So yes, this skips a lot but rest assured I will be telling you the tale this week. I just wanted to get this down first: Mondo Cane in Wroclaw, Poland.
Warning: I wrote this on the plane back home because I had nothing else to do… it’s pretty much a 5,000 word essay so keep that in mind… it’s a read!
After all the overwhelming excitement that took place on Sunday (you know, Faith No More and all that stuff), I’ll admit I wasn’t feeling as excited about the upcoming Mondo Cane concert in Poland. Don’t get me wrong, I knew it was going to be awesome and I had been looking forward to it for a long time. But how could it possibly top my backstage antics and that epic last show of FNM?
Regardless, I went in with an open mind. My photo pass still wasn’t sorted out (I had emailed the film festival that was putting it on but never got a response) but Mike had said on Sunday that I should just push my way to the front. I’m not a pushy journalist so I would rather do it the professional way then the…. “Mike Patton Way.”
I finally sorted it out when I picked up my ticket for the show. I asked the girl who I need to contact about a photo pass. She gave me another email address, and through that I got the phone number to the director of PR for the festival. I was getting somewhere. I called the woman and she told me to come by the press office located in a “puppet theatre” and she would see what she could do.
While in Wroclaw I met up with a fellow Mondo Cane fan and music photographer, Sophie, who was kind enough to let me stay with her in her swanky hotel room. The hostel I had booked was all right but it had a seemingly all-night Karoake bar located downstairs and my room faced an extremely noisy street. A swank hotel was a much better, gracious option, especially when I had reviews (and blogs!) to write, so I was grateful for that.
Anyway, we went to the press office and I met with the PR director. It turns out she had no idea what the situation was for the photo pit. She said Mike hadn’t approved or disapproved… helpful, huh? I guess that’s what he meant by not wanting the FNM formalities. The woman actually asked me, “So what did Mike say? Do you think he wants one?” – LoL. Like I know!
She told me she would call me the next day and let me know.
Well, next day rolls around and I don’t hear anything from her. It was the first day of the film festival so I knew she was busy. Anyway I was in the lobby using my laptop and about to email her about it (her phone was constantly busy) when I heard a familiar voice right beside me. I look over. Mike is standing right beside me.
Guess he was staying at the same hotel. I sorta froze… then continued typing. He was talking to some fans that had apparently been waiting for him in the lobby, signing photos and taking pictures. I didn’t want to disturb him (it looked like he had a car outside) but then again, maybe he would know. Damn it, it’s his show, he should know.
So I got up and asked him. I jogged his memory when I showed him the tattoo and he had a nice awkward laugh about it, “Oh… yeah. God.” Anyway he said that he heard there were a lot of photographers wanting to cover the show so they allowed the photo pit in the end. First three or four songs, as per usual at concerts. Then I let him go because people were waiting and he said he didn’t want to seem like a jerk. I got a picture too, and he obliged (though I probably shouldn't have... that was the last fan girl action he'd see from me).
So, armed with this new information, I call the PR director back and she tells me that yes, there are photo passes and I can pick up my one for Consequence of Sound at the press office. Off to the press office I go in sweltering 38 degree heat.. it was flipping HOT in Wroclaw! Got my press pass and my little press bag with all the information about the films, plus a t-shirt and … a little bottle of Absolut Vodka. Sweet! Free booze! More perks!
Before the show we went to the riverside patio of a hotel across from the island where the concert was. It was a refreshing spot in the heat and we were lucky enough to hear the last two songs being soundchecked. It was loud as hell, I guess all of Wroclaw was going to hear this concert. But it sounded good, his voice was in top form, and what better soundtrack to have with your dinner?
Then it was time for the concert. We crossed the bridge and I got the scoop from one of the women working for Mondo Cane. She told me that it was only one song, the second one, for three minutes… I was very confused. I asked where I should go after the photo time is over (I didn’t want to have to fight the crowd when I emerged) and she said to find her, maybe I can stay backstage.
So after meeting up with some other friends I made via Twitter and FNM 2.0 (lovely Kika and Lukkas ) and drinking some beers in the beer garden, I went to find out the photo situation.
It was an interesting set-up. The seated area was directly in front of the stage but the standing room (where I had bought my original ticket for) was on the sides… it was great if you wanted to relax beneath a tree and listen but didn’t really provide the best view.
