wet asphalt and unfolded his legs for the first time in twelve hours. Nic made a nest in the back on the amps. Tomas, the official driver, was granted the back seat. Merch girl, Lucy, slept on the floor of the back seat. The Gibbo brothers shared the front seat. "Come on, Ad, move over, my back's killing me." "Aw, Sime, my back's sore, too!" After a couple of hours of tossing, turning, opening windows, shutting them, clumping and reclumping clothes into pillows that were momentarily more comfortable, we agreed that driving around in circles would be better than staying a minute longer in that carpark. Our final image of Carpentras was the car next to our van - fogged windows and four grey-faced adults sitting bolt-upright in their seats, like victims of a sudden, fatal illness.
We arrived in time for soundcheck, sixteen hours later. We calculated: 34 hours in the van! We felt elated, and compared ourselves to Scott of the Antarctic. The next day, the newspapers confirmed it - 'La Fatalité Cévenole'. We had driven into an area where a year's worth of rain had fallen in a day, and sixteen people had been swept away and drowned. The feeling hasn't left the Sneeze tour yet - that if we survived that, then we are unstoppable!
Next stop - 1 2 shows in England and Scotland.
All words by Sneeze, September 2002. Please ask before reusing.