I realized it would be good to put some back story to the Berlin house show….
BERLIN 2011, June
Berlin, spread out, giant, iconic Berlin, with its American Hipster Ex-Pats, and trendy Turkish neighborhoods.
So close to Poland, 5 hour train ride from Wroclaw, easy. Totally different, incredibly modernized with Subway systems reaching far into remote neighborhoods.
Its also the cheapest, fairly priced large city in Western Europe- a huge invitation for artists. So yeah, apart from its size and 24 hour culture, and Germans, yaaa, its a bit like Portland. I mainly go to perform here and to feed off the energy of the place. Its parties, scenes, and history are somewhat of a zoo-like attraction for me.
Everywhere, stylized haircuts, fashion among the youth, and a general sense of… “this is the coolest place to live in the world….”
But somewhere amidst all this post modern hispter stuff I managed to make good friends with a down to earth, sweet and generous human, Jochen, a few years ago during a longer stay. Not to say hipsters aren’t sweet and generous…but perhaps, I stare at them too much as a zoo-like attraction.
So, Jochen invited me last year in June and I was a bit nervous, since I wasn’t sure if I would even make-up the trip cost. Like most artistic cities, the inhabitants can be cash poor. But.. I toughened up, bought a ticket and cello-bot and I got on the train.
I arrived i the main gigantic Metropolis style train station, HBH- levels of trains, S-Bahns, and more means of transportation. I tired myself out a bit trying to find the right connection to Neukoln, a Turkish, neighborhood where my friend lived and was hosting the house show.
Greeting me in the courtyard was an external cargo elevator that would take Jochen and I up to their 4th floor loft apartment. A quick wash-up, snack, and we were off the first show the night at a bar run by Romani (gypsies).
The place filled up with interesting aces. The show, intimate, grand, joyful. Friends that I met earlier on my trip in Krakow made it to this show as well.
The hat collection proved a wonderful show with people throwing in bills, not just coins. Jochen himself was stunned- since usually hat collections can be timid. Euros were falling into my lap- hurrah!! Encore and Euros… Ich liebe Berlin!
The Romani hosts were sweet and glad to a witness and host a show. Where else could a singing cellist, Polish born perform but a Romani led cafe in Berlin?
I should start thinking about Brazil.
The 2nd bar that evening-
Full, crowded, and I was wondering whether anyone would quiet down for the show. Its ok if they didn’t- just a different kind of show.
A pin could drop. Everyone silenced their gabbing. They listened intently and showed gratitude with an encore!
After the show Jochen and I drank Yerbe Matte Vodkas and stayed up talking til 5am- ah Berlin Bedtime.
Somehow I’m not capable of this in Portland.
The next day, all the flat mates transformed the courtyard into a soirre space. Lanterns were strung up, a disco ball hung from a branch of a small tree, and a table laid out with fresh salads, food, wine and beer. The tone was set for a warm and inviting performance. Only the possibility of rain clouds could wash us out.
On this gorgeous, warm, June evening, I performed open hearted, told stories in English we with the audience, travelled to spaces from the Willamette Valley, Poland, and to our ancestors, and back to that magical courtyard.
On the encore I improvised to the space… the birds in the vines that had grown into the brick walls, their chirping, the tears in the audience.
Beauty created, a space was born and felt.
BERLIN COMING BACK April 20th 2012
I was a bit more smarter this time around coming into Berlin. I got off on the train stop closer to Jochen’s place so I could get there quicker. As quick as I could be with a cello, a carry on stuffed full of gear, cds, and new Bison Rouge shirts, and change of clothes.
The hosts, including Jochen really wanted to repeat last year’s concert in the courtyard, but due to the inclement (?) weather I wasn’t so sure it was a good idea. The other possibility was performing indoors in the large loft space- an idea I was a bit more into.
I had about an hour or two to get ready since getting into town, hair into my Victory Roll Horns, Red Dress on and down the elevator I went to put together my gear for the show.
The courtyard was full of people, eating drinking, celebrating, children attached to mother’s hips, lovers holding drinks around fire pits. The disco ball was hanging from its tree, the lanterns warmed the space with their glow.
I went inside to set up. Once of the hosts, who came to the show the previous summer and shed tears, created a ‘stage space’ lit up warmly with various lights. Finding a place to plug in my looping pedal at first seemed a challenge since it seemed like every outlet was taken up by the lights. Ah finally, I found one!
A small child soon appeared asking in German what I thought was “When are you starting?”
