Saturday, July 11, 2009

Hungary Wrap-Up / Munich Fun Times

Okay, where do we start. Apologies to the 3 or 4 people checking up on me here (in addition to my random updates on Twitter, Flickr and Facebook) but my lack of internet service at the apartment I was staying at in Budapest, and the more pressing need to try and track down a new laptop battery (darrr!) meant I just didn't get around to blogging the few times I stumbled into an internet cafe. But here I am safely ensconced at the WiFi-laden household of Frank and Alex in Munich, and look at me go.

First up, mega-props to Pozsi, the DJ who spun with me at the VOLT festival and who has been a longtime resident at Zold Pardon, the big outdoor club/live venue on the Buda side of the Danube in Budapest, and who helped arrange that gig. In addition to being a DJ, he's also a partner in a budding vacation-apartment-rental business, and has been renovating these four little apartments in an amazing building in a great spot in Budapest, and generously allowed me to stay in one of the almost-finished ones, although the TV, internet and hot water hadn't yet been hooked up/turned on, so I did go a little stir crazy the few times I was actually just chilling in the pad. But once the things are done they'll be super fantastic so I have to give linky props:

Design-Apartment - Super Awesome Rentals in Budapest

Anyway, big thanks to Pozsi for that; and also to Simon Iddol of course who helped set up the gigs and pimped me out via his web site, AudioPorn Central. Actually that was one source of a bit of amusing drama -- I had made two mashups specific for Hungary, one using the classic Omega power ballad "Girl with the Pearl's Hair" and one using a filthy reggae-rap by the Budapestian Beastie Boys, Belga, called "Egy Ket Ha." The latter was a friendlier, sprightly drum-n-bassy number, but because of the dirty lyrics, we had to use the Omega mix for an "exclusive" track on his blog, despite my doubts about its appeal to the mainstream audience who would come there (due to a big link on, a major Hungarian internet destination, apparently). My suspicions turned out to be right, since apparently commenters on the post were universally negative, allowing me the pleasure of learning the Hungarian word for "shit" ("szar"). I did feel a little bad but we all know how internet commenters can be.

While Budapest had been swelteringly hot Monday and Tuesday, it cooled significantly on Wednesday when my "headline" gig was scheduled at Zold, making it a bit less attractive for kids to come out, but a good crowd did anyway, not gigantic but enthusiastic, and despite the presence of that one drunk guy screaming at me to play Michael Jackson (which, drunk or sober, has happened at every gig I've played since that dude kicked the bucket -- what the hell, people, is it more fun to listen to his music now that he's dead, or what?), he was outnumbered by the groups of actual live Party Ben fans, who told me they had "all the Sixx Mixxes" and took pictures with me and asked for my autograph and all that crazy junk. One marvels at the power of the internet, and also one is thankful for nice people, who totally made my night.

Budapest itself continued to both frustrate and amaze me -- the city is crazy beautiful, but the language is just crazy-making, especially for someone like myself who knows a couple languages and usually likes to pick up a few words and stuff before traveling somewhere. Hungarian was impenetrable to me, and some people were kind of unfriendly to the bumbling foreigner, especially, say, the woman who came out and yelled at me when I was just trying to read the signs and figure out why the Kiraly Baths, lauded as a stunning old piece of Turkish architecture built to house a bunch of hot spring pools, was inexplicably closed, on a day the guide magazine said they were open. This happened at another baths too, minus the yelling, but I finally made it to the Szescheni baths and pools, which were pretty amazing but not super hot, as far as water temperature goes, and super touristy, possibly due to the New York Times giving it a shout out.

But I was not going to miss the funicular!

In addition to my general love and fascination with all public transit, I have a special place in my heart for funiculars, inclined trains whose quirky custom-made specificity charms my socks off every time. Watch Budapest's above.

