Big in Belgium

“I definitely had this experience—we all did—of stepping through the looking glass,” guitarist/composer Shane Perlowin recalls. He’s talking about avant-garde jazz/thrash group Ahleuchatistas’ November 2008 tour through Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Holland, France and Spain.

Winning fans overseas: Ahleuchatistas guitarist Shane Perlowin practices in a German train station. The prog-rock band is one of several Asheville groups who’ve toured in Europe. Photo courtesy Ahleuchatistas

What’s different about playing Europe? “Music tends to permeate the culture differently overseas,” he explains. “Things don’t become passé as quickly.” Though considered quirky in the states (Wikipedia calls the band “math rock”), Ahleuchatistas found they could pack clubs in Spain. They traveled by train, stayed in nice hotels and, most importantly, “It was nice to feel appreciated.”

In 2006, the band was invited to the International Jazz Festival in Saalfelden, Austria, (which, Perlowin notes, was “crazy, because we’re basically a punk band from Asheville”). The following year, the group played Germany’s Leipzig Jazz Festival and were signed by Tzadik Records (a New York City-based label that represents many experimental overseas acts). Bolstered by European contacts and the support of a label, Perlowin and his bandmates (bassist Derek Poteat and drummer Ryan Oslance) scheduled their 2008 European jaunt.

“I love the idea of representing Asheville [abroad] because our music is so wacky,” says Perlowin. And though the guitarist isn’t certain whether the group is a fitting representative of Asheville’s eclectic music scene, he does have kind words for his hometown. “I love playing in Asheville, and I like being a part of this community here. People think they need to go somewhere else to check [the arts scene], but they don’t. It’s right down the street.”

WNC bands winning fans across Europe

Ahleuchatistas aren’t the only local group finding audiences abroad:
• Wayne Robbins & the Hellsayers (www.goodluckcricket.com/hellsayers) recently completed a successful European tour.
• Wooden Tit (www.myspace.com/woodentit) visited the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Italy and France in 2007 and wrote on their MySpace page, “Without a doubt, the most fun were the shows in Italy. … We want to go back to Italy and Spain and France ASAP.”
• Reigning Sound (www.myspace.com/reigningsoundfans) has a European following.
• Eliza Lynn (www.elizalynn.com) recently recorded at Abbey Road Studios and played dates in Scotland.
• Toubab Krewe (www.toubabkrewe.com) has played in Africa as well as European locales such as Portugal.
If your band has an overseas fan base, e-mail amarshall@mountainx.com.

Maybe so, but at the moment, Ahleuchatistas are finding a good chunk of their audience across the Atlantic. The band does plan a short U.S. tour this summer, but if Europe continues to offer opportunities, those countries will claim the lion’s share of this local band’s schedule. And commerce aside, last year’s overseas dates and the resulting long-distance friendships have given Perlowin “a fresh hope for humanity—that’s how positive it all was.”
Info: Aleuchatistas (www.ahleuchatistas.com; ahleuchatistas@hotmail.com).

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts writer and editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs.

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