In this Crazy Tour Stories segment, the indie folk band, Bandits on the Run, shares one of their stories from being on the road. You can check out the story, after the break.
While in transit on one of our DIY backpack-across-Europe tours, we had a total stroke of luck because of cows. Well, cows and a series of weird coincidences that felt like miniature fiascos at the moment. Fiasco #1 happened before we even got on the train. We had arrived at the train station early for the 10 hr passage from Berlin to Paris — it was our first long train ride, and we wanted to get good seats because there was a transfer halfway through that had a 15-minute window, so we’d really have to book it to the next train — so we scanned the long fine-print list of departing trains, found our platform, went down to it, and had about 45 minutes until the train was leaving. Great. Adrian went to get some meals for the ride and the banditas chilled on the platform. At 11:55 the train pulls up to the platform, and we realize that our destination is not on the side of the train with the other destinations. We realize we must have misread the directory (to be fair, none of us speak German). Our train is leaving in 5 minutes. So we BOOK IT up these long escalators with all of our instruments and luggage — cello, 2 guitars, suitcase drum, musical toys, and backpacks and suitcases for each bandit — up to the directory, hurriedly find the actual platform we were supposed to be on — which happens to be about 3 stories above the directory, so we again book it up more escalators and only JUST make it to the right train. We’re all sweating bullets and obviously, it could have been very bad… but we made it.
Then we realize that we’re in a business class car. A whole trolley of suit-clad german men is staring at us. One of them is mad because Adrian wheeled his suitcase across his fancy shoes in a hurry to get all our stuff on the train. The ticket taker tells us that we shouldn’t be in that car… but that we’ll probably okay since they’re not at full capacity. The train starts moving and for a while, we’re just looking at the beautiful fields and valleys endlessly flowing past. It’s PASTORAL AF, you half expect to see Julie Andrews bustin’ out a ballad to the mountains around every corner. And then the train rolls to a stop. The disgruntled German businessmen look mildly annoyed, and then there’s an announcement in German, which we totally understand. NOT. The businessmen kind of roll their eyes and settle in like it’s gonna be a while — which is not good for us — remember that 15-minute window in Frankfurt to make it on the next train? From across the train we see this guy that does not match the other clientele (he’s in a faded t-shirt and these untameable locks that are just sticking out in every direction) he crosses the aisle to ask a question to one of the German businessmen in halting German. We realize that this guy is probably our ticket to understanding what’s going on. Adrian goes over to ask him if he understands what’s going on. He replies in an easy-going French accent that his German is not the best but he thinks the train has stopped because there are cows on the tracks. COWS. ON THE TRACKS. It’s apparently not an uncommon reason for delays. He also pointed out that Germans like to be on time to the second, which explained the disgruntled businessmen.
Anyhow, you probably guessed by now — we missed the transfer in Frankfurt. The train people had us go to the next stop, this little mountain town called Manheim. And it turns out that when something like this happens in Europe, the train line is legally obligated to find you a hotel for the night. So we went to the info kiosk to try to figure that out and found about 10 other people who were in the same boat. Our messy-headed acquaintance is also there, and as we’re waiting in line he introduces himself to us — his name is Antoine — and a few other French twenty-somethings that he just met online. It turns out we’re all getting put up at the same tiny hotel for the night, and Antoine suggests that we have a picnic of sorts at the train station. So we all set up a table with the food we got for the ride and we buy a few bottles of wine, and it becomes this fun little social event, everyone’s telling their stories, and we’re talking about some of the stuff we’ve done as a band and how we’ve been busking everywhere we go. Antoine suggests we play a bit. So we play a song or two, and a crowd starts forming in the train station, and then it’s a mini-concert and there’s this absolutely stunned German guy who comes up to us and says “WHAT KIND OF MUSIC IS THIS?! I own a collection of 10,000 CDs and you don’t sound like ANY of them!” so he buys one of our CDs. Then the police come so we say that’s all folks and pack up our stuff.
We go to a wine bar right next to the tiny hotel for a nightcap cause none of us feel like it’s the end of the night, and we mention that we don’t have any shows in Paris because we couldn’t find a club that would host us (this is when we were doing all of our booking DIY, by word of mouth.) Antoine says we should do a backyard set at his place in St. Dennis (a suburb just outside of Paris) and that he could invite a few friends and we could have a picnic. Of course, we accepted — he was so kind and game for anything, it honestly would just have been fun to hang out and play some songs.
But when we took the trek out to St. Dennis from the apartment in La Marais we were crashing in… Antoine had a crowd of about 50 at his house ready for a concert. Every person had brought a bottle of wine and a different kind of cheese. We played two sets and ate tons of cheese and then someone started a campfire and we were jamming with this gypsy jazz violinist, one of Antoine’s many friends, and some other musicians who arrived, until the wee hours of the night. That house concert was one of the highlights of our trip — and it happened the day before we left Europe. It was just an exquisite note to end on. We still keep in touch with Antoine and see him whenever we’re in Paris. And all of this vibrance and spontaneous friendship would never have taken place were it not for some cows on the tracks. Thanks, Cows.