Melbourne guitarist-vocalist Penny Ikinger undertook her second European tour in September and October 2008. It was a bold advernture - playing rock and roll live away from your home base usually is these days - and followed a previous visit to those parts as well as a sweep through the US. It was also with the assistance of her French backing band - drummer Dimi Dero (Dimi Dero Inc) and bassist Vinz Guilluy (Holy Curse, Dimi Dero Inc) - and took in Central and Southern France and Spain on the back of Penny's debut album "Electra". Solo Penny gigs in Japan would follow.
Dubbed Penelope Inc, the trio gelled into an amazing combo who imbue their playing with dramatic tension and high-tensile dynamics. You'll hear as much on a forthcoming album - recorded with Penny's French and Australian bands - the taster to which will be an EP dubbed "Fragile" and being released any tick of the clock.
The 2008 road trip was diarised by Penny and tour manager Antoine Nguyen. Given that another Penny Ikinger Euro tour is in the wings for September-October '09 - this time in solo mode - we thought it was an opportune moment to bring it your way.
September 23 and 24
Antoine: A stunning moment, Penny Ikinger is back in Paris. We decided to use my old Volvo station wagon for the two shows in town. Time for meeting the boys at the rehearsal; we are really exited. The first gig is in a little bar, La Mecanique Ondulatoire, the venue is underground in a old cave. The night is fun, looking after drinks and friends and the sound isn’t that bad here.
Penny: Exhausted! After a short interview on Aligre FM with the magnificent Isabelle and Vincent I head off to the show. Some dear friends from The Holy Curse and Dimi Dero Inc come to the gig. I hope we didn’t blast their heads off and ruin their delicate ears. So good to be back on stage with Vinz and Dimi.
Antoine: La Feline bar is the next venue before the long ride tomorrow, we do all love this tiny bar. But now the bar have a limiter on his sound system. We do not have a good P.A here and trying to sorted out with the speakers. I called my friends from the street theatre I work with to meet Penny and enjoy sound of Penelope inc. Everybody is holding their breath, while the kids blow the stage.
Penny: I love this place. Pat the owner plays such great music on his turntables. It’s a real treat to know you’re playing somewhere where the owner knows his stuff. Jason Kain who used to play guitar with me in Wet Taxis is visiting in Paris. He comes to the gig and we hang out after for a few. The sound tonight is not good though. I am singing through a poor excuse for a P.A. and am worried for my voice. I have a great time nonetheless. It’s good to be back!
Penny: Rennes is a beautiful medieval town in Brittany. Penelope inc are playing in an intimate medieval inn, down a medieval cobbled lane. I wonder how many bards and troubadours played here in the past. Did they sit around the bar discussing music, politics, war? Gossiping through the ages about the capture of Joan of Arc, the execution of Marie Antoinette, Edith Piaf’s latest album or the escape of French resistance leader Marie-Madeleine Fourcade? Those walls surely must have ears. But tonight ze walls are going to vibrate to ze sound of some Australian and French rock'n'roll.
Our gig is absolutely packed. The P.A. sounds great. Our audience is composed of all ages, all sorts and alot of smokers. Puffing away in a cloud in the cobbled lane. Drinking mead, oh sorry, beer. Support act Don Lurie plays solo - his set is powerful with attitude, conviction and a unique approach to his minstrel craft. Penelope inc rocks ...The Spoils from Melbourne set a mood that is both mature and innocent. Ancient and modern. Three intoxicating acts. I meet Seb from Beast Records and he tells me that Australian music is more interesting to him than English and American music.
We stay the night at the venue promoter’s apartment and awake to a five star breakfast of eggs, beans, bacon, cheese, fruit, coffee and baguettes. It's a good way to start the day. Soon we are back in ze automobile on ze way to Lorient.
Antoine: Driving again for the Penny Ikinger tour is the most exciting adventure! I knew that this would be a journey again. This time of the year is beautiful and sunny. Penny is lucky again she will enjoy the warmth and the different landscapes from France in autumn. Well the tour started on a very good note, despite the van again having minor mechanic problems to be fixed, I decided to give a call and change the van in Rennes to one that works properly. We had experienced the most devastating “truck” of rock’n’roll history last year and didn’t wanted to risk our life on the road again. It is good to be back on the road with Penny,Dimi and Vinz, we are going well all together, and i could feel the happiness in the air from everyone. Beside the tour, I enjoy a lot going to different places and exploring my own country. I like the 1929 bar hiding in the back of the laneways.
