Saturday 31 January 2009

Treptow Flea

I got an extra special treat today. Hint: it's in the above picture and sings a sweet and melancholy chord. It can do no wrong and even persuades me that my clumsy fingers are doing something right.

Below, are two pictures that might make the indoor flea market in Treptow seem like a good idea. They are deceiving.

Monday 26 January 2009

The Surreal East, (or an evening among some of my people)

Our first time east of the European Union, proper, took us to Kiev, Ukraine. Where female Customs officers fully embrace their new freedom in a democracy by wearing their Bloc-era uniforms short and tight with the (apparently) requisite fetish footwear. They also embrace their sadistic roles and we were reminded that soviet habits die hard. When asked to produce an address to our Hotel (I can't help but mention the incompetence of booking agents now) we didn't have one and were essentially told to make one up if we wanted to make it past her. We did and I really do hope that the "Hotel Kiev" gets at least some of the business it's reported to get. (I really wished to get a picture of some 'officers' but I already looked like either a gypsy or revolutionary - 2 strikes any way you look at it - in the sea of Fendi, Prada, Louis Vuitton and didn't feel this was a good occasion to test my Russian skills).

We were quickly whisked off to a truly bizarre evening of fervent fans, photographers and post-show autograph session! We spent a good portion of the evening shell-shocked as every time we entered the venue we'd be flooded with flash photography and many thanks to Yulia and Sergei who took us out for borcht and blinchiki - neither as good as my mother's, but comforting nonetheless. I also think I may have shocked our hosts a little bit when some of them realised that I spoke Russian and could understand what they were saying. I mostly plead ignorance from then on out as we were pretty constantly surrounded by an entourage that talked about us amongst themselves quite a lot and I didn't want to add awkward embarrassment to their stress and eagerness to please.

The stage was, unfortunately, a 'floating' one so I had no where to turn. Among the photographers was Daria, who took a 13hour train to Kiev from Moscow to see the show with her Ukrainian friends. She sent us the above and following pictures:

We got a quick tour of the city - by car as it was raining and we were rushing to make a plane back Berlin. After much deliberating, it was decided that the best place to take us was a hill by the Philharmonic that overlooked the city and Dnieper River. I'm not sure of the reasoning, but Communist era statues endure including quite of few of Lenin.

the Philharmonic:

the banks of the River Denieper:


The latter might be a ditched plan for an expressway - it was difficult for me to ask any potentially negative questions as I was met with concern when I snapped a picture of suburban housing in serious disrepair and asked to avert our eyes as we left the city's centre.

I grew up in chaotic household where we spoke Russian from an early age and ate thousands of blinchiki - to this day, it remains my favorite food. But, we were pretty removed from what it meant to be Russian, Ukranian, Armenian, or Jewish - my mother drilled into us early on that we were 'Canadian' and 'Pentacostal'. I wanted to see if there was any similarities to my family's world past this border to the East. There was a little bit - the ever-presence of chaos and proud self-delusion. That might seem harsh, but I think Slavic history is so awful and full of brutality that those things are just necessary to survive. I'll have to ask my parents to confirm this - I lived a comfortable life, relatively free of dictators.

Thursday 22 January 2009

Wurst Dom, Ever.

Okay, we've been watching a lot of Simpson's episode's online.

We still haven't sampled the braut; however, we have wandered in and out of a lot of churches, and the one that takes the cake is definitely Cologne's Dom. On a train way back in 2005 we sidled up next to it and I was blown away. Not only is it massive, but it took hundreds of years of meticulous stone and glass work to complete. The builder's attempts at completion were foiled, off and on, by various wars and this is evidenced by the every-so-often change in exterior colouring.

Also, in a rare moment of exuberance, we decided to climb the claustrophobic, circling 500+ stairs up the bell tower. Three quarters of the way up I realized I might have vertigo and this was a stupid idea, but there couldn't possibly be much further to go. Our curiosity was rewarded and the detail carved into the structure way up high is incredible, considering they probably meant for very few people to ever go up there. But, I suppose, as with most churches of the Catholic persuasion, the building is meant to mirror their efforts in reaching heaven and these people were serious.

