Aachen Soul Weekender March 8 / 9, 2013
So, my weekender started on the Wednesday night when I left work, because I had to go down to Wales to collect Jessica because she was quite ill, and didn’t think she was capable of the four hour train journey to my house on the Thursday on her own. However, she had never been to Germany, or a European Soul Weekender, so was desperate to come, and I thought the excitement of the weekend would see her through. When I arrived, she was in bed, where she’d spent the whole day with a temperature of 101.4 degrees. Hmmm, was she going to make it?
I fed her, with food and medicine, made arrangements for someone to light her fire on the Monday, and packed her case for her. Now when someone says:
“Four bra’s, the black or beige ones.” To me that doesn’t mean two black ones and two beige ones, it means any combination of colours……..So I packed four black ones. Of course I was wrong and should have correctly interpreted it correctly as two of each !
On the Thursday morning she wasn’t much better, so I made her stand in the yard whilst I washed her down with a hosepipe and we caught the 10 am train successfully. As soon as we got on the train Jessica went to sleep, and stayed asleep until we arrived in Wolverhampton, which was quite an achievement as we changed trains in Shrewsbury !
Back at my house, she went to bed, and slept through until the alarm went off at 4.15 am on Friday morning. She took her temperature and it was back to 98.6 degrees, and she felt much better. Result !
We headed out for the airport, met Johnny Weston at the check in, and everything proceeded smoothly until we went through the departures barrier.
John and I both use the same type of record box to fly with, and we were in different queues. I was waved straight through, John was stopped and not only had to open his box, but also had to take every record out of it so the miserable sour faced customs woman could examine the box for a secret compartment that might have contained four illegal emigrants! It’s a box of records! What did she expect to find under the records? Ah well, we had to have a beer to commiserate with John.
So that’s when the weekend really started, at 7 am, with a pint of John Smiths!
The flight was fine and we arrived at Dusseldorf, and as we were waiting to collect the cases the exit door kept opening, and I could hear someone shouting abuse at us. I could have sworn it looked like Eddie Piller as well.
When we had collected our luggage we went through, and it was Eddie Piller! He was DJing that weekend in Dusseldorf with Henry Storch and had arrived at the airport half an hour before us, bumped into Lazy and The Jan, so decided to hang around to say hello. The Strange World Of Northern Soul!
Stefan, known to everyone by his DJ name of ‘Lazy’ introduced himself and performed the introductions to everyone else. The Jan was there, along with Andreas, and his wife Anne (better known as the DJ MS Dienel) Then we headed out to the van for the drive to Aachen.
The drive took an hour, and Jan Drews gently poked fun at Jessica all the way, explaining that in Germany they had autobahns, and bridges, and boats, and Jessica naively, said that they had them in the States as well.
We arrived at the hotel, booked in, and within minutes of getting to our room a guy delivered a goody bag from Lazy to our room. He also delivered a book. Now that in itself is quite a funny story.
Jessica’s next door neighbour in Wales wanted to buy a book connected with his work. It was called something like ‘The Architecture Of Welsh Cottages’, and is out of print and quite expensive now, like £200 expensive!. However, he found a copy of German Ebay, at the equivalent of £25, but the seller would only sell to a German address. So the network of Northern Soul fans came into play, and the book was delivered to Lazy a couple of weeks before we arrived. The thing that really puzzled us though is why, and how, did a copy of the book end up in Germany? Still, that was a plan that came together.
Once we’d settled in to the hotel we were met by Lazy and taken on a tour of the city.
Now the city is one of the oldest in Germany, and twelve hundred years ago was one of the most important, because the king at the time, Charlemagne, thought the Spa waters were beneficial to his health, so he ruled the kingdom from the city. He also built an amazing cathedral! It’s hard to describe how amazing it is, but when you consider it was built in 800 BC, the workmanship and craftsmanship astound you.
Then we went to sit in the sun and have a coffee, and in Jessica’s case, a Spaghetti Ice. She’s a bit of a foody really, and has a rule that if she see’s something on a menu that she’s never tried before, orders it. As you can see from the photo, it really does look like spaghetti, but it’s really ice cream! (And was very nice too!)
Aachen is also famous as a Spa town, and Lazy took us to the point in the city centre where there are two outlets for ‘Stinkendes Wasser’ (I think that’s right!). Which were water pumped up from the ground, rich in sulphur, and as you can guess, it really is stinking water!
A quick beer, to try the local brew; Bitburger, and then it was back to the hotel for a rest for a couple of hours.
