Written By: Ola’s Kool Kitchen
Day Three: September 10th – Lille (Encore!)
Some of the band enjoying an outdoor lunch in a plaza in Lille with: Nick Keech, Byron Jackson, Dan Davis contemplating his baguette and Jim Beal (photo by OKK)
[Continued from Part I] In Lille, we awoke to find a quick fix lunch, outside in the town. We had to change hotels again as there was no room for us to stay a second night. I suspect our rag tag musician ways did not fit in well at the charming, yet conservative hotel. The rescue service arranged cabs with the same drivers as yesterday, reinforcing the very provincial nature of Lille.
This time, we were moved to a cozy bed-and-breakfast opposite the large cathedral in town. The van would not be repaired in time. Instead, a new one was being driven from the UK, with plans to arrive late in the evening. There was no question of us going anywhere that day, rather there was a debate about whether to ride 800 miles the next day to do the Copenhagen gig, and then drive another 800 miles in the opposite direction, the day after, to do Berlin. Or the alternative, which would be to cancel Copenhagen and arrive a day early in Berlin with no accommodation. With heavy hearts, Copenhagen was dropped from the gig roster. Both cancelled shows were significant earners and subsequently a financial blow. It was the second day of idleness for a high-octane band in a limbo of non-performance, and the frustration of stagnant waters that usually run wild was in the air.
Despite these pitfalls, I had two nights rooming and hanging out with Stephen Lawrie. I had met Stephen several times over the last year, in London, at Austin Psych Fest 2012 and a particularly fond memory of hijacking him for dinner in my hometown of Chicago with a friend of mine from grade school who had no idea who The Telescopes were. Stephen is just lovely like that, someone you can hijack for a pizza with an old, clueless musical school chum. He is prone to whimsical flights of fancy with dark observational buffoonery that always fills me with a mischievous glee from my inner child. I had the rare opportunity to hear tales about the larger than life Alan Mcgee, and his Creation Records anecdotes. Then there was our trip to the supermarché together. We struggled to find the point of entry. It was a massive space in a shopping mall with a confusing 30 tills open. As if in an ancient maze and mystery school, we were confounded until we managed to gain entry slipping past a till. A very officious security guard stopped us and was going to frog march us out so we could go back in again from the proper entrance. I pleaded with him to be reasonable as we were tourists completely dazed by the planning and thankfully he relented and gave us a free pass…this time! Seriously, there was nothing better for him to do but to try and stop a wrong way entry into a supermarket? In England it’s a recession and they are just grateful for the custom and nobody bothers how you come into a store. We concluded he was a rather petty minded and unfulfilled person to need to exert such a ridiculous display of authority.
Later, we spent the evening in a cool room as the rest of the band were all in another very stuffy room drinking and working on their own video diary and blog of the tour. I asked Stephen about the fans. In the peak of The Telescopes‘ commercial popularity, Stephen received letters of devotion and shadowy poetry sealed in wax. He said the fame was an odd experience. He is a very down to earth fellow that just enjoys being treated like one of the guys, while still being a very kind-hearted gent to his fans.
Day Four: September 11th – Berlin (Ist das Kunst?)
Dereliction street art in Berlin near the place we stayed at on the first night. (Photo by OKK)
We packed everything in our new van, and bid adieu to Lille, and spent most of the day in transit with the longest journey of the tour; 464 miles, across 4 countries, to Berlin. An important factor on long road trips is the music. On our trip, there was a wide array of sounds. Stephen’s iPod played his influence; Iggy Pop and The Stooges, The Velvet Underground, Suicide, The Cramps, and Can. Other music played on our journey were strange rap, like Odd Future; quirky, post-punk girl band, The Rain Coats; Black Sabbath; The Queens of The Stone Age; and some experimental, electronic acts– a motley bag of musical offerings indeed!
