During a trip to Shanghai a few years ago, I was wandering around the very cool Xintiandi area and found an advert for a Terumasa Hino (Japanese jazz trumpet player) concert that night. I went and had an awesome time, and ever since then, I pick up a local "what's going on" type magazine upon arrival in any new city.
So easily the most fun I had during my two weeks in Europe, and maybe the most fun I've had in my entire life, was when I stumbled on a Mika concert my second day in Berlin. I was touring around the Brandenburg Gate and visited the great TI (Tourist Information office) located there to grab a magazine. I was looking for Maria Mena of Norway, but found Mika and SCREECHED with excitement. I asked the guy at the counter (with exaggerated calm, I'm sure) what day it was (you know how days have no meaning when you're on vacation) and couldn't frickin believe it when he told me it was 11/5 and the concert was that night.
I'm a huge Mika fan, and can still feel how excited I was all day anticipating the concert. In the evening I went back to my hotel to get gorgeous, and then set off to try to find Columbiahalle, the venue. The whole thing was one huge rush. The concert hall was small and kind of trashy, which was perfect. The audience was full of the funnest people, and we all sang every song with him. I've been to zillions of concerts, but never one with the energy that this one had. To say that Mika is a charismatic performer isn't really communicating it. How about: we all LOST OUR MINDS from the minute he strutted out on stage. I've never seen a better performance.
Every song was over the top, but I thought the building was going to come down when he sang Love Today. Glitter, streamers, costumes, balloons, and confetti everywhere. I was bouncing up and down for maybe the entire 2 1/2 hours. Everyone was screaming, jumping, and dancing with everyone else. It was like having a party with three thousand of your closest friends. Here are vids for Lollipop, Big Girl, Grace Kelly, My Interpretation (one of my faves), and the awesome Billy Brown. Since returning home, I've almost made myself sick to death of his album from overplay, but I can't let go of the positive vibes. There's something about his music and his take on the world that makes you feel like you're finally seeing things as they are meant to be. And maybe more than that, that you can be exactly who you are. That's it. Other than that, I don't know how to describe it.
I loved Berlin. I knew I would. I've been to Germany a few times before, to Munich and to the Rhine Valley, and I've driven all over that frickin country to get from the Netherlands to Czech, but I've never been to Berlin. Somehow I knew I would take to the city. It's a crazy place. Berliners are friendly, but they don't give a shit what you think about them. (God, I'm in love.) There are more street corners with sex shops than Starbucks, which gives you a hint of the free and open vibe, and I really enjoy Cold War history, so it seemed like the perfect place. I know I'll go back. I stayed in a place called Peters Pension, which is German for After a while you don't even notice the bed springs poking through the "mattress." It was cheap as hell and the owners were very kind. I'll definitely stay there next time.
I took the U-Bahn all over and mostly tracked the Berlin Wall and related sites. I ate great food and really focused on enjoying everything, e-v-e-r-y thing, I did. Each walk, each meal, each person I chatted up. With so many places in the world to visit, I rarely plan on going to any city or country more than once, but Berlin is a definite return destination.
More pics on my Flickr page, and here are a few cool links to things I learned about on my trip: Peter Fechter, Ghost Stations (I loved these), Checkpoint Charlie, JFK's famous speech.