Featured

getting the band together again

in sunnier times

Jarrod’s not playing, so it might be weird to keep calling it Old Braunfels. Who knows, though. It’s a good name for a band in Munich, whose members predominantly come from Texas.

Playing the guitar surrounding by sixties design wallpaper in Lisel’s front room

However, we’ve got something else going on and Vancouver Michael will most likely have a considerable impact. Nina Kuhlig, who you might remember from the Blue February show two years ago will sing some originals, as well as one or two classics.

Have you ever noticed that the best songs tend to be sad and full of human suffering? We’ve noticed it, as well. We LURVE those songs.

The evening will be chock full of melancholic love songs. We’d love to have a place for lonely Valentine’s to congregate and revel in their plight.

We might even be able to entice Carlos Köhler, who was with us a few years back, to bring his bass up on stage and play with us. He’s one of the best local bass players I know, so it’d be a treat. We’ll see.

You want to see it, leave a comment below with your email and we’ll put you on the mailing list. Check it out!

we’re getting the band together again

another Blue February? grab your handkerchief

a flyer for a show we did a few years back

It’s already been two years since I did the first Blue February show, and for the last week or so I’ve been talking to musicians, including Carlos and Nina who played last time, about doing another concert of melancholy love songs.

Any locals who’d be interesting in such a thing? My idea then and now is that there’s enough nonsense revolving around the romance of Valentine’s Day. There should be a place you can go on your own that night and not be confronted by yet another reminder that you’ve got no date.

And live music. Songs about heartache and loss. Songs about cowboys and cowgirls who can’t get it together. Settlers and Indians who refuse to give peace a chance.

What’s your choice? Would you want to come here some Amis play sad, sad songs?

Featured

digital detox (for social media) and grieving for those damned dogs

Here’s how it feels now…they’re always there in my thoughts but somehow deeply, truly gone

We decided last weekend that we’d do a Digital Detox starting this next Sunday, and neither of us really thought it through. Late last night (or two nights ago, at this point), Miriam turned to me and said, ‘You remember what we agreed to last weekend?’ In a split second, it all came rushing back to me.

I’m a personality that knows two speeds. Either really slow, if not stationary, or full speed ahead. Pedal to the proverbial metal. It’s not easy, but it’s much worse for whoever I’m partnered with. Even work colleagues have noticed how all or nothing I tend to be.

Either you’re on my team and can practically do no wrong, or I’ve judged you by some ridiculous standard and cannot bear the sight of you. It sounds like I’m bragging but I assure you I’m not.

So this weekly day off allows us to reconnect to source, as it were. I’m hoping it makes me more tolerable to work with. She went to her meditation Runde & the baby and I putzed around the new flat.

I’m doing the Plassman’s Polka Lounge this Tuesday, so I needed to sort out my playlist. At this point, I’ll be playing:

  • Merry Christmas from the Family by Robert Earl Keen
  • You Can’t Always get What you Want (in honour of getting crap xmas gifts)
  • Be nicer to DJT (an original I just wrote)
  • and either All of Me or My Romance

I’ve also just signed up for Freilich Open Arts, which looks promising. If you want to hear us play, just go to the site and book us. Old Braunfels has been quiet lately. It’s time for us to awaken from our slumber.

Digital Detox was good, even if it didn’t include everything we’d thought. As freelancers, neither of us can just take every Sunday off. Oh well.

We’re not complaining, though. This is an amazing existence and every single day, we try to remind each other of how lucky we have it.

We get to live here?

Come let me make your February a bit bluer

online_blue-february_hsh_pk-1

Despite being inundated with ridiculous romcoms and even sillier pop songs, a rather boisterous part of me has resisted romantic love for a good part of my adult life. I remember at some point reading  that Frank Zappa quipped that he thought the expectations people had of romance actually killed any hope of that love could even occur.

To avoid any misunderstandings, I’ve bandied about plenty of assertions of ‘I love you‘ and I’m certainly not averse to getting intimate with someone I find particularly attractive. However, I find a lot of what we’re sold as ‘love’ in our society to be a heavy dose of illusion. More importantly, I think because so many stories that promote love and romance have such an unrealistic hue, that people in real, live relationships often find they don’t live up to the hype of romance that’s promised in popular culture.

Which is perhaps part of why I’ve tended to gravitate to melancholy love songs and stories of unrequited love. Well aware that I’m not alone, I’ve read plenty of accounts of people who feel particularly gloomy when others are celebrating Valentine’s Day.

Some send and receive chocolate and flowers on this special day, while I’ve tended to mock the whole thing from afar and think there must be better days of the year to express your affectionate feelings. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve tried to get into the spirit of what I’ve often assumed is a Hallmark inspired conspiracy, and I’ve certainly enjoyed trying to find that special gift that showed my sentiment without being too sentimental.

This time around, though? I’ve actually decided to share my love of melancholy music and am putting on a show called Blue February. It won’t be all doom and gloom, as I’m sure no one wants to be depressed as they leave the Hofspielhaus, where the whole thing’s going down.

Instead, my plan is to offer some sad songs interspersed with a mix of hopeful ones, as well. I’ve heard it said that those most vocally resistant to love are the ones who secretly hope for it the most.

Furthermore, the silliest love songs seem to mean more when one is swept up in the whirl of romantic love, so get out and hear music made by one of love’s most unwilling converts.

Come let me make your February a bit bluer, and perhaps you’ll even start to believe what the poets and the greeting card companies have been trying to sell us all along.