As we approached Berlin, no accommodation was sorted. The place where we would be staying the next day already had a band in it. A shout was put out and eventually we were rescued by Jen Repin and Istvan Rouche; a big thank you to both of them here for coming to the rescue. It was wonderful to return to the funky air of Berlin after the stifling feel of Lille. I’ve been to Berlin many times in the past. My first visit was nearly 20 years ago, and what struck me back then was it being an edgy city, with many alternative squats and gritty punk rock feeling bars, still remains true. London in the early 90’s was very similar, but with the eradication of squat laws and the Starbucks and All Bar One gentrification of the economic boom, London lost a lot of its’ sub-cultural underbelly of watering holes. Berlin has retained that sense of subversion, brewing in a D.I.Y. ethos and a protest to corporate aesthetics in vibrant street art. Before unification, army dodgers from both sides came to Berlin to avoid compulsory service. For several centuries, it has a history of being a magnet for all the freaks to meet in Germany, and I find it a place of bubbling excitement and rough-edginess.
The place we were staying reflected that. It was a bar and a community arts centre, with a recording studio. It felt like a squatted premise, centred amongst a complex of derelict buildings. We were all piled into the recording studio and it was charming and cozy with all the rustic conveniences. The security internet login was ‘Ist das Kunst’, German for: “is it art?.” I felt we had come home. A long late-night group discussion ensued with our hosts as politics, art, and history were the topics altercated over. The universe looked after us as a lovely Berlin night ended with good company and a pleasant roof over our heads.
Day Five: September 12th – Berlin (Aufheben Baby!)
In Berlin at Bassy Club: The Kool Kitchen, The Telescopes’ merch girl. (Photo by OKK)
We moved into our accommodation over Acht Millimeter Bar, who were putting “The Telescopes“ on a few doors away at the Bassy Club. Stephen went to a radio interview and bumped into Will Carruthers (from Spacemen 3, Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Dead Skeletons) hanging out with the rest of the band.
My only task at this event was to run the merchandise table which is a very important source of revenue for a band on tour. As two prominent financial gigs were cancelled, I put my sales girl charm to use and helped fill the coffers up; spoke my best pig-French and -German in the respective countries, put a real passion into recommendations and product descriptions. The crown jewel in the merchandise catalogue was a rare Telescopes album in cassette format, only. Stephen had originally priced the item at 100 Euros claiming it was ‘One of One’, an original. Even though there was a secret, second tape we had hidden out of sight that Stephen had labelled ‘Two of One’. Eventually he raised the price to 100.01 Euros. After that, I said to Stephen that if anyone did cough up the full one hundred, I would insist on the last .01 cents or there would be no deal! There was a moment in Berlin when a fellow reached out his wallet and asked me for the cassette and my eyes popped out in disbelief. However, he had thought it said 10 Euros; upon realizing his mistake he retracted his offer. Stephen said if no one bought the cassette he would go to the woods and burn it into ash. When the tour finished, the cassette remained unsold and Stephen put it up as his profile picture on Facebook. It seems the future of the cassette is in debate as the burning has not yet occurred.
Berlin was a stellar night on the tour. 3 DJs, including Anton Newcombe, cult front-man of The Brian Jonestown Massacre (the celebrity guest DJ) proffered the evening’s soundtrack and he even doubled up as The Telescopes’ sound engineer. The merch desk was literally opposite the DJ booth, so I had ample opportunity to study Mr Newcombe’s set. The DJ detective ears within me meticulously made a mental note for any possible future plundering. As if there was a direct checklist connected from Stephen’s iPod to Anton’s brain, he played “Ghost Rider” by Suicide and “Vitamin C” by Can. Also some soul I didn’t quite recognize, “Ocean” by A Place To Bury Strangers and a humorously oddball, mathematical electronic cover of The Doors’ “Light My Fire,” the artist unknown to myself. The gig was stoking and I observed the celebrity DJ entranced. The crowd was engaged in the sonic whirlwind with intent emotion, and the audience turnout packed.
This event had the most decadent party night. Most evenings, we would hang out chilling in our accommodation with some quiet drinking, nothing like the level of Led Zepplins’ shark incident type hijinks. Tonight, the band were proper stars, convening for an after show carousal at Acht Millimeter Bar. When I was upstairs and I opened the window and looked out, the people from the outside spilling over from the bar would look up at me with great expectation in their eyes. It was a peculiar scenario. I was not used to such avid interest in my window unfastening capabilities. Personally I think it is a rather tedious point to fixate on. It seems even the dullest activity can be made interesting with a modicum of fame to a star collector. The guys stayed out drinking very late while James Messenger found himself a lady companion and spent the night elsewhere.