Friday, March 29, 2013

Nurse the Hate: Hate Good Friday

I was raised Catholic.  My father was the stereotypical East Coast Irish Catholic, and approached religion and faith like a weekly dental hygiene appointment. None of us were happy to be at church, but just like you don’t want your teeth falling out of your skull, you don’t want to be standing outside the gates of heaven just because you didn’t block out 90 minutes on Sunday.  Fill out a check for the collection plate and endure the experience.   The antiquated language and rituals, the smell of incense, non-engaging sermons, and endless doses of guilt and shame were heaped on me just as they had been heaped on him as a child.  It was a family tradition.  To not indoctrinate me into the church would have been a sin that would have resulted in even more shame and guilt. 
Luckily my parents didn’t lose their minds and send me to Catholic schools.  Nothing messes up a kid like Catholic school.  Every girl I ever met that came from a strict Catholic upbringing came out two ways. 1) Repressed beyond belief and unable to accept joy in any form.  To have stumbled into brief happiness only means that you must have sinned in some way, and need to repent at once for something.  2)  Completely out of control and on a quest to accept as many male body parts into their orifices as possible while high on alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, and experimental hallucinogenic drugs procured from hippies named “Bear”.  Either way, they had a lot of problems to work out.

I was made to attend CCD classes after mass on Sundays.  These were taught in classrooms in a building attached to the church that had the charm of any DMV you have ever entered.  We walked into the classes like prisoners on a chain gang.  The teachers were either the priests or overzealous members of the congregation without any teaching experience whatsoever.  To say they could not hold a child’s attention is an understatement.  When you get down to it, there are some pretty great action stories in the Bible.  How they couldn’t figure out how to sell us on the ideas with these parables is confusing.  Instead we were pounded with rote memorization and the occasional uncomfortable Q&A session. 

The priests always spoke way above our heads.  I was afraid of these musty smelling men in the strange robes.  We had no common ground that I could see.  It was always the same.  The elderly priest would walk in the front of the room, staring up the ceiling and pontificate.  “In the third book of the Corinthians, Matthew often mentioned his quest to become closer to God in a way which was more pure spiritually pure and less reliant on worldly ritual.  What do you think he meant by that?"  He would then look at his seating chart.  "Greg?” 
I was seven. 

The only word I picked up in that whole thing was “God”, who I knew to be a large serious guy with a flowing beard.   Corinthian?  As in “rich Corinthian leather” in that Chrysler ad?  Who was Matthew again?  I really had two options.  I could stammer a bit until he let me off the hook, or I could provide the one answer that seemed to always apply.  “Umm.. Jesus?”  The priest would then answer thoughtfully yet annoyed, “Yes. Yes, getting closer to Jesus, but in what way?  Rebecca?”  Then Rebecca was in the spotlight and I could mercifully return to drawing monsters or WWII planes in my notebook.  

I usually preferred the overzealous parishioners as teachers.  For three years we had Mrs. Gibbons, a kind hearted woman that was perhaps the most boring human being on the planet.  She somehow managed some control over us as a group with her occasional outbursts of violence, yet really imparted almost no knowledge of religion.  My strongest memory of her was when she tried to teach us about the very confusing idea of original sin.  Unfortunately for her, it was around the same time that we had learned about the International Date Line in science class.  The class went crazy when I introduced the idea of the International Date Line into the discussion of baptism.  “Mrs. Gibbons, let’s say that a baby is baptized on Sunday, and then the family gets on a plane where they fly across the international dateline into Saturday.  Then the plane crashes.  So wouldn’t the baby go to hell since he went back a day to when he wasn't baptised?”  Debate picked up steam quickly.  The conversation devolved into wild finger pointing and screaming as young minds grappled with this unsolvable riddle.  Father Shantz was finally called in to cull the near riot.  I still don’t know what the answer is to that one as we were told to bend our heads and chant Hail Marys until we lost our will to argue the point.

The following year we got Mr. Gibbons, who had been browbeaten by his wife into duty.  At least he was a football fan, so I was sometimes attentive at his awkward football analogies applied to Catholic dogma.  “Mr. Gibbons?  If Jesus is the quarterback, wouldn’t Peter be more like the halfback and Paul the split end?  That would make John a flanker…”  Mr. Gibbons would grapple with the best way to put Jesus and his disciples on the field.  “Yes, I think John would be a flanker.  He was more of a possession player, and not a big play guy like Paul.”  The goal was always to see how far off the topic we could go before the girls up front would demand to get back on track.  (These girls are probably now women that are not a lot of fun who are driving their offspring to CCD classes right now.)

While I received what can only be called a mediocre religious education as a kid, I did at least gain a respect for the magical carpenter from the Middle East that got a raw deal from the Romans.  No matter your religion, the basic ideas of kindness and compassion for others are really good ones.  I can still chant back prayers and know how to stand, sit, and kneel in the right places in Catholic mass.  I like to walk around the grand cathedrals of Europe.  I have stood staring up at the ceiling at the Sistine chapel at the Vatican.  While I may not be a season ticket holder with the Catholic Church, I suppose it is my home team. 

While many on Good Friday will engage in pious activities, I will try to reconnect with the church in my own way and solve the one great mystery.  What happens to that plane crash baby at the International Date Line?       

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Nurse the Hate: Replacements Tickets

  I missed a couple of shows this week I should have gone to see.  Todd Snider, who is a miraculously entertaining performer and deceptively great songwriter played at the Beachland, as did Alejandro Escovado.  I live just far away enough from the venue that I have to be motivated and maintain that motivation up until showtime to attend shows during the weekday.  I have made attempts and failed to see Snider in the past, which is ridiculous as I have probably have had over a dozen attempts to see the man play.  Is there any real reason why you would own most of someone's recordings, yet can't make a show 45 minutes away?  It is not like these shows are being staged on The Moon.  It's really lame on my part.

  Escovedo, always a critic's darling, I have seen play before when the Cowslingers played on a bill with him.  I believed then, as I do now, that he regarded us as untalented overexcited pests that he had to endure before he could trot out his well crafted songs.  Then again, he was singing about his family struggling to build a life after leaving Mexico and other "adult" problems while we were singing about dog tracks and trucker speed.  He may have had a valid point of view.  I always wind up buying his releases, and I have a similar experience each time.  There will be six songs I will immediately forget and just don't connect with me.  Then there will also be four songs that nail me right between the eyes and become indelibly etched in my head.  How many artists can you say that about?  Once again, I should have gone.

