Bahnhofing : Catching the train of thought

Welcome back, avid readers of tour diaries, how’ve you been ? On our end, it’s been a lot of Bahnhof-hopping if you ask me. Our gig and stay in Leipzig was quite uneventful, paling in comparison with the memorable Berlin kick-off of the night before. Charlotte spotted on her afternoon stroll what she called “Hobbit Gardens” that actually turn out to be community gardens spread all over Germany, always with a similar layout: picturesque patches of green sprinkled with neat wooden shacks where tools and seeds are kept.

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On my own walk to discover where the fun was in this famous Classical Music city (home to Bach and Wagner, no big deal), I only managed to get yelled at in an undecipherable gibberish for jumping the fence of a residential building when I got stuck in some sort of hospital park and hustled my way out. I had my hood on, a long black coat and spoke an ugly German so this young woman had every right to be freaked out, really. After a quite icy show in a glaucous coffee-house setting, we cabbed to our artists’ sleeping rooms, upstairs a very smokey and loud venue. The noise from the club was deafening, and I remember hearing russian voices at some point in the foggy haze of my sleep – probably another band staying in these same apartments hanging out in the hallway.

On day 3 of the journey, just for the fun of it, a dead horse stuck on the tracks delayed us for what felt like forever in the thick of nowhere. Considering the barren and bleak lands I glimpsed at in-between drifting in and out of sleep, I can definitely pinpoint the source of the suicidal tendencies of the local cattle. Staring at this gloomy countryside under a low mayonnaise sky for days will probably raise up this relevant interrogation : mmh, maybe something better awaits me beyond after I make a decisive jump in front of a Deutsche Bahn train ? Too bad this fellow gave it a shot on that precise day, but again, I can hardly blame him.

That night, the thousands of people expected didn’t show up at the show in Offenbach (sort of a residential suburb of Frankfurt) but genuine laughs and enthusiastic claps were heard at the fantastic Hafen 2, which I always assume as signs of enjoyment. We then suffered our second night in a row of sleeping above a techno club, held hostage again by raw electronic beats, bass waves pounding in our skulls, every item shaking on the shelves and adding its jittery sound to the chaos : it felt like trying to taking a nap in the control room of a rocket while it’s taking off to space. This is how loud this devilish cacophony was : I could barely make out was Charlotte was trying to say, and she was sitting on her bed not even two meters away from me. At some point that day, we had come up wit the idea of the band name Eurotrash Infection and this, among my good old H.P. Podcraft, helped me soothe my way into slumber, despite the violent war raging under us.

We then had two days off to enjoy Frankfurt, haven for business bankers, consultants and IT suit-and-tied people. A little unimpressed by this modern jungle of office buildings and unending flocks of malls, we took shelter in a packed movie theatre to soak in the cool of the brand new James Bond movie, of which I enjoyed the very British and classic, old-fashioned vibe. To celebrate this good moment of entertainment, we sticked around afterwards, binging on second-hand Pop Corn left for dead on a seat beside us. We were quite amazed and grossed-out to realize that people bought Pop-Corn in giganormous buckets and ordered half-liters glasses of coke they never ate or drank to the end, american-style one might say.

We were hosted by a gentle and helpful Couchsurfer who let Charlotte sleep in his bed while I lay on a hardwood floor pressing on my ribcage and dug deep into my hip bones, but hey, it sometimes hurts to be a gentleman. It might come across that I’m here totally showing off how bad-ass I am but I was whining inside the whole night really. The next day, on the way to some serious shoe-shopping (another shelter to escape this definitely uninspiring city of glass), we stopped to listen to some Bulgarian street musicians ripping it on some epic tunes from their homeland on derbouka, clarinet and piano accordion. A small group of hippie-looking dudes with instruments and luggage staggered out the subway and stood next to us, listening with much attention to the wild solos. And then, in a what-the-hell kind of a moment, it turns out that some of them were musical acquaintances of Charlotte from Toronto, The Lemon Bucket Orkestra, a Balkan band just in from the airport where they had a long layover before heading to Romania for a tour. We all marvelled at the funny coincidence, and they were soon invited by the cheerful trio to join them in a Balkan jam, an impromptu supergroup which quickly gained some momentum, attracting all the cool and the bizarre souls of Frankfurt, as you can see in the snippet video below.

