Friday, April 17, 2009



I like to think my birthday is special. Herein lies my dilemma, I've been called to Berlin by Mando Diao, on the week of my birthday. A week where I would rather do anything other than take an 11 hour plane flight. I hate flying, I hate flying more than Mr.T from the A team. I carry a case full of mostly legal drugs in and around my travel gear at all times, just so I can have back up when facing down an angry and bitter 11 hour flight. But When Mando Diao calls, I, much like Batman when he sees the bat projected into the sky, must take my camera and fly to Europe, birthday be damned. On this particular jaunt, I am going mostly to film for the ongoing docmentary/art film that I am directing along with my co-director and friend, Vern Moen. On this particular trip, I would be on my own. Vern was trapped in reality TV land trying to get the perfect shot of a shirtless fireman, and getting paid well for it I might add, so I packed up my film and moving camera, and my trustworthy assistant Karl Drehsen, and we headed to Deutchland.

Mando Diao playing to a sold out crowd in Cologne Germany in front of my massive photograph of Baltic cranes.


I get sick just about every time I fly more than 6 hours so I generally arrive a day or two before my jobs. My assistant Karl is German, he has not visited the motherland in years so we flew into Frankfurt and took a train to Cologne a day before the band would arrive. The good people of Universal Germany arranged a swanky hotel, and we checked in and began the hunt for food. I love to hunt for food on the internet. I have the hunter gatherer instinct, and locating a good restaurant is what I live for. I decided, after some considerable hunting, on a place called Green Card, the key here is searching words like vibey and arty restaurant. I'm always looking for a place like Moto or Marlo and Sons in Brooklyn, so the place Green Card fit the bill. We arrived after considerable work and damn if the place was not closed. They apparently keep whatever the hell hours they want to keep, and are entirely bohemian. The owner was there and though it was not going to open this night, he chatted us up with perfect english, gave us free glasses of champaigne, and booked us at another restaurant where he explained, if we were willing, the waiter would take us where we needed to go, in culinary terms. We were sad to leave his restaurant as the vibe is spot on, fantastic. The place I wish to be eating my food. The restaurant we hit was great, we ate well and for the life of me I cannot remember its name. We headed back to our hotel, passed out, and promptly woke up at 3 am, took Ambien, and passed out til at least 9am. We put ourselves together, grabbed all my camera gear, and went to the venue to meet Mando Diao.

Neue Maastrichter Str. 2
50672 Köln, Germany
0221 5893725


Diane, let me tell you in advance that Cologne and Berlin went without a hitch. We met up with the band and their tour buses at around noon. We said our hello's, and I proceeded to start filming while Karl kept everything in order. The guys were all exhausted after weeks of touring. Bjorn had a cold which I am sure he passed on to me. I was on double duty, photographing and running an HVX digital movie camera. I was still exhausted from the flight, and the jet lag, but I just spent the whole next two days on auto pilot getting it done, shooting at the frantic pace of 12 hours a day. I don't think many people realize how hard bigger bands work. The concert is the least of it, that is what they sign up for. The reality is that before and after each concert there is any number of interviews, photo ops, appearances, meetings, and exhausting impossibilities. Being that I have been commissioned with the task of directing their film, and photographic documentation, I am included in every bit of this chaos, except I have two large cameras hanging from me at all times. Two days of this and my back is destroyed, but auto pilot is a beautiful thing. I have codeine pills from Costa Rica, if the pain gets bad I take them, and I forget, and I shoot. This is the grind, but the manual labor is almost nothing compared to the pressure of making non stop compelling images. My brain works until it too is on auto pilot, and I cannot understand Germans, but I think I like them more than not.

An innovative perch above the back of the stage in Cologne shot by my assistant Karl Drehsen.

Mando Diao dance off.

At night after the shows and interviews, the band has to unwind somewhere. This almost makes no sense to me as my only instinct is to go to sleep, but they need some kind of personal time and this would be it. They drink some beers, and Christian, their road assistant and DJ, spins some tunes. We end up at some really cool places and tonight it was stark and vibey little concrete bar that seems to have been in this dark alley since WWII. Everyone dances, including me, and especially Karl who even stays behind when me and drummer Samuel head back to the bus at 3:30am. They have this crazy Scottish band opening for them and at the bar, where 30 people or so dance and have a great time, he grabs a bottle and attempts to attack someone, presumably because he is drunk and Scottish. He asks if we have his back, indeed we do, to the extent that we grab him and drag him outside. Karl partied until until the bitter end and even watched the Michael Jackson tour video circa 1984 on the bus until 8am. He quicly began riding the line between useful and useless. At the end of the day, I just need someone to carry my gear and check into the hotel so he may as well be my guardian angel to that end.


Berlin is just so Berlin. Do you know what I mean? Karl noted at one point, that as you walk around the massive buildings, and epic streets, you get the feeling that the people who built these things could take over the world. It is stupefying in its grandeur almost like no where else I have been in Europe. I know that Mando Diao feel especially proud to be selling out Columbia hall in this fine city.

Now so many things have happened so quickly, that I will try to recap the best I can.

-We arrived in Berlin after driving all night and half sleeping in the bunks of the bus where as I have already noted, everyone watched Michael Jackson until 8am.

-Next, everyone scatters to find food and personal space, the road crew begins it daily task of unloading cargo trucks full of metal cases containing other cases full of precious audio gear and instruments.

-The band does a dozen interviews and signs everything from a guitar to a boob.

-The back stage begins to fill up with record company types, the drunk Scottish band, caterers and strange stragglers who do not belong there at all but sort of get lost in the fray.

-Mando Diao performs one hell of a concert that I film like a son-of-a-bitch. I am looking for clips, 3 seconds of time to fit in with the narrative, moments that capture the intensity of what they experience from a perspective no one has seen. I am on codeine now and exhausted. I still have jet lag but there is an energy that makes it all fun. No one loves to perform like this band and it is totally evident and I am in my element in as much as there is an element for me outside of a place like Costa Rica.

-After the concert the very supportive people of Universal Germany have arranged these vintage plastic DDR cars to take the band to a club where they will be mostly surprised by a informal and friendly gold record presentation.

-Karl can't get into the gold record ceremony as it is at some swanky pretentious club where they didn't even want to let me in which made for delightful film footage as they tried to put their hand over the camera lens only making my film more exciting. Karl was cool with it though as he had just met his internet girlfriend of 6 months, a Lithuanian girl who was pleasant to be around. She flew out for our two days off. That is another story.

-I am now reeling from 3 days of codeine and Ambien and jet lag. It must be 3am, I stumble back to my bed at my hotel and pass out. I do not leave my bed until 2pm. I do not leave my room until dinner time. I want to go home. I leave for Costa Rica in 4 days. I need to be on auto pilot if I am going to get home ok. I think I have Bjorns cold.

Over and out.


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