Also, I spent a drunken night out with Pozsi showing me all the cool nightspots, and man does Budapest have some amazing venues -- for instance, Holdudvar, a huge, sprawling open air patio on an island in the Danube, under huge modernist tents and glowing red lights, or Cha Cha Cha, also on the island, where I met a dude from Chicago who professed his love for J Dilla without me even prompting him. Also, there was some club whose name I can't remember but was accessed by a tiny elevator, whose hipster attendant had a cooler with mini bottles of Jaeger and a "palinka," (pronounced PAL-inka, not pa-LINK-a, like the Russian speaker in me wanted to), a local specialty that just refers basically to a fruit-based liquor, and can be any flavor. This crazy skinny bottle with a gothic type-face was cherry flavor, and of course I had to buy one for about 500 forints (around $2.50). Once the elevator arrived on the appropriate (3rd? 4th) floor, it opened to reveal a Mad Max-y scene of red-lit corrodores filled with hipsters and junky chairs, eventually leading to a steamy room blasting dancehall rhythms complete with dreadlocked MC. Up a clanky metal staircase to the gargantuan roof and views of the city. Then there was Szimpla, again, another place I would never have noticed from the street, just an entrance into a non-descript looking old building, which suddenly opens up to a huge, tree-filled courtyard, strung with lights, surrounded by two or three stories of glowing bars, and complete with a disembowled Trabant in the middle. Insane.

Anyhoo, finally I had to say goodbye to the beautiful, disconnected apartment, and grab the new RailJet train to Munich via Vienna. The train is billed kind of as a "bullet" although it only reaches its top speed of 200kph (about 125mph) once it gets into Austria. First class ticket for the nearly 7-hour ride was 59 euros, though, so you can't go wrong.

In Munich it was right to the club for Bootie Munich last night, where I did my video set via laptop to another enthusiastic crowd, complete with some former San Franciscans, one of whom confessed to hating mashups at first but eventually coming around to being a fan. Sound issues at the venue meant I wasn't totally happy with the set, but the video worked fine, so hopefully people enjoyed themselves.

Crap picture of the crowd at Bootie Munich

One of the venue guys had arranged to get me a guest slot at one of the many open-air music stages at Munich "Christopher Street Day," their big gay pride celebration set for Saturday (er, today), and I wasn't sure what to expect -- SF's gay pride has a bunch of different stages, some of which are just a few kids in a tent, and others are massive dance arenas. This turned out to be the latter, a huge plaza with a raised DJ platform, so I jumped up and did a goofy set veering between 80s-y themes remixes and mashups, some of my more electro-y new items, that Laidback Luke mix of Daft Punk's "One More Time," Cut Copy's "Hearts on Fire," stuff like that. Tons of fun although as I said on Facebook, I was pushing it a bit far with the MIA remix -- the stage had been playing genero-gay-house, like that "You're Free To Do what You Want to Do" song that just makes my brain ache with its self-helpy, saccharine emptiness. But that's what the gays like. I did play that new David Guetta thing to make up for my edgier stuff. Here's me:

The club promoter who had helped organize the stage was pleased enough to ask me to come by and "maybe spin" tonight at one of their big after parties, but after a few beers and snacks around town, I decided his vague proposition to "just come to the club and come find him and then they'll figure it out" seemed like it might turn out to be a total mess, especially since I would have been by myself and my German is quite bare-bones at this point. Not-on-list, can't-find-dude, no-open-slots, other-DJ-mad, yada yada, and me not able to understand any of that, with 30 million drunk Germans all pushing and shoving... sorry Sugar, I just wasn't up for it. But danke!

And of course danke to Alex and Frank, Bootie Munich promoters, and their housemate Julia, who were generous enough to allow me to take over their living room for a couple days.

Monday: France and Francofolies! Will I successfully pass myself off as a local at the French-centric festival? Stay tuned...

1 comment:

szalas said...

Hi Ben!

I enjoy your's mash-up party at Zöld Pardon. I hope, you come back Budapest sometime.