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The Mälze 2019

 

20190305_184515[1]The band’s 2019 tour is started by a gig at the Mälze in Regensburg. We play there every year and have done for the last twenty something. It’s different from all other dates for two reasons: the venue  has well known bands  and, because it’s Fasching, Now Fasching is a strange phenomenon in Germany, it starts on 11.11 at 11.11am and finishes promptly at midnight on Shrove Tuesday, everyone has a sort of forced happiness and wanders around wearing Thunderbirds hats.

My wife hates Fasching. She really doesn’t like it. But a lot of people do, people who we know so she sort of has to come. I am not insisting, but she will struggle to find a face-saving way to avoid doing so.

“How am I even supposed to get there?” she asks the day before.

“Well Andrea is going, you could go with her,” I say. “Then…”

“And what time are you actually on?” she says.

“About nine,” I say. “But be a bit early, because it will get busy.”

“Yeah, right,” she says.

“It will,” I say. “It’s sold out.”

“Is it?” she says.

I shrug: I am not entirely sure about this.

“I still have one unused guest list spot, if you know anyone.”

“Perhaps your son would like to come,” she says, pointing to the oldest one, who is sitting at the kitchen table staring at his phone.

“I’m good, thanks,” he says, without looking up.

The next afternoon, I set out for the venue in good time to help set up, but when I walk in, things are mostly done. The band is already there. We do a sound check. There are still hours to go before show time.

Alarm bells suddenly ring out with an earsplitting intensity that puts the sound check volume very decisively in the shade.

Wolfgang had opened one of the emergency exit doors by mistake. He looked decidedly pale, thinking of the 4000€ fine for falsely setting off a fire alarm. He ran for the telephone and tried to cancel the already on the way fire brigade and police. Too late.

2 minutes later they were at the front door. Luckily the boys were in a good mood and let him off.

Sigh of relief.

At 6pm, Stefan starts setting up the cameras for tonight (we’re filming a video) around the perimeter of the stage.

“I’m going to tell him not to show my double chin,” Martin says. “It’s ridiculous.”

“Yeah,” I say, but I secretly think: I like it. When I look out a few minutes later, Martin is helping the man put the cameras into place.

At 7.30pm, the venue is still empty. I return to the dressing room. “Are you sure there are people coming?” I ask.

“Apparently,” Everyone says.

“There’s a huge queue outside,” someone says.

“A queue?” I say. I try to picture my wife standing in a queue.

There are no wings at Mälze – the dressing room is set back through a corridor, so when you open the dressing room door, you have to go past the toilets through the hall and onto the stage. When we do this at nine o’clock on the dot, we are greeted with a roar from the room that causes me to rock back on my heels a little. I don’t think there was this many people last year. Here, every head is facing in our direction. None of them dressed normally, which is always a bit unsettling.

3 hours go by in a flash.

After the last encore and a brief retreat to the dressing room, the rest of the band heads off talk to the audience. I lag behind for a bit, trying to process the previous 180 minutes. A triumph, I decide.

By the time I step back out on to the stage, the room is nearly empty again. My wife is standing alone at the bar, looking up at me.

“That was boring,” she says.

“You don’t really care for music, do you?” I say.

“I do,” she says. “Who were all those people?”

“Fans,” I say.

Twenty minutes later, I run into my wife again near the exit, where she is talking with the wives of other band members.

“I’m looking forward to the wives’ leg of the tour,” she says.

“You can’t come on that,” I say.

“Why not?” she says. “The other wives are going.”

“The other wives come to gigs all the time,” I say. “You never come.”

“It sounds like fun,” she says.

“It’s four nights on the trot,” I say. “You’ll hate it.”

“I’ve always wanted to go to Mitterbickl,” she says.

“You’re lying,” I say.

“I’m definitely coming,” she says.

 

The End of the Year

The End of the year

Well, we’ve nearly made it through another year of Brexit related bollocks to finally arrive at the December – I think it’s still called that .

Even in the office they’ve joined in the political correctness madness and instead of the Xmas (X is in the place of Christ!) piss-up, we are now attending the ‘years end party’. The result is still the same, everyone trying to avoid drinking the ‘Zirbenschnaps’ that the boss is trying to press on everyone. It really does smell like some kind of urinal cleaner. Probably tastes like it too.

Midlife Crisis are also kicking out the jams with festive fun and are meeting up to plan our conquest of Europe (excluding Britain, of course who have decided to strike trade deals with the outer Aleutian islands instead – a much better prospect).All this needs to be minutely planned. Starting off in the lower palatinate and spreading like an itchy rash over the state of Bavaria finally arriving back at the same table next year to plan our conquest of Europe before a large part of the band decide to retire to the island of saint Martinique with the accumulated millions that have been earned from 30 years of slogging around the pubs and clubs. Yes, that’s exactly what it’s like. It’s not all sex and drugs and rock’ n roll you know. Actually there’s only one third of that saying left over. I’ll leave it to you to work out which bit.

It’s been a good year. We started in Schwarzenfeld (see blog) and finished at a wedding, with various ports of call in between. I’ve enjoyed each and every gig this year, each one had its own character and that’s why a years end review and party is useful to put things in perspective, look back and contemplate that things aren’t as bad as they seem – we can survive anything – even Trump!

Merry Christmas, may your god go with you and we’ll see you all again in 2019!

Alte Mälze – Regensburg 13.02.2018

Who wants to break free? Almost twenty-five years after they first played at the Mälze in Regensburg on ‘Faschingsdienstag’ , Midlife Crisis ltd seem have given their best shot for this occasion. Faded, bored: not a sign of it.

