Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Nurse the Hate: Koln Germany

2/26 Koln Germany

It is always depressing to wake up in the Sonic Ballroom band apartment. While everyone loves going to a grimy rock club for a show, no one ever turns to their friend and says, “Boy, I wish that they ran some kind of Bed and Breakfast here so I could really nestle in and get cozy.” I am in a bottom bunk surrounded by crude drawings of dicks and band logos. No one will be cooking me French toast. Today is a day of self reliance.

I have a mission today and that is to get my mic fixed. The always trusty mic went completely dead after I plugged it in at Ben’s place in Lembke Belgium. While perhaps it is from the psychic interference from the Mongolian tent story circle, my guess is that it is probably a wire. A normal person would pop the mic open and fix it themselves, but I know if I try to do that I will be left with a small stack of useless parts. In moments I will have nothing. No, I need to bring in a professional of some kind.

We find a guy that does repairs on instruments and electronic band equipment. Perfect. Christoph and I head over to his impossible to find shop leaving Sugar/Leo behind. Gary is long gone mentioning a shadowy errand he had to run to Christoph, so that means Sugar/Leo are trapped. Why trapped? Well, as an added perk to our situation, we don’t have a key. Someone always has to be in the band apartment to let the others back in. The only thing worse than being marooned in the Sonic Ballroom band apartment is to be locked out of the Sonic Ballroom band apartment with no other place to go.

The shop is located in a basement of a building concealed to the residential street by a high wall with no street address. I don’t think he does a lot of walk up business. The older gentleman that does the repair is like every guy I have ever met that repaired any musical equipment. He is surly, and silently gets to work on the problem, somehow offended that you have broken it. It is as if he has partial ownership of every piece of equipment out there, and you broke his stuff. Despite your obvious stupidity and carelessness, he will nonetheless save the day. It takes awhile, but indeed he does save the day. We head back to the bunker to allow Leo/Sugar to escape.

Sugar had earlier faced another dark hour. She had become convinced that the bedding had given her scabies (which it probably has). It’s a tough situation as she couldn’t have possibly been braced for how “punk rock” (meaning “unpleasant”) her accommodations would be for the next two nights. I do agree with her that no one wants to sleep in a bed previously enjoyed by a member of The Lurkers or GBH, but what are you going to do? This is the life we have chosen.

The Sonic Ballroom is small, but I will say that the sound has always been good to my ears. This little box has really been dialed in by the sound guy. He sets up the gear while chain smoking as the bar manager chain smokes while looking on. It should be noted that the Sonic Ballroom is the smokiest bar on earth. I have lost probably six years from my life by performing in this space five or six times and inhaling the pollution equivalent of a Chinese steel mill. I remember walking in here one time and my eyes instantly puffing up. It was like having salt thrown into them. A hundred people all chain smoking in a box without ventilation. They should do fire safety training in here.

Gary and I teach Leo/Sugar a new song called “Always” during soundcheck. We work it out to the point that I put it in the set. Three hours from creation to live performance. I’ll bet even Guided By Voices doesn’t do that. I like to have a challenge during the set. A brand new one keeps everyone on their toes. No one wants to be the one that makes the mistake…

A band opens up for us that sounds like a Motorhead tribute band. This is a weird pairing of bands. I don’t think we have ever been paired with a heavier band. The modest Tuesday night crowd sort of hates them, but then again they are so fucking loud even Leo needs earplugs. That’s loud. Leo hasn’t heard anything correctly since 1995. He can fall asleep with someone operating a jackhammer three feet away. Yet, even Leo goes to the earplugs thoughtfully provided by the venue.

We play a pretty good set. I will tell you what, for all the negatives in the venue, I think we sound pretty good in here. The crowd agrees I think because a guy in a red Michael Jackson style leather jacket starts really dancing and that breaks the ice. One of the things with a German crowd is that they will stand and observe you like a science experiment, and afterwards give you a detailed recap. “The show was the fourth best I have seen this year, but I did notice on the second chorus of the eighth song you were very flat. That moment was terrible, maybe the worst music I have ever heard, but overall it was a very good concert.”

I notice a few times the tempo picking up as Leo is pounding the absolute shit out of his kit. Sugar stumbles on a few routine passages too. This is a direct result of what I find to be Leo’s influence to knock back a few shots of the bar’s specialty “Chain Oil” shots. I don’t know for sure what is in “Chain Oil”, but if I were to hazard a guess I think it is jagermeister, ouzo, bottom shelf bourbon, and urine from a small captive gypsy boy. I do not recommend these to fellow travelers. After our set I was given a celebratory “Chain Oil” which later led me to have wild and vivid dreams that were disconcerning at best and upsetting at worst. I think it is the gypsy boy urine that does it.

We get a few encores as the people really connect with us. I figure that anyone that goes to the trouble of coming out on a Tuesday and wants an encore gets an encore. In fact, they can have as many as they want. We’re not going anywhere. In this case, they get three. We would probably still be playing now if Gary’s amp didn’t get funky. With rented gear, it’s always something.

I head back upstairs after hanging out with “the people” for awhile. I am woken up by Leo/Christoph/Sugar as they crash through the apartment. If I thought Sugar was drunk before, I had no idea of where that car was headed. In moments you forget about Sugar being all buzed up.  Leo, by comparison, is stumbling around like he is on the deck of a schooner in heavy seas. Christoph is laughing it up at the scene. There is no doubt that “Chain Oil” is at play here. Christoph also told me “the bartender thought it would be a good idea if he and Leo smoked a little weed in the bar. Total freedom!” Leo is about as wasted as I have ever seen him, which is really saying something as I was there when he threw up all over the Greater Ft. Wayne area. I climb out of bed to take a picture for posterity and Christoph is howling in laughter. “Rock bottom! Rock bottom!”

Damn, after all is said and done, I do love the Sonic Ballroom.


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