Tuesday, August 20, 2013


On Friday, August 9 I boarded the Lyria TGV train at Gare de Lyon bound for Zurich, Switzerland. I was en route to see two shows by my friend Jerry Joseph and his band The Jackmormons. Easy trip: Paris > Zurich in four hours.

A few days earlier Marti and I had watched a live webcast of the tour kickoff, a Forever Festival showcase set from the pink-shrouded Nhow Hotel Lounge in Berlin. During that performance Jerry had quipped that they were "playing in a giant vagina." Hence my hashtag for this Europe run: #JMOSTransvaginalTour.

As the Lyria whooshed eastward across Northern France I listened to a 1943 recording of the Beethoven Seventh Symphony. The Berlin Philharmonic with the great Wilhelm Furtwängler wielding the baton. I’m a sucker for archival audio. Nothing like Lo-Fi sounds on a Hi-Speed train.

Lucked out at check-in. Even though it was well before noon, the hotel had a room ready for me.

Gotta give it up for the perversity of the Swiss. The No Smoking warning card was displayed in an ashtray.

I settled in, chilled for a while, then grabbed a cab to the art museum.

I’m a longtime fan of the Swiss painter Félix Vallotton, one of the Nabis, a turn-of-the-20th century band of young artists that included Pierre Bonnard, Georges Lacombe, Maurice Denis and Édouard Vuillard. The Schöne Zeiten (Precious Moments) exhibition at the Kunsthaus Zurich boasted a large array of rarely-seen canvases from a private collector.

Vallotton’s The Visit, 1899. His vivid yet stark style anticipates that of Edward Hopper, who came along a couple of decades later.

Showtime was approaching. I went back to the hotel, twisted up a few joints and hailed a taxi to the venue. The Fork & Bottle was a laid-back restaurant and beer garden located on a park in the Brunau district of Zurich. In this pic: new friends Tim, a professor at the University of Zurich, and Ellen, a Jackmormons fan from Baltimore.

With Joe, tour manager (and husband of Ellen), and Tim.

Tim’s bride Amy works at the Fork & Bottle and was instrumental in setting up the gig. Like Marti and me, they’re American expats enjoying the good life off the mainland.

Los Jackmormons. Jr. Ruppel (bass), Steven Drizos (drums) and Jerry Joseph (guitar, vocals, rants and praises).

Merch alert. Junior was sporting a new Jackmormons jacket. Fashionisto that I am, I pinned it immediately. He told me they’d sold out almost immediately but promised to hook me up with one as soon as he returned to Salt Lake City.

Summer’s here and the time is right for dancin’ in the beer garden.

Lisa and Ellen.

As Jerry so eloquently put it, on this tour “the band dropped the fucking hammer nightly.” Aside from show tapes, I hadn’t heard them in forever. They ripped it. We knew it had been a kickass show when the local constabulary dropped by for a heart-to-heart. Joe managed to chill them out. Afterward Ellen, Jerry and I shared a cab back to the hotel. Because the Swiss like to roll up the sidewalks and board up the restaurants by 10 p.m., Jerry and I joined Ellen and Joe in their suite for cuisine de room service. Nice hang to cap off my first day in Zurich.

Zurich Saturday morning stroll. Bridge, bas relief, river, white bike. The bicycle is a mashup of political activism/ performance art. A bike activists group called Critical Mass, which originated in the U.S., fights for more wheeling space and fewer cars. The white “Ghost Bikes” are anonymously chained to public spaces as guerrilla memorials for injured cyclists.

Spied on my morning walk: the turntable as art (a numbered edition) and function.

This happened to be the Saturday of the annual “Street Parade” in Zurich. Participants dress in wild costumes (or nothing at all) and assemble to get drunk, take drugs, dance to odious Eurotechnomusik and ultimately take rides to the emergency room in screaming ambulances.

Organizers estimated this year’s crowd numbers at 950,000. Some of the JMOS gang went down to check it out. I decided to give it a miss.

But I did get to see a few of the Street Partiers as I headed in the opposite direction.

Just north of the hotel I found the Schindlergut, a lovely neighborhood park overlooking the river. A mellow place to wander and get a look at the city and surrounding hills.

Tonight’s gig had been scheduled for the legendary Cabaret Voltaire, which claims to have been the birthplace of the early 20th century avant-garde art movement known as Dada. Alas, the best-laid schemes of mice and rock stars from Portlandia often go awry. Something about contracts. Right. Now the anarchic Dadaists need it on paper first.

Marcel Janco, Cabaret Voltaire, 1916. Personally, I thought that the last minute cancellation was the quintessential Dada move: the ephemeral concert -- it never actually takes place. In any event, we had a fall-back: Amy was happy for the band to return to the Fork & Bottle for a second night.

Night 2. They started out on acoustic but soon hit the harder stuff.

We don’t need no steenkin’ Cabaret Voltaire Lite.

Over the two nights I got me four smokin’ sets of the Jackmormons. A video crew was shooting it all for a DVD. Junior thought the shows were strong enough to mix down into live shot releases. I sure hope that happens. I’ll pony up for the downloads. Jerry and I made plans to rendezvous in the morning before the band and entourage headed to the next show near Hamburg. I shared a taxi back to the hotel, ordered room service dinner and watched online as the Red Sox beat the Royals.

On Sunday morning I hooked up with Jerry at check-out, we chatted for a bit and he gave me a copy of his forthcoming solo CD. Then I stashed my bags and walked in the direction of Lake Zurich. I stopped at a sidewalk café for a Perrier and Wifi. All the shops were closed tight (it was Switzerland) except for a tacky souvenir joint. I browsed briefly for a little memento to bring home to Marti but all they had was the usual bottom-feeder crap, way overpriced.

I continued along the river toward the lake. It was a brilliant, sunny afternoon. Good Sunday.

Lake Zurich. With mountains and swans and everything.

They had boats there too.

Late lunch. Grilled sausage and beer at a lakeside café.

My train time was 5:27 p.m., so after the café hang I got a cab back to the hotel, grabbed my stuff, then continued on to the rail station. I had enough time to hit ShopVille-RailCity Zurich, a subterranean shopping mall (the workaround for locals faced with a city full of shuttered retail outlets), where I found a few items for my bride at a clothing store called Chicorée. Next I stopped at Kauffmann, a real-deal butcher and deli. I bought a sandwich and H2O for the train ride, then stocked up on sausages, cheese and beet salad to cook for my squeeze in the coming week.

It had been a sweet break in the action. Marti was happy to have had some quality time to see her gal pals, putter around the apartment, do the things she never gets to when I’m around. I brought her a top, bag and pink shorts, German-Swiss gourmet delicacies, plus a few video images from my excellent Zurich getaway weekend.

1 comment :

  1. Thank you for the well written post. I miss Switzerland.