We grasp for
Tangled webs of
Ropes to harness
Make a noose
Make a leash.
You are unique.
You are interesting.
You are drowning
In a sea
If that is
Glory be to…
Our adventures in Berlin ended a few days ago. We enjoyed our stay and enjoyed the vibe of that friendly urban landscape. Now we are holed up in a more rural part of Germany. Lauenberg it is called, a town of 10,000 on the north side of the river Elbe. We are south and east of Hamburg. The landscape is beautiful and the quiet nights are even better. We’ve been compiling videos and filming documentary interviews. It’s a chance to catch up on everything we’ve put off until now. Today we even went on a jog along the river! Exercise? Are we allowed to do that on vacation?? I hope so.
I’ll mention two more things about Berlin. First, there was the night we went out to a dive called Hangar 49. As the name suggests, the bar is a refurbished air hangar. It was only possible to find via the magic of Google maps, because it was tucked behind several tall buildings and didn’t even sport a sign on the door. We’d been told there was an open-stage/open-mic once a week. We were hoping for something experimental, maybe art music or an acoustic jam. What we found was a dark, tiny stage packed with electric guitars cranked up to 11.
The good news is that we stuck it out. Ben and I both appreciate a good blues jam, and these musicians were having a great time on stage. Players would frequently tap each other out to join with a new idea, and the energy was comfortable, sometimes even comical. We had a couple whiskeys and watched things unfold for a while, then I shot Ben a quizzical glance and he shrugged approval. I got up and found the sound guy to ask his recommendation. He spoke great English and he was clearly excited when I mentioned a cello and viola. He went into the back room and returned a moment later with a clip-on mic.
So Wormwood joined the fray. We squeezed on stage and jammed as best we could with the plethora of bass, drums, and guitar that filled the room. No one could hear us, but that’s nothing new for string players like ourselves. When we got down to take a break, a local guitarist came up to Ben and said, “You should take the stage! We coudln’t hear you at all. Just be kind of aggressive. Tell people you want to do something.”
We waited in the wings for a few minutes, then we gave it our midwestern-best. With some smiling gestures and phrases like “just cello and viola for a bit” we got most of the players to step down. A drummer and a guitarist didn’t understand exactly or didn’t hear so we were left with an interesting four-piece band. The first things we tried was some kind of groove, with lots of guitar. A singer joined us halfway through, improvising lyrics and melody. People really liked it, and the guitarist turned down his amp to allow more strings through. Afterwards, I said to him, “Something experimental?” He started playing Metallica. I said, “Good enough!”
We started playing Nothing Else Matters, or an approximation of it, and then a woman sitting in the bar got up on stage and added the lyrics! She had a great voice. We jammed with her for a few tunes and then stepped off stage with big smiles. It was so refreshing to play music with others. It really didn’t matter what tunes or styles came up. Playing cello and viola that wasn’t signature “Wormwood” was a breath of fresh air for our ears. Thanks, Hangar 49! Thanks, Berlin!
The last thing we did before departing the city was make a day trip out to the lakes. There are many lakes west of the city. It’s about an hour transit to any of them (unless you are us, in which case you should plan for two hours at least.) We met up with Amanda, our new friend from Prague, and traveled together for the day. She had wandered into Berlin on her own a few days before. We joked and talked our way from train to train to bus to walking trail, and eventually found the beach we wanted.
A quick dip followed by a picnic revived us after our (much too arduous) journey, and we strolled up a path to uncover…wait for it…a column! These are very rare in…no wait…these are all over Europe. But this one was stone and it had a shield on it and it looked sort of Viking (in a Germanic, Christian kind of way)!
So we played a little music while the sun set on the river and we thought about home. This set is dedicated to Brett Baldauf. The music has a clearly recognizable influence. We gotta hand it to the Irish – they know how to write a tune. Hope you like it, Brett!
On our way home Ben started ranting about the sensationalism of Facebook and the curated lives we display to the public. He eventually decided that he must turn his Facebook profile into a celebration of the mundane and un-filtered. He feels it is the only way to fight back against the constant one-up-man-ship of the internet. (Besides shutting his FB down completely of course…but he tells himself he can’t do that because he’s a musician and entrepreneur who relies on just that sensationalism *facepalm*)
Without further ado, I give you Ben’s mundane dinner conversation video. His latest achievement in the celebration of non-achievement.