Ireland is truly inspiring. Everybody we met since we set over is so ambitiously enjoying life, that things like writing a blog seem irrelevant when you could also have a good pint. Already on the ferry Hendrik insisted to bring ourselves in the proper mood with some irish coffe. Honestly, the worst invention since beer in plastic bottles.
After we thankfully paid the 10 euro toll for 70 meters of tunnel, we headed straight for our first gig in Newbridge, fueled by Benni’s time-is-money attitude. The McDonnel’s Bar advertised us on facebook as the “must see” event of the week in town. We got treated like rockstars and even had to sign CDs. (To lil’ harry, may you live your live healthier than ours). The generous Lucy offered her couch and shower for the night. In return we tried to convince her of the qualities of ‘Berliner Luft’. Until four in the morning. Without successs, I assume. Thanks for everything! And also thanks to our new friend Deirdre for the educational trip into the peat bogs of Newbridge.
Next stop was the Emigrant Pub in Athy. The people of Newbridge warned us about this shady and dangerous town. But we already learned not to take everything literally what Irish people say about other Irish people. The folks there were welcoming, the set was rewarded with a bottle of Jameson and benelovent facebook comments.
As much fun it is to play in a pub every night, it also can get monotonous. Therefore we embraced the little experiment last Friday. In Portlaoise we had a cooperation project with Music Generation. Our job: a recording session with the local newcomers, the J J Jammers. A group of 6 exceptional talents in the age of 8 to 15. We were able to prove some pedagogic skills but miserably failed in the knowledge of recent pop culture. 21 Pilots? Never heard of them. Nevertheless a great experience, our gratitude goes to our friend Rosa for making this possible and for making us this incredible cream dessert. And also thanks to Denise for the little day trip. We are really looking forward to the recording session with you!
It was time to move on further to the west, where the fields are even greener and the pubs even cosier. We stopped by at the eco village of Clouhjordan for a little pop up gig for the lovely people in the Marco Polo art cafe. To speed things up, I won’t go into details of the second concert that day, our worst perceived gig yet at Philly Ryan’s in Nenagh. Thanks, though, to Tom the landlord, one of the coolest lads in existence. A day later we had a great session with our buddy Brian at a remote Pub somewhere near the Cliffs of Moher. It is a priceless experience to listen to the traditional tunes sung by an elderly Irish, supporting himself on the bar.
This piece of earth is so beautiful (I put some photographic proofs below), we need to stay here. Lets see what gigs we can arrange in the pubs of county Clare.
Dunkerque, France: We did it! We mustered all our courage and tried a fully fledged guerrilla gig. We walked in a bar and asked, if we could play right away.
Well, we got rejected without explanation.
But thanks to Benni’s past as a successful entrepreneur, such setbacks do not stop him on his quest for free beer. So we went on, besmirched and scared, but thirsty and willing to succeed. And indeed, we succeeded. The next barkeeper agreed, and he turned out to be very generous at the tap, so that not even the missing audience did bother us. Thank you for the great night in the Kilimanjaro-Bar, Amar!
The next morning we found out, that our ferry does not start from Dunkerque. A skipped morning routine and an one-hour-hustle later, we found ourselves on the ferry which will soon lead out of the EU. Hendrik went into rhapsodies about the white cliffs of Dover but did not anticipate the weather which was going to accompany us the next weeks. Ergo, no welcoming panorama but fog and rain.
We got offered sanctuary in North Wales. Scott, a friend of Hendryk and Master of the arts of British breakfast making, cosseted us like grandparents their favourite grandchild. The resulting holiday feeling and the fact that Tim had to fly to Germany for two days made us neglect a bit our rigorous tour planning. But we’ve taken the time too look for some North Wales adventures. We had none but took nice pictures:
From the musical point of view there are two noteworthy events I have to mention before I can finally file away this exhausting blog for today. First of all the “Irish Bar” in Llandudno. We came with no expectations and left with an overdose of endorphins.
Our set was maxed out, people were dancing, beer was free and our diesel tank was more than refilled. Our big gratitude goes to the owner and the extremely kind staff of the bar.
Second, the “Liverpool Arms” in Conwy. A super cosy pub directly at the picturesque harbour of the town. As we entered, the only guest was an elderly man. And after a dispute between him and Tim about the Brexit and the metric system even he grabbed his hat and left. Yeah, we did not even unpack the instruments, finished our pints and went to Scott to see a trash movie.
It’s time to leave our new comfort zone. Show us, what adventures you hide, Ireland!
