Friday 25 March, Copenhagen....The castle in Helsingborg looked a lot more interesting than the last time I passed through here. Maybe they changed the route. Made a mental note to visit here some day with a camera, but mental notes are precarious and get lost in the hard drive in my skull. Pen and paper came to the rescue. Apparently Helsingborg is one of the oldest cities in Sweden and has been the site of permanent settlement (officially) since 21 May 1085. Thats a long time.
Same half-sunken boat bopping dead in the waters as the last time I passed this way. I was on a speeding bus on the Øresund Bridge which happens to be world's longest cable stay bridge and spans Øresund sound between Sweden and Denmark. My destiny was Cafe Svejk, Copenhagen where I was due to play a solo gig. A small Bar in the Frederiksberg area with a good atmosphere and the sound was good too. Kim was a genial host and we stayed up all night after the gig. I think I nodded off for a while on the sofa and awoke to the sound of Phil Shoenfeld on the stereo. Time to get into the taxi and catch the bus home. But the bus never showed up, leaving about 80 people stranded in the blinding glare of the 7am sunrise. I opted for the train and got back into Sweden in one piece.
Saturday 9 April Göteborg....With three rehearsals under our belt we were ready (just about) to play the Klubb Honky Tonk at Cafe Hangmattan over in Masthugget. A cool club, the place was full and the folks there knew what they had come for.
Started off with ‘Sweet Angel’ on acoustic, followed by a few other songs playing electric and then The Renegade Three joined me. Slick Andy on drums and Mika Hakki on double bass. There’s only 2 of them, that’s why I named them Three. Really good gig, enjoyed it and so did the folks there.
My travelling companions were peckish so we stopped in a late night takeaway joint for chips and veggie burgers and so forth. I couldn’t get over the guitars, snare drums, cymbals etc left on the foot-path outside. A metal band were peckish too in those early hours, and completely unworried about their expensive gear which was left unattended. Of course you can go three or four weeks in Sweden without seeing anybody who wears a track suit. Åsa asked one of the metal guys how his gig was. “Terrible” he replied. “Shit, really bad, worst gig ever”. His friend joined in to go into greater details about how bad it was. Cool guys , and it’s always good to have a sense of humour about music, be it metal, country, rockabilly, soul, zydeco, cajun, folk, calypso or hard rock. Not sure if it makes much difference if techno is your cup of tea.
Thursday 14 April, Berlin.....Arrived into Tegel Airport and got over to Friedrichshain without much hassle. Soundcheck was followed by some food and a drink and folks came down that I knew. Eb arrived with his Italian friend and later Carmen arrived and it was like old times. Enjoyed playing too. The sound is always good in Artliners. Afterwards with Sean from Montreal, we rambled off into the night accompanied by the guys who run the Lost Books Blog spot to locate a late night squat bar where Matt De Harp from Two Dollar Bash was hosting a musical extravaganza of epic proportions. Bottled beer came at one euro a go. Before long I was on stage performing ‘Tell Old Bill’ and was soon joined by a percussionist and a trumpet player. All good mad fun and the hours passed by like a dream.
Friday 15 April,Greiz...........On the train to Leipzig trying to read a Thomas Hardy book but there was way too much dialogue all written in phonetics to get the idea of a Dorset accent across but it became tedious after a few pages. Train officials asked all the people in the carriage to please move as the window was cracked. Apparently it might fall in. Lets avoid an insurance claim. Next door was the dining carriage so thats where I went and had a beer to slake my thirst. The sun cut through bright and warm as the metal transport machine made its way down through Pegau and Zeitz. Green fields, roadhouses, farms, small towns. We went through Bad Zöstritz and eventually I was on a phone call on the platform of the station in Greiz.
Up at Peanuts I was greeted by Norbert. Daniel already had the PA up and running and soundcheck was as easy as pie. CD’s changed hands and tentative plans were made to do something in Daniels recording studio at some point in the hopefully not too distant future. Checked into the hotel next door. A spacious room, a big bed and big bathroom ....warm and lonesome as only hotel rooms can be.
Photographer Karsten was down for the gig as well as some of the guys from Daniels band and we had had a merry time. I spoke to Mathias who is a historian and a man who by his own admission spends all his money on CD’s and books. He spoke of the cold war days and how difficult it was to get records and that one of his all-time-favourite bands was Tir Na nOg. Had I ever heard of them ? When I told him I knew Leo and Sonny he was blown away. I told him I’d pass on his email address to Leo and they could correspond. I had toured with Leo back in the 80’s, those long distant days when you might expect to see Nicholas Cage in a good movie, music didn’t come on a file but was scratched into the surface of a big black disc and the gated snare drum was all the rage. A previous life.
