Ken Gutberlet

4/11/2002 - Greetings from Oslo- the incognito Ken Gutberlet

Yo Yo!
I hope this typing finds all well back in the states! For those that don't know, I'm off on another round of troubadoring- this session finds me for the month of April in Oslo- home of costly Norwegian beers. If ya don't want to get these ramblings, let me know and I'll take ya off the list.

I showed up around noon on April Fools' Day with only 1 of 3 pieces of luggage. That meant that somewhere in the Icelandair universe were all but one pair of my socks- that could get a little chill in the Scandinavian spring. Oh yeah, both my gitters were missing too. Hmm. Kinda hurts the musical entertainment to not have his guitars. The bright side of them missing was that I didn't have to answer lots of questions at customs- I've found that when I fly with guitars, I get much more scrutinized that when I don't. Another bonus of not being burdened with all those musical instruments was the ease of transporting my belongings- one bag. Hard to imagine. I hopped on a bus for Oslo and the driver was very helpful- offering me the closest stop for my destination- the Rorbua Pub.

The Rorbua (it's pronounced with lots of rolling "r"s and four syllables- took me a few days to get it down) offers drink and chow to wanderers of the old wharf zone- Aker Brygge (pronounce at yer own risk). The old buildings have been replaced with modern structures- think Scandinavian architecture- lots of glass and some interesting angles. They're filled with shops and restaurants for those craving a waterside experience. The pub's internal theme is of boating (go figure) and whaling history, semi-clutterly displayed on the wooden walls, pillars and boat hull bar- everything inside is wood. Upon arriving, I found out that Mondee nites were my night off- good to know- April Fools' Day landed on a Mondee this year- since I was without instrument. I then found out that I'd be staying in a flat above the Dubliner- an Irish pub in town. That also meant a walk back the way I came (more positives of an unburdensome load).

When I found my way to my crib for the month, last month's troubador was still in town- he had an early train to Copenhagen the next am. Rand, from Austin, TX, filled me in on lots of bits of helpful stuff. He also recommended that I take over his out-of-the-way room when he leaves since the Irish bands that stay in the flat on the weekends can sometimes be excessively loud. Sounded like a plan (although noise and weekends kinda go together). The flat itself is nothing glamorous- my Irish flat-mate last weekend offered no endearing words to describe it. It's got 6 bedrooms off a long hall; a general hanging room with a couch and some comfy chairs; a kitchen with sink, fridge, fancy toaster oven and two-burner range; a toilet; and a shower room with a nice shower and plenty of hot water. Luxury. I view it as a place to park my head and leave my stuff- it works.

I returned to Rorbua to call the airline about my missing gear- a moment like this made me glad that I left my Martin (my uptown gitter) back home- praise the obnoxious dancing Swedes of last year! No word. So, I got my grub for the day. I'm allotted one meal per day at the pub, valued at < 100 kr- here's the high finance: 8.8 kr/dollar US. The daily special falls into this category; I've eaten pork, lamb, three types of fish, lasagna, reindeer (textured like a pork chop, subtleties- does reindeer have subtleties?- lost in heavy cream), and who knows what else. Most specials have come with baby potatoes, cranberry sauce, and a veggie- they were on a brussel sprout kick for a while- mmmm. The a la carte menu offers a whale steak- it's said to be of a populous species- my curiosity has my mouth wondering.

So, what to do with an off-night in Oslo? Rand had informed me of a fine gitter picker jamming at Muddy Waters- Oslo's blues pub. Albert Lee (for those who don't know him, join the fray- I displayed my inability to read and/or retain liner notes with my ignorance- he's a British chap who's jammed with Clapton, Emmylou, Wille, . . . ). I paid for my first Oslo beer reaming- 60 kr for a pint. We moved right up front once the tunes started so that the tobacco haze wouldn't obstruct our view. Great show as Albert fronted the five-piece honkytonkin' band. The ears were still ringing later in the night when Rand and I swapped CDs- he was proud of some great players on his disc. Lloyd Maines was the name I knew- he of the Robert Earl Keen band, and, if ya need more ". . . Friend of a friend of a friend . . .", the father of the Dixie Chicks lead singer. If you don't know the Dixie Chicks, well, then you're more selective in your cultural effectors than I. He said he sold 150 CDs when he played a month in Copenhagen two years ago. Must be a good marketer (that's not a slice at him- I haven't heard his tunes).

I didn't sleep too well that first nite- I kept waking up with crazy TERPS! Dreams- all kinds of wacky imagined results. The second priority in the afternoon (uhh . . . Morning?) was to find an internet café and get a score. Of course, you all know who won. TERPS! BABY!
YAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!! The first priority was to find any info about my gitters. As of about 2 pm, still no word from the airline. Oh well. A few hours later I tried them again- ahh, there was a sighting! Now I was a little anxious of their state of existence. I was finishing up my grilled catfish when the SAS baggage deliverer toted two gitter cases thru the pub door. Yes! With three hours to spare before gig time! I checked everything out and all was well- boy, clean socks!

Opening night was quiet. The whole country (please account for hyperbole) goes on a skiing holiday for Easter. So, the week after, they're recovering. That worked to my favor- kinda like getting in some training runs pre-race rather than running a 10 K cold. I started with- I had to do it- the trite, I'm sure, "Norwegian Wood". If there were more than a half-dozen folks in the pub, there might've been some benched away from the fringes and they might've noticed my smugness. Yeah, chalk one up for the goof. Anyway, I played on for about two hours with not much love and took a break around 11. The bartender told me I could call it an evening since there weren't many folk in the house. Cool with me for opening night.

The normal schedule starts me at 9 and ends me at 12:30 Tuesdee thru Sundee. Not too painful. Toss in one free pint with every follower getting the employee discount (35 kr- just upped from 30 kr!) and it's alright. The whole week went mellowly until Fridee. The place was mobbed, there was some dancing (away from the stage- fortunately there's no dance floor right in front of the stage- there actually is a tiny stage for me) and singing along and they made me quit early so that they could clear the place by 1 am. Ahhh . . . Fun. As of this typing, I've managed to avoid the most requested songs of last year- "Hotel California" (I had one well-beered, well-attituded lady ask for it, but I talked her out of it- she and her party later walked out on their check) and "American Pie". No "Proud Mary" or "Mrs Robinson" yet either. I've gotten requests for "Whiskey in the Jar" and "House of the Rising Sun"- I'd played those songs anyway. At one 'tween tune pause I got requests for Nick Cave, the Doobies' "Long Train Running", and the Beatles' "When I'm 64". Oh well. 0 for three. I did try a "Long Train Running" a little later- weird arrangement and probably left out a verse- painless.

John was my first Irish band flat-mate. His band is based in Stavanger- Norway's oil city in the southwest- and all the members but himself have day jobs. So, they were all staying in hotels while he went on the cheap- for his next visit, he'll be staying in a hotel. Coming from Ireland, he'd troubadored thru Norway for 20 years before he found his current Irish band. A fellow musician I met later called him "Norway's Van Morrison"- the music scene here in Oslo is very integrated- I guess for a country of 4.5 million and a city of 500,000, the scene should be. The Fridee nite I met him I checked out the Dubliner after my gig. The band strayed away from the traditional Irish tunes for some country songs- good jams. He's got a buddy who's a resident busker (street performer) in Oslo. He filled me in on the busking scene and some open mics in town. He stayed for three nites and I've had the joint to myself since then. The new band arrives tonite.

Well, enough gabbing, as John the Irish-Norwegian puts it, for now. Hope all's good and here's to the O's second victory of the season!