Psycho & Plastic share their top 5 Travel Experiences
They said “As we live in Berlin, where public transport works great most of the time and riding a bike or walking are also very and popular and convenient ways of getting around, we don’t own a car. There are just too many reasons not to. But as a live act with quite a lot of gear to haul around, we frequently have to drive to get to gigs or go on tour”
So far, we have found two solutions for that:
1. Used Car
We came up with the first one back in the autumn of 2011. We had just started working together as Psycho & Plastic after having already toured with our two solo acts. And we had booked ourselves our longest DIY tour yet which took us twice around Germany and into Czech Republic for a bit. After checking all our options for transport, we decided to do a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for a cheap old car and possibly some fuel. In what must have been one of German crowdfunding platform Startnext’s first successful campaigns, we raised the ridiculously low sum of 550€ which we took to Berlin’s used car dealers three days before the tour started. Amazingly, we found an 18 year old, eggshell coloured VW Golf that was just within our budget and could actually hit the road in time – in the first and only car either of us had ever owned.
We quickly nicknamed the car “The Hungry Golf” due to its surprisingly bad gas mileage. The worn out seats gave us back pains and the ride was uncomfortable and loud. But The Hungry Golf proved a trustworthy car that helped us zigzag more than 6000 kilometres across Germany and beyond without breaking down.
However, we had to deal with a few unwelcome interruptions to our travels when we got stopped by the police a total of three times within 48 hours in the first days of November 2011! And every single time happened right on the Autobahn, at normal cruising speed. We quickly deduced that it must have been due to the police being on high alert after the neo-Nazi terrorist group NSU had just been uncovered. All officers quickly lost interest in us after discovering that we were in fact musicians on tour who were most definitely on the left side of the political spectrum.
However, armed police men and women asking if your guitar case is full of guns or if you have taken or are transporting drugs is light years beyond the daily routines of being on the road.
Looking back at it, it was a great adventure though. One that was definitely aided by The Hungry Golf being our trusted carriage and making everything a little bit more special. Like needing to connect an iPod to a dummy cassette so we could listen to music over the hopelessly outdated car stereo’s tape player.
However, every adventure comes to end and after the last gig of the tour we decided to sell the car again. We actually managed to find a buyer who agreed to pay us 450€ for the now even more beaten up Golf. His first order of business after the purchase was to tighten the lug nuts as the wheels were literally about to fall off the car!
2. Rental Cars
We quickly figured out that we could cater for all of our transportation needs on longer journeys by renting cars for a weekend, a few days or weeks. And we’ve become quite adept at finding the best deals and haggling with rental car company employees. In Germany, we always try to rent as reasonable and fuel efficient a car as possible. So we’re usually driving around in compact estate cars. And we actually enjoy exactly that!
Once we rent in a another country, it becomes a completely different story though. It’s always fun and informative to experience a shift in how differently people perceive yourself in different places. Abroad, every car rental service is convinced that we need a great and special car because we’re German. On this June’s tour in British Columbia/Canada, where we’re writing this, the rental company clerk at Vancouver Airport was adamant in trying to sell us various “fantastic” upgrades and couldn’t believe we refused a fancy convertible (“too unpractical”) and a full sized SUV (“too big and expensive”). But when he found an upgrade option that was cheaper than adding a sat nav system to the nondescript compact sedan we had booked, we couldn’t refuse anymore. Which meant that we ended up in a brand new Jaguar E-Pace SUV that had never been rented out before. In all honesty, it took us some time to get over feeling guilty, ashamed or plain wrong for driving “a Jag”.
But after the initial shock, we quickly got used to all the amenities the car offers. In that particular part of the world, this still counts as a rather small or compact car compared to all the pick-up trucks around. And it makes for great highway cruising when crossing distances between cities that still boggle our European minds.
The most fun we had in the Jag was a small moment in downtown Vancouver however. We were looking for spot to park the car in the neighbourhood of our first gig of the tour and decided to engage the “park assist” button on the dashboard just to see what happens. Here we are, halfway across the globe, touring and making a living in electronic music, using the latest technology and pushing buttons on a daily basis. But engaging that park assist system and watching the steering wheel turn by itself while the car parallel parked without the driver interfering blew our minds and left us in fits of laughter. It’s the little things that make you feel like living in the future.
