Tour diary “Reflective Dimensions”

October 16th 2018 | 1’30am: Three hours until the nightliner that will pick me up for the Reflective Dimensions tour is supposed to arrive. Finished all packing just three hours ago. Usually I am even more last minute than this, I am almost proud of myself. Boxes in the stairway, half a “forest to go” on the terrace.

Reflective Dimensions Tour with Agrypnie, Totalselfhatred, Arroganz & Aspagor

And the “magic suitcase”, a small suitcase with all kinds of items that one could need to improvise at an exhibition, from cable tie, knife & scissors to ducktape, glue & rope. It sounds actually like the contents of a kill bag and makes me wonder what the Swiss border patrol might have to say to it, they always liked to search through my stuff when I visited in the past. In my defense, the suitcase also contains a sketchbook, pens and pencils and some business cards. I’d be a bad killer if I leave the later behind. My personal luggage is minimized, I always prefer to travel light. Just a small backpack with most necessary clothes only, a notebook bag and a very small handbag that is actually my sponge bag. Sponge bag is a funny word by the way, the German word is “Kulturtasche”, translating to “culture bag”, which is funny as well. Culture definded by items to keep yourself clean. Obviously all the Brits need for this is a sponge.

After a short attempt of sleep I am discarding the idea, after all, none of my tour mates of the coming days is asleep now, the show is on the road already, kicking Dresden tonight, so why not jump into schedule right now. I have never slept in a bus before, so I am very curious about this experience. It will also be strange to be so close to a bunch of other humans for some days, none of them I have met in person so far. My imagination of a bus bathroom makes me cringe a bit, but I am comforting myself with the thought that a nightliner is not a public transport bus, I am totally convinced this will be great.

[Actually, this is were the tour diary ends already, before the tour even started. Everything else I have written a few days after the tour, back home. I simply missed the time on the road to keep up with my writing schedule…]

October 25th: Last Sunday afternoon I returned from a wild ride, the Reflective Dimensions Tour organized by QUANTHEON Touring. If you ever visited a show organized by them, you know these shows are quite different form the ususal gigs, with a very special flair, decoration and art attached.

Tourphoto in front of Club From Hell / Erfurt

I joined the tour the night before the Erfurt gig and entered the nightliner at 5am. It’s a strange feeling to start touring like this, when everyone is living in the bus since days already and you actually don’t know anyone personally, some internet contacts aside. Someone with a Scandinavian accent offered me wine upon entry, but I declined and went to bed, which felt like climbing into a shoebox. Luckily I am a small person, so I could stretch myself completely in it. Surprisingly I also got at least a bit of sleep before Erfurt. As most people were sleeping already when I entered the bus, apart from the two winedrinkers and the tour management, I got to meet the whole horde the next day, when we all woke up in Erfurt. But it was a good welcome and everyone made it easy for me to be “the tour newbie”. Special thanks to the frontman of Asphagor, who was the first one to talk to me and offered me a seat after I woke up.

At Viper Room / Vienna.

My initial plan to write a tour diary was quickly abandoned. After two days I found myself responsible for the decoration part of the events, because we lost a tour member in Vienna. It turned out to be a lot of fun and everyone was content with my work, even me. The killbag came in handy for the job, too.

Usually, we arrived at some place to do immediate loading. I almost never left my bed much earlier, because sleep (or, if impossible, at least rest) is one of the three things I need on the road. The other two ones are food & beer and an occassional shower. Apart from that it makes me happy to have people with a brain around, even that wish was granted on this tour. From interesting to inspiring I have met a few great persons who I hope to see again some day.

When you wake up in a different location every day, the details quickly become blurry without notes, so I will not write about every event in epic lenght. I remember one night, after a gig, I only woke up half, with one foot still in a dream. I had no idea where I was, in which direction we were going or what had happened. I had to wake up completely to realize that I was in a nightliner with more than 20 people closely around. By the way, the bathroom of the bus stayed a place that I avoided as much as possible. It was not dirty like the ones in a public transport of course, nevertheless I did not feel comfortable squeezed into the plastic box while the bus was moving around.

