Olivia Mancini’s TVD Eur-O-Tourblog, Part 1

Olivia Mancini is a familiar face in these parts. In fact, if we were to link to her full past participation here at TVD, this piece would never see the light of day. Suffice it to say she’s a regular and she’s touring and busking around Europe as this is being typed. And when wifi enabled, she’s reporting back. —Ed.

Où est le magasin de disques? Welcome to Eur-O-tourblog 2013, courtesy of TVD. On Jan. 28, I left the U.S. for a solo tour of France, Italy, and Spain, with my friends and long-time tourmates, Antonette G and her husband, drummer, and backing vocalist, Josh Bevelacqua.

Antonette Gand I have been touring together since my first solo trip to California in 2009. She’s “deep California indie folk from San Francisco,” and, according to our tour poster, I’m “sassy acoustic pop from Washington, DC.” With 16 days on the road and 9 gigs confirmed, we met up in Cannes, France, to begin our next adventure.

When I told Antonette and Josh about this tour diary for TVD, a game was born: we would look for record shops in every place we went. What are the French, Italians, and Spaniards into? Do they still buy CDs or has the vinyl revolution hit these places as well? Did vinyl even ever go out of fashion?

Cannes is famous for its film festival, and one can see why so many flock to this picturesque resort town. We started here because Antonette was attending the music portion of the film festival, representing her Oakland-based musical non-profit, the Art Beat Foundation. Before I had even arrived, she had hobnobbed with people like Kraftwerk, and got caught in a pre-teen One Direction mob. The tour was off to a great start.

With no gigs planned for our first two days, we decided to meet some locals and make some money. Busking is the stone with which to kill both those birds, so we headed to a spot Josh had sussed out at the end of a metro tunnel – far enough in to take advantage of the natural acoustics and far enough out to enjoy some of the winter sunshine. Josh set up his clever traveling drum set and Antonette and I had my acoustic guitar and a tambourine.

I kicked it off with a Beatles song, “I’ve Just Seen a Face.” The stream of commuters paused at intervals for some happy faces to throw some coins in our guitar case. Some teenagers stopped to watch. They stayed for two or three rounds of songs, laughing at the good-natured “Bonjour!” Josh shouted at the end of every tune.

As we drew to the end of the lunch hour, we decided to collect our earnings and hit the road. The extra band money covered our tolls to the outskirts of Genoa, and we felt we’d done a good job.

Dove si trova il negozio di dischi?

When you’re looking at a map, the distances between, say, Cannes and Genoa, do not seem very great. When you’re driving through mountains, fog, and tunnels located every 1,000 meters, you understand why the GPS in your Renault tells you the trip you thought would take 2 hours will really take 4 and a half. There’s also the complication of the translating road signs and parking signs and learning not to panic when you look down at your speedometer and see 130 – 130 m/km.

Good thing I can’t drive a stick shift! I feel bad about this oversight, but the driving is in the hands of Antonette. I am working on my navigation skills and trying not to do too much oohing and ahhing over the dramatic cliffs, glistening water, and nestled hillside towns of the Italian coast because Antonette can’t – or shouldn’t – take her eyes off the road.

At the moment, we are on our way to our first gig, in Reggio Emilia, a little village near Parma, where they make what we call “prosciutto di Parma.” There, they just call it “ham.” We stopped at one of the famous Italian rest stops – area di servizio – along the Autostrada. These put the New Jersey Turnpike – and most restaurants – to shame. Piles of beautiful looking sandwiches, full coffee bar, sit-down café, and single beers for sale. Because of this, I was confused by this sign in the parking lot, forbidding alcohol on the premises. Got the “no porno” part, though.

At the Salumeria del Rock in Reggio Emilia, we had our first record moment. The owner, Massimo, was showing off his latest vinyl acquisition as we walked into his restaurant venue: a limited edition of Nirvana’s Nevermind on blue vinyl.

This must have been a good omen because our first show was absolutely fantastic. The whole town seemed to turn out for our performance, and the room was crowded with young people drinking excellent German beer (I am told Italy is now only getting into microbrews and that “real” Italian beer drinkers still prefer German or Belgian beers to what one patron described as “Italian industrial shit.”)

Some kids from the neighboring town came to interview us for their web radio show, A Kind of Blues. They will post the show on YouTube next week. I’ll share so you can see how they speak better English than I do.

Josh sat in on drums with me – playing songs he had never heard while singing backing vocals! I told him he was now an official “EuroMate.”

More to come…

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