by Richard Lomax
WETZLAR (GERMANY) (warning – this entry is going to be slightly longer)
Wetzlar! O you pretty thing! I’ll jump forward a bit. Our new best friend, Sabine, is explaining to me that Wetzlar is a centre for optics in Germany. The Leitz family-run company, Leica, was responsible for binoculars, microscopes, cameras, sight on rifles and radar targeting during the second World War. This made them a prime target for the Allies to bomb, but it was saved from the similar fate to Dresden, Cologne, and Berlin by sheer virtue that the day of the proposed bombing it was very foggy! Thus, Wetzlar’s picturesque architecture and wonky buildings were saved and the Allies instead visited Koblenz. Make a cup of tea and talk about the weather!
Back, back, back – now to the gig and our first meeting with Sabine in Wetzlar’s Cafe Vinyl – a record shop-cum-venue with a kitchen and a bar done out in 70’s oranges and greens. We are unsure of what to expect from Wetzlar. We’ve never been or met anyone connected to the show (this is the only gig on the tour that this holds true for), but each moment brings yet more relief and enthusiasm on our part. From the prettiness, to the record shop setting (places I’ll always consider a second home) to our meeting Seigmar – the promoter. Seigmar is a wonderfully big hearted gentleman who books a lot of acts of various sizes for Wetzlar (he has Soft Machine booked for the day after us).
Seigmar is quiet at first (something which I suspected later is more down to an enjoyment in observing other people than anything else), but once we visit his home to eat before the performance it becomes apparent that we have a lot in common! His stairwell is covered in gig posters. And not just any gig posters, but almost a catalogue of some of my favourite bands that I’ve mixed live or have played with! The Burning Hell are up there! Schwervon! Kimya Dawson! Heman Dune! There’s Stanley Brinks and Freschard (there’s even a print of them above my bed – which makes me feel kind of safe considering that Andre once moved me out of the road outside Fuel Cafe in Withington when I was so drunk on red wine that I couldn’t distinguish oncoming traffic from long lost family members.) We meet Seigmar’s wife, Michaela, and are made to feel very at home.
We arrive back at the venue to play in this very intimate setting and are greeted by a woman in the front row – sat directly opposite me approximately three feet away. She asks if she’s too close and I joke to her that she isn’t close enough. She moves her seat another foot closer and asks how that is.
Front row gig people are my favourite people. Give me a front row person over a back row person every day. In my capacity as sound engineer and musician, I’ve been party to so many gigs where people file into the back of the venue, stay as far away from the stage as possible and bottleneck the venue. Performers generally can’t see past the stage lights so even if the room is half full it may as well be empty to them. No atmosphere, no fun, might as well stay home and watch it on TV. Front row people all the way.
This woman chips in throughout the show responding to my between song stories and even involves the other members in a communal and inviting way for everyone’s benefit. She is overjoyed when I talk about our song Ambulance and how I co-wrote it with my grandmother, Valerie. She exclaims with disbelief that her grandmother is also called Valerie. After the show she introduces herself as Sabine and says very kind words about our set. Keen to impart local knowledge, she’s tells us the world famous Leica camera factory is based in Wetzlar and we book in a visit with her as our tour guide for the following day where we discover she runs a communal boarding house and is friends with one of Peer’s heroes, Nils Frahm (he taught her daughter piano!)
Post-gig we drink and drink with Jens (Cafe Vinyl’s affable Rentahippie/owner/engineer) and Seigmar and Michaela before retiring to Seigmar and Michaela’s to drink and drink some more, to discuss music and recommend bands to kindred spirits (Burglarised on my part, Talibam, Ought, and the Jolly Jumpers on his). I even discover to my delight that Seigmar is on the inside cover of one of my favourite albums! Giant by Herman Dune.
Suffice to say, this is one of my favourite evenings of not just this tour, but any tour. Reach for the small moments. They are the most beautiful.
As I’m a little after deadline with this diary and because my Wetzlar entry is the size of a Guardian thinkpiece on why washing machine manuals are so long and contain such little useful information, I’ll keep my Cologne diary as concise as possible.
We’re playing and staying with members of Turboboost, a local outfit – a 5 piece of clowns, and musicians (trained clowns, I mean this in the most complimentary of ways – they’re exciting people to be around).
We have two nights in Cologne in the Kalk and Sulz regions. Our second show is at Plunderteilchein (literal translation: Plunder particles) – a shop where the community bring their unwanted and disused particles for the shop to plunder and up cycle and sell. We play in front of a wall of reclaimed plunder particles – a highly suitable backdrop for us – we are a plunder particle band.
Coming up… Heidelberg, Paris, Southampton, Bristol, Darwen, Manchester
Vego Jazzman Mash of Turboboost
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