Edinburgh's a beautiful city.
I must confess, when it comes to Scotland, my ignorant American side really starts to shine. I know a fair bit about the world through books, school, and personal experiences, but Scotland was rarely a topic of discussion. As I realized when making my debut there late last year, though, the city has strong resemblance to Old Europe that I have been looking for—and have rarely found—over my numerous trips abroad.
I started my way to Edinburgh through Berlin. "Sir, would you like something to eat?" I look to the aisle and the flight attendant is smiling, but I'm completely out of it. Remember the scene in The Matrix where Neo awakens for the first time and wonders, "What the hell just happened?" That was me. "Yeah, why not?" I eventually say. She handed me what resembled a sandwich but it was really two pieces of cardboard held together by mystery paste. I wasn't even hungry, but I felt bad so I took a bite anyway. Bad idea.
After a quick transfer through the hell-hole known as London Heathrow, I land in Edinburgh. Upon pulling in to the area where the club and hotel are located, I quickly realize what people mean when they say Edinburgh was beautiful. It has a lot of character and the people there are really up for a good time. The promoters are generous and attentive, and although the crowd is slightly smaller than anticipated, they're ready to crank it up to 11.
I waste no time and start building it up. Within an hour, I pull out a lot of the big room rave stuff like Speedy J and my own edit of Chris Liebing & Green Velvet. The room is now fairly full and going mad, but within a couple records I can tell I've exhausted them, so I start to bring it down. I play a small section of up-tempo house music which reignites their energy. The guys are chanting and the girls are grinding on each other. My work is clearly done. I end the night with some neo-Detroit styled tracks from the likes of Redshape, Ignacio, and Carl Craig. After seeing a beautiful city and playing for an energetic crowd, I'm very happy I came.
The way home wasn't as much fun. Going through security again to get my connection at Heathrow on my way back to Berlin, my carry-on bag is tagged for an additional check. This happens quite a bit since I carry enough electronics to run a small army. If you ever have thoughts that humanity is improving, they'll quickly be diminished by three things: Reading about Darfur, dealing with your Internet provider, or going through airport security.
Next to Hollywood, the Transportation Security Administration may be the most redundant industry in the world. Yesterday, on my way Scotland, I came across a security agent who was positioned in a desolate part of the terminal. I figured I may have to show her my itinerary. Why else would she be there? Instead, she just waved me on. She was essentially getting paid to sit on her ass and play Angry Birds.
When the Heathrow security agent finally begins checking my bag. He pulls out my flashlight and asks me to turn it on. I oblige and flick it on/off for him. "Again," he says. I do as he asks. "Again," he repeats. "It doesn't matter how many times I turn it on, it's only going to light up," I tell him. He moves on to my slippers. Yes, my slippers. "Those would be the slippers I stole from the hotel," I tell him. He uses his little bomb-detecting wand on them. I felt bad for the wand: Judging by my feet, I figured there was a good chance the detector would self-destruct, and I'd be spending the night in jail.
He moves onto my deodorant. "What is this?" he says with a puzzled look. "Well, the label does say deodorant," I tell him. Maybe he’s French. He starts arguing with me that it's a liquid. I tell him if that were the case, then the mashed potatoes I had for lunch should have come with a straw, seeing as how it's the same consistency. We keep arguing a bit and he expects me to back down. What he doesn't realize is that I have three hours to kill, an interest in basic freedom, and a strong backbone that doesn't let me take shit from anybody, especially if it stems from complete stupidity. Governments want you to live in fear, but how the hell are you supposed to live in fear if their enforcers can't read the label on a deodorant stick?
The crazy scene at the Dublin airport.
Dublin has been hit with a small snowstorm. Stepping into slush outside of the hotel, I was slightly worried that my flight would be delayed, but I had an 8-hour window between landing in Berlin and taking over at Berghain for the opening of Drumcode's night there, so I didn't figure it would be much of an issue. By the time I arrived at the airport, the sun was shining and things were warming up.
At check-in, those bastards at Aer Lingus made me check my bag again. It was a direct flight to Berlin, weather was looking better, and I was in a good mood. So, for once, I said OK. After I finished up, the guy told me there was a two hour delay. I immediately had a bad feeling, but I figured it would be OK. Alan Fitzpatrick was on his way to the airport to join me, and I figured the two hour delay would be a great opportunity to catch up. After meeting up and having a quick, nasty meal that I'm told was breakfast (a definite misnomer), we figured we better check on our flight.
