AND WE’RE BACK!!! This day (Saturday), our favorite housemate / soundguy / driver Stijn was taking us to our one gig in Germany. It was way in the middle of Germany in a little town near Frankfurt named Reichelsheim. The plan for us was to play, stay there overnight, and go straight to our next gig in Belgium the following day. Sounds like a great plan for those with the foresight to bring extra contacts, or glasses, or contact solution, or perhaps some toiletries of any kind. I was not one of those people.
Germany was great. The land of maybe 1/4 of my forebears was beautiful — great swelling hills clothed in dark fur trees, with picturesque little villages nestled in their ample cleavage, rock-hard castles standing strong on the peaks, and huge golden fields of fragrant flowers making the whole country smell like RAPE!!! Rape is the name of the flower — you make vegetable oil and stuff out of it. I don’t know where your mind is, but I assure you it was quite lovely.
We got there after a long, hot drive (they don’t believe in AC in Europe), and were treated to the usual free beer by the bartenders. We met Heinrich of Heinrich XIII and the Devilgrass Pickers, who was to be our host that night. One of the bartenders spoke perfect American-accented English — turns out he lived in North Carolina for a while. This was also the first place where I could get a proper cup of coffee — giant-sized. They served us a tasty Schnitzel with fries, and while dining, in walked a couple of our neighbors to the north — Dan Hektic, and Lilly from Montreal, Canada (some of whose photos we stole for this blog entry). We immediately made room for our fellow North Americans, and we all shot the fragrant Rapey breeze until it was show time.
Heinrich XIII and the Devilgrass Pickers went on first, again in front of the stars and bars. They have a show every month called “Rebel meets Bembel” where they play with a touring alt/oulaw/whathaveyou country act from America. Before we left for Europe, we babelfished “Bembel,” and it came out “Bembel,” so none of us knew what the hell a Bembel was. Well, we asked, and a Bembel is an earthenware jug or pitcher of sorts that holds beer. So it was their version of a moonshine jug, as I understand it. They had one on stage with whiskey in it. They’re also in a death metal band called Escalationunit Chaos Engine. They reminded me a lot of the small town death metal guys I grew up with, personality-wise. I liked them — they’re great musicians, and Heinrich has a great voice, no doubt due to the tender ministrations of Dr. Pot, which I will get to later. Then, it was our turn.
My voice was worse than ever, unfortunately. The upside was that with the outlaw country crowd, that can be a plus (I kept thinking back to when we played with Joe Buck in Detroit, and how shot his voice was at the time, which I found encouraging). We were also going to unleash some proper Carniedom by chucking streamers and plastic balls (that I bought in Brussels for the insane price of 6 Euros. 6 FREAKING EUROS?!?), and play the Jumpin’ Joe game. First thing I did was get the Germans stomping because I noticed there wasn’t any of that going on for Heinrich XIII, and there should have been. That broke the ice. Then, the streamers, then some Bembel drinking, then some Misfits covers, then the Jumpin’ Joe game. They got into it, and the crowd really cut loose for us. Best crowd of the tour, in my opinion. The place was full and they were dancing from way in the back to up in the front. By the end I was just chucking balls at them randomly because we didn’t have the Baba Yaga game with us — but really the Baba Yaga game is just an excuse to chuck balls, who’m I kidding. Joe jumped off the stage, and a friendly pink-haired girl started putting balls down his shirt. Heinrich and everybody joined us up on stage for Swing Low, and it was a great sweaty, happy mess.
We got down all sweaty and happy and sold a TON of merch… or at least we WOULD HAVE had we not depleted our store of mediums. Everybody in Europe wanted mediums. Nobody in the U.S. wears mediums. Nobody. We were also mostly out of larges, too, so that sucked. Luckily, though, they wanted hoodies; in Belgium we were told that nobody wanted hoodies because only criminals wear them, so we hadn’t sold any yet. Thank God for Germans! So we still sold a lot of merch anyway. They make it a point to support the touring bands by buying their wares. Great people.
At one point, the friendly pink-haired girl named Becks leaned over the merch table and confided into my ear, cheek to cheek, in conspiratorial tones the following conversation:
Becks — Are you staying at Heinrich’s tonight? What time are you leave tomorrow?
Jake — I think about one-ish; we have to make it back by our next show in Belgium tomorrow.
Becks — It is too bad you are not staying longer, most bands stay longer, and they use me. I am…. professional.
Jake — uh…?
Becks — My English… is not good right now… All the bands use me, and they pay me…
Jake — Well, that’s very sweet of you to offer, but, uh, we’ve got to go bright and early!
