Europe

I’ve been super slack in the trip updates later, loads has been happening, so i may have to condense a few things.

BERLIN: Firstly, Jordy and I have now been in Berlin for 10 days, in a great apartment on Kastanieneallee, which is central to pretty much everything we need here. we have 3 trams that lead to all good parts of the city, and are within a short walk of the U-Bahn… we’re here until Dec 3, when we head to Paris.

So far in Berlin, I have done touristy things, done a walking tour, seen a couple of bands (The Arcade Fire, and The Brunettes), been to an underground ‘squat party’ where we had to climb through a window to get into the place, had a jam session with our new Berlin mate Ben, and last night went to the infamous “Panorama Bar” which opens at 1am… and goes until at least midday Sunday… i made it till 7am, and daylight… Jordy lasted till 10am.

But also it’s great here, just because i’ve been able to unpack the suitcase, and set up a little mini-studio in the apartment, and have spent the nights writing some new songs.

After finding out our ‘Bastard Club’ show was cancelled, we’ve been on the hunt for more shows, and despite not having one yet for Berlin, we have managed to pick up 2 in Paris, and one in Prague (next weekend), and have a tentative 3 shows in Tokyo! Speaking of Bastard Club… the reason the show was cancelled was because the venue closed down… and as luck would have it, or in our case wouldn’t have it… the remnants of Bastard Club are about a 2 minute walk away, on the same side of Kastanieneallee, as our apartment.

LONDON: And on the topic of shows, i guess that’s a good way to take a step back, and mention the time spent in London. Our show at the Buffalo Bar was a huge success. We had quite a large ex-pat contingency, but on top of that, we were very well received by the locals,  the djs and promoters…. and we’ve already been offered another show there, which we had to decline, because of being in a different country and all….

To be honest with you, i wasn’t really expecting much from London town, maybe because last time i visited, i found it a bit chaotic, and crazy…. but i was actually pleasantly surprised at Londoners, and had a fine time staying on various people’s couches, and traveling on the tube all over the place.

In terms of night outings, we saw Jordy’s mate Chris do his DJ thing on Friday night in Camden, went to a crazy Gypsy Camp Halloween party with Victor and some band he was producing on Saturday night.. it was underneath a freeway, and was very strange…. but we left by sunrise, and felt the pain for it the next day.

We also caught “Ulrich Shnauss”, a German Laptop Muso, play on the Tuesday night, which was really good. I managed to end up in prime ‘nerd spotting’ realestate, and got to see what he was doing up close…. for those who care: MacbookPro, Ableton Live, Native Instruments Guitar Rig, a bunch of midi controllers, and at one point in the set, he sent the whole mix through a flanger on old 80’s Yamaha Digital rackmount FX unit, on a really slow setting that made the room “Whooooshhhh”. awesome!

BERLIN: Berlin really is one of the most amazing cities in the world. it’s full of vibrant people and places… the history is really remarkable and unique, and is quite confronting if you think about it for too long… and there are constant reminders pretty much everywhere you go, with numerous buildings with bullet holes and shrapnel damage from WW2 still obvious. And then there is the wall, and the divided city, which turned 18 years re-unified whilst we were here.

It’s funny talking to people we know here about it… stories of coming to visit Grandma over in the old east, and waving at the people from ‘viewing towers’ in the old west. The presence of division  still lingers a little in collective memory….i’m not sure if i’m feel at all qualified to talk on the subject… but what it does make me realize, is that Australia is very lucky.

well anyway, the 2nd hand flea markets still sell old GDR 12″ vinyl and hats/badges, pieces of colored concrete that they claim to be part of the old wall. But also, they do good Currywurst and Pommes!

Jordy and I have explored various parts of the city together and alone, Kreuzberg, Charlottenburg, Mitte, Tiergarten,  Friedrichshain, and of course our hood Prenzlauerberg, and i think whilst not even close to being able to claim ‘local’ status, I have a much better grasp of where is where, and what is where, and how to get back to where i need to get to.

It’s been fun not really having an agenda to follow, or any places we particularly have to be, and whilst a lot of the locals keep asking ‘why are you coming to Berlin now?’ the weather’s so bad!, I’ve actually enjoyed the briskness and the grey industrial landscape.

Ben has also been excellent value as local host, taking us to some great parties and random nights out that we would never have found out about if not for some insider knowledge.

Ok… so if i could try and sum up Berlin in one story… maybe it is the time we are walking back from a dinner out, and we walk past a shop front that has a lot of people all in white coats talking to each other… we stop, and ponder for a minute…  a hospital? no… no beds/reception…. a theatre production? no… no audience…. hmmm. ok… so, Ben asks one of the white-coated people out front what is going on… and the man responds in a calm, well measured voice (in german)… “what? don’t you remember the last time you came here?… we need to schedule you in for another appointment, and gives hims a card with a web address on it…. i still don’t exactly know what was going on there, but i’m assuming it was some art instillation piece that involved people pretending to be in a mental institution.

odd.

