Volumen 1 :: Shane Hickey
Volumen 2 :: Doug Smith
Volumen^2 :: Bryan Hickey
bKCAWCK :: Chris Bacon
Volumen Beta :: Bob Marshall

Doug Smith Volumen 2
Doug Smith

If Shane is the high school Physics Club treasurer of VOLUMEN, Doug is the affable, popular guy who toes the fine line between band dork and senior class president. Cheerleaders leak the info that they want him to ask them out, but he’s always genuinely nice to the less popular girls and boys, too. In addition to writing most of what doesn’t get written by his longtime friend and musical partner, Shane (in the platonic sense, that is—at least we THINK so), Doug’s signature wikkid lyxx and fine tenor are the yin to Shane’s yang, the butter to Shane’s muffin, the hot dog in Shane’s....well, anyway, the other half of the songwriting equation. Additionally, Doug is a beacon of calm and tranquility in his other bandmates’ roiling sea of adolescent squirreliness, and a fine cook to boot. The last male bonding I did with Doug was undertaken when we spent two days in the Montana wilderness picking morel mushrooms. Oh, the magic he worked with those little morsels...

Here's some articles and other random press for your viewing pleasure.

Missoula Independent 08/01/2003
URL: View Actual Article
Title: Live in Latvia!
Author: Andy Smetanka

Volumen take their rock and roll roadshow to the Baltic states. Andy Smetanka hangs on for the ride.

I don't like flying and I never have. International flights are the worst. Flying back from Europe, you're basically leap-frogging westward with the sun and the same day just keeps getting longer. On the way over, though, the sun laps you while you're going the opposite direction. It's like a story problem: If a plane leaves in one direction traveling x miles per hour, and the sun leaves in the opposite direction going y miles per hour, when will they meet again? Answer: After you've already been awake for a whole day and are just starting a new one, local time, emerging from an 8,000-mile pipeline of artificial air, feeling like jerky cured in the dry wind blowing off an enormous urinal cake and suddenly hugging old friends who want to start squiring you around right away when all you want is a pile of newspapers to sleep on.

About a year ago, Wäntage Records boss Josh Vanek hatched this nutty idea of taking his flagship Missoula band, Volumen, on a tour through Europe's Baltic outback: Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. I signed on right away—to shoot movies, to see old friends, and because there was no way banging around Europe with a rock band wasn't going to be a blast.

The five guys in Volumen (Chris Bacon, keyboards; Doug Smith, guitar; Shane Hickey, guitar; Bryan Hickey, bass; and Bob Marshall, drums) took some convincing. Not too much, but there's fond daydreams and then there's making them happen. For all the planning that went into it, in fact, the whole thing never really stopped feeling like a fond daydream, right up to the point where our plane left Missoula.

And then we were there, 18 hours later, squinting in the September sunshine and breathing Finnish air. There was no one staffing customs, and we cleared that last hurdle with piles of duty-free T-shirts and CDs, thank you very much. Volumen Tour: Baltic was underway for real.

My old friend Miikka had agreed to be our driver, once he ran it past the wife, and once his production company wrapped up work on a city-wide festival that overlapped with the first few days of our tour. The van he'd found for us to drive in Finland wasn't exactly a chariot of comfort. With seven people riding, four had to sit on a plank bench in the back while a fifth stretched out on the floor and the other two sat up front with the driver. By this point we could have dozed off riding horseback.

While planning the itinerary, we'd anticipated that Volumen would be too zombified by the combined effects of overseas travel and culture shock to be in any kind of show-playing shape the day we arrived, so we left the night free. Another old friend, Petteri, suggested that we acclimate by staying at his family's summer cottage, an hour's drive west of Helsinki in the tiny Swedish-speaking town of Snappertuna—nothing to do with fish, oddly enough.

