Tour Diary - July 15, 2019
I had a good day.
Tracy found me a new Airbnb in Berlin and it’s proper Berlin - old building that was most likely housing during the cold war with four flights of stairs up, no elevator, windows over old windows and made over as an apartment with fairly new bathroom that was clearly not originally a bathroom when it was built (1) and I kind of love it. The sun rises on the other side of the building and I’m able to get a good night's sleep in a big comfy bed.
I walk to a little market around the corner and get myself some milch (milk) for my tea and start my day by doing all the things I haven’t been able to do on my computer for the last month because of slow wifi. I program my pedal, I download software that I bought last month and my computer is able to do an update. You know, normal things. The wifi thing has been strange - I haven’t really had this problem before.
After I shoot off a bunch of correspondence stuff and booking things for later in the year I drive over to Mustapha’s. The line is the same length as yesterday. I turn on my headphones, listen to Rhett Miller’s new album and read Richard Brautigan while waiting in line - before I realize it an hour has gone by and I’m next. I order the standard Hähnchen mit Gemüse. (chicken with vegetables) and go sit down with everyone else on the side of the road and eat the best of the best doner.
I may go back tomorrow.
By this time it’s nearly time to go to the venue for the show so I head back to the airbnb, pick up my stuff and go.
Now Germans are known for their promptness and strictness to exact timing so when I get to the venue at 18:05 instead of 18:00 - I think I’m running late. But this is Berlin and their clocks don’t run the same as the rest of Germany. They are just opening, they are not ready for me to load in or even go downstairs to where I’m playing. They tell me to come back in about an hour.
While I’m outside waiting Dan Krikorian shows up. I’m sharing the bill with him tonight and it’s really strange that he and I have never met before because he lives like 15 miles from in SoCal. Not just that but we know a lot of the same people and Danny Ott even played on his new album! Too weird.
Anyway - he tells me he was here at 6 and they told him he wasn’t playing tonight so he left and decided to come back. (or something like that) In any case - he’s here now and he’s not the other Dan that does comedy here next week.
We have a nice first meeting and I meet his wife and a couple of friends and then Ben and Amy show up and there’s also Sara from the Feel Festival. She said she was going to come to the show tonight but when you see someone 100 miles away and they say they will see you the next day - you kind of don’t believe it so I’m surprised to see her.
Back at the venue a guy has shown up on a bicycle with a trailer full of drums and a ukulele. It’s the opening band. I follow him down the stairs to where we’ll be playing and as you walk thru the bar and then down the stairs you feel like you’re part of the underground movement, like “this is where we plan the revolution” type of basement. And then the lights go on and it’s actually pretty nice. I can’t imagine getting anyone into this club never mind in the club AND down the stairs but this is where we are.
I’m excited that there is a PA system here but truthfully - one probably isn’t even needed. It’s small enough and if every space is filled and every chair occupied...I’m going to say 20 people. If more people showed up there wouldn’t be room for them.
The band is opening up at 8, Dan is playing at 9 and I’m on at 10 and we have a noise curfew at 11.
We do a bit of a soundcheck and we can’t get the mixing board to stop making a really loud noise. Just like huge ground hum that drowns anything else out so we do a work around with the “other” PA that is behind the drums. This works fine.
We have some time before the band starts so Ben, Amy, Sara, someone else and me go get Indian food. It’s pretty tasty but the conversation is the best part. I don’t even know if I should mention it because I think something is definitely getting lost in translation. There’s discussion about what to do after the show. Would we all go out to another bar or club or what-have-you. And the two girls from Berlin suggest we go to this club that is “Gay Fuck Show”. I’m about 34% convinced that it is just the name of the club that has named themselves thus to be memorable and draw attention to itself but part of me really isn’t sure. “If you go on Saturday nights you have to be in costume” she says and I’m even more confused now.
I eat my tikka misala and nann, leave some money with Ben and go back to the club so I can catch the music acts.
