What Can You Do: Feedbacker / Calf 2018 Euro Tour Diary
Six months after their European tour with Calf, Bulgarian noise-rock powerhouse Feedbacker's own Shentov walks us through their personal experiences with DIY touring and stuff.
Six months after their European tour with Calf, Bulgarian noise-rock powerhouse Feedbacker’s own Shentov walks us through their personal experiences with DIY touring and stuff. Calf, Feedbacker & Demikhov had just released their 3-way split (recorded on this tour) on limited 12″ vinyl, and are heading on another run of gigs together starting April 18th.
Sure thing, let’s do this: planning and preparations.
We started Feedbacker with a completely DIY mindset. Honestly, we didn’t have much choice to do otherwise. We wanted it to be different than before. Better than all the bands we were in, in every possible way. I can say that we’re already pretty used to dealing with everything our own way. As musicians, we had to get around with finding our sound with only two instruments. Many bands do that and many of them bring something fresh and unique to a scenario that is pretty limiting by itself. Me and Desi had to find a way to make this work for us and us alone, making us feel good and confident in what we do. I feel that it has worked out and it makes us, and probably other people too, feel good about ourselves. Or just miserable. Either way it’s fine.
We come from Bulgaria, which is generally a place plagued by black-eyed people that love to complain and do nothing about the stuff they don’t like. Unfortunately, this is especially true with bands and musicians. I’ve seen way too many really talented people wasting their potential over the good old “we’ll never get big”. As for us, fuck getting big! We want to be happy.
On the other hand, there’s a couple of local bands that have been touring, and some of them are our friends. So we knew for sure that it is possible, and we got inspired to give it a try. Since our first gig it has been “one thing leading to the other”. Meaning, getting to know cool people playing in bands and doing DIY shows. We got some knots tangled with the Greek scene from when we were new and fresh, so we spoke with our mates from Calf, who wanted to do another tour. Christos and I went on a 3+ month booking spree and managed to get most of the planned route done with the precious help of some friends (old and new).
At some point we both were about to snap, dealing with lots of rejection and people not even bothering to respond and tell us a simple plain fuck off… You know how it goes. But in the end, it somehow worked out. And it worked out beautifully.
It’s been 6 months since we got back to our daily routines and we’re already planning some naughty stuff for 2019, beginning this month. Calf & Feedbacker managed to record our next 3-way split release while on this 2018 tour. We had a day-off in Italy and spent the night at our good friends Demikhov’s studio recording improvised music. The record is out via our respective labels and we’re doing another small DIY tour in Bulgaria and Greece.
Here’s a s̶h̶o̶r̶t̶ 2018 tour diary filled with lovely memories to keep us warm and give us strength for our future adventures.
Tour started with a home show for us, so I felt more like a promoter than anything else. Top blokes Calf came on time which is kinda rare for Greek bands, haha. When they arrived I noticed the van is already loaded to the top, so we had to leave some stuff behind. Calf had been smart enough to bring back-up amps and guitars, but we had to leave them and a huge ass distro box at the HQ (aka Fabrika Avtonomia) and we were really lucky we didn’t break anything on this tour. Except for a rearview mirror. Twice.
Gig went great, Fabrika Avtonomia was packed and we managed to sell some tapes and tees, which really helped with the gas for the next day. Thanks to all the people who came to this gig, it was a great start for us! Personally, it was really fulfilling and uplifting to have such great support, makes me feel these DIY gigs I’ve been doing for the last 2 years are paying off in a way.
We were supposed to play Belgrade, but things went south so we had to do a last minute switch to Zagreb, so huge thanks to Nebojša (Mnjenje, Homo Simpson) who hooked us up with the Surogat crew at AKC Medika Squat. We woke up the earliest we could and spend a good hour and a half trying to squeeze all our amps and stuff in a Caddy. Yep, we toured in a Caddy. A great piece of German automobile engineering, I have to say.
I was a nervous wreck this morning, anxiety and all that, nothing I want to get into details about. A note for next tour—pack your shit in advance. Seriously. Have your fucking stuff fucking ready, period.
Sofia-Zagreb is a long ride and non-EU borders don’t help either. We had to wait for like an hour at the Serbian border, but at least they didn’t make us unload all our gear to check with the ATA Carnet. Note to European bands that cross Serbia, Macedonia or other non-EU countries. Do your research and get an ATA Carnet, but also plan like 2 hours ahead of schedule. Border cops don’t care you’re running late for your gig, punk! Also keep in mind there’s a time difference.
Long story short, it took us 11 hours to get to Medika and we were kinda late, but we managed to do a super fast load-in, set the gear and even do a line-check. Surogat is a great room in an equally great squat. Our hosts were really kind and we played a tight set to maybe 10 people.
