Dave demonstrates how far we travelled across Germany yesterday.
After arriving at Torgelow yesterday after a long day of travel, some of us went out to eat, while some crashed out in their rooms straight away. I managed to have some supper plus a couple of beers before hitting the hay at 8pm and sleeping through to 6am the next morning. Here we are assembling to get to the gig after a quiet morning.
We are very close to the Polish border here and on the coast of the Baltic sea. It seems quite a quiet part of the country - however since it is the weekend, its difficult to tell.
Waiting for the drawbridge to go up while a boat passes through - our hotel was on a canal with loads of boats moored nearby.
and then it came down again.
An overcast day, thank goodness - no more steaming heat, like the earlier part of the tour.
The gig was at a steel works which was still operational, and the hall was pretty impressive (I notice the Germans do post industrial theatre spaces very well and I remembered a gig we did in Rostock in 2016 in a disused shipyard - a bit like this).
Piles of steelInteresting sculpture in the foyer of the factory offices - looks like an old Soviet style "heavy industry in fun' type thing. I presume that the factory dates from the time of the old East German Republic (GDR)?Good lighting makes it looks as if the stage is a blast furnace!
Old wooden rafters
Another view of the stage - the venue held 950 seats and we had sold it out!
Since we unearthed a batch of visitors tabards and hard hats, we thought we might as well get some photos looking 'wacky' - those crazy Brits!
But the fun ended with the soundcheck!
Smelting steel - a picture from one of the factory offices.
A bit like a cathedral of industry really, what with the aforementioned rafters and these windows. The whole place had a strong smell of soot/graphite - not unpleasant, but the festival brochure did warn visitors to to wear clothes which were too white as soot sometimes fell from the ceiling.
We were presented with flowers again at the end of the show
According to Viola (tour manager) the reason we had to travel such an insanely long distance yesterday (610km) was because this German tour is bookended by two gigs (the first at Bleckede and the last at Torgelow) which are both part of the same festival - 'Festpiele Mecklenburg-Volrpommern' - hence the need to fill up the days between these shows with gigs (if that makes sense?). Tomorrow is the last gig of this tour - not too far from where we started off - although we will fly out of Berlin.
Hello Dusseldorf Bahnhof (again)
Off we go - the train journey took four hours approx.
Yawn, zzzzzzz - yes, thats the sound of travel 'broadening my mind'.
That was a fun four hour trip - looking forward to that 3 hour bus journey!
Crowds at Berlin station
In reality, the train and bus journeys were pretty comfortable, so no complaints there.
I was just about able to make it out for a few beers and a fish supper - we are right up on the Baltic, near to Denmark and Poland and the weather is cooler - thank goodness.
Here's a photo taken after our gig at Karlsruhe, which Rich took and emailed me - I forgot to mention this weird 'beach' area that the venue has, where we all enjoyed a post gig drink last night, while chatting to 'Doc' - our temporary sound man, who replaced Verena for a night - he is a fund of interesting stories about high profile gigs he has done with stars such as Robbie Williams.
Jonty, having had a cursory glance at this blog has just informed me that both Ulm and Karlsruhe are in the German state of Baden-Württemberg (not Bavaria - as I blithely stated here not long ago). We moved by train from Karshruhe to Dusseldorf for our gig in Dreieich.
Whilst waiting at the station, I noticed Ben with a Vegan Royale from McDonalds, and remembered that when we stopped on our way to Laramie during our recent US tour for food - we had had to go to Burger King as they were the only fast food joint that did vegan food. Questioning him about this anomaly, Ben informed me that MacDonalds menus vary internationally and the Vegan Royale is only available in Germany and not the US and the UK. I'm not quite sure why I'm telling you this, other than it might be important information to be stored away for the future.
Customary chucking out of passengers in our reserved seats on the train.
I've been here many, many times but I still find Dusseldorf station very beautiful.
Taxi from the station to the hotel - its unusual these days to be able to lift my phone to take a pic without Ben or Will gurning at the camera - here I managed to out smart them both!
My suit hanging up to 'air' in the sun on the balcony of our hotel - this is tempting fate a bit as it was in this hotel that Dave's washing got blown off in a gust of wind several years ago - a story that has entered into Ukes myth and forever left this hotel to be known as Hotel Unterhosen (the Underpants Hotel).
Verena was back to sound engineer for this gig - sporting a bright green pair of shorts - it is always very hot when we play Dreieich and yesterday was no exception.
