Here we go again!

Bad news first: our mothership didn’t make it. The trusty ride, cosy cradle and heavy duty freighter is now somewhere in Eastern Europe, where no approved inspection agencies try to spoil the driving pleasure. We had to sell it for a set of guitar strings and half a beer. And this so shortly before the next adventure. And those are the good news: We are heading to Ireland again, the ferry is booked and the pubs are warned. And don’t worry, there is a new ride. It’s just much smaller and less sexy. And there are no cool band logos printed on the sides. Oh god, I miss the mothership…
Back to the topic, we are setting sails again. The last months have been used for some gigging and jamming here and there and some neat new songs were written in the process. With these fresh pieces in our new tiny trunk, we are visiting Brian and Denise, our musical muses at the Irish west coast. And after two magical weeks, some great concerts and litres of beer it shall be finished: our fourth album. Rejoice and stay tuned!

Following the path of the prophet

Strainful Train left the EU for the first time. We felt properly prepared, our vaccinations were up to date, we had plenty of fresh water in the mothership and we had Benni, an ex-Yugoslav with exceptional survival skills with us. But when the border patrol scrutinized us grimly and lifted the barrier to the wasteland the media already warned us about, we were sobered. Everything was the same, just the Burek tasted better. And the people were extremely welcoming. When we made recreational stop at the Una national park, a local called Suad invited us to stay in his yard. His English vocabulary only contained two and a half words, but he managed to inform us about his whole family, the current political situation, the water quality in the national park and shared a few cooking recipes and his home distilled schnapps with us.
We moved on, through astonishingly beautiful valleys, forests and Balkan style beehive cities and ended up in the incredible Mostar. You barely will find a more picturesque place, even though everything is covered with bullet holes and marks of explosions. Hendrik used this scenery to make an hours long photo shoot with our rough and natural band model Benni, I’ll ask him to put some of his master works here. We played a booked out late night gig in the coco loco, a hip pub with an incredibly nice owner, who even organized a cozy soviet style flat for us. So, well rested and refilled with Burek, we hit the road again, to leave this overwhelming country, there were still some gigs in Croatia ahead of us.

When you have never driven down the Dalmatian coastline of Croatia, then stop reading right now, grab your jacket and your car keys and get going! The drool was already drying at our chins, since we were not able to close our mouths in awe. This was the place, where our prophet Benni spent three months of his life to bring joy to the people and repair wooden boats. Our host for the next concert in Makarska, Igor, was a chilled dude and seemed to be the godfather of the whole town. It was the first time, when Benni

 

was able to drop his daddy role for the band for once, since Igor had this role now. We walked under his protection, were fed like aristocrats, were served the finest craft beer and 24 years old rum and lived in his sea view villa at the hillside. Even though we wished to stay forever, we had to move on to our final station of the tour, the small harbor town Omiš. The LIX is a local bar there, where Benni already wasted way to many nights during his prophetic stay. It had an alternative appeal and the nicest guests of the whole coast, everyone of them seemed to be bartending in the LIX now and then. We really see these people as friends now, the gig there was awesome and had the flair of a football game. Many hugs, a swim in the Adria and some mountain treks later, we sit in our mothership again. With empty pockets but many new adventure stories to tell, we head back to Germany. And the lust for the next Strainful Train Quest already arises, stay tuned!

We are here for the Burek

Once in a year we gather our tight resources, wrap the toothbrushes in the travel towels and give goodbye kisses to our families. It is time to jump once more into the gypsie lifestyle of Strainful Train on tour. Hide your beer and hide your wifes, the folk trio is out for conquest again. Provided that our livers play along and the rusty ride doesn’t break down. Which is quite probable, considering the Bosnian road conditions and Bennis urge for miraculously surviving overtaking Russian tractors on steep slopes. As you see, our annual escape route from everyday routine led us to the Balkan. Benny still had some neat contacts there from his journeyman years. Or as we call it, the time where the prophet walked amongst us. He is still being considered a guru by the locals. But I´ll get to that.
On our conquest to the south east we stopped over in Vienna. For sleeping reasons. Also there was another squatted place to play at. The EKH has a bar in the basement that hosts punk festivals and looks like a fetish club. Our concert was adjoined with the showing of a disturbing info flick about the first queer squatting project in Berlin. We made the best of it and even mastered some small talk in Austrian German afterwards. After a refreshing stay over at the official band quarters, there was no time to loose, Zagreb was calling.