  In the past, the only way I would miss a good show was if I was bleeding from my eyes.  I recall missing a Replacements show that even now I regret not going to despite having the worst case of food poisoning in recent documented medical history.  I remember driving that afternoon in my roommate's car, which was a "Fox".  Wasn't that an entry level VW?  I started to feel a little "off".  I had been driving back from a follow up visit to see the surgeon that had ripped my tonsils out while I was in my twenties.  If you ever want to lose some weight, get your tonsils taken out as an adult.  Your interest in eating any morsel of food drops significantly when you realize it is like a grenade going off in your throat when you swallow.  Want a slice of pizza?  No thanks!  I'll just suck on these ice chips thanks!  Watch the pounds slip away...  Imagine me minus 40 pounds.  It was a helluva look.  I looked like Andy Garcia set adrift on a lifeboat for three weeks.

  I digress.

  The Replacements were/are one of my favorite bands of all time.  There was that period of time between "Hootenanny" and "Pleased To Meet Me" when they were the best band on the planet.  If there was any justice in the world, the general population would regard "Let It Be"/"Tim"/"Pleased To Meet Me" the same way as "Beggar's Banquet"/"Let It Bleed"/"Sticky Fingers" are regarded.  Those Replacements guys just shot themselves in the foot too many times to cash in like the Stones.  Let's be honest, Paul Westerberg is not much of a businessman.  He was a hell of a songwriter though.

  So there I was with Replacements tickets on their "Pleased To Meet Me" tour.  I started to feel weird in the afternoon.  You know that off kilter feeling that comes before a massive fever is rolling in?  You don't feel bad yet, but you know something is coming.  It is like a medical storm front you can sense like old time lobstermen note incoming thunderstorms.  "Batten down the hatches.  We got some barfing rolling in."  Oh yes, and barf I did.  Every 20 minutes for hours on end.  I prayed for someone to come up to my attic bedroom and shoot me in the head to end the horror.  There was no cure in sight.  I was out of commission.  I would not get my heart strings ripped out by "Answering Machine" that night.  Oh no.  I would barf instead.  (How do you say "goodnight" to an answering machine?  How do you say "I miss you" to an answering machine?  Damn that's good.  Love+distance=heartache.  On any 251 mile drive, that song is key on any mix tape.  Yet another loss to technology... the mix tape.)  While I knew then as I know now that I could not have physically made it out that night, I still regret it.  Especially when I hear "Answering Machine" roll across my car stereo like it did today.  That song still strikes true.  It kills me every single time.

  It is very easy to lay around the house and not go out and experience real life.  It takes work not to be one of the masses that let interesting things pass them by like phantoms.  I'll tell you this, every single time I have gone out to a concert, game, art exhibition, or whatever, I am glad I did so.  I never look back two weeks later and think, "Man, Roky Erickson was good, but if I had slept another hour or two I bet work would have been easier."  I need to get it together.  I need to stay focused and get back on track.  Sorry Alejandro and Todd.  I failed you this week.  Come back.  I won't miss you next time.  I promise.        

Monday, March 25, 2013

Nurse the Hate: Final Thoughts on Europe

I really enjoyed this tour of Europe.  The shows were all fun for the most part.  The clubs were all cool.  Having the Roth Dynamic on board was perfect.  It is always in the best interests of efficiency to have a German keeping everything running with cold calculated precision.  The best part of the tour was without question the people I got to meet and get to know even just for a little bit.  We met so many great people that welcomed us into their lives and showed us what made their town something they are proud of.  To find that sort of hospitality no matter where we went was well beyond expectation.  Thank you to every one of you.

I think I finally “got” the Netherlands this trip.  I had always thought of them as the bastard cousins of the Germans/French, and struggled to understand how they fit into the mosaic of Western Europe.  I really enjoyed the off day in Ghent, and always love hanging out with Bux and Chris from the Ace Café.  Belgium and Holland need further consideration and in depth travel.  Thanks to Ben and the somewhat scary bartender with the Lucifer eyebrows at DB’s for finally helping me to understand what the fuss is all about with those Belgian beers.  I had always thought of them as something too sweet and/or sour for my palate, but the bell finally went off for me on those.  My new rule for Belgian beers?  Look for the gnome or the cute woodland creature, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

Something for Americans to understand is that Europeans have a much larger and in my opinion healthier attitude towards the arts than we do here.  The European attitude towards art and performance is that of appreciation of the effort and craft it takes to finally show it to the public.  While they might not care for something, it doesn’t mean they don’t respect the effort it took to create it in the first place.  They realize that art, music, and literature are things that improve the quality of life and should not be taken for granted.  Why in America musicians and artists are regarded as hustlers and treated as grifters is beyond me.  It takes so little effort to realize that while you may not have heard of a band, seen an artist’s work, or read their output it doesn’t mean that this work (and therefore the creator) is without value.  Open yourself to experience.  It will always reward you, even if you don’t care for what you experience.

The obesity epidemic in America is very real.  After a few days in Europe, you don’t even notice that everyone is essentially in scale.  While I will not go so far as to say that the people of Europe as a whole are model physical specimens, they are at least able to walk in a normal fashion.  We can argue about cause & effect, but the bottom line is something has to change in America.  I’ve been overseas to Europe ten times or so, and each time I land in America I am shocked by the sight of enormous people laboring around the airport.  While I am gone, I just forget.  The jolt of seeing people that can’t even wear clothes that fit correctly, or have to climb into a cart to be driven to their gate because they can’t walk a half mile is embarrassing.  I think the key is the reasonable portion sizes of meals, less fast food, and focus on organic and local produce.  Germans are eating bread and chocolate all day, have a meal of pork and potatoes, and then are firing back beers into the wee hours.  How are they healthy looking?  I don’t know, but they are doing something right.  Maybe it's all the smoking...

It’s not all rainbows and unicorns over there though.  Why these people can’t seem to provide comfortable heat anywhere is a problem.  If you are in Europe from November through March you will be sitting in drafty rooms wondering if your feet and hands will ever be warm again.  Those charming old buildings?  They are all fucking freezing inside.  While a 300 year old farmhouse or a club inside a former 1700's govt building are great to look at, the lack of central heating can be a real drag.  I think Sugar was cold for 12 straight days.  Thankfully we got to jump around in front of stage lights and sweat our asses off.  How none of us caught colds I look at as a small miracle.  Be forewarned.  You will always be cold there.

The people of Europe have not caught on to the clothes dryer.  I can’t tell you how many crunchy line dried towels I used.  It is like drying yourself with leaves.  Everyone is walking around with $600 eyeglass frames, a smart phone, and keys to an Audi in their pocket but no one knows about the clothes dryer apparently.  I know electricity costs more there, but so does gas and every Thom, Dick, and Helmut is out there driving around.  Germany is one big traffic jam.  Don't even think of driving in/near Brussels.  You guys need to get more clothes dryers over there and less cars so I can wash the smoke out of my jeans while still maintaining the proper fit.   