I would reply “Tzen minuten” or something similar trying, in the tiny bit of German that I remembered from 2 years of high-school classes. Its sad really, but pieces come back when I’m forced to use it.
I was done setting up- time to start the show!
People piled in from the courtyard, which I was glad to see since the outdoors, fire pits, and booze seemed so much more appealing than a cellist songbird, but I was wrong.
The audience was quiet through the entire performance, apart for an excited child who wailed every so often.
It was my back-up singer diva! I was glad the mother and children could go out an enjoy a show, and I did my best to keep my focus. The best test for your focuse is letting a small child into a sit-down quiet show. After that any drunk bastard beating on the stage is easy.
The show ended with a Bis and as an encore I sang ‘Ode to Bison’, a piece that I let the audience choose from either “i will Always love you” or Ode, from earlier in the show. They always seem to choose “I will always Love You” and the other song, whatever it is ends up being an encore, or an improvisation.
Once again Euros fell from the sky, my trip was paid for and then some, and we all went out into the Courtyard for more festivities. The best compliement ever was given to me: “I had a really hard week and your performance made it all better, it really helped”. My work here was done! Connecting with humans on such a level is one of the main reasons I do this, otherwise I’d just be singing at home in a closet or I’d become a nurse, or something else useful.
Jochen took me up in the external cargo elevator and everyone waved and cheered goodbye. Robo-cello was happy and waved back as much as herm could, not having arms of course.
We went out that night, to a basement club, but not the sort of basement with tall ceilings and an obvious bar, no, it felt like the basement of a house. The club music was a bit banal, but we drank and danced anyways. I met some young hipster looking kids from Vancouver, BC- they heard my accent. My party stayed up till 6/7am, a roommate, Phillip, walked me home, and we stopped and stared up into the early morning the blossoming cherry trees while the birds chirped loudly…. its so easy to do this in Berlin.
Jochen stayed with a friend and gave me his room- a large, open simple space with a large winder overlooking some rooftops. I fell asleep full of love, wonderment, and excited to continue my trip!
I did end up sleeping in until 5pm on accident- ay Jet Lag- lucky we repeated a night out amongst fashion scensters the next night at the launch of a fashion publicity firm in loft building. Tres lalala chik in my boots and braid to my side. Train to catch at 9:30 in the morning after a one hour nap!
WARSAW! April 25th
I couldn’t fall asleep the night before, I was so excited to perform in Poland’s capitol city. I hadn’t been there since a teenager years ago and to perform in it felt like an honor. It now had a metro/subway and tall business buildings, and I wondered what the people would be like.
I already had a ticket for a bus that would take me there for $10 from Wroclaw with supposedly free WIFI. Touring at its finest when your costs are low and you can sleep!
The ride was easy and I napped, which I’ve been warned not to do, but I create sort of a pillow nest with my purse and things and guard then in my rest. There is no highway between Wroclaw and Warsaw so the bus eased and winded its way along in the country side. Old brick and mortor builings, scratched and scarred by years of history in the making. I regret not taking any pictures of these old villages. I couldn’t help but thinking who used to hide in the barns and homes during WWII, who was seeking refuge, who went hungry or laughed when the summer sun shone. Regardless of their state, i could tell by the windows, that the inhabitants took care and pride in their gardens and homes. Some buildings had a cheerful coat of paint- something in contrast to the grey Communist era tones of buildings. In general, many old block ‘Stalin Haus’ buildings are receiving cheerful coats of paint in hues of pastel oranges and greens. Coming upon Warsaw, these buildings stand like rectangular mounds of sherbet ice-cream, joyfully welcoming any newcomer. Some argue that its tacky to paint them this way, but I find that it makes sense, to try to reverse the thoughts of an outdated era. At least, visually.
I thought of taking a taxi to the venue, which could have been a ways from the bus station. But, once I found out that the best way to get there by public transport was with the new subway/metro system I was all for it. This I had to see and experience! I quickly made my way down the stairs with cello-bot and things, to this newly built tunnel train.
All was similar to NYcity’s metro- ticket, enter it into a ticket puncher/holder, and it let you through. But, what was different and interesting was when the train stopped a horn sounded the doors opened, people got in and out, the horn blew again and the doors closed. This amused me greatly. I remembered watching black and white Communist Era films about factories and mines and horns blew when shifts started/were over. Perhaps, some things don’t change- time to go to work, time to go home and eat, sleep with your girlfriend… delineated by a horn.
I then took the tram, past the old town, the castle over the Wisla (Vistula) River. A gorgeous sunny day, feww, what a view of Warsaw!