While on the road, I got a message from home, telling me that when I return, I should make sure the nightliner will turn off its engine. Obviously my leave had awaken all the neighbourhood and there were some complaints. Dear (former) neighbourhood, I am very sorry I have disturbed you one time, after I have been silent about you mowing your lawn early mornings when I still sleep after a long work night, or doing construction work. One and a half years I swallowed down every complaint I could have had. But let me tell you one thing that I have learned from our very nice bus driver W. You can’t just turn the engine off in a nightliner at any given point of time. Because if you do, that thing might not start up again and would block your road for half an eternity. Did you ever leave your radio on in a car, or the lights, and wondered later, why your car won’t start? Well. A nightliner hosts more than 20 people, air condition, lights, electricity outlets. Do the math! Luckily I came home with a small private bus during daytime.

My special highlight location was definetely Stuttgart (Club Zentral), space, showers & the immensely good catering were perfect. And a friend who came to the show bringing some special beers for me made it even better. And thanks for helping me pack up in the end T., this way we had time to find out what a nightliner’s bar has to offer when all beers are gone. The evening was intense in many ways, including a breakdown in a street of someone who obviously should not smoke… things. But hey, no details, some things that happen on tour, stay on tour. But every location had something special or a special visitor, in Vienna I met my old friend Gerhard of Allerseelen, even if the visit was brief, it was good to see you again old mate! We also stopped in Innsbruck and Olten, the last location of the tour being a vast hall and a paradise for decoration. Not so much a paradise of catering though. It was the first night I went to bed very hungry and ate all my nut supply while half asleep already, that I had kept for exactly such a case. Oh, and before I forget, thank you staff of the Erfurt location From Hell for the nice extra drinks and for the attempt, to take me into town late at night for more, I would have followed your invite, but I had a date with a nightliner already.

All in all, I had a blast touring with this wild horde. It was a lot of work, yes, often under time pressure, but who knows me also knows that I like challenges. And there did not pass one day without special moments of happiness to be a part of this production. Musically, I liked all the bands a lot, I didn’t even get tired of watching the same shows (they are never really the same though) more than once. Totalselfhatred was a complete surprise for me, I didn’t know the band before the tour, I watched ALL their shows from beginning to end, because they are just so fukking good. Their music has become a work soundtrack of many nights since then.

Many many thanks to everyone involved to make this happen. Specially to Diana & Chris from QUANTHEON Touring who organized the whole thing. I’d share a bus with you again any time! And many thanks to Arroganz, for driving me home in the end.

 

 

Baltic adventures

Lake next to the festival area

Last year I travelled to the Baltics twice, namely to Lithuania and Latvia. The initial idea was to visit the Mėnuo Juodaragis Festival (MJR) in Lithuania. A dear friend who had been there before invited me to tag along and gave me a ticket as a present. We quickly decided to travel around a bit as well after the festival.

This is not supposed to be a detailed festival review, therfor I will not list countless band, this is more a general observation of our days in the Baltics. Nevertheless I will give you some basic infomations about the festival as well.

Fire sculpture before burning

Mėnuo Juodaragis does translate to black-horned moon and is an anual event, celebrating Baltic culture with local and international musical guests. It is the oldest and biggest festival in Lithuania. It was almost a bit too big for my taste, so I hope the rumors that future festivals will have a more strict limitation for the amount of tickets are true, in case I am going to visit again some day.

I did fly out to Riga via Berlin Schönefeld and paid the absurd price of around 15 Euros for one way, using the service of Ryanair. The only catch was, that I had to leave home in the night to get to the airport on time in the morning. Flying with hand luggage only was quite racy considered that I was going to camp, even without having to bring a tent myself, my friend took care of that. Nevertheless it is possible to camp with hand luggage, if you can deal with a bit less comfort. Wearing XS size clothes helps as well with this endeavour.

 

Luckily, my feet are small, too

My friend, who had been flying in from Munich earlier than me, picked me up at the airport. He had been warned about the weather by the locals, it had rained for many days already. Usually rain does not bother me much, I come from a very rainy metropole in the North of Germany, but lets say that it limits the fun of camping quite a bit. As none of us had brought rubber boots, we decided to buy some before heading out to the festival. The cheapest that I could find were also the most hilarious ones, made for children, white with black cow dots and a cat face on every boot. But I did not want to spend more money than necessary, as it was clear that I could not take them back home with me due to the limited capacity of my luggage. I hope one latvian child is happy with them and has dry feet.

