30th May 2021
Part Seven. Berlin. May 1995
Chris and Richard met Daniel at the small kiosk situated in one of the exit tunnels of Rosenthaler Platz U-Bahn. Daniel was looking at the window display which had miniature bottles of cheap and nasty looking hooch, labels and brands he had never seen before, alcohol he had never seen before.
They greeted and went straight to the club, a slight embarrassment at meeting away from the Czar Bar, as if that were their only common ground. The club was quite small, quite dark, one stage to the right, the bar opposite, and that was where they all headed.
By now, Richard and Chris could recognize many faces. Willem Dafoe was there, smiling broadly at each and every thing. Arizona Al was in another discussion with technicians about sound levels, but came over to say, “Hi,” and to meet Daniel,
“Cool, fresh blood, it’s getting kinda stale around here,” he admitted. ”Oh, Dude, listen, you can’t come onstage and blow me tonight, it’s a more conservative joint, here,” then he was dragged away by Bryan on a matter of the utmost urgency.
Daniel stood with his mouth open, not exactly sure what he was getting involved in.
Again, the room was half full at most when the first act went on. A petite, visibly terrified French girl played guitar and sang to the floorboards. Her between song banter was monosyllabic and mumbled, but she charmed everyone, winning them over with her nervousness and talent which was unmistakable, just hidden by a cloak of shyness.
But it was downhill after that. Singer-songwriters came and went, some bands played, more solo artists. Willem Dafoe played the exact same set with the exact same mannerisms and orchestrated spontaneity as before.
Bryan ‘Moonface’ came up to the bar with a young lady, and was speaking to her about Kafka, specifically ‘Metamorphosis’,
“It’s about a man who wakes up one morning and he’s been turned into a woman.”
“Oh, that sounds cool.”
Daniel exclaimed, “Fuck me,” loud enough to get Bryan’s attention, but ‘Moonface’ was too busy impressing his new friend with his broad knowledge of World Literature.
Richard and Chris played ‘name the influence’ as some bands were ripping off R.E.M., others Nirvana, while one electronic combo tried a reversal of Big Black, by playing a loud, Grunge song on keyboards and drum machines. It was a novelty for half a minute, but unfortunately went on for several.
Daniel wasn’t having as much fun as his companions. He had been expecting a great evening, but, despite the ever flowing beer, he was bored and that made him angry and frustrated. Which, of course, just made Richard and Chris laugh even more.
He got louder with his abuse and thought nothing of talking over an acoustic set. By the time Arizona went on, Daniel had just about had enough, but stayed because Al was the main reason they were there, although the sexualised parting words still played in his mind.
Tonight, Arizona Al announced, he was going to try some ‘mellow, chill-out vibes’. The absence of a guitar alarmed Richard, and Chris had a very bad feeling, which was confirmed by the opening note which continued without variation, while Arizona gradually added more single notes, together with some indistinct sound effects.
Daniel simply turned his back to the stage and ordered three vodkas. Arizona was now on his second song, a variation of the first, with even less going on.
Daniel turned to Chris,
“You enjoying this shit ?”
“Not at all.”
“Czar Bar open ?”
“Yep. Andrei working. And Olga.”
“Olga ?” asked Richard.
“Let’s go,” said Daniel, finishing his beer and walking out. Chris and Richard followed, both giving a wave to Arizona as he played on, with a surprised and hurt look on his face. Richard was already on damage control, telling Chris that they could say that their friend had to get a connection. Chris shrugged his shoulders,
“Or we could just say that he was shit.”
“Yeah, you could.”
Daniel was asking how to get to the bar. Chris explained,
“We’ll take the U-Bahn and change at Alex. U5. Five stops, total.”
Walking to the U5 platform, Daniel put his arms around the two others,
“Right, we need to get laid tonight. Agreed ?”
“Not even a question,” replied Chris.
“Tonight ?” repeated Richard, “anytime this decade would work for me.”
They walked down the escalators and waited on the platform. Daniel took out his cigarettes and passed them around.
“So, pussy action. What’s the deal ? Chris, you must get a nice bit of snatch, working the bar, hey ?”
“Have you been in the Czar Bar ?”
“Yeah, fair enough. Thought they’d be a few more girls in, tonight. Not much doing, was there ? Couple of knackered old slappers. I’d have liked that French bird, but she’d scarpered. ‘Bout you, Rich ?”
“Going through a fallow period. Got the seed, but no where to plant it.”
“We’re both going through an adjustment,” Chris intervened. “I was dumped by my girlfriend and Richard . . . “ the later himself completed the ellipsis,
“Is hung up on a girl who just isn’t interested,”
Daniel turned to him,
“Didn’t you have any other girlfriends ?”
“No. I was saving myself for her.”
“Ah, well, that’s the problem. To get a girl, you have to have a girl.”
“Thanks, Buddha, great advice.”
“Naw, listen. It’s like an auction. You put a piece up, no one’s interested, it gets tossed. Pun intended. But, someone likes it, others get interested. Get it ?”
“So,” asked Richard, trying to follow the logic, “if Lorelei had known I had a girlfriend, she’d have been more interested ?”
“Couldn’t have been less interested,” quipped Chris.
“Oy, shut it, you,” threatened Daniel.
“Oh, I see, he can get away with the insults, but I say something and I get the ‘I can kill you with one fingernail’ shit ?”
“Yeah. He’s not a plonker like you,” clarified Daniel with a subtle wink at Richard.
“He has a point, there, he has several points there,” added Richard. Daniel continued,
“You just gotta get a girl first, any girl. You can do that, can’t ya ?” Richard just shrugged. “Fuck me,” concluded Daniel.
“He may have to. Oh, come on, that was funny. OK, I know, I’ll shut it.” Chris walked off a little down the platform.
On the train, they continued the seminar, Daniel giving advice to Richard, and then learnt why Chris was dumped.
“She heard you say she were shit in bed ? Fuck, that’s hard. Now, tonight; I know that Al’s yer pal and all that guff, but . . . fucking hell, what a stinking pile of shit. I’ve heard some wank in my time, but that . . . “
“It’s part of the Berlin scene,” began Richard. “Anybody can get up and do something.”
“Problem is,” continued Chris, “most people do and most people aren’t overburdened with talent.”
“Not tonight, anyway,” laughed Daniel. “Thanks, guys, for taking me. Load of bollocks, but still thanks.”
They all laughed. Chris, followed by Richard, began to give more sage Berlin advice,
“Never presume that because it’s office hours, offices will be open.”
“Don’t touch Schultheiss beer. I know the logo is real inviting, but your stomach won’t thank you for it.”
Chris picked up the slack,
“Following on from there, don’t ever drink from the tap, despite all the assurances,”
“He’s right. May as well just drink out of the toilet bowl.”
More laughter. Then Daniel returned to the former subject of performing in Berlin.
“I mean, I could do better than that.”
“Well, then,” challenged Richard, “do it.”
“Yeah, but I don’t know any musicians, or anybody, just you two tossers.”
“But we know people,” argued Richard
“Oh, yeah, like that guy with the fucking pumpkin head ? No, thanks. Man turning into a woman. Fucking idiot.”
“No,” said Chris calmly. “The Russians. Andrei is a bass player. Boris is a fucking wild hot gypsy guitarist. Another guy who lives with them, Sascha, is a drummer. They’ve all played in bands, always looking for a singer. We’ll see some, if not all, of them tonight. Time to put up or shut up. Or are you just all talk ?”
“Mouthy little sod, ain’t ya ?”
“Yeah,” replied Chris with a swagger. “I am.”