My longstanding bitch with European plumbing continues.  Germany, Holland, Belgium, and especially Switzerland love to blend form and function with design.  Why they can’t create functioning showers that contain water in the shower area is a national crisis.  I would like to invite each one of you from The Old Country reading this to come to my home where you can enjoy a shower in a large glass box with room to move comfortably, and afterwards you will dry yourself with a large fluffy towel.  You will be so pleased at this experience you will probably immediately apply for US citizenship and begin singing “Stars and Stripes Forever”.  Afterwards you will angrily wonder about the government conspiracy that has kept this shower experience out of your life for so long.  Come on over.  The big fluffy towel awaits.  

This was the first time I have traveled to Germany and not been yelled at by and old woman at a shop because I didn’t know “the system”.  I will never forget when an old lady working at a coffee stand in Bielefeld ripped my scrotum out because I asked for tea incorrectly.  As Ken (fluent in German) was standing there and heard the whole thing, even he said, “I don’t know what the hell happened.  You asked for tea correctly.  She just went fucking crazy.”  This now puts me at over 12 months without being screamed at in a foreign language, the last incident being an Avignon, France bakery shopgirl peppering me with rapid fire French when I bungled my bread order as others looked on in frowning disapproval.  I sort of missed the experience.  Maybe I need to go back to Paris.  They love to ream you out there.

Thanks again to everyone that came out to the shows, bought a CD or shirt, or offered a helping hand.  We look forward to coming back sooner rather than later to our favorite towns, and hopefully add more cities and countries next time.  It’s a lot of work putting it all together, but like they say, “it’s good work if you can get it”. 

See you soon.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Nurse the Hate: Crailsheim

3.9 Crailsheim

Morning comes early.  Really early.  I shower and wake Leo.  He sits up dazed in the top bunk bed.  "Oh my God.  Oh my God.  Oh Fuck."  Regardless of the ingredients of the "Mexican Bomber", I think we can all agree that doing nine of them will result in a terrible price to be paid.  He climbs out of the bunk, his feet slap on the floor, and is literally two steps away from the bathroom in the tiny Euro Hotel room.  "Where is the bathroom?  Where is it?"  It is literally three feet in front of him.  He has been destroyed.  He is a shell of the man that was the King of the Party at the Wild At Heart a mere five hours earlier.

We all slowly convene in the cafeteria style hostel breakfast area.  It might just be me, but many people appear to be trying to pick up the pieces from their Friday Night Gone Wrong.  There are many Eastern European girls in extremely tight jeans showing off bodies that are somehow undesirable in their disproportionate dimensions.  Guys in mystery jeans stare down blankly at their cold cuts and rolls.  Berlin is such a cold mistress.  It is always good to leave before she destroys you.

I can't help but feeling the tour is over.  Berlin always feels like the finish line to me.  Yet today we have a show in the small town of Crailsheim at what I believe is some sort of youth center.  These are always the most fucked up shows for me personally as we don't really have anything like this in the States.  I always feel like the guy that is still hanging around high school dances too late in life.  Imagine if the 4H put on a show in a common community space and then every degenerate in the surrounding area shows up and pounds beer in the same spot where six hours earlier 8 year old girls were taking dance lessons.  Our band posters will be up next to a flier for a children's play.  It's weird.

We spend six hours on the road and pull into the relatively boring town.  We learn there is actually still some anti-American sentiment from World War II as in 1945 the Allies destroyed 95% of the town in some sort of vindictive carpet bombing.  The legend goes that some resident had been waving a giant white flag at the time of the attack begging for the town to be spared.  While I don't feel like debating the 20 year olds on the plausibility and effectiveness of dozens of B-17 crews spotting a man with a flag at 25,000 feet, I recognize the right to be a little pissed at having your heritage destroyed by foreigners.  As it turns out, the room where the show is held is the oldest building left in the town.

We walk around town to stretch our legs and stumble into a cozy little town museum.  The single matronly woman employee welcomes us in and we check out the artifacts.  The most interesting to me is the area documenting the destruction of 1945 with burned Bibles, news photos, and a statement along the lines of "due to the Nazi atrocities and our nation starting the horrible conflict, we got what was coming to us in 1945, though it was really terrible".   That's about the extent of what there is to do in town, so we head back to the club to get ready to get ready.

Christoph shows up with Antje's friend Porsche.  I don't know if that is her real name as I have always assumed that most women named Porsche work exclusively in strip clubs.  Porsche works making artisan cheeses with cows in the Alps, and that has left her with a wiry muscular athletic body.  She also embraces the odd German paradox of loving nature, vegetarian food, and exercise while smoking as much as a longshoreman on a drinking binge.  How does one have rock hard abs, steel bands for thighs, and smoke like a French film director from the 1950s?  Those Germans sure do love to smoke.  The German people follow all rules without question.  They love it.  They cannot help themselves.  Yet the one set of rules they will break are all tied into smoking.  I remember coming here when the clubs first outlawed smoking.  Everyone went outside without a peep.  Now a few years later, many clubs post the no-smoking signs but they are willfully ignored.  Even the French don't smoke like the Germans.  It's an odd quirk.

The room is really hot and we sound like shit.  Everything is too loud.  We didn't soundcheck as we are sharing some gear with a band called the Titty Grabbers.  With a name like that, I assumed they would be 18 years old and play some shitty punk rock without melody or any technical proficiency whatsoever.  Instead, they are really pretty good.  They can play.  We play our set, but it's hard for me to get it going as I have spent the last hour and a half moving all the tour money around to pay everyone that needs to be paid.  Let me let you in to the secret of touring.  If you are lucky, the tour pays for itself, meaning that all the money you get from the clubs for the shows will pay for your van, gear rental, gas, food, airfare, etc.  Any money you hope to make on the tour is all from your merchandise.  To break it down to the base, you play music so you can sell t-shirts so you can keep playing music. 

