by Henrik Tuxen, Copenhagen, July 9 2018.
Some emotional summer days later; here's basically what happened from my telescope. Girlfriend Hanne is joining me, for what's for her is not only her Pearl Jam debut, but also the very first time she visits the capital of Germany; Berlin one of the most remarkable and important cities in modern european history, as well as artistic and musical subculture, In short neither Berlin nor Pearl Jam did disappoint.
For me on the contrary, I'm about to see my 26th show, and visit Berlin for easily my 26th time, but really no idea. First time in Berlin was for an insane week in 1980, with my grammar school class. An absolute hippie teacher, and a time when both weed and beer was like an integrated part of our bodies, especially when we were pulling it of in Berlin, and not only the West, but 'as it said in huge letters everywhere on the eastern front 'Berlin - Haupstadt der DDR'. Flip back briefly in history; the Cold War and frontiers were heavily pulled at the time, and the wall was visible and present everywhere. A symbol of international tension and insany, equally reflecting international arms race, which had an inherent magnetic power in attracting artistic expressions and subcultural explosion, not at least due to the insanity of the geographical placement in time and history, in the wake of the post 2nd World War era. This being just within a year short of David Bowie ending his Berlin trilogy (Low, Heroes and Lodger) including his production of Iggy Pop’s The Idiot and Lust for Life. Let's just say I felt and experienced Berlin, a feeling that never left.
PUNK ROCK AND SUBCULTURE
As a bass player in partly punk outfit The Sharing Patrol, we could have played Berlin up to 10 times, especially in the late 80’s, when the wall was still a constant reminder of world (dis)order, every time you looked out of the window, or took the subway. We played in illegally squattered houses, all kinds of venues, lived with the weirdest people, one time in an area where the entire neighborhood was squattered. Memorable shows, like playing with our good – and at the time more or less unknown – friends My Bloody Valentine – in Cafe Kreuzberg in December 1985. A band that would later revolutionise noise rock with Loveless 5-6 years later.
As a journalist I've done a bunch of interviews in Berlin, at one year counting five times, in this remarkable city, which by the way, also contains the most magnificent and beautiful historical buildings European and Germanic culture has to offer. Not all was destroyed in World War II, and lots has been skillfully rebuilt. And then I've seen Pearl Jam three times before in this very heart of Germany; two time Wuhlheide (2006 and 2014) and the O2 (now Mercedes Benz Arena) in 2012.
Quickly rewind to the present. Since it's Hannes first time, I've found a hotel close to East side Gallery, in Friedrichshain and river Spree, one of my absolute favorites spots in Berlin, and very close to a PJ pre-party I've realised. We arrived very punctually on German time. We asked a service guy in Tegel airport how much a taxi ride would be; approximately 30 euros he said, when we arrived the meter said 29,70!! Welcome to Germany. And funny thing which I didn't even realise, the hotel is exactly in front of the Arena, where me and my daughter saw Pearl Jam in 2012, as in 30 meters.
BOWIE AND IGGY
First and very importantly, I have to go to a book signing in the middle of town. We take the U-Bahn from Warschauer Strasse (perfect name for an alcohol test) and locate Siddhartha’s fine, little bookstore, Hopscotch Reading Room strangely located in like a back of an alley, industrial garage or something. 'You've come to the right place' a friendly voice says, coming from a fine Finish couple Antti and Soili Nepponen, who has made it their ahead of time before us. We spend some great hours at Siddhartha’s place. We're not that many, but every time somebody leaves, new people shows up, and everybody gets to talk and hang out. Not being exactly sure, but from fresh out of mind, I think I could count up people originating from up to 10 different nations visiting Hopscotch Reading Room this afternoon. Definitely Denmark, Germany, Finland, Russia, France, USA, Sweden and India. A perfect reflection of Berlin as well as the big PJ 'Jamily'. Puzzled by the location, Siddhartha explains, that in the past, immigrants would search for Berlin, and people form all over West Germany were 'deported' to Berlin, meaning young people avoiding Military Service, alternative people and gays (who according to our host) was illegal up til the 90’s. Lots of these people would put up small businesses, restaurants, venues and art galleries in tiny small surroundings, Siddhartha’s small bookstore, remotely placed in the back of what looked like an industrial complex, being one of them. Very close to where David Bowie used to live – the thin white duke on a diet of milk and cocaine – and close to now closed Hansa Studio, where these historical, and still astonishing and amazing albums were made, with Bowie and Iggy as the main figures.
