The smartest thing you can have in the working musician game is a booker. I don’t have a booker — not being particularly smart, and, as such, I find myself on a seven and a half hour journey to Germany’s Herzland (heartland) for a one-off show in a place I’ve never heard of: Marburg.
Steph joins the journey to offer vocals and company, as we plunge into the depths of Deutschland, transferring endless regional trains to avoid the high-end rail prices and to add an extra sense of bewilderment to our expedition, all while dragging my hefty guitar case. It is below freezing, our gig landing on the 1st of February, and we’re not entirely sure what our payment shall be — depending on how many people show up on the night. So far, one person I know has clicked attending, so we’re quietly confident.
We arrive after an 8 hour and change journey, thanks to a delay and horrendous coffee in a place called Kassel. (We didn’t get to see much of Kassel, but we learned the horrendous coffee we had there was a “Kaffee Creme” and certainly not an “Americano”, as Steph requested — which is good to know going forward.) Arriving in Marburg, the day’s already gone, and night firmly in place as we make our way through the ancient city. “Now, this is certainly somewhere” — we agree, stepping past the immense and ominously lit cathedral.
We arrive to our destination, Q Bar, meet our local guide, sound-guy, and all around champ, Jochen, who points us in the way of a fine pizza place — discussing along route how dairy ain’t good for vocals, but, how little we care when crippled with hunger pangs — having ill prepared for our lengthy journey.
With empty pizza boxes before us, the once wide open venue, cathedral-like in its stone interior, and black wooden roof, now utterly fills up. Who are these people? Middle-aged or older, for the most part — sans Sofie and her friend, the only lady I knew who clicked attending. There’s a few younguns’ lining the back, and I’m suddenly aware how prone to chatting to the crowd in English I’ve become in between songs, and how little they’ll understand if that habit kicks in tonight.
The show starts, goes well, and my guitar (who’s been sick as a dog since an onslaught of studio sessions) goes out of tune, often. Steph, who’s versed in the Deutsche tongue, offers up quips about how our guitar is a problem child, and we power through. It goes as well as it can go, and the crowd are wonderful in response to us — and, for once, financially speaking, these poor expat Berliners, are on easy street for the eve and journey back with a little extra dosh.
“Stick around for the techo cave-rave, it will go on till seven”, said a well-wishing event organiser, who’d rented out the back of the venue. Leading our way through to inspect the cave — as you do without hesitation as one must when ask to see a techno cave before (seldom after) the techno has started, we walk along candle-lit stone to a cavern in the cave — where a light-show’s projected against the wall, and there’s a DJ booth set up. We’re far too folky and exhausted from the journey to see it out, completely, but stay, discussing Marburg with Sophie for a while — learning how buses only come once an hour, and I aptly reminiscent for Ireland — where bus schedules are so infrequent, the sight of a 61 toward the City Centre is tantamount to mythical. With that we retire to our digs for the night: an old ballet school, with a spectacular view over the the city. An air of spookiness exuded from the place, represented here by Steph’s tinkling on the piano.
When awake we explore the winding cobble streets and the various levels of this mountainous city. We sample a Glühwein, while standing at the door of a cathedral as beautiful (and terrifying) organ music blares out, and watch crows fly across slated roof-tops and out, over the city — showing off the misted mountains in the background. Having been knocked aside, taken aback and made marvel at the wondrous city, we stop off at another cave, a tavern cut into the mountain and lined with locals perched at the bar watching a Berlin v. Wolfsburg football match. We’d love to stay, but gotta take a train going to the former, with many more in-between.
We arrive back in Berlin at midnight, exhausted but elated thanks to Marburg. Still have no booker, still not sure I’m smart enough of want one, yet.
Next stop: Arcos de la Frontera, Spain.