Writing: on board the 12:57pm Regional‐Express train from Trier to Luxembourg. I am hungry.
Didn’t sleep at all last night. Way too warm, and no air‐conditioning in the room. Kept flipping from one side to another, hoping that the rapid flips will trigger a universal chain of reaction that would, consequently, cool this f**king room down just a little bit.
It didn’t happen.
The attempts to fall asleep have been exhausted and done with at 8:00am when my BlackBerry reminded me that it’s time for another day of travel; destination—Luxembourg.
Train was scheduled to leave Frankfurt’s main central station—a stone‐throw from the sauna (read: the hotel room) I was staying at—on 9:42am. I decided to not take any chances this time; leave enough time for breakfast (included at the hotel’s price), coffee and relaxed boarding. A long day was awaiting me, including the second standing general‐admission concert in the tour; a challenge is the last thing I needed—please, Lord, make this day boring.
The hotel’s breakfast had a surprisingly wide variety of items, not bad at all. Ciabatta, eggs, smoked salmon… yum. Tea to was everything down with and I was on my way to the central train station.
Looking at the departure board—check. Everything according to plan, except for a message in German that I later had Jeroen translate as “this train’s cars are ordered in reverse”. As if I give a rat’s ass. Off to an Illy stand for a latte.
I had about 10 minutes to finish the latte before boarding. Watched people walking into trains and out of them, shuffling through platforms, each person looks busier and more troubled than the person he almost walked over just a second ago (it’s a busy station).
Everybody’s running for their lives, literally. Planes to catch, bills to pay, family, friends, ex‐wives, pets…
Maximalism; own as much “stuff” as you can within your boundaries (and, in North America, way beyond them too).
Everybody makes their choices; the lucky ones know how to see the benefit in the path they chose and enjoy it, rather than thinking about what they had missed.
Everybody makes their choices; and I chose to compress my life into a 70 litres green backpack and attend 87 concerts over the course of four months.
Deep, deep thoughts over the ten minutes it took me to sip that latte. Boarding time arrived… time to go. Goodbye Frankfurt, see you next time I’m on my way somewhere.
The most efficient route from Frankfurt to Luxembourg departs 9:42am and arrives at 1:45pm, including two train changes. Any screw‐up and I’ll be forced to take a bus from one town its name I cannot pronounce into another, and I dislike buses in much the same way that buses dislike me—that is, with a lot of passion involved.
It worked fine, though. Very comfortable first‐class seat on the ICE train to Koblenz; a short wait and then a train to Trier; arrive at Trier, walk two meters to the opposing platform and board the train to Luxembourg.
The ride, I should say, is pretty scenic. Wonderful views of green hills, grass, bush… the occasional castle here and there and romantic‐looking villages every now and then. Almost as beautiful as driving British Columbia’s relatively boring parts (sorry, folks. I’m pretty sure that the only views that are going to be as impressive as British Columbia’s and Alberta’s while on this trip are the views in Norway; then again, I am, after all, an idiot. I am more than willing to be surprised).
Germany is a beautiful country, so I’m learning. An in‐depth tour is certainly called for; would need a car, though, to explore the countryside.
I used virtually all of the ride’s time to complete yesterday’s blog entry and start today’s. Occasionally, my eyes wandered away from the screen, looking through the windows and becoming impressed with the beautiful views. At this time, I am extremely tired; hoping to get some rest at the hotel before heading to the Rockhal.
Writing: on board the 10:00am TGV train from Luxembourg to Paris, June 9, 2010
Arrived at Luxembourg’s train station (Luxembourg‐Gare) and exited the station through the main gate. It was a cloudy day; the main station and its immediate surroundings have been (so I heard) under construction for a while, and the view from the main train station has miserably failed to please the eye.
If cities could smile, Luxembourg probably wouldn’t.
My hotel, Hotel Zurich, was located about 3 minutes walk from the main train station, in a narrow street offering lots of bars, pubs and house‐like hotels. It all looked dark, old, run down. I wasn’t happy at all to be there, so I took comfort in the fact that I’m not really going to spend too much time in this seemingly‐sad area.