Surprisingly, this didn’t really bug us and this somehow became the mindset for the whole tour. I felt calm after the show, happy to be in a new city and be able to play a show. Our hosts Sara, Ivona and Eva (of the amazing band ŽEN) gave us great vegan food and we slept on nice clean beds in the squat. This night I slept for 10 hours straight and woke up around 1 PM, missing the big breakfast, the walk around Zagreb etc.
12/10 POSTOJNA, SLO
I didn’t know much about the city or venue we’re playing in Slovenia, except that it’s a fucking container! Yup, officially the weirdest and coolest place I’ve ever played a gig at! A totally DIY space with a small but lovely crew, these guys have been moving this huge ass metal container (like the ones you see at construction sites) around a couple of times, while managing to set up self-organized shows inside.
A tiny bit smaller than our practice space, Kontejnr still managed to accommodate 10-15 long haired punks + some more outside. People went in and out in shifts, the ones inside gasping for fresh air and beer, then going back for some more noise. I was lighting a cigarette outside during Calf’s set when some guys grabbed me and lifted me in the air. I found myself carried inside in some kind of improvised crowd surfing in a tiny container. Probably the most punk shit I’ve ever experienced!
13/10 VIENNA, AU
We had a hard time booking Vienna until a good friend agreed to help us out and took the risk of booking two guitar-based noise bands to a mostly electronic line-up. We’re forever thankful to Milena (aka Yuzu) who opened her heart and home to a bunch of weirdos and let us play our gig within her Sebism event series.
We come from the punk scene, but experimental music is a huge part of our lives now, so we felt good playing within such a diverse line up, featuring techno DJs, an experimental act with tuba and whatnot. OLOIKIRIKIREI, Polyxene, and Otto Systema provided killer sets and overall it was a radically different gig, definitely a gasp of fresh air. AU is an awesome cozy venue as well, check it out if you have the chance!
In the morning we took a nice walk, grabbed something to eat and had a heartful farewell with Milena and, to be honest, I didn’t really want to leave, it was so nice.
14/10 PRAGUE, CZ
Our next stop was Prague, another city I’d never been before. Our only festival spot for the tour—we played on the last day of Pravěkfest VII. We arrived at Underdogs’ at Eternia, a place I only heard cool stuff about.
We unloaded pretty fast, set up our amps on stage and did a good soundcheck. The venue was big and roomy and promised a good gig. We spent a good time talking to Wilhelm who was our promoter and host for the night. He is a fantastic noise musician and our talks resulted in a Greek-Bulgarian tour for his project Uncle Grasha’s Flying Circus a couple of months later.
Things like this are the sole reason I believe so much in the friendship and DIY mentality and I feel we gain so much from the interpersonal relations and interactions while on the road. Every city you go you meet kids just like you, struggling to play in a band, or make noise in their bedroom, struggling with booking shows or releasing a record with their music. People like you and me, who deal with the same bullshit of the state, or some Neo-Nazi crap in their scene.
We played on a Sunday night, and not many people showed up. Maybe they were tired and hungover from the previous day, where there was a packed room. Well, sometimes you pick the short straw, no stress. Both Calf and Feedbacker played pretty tight sets and we had a good time. We slept in Eternia on a fucking skate ramp! Amazing!
There was a really really free market with t-shirts, zines, and records. You can choose what you like and leave your contribution in a box (prices were written on each item). It’s always nice to see such a distro, so I picked a couple of 7″ and a Racetraitor t-shirt.
In the morning we found a vegan place nearby, ate some pasta and weird-colored soups and took a little sightseeing detour. We met the famous Prague tweakers strung out on meth. One guy was trying to chat with us, but he kept switching from English to Czech, so I lost the point… Good times.
15/10 BRNO, CZ
Long drives can be a pain in the butt, but luckily we’re ahead of a short one today. Our Caddy takes us to Brno and Bajkazyl in no time.
The venue looks rad—a bike repair shop with a bar and a live music room, all at once! How cool is that! Tonight we play with a harsh noise artist named USNU? which is cool as fuck. We meet Filip who organized the show for us and he’s kind enough to have brought some homemade vegan soup that’s still hot! I’m really hungry and I enjoy two plates of it. Thank you, Filip!
Then we lugged our shit inside and it’s time for a fast & effective soundcheck. The sound guy is cool, so we make everything work in no time. We spend an hour or two chatting with Filip and some other dudes about the situation in Brno and comparing it with the scenes in our respective cities. This one of the things I love the most about touring and generally going to small gigs in a different place. It’s always enlightening to share experience about the DIY scene and being in a band. It also makes me appreciate my hometown a tiny bit more.
USNU? opened the show with crazy harsh noise set, which we loved. Both bands played tight sets to a compact but enthusiastic crew that night. Overall a great gig and some time well spent.
