Monday, September 23, 2013

Ruts D.C. in Germany, September 2013

What follows was written at the date and time indicated...

Wednesday 18th September, 2.25pm

Welcome to room 304 of the Armony Hotel in Berlin. My - indeed our - journey has been relatively straightforward (for once!) I got a 6.30am cab to Heathrow Airport Terminal 1, met the rest of the Ruts D.C. touring party (Dave on drums, Segs on bass, Molara on vocals and Nick our soundman, keyboard wizard Seamus being busy elsewhere) in zone J where we checked in, put our bags and guitars where our bags and guitars were supposed to go and made our way through security to the departure lounge (I got stopped and had to empty my bag out - nothing too embarrassing in it thank Gawd!) where we had some breakfast before making our way to the aircraft. We took off a few minutes late and from my point of view the flight went by in no time thanks to a combination of catching up on sleep and reading the excellently nerdy 'Won't Get Fooled Again - The Who From Lifehouse To Quadrophenia' book. 
Mutti, Segs and Dave
attempt to ignore the film crew
as they arrive at
The Armony Hotel.
At Tegal Airport we were reunited with our luggage (my Les Paul is still in one piece - hurrah!) then met up with Mutti, our tour manager for our 4-gigs-in-4-days visit to Germany. Amusingly he's being filmed for a documentary being made about him - which means we were being filmed too. Excellent! He takes us the scenic route to our hotel, meaning that we get to see The Brandenberg Gate, Holocaust MemorialCheckpoint Charlie and more while he supplies a very interesting and informative commentary.
Our hotel looks good, the venue SO36 is not too far away, everyone is in high spirits - this is going to be a good few days. 

Time for a drink!

Thursday 19th September, 12.50pm

We've not long left our hotel, travelling through some different parts of the city that we didn't see yesterday including some of the former East Berlin which I spent a bit of time in when The Price played there back in 1990. All good stuff - now we head for Hamburg.
Our first Seamus-less show went well (although I for one definitely missed his always-excellent playing) with 250+ people in attendance including Adrian and Gunta from England, New Rose Punk Rock Radio DJ Nolti (who plays The Price regularly on his show - top man!) and Max who tells me he saw me playing with T.V. Smith at The Rebellion Festival back in 2011. Mutti's assistant Katya manned the merchandise stall which gave me chance to, well, feel as though I had nothing to do as I'm normally behind the table myself. Still I was able to join Adrian and Gunta for a drink in The Franken Bar opposite the venue, and to catch a few songs by The Tips who are supporting us on all 4 shows. We played a good show although as I say the keyboards were definitely missed, especially on the reggae-based numbers; none of this seemed to bother the audience, who were well into it from the word go. Talking to people afterwards - and let me say now that when they apologised for having bad English it was infinitely better than my German will ever be - it was clear that many folk had waited a very long time for this gig to happen,  and that quite a few people were going to be at more than one or the tour dates which was great to hear.
Earlier in the evening while Dave and Segs had been busy with a radio interview (which you can hear here) I'd been walking from our hotel to the venue when I came across the Disorder Rebel Store. With a name like that I of course had to go in, and was just feeling tempted to buy a suitably rebellious t-shirt when the man behind the counter said a cheery hello. We got talking, and he asked me what I was doing in town. When I told him that I was playing at SO36 he said 'Ah, Ruts D.C.!' excitedly and produced a CD-R with the band's named scrawled on it in felt tip pen. When I joked that he should have bought a 'real' copy he laughed, shrugged and said 'I'm an anarchist!'

There's no answer to that is there?

Friday 20th September, 1.45pm

If like me you're a Beatles fan - ok, a Beatles obsessive... oh alright, a Beatles bore - then
Just ask for 'Mr Claus' -
everything he says is true!
visiting Hamburg for the first time can only bring to mind The Fab Four's legendary stints in the city. As we arrived at The Hotel Pacific Mutti told us that 'it's the one where all the groups stayed back in the '60s' and then went on to say that the old chap in the Rotthoff music shop next door has worked there for over 50 years and has lots of stories to tell...

