Ukulele Stammtisch

Ukuleles unite! Jeremy and I hit the road a few days ago to join a ukulele stammtisch in a town near Augsburg, about 2 and a half hours from home.

Stammtisch means “standing table” which basically means ongoing reservation.  Once every other month, this Bavarian ukulele group gets together at the same gasthof, in the same room, with the same folks and plays an array of songs for hours on end.

And apparently the ukulele is the new banjo – this place was so “backwoods” our GPS system got lost.

When we arrived, the crowd was super small (we’ll blame that on weather  - it was snowing) and we joined in the German conversation to the best of our knowledge.

However, music is universal and as we all started playing together, it was instant bonding. A few rock, bluegrass, old country, traditional German and knee slappin’, foot stompin’ songs later, we had a bonafide jam session.

Amazing pickers and beautiful voices surrounded us, but we held are own and brought a certain Hawaii-meets-blues-meets-folk flair.

I am surprised and ecstatic how big the current ukulele movement seems to be. (There is an ukulele festival near Munich in the summer … of course the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain is playing. The buddymollys are hoping to get on that bill, but it’s unlikely as of now…) The aforementioned Bavarian group has been meeting for over two years. One gentleman started making ukuleles because of it and now is a full time instrumentenbauer (that's luthier in English, although the word literally translates to instrument maker.)

I’m not sure what caused the resurgence of interest in the plucked lute – perhaps folks came across Ukulele Ike or Greg Hawkes’ ukulele tribute to the Beatles in a Google search – whatever the cause, the ukulele is becoming a  pandemic and giving even the most fickle-fingered musician a chance to experience the music.


The Draw of 2010: Part 1 of 4

2010 was great year - a year of many “firsts” for the buddymollys: first year of marriage, first full year living in Germany, first real gig as a mediocre ukulele band, first time visiting numerous countries, first time surfing in wetsuits  - the list goes on and on.

And as the years go by I’m sure a few of these memories will fade or be replaced by other firsts in our lives. So to honor these special moments, we decided to document one event each month with a drawing on a DYI calendar.

After each month ended, Jeremy and I would draw a memorable moment in solitude and then reveal to each other the finished product, embedded forever on our 2010 calendar.

And so we present to you the short of the draw for 2010.

As an aside for the art critics (yeah, you Mike Green) Jeremy’s drawings appear on the left and mine on the right. Click on the drawings for a more intimate view. 

January: In this cold winter month of early 2010, Jeremy attempted to teach me how snowboard on a small hill in Erbendorf, Germany – about 25 kilometers from our house. While the way down wasn’t so bad, the T-bar lift up was painful in that “funny memorable” way. We laughed all the way up knowing that eventually we’d fall off. Jeremy’s drawing paints a pretty good picture of the one successful time we made it up. Yep. Once. T-bar lifts and snowboards do not mix. This is something we will never forget. 

Also in January, Eileen came to visit (Yay!). The three of us took a road trip to Berlin and met up with J.R. and Jess, who flew in from Paris, and Lawrence who made the trip from Stuttgart. It was an extremely eventful weekend but one particular moment for me stood out. After dancing in an underground cave until 3 a.m., Jeremy and I left Eileen and Lawrence in good hands to join J.R. and Jess back at the apartment. We arrived and realized we had no keys so we threw snowballs at the 3rd story window, which eventually arose our sleepy weekend housemates to let us in. The drawing above also inadvertently reminds me of the numerous currywurst we ate that weekend. Yum. 

February: The second month of 2010 was even colder. In light of our frostbitten toes, Jeremy and I sought refuge at a place called Kristall Palms in the town of Furth, near Nuremberg. We were pleasantly surprised to find the warmth, oh the warmth, of heat lamps, saunas, hot tubs, steam baths and textile-free delight. We both drew various parts of the day. Jeremy’s drawing shows us lounging in the sauna and I drew the “Salt Steam bath” ritual. We originally scoffed at the idea of artificial sun, until we realized freckles die without it. Sometimes you take whatever “sun” you can get.

March: Although March was still chilly, we started to crawl out of our cocoons a bit more and “get the band back together, man!” During this month, Jeremy and I equally enjoyed participating in a talent show. (The one where we lost to an Elvis impersonator. Pfft!) The best part about these drawings – while I drew the front view of us performing, Jeremy drew the back view incorporating our fans. Folk yeah.  

And this is just the beginning …


Neu Jahr, Neu Ulm

It was another one of those nights. The kind of night in which you have so much fun you awake thinking you've perhaps participated in an illegal (or morally wrong) activity.

But that's never a bad way to start a new year, so ... here's a bit of our story.

Todd, Jeremy, Jeff and I decided to head west for New Year's Eve in the city of Neu Ulm, bordering the western side of Bavaria, to visit my friend and former Hawaiian warehouse roommate, Steve. (Stevenhausen Hausen for all the aloha state peeps.)
 The seemingly simple 4-hour train ride turned into a 7-hour wild goose chase (apparently the Bayern pass isn't good in Bad-Wurttenburg? and apparently we got on the wrong train? and apparently playing dumb works in not paying a fine?). So we arrived 3 hours late, but right on time for dinner and drinks.  Mmmmmmm. Perfect.

Steve and his friends were more than accommodating and welcomed us with open arms. In return, we brought some international flair to the already culturally integrated party. Luckily, English became the common language, we actually knew what was going on most of the time. (Until later that is, but that had nothing to do with the language barrier.)

As midnight approached we walked downtown through a stream of smoke and fireworks and made it to the balcony of Steve's 8th floor apartment in time for a fantastic view of fireworks over Neu Ulm. We added to the excitement by lighting our own and popping some bubbly.

The party continued well into the night and the following tid-bits may or may not have had something to do with our fun and/or the ability to remember them: house party, Italian karaoke, booze, Wieblingen gang signs, friendly cougars, old man bar, Passat poop, neighborhood squabble, unsuspecting pedestrians on fire, flapper dress, hidden entrance to a gay bar, bra money and a wayward monchichi.

Yep - it was that great.

Our first taste of Neu Ulm and its big sister Ulm was a bit of a whirlwind, but both are culturally rich cities. Ulm has an amazing history (and the world's tallest church!).

Neu Ulm seems to be that up-and-coming industrial sector with a big city draw. The cities are separated by the - cold yet floatable - Danube River.

It was great to see Steve again after 3 years and his presence surely warrants another trip to Neu Ulm soon. Perhaps after some rest .... a long, long rest.