Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images Nine days after the deadly tornado that touched…
- Posted on Aug 14th 2009 2:15PM by Maximo Park
Robert Forster of the Go-Betweens once sang of a German Farmhouse where he "lived in seclusion for a couple of years." Over the last week or so, I've passed my fair share of said dwellings and wondered if there were eccentric songwriters holed away honing their craft, or even just drinking beer. Such is the view from the tour bus window. Thankfully, the journeys were relatively brief and our time was often spent soaking up the German sun, especially in Bavaria, where the heat considerably increases.
In Hamburg, the streets are paved with used vinyl and people eating al fresco. It could be a lot worse. Joining us that day were the Maccabees, an unruly bunch of top gents from Brighton with an accompanying batch of unruly, yet top songs. We played our concert in a leafy open air arena that had walls made out of hedges. As I cavorted across the grass in front of the stage there was a vague vision of David Bowie in 'Labyrinth' lingering in the back of my mind ... Thankfully, I banished those thoughts and completed the show with out any impromptu renditions of 'Magic Dance'.
Onto the medieval town of Rothenburg (pronounced 'rotten', though it was actually very beautiful) where the festival natives were tanned and drunk, yet harmless. A clear stream, visibly full of darting fish, ran through the festival site, which was the cue for lots of young men and women to remove much of their clothing and set up picnic sites in the middle of the shallow water. I managed to find a more peaceful spot further down the stream where I could continue reading Zamyatin's 'We,' which is supposed to be the first dystopian novel, published in 1921. The Russian author went to Newcastle University, as I did, adding a further layer of personal interest where, in breaks between chapters, I occasionally picture him wandering around my old campus muttering in his mother tongue. I was reminded of the book's authoritarian tone in a later confrontation with a burly security guard who insisted I wear my completely removable pass around my neck "like everyone else" instead of holding it clearly in my hand. My anger flared up and I tried to reason with him as calmly as possible, taking care to address him as "friend" in the hope that it would rile him. I guess it worked because later on he walked into me from behind, clipping me with a heavy portable light then apologising loudly.
Later on I was sprung a surprise during my final interview, when I found myself confronted by a canvas, an easel, some acrylic paint and a selection of brushes. Our tour manager looked on in bemused horror as I set about my task, condemned to my fate because the interviewer had discovered my past as an inept art teacher. As it happened, I enjoyed getting stuck in, especially since the festival was held in a valley and the setting was a little more picturesque than most festivals. It was weird having three cameras trained on me as I tried to do something that would normally take many days in a time period of 20 minutes, but, hey, I like a challenge. I scrubbed the paint from my hands before taking to the stage for our headline slot. The crowd seemed a bit frazzled by the sun; some lazed on a grassy hill while others set about each other in a mock-violent mosh pit. I didn't help the "vibe" by indulging in a few rambling monologues about Michael Schumacher, the German Formula 1 driver ... maybe the sun had gotten to me as well!
The next day, Eschwege turned out to be another historic town complete with timber-framed houses and cobbled streets. The name of the festival, Open Flair, caused a few guffaws, thanks to its heavily-punning title. As Tom, our drummer put it, "I see what they've done there." After breakfast, trapped in a red-hot taxi, the day reached its low point as the radio emitted the melancholy strains of 'You're In The Army Now' by Status Quo, which shone a new light on the merits of Bon Jovi's 'I'll Sleep When I'm Dead,' which swiftly followed.
A trip to Germany wouldn't be complete without buying a couple of Bratwurst sausages from a takeaway van, so we duly obliged before taking a walk by the fast-flowing river Werra. Whenever we see a crazy golf course we attack it with relish, so our foursome duly handed over the Euros and accepted our putters and faded coloured golf balls. I managed a couple of hole in ones before a pounding thunder storm halted play on the 9th. Huddled under a leaky parasol, the four of us planned our escape across the course, eventually running all the way back to the festival where hot food awaited.
I have to say I had a slight fear that the crowd was going to be less than receptive due to the heavy metal screams and growls that repeatedly sounded from the stages throughout the day. Our brand of melodic alternative pop seemed to be a complete contrast to the bands that preceded us, but it turns out I needn't have worried as we played well and the crowd responded in kind. I ended my time in Germany by being thrown out of a quiet, prim hotel at ten minutes past midnight having broken some sort of curfew. All I wanted was a post-gig shower, but a ruffled middle-aged woman who refused to make eye contact opened the door as I was getting dressed, shouting at me in German. I fled into the dark night; the town newly silent after a full day of grunting, rump-shaking rock 'n' roll.