My destination, Sen Pczoly, (Bee’s Dream), was located at the end of a courtyard, behind giant steel doors that had a modern looking bee spray painted onto it. I missed taking a picture of it.
In a basement space , Vladimirska began their long and sometimes tedious sound check process. Due to their instrumentation- accordion, guitar, trumpet, baritone sax and drumset, it sometimes took them a long time to get to a sound they enjoyed. Also, Scotia’s voice, though beautiful, was soft and often needed a lot of gain on it.
I did make up and hair in the meantime.
Soundcheck for me was pretty simple- since it was just me, but all of us together rehearsed a couple of songs together to play at the end of their set. I love collaborating!
The weather outside was really nice and the Majowka (Polish week of holidays that people leave cities for the country) was just around the corner, so I wondered about the attendance.
A few people came- Scotia was shocked. She said it was the least amount of people they ever received, ever.
This worried her more than me, since being a small solo act, I was used to a huge difference of audience sizes and performed to one as well as hundreds with the same vigor and passion.
The show, yes, though small attendance was very appreciated and we all received encores. I met an excited new fan that was the booker for a different, and more club and really wanted me to come perform there.
Also, the booker for Sen Pczoly invited me back and gave me her contact- I joked- “Really? But barely anyone came at all, you really want me back?”
“Yes, for sure, you are amazing and we’ll work it out better next time!”
Done and Done!
POZNAN April 26th
Oy! After 4 hours of sleep in a hostel and getting up at 6 am, I caught a taxi and took the metro back to the bus station. The hostel attendant was sweet enough to pack me some fruit and a yogurt for the road.
At ,the metro/bus station, breakfast seemed hard to find. A stand with sweet rolls looked somewhat promised, but I told the lady I didn’t like them two sweet .She recommended some apple, danish like thing. ok, I bought one for the eqivalant of 30 cents. There was a stand with sad looking hamburgers and a sad mistake for pizza. What was this place? It seemed stuck in time. People sold shirts and things that came from god knows where- maybe even still Russia… I could be making this up, but who knows.
And there is was, glistening right next to the bus depot a small shop with healthy looking rolls, candy, cheeses, meats, and liquor. Perfect! Breakfast with soft cheeses and seed bread it was!
Off to Poznan!
I came into the city rather early, compared to the band, and found a nice restaurant with WIFI. The salad I had was amazing, so amazing. that I took a picture of it. Even the sour cream seemed healthy coated fresh pees, beats, lettuce, and hard boiled eggs. I’m going to have to try to make it at home- uuumm!!
Once the venue was open and I went over and dropped off my things so I could walk over to a student radio station. I kind of forgot that 20 minutes of walking is kind of long and seems far when you’re looking for directions constantly… but I walked over a bridge to see a beautiful view of the city. Man, Poznan is a gorgeous city and on such a gorgeous hot end of April day I wished to be lying on blanket over looking the Warta River… once again I failed to take a picture!!
The radio interview was interesting– half the question I didn’t even really know how to answer- like “There is this perception that you can become famous really quickly, from riches to rags- is this true?” How am I supposed to answer that- I gave the example of Sally Ford since she seemed to grow super fast since I saw it happen in my own Portland town, and the Andrew Bird, who took him a longer time to grow. And how would you explain your performance to the viewers- what you sound like…. great! My favorite question.. half the time I don’t even really know what I’m doing, just that I’m creating.
Alright- back to the venue! Another whore’s bath in the bathroom (this tour is like a string of whore’s baths highlighted by shining moments on a stage).
After Sound Check, I set up merch…. ha!
I looked at the merch table- my half:
Sign up email list offering songs for signing up.
Ecological Recycled Shirts
I laughed at it- who here was the artist from America? Who was sick with Capitalism? and I was the support, opener, so it seemed even more ridiculous.
I actually took video of the performance this time as part of my documenting of this trip.
Afterwards the booker/manager congratulated me greatly, bought half my cds, shirts! The audience congratulated! Another contact made, another grand night of magic making!
WROCLAW Schody Donikad April 29th
This show was going to prove to be the most challenging, and I was so hoping for it to be laid back.
It started well, but since it was an ‘open’ concert there were non-concert goers in the audience, and a crowd of them was loud and boisterous.
I eventually invited them to the stage to sing or dance, so they’d understand their ridiculous and raucous ways.
They were wasted.
The man of the pair, was asking why I was doing this, since it was embarrassing him.
Afterwards they seemed to settle down a bit, but they weren’t going to move.
I saw my friend and violinist speak with them, and eventually they left the scene.
