My good buddy Boris took all my FB tour diary and put them in an easily readable folder here. If you want to read all these and see the pictures that go along with them - just go to www.facebook.com/BobboByrnes
Tour Diary Day 1
Started the day at the Brandenburg Gate and doing some touristy things then I made my way over to Budde Music Publishing. It was really nice to put a face to the names on our contract. Stayed and chatted for about an hour and did a little bit of strategizing for mine, TFS and RATS catalog. Be great if some things come to fruition.
Then I got an email from Hansa Studios about there may be a little bit of time to show me around the studio but they do have sessions going on today so I drove over to test my luck and they were in fact tracking so I couldn’t go in so I did the next best thing - I bought a t-shirt! “Is Bono here? How about The Edge?” I thought I was funny but I was the only one laughing.
So early morning jet lag = late afternoon nap. I slept in the car outside the club for over an hour. No complaints, it felt good.
Then I went and played Unterrock in Berlin, small basement style bar with a nice Yamaha PA system. Nice to not have to bring one and super easy to dial in. Small crowd as it was a bit wam in there, probably 25–30 outside listening but only 10 or so inside.
Play to the folks that are there not the ones that aren’t - that’s my mantra.
The folks really dug it, they asked me to play a couple of songs twice and I was really surprised that the song that seemed to go over the best was “Nothing needs to be said”, a quiet narrative type of song. I played the Paul Kelly song “To her door” and one guy sang along word for word! Turns out he’s from Melbourne and a giant PK fan. That was unexpected. In the break he and I chatted Aussie music - I told him I would play “Reptile” by the Church for him, he didn’t think I could do it. Afterward he said “That was amazing, you played all the different parts of that song and still made it your own!”
Was overall a great start to the tour, sold some CDs and the “I <3 Toast” stickers are going over huge. This started a whole conversation about toast and we got back to the flat I’m staying at and we made some amazing raisin toast.
The tour may have just been renamed “The Toast Tour 2016”
Tour Diary Day 2 and 3:
The thing I forgot to mention from Day 1 was at the end of the night being invited out to go to another bar (at 1 am) by my AirBnB host Norm and his two friends. They were super nice and already a bit drunk, but I had a 9 am call time at Potsdamer Platz so I did not go out. There’s something about this musician thing as a “job” and not as an excuse to drink on school night that some folks miss. It may make me a bit of a square at times but I do take what I do seriously. My host was very gracious and this isn’t a dig on him at all - I just get it a lot about why am I not drinking at gigs and stuff.
Moving on to Day 2 - I was so excited to be playing Potsdamer Platz, an art festival… I was inside the Potsdamer Platz MALL where the art festival was taking place.
It was a fine enough gig, paid well and what-not but I was still inside a fucking mall. I was swapping sets with another singer/songwriter named Sebastian Niehoff, he was very good from what I could tell, all his songs were in German (and didn’t rhyme at all -Ha!) and had a good day. We talked guitars for a few, now this is interesting to me - On Friday night someone asked me what kind of rental car I was driving. I have no idea. I had been driving it for a few days but the only description I could share was “It’s white.” (Turns out it’s a Ford and I still don’t know the model). I’m not a car guy. But when I saw Sebastian playing I said to myself “Oooh, a J45, banner year - looks like mahogany back like mine”. Sebastian had a nice Gibson, I spotted it right away. Turns out his Martin D28 got stolen at another gig fairly recently and this is still new to him. Sounded fantastic. We get to talking and he tells me that he once took a VW Van up the California coast. I explain to him that I rent space for my studio from some folks (Diane Staggs) that rent VW campers vans. After a few minutes of Internet searching and looking at his video - yep. Same folks. World gets smaller again.
I attempt a sing along with some folks in the last set and very nearly get them going, I’m upstaged a bit by two small girls aged 18 months and 3 years old dancing on the side of the stage and the younger one keeps trying to put the sharpie from my mailing list in her mouth. They are adorable and you can’t compete with kids for attention - I don’t even try.