The crowd was quite varied too… lot’s of FNM fans and the like, but also a lot of locals, some young, some old… I think the whole city came to this show. There was a merch booth that was just Ipecac stuff but by the time I sussed it out they didn’t have anything else. Except a Tomahawk shirt. Which I should have bought.
Anyway, time for me to make my way to the photo pit. There was the usual confusion with security, a common theme in non-English speaking countries (translation is everything). I was waiting for the woman at the gate, not knowing that perhaps I could have just shown my pass and walked on in. But the woman was busy and someone talked to someone who talked to someone and the message ended up being “you can take photos, three songs, but not from the pit” – huh? What the fuck is my pass for then? That wasn’t good enough.
Luckily I met a lovely lady from my Twitter who was also from Poland. She was able to explain to security that I should be in the photo pit (and this was at the time that the concert was actually starting and all the photographers were in there all ready). The security guy was very nice, and I guess it was just a misunderstanding but I showed him my pass, AGAIN, and he let me go. Huzzah!
I made my way into the pit, which luckily wasn’t that crowded and away the show went. You can read my review of it here.
But when the first three songs were over, we were seemingly allowed to stay at the front. Most photographers exited but there were maybe four of us who stayed, put our cameras away and sat on the step/seat located on that side of the barricade.
For the fourth song I was seated dead center in front of Patton, nothing at all between me and the stage. With the orchestra on one side of me and the pianist on the other, Mike in the middle, it was a very surreal experience. Made even more so because I didn’t have the camera all up in my face… I could just sit back and experience this beautiful music coming at me. Because the people beside me were way off to the side and the entire crowd was behind me, it felt like it was a concert for one. Me. Amazing.
However we were told to go off to the side for the next song. Luckily I was able to still sit along the barricade, just more off to the side. This is where I enjoyed the show. It was friggin’ fantastic. I had an incredibly emotional experience during Senza Fine… it’s the last song on the album, and it was only a month and a bit ago that I was listening to that song at home in Vancouver, the music stirring haunting images in my head and I was like, “That’s it! I have to go to Poland!”
During the start of Che Notte
That song brought me there and to hear it live, looking up at the starry skies past the stage, feeling the cooling river breeze and watching the crickets fly around the lights was amazing. The song itself has cricket chirps so it couldn’t have been more fitting.
There were many songs that were equally as moving, most of them having not been on the album. The atmosphere created by Patton and the orchestra was incredible. Many times I just closed my eyes and let the music envelope me. That’s not to say Patton wasn’t entertaining. I mean, come on. Of course he was. He was every bit the debonair crooner, looking extra sharp in his tailored suit. He was playful with his band and temporary orchestra (the string section was from Wroclaw) and they all seemed to be enjoying the show immensely.
He was never too far from classic form either, as demonstrated during the harder songs such as Urlo Negro and another song which featured fast drumming, a lot of screaming into the megaphone and squatting around the stage like a rabid frog. That song was particularly intense because of how fast the violinists had to keep up. It was Faith No More on classical Italian acid.
The wonderful bellow in Ore D'Amore
When the show was over it seemed the rest of the audience was as unwilling to let it go as I was. I hung around the stage area, watching the crowd that had gathered at the gate with homemade signs and banners. The tents where Mike and company hid out in were located just off to the side, so it was possible for fans to get a glimpse of him. I was just so surprised how many people there were waiting – it was like a mob. After Faith No More at the Warfield, there was really only a handful of us hanging outside. I’d never seen anything like this.
And I was suddenly grateful I was on this side of the barricade.
Soon I started talking with a man who had been given priority seating during the show and it turned out to be the president of the national phone company who was sponsoring the festival. He was such a happy, nice man and he really enjoyed the show. We walked over to the tent area where I watched Patton give a few interviews to the festival film crew.
Then I recognized Alessandro, the guitarist from Mondo Cane. I gave him the thumbs up to show I loved the show and he came over to talk to me. We exchanged emails, turns out he has a really cool Italian band that would be really cool to listen to. He said he was really pleased with the performance, even though it was really dark on stage, and he liked the photographs. I noted how laid back the Polish section of the band was and he said he was surprised too, “It won’t be like that in Italy… they are more old fashioned there. Here they just went with it, otherwise Urlo Negro would have scared them.”
After we chatted for a bit (he too had been at Ilosaarirock with Mondo Cane a few years ago… said it was amazing to see Finnish metalheads in the crowd crying at the music) and the band started taking off in their cars, I was offered a ride by a local boy whose job it was to drive the band around.
