“I’D SELL MY SOUL BUT NO ONE’S BUYING”
The Diät tour had ended, and we had made it safely back to Berlin.
Berlin: a place where addictions come to reinvent themselves. Where drinking beers on trains is no biggie, the party starts after 4am, and rolling a big fat jozza by the canal is common practice for locals and tourists alike, who both flock here from all corners of the earth. It’s a chunky city, with wide streets and pavements, clusters of massive, modernist buildings, colourful murals on post-war project housing, green parks and grey skies, and a canal winding through the centre, lined by leafy banks and cobbled walkways. It was the beginning of spring and the budding branches seemed to extend skyward, as if stretching away the stiff winter and welcoming warmer days with open arms.
Every morning for a week, my kind host Iffi and I would wake up, jam our new radio pop song obsessions while eating porridge with ginger and almonds, then head to Static Shock Musik, where we’d jam the Chain of Flowers record hella loud while opening up shop. At least Iffi was jogging every morning to detox from tour—I was waking and baking at the house and day-drinking on the bench outside the store. I was on a hedonist’s quest, sans most of the resulting pleasure. I helped out with some odd jobs at the store (once a shitworker always a shitworker), walked around the Russian Memorial park twice and yet still failed to actually find the massive statue (what a loser), smoked a joint by the Brandenburg Gate and contemplated the evolution of identity in the age of the selfie stick, and lay under the sun in the park staring at the clouds that looked like dicks with wings, listening to Lust for Youth (so unpunk) and thinking about Blake, the demonization of the body and the absurd things we sometimes do to dismantle the illusions in our head. I went to Bis Aufs Messer Records (they also sell their own yummy coffee!) and with beers by the canal, reunited with the lovely Beeney, who was a MRR shitworker my first summer in SF! I saw a packed Diät gig at Tommyhaus, and danced to punk 45s and tunes by London’s Scraps at the Acid Baby Jesus show at Urban Spree, and drank divine Moscow Mules lined with dingos on the balcony at Kastanienkeller where Warsong from Zaragoza joined locals Sunbather in a packed and fun show. By far the most exciting band (and tightest drummer) I was introduced to this time around was Sick Horse, who play a mix of sinister psych garage and tense, snarky punk. On what I thought was my last day—because I don’t know how to read a bloody calendar—I woke up to barking dogs and smeared make-up. I stumbled out the house and through Alexanderplatz (the smell of sausage practically nauseating), walked through Museumsinseln but didn’t actually go inside any of the museums and almost fainted with dehydration by the canal with no corner store or café in sight for blocks or bridges. Poisoned by nicotine and negativity. With an extra day in town I felt suspended in my own mind so I decided to avoid humans and sat on a bench by the river in the sun with Low on repeat for three hours. Then I drank my way to an early night at the store. An earth angel came my way—in that way they do out of nowhere—and, after chatting for a while, about my meanderings, my life in the US, she realized I was the writer of what has comically devolved into MRR’s emo column, sans any of the music. “Yeah, you’re more confused in person than you come across on paper.” Ha, I liked her immediately! After Static Shock closed we went round the corner to hers, where she cooked me up a mini feast and gave me beer and the most delicious home made vodka-lemon drink that her dad makes back in Poland—it was like heaven in a shot glass. We talked and smoked and jammed Total Control and made each other lists of bands to check out, and her hospitality and open-heartedness humbled me. The next day it was “goodbye Berliners,” and a done deal to return for the festival two weeks later.
“THE GREAT CONSPIRACY OF A MODERN COMEDOWN” — NOTHING NICE TO SAY FESTIVAL RECOLLECTIONS
Hallo Berliners! I survived Nothing Nice to Say Fest! After landing and getting lost in Kreuzberg for over an hour, I finally found my way to West-Germany, where the art show was having its opening night. I almost cried with happiness when I saw some friends through the crowd and as I downed that first, delicious cold lager I felt like I was floating on air, my ears ringing, my head tingling. After a few more rounds we headed to Køpi for a Hell (!) show and what would turn into an epic night of fear and loathing in Kreuzberg, with cheap beer, even cheaper drugs, and cheesy jukebox jams at Rote Rose ending at 9am with insomnia in tears in the fetal position under the kitchen table. Off to a fantastic start as you can see. I dreamed a dream that night. That dreamers often lie. The next morning stomaching a glass of water was impossible and I promptly threw it up and fell back into to a delirious semi-slumber. An hour later I woke up panicked and panting, and my hosts Ika greeted me with the news about Prince. Death of a king. FML. She fed me strawberries and bananas as we walked along the canal and I gained some strength, and as she recounted her first absolutely mental time in Berlin I also gained some perspective. Definitely not still drunk, I danced around London’s Leftover Fashion (it’s a real place) looking for an extra layer ’cause, yeh, apparently it hails in Berlin in April. I found a pair of faux leather leggings with zippers across them and a sweater that ripped half way up the sleeve as soon as I put it on outside. It felt like an apt symbolism at the time.
