Thursday, 28 October 2010

First we Took Church Crookham, then we took Berlin

But our journey first began in a little place we like to call Melbourne Baby.
Ok, it’s probably not best to begin a blog with a but, but there you go. There are no rules with this blogging business. So..There will be no consistency. There will be third person observations. There will be personal ramblings from each of the JnR Heartbreakers. There will be occasional bad language (ok, more on Switzerland later). There will be times when you’re gonna be like, for goodnesgfrrfrs sake, what the hell are you going on about??
So, back to Melbourne.
We love Melbourne and we love our Melbourne crew which is why we stopped off there for 5 rockin days. Well, we didn’t actually rock very much but we certainly did roll.
We caught up with Rachel’s first guitar teacher (aka ‘Mum’)  and legendary music commentator Unka Jim who once said that if our psycho-delic mandolin playing Sam Prebble was in his footy team he’d put him “straight up the guts”. If you don’t know about Aussie rules then this won’t mean much to you. If you do know about Aussie rules you will know this is the highest compliment you can possibly make ie Sam is the kinda player that you put in the middle of the field  & he’s gonna be all over that oval like a ninja and win you the game. As always, Unka Jim’s right on the money.
We also caught up with good uns, Bene & Marcus or Bercus as we like to call them – these guys are ace & have hosted the Heartbreakers many a time while they were living in their last port of call, Port Chalmers. A recent email from Bene also let us know that the BHBs & Wintersun are now getting some airplay on the breakfast show at Triple R ( Melbourne’s Bnet equivalent) so kudos to her for hooking that up, that’s wicked. Maybe the previous gigs we’ve played in Melbourne have also been slowly planting seeds.
So back to Bercus….they hosted a party for us with a bunch of our other Melbourne
Baby mates. Reading that sentence back, I realized it sounded like they have some kinda place similar to Hugh Heffner and that this was some kind of “other” party like, “Do you like to party?” party. Just for the record, it wasn’t that kind of party.
It was the kind of party where there’s awesome friends, excellent cheeses, bad but funny jokes, random guitar playing, a little bit more wine, whoops I think I just knocked over your vase, ok get that guy a taxi!, rambling home, whoops I don’t have my key and I’ve gotta break a window kind of party.
A very, very good party!
The next day was also a very important day – it was Grand Final day. Again, for those of you who don’t know Aussie rules this will not mean very much. Just skip to the next paragraph.
This day was an exceptional day in history as the Grand Final game held the previous weekend had ended in a draw so they were having to replay – only the 3rd time the grand final has ever been replayed.
So…it was swell to sit in a local bar and watch the game.  Aussie Rules rulz ok and Collingwood took the day.
Next day was our last day in MB so we said goodbyes and were The Sad Heartbreakers for a wee bit then boarded the plane.

A Seat with a View

After a fairly uneventful 24 hour flight from Melbourne to London we landed at Gatwick into a familiar grey sky. We were met by John’s sister, Angela – famous mostly for being awesome, but also for providing the inspiration for that now classic Heartbreakers singalong, Angela ….”London’s a shitty town…why are you there?...”, hey, now everybody join in!
Of course due to the international airplay we’ve been getting overseas lately (check out St Louis’s community radio station KDHX ) we were uncertain whether we would in fact be turned back at the airport gates what with all our “hating” of the English capital and all, but somehow we slipped through unnoticed. Perhaps it was the sunglasses or perhaps it was that, for once, Rachel was not wearing her bright red long coat.

So onto Church Crookham…
It’s a small village in the middle of other small villages in South West Greater London. Very leafy, very quaint and for some reason unknown, people drive very fast.
We spent most of our time catching up with the whanau, but managed to squeeze in a wee gig at the local, Fox and Hounds .
It’s a lovely place next to a canal where riverboats moor and late afternoon drinkers sit in a sun beam. We bowled on in early evening and asked if we could play a few tunes the following night. The publican was a jolly nice fellow called Chris who said he’d love to have us but he’d have to check with the local council due to the neighbours. It seemed a tad officious but suitably English.
We left a CD with Chris and tried to assure him that 2 guitars in the corner would probably not warrant noise control and we would wait to hear from him.
The phone call the following morning gave us the great news that the council would not be standing in the way of the Heartbreakers breaking some Church Crookham hearts. Chris and his wife had enjoyed the CD and in fact said we were “probably better than most of the bands that play here” but they also wanted to know if we would be able to play 1 or 2 songs that people could “tap their toes to”. So, we took This Is a Low off the setlist and played to the handful of locals plus a great bunch of Angela’s friends and their children. There was quite a bit of headbanging from a couple of rowdy 4 ½ year olds but there was no call for the local enforcement thank goodness.
We were looked after very well by Chris and The Fox was happy with the night, so we’ll try to make it back there in December.

