Pirato Ketchup Surfin’ USA
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Wednesday, June 14, 2017 - 08:15

In April, Liège’s Pirato Ketchup traveled 18,000 kilometers to swing their instrumental music at American audiences. From New York to Long Island, via Nashville and Chicago, about twenty cities were taken over by the Belgian pirates, under the bewildered looks of Uncle Sam's flocks. "We do not play daddy’s surf music, "explains Will, lead guitarist and founder of the band. From the first notes, we send our rock'n'roll-punk-garage sauce to the public. It sets the tone from the start. "


How does a Belgian band get to tour in the United States?

The world of surf music is a special universe. Like a big family, we all get to know each other. Ju (guitarist / manager) has been organizing surf concerts in Belgium for years, we met other groups on tour, we created networks, we exchanged the good plans. Sometimes we come across extraterrestrials with which we enter osmosis. This was the case with Daikaiju. We have played with them several times in Europe, notably at the Surfer Joe Festival in Italy, and over the years they have become friends. That's where the desire to make a split 7’’ was born, then tour the States to celebrate the release of the record.

We had some fears before we left. We heard that a lot of groups had been turned away from immigration because they did not have a work visa, including groups programmed at the SXSW festival, or our Italian friends from Biffers who had to canceled a two-week tour of the West Coast after being gently repatriated at the expense of Donald (sic).

So we played the "tourist" card. We sent our merch by post and we bought our instruments on the spot, the backline being generously lent by our 'Merican friends. Then we landed in the New World with our hands in our pockets, as if nothing had happened. The first mission, once out of JFK, was to find our instruments and to recover the t-shirts that had been silk screened in New York.

In the States, the reality is very different from a tour in Europe. There, you really feel the liberal side. For example, it is rare when you are offered food or accommodation after a concert. So you literally do it yourself, you chat with the kids, ask if they have a salo(o)n where you could spend the night with your group, or you drive to the next town to find a cheap motel.

There are also completely aberrant things for us, Europeans: you can freely buy a gun in a Walmart, but if you do not have your passport on you, there is no way to buy a beer in a bottle shop! And you can tell from our faces that we are over 21 years old ...


20 concerts in 19 days, in 20 different cities... thousands of kilometers on the road... It's not too hard ?

We do a lot of sports during the year, dixit Fan (bass player). No, it's a joke. Of course it's hard. It's not a 9-5 job, and that's what's good! We slept bad, we ate (very) bad, we accumulated fatigue and it hurts everywhere ... But when lots of people come up to you every night to thank you and congratulate you for what you do, it gives you energy for the next show. After that, it took a week to get over it, but hey, we're getting old!


We are not tourists

Naïvely, we thought we would have a bit of time to go sightseeing, but the reality of the tour quickly caught up with us. Apart from NYC, where a girlfriend who lives there joined us for an afternoon to show us some notable spots, we had few opportunities to visit the cities where we passed. We still saw Nashville and its bars, where you can hear country music 24 hours a day, as well as its cowboys boots / Stetson / western shirts stores! And we also went to the fucking Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland...

On the other hand, over the course of 6000 kilometers, we had time to admire the landscapes. 6-strip highways in the state of New York, plains as far as the eye can see in Ohio, verdant hills in Pennsylvania, huge farms in Indiana...


Misfortunes ?

A tour without problems is not a real tour. We had to cancel a showcase at a record store in Charlotte, NC, because we blew up a tire and had to find a garage to fix it. Then we had to sleep at a guy's place in Louisville, who had agreed to take us in. But when we got to his house, it looked like a stolen moped garage stinking dead hamster, and he was in the middle of a marital dispute. Just then the cops arrived and well,  we we left pretty fast!

Fortunately, there are also plans that start off bad but end in an epic way. Like this concert in Indianapolis where we were headlining ... a metal festival! Not heavy metal. No... black / death / grind metal. Very wild. With guys disguised as in Mad Max, dressed in breastplates with nails and naughty makeup like Kiss, but with additional gore. We thought it would be a tough crowd. But in the end, the guys loved the show. We ended the evening eating waffles with a dozen of them in a fast food joint.


Meeting the locals

We met all kinds of people. New York hipsters, hippies from North Carolina, punks from Alabama ... We also saw people IRL who we have known virtually for years. It always makes something go from a facebook profile to a person in real life. We also met Victor Venom of Nausea / Reagan Youth / Coffin Daggers, Brent of Mastodon, and Gary of Rocket from the Tombs / Pere Ubu in New York, Atlanta and Cleveland respectively. These guys saw our concert and personally came to tell us that they liked it.

The American audience is very different from what we know in Europe. These people are excessive in every way. The cars are excessive, the food is excessive, and when they are enthusiastic, it is an excessive enthusiasm. You start your concert and you already have people in front of the stage dancing, screaming, slamming... Then, after the concert, they want to buy all the merch you have. We signed more autographs in 20 days of touring the US than in 8 years of playing shows in Europe. Crazy.


Feel like you need some more Pirato Ketchup in your life? Pick up a copy of the "Winged Ants Flight" split they released with their US tour buddies Daikaiju. You can pick that up here, courtesy of Luik Records!


Tom Dumarey
Tom Dumarey

Lacking the talent to actually play in a band, Tom decided he would write about bands instead. Turns out his writing skills are mediocre at best as well.