Ken Gutberlet

6/6/2002 - One last ramble from Europe

Well, the 2002 Danish tour has wrapped up for me. I gotta say that Copenhagen (Kbh) in spring/summery weather is a waaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy different town than I experienced in last year's blustery chill. Yes, when the warm sun is doing its job, I realize why folks put up with the long dark winter. It's an intense go-and-get-it vibe. Hard to not get caught up . . .

I met lots of super-cool folks at the Fisken gig- being my nite-out six nites a week made it my social spot . . . four Latvian business lawyers screamed along for an hour and taught me that "baldea" is "thanks"; that same nite a western Dk couple bought me a couple beers as the pub flooded and I sang every water tune I could think of for a half hour; Guy and Caroline from England came thru a couple nights and Guy has since sent me pics of some jammin; Chris from Houston came to one of my Fisken gigs last year- he heard me as he passed along the canal and came in again; Phil, Louise, and Nina from England told me I made their nite- that comment made mine- then they told me to gig in London and each bought a CD.

Of course, Nyhavn wouldn't be Nyhavn without its characters . . . young lads celebrating Arsenal's (the NY Yankees of the English Premiere Football League) championship by screaming fight songs ("Stars and Stripes Forever" and "Camptown Races" melodies)- I had to woo 'em with a mumbled and fumbled "We Are The Champions"; dude thought I was part of 70's British band Status Quo due to CD title- I told him no, but he still wanted my autograph and asked me to sing one of my tunes and sub his name for the name of a famous person- his coffee flew and he was here to study our species; Torbin was in there a handful of nites- he swore Charleston was in NC- where they filmed "North and South", on the coast- I told him that was SC- he said he'd never been to SC but he'd been to Charleston- he then delved into his friend/brother/cousin's invisibility theory- I pried but he had no solid answers; I finally thresholded and told a guy that Karaoke was up the street- sincerity was on my side but he hung out and sang from the sideline.

I met most characters during solo gigs: Sun, Tues-Thu (most Mondees being my nite off). The gigs'd run from 9:30 til 1:30 and if I wasn't chatting with a new made acquaintance, I could make the 2 am nite bus (or, go up the canal to Jeff's gig and have a few after hours pops, or, go general partying, or, walk home- great in the nice weather). So, I caught about half the nite busses.

The weekend jammings left not much time for socializing- there was music to be played! I'd start at 10 pm and someone would join the dodge battle at 11. For 2 1/2 weeks Duncan was my conspirator against the throbbing masses (you oughta hear his Danish-dialected "La Bamba"- my side was hurting and I was crying). Kenneth joined me for one weekend (alright . . . check out this cleverness . . . the Ken and Ken show!)- great gitter player- and Agne joined me for my final Fridee nite (and supposed final nite). Who are these people? Well the flat roster ended up like this:

"studio" 1 = me- sleep when ya can
2 = Jeff- SW PA'er by way of Nashville
3 = Richie- Long Island pianist
4 = Paul- Englishman- I shared a month with him last year
5 = Kenneth- San Diegoan
6 = Gary- NYer- Beatles freak, I shared a month with him last year
7 = Duncan- Scotsman, owns a house in London, but when you come into the flat it's kinda like you're entering Duncan's house- I shared two months and a few gigs with him last year- sad I missed his BDay party by two days
8 = Agne- Swede

A Saturdee nite mid-month I played it alone- Duncan had a dose of the flu. The owner demands non-stop music from 11-2. No big deal. I skipped my pre-11 break due to the folks having fun. I would've been fine except I went for a "Thunder Road". Too much growling. Fortunately, Adam (a musician I met last year) was in da house and interested in spelling my singing for a couple tunes. So, next I knew, it was 2:20 and I was wiped out. Played a final set and took the whole week at 75% singing to recover. Yeah, I lost my groove for four gigs. Ah well, I refound in the following weekend. A really cool thing about the weekend gigs was the fact that it'd be light when I showed up around 9:30 and it'd be getting light again when we all left at 3:30 or so. Yeah, living in lots of light keeps the energy high.

I subbed for Duncan one Mondee nite at Strecker's Bar in the downtown zone. The gig offered a different vibe than that of Nyhavn. A more open pub asked for louder happenings. The 8-liter beer towers added to the party vibe. The only downer of the gig was the inspector's (manager's) brusque attitude about him being in charge for ten years and I shouldn't be talking to the cook and other things that didn't sink in. Following the pattern others have noticed, he lightened up after his initial diatribe. Seems he gets his initial attitude from the owner of most of the Kbh pubs where our merry little band troubadors- Mr Strecker. Yup, in May the paper announced that he had a number of lawsuits pending against him: sexual harrassment, unsafe working conditions, who knows what else. So, if he loses too many Dkk (Danish kroner; 8.1/$ US) in court, there might be no more Kbh gigs. I don't really want to cheer for the guy . . .

