Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Nurse the Hate: Euro Tour Diary Day 2 Stuttgart

I am awoken by Christoph at 10:15 am.  It seems like I have been sleeping for 11 minutes.  I am tired and my game plan of drinking an ocean of beer has clearly backfired.  I am now jetlagged and hungover.  Hopefully a breakfast will get me headed in the right direction.  

The guys that own the club also own another place a few blocks away that serves breakfast.  We load out the mountain of gear into a tiny entry space in the club, and crawl over it to make the short walk to the breakfast.  The meal is served by a staggeringly beautiful girl that is the complete stereotype of the German ideal with perfect cheekbones, strong jaw, ice blue eyes and perfect blonde hair.  Her English is also surprisingly perfect.  I ask her how she manages to speak English so well.  “Because I am from New Jersey.”  Oh….

Christoph had pulled a gaffe that is uncharacteristic of his almost insane attention to detail by forgetting our stashed European ride cymbal in his car when he made the van pickup.  Luckily for us last night the club had a house drum kit with a perfect substitute cymbal for us.  Christoph, ever resourceful, takes the cymbal while packing the drum kit as we will need it for the tour.  “I will return it when we get back.  I’m just borrowing it without asking.”  This seems completely reasonable in the empty club while nursing a hangover and jetlag.  Christoph now believes he has cleansed himself from the earlier faux pas and may now be even ahead of the game due to his quick pivot.  He walks to get the van positively beaming.

In what will become a theme for this tour, our van is completely hemmed in, in this case by a peppermint colored shitmobile of a car.  While Europe has amazing history and charming small streets, it really fucking sucks to try and park an extended length van.  Making matters worse, parking for the residents in these towns takes on a “fuck it, I have to park it somewhere” attitude that often leaves your car penned in with the offending car owner that jammed you up nowhere in sight.  This is the case again this morning.  We suspect that this little pink car is owned by a heavily tatted up woman we saw open up a tattoo studio next to the club.  I suggest we bust into the studio screaming obscenities in German while busting the place up to get her to move her shitmobile.   Luckily we decide against this tactic as it turns out the car’s owner is a Turkish guy that works in the kebap shop around the corner.  That would have been awkward.

We are headed to Stuttgart, one of my favorite cities in Germany.  We will be headquartered around town in separate accommodations as this is Christoph and his sister Antje’s home turf.  Leo and Sugar will stay at Antje’s apartment.  Gary will be dropped at a hotel run by an unpredictable Chinese woman.  I will be staying at a friend of Antje’s named Oliver, who I have never met.  Sugar and I stop at Antje’s to grab a shower while Christoph and Leo do the load in at Goldmark’s.  After the shower I walk to a “posh” grocery store to stock up on obscure local wines that I have decided to taste my way through tomorrow on our one day off.  The store is Feinkost Bohm, like a pretentious Dean and Deluca with obscenely priced specialty goods.  An extremely well-heeled posse is ushered into the private reserve wine cave filled with Lafite Rothschild and Vega Sicilia vintages.  I scour the local wines, and when wanting to check out the reserve area I am looked upon like a criminal and am required to have an employee stand next to me.  Granted, I am unshaven, wearing a baseball cap with a skull on it, and am wearing a “Schimanski jacket”.  And what is a “Schimanski jacket” you ask?

I had purchased a jacket last year at Lucky Jeans that is sort of a modified fatigue jacket with a bunch of pockets.  I thought it was kind of cool, but what do I know?  It turns out that this jacket is a close approximation of one worn by ex-German 1980s TV detective character Horst Schimanski.  He is sort of like an ill-tempered Magnum PI that yells “shit!” every two minutes when not grabbing people by the collar to shake them down for information.  From what I saw on youtube he is sort of like a cranky Jim Rockford.  All I know is that I am not the epitome of style I thought I was after learning about Schimanski.  The rest of the tour is spent having the others ask me things like “Where did you put your Schimanski jacket?” and “Do you have room in one of your 17 pockets in your Schimanski jacket for my (fill in blank)?”.  The whole jacket thing kind of blew up on me…

We play at Goldmark’s, a good club by the subway station.  It’s Halloween.  Our friend from previous tours Robin is the promoter.  He is always on top of details, so we know this show will be good.  He’s a pro.  As in the past his mother cooks us an amazing traditional regional German meal.  I have no idea what it is called, but it is sort of like matzo balls with a pork and mushroom gravy poured over it.  It is the very definition of “stick to your ribs”.  We eat at a long table in the back of the club as patrons start to gather outside waiting for doors to open.  There is a real energy in the air.  Tonight is going to be really good.  

