It's Sunday night in Berlin, the round-the-clock party city that barely sleeps. I can vouch for this because I've only caught a few hours' kip during my first weekend on holiday with Kiwi friends who've relocated to the German capital. The evening before we sampled the clubs, including local institution Berghain, housed in a huge building that used to be a power plant. It's practically a tourist attraction in its own right with its two huge sound systems and dancefloors, different bars in almost every room, and people openly indulging in sexual acts.
Tonight we're going to something a little more familiar - a rock gig by the Datsuns at the Lido. Yes, I've come halfway around the world to find myself at a gig by a band I saw for $5 about 10 years ago at a university orientation concert. At the venue we ask a girl wearing a Huffer New Zealand T-shirt where she's from. It turns out she's German but lived in Wellington for a while. This born-and-bred Berliner is moving back to New Zealand in December and can't wait. "I hate Germans," says the German. "They're so German." Exactly.
The next random bloke to join our motley crew is Todd from Drury, a Londoner for four years, in town for the weekend. Then comes Ollie, a 19-year-old from Silverstream. He's so excited and starstruck that he's bought a T-shirt, a CD and wants to party with the band afterwards. I turn out to be the joke of the night as word quickly spreads that I grew up in Bulls, news of which is followed with much pointing and derision at my expense.
Yeah, you guys think you're so funny.
When I push my way to the front, some guy grabs the greenstone around my neck nearly giving me whiplash, and proudly holds up his own. I also spy a few NZ Music Month tees around the place, but, like rock gigs anywhere, most people are decked out in black. For the first time since I've been in this strange land I recognise my surroundings. I could just as easily be at Galatos or Studio in Auckland, albeit before they banned smoking inside. I'd almost forgotten what it's like to go home with clothes and hair reeking of cigarettes.
Beer, beer, all kinds of beer. Germans sure love their beer. You can buy litre bottles of it just about anywhere. And you can drink it wherever and whenever you please. I saw a reasonably respectable looking gent enjoying a bottle over his morning pastry at 10am. You get money back for recycling your bottles at the supermarket, so people leave their empties on the top of rubbish bins for those who need the euros. After five days here I can say fewer than 10 words in German, but four of them are "Ein bier, bitte. Danke" (One beer, please. Thank you.) If I need more than one I have to hold up fingers. Luckily, I haven't needed more than 10 yet.
Anyway, the gig. Support act Johnossi are a catchy duo from Stockholm and their punchy set is melodic and energetic. Then the Datsuns are on stage. Dolf greets the 500-plus crowd with "danke schoen" (thank you very much). It takes the crowd a few tracks to warm up but by the end of the gig they are howling for more. Old favourites Harmonic Generator and Freeze Sucker get the best response, but the crowd love the new songs from Smoke & Mirrors.
Lizzy from Austria is going crazy up the front in among some big fellas with mohawks and studs. There are punks everywhere in Berlin. And dogs. And bikes.
But I digress. Lizzy's wearing a Grande Cobra T-shirt and tells me she toured with the Wellington band through Europe as their merchandising manager. "I love New Zealanders," she says. "Every one I've met has been so gorgeous to me!" Aw, shucks. When we're leaving she gives me a big hug and a kiss on each cheek. I want to take her back to Auckland.
I haven't seen the Datsuns in a couple of years and they put on a fantastic show, totally rocking Berlin, ja. From here the next stops on their European tour include Zurich, Vienna, Paris, Brussels and Britain. The Cambridge lads have come a long way in this part of the world.
A poster advertises fellow Kiwis the Veils playing soon. This was so much fun maybe I'll do it all again next weekend.