At some point during our 20 minute foray into the world of gut rot, our flight was canceled, which is the only flight to Berlin all day. And "oh yeah, if you want to do something about it, you can get in line with everyone else." Alan and I are in complete disbelief. After fully realizing how screwed we truly were, we knew all we could do is get in line, a line that ended up being ~90 minutes long.
After a long trek up to the desk, we're given three options:
1. Catch the flight out tomorrow morning
2. Take a flight to Amsterdam, and maybe hop a train or a late flight.
3. Take a flight to London, and pray we can get on the last flight for the night.
While Berghain does stay open late into Sunday, we really wanted to be there for the whole night, and changing around the lineup significantly was not something anybody was up for. We opted for option 2 or 3 instead. At this point, we set up a little mobile command center at a table with a couple laptops to search for tickets, and the iPhones were running at full blast calling agents and the club trying to find any possible way to get to Berlin. To be honest, I'd put this effort in for just about any gig, but a quiet night in Dublin just wasn't acceptable. This was a booking at Berghain during the Drumcode night, which behind the club's anniversary night, is one of the biggest nights of the year. For many of the DJs playing, it was also THE gig of the year. Missing it was not an option.
Making things worse, I realized my power charger for my laptop was in my gig bag that had been checked. I had just made one of the stupidest newbie traveler moves. ALWAYS bring your laptop power supply with you. If you get stranded or lose your bag, you can at least get on the Internet to make different travel plans. With nerves fried and grumpiness setting in, we make a plan to get to London and hopefully buy a ticket for one of two flights leaving that evening for Berlin. This plan isn't foolproof. The plane may never take off to London because the sun is going down and everything is turning to ice. If we do make it to London, the tight connection means we may or may not be able to get on a flight out of town. Fuuuuuuuuuck. We go for it anyway.
The flight, predictably, is delayed. Finally, we get a chance to board and it looks like we'll make it to London at the very least. Unfortunately, the captain comes on and tells us we'll need to de-ice, which sets us back another 30 minutes. The de-icing is finally complete and I'm ready for takeoff... "Folks, uh…yeah we have de-iced and have been cleared for take off, but uh, well, we're tenth in line, so expect another 30 minute delay. Sit tight." Sit tight?
An hour later, we've landed in London. Alan and I devise a plan. He has no baggage checked, so he is going to run ahead and buy the tickets since we literally have 10 minutes before they can no longer be purchased. Meanwhile, I wait for my bag which…never shows up. I call Alan from baggage and tell him my bag never made it. "Fuck the bag mate, I got the tickets, let's go. It's our only chance." I run out to meet up with Alan. We now have 35 minutes to get through security and get on the plane to Berlin. Somewhere in this window, we call Berghain and tell them I have about 20 records to last three hours unless they can find a Sony Vaio charger at 8 PM on a Saturday night in Berlin.
We arrive in cold, wet, and dark Berlin where our driver picks us up. Its 11:15 PM, and I'm set to play at midnight. I immediately tell the driver we need to race over to my flat so I can grab the small stack of records left at home. He replies, "Oh OK. So you don't need the charger?"
"Well, yeah I could definitely use the charger but I just don't see it happening," I tell him.
"Yes. But I have it."
"Wait, you found a charger? For my laptop? Seriously?"
"When the club says to me, 'go find this laptop charger,' I do it.'"
I was floored, and haven't been so happy in quite some time. In the end, the charger wasn't perfect, but it worked well enough to get me through my three hour set. Somehow, we managed to get to Berghain and I started at midnight on the dot. Starting out, I was pretty stressed. It was my duty to warm the room up and since I had no ability to sort through tracks, I started playing off the cuff. This is the gig you'd most want to be prepared for... and I was the most unprepared I've ever been.
Despite a rocky start, I started to feel comfortable because I knew the room. I have spent many nights in Berghain as a patron so navigating seamlessly through surefire tracks came naturally. Even though I started off early, by 2 AM the room was completely packed and going insane. These were not the "Ibiza sunglasses, scarves, and v-necks" Berliners that people often like to make fun of. This was the "Climb the highest mountain and punch the face of God" crowd. And just when it got amazing, it was time to get off the decks. Normally, I would be upset. But with the next 20 some hours that was about to unfold, I knew it would only get better.
