Man oh man oh Mannheim, I never thought I’d find myself playing music in a McDonald’s in Mannheim, recording “Crazy Love,” with a German violin player with the Italian name of Tonio. But that is exactly what happened last night just before midnight, and just before we got kicked out….
Thing is, Mannheim is a crap place for open mics and jam sessions. I stayed here a couple of years ago while attending the German Grand Prix in Hockenheim, and I did managed to find one odd bar to play in and then a down moment in a karaoke to do my guitar and singing number. But arriving here yesterday, I felt quite demoralized, and after a nice dinner of schnitzel or some other pork-based delight, I walked out of the restaurant to find a young man looking at the menu and with a violin on his back.
My “opportunity” lights flashed brightly and I asked – with my guitar on my back – if he knew of anywhere to play in an open mic or jam. Tonio – as I would find was his name – spoke perfect English, and he said, “Heidelberg.” Yes, Heidelberg is next door to Mannheim, but there were no hotels available when I looked. So then he said he would ask some friends in a pub across the street, and each one he asked answered: Heidelberg.
Mannheim ain’t manly in the way of live music. So anyway, Tonio also told me that did like me, when he traveled, he looked for people to play music with. He had just returned from Amsterdam, where he had joined some buskers playing in the street.
Feeling somewhat defeated, I thanked him and left. But as I made my way toward the bar where I had played last year, I suddenly realized I had let slip the most important chance of my whole four-day trip to Mannheim. My project this year on the never-ending worldwide open mic and jam musical adventure is not simply to find and play in an open mic or open jam. It is to play with a local musician in every country I visit, and to record the playing. So far I have succeeded in every one of the 10 or so countries I have visited since March.
I suddenly realized that there was an interested and willing, classically trained violin player who liked pop and jazz as well as classical music, and that I had actually walked away let down. Without even asking him to play. So I ran back to my hotel, picked up my recording device – which I had forgotten there – and returned to the pub across the street from the restaurant where I had eaten. There I found Tonio again, about to eat his meal, with his sister and friends.
I arrived and told him my goal for the trip, and he said he would love to play some songs with me. So he ate, I socialized with him and his friends, had a beer, soaked up the atmosphere in this fabulous, popular, student pub, and then said: “So where should we play?”
We decided to head for the main public square, but by now it was so late it was likely to be considered a public disruption if we played there. Tonio suggested we try the McDonald’s restaurant just off the square. We arrived a bout 20 minutes before closing time, we were the only people in the McDonald’s – Tonio and two of his friends – and we ordered coffees and sat at a table. I turned on my recording device and we played “Crazy Love,” me on guitar and vocals, Tonio on violin and doing great mouth drumming sounds and then ad lib lyrics. Got through all but the final verse, and were then kicked out by the manager.
But I GOT my recording of me playing with a local!!!!! Couldn’t believe it! And in a McDonald’s of all places…. Thanks Tonio.