We hang out with the people after the gig, and they are all really cool (though some of them are shockingly drunk).  I talk to a Polish guy that has recently moved to the area and is trying to fit in to the new culture.  It throws me because he really looks a lot like Ft Wayne graphic atist Bob Story.  We are in no hurry to leave.  We have time to kill as we are going to drive from here directly to the airport for our flights home.  Christoph will then take the van and dump the gear.  It's going to be a long day for Mr. Roth.  We all sign tour posters for each other, reassemble our suitcases as best we can, and climb into the van to go to Frankfurt.  I leave Sugar/Leo/Gary in the terminal as I am on a different flight home.  I am wearing the same basic clothes I played the show in.  They reek of sweat and smoke.  My hair is matted down inside my stinky cowboy hat.  I feel really sorry for whoever is going to sit next to me on the flight. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Nurse the Hate: Berlin

3.8 Berlin

The road to Berlin is long.  Still, we have made sure to save enough time to explore the old city centre and cultural hub of Dresden, which was painstakingly rebuilt after being firebombed by the Allies in WWII.  It’s amazing the effort that must have been required to re-create the massive buildings with bold sculptures.  Dresden had been totally destroyed in February of 1945 in an incendiary attack that supposedly created a fire which engulfed the city that measured 1000 degrees.  Thousands of people died not from the fire, but having the oxygen literally sucked out of their lungs.  Of course, the fire didn’t help much afterwards…

I have targeted the Albertinum on the banks of the Elba River.  It houses a monster collection of 19th and 20th century paintings.  Though we only have an hour to get through this staggering amount of painting and sculpture, I still manage to buzz through the most interesting sections to me.  I am particularly impressed by the Otto Dix and Carl Lohse works.  “War” by Dix would look nice above the mantle.  The museum has a great collection of German painters as well as the requisite Matisse, Monet, Van Gogh and Degas.  The amount of sculpture housed here in incomprehensible.

We make the long walk back to the van after finding Leo who has been outside on the phone the entire time, and continues as we walk.  I get him a pretzel as it looks like the little guy could use a pick me up.  Unfortunately there is no Elephant beer.  He may need to “speak to the Elephant” as Christoph says.  I purchase a punishing bottle of Black Forest schnapps at a shop, and some cookies that may rip out everyone’s teeth on the drive to Berlin.  Is dental care covered here?

We arrive at our hostel in Berlin which is completely overrun with overstimulated Euro teens all buzzed up and looking to have their genitalia touched by strangers tonight.   You can see many of them have already changed into their “party shirts”.  We drop the bags and go to Cortina Bob’s, which is not our usual Berlin club.  For years we have played at the Wild At Heart, which is just down the street.  This time we were not booked there for some reason, which is disappointing as Wild At Heart has always been synonymous with Berlin to me.  Oh well, it’s out of my control and hopefully the new place is cool too…

Cortina Bob’s is a dark cave that smells like spilled beer and stale cigarettes, i.e. like every other real rock club on the planet.  It is so dark inside that during load in we actually lose gear.  “Hey?  Anyone seen my cymbals?”  Mosh, our guy from our European label Knock-Out Records arrives.  We love Mosh.  Leo and I have had some really good times with him, and he has had unwavering support of the Whiskey Daredevils.  That support has allowed us to do many things in Europe, and for that we are grateful.

We get Mosh one of our Astra beers from backstage, and Leo reminds him that the last time we were in Berlin Mosh didn’t drink due to him running in a road race the next day.  Mosh cocks his beer and says in a fake Hollywood German accent, “But that was last time… Zo… We have work to do.  Let’s get to it.” With that he finishes the Astra and heads back for more.  We soundcheck and then I join Mosh back in the band cave.  I will say this.  I must have sat at that table with Mosh for two hours methodically downing those stubby little Astra bottles.  I have no idea how many we had.  Nine maybe?  We discussed all kinds of topics as people drifted in and out of the cave.  It’s really great to see him and hang out.

We go out and play after a surprisingly good set by Der Franz, a German version of Billy Bob Thorton who regaled Mosh and I backstage with great stories about his year in Kingston, Jamaica.  Who doesn’t like to hear good stories about being robbed and getting in gun fights?  They don’t show you that in those Apple Vacation ads for Ocho Rio, do they?  He does a one man band, and my favorite song of his has a chorus that goes something like “Daddy don’t come home for Christmas.  You will only make mother cry.”   

Maybe it was the Club-Mate nonalcoholic drink I had with the smiling witch on it, but despite the insane number of pre-show beers I had with Mosh, I feel pretty together.  As any musician worth his salt can tell you, that can be an illusion which can disappear the second you start to try and play.  However, we play really well (I think) and we definitely have a good time.  During the set on three separate occasions a guy with mutton chop sideburns brings up shots of the bar’s specialty “Mexican Bomb” which tastes like Tomato Juice with Tabasco and well vodka to me.  I am sure there is something horrible in there too like prostitute urine, grain alcohol, or paint thinner, but what are you going to do?  The guy literally walks up on the stage with a tray of these fucking things and there is nowhere to hide.  Meanwhile Mosh keeps running up more and more Astra beers.  This thing can turn into a car wreck if we aren’t careful.

The crowd is really fun, and I especially like a guy that sings back every word to me with the exception of the new album.  When we finally finish the show after playing until the live music curfew, I wind up having a discussion with the guy.  It turns out that he is from Barcelona Spain and saw us play what can only be called a disastrous show there years earlier.  It’s pretty cool to have someone travel from Barcelona to Berlin to sing songs back to you that you wrote on a couch in Ohio.  Suddenly it hits me.  I scan my phone, and find the photo album from the tour.  Bam.  There he is in a group shot after the gig.  No shit.  It does demonstrate that no matter how fucked up a show appears to be, you should always give 100% because someone might actually be listening.   

After the dust starts to clear, I decide to start to get out gear together.  I walk to the backroom to get Leo’s cases.  When I walk in I see chaos in our dressing room as the guy that had bought us all the Mexican Bomb shots had passed out on a couple of wooden chairs, and then woke up in time to barf all over the general area.  In an act that reaffirms my belief in the Lord, my jacket was spared.  The staff apologies profusely and tries to shovel the guy out of the area.  I had assumed he worked for the bar due to how confidently he walked onto the stage with the shots, but he was a fan and that was all out of pocket.  I think he is going to feel a little peaked tomorrow.

We decide to go to the Wild At Heart so Sugar can see the club.  Gary wants nothing more than to escape to the hostel, but he is completely outvoted in that desire.  This is Berlin.  I am surprised he doesn’t grab a cab back to the hostel, as that clearly would be the play at 7 euros tops.  He instead retreats to his Squirrel seat in the freezing cold to wait for us to return.  This is a major strategic error on his part.  Now, we said we’d be back in an hour, but I know there is no fucking way we’ll return punctually.  The Wild At Heart is like a black hole.  It stays open until sunrise.  You never even know what time it is in that joint.  The band minus Gary, Mosh, the Spanish guy, and his silent female companion walk the few blocks to the club.  I buy a beer from the bartender that looks like Lemmy, and Mosh strides up holding a giant beer looking like he is gaining momentum.  Good lord is that guy a machine.  We have to be on the road by 10:45am.  I look at my watch.  It’s 3:45.  Berlin gets you every time.   

