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Dispatches from E.D. Sedgwick’s winter tour through Germany, the Czech Republic, and Poland.
I fall on hard times, upsetting meticulous plans to regularly update my Washington City Paper Arts Desk tour blog. Sure, WiFi (pronounced “wee-fee” in Europe) is spotty in the Czech Republic. But my problems transcend password-protected servers: My vintage 2007 iMac laptop does not hold a charge for long, and my power adapter broke on the second day of tour. Humiliated and emasculated, I must beg my bandmates to lend me their power adapters, and sometimes, these rugged, unforgiving women are not in the mood to lend. Meanwhile, pressure from the home office builds.
“You are consistently failing the Washington City Paper during a crucial time in its history!” my editor screams. “Stop acting like Gen. McClellan, procrastinating leader of the Army of the Potomac during the first half of the Civil War, and start acting like Gen. Grant or Gen. Sherman! If you’re not up to that, at least try to emulate Gen. Burnside who, though he failed on the battlefield, was known for his signature facial hair!”
The final quarter of the tour blurs together. I no longer keep track of how much we are paid or how much merchandise we sell. We will never make enough money to pay for our flights—-there is no reason to document how close we didn’t come to breaking even. The only question that remains: Do the kids like us?
We play a decent show in a roadhouse in Jihlava, a small town in the Czech Republic. I use the word “roadhouse” because the venue is an isolated bar on a deserted road beneath an icy cliff, the perfect home for a vampire or perhaps the Nazgul, a.k.a. “Ring Wraiths,” from The Lord of the Rings. Minus the cage separating the band from the audience, the place looks like the roadhouse in the 1989 Patrick Swayze movie Roadhouse before Swayze and Sam Elliott clean up the joint and challenge corrupt political boss Ben Wesley, played by Ben Gazzara.
Spoiler alert: Elliott and Gazzara die at the end.
At the Jihlava show, Singer L. signs a drunken young girl’s arm at the young girl’s request after the set while teenagers in an opening band smoke marijuana in the dressing room. The signed girl cannot be more than 20 years old, and may be much younger. After the show, we drive by her on the street. A man that could or should be her boyfriend holds her hair back as she vomits on the sidewalk. “That used to be me,” says Singer L.
The morning after the Jihlava show, we drive through a snowstorm to Munich. One advantage of the snowstorm is that it forces our driver to turn the heat up in a vain attempt to melt the ice that sticks to the windshield, making the van only somewhat cold as opposed to very cold. At the show in Munich, held at the legendary venue “Kafe Kult,” a man who’s lived at the venue for many years explains why it’s important to plant root vegetables, even if they cause “stomach trouble” and, specifically, “farting.”
I have met this man before—-many times before. I’ve talked to him each time I’ve played at Kafe Kult, at least three or four times now, maybe more. The man is a tragic figure: He owns a tractor, which he bought on a whim. Why? I’m not sure. He’s not a farmer, but is interesting in farming? Or maybe he’s frustrated by his inability to farm. He believes in sustainable agriculture, but has no fields to plant, because he lives in a rock club. He says that he doesn’t get to use his tractor as much as he would like.
How long can this frustrated farmer live at Kafe Kult? Why is he here? And how long can Kafe Kult go on with, at least according to one of the promoters, dwindling audiences and diminishing interest from the youth of Munich? Is the whole enterprise—-punk rock shows in filthy punk squats, people who aspire to who use tractors, but can’t—-doomed? And if it is, what is this guy going to do with his tractor?
I don’t know. However, for reasons I can’t explain, the tragic tractor owner is one of the men I admire most.