I got in the van and we drove literally a block – across the bridge and that was it, to a nearby hotel where the band was having a “party.” Well we went upstairs and indeed, Patton and crew were in a room having a buffet dinner. It didn’t seem like much of a party and I felt terribly out of place. This was for the band and I was just a journalist. I was allowed to be there but it didn’t feel right, so I started to call for a taxi. Thankfully the band driver offered to give me a lift back to my hotel (and the band’s hotel).
I was ready to call it a night, after maybe having a drink on the rooftop bar with friends and then writing some of my review and uploading photos. Then my friends ended up going to the hotel I just came from. I didn’t want to go back there… seeing Patton again wasn’t high on my list at the moment and I knew their party was just for the band, it wasn’t my place.
But then I got a call from the guy saying that the after party was at a new venue. Within minutes he came by and got me and we walked over. I knew there was a party for everyone involved in the film festival and luckily because I had my press badge, I was included in the party. Huzzah! I was super excited to get to know this Polish fellow and get my drink on for the last night in the country.
The party was on the front lawn of a Arsenal museum. The first thing I noticed was how very “LA” the party looked… bean bag chairs, swanky looking bars scattered throughout the grounds, director’s chairs, flashy lights. Me and the guy – whose English wasn’t perfect but it did the job – got some drinks, sat down and talked. Apparently Mike Patton was there in the VIP section and I did recognize some band members but I was quite comfy taking it all in.
Later we went to one of the bars to get another drink and I realized I didn’t have any Polish money – just my credit card. I didn’t want to charge it for one drink and my buddy wasn’t drinking (he’s the driver, obv). Then I noticed sitting at a wee table by the bar was Patton eating with some guy with a moustache (everyone in the band has a moustache btw – can’t get anymore Italian than that). I had an idea.
I asked my buddy how to say “Can I buy you a drink?” in Polish. After several attempts I sort of got it right (Polish is hard!) and he told me that Mike had been drinking Vodka and Apple Juice all night. Interesting.
So I walked up the table and said it in Polish. Mike was talking in Italian to his mate, but stopped, looked at me and smiled. I exchanged a cheeky glance with Martin and said it again. Of course Patton looked confused, so I said, “What I’m trying to say is can I buy you a drink? Apple juice and Vodka?”
“Sure,” he said, smiling. “Wow, your English is perfect!”
I’m pretty sure I rolled my eyes, “That’s because I’m not Polish.” Mike obviously has the shortest memory on Earth. “I’ll be right back.”
So Martin and I go to the bar and try to order the drink but they don’t have apple juice. Alessandro is also there and I offer to buy him a drink as well. But we are told to go to the VIP bar because they might have apple juice. So the three of us go to the VIP bar, stand in line there and there I am introduced to the piano player for Mondo Cane, who is having a delicious grape juice and vodka concoction. Juice and vodka is the way to go here!
The bartender makes us the drinks, Alessandro says he would pay but that he only has Euros and forgot his credit card at home, in Italy. The bartender then asks for a receipt, ‘you have to pay at the other bar and bring the receipt here.”
What the fuck. This is the most complicated ordering system on Earth. So we make our way over to the other bar again and I see Mike waiting in line. He sees me, “I was wondering what happened to you.”
Alessandro and I try to explain what’s going on, damn it we just want apple juice and vodka. Actually what we really want is a special polish apple-infused vodka but because this was an “Absolut” sponsored party, they didn’t have it. As we’re telling him this, two girls come up to him and want their picture taken. He has another plate of food (of course), a polish sausage and some bread and is looking for a place to put it down to pose for the picture.
Before I know it, the next words out of my mouth are “Do you want me to hold your sausage?”
He laughed, “You know what you’re saying, right?”
Oh I knew but I was surprised I was being so ballsy. This was so not me but it’s also hard not to pass up a sausage joke.
Anyway, we ended up at yet ANOTHER bar (or like tents, cuz that’s what they really were) and there Alessandro discovered that they did take Euros in exact change. So before I knew it, he paid for me and Mike’s drinks. Ah well, I tried! Damn those charming Italians.
So I take Mike’s drink and find him sitting alone at a tiny table eating the sausage and plunk the drink down.
“I am so sorry, that was such a mission.”
“Hey, no problem. Thank you. You’re welcome to join me if you wanna pull up a chair.”
