Safe in Chemnitz

Today was a strange day. We woke up to the sounds of roosters, we pushed our little Volvo to 125mph on the autobahn, and we played a show in Chemnitz in spite of a Neo-Nazi rally in the city center.

So, I’m just gonna walk through the day. And then we’ll get to it all.

We woke up in a converted trailer home at Hafen 2. They set it up just for the traeling musicians. This place is sort of the DIY dream. It’s a community space, coffee shop, restaurant, music venue, movie theater, petting zoo… the list goes on. We played there the previous night, then slept in a trailer right behind the banners in this picture below.


We woke up there to the sounds of roosters and road construction - this is still part of a city after all. I walked to the rental car place, forgot my passport, ran back about two miles, then took a taxi back again, passport in hand. However, I got a weird message from the Hafen 2 matriarch, Andrea, about the next stop on our tour.

So, at the rental car place, I was trying to make out the news reports, without really understanding any German. I did make out the word “Nazi” though. So, without internet, Dan and I surfed through the radio, parsing through the words to understand that “something” happened in Chemnitz, and it was to do with Neo-Nazis.

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We also found a radio station that mentioned me by name, Hello Emerson, played a bit of a song, and then listed some tour dates. We freaked out about that in a good way. And then we hit 125mph on the autobahn in our little rental Volvo.

Anyway, we get to Chemnitz and see a few Police cars, but nothing too wild. Last night, a man was stabbed, and the police arrested two middle eastern immigrant men. This led to far-right extremists, Neo-Nazis, and the AFD to call for a spontaneous demonstration. So, over 800 people assembled in the city center. Some bad stuff went down - read more about that here

Demonstrators from the left and the right were going to butt heads at around the same time that we were scheduled to play. There was talk of canceling the show, but they decided that they were going to continue with the event - they’re all about inclusivity and togetherness, and it seemed important to have some music in light of the potential violence. We met Barry Sloan, one of the most open and helpful Irishmen I’ve ever met (he gave me a book of his, which I’m excited to read). 

His venue, Chemnitz INSPIRE, is a community gathering space. It offers English lessons to retirees, homework help for refugee children, and events throughout the week to bring people together from a variety of backgrounds. Also, Haley Hendrickx played here, so WOW.

So, we played. And people still came out, even with all of the concern of the demonstration and counter-demonstration. And Loic ran sound and was helpful and brilliant - he’s lived in Germany for three years but spent most of his life in France. Florian helped us carry our equipment to the Air BnB for the night - he has a band called Orvo (here’s a video for their song, “Drunky”).

And then we met Tobi, our host for the night. He was born in Eastern Germany during the Cold War and lived under socialism in the GDR until the Berlin Wall came down when he was 13 years old. He said that things weren’t colorful, but everyone had food and a job. Other than that, they didn’t have much. 

One of the first things that he mentioned was their clothes. They all had similar, boring clothes. If you wanted something, and it wasn’t provided, then that was it. Imports and exports were banned. Nothing could go in or out. He said that they couldn’t leave the city, and felt like they were in a prison. If you fled, you were shot. If you staged a protest, Russia would send in the tanks to stamp it, and you, out.

But people would go home and make the things that the state didn’t provide them. And they would sell them on the black market to each other. And this was risky. But a lot of things were risky. And, bit by bit, people rose up. He describes many people demonstrating all across East Germany at once. And a few were successful. Excited by those successes, and scattered far enough that they couldn’t all get stamped out, they all rose up. And the wall came down.


Tobi is now an engineer. He’s traveled the world over. He has four kids. And we’re staying in the bunk beds he made for his kids - they’re with their mom right now. So I’ll climb up there and sleep for the night.

Goodnight. It’s like 2 am here. But I wanted to write everything down before I forgot. Be well and stay safe.