People‐watching, I could hardly see young people. I have read somewhere a series of articles about Europe’s aging problem (apparently caused by low fertility rate combined with immigration issues); if anyone needed proof for that, a short stroll in Luxembourg’s centre would set things straight for him.
Hotel Zurich received some really good recommendations, which is the reason why I chose it. €69 (very expensive comparing to what you get, but prices in this area are alike) got me a basic small room with a double bed, very small shower and the best ever window—no, not for the view (it was disgusting), but for the fact that the shades were controlled by some electronic mechanism so once you close the shade the room becomes totally dark. Very good for me as I have trouble falling asleep if there’s any trace of light in the room.
The time was about 2:00pm and I was extremely tired. Entering the hotel, I was greeted by one of the most gracious hosts I can remember, asking me where I was going to and if I need help… telling him I’m going to the Rockhal, he took it upon himself to find out what the train schedule is like and to let me know once I’m settled in. Very warm welcome.
Unloaded everything at the hotel room and I knew I couldn’t fall asleep unless I eat something (I was very hungry, too). A nearby store offered sandwiches made today while providing sandwiches that were apparently offered yesterday. Too bad I didn’t know that before spending €3 on some sad bun with confused salami in it.
Back at the hotel and I laid down for a short rest. markknopfler.com ticket purchasers were instructed to be at the venue around 6:30pm for advance entry into the venue; as the Rockhal isn’t in the city of Luxembourg, I had to take a 25 minutes train ride to Belval University in order to get there.
on 5:20pm, I arrived at the Belval University station.
The Rockhal is adjacent to the Belval University train station.
Nestled between such beautiful surroundings, I had to take a picture.
Absolutely disgusting surroundings for a venue. Very easy to err and think that you’re on some remote planet that is just now in the process of being developed into something useful.
Outside, packs of fans already started gathering by the entrance, not surprising considering that this is a general admission show. I was alone and lonely with nothing to do; fearing I would grow hungry during the concert, I decided to check out the restaurant right next to the venue, Rockhalicious.
Closed; open at 6:00pm.
30 minutes passed as I was waiting near the entrance. Jeroen van Tol (did I spell that correctly?) and his friend who lives in Luxembourg showed up few minutes later and we passed the time chatting. At 6:00pm, the three of us went into Rockhalicious for a bite.
People told me that this is a fantastic restaurant; too bad I didn’t really have the time and will to explore it. What I did notice though is their ridiculously insane prices. Their “best deal” was a hamburger, fries & beer for €12; another item in their “fast menu” (no time for full sit‐down meal) was chicken‐breast nuggets for €5. I decided to minimize culinary damage and go for those nuggets. Water? €2.50.
Other items in the menu included pasta for €14. Well, remember what I wrote yesterday about turning wasted time into productive? this clearly doesn’t apply here because eating in a restaurant doesn’t really save you time; you’re not eating in Rockhalicious while waiting for some event to happen—you have to be outside to maintain your place in line. So I cannot see any reason for these stupidly high prices. This must be a damn good pasta to justify throwing €14 at… the best Italian restaurant I have ever been to, Zeffirino’s in Las Vegas, sold pasta for less and it was out of this world; and, judging by the chicken nuggets’ quality, I think it would be safe to say that their food altogether is not really in top shape.
Anyway, enough bitching.
Left the restaurant at around 6:20pm back to the fan‐club’s door. I was the first one in line and, so, once the door opened, I was the first one to grab the ticket and enter the hall.
The hall was completely and utterly empty. There was something magical in the experience of walking into a big empty hall, soft music plays in the background, and the band’s equipment is already prepared in place for the show. I walked very slowly towards the centre of the stage.
Arrived at the centre of the stage and sat down. Jeroen and his friend followed shortly after and the three of us sat down and chatted for a few more minutes.
On 6:45pm, the doors opened for the general public and the bulls started running. Elian was of the first ones—he made his way all the way to the centre. Said hello, we shook hands and then he left towards the left‐hand side of the stage where his friends were.
