Sat.14.Oct (Concert in Lviv) // U Travni is a warmly-lit three-story vegan cafe, each floor connected by a spiral staircase. Comfy but elegant, elegant but comfy. The opening act (the impossible-to-Google Misha a.k.a. 8:30) wore a voice-modulating mask and ran the signal through a tape cassette karaoke machine. His friend joined him for a solo on a very very long flute. It was alarming and beautiful, and the best start of a tour in recent memory. The second act Pilikayu, the solo project of U Travni’s owner, was similarly hypnotizing, somehow both more aggressive and and cleaner than the opening act; dope pop tracks, lyrics that went way past my vocabulary abilities but seemed to make all the locals laugh, and two songs dedicated to advertising vegan düner and falafel at the cafe. My set was my set; I just set up and played like I usually do. But I spoke a bit before and after with people about why I felt this tour was important to me, and some of them seemed to understand. A woman asked to use my synth; she learned the interface quickly and played us all a harsh noise set as the show wound down.
Sun.15.Oct (day off in Lviv and Ternopil) // Anyone coming to eastern Europe hoping to find commie blocks and brutalist parking garages is going to be severely let down. Lviv is a layer cake of history and architecture, Czech trams knit a patchwork of Austro-Hungarian facades and Kruschevkas and wide plazas together — a flatter, landlocked Porto. The war is visible as metal plates welded to protect valuable and delicate building elements like stained glass and keysontes and gargoyles; one quickly learns to overlooks these, because the city’s beauty asserts itself with confidence despite these hints of temporary fortress. It’s a lot like Ukrainians overall, actually; they never minimize the human tragedy of the war or disregard danger, but they are undominated by it, no hand-wringing, just carrying on with cautious determination. The cafes are busy, and I’d put the coffee on offer in Lviv’s uncountable coffee stands up against a fancy third wave spot in Berlin or L.A. any day. Lviv Coffee Gang 4 Ever (sorry Yaroslav, I’m with Katja for now). Another illustratino of this spirit is the ubiquitous floral rock launcher. These are spent tubes people get their hands on and repurpose as vases. They are everywhere.
Yaroslav and I took the train for Ternopil (platzkart, naturally), and our cabin mates were two women on their way back from a mini-holiday to celebrate a birthday. Their English was flawless and Ukrainian-flavored, and they introduced us to positive nihilism, a notion I will return to in later entries. I won’t talk about Galina and Helena anymore right now, but they’ll come up again later.
We met up with the venue owner at a comedy show (all of which was sadly lost on me but folks seemed to be having a great time) and were lead to a flat at the top of stairs with no guardrails. We were tired, so we went to bed early…until 3:45 a.m., when I heard for the first time the wail and the deep robotic instructions of the air raid warning system echo across the city.
We opened one of the Telegram channels folks here use like to keep track of such things like we people in not-being-invaded countries use weather forecasts. The channel told us that a group of twelve Iranian drones had breached the border, and at first seemed to be headed our way. There was no panic, simply alertness. Shaheeds moved slow, and we were only a five-minute walk from the bomb shelter. As they neared our oblast, the group split into two and headed for other cities. We heard the all-clear signal and went back to bed.
No big deal for Yaroslav. For me, it was a very new experience. I slept surprisingly well and woke up refreshed. I had time to explore Ternopil before the concert, and to meet up with Re-Read…