Penny: Lorient is a small port in Brittany. Not so many old buildings here. I believe it got bombed heavily in one of those silly World Wars. We play with The Spoils and Don...again to a crowded room As always hospitality abounds and we are treated to a delicious meal and wine for dinner. Our set is energetic and inspired and I manage to sell a few CD's as well. Both Don Lurie and The Spoils play great shows.
After the gig I chat to Sven, The Spoils’ drummer. He has come all the way from Norway to play drums with The Spoils. I first met him in Brisbane when I played there a couple of years ago. That Sven gets around. Penelope inc, Don and The Spoils part company and we drive through the country side to stay the night at a friend of Vinz and Dimi's - Jean Luc. He lives in a house that he built himself in the country .
We awake to a brunch of oysters, baguettes, tomatoes and wine before a long drive to Toulouse. The Pink City. The long drive gives Vinz, Antoine and Dimi a chance to play their favourite CDs. Rowland Howard, Beasts of Bourbon, Ian Rilen and the Love Addicts. So far nearly all the music I have heard in France is Australian. Even between sets there was The Saints at both Rennes and Lorient.
We arrive in Toulouse exhausted and after a late dinner and a glass of red I'm fast asleep. No gig tonight. The only music is that which is in my head. We are just having a stopover on the way to Spain. Land of black bulls, white powder and crimson Patxaran.
Antoine: Back to Lorient where I was touring last winter with a theatre Cie. It is a short drive from Rennes. I did make a first stop at a little antique shop I saw last year trying to find a bridge chair to match the other two at home. But couldn’t find it. The Gallion venue is in a street near a port, we add a bit of time to set up the gears on stage, a have a few drinks. While they doing the sound check, I was setting up my digital recorder, and the microphone on a stand. That is a thing I like to do.
After a rest in a beautiful house in the country in Lorient, and gorgeous breakfast outside, the journey is about to begin. The drive now is far, and I will certainly share with Dimi to help me.
Penny: Back in the van for a long trek through the French Pyrenees. Rather than take the highway we decide to take the scenic route through the mountains. The CD player is on again. Now it's Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds. We are all excited to be going to Spain and we stop in the mountains for a relaxing lunch of fried fish, salad and wine on a balcony in the sun. Then back in the van, down winding roads littered with castles and aqueducts. We are taking the long road to avoid tolls on the highway. This is a financially precarious journey after all. But I am not the first musician to make a financially precarious journey or the last. Driving through the mountains marvelling at their size, and the streams, castles, forests, chalets and churches seemed like the perfect way to outsmart the highway toll system. Or so we thought.
After a couple of hours drive through Andorra when we get to the border to cross over into Spain we are stopped, searched and told that we do not have the right papers and we should go back from whence we came. They didn’t know how lucky I was to even have my passport with me. I had happily packed my bags without much thought that we were going into another country (yes an A-u-s-t-r-a-l-i-a-n) so it was a miracle my passport was even on me…a digression maybe…but passport or not that wasn’t the issue. Papers!!! What papers? We had none. We turn around and drive back through Andorra to France. We are allowed to cross into Spain from France but we are not allowed to cross into Spain from Andorra. Ah! bureaucracy! Even I know we are going in the wrong direction. Spain is the other way. The Andorran aqueducts, chalets, churches and quaint villages don’t look so pretty the second time around.
Driving like a maniac though the Pyrenees, an inspired Antoine decides to take a short cut from France to Spain…But there is dissension in the ranks. Not everyone thinks it's a good idea to keep driving to Spain: it's too late to get to the gig! We should go back to France! Distance is rarely a deciding a factor for an Australian. Ask any band that has driven up & down the Hume Highway a hundred times for a few beers. So we continue...to Spain. We arrive in Montblanc only two hours late. Park the van out the front, get the gear out of the van and set it up on stage.
