Gig Journal 2012

 

Gig Journal 2012.

or....

How Not to Make it Big as a Musician

By 

James Higgins 

 

Irish Harp Regensburg

25th May

                                                                                                         

The Harp was fairly quiet due to a combination of converging factors. The Doltfest was on. There was a fireworks display, and it was a wonderful warm summer evening. The terraces around the old town were buzzing but at 9pm the Harp was fairly empty.

So I started at 9:30 (a half hour later than usual) as twilight deepened and people began to straggle indoors.

The gig went fine. No great shakes but a nice atmosphere. Not much to report.

I’m finding I quite enjoy kicking off with a hefty batch of trad songs. I never could sing that stuff as well as I’d like. I have to be very select about which ones I can tackle. For this reason my collection of live trad tunes has always been limited (I know a lot more than I can actually sing). By putting the harder to sing ones in the first set, I can get a good run at them before my voice fizzles.

It was quite a pleasant gig. I croaked a bit through the 3rd set but got a second wind by the 4th set. It’s been a while since I played regular gigs that go on for 4 hours. I’d forgotten how much stamina is involved.

In the States I’d play the same gig time but it would be condensed into 2 one hour sets with a short break. I could start at 9 and be done by 11:30. Over here, it’s 9 till 12:30. Longer hours but at least I get paid.

So as I said, the gig itself was fairly run of the mill stuff. I played the whole last set in an open D tuning which was fun. Just a pity I accidently had the capo on the wrong fret when I was playing ‘Singing in the rain”. I ended up singing it down in my wellie boots. That was a shame because I always enjoy playing that song.

The Bonnie Ship the Diamond was fun too. I have to move it up a couple of frets from Bm to C#. I might even bring it up to Dm.

That’s all there really is to say about this gig except that Ula has promised me a tattoo for my birthday if I’m still in Germany.

That should be interesting.

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Harry walked in right at the last set, perfectly timing his arrival just to miss the show. Unfortunately we’d started a half hour late so he had to suffer. Tough luck Harry. Ha ha.

Well anyway it was good to see him. I guess we last met back in the 90s.

Harry was probably the first full time German based busker I’d met when I initially foraged into Deutchland around 1985. Actually I probably met him a little later; around March 86 just before I hitched to Amsterdam. Or maybe not. I can’t remember.

But I do recall…… I’d been walking down the busy Nurnberg fussgangerzone towards the castle when I saw a red haired guy walking up ahead wearing a kilt. He was a fast walker but I caught up with him just before the Market Square and said hello. I asked him if he was Scottish and he grinned ”What gave ye that idea.” Then, after I watched him do a quick pitch with his bagpipes (during which he made more money than I’d made in a month), we went for a beer in Finnigans Irish pub. I seem to remember that Tony Barkham was playing and a member of staff was celebrating becoming a father. The place was quite cheerful and rowdy. I guess that was before they stopped doing live music and having babies.

Finnegans must have been the first Irish bar I was ever in. They weren’t as widespread as they are today. Nowadays, when people go abroad from The UK or Ireland, the first question is, “Where’s the Irish pub?” Chances are, it won’t be far away. They can make travelling abroad very convenient but they do dilute the experience.

Back in the mid eighties, Irish bars were not on my Radar. The next one I noticed was in Cologne a few years later but it didn’t even cross my mind to go in.

But that’s all irrelevant. ……….What was I talking about? Finnegans, bagpipes, Harry, Busking….Oh yes….busking…

In March 1986 I hitched up to Amsterdam, a town I cannot recommend for Winter busking. I was there for a few unbelievably cold, bleak and desperate weeks. It was in fact comical. A tragi-comedy. Amsterdam was the only town where I’d ever arrived broke and left broker.

I headed back South where Spring was in the air.

 

Harry had suggested Salzburg to me as a good town to hang out for that Summer. So after I returned from the Dutch frozen North I went straight down there to thaw out. I ran into Harry again at the International Youth Hotel on Parracelcus Strasse.