Petteri and I have been pals since my first day as an exchange student in Finnish high school in 1988. I'd been to Snappertuna with him on a few occasions because his grandfather, Ville, used to live in the cottage. Ville was one of a kind, or perhaps just one of the last of his kind—a real Finnish woodsman. When Petteri and I helped him clear a patch of forest one summer to build another house, he showed us how to cook a whole fresh fish by wrapping it in wet newspaper and burying it in the embers of a smoldering slash-pile. He liked to tell us about the time a billboard saved his life during World War II. The last time we went to see him together, Ville gave me a recipe for mead made from blackcurrant leaves that was supposedly a favorite of a Finnish war hero and statesman.

When Ville died last year, the house became the shared property of the extended family. Petteri's mother had renovated extensively, adding amenities like a water closet (Ville actually used to save his own urine, diluting it for fertilizer) and putting up some of the most mind-bending wallpaper this side of The Yellow Wallpaper. But the outhouse was still pure Ville, papered with fish and bird guides from ancient sportsman's magazines and postcards from the family's travels all over the world. It seemed like he might still come trudging around the tool shed at any minute.

Snappertuna was a balm for our nerves. Our weather was perfect for two straight weeks, but rain before we got there had left the forest floor bursting with mushrooms. While Petteri stoked a fire in the sauna, the rest of us found enough king boletes on the gentle slope to the sea for Bob to whip up a feast of mushrooms sautéed in red wine. Petteri—no slouch with a mushroom himself—was mightily impressed.

And so we acclimated, with full bellies and glowing pink hides from the sauna, which Petteri carefully coaxed to over 100 degrees Celsius to give Volumen the real-deal Finnish experience. We later remembered that we'd neglected to cut vihtoja, bundles of aromatic young birch twigs used in the sauna to promote the circulation, and because they smell nice. And that was a real shame, because nothing says "Welcome to Finland" like eight naked dudes whapping the bejeezus out of each other with wet branches.

The first show in Helsinki was at a club called the Stella Star, near one of the few areas of old wooden row houses left in a city with so much radical glass and metal architecture that it looks vaguely, but indeterminately, futuristic. It was an organizational nightmare: The night was triple-booked, with every band on the bill unaware of at least two other acts that were also slated to play. By the time Volumen hit the stage, they'd been stuck in the club for nearly eight hours of sound checks and delays, and the explosion of pent-up nervous energy was something to behold. Petteri, who had recently rediscovered photography as a hobby, took dozens of pictures with his digital camera, which he seemed genuinely pleased to do once we assured him that no one would vomit on his gear. After the show, Bryan gracefully thwarted the advances of an ardent new fan—male—and then we had to get back to our lodgings, Volumen and Josh at a youth hostel in the Olympic stadium and me with Petteri and his wife.

The next morning, we met up near Helsinki's waterfront market to see the sights for a few hours. We sampled reindeer sausage (which is nothing—I once bought a reindeer sandwich from a vending machine) and took a 10-minute ferry ride to a group of fortified islands guarding the entrance to the harbor, and that pretty much killed the afternoon.

The next show was in Porvoo, less than an hour away by van. And talk about your postcard-perfect little town: The scenic little hamlet (and the oldest town in Finland) had everybody oohing and aahing as we crossed the bridge over the sleepy river lined with red-painted wooden buildings and old brick warehouses. Spirits climbed even higher after we met Jokke, the affable club owner who escorted us to our deluxe accommodations: an apartment with seven beds, kitchen and bath in a hostelry called the Gasthaus Werneri.

I'd been to Porvoo years before, but somehow failed to pick up on the town's strong bohemian vibe. And the tiny Bar Mary just oozed it. As soon as the doors opened, a small but steady flow of regulars in scarves and wool sweaters flecked with leaves trickled in to work on puzzles and smoke hand-rolled cigarettes at cozy candlelit tables. The show was fun, if oddly unnoticed by many of the bar patrons, except those presumably taking breaks between puzzles. But a handful of people were transfixed, including the guy sitting next to me with the frizzy long hair and the black death metal T-shirt that immediately identified him as a small-town Finnish headbanger.

