Thomas had slept in the van and was waiting for us around the back of the hostel as we slumped out into the glaring sun. He must have been cooking in there last night. He doesn’t seem bothered, though. He doesn’t seem bothered about much, to be fair. He just gets on with the job. The drive to Lärz up in northern Germany was pretty uneventful, apart from the odd assholed cutting us up on the autobahn, which seemed to properly fry Thomas’ piss. He told me he’d read the blog after the first show and gave me an explanation for the L in Polish, apparently it’s the letter to denote a subject is plural. I tried to explain that I was referring to my dad and his crap joke about how the only thing you need to know to learn Spanish is just to put an “O” on the end of everything.
We stopped a few times along the highway and each time we got our for a piss, or a coffee, or snacks, it seemed to get hotter. We had no idea what this festival held in store for us today. We had no idea what the festival was in actual fact, the whole thing seemed to be Europe’s best kept secret. Ninety thousand people and nobody has heard of it. Or maybe we’re just old punks completely out of touch with what’s going on. We’d soon find out, I guess. We just made the turn off the motorway and were now about forty minutes of country roads away from the festival site. It took a little longer than expected though due to their being a thiry klicks an hour limit on what appeared to be a long, straight completely normal looking, two-laned country road. The bloke driving the BMW in front of us was sticking religiously to the limit, though, which was getting on Thomas’, and I imagine the long snake of cars behind us, tits. After creeping along for about twenty minutes in this fashion, Thomas decided he’s had enough and overtook. And about twenty minutes later Fusion Fest appeared on the horizon, almost dominating it, so fucking huge was the place.
The festival site is on an old military airstrip, and as we turned off the road and into the site I guess we were on one of the old taxi runways. I read that the place was actually an old testing site for the Luftwaffe and that after the end of the war the Russians took it over, which is why the posters for the festival spell Fusion in cryllic lettering. The runway stretched on for what seems like miles until we eventually came to a little portacabin with some young woman in it, handing out artist passes. She seemed a little miffed that we didn’t have our tickets and car pass printed out, pointing out that it did actually express we do that on the email we received. Who the fuck prints out tickets these days? Anyway, after telling us to make sure we printed the tickets next time, and me doubting there would be a next time, we were on our way again, along more dirt roads followed by cement runways. There were people swarming absolutely everywhere.
We found our way to the Artist Landing Area a few kilometers further around the perimeter of the festival site, and squeezed the van along through the hordes of barely-clothed people into a large backstage area. After picking up food tickets and keys for the hotel we were staying at, which took a little while since the place we were supposed to stay at had not had the keys returned from the night before by whoever was staying there, but we ended up getting keys to another place that looked a lot nicer anyway, and then we jumped back in the van and drove along the main road inside the festival grounds to our stage. We all sat in the van, wondering what the fuck this place was? Europe’s Burning Man was the only rumour I’d heard a few weeks ago. Dotted amongst the ravers and bars was stage after stage, most of them housed in old hangars that were buried in the ground, like tunnels with grass and greenery grown over them. Kind of reminded me of hobbit holes, but huge. And it was by now clear what the main crack with the festival was: music (mainly electro but almost everything else, too), art, and drugs. It kind of reminded me of Christiania, in the sense that it had the spirit of an autonomous free state, although the drug culture didn’t seem to be quite as explicit. It was a friend of ours, Adrien, who played with us a couple of summers ago, who’d booked us to this thing. He’d promised me it was a very special festival and that they had a tradition of punk bands playing on one of the stages on the Sunday. I trusted him that it would be good. It would certainly be different, if nothing else. Quite the contrast from the piss up in the field in Zelebsko a couple of days before.
We had an hour or so to kill before we had soundcheck, so went off to get some food. There was an area with a large choice of different food stalls, all vegan, and it was hard to choose, it all looked great. We all tried different stalls and then looked for some shade to scoff it down in. We decided to head back to our stage and hang out there in the air conditioned portacabin that was the dressing room until it was time to work. The sweltering heat had made me thirsty, and upon inspecting the fridge and being surprised to find cold beer, I was really tempted. But Andy advised me against it, saying that it would probably not be a good idea playing for half an hour in this heat with beer swishing around in the belly. It made sense, I guess, but fuck did I want one. A little sad, I abstained and took a water instead.