We are playing within about 20 mins of arriving. But it's not to a massive crowd. The evening has a Spinal Tap feel to it. We have driven so many miles to play to so few. But it's a quality audience not a quantity audience. People are passing me Patxaran and joints. What does not kill you only makes you stronger. Crazy Spaniards with diabolical grins on their faces. They go wild. Dancing to the beat of penelope inc. Happily parting with their hard earned cash for my CD’s, posters, whatever…
Miquel our host feeds us some delicious Spanish food and Australian muso Pete Ross joins us for dinner. I'm so very glad we came, saw and conquered a little bar in a little town a long way from home.
Antoine: I am very excited today, we are driving to Spain, by the way our smile face the road, that should be a great fun! A long long way down south, and I can feel the tension rise above the holiday spirit. I know that we have to cross the Pyrenees, and we all decided to drive through the country to Andorra, we stopped in a terrace, for lunch. I love Spain and I love speaking Spanish.
We came to the border, and the customs wanted to check the van, we are in Andorra, and we didn’t knew we needed papers for the gear, otherwise we couldn’t cross to Spain. It was time for me to explain in Spanish, while Vinz was knees on the ground begging at the beautiful calm woman officer. Bloody hell we were gonna be late for the soundcheck four hours drive away, now I had to drive back to France and cross from the French border, the tensions rise suddenly, asking us if it was worth it getting there. I am up anyway, going to Spain was too trippy, and two hours late didn’t make us afraid. Spanish border crossed, we didn’t waste time on the mountain roads. I think I didn’t hear any flying noise in the van, I was driving so fast as there was no speed limitation on the highway.
Antoine, Dimi and Vinz spend their tour per diem. That's three glassses of wine and a mineral water.
I have to call Miguel at Bar Lennon and explain the true story in Spanish. Miguel has been very gentle saying that was fine with him, the drive was hot and now we were feeling in a hurry - worried about getting lost in a new town - so this last call would enable us with directions leading straight to Montblanc.
A quick lin- check and the babies were on fire. My recorder was set up, I sorted out the merchandising, and had a beer. I don’t know then what happened, I think the boys were exhausted and the energy they had left had to be thrown out from that little stage. The young Spanish crowd received the message, and all went crazy! The music was loud and wild, the room was crazy and peoplke were yelling now, the liquor Patxaran fills our glasses for the night, and all became magic. One of the young guys said he was amazed, that we drove all the way to Montblanc, to such a small rock’n’roll medieval town. A lot of fun that put a smile on my face for ages.
The night's other fun was to sleep in a little bungalow in a holiday camp! The next day started with a walk in town for breakfast. Montblanc is an amazing ancient town influenced by the Moors And a strong tradition for some delicious almond cakes. This place has got to be on the intinerary next time!
Penny: Breakfast is a mega meal of tortilla and cheese rolls, coffee, juice. Perfect for a hangover. Antoine and myself go for a walk around the ancient town of Montblanc. We stroll down cobbled alleyways with ancient churches and fortifications. We accidentally stumble on an incredible chocolate shop. Like zombies we join the queue for what seems like ages and buy slabs of chocolate decorated with slices of oranges and nuts. As if I hadn’t eaten enough already.
We stumble into the van with our chocolate booty which will sustain us for the long drive from Montblanc back to Toulouse. Vitamins, minerals. We arrive in Toulouse on schedule and get ready for soundcheck. Who should I spy sipping a beer in the pavement out the front of the venue but Andy from Digger and The Pussycats.
I have seen Andy play many times when he drummed with Spencer P Jones and The Escape Committee. It’s very nice to see his fresh face and hear that strange Australian accent again. Andy has been having a holiday in Europe. He comes to the gig and hangs out with us backstage afterwards.
Dimi and Vinz commning with nature. You may also know this as a toilet break.
The gig goes well – great stage and P.A. We stay the night at Blandine's house, a friend of Dimi’s. We drag our suitcases along the path by the river and view the bridges lit up with changing colours: purple, lime, pink. Wandering or should I say meandering minstrels. I am happy to be near the river and it’s peaceful flow. It’s a good way to get some exercise, rejuvenation and inspiration not to mention detoxification.