In my younger days, trying to hook up with Finnish girls, it seemed like there was always someone like this Mika guy—loud, drunk, full of questions and oblivious to what I was trying to accomplish—sitting at the same table running interference. As I sat there going deaf in one ear, it occurred to me that since I'm getting married and have no business chatting up Finnish girls anymore, I'm basically stuck with the drunk metalheads. They are my people, and in Porvoo I decided to literally embrace them. It all seemed like good, clean, homoerotic fun, but at one point during all the knee-touching and arm-draping I thought I'd better invoke some kind of feminine presence to see if our compasses were spinning the same direction. To head off a possibly awkward situation at last call, you understand.

"Hey," I said, "where's all the girls in this town?" At which point Mika looked at me solemnly and said, "That is not your problem." Then he got up and left. The implication—I think—was that he was setting out at one in the morning to sort out some female companionship for both of us as a gesture of Finnish hospitality. I was a little disappointed—from a purely anthropological perspective—that the Bar Mary closed before he could make it back.

We stuck around, drinking and joking with club owner Jokke and his Danish bartender, Kris, until a friendly older bohemian named Antti invited us back to his sailboat to hang out and drink pear cider. Antti, it was later revealed, was a jazz musician and composer of some renown in Finland. He'd been all over Europe in his sailboat, but probably never with nine people stuffed into the tiny cabin. Just who got claustrophobic first and decided it was time for Volumen to go is still a matter of some debate, as is what happened while we were all standing on the dock getting ready to bid our adieux.

Everyone agrees on this much, though: With a ploosh, Doug and Bacon were off the dock and in the river. Eyewitness accounts differ on the particulars of how this happened—did Doug lose his balance stepping off the boat and land on Bacon, or did he playfully tackle him onto what looked like a soft grassy bank in the dark, but was actually just the tops of the reeds sticking out of the water? Regardless, both were completely freaked and shivering violently by the time we fished them out. Shane and I stuck around to smooth things out with our perplexed host—an undertaking that required several additional goodwill swigs of pear cider—and then made our way back to the Gasthaus Werneri. It wasn't too hard to find our way. We just followed the two sets of sloppy wet footprints on the sidewalk.

Things were mostly back to normal by breakfast the next day. Bacon went to a flea market to find a pair of dry shoes and came back with a pair of Russian Adidas knockoffs with the brand spelled out in Cyrillic: "Blazer." We were eager to find Internet access, and Kris, the Danish bartender, took us to a café that had it. When it finally came time to say goodbye to Porvoo, Kris had already downed at least six wake-up belts and we left him sitting, slightly cross-eyed, in the beer garden.

The whole night before, Kris had been pumping us full of baleful warnings about what might befall us in the Baltics—everything from syphilitic gold-diggers to gunpoint hold-ups on rural back roads. Latvia was the most lawless of the three countries, he maintained, and I was comforted by the thought that at least we had Vanek with us. He'd been a Peace Corps volunteer there for two years. Maybe the gangsters would find his Latvian just as heartwarming as headbangin' Mika found my Finnish and wave us on our merry way. Kris laid it on pretty thick—mostly, I think, because he liked to be melodramatic. The worst thing that ended up happening to us was almost getting a $250 speeding ticket in Estonia, but all his been-there, coulda-got-shot banter was a little unsettling at the time. I distinctly remember hearing the phrase "if you survive" at least once.

There was still a little lingering weirdness on the drive back to Helsinki, where we had another show booked that night. The dunking incident was a lesson learned the cold, wet way—a timely reminder to keep our wits about us. It could have been rocks and not water. In retrospect, Doug and Bacon's swimming adventure was one of the highlights of the trip—especially now that the generally agreed-upon version of events is also the least hurtful and accusatory one for all concerned. It's like that with bands. It's like that with life.

The second Helsinki show was smoother than the first, although Volumen incurred the wrath of a TV reporter by showing up late for an interview because helpful passers-by had given them directions to the wrong red brick warehouse. The event was a huge 30th birthday party for a popular DJ—none of us got to meet him, but he seemed to know everybody who was anybody in the Helsinki rock scene. There were hundreds of people, though not all of them stayed for the Volumen performance. Their loss—as at the previous two shows, Volumen's astonishing guitar arrangement of Sibelius's Finlandia Hymn drew wild applause.