Well… I didn’t have to think twice. The table next to me which had Toni the bassist and the choir girls had an extra chair so I pulled it up to the table and sat down.
And then it got super surreal. Cuz, you know, here I am at a tiny table with Mike Patton – a man I admire greatly – he’s got his apple vodka drink and a beer and is delicately cutting into the sausage. It’s just us, everyone else is occupied with everyone else (at the moment).
I would have thought I would have freaked in this situation (oddly enough I always thought this would be the coolest situation to be in) but I was totally at ease. I think it had to do a lot with A) having already been with him on Sunday and B) I had a few drinks in me.
"So you live here?" he asked innocently.
I laughed, "No, Mike, we met on Sunday. In your dressing room... the tattoo, uh, incident, I'm the girl from Canada who became Finnish..."
"Oh yeah! And I called you fucking nuts for coming here."
"Yeah, that was me."
"I'm really sorry. I don't remember much, I don't where my head is half the time, especially lately."
I told him not to worry about it.
We talked a bit about my writing (“I’m sorry I’ve never heard of Consequence of Sound. I should though, I should be better about knowing music websites”) about Mondo Cane (“really hope I can bring it to the States, I’m trying, just a matter of finding the right events”) about Sunday night (“that was such a blur, but we had such a nice time in Finland”) about the performance tonight (he was very grateful that I loved it, and very happy that the band played so well), about the Mondo Cane performance in Joensuu years back (“it’s much better now that it’s not like a 40-piece orchestra”), someone asked about Faith No More (“Faith No More is done. It’s over. Except for maybe a show in Chile”), about how I should take my mom to see Mondo Cane (“yeah my dad was happy that I finally made music he likes”).
At one point he laughed that sarcastic snort he demonstrated a lot back on those Angel Dust sessions vids, and said, “They are talking about us.”
He gestured at band members at the next table, “The band, in Italian. Oooh look at Mike and that girl.”
Just then a drunk, tall Polish guy smoking a cigarette comes up to Mike and says, “can I ask you a question?”
Mike goes, “OK sure.”
The guy doesn’t say anything. Mike and I exchange a glance, “It’s gonna be a big question isn’t it?”
The guy still says nothing, just grinning stupidly (or creepily) and finally says, “can I have a bite of your food. I’m starving.”
Fucking odd question if you ask me but Mike obliged without much fuss and cut him a small piece. The guy ate it but still stood there.
“Anything else?” Mike asks, I could see he was starting to get testy with this weirdo and for good reason.
“Can I buy you a shot of vodka?” the guy leers.
“No. Thank you but no.”
The guy kept insisting so Patton raised his beer, raised the drink I got him with the other hand and said, “Look buddy, I’ve already got one drink here and one drink here. How am I going to hold another drink? With my dick?! It’s not that strong anymore.”
He laughed but it was obvious he was about to snap. This was getting interesting and I was going to be watching it all go down.
The guy just blows smoke in our face and slowly says, “There’s a girl here who would like to have a picture with you.”
“Well, that’s fine. Go get the girl and bring her here then. Don't just stand there.”
He turns to look at me with a “can you believe this guy” look on his face, expecting the guy to leave and come back with a girl. But incredibly, the guy doesn’t move. He just stands there, leering at Mike and blowing his cigarette in his face.
“What the fuck are you still doing here? Go get the fucking girl. I’m trying to be nice here but you’re making it hard. I’m eating, you’re just standing there and blowing smoke in my face.”
The guy still does not move.
“Get the fuck out of here!” he yells. Now Toni the bassist, a big burly Italian, gets up from the next table over and walks over to the guy and puts his hands on him, trying to keep him away from Mike. The guy is fucking nuts and just tries to get closer. So now Mike gets out of his seat and gets in the guys face and I’m thinking, holy shit am I going to watch a fight go down a foot away from my face?
Meanwhile, Toni was able to keep the guy back and Mike is just laying into him before some feeble security person comes by and takes him away.
“Make sure he doesn’t fucking come back in!” Mike yells. He looks at me, I can see how tired and pissed off he is and sits back down.
“I don’t know how you handle these people,” I said.
“You know I try to be a nice guy and I don’t care if people take pictures or whatever but then they cross the fucking line. Ever since the show ended tonight I’ve had a fucking idiot like that coming up to me every 40 minutes. I just wanted to go to a place and chill out with my band but they take me to this place, it’s like a total LA bar."
