‘And now I’d like to start this evening with some poetry’‘¦if there was any phrase that could strike fear into the hearts of the young, stupid and drunk, it was that, the second one being’¦‘Here’s a piece I wrote about my girlfriend’s abortion’¦’ What a blissful way to start the first night of your holiday, listening to the depraved, bitter, heart-wrenching travails of a man wronged by the world: it really sets you up for a night of frolics on the beer.
As we stared headlong into the cavernous abyss that is Billy Childish’s part-metal mouth we quickly realised there was no escape. Turning to consider the exit it became clear that this was not an option, considering we were:
A) Stood right under Childish’s moustache;
B) We had already been sussed as the only English speakers there;
C) We were in some random Berliner’s apartment.
This night could not get any worse. Toiling around the darkened backstreets of central Berlin at some ungodly hour was not an ideal situation for two drunken Dublin girls but we were nothing if not determined. Three years previously, we had witnessed an incendiary performance of Billy Childish’s trademark ramshackle garage-rock, belting through The Kinks’ ‘Misty Water’ at such breakneck speed, it was eye-watering, so when we stumbled upon an ad for a gig it looked like the ideal inaugural night out.
Having thoroughly exasperated our taxi driver with our Leaving Cert. German and vague address , he eventually left us stranded in the middle of an empty street clutching our crumpled poster of Our Billy, stupidly pointing at the scrawled street name at the bottom. I began to ruminate ruefully over the fact that if I had concentrated on listening to German rather than trying to learn how to speak it in school we might have had more success and that German streets are long’¦very long, even longer if you are wearing ridiculously uncomfortable cowboy boots that you thought could make you look a bit like Sienna Miller but sadly make you look like a lady-version of Noel Fielding.
After at least an hour of flared tempers and hostile glances, we started coming to terms with the fact that the venue was as made-up as the act’s moniker. Just then, we noticed a ripped A4 page with ‘BILLY CHILDISH’ and an arrow pointing upwards scribbled on it.
‘Upwards’ was not a pub or a club but a towering flat-block beside a fly-over and as we groped our way up the pitch black empty stairwell, I began conjuring up headlines about missing, idiotic Dublin girls, last seen arguing about shoes, and wished I liked bands who weren’t as artistically conceited and played in actual venues.
Still, even these warning signs could not stop us: we were going to have our bloody brilliant Berlin gig and we were going to go home with boring, self-satisfied, you-should-have-been-there stories, even if it killed us. Fuelled by this ridiculous smugness and pints of Staropramen, we thought nothing of the shadowy door marked -Gig’ or the grey-faced weirdo standing outside it. A note for potential attackers: this is the fool-proof indie Hansel and Gretel method to be used liberally on gullible music-loving girls’¦
Swinging the door open, we came face to face with… nothing. Absolutely nothing, save brown and orange carpeted walls, a makeshift ‘bar’ (plywood balancing on chairs with a few bottles of Red Stripe keeping it upright), a couple of spliffed-up locals eye-balling our every move and some sweaty bloke, who looked like a German Johnny Vegas, playing psycho-billy vinyl at an ear splitting volume. When we saw Childish stride up the mound of carpet next to the speakers, I remember thinking, ‘fuck it: it’ll be all worth it in the end’¦’
Two poems about ‘that-Tracy Emin’ later we couldn’t keep it in, like two uncomfortable kids in Mass, we began to laugh, the secret-fart laugh that starts as an under-your-breath giggle and erupts into the full-on cheek-biting shoulder shakes that prompted Childish to snap, ‘ I think artists deserve respect when they are trying to entertain you, I need silence’¦’ Said outburst, thankfully, gave us the impetuous to escape: running down the stairwell, freeing our laughter into the early morning cold, we jumped into our getaway taxi just as we heard a guitar burst into life’¦