from düsseldorf to bochum: a mini tour
I got carsick in the van on the way to Düsseldorf, and when we arrived at the venue where we’d be playing that evening, I could barely choke down a bottle neck of beer. So I chugged malt “beer” on a sofa in the corner, spooning a chick-pea-based chili and stuffing photocopied lyric sheets into the plastic covers of cassette tapes. It was the first time since high school that I’d been stone sober on stage, and it was awesome. Dependence has always irritated me, and I think I might have tried to punch myself in the eye if it turned out that I couldn’t handle performing without a buzz. No black eye, and no hangover to worry about the next morning. Divine.
That was the start of a three day Black Diamond Express Train to Hell mini tour. At the Linkes Zentrum Hinterhof in Düsseldorf that night I met a Click Clack Gorilla reader (yohoo! *waves at screen*) and after our set we played a few acoustic songs and passed around instruments. People really like to try out the musical saw. It’s hard to get the hang of at first, but it’s less technically intimidating than any other instrument I know. And the evening won the weekend’s award for “most comfortable place to sleep.” Hells yeah.
On Saturday morning we drove to Appelscha, Holland for an anarchist festival called Pinksterlanddagen. Heaven! Woods, fields, like-minded people, and table after table of English-language books I’ve been eyeballing on the internet for ages and could finally buy without paying shipping. I only made it to part of one lecture, but workshops and lectures and other similar events filled each of the festival’s three days.
We’d spent all morning arguing about the fact that the entire festival would be sans alcohol. Sounded like a neat idea, I thought. Why not take the focal point away from alcohol, where it tends to land as soon as the word “festival” gets mixed up with an event? Why not create an atmosphere where more is getting done because nobody is wasted or hungover? Why not discourage people for whom alcohol is the only reason to come from showing up? And why not offer one of the few events in a sea of alcohol-infused happenings where people who really cannot handle being around the stuff can feel comfortable? Isn’t anarchism also about making communities where everyone feels welcome?
But a few of the other Black Diamonds were pissed. We hadn’t been informed of the event’s alcohol-free status until long after we’d committed to playing. (It was probably written loud and clear on the event website, but as none of us speaks Dutch, we hadn’t seen it.) A few folks were pissed at being bossed around, told what to do. They made jokes about having such a strong set of rules at an anarchist gathering (though I’d also argue that anarchism isn’t about having no rules as many people assume, but in having community- and consensus-created rules, but that’s another can of worms). Some argued that they could drink a beer or two and without being assholes or disrupting the workings of the event.
“But would you actually have said you didn’t want to play if we had known beforehand?” I asked over breakfast. One person said that yes, they would never have accepted the engagement. I was surprised. I like to drink quite a lot, but refusing to participate in events without alcohol struck me as being pretty poor. Either way, I was glad we’d agreed to play, and that we would spend the night camping in tiny, middle-of-nowhere Appelscha, Holland.
We pulled into the camping field after a long drive. Red and black flags lined the entrance road, and the field was full of tents and vans- and trucks-turned homes. Kids ran in circles and played on a wooden playground. Book-laden tables flanked the path that led past many of the area’s permanent trailer structures (the rest of the year, the festival grounds are a campground) and into the woods. A mid-sized building housed a coffee counter selling snacks and drinks and a large concert room with a stage where we would play that evening. Other events were held in a gym that I never saw. It was a place where it felt good to be, and soon the skeptics among us were changing their tune. Especially when it became clear that no one was going to throw them out of the festival for quietly drinking a beer in the van.
We played after a crust-punk-ish band in animal costumes (beaver, elephant, and chipmunk!), and the crowd were enthusiastic and fun. Afterward, we stumbled through dark woods to a late-night bonfire and the Beard and Bass Boy played a few Irish folk tunes before we retreated to the tent to shiver ourselves to sleep. When we set out for Bochum, Germany, the next afternoon, I found myself wishing we could have stayed another night. (By the way, the photo at the top of the post is of me sitting outside of our tent in Appelscha, eating a raw onion. Oh do I love raw onions.)
This post is getting out-of-control long. So, in the interest of internet a.d.d., to be continued tomorrow. See you there.