|Photo courtesy of Caryne|
'Alaska's cave' - a tardis stuffed to the gunnels with Zubehör
Easter Sunday saw the first long drive of the trip, and my first experience of tour bus travel. It was in fact technically a tall van - a Mercedes Splitter - but seemingly the Germans would refer to it as 'ein Bus'.
The most remarkable aspect of the van was driver Alaska's comprehensive assortment of accessories and bloke-y tackle, which hung off the back of the headrests, were stowed under seats, lined the dashboard - and also dangled perilously from pegs clipped onto the roofliner. He had everything on board from plastic cutlery to a spare toothbrush, torch, screwdriver, whistle, straws, paper cups, tissues, penknife, bottle opener, obligatory pin up photo, drinks box, tote bag of 'passenger reading matter', first aid kit, and - most intriguingly - several sets of swimming goggles. And this list is by no means exhaustive.
|A small snapshot of Alaska's bits and bobs|
A rat's eye view of the Autobahn
On Day 1, seating habits were formed, which also included my travelling mascot, Max Rat, who assumed one of several more or less perilous poses to the left of the drummer's headrest. On cold days, he took to swaddling himself in the keyboard player's scarf, which also made for better stability (see one of his many toppling incidents below).
Motorway travel games and ghosts of projects past
Further to the head scratching over US states that also double up as Christian names, another travel game I played with the keyboard player consisted of listening out for travel bulletins, specifically any instances of a person or foreign body obstructing a motorway lane. This is an incredibly common phenomenon in Germany, and on a single trip could range from the customary burning vehicle or HGV tyre shreddings to 'metal poles', 'unidentified objects', and - our personal favourite - 'children'. We didn't encounter any 'Geisterfahrer' on tour though - so-called 'ghost drivers' who drive the wrong way down the motorway, causing a major risk to other traffic. Oh, and the bass player remarked that for a long time he had thought 'Ausfahrt' was a major city in Germany, as so many roads seemed to lead to it...
|Max inexorably heading for the passenger reading matter bag|
Then I am not sure if it counts as a game as such, but pretty much any sign off the motorway had associations for me with a particular job - or several, indeed, going back over the past 25 years...So, Laupheim (high speed blister packing plant), Hannover (blind rivets, rubber additives for tyres), Rottweil (architectural lighting), Wittstock (composite wood panels), Schneverdingen (wafer biscuits), and so on. On one - rather startling - occasion, a domestic appliance factory I had visited in the late 90s turned out to be bang opposite the venue! And when we stopped for lunch at a service station on the way up to Hamburg, I realised I had been there in 1994 to met a Dutchman in the cafeteria, whom I interviewed in German about stationary waste compactors. So whilst I was outwardly in 'band on tour' mode, the ghosts of my professional past persisted in popping out of the woodwork at every turn...;)
|My jacket potato with 'no sour cream please'|
The gig that night was held in Hafenklang, a scruffy but capacious club by the harbour. All but obliterated by graffiti, as is standard for the German indie scene. Our rather 'retro' hotel was within easy walking distance, and I was invited to join the band - and Caryne and Dave, the husband and wife duo selling the merchandise each night, aka 'Die Merchandiser' - for a delicious homecooked meal at the venue.
|Note the matching shower curtain with its cheery depiction of marine life!|
The rhubarb lemonade raid
Now we were in Hamburg, we had squarely entered Germany's answer to Yorkshire's Rhubarb Triangle, meaning we had ready access at last to that sought-after soft tipple of Rhabarberschorle - the rhubarb equivalent of 'Appletizer', comprising rhubarb juice and fizzy water. The lemonade part is poetic licence to be honest, though you can also get a rhubarb version of that. And thus it was that at the end of the night I was charged with yet another drinks mission using band vouchers - to include as many rhubarb drinks as the bar had left.
