I meet Dave at Berlin Airport and he’s full of beans. His flight was chock full of people attending the IDLES concert at SO36 later in the evening. He’s already full of stories of the various characters onboard. Some are already wasted he informs me. We take the train back to my hotel for a quick pit stop and where we pick up our tickets. We leave as quickly as we entered the building. No time to be messing about. There is beer to be drunk before the show. We call into the night shop next to my hotel and pick up some bottles of Berliner for the twenty-minute walk to vicinity of tonight’s venue.
Our first stop is at a bar called Milch. I had been here earlier in the summer with Joel and remembered they were playing a healthy selection of punk rock. I order at the bar in German and the lady puts us at ease and explains that we can speak English to her if we wish. The lady who is Italian points out that there are many people in here who are going to see an English band at the SO36 tonight. We tell her that we are here for the same reason. We introduce ourselves and Arianne is super friendly. She explains that she is a drummer in a band and then we naturally swap tour stories. We’ve not even drunk our first beer and contact details are already being swapped. She even pours us a nice shot of liquor to add even more joy into the atmosphere. It feels like we’ve known her all of our lives. Dave turns to me with a huge grin and says, “We can walk in any boozer, anywhere in the world, and make friends, and we’ve done it all our lives”.
Dave goes off to the toilet and upon his return the pint sized rocker loudly proclaims that he loves this bar because he can use the child’s urinal. Arianne is laughing hard at this news. We recount a story of a time in The Netherlands where I had to lift him up to the urinal because he is sometimes too short to reach for a piss. We order more beer. As Arianne finishes her shift she explains that we’re in good hands with her replacement. We thank her for a great welcome.
After Milch we headed to Franken on Oranianstrasse. The bar is filling up with IDLES fans for pre-show beers. Some of the people inside already recognise Dave from the flight and we’re all introduced. I find myself naturally gravitating to a guy called Ollie from Warrington. We have a decent chat and the beers flow. From our view in the bar we can see the doors of the venue. There is a mighty queue waiting to enter the venue. We keep an eye on the line and decide to keep drinking until there is no queue. We enter the tunnel like venue with one song to spare for the support band. The sold out room is full of positive energy. At the merchandise stall is Dev and John from IDLES and we say hello and pose for a couple of photos. The venue is as full as I’ve ever known a venue. Dave leaves me to join the lively crowd near the front. I stay near the back of the room with a full beer in hand. I’m not risking spillage. However, even with my tall stature I cannot see a thing and during Danny Nedelko it was time to bring out the emergency plan. What I did next was something that I’ve not done at a gig for over a decade. I turned to a German man at the side of me and shouted, “I want to go up there … CROWD SURF!!” The guy looks pleased to be asked and he even excitedly asks everyone around us to help. I managed to crowd surf from the very back of the venue right up to the very front … with a full beer in hand! No spillages, like a pro, outstanding work. Now I have a perfect view and I’m right in the thick of the action. I’ve lost Dave. No worries I’ll see him in the bar afterwards. I manage to remain in the boisterous crowd for all but the last fifteen-minutes of the gig and I just ran out of steam. I needed fresh air. On the way out the German guy who had earlier helped me surf stopped me and shouted “Hey, you want to go again???”, I laugh and politely decline. “I need air” I tell him.
I walk outside and although I planned to go back into the gig, I’m instead lured to a takeaway where I order a delicious Lamb Pitta. Whilst munching on my food the door opens and its Ollie who I met earlier. He walked in and said “Hello”. I ask why he is also outside and he explains that his friend had been in some altercation with some security. His friend was now in a bit of a state in the street and Ollie thought he better come out and take care of him. “I wouldn’t mind but its normally me who needs looking after” he tells me. He seems like a decent lad. I wish him well for the remainder of the evening.
After refuelling on food I thought best to refuel on the alcohol too. I head back into Franken and order a beer. I couldn’t have timed it any better. The gig had just finished over the road and everyone headed to the nearest bars in search of booze. I find myself talking to a Norwegian lady called Maria. I had seen her in this bar a few nights earlier when I was here with my friend Tim and the group of Serbians. Maria had visited our table to ask for a cigarette but one of the Serbian guys was messing with her and trying to make her beg for a smoke. Maria is the kind of lady that doesn’t put up with such nonsense. In that regard she reminds me of my ex-wife, very beautiful with an alpha type personality. She refused to play the game with the Serb and decided to get a cigarette from elsewhere. On the way back past our table she had a few scornful words for the guys, which put them in their place. I remind Maria of this incident and explain that they were only strangers to me and that I was very impressed with her response. We bond over this story and raise our glasses to standing up to bullshit.