Another treat awaited us at this show: our home away from home for the next 10 days, the enormous blue 1980 Mercedes diesel van we'd be taking into the Baltics. It looked three times bigger in real life than in the picture Miikka had e-mailed to us. The cabin was high enough for us to stand up straight and not even touch the ceiling. The narrow windows were artfully lined with empty booze bottles, and the storage compartments under the benches smelled like tinkle. It was home, all right.

The day after the warehouse show, we met up with Chainsmoker, the band that would be accompanying us to the last of the four shows in Finland. They'd played last at the Stella Star show two nights earlier, an interesting mix of electronica and jazz with a drum machine, keyboards, bass and saxophone. Two of the members used to be in my all-time favorite Finnish band, Sweetheart, and still played in a number of other bands besides Chainsmoker. Pekka was shy and quiet, and the only one of the three who didn't live up to the band name by smoking constantly—even while eating. Janne was an Ian Curtis look-alike who favored bowling shirts and mismatched pieces of Italian suits. He always looked like he'd been awake for three days. A third member, Killi, was a buck-o-five, tops, of ethereal waifdom and striking eyebrows. They were all friendly but somewhat reserved at first, sitting on the floor of the van drinking beer for the duration of the three-hour drive to Tampere. Eventually we achieved a breakthrough, with Janne regaling us with tour stories from the Sweetheart days. Once, while driving to a Sweetheart show in northern Finland, Pekka claimed to have seen an ostrich out the window. Other members, sprawled on the floor nursing crippling hangovers, ridiculed him. Weeks later, Pekka was vindicated when a story about ostrich farms in the area made the Helsinki newspaper.

The Tampere show was unusual in that the venue was more like a jazz club, a sit-down affair with candles on the tables and polite clapping after every song. Finlandia brought a tear to the eye of my friend Kossu, who also cut me off after two non-alcoholic beers when I told him it was my night to drive. Finland is very tough on drunk driving, with the result that Finns will refuse to drive if they've even thought about a beer in the previous three days.

Chainsmoker members, on the other hand, had been two-fisting the drinks all night, and the Blue Whale smelled like a distillery on the drive home. Shane relieved me of driving duty as soon as we stopped for gas; I never asked why, but think my driving made everyone a little nervous. Which was fine with me, except that now all the beer was gone.

Volumen are mostly confident drivers and completely skittish riders. Usually, while one is driving, at least two others are staring straight ahead, helping. They draw lots on the first day of a tour to see who will drive after each night's show, and, especially on the night drives, there's always a lot of "How are you doing? Are you doing OK?" to reassure themselves as much as to encourage the driver.

On the downside, they can also be kind of fussy at the most inconvenient times, and that can get annoying when it signals a certain self-centered disregard for the more important matters at hand. Like, for instance, when someone starts asking for more heat when the driver already has enough to worry about because it's night, it's foggy, a moose could run in front of the van at any moment and he's piloting a rolling living room. Put on a sweater, already!

Volumen members clap when their designated driver brings them all safely to their destination, which the Chainsmoker members found amusing. As we pulled into Helsinki at 4:30 in the morning, Pekka asked dryly, "Do you always clap when someone does something ordinary?"

We barely got three hours of sleep—in Miikka's office in a cavernous converted cable factory—before it was time to board the ferry to Estonia. The four-hour crossing gave us more than enough time to tuck into the buffet deluxe, savor the high weirdness of an Estonian cover band in satin cowboy outfits belting out "Lady in Red" for a lounge full of tipsy Finnish septuagenarians, and drink a few tax-free beers ourselves, sprawled on the sunny deck.

Our guide in the old Hanseatic seaport of Tallinn was also the singer for one of the bands that would be performing that evening. Mihkel needed crutches to get around and wore a special shoe for a foot that had been mangled in a motorcycle accident. He'd been studying to become a tour guide, but said he'd forgotten most of what he learned in the accident. In spite of all this, he hobbled gamely up and down hundreds of stone steps to show us the sights in the old town. Tallinn is a beautiful city with red-tiled roofs and crooked streets lined with gingerbread buildings, the revived showpiece of the Baltic country racing the fastest toward entry into the European Union. Estonia's vaunted new affluence diminished visibly the farther we got from Tallinn, but the old town was vibrant, filled with Russian sailors and vendors in folk costume selling hot candied almonds. The smell of its many underground taverns and cafés is distinctively Baltic—a heady potpourri of must, bleach and the ammoniac tang of centuries of urine.

