Arts Desk

Show No. 11: Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic

"Why do you create plastic artifacts of a dead medium?"

Dispatches from E.D. Sedgwick's winter tour through Germany, the Czech Republic, and Poland.

We wake in a hostel near Prague's Vaclav Havel Airport. With a short drive to the next show, we have too much time on our hands and wander around downtown Prague for a few hours, unsuccessfully trying to do laundry. Laundromats, it turns out, are hard to find in the Czech Republic.

We arrive in Ústí nad Labem, a small city in the Czech Republic with a lot of factories, at around 6 p.m. "Usti," as it is called, also has no laundromats. The venue is "Prostor Mumie," a bar in an old movie theater. The promoters take us to an Indian restaurant where I order a potato dish that is mostly onions. It's surreal to eat "ethnic" cuisine in other countries, as I am used to the American version of such cuisine.

The show goes well. About 50 people are there. We sell about 100 euros of merch. The promoter, however, decides that our CDs are priced too highly, and sells them for about half of what we are asking. "This is too much for the Czech Republic," he explains when asked about his decision. "The CD is a dead medium."

He's right.

At around 1 a.m., the promoter puts us in a taxi which we take to a Soviet-era hostel that looks a Walking Dead set. There is no internet or phone service. There are strange sit-down showers that look like dentist chairs, and small drops of blood on the floor. An older woman at the front desk scrutinizes my passport for some minutes before writing my name in the ledger, as if we are at a border checkpoint. She holds a piece of carbon paper underneath to make a copy.

The balding 35-year-old guitarist is nothing without the Internet. In a Soviet-era hostel in a Czech town with a name he cannot pronounce, he is faced with his greatest enemy: himself. He has no choice but to contemplate his hopes and fears. He cannot escape his past or lie to himself about his future.

He must live in the present—a present which looks like the apocalypse. As much as the re-animated, rotting corpse who stumbles through the world, craving human brains, he is the walking dead.

Zoinks!

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