A sweating David appears from nowhere with an even more exciting buzz than his arrival at the airport. He tells me he had joined IDLES onstage and was buzzing about it. He excitedly asks if I saw him and I’m disappointed that I had missed the occasion. He tells me that he saw my impressive crowd surfing skills. I introduce him to Maria. The bar is pretty full now and she offers me her seat instructing that she can sit on my knee. Her gold faux-fur lined jacket fascinates me. I had to try it on. I like it so much I even try and buy it from her. It is great to be in a bar with such a friendly atmosphere. People seem to be handing out shots, smokes, and joints. Anything goes. Out of nowhere Dave passes out on the floor. I don’t think he’s eaten. A German lady wants to call an ambulance but I insist that I’ll take care of him. “Are you sure?” she asks. “Yes, I am his doctor, maybe you can help me?” I reply. “Sure, what can I do?” the polite lady offers “He just needs his medication, some Orangensaft, Wasser, und Marijuana”. “Sure thing” as she goes off to find some supplies.
I pinch Dave’s earlobe and he awakens. He’d had a blackout. I whisper “Get up Dave, otherwise you’ll be going home in a German ambulance” The lady arrives back with some orange juice and water as another gentleman hands me a spliff and a lighter. I prop Dave up in the chair and hand him his supplies. We spend most of the night talking to Maria, she is another person who I feel like I’ve known all my life. She describes Dave as possessing a shamanic soul. I would wholeheartedly agree with that. He has guided me for years. He is often full of wisdom. I hope that one day I can inherit or learn enough of that worldly wisdom of his.
The bar starts to calm and empty slightly about 2-3am. Dave is at the back of the room talking to some English guys, Maria is at the bar getting more beer whilst talking to some people. I’m enjoying observing the bar in the meantimes when a German lady joins me at my table with her male friend who happens to be mute. The lady is very beautiful and very polite. She makes some small talk with me and after a while the conversation switches to talk of fetish clubs and group sex. She asked me if I am interested in such things. I explain that I’ve visited a few clubs over the years like Torture Garden in London. I’m single; I’m open-minded, why not? The couple also asks me if Maria would be interested in joining them. I decide to do some much needed due diligence and I ask more about the couple. The lady explains that she only met the guy a couple of hours previous. She had a boyfriend at home. They weren’t willing to come to my hotel room where I felt safe. I’m a modern minded guy who can handle himself but I’m not prepared to put myself in potential danger in a strange city. David walks past my table and stops to ask me if the German lady has her hands in my pants. I grin “I’ll tell you later”. I was having some doubts about the couple and I decline the party. I had also noticed that the mute gentleman was writing the words that he wanted to say, which is perfectly normal but I did then notice he was also writing verbatim the words I was saying, but nothing the lady or anyone else had said. I explain to the lady that I’m uncomfortable with this and asked why he only writes my words? The mute guys demeanour changed and he hurriedly scrawls on his pad “He is uncomfortable with us?” I correct him and say, “No, I’m uncomfortable with you writing my words”. He angrily writes “HE NEEDS TO LEAVE”, I tell him “No, you need to leave the table” He then circles the word “LEAVE”. I explain that they joined me at the table where I was sat with my friends and they propositioned me, after all no means no, and now I’m feeling harassed. My voice is raised and so is David’s attention. I decide to go and see the barman and try to explain the situation. As the barman walks to the table with me the mute guy roughly grabs Maria’s arm which angers me and I go for him. David grabs the hook of my arm and pulls me away. He stresses to me the importance of not getting arrested in Berlin. I loudly explain the situation to the onlookers “They invited me to a sex party, I was interested, then I declined, and now they harass me” one of the English punters tries to defend the mute guy “But he is mute, leave him alone”. “I don’t care if he’s a mute, that’s not the problem, I don’t care about their sexual preferences, they propositioned me, I declined and now they harass me” I explain. The barman is refusing to ask them to move from the table and I in turn point to the sign on the wall which reads something along the lines of “NO SEXISM, NO HOMOPHOBIA, NO RACISM, NO MEANS NO, DON’T BE A DICK”
I’m disappointed with the barman. Though it is nearly 4am and I’ve got a flight to catch in a few hours, it's probably time that I left anyway. I’m saddened that in the confusion that I didn’t get to say goodbye to Maria. David escorts me outside “Come on man, I’m not going home in an ambulance and you’re not going home in a police car” and we head back to the hotel. Dave had absolutely no idea what was going on and we both laugh all the way back to the hotel as I try explain the details of the proposed party. We can't breathe with laughter. We find a night shop and buy more beer and call in for a pizza for good measure. Back at the hotel Dave is quizzing me “You were going to Sex party????” “Yeah until that guy ruined it for himself and everyone else involved … fucking prick”. Dave was laughing so hard that he had to go onto the balcony to be sick down the side of the building. I lock him out there. He brays on the window to let him back in. We advise each other that we need to sleep. We need to be awake shortly for the flight. Every time the room falls silent one us starts chuckling. These are the moments in life that I live for. The humour that can only be fully understood by the people involved.
In what feels like no time at all the alarm goes off. We quickly gather our things and make our way to the train station. We’re still laughing. We cannot stop. Even trying to order a tea in the local café doesn’t contain us. We do manage to keep it together as we walk past the Berlin wall. On the train we laughed as Dave kept whispering the words “Sex Mute” over and over. We laughed and laughed and laughed all the way back to Leeds.
A couple of days later Maria contacts me and said she was talking to the German lady after I had left and that she had felt bad for the situation that occurred. I can believe that. She seemed pleasant throughout.