Sebastian and I swap 45 minute sets back and forth from noon to 8pm and I’m pretty beat by the time we finish up, I’m walking into my hotel room and I hear “Bobbo!” Which is really odd since 1) I’m in Berlin. 2) I’m about two miles away from where I was playing. It’s the soundman and he invites me to a rooftop party. This sounds like a lot of fun, it’s also the night of the anniversary of the Berlin Wall going up back in ’61. There’s probably some party or something. We make plans to meet in the lobby in a few minutes.
I go upstairs to my room and there is a fantastic shower, the bed has 6 pillows ranging from fluffy to flat and the music that comes on the tv in the room sounds like out takes from Brian Eno’s “Music for airports”. I hop in the shower and I don’t move for another 7 hours.
I guess playing 6 sets of music in 2 days is tiring.
Sunday I get up and plan to do some Berlin Wall history stuff, you know anniversary a day late - whatever. I go over to the museum, the east side gallery and then get lunch at Mustafa’s - hands down the best kebap place I’ve ever been to. This is my second time there and it was not a fluke. I stood in the rain for 30 minutes just to order and the line was longer by the time I finished eating. See pics.
Then I started the long drive back to Bremen, made longer by road construction and rain. Something I will say for Americans back home reading this - we could really learn a lot about driving from the Germans. Like. A. Lot. Folks think that the autobahn is no speed limit anywhere and that’s just not true, there are many places where there is in fact a speed limit, it could be 120 kmph (roughly 60 mph) or it could be open. But through all of this - people stay to the right unless they are passing. Going slow - that’s fine, stay to the right. Traffic moves along very well and there isn’t like that asshole weaving in and out of traffic in all lanes, you ONLY pass on the left. I’m not a “good” driver, I mean - I do ok, I’m aware of stuff, use my turn signals but if I am used as a control for the average American driver - 90% of American drivers need to go back to school. We as a country suck at driving.
Back in Bremen now and doing some guitar re-stringing (I get about 2 days out of a set of strings) and dinner. I learned that this tiny bottle of wine I bought is crap - why would you make red wine sweet??
Tour Dairy Day 4:
Last night I had a glass of wine when I got back to the flat - I discovered that German word for “headache” is right on the front of the bottle - “Lieblich”. But I survived, new lesson learned today.
End of my first week here and so I headed down to the laundramat at 8 am. Waking up early still, I don’t know if I can continue to call it jet lag. Next to the laundramat is a bar and I as I walk by I notice a poster advertising a Songs & Whispers show there - I’m on the poster but I don’t think I’m playing there, wait. I may be playing there. Would be good to know so I can coordinate laundry day with the showtime.
Have now been approached by many teenagers who have a form that they ask to be signed to help children around the world and they ask for a donation. I’m pretty sure it’s a scam - I offered change but they only wanted bills. It’s strange to keep getting shown the same form.
Had our meeting at S&W today and it was good to figure stuff out for the week. I miss Astrid but Arne is doing a good job - it’s a lot of scheduling for sure. As I’m leaving Kaurna Cronin shows up and we do a cd swap. I tell him this one is going to sell better than his last one because he didn’t put his picture on the front. Everyone laughs. I’m such an asshole.
Pack up and drive the 222 miles to Amsterdam, it’s a fairly easy drive with the hardest part being when you actually get in the city. I fight for a parking spot near the venue - I find a short term loading zone type parking - it’s 5 euro an hour to park there and I have to do it because I’m actually early. The soundman handles all the details for the bands here and my itinerary says that I have a parking space provided. It’s a small thing for a venue to provide and so helpful. We’ve actually started including it in our rider back in the states. Places like the Monte Vista Hotel in Flagstaff actually keeps a spot blocked off for traveling bands. When booking in Hermosa Beach, it was the hardest thing for them to secure. Money? They have that. One parking space near where we are playing? That’s going to take a week to coordinate!