Lots of Estonians speak Finnish, a language they've absorbed osmotically from Finnish TV drifting across the 40 miles of sea that separate the two countries. Since declaring its independence, successfully and bloodlessly, from the former Soviet Union in 1991, Estonia has opened wide to tourism. Tallinn in particular is a magnet for Finns who regularly make the day trip to take advantage of considerably lower prices on just about everything—including alcohol. Our ferry was filled with blue-haired ladies who looked like they were in it for cheap cheese and licorice allsorts, but others take the day-long trip purely just to get wasted on the cheap. Miikka, who had started calling himself Mike Valentine, helpfully suggested that if the police apprehended me for snoozing in a public park, all I had to do was piss in my pants and start mumbling in Finnish.

Mihkel was an intriguing character. For all he claimed to have forgotten after the accident, he was a walking repository of Estonian history whose grandfather had been one of the metsavennad, "forest brothers," Estonian partisans who actively resisted Soviet occupation until 1953. That was the year Soviet authorities offered amnesty, but the last man of the metsavennad to remain in hiding survived until 1978, when KGB agents found him fishing near the entrance of his partially submerged cave and shot him in the head. Mihkel commented sourly that Tallinn entrepreneurs had recently been cashing in on a fashionable retro-Soviet trend, even opening a Cafe Moscow on the city's Freedom Square. His grandfather, he said, would turn over in his grave.

The show that night, the Volumen later agreed, was one of the best of the tour. Volumen have various indices for gauging performances, the two most important being that they play to their own satisfaction and that lots of people dance. Besides Volumen and Mihkel's band, End Variations, the bill also featured a young ska band and punk legends J.M.K.E. J.M.K.E. were the first Estonian punk band to play in Finland during perestroika, and they did so with the solemn assurance by communist authorities that their families would be targeted if anyone bad-mouthed the regime or tried to defect. Even today, singer Villu Tamme is one of Estonia's most admired performers, not just in Estonia but in Finland, too. By the same token, national celebrity seems well within the grasp of most people in Estonia, a country with a population of just 1.4 million but a disproportionate number of People magazine equivalents.

After the show, Mihkel's friend Karmo escorted us to his parent's summer house in the seaside suburb of Viimsi, where seven beds were made up seven-dwarves style in an upstairs room. While everyone else was sawing logs, Mihkel, Karmo, Shane and I capped the evening by drinking vodka "island style," passing it around in a circle followed by a tumbler of fruit juice. After eating breakfast and checking out the beach (Estonia's beaches are much cleaner now than they were during Soviet times), we went back into Tallinn to shop for souvenirs. Sweaters are a big draw in Tallinn, and we also found cool T-shirts in a metal boutique the size of an airplane toilet. The one I bought had a Viking on it, and Estonian text which, Mihkel explained, had something to do with a friendly rivalry between people on the neighboring islands of Saaremaa and Hiiumaa. I promptly forgot the particulars and never did figure out whose side I wanted to be on, but at least the Viking's eyes glow in the dark.

The next show was in Tartu, Estonia's "second city," and it took us most of the afternoon to get there. We passed the increasingly long drives playing dominoes and word-association games, and by listening obsessively to a double CD that Miikka had brought along: a Finnish cult band called Eläkeläiset ("The Pensioners"). They do polka versions of international hits at lightning speed, usually with lyrics rewritten to acknowledge the source material while also drawing attention to the fact that they're now polka hits. It was a little like listening to the same Weird Al record over and over, but it became a comforting ritual.

