Sunday, June 30, 2013

Red Hare: Close friends, tight musical unit / Interview

By Andy 

If Red Hare doesn't grab you, pull you in different emotional directions... make your eyes squint, your fists clench and your mouth grin -- you're not living, not feeling. This isn't stand- and sit-still music.

Red Hare attacks from the get-go on "Horace," the opening track off their debut album "Nites of Midnite." Guitarist Jason Farrell, bassist Dave Eight and drummer Joe Gorelick are all dialed in musically to the nth degree while singer Shawn Brown blasts forth with such lines as "It ain't coming back -- so let it go!"

Farrell's guitar crunches like six strings of dynamite at times, but then lays back with bolts of melody along the way. Eight and Gorelick stomp and sway through these eight songs with reliable hands of steel. And Brown anchors the unit with his barking vocals that tell stories of the everyman. We're with him the whole way.

On "Nites of Midnite," he sings: "Tonight we're having a party/ Tonight we say goodbye/ We'll take off these costumes/ And start living our real lives." He tells of believing in outrageous things and not being afraid... but also throwing our dreams into hell and we'll be on our way.

Those in the know are already familiar with these guys' musical output in bands like Swiz, Dag Nasty, Sweetbelly Freakdown, Garden Variety, Bluetip and Retisonic. Red Hare is now. The tunes are solid. Get on it.

Here's an email interview with Farrell with a pair of answers from Brown (where noted):

• How long has Red Hare been together and how are you coordinating everything with band members living in different states? 

We emailed song ideas and worked up demos before we ever played together. It's not a bad way to work, it's just different. The last Retisonic record was done sending demos back and forth, recorded in pieces, so Joe and I are used to working remotely like this. We were happy with the results, and felt we could use this same method for Red Hare. It's a long slow process, it took a few years to get "Nites of Midnite" together... But in a way that was to our benefit. Without a deadline or goal, there is plenty of time to sit with the songs and really see what works or what doesn't. The rough demos are still very similar to the final result, but the little details that developed really make the songs complete.

Farrell at the Black Cat in DC. (Nalinee Darmong photo)

• You, Shawn and Dave have been in two bands together before, what keeps you guys coming back for more as a unit?

Two things:
1) A little while back, I found myself with a bunch of song ideas that leaned a bit more hardcore. I've been singing for 18 years now, long enough to recognize my own limits... I knew I would not be able to do what these songs needed. I couldn't imagine anyone other than Shawn singing them. I love his voice and his delivery: strong and direct... So I bugged these guys and pushed this through for years. It was in some ways selfishness... I wanted to hear Shawn's voice again.

2) We are all close friends. I've known Dave since we were kids, and Shawn from shows and skating. Music isn't the only connection we share, but it is an important one I was beginning to miss.

• Describe what's happening on the Red Hare album, and what makes it fit into today's musical climate?

I really like how this record came out. It wasn't deliberate or calculated, but in some ways these songs sum up our long collective lives spent playing music. There is a similar drive and energy to Swiz, with some of the intricacies inherent to Bluetip, Garden Variety and Retisonic. We had no goal or expectations beyond eventually finishing the recording. So when we eventually found ourselves with a completed album, we were surprised and so happy Dischord wanted to help us put it out. I don't know if our band really fits in any existing/active scene, but I am glad this album has found people who seem to like it. Perhaps most of this is due to nostalgia, but hopefully not all. I don't know... I'm just glad it's out. (Editor's note: J. Robbins mixed the album.)

• How long have these songs been in the works; have riffs been lying around for a while or is everything fresh?

It's a combination: I did the first demo for "Hello Disaster" 6 years ago. "Snap" has been kicking around even longer. But I'd say true momentum clicked around 2 years ago once Joe got involved. That's when the newer songs fleshed out the set ("Horace," "Dialed in," "Nites of Midnite").

Brown. (Nalinee Darmong photo)

• Describe your lyric-writing process. Are these things that have happened to you or is it an outside-looking-in thing with friends, family or maybe colleagues at work? How does it feel getting these things off your chest and onto the album? 