The main reason, we headed to the Balkan, was a little greasy pastry, that tastes only when made by the wrinkled hands of a Bosnian grandmother. It is called “Burek” and the overconsumption leads to instant obesity. Meanwhile everyone in the band is the proud owner of a “Burek-Bauch”. We satisfied our Burek-needs and were properly prepared for a concert in the next squatted place. The “medica” and namely Marin, a sympatic extrovert with a kazoo, hosted an event to honor our guru and called it “the fight of the journeyman”. It featured four bands and Benni was the headliner. This really was his show, since the sound system showed some technical difficulties (for readers interested in audio gear: the mixer had an earthing fault and produced intense reverb from hell as soon as you touched it), and Bennis microphones were the only ones working. He showed all the entertainer skills slumbering within him. Successfully, he even provoked a jesse-james-moshpit. There were several parties at the venue afterwards, so the night for Benni-and-band ended somewhere between dark psy tech and Balkan-Oldies.
The sheer opposite of that night, sound and audience wise, was to follow the next day. We had an appointment at the local cultural hot spot Kulturni Centar Mesnička, as the follow up of the reading of a Croatian poet. The sound was exquisitely mixed by Mr. K. Kar, the audience was seated like during an opera and on the second half of the gig, a talented jazz drummer with the over masculine name of BORKO joined in. It was a delightful evening, even though we had trouble with the park house staff, who did not believe that our flagship is below 2,30m. (the papers say, its 2,295m, it must have been warning sign, that was hanging too low.)
To get grounded again, we did some serious busking on the streets of Zagreb the following day. A cute Canadian accordion player joined us and doubled the income with some upbeat gypsie vibes. Which was directly converted into burek.

We needed a rest and found it in the warm lap of Matea and Jure. In their little sanctuary garden in the middle of the city, Benni was able to rebalance his spiritual energies by grilling some chestnuts. The Bosnian hinterlands were awaiting us and we needed to be clear and ready for the thrilling adventures ahead.
Part II of the Balkan adventures is coming soon…

The Hobbingen of Denmark

Here is a potentially disappointing information for all aspiring musicians: making pub music trains your liver but doesn’t pay the rent. That is why the three of us also have work lives. Benni is jet-setting between London, Singapore and Poel for an investment bank, Hendrik trains the german paralympic show jumping team and Tim sells kebab. Between all these work obligations it is hard to fit extensive tours. Still, the ears of music enthusiasts have to be massaged regularly, even outside of Gemany. So our management sent us for a long weekend to Denmark. We were about to play in the Stenbohus, a busy, rough and lovable pub where conversations are held by shouting at each other and the average blood alcohol level never drops below 1.8. Concerts there always start around midnight. Due to a horribly inefficient police control that ceased the whole motorway traffic in North Germany we even arrived too late for that. Nevertheless, the gig was good and paid and the trip was worth the stress. Because the Stenbohus is located in Ribe, a mind blowingly beautiful little city right behind the dike. Everything is so tiny and cute, you wouldn’t be suprised meeting a Hobbit there. We stayed a bit and tried our luck with guerilla gigging. We were successful, a pub called Strygejernet and shaped like an iron gave us what we were looking for. A small stage and free beer.
On our way back, we had a stopover in Kiel. Our friend Hanna and her homies run a little cinema, with a weird but funny sustainability concept.
The visitors have to generate the electricity for running the film themselves. By bikes attached to generators. Give it a try and check out the “Fahrrad Kino Kombinat”. Luckily, due to Bennis strict zero-footprint philosophy and since we kicked out the dubstep DJ, the Strainful Train runs completely without electricity. So the bikes where put away and some cosy sofas were set up for a remarkable session. Thanks, Hanna, for this brilliant evening!
Next stop: Café Miluh, Klütz. We were booked and announced as a dance-music-band. And I have to admit, it is quite a challenge to dance to a full set of roots folk-blues. Nevertheless, the night was a full success and the second occasion, where a bar ran out of beer during one of our concerts. Our special thanks goes out to the three hilarious songwriters Boris, Dirk and Roland who invited us afterwards to midnight-jam-recording for their own little pirated radiostation. I’ll find out the frequency and the airing time, stay tuned!

