The best ever birthday present came this year when my hubby, Glyn, bought me tickets and flights to see Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine in Frankfurt. We were unable to see them in the UK due to various reasons and I was gutted as I’ve been a Jello fan since I was 14 years old and have only seen him sing once – I’ve seen three spoken word performances though, but still…

It had been hard for Glyn to get cheap flights from the UK, so as a result we left Stoke at 2am for the three hour drive to Standsted airport. After an hour’s flight, we landed at Franfurt Hahn, an airport no bigger than a chicken farm in the middle of the countryside with the pinkest loos you will ever see. Honestly, the pinkness was a talking point and I needed dark glasses to go for a pee. Glyn says the men’s were lime green.

As this chicken farm with a landing strip was 80 miles from Frankfurt with no trains, we hired a car. Neither of us had driven in Germany before and didn’t like the gear stick being on the wrong side. Glyn drove as we played Kraftwerk’s Autobahn (this is what you have to do when in Germany, ask Catgoat).

It was still mid morning, so we headed north up the E31 to the Rhine as there’s lots of castles and German stuff to look at there. We cut across some winding, mountain road to a town on the Rhine called Rhens. First we were struck by the narrowness of the roads, and when passing parked vehicles, it was amazing no wing mirrors were removed.

Driving beside the Rhine, we saw more castles and castle type buildings than you can shake a stick at. We came to the town Sankt Goar and felt the need to stop when we saw a cuckoo clock shop. I appreciate that there’s a lot of work goes into those hand carved clocks, but bloody hell, some cost over €1000! So I bought a cuckoo clock fridge magnet for €3.95.

We wandered through the small town, had ice cream and were utterly stunned by the plethora of people wearing socks and sandals. If Africa is the birthplace of humanity, then Germany must be the birthplace of socks and sandals. I’ve never seen such variety, in such a small concentration of people, both men and women alike, on bikes and everything!

We drove up the winding hill to Rheinfels Castle which was only €4 each to get in and was pretty old having first been built in 1245. At first we thought it was pretty small and thought we’d get around in an hour, but it turned out there was tons of dark tunnels and cave like rooms to explore, as well as towers and battlements with great views of the town below and the Rhine.

At this point I thought I’d better have a go at driving, because going down a narrow winding road on a steep hill with blind bends is the best place to start driving on the other side of the road in a foreign country. That’s how I roll – yes, into the kerb as the smell of burning rubber filled the air. Last year I drove in an automatic around 1000 miles the USA and really enjoyed that. But in Germany, with the gear stick on the wrong side, it was a bit scary.

The road along the river as you would expect was incredibly winding, and through the towns was very tight. I really didn’t enjoy it and let Glyn take the wheel 18 miles later at Bingen with the plan being I take over again on a nice big autobahn.

Then the rain came, and it came by the bucket load. Being English, I am used to loads of rain, but you just don’t expect that kind of thing abroad! With the wipers on full blast, it was still difficult to see, but fortunately German drivers seem to have a lot more sense in the rain than British ones do.

It was late afternoon and apart from an ice cream, we had not eaten since 1am so decided to look for something to eat. But everywhere in this rural area was shut. Glyn drove us around Bingen in circles for a while until eventually we found a large café where Glyn spoke enough German to order food and fool the staff into thinking he could speak German, that is, they understood him and he didn’t understand the response.

Glyn drove us to Frankfurt in torrential rain that only let up briefly, long enough for a few German cars to fly past at insane speed. What we saw of Frankfurt through the downpour looked pretty nice, not many people about, maybe because it was peeing down.

At 4.10, we arrived at the Batschkapp where the band was playing but doors weren’t open until 6pm. Glyn was so knackered at this point, he put the seat back and went to sleep for a couple of hours. I was too excited and went for a walk in the downpour, getting soaked within minutes. There was nothing to see in that area of Frankfurt, so after running around for a bit and jumping in a few puddles, I decided to see if I could catch up on my sleep.

Not long after 6, we went into the venue mainly because I was excited but also because I needed the loo. We chatted to the lady on the merch stand who was impressed that Glyn had brought me all the way to Frankfurt for my birthday so that I could see Jello. The tour shirts were €15 which compared to shirts I’ve seen at other band’s gigs were quite cheap, and the lady gave me €5 off as a birthday pressie, so even better!