We are playing two sets tonight which could be a real test for Sugar.  I help wrap up Sugar’s arm in an ace bandage.  We get a couple of shots of Fernet Branca to help with digestion.  I walk into the club to get a couple of local beers, Suffig Frisch and Wulle Biere.  The club is starting to fill up.  I can feel everyone’s eyes on me and see people nudging each other with a “there’s the singer” whisper.  I’m usually really comfortable with that sort of thing, but I’m sort of freaked out with nervous energy and I retreat backstage.   I knock back one of the beers and decide to take a walk to help get the rest of my heavy meal settled.  The park is filled with Turkish kids playing awful music on their mobile phones and people in costumes heading to the club.

I’ve played a lot of shows, but I will say on the record that this one is one of my favorites I have ever played.  The sound is good.  The crowd is great, packed in like sardines and giving us back lots of energy.  A group of people stand in front of me singing back almost every lyric.  In the middle of it I’m taken in by how lucky I am to be able to play halfway across the planet to a large audience that is this into the music the four of us are making.  Most people never get this type of experience, much less 25 years after they first shakily got up on a stage.  There is no way to translate this to anyone else I know except other musicians.  It’s what we call “a good gig”.

After the show we grab beers and towel off backstage.  Gary scatters off not to be seen or heard from again until Monday.  .  Leo disappears to the park for some sort of recreational smoking.  Sugar puts a bag of ice on her arm.  Sugar, how was the show for you?  “Well, did you notice that one time when I went way out on the front of the stage?  I was shivering the pain got so bad, so I figured if I passed out the crowd would catch me when I fell.”  Damn.  I had a better time than she did.  

I head into the club and pose for a million pictures.  A woman that is a well known model is dressed like a zombie and wants her picture taken with me.  I see her on billboards the rest of the trip advertising an airline.  This rock music thing is OK.  Her companion is a fashion designer from Spain that designs $200 t-shirts sold at couture shops.  We talk cars for an hour until a Hell’s Angel “supporter” sits next to me on the couch.  He has one of those “81” shirts going.  That is the clever way they show support for Hell’s Angels.  “H” is the 8th letter of the alphabet and “A” is the first.  81?  Get it?  The Hell’s Angels in Germany have an interesting place in society.  They not only run parts of every red light district in major cities (an above ground business here), but also have merchandise stores.  They sell t-shirts with “Support Hell’s Angels” with various logos.  I love that clunky English translation.  How exactly does one support a semi-criminal motorcycle gang?  Go to prostitutes?  Buy the guys beers when you see them at a bar?  

The crowd is still really large.  People are dancing to a really good DJ playing rockabilly and blues records.  A young girl with multiple piercings dressed in a Boy Scout costume approaches me.  She asks me questions about Sugar?  “Is she married?”  Yes.  “Is she mono… mana… monog?”  Monogamous?  “Yes!”  As far as I know.  “I want you to tell her I want to be with her.”  OK, sure.  “You make this?”  What are you asking me?  If I want to sit in a chair really creepy swirling a mixed drink while I watch you two get it on?  “Yes!  That is fine!”  I found that a little unexpected.  I tell Sugar about her opportunity to mix with the locals.  Sugar laughs.  The Boy Scout girl watches from the wings with a hopeful expression.  

I talk to an Australian guy and his German girlfriend.  Imagine a really bad Crocodile Dundee impression for the voice.  “Eh mate!  Ya gotta play the Corner Bar in Melbourne!  You’ll kill ‘em.  Yeahhh…  The Corner Bar in Melbourne mate!”  I like this guy.  He can’t believe I know about Australian cowpunk bands like Beasts of Bourbon and The Johnnys.  The Boy Scout costume girl comes back over.  “Why does that girl get to dance with Sugar!  I am so jealous.” pointing at Leo and Antje.  I gotta get out of here.  The situation is deteriorating.  I look for Oliver, my host for the next couple of days.  He’s sweating, dancing, drinking a giant beer.

I convince him to go.  It’s late.  We walk a couple blocks to his place in the city center.  His apartment is actually at the top of an office building.  It’s the only residence for blocks.  Downstairs from him is a bookchain like Barnes and Noble and a gym chain called Jonny M.  We take a freight elevator to the top of the building.  It’s really weird.  I am totally ready to crash.  Oliver asks “Greg?  Do you want to join for a…ah… what do they call it?  The last drink of the night?”  A nightcap.  “Yes!  A nightcap!” 
And this is how I found myself drinking single malt Scotch at 5:15am on top of an office building in downtown Stuttgart on Halloween.   


At November 12, 2015 at 12:18:00 AM EST , Blogger AZ said...

I would expect nothing less from Horst Schimanski.


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