BROWN: I write songs from experiences. Some are inside observations, some are outside. Clarity, confusion, nonsense.........
What ever hits me when I am listening to a track/song and feels right, matching lyrics to the mood of the songs.
Being able to perform/record these songs has been very satisfying. A release.
Something I really needed.

• You sang with Dag Nasty at the Salad Days gig, how did that go? Was it inspirational to get Red Hare happening?

BROWN: The December 2012 show with Dag........I don't know if I can put into to words.
Out of body, time travel?
Very powerful and moving for me.
Very moving.
It felt really good playing with Rodger, Brian and Colin.

• How has your guitar playing evolved over the years? What's special about playing these Red Hare songs? 

With Swiz, I was 17-20 years old, very interested in rhythmic patterns and aggressive-sounding riffs. I had a dual love of DC hardcore and metal, putting my playing somewhere between the Faith and Metallica. It was a very narrow focus. I used relatively light strings (9's) on an easy-to-play guitar (SG), which made fast "chubb-chubb" riffs easier to pull off.

With Bluetip, Dave "Eight" Stern and I focused more on two-guitar interplay. I got more into dissonant melodies over pretty chords, but kept a bit of the hardcore sound. Like a lot of post-hardcore bands of the era, our song structure got more complex at times... Maybe to the detriment of the song itself. We tuned down a half-step and I bumped up to thicker strings (10-52) thinking it made my sound "thicker," and started messing with using two amps. We toured a lot, so I heavily relied on my sturdy/trusty (and heavy) Les Paul.

My next band Retisonic went back to one guitar, and I tried to streamline the songs and guitar parts as much as possible. I used a hollow-body Gibson that had this beautiful feedback range I used often. I started using three amps, splitters and pedals to get more dynamics in our live sound... I felt this was crucial for a three-piece band. I learned the most about guitars, overdubs and general songwriting in this band, and brought in any influence we felt was appropriate.

My style of guitar and the songs I would write in each of these bands has had a lot to do with the equipment I was playing at the time. It's brutal trying to play fast metal riffs on super thick stings.... I thought maybe I just couldn't do it anymore. But one day on a lark, I strung up my old SG with some 9's in regular E tuning and there it was again; the perfect weight and tension... the bounce-back and butter for fast "chubb-chubbs."

I started writing songs that reminded me of Swiz, which made me think of Shawn, and started us towards what would eventually become Red Hare. It doesn't really sound exactly like Swiz... We bring in bits from all the eras and bands we've played in... That's what makes it special to me.

Eight, top, and Gorelick. (Nalinee Darmong photos)

• What does your family think about you guys still rocking out these days? Are you the cool dad, husband and brother slinging the guitar?

Ha! Not sure how cool it all is. I fully acknowledge the potentially-pathetic side of old-ish guys playing young-ish music. But I'm also inspired by people who continue doing what they love, be it music or skating or whatever... Even more so when they do it well. I am happy that after 30 years I can still do some skate tricks better than I ever could (some not so much), and happy that after 25 years there are people still interested in the music we're making. But there are no illusions here. We have lives and wives and kids and jobs, and this band isn't going to eclipse those things or interrupt those responsibilities. We will do whatever we can whenever we can... but it has to fit. Our families know how much music means to each of us, they are happy we have this chance to keep playing music, and their support makes that chance possible.

• What else are you up to these days? Still doing graphic design? What's the best part about designing and playing in bands? 

Coming up on 20 years as a designer, art director and creator director... It's been my main source of income, and I still enjoy it. In the past 5 years I've transitioned into film/video, having directed several commercials, music videos and short films. I love it, and love how all three disciplines (music/design/film) can come together and inform each other.

• I noticed that you led the film team for the recent Flag performance at the Moose Hall in Redondo Beach. How did you keep your camera still while the band raged in front of you? Did you come away from that gig enthused about your own band?

With the band in front of me and the crowd at my back I wasn't able to keep my camera still! But I love how that came out, and I definitely felt energized by their performance. This show could have been horrible: old guys covering Black Flag songs. But those songs are fused to my DNA, and it was amazing to see Keith, Chuck, Dez and Bill (all Black Flag alums, plus Stephen from Descendents) fucking kill it. Like old pros, so much energy.... Very inspirational, even more so that they devastated the perceived obstacle of age and time.

