On the outside in Bolzano

The following story is true, only the names have been censured to protect the very, very guilty…

I just returned from an impromptu date in Bolzano at a very old beer bar – the main room we played in was a former tower built around 1,100 years ago. They make their own beer, really good stuff as I found out. Because of typical Italian traffic and a roadblock, we took to the back roads up the Alto Adige valley along the river and arrived just at the start time, but too late to get a bite to eat according to the owner who insisted we start immediately, play for two hours, then order some food. That’s when I figured beer has some nutritional ingredients in it so I better make a quick deal w/ the bartender.

One beer and a few tunes later, we could hardly hear ourselves for the racket in the bar and the table in front of us talking loudly (in German – and you know that’s a loud language when beer is involved*) so my friend, in disguise as a flute player until then, pulled out his Digeridoo, crammed a microphone inside the hole at the end and we let out with a version of Derek Bailey plays popular theme songs from Hitler Youth (**) accompanied by an Italian Aborigine (***).

The effect was immediate: it cleared the front table out. They payed the check and were out the door before you could say, “Umferschnitzermeisterfrau!”

The rest of the set was enjoyable as we settled into my friends original ballad that roamed freely among the alps before settling into the warmer lowlands where food might be more readily available. The 5,000 year old “Ice Man” would have been proud.

And that’s exactly what I did – during the break I had a real nice plate of lamb ribs with thyme sauce and potatoes and a few more beers whie the owner came over and told us his customers were complaining our music was “too soft and jazzy” and we needed to “turn up” and play some more “popular” styles, you know, “pick it up a bit” in the next set.

Lesson one: never ask a guitarist to turn up, especially when beer is involved. We accepted the criticism graciously, asked for another beer and then went to it. Luckily a blues singing friend offered to help us out. He didn’t care what we played, which key, or any chords whatsoever while he improvised lyrics and we played a 45 minute version of “Girl From Ipanema”, Muddy Watters “Mannish Boy” (from his Hard Again lp), Sun Ra’s “Angels and Demons”, The Doors “Light My Fire”, Jimi Hendrix “Foxy Lady”, Miles “So What” and ereything in between (****). I played guitar with a Brazilian percussion stick, violin bow, glass slide , metal box and anything else that made noise. At one point I had the guitar on controlled feedback and with the Digeridoo, the windows were shaking and making a loud vibrating noise that was very useful to the overall musical direction we were going in: Miles Smiles Meets Sun Ra, Hendrix and Jim Morrison!

The crowd loved it, two 14 year old kids drinikng 24 ounce beers looked confused but happy, folks at the bar had to cover their ears while ordering drinks, the owner was perplexed perhaps, but happy with the outcome, and we got through the gig in a most creative fashion.

Morale of the story: careful what you ask for, especially when it’s a full moon in Bolzano. 

We enjoyed the long ride back to Verona, just coming off the full moon, the mountains lining the Adige river on both sides standing massively tall yet lean, the sheer cliffs reflecting the moonlight brightly against the darker, sparsely pine-covered patches, the upper ridges of the mountain range gleaming white with snow, like islands floating in the sky, a few planets and stars throbbing against the clear night, ancient castles clinging to the sides of hills and cliffs, lit up like a Disney fantasy.

cosmic regards,


* just joking of course, I love German: Wagner makes Debussey seem like a wimp with an overly protective mother… I’m just joking, I love Debussey… (etc)

** “Eins, Zwei, a Wurstel in Your Eye” – tunes like that.

*** I have no excuse – the Aborigines have taken enough abuse not to compare them to Italians. I apologize!! And they make great Digeridoos.

**** ok, there wasn’t really anything “in between” – it’s just a literary device used to describe total chaos.


~ by Garrison Fewell on March 13, 2009.

3 Responses to “On the outside in Bolzano”

  1. Man you are one funny MF!

  2. Hey Garrison

    I find your blog very entertaining, enlightning with lots of little gems of truth that makes you reflect on… well all kind of stuff! Hope to have the plesure to meet you again in person sometime soon! I still remember with lots of plesure the solo pieces you did at a clinic in Palermo in 2007! Your a deep musician and human being! Keep it up!

    All the best
    Francesco Cigna

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