Tour Diary - July 7, 2019 PART ONE
Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.
I say this a number of times today and no one here gets it. I mean, there’s not much to get but the river is rising here and it’s going to be an issue.
Last night at Breminale they had to kill the power on all the stages for a while because of the water. You see, Breminale is held on the bank of the Weser River here in Bremen and when they get Northwesterly winds/storms coupled with a high tide ~ it’s a recipe for the water to breach the banks.
When we get here I go down to the river bank and it looks fine, it’s a few feet below the banks and I’m thinking “this won’t be an issue.” But then it continued to rise.
All the groups and performers get to Breminale early, 10 am, to do soundcheck and make sure all is well. Today has a full lineup of Axel Cruz, Daisy Chapman, Kaurna Cronin, Ben Lorenson, Someday Jack, and the Byrnes/Patridge show. Todd and I are supposed to do a joint show at the end including some group finale type things. We’ve planned for this and we’re ready.
High tide is at 7 pm. We don’t know how high the water will be or if we will need to stop. Heiko is talking to all the bands. Heiko is a very organized, detail oriented person. He cannot control the river. He cannot control the variable of “will we need to stop or not” and I can see his brain is totally full and completely stressed to the max.
“Hey Heiko, I think now might be a good time to discuss my plans for next year.”
When I first met Heiko my sarcasm flew right over his head and it’s been work for both of us to understand each other better but this is just mean of me to do when he is completely maxed out.
Heiko starts to laugh. He gets that I’m busting his balls and I can see in his face that he needed that tension breaker.
After the soundchecks are done Heiko is trying to figure out if we start a little bit earlier, maybe we can get more acts in before the river reaches its peak and we have to shut down for 2 hours. Everyone pulls together and decides to start earlier and do a slightly shortened set. Like an hour instead of hour fifteen. Little bits that make a huge difference.
I really want to finish writing this but I cannot keep my eyes open.
Tour Diary - July 7, 2019 (Part Two)
At the will of the water.
Will the river rise and stop the festival in its tracks or will it stay within the confines of it’s banks? This is what’s driving all scheduling and the schedule gets scrapped and redone several times. If the river rises we may need to stop all performances for about 90 minutes to 2 hours while the power is shut off and the water engulfs the tents. We end up starting a bit earlier than originally planned and everyone coming together to work together to make it so everyone gets to play.
The situation is as they say “fluid”. I’m pretty exhausted from yesterday and am conserving energy today, I take a nap on a bench and just sort of linger about during everyone’s sets, hanging out at the merch table and helping sell cds for the other acts (we all take turns doing this). We’re set to go on last and I don’t know what that means as of right now or when that will be.
The high tide or ebb of the river is going to be at 7 pm and at about 6 pm Heiko Grein comes up to me - it’s looking like the river rise is not going to be as bad as yesterday and we *may* have extra time to fill. So now instead of Todd and I doing a set together, I am possibly doing a full 45 minute set and Todd is doing one after me and then we’re doing a whole Songs & Whispers extravaganza with a couple of songs together.
While Ben is on stage performing, there is a meeting backstage with Heiko, me, the stage manager and someone else - Do we shut down the stage and wait until after high tide or do I take the stage and if the water shuts us down then we just stop. Apparently this decision is up to me.
We play, damn the river. Let’s do this.
Ben is on stage now and I talk to Sam Barnard, Niklas Herzog and Mona Liand we discuss our now expanded set. The set up and change over is quick. We take the stage and I tell everyone that we don’t have time to talk, the river is rising and we have to rock. With that we blast thru our first three songs bam bam bam. It’s a blistering set and we kill. I’m watching the river rise up over the edge of the banks, I can see it from the stage. It has crossed the walkway and is now in the tent. We keep playing. People move forward a bit more because the water has surrounded the FOH area (the mixing board, lighting and sound people) making the FOH essentially an island. The water is not deep but it has made it’s way to the middle pole of the tent.
We’re doing “To her door” the great Paul Kelly song and I bring Kaurna and Emily up to sing it with me and it’s fantastic. Axel Cruz had a great set earlier and he has said he wants to play “Angelia” with me so I bring him up for that one. Since Todd and I got rear-ended by a police car yesterday he joins us for “APB” and we get the best sing along ever of that song. Sam, Niklas and Mona are amazing bandmates and keep me on the tracks. I announce one last song and we play “Lovers” and it’s done. I make my way to the merch table and meet a bunch of new and older fans, sign some cds and have a great chill after. Heiko tries to convince me to go play more songs but no, it’s time for Todd. I played my set, others cut their sets short in trying to make way for everyone - it’s an absolute bonus for me and I’m sure as hell not going to take advantage of that.