There's just one problem; Siddhartha has ordered books, but they've apparently made it to the wrong address and will be arriving two days later. At the point where I'm back in Denmark, and Pearl Jam and their many following fans, are heading for Belgium and The Werchter Festival. Luckily I brought a stack of 7-8 books I had at home. They're pretty quickly sold (thank you everybody for buying) and although there's something about having to repeat 'sorry, we're sold out' to the different groups showing up later, it's a shame – not at least for Siddhartha – that he was not able to sell the books he ordered. So for anyone in Berlin or neighborhood, who could be interested in this book; please visit the Hopscotch Reading Room on Kurfurstenstrasse 14. And if I ever meet you, I'd be happy to sign and buy a beer for everyone who purchased a copy of 'The More You Need – The Less You Get' from Siddhartha fine, little bookstore, with in itself tells a piece of Berlin history. He also serves good and cheap beer. Thanks a lot to Siddhartha, all the people who showed up, and to Julia Nikiforova for showing up, and doing a great job, in promoting this event. Gratefully, it's much appreciated, and such a privilege to feel so globally welcome in the Pearl Jam Jamily community.
STONE GOSSARD AND FAWLTY TOWERS – THE ICH BIN EIN BERLINER – STYLE
Aware of two different PJ pre-parties after the signing, Hanne and I were planning to join the one close to our hotel. But while signing books a mail came up, made some change of plans, starting out with 'Dinner at 8 or 9?' I've been writing with Stone Gossard before the show from Denmark, who wanted to meet, but I know things can get very hectic around these PJ shows, and plans can change very rapidly, but Stone were free to go. We said goodbye to all our fine, old as well as new, friends, and made it to Hotel de Rome, in the beautiful center of Berlin Mitte. Passing fans with various PJ covers and posters, we knew we found the right place.
The freshly shaved and relaxed guitar player, showed up in the lobby just minutes later, all up for german food and beer. I thought we were gonna eat at the hotel (his first suggestion) but he's more up for going out, which is totally fine with us. It's the third time in three months, I spent an extended amount of time with Stone, in respectively Santiago, Chile, Seattle, and now Berlin. 'I see you more than my own son these days' as I told him. Last two times with Hanne, who's very with popular with Mr. Gossard. 'If you don't stick with her, you are the one being left out' he jokes. ‘Then Hanne and me will be friends, and seeing each other the next time, he smiles. 'yeah, like next year Hanne will write me. 'Hi, me and my new boyfriend are staying at Stone's place in Seattle, and having such a great time, hanging out with Eddie and the guys, it's so much fun’, I reply. I'm soooo happy for you (not) … Good, laughing, lots of it, on all kinds of subjects, all night.
I STILL GOT A GIG
Actually, all the stories, anecdotes, discussions and reflections, I've had with Stone, over these past three meetings on just as many continents, counting around 10 hours, could make up for a new book in it self. In case, the title would be 'I still got a gig', which was Stones smiling comment in Seattle, when newcomer Hanne, expressed who stunned she was about PJ, seemingly endless impact and popularity. Understated in various ways from the man himself. As he said in Berlin, 'We're often looking at ourselves laughing about it, as surprised as anybody. We're just some guys in our 50s, writing simple songs, 3-4 chords, A, G, D and stuff, with a singer in front'. Well, that's one way of putting it. There's also many other ways to describe Pearl Jam’s magic and power. I, for one, has wrote a sentence here and there about the same subject.
BACK ON TRACK
Once again, I'm getting sidetracked, allow me once again to rewind to Hotel de Rome, Berlin 4th of July (yep that day) at 20.00. Stone is seriously up for German food, and although Hanne is a vegetarian, we're with him. The Connoisseur is coming up with a suggestion close by, and we leave without a reservation or anything. I'm a little worried about the fact, that we'll just walk in the city, the three of us, with no security guy or anything, knowing just how many fans are in town, especially if we run into a large fan group somewhere, not knowing where we are. 'No problem, don't worry about it'. Stone signs a few posters and records covers outside the hotel, and some fans comes running after us, when we turn the corner. He signs, keeps on walking, and signals that he attends to do just that; keep on walking.
And here's the situation. We're three people, all pretty terrible at directions, all silently used to someone else is taking over, showing directions. The apparently 400 meter walk, gets quite extended, but due to friendly people in the street and the use of google maps, we find our location, and this big german restaurant with both in- and outdoor service. It's packed, but I spot a table, while Stone and Hanne is basically lost in space. Stone laughing out loud compliments me strongly on this action, but from then on things takes a turn.