Monday 19 January 2009


Hundertwasser Haus is the product of a crazy Viennese hippie artist who believed that straight lines were godless. I haven't completely made up my mind on what I think of this structure. It was interesting, for sure.

Time off in Austria

Well, actually just an afternoon.

Our first stop in this country was Linz where we played a show at KAPU. This is one of those great European venues that feed you, understand you, love you, and give you a nice warm bed to sleep in - all without going outside or halting alcohol consumption. The artist apartment was cluttered with the ghosts of previous guests who communicated through their markings on the walls.

Linz was pretty the way you'd expect an old European city situated along the banks of the Danube River to be. In the antique shops we noticed more miniatures! I couldn't help but think that these were very adult artifacts people at one time collected to imagine an ostentatious life that was out of reach in reality. At this realization, I remembered the Philip K. Dick book I began reading off of someone's bookshelf back in England, The 3 Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch where the unlucky inhabitants of the future world use miniature mis-en-scenes and narcotics to imagine a world other than thier own.

This became slightly more plausible when we next visited Vienna, a very ostentatious city indeed.

It was, however, a really lovely day and my hangover had finally passed so our friend Kerr took us for a long walk through the city.

Sadly, it was a Monday and museums were closed so we couldn't get up close to any products from the city's famous sons - Gustav Klimt & Egon Schiele (I pretty badly wanted to see the latter's city/landscapes.)

As crazily ornate as most buildings are, the Viennese are an austere folk and besides the massive bronze statues of Goethe and men on horses, this was my favorite.

Saturday 17 January 2009

Eurotrip, Part Zwei

To fund our bohemian life we recently set out on another 10 date tour. It happened dizzyingly fast - with long, treacherous stretches of road punctuated by the best highway restrooms in the world. I made notes along the way, but connections and picture uploads weren't always possible so here's some highlights of recent nights.

Our first show of the tour was in Frankfurt - not unlike Ottawa, a big city with that inescapable suburban feel. To be fair, aside from the train station and it environs a few times, the airport and the area around the club, I haven't seen tons of the city, but that's the impression it has left me with. The bill was varied with two post-rock bands made up of kids that looked very young and made me feel very old and one especially lovely Icelandic act know as KiraKira.

We have flouride filtered into our water and they have cute in theirs. She was a little bit noise and a little bit Bjork - how could she not be? Before departing she left a dvd/cd in my hands to deliver to an apparent aquaintance in Moscow when we're there next month. The connection seems dubious, at best, but I'll do what I can.

Prague came and went faster than I would have preferred, but it was snowing so after our awkward radio interview we set out for Wroclaw, Poland where we played a cold, cold, cold, but otherwise very warm squat-turned-semi-legit-arts venue called CRK. (They've posted a few pictures from our show on their site.)

This is a picture of the snowy 'courtyard' from our 'backstage room'. Warm soup and too sweet Hungarian wine helped get us into the mood of the evening. Later, we succumbed a little too much and although I was the only one to throw up, both Aidan and I suffered. Especially as we set off for our 600 km crawl south to Linz, Austria.

In talking small politics with Hubert, the cook and seemingly glue of the establishment, he mentioned something that I took to heart. Communal life in a squat is insular in the same way that artists live with limited contact to the world at large - minimally, however this way also tends to breed political complacency that in turn leads to ignorance and possibly, suddenly finding yourself far flung in more ways than just by your location. Living this sometimes vagabond life in a completely foreign place where the language isn't always clear to me/us, i/we tend to retreat into a hibernating bubble, completely ignorant of what's taking shape in the atmosphere outside. Thankfully, we've only ever so gently felt the effects of the global recession, but otherwise we remain unaffected. I barely even took note of Barak Obama's inaguration - aside from sometimes cynical/hopeful small talk for the future of our world, North American issues record hardly a blip on the cultural radar here. But I digress...