Follow this link to buy tickets: Verliebt in Melancholie – lovesongs 

online_blue-february_hsh_pk-2

hereabouts it’s going to be played by Old Braunfels and hope to see you there 

Old Braunfels in headier days
Well, we seem to have our best gigs in summer, and this year’s no exception. 

Jarrod moved away and then moved back home over the course of this most recent trip round the sun, and we’ve even reconnected with former (& hopefully future) fiddle player & singer Violeta, who’d moved to Chile. 

Now she’s back in Germany, albeit up in Cologne, but you won’t believe our luck…

This Friday evening we’re playing a show at a local school, and Violeta is sitting in with us. That’s right. Like old times for Old Braunfels

Then we’re playing in the afternoon on Saturday 8 July at the Straßenfest in Türkenstrasse before we have a private party to play up in Ingolstadt. 

It’s going to be a weekend of good times with old friends and the soundtrack for all of it? 
Well, hereabouts it’s going to be played by Old Braunfels. Hope to see you there. 

The western sky alight and melodies rattle round in my head

Stumbling outside, this wondrousness greeted me
Playing with a new band, as well as  ramping up new projects with Old Braunfels, as Jarrod has made his way back to Munich after months of being a digital nomad. Welcome back home, you old goat. 

But what was I saying?

These new Germans I’m palling around with love playing covers of stuff you’d hear on a classic rock station, and until now they’re humoring my eclectic taste in songs. 

Now we’re doing a bit of Americana, some outlaw country, as well as some originals, and I’m enjoying warming up my rusty chops. 
Last weekend, we had one of those rehearsals that go on for hours, and when I got a message from the outside world that I shouldn’t miss the sunset that was happening at that very moment, we stumbled into the fresh air. To be greeted to the above photo. 

It’s certainly been edited, but I assure you the real life reds, yellows and blues were even more lush than the photo conveys. Some days it’s the smallest things that remind you what a gift this whole thing is. 

Take a deep breath, reconnect to source and get back to it. These melodies rattling round in my head aren’t going to write themselves. 

Oliver Sacks has died and I can’t get Rilke’s Der Panther out of my head

IMG_8251

Sein Blick ist vom Vorübergehn der Stäbe
so müd geworden, daß er nichts mehr hält.
Ihm ist, als ob es tausend Stäbe gäbe
und hinter tausend Stäben keine Welt.

Der weiche Gang geschmeidig starker Schritte,
der sich im allerkleinsten Kreise dreht,
ist wie ein Tanz von Kraft um eine Mitte,
in der betäubt ein großer Wille steht.

Nur manchmal schiebt der Vorhang der Pupille
sich lautlos auf –. Dann geht ein Bild hinein,
geht durch der Glieder angespannte Stille –
und hört im Herzen auf zu sein.’

I can’t help it. Oliver Sacks is dead, and there are a myriad of thoughts shooting through my brain. I want to write about all of them.

Actually, I’d rather brew a pot of coffee and settle in to watch each of said thoughts explode into the room. The same way I did with a percussionist friend I knew in college who turned me on to a particular man who mistook his wife for a hat. That’s not even the best Oliver Sacks connection – just the first one I knew.

Later I read his ponderings on music and the ways it impacts our brains – fascinating stuff. Stuff with which to brew another pot of coffee, I assure you.

I’ve read so many obituaries and essays today about how important he was to this or that writer or thinker or scientist, and I want to link to every last one of them. I wish I could take you on a tour through my obsessive day of Oliver Sacks devotion, but I’m afraid it wouldn’t do his memory justice. Having said that, I think he might’ve moderately appreciated the attempt to tie in all these disparate ideas that’re still overloading my brain.

Instead, I’m just going to get a tad bit obsessive about Der Panther, which is the German poem I’ve included above. Although I was well aware of his poetry before I saw the film Awakenings, Rilke’s words grabbed me and shook me out of a weird slumber. In the hands of Robin Williams’ character, I was thoroughly jostled by the image of the big cat pacing back and forth in his cramped cage.

This isn’t normally a place where I allow myself to analyse poetry, so I’m loath to go down that road. Although it’s tempting, I’m more inclined to provide a few links and let you go there if you’re so inclined.

First of all, quite an impressive selection of translations can be found at Alternate Translations of The Panther by Rainer Maria Rilke, and if you’d rather have a ‘Best Of’, here’s Der Panther: Six Ways of Looking at a German Poem. There’s a nice article by John Banville in The New York Review of Books called Study The Panther!

As he says there, ‘…Rilke had no illusions about the solitariness of the artistic project, or its difficulty…‘, and that’s where my thoughts finally settle in the darkest corner of the night as I continue to consider Oliver Sacks.

I could wax philosophic about how he faced his death and expressed himself so exquisitely in the process. Were I to do so, I’d certainly focus on that last stanza and how he recently announced his illness so publicly and fearlessly. Instead, I’ll just wrap this up with the Stephen Mitchell translation of the poem:

‘His vision, from the constantly passing bars,
has grown so weary that it cannot hold anything else. 
It seems to him there are a thousand bars;
and behind the bars, no world.

As he paces in cramped circles, over and over,
the movement of his powerful soft strides 
is like a ritual dance around a center
in which a mighty will stands paralyzed.

Only at times, the curtain of the pupils lifts, quietly–. 
An image enters in, 
rushes down through the tensed, arrested muscles,
plunges into the heart and is gone.’