It was just about that time when I made the #2 most commonly made mistakes in general admission shows.
I stood up.
Once you’re seated with your back to the barrier, you can use your legs in order to create some sort of a buffer zone between yourself and others; however once you stand up, such barrier doesn’t exist anymore and, depending on the country you’re in, the culture you find yourself amongst and the people at the venue, your personal space can shrink down to virtually zero. That’s why, for more than an hour before the show, I had my back and ass constantly in touch with people.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I have no intimacy issues (at least not that I’m aware of); but I’m not a huge fan of involuntary bodily contact. What I wrote in the Antwerp post about the need for personal space that Canadians have is not bullshit. Go live in Canada for eight years (mostly in a city with an area measuring around 250 square kilometres, containing 220,000 people), then come to Europe for a general‐admission show and have your ass in constant contact with other people’s bodily parts—then you’ll understand.
I want my personal fucking space, damn it! Be close, OK, but don’t touch me!
A vivid conversation has started behind me. At least it sounded vivid; it was in a language I couldn’t possibly make any sense of. Another sign that it was a vivid conversation had to do with the individual who was standing right behind me and was taking a part in that conversation; he was probably way too much into the conversation that he felt quite alright with squeezing me into the barrier to the point that I had to struggle to avoid pain. At some point I had to turn around and ask him to let me breathe. He was a nice guy though; we shook hands later.
It’s a cultural thing, I guess. I can say that it doesn’t make much sense to me, and that I’m not feeling comfortable… but that’s my view on someone else’s values. Sometimes it’s hard to appreciate the fact that the most obvious things to you (such as the need in personal space) may not be all that obvious to other people.
Mental note to self: Isaac, you’re a guest here.
The TGV is now cruising in top speed; so much green to our sides. Similar to Canada’s prairies, however not as flat and there’s some good scenery every now and then. Things are different when you’re riding a train at 220 km/h.
Jeroen’s friend originally thought that he may be stuck at the back, so he brought binoculars with him. Yes, binoculars. Now, standing at the very front right next to me, we assumed he might not need this anymore, but we decided to take a picture, just for fun.
I enthusiastically suggested that he should use these binoculars during the show. My suggestion was viciously ignored.
Looking around, I could see the hall filling up with people. The Rockhal itself is pretty boring and the best way I could describe it would be a very large shoe box. Square and boring, with very high ceilings.
A couple of minutes later came an event that pretty much ruined most of the show for me. From the back, I started hearing someone talking very loudly to other people. Again, I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about (they speak French, German and Luxembourgish in Luxembourg) but by his voice I could tell that he was pretty upset.
Then he apparently talked to Jeroen’s friend who was right next to me, who shrugged in return. The man’s voice was still very loud and full of aggression. Seconds later, that man decided to get my attention by grabbing me at the shoulder.
Had I not been tired, a gesture like that would probably be answered by an extremely unfriendly physical response. I get totally enraged when physical contact is enforced upon me and something in this guy’s tone suggested that he wasn’t really facing a case of emergency that requires him to grab people by the shoulder. I was very tired though; instead, I turned to him and said something like “why the fuck are you grabbing me for?” and turned back.
He obviously didn’t understand what I was saying, however the word fuck is, apparently, very well understood everywhere. He went on shouting at me repeatedly while I was with my back towards him; he didn’t seem to pleased and I believe he was cursing a lot.
Only after everything calmed down, I got the chance to understand what this guy wanted; apparently, his young daughter was with him and he was asking (read: yelling at) other people to have her watch the show from the very front so she can at least see something. And you know what? his daughter was so cute and tiny—had I known that this is what he wants, I’m sure I could have worked out a solution for him and save this savage anger. But why grab shoulders? why shout? why behave like an animal?
Anyway, at the end his cute daughter found her place right at the front, two steps to my right. She seemed happy during the show (I tried to locate her father during the show so I can talk to him, but couldn’t find him).