‘I have a hard time dealing with people like that and I’m nobody,” I say ‘You handle it very well. Your fans can be pretty crazy. I mean, I’m crazy too but some people…”
“No, my fans are fine. It’s just that some fucking people don’t get it. I mean, people are just so rude sometimes, they don't understand the way to do things. I really do try and be a nice guy but if I need to be an asshole, I will.”
As if to prove a point, a couple in Fantomas t-shirts who were lurking nervously in the background pick this moment to ask Mike for a photo. I notice they too don’t have a pass and am wondering how many fans are attempting to crash this party.
But Mike obliges easily and poses for the photo. I could see the couple were relieved that they didn’t have Mike telling them to get the fuck out as well. Suddenly I realized how hard it is for him to put up with this stuff all the time.
No wonder he has a bad reputation sometimes…. note to fans, if you come up to him and are pushy or overenthusiastic be warned that he may not be that appreciative, especially if you end up being the umpteenth person to do that to him that day. The infamous Patton snark is not without merit. If I were in his shoes, I'd be blowing up at people all the time.
But thankfully the incidents stopped and he was able to get on eating. The guy he was talking to earlier came by and Mike introduced us, “This is Daniele.”
I shook the charming man’s hand, “Nice you meet you. I’m Lusty.”
“Ciao Lusty. You speak really good English!”
Mike and I laughed, “She’s Canadian. I already told her that until I remembered that I met her on Sunday in Finland. I remembered that I called her fucking nuts for coming here.”
We chatted for a bit (it wasn’t until later I realized it was Daniele Luppi, the famous composer) and then we went off to enjoy the rest of the party. I was going to get another drink since mine was almost done and offered him another but he refused… this was miles from the randy, drinking shots of Salmiakki Patton I was with on Sunday.
“No thank you, I’m done. But I really appreciate it. Cheers.” And looking into his eyes as we clinked glasses I could see he was being very genuine. Very cool.
We got up and he said he needed to spend time with the band. I went to talk with Marcin and we were soon joined by Alessandro and Fabriozo the drummer. Another Italian with an awesome moustache. There were a few other Italians there too, maybe sound techs or stuff like that. Everyone was super friendly and happy to talk to me… well, you know Italians!
While we were talking I kept a curious eye on Mike. He never had a moment without fans coming up to him… most of the time they were women, attractive ones, which I guess wasn’t that bad of a thing but watching him pose for picture after picture after picture, you could see it was wearing him down. You could also tell that most of these women would never listen to his music in a thousand years… they just wanted to be with someone “famous.”
“He never gets rest does he?” I asked Alessandro.
He shook his head, “It’s like this all the time, wherever we go.”
Marcin and I
Soon though it was time to go… once again it was like 3AM and another late night for me. They were going back to the hotel, as was I and Marcin said he would come back and give me a ride which again was fantastic of him.
Near the end, I noticed Patton was leaving in a huff… I had kept watching him and it was relentless with all the people constantly coming up to talk to him. At this point he was more than done with everybody. Can’t say I blamed him at all.
While I waited for Marcin to give me a ride, the pianist, bassist and a few other band members came out. I was ready to wave goodbye but they went beyond that.
“Eh, Ciao bella!” they exclaimed, excited to see me, hugging me and giving me kisses on the cheek. That was fucking awesome, let me tell you. Can’t wait to see Mondo Cane again, just so I can see these crazy cool Italians.
Well, that was pretty much the night. As soon as Marcin came back, I went to my room and straight to work, trying to remember the set list, uploading my pictures and regaling friends with my tales. Before I knew it the sun was up and I only had an hour or two of restless sleep before it was time to get up and start preparing for my trip back to Helsinki.
And all the time I couldn’t help but think… is this my life now? How did I get here?
It was like some force of fate was leading me to this place; ever since that day I went backstage with LCD Soundsystem and I thought “I want to do this more” and then thought “I want to do this with my favourite bands” and then I became a Finnish citizen, and then Bill said he would get me passes and then I decided I needed to go to Poland as well and… well, it just happened. You imagine and you dream and then it happens, in a way, exactly how you hoped it would. And all this time, especially with Mondo Cane, I knew that everything would work out for the best – I felt like I just needed to do what I had to but that I could otherwise just relax and let it carry me.
Another mind-blowing concert, another epic stroke of luck, another night of drinking with awesome musicians and another night stretched as far as the eye could see. Never in a million years would I have guessed that so much radness could be crammed into one trip but there it was. And there I was.