As we pulled into Tartu, we started getting the impression that every statuesque Estonian blonde in the supermodel district had been ordered to turn out just to watch the Blue Whale roll by. When we found our host, Roland, we were astonished to see the tallest and most beautiful of them standing right behind him. Roland introduced her as Jane and said that she would be our guide in Tartu. We ate dinner in a 19th-century banquet room Roland had reserved for us, sneaking glances at Jane while avoiding direct eye contact.

Jane also worked at Roland's place, Varjend, a former bomb shelter converted to a rock club. Volumen played last on a four-band bill. It wasn't their best show, they agreed, but memorable for the fact that two girls we'd met in Tallinn the night before came to this show, too. Monika and Kristiina were medical students in Tartu, and they danced like crazy at the Varjend gig, wearing lab-coats with Volumen stickers stuck to the back. (Incidentally, in case you were wondering, we only met three or four girls on the entire trip, and by met I mean exactly that—like, shook hands with and talked to. The closest anyone came to a sexual encounter was when Bryan considered kissing one of the girls on the forehead as they were leaving. He decided against it, reasoning that it might spoil the mood. So much for being rock stars!)

Roland arranged for us to stay in a dormitory in the Tartu Basketball School, a sports facility wholly devoted to just what you'd figure, but deserted that night except for us. It was also Miikka's night off from driving, an occasion he'd chosen to celebrate by getting smashed on mint schnapps. He treated us to a one-man karaoke show in the dormitory, singing along to Guns N' Roses and Ramones tunes that only he could hear in the headphones of Bacon's i-Pod. Things got pretty, erm, innovative after that. I woke up wearing a basketball jersey.

Another day's drive and we were in Latvia. Vanek had friends from his Peace Corps days who invited us to spend our night off at their summer place, where the amenities included a Latvian-style sauna and a Russian surplus jeep. It's a wonder none of us lost an eye to a passing branch or a tooth from having our faces smashed repeatedly into our own knees. The jeep eventually stalled on a muddy section of track leading through the woods. By the time we got it going again (it took about six of us and a good half-hour of pushing), it was real Latvian country dark, and time to think about roasting sausages in the fire pit.

After eating, we ventured down the gravel road to explore some sandstone caves, past a hushed rural tapestry of barns, tarns and dark houses frosted white by a nearly full moon coming up behind the trees. Josh's friend Janis told us the caves were once used for human sacrifices by Latvia's tiny indigenous minority. They were near the water's edge, approachable by a treacherous flight of muddy plank stairs stippled on both sides with hundreds of tiny lights from glow-worms in the grass and bushes. It was completely magical.

Riga, on the other hand, where the next night's show took place, felt like a hassle right away, and never stopped feeling like one. Vanek, back on his old stomping grounds, had an extra bounce in his step, but I felt jostled and harried, and never more than a few feet away from getting run over by something. After our idyllic introduction to Latvia at Janis' cottage, Riga felt too big and all wrong, a huge city with chaotic traffic to match, and all of it jammed right between us and those parts of the city to which we needed to get. Janis showed us around, even interviewing Volumen on his radio show and offering a free ticket to the first listener to name the capital of Montana (a Latvian woman who had lived in Montana called in with the correct answer). There was lots to do and see, but I didn't feel like doing or seeing much of it. Plus, I was starting to come down with the nasty cold that had been going around. I was happy to get the hell out.

Another depressing Riga note was that Bob had hoped to track down relatives on his mother's side, whose ancestors had emigrated to Long Island last century. Even with help from Josh's friend Dambis, he was unable to find many leads in the Riga phone book. In one of the darker chapters in the country's history, Latvians assisted with liquidating nearly 95 percent of the city's sizeable Jewish population during the Nazi occupation in World War II. On our return trip we drove by, but didn't stop at, a concentration camp-turned-Holocaust memorial where an inscription is said to read, "Behind these gates, the earth groans."

Now there were only three shows left. The third-to-last was a dismally underattended affair at a Soviet-era cultural center in Ventspils, where Vanek had been an English teacher during his Peace Corps hitch. Next was the town of Kuldiga, sometimes called the "Venice of the Baltics" for the streams that run between many of its pastel pink and blue buildings. Kuldiga was also home to the widest waterfall in Europe and one of its oldest brick bridges. The show was in a place called Zabadaks, a former Soviet stencil shop that a punk collective had refurbished into a "non-commercial cultural development center" with a hefty grant from a Dutch foundation. It was like hanging out at anarchist summer camp.

