There is live music 365 days a year in Austin - I'm just going to report on what I've seen or what new music I'm listening to!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

How good is the Wienerschnitzel in Vienna?

     Who was the travel agent who booked a 9 AM flight the morning after a 3+ plus hour rock and roll show? Oh yeah it was me. An early 6:30 AM alarm clock so we could grab a quick breakfast before the tram to the Zurich airport. We ended up with way too much time but you never know in a strange airport and better safe than sorry. We were booked on Air Berlin from Zurich to Vienna – an airline I had never heard of. Even more concerning was when we got to the gate and saw a plane that said Nikki on the side but this was like one of the regional carriers that are under some big airline name. But not like that on board – a big plane, really pleasant flight attendants and real food you could actually eat. No concerns over Nikki Airlines and we’d definitely recommend them! When we arrived in Vienna we had a car service take us to the hotel since it was cheaper than the airport train and great quick service right to our door – the Hilton Danube. Yes that Danube but as Jo would be glad to tell you the Danube in Vienna isn’t even close to blue but rather brown just like the Fox River in St. Charles. Service was spectacular at the hotel for our entire stay and the Executive Club in Vienna probably saved each of us $100 or more in three days. We learned that Executive Clubs in Europe are a real perk – full breakfast each day, afternoon snacks including pastries and cakes, heavy hors d’oeuvres every night and ice cold Coke available all day long. All those nights staying in Hiltons pays off.

Once we got checked into our rooms it was exploring Vienna time. Subway passes in hand we headed out to Schoenbrunn Palace on the west side of Vienna. It is a spectacular 1,441 room palace that has been there for hundreds of years. We are always amazed at the size of the buildings that were built far before cranes and big equipment was invented. The grounds were spectacular too as we hiked up the hill to a café at the top with a beautiful view of downtown Vienna and the palace. The heat came back in Vienna as it was nearly 90 degrees and was disappointing to us. After a couple of hours exploring the Palace and grounds we headed back to the hotel for a break before dinner.

A young girl on the subway had recommended a restaurant in the City Center that had been around since the 1400’s in the basement of an old building. We found it and when we went downstairs it was very crowded and hot since there wasn’t a lot of AC put in in the 1400’s. After we looked around we decided to find something different which was probably the best decision of the trip. Down one of the alleyways near the City Center we stumbled across a long line of people waiting outside a restaurant. Long lines translate to good food is a good rule of thumb and it certainly worked in Vienna too. Figler Muller was the name of the restaurant and they are known for their wienerschnitzel. I’m not sure we saw anything else served while we ate there and for good reason. Thin, perfectly prepared and just wonderful are the ways we would describe it. Oh and really big as well. Our waiter told us they served over 500 a day. Jo asked how they prepared it as each piece of pork was almost exactly the same size and thickness. The waited flexed his muscles and said “Schwarzenegger”. Easily the best meal of the trip and the most authentic – it just felt like we were in a foreign country eating “their” food!

After dinner we walked around the city center and the spectacular Stephendom – or church. Another extremely old church and totally overwhelming to think of building this hundreds of years ago and all it had survived. By now it was getting late so we headed back to the hotel and called it a day with our stomachs full of thinly breaded pork. We knew we would be spending more time in the city center with all the old buildings, restaurants and shopping so that was the plan for Wednesday.

And it was also great to see during in the local papers that the upcoming Bruce show was front page news in Vienna!

Zurich from the Front Row

Day three in Zurich and with the first show on the horizon we were up early and ready for a big day. The girls were disappointed that they couldn’t see the Alps from anywhere we were so they took off for the Alps at 7 AM in the morning by train. They ended up going to Interlachen and taking the funicular to the top of a mountain. The scenery on the way was spectacular and they said they had never seen water so clear in all the streams along the railroad tracks. They were really happy they got to see the Alps even if it was 70 on the top of the mountain. My day started out with the first roll call at 9 AM. Right after that I hit one of my targets for the trip – a macaroon store called Sprugl. We had been told about it by a flight attendant when we went to LA for Van Halen. She had said they were the best treat in the world and she was right. I sampled one and was planning on buying a large box to bring home for everybody – unfortunately they only are good for 3 days so if you want one you need to go to Zurich. I will tell you it’s definitely worth it!