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Nurse the Hate: Dresden

3.7 Dresden

We make the 6.5 hour drive to Dresden.  Audis and BMWs fly by at 120+ mph in the left lane as we chug along in our Sprinter van.  The entire population understands The System.  Fast cars left, slow cars right.  If you are driving 130 mph and a Porsche driving 140 mph is approaching behind you, you move the hell over.  Why this logical and basic system cannot be grasped by American drivers is beyond my comprehension.  I always wonder why that guy camped out going 60 in the far left lane does not understand that there is a reason why everyone is pissed off when they pass him on the right.  By somehow not understanding the very basic building blocks of the traffic system, he would have to be mystified why everyone is so hostile on the road for apparently no reason.  Not here.  If you go too slowly in the left, you get a ticket with a healthy fine.  We need the Polizei over here to straighten some shit out on our highways.

We pass abandoned guard towers and electronic listening stations for the old GDR.  We are now in what was the old East Germany.  Large expanses of flat country like Indiana are broken up by crumbling smokestacks and busted cinderblocks, remnants of the old “Worker’s Paradise”.  In what was the old West Germany almost everyone speaks English to some degree.  Here in the east, almost no older people do, and even the younger people have less fluency.  However, I am sure most senior citizens could knock your socks off with Russian phrases and Communist songs.

As we drive, Leo designs what he has envisioned as his next tattoo, interlocking pretzels on his wrist like a cuff.  Without warning Leo’s head pops up from his tattoo sketching and he asks, “Greg… Are we playing that same club that served us all the white food?”  No Leo.  Wrong club.  Wrong city.  Despite having been to Dresden several times, one of Europe’s and certainly one of Germany’s prettiest cities, he has no memory of it.  This is the price one pays for being high all the time.  The guy has seen some amazing things, but can’t recall or organize them in his mind.  He has confused Rock Station in the industrial wasteland of Halle with magnificent Dresden, a city where he has strolled the palaces and art galleries of The Zwinger three times.  It is like confusing Toledo with San Francisco.  Well, maybe it will stick this time…

We play Rozi’s, a club that is part of an even bigger complex.  There has been an amazing amount of forethought and style put forth in the Hamburg themed club.  Booths line the wall, and each one has a different theme.  There is a boxing one with enormous photo of Max Schmelling.  A booth with angels is next to a booth with an S&M booth complete with hooded dom mannequin and rack with rubber dildos nailed on.  A St. Pauli flag flies in the back corner with vintage photos of past glories on the pitch.  The whole place is an homage to Hamburg, down to the stubby bottles of Astra beer served as the house brew.  This all relates back to when Dresden was a sister city to Hamburg in the old Iron Curtain days.

We get a pretty good meal at Helmut’s, the steakhouse in the front of the complex.  The menu is in a weird combination of English and German.  “Gnudeslich snitzel with Hell Fries.  Wondabrusstrsimen.  Fuck yes to the rock and roll!” It’s something like that…  The heavily tattooed waitress takes our order and disappears never to be seen again.  I make a phone call for an interview with Jeff Niesel at Scene Magazine for our upcoming CD Release gig at the Beachland.  Leo scores a steak, which he is eating like his last meal.  I go to the clean Spartan dressing room and knock out the set list.

The show itself is forgettable.  I think I have played Dresden twice, once with the Daredevils and once with the Cowslingers.  One time we ripped the fucking roof off the place.  The other time people stared at us like we were zoo animals.  The show tonight is unfortunately the latter.  Typically the East Germans are more reserved than their western breatheran.  This is crazy though.  A decent crowd of people have paid ten euros each to stare emotionlessly.  I try to get them closer, and only one pierced girl makes her way up.  The rest react as if I am speaking a foreign language, which of course I am.  The show ends with polite claps.

The girl that stood up front is a very heavy girl that turns out to be from England.  She is with her friend Helen, a cute brunette with a bob cut and peppy white tennis shoes.  They are both very drunk, as are all English people that I have ever met while traveling in Europe.  If you see pasty people stumbling around making inappropriate noise and looking like they might barf on you at any second, they are English tourists.  I thank the girls for their support, and they are quick to tell me their story.  The heavy girl is a lesbian on the prowl.  According to Helen, (insert prim English accent here) “She lit rally snogs moh girls than anyone I have evah seen.” .  Helen then informs me she is a bisexual in a long term relationship with a woman, “but now it is a bit boring really”.  We have known each other for 17 seconds, so I can see why she would want to unburden herself and let me in on what is going on in her life.  I think she has designs on Sugar, who is a beacon for the lesbian community like some sort of sexual lighthouse.  Sugar has received more play from women in the last ten days than I have in the last two decades of touring.  It’s a bit depressing to dwell on my complete lack of desirability to the opposite sex, so it's time for a drink.

Leo and I ask Kitty the bartender for a shot of something local.  She produces four shots for us, none of which look complimentary in the slightest.  There is no fucking way I am doing all four of these.  Visions of myself barfing through the night lead me to narrowing in on a couple of them.  The choices are something red that looks like a cherry kirsch thing, something creamy served in a tiny ice cream cone, a green horrible looking liquid, and a licoricey pastis shot.  I do the licoricey thing and the ice cream cup, which is very girly but totally delightful.  Leo does all four in succession.  Of course. 

I get Sugar’s attention, who by this time has had Helen attach herself to her side.  They both come over and Helen immediately knocks over the green shot with her enormous beer mug she is waving around.  She then leans down on the bar and playfully extends her tongue to lick up the spilled liquor announcing, “just like I like to lick pussy” before exploding in a gleeful cackle.  Hey-o!  I look around and I finally notice that there are plenty of other women without the company of men.  Wait a minute…  How did I end up at a lesbian rockabilly cowboy punk show halfway across the globe?

Marcus the promoter pays me out in the office and we discuss St. Pauli.  I’ll tell you what; this St. Pauli thing is the ticket to instant camaraderie.  Marcus, a really nice guy, explains how this bar has come to be a magnet for soccer hooligan trouble.  St. Pauli is a team that represents the far left of left wing.  Dresden, on the other hand, is to the far right.  Often “far right” can be a code word for neo-Nazi or a set of ideas that dance close to the edge of what most of Germany considers fascism.   Europe has so many more political connotations with everything, especially with soccer.  It would be like if you were a Houston Texans fan that meant you were also a member of the John Birch Society.  Frankly, it’s kind of stupid to have these two things mixed up, but it is what it is…  The deal is that if Dresden wins one of their two annual matches vs. St Pauli, there is no problem.  If St. Pauli wins, a bunch of thugs come to Rozi’s and try to break the place up and beat up people.  It would be interesting to be a tourist and randomly walk in here after a St Pauli win over Dresden.  “Look honey.  A big crowd of fellas just came in!  Let’s go try out our German phrases on them!  Gutentag!”  Cut to bottle crashing on the side of the head.