In any case, let me know how you are.

Tuesday 13 January 2009

Autobahn Awaiting

Tomorrow marks the beginning of a 9 date tour, but I don't really feel like leaving the city. I like it here. However, to remain here I gotta make some dough and as I read of scaling unemployment rates in Berlin I'm grateful for my time as a resident.

It was a little warmer today so as I waited for my laundry to finish I took a walk over to the Oberbaumbr├╝cke bridge where a forever game of rock-paper-scissors is being played in neon. Play spot-the-blurry-difference now!

Looking the other direction over the frozen Spree river is the t.v. tower at Alexanderplatz (as mentioned in an earlier post). There's been a recent visually-polluting addition to the city scape here in Friedrichshain called the O2- a massive new stadium with flashing billboards seen through trees 3 or 4 blocks away. I tried to avoid capturing it, but it's that glow on the right of the frame.

Along the shore at this point there also remains about 1km of the formerly East Berlin inner wall. The river, itself, belonged to the East in the no-man's-land space between the actual Berlin wall on the western banks and this inner border. There's beautiful spots all over the planet that harbour an ugly past and I've got to give Berliners credit for responding to it's history with art. This is evident almost anywhere in the city, every street and canal and even just glancing north from this spot on the bridge there's massive sculptures and installations. (We got word of an abandoned amusement park just north of where we're living so we'll be exploring the river banks a little more as the weather improves.)

In 1990, 130+ artists were commissioned to cover a portion of this remaining wall and today it stands as an open gallery known as the The East Side Gallery. Someone walked the length and youtube'd it here.

So yup, tomorrow we leave Berlin to go here:
14 Jan Elfer Music Club, Frankfurt, Germany
15 Jan Klub 007, Prague, Czech Republic (w/ aidan baker solo set)
16 Jan CRK, Wroclaw, Poland
17 Jan Kapu, Linz, Austria
19 Jan Rhiz, Vienna, Austria
21 Jan Sonic Ballroom, K├Âln, Germany
22 Jan Jubez, Karlsruhe, Germany
23 Jan AZ Conni, Dresden, Germany
24 Jan Schokoladen, Berlin, Germany
25 Jan Sky Hall, Kiev, Ukraine


Wednesday 7 January 2009

Show cancelled.

I hate missing a show. Especially after a sleepless night before and hours (maybe not) of ear-drum shattering pressure changes. Also, I was really looking forward to seeing a tiny bit of Italy.

Our flight boarded at 5:30am, we were supposed to arrive in Milan at 7:40, but instead we just hovered over the city waiting for Milanese airport peeps to figure out what to do with the snow that apparently paralyzed the entire city (snowmaggeddon, anyone?) until we were diverted to Zurich where we sat on the plane for 3 hours before being told that our Italian destination was unattainable and we'll have to settle back in, buckle up and fly back home. I hate flying. I hate being on airplanes. As soon as I get on my throat dries up, my nose starts to run, my head hurts, flight attendants are irritated, passengers turn into douche bags, and I want so badly to drink some hot coffee to soothe my various aches, but oh, how I want to avoid that death trap of a bathroom. Also, did you know that most airline accidents happen upon take-off and landing? We did each twice in dicey conditions today.

They did this to the plane before we took off. Pretty neato. It was also slightly comforting that whatever it was they were doing to the wings, it was to avoid some sort of in-flight tragedy. The Swiss were thinking.

The one perk of this tour of European airspace was that we flew relatively close to the Swiss Alps. They popped up above the cloud line as we departed.

Sunday 4 January 2009

Recession fare

Thanks to a tip from our previous subletee/landlord, after a cold and wet afternoon of poking around other people's junk we stopped into Restaurant Frarosa on Zionskirchstrasse. There's a set, but varied daily menu and open bottles of wine on the counter for refills. Price? PWYC, for realsies.

Also, it was determined that Aidan was no longer going to escort me on trips to flea markets. ugh. and, sigh.