Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Spargel Everywhere: The Monochrome Set Germany Tour 2015: Part 4 - Schorndorf & Augsburg (including a meet up with Val the Cookie Queen and her husband!)

Backstage at Club Manufaktur

The following day we spent a leisurely morning in Freiburg before a relatively short drive through the Black Forest up to Stuttgart. My early morning mission consisted of accompanying the singer to a local supermarket to buy kefir. I had clocked the presence of this probiotic wonder drink the night before, when I popped in to buy some (not so healthy) crisps and wine.

The venue hadn't closed till 4am that morning, so the business of breaking down and loading the gear had been deferred till noon on our day of departure, the earliest time the promoter could reasonably be expected to roll out of bed and open up the club.

This gave us a chance to hang out in another of Alaska's 'Geheimtipps' - a characterful cafe quite close to our hotel stuffed with vintage furniture, posters and a motley assortment of eclectic artefacts. There was a toboggan on the wall - but of course! And a motorbike in an archway. Every object had been carefully curated, down to the 'period' toilet roll holder, which I have conspicuously failed to photograph.

Alaska, Dave and Caryne at the cafe

After a pleasant pitstop, we foregathered outside the club at the appointed 'get out' time. I am not sure if this is the correct opposite of 'get in', but it is now. Within moments of our arrival, a series of small tasks fell to me: the first of these was retrieving the bass player's gloves, which had fallen under his seat at the back of the van. I basically 'dived' head first over the front bench seat to recover them, with Andy holding me by the ankles, like a tourist kissing the Blarney Stone. I then had to hold the gloves for a while, until he needed them as extra protection when manhandling the gig bags. Meanwhile, Bid asked me to hold his cigarette while he went to retrieve some item of gear or other. I am quite surprised no one parked their hat on my head or hooked an umbrella over my elbow. I have got this holding lark - of so many different items, indeed - off to a 't' now.

Shortly after this, I really needed the loo, but decided against using the one in the club, as there was no water in the ladies, assuming I could even have remembered which door was which.

The only foolproof way to 'sex' these toilets is to wait for someone to come out

So I popped into the restaurant where we had eaten the night before (with the imposing green door above), only to encounter yet another memorable toilet roll dispenser.

Is it just me, or is this plain greedy?

Then no description of Freiburg would be complete without mentioned the dreaded 'c' word. That's 'c' for 'cyclists', obviously. The town is positively overrun with them, much like Oxford or Cambridge or the whole of that benighted bicycle-ridden car park known as Holland. When I have visited Freiburg for work, it has always been by car, and as a motorist you are doing quite well if you only come away having mowed down half a dozen cyclists or fewer. And there is an additional hazard I have not come across anywhere else - small water channels at the side of the road, the purpose of which may be purely decorative, I don't know. If the cyclists don't get you, the 'water torture feature' (to quote ex-Mr Bonkers) most certainly will.

By half past twelve we were rolling, the weather still fine and warm. Even in that scenic area of the Black Forest, there were 'ghost interviews' lurking just off the main drag (Donaueschingen - children's shoe soles, I'm looking at you!). By the time we hit the outskirts of Stuttgart, 'the cradle of the automobile', as well as home to a myriad of engineering firms, it was like a veritable spooks' convention, a gaggle - nay, Gaggenau - of career ghosts, if you will.

I also spotted a sign to a place where I had spent several happy weekends on past business trips - a chocolate box-pretty place called Ebersbach. I told the band that this quaint little town was only down the road and that the streets were dotted with bronze pigs. The bass player got quite excited by this, and suggested a scenic detour so that the band could take whimsical photographs of themselves posing with this posse of porcine sculptures. Unfortunately, I realised about two seconds later that I had got Ebersbach mixed up with Eberbach, a completely different town near Heidelberg, that was not remotely on our way to Stuttgart. 'You raised our hopes of a fun time with the pigs and now you've gone and dashed them!' piped up the bass player from the back of the bus in a forlorn voice.

The proper Eberbach and its pigs ~ Source:


Because of 'get in' time constraints, we all went straight to the venue rather than checking in at the hotel first. Alaska had promised us 'arrival snacks', which turned out to be a souped up version of what ex-Mr Bonkers calls 'the cheese and ham rider', though with a perky Easter twist.

