”Every day on earth’s another chance to get it right”

Hey T, Isn’t it fitting that our first ever post should be about Joan Baez? Seeing that she is the one who brought us together in so many ways, I think she is also the one to keep us going. IMG_0470I have now been to two concerts with her since arriving in Austria, one in Linz on Saturday and one in Vienna the following night. They were both amazing, as I’m sure I don’t have to tell you. The one in Linz attracted mostly middle-aged/old Germans who sat very faithfully in their lined up chairs and nodded their heads to the tunes they recognised. Towards the end we were some who actually went up to the stage but it still had a very civilised feel to it, perhaps because of the towering presence of the cathedral right next to us. IMG_0480 Vienna attracted a much more mixed crowd, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people our age at a Joan concert actually. It took place in Arena, this place in a more industrial part of Vienna that started out as a squat, but is now a fully fledged concert venue and culture centre, the old brick chimneys still dominating the building’s structure. I really liked the feeling that the squat could turn out to be something productive, they were not only holding the demolition at bay by the presence of humans, but they actually created something that gave the buildings new meaning and life. If you want to overcome the past you need to reconceptualise the present and reinvent the future the graffiti-covered brick walls seemed to tell me. The atmosphere there was great and Joan did encore after encore. She also told a great story about having a fight with a restaurant owner in Linz after the police had told her and the band to keep their post-concert dinner music session down – apparently her peace, love, and non-violence is not always so easy to apply to everyday life. It’s inspiring that she’s so open about it though. The set list as I remember it: God is God, There but for fortune, Silver Dagger (introduced with ”This is a song from my first album… from 1906”), It’s all over now Baby Blue (only in Linz), Stagger Lee, Wenn unsere Brüder kommen (fantastic song – should be added to the Peace not War playlist), Me and Bobby McGee, Just the way you are (Dirk’s song), Diamonds and Rust, Joe Hill, The Sound of Pots and Pans (song from the Gezi Park protests in Istanbul), Long Black Veil (only Vienna), Swing low sweet chariot, Seven curses, Give me cornbread when I’m hungry (oh yes Gabe still does his amazing solo), House of the Rising Sun, Don’t think twice, it’s alright, Gracias a la Vida. Encores: Sag mir wo die Blumen sind, the Boxer, Imagine, Donna Donna, Blowin in the Wind (only Vienna). In Linz I couchsurfed with a lovely girl who took me for a walk in the sweltering heat and told me about how Linz used to be dominated by Nazi steel industries and now is filled with Russian tourists buying magnets by the thousands. But apparently Russians are not so keen on visiting anymore since the Ukraine crisis and ensuing sanctions hit, and the entire Austrian tourist industry is feeling it. Those are some important magnet sales. We also walked by a bike fixing party, with people chilling, doing and learning bike maintenance, and planning cycling events I suppose. What struck me was how like our Bike Pool events in St Andrews it was. Sure, there was maybe some more beer and sausage than we would normally have, but I’m sure I saw someone who looked just like our dear bike mechanic and life enthusiast F. It just brought home to me how we are really all rather similar on this planet. Wherever you go you seem to find the same kind of people doing the same kind of things. I think this is also what I love so much about Joan’s music, she somehow manages to tap into this – she transcends the verbal barriers of communication that we set up and makes people across generations and cultures access feelings and reflections that go so much deeper. And despite being in different circumstances and having different experiences, people seem to be able to come together through her music and see that there isn’t really that much keeping them apart. In Linz I chatted a bit to a guy who said that she is like a conscience for the rest of us, and I think there’s something in that. Something there let’s us access what we deep down know is right and wrong, our hopes and pains for the world, and we feel that we are not alone in them. Looking around at the faces of the crowd when she sang Sag mir wo die Blumen sind, and not seeing a single dry cheek, I thought that people do feel that conscience, that awareness, that unity in cause and action among humans, even if we can’t always express in words how we can go about acting on it. But it convinces me that we should continue trying. Hope this finds you, as it leaves me, filled with hope, humility, and happiness, M

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