Crikey though, we ordered two cokes at the bar and they were €5 each! It’s a good job I wasn’t beering it or I would have needed an extension on my overdraft.

The Batschkapp is a very small venue, but looking at the poster on the wall, some really iconic bands have played there over the years, eg the Ramones, L7, Oasis, Jesus and Mary Chain, Nick Cave, Billy Bragg, the Melvins, plus loads more.

Everybody seemed to bunch towards the back of the venue, so we easily got to stand at the front. Glyn said, “Have you noticed that the floor isn’t sticky or covered in broken plastic?” He also noted that when he went to the loo, some guy dropped an empty glass, but instead of leaving it there, he picked it up!! This is the total opposite to gigs in the UK.

The first band was called “Yankee Sandwich” and were pretty good (www.facebook.com/yankeesandwich). They sang in English but also spoke German and are from Bremen. The second band were a two piece band called Ehrenmord (www.facebook.com/Ehrenmord). I have no idea what they were singing about but I’ve never seen such an infectiously happy band before. Jello was certainly enjoying them – I could see him watching both acts at the side of the stage. The guitarist was trying to get people in the audience to play his guitar for him, but we were all too shy.

Then it was time for Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine. I stood at the front without any problem by the waist high stage. A few other people joined me, but still a lot of people were more towards the back. The band came on, chatted amongst themselves for a while then began to play.

The opener was ‘Brown Lipstick Parade’ and Jello appeared dressed like the cartoon guy on a monopoly board with top hat, cane, bizarre waistcoat and yet more bizarre shirt. At times he was centimetres away, waving that cane about and I thought hello, I could lose an eye here. What drew my attention away from the cane was the fist-sized hole in the crotch of Jello’s jeans. I tried not to look, but it was at eye level with burgundy underpants shining through.

The band were awesome – as expected. They were on for 90 mins including two encores. We had some Dead Kennedys songs: California Uber Alles, Government Flu, Nazi Punks F*** Off, kill the Poor and Chemical Warfare from what I can remember. No chance of grabbing a set list as members of the audience were well in there long before the show was over, much to the annoyance of a guy I presumed to be the tour manager.

Jello also ran through the crowd during Chemical Warfare and did a stage dive surfing over the crowd much to the joy of many, including the young woman at the front who ended up with a bleeding lip as a result of being Jello’s crash mat. Jello also did not disappoint with his usual rants on politics and social stuff including anti racism, fracking, the occupy movement, corrupt governments, road rage plus much more.

Ralph Spight, who was on guitar did a lot of posing, quite intent on getting some of the audience attention and were he in a band sans Jello, I would have paid him more attention. The guitaring was damn good though, from him and from Kimo Ball. Also, when Jello was doing his talky bit, the band played jaunty tunes and did tandem dances together – worth watching if you can pull your attention away from Jello.

I always thought that Dick Lucas of Subhumans / Culture Shock was the sweatiest man in punk, but Jello has taken that crown. By the end of the night, he removed his last shirt and wrung it out three times over the audience, including me and Glyn. To be sure, we were already covered in Jello sweat having had it land on in our eyes and once on my lips throughout the show. Ralph high-fived us and that guy has strong arms as the vibration of the high-five shuddered down my arm, ha! The drummer, Paul Della Pelle also came over to the crowd and shook our hands after the second encore.

Afterwards, Glyn and I bought an Ehrenmord cd and briefly talked to them. Outside the rain had subsided but we were both already so very damp and smelly. We realised we’d barely eaten and only could find a Burger King to eat at on the way home which was a bit of a shame, but what can you do.

The chicken farm airport was half closed and we had to sleep on the floor for three hours before we could get through security to fly home. We were so tired, it didn’t matter, and had such a great trip, we didn’t care!

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About the author

Having only one cat, Claire is currently failing at being a mad cat lady, but she does have a mad cat, Bod. When Claire isn’t chasing cats and other animals with her camera, she works as a Graphic Design Manager.

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