Germany Tour Report 1997 - part 1

The following three articles where written by Monika Herzig during our Germany Tour and appeared in Out'n'About.

Part 2 / Part 3

It seems like another world - I'm sitting here on the porch of my parents' house in Albstadt, Germany thinking about all the adventures during the last few days. After a frantic beginning of the week, trying to run all those last minute errands, we left the Indianapolis airport Wednesday night. We, that is the core of BeebleBrox: Peter Kienle (guitar), Danny Kiely (bass), Paul Surowiak (drums), and me (keyboards). For Peter and me, this trip is more like a homecoming, while Paul and Danny are in for new adventures in a different culture. The first impression they got from Germany was a dinner Thursday night at my brother's house near the Alps with three excited little kids between 1 and 5 teaching them their first german words. Late Thursday night we finally arrived in Albstadt, completely exhausted, and ready for a good night's sleep.

This tour is one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. It came together with the help of friends and lucky coincidences. Some of you may remember saxophonist Peter Lehel. who visited Bloomington last summer and played with us at Third Street Park, and with Marcos Cavalcante at the Wild Beet. This year he was awarded the jazz price of Baden-Wuerttemberg (the southwest region of Germany), which includes a nice stipend and concerts in all major jazz clubs. While adding to his busy schedule a series of tribute concerts to John Coltrane, he also offered to set up several concerts with us in the Stuttgart region. In addition we were invited to perform in an old castle in our hometown, where up-scale classical and jazz concerts are offered throughout the year. Everything seemed to fall in place, even our new CDs, called the Indianapolis Intergalactic Spaceport, came in perfectly timed two days before our departure. Voila, this is destiny!

We spent Friday organizing all the musical equipment and rehearsal space. Finally we gathered for an intensive five-hour rehearsal in a friend's basement. Peter Lehel. just fit in perfectly with the band. Of course, such a match needs to be celebrated. I took everybody to the restaurant where I worked as a waitress for five years, financing my undergraduate degree. Sicilian owner, Michele Mamana, yelled lots of 'Mamma Mia's,' and after introducing Paul to his first Schnitzel, Michele pulled out the Schnaps and champagne.

Saturday we played our first gig in a nearby little club together with my little brother's rock band 'Mars Mellow'. They rocked the place with their intense songs. Interestingly, like most german rock bands, all songs had english lyrics. America has a big influence on the german culture, even the movie programs match and most of the american TV series are offered on german TVs. The most noticeable differences to our regular gigs were the mixture of young teenagers and adults in the audience and the attentiveness of everybody to the music. Paul and Danny were amazed when they noticed how intensely people were listening and clapping for two encores. A good portion of the audience were local musicians who did let us know that they usually don't listen to jazz, but came out nevertheless, because they were curious. After the set they all expressed the deepest appreciation for our performance - it's worth to be open-minded beyond labels! Much socializing and beer drinking followed until early in the morning - an important form of cultural exchange and language learning.

Coming up this week we'll have a performance in a big auditorium, several jazz clubs, and a brunch in an old castle in the Karlsruhe/ Stuttgart area. I'll send another road report next week.

Germany Tour Report 1997 - part 2

Part 1 / Part 3

We're already at halftime on our tour - time is flying. For a pessimist, this tour would be already half over, as optimists we look forward for just as much good time to come. Weatherwise, Germany is showing it's best side with sunshine and temperatures in the eighties and nice, cool nights. People here think it's a heatwave, they never experienced a hot, humid Indiana summer. Paul and Danny noticed that neither cars nor homes are air-conditioned, it's not a necessity in this continental climate. A very sad fact though is that this southwestern region of Germany is currently under an ozone warning, which means that it's dangerous to expose bare skin to the sun for longer periods of time because the ozone layer is very thin here. Such a warning scares me and I sincerely hope we can put an end to the destruction of our own environment very soon.

Anyway, back to the purpose of our trip, playing music. On Thursday we performed a concert for the Ettlingen Jazz Society in a beautiful high school in Karlsruhe-Ettlingen. Peter Lehel., the saxophone player, is the local hero there and a nice, excited crowd gathered in the auditorium. Even a little barrel with locally produced wine was set up in the back. The band played very well together and everybody shouted for an encore after the president of the jazz society presented me with a beautiful bouquet. I think when my Mom found the flowers in our kitchen the next morning, she finally accepted that we're doing something worthwhile.

The weekend was very busy. Saturday night we were invited to a rock club in the little town of Durmersheim. The crowd of about a hundred people didn't even fill half of the huge room, and many of the attendants were not familiar with our style of music at all. Nevertheless they clapped for an encore and went home with a couple of CDs and we filled our pocket with a nice packet of german Marks.

Sunday morning we had to get up early to play a brunch in front of the castle in Esslingen. We barely made it and set our equipment up in record time amongst all the tourists and hikers in Sunday clothes and Lederhosen. The weather was cooperative, not too hot and not too cold, and we pulled out all our quiet, more mainstream compositions since we didn't want to cause any disturbances among the old ghosts in the castle. The concerts in front of the 'Burgschenke' are organized by the jazz club Esslingen and during the summer people enjoy jazz bands every Sunday morning. It's great to see such a diverse audience enjoy and support those events!

