Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Everyone's moving to fucking Berlin!

When the bass player announced he was moving to Berlin in November, I raised an eyelid, but also a smile. We had talked many times about just that, sat sipping redbush tea on the swing chair in his garden. Since moving from London back to his roots here in West Cornwall he had walked away from a lucrative job and into the unknown climbs of the autonomous district of 'Freelancia'. Now, having lived in Freelancia most of my working life I was only too happy to welcome him, and he soon found the benefits of being his own boss and taking jobs when he needed them while working exclusively from home. But as time went on he realised more and more that the latter need not apply. He could work from anywhere, not just home. Indeed, he could move to Berlin in November and continue doing exactly the same job as he was in his bedroom overlooking the garden. In those early days as we swung on the same garden chair, I encouraged him about the move abroad. If he could work in Berlin, he could work in Lisbon, Rome, any of the great capitals, but not only that, with good wifi he could work almost anywhere, even places off the beaten track. He was moving out for 5 months. It wouldn't harm the band much as we seldom gig in the colder months, usually starting the year with a spring tour to... Germany! Perfect.

When the piano player announced he was moving to Berlin in November, I raised an eyelid, then another, then I raised my mouth to speak and uttered the third most common word in the English Language, "What!?". He proceeded to explain his reasoning; his enthusiasm came tumbling out. I heard snippets; of needing a change, of feeling inspired. But I couldn't help feeling a little uneasy about this latest bombshell. His theories of sharing his friends van and busking to earn money sounded less like a romantic journey and more like a Bear Grylls endurance test. Winters in Berlin are very cold with temperatures frequently below freezing and snow and ice often covers the city for periods. Quite how he imagines making ends meat while busking with frost bitten fingers and then sharing an ageing van that has no heaters or log burner with a chap he barely knows!? It sounds like the premise of an Odd Folk tour. Perhaps that's why he's so keen! Would this harm the band? Well I suppose not, but it leaves us extremely weak, and precariously balanced. And I must admit I feel a tad venerable, being the only full time member of the band in the country.

That aside, for now, let's fill in some blanks since we arrived home from Shambala Festival having welcomed two more additions to The Odd Folk Private Members Club, now totalling 19 members. In late September we took to the stage at The Cornish Barn, our first gig in Penzance for a year! It was a "barnstorming" set which resulted in a fevered atmosphere of people 'table drumming' and 'glass chinking' along to the songs. The term packed to the 

rafters is one I like, with many fans watching through the windows from the
street outside. It was hot and sweaty and "the audience were virtually on top of us!" commented Louis Gulliver King who had been parachuted back in after a year away. With the same lineup we upped sticks and upped instruments to The Mexico Inn, just a mile outside of our hometown and what can I say, we seemed to bring half the population of Penzance with us. The place was heaving, it was stuffed to the gunnels, as crowded as a beehive. It was, in truth a little too well attended. And not that it was a particularly small place either. The four barmaids were run ragged, as busy as pigeons at a shooting match. Still the front row found some room to dance, or wiggle at least, or bum shuffle. We played through our repertoire and once again Louis Gulliver King was the star of the show, angling his trombone to the ceiling and blowing up a storm, and then furiously strumming the mandolin, but it was his accordion that drew the biggest cheers, his hands like electric shocks up and down keyboard while the bellow's opened and closed like a whale's gills.



It was wonderful to be back on home turf, and both gigs had happened organically and on the spur of the moment, something which will now be harder to accomplish with the bass player and piano player in Berlin! Our travel expenses will far outweigh our fee; and the logistics of operations (something we are famously bad at) will become unimaginable and unnavigable. Needless to say, taking random gigs willy nilly will seise with immediate effect. And that makes me sad, and I feel sour weights on my shoulders, inhibiters, because that's what's beautiful about this band; we go on adventures at the drop of a hat, we drive off into the sunset without any money and a couple of contacts and we make a tour, make it up on the spot and come home richer. Spontaneity, that's us. Impromptu, off-hand and unplanned. But now, it'll just be me, and the drummer in Bristol, and the memory of the guitar player, and the 16 other private members that donned our colours. 

"Everyone's moving to fucking Berlin!" I off-loaded

"You could always go solo?" said my friend as he sipped a cup of plum tea,
"I suppose" I said.
"... and plus you guys seldom do anything in the winter, it's too cold for aimless adventuring!"
"That's true" I said
"... and before you know it it'll be spring again and...?"
"...and the boys will have loved Berlin so much they'll want to live their forever!" I sobbed, the sour weights tightening around my shoulders. It was a very real possibility. But then I wondered if the piano player would last that long living in his friends van, and would he manage to earn enough busking to rent his own an apartment. No, surely he'd be home soon with frost-bitten fingers and holes in his shoes, with a clutch of memories and the benefit of experience. But then he has surprised me more than once before. And as for the bass player, he could well move on to Lisbon or Rome or any of the great capitals but my hunch was that Cornwall's magnet would draw him home, and of course the untold promise that comes with this band; of all of us he buys into the romance of this venture the most; that spur of the moment freedom when you throw figs to the wind, here today and gone tomorrow.

And now that he's a paid up resident of Freelancia, the two go hand in hand like a dance. And at that moment I saw the picture for what it was; two people experiencing a new challenge, just like the band, here today and gone tomorrow, and they'd both be back, richer and wiser. And just then the sour weights fell from my shoulders and bounced like hollow echoes, and I was left to see how simple it all was, and not at all depressing, if you only look at it the right way, and don't go chasing rainbows round the corner.