We had another roll call at noon, a two hour break where I had some great Zurich pizza with Jen and Steve from Portland and then back for the last few hours waiting in line. We were told we wouldn’t get in the stadium until about 5 but at 4:30 the line started moving and we were in. They took the first 100 of us into the stadium and let us wait in there while the band finished up the soundcheck. We got to hear a great version of “Take Them as They Come” which I’d get to hear again in London. Always interesting that you hear songs at soundcheck but then not at the show that night – part of the mystery of Bruce! Once the soundcheck was completed we headed down to the field and the mad rush for everybody to grab their spot. Most of my new friends went for what I call the “touching spots” where they can grab and touch Bruce. Not really interested in touching a 62 year old man so I stuck to my plan – stage right in front of Nils and Soozie. Got my spot in the front row only a few feet from the stage and settled in for the wait. I got to meet lots of new friends that I would be spending the next 5 hours with. Marcel was to my right and he had been about 5 in front of me in line – a 27 year old from Germany who had drove down to Zurich by himself for the show. Topi was from Norway and he was by himself – said he wanted to see a show before Bruce came to Norway later in the summer. Two great young guys who knew every single song that was played all night long, still amazing to me that they can do this in another language!

The show began about 8 PM and started off with a rarity – Don’t Look Back! It’s one of those songs I know but barely. If I had been in charge of tweeting the setlist it would have been trouble (save that for the Vienna and London shows). The entire crowd from my spot was really into the show singing and jumping to every song. I didn’t realize that the rest of the stadium was pretty mellow – I would later hear that from Jo and Kar that their section spent most of the show in their seats. Come on people, it’s rock and roll!!!! Highlights of the main set were Growin’ Up, solo piano by request If I should Fall Behind, Save My Love and my current favorite Bruce song The River. Of course we got Waiting on a Sunny Day which is #1 on my despised song list but I have to admit that even though it’s irritating the crowd really does like it. Shockingly we got Workin’ on a Dream as a request! There was an audible groan from the pit when Bruce showed it to us. Seriously, didn’t we all hear that enough last tour? The only good news was at least we didn’t get the good wood and the bad wood rap but we still wasted that request spot.

After a two hour main set when nearly every other band in the world is off in the dressing room the main event starts. The European shows have almost all started with Born in the USA and Zurich was no different. The whole stadium was now on its feet and as best I could tell stayed that way for the next hour! That was followed by Born to Run, 7 Nights to Rock, Dancing in the Dark where Becca from Baltimore got to dance with Bruce, 10th Avenue with the great Clarence tribute and then Twist and Shout to close out the night. Amazing how fast 3 hours and 20 minutes can go when you barely have time to catch your breath. After the band left the stage I told my new young friends that I expected them to be doing the same thing when they are 52 – they just laughed and said they hoped they can! Now to try and figure out how to get on the train along with 50,000 others at the same time.

Fortunately there were many trams waiting for us but there was some confusion as to where they went and with my great comprehension of German I got on the first train I could. I ended up at some other train station but with the help of a policeman and some blind luck I found where to catch the #11 tram. As luck might have it Jo and Kar got on the right tram, changed in the city center and ended up sitting on the tram I boarded downtown. I had ducked into a McDonalds and grabbed a Coke and some fries since I had nothing to eat since lunch – can’t beat McD’s for 10 bucks for fries and a drink. Switzerland is pretty damned expensive but I didn’t care of that point. Just about then a thunderstorm hit but we were inside the tram car and got back to the Renaissance right about midnight. A long day but really rewarding and city one of our three city adventure was in the books. Tuesday AM it’s off to Vienna on some airline called AirBerlin – we shall see how that goes!

Tour premieres in Zurich were Don’t Look Back, Working on a Dream and If I Should Fall Behind. First time sings for me were Don’t Look Back, Growin’ Up, Save My Love and Twist and Shout. Final count – 31 songs in total for the show.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The European Adventure- Sunday in Zurich