He was busy terrorizing the awakening hostellers and the immediate neighbourhood with his bagpipe chanter at 7am. When I walked in, he stopped playing abruptly, looked at me and said, ”What are YOO doing here?”

Then the angry hotel boss burst in and Harry quickly hid the chanter and gestured to the open window saying, ”Yea there’s some guy out there making a terrible racket. He’s woken us all up. We want our money back. What kind of an establishment is this?”

It was a fun Summer.

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Meanwhile back in the present day at the Irish Harp, Andy (Kung Fu Jobst) walked in too. Just about the same time as Harry. He’d been to the ballet of all places, with his wife. Someone had given them free tickets. They’d gone along and had a great night. It was nice of them to drop by. They were in good form.

 

So anyway that was that. At closing time, Harry went back to Ingolstadt where he currently owns an Irish bar. Andy headed home, happy after hearing the Skunk song and MacPherson. They were old Brookdorf favourites.

It isn’t easy for me to be a tea-totalling party animal these days. It can be a bit frustrating at times. Especially when old friends show up and we can’t have a beer together. It would have been very different 15 years ago. Still I must admit, I haven’t had a hangover since I don’t know when. So maybe it was just as well to call it a night while we were winning.

Good night Irish Harp.

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But to continue in Regensburg…..

Next morning after a sound sleep in the Harp apartment, we met up with Zigi and Simon and clan for breakfast in town at Annies Coffee place. We sat outside and caught up on how they’d coped with the FC Bayern V Chelsea Champions League Final. Zigi is a Bayern fan while Simon is a Chelsea fan. They watched the game together and the atmosphere was understandably tense but they are still married.

One funny thing was that the last time we were there, Ronan only spoke in English but this time he got stuck in auf Deutch. He’s really come a long way in 6 months.

We are very proud of the wee Man.

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In the Afternoon me, Hil and Ronan went to Straubing, a small town East of Regensburg. I used to busk there a lot with Peter. Often after we’d played, we’d hang out for a beer at the station and would always joke, “I wonder where we’ll be in 15 years”. We’d laugh and say, “Ha probably Straubing”.

Well who’d have guessed….

Anyway it was a sunny Saturday afternoon and the wee town was quite busy. It was looking good until I saw some other buskers on the scene. There was a jazz trio, a monkey Grinder and a Statue guy in a Mozart suit all doing their things. I only managed a quick 15 minute set for posterity then we headed back to Burghausen.

 

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Straubing was never that well known to buskers when I used to play there. It was a rare day if I showed up and someone was playing. I’d usually have the whole town to myself. But now it seems to have been “Discovered”. There’s even an Irish Pub. As Rik would have said, “It’s gone commercial man”.

Straubing was also the scene of my one and only 100 Dm note drop while busking. (A hundred Deutchmarks was a decent days busking money. Back then, a beer in a bar cost about 3:20 DM).

As I remember I’d gone to Straubing that day on a spur of the moment for an afternoon pitch. I was playing away when an average normal looking guy strolled by and in slow motion, opened his wallet, glanced up at me, then dropped a 100 Dm note like a leaf fluttering from a tree into my case. I tried not to stare but I’m sure I hit a loud clanger of a wrong guitar chord that hung in the air. Then the stranger smiled and walked off. I didn’t hang around much longer either. I was thinking he might change his mind and come back looking for it. In fact I’m not sure the note even hit the ground before I was packed up and gone.

Later that same day back in the Harp, everybody wanted an in depth description of the event.

“Which street were you on?”

“Did he approach from the East or the West?”

“What time was it”.

“Had he any distinguishing features?”

“What song were you singing?”

“Does he have a sister?”

The next day, half of Regensburg’s buskers were on the train from platform 108b, bound for Straubing.