3. Berlin-London-Berlin by Coach
In 2016, we found a different travel solution for our first ever show in London, which came on rather short notice. We were scheduled to play on a Saturday for a good friend’s party and budgetary restraints meant that we had to come up with a creative way of travelling to London and back. After some deliberation and sourcing as much equipment as possible in London, we found that the most cost efficient way would be to take a coach. And since we had nothing else scheduled for the weekend, we booked ourselves a return trip from Berlin to London that would take us through Germany, Belgium, France and to London in a mere 18 hours. And then back again.
The journey turned out to be surprisingly fun and entertaining. We left Berlin on Friday evening, enjoying the on board WIFI. But not as much as the real life comedy of our Czech bus drivers, whom we endearingly nicknamed Lolek & Bolek after a few minutes. They turned the most mundane tasks into slapstick gold. And while they knew all the relevant vocabulary for their job in the language of every country we crossed, they seemed to deliberately use the wrong language for every stop along the road. They spoke English with passengers in France, German in England, French in Germany and so on. We could only assume it was their way of keeping the journey interesting. Everyone else was left extremely confused.
But they got us to London safely and nearly on time for lunch on Saturday. The party itself was an Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test themed blast with most people dressed up as hippies or robots, sipping on actual acid punch. We fed off the crowd’s energy to fight our coach-induced tiredness, played our hearts out and joined the dance party after our set. We even managed to get in one hour of sleep before we went for a full English breakfast and headed back to the coach station on Sunday morning. By that time, we had spent roughly 20 hours in London.
Much to our surprise – and theirs! – Lolek and Bolek pulled up in their coach again to take us back home to Berlin. We slept through most of the journey back bust still arrived somewhat shattered on Monday morning. Although we rank these 36 hours on a coach and 20 hours in London very highly on our scale of favourite tour adventures, we have never taken the coach to a gig again.
4. To Munich on Crutches
Back in June 2012, after we had already sold The Hungry Golf, we sometimes took the train to out of town gigs. Even if it meant going to great pains to do so. We had already booked a trip on Germany’s ICE high speed train from Berlin to Munich, when Thomas sprained a ligament in his ankle while dancing and had to walk on crutches for two weeks. Still needing to take a huge backpack, a trolley suitcase and a guitar gig bag to transport all the gear for a show plus enough clothes for the time away from home, he taped his crutches to the gig bag and hobbled from taxi to train to taxi and so on.
The gig in Munich was for opening of an art collective’s new temporary exhibition space, an uber-stylish decommissioned 1960s gas station. In what must have been a try to cause a stir within Munich’s not-so-vibrant nightlife and party scene, it had a distinct sex, drugs and rock’n’roll theme to it. There were sex toy installations, big nudes by a photographer who also worked for Playboy magazine, pole dancers performing throughout the night and a paddling pool on a wooden riser.
We arrived in the full heat of the early afternoon, while preparations for the event were still in full swing. When the crew spotted us getting out of a taxi, carrying all of our bags and cases, one of them pointed at Thomas’ guitar case with taped on crutches and exclaimed:
“Wow, cool! Are those crutches part of your performance?”
5. Stan Laurel and Salvador Dali Having Breakfast
Last but not least on our list of Top Travel Experiences is not a single event, but a tradition we observe whenever possible. When we play peak time sets and the club promoter has booked us in a hotel room with the obligatory late check, we love being the first guests at the breakfast buffet.
We go straight from the club to breakfast and then to bed. As we’ve usually been up for a long day of travelling and playing, and run on post-show adrenalin and caffeinated soft drinks by that time, it’s never just normal breakfast. If any other guests show up that early, they tend to be eager and well organized early risers trying to make the most of their weekend off and away from home. Sometimes the hotel staff are the only other people present. In any case, those situations create a delightfully weird meeting of worlds and social strata that we enjoy immensely. To top it all off, we automatically slip into our breakfast-before-bed alter egos of Stan Laurel and Salvador Dali and have the most extravagant silly-talk party we can come up with.
Everyone we ever encountered at these occasions has been most friendly and welcoming. So if you ever see us around 6 am, having breakfast in a hotel, feel free to join us!