The first night the festival area was still quite empty and we did set up our tent in a spot with only few tents around. Sadly I missed the opening ceremony, because after the tent was set up, all I could do was drop into my sleeping bag. After all, I got up at 3am in the morning to get to this place.

My favourite element

In the second night, after spending the whole day outside, I was going to return to the tent earlier than my friend. At least that was the plan. But a whole tent city had been growing around our tent in our absence and no matter which orientation points I tried to remember, I could not find the tent anymore. I decided to go back to the stage area to find my friend, who was watching the abominable band Death In Rome. Afraid that my ears might start bleeding, I waited in a safe distance for the show to end and we found the tent together without problems.

Actually, we had no idea who was going to play at the festival when we booked our journey. A bit later it came out that Wardruna was going to be the headliner. I have seen Wardruna play before, but never under an open sky with fires burning around the place. A very special experience!

After the festival we travelled around for a few more days, spending every night in a different location. While the first day was still cloudy, we got lucky with the weather.

A lovely view at 8am

My home is my castle

At Daugava River we met a cat, who eagerly showed us his castle, only to take a nap in it a minute later. Every lake has picknick places, you usually find them equipped with bench and table. I have no idea how many people frequent this places during main season, but we found them all empty, which made them even more appealing for me.

Highway to hell.

Our only fixed points were our sleeping locations, apart from that, we went here and there, if a road looked interesting, we took it. One road looked more adventurous than interesting though, we had been warned to take it, but both being unstoppable aries we went for it anyway. More than half of it was missing at some point and it was a strange feeling to drive over the remaining part. Speaking about roads, do not expect an “Autobahn” in those countries. Most roads are rather archaic, which works well because there are simply not so many people using them like in central Europe.

Teirumniku ezers

The area that appealed to me most, is around Teirumniku ezers in Latvia. When I return to the Baltics some time, I want to sit in this spot once more, overlooking the beautiful vast lake while drinking one of the fabulous local beers in the company of many dragonflies. Drinking beer is a very recommendable pastime in the Baltics by the way, from supermarket offers to craft beer breweries, you can find a really tasty selection as a beer friend.

 

 

Images: Teirumniku ezers, Latvia.

I returned to the Baltics alone for a second time a few weeks later for another week, staying some time in Vilnius and in some forest in the middle of nowhere in the South of Lithuania, close to Varėna. It rained all the week, again. In the forest I had one hour without rain though, I used it to run around and quickly shot some images.

Bar Špunka in Vilnius

I recommend the bar Špunka in the old town of Vilnius (Užupio g. 9-1) for a few drinks and trying the dried meat from the local market. The local market is also great for buying fresh berries and other fruits. The bar offers a selection of craft beers called Dundulis that I liked a lot. Another drink (without alcohol) that I find quite appealing is Kvass, the liquid bread of the Baltics. People either seem to love it or hate it, I definetely belong to the first group. I am still looking for a source to buy this in Germany, but maybe I should just learn to brew it myself. Learning beer brewing is on my list of things to do anyway, so why not add Kvass as well.

Images: Wilderness close to old Varėna, rainy good-bye in Vilnius

All in all, I can say the Baltics are very beautiful and wild. The primordial landscapes left a lasting impression on me, you rarely see such in other European countries anymore, unless you go to the mountains. And although I did not return to the festival this year, I will surely visit the Baltics again some time in the future. I do not recommend the Baltics to anyone who is seeking action, but rather to those who – like me – find their cathedral in nature.

I wonder why so many locals aspire to leave, of course I know that work and money are their main reason, the life on the countryside seems poor to them and work is rare. But dear Baltic people, let me tell you one thing. What you have there, is much more worth preserving than running after the money. You will only find out that you work hard to buy vegetables that taste like nothing compared to those you grow in your own gardens. Life may seem hard sometimes living the way many of you do. But it is honest, wild and absolutely worth to be lived.