Whether they were looking for the guy with the hundred Deutchmarks or looking for his sister is unknown.

 

 

Irish Harp Regensburg

April 27th 2012

 

I felt like this was a weekend holiday in Regensburg with a gig thrown in for good measure.

We had a great trip. The weather was glorious. The town was as stunningly beautiful as ever, and the streets were filled with shiny happy people.

On the overcrowded train from Burghausen, we ended up in the bike carriage with a group of German lads who obviously had every intention of getting smashed out of their brains. They had a little toy wagon that held about 4 crates of beer and some schnapps. It was like their mobile bar. They were swigging away like there was no tomorrow, which apparently was true for one member of the party who was about to be married. This was his stag Party. He was easily identifiable in the group. He was the one dressed like one of the Village People pop band: The Leather Cop I think. But it could have been Tinkerbell or Freddy Mercury. The rest of the party were dressed in T-shirts with the condemned man’s picture on the front and an R.I.P. note on the back stating how he had been afflicted and had finally succumbed after a long battle. And now they were gathered today in mourning of his imminent passing from the bachelor world.

For the duration of the journey, the groom was to be treated as a lowly servant. Anything the group ordered him to do, he had to do it. No matter how demeaning. If this seemed cruel, they assured me that they were in fact doing him a favour and preparing him as best they could, for the real hardship of married life. Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind. Thus the groom spent half the trip on his knees polishing the shoes of strangers and being used as a foot rest.

Naturally it was only a matter of minutes before they spotted my guitar. Music was demanded and soon we were all singing, “What shall we do with the Drunken sailor” and The Wild Rover.

We lost track of them when we changed trains in Landshut but they were on their way to Regensburg too. We figured they wouldn’t be too hard to spot.

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In Regensburg we went straight to the harp. Ulla kindly put us up in the flat upstairs. This really makes coming to Regensburg so much more convenient and enjoyable.

I sound checked both my guitars but as so often happens, I only used one.

Roman showed up for the second set and played right till the end. We had a very enjoyable night and seem to have gone over quite well. I can’t remember all that we played but we didn’t do a carbon copy of our last gig. We threw in some different stuff: Can’t Keep Me, Johnny B Goode, Hey Hey, My My. The latter song went down very well. Most definitely a Neil Young classic. I’m not sure how well Roman knew these songs or most of the repertoire for that matter, but he did a great job improvising and I think we had a fun time on stage. Our enthusiasm seemed to have rubbed off on some of the listeners. One guy (Hi Oliver) bought 3 CDs but promised to hunt me down with a pitchfork if they were crap. But he did wax lyrical about the gig which was much appreciated.

Throughout the gig, staff and customers kept suggesting I turn it up a bit louder. I thought it already sounded quite loud but I’d turn it up a notch anyway. But then Ulla walked in and told me that it was still far too quiet. So, with tears in my eyes, I’d turn it up some more till someone signaled to turn it up even louder. This scenario is very unusual for one of my gigs. Usually they’re saying, “Turn it off”.

The Harp can be a rowdy place. I guess as it fills up, the sound doesn’t travel so well.

Maybe I was thinking the music was too loud because we’re presently living in an apartment which makes me very aware of volume issues concerning my neighbours. I’m always worried about being too loud.

Anyway, that was the gig. If being too quiet was the only complaint then I’d call that a good gig.

 

So next morning being a sunny Saturday, we went strolling around Regensburg’s medieval streets. There’s very little car traffic these days since the town became a UNESCO World heritage Site. Plenty of foot traffic though. Most certainly far busier than 15 years ago.

We had croissants and coffee for breakfast at Annie’s Café terrace. Then after a bout of book shopping we went down to the Danube and took a boat trip down river to visit Valhalla.

 

……..I’ve never been much of a boater. Probably because I’ve never been much of a swimmer. In the same vein, I’ve never been much of a parachutist because I can’t actually fly: not even in a wing flapping emergency.