Adrien came in to say hello. I barely recognised him since the last time we met, he’d changed his look a bit. Was nice to see him, though, and he seemed chuffed that we were here. He told us about the punk tradition, that the festival was started by some old punks and that they had this stage for them. The fact they were punks is what explained the whole non-commercial attitude to the festival, I guess. Apparently the police are not allowed into the festival site, and if they really must, then they are escorted by festival staff.
It was indeed hot up on the stage, and I was already sweating my ass off just setting up. I asked the guys working if there was any stage towels, but they told me they’d all gone already. I found a couple of used towels at the front of the stage, that stank, probably had been used by the band before, but they would have to do.
The hangar was pretty full, probably around five hundred people in there at least, and I felt pretty buzzed playing the long guitar intro again. When we all kicked in, though, Andy just kind of disappeared, and it was pretty hard to follow him. All I could hear was myself. It would be that way for most of the show, although there was a little sweet spot behind Johan, so I found myself there quite a lot. The gig was still a lot of fun, though, and the crowd seemed to have a good time. Amongst the ninety thousand or so ravers here, there was still enough punks and crusties amongst them to fairly fill this little hanger. Weirdly enough, as hot as it was, the night before in Wroclaw had been worse. At least there was oxygen in this place. The set went smoothly tonight, too, and I felt that all in all, we’d had a pretty solid weekend of shows for what had been the first time we’d played in a good while, and playing six new songs in the set.
After catching my breath, and drinking enough water to fill a small pool, I went to the cabin for one of those cold beers. Only to recoil in horror as I found they’d been replaced by warm ones. Fucking gutted. I knew I shouldn’t have listened to Andy! Warm beer was not an option. There were two bottles of warm sparkling wine too, but they weren’t an option either. We decided to have a walk around the festival and see what was what, maybe get a beer from one of the bars and moose about the place, or maybe head over to the larger backstage area where there were supposed to be free beers and food. We found a bar just adjacent to our stage, beats coming out of it just like everywhere else here, and everywhere you could see there were people dancing. The bartender didn’t speak much English, and it took a bit of time to get our order sorted, but eventually she came back to us with three bottles of beer. Johan felt one of them and nodded. I guess that meant it was cold enough. We walked off with them, pleased up until the moment we had a sip and then looked at the bottle a little more closely. It was 2,5% lemonade shandy. Basically lemonade with a hint of beer. Fuck sakes… It was pretty refreshing, to be honest, but not what we’d been hoping for. We walked around drinking this pish and taking in the sights. There was so much going on that it was hard to take in. Just endless beats, from every direction, overlapping at the edges, and dancing everywhere, with the odd naked person thrown in. Some of the larger stages had what I assume are bigger artists in this universe, and the crowds were in the thousands for them, most of them off their tits, I imagine. Johan kept walking into the crowd to check it out whilst the rest of stayed off to the side, joking about how he was probably checking the PA system out.
We made our way back round to the Artist Landing Area. I was dreaming of sitting somewhere with a cold, draught beer. All this madness going on around me, and that’s all I wanted. Of course, the bar was closed when we got there. And the food from the canteen area looked rubbish compared to what the stalls were selling out in the public area, so we went back out in search of something better. After eating we made our way back to our own little backstage. I hoped that the beer in the portacabin would now be cold at least. It wasn’t it. It was still a sickly, piss warn. But it would have to do. I wanted a fucking beer!
As we wriggled our way out of the festival area I got the feeling that the party was only starting for the ravers, although it didn’t ever really seem to stop. Before long we were out and back on a quiet country road, driving through the rapidly diminishing dusk. The hotel was only a quarter of an hour away, and it was a sight for sore eyes. An old manor house, set beautifully off the side of the road with a large garden behind it, decorated by a stream and watermill off to the side of it. Stunning looking place. It seemed that most of the lights were off, though, and although we had keys, we couldn’t really work out where to leave the van. Thomas and I went off to explore, walking across the large garden and coming around the rear of the house. Some old boy, must of been in his late fifties, wearing a flowery bermuda-style shirt and small round glasses, came walking out of a side door with a watering can. He hadn’t seen us when I said “Hello” as carefully as I could. He startled like a cat on a hot tin roof, almost leaving the ground, hand holding his heart. His shock soon turned the three of us all laughing out loud. He couldn’t speak any English, and Thomas German was only slightly more advanced than the two words I had. Eventually, through perseverance, we got the message that we could park the van in the back garden.
