Friday, March 15, 2013

Nurse the Hate: Villingen-Schwenningen

3/3  Villingen-Schwenningen, Germany

I wake up in the modest Hotel Espenlaub in Stuttgart.  Leo and I are sharing a small room with two unique features.  One is the door.  You would think that to leave the room, you would use the handle on the door and walk right out.  That would be incorrect.  At the Hotel Espenlaub you must throw all logic out the window.  To get out of the room you need to press a button on the side of the wall which triggers the latch just enough so you can open the door with the handle.  Ah, of course…  How else would you open a door?  The shower is a classic Euro shower with a hand held sprayer loosely held to the wall where a billowy curtain that does not reach the floor gallantly tries to withhold the wild spray from the outside of the shower.  This curtain is overmatched, and you need to maintain an almost zen like state to avoid turning the prison cell ambiance of the bathroom into a slip n slide.  For a people so focused on function, it is hard to grasp why they have not tackled this shower issue as the social crisis it has become.

I leave Leo sleeping in the room to look for something to eat.  I run into the dreaded Sunday problem of everything on the continent being closed.  It’s always a shock to the American sensibility to discover that everything is not always open.  “What?  What do you mean the hardware store isn’t open at 4:00 am?  What if I want to build a bookshelf?”  There is literally NOTHING open.  I must walk two miles before I stumble into a bakery and snag a cheese sandwich and cup of tea and eat it outside like a street urchin.  People walk by me giving me a sideways glance of modest disapproval.

We have an early show today in the Black Forest village of Villingen-Schwenningen, which is purported to be the hillbilly region of Germany.  It’s about 90 minutes away deep into the country.  This is Christoph country and he set up this 6pm show at a place called Café Limba.  The Limba is small.  Really small.  It’s about the size of a small garage.  The people are very welcoming, and Bernhardt the wildly bearded owner is like a big happy bear.  I win some immediate goodwill when I spot a St Pauli sign and mention how Ken and I had set up a St. Pauli supporters club at home despite the fact that I don’t know any of the players.  They are the left wing team, and are so far left that there is really no American comparison.  For example, one of their suite holders owned strip clubs in Hamburg where the team is based.  He installed stripper poles in the suite and had dancers working while the game was going on.  The team provides self service beer taps for club seat holders.  Fans vote on what they think the team should do regarding social issues and what advertisers they will accept.  Fans openly smoke marijuana at games.  If you are a punk rock guy, they are your team.  Plus, their logo is awesome.  I bought a killer hoodie with the skull and crossbones years ago in Hamburg.  Let’s be honest.  Truth be told, I root for a graphic design and the politics of the team are just a happy accident.  Simone, the energetic  sound guy, claps me on the back when he hears of my team affiliation.  “Greg!  We won today!  Did you hear?  1-0!”

The Black Forest has the reputation of having cold distrustful residents.  Christoph is convinced they will hate us, which is of course why he placed us in the situation in the first place.  What we discover are very friendly outgoing people, proud of their heritage and reputation as crazy hillbillies.  We feel right at home actually, as it reminds me of the good people of the Empty Glass in Charleston WV.  I get a big bottle of Rothaus Pils thrust into my hand, and we actually even soundcheck the tiny room while making wisecracks back and forth with Simone and some of the patrons. 

I walk around the village before the show to get a feel for the town.  I cannot seem to be able to remember the name of the town or pronounce it properly, so from this point on it will be known as Finnegan Shinegan.  The locals laugh when I do that.  It’s actually sort of a charming town with rustic artisan touches at every corner.  I love the European signage with metal and wood carefully crafted to evoke a sense of tradition and history in the advertised business.  Hell, as far as I know they order these signs from a giant warehouse in Berlin, but they look cool in this setting.  The sun slowly sets, and I find my way back to the Limba.

The weird thing about a gig like this is there is no barrier between performer and patron.  The place is packed, which isn’t hard to do because of how small it is.  It is 6pm on a Sunday night and these people are ready to go.  Lots of beers and local schnapps shots fly around.  We start with the lower impact hillbilly material and pick up the tempo and volume as we go.  This proves to be a good plan.  Sugar is dancing in the midst of the crowd.  Leo is doing shots of gasoline powered obstler.  I jump up on the flimsy bar to give myself some space.  Gary has a fan club rocking out in front of his amp.  The line between band and crowd has blurred completely, and we are all jumping around together with the music.  We aren’t allowed to stop.  Finally I am pogoing around with Bernhardt, his daughter, and what can only be called “his people” to “Long Gone”.  It is a wild blast of a gig.

We sell an astounding amount of merchandise.  There is talk of us coming back for a multiple date run, where we are told each gig will grow larger and larger until it spills out into the street.  There is no way Mr. Roth saw this scenario unfold, but then again he doesn’t know our affinity for off kilter places like the Glass, Bud N Tooties, and the wonderful town of Charleston IL.  We pose for a zillion pictures and sign everything.  It’s really great.

Antje drives us back to Stuttgart where we trade stories about the show and aftermath, warm in the glow of a good time.  Leo and Sugar demand to be dropped off for Stuttgart’s best currywurst, a sausage cut up and drowned in spicy curry ketchup that tastes great now but is sure to inflict gastrointestinal retribution in the morning.  It is deep in Stuttgart’s red light district, next to the Hell’s Angels bar, “support” shop, and seedy brothels.  We drop them and head back to the hotel.  I actually have to work, put in a couple of hours in the lobby and return to find Leo asleep with Scarface dubbed in German on the little TV. 

Say hello to my little friend, or should I say “Sagen Sie zu meinem kleinen Freund Guten Tag”.



At March 16, 2013 at 1:58:00 AM EDT , Blogger AZ said...

Alles gut.


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