Monday, November 8, 2010

Day 1, Leipzig, Germany

October 22nd
- We passed through Dutch customs quickly and uneventfully.  Nothing to declare.  All the paperwork was taken care of through the promoters on the other side.   A relief but some elements of doubt as the only way to know when promises are delivered is to show up and wait for it to happen when we arrived.
- Transferred to connecting flight and ended up in Berlin.  There was no barrier or security off the plane or the airport.  You just picked up your baggage and headed out the door.  While waiting for our baggage, I heard PA announcements in german that I didn't understand and then this was followed by a noticeably low, sultry and sexy voice announcing, in English, that a bag was left unattended and required security measures to deal with the situation.  I guess not to rise panic, a sexy voice is needed.  I'll try that sometime.
- We met a contact, this random guy named Fred, at the car rental service desks.  Of course we had to navigate through the airport with staircases, escalators that didn't allow luggage carts and escalators that were miniscule.  We back tracked and circulated until we found our meeting spot. 
- Soon enough our guy showed up, with two other women.  We could tell it was the right person because they were dressed in a hip 60's-ish fashion.  They had leopard print luggage and one woman had the hairdo and stiletto heels.  Later we found out she was the poster girl and go-go dancer for the event that night.
- Drove out through the Autobahn to pick up another person, Laurent (forgot last name), who was the MC for the night.   They were all French, and Laurent spoke english thankfully.  They were all 60's music buffs and were all involved in the small, niche revivalist scene in Europe. 
- Continued on theAutobahn for a while and had  a little stop at a gas station.  We were all delighted to find the immediate differences between Canada and Europe.  John couldn't resist the urge to purchase a cherry beer and drink it in the van.  I passed out until our destination.
- We reached Leipzig in the late afternoon.  The Feztones were tired but of course fascinated by the new country we were in.  Leipzig was what used to be part of East Berlin and seemed that they were slow in the development past the cold-war era.
- We arrived at the the venue called the McCormick Ballroom, an irish-style pub.   A cozy wood interior with low ceilings and lots of little rooms and crooks and nannies to hang out in.  It continued deeper in and opened up to a large dance hall with a stage and sound system. 
- We met the owner and manager, Imad, a surly Algerian-German guy.  His fashion style was an interesting cross between a 60's era English chap and tattooed German tough guy.   His disposition was stereotypically german: serious, deadpan and literal.  He joked with us about the "rules" for the band (in german accent): " Ya, you can drrink as much free beeya as you vont, but you are not allowed to give zem avay to your friends.   Especially you cannot get our vimen drunks to take advantage ov them.   (We all pause in confusion.  Strained smiles and an awkward pause)  " You musht use your charm and vit.  Only vee are allowed to get them drunks..."  (forced chuckles)
- They gave us a free meal from their kitchen.  I ordered this sheppards pie thing, but with a deep layer of cheese before getting to the potatoe underneath.  Super heavy.  And beers of course.
- They had a band apartment right above the venue.  The doorway was right beside the venue entrance.  There were 3 large bedrooms with several beds in each of them and a bathroom with showers and toilets.  The standard thing in Europe was to treat the musicians with a certain respect: feed them and give them a place to stay.   And we were glad.
- After settling in, we went down and did our sound check.  Everything they had there had this retro feel to it.   As it was a 60's music night, the theme was observed.  We got a run down of how the night was supposed to happen.  2 bands opening, the first band starts at 10:00.  We start around 12:30/ 1am.  They had a 3-bell system: the first gong to indicate that the crowd should order their drinks for the show, have a pee etc.  The second bell for the musicians to be on stage and get ready to play.  The third bell means the show starts.  A very german thing: organized, systematic.
- Exhausted from travel, we all crashed out until we had to play.  I slept for half an hour or so, but got up to roam around the area.  I got a chance to see the other bands a little too.  The band right before us, "Las Asirpiradoras" (Spain) were so-so.  Very drunk though.  The band before them, "The Branded," were drunker than them.
- Our show  was great.  There were go-go dancers dressed in sexy egyptian costumes on each side of the stage twisting and dancing away during our set.  At one point they even came on the stage between Bobby and John and were gyrating away.  The crowd was dancing and freaking out.  Some people even wore Fezzes in part of the Feztones "egyptian" theme. 
- We were hanging out after the show and having post-show drinks.  At one point, Imad, the bar owner, pulls the band aside and says:  " I haff somesing very serious to tell you.  Please, I musht talk vit you."   So we go over to somewhere a little bit more quiet and he says:  " I'm very sorry to tell you zat I haff a problem.  This is serious.  I noticed zat you haff put zee band banner on zee back curtain for your show, and it is problem because vee have strict rules for advertisement shpace for zis venue.  You musht pay 800 Euroes for using zee advertizement shpace.  Please pay zis now." 
- We all look at each other and realize our predicament.  Immediately we apologize to try to figure something out as we clearly don't have the money.    Imad looks at us, taken aback, and then hangs his head.  He looks up and says: "oh, I'm so sorry.  I have failed.  I have tried to make a joke, but my english izt so bad that  you did not understand my joke. "  A moment where we all looked at each other quizzically as we experienced the clash of cultures:  Deadpan, serious german sarcasm met with demure and apologetic Canadians.   We all lightly chuckled and patted him on the back supportively.
- Elated, we were all glad to crash out, finally at 2:30am.  I set my alarm for 8am to catch the plane the next day.

The stage at McCormack's Ballroom

...of course Statler and Waldor were there.  They moved too!

Imad (with cap) seeing us off at Berlin Airport

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