Being back in Italy is wonderful. Over the many years that we were touring we spent countless days in Pisa with our good friends and concert promoters Luca and Enrico from Locusta. We started our careers at a similar time at the beginning of the 2000s, and Locusta have now grown to become one of the biggest promoters in Italy. We were in Pisa the day that Luca took delivery of their first van - a sky blue Fiat Ducato - that would become our home away from home while on the road. So being picked up from the airport by Luca in that same van was like stepping into a time capsule. In many ways it feels like barely a day has passed, and we have fast slotted back into the familiar rhythms of touring. Although, van is a little worse for wear, and we of course have 10 years of life to catch each other up on.
Our first Italian show was in an ancient church in Pisa called Cantiere San Bernando. It was active in the 1700s and the frescos on the wall from that period still remain, and then was abandoned for a long time and left to ruin, being overtaken as a place of refuge by pigeons and junkies. Around 15 years ago a group of people started squatting there. They cleaned it up, and commenced a long battle with the municipality to turn in into a cultural space. It is now run by a group of young volunteers who host shows and events of various types. They are known for hosting shows which are 100% acoustic, so this is what we did on Monday night. It was actually a first for us, aside from short performances in record stores and the like, and it was both exhilarating and challenging at the same time. Having just come off the London show where we were fighting a big PA in a massive, echoey room, it was a relief to return to our pure essence - just our instruments and our voices, which is how all Sodastream songs begin. The acoustics of the church are designed to resonate and I think all of us in the room felt that. But it did require us to sing and perform in a way that we are not accustomed to in order to project the sound, which meant we had to dig extra deep.
Being part of the show in Pisa reminded me of something I really love about Italy, which is less common in other parts of Europe, and basically non-existent outside of it. The phenomenon is these associations of volunteers who run venues and shows. Sometimes they get some money from the local government to help put on shows, or otherwise they just make it happen, but either way it is a totally different feel to a commercial operation. And it is such a positive thing for young people to be a part of - to grow culture in their local community, and to experience the responsibility and autonomy of bringing an event to life. There was a particular moment in the church in Pisa where the group of volunteers were working together to move a rickety old piano onto the stage, carrying it together, and then propping it up with pieces of wood (see video below). It just captured the spirit of cooperation and resourcefulness which is unique to the shows put on by these groups of special people.
Last night we were in Milan, and back into the familiar club style environment - more of our sweet spot in terms of stage, PA and venue size. It was great to meet again with fans who we haven’t seen since many years prior, some asking us to re-autograph well worn and well loved CD sleeves that we had first signed probably 15 years ago. Its nice to think that we are all ageing together, and that the connection still remains after all this time.