Photo courtesy of Caryne

Club Manufaktur was pretty wacky - even by our jaded standards, and we had seen a fair few variants of 'funky / mad / dilapidated / graffiti-strewn / generally bonkers' buildings in our touring time. There were beaten up old sofas with audibly boing-ing springs, stylised signs on the doors of the toilets, and a platter of complimentary tampons in the ladies. 'I should have got here earlier', I thought ruefully.

Then I was thrilled to be able to redeem myself for the pig fiasco, when the bass player asked if I could organise some photocopies of the set list. I put in a polite request with the lady in the venue's main office, and in a trice we had 10 copies ready for the band to use, and for fans to nick at the end of the night, as is the immutable way of such things.

John, digesting the arrival snacks.

It was a short trip the next day over to Augsburg, preceded by a fair bit of hanging around at the hotel for Alaska-related reasons we never did quite fathom, but a mountainous backlog of emails may have been involved. Bid was complaining of a sore neck and shoulders, so I offered to apply that universal panacea for aches of all kinds - 4HEAD - to the affected areas. 'Balm me, balm me!' he pleaded in what can best be described as a strangled yet enthusiastic tone. I also caught a most agreeable whiff of the drummer's cologne, which turned out to be Activist from The Body Shop, a citrus-woody-ambery number that most definitely punches above its price range.

On the way to Augsburg, my excitement was mounting about meeting Val there, eclipsing even multiple further sightings of asparagus fields. She and her husband were driving up from Austria at the same time, and in a flurry of in-car messaging, she sent me a teaser photo of cookie buckets to come...;) She had the new album, Spaces Everywhere, playing at full blast on the stereo. At least I assume so - Val strikes me as someone who would engage with every aspect of life at full blast.

Photo courtesy of Val


Soon after checking into my hotel, I headed out to a street called Hinterer Lech that I had picked for our rendez-vous, for no other reason than that it was fairly central and blessed with a pleasingly louche name. I make no apologies for the fact that our meeting was like an urban parody of the classic scene of lovers running towards each other in slow motion through a meadow filled with flowers - I was just so darn pleased to see Val, and also took an instant like to her easy-going, warm and chatty husband, Chris.

Photos courtesy of Chris (by a process of elimination indeed!)

Val was wearing Rozy edp (like Anka - Twilight Zone-y!), and of course I had to give her a thorough olfactory going over, just moments after our ecstatic embrace.

Photo courtesy of Chris

Our first port of call was a little gift shop selling knick-knacks, gemstones, scarves, bags and a modicum of 'hippie tat'. Val was instantly drawn to a beautiful white wood cabinet, with a set of little ceramic drawers - absolutely perfect for her perfume samples - and Chris bought it for her on the spot.

Photo courtesy of Val

The shop was about to close, so the owner kindly offered to stash the parcel in a shed round the back where no one would think to go rummaging with thieving intent. I bought a little semi-precious stone - it was a toss up between a swirly one and a spotty one in shades of black and grey, but Chris observed that the spotty one looked worryingly like the diseased lung of a chronic smoker, so that settled that then.

Managed to catch Val's happy snapper hubby in the act!

Photo courtesy of Chris ~ more navigating(!), albeit less mission-critical
After a bit of a wander round town and a bite to eat in a steakhouse, we went back to our hotels to change and get ready for the gig. Val turned up outside the City Club armed with not one but TWO buckets of cookies for the band and Caryne - who got her own bucket because she was a vegan - together with a generous selection of perfumes for us both, and a travel spray of Hermes Cuir d'Ange ('Angel Leather'). She had in mind to scent the band with the latter - openly or by stealth if necessary - instantly turning them into rock gods. Given that the singer is notorious for his 'leather trouser phase' in the early 90s, he arguably didn't have all that far to go, and submitted his décolleté to a vigorous spritz or three by Val as he emerged from the dressing room in search of a drink.

The band in the 90s ~ unknown source
I asked Bid later in an email what he had made of Cuir d'Ange:

"I thought that it initially smelled of electrical malfunction, but it became ok."