It is done!

It is done! Litres of tears, sweat and alcohol have been molded into a masterpiece of 1.5 mm thickness. Hendrik and Pietro sacrificed weeks of their very limited lifetime to assemble the recorded sounds of our tour into an album. The result is a folk adventure including the contributions of all the inspiring musicians we met on tour. All recorded at several different places between the Baltic coastline of germany and the harsh west coast of Ireland. Get one of those beauties (yes, also the cover design was created by our media mastermind Hendrik) at one of the two upcoming record release parties:
03.11.17 – Tiko, Wismar
04.11.17 – UnterRock, Berlin
For everybody, who cannot be around, check the album here:
https://strainfultrain.bandcamp.com/

Bonjour, Brian!

Under influence of heavy intoxication, back at the wonderful Westcoast of Ireland, we made a deal with Brian. That he would have to visit us in Germany to play some concerts with us. Usually I do not trust such deals (in German we call them “Schnapsideen”). But there he was, with his beautiful bodhrán. We played two concerts in Berlin, those themselves were nice and well perceived, but the highlight was Brian himself, the one man show, entertainer and womanizer. He left a heartwarming farewell message (yes, our paths will cross again) and went back to the wild west.

And there still was one unsettled circumstance, that kept Strainful Train awake in the nights: we did not get our second gig in the cultural epicentre of Europe – France. Luckily, our friend Alex wanted to spice up a concert and movie night he was organizing with some neat folk tunes. So we threw the upright bass in our allegiant ride, burned some gasoline for 14 hours straight. Destination: Paris. A tire broke and the french motorway toll drained our budget – it was totally worth it. Alex and his friends set up a stage in a movie theater. The people were watching us like a film, seated and with snacks on their laps. On top of all that, Mathias, an ingenious drummer joined in spontaneously at the end of the gig. There was a drum kit on stage anyway, so he threw in a perfect drum solo to one of our gypsie tunes. Weird but nice, perfect for Benni, who seems to be looking for new sensations lately.

His demand was pleased even more in the following evening. Somehow we ended up on a tiny DIY festival somewhere in the undeveloped outskirt area of Paris. Much to Tims dismay, there were only Architects around. Those people are the natural nemesis of every clear minded engineer, like Tim calls himself. Nevertheless the night became unforgetable. We played in a camper, that was turned to a stage. Later that evening, a crazy inflatable installation was built up around this camper/stage and Strainful Train was superseded by Techno music. So we raved hard until dawn. Due to our brilliant powernapping-while-driving-abilities, we were back in Berlin just 24 hours later. Thanks, Alex and the leFlot homies for this great weekend!

Whats up on the agenda?
Strainful train is working on the new album. It is going to be a kaleidoscope of roots, folk and gypsie sounds. And there is a concert in the UnterRock bar in Berlin, tonight. Come around an stay tuned!

Homecoming

We made it across the border and came back to that place on earth, where people talk our weird language. Our liver values were bad and Bennis hair has turned a little bit greyer but we were alive and nobody has lost any limbs. A better turnout than after the Strainful Train Tour 1995 in Bosnia, were the band had to learn the hard way, how complicated it is to find a new band member who is not mentally ill but still willing to play the double bass.
Being back in Germany did not mean to leave ourselves to the social system of our homeland; there was still some productivity to bring to a result. And there were a few concerts to perform. For example in Lübeck. In the “Moment Kulturbar”, the place we chose for our first homecoming concert, we got invited by a nice elderly man to a few rounds of Kümmelschnaps, a cruel German invention, that should be banned from the shelves of every pub that cares for humanity. We still had a nice evening, fell in love with the barkeeper (I drowned in your eyes, Anusha!) and were finally able to give German moderations again. The elderly man stuck to the Kümmel until the end of the concert and took a nap on stage afterwards.
We headed even further home, to the Island Poel, where everything started a long time ago. We made ourselves comfortable in the creative hideout of the generous Ulli (and Carsten).