My new friend 'Mr. Claus' (pronounced 'Klaus') smiled knowingly. I'd just asked him if The Beatles used to come into his shop. Yes, many times, also Bill Haley, Gene Vincent, Little Richard, Screaming Lord Sutch, Cream, The Spencer Davis Group - this list was endless. I asked him if Jimi Hendrix had ever paid him a visit - he hadn't but he did see him play at The Star Club. He recounted how Tony Sheridan had been a great friend, and how sad his death earlier this year had been - 'he told me many things, but never that he was ill'. He'd met him around the time that The Beat Brothers had been his backing band - I wonder whatever happened to them?
The venue is down on the waterside; to get there we drive along The Reeperbahn, and once again Mutti's running commentary is absolutely excellent. At The Hafelklang soundcheck goes well and there is food and drink a-plenty. We walk a few doors down to The Haifisch Bar for a drink (obviously!) before returning to find The Tips sounding good and the club filling up nicely. By the time we take to the stage there is a tangible atmosphere of expectation - we start as we mean to go on and play a powerful show to an increasingly animated audience. At one point a large bearded (and for want of a better term, 'confused') man asks to use a microphone - I was expecting a profound political statement but instead he says that he bought a Ruts t-shirt and now he's dropped it and if anyone finds it could they let him have it back. They do, and they do. 'It's like a branch of Alcoholics Anonymous' says Segs ruefully. Our show ends to what might best be described as pandemonium, and after encoring we retire to the dressing room where we realise that they're still cheering and don't sound as though they're going to stop. After a brief 'do we / don't we?' conversation we return to jam on 'Can't Take It Easy'. Thank you and goodnight.
Segs outside Rockhats -
right hook not pictured.
Back on The Reeperbahn the scariest thing that I see being bought is Dave's sausage (oo-er missus etc) although I must admit that I didn't look for too long. I thought about going for a drink with Mutti and Segs (who had refused to leave the van until he was taken to a bar!) but decided against it - when I saw him in the morning Segs told me that I 'missed the fight'... apparently they'd gone to The Jolly Roger, stronghold of the F.C. St. Pauli fans like Mutti where someone had asked him what team he followed. When he told them that he'd been born near Arsenal's ground they swung a punch at him. Not good frankly. Still we have just visited the 'Rockhats' shop, where Nick nearly bought a top hat (it would have looked great behind the mixing desk!) and Segs tried on a sou'wester, much to everyone's amusement. That's more like it. 

Saturday 21st September, 8.30am

...and we're already on the road. It's an epic journey from Bremen to Munich so it's an
The Tips rockin' The Lagerhaus.
early start. I've got an annoyingly runny nose although I don't feel as though I've got a cold, and I feel tired but not tired enough to get back to sleep just yet. It's a lovely sunny morning and although the mood in the van is subdued it's also very positive - and well it might be as it was another good show last night, maybe not quite as incendiary as the previous night in Hamburg but not far off it. The Lagerhaus (what a great name! - although disappointingly it means 'store house') is a excellent venue with a fine sound system and excellent stage, which always makes a band's job easier. There's a feeling of being at a particular standard which we mustn't fall below - that's a good feeling to have.

Some more thoughts on the Jolly Roger incident - the theory now is that Segs's attacker heard him tell the barmaid that his name was 'sex' and took offence. Well, it's a thought. In the meantime the man himself has just announced that he's lost two pairs of socks (that happens doesn't it?) and, rather more peculiarly, the lace from his right shoe. That takes a bit of doing don't you think?
So, today is a road day. I'm hungry as I haven't had any breakfast, but nor has anybody else. I'm sure we'll stop for something soon.