Two decades ago, with a different line-up entirely, their live show was a depressingly blokey and homely affair. But their current reincarnation feels more in tune with the show, for its end of Fasching feeling and youthful turbo-glam seventies attitude. Dynamic on the guitar and flamboyant with the between song banter, Wolfgang Haarer makes a superb mc, one minute telling a joke, the next cajoling a willing audience into mesmeric chant of ‘we want sweet’ before the well-oiled (in every sense of the word) band launch into a rousing version of ‘Love is like Oxygen’. More importantly, he can still muster the swashbuckling gitarrero posing and tight-trousered showmanship that these ageless anthems demand. But he’s not the only weapon of mass seduction. The shed builder that supports the whole construction and keeps it on the fine line between self-parodying ‘Schlager’ and a good kick in the balls rock night, is Andi Gmeinwieser. The newbie in the band, he displays an envious grasp of beat gymnastics to keep the whole ship afloat. But………

Who wants to break free? That was the newly cobbled together intro for the evening, put together by the man with twelve fingers on the ivories, Martin Wirthensohn. WTF? Darkness, and then the sounds of a hybrid ‘Captain Future’ theme overlaid with Neil Armstrong’s immortal lines. Blam! Lights,action. Then comes Queen’s paean to freedom, the floor immediately full with a black sea of dancers, the audience a mixture of regulars and freshers dressed as pirates, witches and hippies looking for the last kick before diving headlong into the melancholy of ash Wednesday at the stroke of midnight.

Three and a half hours later and, in what seems like the blink of an eye, it’s all over. The five sweat encrusted musos take their well-earned rest and head back to the awaiting oxygen tents at the rear, looking back on a gig that will stay in the memory for a long time – the perfect blend of a band enjoying being there to play, and a crowd that wanted them to.

The fiftieth birthday – The Raven Straubing 20.01.2018

Tonight Midlife Crisis ltd played their second January gig in The Raven in Straubing, a rock club that you find all too seldom these days. The entrance is hidden away in a small and uninviting alley, that leads into a small bar and bistro area. But, if you are courageous enough to carry on you come into a much larger space, in what looks like it was earlier used as a warehouse. Everything looks half finished, the drapes on the stage are hanging down, all of the chairs have been gathered from various charity shops over the years. But, and it is a big but, the place has atmosphere and character that is sadly missing from a lot of venues.

Why were we there? It was a fiftieth birthday party of a fellow musician and we were invited to play. Fuzz made a notable first impression by entering the arena on his face after failing to notice a small, but not unimportant step that took him by surprise. This incident then inevitably became the running gag of the eveing ‘Fuzz, mind the step’.

Nori and co. Played a likeable and able blend of Mississippi acoustic blues, with the highlight of ACDC’s ‘she’s got the Jack’. The audience singing heartily without ever understanding the veneareal background of the song.

There was a pivotal moment in the evening, when the packed audience, saw Christian, the birthday boy perform with his band Blues Control and experienced a barnstorming version of ‘all along the watchtower’. this broke the ice on a hitherto restained crowd. After that there was no holding back. How would we go down? This was obviously Blues country. We needn’t have worried.

From the opening chords of ‘Hungry heart’ the audience were pumped and bounced along to the entire set. Old favourites combined with a sprinkling a new songs, ‘My Sharona’ being a standout, produced an electric, sweaty and altogether feelgood performance that left both audience and band drained. A final encore of ‘We are the Champions’ and that was it. Hometime through the steadily worsening weather.

Schwarzenfeld 13.01.2018

Right then, a new year and the first gig with a few new songs in the portfolio. The premiere of new songs live on stage is completely different to learning them in the practice room or at home, all of the lyrics seem to mysteriously dissapear from the memory, as though you have never seen them before. So,there was a certain nervousness underlying the normal excitement.

Also a new venue. The Tanzstadl in Schwarzenfeld. If you’ve ever googled it and looked at the pictures online, you would never believe that there is still such a venue alive and kicking. a big function room with a certain 80s charm, complete with little red lamp clusters and ultraviolet dandruff exposing lights. The stage is 2 tiered, not big, but big enough to fit all 5 musicians on stage, but also not large enough to allow anyone to throw any rockstar shapes and moves. A good lighting rig and pa was available and also a mixer came with it. A good start.

The landlord met us with good humour and offered us drinks straight away. After the mixer arrived, he surrounded the drum kit completely with mics, much to andi’s amusement, and then proceeded to cable up all the instruments and set sound levels. It was a good soundcheck, and we tried out the new material. It went well and so we for something to eat relaxed and looking forward to the evening. Curry wurst and Schnitzel consumed, we awaited the expected influx of guests. Boredom crept in and so Martin and myself examined the band cards that were placed over the bar, which had obviously not been looked at in a long time;  dust covered names like Niki and Los Duo Dorado, names that conjure up a certain horror among musicians.

And still we waited. Then waited a bit more. After that, we waited. The gig was due to commence at 9, but we waited  a bit longer until maybe more people arrived, but they didn’t. We started with more people on the stage than in the audience. But, we rocked and the people started to stream into the hall, until there about 20 people there. We played well. There audience were fantastic, they all joined in and made it a memorable evening. The landlord snd people who spoke to us positively euphoric and also a tiny bit embaressed because of the indifference of the people of Schwarzenfeld. They complain that there is nothing happening and when there is something, they don’t vist it. But, we’ll be back and next time, I’m sure the place will be packed. Word of mouth.

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