Shows Nos. 16 and 17: Leipzig, Germany and Berlin, Germany
"There are many sad people in Berlin," commented the promoter of my band's Berlin show. It's no wonderÂall happy Berliners have relocated to Leipzig, where former Communists merrily play foosball (see above) in dirty basements before enthusiastically demanding that punk bands from the United States play multiple encores. Though the basement-cum-rock venue I visited in Leipzig was poorly heated by a wood-burning stove, Leipzig showgoers did not care. They wanted their dose of American punk rock, no matter how low the temperature.
Some sample comments from Leipzig:
1. "Your music blows my mind!"
2. "Your band played for too short! For too short!
3. "You must play Leipzig again!"
4. "I would like to buy all of your records!"
5. "Would you like these vegan crepes I prepared?"
6. "Come visit my record store! It is housed in a building that used to be a squat, and sells homemade peppermint soap lovingly manufactured by a Leipzig artisan!"
Meanwhile, in Berlin, times were tough. Though my band's show in Berlin was "better" than Leipzig—that is, sounded better, paid more, and was attended by more people—the audience was a bit depressed. Not sad, or hostile, or unresponsive—just touched by ennui.
Some sample comments from Berlin:
1. "Your music is okay."
2. "Strange—you played two encores."
3. "My rent is very expensive."
4. "When the Berlin Wall stood, one could stand in on the top floor of an apartment building in the former West Berlin and wave to those exiled in the former East Berlin."
5. "This veggie burger is 7 Euro."
6. "I love existentialism."
Of course, comparing Berlin and Leipzig presents extraordinary statistical obstacles. Berlin is an international capital, one of Europe's five grandest cities. Leipzig is a small university town. Berlin has been flooded with Americans, and English is spoken everywhere. Leipzig is most decidedly German. An friend of mine once made a living in Berlin DJing, throwing parties, and playing shows. Meanwhile, at least one avid music-maker I met in Leipzig was living off of the dole. How can two urban areas with such radically different populations, economies, and social miens be meaningfully dissected with social science's crude vocabulary and blunt instruments of analysis?
This is the realm of art, and the bailiwick of poetry.