I was smart enough to have learned (after the Antwerp show) not to sip water before the show in order to reduce toilet requirements… but stupid enough to not take a bottle of water with me just in case I grow very thirsty. That’s exactly what happened and I became thirsty even before the show started.
Tired, thirsty and still quite upset about the whole yelling thing, I joined the loud audience in welcoming the band who took the stage at 8:05pm.
I was told before the show that Luxembourg’s crowd is particularly vocal and cheery; well, it was—but nothing like, say, Antwerp’s audience (I’m still curious to see what Italy’s and Spain’s audiences are going to be like). Still it was evident that the audience liked what they were seeing and hearing.
The band played very well and one thing obvious during the show was Mark’s joyful mood. Lots of smiles towards the band as well as the audience. A very funny moment was when Mark introduced a new member to the band—Mike McCusker—much to John’s satisfaction as he was throwing a fist into the air as if to say “I won!”. Mark obviously corrected himself two seconds later but the band was all smiles.
Another thing that I noticed during this show—at least at the beginning—was Mark’s attempts at some interesting finger‐style work, particularly at the beginning of Why Aye Man and during Sailing to Philadelphia’s outro solo. That finger‐style work that is so characteristic to Knopfler—staccato‐like strums with mountains of tone into them. Mark, please do this more often. Thanks in advance.
No setlist surprises, however that’s two out of two standing shows in which Why Aye Man and Cleaning My Gun are played.
Marbletown was, again, the concert’s top performance. As this appears to be the norm nowadays, I will not elaborate much about how great it was. At some point during the Marble‐jam, Mark got up from his chair, approached John & Glenn and signalled with his finger towards Matt—a signal that I interpreted as “wait, it’s just me and John now”. John was playing a melody similar to one that he played in a prior concert, while Mark tagged along. A few seconds later, Mark went back to his chair; what I was able to gather from his face was that he actually wanted to take a few more bars to develop the duet further, however the rest of the band re‐joined the jam session very shortly after so it didn’t happen.
Well, that’s at least what I was able to gather by watching body language and facial expressions. Of course I may be wrong.
Lonnie Donegan might be gone already but his song apparently isn’t as it was resurrected yesterday after some time of absence. During this song, there’s a short intermission where John was supposed to play a short violin sequence. He did; but unless you were in the front row, you could have never heard it because something apparently wasn’t connected very well so the violin’s sound never made it to the speakers. Mark, I believe, realized it at some point and decided to take the lead for the rest of the song, with some interesting staccato work. Towards the end of the song, Mark made a dog‐like facial expression as if implying a dog catching his breath after running around for a while; we all had a good laugh—as well as Mark—as he boosted up the last few bars, playing them faster than usual.
Concert ended at around 10:10pm after the regular encore.
As the show ended and the herds of humans made their way towards the exit, I was approached by Florence, a reader of this blog who were accompanied by her mother. We had a short chat… as well as a very blurry picture (I accidentally forgot to set the flash to activate before handing the camera to her mother); Florence—enjoy being famous!
(Yes, I know, I looked like crap. Unshaved, sweating a little bit, very tired… what else could you expect)
Jeroen and his friend suggested that they drive me back to the city centre, as it would take much less than the 30 minutes it takes by train. However, shortly after exiting the venue, as I was going to hunt for some water, I lost them both…
Water were nowhere to be found except for in a bar that had a line‐up of about two million people. Seems like all of Luxembourg decided to line up in the bar just when I was extremely thirsty. Frustrated, I made it back to the Belval University station; special trains are used after Rockhal events—once every 10 minutes, rather than the usual 30.
A ride back to Luxembourg‐Gare at night, first‐class comfy seat… a great way to unwind. Upon arrival, I walked towards the hotel as quickly as an extremely thirsty man would. Had a pita with some shawarma in a restaurant right in front of the hotel, along with two bottles of water… oh, the taste of water. Bliss.
Back to the hotel for a great night sleep.
Signing‐off this post from Elian Poupard’s apartment in a suburb of Paris… will hit the Bercy soon for tonight’s show.