It did. Berghain remained mostly packed until midnight on Sunday evening when they deliberately shut it down. The party wasn't over though, as Panorama stayed open till sometime on Monday morning after the sun came up. I missed out on a bromantic dinner and an early night in Ireland with Alan Fitzpatrick, sure. But a 24+ hour party at Berghain, I have to admit, was far better.
For my first trip to Switzerland, I'm set to do a CLR label night with Chris Liebing and Brian Sanhaji. Not a bad way to spend a Friday night! With the first snowstorms of the winter shutting down various parts of Europe, anxiety about flight cancellations is a bit higher than normal. Fortunately, the travel to Geneva and Lausanne goes off smoothly.
Last night, I received a call from CLR about this weekend's itinerary and they mentioned the hotel for Switzerland was going to be amazing. They were right. The only problem is that I look like a lowly rat in my street clothes. I don't fit in with the high-end winter fashion marching through the lobby, so I decide to split and do the tourist thing.
By now, the weather has turned from so-so to real shitty, so wandering around town and checking out the sights isn't really an option anymore. I'm also coming down with a cold—which is even more reason to stay out of the weather. I opt for some quick shopping and a meal before heading back to meet Chris and Brian.
Grabbing lunch proved to be a little harder than I anticipated. Eight years ago, I was fairly fluent in French, thanks to schooling and using it on a few EU trips. It was also eight years ago that I last attempted to speak the language. I've taken up Spanish in the interim. So what would have come out when I was asked to order was going to be some sort of really bad Eurotrash language. I gave up instead. Trust me…pointing and grunting like a caveman at the menu is less embarrassing. This being Lausanne, the meal comes out to be approximately three times more than what I would pay for the same meal in the States. I guess this means I need to make bigger breakdowns with more white noise if I want to eat sandwiches in Switzerland.
Since I'm playing a bit earlier tonight, I build more of a warm-up set over the two hours I get to play. It's also a CLR night, so it's going to packed to the brim with the heaviest techno out at the moment, which is why I don't mind taking the early portion of the night to ease into it. By the end of my set, I'm playing heavier sounds from the likes of Marcel Fengler, Planetary Assault Systems and other acts of a similar ilk. I then retire from the decks and give it over to Brian Sanhaji who promptly beats the crowd into oblivion.
At this point, I get a chance to go out onto the floor and get a feel for the vibe. D-Club is a great venue, but the Swiss laws force them to keep the volume levels quite low. If the club could just crank the bass up to 11, this place would be complete anarchy. Before long, it's time for Liebing to hit the decks. In the States, we have a saying that some war vets have the "thousand yard stare" which basically means that a soldier has been in a war and "seen some shit." Liebing, on the other hand, has what I refer to as the "Thousand Yard Smile." Not only has Liebing seen his share of antics over his lengthy career, you can see his smile a thousand yards away. Some bigger DJs stand up there and appear bored the whole time. With Liebing, you know he's completely happy and very grateful to be doing what he is doing. Some other lifeless DJs could stand to take note.
The good news about tonight? With each shot of Jaeger, I start to remember a little more French. The bad news? The bottle's gone warm and I'm still sick, so I need to chill out. None of the team wants a pull from a warm bottle of jag so I start handing shots out to the crowd. They soon realize it's warm and they're not happy. Hey, I'm not a miracle worker.
I try to get into Chris' set but some guy dressed like Nathan Lane from The Birdcage keeps trying to talk to me about…I'm not even sure, and I don't think he is either. Once Chris finishes up, we all take some time outside to joke around and chat with some people before heading in for the night. After some beauty sleep, it's off to the airport on an amazing Saturday afternoon. Clear skies offer for some amazing views of the mountains on the way back to the airport. It's the kind of weather and scenery where you just want to grab your girlfriend, throw her in the car and go on road trip for the day. Brian Sanhaji is a great guy, but he's not exactly what I had in mind...
After arriving at the airport in Switzerland, I can't be any happier with my first trip to the country. Like I say about so many other places, I need to get there earlier and spend some more time taking everything in. Hopefully, some day I will. I didn't clear the dance floor, so hey, maybe I have a chance of getting invited back!