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!

Goodbye my love 2. Even goodbyer.

Some of you may remember: Strainful Train was lying in despair, looking for a meaning, like Sauron for his ring. We decided, that the best way of regaining the joy of life would be at the source of joy itself:
Egan’s Bar in Liscannor. We returned to Sean’s care to have another wonderful concert and subsequent excessive beer tasting. It worked, our journey had a meaning again. (Danke-Sean! And thanks to the landlord Patrick!) Head first we started touring again. The Roadside Tavern in Lisdoonvarna, a very original pub hosted us for the next night, we had a superb concert there. First of all because Brian, the gifted percussionist, supported us. And second because Sean was cheering from the audience.

At this point I have to mention that our beloved home and ride was left horribly deserted most of our time in Ireland. We simply never had to sleep in the van. Thanks to a remarkable Irishman called Ronan. We played in his Hotel and he provided us hostel rooms in every possible location of this world. Also in Lisdoonvarna.
The next day we also transformed Brians place to a little recording studio, to take his tight rhythm vibes with us on our album.

Unfortunately, the obligations of our real lives in Germany started to manifest at the horizon, so we sadly started our journey home. Therefore we had to cross the midlands again, the wretched place everybody at the west coast warned us about. Wrongfully, as we already had found out. We headed to Newbridge, where our irish adventures began. At the west coast we already had the luck to partake in several traditional pub sessions. The one we joined that night in Newbridge with Lucy and Niecy was somehow special, it was the most euphoric and chaotic one. You barely understood, what the musicians on the other side of the table were playing, but you jumped in anyways, to contribute your solo to the sound ball.

The following night should become the complete opposite. Our dear friend and supporter Deidre organized a slot us at a concert series called “Ciúnas” (irish for Silence). A nice concept, where people really only come to listen. The audience was so disciplined; you could hear a needle pin falling. That puts quite a pressure on you, when you are used to hide your little technical difficulties behind the always present bar noise. Still an awesome concert, though. The next morning at seven, our ferry to Wales was going to leave from Dublin. We drove through the night, were able to get a 2 hour nap right in front of the check in lines and arrived early and sleep-deprived in Holyhead. We weren’t quite sure what to do with this full day ahead of us, so we climbed on a mountain.

It started raining on the top, we lost many good men up there. So now we were tired AND exhausted. Those were the perfect preconditions to fall into the strong arms of our friend and center of our Welsh comfort zone, Scott. Sadly we just stayed briefly, there was a concert in Bishopscastle we had to support. The venue, “the Vaults” is a prototype of a rough countryside pub, a place I wish I had in my hometown. The owner, Wayne the Viking, has an intimidating biker-appearance but a warm and soft heart for roots music. He instantly invited us to his Blues Festival next year, see you there, Wayne!
We spent the night at Rob’s farm. Rob is a brilliant harmonica player and his farm is one another little paradise we encountered during our tour. Fat wool sheep are strolling around his house in the Welsh mountains, and bred sprouts are swimming in the pond at the driveway.

He and his lovely partner Ingrid made us feel so welcome there, that we stayed for another day. Your own doing!
Heavy hearted we are now leaving these beautiful islands and head for the big mainland to master the last two weeks our tour.

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.

North Wales, our new comfort zone

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!

Goodbye, my love!

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.

I want to move to Groningen!

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

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.

Some bums in Bremen

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”!

Poel, hell yeah!

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”.