In relatively uptight Frankfurt, it felt like it might have been the grooviest thing happening and it was terrific to be right at the epicentre of it. We didn’t forget our first consumeristic intention though and went on to purchase sweet-looking shoes which didn’t fail to flatter our extra-vain artist’s egos. The adventure ended with pleasant late-night chats with our delightful Couchsurfing host. He mentioned that his tight-ass neighbour is always dressed in an impeccable suit and tie, even when he is gardening or taking out garbage/recycling, which shall linger on for me as a good example of how funky the life is in Frankfurt. Of course, there must definitely be pockets of cool hidden in there, but we were unlucky at unearthing them this time around.

On our first night in the city, when we went on a desperate hunt to grab some late-night grub, we got attracted to what seemed like a happening neighbourhood because of its bright lights shining out from many stores and buildings, assuming stuff would be going down there, including cheap kebabs. It soon turned out that this shiny avenue was the infamous gritty Red-Light district, swarming with shady characters, trans-gender prostitutes and other fascinating night creatures you would only find there and then. The lights and flashing signs gleaming all over the 24 hour-casinos, sex-shops and “massage” rooms worked as an effective magnet for lost souls, creeping out of the darkness and gathering clumsily like drunken flies looking for a midnight fix. A lively scene indeed, but cringe-inducing enough that we soon left this sketchy rallying point where coarse and unhealthy-looking males were rushing to because of the promise of dirty entertainment. Funny how the brightest, best well-lit street in the city is actually the spot where the darkest things are going on.

Before leaving the city, we made sure to check out the “Schwarz Romantik” exhibit at the Städel Museum, comprised of very dark, twisted and shocking lesser-known paintings and drawings from Goya, Delacroix, Blechen… Focused on the darkest part of the romanticism movement, the works of art showed many gruesome representations of the Devil, depictions of crude Bible scenes or common cruelties of the 19th century. What stood out for me were the excerpts from the fantastic 1920’s movies Faust and Nosferatu from Murnau, which still look fantastic in gothic black & white, spooky sets and exaggerated acting.

Then it felt about time to move the party to Hanau, a town a little further away from Frankfurt than Offenbach, which proved very quickly to have a way chiller vibe. After a sweaty and semi-lost walk to the venue asking directions to confused locals, we reached the mighty Brückenkopf, a bar/restaurant/music venue who seems to have been around forever, placed right on an old bridge. We performed solid sets in front of a true music-loving crowd, including die-hard regulars, all eyes and ears focused in a silence that was more respectful than glacial. A kind stranger dropped us off afterwards at our hotel (yes, living it up) where we smuggled some cereal bowls from the “continental breakfast” hall up to our room to watch CNN about the exciting US elections’ night. The next day, Charlotte cranked up the TV to wake me up with the upbeat news of the re-election of the Obaman.

The train trip to Köln was very scenic, especially when at some point the tracks went right along the Rhein river for a while, passing many cool castles in ruins perched on hills and quaint old villages. The show at the Lichtung was full of fun and included good post-show talks with enthusiastic audience members and freaky paintings galore on the walls. Visiting a cousin in Rheinbach outside of Köln, we enjoyed homemade dishes sitting at a family table, walking around a forest where trees were slowly undressing their orange garments, and I must confess I spent a good hour screaming and giggling down water-slides at an awesome indoor swimming-pool. I mean, come on : they had a “Black Hole” water-slide with the whole ride spent entirely in the dark with surprising sharp turns and slopes, how could one resist ? I introduced myself to the tanning salon joys, lying down naked on this heating capsule made me feel as if I was in a space ship getting a little too close to the sun. The town felt very German : pristine sidewalks, well-renovated charming ancient buildings and a gentle, quiet population.

I’ll end this long post (whoever’s still there reading this is a world champion) with our trip to Castrop-Rauxel (a name who sounds hilarious to  most Germans for whatever reason, which is good for me to get easy laughs from an audience). Quite a relaxed afternoon really in this pleasant small town, hanging out at the train station’s bakery, then at the LIDL’s bakery , it was all about food and conversations until the venue opened its doors to us. Definitely radical, anti-nazi and alternative, the Bahia de Cochinos was a fantastic venue filled with the nicest human beings. We were treated like queens of the underground by the amazing staff, and we played good opening sets for Phoebe & Matt, despite dragging bodies bordering on utter exhaustion. We left like thieves early the next morning, quite pumped to head back towards the Hessen state to play a very thrilling show in Darmstadt : the legendary Gute Stube show, but that’s another story…

Thanks for reading, and until next time, stay hydrated!

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2 thoughts on “Bahnhofing : Catching the train of thought

  1. always a pleasure to read you!
    (the world champion)

  2. Ywusz says:

    I must admit your english became so sophisticated it’s quite a language course following this blog, but certainly entertaining !
    I wish I had more Street Bulgarian Music !
    keep your powder hydrated-well you see what I mean !

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