Speaking of electrical malfunctions, I was asked to tap a microphone at some point in the evening. I was crestfallen, mind. not to be asked to say: 'One two, one two' with that. For the first time since Freiburg, I was also summoned on stage again to do my little announcement at the end of the set about the band staying put. This time the issue was not so much the lack of a dressing room as the distance to it. I was ready at last with the right word for dressing room - and clapping, for that matter - but I never even got to finish my sentence about the band playing on, before the already lively crowd broke into an uproar at the mention of whooping and several encores swiftly ensued. I am still puzzling over where the verb should have gone in my sentence, or what it was, even. The endless meandering of German sentence structure has that effect. Oh, I should also mention that after a bit of priming, Val stepped forward and posed with a Wunderbar chocolate bar at exactly the correct point in the song, Alphaville, where the word 'wunderbar' features in the lyrics. Someone took a blurry picture of her in action, but I can't put my hand on it for the moment.

Photo courtesy of Caryne

There was a bit of milling after the gig, chatting to Val and Chris and the band, as well as to Augsburg fans and musicians I met on the tour last year. Meanwile, the Cookie Monster snuck off and had a little go on the drum kit before it was packed away.

Photo courtesy of Val

Then at one point some bonus Prosecco appeared from nowhere and my glass of white wine simultaneously vanished. And all too soon it seemed, Val and Chris had vanished too - we had a long journey the next day, plus they are used to early nights on account of the cookie business. But brief as our meet up was, the memories will linger for far longer. The cookies, meanwhile, were all gone by Brussels.

Photo courtesy of Caryne

PS This happens to be my 500th post!!! It seems fitting that it should be one about a perfumista meet up. 'Friends before perfume' as we have now taken to saying...


Anonymous said...

Congratulations on 500 posts!!!
I had to laugh out loud about "give her a thorough olfactory going over" - and rozy rules...

Tara said...

What a fabulous 500th post! Many congratulations indeed.

So much great stuff here. Particularly loved the pics capturing your reunion with Val, the singer's Cuir d'Ange quote and the mysterious water torture feature. But most of all, your being held by the ankles by the bass player for a spot of seat diving!

Vanessa said...

Hi Anka,

Thank you! Rozy really does rule, and what a coincidence? I shall have to wear my sample now...;)

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

Thanks very much, also for taking the time to read this recent slew of posts - it takes some dedication all right! I was keen to bang them all out in a block so that readers who don't care about the travelogue side of my writing wouldn't be without a 'normal' post for too many weeks. Though it has already been a while, just because of being away.

Anyway, am glad you enjoyed this one. The tour did seem to get more and more random as time went on, but you are in a sort of a bubble by that stage and just go with the flow!...;)

Anonymous said...

I do have my quiet moments. And please tell Bid not to jack in his job to be a perfume writer - not just yet. xxx

Vanessa said...

Haha, Val, I know that really. I think Bid is pretty single-minded about carrying on with the music 'until the crematorium' (that's a quote from his interview on Berlin radio). Trading places with Luca Turin isn't on the cards any time soon. xx

Olfactoria's Travels said...

Congratulations on the 500th post! And what a great one it was!
I thoroughly enjoyed reading of your adventures.
Seems to have been great fun all around.

Ines said...

Friends before perfume? Wonderful! :)

Poodle said...

Happy 500! I love these posts. It's fun to live vicariously through others.
Val is just popping up everywhere lately it seems.
That quote about the electrical malfunction smell almost made me spit out me tea laughing. Of course you know I just have to smell that one now. Lol.

Vanessa said...

Hi B,

Thanks very much! The tour was the best fun - and so unlike my normal life, which made it all the more enjoyable. Like a parallel universe, almost. Where I could still practise my German. ;)

Vanessa said...

It's great, Ines, isn't it? And increasingly proving true...;)

Vanessa said...

Hey Poodle,

Good to hear from you and thanks for the congrats on my 500! Val does get about, doesn't she? Central Europe is a good location for popping to Italy, Germany and England.

Please do try Cuir d'Ange and report back. I know what he means about the opening - it is a little oddly chemical, before the leather accord settles into its stride...

Thinkingmagpie said...

Happy 500th!! Great post for your milestone.
I have to say, that white cabinet, I'm completely in love with it. That's soooo CUTE!!! If I see one, I would buy it.

Vanessa said...

Hi Yuki,

Thanks very much! Glad you liked the post. And yes, isn't that cabinet gorgeous? I can see it fitting in very well with the white decor of a Spanish may even be from your neck of the woods?

Undina said...

Very fitting 500th post indeed!

You should have taken a picture of Cookie Monster with you Max Rat :)

Vanessa said...

Haha! That was a missed photo op and no mistake! ;)