Later in the week we met up with me olde school pal, Sam and boyfriend Thor (who’s from Chester and is also a musician and drums in a psychedelic rock band Rev Rev ) at a local of theirs called The Watermans Arms in Richmond, London. The pub runs a weekly folk open mike night in the upstairs room so we thought we’d throw a few tunes into the pot. The room was full to overflowing with grey haired, bespeckled people who were mostly men with guitars worth $5000+.
They take their folk very folking seriously in Richmond.
After registering ourselves with the folk powers that be, we awaited our turn and settled into some Yusif Islam and 1960’s folk classics.
After our introductory speech, we were met with some of the sweetest heckling from an eighty year old woman with clenched fist:”Go the Kiwis!”. I’m not sure if she was addressing us as Allies or if she was an All Blacks fan, but it made us feel pretty good.
We played a few tunes and even got the whole room singing along with Wintersun “Go on, go on, go on”. It was folkin great.

We also had the best fish n chips later on from this place with the best decor:

And we finally found the best chimneys too:
And the best graffiti for kids:

By now, our English was very very good so thought we’d better give ourselves a bit of a challenge and take the plunge into Europa. 

We arrived in Berlin 2 weeks ago and for the first week have been exploring the city with our beautiful and generous host & friend Chrissie and her wee 4 year old boy Maximo.
There has been a lot written about Berlin, not least of which is the always entertaining Bond Street Bridge blog , so I won’t bang on about it, but just for the record, Berlin IS a super city.



The first day was a sun filled crisp day which we spent sitting on our butts. Our butts were sitting on bicycles though, so we saw a vast bit of the city and developed what we called “Berlin Butt”. After a few days of cycling the dull pain was a distant memory and we felt like old bicycle hands.
Maximo is a very clever wee boy and he also has a talent for renaming people whose names are obviously dull or hard to remember thus Rachel’s Berlin name was given: Rayden.

It’s really rather good and when on her bicycle it is the most fitting title you ever heard.
This has led to an overinflated sense of self and has deemed herself leader of a bike gang called Rayden’s Raiders. But oh, how the mighty have fallen…..more on this later.

We thought we’d continue our takeover of the under 5’s market with a wee performance at Maximo’s Humpty Dumpty Kindergarten as part of their monthly cake and coffee getogether.
So, tough crowd? 20 kids under 5 having eaten their weight in cake.
We melted some small faces and had a great time.

During this first week we also called into the bookshop East of Eden which we had been told would be a good place to play if we could get in.
Walking in the front door, the first person I see is an old friend & musician from my Galway, Ireland days called Chad Dughi . He’s an American chap who I haven’t seen for 12 years and he doesn’t actually live in Berlin but was visiting for a week, just a very freaky coincidence.
Chad is an incredible talent and fountain of American folk songs.
The next voice I hear is a blast from the past as I turn around and notice another familiar face, Bernie from Galway. Bernie likes to play a tune or 2 as well.
So, we all hugged and caught up on the last 12 years and marveled at the incredible nature of the timing of us all being there on that same time and place.
We figured - surely this was a sign and we couldn’t just pass the opportunity by. We MUST play together!

A Kiwi , an American , and an Irish lady walked into a bar…..A cautionary tale.

We had our first Berlin show to grown-ups last week in a little bar called Primitiv .
We joined our pals Chad Dughi, Bernie and another ring-in Gerry in a session in the corner…very much in the Irish tradition of trading songs of yore. The fact that the oldest songs we know how to play are the ones from our first album (2002) didn’t seem to detract too much from the occasion…a few pints of pilsner on the house and a chance to play to some appreciative locals made us feel like we were earning our keep in the universe. The Bailey melted many a Deutsche face with a particularly spirited version of “Calling Card”… was choice.
Time flew by and suddenly it was the early hours and time to negotiate the train back to Schoneberg. We were amazed how many people were out and about at 4am on a Tuesday morning. The S41 train was filled with sober, stern faces going about their lawful business….(whatever that could be)
Public drunkenness/aggression just doesn’t seem to be done here…. If trains ran at 4am in Auckland, you’d need a crash helmet and a taser.
At our train stop, we picked up our bikes for the short ride home to Chrissie’s. We learnt the hard way that alcohol, extreme tiredness and bike riding should never be mixed. Over to Rayden..

Ok, so I fell off my bike and bruised my chin and got a fat lip. And feel a bit silly too.
Ironically, the bump on my knee which I’ve had for the last 8 months has disappeared.
A member of Raydens Raiders