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Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Wild, Wild West (1) by John von Daler

               We arrived early in the afternoon in Esbjerg and instead of going to the hotel drove directly to the little music bar where our concert was to take place that evening.
                Esbjerg struck me as a no nonsense kind of town. The long, straight streets got right to the point and headed directly toward the harbor. Between square unadorned buildings a sea breeze swept through bare avenues bearing the scents of fish and factories. These people got things done to a fare-thee-well.

                Our little concert hall, halfway down to the harbor, looked from the outside like its neighbors, square and colorless. But the inside was adorned with a little pearl of a room, fringed at the top by a beautiful dark, wooden balcony and open at the sides so that perhaps one hundred people could sit at tables, seeing and hearing well, while they drank some beers and listened to us play.
                We carried our instruments and sound equipment onto the little stage in the northwest corner of the room. In the northeast corner a lively little group caroused and drank while we worked. Our sound check came off more realistically than usual: with all their noise we could guage exactly how much volume was needed to cancel out possible outbursts from what in this town might be a lively audience.
                After setting up our chairs, microphones and loudspeakers, we left the car behind the bar and walked a hundred feet up the street to The Mission Hotel where we had booked two rooms. We ordered a fresh cod dinner for later and went up to take naps.
                At five we ate the fresh cod in the proper, old dining room.The tarnished but elegant walls spoke plainly of a sincere belief in our lord coupled with a realistic attitude about turning the other cheek. Then we showered and went down to the concert hall.
                From our little dressing room you could hear the audience warming up. I went in to turn on our equipment and to my surprise discovered that the northeast table still was populated with the same band of barkers, two ladies and two men, dressed to kill and talking to deafen.
                Our fearless duo played a fine concert that evening. My partner was a famous man in Scandinavia, a singer, poet, composer and guitar player. He and another Danish poet had summed up the innermost feelings of a whole generation - but not without a fight. After all they had called the Danish language "an old whore" - and my partner's way of singing did combine the styles of Cocker, Cohen, Dylan and Waits.
                You either loved or hated "D", but everyone knew at the very least his hit called "The Coffee Song". It pretty much summed up what it was like to get up in the morning in Copenhagen in the sixties.
                Tonight D sang well and long - and I played the way I do when music is most fun: I kept surprising myself. My violin even started doing a Jimi Hendrix thing.
                The only flies in this ointment came from the noisy table; they buzzed and hummed and whirred non-stop. The more poignant the music, the more they had to say. After two sets, a long intermission, and a string of encores that left us numb, we were finished - in more ways than one. We had a beer in our dressing room. In the middle of his, D said, "I'm gonna ask 'em why." He drank the rest down in one gulp, got up and went back into the hall.
                When I finally followed him, most of our stuff was packed and D was sitting with the noisy couples. I went over and stood halfway behind his chair. He looked up at me and muttered, "They love us!" and stuck his hand out to pull up a chair for me. Before D. could do it one of the men jumped up and pushed a chair and two pillows behind me and stuck out his hand. "Thor", he said, "and this is Olaf and Signe and Britta. Have a seat."
                All five of them looked at me. "Please excuse our behavior. We didn't mean any disrespect. Actually we've driven two hours to get here early so that we could get the best seats. We'll drive anywhere to hear you play. We're your greatest fans. We talk so much because it's all about you!"
                There was a silent silence. He probably felt that more explanation was necessary.
                "We are fishermen and these are our girlfriends. We don't see them very often, but even now when we've got the chance to be together, we decided to spend the evening here listening to you. And as I was just saying to D, we would like to invite you to the John Wayne Discotheque as our guests for the rest of the evening."
                It was 11:30 p.m. so "evening" it was not. My internal alarms all went off at the thought of the John Wayne Discotheque at midnight, but in Esbjerg they don't have the Ritz or the Savoy to go stompin' at. Then Thor added, "We'll make sure no one bothers you…"
                          (to be continued...)


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