I’m playing Dwaze Zaken - it’s right in the heart of Amsterdam, I’m looking at canals and they are feeding me some chicken curry and rice and it is fantastic. The soundman has just informed me that there in fact is NO parking space for me. He takes out his phone and starts showing me where the free parking is available - it’s about a 15 minute drive. Across the river, past the green area and the big - WHAT?? It is not close. He says it’s about a 30 minute walk so I better get going to be back in time for the show.
I’m kind of annoyed but not as annoyed as I will be in after driving around for 35 minutes trying to find it. I end up finding a car park that’s only about a 15 minute walk away - it too is 5 euro an hour. This is bullshit.
I’m starting to not like Amsterdam and I’ve only been here 2 hours.
Tune in tomorrow for part two !!
Tour Diary Day 4: Part 2
I walk back from parking the car, Amsterdam is a fabulous city for a bike rider. I love bike riding but I can’t carry the stuff to play a show on a bike - so I have to use a car, and they seem to penalize you for this - you want to drive a car? We’re gonna make you pay.
The venue is a nice restaurant and I’m excited by the location and stuff, seems to be a good crowd there and there’s a soundman! That’s always a good thing.
As I’m setting up I am informed that the other performer for the night is not coming so I’m to play 2 sets instead of one. No big deal - it brings my total up to 8 sets of music in just 3 gigs! Woo - Jumping right in.
I ask the sound guy about monitors (a speaker facing me so I can hear what I’m doing) and he says they don’t need them in there, it makes it sound bad. I’m kind of confused by this but trust him. I plug my stuff in and I’m strumming waiting to hear my guitar and the soundman says “sounds good.” I look at him a little puzzled, “You can hear it?” “Yes, sounds good out here.” I talk into the microphone and he can hear me. I cannot hear myself or my guitar at all. AT ALL. This is a pretty loud room and there’s a table of 7 or 8 women all talking very loudly next to me. I am not annoyed with them because it also occurs to me that I haven’t seen any signs up that even tell people that music is happening tonight. They are just here and I happen to be standing next to them with a guitar.
Quick technical stuff: The venue has a pair of Bose loudspeakers that were nice stuff back in ’75 when Bruce Springsteen used to use them as monitors on stage. Here they are hung about 10 feet in the air and aimed at a small portion of the audience - they are very directional speakers meaning: if you are not right in front of them, you’re not going to hear them at all. And the PA desk is a Behringer eurodesk, One of the cheapest mixers you can buy and still call it a mixer. I have heard these mixers sound ok but I don’t have any idea how this one sounds.
Sound guy tells me we’re ready to start. I was going to do some looping stuff tonight with my pedals but that is clearly not an option since I won’t be able to hear the loop at all. I prep myself with “the people who are here don’t know any of this crap, you are just a guy performing - it’s not their fault, give them the best you got.” As I’m tuning up to start I break a string. Brand new string. Is this an omen?
I launch into some songs, staying a bit off the mic so I can sort of hear myself in the room - it really is like screaming into the abyss - if the abyss is a roomful of people talking louder than you are performing. The danger in this is that it is really easy to blow your voice out trying to be heard - so I just trust that folks can hear me and not push too hard. This trust is blown when the one woman paying attention in front tells me that she can’t hear me.
I get some response from a few folks and there’s a guy here taking pictures of me, he seems nice too. I’m reminded of a show we played a couple of years ago with @stressechoes that was a quiet room with no PA and how Andrew Corey from that band owned the room by doing a really quiet song - let’s try that. So I play a really quiet song, I put everything into it and I finish and get no response at all. Not even sure if people knew I ended the song. So I go the other way, the woman in front listening is named Martina and so I dedicate “APB” to her, when it comes time to do the solo I jump up on a chair in the middle of the room and I sing the rest of the song from there, no mic just being the loudest thing in the room - the table of 8 sort of looks at me for a second, Martina likes it, the camera guy snaps a picture and that’s it. I’m not breaking through tonight. Martina thanks me and leaves.