Sunday morning started as a beautiful sunny day with temps in the upper 60’s. We jumped on the tram with destination Letzigrund Stadium. Fortunately the #2 stopped right at the stadium. In Europe GA tickets work different than at home. Here we all get a wristband, a number is chosen and that person is #1 in line. In Europe fan organized groups give out numbers, conduct roll calls every so many hours and are considered official. It’s interesting that a loosely knit group of fans determine who gets into the stadium first! Due to changes in our traveling party, we ended up with 2 FOS tickets and 2 seats but only 3 going to the show. Jo had to decide between standing with me and sitting in the seats. When we arrived at the stadium we found out they were at #34 and that roll calls were at 1, 5, 8 and 11 and then 8, 11 and 2 the next day. That made Jo’s decision really easy – if she did the roll call thing she would miss seeing Zurich. So I took #34 and the girls were off to sightsee. I did get to spend some time downtown by the lake Sunday afternoon and made all the roll calls during the day. At the same time I met a bunch of other Americans that were at the show – Lynn and Becca from Baltimore (Becca had sang Waiting on a Sunny Day with Bruce in Atlanta earlier in the tour), Howard and Marcy from Jersey and Jennifer and Steve from Portland. All great people and we killed time hanging out together.
While I spent at the lake in the center of Zurich I got to enjoy a great pretzel and an ice cold Coke! Late in the afternoon I caught up with Jo and we had a nice dinner outdoors at a traditional Swiss restaurant. After some sausage and bratwurst it was off to the stadium for the next roll call. Although the roll calls are a pain in the neck they definitely reward the loyal fans. I wouldn’t make a habit of doing them as you spend all your time checking in but as a one-time experience it ended up being worthwhile. Fortunately the Swiss tram system is so efficient you never have to worry about being late to anything! After the 11 PM roll call it was back to the hotel to get a good nights sleep before show #1.

The European Adventure - Getting There

We were in Montreal last Thanksgiving week when Bruce announced his 2012 European tour dates and the decision was made to go. A few weeks later and the plans were in place to travel to Zurich and Vienna for vacation and shows. The issue remaining was how to get home – flying on American on miles and they don’t fly to Vienna. The solution was to get to London where we could get home on AA. A few days later I realized that Bruce was playing Hyde Park in London that weekend so another show was added and good fortune that was! It seemed like it took forever but July finally arrived and we were off for our first ever European concerts.
We flew from Austin to JFK and then connected to a Zurich flight. Except there were issues – first the gate was changed (never a good thing on an international flight) then the plane had mechanical issues and finally the flight was cancelled! We ended up getting re-booked on British Airways leaving at midnight so it was off to that terminal. After great confusion on whether they were actually going to allow us on the plane we were finally cleared and off to the gate. Making our way to the gate we noticed another BA flight that was boarding so Jo asked the gate agent if there was any way we could get on that flight. We didn’t need to sit together but just needed to get to London sooner. The agent said the flight was completely booked but let me see your boarding passes. After several calls and a few minutes she came back and told us to go to the BA Executive Lounge and that she was doing her good deed for the day. The lady there would have new boarding passes and enjoy the full dinner being served in the lounge. Turns out the new boarding passes moved us from the last row of coach into Business class on one of the brand new 777’s with seats that turn into beds. We took advantage of the meal and met a really nice couple from KC (more on that in a few days) and then went and boarded the plane. It was like riding in a spaceship – Jo spent 15 minutes figuring out all the buttons and switches. After we took off Jo pushed the buttons, laid down and slept to London. I took advantage of some additional food on the plane, got several hours of sleep and a little breakfast. Sure a lot better than those commoners back in coach! Unfortunately we left JFK 30 minutes late and although we hustled through Heathrow we missed our connection. We got on the next flight but ended up arriving in Zurich 9 hours later than the plan. Jo’s twin sister and one of their best friends from Chicago were meeting us in Zurich so they had been on their own all day. The target for the day had been to go to the antique flea market on Saturday in Zurich but we had missed that window. Jo was distraught but felt better after meeting up with the others when she found out she hadn’t really missed a thing. I had originally planned on checking out the stadium that day and figuring out how the Front of Stage (FOS) tickets worked but that was not to be after the extended travel.
We decided to get some dinner so jumped on the tram for a few stops into an area with several restaurants. We settled on a place called Santa Lucia that served us a couple of great pizzas and some cold water to replenish the travelers. It was a beautiful night in Zurich and the perfect meal to get us on the right time zone. We headed back to the hotel and fortunately we had been upgraded to the club level. After grabbing a couple of ginger ales in glass bottles (since they served the P word) and it was bed time on day one of the adventure.

LA Weekend - Van Halen and the Beach Boys

Bruce at Jazzfest

SXSW 2012 Saturday