Most boats I’ve been on have either been channel crossing ferries or island ferries to Arran or Skye.

I remember Andy and Nina had a little boat moored out near Brookdorf. They would come into Regensburg on it sometimes to go on a pub crawl. Somehow one evening around 2AM I found myself standing behind the wheel as we went chugging under the Eisener Brucke. Suddenly the front window was filled with the looming shape of an enormous river barge. I can’t remember if I screamed. There seems to be a blank personal historical moment there but somehow I’m here to tell the tale.

I never had much luck with boats but they do make life interesting.

Once upon a time in Annecy, Me and a friend called Francis rented a little plastic molded semi electric pedal boat and took it out on the lake. At that time I couldn’t swim a stroke but Francis talked me into going out. So out we went right into the middle of the lake. I was a bit apprehensive as I watched the water lap right up to the rim of the boat. I’d no idea what we’d do if we capsized. Drown probably. But Francis was in great spirits and right in the centre of the lake he powered down the boat and stood up. The boat tipped crazily from side to side. He peeled off his T-shirt and prepared to leap into the water. “Don’t pedal away. I can’t swim” he said with a grin. And “Pheeee” he leapt boldly out into the water, making a huge splash that showered the boat. I assumed he was making a joke and I laughed and started paddling away. But a moment later I heard a panicked cry from behind and I saw Francis floundering and splashing back towards the boat. He hauled himself aboard and gave me a bollocking for moving the boat. Hadn’t I heard him say he couldn’t swim?

I was amazed. I had been sure it was a joke. Who in their right mind would go out in the middle of a lake and being unable to swim would then jump carelessly into the deep?

Anyway he was in a bit of a state of shock and he let me drive the boat back to the dock. The boat had a steering wheel and a single lever for acceleration and deceleration. As we approached the mooring place I wasn’t sure which way the lever should go to slow down. So I pushed it forward and we were suddenly on a full speed collision course with the pier. I tried to turn while I tried to pull the lever back. But in the chaos we hit a few boats then rammed the wooden boardwalk with the engine still revved up full. I couldn’t find any button that actually said “stop”. The boat owner on the pier was jumping up and down, shaking his fist and yelling French insults while other boaters were cursing and trying to get out the way. Strollers jumped back and dogs barked till finally we managed to stop the engine and scramble out. We hurried away leaving an irate boat man in our wake, inspecting his distraught little vessel for mental stress.

All in all it was a great excursion.

 

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But meanwhile on a quieter day back on the Danube……

……By the time we got back to Regensburg from Valhalla, we had just enough time to catch the train(s) back to Regensburg.

There were a bunch of delays due to the conductor on the first connection having a punch up with a passenger. The train was halted while we awaited the Polizei.

I couldn’t help wondering if the trouble maker had been one of the stag party guys returning home. Then again maybe the conductor was the instigator.

 

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I must say I’ve been enjoying this warm continental weather. I hadn’t realized how much I’d been missing it.

Back in the Pacific North West we measure our annual sunshine in hours not days. We get a lot of mild, sunny/cloudy days with plenty of precipitation. We can easily have 7 months of rain. Summer comes late if it comes at all. Last summer was pretty bad. It never really got started then it fizzled out. It’s not actually that different from Scotland.

Just how little sun we get in the Pacific North West was brought home to me a few days ago as we strolled down Marktler Strasse in Burghausen. We had been walking along when Hil casually mentioned that I might even get a sun tan this year. Ronan turned and asked, “What’s a sun tan?”

 

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Anyway this hasn’t been much of a gig review. It’s more of a rant about our little trip to Regensburg. But who cares?

Thanks again Ulla for looking after us. Thanks Roman for coming down and contributing some excellent guitar work beyond the call of duty. And thanks to those kindly folks who expressed their enjoyment of the gig either in person or by email.

I better go now and check outside the window for people brandishing pitchforks.