There we invested three full days to work on and record new masterpieces, like the ode to King Shawn and the highly sophisticated psychedelic composition called “Lucy’s Harvest”. Also, it was time to prepare the three final concerts of the tour 2017. The biggest local venues had to be booked, not for the sheer mass of fans that Strainful Train has gained during this tour, but for the many friends and family members that were around anyway and wanted to listen to the stories about whacky Irish people.
The first concert was going to take place in the Schlauch, a well-known place to get drunk in Wismar. The Schlauch is an Irish pub, where every one of us already played with former constellations back in the days. We were able to get Heiner to support us again. Thanks Heiner and thanks “Schlauch”, we had a damn good night.

The second concert took place in Gadebusch. The “KuT”, a Punk club, cultural centrum and place to burn your couches, hosted a Rockabilly-Folk-Night and Strainful Train was invited. This concert was so awesome, that some girls in the audience even tried to initiate the first mosh pit of our band history. The attempt failed, but made us proud anyway. On top of all of that, we shared the stage with the awesome rockabilly dudes, we met two months ago in Rostock and that performed the little living room concert for us. And even on the top of that, the lyrical poets of Lappalie, the band we played with at the same night in Rostock also made their way to Gadebusch. What a fateful night, were the destinies of so many outstanding people entwined again. We got pretty drunk.

For the third and last concert we mobilized all our resources we had left. The prestigious and “Lisa vom Laurin”, the place where the rich and famous people of Poel meet, opened its doors for us. I want to explain my gratitude to all the good looking and generous people that came that night. The hat we passed around was so filled, that all the doubts about the financial feasability of such a tour were forgotten.

And then there it was, the day were everything ended. The three bon vivants firmly shook each others hands and said their farewells. We had new contracts to fulfill, Tim had to attain to some shady businesses and Hendrik wanted to follow his dreams as a professional retired-people-entertainer. Confronted with so much passion for hard work, Benni shrugged and strolled away into the festival summer.

The end?
No. Somebody was coming for us. And we had some new glorious plans. Stay tuned!

Fading Memories

Better late than never. Some of you may have noticed, that this blog has become quite inactive. Why didn’t anybody inform us about the wild adventures of the three bon vivants? Did Hendrik get lost in the green hills of some beautiful islands in western Europe? Did Tim loose his fingers while manically playing a sick bass solo, so he cannot type anymore? Whatever could have happened to Benni is not of any importance here, since he wouldn’t care about this present-day blogging internet stuff anyway.
The answer is as simple as it is shocking. The Strainful Train tour 2017 is over. The last song was sung, the last beer was emptied and the last kilometres were driven. The bus, our allegiant ride and home, brought us safely back to Germany.

From the beginning of the end: we were on our journey from Dover to Calais. The last time we passed the French border, we had a nice party and an awesome Reggae-Session in the Kilimandjaro Bar. Even though, we were not able to recall the whole night, we wanted to repeat it. So we braced ourselves, put our war-faces on and walked straight into the Pubs of Calais and offered them some intense hours of folk music and pure entertainment. Nobody was interested. Pfff. French People. Fed over by culture. So we retreated, licked our wounds, and turned our backs on this beautiful and discerning country. We will be back for you, France!

We found shelter and gained new courage in Mechelen, Belgium. Steven Troch, our friend and an outstanding harp player, organized one of the best concerts of the tour and even a place to sleep for us. Thanks Kafee Zapoi, for hosting us, thanks Pieter, for spontaneously supporting us live on stage and thanks sons of Steven, for giving your beds to the smelly and drunk Band. Especially the breakfast was memorable. Few people know the intense pleasure of eating full grain bread, after being on the sponge-bread-islands for so long.