• What's on the docket for Red Hare?

We did an East Coast run with Coliseum in May: NYC, Philly, DC, Baltimore and Providence. It was a blast. We're now working out some more dates for this summer and fall. In the meantime, we are working on editing together some video we shot during those East Coast shows

Once we started booking shows, it dawned on us that we only had 8 songs, so we've already had to write more just to get a decent set length. We plan on recording and releasing those new songs as a seven inch soon (...hopefully not another 6 years).

----- Check out "Horace" from Red Hare:

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Diesel Boy singer relives "Freaks and Geeks" punk episode

Diesel Boy, with singer Dave Lake second from left. (Courtesy photo)
By Cat and Andy

What do a sweaty punk club, the Armpit, a newbie punk rocker, Daniel Desario, and a fiery band, Diesel Boy, have in common?

The "Freaks and Geeks" punk episode, "Noshing and Moshing," man.

In the '80s, cop shows "CHiPs" and "Quincy" released their infamous punk installments featuring fabricated bands "Pain" and "Mayhem."

In "Freaks and Geeks," a fictional band named "Pus" was supposed to play after real-life band Diesel Boy blasted through its tunes "Lime Green," "Happy Street" and "Punk Rock 101" during the club scenes.

We wrote a previous entry about "Noshing and Moshing" and felt we needed to track down Diesel Boy for a follow-up.

So here's an email interview with the band's singer/guitarist Dave Lake:

(Other bands members are: Greg Hensley -- bass, vocals, Justin Werth -- guitar, vocals and Geoff Arcuri -- drums.)

* How did Diesel Boy get involved with playing in the "Freaks and Geeks" episode?

One of my oldest friends, Jake Kasdan, directed several episodes of the series. When a punk band was needed for one of them, he called me. Like most of the other people involved in that series, he's gone on to have lots of success, directing several films, including "Bad Teacher," as well as serving as one of the executive producers on "New Girl."

James Franco as Daniel Desario.

* Where was the gig scene filmed (was it an actual gig with the actors showing up to do their parts)? How long were you on set? What was the experience like? Did you have any input in the scene?

The scene was filmed at Al's Bar in downtown L.A., a seminal L.A. music spot, which unfortunately closed in 2001. (Editor's note: Cat and Andy attended several gigs at Al's during its heyday.) It wasn't a real gig, but we were actually playing. All the people watching were paid extras, which probably explains why they seem to like us so much. There were even stuntmen crowd surfing.

We were on set for most of an entire day, and it took a few hours to get those handful of scenes shot. We played our songs a few times through while they filmed us, and later, while the actors were doing their parts, we stood on stage and mimed like we were playing so it would look real if we showed up in the background.

We didn't have input beyond picking out the clothes we wore, which we selected the day before filming from a few racks of punk attire put together by the costumer. We went to the Dreamworks lot and browsed through racks and racks of period punk clothes, trying on various outfits until we settled on the ones we liked. There was lots of leather and safety pins. The costumer basically left us alone to select things, which were eventually approved by Jake prior to filming the scene. The costumer also left us with a classic line we still throw around today: "You look good in everything," which was said to our drummer Geoff by the costumer after checking him out in his punk get-up. He wasn't wrong.

But we had a blast that day. Compared to our usual unglamorous life on the road, being on a TV set was awesome. There was food (all you could eat), someone did our hair, people wiped the sweat off our brows in between takes and everybody watching us went totally apeshit while we played. I remember sitting at lunch with Jake and eating with him while the rest of the crew looked on totally perplexed, trying to sort out just exactly why the punk band was sitting with the director.

Diesel Boy on the Vans Warped Tour. (Courtesy photo)

* Did you interact with the actors? If so, what was your impression of them in their younger years?

We didn't have any interaction with them beyond a quick "hi" or "how are you doing?," but the show also hadn't aired yet and we certainly didn't know who any of the actors were at that point and therefore didn't pay all that much attention. Mostly we interacted with the homeless people who hovered around the catering table outside the venue in downtown L.A., asking us over and over who they had to talk to to get a cup of coffee and a donut.

* Did Seth Rogen slam dance properly to your tune? Was James Franco a good fit for the "punk" role or would Jason Segel have done a solid job? 

