Tour Diary - June 17-18, 2019
At around noontime yesterday I met up with Ben and we talked briefly and I knew then that I was not going to be writing a tour diary last night.
Ben and I were playing at the university in a stage/performance area. I’ve played here before and he’s not sure where we’re going and I convince him to follow me. “I know how to get there, we have to drive down the tram line.” Which doesn’t seem like it’d be safe and doesn’t seem like something you should be able to convince someone else to do this easily but he followed me.*
The place where you park has some of those metal poles that slide into the ground to prevent people from driving there and the center pole has already been removed for us so we pull right in and park.**
Ben and I both misread the tour itinerary and thought we both had very short 30 minute sets but it turns out we have even shorter 15 minute sets and our total time for playing is 30 minutes. This works out to 3 songs each. We have about an hour to set up so everything sounds good with plenty of time to spare. Mona goes to school here and she’s going to sing with me as well so that’s always cool. I remember the first time I played here was with Riddle & The Stars and Stressechoes and now that I think of it - I think we only did 15 minutes each that day too. Anyway, the room is starting to fill up. I told Ben to expect about 40 people but I’m told after that we actually had 80. So that’s cool.
Ben wants to go first and his first song is in Norwegian. (?!?!?) I’m listening closely because I want to make a joke afterwards about how nothing rhymes in Norwegian but then I’m quietly sucked into the song and I don’t know what the words are but I can definitely tell that there are rhyming patterns happening. Then he plays another song that has a looping guitar part and his last song is an old American spiritual song that he creates a beat with his voice, lays a vocal “ohhh” over it and then two harmony lines over that and then sings over all of it.
People like Ben who are good at the looping thing are super impressive. I don’t do a lot of looping but when I do, I’m filling in for not having a second guitar player and I try to keep the parts short and tight - I’ve seen too many people play a two chord progression and then solo over it endlessly. It’s the looping version of going to a blues jam and it’s super boring for everyone except the wanker playing guitar.
Lost my tram of thought.
Mona and I get up and do a pretty tight 3 song set at the university and it goes well. We haven’t had a rehearsal since 2018 but she’s now performed two shows with me and has been fantastic. We decide that we should rehearse some of the new songs and that is going to happen next week.
Speaking of - Niklas and Sam. I have to get in touch with those two dudes and work on some stuff for the festivals we have coming up!
After the university show we’re heading over to get lunch and moving our cars so that the guy running the show (I can’t remember his name) can get his car out and he’s pointing at the big metal thing and how I need to put it back in when we leave BUT security might come by and put it back in and lock it in place and if that’s the case, our cars would be stuck in this area for a while until we can reach folks and he’s not sure what to do about all this. I walk over and grab the metal pole, stick it in the back of my car, lock it and then tell him “If it’s not here, they can’t lock us in - I’ll put it back when we leave.” And it feels like one of those real take charge moments of ‘don’t worry, I got this, I’ve been circumnavigating the system my whole life’.
We get lunch, before I leave I return the pole and then we drive down the tram line to leave. It’s just how it’s done.
I was going to use my Bb harmonica yesterday and I practiced with it at the flat beforehand and wouldn’t you know it, it’s dead. What happens when a harmonica dies is it sounds like a cross between Bob Dylan and a duck playing harmonica. Downtown Bremen has a small little overpriced music store and I head over there to see what they got. It’s one of those shops that probably gets a lot of people trying to play all their stuff and just abusing the merchandise because as soon as I step in there’s a guy right there. “What are you looking for? Can I help you?” And it’s not an aggressive selling techniques like you get at Guitar Center this has a definite feel of “don’t touch our stuff without asking!” I easily dispatch him to look for a Bb harmonica and have a look around.***
The store has a bunch of brands of guitars that I’ve never heard of before and one telecaster with a Duesenberg tremolo. No Bb harp and I’m out of there, walking to Litfass. Now Litfass is in the center of this downtown area, it used to have live music but because of the gentrification of the area (read: people move in because it’s cool and drive rent up) the new folks that moved here because of it being hip and happening have also been able to make it so Litfass can’t have live music anymore.
That pisses me off. It’s like when they build a housing development next to the dump and then complain about the rats. If you move to a place that is already a happening and vibrant scene and you want to kill what is happening and vibrant ever since you moved in. That’s just the worst.
So I order some tea and just kick back and people watch.