 

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March 17

St Patrick’s Day 2012

The Bayerische Alm

Tha Bayerische Alm is located at the end of Robert Koch Strasse in Burghausen. It’s just about the last building in town.

Run by an Australian/German girl and her German husband, this is quite a business set up. It’s a restaurant, bar, hotel and a catering service. There is an enormous beer garden out back which has a stunning overview of the castle and the old town valley. There is also a smaller beer garden out front where I played a pleasant afternoon warm up set. It was very mellow and I was able to reconnect with a bunch of tunes I only usually pull out for their annual St Patrick’s bash.

Later around 7pm after a glorious day of sunshine, I started my main indoor gig. Unfortunately there hadn’t been that much advertising and the Jazz festival was happening in town so the Alms was only mildly busy. Nevertheless it turned out to be a fine night.

The Alms building itself is quite a catacomb of rooms. It has bars and restaurants, kitchens and playrooms, a piano room, a reservable room, bathrooms, hotel rooms and probably more. It’s a very easy place to get disorientated (even when sober). The room I played in reminded me a bit of Murphy’s keller in Regensburg except it wasn’t actually underground. It had a friendly ambience and warm musical acoustics.

Speaking of music, I pulled out a few odd ones for this gig: The Bonnie Ship The Diamond made the team sheet and also 7 Drunken Nights. I threw in a bunch of rarities from the past like, Fiddlers Green and The Raggle Taggle Gypsy. I finished off the night in an open D tuning with songs such as, Singing in the Rain, Norwegian Wood and Mari’s Wedding.

The evening was not a wild Paddy’s Night of debauchery as of in days gone by but I’d say everyone enjoyed it. The bosses seemed happy, I was fairly happy. The people were happy.

And that fairly well sums up the proceedings.

Ed, Elizabeth and Kira were there too. They were up for the weekend visiting. (We’d left Aiden and Ronan and Willow with a baby sitter.) Ed and Elizabeth were looking for a quieter Paddy’s night experience than what Munchen would provide so they’d come out to Burghausen. I guess if you want a guaranteed mellow experience, simply drive to an unadvertised James Higgins gig in a small border town.

Though I enjoyed this gig, the “stage” set up was a bit strange. I had the PA in a doorway which I’d been told wouldn’t be used during the gig but all night people kept coming in and out. Many were carrying beers. Folks must have thought there was a backstage party going on. It was actually kind of funny.

The room was sort of divided into 4 quarters. The far quarter on my right was partitioned off. This meant, I could not see anyone there nor could they see me. The area to my immediate right was also semi blocked off. I could hear people through the partition and I could see a few of them but we had no interaction. To my left was the bar and cooking area. There was some staff there. I couldn’t really see them, but occasionally one would wander past with a drinks tray. Directly ahead of me was a large empty table with no chairs around it. I think this was originally set out for the buffet plates and knives and forks. But now it looked like sheeted furniture in an abandoned house. Beyond that, against the far wall, were the only people I could actually communicate with. Ed, Eliz, Kira, Hil, Richard (hidden by a pillar) and a man named Dan with his wife and family. In fact Dan’s little toddlers were the most involved of all. They were jigging and crawling about to the tune of Old MacDonald and Ain’t No Bugs On Me.

So in the end I was gigging for the benefit of that one long table. It was like being the live music at Michael Angelo’s depiction of The Last Supper.

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It reminded me of a gig I played up in the Schweinfurt Irish pub years ago. This place was an L shaped bar room in a keller. The stage was at one end of the L while the bar was at the other end. As the night would wear on and people got rowdier, they gravitated toward the bar end which often left the stage end empty. From the stage I could still hear the racket at the bar but I couldn’t see anyone nor could they see me. The little PA system on stage was so under powered that even at full blast I couldn’t out shout the noise of the drinkers.