Marcus gives me a bunch of St Pauli stickers and club t-shirts.  I make the short walk to our Mexican themed Bed and Breakfast, leaving the lesbian dance party behind.    

Monday, March 18, 2013

Nurse the Hate: Bremen

3.6 Bremen

I climb into the van wondering if something may have died in my mouth last night.  The combination of that horrifying liquor, sekt, and three kinds of beer has resulted in me feeling a little, shall we say, foggy.  The drive to Bremen isn't too bad, and we arrive with enough time to check into our apartment prior to soundcheck.  I stayed here before a couple years ago when we played a club that was hosting some sort of freshman dance party for the large university in town.  I recall with great clarity how I freaked out on some people at a wine bar down the street, bought a bottle of Cote du Rhone to go, and still have that very bottle sitting right now on my dresser holding up the Leo Puppet.  An older woman owns several of these units not far from the club we played, and they were decorated in what I recall as a quirky style.

The apartment we are given this time is quirky as well.  Three large bedrooms, a winding staircase, two fully outfitted bathrooms, and a bunch of crazy artifacts you would never expect to find in a rental.  What's with the creepy masks on the wall?  That clown by the window is sort of freaky.  What is that metal thing?  I like all the stuff as I think it is interesting, but Sugar seems on edge, especially when Leo and I put on the masks and speak to her in gravely voices.  Leo and I have been speaking in this voice for days now, referring to a guy we met on a Cowslinger tour that always got drunk and wanted all the men in the room to take off their shirts.  It wasn't some homosexual come-on, it was some sort of odd idea he had like we were Vikings.  Now Leo and I keep walking around saying, "Yes.  Sugar.  There is no need to fear us.  We are your friends.  Watch us now take off our shirts.  Like men.  Yes."  Although we never actually take our shirts off, anyone that we come in contact with is pummeled with nonsensical conversation about "men taking off their shirts".  It's one of those tour jokes that now has a life of its own.

We are playing Sinners, a new club that proves to be almost impossible to find.  If it is hard to find with very specific directions and a GPS, what is it like for actual patrons to find?  While searching for the club, we ask people that work in the area where the club is located and none of them have a clue.  As it turns out, most of them work within steps of the place, and have no idea it exists.  Uh-oh.  Is that a good sign?  We finally find it in the middle of an industrial park that has been converted to artist loft spaces.  While the physical space is great, I have learned a few things about the nightclub business over the years.  Location, location, location... Being located within stumbling distance to where lots of 20-40 year olds live?  That's good.  Being located where there doesn't appear to be any housing or public transportation anywhere nearby?  That's bad.

Soundcheck takes a long time as there is a glitch in the board software taking away Leo's monitor.  While they work it out, a terrific meal of roast pork, vegetable bake, and scalloped potatoes are brought in.  Since we are in Bremen, home of Beck's Beer, it is all Beck's all the time.  After last night's party-o-rama, I'm on the wagon.  I have never been a big fan of Beck's as it seems every time I have one it is skunked.  After ten days over here I have now gotten so snotty about beer that I turn my nose up at the unlimited Beck's available to us.

Beer is handled over here like we handle milk.  While Beck's and Warsteiner are available all over the place, most towns drink their local brewery beer.  It's always fresh, and in most cases the brewery has been cranking out quality product for hundreds of years.  When you walk into a bar, they don't have 50 beers.  They usually have the local brewery pils on tap, a dunkel, and usually another brewery's wheat beer.  For some reason, most breweries that makes pilsners tend to focus on that and maybe a dark beer.  The wheat beer guys tend to just make that.  Whatever the system is, they do a good job.  You rarely get a bad beer over here.  I love trying each town's local beers and have noticed distinct regional tastes, probably due to water and yeast strains.  The Northern part of Germany tends to have crisper more bitter beers.  The south has more full bodied smoother drinking beers that to my palate are superior.  Give me my Farny or Rothaus.

The large club has, not surprisingly, modest attendance.  The room is cold.  I'm really tired.  I can't see the polite crowd because of the glare of the stage lights.  I feel like I kind of suck tonight, though the band is playing well.  Gary really kicks ass on the last ten or so songs tonight.  The people, who have been almost like mannequins to this point, want an encore which we provide after a brief discussion.  After the show I speak to the people, who are very complimentary and apologetic about the light attendance.  After all, the show is happening midweek in what is by all appearances a secret rockabilly clubhouse.  I just appreciate anyone that is interested enough to come check us out.  I have no idea how the numbers work to keep this venture going into the future.  The guy that owns it is really great though.  He definitely is a big supporter of the music.  Maybe he knows something I don't.  Lots of people do after all.

We head back to the monster apartment.  Leo, Sugar, Antje, and I have a beer while I grill Antje with questions.  She is great.  I love her quirkiness with an overriding German sensibility.  She totally reminds me of my cousin Nancy.  I lay back on one of the daybeds listening to the conversation, and the next thing I know it is morning.  I must have fallen asleep immediately after putting my head down.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Nurse the Hate: Bielefeld

3.5 Bielefeld

I wake up confused as to where I am, as I do almost every morning.  I get up from the inflatable mattress with my back letting me know it would appreciate some support sometime soon.  I decide to go for a walk and discover our section of Bielefeld, though nice enough, is pretty charmless.  I also discover that I have become somewhat native as I stand at an empty crosswalk waiting for the crossing signal to change despite no cars in sight in either direction.  I am obedient to the rules and system.  There has been a quiet change.

Leo, Antje, and I go for a trip to what the sign calls “wash duck”.  For the first time ever on a tour, I may have enough clean clothes to see me through.  This comes with the caveat of understanding the indecipherable directions and Euro washing machines in the Laundromat of course.  With Antje though, we do have a ringer.  At least she understands what the directions on the machine are attempting to say, though it proves to be of little value as the directions themselves make no sense whatsoever.  We persevere, and I walk down the street triumphantly with three clean pair of jeans and t-shirts. 

Close to Tobi and Steffi’s place is a photo portrait studio with pictures displayed in the storefront.  Three of the pictures seem very odd to me, but I wonder if it is only a cultural difference.  “Hey Antje?  Is it weird that this man and young boy are posing next to a motor scooter without their shirts on?”  It becomes clear rather quickly that it is not a cultural difference, but is pretty fucked up no matter what your cultural touchstones.  We all stare at the pictures and are creeped out in various degrees. 