Becks — I am very good, I cost 600 Euros… [her husband comes up behind her and starts humping her at this point]
Jake — [600 FREAKING EUROS?!?] Uh, well, that’s very nice, but we won’t be needing any…
Becks — Let me show you my card… oh, my husband has it, let me show you picture… [she pulls out her Blackberry or whatever and starts showing me really good pictures of other bands and her kids and stuff. All the picture looked really good, like they were done by a professional].
Jake — Oh, a professional PHOTOGRAPHER!!! [600 FREAKING EUROS?!?]
Becks Van Hammer -- professional photographer, and good sport.
I don’t know where your mind is, but I assure you it was quite lovely. Still, we had to decline due to time restraints and economic concerns. We hung out and talked and cleaned up for forever. Heinrich got his guitar out in the bar area, and we all sang “Skulls” by the Misfits. I think we have a video of it somewhere.
Eventually we drove back to Heinrich’s house in Wölfersheim. He showed us our basement sleeping quarters in their practice room, and we hung out with them watching really freaking loud youtube videos while they made us sausages on a little electric grill. They also offered us free beer and moonshine. Heinrich, Sascha, I think Sebastian, Beam, Stijn, and our new Canadian friends were there (the latter would be staying the night in their European-touring van). I realized that I didn’t have any contact solution or new contacts or anything for tomorrow, so I got two shot glasses and put bottled water in them for my contacts. Close enough.
We had a really good time with those guys — they’re very cool people. Very hospitable. The videos started off with a bunch of inspiring old-timey guys playing banjo and clogging and whatnot, then they showed us some videos they made for their death metal band and for Bob Wayne (as an aside, we feel like we’re obligated to compete with Bob Wayne a little because he has the Outlaw Carnies, and we just have the regular Carnies. But Heinrich says he’s a really great guy, so any friend of Heinrich’s is a friend of ours. We look forward to meeting him at Muddy Roots and to have a Carnie tug-of-war or something to settle it once and for all. I kid, I kid! But our first show was in 2002, for the record, and I thought up the name in 1999. On the other hand, he’s way more popular than us, so… I guess we lose); but by the time we got to the animated LEGO snuff/rape (not the flower this time!) film, things started to get a little German weird. Next up was a video of them branding themselves and all their friends with a branding iron, screaming like mad for the sake of the video. Then they did a 15 minute ultra-loud death metal summation of Star Wars, A New Hope, with Heinrich translating the death metal screaming line by line for Billy. Gus was in the corner by the speakers with his fingers in his ears, and I was laughing so hard at this point that I was crying. Those sausages really hit the spot, too.
I think we stayed up till like 5 am watching videos, then hit the sack, only to awaken about 20 minutes prior to departure. My contacts were really tight, and hurt when I put them in for some strange reason. You know, one thing about Europe is that they have weird toilets. The toilets in Heinrich’s house had a little platform towards the back, allowing the former-sausages/schnitzel to stay high and dry for your admiration before flushing. I don’t want to know what’s up with that. Instead of taking the shower I should have taken, I spent a little time with Heinrich’s world-famous Dr. Pot. Dr. Pot is a boiling pot of Chamomile tea with three drops of mint oil in it on a hot plate. Basically you hold your head over it, put a towel over your head, and breathe in the steam until your face turns gray and slides off your skull. It’s supposed to help your voice, and he swears by it. I admit that after I got back home in Ypsi, I was doing it for a while to heal my demolished vocal chords, and I think it helped, but you’re supposed to do it as a regular maintenance thing so it doesn’t get that bad in the first place. He has all the visiting musicians do it while he takes a picture.
Beam. Like Jim Beam.
We loaded our stuff in the van for the long journey home-ish, traded a bunch of merch (sorry, no mediums or larges), and took a nice group photo. I really like those guys. I hope we get to go back to Germany to do another Rebel meets Bembel, but in the meantime, Heinrich XIII and the Devilgrass pickers will be playing with us on August 31st at the Circus Bar in Ann Arbor, working their way down to Muddy Roots! We can’t wait. We’re already trying to figure out what kind of slices of America to show them; hopefully the Chelsea Fair or something will be going on, or Gus can give them one of his Detroit tours. We wonder if the Confederate flag thing will bite them in the ass in Ann Arbor, which is about as politically-correct of a yankee town as you can get. I hope they put it up anyway, though, to stimulate further passionate discussions of the root causes of the American Civil War, but that’s just me. Or maybe no one will care. Come to the Circus Bar on August 31st and find out!
So we squeezed into the hot B.O. sardine can van, left Germany, and headed down to our very last show of our first European tour — Ace Cafe in Rumst, Belgium.