Countless kilometres of motorway ahead of us, the radio is blaring Benni’s finest selection of Thrash Metal. Hendrik is editing our concert photos so that the crowd in the audience seems larger. Tim is scratching some bubble gum stains out of his last somehow clean pair of jeans. And Benni is fighting the sleep at the steering wheel, so I have some time to invest into this uncared-for blog.
We were in Groningen. And had a nice jam in the O’Ceallaighs Irish pub. Some gig-facts: Our payment was 12 pints of Guinness and the backstage room was a former brothel. A stranger approached us and invited us to play at a remote and abandoned factory. What seemed like an evil plot to abuse three tender musicians turned out to be one of the coolest experiences we had so far. The “Wolkenfabriek” is a former sugar factory that was refurbished to make it a paradise for families and ravers. We brought along our new awesome friend Jorris, the wacky percussion guru from our trailerpark, to spice up our performance with some dance vibes. We had a remarkable night, that escalated into an ecstatic jam with two further local musicians.
To avoid a Bremen-like situation, we packed our stuff, wrote a farewell song to Groningen (“Goodbye my Love”, a cheesy masterpiece of kitsch) and set off to Amsterdam. The city of efficiency. Everything is so optimised, that you even can pay the usual parking fee via debit card. But not with coins. Even though you are carrying 4 kilos of change in your guitar case. Yay! Without our guide Pietro, we would have been lost.
More by accident we found out, that a musician had cancelled his concert at the “Bajesdorp” bar, a former prison. So we spontaneously filled the gap.
One last breakfast on the rooftops of Amsterdam, and we set forth to Dunkerque, France, to catch our ferry to the promised land.
Ok, I am exhausting all my (due to band-business-related intoxication strongly limited) mental strenght to recall the events of the last three days. Well, there are not many noteworthy things to recall from our first streetmusic gig in “Markthalle 8”, Bremen. Except the green cabbage feast we were granted, thanks guys, you know how to go overboard!
Reluctantly we left the city we grew so fond of, cut ties with our old lifes in Bremen. Benni sold the fisherboat and cancelled his membership at the local chanty choir. It was time to start the fully-flegded tour, three rowdies, one bus, no friends as backup cheerers. Therefore we pimped our ride with some corporate identity. A bus full of smelling hobos is much more socially acceptable, when there is a band logo on that bus.
Next stop: Groningen. The city itself is depicting the ideal world, full of neat channels, weed shops and smiling cyclists (albeit those being lethal for all those who mistake the bicycle way as an area accessible for pedestrians).
Somehow our bus stranded on a beautiful trailerpark. A place where you would wish to re-live your childhood at. A little paradise of bushes and wood, where a dude is cruising around with kids in his motorcycle combination. We spent our first collective night in the bus there. Benni did not quite accept his role as the middle spoon yet.
Our first concert out of Germany was going to take place in Cafe Kult, a congenial bar with an artsy and open atmosphere. Our special thanks goes to Eva, an organisational talent, that cooks in a two square meter kitchen for twenty guests. We had a great gig (the dutch audience is better looking but less generous than the one in germany) and an awesome and long night starting and ending at your bar. Even though the nightlife of Groningen is quite unsettling. Except for the 24h burger vending machines. Welcome to the future!
Okay, I am yielding to my laziness and stop here, all the other awesome stuff that happened in Groningen shall be mentioned somewhere else.
Bremen is like quicksand. The longer you stay, the harder it is to leave. We feel at home here, settled down, found wifes and made children. Except Benni, he is now a moronic fisherman, selling flatfishes at the Weser bank and threatens youngsters with his bony fists. But what did we do while all these days have passed? First of all, we had a cosy live session at Bremen´s finest cocktail bar. Yes, a cocktail bar. Strainful Train is also capable of satisfying the sophisticated needs of the high society. Even though we have been confronted (again) with omnispresent electronic background muzak and double-digit drink prices, we really had a great night. Thanks to the kind team of the “Chinchilla” bar.
Nevertheless, dealing so much with the bourgeoisie usually calls for a down-to-earth-beer at a kebab or in a notorious dive. We did not do so and our flight of fancy urged us to record our artistic works for the generations to come. And the best location doing that are the beautiful halls of Olaf´s studio. We exhausted his hospitality and spent another day there, you should see the results in the video section soon.
Also the tour section is worth a visit now. We invented a new technique to get venues to play at. We named it “call and ask”. If anybody is spending his or her weekend in Groningen, NL, Cafe Kult (Friday, 10pm) and O’Ceallaigh Irish Pub (Saturday, 10pm) are the places to be. And if you cannot wait any longer, come and see us tonight at 8pm in Markthalle 8, Bremen, our first indoor street music gig.