There were so many of these vouchers that I decided to minimise my embarrassment by staging a split raid between the upstairs and downstairs bars. The upstairs sortie passed off without a hitch - was 'reibungslos abgewickelt', as the Germans might say - and I snagged five bottles of Rhabarberschorle. However, when I went downstairs I found the way to the bar deliberately blocked off with trestle tables and stacks of chairs. Nothing daunted, I managed to negotiate this veritable obstacle course of furniture and sneak through to the bar, where I scored another half dozen bottles of our rhubarb elixir. My cunning plan backfired rather though, when the woman from the upstairs bar - who must have wandered down for some reason, possibly to seek replacement stocks of rhubarb drinks from her colleague downstairs(!) - caught me in flagrante as I was clumsily clambering up the trestle table mountain on my way out.
HAMBURG TO BERLIN
The next day, Easter Monday, should have seen a fairly straight run down to Berlin, however we hadn't fully reckoned with holiday traffic, and got caught out with a vengeance a little north of Neurüppin. We were so behind schedule that I scrapped my idea to take the band on a scenic Umleitung to view the Trabant on a pole of a past post. My assigned mission that day was a spot of emergency navigating - using a paper road atlas, how impossibly quaint! - yet essential to figuring out a route that dodged the main jam and any likely spin off bottlenecks on the more obvious alternatives. To say we ended up off the beaten track is putting it mildly. Some of the minor roads we traversed were so minor they were cobbled, an oddity peculiar to former East Germany, as far as I can tell.
On this leg, I was also given the very important task of 'holding apples and envelopes of money'. Just briefly, you understand, while band members' hands were otherwise deployed.
The third and fourth gigs of the tour were back at Monarch, a quirky little venue overlooking the U-Bahn station of Kottbusser Tor. A full description of the place may be found in last year's tour report. Back then the dressing room had consisted of a subutteo table, but the ever resourceful Alaska took it upon himself to fashion one this time using a black out curtain and some of his extensive collection of clothes pegs.
|Photo courtesy of Caryne|
At some point in the evening I embarrassed myself in the (heavily graffiti-daubed) ladies, when I followed a young girl inside without realising that the toilet cubicle itself was missing its door, thereby scotching the usual possibility of someone going to the loo while the waiting person touches up their makeup or whatever by the sink. The girl proceeded to take her trousers down in front of me, muttering with a slight note of petulance: 'Well, okay then, if you must', whereupon I legged it out of there as though I was on fire. I was sure to use the disabled toilet later on, which to my amusement was not completely free of graffiti either!
The following afternoon I had arranged to meet fellow perfumista (and Bonkers reader) Anka in a coffee house near our hotel, where I took a seat at a table by the window a little ahead of the appointed time. Anka recognised me straight away from my blog photos - while I recognised a woman with a look of recognition of her face ;) - and we spent a most enjoyable hour chatting about our respective jobs, her recent holiday, and that evening's gig which Anka and her husband had gamely agreed to attend! Our chat stretched my 'extrem eingerostet' German to its limits, but it was a jolly good thing for me to practise in this way. Surprisingly, we barely touched on the subject of our fragrance hobby...another instance perhaps of '(brand new) friends before perfume', to quote Val the Cookie Queen.
I didn't catch up with Anka and her husband till after the gig, though they had texted me their whereabouts, while I had left a notice by the door to direct them to where I was standing, in the unlikely event of their wishing to be as close as I like to be to the stage (for reasons of height and photography, mostly)! I was delighted to learn that they had enjoyed the set. Moreover, as they were eating their dinner before coming out, they had tuned into a live radio interview with the singer, Bid, which had helped them to get 'in the zone', as it were. ;) I should also mention that Anka was wearing Rozy edp, which smelt amazing on her. It proved to be an unexpected leitmotiv of the tour, as will become apparent in due course...
|My confusing use of arrowheads was a source of some merriment|
Oh, at the end of this gig the bass player sent me back upstairs to 'waste' TEN more drinks vouchers on beers for the next leg of the trip. I encountered the same resistance to the 'alcoholic beverage takeaway concept' as I had in Cologne, but in the end I managed to do a runner with all ten, though not before I'd copped for a serious ear bashing from the barman.
|The singer leaves his mark at Hafenklang|
PS Spargel (asparagus) will be along soon!