Concert Backlog II – Die Toten Hosen in Breslau

October 10, 2010 – Die Toten Hosen.

Die Toten Hosen are definitely one of my top five favorite bands. They’re like the German Green Day – epic, timeless punk rockers who have been around forever and will probably keep being around forever.

Nonetheless, as they rarely tour far from Germany, my own chances to see them were nonexistent until I moved to Berlin. When they announced tour dates in Eastern Europe, I knew I had to seize this opportunity or risk missing them entirely. I bought a ticket for Breslau, in Poland. The day before the show, I dragged my ass out of bed at five in the morning and got on a bus headed east.

Arriving in Breslau, I wandered a bit and then found a drugstore to stock up on hobo supplies. I had this one chance to see them, and I’d come this far, you better believe I was making front row. Armed with tinned pears, other snacks, and cheap fleece blankets, I lurked my way to the venue. Too many people around. I bummed in a hostel lobby for a few hours and came back in the middle of the night. Home sweet concrete.

At 5 AM a Polish security guard woke me, and mercifully brought me inside the business lobby next door to let me sleep where it was warm. I speak no Polish, and he spoke no German and little English, but his genuine wish to help me could not be stopped by mere language barriers. He brewed me a mug of bitter, sludgelike coffee, and introduced me to two American Mormon missionaries working on the second floor. He then saw Die Toten Hosen’s crew bus arrive and brought me out back to see it. Which is when things got really interesting.

I somehow went from the normal fan routine – watching a tourbus, exchanging “Morgen” and other chitchat with the German crew guys – to being invited INSIDE the tourbus. A first. Crew bus, not band bus. But still – I’d never been in a tourbus. My inner fangirl (okay, my inner everything) was flipping out.

I thought, okay, they’re just letting me have a glimpse, they won’t want me to stay, I’d better leave quickly. Not the case. Stefan the bus driver pointed me to a seat and told me to warm up while they unloaded stuff.

I chilled in the bus. Some other crew guys came through and chatted a bit auf Deutsch.

Events continued to get mindboggling. As I announced to Stefan that I should probably go back to the front of the venue and wait before more fans came, he smiled and asked, well do I just want to wait inside the venue? My stunned response – “Du verarschst mich grad, oder?!” Apparently he was not verarsching. Do I want to wait inside the venue. Avoid sitting on concrete all day, avoid the tedious drama of establishing order and relationships with tense fans who are all ready to steal my place on the barrier. I had dreamed of such a scenario, but it usually involved breaking into venues through ventilation systems and hiding in bathrooms. Nope. I was given a cushy corner booth, introduced to the rest of the crew, and brought water.

I spent the day watching the stage setup, just hanging in my corner, in comfort, with food and water and restrooms. Amazing.

I was loafing and chatting with a new crew friend, when in an understated flurry of movement, Campino and the others entered the room. My heart raced. This laid back guy in a track jacket, so close to me, could not possibly be the man whose magical voice had raised and quieted tempests of emotion in the landscapes of my mind, could not be the unreachable idol I’d watched on DVDs recorded on stages thousands of miles away from my Seattle home. But he was. He radiated charisma like a sun illuminating the dark, quiet venue.

Campino drew closer. He wandered over to my corner, said hi to the crew guy next to me, and shook my hand. “How’s it going?” asked the magical voice. In a room full of Poles, Germans, and Brits, English had become the default language. I stammered, “Ganz gut!” and tried to mask my overwhelming exhilaration. Then – soundcheck.

Hearing Alles wird vorübergehen in such a setting was an incredibly emotional experience. We were just sitting around, the room mostly empty. The band calmly ran through the song, one of my favorites of theirs. So beautiful.

Things then got even crazier. While Campino chatted with the girl chilling next to me, English drummer Vom came over and asked if I was the one who had slept outside overnight. Apparently someone from the crew had told the band. I said yes. He handed me a drumhead signed by all five band members. I was in shock and thanking him profusely and coming up with inadequate statements like “You guys are the greatest!” There’s only so much a fan’s mind can handle. He was so sweet and unassuming. “You gotta tell us these things, that’s crazy!” – as if no one had ever slept on concrete for a world famous band before.

The show.

An orgy of sweat and noise and the unique perfection that comes with finally seeing long-loved songs performed live. Insanity. They were so close. I had never dreamed that I would see them in such a setting – based on their DVDs, I had always assumed, if I ever managed to catch a show, it would be a huge affair with a lofty stage a million miles from the barrier. Not this small, packed club, Campino rampaging into the front row, his sweat mingling with ours.

After the show.

Things proceeded to get even more out of control. You couldn’t make this stuff up. I had been talking to the crew all day. They knew I was studying in Berlin. The crew bus was also driving to Berlin, directly after the show – the Breslau concert had been the final stop of the tour.

They offered to take me with. Not only was this a totally unique experience for me to actually ride on a tourbus, it saved me another night wandering around without proper lodging and an entire day of cooling my heels in Breslau before my own bus would have come, Monday evening. Unbelievable.

So I was beyond grateful, and waited in the venue while the breakdown went on. I retreated into the bathroom, changed shirts, dried my hair under the blowdryers, and fixed my makeup. A fortuitous choice – the band was still wandering around, and while a British crew member found me a tour laminate backstage, I summoned my courage to thank Andi and tell him how amazingly fantastic the show was. Campino came out, and walked straight up to our little chat. He’d seen me lurking all day trying to contain my immense happiness. At no point could I have approached him myself – the awe was too strong. But somehow. He came over and started asking questions. We actually talked, like more than the “amazing show!” “Thank you!” typical band-fan talk, we talked about where I came from, what I study and then how much I love the band. We shook hands. I was trying to keep a composed veneer, at the expense of all my brain circuits. Then he decided to make my entire life, set both hands on my shoulders, and gave me the European kiss on both cheeks. My mind was an incoherent symphony of hero worship. I managed to thank him again and wave him and Andi goodbye, and then they went off.

At this point I feel like interjecting a disclaimer, because I’m aware that the whole narrative sounds more like fiction than reality. All I can say is – well, it happened. I don’t even know. The course of events in this day was like something out of Almost Famous – I could literally hear Kate Hudson going “it’s all happeningggg!!!” at various points throughout the experience.

Stefan the Busfahrer and I.

The crew finished packing and left the venue at 2 AM. I rode with the guys (and one girl), sat around and told jokes, and grabbed a few hours’ sleep in a bunk. Crew buses are amazingly compact – the bus fit twelve stacked bunks plus lounge, bathroom, and kitchen area. They were such amazingly nice people and I’m still so grateful and baffled that they decided to take me along. I don’t get it. I swear that no sexual favors were handed out, haha. I just never thought things like this happened to normal fans, only to actual “groupies.” Madness. I’ll never forget this concert experience.

Tourbus at Berlin Hauptbahnhof – nearing dawn Monday morning.

Signed drumhead and tour laminate

So many beautiful memories.

Die Toten Hosen für immer!!


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