I work… across the street, can’t get too worked up. Diät were the main band I wanted to see the first night, and they were great, but I ate pizza while Thee Oops played and frankly avoided the main room while Night Birds were on stage—really not my thing, plus the no ins-and-outs, bouncers and general big-club feel of SO36 wasn’t my thing either. But I caught up with more friends, who were slowly rolling in from all across Europe and beyond, and that was half the point. The aftershow at Wowsville was so jammed fucking packed I was one elbowing away from snapping. Then a tall chap approached me and, in an admittedly charming accent, said “Hi. I’m Jack. Pitt.” It took me a second to register, then my eyes bulged and I jumped with joy and hugged him, stoked to finally meet him, years after stumbling upon his blog while researching Yugo punk. We slouched around outside the bathrooms, the only place not already teaming with people—the whole venue dangerously over-capacitated—laughing at a piece of soggy pizza that sat nonchalantly on the ledge beside us. I went home early, happy to gather some strength (read: avoid emotional breakdown and/or public humiliation).
Friday I terrorized the record store, and sat in the sun chatting to all the punks who were dropping by. Sex on the Beach at a place called Molotov, then off to Statthaus for the evening show. It has a large open courtyard looking out onto the river, which made for an ideal place to linger about, catch up and catch cold. All bands pretty much nailed it, but Rixe and Belgrado were personal highlights. The aftershow on Friday was at Køpi and Komma F was packed during Life Fucker who are mental and who made the walls shake. I loitered about the café the rest of the night, generally trying to keep it together, self-medicating to self-regulate my mood. It got hella cold and I was feeling miserable and deflated. I cabbed it home, grating my teeth and clenching my fists. She can’t stop what she can’t even start.
On Saturday I stubbornly stayed in bed until noon, listening to Prince’s “If I Was Your Girlfriend,” silently sobbing under the covers because all the people I look up to either die or let me down. Feeling like a flat line, I made a conscious effort to remain sedated—the sun shining, my gut churning, the scenery gliding past me in slow motion. I had no energy to freak out about getting lost—metaphorically or otherwise. I’d been setting myself up for disappointment, one expectation at a time. There’s nothing for me happening here, or maybe there is, maybe I’m running out of fear, or maybe life has only just begun when you’re on the run.
After lunch we walked through the park to Rauchhaus and I sat up front for Sick Horse (so sick!) and had nachos and a cappuccino in the back while Arms Race made the crowd go wild. Yes to women with flying Vs! The evening show on Saturday was at Statthaus once again, also a rager, with faves Orden Mundial and Una Béstia Incontrolable delivering short but tight sets for a fun and feisty pit. The aftershow at Bei Ruth was on the fourth floor of a large building in an industrial part of town, with vast windows looking out onto the city centre. We had a hilarious cab ride to get there, our cabbie a middle aged woman (also on speed?!) blasting Youssou N’dour, waving her arms in the air, drumming the dashboard, her hands basically anywhere but on the wheel. I’m glad we made it out alive to see Puff and Barcelona because they were both wicked! My bad habits had been getting the better of me the whole fucking trip—and it’s not like I was resisting very hard—so by midnight I had fully given in to everything I know is bad for me. I like the taste of lipstick, cigar smoke, the deep club lights, and being with you is fun. Don’t ask, don’t tell. Some people are smart that way. Me? Just a fool with a bad memory.
By the time I got to Tommy Haus for Piss on Sunday evening I was ready for one final night of decadance [sic], anything to forget about the future. And the past, come to that. Piss were phenomenal (I love the bassist’s vocals!) as was seeing Jack Pitt perform Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know” during karaoke afterwards! Also, Mary Jane from Vexx performing Madonna’s “Like A Virgin” in a way only she can—it was stunning! (Check out her new project CC Dust!) The obvious highlight was spending time with old mates, making new friends and meeting new earth angels. And of course getting to expel some daemons—I’ve acquired quite a collection it seems. You’re number 37, have a look.
I tried to prevent my fate and stayed up drinking until 7am and got to witness Joshy and Nordy perform an unplugged version of “Blue Skies Over the Ocean” at 5am at the open mic night at the dive bar next to Tommyhaus after basically getting kicked out. A few hours later the plane was flying over the familiar waters of the Aegean, and the lunacy was over. I returned with a friend to Greece, where we spent a week driving around the Peloponnese, visiting sandy beaches, exploring medieval castles, eating amazing food and drinking local wine. Aside from burning in the sun and one freak encounter with a Kalamata cucaracha, it was a fabulous and dreamy time. “I’m sick of beautiful places,” she exclaimed as we drove up a winding road through a massive, rocky mountain, another breathtaking view coming into sight as we rounded the corner, “All Tomorrow’s Parties” blasting from the car stereo. Where will she go indeed, I wondered, shifting in my seat uneasily, the towel beneath my thighs rubbing against my sunburn. Those who burn their ass must sit on the blisters.
Check out the new issue of MRR for a photospread from the fest (with pics by Jack Pitt as well) and an interview I did with Tørsö, AND the culmination of a personal passion project, Part 2 of our special on Yugoslavian punk. It took a long ass time to finish it and Habi was fantastic to work with, and I’m really proud it’s out there in the world; I daresay a valuable resource for future generations of punks to come, and a much deserved focus on a time and place that produced some of the world’s finest punk music.
Also, I’m sure you’ll be pleased to read that this column is going on an indefinite hiatus. I picked up a couple cool zines along my travels, so maybe I’ll write about those one day soon I hope. I won’t make any exit statements. For questions, comments, compliments and complaints, you can write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.Until then stay posi, stay strong, don’t let no fucker put you down. Peace.