tadnirv.jpg
Krist Novoselic
Chad Channing, Gary Thorstensen, Tad Doyle, Kurt Daneilson, Steve Wied & Kurt Cobain humping gear on a 1989 tour.
Twenty years ago this

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Twenty Years After the Wall

tadnirv.jpg
Krist Novoselic
Chad Channing, Gary Thorstensen, Tad Doyle, Kurt Daneilson, Steve Wied & Kurt Cobain humping gear on a 1989 tour.
Twenty years ago this week I was touring West Germany with Nirvana, and the Berlin Wall was crumbling. I was fortunate to see history first-hand, along with our fellow grungers Tad, when we played what was then called West Berlin on November 11, 1989.

I could feel history in the air. We had been touring West Germany and picked up the emotions of our hosts. To them, having Trabants, the little retro-styled East German cars, putting around on their roads was a big deal. I just thought the little cars were cute. Easterners were not allowed to leave the Soviet satellite country--to the point where a wall was erected around West Berlin to keep the Easterners out! But because of widespread unrest on the east side, in 1989 the Communists opened the border, which resulted in a wave of visitors crammed in these little cars.

Emotional Germans were at the borders with arms wide open and eyes welling with tears of joy. It had been 44 years since the catastrophe of WWII. A defeated Germany was divided between the victors, and its people became ground zero in the Cold War between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. Instead of the shame and humiliation associated with WWII, this was a time of hope. And it was in this atmosphere that two Seattle grunge bands entered Berlin.

It's one thing to observe history, it's another to do it with nine people crammed in a little van. The tour was a real grind. We played shows every night for weeks on end. Berlin was not in the western part of the country. You had to go to the eastern border and take a transit road to the western part of the city, which meant we had another border hassle to deal with. Touring rock bands and border guards don't mesh well. Rockers and drugs are synonymous, but we knew that, so we had no drugs! It was easier to get past the East German police than past the British or Belgians.

Touring in a rock band is a lot of work. You go to bed too late, get up too early, and spend your days driving between cities. You've got to load your gear into the club and start that sound check--regardless of any sweeping social changes. And that's what we did. It was a long day of driving, and we had to leave the next morning for another show. Exhausted, instead of partying on top of the Wall waving a sledgehammer, I put my axe--my bass--and myself to bed.

We played another show in the West, then ended up in Hamburg the next night. Hamburg is known for its entertainment district, the Reeperbahn: full of strip clubs, porno stores, and brothels. Now it was packed with little Trabants and their newly liberated owners. Oh yes, the freedoms of the West! The Tad dudes dragged me into a porno shop to show me the most disgusting porno ever. The photos had people smeared with feces having sex. I literally ran out of the shop screaming!

That was it. I didn't have much money, so I spent the last of it on a few bottles of beer and went back to the hostel. In the common room were merchant marines from Africa. They had some brews too. I told them about Washington state, and they spoke of Senegal. The sweeping changes coming over Germany were discussed. Our respective countries never walled us in. We were in agreement that peace, opportunity, and freedom were good things, and to that we clinked our bottles and drank a toast.

 
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