Antoine: We don’t have a lot of time to drive back to Toulouse, but Penny and I decided to have a walk in the little medieval streets in Montblanc, we never know if we are gonna be back here again. Toulouse is a beautiful town, the Pink Town they call it for some reason. I believe someone said it is because of the rising sun reflecting on the red bricks. The venue is near the river, and the air is cool. The Penelope inc set keeps rollin’, time for me to grab a beer, looking after my recorder, and let me drown into the melancholic words of Penny Ikinger. I was feeling exhausted.
Penny: On second thoughts maybe we should have give this gig a miss but hey the P.A and stage were great. L’Antirouille is run by a guy called Nico who lived a colourful rock’n’roll life before settling down to run a venue in this small French provincial city. He used to be stage roadie for Ozzie Osbourne. Travelling the world on tour with Ozzie for 15 years. Or so he says. I don’t ask how he got the gig when he can’t speak English. Neither do I ask how the hell he put up with the music for that long. Nico puts on a great light show for us and the gig is filmed and recorded by Antoine. Check it out here on myspace
Garry and Sylvie Gray meet us for dinner and we go to the gig. They have been living in Montpellier for over ten years. Garry making an appearance in Melbourne for the odd Sacred Cowboys gig every now and then. He makes a gallant attempt to sell merch for me at the end of the night. Penelope inc sound tres cool on a big stage. We need more of them. I get to bed at dawn which probably wasn’t a good idea considering I have two gigs tomorrow.
Antoine: Good another town I know. Our next venue has a big stage, the room is good, and sound great, and as it was the soundcheck, I decided to ask the sound engineer to feed the recorder from the desk. My hand were free then to film the Penelope inc set with my camera. Garry Gray assisting me with the merchandising and support for the beers.
No sticky carpet in most European venues!
Penny: As we drive into infamous Marseille, Vinz warns me to beware of thieves. Not to mention pirates, smugglers con men and drug dealers. I am completely exhausted. We arrive at Lollipop Music Store which is run by Paul Milhaud, aka “Sonic Polo” from the Holy Curse. What a cool record shop avec bar. I do a short solo set with a tres magnifique Vox amp. This is an opportune time to do a solo gig as I am going to head off to Tokyo after this tour and do a couple of solo shows there. I need all the practice I can get.
Minutes after finishing my set I am off whisked off to Alban's (head honcho of Relaxomatic Records) with Penelope inc for the next show at La Machine à Coudre, a cool club. The gig goes well except my guitar is too bloody loud and for some reason I don’t turn down. It’s fun after all. Every guitarist likes to play too loud. Sometimes I forget that I am the singer too. I’m interviewed by Annie Viglielmo from Meltingpod and she comments on the volume of the guitar. I tell her someone should have told me to turn down. Decide for yourself on her podcast here.
We stay the night at the promoter’s place. It’s going to be an early night for me tonight. We retire to the bedroom – Penelope inc and Garry Gray who has come along for the ride. All of us together in one room. Vinz and Dimi drift off to sleep pretty quickly but Antoine and I are tormented by a large lump snoring loudly next to us. It’s Garry Gray. We try to wake him but he won’t wake up or shut up. After one particularly audible bout Dimi and Vinz awake with a start. Thank you to Antoine who gallantly hauls GG out of the room avec mattress. Sorry mate but we’ve got a gig the next day. I look at my watch. I had been listening to the snoring for two hours. It’s 4.30am. I awake a couple of hours later to the dulcet tones of jackhammers outside the window. Somehow I manage to drift off to the land of Morpheus. Couldn’t sleep through that snoring though.
Penny, Vinz and Dimi look inconspicuous.
Antoine: It is always good to have friend in a town, so I call up to catch up for the late show. We were all tired from the long drive we’ve had this couple of days, and had a stop at LollipopRrecords store for Penny to play a solo show.
Marseille is a tough town to drive, you get lost in all the tiny streets. The night venue is in those little streets of Marseille, and certainly only known by afficionados here. I set up my recorder for the night in a stand, to enjoy a drink and a chat with my friend. The band sounds great, Penny is playing loud guitar, Dimi and Vinz's rythmic drive is mad. That was a good one!