Busking for me in Kbh wound down after I blew out my voice. Paul and I played a bunch of fiddle tunes a couple afternoons. My favorite donation to my gitter case was an empty Coke bottle. Some Swedish lads just had some minimal Swedish coins. So, they offered me their bottle (return for renumeration!). Thanks. Well, for whatever reason, no other tips came in for the 20 mins or so that the bottle was in the case. I took it out and tips started coming again. What, don't these folks realize "The Gods Must Be Crazy" significance? They need to pay more homage or Reptilicus will destroy their town again! Sorry, I diverge (I probably should do more apologizing for that)- check out "Reptilicus" if ya come across it. The walking street where I busked (Stroget) was always a sunny afternoon full of bodies. One afternoon walk . . . gitterer/singer "Hotel Cally"-in; stemmed water glasses player- making 'em hum by moistly rubbing their rims- very cool (just needs some amplification)- toss him some coin; dude all in white (face painted too) doing the stand still thing til someone drops a coin in his kettle- then he motions for the dropper to shake his hand- not many takers; Andes-type crew playing pipes over a CD- the theory is that the bunches of these South American buskers all report back to the same conglomerate- similar equipment, CD sound, CD look; encounter flat-mate Kenneth and later flat-mate Jeff (it's a party!); sax player blowing; still-lieing couple all in white (faces painted too)- one coin dropped and the dude gives a weak thanks gesture- two more coins dropped and they just lie there- so, I guess they dress in white and come nap; die hard whose girth dwarfs his mini-keyboard earnestly jamming; performer in the big square dead lifts his unicycle trying to rally a crowd; Andes-type crew in the square playing the same tune that the crew up the walking street played- more evidence- my favorite performance moment from these commonly encountered "jammers" came when their CD had an electric gitter doing a lead to "Let It Be" and the trio just stood about letting the CD do the work- they do move a few CDs tho; Elvis needs Benzene for his Cadillac and he's got an expensive wife. Then on the post-chow walk back . . . three-accordion band (plus a couple gitters, fiddle, bass) going at it; Andes-types in big square packing up; chick in square screaming about her crystal balls, trying to rally a crowd; sidewalk graffitist insta-arting; spray paint and smear painters putting their chemical stench into the air- interesting technique; dude jamming on an old Gibson with strings almost as old; stemmed glass player still vibrating- "Greensleeves"- I drop him another coin- too cool! Then there are the rest of the characters: sellers of whistles, balloon propellers, noisy mini cats and dogs, necklaces, produce; "homeless and hungry" dudes; gawkers. Great sightseeing!

Speaking of sightseeing, anyone want to form a marching drum band and do a Carnaval tour? Kbh offers their own lower-key version- fun bands (great steel drum corps), dancing, and chilling. I reencountered a dude I met last year who recognized me by my dobro; I let him jam some more.

My final whole day in Kbh was a winner. I'd supposedly finished my obligation the nite before (May 31 was my last scheduled gig). So, I "napped" a little at the table after I'd gotten home, "fell asleep" during the 1st half of the Ireland-Cameroon match, woke in time to see Dk score the first goal of their match, and wandered in search of a with-the-people view spot. It was a little before noon on a Saturdee and somewhere had to be open. I went by the closest bodega (local pub kinda place)- which I'd never visited before- and shouting came out the door. So, I went in the not-too crowded bodega and saw that Uruguay had tied the match. Tuborg, please. Very affordable.

A tall dude who was sitting at a table when I first arrived kept standing in my sight line- too nervous to sit. I realized I picked a cool spot when an owner-type dude walked in with an elderly golden retriever at his heels. At the 85th minute, DK scored their 2nd and winning goal. Great to cheer with the locals, plus, a free round on the house (too bad they weren't playing Saudi Arabia!)! News highlights showed the Radhusplads (town hall square) going nuts in a sea of red. Next time, I'll have to watch there (tho no free beer). Post-match, it was weird to not have a gig on Sat nite. I asked Duncan about a Tivoli (Kbh's landmark vintage amusement park) pub gig that he'd mentioned that no one was scheduled to do. Clearance was granted and I had an extra gig! Cool! Earlier in May I was contemplating switching gigs with someone so I could play in Tivoli at least once. I showed up early to walk around a bit, but I spent most of my pre-gig moments devouring half-a-cow of ribs. Mmmm. The gig began at 8 pm with two 45 min sets of quiet, background dinner music. Cake. Then some acrobats and a jazz band took over the main stage for
half an hour- the stage sits right outside the pub, so more break- I got to check out a little of the Tivoli lights. Then I played thru the last hour:20 with upped volume and energy- a power Scandinavian set. Talk about cozy- singers, screamers, dancers, chair dancers, requesters- we made our own show. I thought the "Father and Son" request would close things, but the fireworks began a verse and chorus of "Let It Be" too late. With out of pitch and timing booms, the McCartney tune was abbreviated, and I said goodnite Kbh while fireworks exploded. Michael Jackson here I come (minus the hair to burn)! The Sat nite party would've continued elsewhere but I had to pack and clean so I could visit the airport in the morning.

The plane took me to the circus known as Amsterdam for a few days, partying with Big Bass and the rest of the town (tip: the tables in the casino basement have lower minimums), and yesterdee it delivered me to Prague where Kev'Mo joined the fray today. I like this descending cost-of-living scale! We'll be partying here for a week or so and then it's back to MD.

Hopefully, if you've gotten this far, you're still awake. Thanks for all the correspondence cross the drink and hopefully I'll be seeing lots of you soon!