Wed April 23, Freiburg….It was my first departure from the brand new terminal 14 at Dublin airport. Apparently all flights to Germany or the UK depart from this place. Big and spacious, even the bar is inviting at 6am. On arrival in familiar Frankfurt I got my ticket and took the 3 hour train ride south to sunny Frieburg. Mick was there to meet me at the station and he needed a coffee, I had a fruit juice. We stopped off at a bar for a few beers and I met with Eddie Punch, a musician who proudly tells me he’s been signing on the dole longer than anybody else in the town. They hate me down at the dole office he proclaimed! I needed a lie down, and back at Micks apartment I stretched out on his sofa for a while, only to awaken to Nicol Steiner’s smiling countenance. This to me spoke volumes. Soon enough we were in Nicol’s Mercedes on the way to the gig, which was at a place called Beatbar Butzman, or something like that. It’s a small place, nice vibe, owned by a youthful brother and sister team. Rolf had emailed to say I could use his PA, which was still there from a gig he had promoted a few days ago. I had played in Rolfs bar, Rattenspiegel, back in September 2006, the last time I played Freiburg but unfortunately it’s closed down now.
Before the show I needed some food. I couldn’t read the menu as I can neither speak nor read German, so somebody said, have that, it’s fish. But when it arrived it looked like onion rings. Nicol mimed, making a grim face and doing strange crawling movements with his hands. Fish with many legs he said by way of explanation. Crab!! Aha, I said. Normally I avoid Cockroaches of the Sea, but I was starving so I ate a few, washed it down real quick with a beer to get the rubber tang out of my mouth and did the show. It was my first gig using my brand new guitar, an Ibanez jumbo acoustic. It arrived a last week and I got Eugene the guitar doctor to fit a slightly expensive Fishman pickup. Sounds good. I really enjoyed the gig and the small bar was packed. Some old friends showed up, Rolf from Staufen, Peter from Egon 54, Andrea, and Wolfgang who had a present of a Ryan Adams bootleg from a show he did in Royce Hall, UCLA in January of this year. Afterwards we all drank our beers, vodka and tequila. I made some new friends, Ziggy, Bernhard from Manis on Fire…it was a good night and a good start to my visit to the Black Forest.
Thurs April 24, Spaichingen…Woke up real late, around 2pm, but I had a lot of catching up to do. I located some bread and cheese and tucked in. I know that some people are easily shocked, and I’ve met people who read this Diary from time to time and think Im some sort of head case, but unless you’ve been on the road of rock n roll, sad and lonesome as it often is, there’s really no understanding the head space one gets into. And so, having thus explained that touring is a form of life, but not as we know it, I washed down my breakfast of bread and cheese with an ice-cold beer from the fridge. I then sat on the balcony over looking the small courtyard and bashed out a few chords on the guitar. Im really happy with the Ibanez. It sounds good, looks good and has a nice slim neck making it easy to play. I had got to the point with my Epiphone that I didn’t even want to pick it up. Maybe it needs to have the action adjusted, but it was good to me for the last twelve years and travelled with me through fifteen or sixteen European countries, Thailand, the US, Canada….and now it’s at home. I’ll take it out for recording purposes, as it still sounds good. It certainly won’t be gathering dust.
We hit the road in a Ray Charles fashion, pedal to the metal, stopping off at a roadside petrol station for chocolate and beer. I picked up a bottle of Desperado, a beer laced with tequila. It sat on the shelf smiling down at me. To it’s left was Jack Daniels and coke in a can. We drove to Spaichingen to play at Spaichingen Gymnasium, which is a gig in a school concert hall, organized by my friend Hartmut.. The sound was good and the lighting too. Students were taking care of business and afterwards I thanked them and told them the truth…that there was more money in being a sound engineer or a lighting technician than being in a band. Of course there are exceptions to the rule, but I think they got what I was saying. Tom travelled down from Villingen armed with his expensive digital camera to film the gig. Not many people showed up but the small gathering that was there seemed to enjoy it. Afterwards the school principle invited me into his office to present me with a T Shirt and strangely, a big bag full of pasta. Taggliatelli, spaghetti, penne and a few other types. I like past a lot, so I graciously accepted. I also got cash. Stayed up late with Hartmut as he explained the importance of Krautrock to me and we polished off a bottle of good red wine, a perfect ending to the day.
Friday April 25, Villingen…..After a breakfast of bread, cheese and a boiled egg washed down with a good gallon of tea, I relaxed, made and received a few phone calls while Hartmut corrected exam papers. (He’s an English teacher). Over at Marco’s place I dumped my gear and along with Yutte, we went downtown to a little bar. An elderly lady from Kenya struck up conversation. We had a few drinks and I was introduced to a drummer friend of Marco’s. The sun was shining, but it wasn’t too hot. Later, I went and had an afternoon nap, and I needed it.
Nicol had arrived back from Stuttgart and it was time for sound check at Café Limba, one of my favourite places to play in Germany . Dinner was great creamy vegetarian pasta, and the gig was good fun. Tom arrived and filmed it and people danced and got into the vibe. I met lots of people, some I knew, and some I got to know over the course of the evening. Financially it was very rewarding and Nicol claims it was the best gig he’d ever seen me do (and he’s seen a few) and proprietor Mario was over the moon. I must have done something right!The following afternoon we were back at Limba for refreshments. I picked up records by Kevin K, The Walkabouts, Johnny Cash, Lee Hazelwood and The Sonic Angels in Bernhard Zipfels record shop next door. The Croatian girl who worked the bar last night, asked (through an interpreter) if she could make some Racketeers T Shirts. No problem was my quick response. Being a photographer, she wanted to do some shots, so we relocated to Marcos pad and over the course of forty minutes or so; she used about five reels of film. On the balcony we did the photo shoot, and after a while Nicol took out his trumpet and blew some cool stuff over a few improvised riffs I teased out of my Ibanez. People in the adjoining apartments came out onto their own balconies to check out the scene.
Before long we were back on the road to Freiburg. Marco drove down in his camper van and we dropped into Ziggy’s pad before going down to some festival and a few other bars and stories were told and a good time was had by all. I nodded off on Nicols sofa around 4am and awoke an hour later. My taxi had arrived, and within twenty minutes I found myself standing on the platform at the train station ready to board. A few hours later in was in Frankfurt Hbf. I read some of Flann O Brien’s ‘At Swim Two Birds’ while I waited to board my homeward bound plane. Job done.