Thursday, November 4, 2010

DUTCH TOUR DIARY PART 5: Hamburg- The German Leg of the Tour

For those of you just tuning in, this is the penultimate chapter of the Moutpiece 5 day tour of Holland and 1 day tour of Germany. These diaries date from a time when life was simpler for Moutpiece. Due to the way in which blogs work, the entries are in reverse chronological order. We pick up the story the morning after, what this writer stated was the highlight of his musical career...and an absolutely banging night of revelry.

All of the euphoria of the night before evaporated in the morning. I was hung over. Somehow I’d managed to avoid hangovers thus far. I’d been drinking like hell for over a week and I still felt fine every morning. My muscles didn’t even hurt. This morning though, I was hung over. I wanted a day to take it all in, get my head back together and relax, but we had the longest drive of the tour ahead of us and there was no time for it. It was straight to the venue to pick up the gear. The lads were all sitting out on the front steps of the Vera havin' a few cans. I thought it was a bit rude, it’s illegal to drink on the street in Holland and the owner, who’d been so nice to us, was around. I was feeling decidedly un-rock and roll, wishing I could just relax and enjoy the ride.

The drive to Hamburg was fairly uneventful. I was in the horrors and sat up front for much of the time. Away from the lads and their ranting. My head was pounding and everyone was getting demented. We stopped for petrol, a snack, a few crates of beer, and some directions once we got to Hamburg. A man in a gorgeous vintage Mercedes pulled in and began to fill his car. I noticed right away that there was an immaculately dressed woman with a very regal hat on, sitting in the back seat. What I didn’t notice straight away was that she wasn’t a real woman. This guy was chauffeuring around what I would guess was a life size acrylic replication of a former love or even more likely a former unwitting object of his desire. We all got a great kick out of that and no one made any effort to hide our laughter from your man and his pretend bird. Groups of men cooped up in vans for days on end, living on warm lager and never being told to stop doing anything, no matter how inappropriate or socially frowned upon don’t seem to worry as much about the feelings of the less sane members of the populace who have the unforntunance to sometimes frequent the same petrol stations.

Adam was staggering around the forecourt and as soon as our eyes met he jumped into the same routine he’d make every time our eyes met the whole tour. He leaned back and hooted ‘hey!!!’ and made a toasting motion with his bottle of beer. Everyone in the place watched him stumble inside fall over laughing, buy a bar of chocolate and come back out. They missed the fact that he had stroked 30 Euro worth of hard-core porn. Two magazines, including a “Reader’s Wives”, a “Looking for Love”, and a DVD. These were the subject of all conversations, guffaws and ewww’s for the rest of the day’s journey. Back on the road and looking for the football stadium as Tommy was adamant that he could catch a St. Pauli game before the gig. They are a real working class team. A bit like our local team in Phibsboro except that 25 thousand people come to see all of their home games. We shoved him out of the moving van once we saw the crowds and kept looking for the venue.

The venue was in the middle of no-where. I don’t mean middle of nowhere like out in the countryside, I mean middle of nowhere as in being in the middle of miles of faceless and unnamed industrial estates. There were no signs, no road names and of the one or two people we saw in the area, no one seemed to know where it was. Somehow, by sheer dumb luck, we found it. It was the most surreal place I have ever seen. It was like Mad Max. A lot like Mad Max. It was what looked like a junkyard. Debris everywhere. The road was dirt and full of potholes. But there were little tin cabins poking out here and there. Hidden at the back of little lanes, each with a little smoke stack jutting out of the roof. There was a massive garage in the middle and a wooden shack with a couple couches sitting outside of it and Slayer pumping out of it at full volume. As we pulled up, Gary saw a little old man sitting out in front of his cabin with a bald head, a long beard and a bottle of red wine. Gary jumped out of the moving van, hurtled over the pack of dogs that had been following the van and rambled up to the old man. Neither one of them spoke each other’s language, but I am sure that they understood each other instantly.

The place was stunning. The most punk rock lifestyle I had ever seen. I just couldn’t get over it. The wooden hut was the venue. It had a stage one end and a bar at the other. The kitchen was right in the middle and was amazingly clean considering where we were. They had plenty of warm beer and dinner was cooking away. We hung out in the evening sun drinking and listening to music. Dinner was lovely and they even had some chicken sausages they were cooking on a giant grill that I am fairly sure had begun its life on the front end of an articulated lorry.

