I’m not sure what Kris was doing there, he took his seat about 2 hours early, right in front, optimum table position. He smiled and greeted us immediately we smiled and greeted him eagerly back. We were eager because we’d been there an hour already and hardly anyone spoke to us. We felt weird. The language was an issue; this far east Russian is second, English somewhere else down the list. Of course this is how it should be, there’s no reason a bunch of assholes from as far south as we are should show up this far north, this long march east and have anyone A) understand what we are saying or B) or even give a fuck we are saying it.
The folks running the place were a young collective, punk rock shirts, hooped ears, and then we show up, and although Alice is excluded from this, we seem 150 years older than anyone else. I have a Black Flag tattoo and a Clash one however I’m not sure this will cut the punk rock mustard, because age is the great isolator and it appears that the bridge to sound communication lays beyond and across an impossible language barrier, and is in fact made of fraying rope, some weak as coat hanger wire and some rotting timbers and there is a valley between us, below said bridge, which is in fact about 15 years too deep to either work or walk across.
However we express our gratitude as best we can, lots of hands on hearts and big smiles, they eye us up unsure but thawing gently. We sit under the eaves watching big east German clouds marshalling their big angry grey forces and wait for the rain to come pissing down to earth. We are playing outside tonight, this could be rough. Kris though, sitting in the middle, is unconcerned, his good humour cuts through all gloom, weather, language, age, distance, time. Kris is older than everyone, he is not dressed like a straight edge kid or a confused folksinger. He is well healed. He looks like he has a job. However he tells me he doesn’t, that he is retired. He was a dentist and now he is retired and now he is sitting here, in this café with us, the punk kids and the clouds. It should be weird but Kris is unfazed he loves music, the fiddle and AC/DC, and he is looking forward to the show and has decided that two hours early is perfect to get a good seat and meet the band. That’s us.
He is big and friendly so we chat and laugh and compare a few notes on this huge world we both inhabit usually so far away from each other. I think the rest of the band are nervous, the night before we met an older fella (older than us anyway) called Lutz, who also loved AC/DC we ended up in his ‘party cellar’ drinking Jim Beam and listening to German country music and figuring out the world in broken English and even more broken German. I think the band are worried that I’m gonna make ‘em hit the bourbon again and remove any chance of catching up on any of the sleep we seem to lose more of everyday. They are safe Kris doesn’t drink. Anyways before the show I think I’ll hit the street and explore this city a little Kris offers to accompany me and tell me the history, the good, the bad and the sad. So we walk and he shows me things I might not have noticed and it’s nice to soak in his enthusiasm a little. As we’re walking I get flooded with how lucky I am to enter these cities and towns, all the towns and cities we get to visit. We have found a back door to walk though, a way to avoid the tour groups and the prescribed sights. We jump in and then we wander into the day or night, we find who we find and they share with us quickly their stories and their lives and we trade ours in the songs and in 24 hours we have gained something and hopefully left something that maybe one day we can travel back to.
The next night we will meet Hajo who puts on the show in the bar he built on his driveway, we will play, we will sit around the table over Guinness and Jameson’s and sing German sea songs (which strangely all resemble ‘the drunken sailor’, which they may in fact all be) and talk about Ireland. We sing the parting glass and think of our comrade Brendan at home in c-city who usually sings that for us. Hajo and I talk about the deep sadness and how we keep faith in the music and how maybe it’ll be ok if we will hopefully one day end up on fiddlers green. Hajo, big and loud and bold, in a leather cowboy hat and flannel, in love with a dream of Ireland, but proud of his deep german place. Hajo wild and furious banging the bodhran with furious abandon while Alice plays tunes for him. Hajo the greatest man in the world according to his wife. Hajo, in love with the blues brothers and the big music. Hajo is now our brother and now we have a place here.
We are lucky to collect places, the Dharma Bums in Wairau, St. Peters in Paekak, the Rogue Stage in rotorua, the junkyard in maitland and on and on and now here so far so close etc. We are just one more band passing through these places, but for the nights we land we come home, and although we have no posters on the wall, no rickety chairs to sit upon, no dishes to do we come home and thus we are never alone. Sometimes lonely but never alone. This is the great gift we are given.
After Hajo’s place we talk about gifts with Thomas. Thomas runs a café in a rehab centre for cancer patients, six years previous he decides to bring in bands and singers to offer a night of respite to whoever might feel that a little night of music may help them get through the rough days behind and ahead. He says we have brought a gift of music to the people who came to the show. I disagree with him and suggest that we are mearly an extension of the gift he is giving and has given for six years and in fact we receive the gift in having our own struggles perspectivized and our own hearts and muscles emboldened by the courage and strength of others. Thomas is the real deal, he is good and kind and can make a mean cup of coffee. Thomas’ corner of the world will never become a viral sensation, he will never threaten the Kardashians for the worlds attention, it will never make the news. Thomas may never be celebrated, but to me he is a hero and if I speak his name, here in this small corner of everything then maybe you will hear it and maybe you could wish him well just quietly under your breath, and maybe if you look close there will be someone like Thomas close to your corner, someone worthy of a moment in your thoughts, someone you can offer a high five and a ‘fuck yeah’ to. We’re out there looking for ‘em I hope you’re looking to.
Anyways good luck to y’all, we keep rolling through this land, tonight in Hamburg, tomorrow in Leipzig and then and then...
If you’re here in Germany chances are we’ll be getting stuck in, in a town close to you we’ll be glad as always to sing you something, maybe lift an elbow with ya and keeping hoping with ya…