herbie hancock on tour

Sometimes we just accidently fall into things , you know . Oh , I don’t mean falling into a cement mixer , for example , or into a black hole , for another , or through the looking glass , or anything so dramatic . I mean just accidently being there , in some certain place when circumstances unexpectedly twist around just enough to put you ( one ) in an unusual situation .

So I went to have a leisurely beer at the small kiosk in the corner of the castle courtyard . The castle I mean is the Pomeranian Duke’s castle in Szczecin, Poland , first built in the 1100s by , obviously , Pomeranians . No , not the dog Pomeranians . I don’t think the Pomeranian dogs would have had the imagination or , frankly , the need for such a fortification . If you saw the castle , you’d realize right away that the castle is very much at the wrong scale to have been built by such small dogs in any case.

Anyhow , nowadays the castle houses a couple of museums , two restaurants , a few offices, a recently constructed rooftop observation platform , and an outdoor stage where various performances happen . Actually there are two stages . A smaller one is set up periodically in the outer ( a smaller ) courtyard where movies are shown during the summer and musicians sometimes perform . It’s all free at the smaller stage and usually free at the stage in the inner courtyard . Often folk performances take place , and at least once a year there is a Viking festival with participants wearing medieval costumes and selling medival -themed snacks , carvings , and knick-knacks , with dance performances and things like that . Well , I should hurriedly say that they’re not actually supposed to be Vikings — that’s a Scandinavian thing , of course , and these were Slavs , not at all Vikings . ( I don’t want any Poles , or other Slavs for that matter , coming after me for misrepresenting their history ! )

At any rate , the castle courtyard on the average day is a quiet place . A few German tourists wander around in small groups , often with a guide who is apparently explaining the history of the place ( a city owned by Germany before the War ). Ada says the tour guides are saying , ” This should all still be ours ,” but I doubt it . I think she’s joking . Maybe .

Being German at the time , the place was severely damaged during continual bombings during the war by British and Americans , not so much because it was a castle but because it is near the river . The city is a large Baltic port ( it’s not really on the Baltic , however ) and there was extensive shipbuilding happening there , a submarine pen , a small automobile factory and the city , not too far from Berlin , was a Nazi stronghold and so it was a favorite target for allied bombers .

By chance , in the corner of the castle compound , there are a few tables and chairs set up beside a small beer kiosk . The beer is good and it’s cheap ( well , a friend of mine says to say it’s not cheap but it’s inexpensive ). When I’m walking to the city center or to the new “old town” [ That’s another story . The old old town is a few hundred yards away , but a new old town has been built ( based mostly on old photos , I guess ) to accommodate the tourists ].

And now we git to my story . One day I’m sitting calmly having a beer at that corner in the castle courtyard . (This was several year ago , so this story is another random memory that suddenly popped into my brain today .) There are a few tourists wandering around , a few people emerging or entering through doorways . Then I notice the courtyard is being quietly cleared . It was all very serenely and effectively done with no muss and no fuss at all , almost to the point where I wondered if it was all in my imagination . In no time at all I was the only one in the courtyard . Even the beer-seller had quietly vanished .

When all of this unruffled action began to hit me , I thought I would , obviously , be next . I had my beer , though , and I decided to wait until I was asked to go . No problem . Maybe it was some kind of castle maintenance about to begin . Who knows .

Then a man or two wandered into the picture . Not too far from me a guy set up a control board and another guy was plugging in cords and checking wires . Someone walked onto the stage and he and the guy at the control board began a sort-of call -and -response . They were setting up for a musical performance . I scanned the entire couryard for someone who would tell me to leave but no one really noticed me or cared . I continued to sip my beer and watch .

The guy on the stage was Herbie Hancock . He was about to begin rehearsing and they were testing equiptment . I watched. I listened . I knew that Herbie Hancock had a concert scheduled for that evening . Ada and I had tickets for the concert . Over the next few hours Herbie must have run through his entire repertoire for the concert . I was that oft-imagined fly on the wall . I assumed that the powers-that-be assumed that I was with the band .

When I realized that the time was getting toward seven , I called Ada to say that I’d meet her at the concert and that I was already inside ( they had locked all of the gates hours before ). I wished only that the beer kiosk hadn’t closed .

I gave Herbie , up on stage , a two-thumbs-up signal as I walked past . There was nobody else there except his sound man at the controls . Herbie nodded . I should disavow you of any notion that I am a great Herbie Hancock fan ( that’s , ah , disavow ; not disembowel —- that’d be a whole other event ) . It just sort of happened that we got tickets since this well-known American jazz man was in such an obscure venue all of a sudden .

What I didn’t know was that as I got to the gate , the inside of the gate , there were about 200 fans outside who were desperate to be let in . Ada was somewhere back in the crowd . I signalled for her to come up front . The crowds must have thought that I was with the band , after all , since I was already inside . And , after all , I had got a personal nod from the star of the evening , so I guess that counts for something . Anyway , Ada and I scooted back inside without being torn apart by the waiting throngs . The local officials guarding the gates gave us puzzled looks ; they didn’t quite know how we got in there either . I figured Herbie wouldn’t mind , nevertheless , and Ada and I chose our seats . By this time Herbie had disappeared backstage and the multitudes began to rush in and s=to spread out in their anxious hunt for suitable seats .

So if I ever meet Herbie Hancock I’ll thank him for the personal concert all afternoon and , of course, the evening concert too , although that one seemed a bit too crowded .

Ada gave me puzzled looks too , by the way . I told her Herbie let me in for the rehearsal because he was surprised to find an American there in such a far-off place calmly enjoying a beer and ready for some good jazz music .

Some things just happen . Some days just go like that .


Filed under humor

3 responses to “herbie hancock on tour

  1. Why a great experience! Thanks for sharing that story. Isn’t it great when things “happen”?
    I, too, have a Herbie Hancock experience. It’s not quite as fun as yours, though. And it does not include beer. 😔
    In the early days of The Apple Computer company, I went to one of their product announcement events. It was in San Francisco in the mid 1980’s. Most of the attendees were computer store owners, which at that time were mostly a very technical lot. Envision Radio Shack employees or washing machine repairman mostly from rural America. As a special treat to the attendees, Apple had arranged some nice snacks and a musical event. You guessed it – the performer was Herbie Hancock!
    In those days, I was regularly going to jazz concerts all around the Bay Area, and was fortunate to hear some very talented musicians. So, I knew who Herbie Hancock was and how special a treat this was.
    However, most of the conference attendees didn’t know who he was and didn’t seem to care for his music. After a song or two, most wandered away, back to their hotel rooms or their computers. I felt bad for Herbie Hancock.
    After so many of the attendees had left, it was almost like having a private concert. I say “almost” because I wasn’t completely alone, as Steve Jobs and a half dozen Apple employees were still enjoying the music.
    You have the honor to have had a private concert.
    Thanks for reminding me of my own experience.

  2. Cool story from a great day. Herbie probably was wondering who you were. CIA? KGB? I mean, you might have that look working for you.

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