Facebook R&B crooner Mario has been relatively quiet on the music front for…
- Posted on Jul 13th 2009 2:30PM by Maximo Park
I write on a train, my twelfth of the week. Today's train ride is borne of my own carelessness. Having been back and forth to my family home yesterday for a short visit, I left my wallet there and I am now on the final leg of retrieving it, rattling along the tracks back to Newcastle. The other trains this week were part of a round trip from Newcastle to Berlin for a one-day festival of fun, performing on a stage constructed in the water of the Strandbad Wannsee. I've never played in the middle of a lake before, and after a quick straw poll of our experienced crew, it turns out no one I know has either. Airports have become more central to my life than I would have ever thought or wished and now I'm trying to banish them wherever possible. In this particular case, the outward journey took me to Brussels in Belgium where I stayed overnight in an unfindable hotel. Carrying all of my stage wear as well as normal luggage, I attempted to find my hotel from a map that I thought I'd memorized, which turned out to not be the case.
After reaching my hotel I went for a walk in the scarlet evening where the Turner clouds seemed raked against the sky and smokers enjoyed the warm night air. A host of candles fought each other for oxygen in a small man-made cove constructed from an unfolded cardboard box. Surrounding it was a vigil; a group of tough-looking young men drinking from green bottles and appearing deep in thought. The sky became full of so many colors and two lovers snuggled up on the steps of the cathedral, in full view but still, somehow, feeling hidden. I walked up to the church doors and tapped the chalky doorway. It felt hollow as the ring on my middle finger caught the surface.
The next day I found myself on a delayed train from Cologne to Berlin watching the John Cassavettes film, 'Shadows.' It was volatile and fun but a young girl, about ten tears old, kept sitting down next to me during the love scene where a girl awkwardly loses her virginity. There was no nudity but I remember feeling thankful that I'd made the decision to abort my screening of 'Satan's Brew,' the Fassbinder film, after the sado-masochistic nude scene about five minutes into it.
On arrival into Berlin, the heavens opened and I was picked up by a car plastered with the sign, "VIP Shuttle," a handy instigator of intrigued stares from pedestrians followed by a puzzled lack of recognition as they see me in the back. On arrival, the band were required at a press conference that just turned out to be lots of German photographers ordering us about, which we dealt with impassively. Then we met two small children in an awkward semi-translated encounter arranged by a radio station.
Finally, trudging slowly over wet sand and getting into a water-laden, grimy orange boat to access the stage was something of a relief. The perils of a post-thunderstorm smooth plastic stage should not be underestimated, especially in a baby-blue suit, which, I sense, is magnetically attracted to dirt and/or accidental staining. I managed to avoid the potential rump/floor interface at the expense of occasional, unintentional tributes to Michael Jackson in the form of impromptu moonwalks across the greasy surface. This is now the second of two columns where I've mentioned everyone's new favourite posthumous icon, so let's digress on the topic for a moment. Aside from the troubling decision to thrust MJ's heartbroken young children into the limelight at his memorial, the most memorable part of this whole affair from a personal point of view was a text I got from my Mam the night he died. It said, "Mike Jackson is dead," despite the fact that no one in our family has ever referred to the deceased megastar as 'Mike'. It was a very 'Mam' moment.
So, puddles aside, the show was odd but good. I mean, odd is good, isn't it? Hang on, let's not get back onto the Wacko Jacko topic... Anyway, there was no eye contact with the audience on the beach, making it difficult to engage. However, a gaggle of young girls in bikinis had made their way into the lake since the temperature was still high. As any true performer would, I made my way down towards them (a la Bono) on a huge white walkway. The downside was an unfortunate extended view of my sweaty bum wandering the lengthy manmade causeway on the way back to the stage. What goes up must come down.
The after-show party was in a rooftop glass cube that looked out on the rest of Berlin. There was a free bar all night, and live saxophone, which was a mixed blessing as it turned out, depending on the quality of the song being played. I woke up to an open mini bar and a missed alarm call. I was last seen on the dancefloor clutching a hotel notepad and pencil, missing in action. The journey home seemed considerably longer, but I had the soothing sound of Lloyd Cole to comfort me as the hangover kicked in. "Auf Wiedersehn, Berlin!"