Our hosts for the night come out late and miss the show, but are lovely people. We spend the night in a beautiful and big apartment with Kristina and her flatmates. They are top hosts and we have a long chat about activism, local music, and whatnot. We also manage to get a proper shower, which is pure gold in tour currency.
16/10 NÜRNBERG, DE
We leave Czech Republic for Germany, I can say I’m pretty excited. I’ve never been to Nürnberg, but overall you don’t see much of the cities while on tour.
We arrive at Projekt 31, a place that Calf already know. We are running a bit late, so we do a fast load-in and a line check. Projekt 31 is a neat punk house/social center with cool people hanging around.
I may have become a little deaf at this point and I think Calf are secretly plotting to play a louder show every night. We switch spots every night, so one gig they play first and the next day we play first. This is, in fact, a cool trick, since it keeps you fresh and not getting tired of the routine. I feel that we gained some velocity and we just go on and smash it, not spending much time stressing if we have the perfect sound or more vocals in the monitors. Either this or we don’t care as much as the first few gigs.
After the show, everyone except me is drinking and we’re all having fun. I am on a mission to put a Feedbacker sticker in every shitty toilet I visit on this tour. The bar upstairs is great, the music is loud and some punks are playing foosball. We stay at Proekt 31 for the night and I think I got the best sleeping spot—an actual couch! Yey!
17/10 LANDAU, DE
I have fond memories about the Landau gig, partially because it was one of the easiest dates to sort out. We wander around a bit trying to find where exactly a venue called FATAL is at what appears to be a University campus. In the end, we bump at the codeia guys, who take us to the club. A really cozy and small place that has been running for 13 or so years, amazing. We meet Jona, who is our promoter/host—a great bloke, the right kind that makes you feel at home immediately. Thanks from the bottom of my heart, man!
This night it’s the first day of the new semester, so a lot of young people are around the campus, which looks quite promising. A Karlsruhe band opens up the gig—codeia play some kind of post-rock/doom and, god damn, they have more guitar pedals than both our bands combined!
They play a great set, really polished and technical, and happen to be cool guys as well. We got a good sound that night, so we’re having a lot of fun. A bunch of people show up, but it’s not until the gig is over when all hell breaks loose—freshmen with funny costumes fill the venue and it’s time for German Disco Party! Wild times!
18/10 ZÜRICH, CH
You know, the cliché about Switzerland is actually true. It’s all mountains and cows and picturesque sightseeing. And a lot of winding roads.
I get a bit dizzy on winding roads.
We land in Zürich in the Koch Areal squat and boy oh boy, this is a huge fuckin’ squat. Tonight we play with local thrashers All Over the Face, who showed us awesome attitude and help fuck-all unknown bands from the other side of the continent without knowing us personally. Truly awesome, and also the venue is super awesome, and very likely the biggest we play on this tour.
We have the best and super spicy vegan Sri-Lankan food before the show. It’s hot on the way in, and to be completely honest—it was hot on the way out as well. Best meal on the tour for sure.
It’s showtime and All Over the Face open up with uncompromising fast punk and somehow manage to sound good even without their bass player (who couldn’t make it for the show). I suspect this is partial to them being really energetic on stage, their guitar player jumping and running around all the time. I can’t imagine doing this kind of cardio on stage, maybe it’s because we’re on the road for 10 days or more, or maybe I’m just lazy…
We’re having a lot of fun on that show and some folks show up to see our sets. After that, we indulge in a lengthy chat with our new friends and I get a few (totally not awkward) compliments about my beard. Fun times!
19/10 THUN, CH
The next day we’re blessed with another short drive, which is amazing. Thun is a small town that looks very nice. We play a social center named AKuT, which is placed near the tracks right next to the train station. Amazing small place that looks like our social center in Sofia, only a bit nicer and way cleaner.
While waiting for our connection we get to know the guys and girls in the collective. Everyone is doing something, cleaning, cooking, moving stuff around. I feel like a lazy punk just sitting around, but our hosts are very kind and hook us with some Mate drinks in funny bottles.
The Mate thing started in Germany I think, and by this point of touring, I think I am hooked. I refuse to go play a set without having 2 of these beforehand.
We set the stage really fast, and this time we have a sound guy, which is great. At this point it shows that we are getting physically tired—the guys who drink are getting drunk faster, and no one has extra energy for much more.
Still, we’re having a pretty jolly time in AKuT and deliver the goods in front of a small but lovely bunch. After the show, we’re hanging around and I notice that everyone is drinking some local beers that have these Grolsh-like red washers that are the ideal DIY punk strap-locks. I immediately strip bare every single empty bottle in sight. I think I have enough strap-locks until next tour! Thank you, Switzerland!
20/10 DESENZANO DEL GARDA, IT
Switzerland was very kind to us, but we were looking forward to meeting our friends Demikhov in Italy. Crossing EU borders is relatively easy, but the border between Switzerland and Italy was almost invisible. I don’t know, it’s a good feeling.