Anyway one evening towards midnight a girl came round the corner and asked me to play Happy Birthday for her friend at midnight. “No problem” I said. Then she disappeared, skipping back into the bar party round the corner and was never seen again.

So when midnight struck there I was on stage singing Happy Birthday to an empty room. I doubt they even heard me. It was very surreal. At the end there was no applause or anything, just the continuous din from the bar like a football riot. Very surreal indeed.

Even though I got paid for the Schweinfurt gigs, I used to pass the hat afterwards anyway. Mostly the people were very generous but some folks looked at me puzzled and asked who I was. I’d say I was the musician and they’d say, “musician? Did you play already?”

 

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Meanwhile back in Burghausen…….

I have to give great credit to the Bayerische Alm owners who really stuck their necks out and took a Paddy’s Day gamble on hiring me as their musician. All they had was my assurance that I could do it. They’d never heard me play before and must have had their doubts especially if they saw me earlier in the beer garden as I farted around with songs and ideas. I’d figured that while the beer garden was quiet it was a perfect opportunity to run through some rusty songs to re-establish the keys. It also gave me a chance to see if I was sufficiently over my sore throat. But the owners couldn’t have known what I was doing till about half way through when I started hitting my stride and the garden got a bit busier.

I must say I find that living in an apartment is a bit creatively stifling. I don’t get to really sing loud like I could in Bellingham. So when I have a gig it’s difficult to calculate the proper key to sing in for new material. What sounds good in the apartment is often unfortunately very different onstage.

 

By and By I think it was a good gig. Including my afternoon set, I must have played about 4 hours. I’d say I earned my money. My fingers survived too. I’d been a bit worried about them softening up through lack of practice. Luckily, my Tailor guitar has a nice action that doesn’t torture my out of training finger tips. If I’d had to play my old Takamine guitar it would have been a more painful story.

 

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So, after the gig, me and Ed cycled back to the flat and we all had a blether in the kitchen. In the morning we walked back to pick up Ed’s car at the Alm then we all strolled through the castle into the old town and into Austria. We then walked South along the river till the next bridge back to Germany. The abandoned border post now seems to be some kind of art centre. Somehow that seems appropriate. They say art should always open new frontiers. Perhaps we should be judged by our art pictures and not by our passport pictures.

In the old town Aiden got a toy crossbow and Ronan got a wooden sword. We were having quite a lazy meandering day. We ate lunch on a shady terrace back near the Ach bridge where we’d originally crossed into Austria. Ronan chowed down a schnitzel (a miracle). A jazz band was playing across the street. We listened for a while then we meandered back up the hill to the new town where a couple more jazz bands were playing. A Bavarian oompah jazz band was playing ACDC’s Back in Black, complete with tubas and a girl singer wearing a traditional dirndel dress. The streets were really busy. I’d never seen the place so jumping. The shops were open too even though it was a Sunday. I guess because of the jazz festival.

Burghausen’s jazz festival seems to be quite famous. In the narrow old town street area called The Greuben there are plaques set into the cobbles with the names of famous jazz players past and present who have performed in town. It’s a kind of Hollywood mile of fame thing.

I doubt I’ll see my name inscribed on a Greuben plaque any time soon though I have toyed with the idea of sneaking my own plaque into town in the dead of night and waiting to see how long it takes before it’s discovered as a fraud.

I imagine that might be a prudent moment to skip town.

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March 2, 2012

From Brookestock to Brucke Strasse

It was 7:30 on Friday night when I walked into the Harp in Regensburg. There was Thomas setting up his drum kit. We hadn’t seen each other since about 1992 when he, Rik, Peter and me played together as a band called Izzy Skint.

An hour later in walks Roman with his telecaster guitar. I hadn’t seen him since about 1996. He’d also played in a later version of Izzy Skint with Rik but I don’t think he knew Thomas.

Tonight, we are the band.

Due to our 20 year lapse in practice, I played the first set solo. I bashed away for about 40 minutes then we tuned up for whatever was going to happen next.