In fairness, I wasn't going to punk shows in 1980 so I'm not sure I know what slam dancing "properly" would even look like. But regardless, the whole point of that scene is that those guys were totally out of place at a punk show so I think if they had slam danced properly it would have been weird. And I think James Franco did a good job at looking punk in the episode. He gets pumped up by listening to Black Flag, he gave himself liberty spikes and he let a stranger try and pierce his nose at a show. That's pretty punk. All these years later, Franco has definitely emerged as the punkest of the "F&G" alum, making interesting career choices and pursuing a variety of interests outside acting, so I think he was the right choice.

* What's it like watching that episode these days? A proud moment for you guys?

That episode didn't actually air when the show had its initial run on FOX. It got cancelled before it could air so it wasn't until years later that we got to actually sit down and watch it "live" on TV. But yeah, we are really pleased to have been a teensy part of such a great show and one that continues to find an audience on DVD and Netflix.

* "Freaks and Geeks" has become extremely popular over the years, has Diesel Boy gotten any fame out of it?

No more fame than we had previously, which isn't a lot beyond our awesome, loyal fans. For example, I have never heard from a fan, "I got into you from seeing you on 'Freaks & Geeks,'" but I have heard from lots of fans who were pleased to see us pop up on the show. And we are a cool footnote: Our songs are the only music featured on the show recorded after 1981, the year the show is set.

* What's the band up to these days?

After being active for about a decade, we have been quiet for about the same length of time, but we're nearly done writing a new record, our first in a very long time, and we are taking baby steps towards being an active band again. I played solo acoustic Diesel Boy dates on the "Hits and Pits" Tour in Australia in March, which was a blast, and once the record is out we hope to start playing full-band shows again, as well. We aren't likely to ever be a full-time band again, but we do hope to fit it into our lives as best we can, as most of us have since become husbands and dads and gainfully employed, but we've certainly missed playing music together and are super-excited to be doing so again.

--- Visit Diesel Boy on Facebook.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

How to punk-ify a bathroom

Got a plain, half bathroom that you're looking to liven up?

Why not make it a (clean!) punk-club powder room? That's the way we roll here in Seattle.

Here's how to achieve it:

* Get some of your classic fliers of gigs you attended and frame them

* Paint the walls a dark color, like blood red in our case

* Funky mirrors are in order, as well as a flashy, glass-beaded chandelier

* Complement with cool candles and other knick-knacks, maybe even a skull...

And voila! You're set.

Fliers from Los Angeles and San Jose gigs:

Black Flag/Adolescents/DOA/Minutemen, 1981

Circle Jerks/Bad Brains/Circle One/Public Nuisance, 1982

TSOL/Adolescents/Wasted Youth/Social Distortion/Youth Brigade/Blades/AKA, 1982

Dischord Records, 1981 ... $2.50 each for seven-inchers!

45 Grave/China White/Social Distortion, 1981

Misfits, 1982*

Corrosion of Conformity, Hirax, Beowulf, 1985

Black Flag/45 Grave/DOA/Descendents/Husker Du/UXB, 1982

Sorex/Detonators, 1984 (Cat made Andy put up this gig notice of his band, Sorex)

Adz/Electric Frankenstein/Curbside, mid-'90s

*Didn't attend, but Andy saw them the night before

Monday, June 10, 2013

Punk Kingpins: Flag rages at Punk Rock Bowling in Vegas

Flag's Dez Cadena, Keith Morris and Stephen Egerton. (All Chris Shary photos)

By Greg Cameron

I was truly disappointed to have missed the "Black Flag" performance at the Goldenvoice 30th anniversary show in Santa Monica last year. When Flag announced that they were going to perform at Punk Rock Bowling and a few other shows in Europe this year, I was very excited that I might have the opportunity to see them. In fact, I immediately pitched the idea to them of performing at the venue I consider my second home here in Nevada City, CA. I also own and run the installed sound system in that venue, the Miners Foundry Cultural Center. So far, Flag seem to be on board with the concept, hopefully it will come to fruition soon.