The concert ended really nicely- My father came up and sang a song and everyone really enjoyed it as the encore.
“You are so beautiful to me” Since it was my birthday. Really sweet.
My parents brought out a cake and candles- sweet 16- woo-hooo!!
After I cut the cake and distributed pieces i went to settle up with the bar manager.
Holy Shit… was he negative. Everything from “we couldn’t get a hold of you to finish the negotiation”
which I have no idea who he tried to call, to your party asked those drunk patrons to leave.
This I also had no idea about and on top of it those drunk people didn’t pay their bill and the manager was demanding that my friend pay their bill.
This was ridiculous, totally absurd.
And it went in circles….
And then I raised my voice slightly…
And then I WAS the uncultured one who yells at him, who’s speaking to me in a cultural matter.
I never had to apologize so much in my life for something so ridiculous just to calm down the situation.
I started speaking in English, slowly, to explain my side. I also mentioned that quite a bit of people came that night for the concert, who were also patrons and enjoyed the show, but he didn’t seem to give a shit about that.
I finally explained that all I wanted was a nice show on a night right before my Birthday in the city I was born and that I never wanted any harm or stress on any side. And in addition, I even invited them in on stage so they could be a part of the show and that its my performer philosophy.
Finally he seemed to give up- “Ok- lets leave it at that, your friend doesn’t need pay and I’ll pay you, just wait here”.
Standing in the back of the bar, surrounded by beer cases and staring at the kitchen sink, after all this arguing I thought-
“Of course, the one, the one place I have a problem with, the one concert, the one manager is in my birth city, midnight of my birthday”.
TO OSTRAVA the next morning 4/30!!!
On the train, and I took the local train, not speedy one we road through in some part of Poland i had never seen, it was wild, any sort of structure old, unkempt, rusted.. any rustic stop covered in tags and graffiti. These scarred buildings hid amongst out against the green, luscious Spring. The train came to a stop in what seemed like the middle of nowhere, we were surrounded by fields, vegetation and sun. Tthe thought of running outside, stripping myself of all clothing and becoming a Polish Primate compulsively came to mind. Robo-cello would be sad that I left herm behind, so I sat still.
The organizer of the event came to pick me up in Bohumin, only 20 minutes from Ostrava.
She was inviting, open, and helped me with my things. We went to the hotel where i was to stay- So grand!
A room overlooking the street, with an old, antique large commode for dishes. Later a friend said it was Russian style.
I could easily live here.
We went to the space to drop off our things- a gallery, a multi disciplinary space, a cafe. This place was wonderful!
Already, the problems of the night before melted away.
There was even a real green room where I could lay down in peace, get ready, and practice.
Sona, the organizer, invited an accordion student from the local conservatory and we rehearse and she proved to be creative and very interesting.
My excitement rose!
The show, even though there was small attendance was exciting. Anezka, the accordionist and I ended with an improvisation that brought everyone to greater heights.
We went out for beers afterwards and walked around Ostrava. It was crazy night, the students were out drinking, and we grabbed on of the best Kababs/Doner I ever ate. Definitely in par with Berlin.
In the morning the sun and street cars woke me up, but I knew that there was breakfast and emailing waiting for me downstairs in the restaurant.
Awesome, so good- scrambled eggs with ham, yogurt, and tea. Meow! Good way to start!
I was a 5 minute walk from the train station so getting there with luggage and cello was pretty easy.
BRNO May 1st!
My train ride was pretty easy, as they all are, and I really enjoy traveling by train.
Though upon arrival i was a bit disorganized. I didn’t write down the directions, or details of the venue, or have any numbers written down, or really anything.
This proved to be shitty. I wrote the organizer earlier that day, Jan, that I’d be there around 15:30 and that, I assumed he’d be there to pick me up as he said he potentially could.
Too many, potentials, and maybes. I sat for an hour, also looking for internet that didn’t work, or was out of reach.
Finally, the call of capitalism called and a KFC had free wifi. Hate to admit, but it saved me that day.
I made a few internet calls and figured it out. HIs friend came to pick me up.
I was exhausted by then, wasted. I had to eat, drink, forget about my bad mood, since I was the ‘special guest’ for the evening.
Jan organized these great nights of music. It was a mixed bag, but a grand way of audience and musicians becoming in contact with different sorts of artists and musicians.
He called in ‘Open Mic’ and there were three parts to the evening.
2-4 acts all got 4 songs a piece to perform
open mic and an open invitation to who ever wanted to to come up and play.
Special Guest- MEEE!!!
The show went really, really great and was more interactive.