Monday, 20 April 2009

Last week Daniel arrived in Berlin for one whole day. Cycling over firstly the canal and then the river proper, I arrived to meet him. the apartment was in that strange part of town that I remember only for trying to catch taxis in, dilapidated railway arches and cars that had been set on fire gently smouldering.

In the large apartment, one of these ones that makes my precious little set of rooms seem like a drawer with compartments, a tired but welcoming band of individuals lay about recovering from more hours on the road, more hours touring, soundchecking, sightseeing and entertaining. We roused and ventured into town, touring the new bohemia of the east, all pavement caf├ęs and boutique children's clothes shops. Interrupted intermittently of course by reminders, collapsed buildings, torn down squat entrances, the occasionally dusty park full of early drinkers.

Later that evening, having taken Daniel on a tiring, wandering route back to my apartment, we began to set up up our music in the large corner room on the second floor, windows open, looking out to a spectacular view to the east, giant power station chimneys, elevated rail lines and the imagined communist blocks of Kopenick or somewhere. I played first, the usual Preslav Literary School sideshow of malfunctioning cassette-players, angry spools of magnetic tape and creaking drones. Then Tristan, with his captivating delivery, spinning all over the space defined by the encroaching audience as a stage on a broken office chair with a missing wheel. Then Daniel played solo, remarking with fine voice upon friendship, distance and humility, before the main act - Sons Of Noel And Adrian - took to the floor.

A sprawling collective featuring accordion, cornet, cello, violin, two guitars, bass guitar and drums in this, their minimal set-up, they flattened everyone from the first note. Uplifting, melancholic, stirring hymns presented realities in archaic tongues, mythologising fables of love lost and spurned through group song. The band's musical presence in the room held great natural forces, felt recriminations of people and place, measured little journeys for each and every person.

Outside a candle was lit, contained within a tissue paper balloon and, once the fire was set, it was released. Into the night sky it went as bottles of Polish bisongrass vodka were passed between everyone and we all recalled nimble fingers over guitars, dramatic percussion and roaring instruments long into the night. There are many things to be proud of in friends; some are born of circumstance, some are born of perdition, some of genuine achievement. This evening was one of the third.

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