I’m back in Berlin and after three gigs in three days since getting off the plane there is finally a chance to relax and settle in (if only for a few days before I hit the road on Thursday).
So far the trip has been acceptably eventful, starting with my arrival on Thursday morning. I got off the plane at Tegel airport and through the glass I spotted Esther waiting in the arrival hall. In my enthusiasm – and lack-of-sleep-induced brain addled state – I thought that I would just pop out to quickly say hi before the baggage started arriving. Needless to say, they wouldn’t let me back in so we had to find a comfy spot in a coffee shop for a couple of hours before my bags and equipment found their way down to baggage claims.
We eventually got back to Esther’s apartment and, after a nice long nap, headed to Artliners in Friedrichshain for my first show. Artliners is a really popular venue amongst the Berlin singer-songwriter set but until now I hadn’t managed to land a gig there. The venue is smallish with the bar on the left as you enter and then a little stage (I don’t think it can fit more than two people) at the far end of the venue. By the time I started playing there were about twenty people in the venue, although I would say that only three were paying me any particular attention. The gig went well enough however and as we were getting ready to leave (the show had to be done by 10pm) Franz and Emilia, who I had met in Cottbus on my last tour, arrived at the venue so we stayed for while longer.
I find moments like that really special. A big element of touring is all the people who I meet along the way – cool, interesting, weird, disturbing, awesome, helpful, kind, chatty, disinterested and all other sort of things people – but more often than not they are simply fleeting acquaintances. The night I met Franz and Emilia was particularly good on the people front and so to see them again was really cool and a worthwhile reminder of the good people that are out there in the world.
On Friday morning we got up after a nice long sleep and in the afternoon went to have a birthday tea and cake with Becky. On way there, just two buildings down from Esther’s flat, we walked passed a construction site where, last month, while they were digging the foundations, two unexploded bombs from World War Two were discovered. 10 000 people were evacuated from their homes and offices for the day while the bombs were disarmed and removed.
Friday night’s show was at Kallasch& in Moabit and it is definitely the highlight of the tour so far. For a start, Lukas, Nina and a former colleague of Esther’s came to the show and it was really great to see them all. When the show started it was just them and one other table of people who were watching but as things went on more people trickled in and by the time I had two or three songs left the place was full. I played a couple more songs to try and stretch out my set a bit more. And then a couple more as a encore. And then, having run out of songs, and at the request of the audience, I just started my set from the beginning again and played three more songs. In the end I played for about 90 minutes and probably could have gone on with few complaints other than the fact that I was already half an hour past the shut-off time (also 10pm). It was a great feeling and great night.
On Saturday morning we got up and went out to join Esther’s friend Patricia and her two young kids who were visiting Berlin for the weekend. We met them on the way to the Naturkunde Museum where we spent a couple of hours looking at giant dinosaur skeletons, exhibitions on the evolution of earth’s geography, stuffed animals and hundreds of specimen-and-formaldehyde filled jars.
In the evening I headed off to 12 Grad Aetherloge in Friedrichshain for my third show in three days. I was a little nervous about the turnout for the show because 12 Grad was one of the venues during my last trip which really brought home the fact that touring the bars of Europe is a pursuit not necessarily best undertaken in the summertime. I thought that my fears would be realised when I arrived to an empty bar (not including the wonderful and attentive Diana who runs the venue) but having sound-checked and then struck up a conversation with another musician who had arrived to watch the show (under recommendation from a friend, if you can believe it!!) the venue slowly began to fill up, including my wonderful friends Rebecca and Evelyn. By the time I played, the tables and bar seats were mostly full and the people sitting closest to the stage (including a guy who had been at the venue last time I played) watched with an attentiveness that gave the impression that that had actually come to see the music. In the end it was another really nice show and afterwards a great chance to catch up with Rebecca and Evelyn and watch them geek out together (they had not met before) over online ethnomusicology databases.
Then, finally it was Sunday. A nice long sleep, pancakes for breakfast, waffles for lunch…and then a walk in the snow!!