The organisers had thoughtfully rigged up a couple of parasols as the soundcheck is usually done in the full glare of the sun - the gig went over well and we were joined back at the hotel by our friends Doris and Klaus, and Eva Hofbauer for a drink afterwards. Travel tomorrow and then the last gig on Sunday, before we travel home on Monday.
I've discovered that the last time we were in Ulm was six years ago - I don't remember it at all! We moved from Augsburg to Ulm by train (this tour is all train and no long bus journeys - so far its been comfortable - even with the train delays). Above photo - the Ukes leave the hotel in Augsburg for the train station.
Waiting for our train to Ulm - a short one hour journey, during which I had a damn good sleep after another hot night (the European heatwave continues).
Arriving at our hotel in Ulm (deep in Bavaria)
Checking in and a better view of Jonty's mosquito tattoo on his neck - he is prone to getting bitten!
Lovely view of the Durnau (Danube) from my hotel windowTaxi to the venue
Which turned out to be a circus tent
Good food too - our hosts were very cool people and nothing was too much trouble for them.
Preparing to go on
Our good friend Eva Hofbauer has brought us gifts of food (thank you Eva!) which we all tucked into in the break between sets - here's a view of the aftermath!
Took a quick photo of the encore as we went back on
And finally, after the show was over someone lit a bonfire (which we were sorely tempted to throw out ukuleles on) and we all sat round and chatted - gazing into the embers. Karlsruhe tomorrow Campers - keep up!
The oppressive heat continues and with a long day of train travel - I find myself one day behind on this blog - so I'll roll two days into one. We left our hotel in Dusseldorf for the station at 11 ready for our four and a half hour train journey to Augsburg.
Viola, bless her, had managed to get us upgraded to 1st class, which was fortunate as the journey eventually took SIX HOURS - due to some kind of engineering complications too complicated to recall.
We subsequently arrived in the drizzle at Augsburg, where we had a night off before our gig the next day - our hotel was about half an hour out of town, miles from anywhere.
Though it did have a Vietnamese restaurant 'in house' where we had a very average meal (which took a loooooong time to arrive).
The hotels rooms were small but stiflingly hot - I passed an uncomfortable night .
So the next day - we had no travel and a gig in the evening, so we spent the morning rehearsing.
Having a snack at lunchtime from the nearby cafe
and then it was off to the gig in the weird and wonderful Parktheater complex which we hadn't played before and was one of the more unique places we've played in Germany.
We were playing outside (again - this will be our third outside gig on this tour, thank goodness). But this time there was no canopy - fortunately it didn't rain.
Behind the 'outside' stage was the interior of the original theatre which was very impressive - the whole complex was built as a sort of Sanatorium/back to nature type spa during the 19th century and now functions as a straight theatre venue. Our audience was pretty small (about 350) but highly enthusiastic
Yesterday was a pretty tiring day - we'd done a late show at Kiel (it started at 8.30pm - normally it's 7.30pm) which meant we didn't get back to our hotel until midnight and then we had to be up in time to leave the hotel at 8am for out journey to Dusseldorf. This is the view out of my hotel window - fortunately I was out of my room before the pneumatic drills started.
It's been stiflingly hot as well - here's us walking to the station
The journey to Dusseldorf would involve changing at Hannover and take around two and a half hours. Changing trains at Hannover Viola checks the train schedule
Dozing/Sleeping/TV watching/Gaming Ukes
Rich and Ben queue for food
Walking to the hotel in Dusseldorf
Walking to the Savoy theatre
Soundchecking - it was incredibly hot in the theatre
and finally signing after the show, despite the heat - it was good to see several friends in the audience who joined us for a drink afterwards - Andreas and Sonia, Doris and Klaus, and Eva, who had made the long journey from Austria.
Another day, another gig outside in this heatwave which is sweeping Europe - fortunately we are travelling to the coast, which means it will be slightly cooler. We left Luneburg at 11am and went to the station to take the train - a one and a half hour journey to Kiel.
Fierce Sun on the platform!
Ben passes the time on his games console and Jonty on his phone
Passing one of the huge cruise ships which dock here - they are massive up close. We played Kiel pretty much exactly two years ago - its the same festival and it's a very cool vibe.
I notice that I take exactly the same pictures as well (don't think about it - that way madness lies!). Come to think of it, we didn't stay in the same hotel this time.
Verena checking the sound on her ipad and Viola checking her phone - we had pretty much sold out the venue so we were told.