It’s a tough slog the rest of the way through, I don’t give up, I’m sweating it out and working my hardest but I’m not even sure anything is even coming out of the pa speakers. I’m told a couple of times that they can’t hear me. This is why there’s a soundman right?
The soundman tells me I have to finish by 9:45 so he can catch his ferry home. Ok, I don’t really care. While we are packing up I talk to him about the sound “I have a monitor for performers” he says “but we don’t like the way it sounds in the room so we don’t use it.” After talking to him for about a minute it occurs to me that I know way more about sound reinforcement than he does - I may not know his room but I bet I could make a better sound in here with just one AER that Songs & Whispers provides me to use. I explain to him how we could use the AER behind the performer so they could hear themselves and then you can take a line out from the AER and go straight into the Eurodesk with one line and fill the rest of the room with the overheads. This clearly confuses him and he says “But then everyone will want to use their own pa.”
I’m done. Go catch your ferry.
You can have a tough night and still feel good because you played well or you made a connection with someone, maybe a few people bought CDs, maybe the financial side of it overshadows people not paying attention…
None of that happened. I ended up making 50 euro for the night balanced against no real connection, no cd sales, 32 euro spent on PARKING, and I drove 225 miles to get there. (80 euro in gas round trip!) I was going to find a place to crash for the night but I was pretty burnt on this city, get me out - I carry all my stuff the half a mile to my car and drive the 225 miles back to Bremen. I hit the pillow at 3:03 am.
It’s a long drive for sure, I stop off in a rest area and sleep for about 45 minutes at one point but I’ll be damned if I give that city another nickel.
I should add that my frustration is focused at the venue, the city of Amsterdam was a silent bystander and I know S&W sent them promo stuff - they always do - The venue did nothing to promote or even let people know there was entertainment. I had the tools and the know how with me to make this an enjoyable show but that was blocked. I also found out today that I was supposed to pass the hat for tips - this was something that I asked about and the venue would not allow me to do.
Tour Diary Day 5:
Another long road day - 260 miles. The miles roll along today with the help of Kathleen Edwards Page albums 4 albums as well as her Building 55 EP. You could say I’m a fan. When she sings “you spend half your life trying to turn the other half around” - it gets me every time. I’m like, That’s ME!
After KE I moved on to some Luke Doucet (long haul driver - that’s me!) and then dove into Matthew Ryan alphabetically (by album) starting with Boxers and making it all the way to the beginning of “vs the silver state”. My iPhone is somehow missing “Concussion”, it’s an oversight that will be remedied.
Good traveling music is so important, not just that but I am using my iPhone for the gps for everywhere I am going and I discovered that with it plugged into the car - unless I have music going it won’t play sound through the stereo. Almost missed a turn today because the album ended and I was just driving along and whoah! There it is!
Haven’t figured out why it needs to be playing music in order for it to work. I may or may not become interested enough in solving that mystery.
Tonight I’m in Chemnitz (German pronunciation: [ˈkɛmnɪt͡s]), but from 1953 to 1990 as Karl-Marx-Stadt. What a rad name! I’m at the Exil Cafe which is connected to this theater and it’s very nice. They are expecting me and have signs up and everything and bring me food. All good so far.
As I’m loading stuff on stage the manager come over and starts gesturing to the pa equipment, he doesn’t speak much English and my German is clearly nichts sehr gut and he is kind of showing me the mixer and he shrugs. I tell him “show me where the power is and I can handle the rest of this.” “You know how to?.. ”. He trails off, I nod yes and he seems genuinely relieved to not have to run sound.
It’s a pretty hefty system too, a pair of subs and two speakers mounted on top of each sub with one spun around facing the stage - monitors. All is good. This system is so good I’m going to break out the Porchboard tonight. The Porchboard is kick drum pedal that I stomp with my foot and it…well, it sounds like a kick drum. Many PA systems can’t handle the low end but with these subs pumping I could get a regular rave style beat going for as long as I can keep stomping!