Gary and I were sitting on the couch contemplating whether the window that was propped out above our heads could come loose and smash straight into our faces when I noticed Tommy arrived back at the site. He had had a simply wonderful afternoon at the football. “Nobody told me they sold beer at the football!” he kept repeating in a manner in which all of the words seemed to miraculously run together. Again I was trying to just relax and enjoy the rock and roll lifestyle, but the night before and the week before and the summer before had just taken too much out of me. I was beginning to realise that this existence that I had been craving my whole life, was in my grasp, but maybe I wasn’t up to in mentally or physically. I like to go mad, but I need my down time. I can’t get as demented as I want. This romantic vision I have always been so drawn to; Bukowski, Hunter Thompson, all that, I am simply not up to it. I’m up to a lot. I wasn’t beating myself up. In truth, I am more rock and roll than I ever thought I’d be. Armed with that feeling, I soldiered on, I could do it. I was excited about the gig. One last hurrah and then it was home to a bit of sanity.

The gig was actually deadly. Everybody was dancing. The old man Gary had been talking to outside of his hut was cutting a rug the likes of which I’d never seen. Tommy had his shapes to tightness ratio set a bit far into shapes, but he was pulling it off with style. Pierre was laughing his ass off. We tried to finish the set, but the crowd was having none of it. Another encore, this one not as momentous, but an encore none the less. We’d done it, we’d pulled it off, the tour was over, all we had to do was get home, but first we had to drink.

Once again The Impregnators were amazing. Uli hadn’t been able to come to the gig, so they only had one guitar, but they sounded great. Adam played a blistering set, faltering only when he fell off his drum stool between songs. He looked a bit winded, but played a blinder.

Unfortunately, within an hour, my ability to drink warm lager disappeared. It was weird. I just couldn’t get it into me. My throat would close up as I tried to swallow and my stomach was having none of it. . The headline band weren’t great either. They played for hours and while they were good at what they did. What they did wasn’t great. I wasn’t having a terrible time; the night was just a lot of work for me. I just wanted a bit of a time out. If I could have been teleported to my own couch and had twenty minutes of lying there with my feet up and my eyes closed while entertaining the wife with the details of my adventures before being teleported back to the punkyard that time forgot, I would have been a new man and ready to make the night my own. I stuck it out for a while, but there was no one really to talk to. I’d seen plenty of the Impregnators and was growing a bit weary of talking a bit more slowly and clearly so people could understand me.

I planned on sleeping in the van, but didn’t want to wake anyone up so I decided I could fit into the driver’s seat and sleep there. The stereo in the venue was at full volume all night and we were right next to the big window Gary and I had been sitting at earlier. Unfortunately, my makeshift bed was 5 and a half feet long, while I’m just under 6 and half feet long. To compound the problem, the amount of space between the gear stick and the back of the seat was less then the width of my hips if I lay on my back or the arse/stomach combination if I tried laying on my side. I’d say I got about an hour of the most uncomfortable sleep I have ever had. Tossing and turning as one part of my body got too sore and I had to change positions. It was all a bit miserable, but I wasn’t pissed off, I just wanted to be home and I could see that in my sights.

The morning came eventually. Lovely sunny day, no sleep, no driver, no Gary. To top it all off, we were miles and miles and even countries away from Utrecht. Mikey, our driver had gone missing during the night. It took hours to find him, he could have been in any cabin in the camp and there was no easy way of searching them. I just sat on a couch and relaxed in the sun. Eventually Mikey showed up and someone gave us directions to the party that Gary had gone to at 6 in the morning.

Gaz had gone to the other wagon-plaz. The other Thunderdome as it were to keep with the Mad Max theme. This one was much nicer and right in the middle of town. It had a big gazebo in the middle of the camp and lovely gardens and plants around a few of the wagons. It looked a bit more settled and looked after. I wish we had played this one so we could have seen a bit of Hamburg. Gaz was sitting out in the sun, drinking and screaming about everything. He knew everybody's name and was having a brilliant time. They were sitting around a table in the garden between two lovely wagons. I choked down a beer and headed through the woods on the other side of which I was told housed one of the world’s best falafel joints. I had to eat something. Hamburg is known for this particular dish and I was lucky to have sampled it considering that food was never a priority for anyone on the tour besides me. It was thankfully a half an hour without the madness that had been surrounding me 24/7 for the past week and a half.

We jumped in the van and headed to Bremen to drop off Pierre, he was helping his girlfriend move into a new gaff or something. He was kind of the adult in the group. Not that he was anymore together than the rest of us except that he was. He's been doing this year in, year out for yonks. I only saw him mad out of it at the gig in the Vera and the rest of the time he kind of kept everything together. So it was just the lads in the van. I climbed up onto the top of the amps in the back and tried to get a bit of sleep. Although I didn't enjoy the drive at the time, I look back on it very fondly. Everybody was very giddy and laughter filled the van all the way. The whole van sang along to every song on the stereo, replacing all of the words with "tankie" after Tank our useless roadie. I just laid back on the mattress and let it all the madness wash over me….well except for the few sudden stops we had to make, then I just laid back on the floor and let the amps and drum kit wash over me.