Now this is where things go a bit off schedule. The opening band doesn’t start playing until like 8:30 or 8:45 or so. I don’t completely realize this but now we’re behind schedule and the only person this is really going to impact is me.
Dan is setting up to play and this is the last night of his tour. We’ve had fun chatting and hanging out and I’m looking forward to hearing his set. The room is full of people now and everyone just listening.
I almost forgot - when I got back to the club my amazing Irish friend Rufus and Jess were there! I adore these two people. Their band is Rufus Coates and Jess Smith and they play some of the darkest folk music you could ever imagine. There isn’t even anyone I can compare them to. Rufus sings with a deep baritone and Irish poet’s soul while Jess rides his voice with a sometimes angelic sweetness and sometimes from the bottom of the hellmouth with incredible imagery and dynamics. That they live in Berlin now seems perfect except when it’s sunny here. I’m excited that I’m going to be staying with them tomorrow and get to hang out some more and I’m bummed that I won’t be hearing them perform and I’m trying to figure out how to bring them into tonight’s set but it would seem jarring and juxtapositioning to go from me to them and I’m already trying to figure out how to bring Ben into the set tonight adequately.
Dan plays and he’s got good songs and great voice and stories about people I know. Which is very cool and very weird that we live so close to each other and meet on the other side of the world. I’m antsy during his set because I’m just ready to play. I’m trying not to be annoying and shout things out in a heckler type of way but my brain is already going that direction. He gets a sing along going with one of his songs and he’s got good stories and ties the whole thing together. It’s a well thought out show with nice flow and songs. My brain is distracted throughout and I feel bad about that. I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to play and how to have Ben in my set.
You see, yesterday, Ben and I did a set at the Feel Festival and it was Riddle & The Stars which was almost all him singing and he invited me out to do that show with him. And now I have a show and it’s booked by S&W so it’s not a Riddle & The Stars but it could be more of that than me and now I’m looking at the clock and it’s not high stress of the world but it’s what you have to figure out with time ticking down and wanting to put on a good show for these folks and also hit the time curfew.
Dan finishes playing around 10:30 or so and the guy from the first band is trying to break down his gear to leave and he tells me I might have to play a shorter set because I have to stop in 20 minutes. Well then, I’m going to start now and he can get his stuff off stage when I’m done since he’s the reason we’re behind schedule and I just start playing.
I do a few by myself to start, tell some stories and it’s going well. I invite Ben up to sing with me and then it gets even better. There’s a piano in the room and it’s in tune so we play “hold me” which is a song I don’t play often because I have to play the piano line on guitar at the same time as I play the guitar part. I can do it but it never sounds right to me. Ben knows the part on piano and we sing it and play it together and it’s fantastic. By this time it’s 11 pm and so I unplug the guitar and don’t even use the mic. We go full busker style. “Mexican home” is emotional and strong and we just keep it going. I sing “APB” for Ben’s sister Amy as she seems like the kind of person that could be one or both characters in that song. We finish with “Angelia” and then Ben sings and plays guitar on the Riddle & The Stars song “Chance” and it’s nearly 11:30 so we stop playing.
Now you can have a great show that is great because of a huge crowd or you made a lot of money or whatever. And then you can have a great show because of things that happened tonight. It was a small room of people listening and connecting. One woman comes up to me afterwards and said she had to stop herself from crying during Mexican Home. Another woman tells me how special tonight's show was to her and how sharing moments like this is what life’s all about. She signs my guitar with “Good Journey” and clarifies by explaining she means to wish me a good journey in life. And that’s a really sweet thing to wish someone. “You know” she says, “you’re a star.”
Thank you Berlin.
(1)These buildings typically had a shared bathroom downstairs somewhere and after the Berlin Wall fell these buildings were remade over to apartments and bathrooms were made by taking 18 inches from two adjacent rooms.
(2) How slow was the Wifi? Well, it was being measured in Kb/ps before and only like 3 of them and now this place is 40 Mb/ps. I know no one cares really about my wifi trouble but it’s the difference between being able to do your job and not and the difference between being able to find a place to sleep and not.