Our waiter comes, after a some time, to our table. Menu cards are handed out, Stone wants a schnitzel, no doubt, salmon for Hanne, gullasch for me, beers are ordered. We get the beer pretty quickly, the german punctuality is more discussably when it comes to the fine meal. It's a fine warm evening, company is excellent, no large fan group has spotted the man in front of me, and the conversations goes everywhere. Stone is very happy about the last two shows, Prague and Krakow, lots of talks of mutual friends Gustafssons (family of Roskilde 2000 victim Carl Johan) who has spent lots of time with Stone in Italy, the tasks of the upcoming Seattle shows, the homeless issues, family pictures, Mr. Trump, Europe - a lot about Jimmy Page showing up, but this story will come separately - World Cup soccer and Neymar (Stone showing a picture which Eddie found of a table football where all players are laying down on the ground with pain inflicted injury) naturally, and a lot more. Time pass, it's good, beer is lacking towards the end, still no food. The waiter, who I would think would be of a turkish background or something, quickly comes by, seemingly stressed out, but not with food in his hands. There's a problems with the cassier or something he mumbles, and when he comes to check with our table, his focus is not on our lack of food, but the number of our table and the ones around us. Like I commented 'no we didn't switch table 306 with 307, when you were just in kitchen, simply didn't have the muscles, the skills or the imagination!! after about 45 minutes, he shows up with one pretzel (we are three people). It's genius, this is like a take on Fawlty Towers, our waiter is like the perfect mute of Basil and Manuel, with a strict focus on casier, numbers, system and orders; simply to occupied with these important matters, that our food and empty stomachs are clearly of a lower priority.
SIBYL POLLY ENTERS THE STAGE
Hanne and Stone are more than once suggesting we'll just split up and leave the table, I'm a little more patient. Stone's amazed of our tranquility saying his wife would have left and split up, a long time ago. Situation is absurd, same situation on neighbor tables. But then, waddy know, the German incarnation of the mute between Polly and Sibyle shows up. All apologizing for the restaurant and her male college, saying that on her side, things were running absolutely smoothly. She then brings us, for free, THREE pretzels, and Snaps, and puts up a radio quiz game on the spot, where we have to guess the content of this very potent alcohol!! It's good but, as Stone says, 'If I drink this, I'm gonna have a headache tomorrow'. Same for us, so we pass on the liquid. Hanne and I got a show to see tomorrow, and Stone's got one to play.
Manuel Basil comes back with more beer, for which we have to pay. He tells me he once played soccer for the Danish club Køge. Like I said to my companions, 'they used to be good, now they're really bad'. So much for german efficiency. Later Hanne and I pass by Brandenburger Tor, where boulevard is 100% set up for watching World Cup Soccer. The reign champions didn't make it through the group play, maybe Thomas Muller’s wrongly placed feet, somehow spread it's failed accuracy all the way to the Berlin restaurants, hard to say. So much for German efficiency. That being said, Basil, Manuel, Sybil and Polly - all two people - came with our food, clockwise, like when at football game, goes into overtime, more or less 90 minutes after the game began, or the order was made. But, speaking for myself, the gullasch was delicious. All good, We all survived our first world problems, in good health and filled stomachs.
MATT CAMERON AND KISS
We stroll in this fine summer night through historical Berlin, Stone telling enthusiastically and very laughingly about how Matt Cameron’s High School band, named Kiss when he was 14, got a letter from Gene Simmons himself threatening with a law suit, back in 78 or something. As a gesture, hint, love they plan to play Kiss song Black Diamond on Wahlbühne the day after (which they didn’t). The song Peter Criss, not Gene Simmons, sang. The story about the suing is a standing joke, in the PJ past catalogue, Stone said. So if you ever hear PJ play it, keep this story in mind. We find the hotel, Stone is not in the mood to do more signing for the fans that has lined up outside. We say goodbye, maybe catch up for tomorrow, but for sure see each other in Seattle, where I'm lucky to present the book at Nordic Museum, join the Wishlist Foundation for a presentation of some kind, and see the Pearl Jam shows. Will be amazing.
After parting with our fine american friend (who says he'll play a little guitar, and then go to bed), we slowly stroll around town, and at 11pm we're laying in the grass in front of the astonishing Berliner Dom. We’re soaking in the air of Berlin, in past and present, walk a long Unter den Linden up to Brandenburger Tor, takes the alcohol test, and makes it to Warshauer Strasse. Hotel room is amazing, and we sleeps like rocks after an amazing day one in Berlin, psyched to see Pearl Jam at Wahlbühne tomorrow in the same city. Keep you posted on that for next message.
Thanks, over and out for now.