The Red Door, Budapest – Photo by Patrick Cassidy
Jan 20th, 2024 Train, Vienna to Budapest
Official Bootleg from Budapest available now to all subscribers on Patreon
Power lines stretch across winter green and yellow fields and shrub lands just moments outside Vienna HauptBahnhof.
I caught songs here before. Graffiti in the tunnels. Flowers between the tracks. Vitality in the shadows. Fractured history and fragile future side by side. So many ways to live. Flying by my train seat field of vision. That kind of thing. I was here before. Differently. Hysterical with tiredness. Wild friendship. Open borders. Cheap drinks. An Increasing ability to sleep anywhere. We belonged to no one. No one belonged to us. Nearly swallowed by the Danube. I cut my toe.
Cobblestones. Neon poets. Translators. Recent history. Generational trauma. Destroyed in a ruin bar. Provocative sculptures. Video art. Punks and hippies. Hungarians and wide eyed tourists. A place to spend the forints we made at Tree Hugger Dans. The English language bookshop. Later still a late bar that turned into strip club. The sun came up. Time to go home. Hoping someone knows the way. Art in the center of town. Fresh paint on old bricks. An “I fucking dare you” smirk blazed across the dawn light. Bring it.
Munich was great. Thanks Paul Solecki. The gig was in the office above Killian’s Irish Bar in the heart of Munich. As such it all the pluses of a house concert, and a city center location. Massive thanks to Paul Daly for giving us the use of this space. Munich has been so very good to me over the years and once again, there’s something lovely about being so far from home and seeing familiar faces.
Oh, Vienna. I walked my guitar and bag of records four and half kilometers from my hotel to the gig. It helped me have a sense of being in Vienna. Some walking city. Thanks to Dom at all at the Laden for giving us the use of the space. I think I first played here in 2008. Yikes. Stuart Neville did a sublime opening set and we did ‘Your Song on the Radio’ and his song, ‘A-Ok’ completely together at the end. Check out Stuart’s beautiful album, ‘Seatbelts Save Lives’ . Thanks Neil McCarthy for promoting from the otherside of the planet. My old friend Johnny Lawlor came in from Bratislava. It’s been probably a decade since we caught up.We have been friends since our teenage years of Saturday afternoons in Bishop Lucy Park.
I stayed in a very cheap and perfectly fine hotel right by the train station. Tour tip. Every time you see muesli yogurt and fruit, eat it.
Now. News in my headphones on the train.
Jesus almighty. A heart of stone would break for the children. By mistake I saw a video of a grandmother holding hands with a five year old waving a white flag a shot rings out. She falls to the ground. The child runs off across the rubble and follows the crowd away to God knows where. Heaven help them. Shame. Shame. Shame.
What of this child? What of this gunman? It is beyond ludicrous that this war will bring peace to anyone. Ugh. And yet to suggest that maybe we shouldn’t be giving an unconditional 14 billion bombthemtohellbucks is “without foundation.” Shame. Shame. Shame.
I have been singing ‘The Boys Are in the Kitchen Sink’ and ‘A Child is a Child’ and ‘America’ from 2010’s ‘Brother, the Fight is Fixed’ album again.
Remembering vividly the small studio and EW Harris’s ingenuity in making something out of nothing. This album features a bicycle wheel, a speak and spell and some passing trains. Up till meeting EW i wasn’t sure how I could ever manage to make an album in NYC. Now I don’t think I could ever stop.
Sunday January 21st, 2024 – On the runway Budapest Airport
“We have a small problem. We are going to try to troubleshoot it on the ground.”
Well, I definitely prefer my airplane problems to happen whilst on the ground.
Yesterday the sun shone in Budapest. I walked 18,000 steps across the Danube and back again, cobblestones streets, the parliament building, the basilica, history seeping from the stone. A tiny mouse sculpture is watched by a painting of a black cat. The president’s gaff. A statue of Ronald Regan. A whisper of Soviet occupation. Get behind me, history. Do not repeat thyself.
Tim is an old friend from my days hosting open mic and booking at the PAth CAfe. A Budapest resident for the last decade and change, he is my fearless host, the master of ceremonies. He carries the history of the 20th Century in his family tree and generously pours stories as we walk briskly in the January sun. Shackled by the weather all week. I was so thirsty for walking.
Vienna based Irish photographer Patrick Cassidy calls to ask if he can do some portraits. I stand awkward as ever in the fading sun in District 7. Afterwards we three have excellent Thai Food together.
The Budapest gig is in Tim’s gallery the Red Door. I had been in the space, when it was just an empty basement about 6 years ago. Now it is a beautiful gallery/ event space housed in a former bomb shelter. Tim had spoken of his vision for the space the last time and it was great to see this vision realised. 52 people came out to the gig and it was really enjoyable. More like playing a small theater. I expect that the Red Door will become a hugely respected and sought after tour stop for touring musicians.
Dan of Tree Hugger Dan’s is there. Dan ran an English language bookstore behind the Opera House that was the location of my first Hungarian gigs in the mid to late 2000s. Mark Andrews from Woverhampton is there. He tells me of the time he booked Billy Bragg, Natalie Merchant and Michael Stipe in Olomouc soon after the Velvet Revolution. Michael Stipe intrigued by Soviet era Czech animation. He promised to send a recording. I want this Mark. (Update: Mark sent me more on this I’ve added links below). We speak fondly of our friends Matt Sweney in Olomouc and Neil McCarthy in LA. Frank, Zolli and Chris the Canadian remember me from my earliest Hungarian adventures with the Voice and Verse. I play some songs from the Future Tense for them. I chat with Graigrai about music, the Berkshires, growing up in West Africa, and life in Budapest. Someone, probably Tim, tells a story about Prince disappearing for days with Roma musicians after an 1980s Budapest Concert. Budapest continues to draw a diaspora of interesting and interesting people from all over the world. It is nice to be in a city center where people can still manage to be creative and weird.I wonder if this is what NYC was like a few decades before my arrival. It’s certainly being pushed out further and further.
I stay upstairs in Tim and Zsuzsi’s apartment. Slept like a stone. THen Tim dropped me to the airport. Sadly, we arrived mid insane Tim story and I jumped out of the car on cliffhanger. “I’ll have to come back to get the rest of that story” I joked, he held eye contact and invited/ threatened, “you have to come back”.
(Travel tip: Munich, Vienna Budapest are all very well connected by affordable rail and all great cities to visit.)
Bragg, Merchant, Stipe in Olomouc video
Bragg, Merchant, Stipe in Olomouc article