So that’s how it was: My train trip with LEVI’S through the US

If you had told me at the beginning of my trip how exalted it would feel to experience the almighty godmother of punk, Patti Smith, in the hall of a train station with son Jackson, playing more or less rebellious love songs with an improvised band I would have declared you insane. In the end though, it all made sense.

Our trip started really only started in Pittsburgh after the typical metropolitan kick-off in Brooklyn. That’s where my travel companion and Berlin Hedonism musician Tobias, who once named his band Bonaparte in a mood of sympathetic megalomania,  joined to get on the train that was to take us to Minneapolis under the theme of “Station to Station”. All of this took place with great artist Doug Aitken as the patron.

After checking out some bands and the still very beautiful Chloe Sevigny in the arrival hall in Pittsburgh as a goodbye event and addressing the art we’d been shown in Brooklyn the actual – ride of the trip started on the train: In the panorama coach, a coach with insect-like glass eyes that revealed a view on everything, Ariel Pink was working on a everything but a smash hit song that made no sense, Superstar cook Leif Hedenal was cooking up something made up of local ingredients in the restaurant compartment that surely no one would have pointed out to be from Pittsburgh. But that’s what it was: A piece of art comprising of Pittsburgh ingredients. Thurston Morre, world famous ex musician of all-time greats band Sonic Youth was fiddling around in the Recording coach in the meantime, incessantly hammering in the same two chords that will make up a complicated tune. I am impatiently awaiting its release since.

Tobias and I were roaming the different coaches and met for high-five exchanges on the open, extremely windy platforms connecting the coaches. We were also surprised about all the artists on board being unbelievably nice.

At 5:01 American afternoon time sharp, Eli, a so called auctioneer and world champion in his discipline marched through the train counting down for the official happy hour that mainly meant one thing at Jeans-o-clock: Switching from beer and wine to hard liquor. The two bartenders, that were also called mixologists, were serving specially created long drinks that knocked every tough cowboy out of his boots.

At some point we then arrived in Chicago, the Windy City, where it was 35 degrees Celsius. Tobias was working on a new Bonaparte song, I jumped into Lake Michigan and chilled in the sand. That’s even more summer city than Barcelona I thought, and fell asleep.

I woke up to my first local Chicago beer that I was given at the entrance of the entrance hall of the third biggest American city. Together with all my newfound best friends from the train we watched an insanely awesome gospel group called The Black Monks of Mississippi that even made the most hard-nosed sound technician teary-eyed. Later, Mavis Staples, the Grammy award-winning soul singer was performing as well. In direct comparison to the other quite artificial “Station to Station” events in Brooklyn and Pittsburgh, Chicago definitely had the most soul. No surprise in the city of Blues.

The audience was excited in any case, and so was I.

Fairly hungover and with unwashed hair I re-claimed my favorite spot in the train the next morning: The bed in the Levi’s coach, facing another bed and situated in the immediate proximity of the juke box and the jazz guitar that was directly hooked up to Soundcloud. Extremely talented musicians like the sister-band White Mystery that were also on the train, repeatedly tried sending their slamming sound creations into the World Wide Web.

We were rolling through the American countryside which is every bit as gloomy and awesome as we always imagine. And then it was already 5:01 again.

The evening started and we were pouring down liquor-infused drinks, playing Guns ‘n Roses songs with the Soundcloud guitar, sent half-assed tweets into the world using an old, pimped typewriter and were torn out of our insane American train-traveler world by the honking of the train’s signal: Touchdown Minneapolis.

I knew nothing about this half of the Twin Cities of course, except that we would definitely be among the year’s highlights for this city with our “Station to Station” tour. A semi-long look at the lickety-split walking street and a slightly longer look into the Mall of America, the biggest of its kind in North America, manifested that impression in the most unpleasant manner. Our all-nightly show program was hence taken in in the second half of the “double city”, St. Paul.

Besides old acquaintances, such as Ariel Pink, No Age, and White Mystery it was mainly a lady come of age that made us go insane out of excitement on the last night of Tobias’ and my trip: Patti Smith.

As the final act of the evening, and our tour, this hippie-looking punk marched on stage, determinedly but not rudely asking why her guitar couldn’t be heard, introduced her song Jackson – and then made everyone get goose bumps with her metallic voice that is marked by a massively eventful life.

At some point she was joined by additional musicians that revealed themselves later as Levi’s employees or miscellaneous train travelers – one of them was normally a camera man – and played together with the old punk Patti Smith “Because the Night belongs to Lovers”, which was incredible and as good as it gets.

Not even all the stale goodbye beers in the local trash bar and the hour-long return flight in the middle seat could spoil that experience. That was: pure awesomeness.

Von: Carl Jakob Haupt

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