We head over to Desperado, a small bar where we picked up a show on what would have otherwise been an off day.  Tobi comes with us with his son Milo, a young boy with long brown hair and a baseball cap that makes him look a lot like the lead singer of The Hellacopters.  Tobi had been having some problems with his downstairs neighbors who would come home late at night and blast techno.  I think Tobi would have been OK with rock music being blasted, but the techno thing made him crack.  After repeated requests to come to some sort of agreement with these guys, he went out and bought Milo a drum kit, which he set up right over the bedroom of the neighbors.  This move decidedly shifted the balance of power in the apartment building.  

Milo likes to now take his drumsticks and beat on anything.  We set up our gear and put Milo behind the kit for soundcheck.  He is sitting on Leo’s leg beating on all the drums with such a serious look of determination on his face.  He is really cute, as in “stupidly cute”. We all applaud at the end.  Hooray for Milo!  He’s tired out and goes back home with Tobi, leaving the care of his mother Mirjana.  Mirjana is a sleek dark haired beauty with chiseled Eastern European features, and has put up members of our band(s) for years.  She sort of looks like Ines de la Fressange used to look.  One of the real downsides to being in a relationship with Tobi is having to put up his deadbeat friends like us.  Since Milo is taking his room back at Tobi’s, that means Leo and I now need a home.  Bad trade for Mirjana, good trade for us.  She is super cool, and has a great record collection to boot.

Mike from the bar is really cool and sets me up with a couple of Franziskaner wheat beers.  We talk about the sorry state of Bielefeld football.  The tiny bar fills up and we play, though not nearly as well as in Finnegan Shinegan.  My voice is finally starting to give out a little bit, and the smoker friendly air of the German pubs is starting to take a toll.  We have plenty of friends here.  There is a guy that saw the Cowslingers a decade ago.  Tita and her sister (whose name regrettably escapes me now) who put on that first Cowslinger show are here too.  There are lots of good people here.  At one point I play the maracas and manically shake them while grooving out the front door.  Two polizei are standing humorlessly at the door, wondering what the noise is all about.  It’s me and these two cops out in the now quiet street as the door shuts the music behind me.  Shicka shicka shicka goes the maracas.  “He, ist was los heir?” shicka shicka shicka…  “Hey man, I don’t speak German…” and I walk back inside leaving the confused cops staring at each other.

After the show I get my ass kicked with shots of Patthorster Waldgeist magen-bitters.  Think of Jager but with a healthy dose of back pepper at the finish.  It’s really brutal.  I buy a bottle to take home.  Please be advised if you come to my house in the next few months, you will probably have to do a shot of either this or that badass Black Forest schnapps.  Either are very unpleasant and will leave you hating me.  One of the great joys of my traveling is assembling one of the most punishing home bars in America, with rotgut horror liquor from across Western Europe.  "Here... Try this.  It's a nice little digestivo I picked up in the German town of Bielefeld.  It has an interesting finish."   

The post show experience is falling into a dangerous routine.  We give the crowd a really good time.  They want to keep the party going and show off their local asskicking booze.  You can’t really refuse this hospitality and the next thing you know it is 2:30 am and you are trying to figure out how your equipment fits in the van.  I start to get a second sense of when these shots are coming, and drift away.  Not tonight though.  I’m having a good time.

Leo, Mirjana, and I walk a few blocks to her cowboy cool apartment.  We are all starving so I root around her kitchen like a raccoon and whip up a pasta sauce from scratch that’s not too bad if I don’t say so myself.  We are all starving and start to scarf up the pasta with an open bottle of sekt, Germany’s version of champagne.  Let me go on record and say for all of the downsides of the French, and there are plenty, no one makes sparkling wine like those smug fuckers.  The sekt is higher in residual sugar than classic champagne, but it goes down easy with the food.  Sleep comes easily, which is strange after 200 beers, local shots, and a big bowl of noodles. 


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Nurse the Hate: Driving to Bielefeld

3.4 The Road to Bielefeld

We meet at the van by Goldmark’s in the morning, dump our luggage, and head over to Andi and Anji’s music store located in the shopping area close to the art museum and grand open courtyard near the train station.  The store is really great, much larger than I would have expected.  The store may actually violate the rules of physics as the inside is about 4 times the size it appears from the outside.  Maybe German engineering finally cracked some sort of code and they haven’t let us in on it yet.

I haven’t seen Anji in years, and I almost forgot how much I enjoy talking to her.  She is so present in the moment, and engaged in the conversation.  She is always so much fun to talk to.  We head over to a small café next door to grab a quick drink and get caught up.  It really is terrific to spend time with them, and I only wish we could spend more.  Andi confirms his title as nicest guy on the planet by picking up the check. 

I had hoped to see the Otto Dix exhibit at the Stuttgart art museum, but like all things in Europe, it is closed on Monday.  Between all the vacation days and limited store hours, it is amazing that these folks pulled the Renaissance together.  We head back to the van, say goodbye to Robin, who as usual barbs me about doing a Cowslingers gig in Stuttgart.  I will go on the record right now and say that Leo and I are “in”, and I am pretty sure Krusty is too.  I'll do it!  I'll do it!  Leave me alone!  That ball is in Bobby Latina’s court now!  Robin’s masterplan is to do a Whiskey Daredevils/Cowslingers double bill.  Five hours.  I think afterwards Leo and I would fall over dead, and our bodies would be burned out by the train station.

It is a six hour drive to Bielefeld, but it is the sunniest and most pleasant weather of the entire trip.  For the first time in weeks, I am too warm to have my coat on.  Antje is driving like a pro, although she almost loses control of the van when my iPod shuffles onto Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London”.  She thought it was that Kid Rock song where he stole (I mean “sampled”) the hook, and I imagine our indie rock credibility was about to be shattered.  She settled down once she realized she was going to be spared Kid Rock.  Amazingly, she had never heard the Zevon song.