Saturday 16 April, Berlin.........Back in Berlin it was hot and humid. Summer had arrived and looked like it might stay. In Kreuzberg I needed a falafel. Fan on the ceiling whizzing around, a mild-mannered mustachioed proprietor. The display cabinet included olive oil from Andalucia for 4.50 a bottle. There was food to eat-in or take out, a well stocked fridge, ice-cream and middle eastern newspapers. Some born-again Christians walked by on the street handing out leaflets. I’d join but I’m allergic to nuts.
Passed through Görlitzer Park, a post-apocalyptic gathering of junkies and frisbee enthusiasts, family BBQ’s, dog walkers, voyeurs, short-cut takers, pill-poppers, punk rockers, buskers and blue rinse ladies. Down by the canal we went and found La Girafe Art Gallery and I spoke to the artist Vibeke from Copenhagen and it turned out I knew her neighbour in Christiania. Onwards through Treptow Park, up towards the Turkish area, apartment blocks speckled with hundreds of satellite dishes with their blank faces pointing towards an unseen space machine.
Later we passed by Wild at Heart, can’t recall who was playing but it was 12 euro to get in. We kept walking. A guy was playing an impromptu gig in a bar sans PA. He was a bit whacked out of it but still gave 100% and deserved every penny he extracted from the bemused clientele. An Indian guy dropped in to sell big fat samosa’s, so I ate one and Eb ate one and we ended up in a bar with a menagerie of antiques and mad gear hanging from the ceiling. I counted seven great grandfather clocks, several clowns, rocking horses, witches, seafaring ships and Punch and Judy puppets, but alas, bad music on the stereo.
Sunday 17 April Berlin....Wandering through Mauer Park and found a really cool and compact record player that plays 78’s. Unfortunately it wasn’t for sale, and needed repairs anyway. But speaking the English language brought me to the attention of an American guy who was there checking things out himself. We spoke about record players, 78’s, vinyl etc. He said “ what are you doing here, you on holidays or living here?”. I said I was playing a few gigs. He asked my name and I dutifully told him he replied “ oh, Ive heard of you. Im going to see you on Tuesday night.”
It turned out this Bostonian was Allen Devine and we both have tracks on the Cannery Row Records sampler album. (I had never gotten a copy so it was to take me a few days to get one and have a listen, and Allens stuff is indeed great)
The ramble continued and bands played and jugglers juggled and food was cooked out in the open areas and the market was crowded. A 200 year old Austrian acoustic guitar took my fancy but I had enough gear on the move and couldn’t handle another piece of luggage. I picked up a few soul LP’s on the Stateside lablel and had a drink and later some Thai food.
Tuesday 19 April Berlin...The afternoon was spent in the Museum Of Prehistory where the 3000 year old magicians golden hat is kept. The conical hat weighing one pound and 29 inches tall, is ornamented with 21 zones of horizontal bands and rows of symbols along all of its length. 1,739 symbols were carved by the craftsmen under instructions from the magician/shaman. Basically it’s a lunar/solar calendar capable of predicting a 29 year cycle. Great to see it at last. Also on display was lots of Egyptian stuff including Nefertitti’s famous bust.
Later we were down at East Of Eden on Schreinerstrasse 23 for the nights gig. Anto, Sean, Alan….all the crew. Had a drink over at the Anastasia Bar before I did my thing. Got a 10 inch LP from Lord Mouse of the Kalapsyco Kats fame afterwards.
Wednesday 20 April Berlin…Played over at Beakers. A nice bunch of people on a hot and sticky night where the good vibe spilled out onto the street.
Thursday 21 April Weimar….After I arrived in I met the goth lady who was runing the place. She asked me if I liked ‘secure’. I said, well, I like to feel secure. No, she said….ze band…ze cure, do you like them ?. Ah yes, I got it. The Cure….Robert Smiths crowd, Boys Don’t Cry etc etc. Yes, they’re ok. She put them on the stereo and we went back to small talk. I went off on a ramble to see the majestic old town houses and state buildings. This sure isn’t Kansas. Cello’s being tuned and piano recitals being rehearsed and a cacophony of classical sounds leaking through the ancient windows. Elsewhere punks drink their Berliner beer (1 euro a bottle) outside the graffiti covered nameless bar.
Back at the HQ, Hempi, Jana and Dirk arrived all the way from Wurzen. Met Irish man Mark and his wife from Frankfurt and we all had a good time. Photos were taken, CD’s changed hands and there was a great crowd in. Another cool gig.
Friday 22 April Berlin……After three hours kip it was time to get to the railway station and get out of dodge. On the train I met Michael from last nights gig and talk is of mp3’s , vinyl , the end of the record industry etc. When I got into Berlin Eb took me up to Vicktoria Park and later to Golgotha Beer Garden. I suppose its appropriate as its Good Friday. Golgotha being ‘the place of skulls’ where the Biblical cruci-fiction took place. But in Berlin Golgotha is a cool beer drinking-hang out with good food available too.
Later we were down in Soul Cat to listen to good old Rn B and late 50's early 60's rock n roll records were being played loud. A good end to the night, and the tour.