We couldn’t fix a gig for that day, so it seemed that we’ll finally have a day off, but we also had plans for more than the usual hanging around. Getting to Desenzano wasn’t the easiest task, but we finally made it and Demikhov were waiting for us and they had pizza, which is kinda the point when you’re in Italy, isn’t it?
The guys have a fantastic hangout space in a large garage, where their studio Produzioni Rumorose is also placed. All three bands didn’t waste a minute, and we found ourselves moving gear and setting shit up as if we were having a gig. Talking about this idea for months, we decided to do some recording while we’re there and maybe release it at some point. All three bands took their turn and recorded an improvised track.
I was super tired and not very much into it, and I could tell Desi was feeling the same as she was kinda nervous about it. It all changed like 10 seconds into recording—one take, no bullshit—when we got into the flow and we jammed (boy, I hate this hippie word!) for 20 minutes. Immediately after that, I felt that special rush of inspiration when you nail something good. I knew we didn’t waste this time and enjoyed Calf doing a noise piece as well. For this Christos built an effects-based setup instead of his usual baritone, and created some sizzling freeform madness!
Moving fast forward, we’re releasing these recordings in April 2019 and all three bands are touring together in Greece & Bulgaria.
21/10 VERONA, IT
Our only Italian gig was at a relatively new place in Verona called Circolo La Baritona. At this point we were kind of load-in gods & true masters of Tetris, setting up stages in less than 30 minutes, and also—soundcheck is for noobs, let’s go for a smoke…
This night was our last gig together, so it was a special one. I get into one of my special moods and shout my lungs out, sometimes it gets scary even for me… Calf & Demikhov both delivered kick ass sets, and really loud too.
It’s great to have venues where you can really pump your amp to unsafe levels. Lovely gig, and after that we went back to Desenzano for more late night frozen pizza and laughs.
On the next day, we went for a long walk to see the town and the beautiful lake, and we almost felt like tourists. It was a bright sunny day and we had a really good time with the guys from Demikhov & Matilde.
It’s weird not having to hurry to catch your schedule for a next show, so we fiddle around and take it easy. Eventually, we say goodbye to our Italian friends and hit the highway. At this point, we had no real plan where to spend the night, so in the end, I switched places with Thodoris and just drove all night to Sofia. While that’s certainly not the safest thing we’ve done this tour, it was a great moment of revelation to me. With almost everyone in the van asleep, I had a lot of time to think about all of this.
When you play music and do bands, there are these rare moments of enlightenment where you see it all lined up in a perfect paradigm, free from all questions and doubts about it. For me, the end of this tour was a special moment where I happened to understand more about that shit we do… not just Feedbacker, but all weirdos in bands like ours. What drives us to take endless hours on the road to play a €20 gig in an awkward basement in front of 17 apathetic strangers? Is it the “passion for music”? To be completely honest, I doubt that. There’s plenty a folk that fuckin’ love making music but will never go such lengths, and it’s cool. What’s funny is I find that satisfying even when it isn’t… that’s hard to explain, but I felt on the right track doing this tour because in a way it was perfect!
We spent two weeks on the road with good friends, slept on people’s floors (and couches when lucky), showered infrequently, and tried almost every possible variant of cold vegan pasta. Meeting like-minded people and getting to play gigs in new countries is amazing. Creating your own network of friends and acquaintances is really the core of all this DIY thing that I often find myself talking about. Being able to choose what matters from this whole experience is very empowering as well. In our case, we chose to enjoy every single minute of this and this left us hungry for more.
Our hometown Sofia offered shelter for our tired bodies and ecstatic minds. On the 22nd of October 2018 we helped Calf pack their stuff and sent them to Greece. Tour was officially over, but we had one more show to close the full circle for us.
26/10 SOFIA, BG
Local punks from SofiaRebelStation webzine/booking strive to add a special flavor in our scene, namely 80’s UK anarcho-punk bands. They organized this amazing show featuring peace punk godfathers Omega Tribe and we were flattered to be invited to play. The Underground Gallery is one of the coolest venues in town and we felt at home there. A new band called Lunatic Theatre debuted that night and it was great to see something like this happen right in front of your eyes. Coming back from tour definitely gives you a new found appreciation for what’s going on in the local scene. What we experienced was a great gig with an enthusiastic audience, something of a rarity in most European cities we played.
Omega Tribe did a great show, old fellas still got it! A beautiful reminder that punk’s not dead unless you give up. We had a jolly time and it was the perfect closure for this tour. And a truly beautiful one.
HUGE THANKS to every single person who came to our shows, talked to us, booked us in their city, gave us food or place to crash, bought a tape or a t-shirt. For us, you are the true unbroken spirit of DIY punk and we’re forever grateful for that.