Cool seal sculptures
Other acts that are playing the festival
Richie, Ben and Hester
Waiting to go on
While the show was going down well, it was during the interval that I was shocked to discover Dave's true feelings about the ukulele.I took exactly this same picture two years ago - 1,800 people - not bad going!
Sneaked my phone out to take a picture of the encore - it was a great gig.
Signing merchandise in the pitch dark afterwards....
Greetings Campers - the Ukes are back on the road in Germany after playing out a few summer gigs around the UK. This week long tour comprises eight gigs all around the country (from the top to the bottom) and we will be here for eight days - leaving next Monday from Berlin.
Since coming home from our last English gig in Exeter, I've carried on slowly painting the interior of our house. The big excitement in our household has been daughter Poppy's first paying gig (at a funeral in Folkestone - singing Mozart's Ave Verum as part of a quartet) it might just be fatherly pride, but that girls getting an early start in showbiz.
So it was up with the lark (5.50am) to catch the early train up to London - I arrived at the Row of Heath (airport) at 9AM.
Our first gig was to be at a small festival in Bleckede (North Germany) - which meant flying to Hamburg and then jumping on a bus to Luneburg, where our hotel was, dumping off our stuff and then going to the gig.
Here's our plane
and a grumpy morning shot of yours truly
Arriving in Hamburg and meeting tour manager Viola
Large and fairly comfortable bus for the one and a half hour trip to Luneburg
The north German countryside sped by - for non European readers - we (us Europeans) are in the middle of a heat wave here - it said in the newspapers today that France had recorded 45 degrees - thats a record!
Having blagged the back seat, I proceeded to get a good doze - which was useful, as on arrival, we had precisely eight minutes to dump our stuff in our rooms, turn around and get into taxis to get to the gig.
Arriving at the venue and getting stuck into the always excellent German catering.
Signing the dressing room visitors book - the festival we are playing at is called the Festpiele Mecklenburg-Volrpommern and is in the grounds of a converted Schloss (Castle/Chateau) which has been converted into a wildlife museum.
The venue - I don't think we've ever played here before....
Takeaway schnitzel - still delicious
Waiting to go on
It was a really good show (for a first day, straight off the plane type gig) and lovely to be playing in the balmy evening air. The whole evening was filled with birdsong and a couple of times - some huge storks flew over! Jonty, who lives in Hamburg, informed me that this area - along the Elbe river is called 'stork alley' - (or whatever the German equivalent is) as there are so many here. We were all presented with flowers at the end of the show.
And so it was adieu to the Lanes Hotel, with its groovy guitarist statue, as we checked out at 12 o'clock, to make our way to Exeter, a short hour and a half journey away, most of us had cars and so we gave the train traveling band members lifts.
Getting ready to leave the Lanes - eagle eyed readers will doubtlessly remember (just above Ben's head) my own 'beast of a car" (a 10 year old silver Renault Modus) - parked next to the Maserati. When Brexit happens, I'm presuming, we'll all be getting to gigs on bicycles and tandems!
I had the pleasure of Doug's company (our sound guy) on the way to Exeter, as we meandered through picture book England on our way to the gig. Doug is a font of good stories about showbiz and has worked with many big cheeses in the business: Elvis Costello, Nana Mouskouri and Bucks Fizz to name a few and now he's ended up with us - (beggars can't be choosers Doug!)
Exeter is a medieval town with a cathedral so here are a few pics
Cathedral Advertising is a complicated business, and while I was surprised to see our posters dotted around the town - usually this isn't the case and I think our audience mostly find out where we're playing through our website or via other online services . In any case, both shows had been sold out - there is a good app called Bandsintown - which lets you know when your favourite bands are playing near you. I remember when the Ukes used to play in London in the '90s - there were only two listings magazines and if you weren't in those when your gig came round (and you weren't well known) - you could whistle for an audience.
Medieval doorMore fantastic British backstage catering! - thank God we'll be back in Germany at the end of June where they know how to make coffee (the brown stuff in the jar was instant coffee)
Hester, who lives not far away and didn't stay over, brought some rhubarb for her bandmates from her garden - she has a glut apparently...
Here's the Exeter Corn Exchange - for non UK residents - Corn exchanges did exactly what they said on the tin and have usually been modernised for some other use, many became concert halls. It's a nice theatre - good sound and an intimate, 'up close' feel with the audience.
Dinner - pizza and fruit fancies...
Waiting to go on in the Green room
Some more waiting
A good show and a good turn out at the merchandising tables