Some other fun things have been:

Mick Rock’s photography exhibition opening… which showed his pictures from Syd Barret, David Bowie and Freddy Mercury/Queen (he took the photos from the Queen2 cover, which had Bohemian rhapsody on it… which inspired the famous video, etc,….) Mick Rock was there to give his own personal discourse on each of the photos too… which was really interesting… The comment ‘what Freddie wanted, Freddie got’ was quite funny.

Visiting the Ableton live computer software head office… where i walking in like a complete music nerd dork, and made a fool of myself, as i gave a Winterpark CD to the receptionist, who for the first minute or so had no idea why i was there… in fact… for the first minute, i had no idea why i was there!… but i did get some free stickers out of it.

PRAGUE: Speaking of gigs… last weekend Jordy and I caught the train to Prague to play a show at Shakespeare and Sons Bookstore/Cafe/Bar, which was a great little place, we had a good turn out of Ex-pats and friends of the people we were staying with. We met some really nice people, and saw some really beautiful places. The Christmas markets just around the corner from where we were staying were an amazing site at Sunset, and the castle and the bridge are incredible to see, especially at times without so many tourists.

We also went out after our gig to a crazy 70’s/80’s and 90’s eurodisco… lots of locals… massive venue, it was so ridiculous it was awesome.

That said, Prague has a slight undertone of sadness to it in my opinion… im not exactly sure why…  maybe it was just the time of year.

Paris to Berlin

Our train ride to Paris from Berlin, was an overnight ‘sleeper’ train… Great! we thought… we can sleep… train rattling sending us to sleep ever so gently…. ohh how wrong could we have been.

We hop aboard with our ever expanding cases/guitar/extra bags to find that what we thought would be a private carriage, was actually a 6 bed bunk affair… with 3 of the beds already taken by very strange middle aged single men. We forced our luggage underneath and above every nook and cranny we could find in the rather packed space, and then i resigned myself to the fact that this wasn’t going to be as pleasant as i had though.

I quickly headed to the dining cart, with my laptop under arm. Jordy left the dining cart pretty soon, after she spilled her ‘bubbled’ water all over herself, and then got told off by the rather frightening german dining cart man for drinking water that wasn’t purchased from him… well actually all he said was “No!”… and pointed at the water… and then said “NO!” again. He was quite rude. I couldn’t quite face the middle bunk, so i proceeded to have a couple of german beers/

Whilst this made the prospect of getting into the so called “sleeping” carriage a little better… it didn’t really help with the actual “Sleeping” part… as the man underneath me, had a rather unfortunate cold, which made him sniff and cough (quite bizarrely mind you) throughout the journey… ohh and that’s exactly what you want 2 feet away from you in a space that has no fresh air.

Paris

Well, i was quite excited to get to Paris, and after almost getting ripped off by a so called “Taxi” driver… who went to grab our bags, but we had to stop him, and ask him where his car was… which he couldn’t point it out… and then, after getting a legitimate Taxi driver, he proceeded to over charge us by 6 euro, 1 euro per bag apparently…. ahh… the french… what a lovely start to the day, after a 12 hour train ride with no sleep.

But, after we finally made it to Phoene and Anne’s house, in St. Denis (north/east Paris), we managed to find some comfort in their small, but rather cute apartment. Phoene plays in a couple of bands, books shows, arranges tours, and waitresses in a trendy french cafe. Her ex-girlfriend, housemate and business partner Anne works as a freelance graphics and web designer. They are both really cool girls, who are happy to share their living space, and immediately offer Jordy and I a couple of extra days free accom, which was awesome.

After some much needed sleep, we get up and grab all our gear, jump on the Metro, and go to  to play a show. It’s a funny little venue… an old wine-storage space downstairs, with a curved ceiling, and somewhat ironic 80’s record covers pinned up on the wall. We play our set, to a somewhat luke-warm crowd, but a couple of interested patrons come up afterwards to say how much they liked what we were doing, which was nice. After us, Mikka Sykes, a singer/songwriter from Portland/USA got on stage… it was just him and a guitar, and whilst he was very good, the rather obnoxious crowd didn’t give him much of a chance, and small PA couldn’t quite keep up with the crowd noise.

