Autumn, and time for me to make the annual pilgrimage to Bremen to attend the Van Thom Weekender, accompanied by my travelling companion of old, Hollowbelly. It's an extravganza of alternative music organised by Andreas Reidel, aka DJ Tourette van Thom, and a great opportunity to catch up with old friends that we've made over the years. It was also a stepping stone for us going on to the 1st German cigar box guitar festival the following weekend.
It starts with Hollowbelly driving up from Devon to my gaff in the Midlands, and then heading off down to the Channel tunnel. On this occasion we arrive half an hour late for check-in (the first time I've done that) and we get knocked back 4 hours before we can get on the shuttle..not a great start. Still, it's a well trodden path for us, and once on French soil we are ready for the long haul ahead, expecting to arrive around midnight in Northern Germany after around eight hours of driving.
After a few hours we arrive at the dreaded impasse of Antwerp around rush hour, but this time we take the northern Leifkenshoek toll tunnel and have a trouble free run...cruising onwards across the Netherlands.
A quick phone call to Andy when we arrive on the outskirts of Bremen to remind me of his address and we are greeted by him at the midnight hour at the side of the road outside his house.
Breakfast at TvT's
On Friday, after breakfast we head off to scout out the venue, "Tor 13" (Gate 13) which is a unit in the old goods railway station in the centre of the city...very alternative and very groovy. In the evening we meet up with our old friends, some in the audience, some on stage.
The bar at Tor 13...constructed for the occasion and decorated with TvT's collection of cigar box guitars.
Chillin' on the loading dock... Photo: Till Billy
Mel O'Dee and Don Voigt rehearsing by the railway tracks.
Totally crazy that there's no fence, no security, no health and safety to stop you walking across the tracks and into the main railway station...but I guess that in Germany people are credited with a degree of common sense.
Flatbilly DeVille Photo: Till Billy
Smal Water from the Netherlands. Photo: Till Billy
Hollowbelly headlining Friday night at Tor 13
It's a long old evening, with 5 acts, and we didn't get back to Andy's place until around 3.am. I was sleeping on the couch, Hollowbelly took the air matress on the floor...living the dream as our friends constantly remind us.
So, Saturday arrived and the big deal was that Revd.Beat Man was going to be headlining. Nevertheless there were plenty of other cracking acts, all well worth catching.
The entrance to the venue...just out of shot is the yurt with wood fired pizza oven...very groovy.
Hanging out with Revd. Beatman.
Stringtone Slingers...a good-time outfit with a great authentic rockabilly sound. Photo: Till Billy
Vincent Slegers from Belgium. Photo: Till Billy
Karsten from Mack Drietens. Photo: Till Billy
Karsten and Sonja were kind enough to offer us overnight accommodation on our way down to the CBG fest, which was great, as their place was pretty much in the middle of our journey down south...this is the sort of happy co-incidence that can happen out on the road.
Revd.Beat Man bringing the house down on Saurday night. Photo: Till Billy
On Sunday we took the day off, and had a lazy afternoon watching the football, Andy's team Werder Bremen didn't get on too well unfortunately. It was our way of paying back the hospitality.
Mofo the dog watching football with us on Sunday afternoon
We had a few days to kill before our next gig at the German cigar box guitar festival, so we built a new set of garden gates for Andy.
At the DIY store buying timber.
Starting work..fortunately we had all the tools and workbenches with us as part of the gear we carry for the workshops we'd be doing later that week.
Taking a break after completing the job.
Back on the road after a few days in Bremen..and heading a long way south for the German cigar box guitar festival in Pleutersbach.
It's not all hard work, a civilised lakeside lunch stop on the way to our overnight stop in Wuppertal.
"Dius" the Magirus fire truck..our overnight accommodation in Wuppertal.
Relaxing in Karsten and Sonja's allotment garden. What a beautiful place, hidden amongst the houses and factories there's a maze of little leisure gardens, all immaculately kept and with little cabins where you can relax, have a beer and sleep over if you want, so different to the UK's version of allotments.
If you want to see what happened at the German cigar box guitar festival, check out my blog on Cigar Box Nation...
Andy..aka DJ Tourette van Thom..the man who made it all happen.