In any case, I was going to forgo attending PRB in Las Vegas since I figured I'd see them in my own town soon enough. But then at the last minute, I had a change of heart. I really wanted to see my old friends whom I considered my second family for many years. And I wanted to see them perform the tunes that had so inspired me to play music myself. Tunes that conveyed the angst and lack of belonging to the mainstream that I identified with and that I still identify with even now. I was also considering it sort of a diplomatic "mission to Alderaan." I figure being there in person to hang out and reconnect with my longtime friends might inspire them to come play in my town even more. So I sent a few messages to arrange a pass, booked the flight, booked the room and headed out 24 hours later to the desert.

When I arrived on May 27, I headed off to what was the most punk rock hotel situation I had ever seen, The Golden Nugget. It was just a few blocks from the PRB concert stage, so it was the destination of most of the bands and attendees. I haven't seen that many mohawks in decades.

Egerton shreds it up.

I hooked up with longtime friend & artist Chris Shary. Chris has been doing the cover, t-shirt and flyer artwork for the Descendents & All as well as a plethora of other well-known bands for a long time. Of course, we immediately headed off to find coffee in the hotel. While having our coffee, we met up with Stephen Egerton, who I finally got to spend some time with catching up. Then a short time later, Bill Stevenson arrived for coffee before heading off to an interview. This was the second time I had seen Bill post-brain surgery to remove a literally grapefruit-sized tumor that was discovered right after a pulmonary embolism, which nearly killed him. The last time I saw Bill was a couple of years ago at FYF Fest in Los Angeles when the Descendents headlined. We didn't really have a chance to talk then, so we started catching up. We would do a lot more catching up after the show.

Bill and Stephen had the interview to do, so I met up with ex-bandmate and longtime friend Chuck Dukowski and his lovely wife Lora Norton, who also is the vocalist in the Chuck Dukowski Sextet. We had lunch and started catching up. Chuck is one of my favorite people on the planet. A genuinely good guy and sharp philosopher. He is also a prolific & talented songwriter. The record label he and his wife Lora run, Nice & Friendly, really is what the name implies. I have mostly Chuck to thank for my life in music aside from Bill and high school best friend Ray Cooper (former guitarist in the Descendents and SWA). Chuck & I started jamming together after he left Black Flag. I was the youngest of the SST crew and Chuck was truly like a big bother that invited me on the journey of a lifetime. It was an experience that shaped my life in ways that otherwise wouldn't have happened. Chuck was the "doer" that made things happen, a personal pillar of support and motivation.

Chuck Dukowski, the "doer."

After lunch, it was time to head over to the performance venue. So we met up with the rest of the band at the hotel and loaded them with their instruments into a taxi van. There wasn't enough room for everyone, so Lora and I walked the three blocks to the venue. We actually beat the other guys by five minutes. The taxi dropped them in the wrong spot. As usual for Vegas in the summer, it was hotter than balls. I'm a wuss when it comes to outdoor festival shows these days; I usually won't go anymore unless there's a backstage pass involved and a shaded area. I've attended Warped Tour and Hootenanny on several occasions as a regular attendee. I can't do it anymore. But even in the backstage band tent, it was like an oven. No A/C. I wonder if Devo, who headlined two nights prior, had to sit in the hot tent, too. I figured they'd get better accommodations. But then again, this is "punk rock bowling" and it should be fairly econo, right?

It was several hours until Flag's set, so Chris and I wandered into the concessions area for some caffeinated beverages. Chris got some sort of iced concoction, but I went for my usual: black coffee. A few folks were surprised I'd drink that in nearly 100-degree temperatures. But I live by the Black Flag beverage style as laid out in the tune "Black Coffee" regardless of weather conditions. I'll suffer for the juice. Chris and I caught some of the sets by D.R.I, Subhumans and the Casualties. Just like old times. I felt like I was back in the '80s. Except the PA sounded decent and the crowd control was well organized. There were a ton of people coming out of the pit with broken noses and blood all over them. Lots of sunburn, bruises and sweat. Tats and mohawks as far as the eye could see. I don't know how many folks were in attendance, but it was definitely over 10,000.

The energy for the Flag set was building, you could feel the tension and the excitement.

Morris in full rage mode.

