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The Classic Rock Cafe in Grafenwöhr, Germany, features a huge collection of rock n’ roll posters and album covers.

The Classic Rock Cafe in Grafenwöhr, Germany, features a huge collection of rock n’ roll posters and album covers. (Seth Robson / S&S)

GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — Is your idea of a relaxing night out sitting in a smoke-filled room bashing your head against the bar to the thundering beat of AC/DC or Metallica? If it is, look no further than the first bar you encounter after walking out Gate 1 at Grafenwöhr — the Classic Rock Cafe.

The bar has two pool tables and a table-soccer game, but it is the classic rock — or more accurately, classic metal — that is the real draw. On any given night, you can expect to be aurally assaulted by the likes of Motorhead, Iron Maiden, The Scorpions, Kiss, Ozzy Osbourne, Tool, Wasp, Guns N’ Roses and an army of other heavy metal legends whose music is blasted over a sound system while videos play on a television in the corner.

The patrons include a mix of soldiers and civilians from Grafenwöhr and German youngsters who have tired of the pop music forced on them elsewhere.

Tank, the bartender, plays well-known songs when the bar is full, but when there are only a few people there he delves into such obscure classics as Iron Maiden’s “Tail Gunner” or Kiss’ “Lick It Up.”

The long-haired German, whose black leather lace-up trousers make him look more like a rock star than a barman/computing student, says his name is short for Tankred and he actually rode in a German Leopard II tank when he served for two years as a private first class in the German army.

Tank will talk all night about metal.

“I’ve seen Motorhead and Man O’ War, who claims to be the loudest heavy metal band in the world. The last concert I went to was Apocalyptica.”

Among soldiers, “Freebird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd, is the most popular music video, Tank says.

The Classic Rock Cafe serves a variety of beers and liquors including The Wolfpack (7 euros), which is named for a U.S. Vietnam War-era unit and includes vodka, bourbon, gin, two shots of Captain Morgan’s rum, Coke and ice.

Classic Rock Cafe regular Robert Montour, 41, of Kahnawake, Canada, said he discovered the bar, then known as the Park Cafe, when he arrived at Grafenwöhr as a staff sergeant assigned to the 535th Engineer Company in 1985.

Montour, who recently returned to work at the Grafenwöhr shoppette, said the bar used to be popular with engineers who would drink a 10-mark ($5) concoction of liquors and sodas from the “Engineer Bucket.”

These days, the bar scene outside Gate 1 is not exactly humming. Bar owners are waiting for a resurgence in business they expect when a brigade-size element of soldiers arrives at Grafenwöhr over the next two years, Tank said.

Until then, there’s always banging your head on the bar.

Classic Rock CafeGrafenwöhr, Germany

Location: The first bar on the right outside Grafenwöhr’s Gate 1.

Drinks: Average German prices for beer and spirits.

Food: Next door is Grafenwöhr’s famous and recently remodeled schnitzel stand.

Ambience: Bone-jarring heavy metal music mixed with jovial conversation with local Germans, U.S. soldiers and base workers.

Service: Tank’s beer-pouring skills are second to none.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.
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