We finally arrive at our friend Tobi’s place.  Now, when I say “Tobi’s Place”, I guess I really mean Steffi’s place, his unbelievably cute and cheerful girlfriend that has a killer apartment on top of a building in a nice neighborhood.  Steffi is some kind of brain pathologist.  She has one of those jobs where you aren’t even sure WHAT it is, much less what she actually does at it.  They are extremely generous hosts.  Seriously, who wants five scrubby musicians on tour lounging around their house on a Monday?  They have to go to work tomorrow.  Us?  It’s Saturday night for us.  We’re off.  We drink wine and beer, and listen to Roky Erickson and Thin Lizzy records until the wee hours.  Tobi is always so much fun to hang out with, and tonight is no exception.  We go deep into Thin Lizzy.  Too deep.  At one point we are listening to Phil’s electronic solo album.  God help us.  We finally say enough is enough and retire.  The solo album haunts my dreams… 

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”.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Nurse the Hate: Stuttgart Germany

3.2 Stuttgart Germany

Christoph wakes us up early.  Too early.  I look to my left and see an old photo of a Nazi officer smiling at me.  Where the hell am I?  I am in the loft of a haute couture fashion designer named Olga Van Goyagoya.  I have not met Olga Van Goyagoya, but envision her to be like a detached Bond villain smoking a cigarette from a long filter while stroking a cat.  Christoph is in such a frenzy to get back “to his homeland” that he wants to shove us in the van ASAP.  Laiki went out to get breakfast for us with Christoph in tow where they will undoubtedly smoke 27 cigarettes and return with rolls, cheese, and meat.  That guy is a VERY heavy smoker.  He may set an alarm clock on the hour to wake up and have a quick butt. 

I go downstairs to breakfast at the elusive Olga Van Goyagoya’s flat.  This is the kind of house you only see in Europe.  Vintage curiosities and thrift store treasures create a nostalgic era evoking many times/places at once.  Olga’s Colombian boyfriend George, who looks like Dean Stockwell in “Blue Velvet” greets me inside.  We talk about his job selling security systems to customers in Germany, France, and Spain.  Each culture presents differing cultural challenges and approaches for the sales process.  The Germans just want the technical information.  The Spanish want to socialize first.  The French are slow to warm, but then will make the deal quickly at the end.  It’s really interesting to me that people that live so relatively close to each other geographically can be so different.  We have a breakfast of excellent quality cheeses with rolls, and a special extra salty butter that is produced in the region.  Olga Van Goyagoya finally appears from her curtained off dressing area in a vintage dress with pink pom-poms on the shoes.  Perfect.  She and George take the dog and leave, allowing us to finish breakfast and clean up.  Good people.

We head out of Frankfurt with Antje, Christoph’s sister at the wheel for the first time.  She has been looped in by her brother for part of the tour as Christoph has to return to his job in the exciting world of dental equipment sales.  Christoph is showing her the time tested procedures and systems that he expects her to execute flawlessly in his absence.  I can only imagine how much trouble she will get in if his instructions are not followed to the letter.  The drive to Stuttgart goes without incident, though I am sure Christoph has criticisms he chooses to keep private. 

Stuttgart is without question our favorite place to play in Germany.  It is where most of our closest friends live, and it is always so great to spend time with them.  Additionally our pal Robin is doing the show, so we all know how professionally it will be handled.  We get dropped off at a functional hotel near the gig, and a couple hours later wander down to Goldmark’s to load in.  Robin’s mother will be cooking us a local meal, and I always look forward to having her food.  I like to eat locally whenever I travel, and there is nothing better than someone’s home cooking.  If everyone else in town is eating something, you know it must be good.  In this case it is a goulash over spaetzle noodles.  Awesome. 

After sound check, our pals start to arrive.  Johan shows up with his new girlfriend.  Andy, in an unbelievably thoughtful gesture, brings me a bottle of wine as a gift.  We learn that Mr. Evil is home sick and will not attend.  Familiar faces start to fill the room along with a whole bunch of strangers that seem primed and ready to go.  It has all the trappings of a good night.     

The Railbones open and are a good traditional rockabilly band.  They play what seems like every single cover the Cowslingers cut their teeth on in 1990 when we were trying to get it together.  We all especially like it when after each song their curvaceous female singer whispers “Danke schoen” in a smoky voice.  I want to really try to “Ramones” it up and clip through the songs when we play.  I want to keep the energy up.  I really want to bring it today.  As we set up to play I notice two girls in the crowd that don’t fit the scene.  They are in extremely short dresses that cut as high up on the thigh as you can go before it ceases to serve as a dress and becomes more like a blouse.  They have obviously dressed to get as much attention as possible, and I wonder if they might be “working” tonight if you get my drift.  They have a third person with them, a boyish fireplug of a girl who Sugar learns is their “driver”.  What the hell is going on over there?  I don’t like that they are trying to become part of the show by sitting on the stage.  I consider that a violation of our property line, so I haul one of them up to be like a living prop with a maraca.  I do the sleazy dry hump thing and Sugar takes her bass stock in and out of her thighs.  The crowd seems to like it, and the girl likes the attention.  Don’t we all win this way? 

We really get going in the second half of the set and the crowd really gets into it.  It’s really packed in here and it’s really hot up on stage.  I’m sweating my ass off, and tell Sugar to make sure she does not knock over my beer over by Leo’s kit.  We all jump around during “Just The Thing” and suddenly the stage under my feet is like an ice rink due to beer rapidly spilling across the stage.  Sugar!  God damn you!  “It wasn’t me!  You did it!”  Leo then sells her out with “I saw you knock it over Sugar!”  I have to imagine the crowd is wondering what we are talking about as the tempo gets faster and faster at the end of the song.  We do a final encore with “Greasy Box” and I bring both of the little tarts up to shake the maracas.  It lasts forever, and when we are done I say to one of the girls “It gets tiring after awhile, doesn’t it?” in regards to the maracas.  The taller of the two smiles and replies, “It does!  And it shouldn’t since I do this (making a jackoff motion) so much!” .  Hey, just a couple of gals having a good time on a Saturday night…

We sign a ton of CDs and posters, and take lots of pictures with people.  Everyone is very nice and complimentary.  This really is a great town.  It is right then, when things are at their brightest during the post show, that Christoph leans in.  “Ah…  Mr. Jagger…  Big rock star….  But tomorrow you will be deep in the Black Forest where everyone will HATE you.”  He smiles at me nodding his head in full expectation at my future humiliation. 

Robin spins some great music and Sugar hits the dance floor.  Plenty of guys are excited to dance with this minor celebrity in their midst.  Leo talks to a guy at the bar that tells him he is good but not as good as the guy that played in The Cowslingers years ago that just wore his socks.  Leo explains, “But I was that guy!  I am that guy!”.  I look at my watch.  It is 2:30.  Better to leave too early than too late.  I tell Leo at the bar that I am leaving.  He says we should grab Sugar instead of leaving her in a strange bar with a dozen drunk guys on the dance floor.  This seems sensible and is strange coming from Leo.  It is always shocking to hear a well thought out plan emerge from him.  Sugar, who has traded her cowboy hat with some guy for a sporty little cap, complains “Why do we have to go?  I was having fun!”.  We walk outside the club and see someone has gotten sick right outside of the door.  We have fulfilled our mission to provide fun to the good people of Stuttgart.  We walk home in the cold.  I pass out in about 22 seconds and pummel Leo with my snoring.