As I spent time backstage, I got caught up with other longtime friends I hadn't seen in ages. Dez Cadena, Keith Morris and an introduction to Dimitri Coats, whom I hadn't yet met. Dimitri is managing Flag and plays guitar in OFF! along with Keith. Dimitri is also the person I'm nagging to arrange a Flag performance in Nevada City, though I told him I wouldn't nag him too much that night. And there were some other longtime SST friends to hang out with, too. Longtime friend Rob Holtzman who was Saccharine Trust's original drummer, as well as Jordan Schwartz & Raenie Kane who worked at SST for some time. They all made the trip from L.A. It felt like SST gigs of days gone by, which was nice considering the rifts that have formed since those days. It was also nice to see some old rifts mended, as Flag couldn't exist otherwise.

As set time for Flag approached, Chuck hit me up to play bass tech for the evening. Not a tough job as it basically involved wiring a couple of pieces of his rack gear to tie into the back line bass amp provided by the promoters. I was only too happy to oblige. And it gave me a good excuse to be on stage with the band when some others were getting booted off or pushed to the back of the stage in a less-than-ideal viewing situation. I made my way to monitor world and took up a position next to Gary Tovar. For those not knowledgeable of Gary, he's a co-founder of Goldenvoice who went from being a small L.A. punk rock promoter back in the '80s to one of the biggest concert promoters in North America. Gary is a true fan of the band as well as punk rock in general, and it was good see him there since he was very supportive of Black Flag and SST Records' efforts early on.

Stepping into it.

Flag hit the stage not like your typical polished rock acts of today where the techs get everything set up exactly the way the band wants it so they can step out on stage looking larger than life without a thing out of place. Quite the contrary. Flag came out like they were showing up at band practice. Bill arranged his drums and checked final tuning. I got Chuck's amp setup hooked up, but he plugged in his own bass and tweaked things the way he liked them. Same with Stephen and Dez. It took a bit of time to get the monitor mixes dialed up. Keith gave a little technical explanation to the crowd as to how Flag was getting their line check in and that they're not always able to get a full sound check, especially at these festival-style shows. Really, this is truly DIY punk rock, and it was happening at big outdoor show in front of a huge crowd. Like Mugger (aka Steve Corbin, former co-owner of SST & Black Flag roadie) would have said about 25 years ago, "this isn't Van Halen!"

After Flag was up and running, they came out with both barrels blazing in terms of energy. They broke right into "Revenge" and then segued into "Fix Me." Stephen and Bill delivered the power and tightness as members of the Descendents would. Chuck hammered on his bass as if it were a race horse fighting to the finish, just like the first time I saw him perform over 30 years ago. And Dez grinded out the rhythmic guitar wall of sound that the "Damaged"-album era of Black Flag was well known for. Keith, never one to not give it his all, was a vocal force. The classic Keith-era songs sounded like, well, Keith-era Flag. Full-tilt boogie and no holds barred. And the tunes he didn't record or perform had his signature style and spin.

Morris: going for it.

The crowd was digging it, the mosh pit was a-moshin'. I could see the crowd singing along with pretty much every song. But, of course, the classic "Six Pack" drew the most crowd vocal participation since it's probably the best known Black Flag song in the world next to "T.V. Party," which they didn't play. They played most of the tunes from the "Nervous Breakdown" and "Jealous Again" EPs. They covered quite a few of the tunes on "Damaged," as well. There was a bit of a false start for "Depression," which has a bit of a drawn-out beginning by nature. But hey, that's punk rock for ya. Keith sang the majority of the set, but Dez also switched from guitar duty to vocal duty and sang some of the tunes he had previously performed with Black Flag during his tenure on vocals such as "Thirsty & Miserable" and "American Waste." They also played a couple of mid-era Black Flag tunes that Chuck had written, "My War" and "I Love You." They blasted through the set, keeping it under an hour including the encore. In true Black Flag style, they finished the primary set with their rendition of "Louie Louie." And also in true endgame Black Flag style, they finished the encore with a more dirge-esque tune, "Damaged I."

Dukowski action.

It was a great night. You could feel the energy and the crowd anticipation was well rewarded. I don't think anyone went away dissatisfied, including the band. Nor me. Nor the guy that had to be taken away in an ambulance after he was pummeled in the pit. That guy refused to be treated until he got his picture with the band.