I immediately started feeling better once we got back to a quieter corner of the country, even if my sleeping arrangement felt like a paper towel laid over a sack of potatoes and broken cinderblocks. That's what you get for not being an early and assertive dibbser of prime real estate in group sleeping situations. In any event, by this point I'd figured out that the secret to falling asleep with seven to 10 other people in the room, all snoring and gurgling like so many asthmatic frogs kicking for legroom on the same lily pad, is to drink too much.

There was some seditious talk the next morning of ditching out on the Lithuanian show—the last of the tour—which would have saved us another long drive in the opposite direction from the ferry to which we needed to get back. This was never seriously considered, though. We made the drive to Vilnius, stopping here and there to take in attractions like the holy site near Lithuania's fourth-largest city, Siauliai, where crusading Teutonic knights of the Livonian Order of the Sword were ambushed and massacred in 1236 by Lithuanian pagan tribes united under a local grand duke. Following a failed peasant revolt in 1863, locals began commemorating the enormous volumes of blood the local soil had soaked up by erecting crosses on a slight bump some eight miles out of town that came to be known as Kryzniu kalnas—the Hill of Crosses. During Soviet times, the crosses were bulldozed and buried at least twice, only to be furtively replaced with a new crop. Since independence, the number of large crosses has grown to over 50,000, and those are draped and heaped with millions of tiny wooden crosses and rosaries. Pope John Paul added one of his own during his 1993 visit. It's a pretty moving place. Also kind of creepy.

Vilnius was basking in late-afternoon sunshine when we arrived, hilly and green and full of monasteries and fortress walls. Of all the places we visited, this was the one we simply had no time to explore in the daylight. Still, we got a little poking around done, in small groups, when we split up to look for dinner. We didn't find the potato dough "zeppelins" that Josh remembered fondly from a previous visit, but we did manage to make Bryan late for the gig.

Nothing sends a chill breeze blowing through the Volumen camp like the phrase "Shane's mad," which in my mind I always hear spoken in Doug's voice. When we got back to the club, hundreds of people were milling around and Shane was fuming because they'd just missed their chance to jump on the prime slot—third out of four bands. They ended up playing last, after the second of two Austrian hardcore bands whose pointedly anti-American lyrics and between-song exhortations gave us all the nervous jitters. We knew better than to take it personally—back in Finland, Janne from Chainsmoker had reassured us that while most Europeans detest the current administration, they also realize that we "aren't all small copies of George Bush." Still, it didn't bode well for an American band to look out over a sea of raised middle fingers while the crowd hollered along with the Austrian singer's chant of "Message to you, George Bush!"

We were also led to believe that most of the crowd would leave after the third band to catch the last public tram, but that didn't happen. Far from it—enough people stuck around to make it the best-attended and most crazily-danced show of the tour. It was the perfect note to end on, especially since the boys had buried the hatchet right before taking the stage. We slept that night in a tiny apartment with about 10 Lithuanian punk kids and a hyperactive dog that shat all over the place and chewed on everything, but mostly Shane and Vanek.

Then all we had left was the all-day drive back to Tallinn. We splurged on motel rooms and barely made it to the harbor in time to catch the boat back to Helsinki the next morning. It was a much rougher crossing this time, too, with the boat pitching so wildly that bottles fell off the shelves in the tax-free store.

And there you have it. We brought mounds of presents for Miikka's friends who had loaned us their gear free of charge. And we spent our last night in Finland back in Snappertuna, going to sauna and drinking up the last of the Latvian beer and trying to figure out how two weeks could feel like two months and somehow still go by so quickly. Fall had come to Finland in the interval, and with it the strong feeling that it was time to get home to Montana and settle down to our former lives.

But it was worth it—every penny and every second. The Eläkeläiset record I bought when we got back to Helsinki doesn't sound the same as it did when we were bombing across Estonia, but I never really expected that it would.