Since L.A. hardcore warrior Justin Smith is in three bands (Graf Orlock, Ghostlimb, and Dangers) and runs local hardcore-metal label Vitriol Records — and works as a history professor at Cal State Long Beach — one might think he'd take the summer off. Instead, he decided to take his cinemagrind outfit Graf Orlock on a DIY European tour, hitting rarely-visited spots in Eastern Europe and The Balkans. It was a wild, wild ride; here are his dispatches from the road.
Date: July 19
Location: Prague, Czech Republic
Some of our friends in Prague wanted to do a different kind of show — actually an illegal outdoor show under an overpass, next to the Vltava River. Coming from L.A., where shows get shut down if there are too many people outside, this seemed tenuous. It was set up quickly, three bands played and it was ridiculously awesome. Everyone had fun and no cops came. Excellent, loud, and one to remember.
Date: July 20
Location: Rokycany, Czech Republic
People from all over Europe gather for a punk festival every year called Fluff Fest, held on a small airfield an hour outside of Prague. We have been trying to play since 2007, and finally made it. One of our better shows. It ended with one solid minute of us four jerks floating across 4000 or so people. We saw at least one person from every show in the previous three weeks.
Date: July 21
Location: Motorest, Slovakia
Although we had only directions and no phone number or email address for the show, we ended up finding it at a rest stop in mid-Slovakia, a distance of eight kilometers past the village of Trenčín. It was a birthday party with vegan gulash, a mess of drunken crust punks, and an out of control show. Who would have thought we would have so much fun at a birthday party, particularly at a rest stop in the middle of nowhere?
Date: July 22
Location: Budapest, Hungary
A pleasant day seeing the sights with fantastic locals-tour guides. Budapest is a fantastic place. The day ends with a show at the Fairy Factory and a taste of local absinthe. Staying with people at their homes and sharing food is an amazing part of this tour that is difficult to compare to our standard tours.
Date: July 23
Location: Belgrade, Serbia
The effort to pass through borders is sometimes too much to deal with. Massive amounts of paperwork, stoppage, and any number of problems. When we finally got into northern Serbia, there seemed to be a dearth of humans for the first 100 miles, but many are centralized around the city. We ended up playing a show on a boat on the Danube River in central Belgrade. 62 people showed up and it was strange to say the least, nonetheless weird and radical.
Date: July 24 and 25
Locations: Banja Luka, Bosnia/Zagreb, Croatia
This is where things got rough. With all of our customs papers in hand and ready to leave Serbia, we needed to cut through northern Croatia to get to Bosnia. Croatia was not having this. We were denied in Croatia and sent back to Serbia where they informed us we didn't have the correct paperwork to return to the country that we had left an hour before. Serbia looks over the paperwork and suggests we go back to Croatia. Upon arrival there we were denied transit but were allowed to enter Croatia on the grounds that we would just go to Zagreb to play our show on the 25th with no stop in Bosnia allowed. Thwarted by bureaucracy again. Two nights in a fabulous squat.
Date: July 26
Location: Koper, Slovenia
We played a fest set up on a dock off the Adriatic Sea. Slovenia is a super nice place. While our set was going on, a boat came to dock next to the stage and looked like it was going to Titanic into the port. Luckily, it didn't and all I took away from the show was a bloody nose and a face that got a mike slammed into it.