Around 6 pm I used my finely tuned navigation skills to find our way round to Lazy’s flat for a meal, and to meet up with all the other DJs. When we got there he wasn’t in, (He was driving back from Cologne station with some of the other DJs), so his girlfriend Daniela was host. She gave us all a beer, and explained what food was available, and left us to chat with the others that were already there. You couldn’t ask for more really. What a great start to the evening.
The Hamburg crew were the next to arrive, so it was great for me to meet up with Ralf, Lars, and Tolbert again after a couple of years. Then Henning from Switzerland arrived, and John Weston performed the introductions there because they knew each other.
The meal was a local speciality, and consisted of a stew with a special type of cabbage in it which is only available locally, and during the winter season. Jessica of course ripped me to pieces because I tend to have a preference for meals with meat in them, and she thinks I avoid healthy meals with vegetables in them! To my joy, I discovered there was a healthy quantity of good German sausage in the stew as well, so I wolfed my portion down with glee.
The beer was flowing nicely as more people arrived. I think Marc Forest was next, then MS Dienel, certainly at some point another old friend, Peter Werhand, had arrived.
As the time neared 9.15 pm, the mini bus arrived to ferry us all to the venue, and the weekender started promptly at 10.00 pm.
As usual, with all my reviews of weekenders, I couldn’t tell you who played what, when, but I do have to say the music was of a standard, and variety that would have only been reached at a few of the current UK weekenders !
Jessica was having a ball though. As I’ve already said, it was her first time in Germany, and she was absolutely fascinated by the difference between here and the UK. In particular how much younger the crowd was than in the UK. Because of this, we played a game of spot the English people, and Jessica said one guy in particular had to be English because he was older than most other people. I said he wasn’t English because of the way he danced.
She was also quite surprised by how many people spoke such good English. To my shame I’ve been DJing in Germany for over fifteen years now, and still speak almost no German (Although I can read a fair bit, and understand some conversations now), Jessica though, had made a valiant attempt to learn some useful phrases from her 1951 edition of the Collins ‘Useful German Phrases’ book. (More about that later though!)
I DJ’ed at 1.15 am, and am pleased to say managed to keep the dancefloor busy, and then we stayed for another hour or so, and then surrendered to the need for sleep. We’d been up for twenty two hours, and had to go back to the hotel.
Breakfast was served up until 11 am, so we made an appearance at about 10.30 am, and Jessica’s spirits were immediately lifted to discover that they served ‘Everything’ Bagels as part of the help yourself buffet breakfast. Now I’m not a big fan of bagels, so I contented myself with the fresh rolls and ham and cheese. Jessica though, loves bagels, and regaled me with stories of having bagels for breakfast in New York (I did tell you she was a foody!).
We did the sensible thing after breakfast and went back to bed for a couple of hours because the alldayer didn’t start until 3 pm.
Around 2 pm we met Johnny Weston in the foyer, and wandered off into the town to do a little exploring and shopping. Jessica bought a huge pile of Aachen Printen, which are a kind of gingerbread biscuit made in all sorts of different varieties, chocolate covered and so on (Do you see a theme developing here…Jessica and food!), I bought some tobacco, and Johnny boy bought a round of beers in the Irish pub! Good to see we took the healthy option.
Onto the alldayer, again at the Jacobshof, with Miss Twist from Utrecht DJing, record sales in the bar area, and a hot buffet provided for the DJs. I got the beers, whilst John started digging through the records, and then Jessica and I wandered through to the food area. It was a very tasty spicy pasta, with salad, or an extremely peppery mushroom soup. I was hungry, so I had both. Having eaten we wandered back into the bar area, only to find John had gone in search of food. He reappeared ten minutes later, with sweat on his brow, and his tongue hanging out. His face was also rather red:
“Have you tried that soup! They were all laughing at me in there, because it was burning my tongue.”
I did wonder why he carried on eating it if he found it that hot, but this is Johnny Weston, so thought better of it.
Jessica meanwhile was practising her German. Now I’ve mentioned her 1951 phrase book, that was full of useful phrases. I particularly like the one in the aeroplane section which asked “Do you mind if I open a window?” However, it was more about trying out her pronunciation than actually saying anything meaningful. Anyway, all her new German friends got collared and had to try and decipher what she was saying. I think Lazy got the most confusing one. He was asked something along the lines of “Can you strip and degrease the engine in the motor car.”. The look on his face was classic!
Jan Drews had had to pay import duty on a record the day before, so Jessica tried him with “I will pay no tax”. Several other people got trapped by her though, and I was helpless on occasions just watching the expression of confusion crossing people’s faces.