So there we stood on that old familiar stage. The 3 of us and no bass player and no rehearsal whatsoever. We were diving into the unknown armed only with a degree of trust and 20 years of pent up energy.

 

Basically I counted “1,2,3,4” and we were off like wind-up toys: full of enthusiasm but going in no particular direction.

Thomas had a wood based drum kit. He sat on a box drum which he’d wired to a foot pedal. He also had a smaller wooden drum that looked like a bird box mounted on a stand. In addition to that he had some small symbols and some trinkets. It was a neat little ensemble. Cool looking and cool sounding too.

Roman has obviously been putting in the hours on his guitar playing since last we met. He was always a very good guitarist but he seems to have crossed a barrier somewhere and gone up a few more notches. He had no problems following my simple 3 chord recipes. He even managed to somehow alternate between bass lines and lead solos which filled out the sound quite creatively.

I’d brought 2 acoustic guitars this time along with my harps and cazumpet.

I’m going to stick my neck out and say that all things considered we had a great night. We fed off each other’s energy and let the songs go where they would go. I think the crowd enjoyed it too and they got quite into it.

Ralf the harmonica guy got up and played 4 or 5 songs. He was very good and brought that little bit extra to the proceedings any time we looked like slacking off.

 

We started with Wang Dang Doodle which basically was a 2 chord stroll to warm us up. Mostly we played blues but still threw in songs like Heavens Door, Any Old Time, and get up Stand up. I’d never even sang that last one before but it was a favourite of Rik’s. We did Rocking All Over the World, And 3 or 4 Irish songs. For “eigene lied” (my songs) we played No Hens in My Henhouse, Holy Smoke, Blackberry Pie and Cardboard Box.

My favourite tune of the night was probably Blackberry Pie. Not sure why because it’s not usually a favourite. We just got into a tight groove and cruised along. I’m easily entertained and apparently so was the audience.

All in all I think we had a super enjoyable night. We didn’t hit too many bum notes. Definitely no mortal wounds. And there were a few subtle magical moments that made me smile. We probably came across as having a blast and I think an audience can appreciate that. There was even a sporadic outbreak of dancing and a little zu gabe” (Encore) at the end.

It certainly was great to play in a lively venue. If the Muddy Boots had had that luxury more often, we would have stuck together with a bit more solidarity. Money and appreciation make an excellent glue for any band.

After the gig, me, Hil and Ronan stayed upstairs in the old flat which brought on an odd déjà vu sensation. We never actually lived in that 2 room apartment but we were often visiting and so we both have a zillion memories of it.

I guess it was Rik’s apartment originally. But he sub-let the 2nd room to someone who then shared it with someone who sub shared it with someone else till there was an unspecified number of renters/inhabitants in there. The floor was soon wall to wall matresses and it looked like a padded cell which it might as well have been.

Hil looked around and pointed to a corner. ”That’s where I got stoned while cutting Nick’s hair. Eddy had kept laughing and saying “shorter, shorter”. Nick had  not been pleased with the result. He’d been so proud of his hair. Still, he shouldn’t have been passing the joints around to his hair dresser while she was working. I think he wore a hat for several months after that.

I remember the huge tub of “kleine money” that sat on the table. Paul had offered 10% of it to Peter if he’d count it and put it into rolls. We sat up there stoned out our heads, counting it for an eternity. It was all 1 and 2 pfennick coins. I can’t remember the final count.

Then there was the tiny kitchen where Owen(?) cooked up an enormous fried platter heaped high with Irish sausages, Irish potato scones, Irish bacon, Irish black pudding, fried eggs and beans, mushrooms and toast with Irish butter, Irish tea, Irish laws and Irish ways. He was in the kitchen for hours before he finally emerged carrying a fried up dripping mountain of food on a platter the size of a bouron.