To all of our many loyal followers, who consume the online adventures of Benni the journeyman on a daily base. I have failed you. I did not post anything about his madly growing facial hair or his first primate-like interactions with modern social networks, simply because of no reason. I was lazy. And I am not even sorry, since this will happen again!
Ok, here is a short update of our last two days:
In Hamburg, the “Familieneck” welcomed us with some urban electro vibes, that instantly made Benni walk backwards out of the bar again. After two persuasion beers, the rabid cutting of the setlist and the certitude of Tim’s mom in the audience, we countered the techno with full load of folk. With mediocre success, so lets not talk about Hamburg anymore.
The same night we battled the microsleep and set over to Bremen. Did you know, that Bremen is low emission area (e.g. no-go area for old diesel battleships like ours)? We didn’t. Dang. Time to travel on as a criminal.
We needed this one day off to lick our wounds and use the accumulated creative energy to make some music history (songwriting). And we found the perfect location for that. The studio of Olaf Kock. He and his pal Boris (thanks for everything!) granted us asylum in their sacred halls of creative power. Tim found some time to practice with the upright bass bow. It doesn’t emit any sound at all. Does anybody know how to use such a thing?
In the meantime a colleague of our lovely host Kathi complained about the gypsy bus in front of his house, where definitely some bums are corpulating inside. Yep, sorry, that’s us in the Strainful Train tour bus. Please come and see us in person tonight in the “Chinchilla Bar”!
So we stopped over at this one special place, where our glorious destinies intersected for the very first time. The place where Benni mastered the art of classical boat building, where Hendrik mastered the acoustic guitar and Tim mastered pubercy. Our island Poel.
We gathered all available family members and childhood friends in the cosy “Strandgut”. Yep, just like back in our school band days. Exactly the same people. (Except this one elderly guy on the couch, who obviously hated our music but stayed till the end. His many facial expressions of disgust will be documented here soon, look for “grumpy grandpa”.) But island-folks were and are the best audience and party crowd in existence. The bar was literally drained. People had to drink wheat beer, because all the Pilsner supplies were annihilated in the first hour. Thank you, random guys who organised 20 litres of beer from somewhere, for the great night! And thanks
Carsten Uli, for making your place available for the drunk rest of people.
This night was, from the financially point of view, the most successful one in the Strainful Train statistics. Our thanks goes to the generous mamas, papas, uncles and neighbours, who filled up the tank of our tour-battleship for at least four and a half times.
We left our comfort zone and arrived in Hamburg, in the “Familien-Eck”.
The “Bunker” in Rostock is a pre-war club location, where Bismark was already enjoying some nice rounds of tabletop football. Unfortunately, the heating system was never modernized to meet the room climate needs of todays average folk concert audience. Luckily we had the ingenious idea of warming up the concert hall by the heat emissions of dancing bodies. No sooner said than done, the wicked hillbilly band “Lappalie”, warrantor for extreme dancing vibes, was invited. Together with us and the coast wide known “golden voice” Hein, an unforgettable evening programme was assembled.
A big thanks goes to the dancing crowd, the first three benevolent CD-buyers and the incredible Lappalie!
In spite of everything, highlight of the night was a spontaneous sofa jam session at our host’s living room with some dudes from “Woodfellas”. We picked them up at three in the morning in front of a mediocre kebab.
Back to business: Hein convinced us in such a way, that we contracted him as a support for our next concert. So, with our band account back at zero but with a handsome sidekick on board we head to our home island: Poel. So see you tonight at “Strandgut”, Kirchdorf.
The nice thing about small places is, that they fill up quickly. Personally, I like the atmosphere induced by vertically piled people. Like yesterday, at the loveliest 6 m² of Berlin, Gabor´s hideaway in Wedding. When we stand right in the middle of the audience, when there is no need for amplification, Strainful Train´s real potential arises. You can smell Benni´s numerous adventures, touch Hendrik´s well groomed hair and see the fear of screwing up the tempo in Tim´s eyes.
Our big gratitude goes to barkeeper Gabor, even though he suddenly demanded a song, we never played before. However, whith a new tune in our repertoire and a filled diesel tank we leave this beautiful city at last. Next target: Rostock. See you tonight, 9pm in the Bunker. With our lads Hein and Lappalie.
Heureka! Our first concert since 1985! Artliners, the worlds cosiest and coolest place, according to the guy next to the bar, spontaneously offered their stage for a Tour kick-off concert. Our palms were sweaty, knees weak and arms were heavy, but we mastered all technical and emotional difficulties. Especially considered, that there were NOT ONLY friends in the audience (thanks for the exaggerated cheering, folks, we really felt like rockstars).
In the mean time, we were able to get us some follow up concerts, check the tour dates. So see you guys this evening in the even cooler and cosier pub, at Gabor´s!