Jessica actually spoke to the guy who she had said was English the night before. He was from Belgium! So that was one-nil to me!
Johnny Weston, having been in the venue for two hours by now, suddenly realised it was the same venue as the night before, but looked different because the lights were on! I ask you, what is he like?
Then there was the cake! Daniela apparently had spent the whole day previously baking. What a superb selection, not wishing to be greedy, Jessica and I only tried small portions of three different ones, and each one was delicious in it’s own way.
Back to the hotel around five for a few hours sleep and then back to the venue for the Saturday allnighter. As is typical with all my reviews, I again have no idea who played what, I know I did two spots, both of which went well. I know we drank more Bitburger on the Saturday than we had on the Sunday, and we stayed to the end of the allnighter. I made Jessica practice her German by sending her to the bar everytime we ran out of beer, so at least she now knows at least one useful German phrase! The rest is just a blur, of laughs, conversations, and fun.
We just made it for breakfast on the Sunday morning, and to Jessica’s disappointment there were just ordinary bagels, no ‘Everything’ bagels (It’s something to do with the topping on the bagel I’m informed.) and then despite my protestations that nowhere would be open, we went for a walk round the town again.
Having walked past all the closed shops, we were back at the hotel in time to pack and be ready to leave the hotel at 3 pm back to Dusseldorf airport. Andreas and Anne were with us, as they now live in Sweden, so were catching a flight after ours. We said our goodbyes to Lazy in the car park at the airport, and went to check our baggage.
We then had a last cigarette with Andreas and Anne, and went airside. This time it was my turn to be stopped by the border control and be asked to open my record box. I tried pointing out Johnny Weston, in the hope rthat they would grab him as well and make him empty his record box again, but no such luck. They just made me open the box though, and swabbed it for drugs, but didn’t ask me to take any of the records out, so that was ok. A quick beer and a sandwich, meant we were ready to fly, just as they announced boarding.
On the plane it was a female pilot, so Jessica was treated to all the jokes we used when travelling to Belfast last year….have trouble with the pedals because of her high heels, extra mirror for her makeup, and most upset that other people were wearing the same outfit etc, etc! I have to say though, it was obvious that a man was doing the actual flying and she was just there to make the announcements because we landed right on schedule in Birmingham.
UK Border control. The queues were horrendous, fortunately the queue for the automated chip reading control barrier was the shortest, so that’s where we headed.
Now you may have noticed that this review doesn’t contain any classic Johnny Weston moments.,…well here it comes: There are huge signs over all the kiosks, they say three things basically. 1. You have to have a chipped passport. 2. You have to be over 18 years of age, and 3. Your passport has to have the logo on the front of it to say it’s a chipped passport. So John’s behind me in the queue, and he’s grumbling about people who can’t use the self service passport scanner, and the number of people in the queue with children. Fair point I suppose!
I scan my passport, and the facial recognition software recognises me and lets me through. Jessica was in front of me, and waiting for me, so we wait for John.
And we wait, and we wait. Then we see the Border Control guard gesturing John towards the huge queue for people who can’t get through.
We left him to it and went to collect the bags. We had time to collect both bags and sit down and wait for him. Eventually he turns up. The conversation went:
“Show me your passport.”
“Show me your passport, I want to see if it’s got the logo on it.”
“I just followed you, I didn’t know my passport wasn’t chipped.”
When Jessica and I had stopped laughing we trundled out of the airport for a cigarette and said our goodbyes to John.
It had been a fabulous weekender. Everything was organised for the DJs, down to the last detail, the food was great, the beer was strong, and free! And it’s like a breath of fresh air to DJ to a crowd that have no hangups about Oldies or Newies, or Funk, or R & B. If it’s a good record, they will dance and enjoy it! It was also good to see so many of my German friends again, and people from Sweden, Italy, Switzerland, Holland, France, Belgium, and Luxembourg, and to make new friends, from all over Europe. And if you include Jessica from Wales, and John and myself from England, that means people travelled from ten different countries to be at the weekender.
Lazy and Daniela especially, what a great couple, the amount of work they both put in to make the weekender a success is phenomenal, and the whole weekend is a credit to them both.
I knew what to expect in Germany, and anticipated a good time, but Jessica was blown away by the whole weekend, and is now a sure convert to the European way of doing things. We’ll be back to Aachen again, and probably several other European destinations over the next few years. Hopefully we’ll see our friends again later this year in Manchester, when they come to visit the UK.