After a good lunch, we packed our van and drove into Stuttgart. Poor Peter had to navigate through the big, confusing city to find the place of our evening engagement, a little jazz club called Roger's Kiste. Finally we pulled in the parking lot and realized that we were in the middle of the red-light district. Roger's Kiste is the equivalent to the Chatterbox in Indianapolis, a little club with a big atmosphere and walls covered with all kinds of jazz and non-jazz souvenirs. We squeezed ourselves on the little stage and waited a little suspicious for things to come. It turned out to be our best concert so far for a capacity house shouting for two encores. What a blast!

During the afternoon we hung out in Stuttgart's palace garden, discussing some of our tour impressions. Paul and Danny have become very popular among the Albstadt youth, who take them out to their favorite places every free minute. Both pointed out how important it is for those teens and twens to be allowed to mingle at any clubs and public places in order to support each other during the difficult time of growing up and be part of the whole community. The 'just say no' policies and 'not under 21' rules make teenagers in America feel unwanted and may be the cause for much of the gang violence and frustration.

Paul and Danny are also enjoying the good beer and coffee quite extensively, although they had enough of the Schnitzels by now. We'll need a few more sessions of philosophizing to pinpoint our impressions of cultural differences and similarities. There will be four more concerts to play next week and plenty of opportunities for late-night socializing. I'll provide one more summary next week before our return to Bloomington. Keep jazzin'.

Germany Tour Report 1997 - part 3

Part 1 / Part 2

One more party and it's time to pack the bags. We BeebleBroxers had a great week here gigging and hanging out. The days evolved around a busy schedule of sleeping, eating, playing music, and partying. It'll be hard to find back into a daily routine when we get back. It'll be even harder to say goodbye to family, and old and new friends. Plans are already made for an encore next May with the help of a booking agency and friends - we can't wait.

Four more dates in Tuebingen, Stuttgart, Balingen, and Albstadt concluded our tour this week. Monday we started in the 'Stadtpost' in Tuebingen. Since Monday was a catholic holiday the crowd was very sparse, consisting of a long table of saxophonist Peter Lehel.'s musician friends. The room was also very small and Paul had to play with brushes, which he hates. Oh well, not all nights can be great.

Tuesday we drove to Stuttgart to a place called GUM. Peter Schindler, who is Peter Lehel.'s duet partner on their church organ/ saxophone CD, is the owner of this little cafe connected to a fashion shop. Due to the fashion exhibits, the cafe is a non-smoking venue, which is something unheard of in Germany. Smoking is very common here and usually you don't even want to get near your clothes the next morning after spending an evening in a club or bar. Therefore the GUM was a pleasant surprise. It's a beautiful place with a nice baby grand piano, paintings on the walls, and excellent food. The crowd was small but very attentive and supportive. This is definitely a place to come back to next year.

Der Sonnenkeller, the 'sun's basement', was Thursday's performance venue. Close to home in Balingen, this was a place to get together with old friends and hang. The restaurant served local specialties, such as Maultaschen, which is something like giant meat- or vegetable-filled Ravioli. The food was unbelievable including the best asparagus soup that I ever had. The acoustics in the basement were rough with all the stone walls and high ceilings. Nevertheless, we were jamming.

The most prestigious engagement was our final performance in Albstadt-Lautlingen's palace. The palace houses the concert hall as well as an exhibit of historic keyboard instruments. Lautlingen's castle was the home of the counts of Stauffenberg. On July 20, 1944, Claus Graf Schenk von Stauffenberg conducted the famous assassination attempt on Hitler, and was shot himself the same day in Berlin. Usually they have classical concerts in the historical room with the Steinway grand piano, so I turned in my keyboard and we designed an acoustic program of our tunes. The performance turned out to be the best finale of the tour we could have dreamed of. The band played extremely well together, the solos were well-shaped, the volume was great, and everybody had a wonderful time. The well-sized audience kept clapping and shouting for more - it was one of those evenings that are the highpoints of a musician's career. Peter Kienle's mother was there and heard him perform for the first time! They both had tears in their eyes.

Last week I mentioned, that we have to do a little more thinking and talking to pinpoint some similarities and differences in german and american culture. Here is a little story to exemplify one interesting aspect, the very liberal attitude in even little german towns: Our friend Armin Baumgärtner, who grew up in Albstadt, leads a very individual life. He is a talented musician and painter with a highly creative mind. His recent activities range from shows of his paintings, performances on drums, guitar, and vocals with his acoustic rock band 'Unplugged Noise', recordings of Albstadt's church bells for a local christmas project, to a lucrative business as digeridoo maker. His most favorite subjects for his paintings and lyrics are intimate topics, usually not openly discussed or shown among humans. Recently he had the opportunity to exhibit his paintings in a renowned bank together with his girlfriend Ingrid Haug. The theme of the exhibition was male and female. The picture chosen for the invitations showed two M-shapes, red and blue on white background turned sideways, back to back. During the opening celebration, the bank director mentioned casually to Armin, that the two shapes looked like two human behinds. Armin informed the astonished director that he was exactly right. 'So how did you actually paint this picture?' the bank director asked. 'Well, Ingrid and me sat into red and blue paint and then back to back on the white canvas', Armin replied. 'Aha', the bank director reflected on the scene for a second. Finally he voiced his main concern: 'So how did you get the paint off afterwards?' Keep jazzin'