When we all came traipsing across the lawn a few moments later, the old boy was sitting at one of the tables on the patio, drinking what looked like a very inviting bottle of Bitburger Pilsner. I motioned to him, trying to ask him if it was possible to purchase one, although it did seem like the bar was closed. I guess he was just sitting down to an after work beer. The conversation was going nowhere, though. I could figure out that he was asking where we were from, I looked at Johan for the German word for Sweden. “Schweden!” I joyfully repeated Johan. “Schweden! Nein!!! Blont”, he said, motioning to his grey hair. “No, no blond hair, no hair at all,” I said, lifting my cap. “Nein!” pointing to my bonnet. He burst out laughing. Right, how about that beer then? I thought. We went up to our rooms, which were of luxury standard compared to where we’d stayed the last couple of nights, like the kind of place Jen would agree to stay if we were on holiday standard, dropped off the bags and then went back down to the garden. Luckily for us, we have Jon in the band, and his German is pretty impressive. He agreed to do the honours for us, despite the fact he still isn’t drinking, himself.
The old boy was still sat there, looking chuffed. Jon got the gab on and when he understood the gist of things, he jumped up smiling, and retrieved three bottles of beer. And then he pulled up a wooden bench and waived for us to join his company at the table. The beer was cold. Cold enough, anyway. It was a beautiful night. The sky was lit with shining stars and the air was a perfect temperature. It was pure tranquility, and a million miles away from where we’d just came from. Jon and the old boy talked for a while, every now again motioning to us with the odd German phrase, that we repeated like school kids, which seemed to please the guy immensely. We sat there, raising our bottles and going through the international rounds for the word “Cheers”. Then the old boy pointed to the stars and then to us all, and said, “Freunde der nacht”. Jon told us it meant, “Friends of the night” or something. We all repeated, much to the old boy’s delight. I could have happily sat there with him for another few beers. It was the most relaxed I’d felt all weekend. But for the mosquitoes being a pain in the ass. We called it a night and headed upstairs to bed. Just after I showered my phone rang. It was someone from the festival. To my horror I thought they were going to say we were at the wrong hotel. But it turned out that Johan had left his microphone on stage. Nice of them to call us. Unfortunately for Thomas it meant we’d have drive back into the madness tomorrow on our way to Berlin.
We ate breakfast out on the patio, Jon was already up and talking to some Americans and their Dutch driver. We sat around talking to them for a while, the morning sun on our backs, drinking black coffee and munching on freshly baked bread. I really could imagine coming here on holiday, this part of Germany, Meklenburg-Western Pomerania, is absolutely beautiful. Although our flight wasn’t until five pm, we still had to get going kind of early since Thomas had to drive all the way back to Warsaw. On our way out I spotted our friend from last night on the other side of the garden and shouted to him, “Auf wiedersehen!”. He raised his fist in the air and shouted back, “Freunde der nacht!” huge smile across his face.
It seemed like a lot of the ravers from the fest were leaving today, although the beats were still going, but there were a lot of tents being packed down and dreary faces heading towards the exits, heavy bags on their backs. I could only imagine how knackered they must be feeling. After picking up the mic, we drove out with the rest of the traffic and got pulled over at a police stop just outside the festival site. If they weren’t allowed inside, they were certainly not to be denied on the outside. Picking off drivers over the limit must have been like taking candy from a baby. There were shit loads of cops, putting people through the paces, fingers on noses, walk in a straight line, etc, etc. A young, blonde cop, with perfectly toned arms and rubbish tattoos, asked Thomas to step out of the car. He asked him when he last drank alcohol. Thomas took some time to ponder over his answer. “The last time? Hmm, the last time I drank alcohol was maybe two years ago”. The cop looked at him and smiled, then let out a faint laugh. “I believe you” he said, and handed Thomas his license back, telling us we could go. We all laughed as we drove off.
He dropped us off at Berlin Tegel airport around twelve. We had five hours to kill before our short, one hour flight home. Even if it was probably going to be boring as shit, we’d still be home tonight before Thomas. He gave us all a big hug and then we waved him off. Proper pro.