I get a message from Ben that’s he’s coming over to the flat and have dinner with me. I have that nice bottle of wine from the other night and I get some pizza for myself and he gets falafel konig and before long we’ve killed two bottles of wine. Emily comes home and we decide we need more wine and walk to the ReWe and we each buy a bottle. I’m very proud of myself for remembering that I needed eggs so I bought wine and eggs.
The three of us just hang out and talk it all out. What did we have to talk out? Let’s see, we covered wars (both great and sequel), famine (Geldof), walls (both Berlin and hypothetical) religion, Norway, Australia, USA (via New Jersey) mothers, fathers and siblings, what music was playing when we lost our V card, rhyming in Norweigian, cricket, drummers, beer, wine, the state of the music industry, toast, traveling music, books, who we listen to since we can’t listen to Ryan Adams, All the ‘Ben’s’ that I have toured with, how Christopher Columbus calling Native Americans “Indians” was and is so geographically wrong and yet we still can’t quite get rid of the name even though we know it’s wrong, cultural misappropriations, Kaurna Cronin, chocolate, my mother’s cooking, hockey, hockey as a metaphor for a band, hockey as a metaphor for life, how hockey taught me to swear at a young age and in French, songwriting and music.
We started around 6 pm and couldn’t keep our eyes open sometime after 2 am.
At this point I look at the schedule to see what I’m doing tomorrow. Oh good - I’m on Weser TV in Delmonhorst tomorrow and it’s an early video shoot.
Well, early. I have to be there at like 2 pm. But I look in the mirror and I can see my face. I’ve got a face for radio.
My get in time at Radio Weser TV is 2 pm, I’m there at 1:55. My soundcheck is at 2:15. We’re done by 2:25. I perform two passes of the same song do a short interview and I’m packed up and leaving before 3 pm.
It’s great to see these guys again and we make pseudo plans to meet up again at Breminale.
“Signed my record contract today and quitting this job and I’m on my way…”
The lyrics from “Part time cowboy” come up in my head today as I stop into the office to finalize the contract for my new album. When you’re young and you daydream about signing your record contract you think of a big boardroom and a bit of fanfare when in reality it’s more like “I printed them all out because you couldn’t figure out how to electronically sign a PDF. I hate wasting all this paper!” I hear you man, I hear you. I can think about a piece of music, I can write that music, I can record, mix and master that music and put it on a cd or the internet but I am incapable of navigating editable PDF’s or a spreadsheet.
Microsoft Excel is my kryptonite. If you ever want to render me useless or incapicitated just make me have to deal with Excel and I will crumble like a cheap card table.
Today is a two show day and I’m playing a cultural center on the other side of town. I can see my face on the poster on their front window as well as on a sign by the street. The folks working here tell me it’s so hot they don’t expect hardly anyone to be here tonight and last month they only had 3 people here for the show. But I remember the words of Ray Wylie Hubbard: “the days I keep my gratitude higher than my expectations, I have good days”. The picture of my face apparently isn’t enough to bring in the crowds. He is right about one thing - it is hot in here. There’s no air conditioning and when I get a glass of water - we have to run the tap for a few just to get something cooler than room temperature.
At the top end of the evening there were 8 people listening. Three of whom I know, another one is a Fallen Stars fan and saw me play last year, two people working there and two stragglers. Kevin and Petra are here and they do a great job of requesting songs, I even see Kevin’s mother singing along with some. Petra has brought me special bread for toast in the morning and that will be in tomorrow’s report.
The first set ends with me barely having my eyes open because so much sweat has gotten in my eyes it actually burns. I wash my face and before the second set starts I grab my guitar, unplug and bring everyone outside. We have a great little private session with a few requests and all is good.
I get back to the flat, pour most of the remainder of the last of last night’s bottle into my glass and leave a little bit for Emily for when she gets back tonight.
A tremendous thunderstorm has rolled in and now I’m going to bed.
*What does this say about our burgeoning friendship that I convince him to break the law and he does so without reservation?
**This will come up again later.
***If a GC employee was ever giving me too much of the hard sell or being annoying I would tell them that I was looking for something specific and could they find it in the “system” for me. And then I would ask for something that I know doesn’t exist. Was it mean? Maybe a little but if he’s going to pretend to be the “expert” (and it’s always a he) and pretend to know more than me then not my fault.