the black diamond express train to heidelberg

The tea, the finger crossing, and all the hours in bed with a warm scarf did the trick: by Friday I could sing again. There was still some scratching and some coughing, but I could hold a tune. And a mild cold tends to give my voice a pleasant scratchy growl that lends itself to old timey country music. But remember how last week everything went wrong? How we had several near disasters with the van only to arrive at the show to find my voice completely gone? Yeah, that streak of luck was still following us.

We’d decided that if my voice wasn’t better by Thursday, we’d cancel the show. It got better, and we all breathed a sigh of relief. But ha! Ha hahahaha I say! Because Thursday we found out that a very important bit of the van had exploded, and who needs a voice if your van breaks the night before the concert and you can’t get to the venue?!

Frantic who-can-lend-us-a-car telephone calls began. Not that we could borrow just any car—we needed a car that could fit five people, seven instruments, and a stand up bass. We were offered a car that was too small and was available too late, and then a station wagon that sounded reasonable. Meanwhile, bad weather had been brewing and a level-four storm warning had been issued for the area where we were supposed to play. Driving into the eye of an apocalyptic storm sounded stupid but doable, until we found out that driving into a level-four-storm-warning area would invalidate the car’s insurance. Back at square one, I started to feel supersticious. If the universe wanted to stop us from playing that badly, shouldn’t we just cancel the show before the forces that thwart got desperate and turned to murder?

But ah! What about the train? As most of our (cough borrowed) amps were broken, we’d be playing an accoustic set anyway—thus significantly lessening the amount of crap we would need to bring with us. So we packed the instruments onto two wheeled carts and headed for the train station. (You know you’re not in America anymore when…) And besides it being a little irritating to navigate crowded platforms with a contra bass and a bike trailer full of instruments, it was amazing. AMAZING. So amazing that we’re talking about doing a weekend tour entirely by train next spring.

At the moment the Deutsche Bahn has a deal called the Quer-durchs-Land-Ticket (roughly translated: the straight across the country ticket). It costs 42 euros for one person, and six euros for each additional person traveling in your group. At 66 euros for five people there and 40 for a group weekend ticket to get us back, it was at least twice as expensive as the trip would have been by car, but holy shit. No stress. No need for pit stops. No chance of getting on the wrong highway. No fights about whose fault it is that we are on the wrong highway. No running out of gas or losing the oil tank cap. No throat-drying heating system or motor-so-loud-you-can’t-hear-the-stereo. Who needs a car? Not the Black Diamond Express Train to Hell!

A relaxing train ride turned into a relaxing evening. A local bus got us to one of Heidelberg’s few alternative venues, Cafe Gegendruck—a teeny tiny cozy living-room-esque space perfect for an accoustic show. The space was comfortable and welcoming, the audience was sweet and responsive and fun, and the shows=hell trauma of The Nikki Will Be Behind the Van Puking Morning Sickness tour we went on this summer has finally been erased. Three cheers for the kind Heidelbergians who invited us to play their space.

I didn’t get anyone to take pictures during the show, but if you want to see what band-travel by train looks like, there are a few pictures over at

0 Comments on “the black diamond express train to heidelberg

  1. As much as I love the good ol North American Road trip.. I do wish we had trains. I have a really really good friend that lives on the coast. I want to visit but the 4+ day trip just sounds like agony. Granted I know tons of people on the way, and have places to do pit stops its still a whole lotta driving. A train sounds like a dream.

    On a side note I have thought about doing the hobo express but I’m sure my mother or some one would kick my ass up and down the country.

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