Saturday, September 25, 2010

Straight out of Copenhagen

On the bus from Copenhagen, I felt like a bear. It had been a few days since there had been an opportunity to change my clothes, and the day before that, when there had been, I had for some reason failed to avail myself of that opportunity. Three nights supporting one of the heaviest psychedelic bands to come out of Vancouver in recent years had left me with a certain aroma, because as these guys say, if you're not sweating, why are you on stage? I felt bad for my fellow travelers, but I felt good for myself because unlike on the DBahn between Prague and Berlin the previous weekend, at least I had my own seat. One must relish these small mercies.

It isn't as if though I needed any more small mercies - I was spending the spare moments between idly tapping on my laptop and staring out the window at one of the most beautiful cities in Europe to reflect on the fact that if a series of bizarre coincidences hadn't lined up in precisely the right way, I wouldn't even be here. Since here was such a well-set-up place to be, peopled by such friendly aliens, that would have been a real shame. Not being here would also have meant that I wouldn't have got to spend the previous few nights supporting a premium quality band playing heavy rock n roll in the old-fashioned devilhorned sense. Not doing that would mean that I wouldn't have been given the opportunity to spend my time on this side of the world playing violin for a band I have been in awe of since I first heard their record on bFM, nearly three years ago. If I hadn't done that, I wouldn't have had the chance to infiltrate the tweakingest tribe of international misfits and wizards to hit Neukolln in 2010, which might mean that I wouldn't have even been in Berlin in 2010, which would have been a waste.

Clearly it's a good thing that I don't usually take the trouble to record my idle musings as they occur in real time. I wouldn't want the above chain of poorly-reasoned connections to give the impression that I believe in fate or destiny of some kind - far from it in fact. That kind of thinking I will leave to hippies and wasters, who are better at it than me. I do find though that taking the trouble to revel in the chance encounters that make whole chunks of life more interesting is a good way to maintain a positive mental attitude in the face of things like smelling like a laundry hamper on a crowded seven-hour bus ride.

The bus ride was to be my second to last intercity trip in Europe this time around. Since I was travelling back to Berlin to play one last show, though, I still had a sense of anticipation to help me through the less diverting parts. The show was to be a continuation of a recent trend that An Emerald City had been displaying as a band, which was to open for heavy psychedelic bands from overseas whose names start with the word 'Black' and finish with a highly powerful noun like 'Mountain' or 'Angels.' This is a trend that will continue until Sabbath play a show in Berlin and we get to smash the back out of Ozzy's rider. Anticipating this event is a good way to distract yourself during even the crawlingest budget coach experience on the rush-hour clogged Copenhagen freeway.

Driving South is usually a good feeling, particularly at the beginning of a European Autumn when the birds start to head in the same direction. If feeling a kinship for the long-distance migratories is a common experience for musical refugees from the Southside of the world, it may be because both try to understand what it is to feel the pull of two places on far sides of the earth, each with its own set of attractive feeding grounds depending on the position of this planet relative to the Sun. Flocking birds must have to put up with the same sorts of heavy traffic, delayed departures and missed connections that the rest of us are used to, and the limp, feathered carcasses that dot the sides of the highway are a reminder that it's not always an easy trip. The road home is a bittersweet place to end up. And so forth.

It is precisely this kind of thinking that anticipating the next show is designed to avert. Having a show coming up is a useful reminder that the esoteric skills you spend so many secret hours developing in bedrooms and practice spaces have some kind of purpose beyond the satisfaction they bring to you and your musical accomplices. Knowing that tonight, tomorrow, or very soon you will need to stand up and do what you came to do, on a stage and in real life, is a great way to avoid thinking mawkishly about endings and focus instead on the start of whatever's going to happen next. Last night a guy asked if we were waiting for a revolution. I said no man, we're not waiting, we're working every day to bring that shit on. Everyone laughed of course because it was such a stupid thing to say. Regular readers will be aware that to say stupid things is one of the reasons I came to Europe in the first place though, so I still won.

Despite my carping about traffic and the cramped conditions in which I found myself, I actually enjoy travelling by busses and trains. Being somebody else's problem on somebody else's time is liberating, as long as you don't actually want to exercise any real liberty and are happy to go where you're sent. In this respect, one may wish to argue, intercity travel is much like parliamentary democracy. It is usually just as convenient, at least in the developed nations. I will abandon this analogy before it collapses under its own weight and creates a black hole that destroys the internet, but you get the idea: during the long hours between A and B, the mind is at liberty to wander.* Not having to be anywhere because you're already on your way to somewhere else removes all sense of responsibility for the duration of the trip, which means you don't even have to read a book if you don't want to. I like to sit and look at the view with my brain set to scatter, and sometimes even when my legs start to cramp and I can't eat any more salted nuts I don't want the ride to end just yet.

This liberty I guess is how you end up with the above. I wrote everything up to this line on the bus on the way out of Copenhagen, typing until the battery ran out on my laptop. From now on, I'm writing on the ferry and I promise I'll wrap this up before I have to change tenses again.** I realised as the bus pulled out of the station earlier that I was already writing in the past tense, because leaving a town can feel like that. I was thinking, I think, that given that my camera had run out of batteries it would be a good idea to try to remember Copenhagen by writing it down, in the past tense, the way a photo is. Unfortunately I kept on getting distracted by things like geese, which is an occurrence that disrupts my plans surprisingly often. Also distracting were roadkill, car accidents, food, wondering about music, and a lingering anxiety about whether or not I smelt too much like a human to be out in public. Therefore what I seem to have ended up with is a bit of a meander through a selection of those barely tangentially connected fields, which is going to make it difficult for me to find a journal to publish this in. I think the best way for you to read this is to imagine me muttering it to myself slightly too loudly on a bus full of young Scandinavians on their way to Berlin to run the marathon they have there, and sometimes trailing off to stare out the window with my mouth open a bit. You would be sitting two seats away wishing that your State-funded education hadn't included such a firm grounding in English, so it would be easier to tune me out.

When this ferry stops we'll get back on the bus and ride it at autobahn speed until it hits Berlin at around midnight. Then we'll will cast around for an UBahn to ride back to HQ, there to reconvene and anticipate opening for the Black Angels at the Comet club on Monday. As Tim G. says, just trying to make ends meet on a day to day basis.


*As in parliamentary debate, it sometimes comes back with poorly-chosen metaphors.
**Update: sorry.

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