Owen had carried all this food from Ireland, on and off airplanes, through customs and security, on and off trains and buses, up and down streets just to feed  the lads a real Irish breakfast. it was a deed worthy of a medal. Half of us rarely had breakfast at all, never mind an Irish one.

We were drooling in anticipation as Owen marched it proudly to the table and tripped over the carpet and the whole lot went flying across the room. Sausages skelped the window, fried eggs slid like wounded snails down behind sofas, beans were spilled, mushrooms mingled with their wilder cousins growing in the apartment corners.

There was an imperceptible moment of stunned silence but then hands shot out like kids at a wedding scramble. In seconds flat, everything was piled precariously back on the platter.

And oh yeah, it all got eaten. Right down to the last hairy bean.

Then there was the little window where someone hung a sign out that read, “Kartoffel Strasse” (Potato Street). Every time someone walked past underneath and looked up at the sign, a potato would come out the window aimed at their head.

Anyway you get the idea. That’s just the quiet stuff off the top of the iceberg.

The flat looked quite clean and cozy now in 2012. I’m not sure how ancient the building is. It must be hundreds of years old: maybe older than any building in the whole USA. Many colourful lives must have passed through its doors, looked out its windows and pondered the rain on the cobbles. I felt like a melancholy echo in a house where the ghosts have moved on and left behind their emptyness. Though there may have been a lingering odour of bacon.

 

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I guess this was a very enjoyable trip to Regensburg. Our last visit was a low key event where I had planned to take part in Rik’s Hospice gig but didn’t quite get around to it. But this time it was just like old days. There were so many old friends that I couldn’t even get to speak to them all. It was a regular hug fest.

In so many ways Regensburg still feels like home. More so probably than Bellingham. I can’t put my finger on it as to why. It might be just because I’m European. There’s something familiar about it all. When we left town back in 96, it was definitely time to go. We’d been there a long time (10 years) and I’d felt burnt out. Would I like to live there again? Maybe for a year. Hard to say. Regensburg is a beautiful city but I would miss the scenery and the wildlife in the North West US. But making a living in the USA isn’t easy. Economically it’s almost indented servitude. The thought of returning to unpaid gigs and a career as a dishwasher doesn’t appeal to me. Then there’s all those crazy Repuplican fruitcakes continually trying to uneducate the populace and replace schooling with Fox TV. And worse still are all the idiots that believe their ravings.

Hard to go back to a land that might (And has in the recent past) vote one of those twits into power.

Not that European polititions are all geniuses. But in so many ways the US is so far behind Europe in social standards. Perhaps she is still too young. She is not steeped in culture or tradition. She is still a bit scatterbrained and her motives worry the rest of the world. She is no longer trusted as she once was.

Look at the World Trade Centre attacks. The world reacted with sympathy and pity and aid. But America focused on riling up the populace to support an attack on what turned out to be the wrong country. And when America got tired of picking on that country they moved on to the country next to it. Reminds me of a frustrated person taking their anger out on a defenceless inanimate object.

Of course the puzzled world looked on as the US assembled a military force in an area suspiciously close to huge oil resources.

America’s two party system gives the effect that the country is being run by the Hatfields and the McCoys. One side builds a barn; the other side burns it down. They waste their time burning each others barns and the important things go unaddressed.

But as I’ve said before, “No matter what party is in charge in the USA, I will still be broke.”

But I digress……

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On the Saturday we met up with Eddy and Elizabeth and family at the Goldene Ente for some lunch. I may have imagined it but I thought I saw Ronan nibbling at a Schnitzel. Strange days.

March 3rd and the beer garden was open. Ulla showed up and Marcus and Mary were there. Thomas and his wife Simone joined us for a gig post mortem before they drove up to Koln. We all agreed that we’d had a great time at the gig and we should do it again.

Me, Hil and Ronan decided to take an early evening train back to Burghausen. We’d all had a fun trip to Regensburg but it was nice to be back in Burghausen.