Some of you may remember, at the beginning of the tour we were granted a short glimpse of the squatted wonderland, the ADM near Amsterdam. We really wanted to return to this place, absorb a bit more of the open mindedness and full time festival-feeling and maybe play for its inhabitants. So we did. Brei, a talented animal-sculptor of the ADM-community celebrated his birthday the day we arrived in Amsterdam. We took our chance and imposed a little celebration-session on him. In return we were allowed to stay for two days. Yay, ADM-adventures! We took Shi-Kung lessons, learned how to replace a front axle of a bus and smoked a hell lot of very usual cigarettes. But we were not able to stay longer, because we had a promise to keep: to make our path cross again with the beautiful little paradise called Groningen.

We wrote a song about this one special place on earth, that the people of Groningen still weren’t able to listen to. Back in the Betonbos, we teamed up again with the percussion magician and bundle of energy Jorris. He supported us for the concerts in, who would have thought, Café Kult and the Wolkenfabriek. Thanks a lot Eva and Wildrik, we should repeat that every month! Groningen will forever stay in our memories as the town that even amazes Benni. And yet again, we had to say Good Bye (My Love), because there was still so much recording to do and only so few days of the tour left. Home was calling.

Even though Hendrik nearly got shot at the border, because he wanted to have a cigarette during a usual border control, we made it safely back to Germany. But since everybody, who even read that far, has lost concentration at this point, I will describe the homecoming adventures of Strainful Train in the next blog. See you in a few months!

Danke-Sean!

The idea of a daily post in our blog was not only very ambitious it was also very naïve. First of all, I am lazy as f*** and second, there is not much to write about; the times have calmed. While there were escapades and adventures every full hour at the beginning of the tour, we settled by now for a quiet live between tea mugs and heated blankets. Most of the times it is quiet. The only disturbance of the silence if coming from Benni in his wing chair. His knees covered with a stuffy blanket, he is asking for an Austrian Canton with nine letters for his crossword puzzle without expecting an answer. Hendrik is puffing his pipe while staring in the fireplace with glassy eyes. The daily highlight is the evening tea, where we are looking at last month’s photos and indulge in reminiscences. Except Tim, his memory has faded and was washed away by one too many pints, so that he is only sitting in the corner, playing with dough and babbling something about the red power ranger. How did it get so far?
Last week’s center of our attention was county Clare at the west coast of Ireland, Homeland of the Cliffs of Moher. Not far from those, there is a little musician’s sanctuary called “Egan’s”. This pub, in my humble opinion, is the best place on earth.

When I am lying in my death bed, breathing my final breaths, somebody should drag me out of there, fly me to Clare (if I am not already there), place me at Egan’s bar and shove me a pint in my hand. I hereby kindly ask the barkeeper Sean to excuse in advance the inconvenience caused by a dead body. Speaking of Sean: this guy deserves a medal. He knew us for about twenty seconds and already offered us his place to stay at. We happily accepted his offer. And stayed for the whole week. Thanks Sean! His place became the headquarters for our new quest to play at every pub in Lahinch, the surfer’s paradise around the corner. Yes people go surfing at the Irish coast.

Even though Lahinch is just a village, the high Irish pub-per-capita ratio leads to solid three bars in the main street. And we were victorious, all of them can consider themselves as strainfully trained now.
On our thirst for success we headed to Galway to challenge ourselves with a new way of raising the band budget: busking. (Street musicians are a common view there. Which means, that there is also a hard competition for the busiest spots. All you fully amplified chart cover interpreters who defile hundreds of meters of bar street with trash pop, I hope you read this and feel ashamed.) The outcome was mediocre. The weather was unsteady, but the people generous. The local party scene proved to be too distressing for us, our worn out bodies demanded some rest. And we found it. We were invited to Denise’s place in Donegal, five hours to the north. Denise is a superb and passionate fiddle player. After we nearly killed our beloved ride on the narrow path up the hills to her house, we transformed her crib to a roots music-recording studio. Including authentic farmhouse reverb.

We recorded two full days. The fiddle amidst us was magical. We created masterpieces and listened to the recordings over and over again.

And suddenly Denise left. She left a void behind. We were paralyzed, the spirit was gone and we fell in lethargy. So here we are now, still in Denise’s house, watching our bodies decay and our memories fade. Will we ever recover from our loss? Stay tuned!

Sunburns in Ireland

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.