Todd is up on stage now and launches into a song about a river and with that the river seems to be receding and the ground drying up. What a weird experience - it’s 2019 and a rock show is still at the whims of Mother Nature.
Todd is rocking his “whiskey gospel” rock and it feels so good. I get up and join him on the end of his set on lap steel. Then we start all the Songs & Whispers encore things with Emily leading everyone through “Old Man” and “Dreams”. We take our bows and leave.
We’re all just hanging out chatting and being mellow, everyone keeps asking me if I’m ok and offering me beer or wine, I think I’m even offered pot at some point but I’m fine just the way I am. I’m in a post-show glow of a really fun show and it would be no exaggeration to say it feels like it’s own drug.
I saw most everyone else’s sets and it’s really impressive how a big stage with great sound can really amplify these folks talents. Watching Emily Davisand Tori Phillips, just the two of them on stage, hold the entire crowd in their hands - no fancy effects or tools - just great songs and the talent of the two of them that has clearly been honed from hours and hours of performing and practicing together. That’s the beauty and power of music. Kaurna Cronin’s set was amazing as well. I feel myself being prejudiced because KC is playing with a different backing group and I love his Aussie band. It’s different but not bad different, just different. I know the rest of his band and I know that they all have their own projects going on and KC has to carry on and his band yesterday was spot on, they were great. Kai Kampf played fantastic parts on his tele and the rest of the band rocked with Kaurna.(1) Axel Kruse’s band was him on acoustic guitar, two backup singers, whose names I can’t find right now,(one of which also played the tin whistle!) and Martin the drummer. Axel has a fantastic voice and I love his music. It’s walks the line between Irish, Americana and German music in a wholly original way. Daisy Chapman was fantastic as always and shared Martin the drummer with Axel. I talked to him for a while as he is a fantastic drummer and we talked about cymbals and TBBS(™)(2) I caught a little bit of Someday Jacob’s set and I didn’t know anything about him but I dug it. I missed all of Ben Lorentzon’s set by preparing for mine but I did hear it and it sounded appropriately dark and heavy.
Post show shenanigans are being planned. I’m really just happy wherever I am and I’m starting to regret not driving my own car(3) as I’m looking at my guitar, pedalboard, merch box and lap steel.(4)
I talk to Francy after the show. This is probably the 4th year she's been the backstage/stage manager and she is incredible. I've been threatening to steal her role of gaff tape every year now. She tells me that she was standing with the electrician during my set monitoring the water level and he was like "eh, I think we're fine. It's not that deep." and how they were ready to cut power if it was in danger of causing problems AND that we were the only tent that didn't shut down. Damn straight.
We start walking to Heartbreak Hotel, per our traditions but we never get there. We end up at the bar next to Arabic. I don’t know the name of it. Eisen maybe? I don’t know. It’s good to hang out and I’m just enjoying being. Someone suggests getting shots of “Climbing up the walls”. I have had this shot before and it is not exactly enjoyable. Kaurna is at the bar and comes back with a tray of shots for everyone. We all toast and it goes down the hatch. For the love of hell, he got “Climbing up the walls” for everyone. It tastes like wet dog with an aftertaste of the hottest Indian food that literally feels like it’s climbing up your throat and into your nasal passages. “It’s Tradition!” Kaurna exclaims and we all agree that not all traditions are good ones and hopefully we can come up with a better one next time.
I’m starting to fade, I pack up my stuff and catch a cab home.
It was a damn good day. Thank you Heiko Grein and Songs & Whispers for an amazing day.
And then Bobbo fell asleep.
(1) I feel like I’m not being clear here. I love Kaurna and his music. He’s super talented, good looking, gracious and fun to be around. I also like his band from Australia and he sounded fantastic with the new group behind him. If he wasn’t such a sweet sweet human - you would want to hate him for being so talented.
(2) TBBS is what Doug Schmudee and I now call “Train Beat BullShit” after a recording session with Corey Gash on drums and after we played him a song he said “So you want some of that train beat bullshit on this one?” We may need to make TBBS t-shirts. It needs to have a train, a snare and brushes. I think this would be a huge seller to country drummers everywhere.
(3) I rode down with Emily and Tori. We found a space in a parking garage that was specifically “Women’s” parking spaces. This is a new thing to all of us as we have never seen parking spaces marked specifically for just women and we all start making the same joke about the spaces being wider for female drivers.
(4) My buddy Roman Sonnleitner made me the best lap steel ever. I have been leaving it here in Germany to use on tour but I still don’t have any way to transport it around so it just goes under my arm. I haven’t found any bags that will work with it yet.