Mikka and his traveling friend, a girl from NYC, who had just recently quit her job at Unicef (for numerous reasons… but which i can tell you about another time) were also staying at Phoene and Anne’s… and were all about keeping the Rock’n’Roll dream alive…  so we stayed up talking about touring, politics and unicef until the wee hours of Wednesday morning… i think i went to bed at 6.20am, but the others had another bottle of wine after that. We also joined in on Phoene and Anne’s regular party trick of Scanning faces on the scanner… i think the pictures are online somewhere now…

Wednesday involved Jordy and I doing some site-seeing and trying to hide from the rain… (which is pretty much the first time we’ve been seriously rained on since our time in Reykjavik).

Mikka and co. stayed on Wednesday night also, so there was another late-night-mid-week party at the house… this time i lasted until 4.30am…

So, by the time our 2nd Paris gig came along on Thursday, we were quite exhausted! But, it was a fun night, we played before some DJs, and as one of the girl’s friends was leaving to go back to the UK, and the night had a good vibe about it.

The rest of our time in Paris was all about the rain and the site-seeing. We got drenched before we went to the Louvre, and saw some amazing art. I was somewhat baffled at the amount of people taking flash photography inside the gallery. It was quite off-putting. The Mona-Lisa is even harder to look at that i remembered, and there is a constant cue of people lining up to sneak a peak. It’s strange, i actually think another of Da Vinci’s paintings of Saint John the Baptist is much more interesting… and i could get within an arms length of it.

Monte Marte… Moulin Rouge all that… nice, apart from the people who are trying to sell you those pieces of string that you get tied around your wrist…  and who yell and swear at you if you tell them to go away.

Big Flea Market area, also kinda cool, but really overpriced antiques, and every second dodgy person trying to sell you a fake D&G belt… now… do you really think there is that great a market for that?

… and whilst i’m Boo-ing Paris… what’s with the coffee prices there? 5.50 Euro for a cappuccino? unbelievable.

anyway… i know some of you lot love Paris… and i sort of understand the appeal of the place… it’s quite pretty….big history… Liberty…. all that stuff…. but the best thing about Paris for me was the nice Parisians we were staying with.

Eindhoven.

Well, Eindhoven was a pleasant surprise after the Metropolis that is Paris… a nice little Modern Design City. Not really much to say about the place, except the weather was splendid, the bikes were in abundance, and both Jordy and I were in relax mode! Our host Lucy was very welcoming, and gave us ample space to lounge about, and recoup… do laundry etc… She also had an awesome video projector and wall that we watched films and episodes of Flight of the Conchords on. A lovely dinner at a Spanish place, two good nights sleep and clean clothes and we were off again towards Amsterdam.

Amsterdam…

…is a funny place isn’t it? lots of bikes, lots of tourists… Jordy and I went to the Van Gogh museum, and saw some of the classics up close…. we also had a couple of beers at the dodgy hostel we were staying in, and then hit the town… after a quick wander, and some Thai food served to us by a New Zealander, we ended up going the a venue there called the Paladium, to see a US laptop mashup Laptop DJ called “Girl Talk”, (who we had tried to go and see in Paris… but when we arrived at the venue, it was closed.)

After a couple of tracks, and the guy running around the stage throwing confetti in the air to get people moving, he grabbed a couple of people up on stage to dance… tehn a few more got up… then the whole stage was full… it ended up being one of the most ridiculous nights ever…. with the whole crowd going mental around him… then one person took the poor guys shirt off… and then about 15 mins later, another person took the guys pants off… and there he was, rocking out in the middle of a crowd of people, all sweaty in front of his laptop with nothing but boxer shorts on…. hilarious stuff.

Helsinki

Throughout our travels, we’ve been meeting people along the way who have been really nice and helpful, one of these people was Hanno, who we met in Prague… a German, living in Scotland, who happend to be staying at the same house we were staying at….  He put in a couple of emails to his friends in Helsinki when we told him we were looking for gigs, and people to have coffee with… and much to our surprise, we started to get some emails from Marianne in Helsinki, saying that she had some gigs lined up, and a place to stay for a night if we wanted!

I think our Helsinki experience would have been vastly different if it wasn’t for Marianne and her partner Timo, who took us out, showed us the sites, marked cool shops on the map, arranged two gigs at a weeks notice for us, took us to an awesome flea market, fed us, gave us free clothes from Timo’s online clothing store, welcomed us into their home for our final night, gave us Finnish chocolate and drove us to the airport! I mean, talk about the all-star treatment. Totally hosts with the most….

The shows were both at cool little cafes, and apart from a small hassle with one of the DJs whose timeslot we apparently cut short… they both went down a treat, with pretty good crowds listening in. It was not really a band-venue-type-crowd who sat and watched attentively, but both shows were fun none the less.

Helsinki also has some great Christmas markets and really cool design stuff going on throughout the city. It is a very hip place… well educated people, and all the Finns we met were very articulate and had a rather unique political and social outlook on the world…

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