Penny: Back in the van for a drive through the French Riviera on our way to Nice. A spectacular journey for sure. We are on our way to our last gig. Well, almost. We have one more in Paris in a couple of weeks. This is another cool venue with a front bar and tiered back room with a stage. It feels like I am in a bunker. Concrete everywhere. There’s a photographic exhibition of woman punk rockers in the front room. As always there are a lot of people outside smoking.
It’s a great night for Penelope inc. The band has really stretched itself musically throughout this tour and we play both tight and loose. I enjoy hanging out with Dimi and Antoine after the show. A relatively late night before we drag our suitcases with our generous host Yann through the streets of Nice. It’s a good night’s sleep for me but looking in the mirror the next day I still look exhausted and barely recognise myself.
Vinz awaits the stewardess with the red wine
We have tonight off in Nice to watch Dimi play drums with the Groovers. Antoine and myself spend the day exploring the beautiful city of Nice with it’s small winding streets littered with shop selling exotic wares like ginger and lemon olive oil, cinnamon soaps, almond and orange biscuits, cooking salts from around the globe, cheese, spices, chocolates, jewellery, clothes, clothes, clothes. Like Paris, the people here are svelte and stylish, even the old ladies.
We have dinner with Dimi and Vinz and their friends from The Groovers and watch Dimi’s gig. It’s a pleasure to hear him play drums. He is the star of the show for sure.
We pick up our gear the next morning and the venue owner tells me he might close the venue soon. There’s too many hassles to make it worthwhile for him. I ponder the future of rock’n’roll in Nice and areas around the south of France not to mention the rest of the world. This music that means so much to some of us is a dying art form. Was this what jazz musicians experienced at the advent of rock’n’roll? Their venues and boutique records shops closing down, downturns in attendances and sales… Is CD burning and downloading going to save rock’n’roll just as much as it is destroying it? How are rock musicians going to survive? The greatest invention of the 20th century, gone?
Antoine: It’s been a long time i haven’t seen Nice, it is such a lovely town nearby the sea. The drive was cool and the day is sunny. We have time before the soundcheck, and hanging around with a nice coffee. I am feeling good after all the driving, and always excited to see the band play. Once again my organization is to set up my recorder on a stand to free my hands to do some shots and film with my camera. Looks like a good gig in Nice, and I can’t stop enjoying the powerful music of Penelope inc. After that Penny and I were doing the merchandising, but it was like nobody wanted to buy anything here, shortly we decided to close the shop, and hang around for a cigarette and a drink. The day after was Off, Penny and I went for a long walk and shopping in the Old Nice, spending also a couple of hours at the beach… another fantastic day before the long drive back to home.
Penny: The last show of the tour for sure. Penelope inc play at La Feline again to an attentive and enthusiastic crowd. Australian Jo Meares opens the night with a compelling duo set with Lisa Barrel on keyboards. This bar is one of my favourites. Pat the owner plays such great music here. It’s an education for my ears and for my soul. Penelope inc play a long energetic set. All the hits. It’s a sad night too as I say good bye to Vinz , Antoine and Dimi and to the friends I made in Paris. At the end of the night some skinheads start a fight outside where all the smokers are on the street. One gets a bottle broken on his skull. Blood spurts everywhere. Time to get out of there. Quickly. Penelope inc disband. But not forever. Next stop for me is Tokyo. But on my own this time…
Antoine: The old Volvo picked up the gear at Dimi’s place, this is an extra gig that makes us feel that the tour is not yet finished giving us the opportunity to have fun again. Penelope inc play is a powerful gig as usual, the PA’s was better too this time. At the end of the night we all split up and disappear into the city trying to get back home safely.
Penny Ikinger solo
2009 Sonic Troubadour Tour
16/9 Tours - Donald's Pub TBC
17/9 Bordeaux - Le Fiacre TBC
18/9 Albi - Jour de Fête
19/9 Toulouse - Fairfield Café
20/9 Tarbes - Celtic Pub
Madrid 21/9- 28/9
29/9 Montpellier- L'Antirouille TBC
30/9 Toulon - Bar A Thym TBC
1/10 : Marseille - Le Lounge (+ In Extenso)
2/10 : Carcassonne - Rockadelik
3/10 : Perpignan - Tropique du Papillon (tbc)
6/10 Girona - Cafe El Cercle
9/10 Montblanc - Bar Lennon
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