Well I managed to get a bit of sleep and also to read a bit more of my book - but that was around 7 hours on the road. Mutti drove the whole way - how he's still on his feet and working is beyond all of us. And I'm moaning about having a runny nose! Annoyingly it's still going strong - I've taken a hay fever tablet so maybe that'll help.
After a somewhat light-hearted soundcheck we were bought down to Earth by the news that only 17 advance tickets have been sold. Perhaps playing a gig when it's the first night of The Oktoberfest just down the road isn't a good idea? Still we're sounding good, and as The Tips are getting ready for their soundcheck myself and Segs meet our new friend Chris who wants to interview us for the German version of 'Guitarist' magazine. Now I must admit that I'm both amazed and amused by this; a guitar magazine wants to talk to me? Hilarious! At some point of our epic journey we had a less-than-serious 'what shall we say to him?' conversation - we came up with the concept of RHD or 'Right Hand Dynamics' as a soundbite if we needed one... in the event it was a very easy and enjoyable thing to do, right down to the 'what strings do you use?' moments (being a complete nerd I of course knew mine, but Segs had to get the packet from his bass case to find out what gauge his were!) and I must say that I could have sat there talking about guitars for a lot longer than I did. Mind you, I usually can. And yes, Segs not only talked about Right Hand Dynamics, but talked about them in a rather more serious manner than either of us were expecting.

Time for some food!

Sunday 22nd September, 11.30am

Well now we're at Stuttgart Airport getting ready to go home. What a great few days this has been. Mind you it didn't feel quite so great last night when we realised that we might be facing a audience of less than 20. After eating I got changed (more for something to do than anything else, if you know what I mean) I walked down into the hall to see how Katya was doing setting up the merchandise stall. There were already more than 17 people in the hall. Good. Things can only get better. 
By the time The Tips start their show at half past eight there are 50 or so in the audience; halfway through their set there are at least double that and people are still arriving. Hurrah!
Ruts D.C. showtime is 10 o'clock, and what a show it is. The audience is noisy, boisterous even, a few at the front engage Molara and Segs in conversation (well they shout cheerily at them in a manner that suggests that they may have spent some time at The Oktoberfest earlier!) and there is dancing and merriment from the word go. As the show progresses it's clear that it's going to be one to remember, and our set ends to chaotic scenes. When we return for an encore we even manage to get Mutti on stage with us, he looks embarrassed when Segs tells the audience how great he's been to us for the last few days - but it's true, he and Katya have both been brilliant. 'Dope For Guns' and 'In A Rut' nearly cause a riot, and we return for a breathless 'H-Eyes' to finish a terrific show.
After some suitably mad times on the merch after the show we pack our gear away and then load the van before setting out for Stuttgart where we're staying in anticipation of our flight home. Having already driven hundreds of miles during the day Mutti is still behind the wheel - the man's a marvel.
Sitting here now, thinking back over the last few days spent in Germany I have to say that it's been a wonderful thing to be part of. As stated above Mutti and Katya have worked tirelessly to make sure that things ran smoothly, and run smoothly they most certainly did. Indeed the only downside that I can think of (apart from Segs nearly getting into a scrap!) is that I've still got a runny nose. Maybe I have got a bit of a cold, although I still don't feel as though I have. Oh well.
Four lads who
shook the World.
With jaunts such as this there is often a moment that somehow stands out, that stays with you longer than others - you know the sort of thing. For me it occurred in the dressing room at the Berlin SO36 gig... Ruts D.C. played at the venue in 1981, and The Ruts had played in Berlin a year-and-a-bit earlier as part of a series of European dates. A fan had put together a display that included a blown-up photocopy of the 1981 concert ticket and four individual photos of the band taken at the earlier show, and had bought it up to the dressing room. And there they were looking out at us all, four young men ready to take on the World. Two of them were in the dressing room, the other two sadly were not. As I looked at the pictures I wondered how Segs and Dave felt - really felt - about them. Would it upset them, or would it cheer them that someone had thought so much of the band that they'd gone to so much trouble to produce such a splendid display?
A couple of minutes before the show I got my answer. We were just about to head for the stage when Dave produced some plastic cups. He poured a generous measure of Vodka into each of them and then handed one each to Mutti, Segs, Molara and myself. He looked at the photos, smiled and then raised his drink in the air. 

'To absent friends...' and then added 'and to new friends too'.

Enough said I think?

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