Fjords and Rain
Bergen, also known as the Seattle of Europe is surrounded by seven mountains and rejoices in 275 days of rain per year, caused by a weather phenomenon known as orographic lift whereby the already moist and mild North Atlantic air is forced from low elevation to high and the resultant temperature drop raises its relative humidity. For a while in recent history, vending machines (paraplyautomater) in the city dispensed umbrellas. For some reason the idea failed. Maybe there was a warm spell. I asked a local boy on the street if it ever stops raining here, he said “I don’t know, I’m only twelve”.
The day started cloudy and I had contacted my good friend, guitarist, songwriter and local resident Vidar Ruud. Vidar is currently working on his first album which features many great UK session muso’s. Last year, I did some playing on it myself. I asked Vidar if he knew of a good chiropractor in town as both Mike and I were in need of a little back work. Vidar took us to a good friend of his who runs his own practice in the centre of town. We were both looked after very well and on the walk back to the hotel past the harbour we passed through what is now a big tourist attraction, the fish market on the harbour. The serve up fresh cooked salmon, crab, lobster etc and although I’m aware food prices in Norway are extremely high, it did seem a bit pricey. Everything here is very expensive for anyone visiting from an EU nation. In Norway, fortunately the wages are in sync with the high prices meaning that Norwegians traveling abroad find everything cheap. Vidar told me that it’s cheaper to get on a flight to London, stay in a nice hotel and have a weekend ‘on the town’ than to do the same at home.
Along the walk we passed a monument to sailors lost as a result of an enormous explosion event that occurred in april 1944. The Voorbode, a Dutch trawler confiscated by the Germans found its way into Bergen harbour needing repairs laden with 124,000 kg of explosives. On April 20th it exploded with a force that caused many other ships to be thrown onto land and its anchor to be found 400 metres up a mountain. 160 were killed. The Germans tried to cover up the event as it exposed their failure to maintain security regulations, also that it happened on Hitler’s birthday.
The Hanseatic buildings of Bryggen lining the harbour, the oldest part of Bergen.
When I was at school, the subject of History excited me only marginally less than Latin and my extremely poor marks in this course of study are testament to my time gazing out of the window or etching guitar or band logos into the desktops during class. These days I find the discovery of their past, fascinating. All cities have some sort of story to tell, some more than others. In todays history lesson I learned about the Hanseatic League, a commercial and defensive confederation of merchant guilds that dominated trade along the coast of Northern Europe, created to protect economic interests and diplomatic privileges in the cities and countries and along the trade routes the merchants visited. They had their own legal system and furnished their own armies for mutual protection and aid.
A Viking Longship…
Back to present day and at the hotel, there was time to relax a little, rest my freshly manipulated back and watch the rain come down. Yes, of course it rained..we have an outdoor show. The organizers of this year’s festival at the medieval Bergenhus Fortress were well prepared. The historic venue is a mere 100 yards from our hotel but since the weather was particularly inclement, we took the cars. Today is the first day of the four day Bergenfest and the line up includes Nick Cave, Steve Earle, Scott Matthews, Band of Horses, Jamie Cullum, Biffy Clyro, Noah and The Whale and Amy McDonald. It goes without saying….rain gear required.
So to the gig….
Kev ‘n’ Glenn..
There was no soundcheck today due to the late arrival of the trucks. Bergen is a long way from anywhere but it is the terrain that means travel times are long and arduous. As soon as I’d dumped my bag in the dressing room, I headed along with the other guys in the band to catering where Dave, Chris and Georgie were just starting to take orders for dinner. A quick starter of Vitello Tonnato (veal with tuna sauce) and then Spaghetti Carbonara, the obvious choice for me. Utterly divine…of course. I ate far too much, well it’s hard. So rather than assuming a horizontal position and risking falling asleep, I went for a walk around the battlements of this lovely park venue. The Bergenhus Fortress was built in the 1240’s! and originally contained the royal residence,several churches, the bishop’s residence, and a Dominican monastery. I was able to walk the perimeter wall, naturally taking great care not to go too near the edge. With the pasta digestion nearing completion, it was time to rejoin the band in the dressing rooms for vocal warm-ups, John’s magic ginger tea, NOW with grated Ginger!! and general joke-telling and mirth. Today, Pete’s most offensive joke in the world (plainly not for publication) was the clear winner.
When we went on stage enlivened by laughter at 8:30pm, everything sounded exactly as if we had sound-checked, such is the efficiency of this crew and by all reports, the out front sound was just as good. Pete Mackay was often spotted at the side of stage with his camera. Here’s a few of his shots from the show…
The Norwegian crowd were simply amazing as it rained pretty much non-stop for the entire show but as my pal Vidar said later, that’s not what we call rain, that was a mere mist. Everyone in the crowd had rain gear and were utterly unaffected by the unabating dampness. In broad daylight darkened only by the low cloud and mist, we ran through the set and had our usual ‘whale of a time’ up there. When we finished, it all seemed over too soon and as we walked back to the dressing rooms, the crowd seemed to be up for way more than we played. A great night and back at the hotel, we all had drinks in the slightly unusual hotel bar which doubled as the reception desk.