I'm really looking forward to seeing another Flag performance. With some luck, it will be here in my town and in my second home.

I see the world through/ Keith's eyes. (Chris Shary art)

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Soccer Made in Germany: Our Bundesliga trek

Bundesliga journey achieved: Monchengladbach's Borussia-Park. (Cat and Andy photos)

By Cat and Andy

"You must drink beer to support your team."

That is a rule, according to the red-faced elderly Monchengladbach fan speaking to a 20-something traveler on the bus headed toward Borussia-Park for a Friday match versus FC Augsburg on April 19.

First, let's backtrack: As we toddled off the train ride from Amsterdam with our online tickets clutched in hands, we asked the information man at the nearby bus station were there any cool places to hang out pre-game. He quipped, "this is Monchengladbach, there are no cool places."

Not to be denied, we wandered left through the sterile downtown area, searching for the holy grail of soccer-fan bars. We were clearly headed in the wrong direction when we saw two groups of fans headed the opposite way and we turned back. Soon, we noticed more fans with painted faces, flags and even one guy blasting the Monchengladbach song from a boombox on his shoulder.

We journeyed further and popped into a hookah lounge, which appeared to be the only open drinking establishment around. Cat enjoyed a Spanish Kiss (a creamy berry delight with vodka) and Andy grabbed a Heineken as we watched a group of ladies having a hookah-fest. As the smoke filled the air, we heard sounds from outside, and there stood the King, crown on head, Monchengladbach flag worn as a cape and an obligatory beer in hand. Game on, we said.

We knocked back our drinks quickly and headed outside to locate the King and his subjects. But he had disappeared just as quickly as he entered the scene.

So we ventured back to the bus circle, thinking we should head to the stadium. We were at a loss for any further action in that area. Right in front of our eyes, though, there was a very plain-looking building we thought was a restaurant, featuring a small beer sign and door cracked open. We thought, what the hell, and went inside.

As we entered the bar, it was as if you could hear the soccer gods and their choir singing to us. The Monchengladbach fight song -- backed by rock music on the jukebox -- was one that we would hear nearly 20 times during the next few hours. This is the place we were searching high and low for: excited fans (check), banners (check), huge soccer mural (check), punk soccer songs (check), etc. We would have been bummed had we not given this place a shot. We were elated!

Andy and Monchengladbach mural.
We attempted to communicate with the locals to find out if there was anything to do at the stadium beforehand. As we thought we had already hit our high point for the ultimate soccer bar, their best English speaker told us about a magical place by the stadium: FanHaus.

Now, back to the bus ride toward the match. Nearly everybody had a beer in hand, except us, as we didn't know that could be done. We soaked up the atmosphere, and luckily the ride wasn't too long since we were anxious to follow the "golden rule" quoted at the beginning.

At the park, FanHaus was the piece de resistance -- the shit: beer flowing, sausages grilling, soccer fans singing, band playing ... football heaven. While partaking in our delicious sausages, Andy chatted with a guy wearing a Corrosion of Conformity T-shirt and his friends. He posed for a picture, a fry in mouth and buddies attempting to give him a tittie-twister.

We reconvened with our new friends from the prior bar, who were glad that we made it to FanHaus. The translator lady insisted, "I am the man, yes?" about directing us to this wonderful place. The mullet guy emphatically stated, "We must drink now." Agreed upon.

Oh yeah, the match, right? It was awesome, of course. Everything that we dreamed a Bundesliga game would be. We even imagined classic Soccer Made in Germany announcer Toby Charles' voice in our heads.

On the beer front, the wandering stadium server offered fresh-poured hops from the mini-keg backpack he wore. As he walked by, Cat got his attention by knocking on the keg to see if any beer was home. We scored with a pint of Becks ...not long before Monchengladbach scored what would be the winning goal in the first half on a PK. The home side prevailed 1-0 on this eve.

All in all, the dream of attending a Bundesliga match being achieved was worth the 4 a.m. arrival back at our Amsterdam hotel after the return trip. We slept tight, mates.

P.S. We support Bayern Munich, but Monchengladbach was the closest place to travel on our trip. They didn't disappoint.