Excellent sound tonight.
I start off with “Part Time Cowboy” and it gets a mixed reaction. Not really a country type crowd me thinks and so I try “Heading South”, kind of spacey with e-bow song, I use my looping pedal and I’m not even annoying with it and it goes over well. I play some quiet numbers and they go well, I kick it up and they like that too. Finding a nice groove.
At the break I sit and talk with a couple, he is from South America and she is from Finland, English is their common language and they are very nice, she has just been hired as a puppeteer here at the college. I couldn’t bring myself to ask the 17 follow-up questions to finding out someone is a professional puppeteer. He does music videos and we discuss working together when I come back thru Chemnitz in October.
I down about 10 glasses of water during the set feeling good that I’m still steering clear of the diet soda. Sarah, the bartender just keeps bringing me new glasses and soon there are empty water glasses all over the stage. You think beer bottles are rock and roll? Yeah, whatever.
I talk to Anya at the bar, she is really interested in the resonator guitar and so I show her and explain it as best I can in English and she is catching every third word. But we have a nice chat about traveling and she asks why I like traveling and where is my wife and so on. I tell her that I really like being in a place for a couple of days and then move on, maybe it’s because I’m still looking for a home and tell her a little bit about me and Tracy moving across country and stuff. Anya nods and says she grew up in Chemnitz but lived for 4.5 years in The Netherlands. “I really liked going somewhere else and then when I came back I realized the things that I missed and didn’t appreciate when I lived here.” She’s now a school teacher and said one of the things that is nice about moving back to where you grew up is “you get the jokes.” I thought that was nice, she also really liked the song “Hate this town” appropriately enough.
Three college aged girls come up to thank me for a nice night of music and it’s nice, they ask where I’ve been and I mention Berlin and they asked why I liked it and I talked about the history, the people…the kebabs and one of them says there’s a great kebab place, it’s outdoors and always a long line and describes Mustafa’s. I show her my picture of the Kebab I got there a few days ago and they are all jealous.
It was nice to be in a place where people wanted to hear music. This was a bar where folks hung out and talked. Hardly anyone on their phone and not a tv in sight. Awesome.
I’m writing now from my hotel room they got me. It’s nice. Not as nice as Berlin but nice. The clocks in the lobby show New York, Berlin, Tokyo and Moscow time. This hotel was here when Chemnitz was called Karl-Marx Stadt. You can see it in the details, the elevator, the decorations, the festival of brown that is this hotel. Everything is just a little bit more function over design. No fancy swipe cards here - we to metal keys.
Tomorrow I’m going to find the Nischel in town which is apparently a giant head sculpture of Karl Marx and everyone jokes about it here. Nischel is a Saxon dialect word for ‘head’.
Tour Diary Day 7:
Good night sleep and caught up on my paperwork, yes there’s plenty of paperwork on tour and I wish I could do it while I’m driving but multitasking while driving is still not a good idea.
The iPhone gps is working great while driving but I still can’t figure out why Siri only talks when she’s interrupting music - if no music is playing, no gps directions. Very strange. It got so I was kind of tired of listening at one point and so I put on Brian Eno’s “Music for Airports” just so Siri had someone to interrupt and the music nearly put me to sleep.
No Bueno. Nichts sehr gut.
For some reason there is no hot water for the shower today. It’s been a while since I have taken a legitimately COLD shower, thankfully it’s not all that cold outside the shower but not a pleasant start either way and then I get yelled at by one of the neighbors for not taking my trash out. We are both confused by this - apparently someone else has been using the bins designated for our flat and left trash in them for a few weeks. “Ich habe nur funf Tag.” (I’ve only been here 5 days) I tell her. We come to an understanding and all is well.
Ich weiss nichts.
The drive today is actually quite nice and after the last few trips 180 miles seems almost…easy? There’s only little bits of traffic and 2 construction areas and then I’m on smallish country roads for about 30 miles winding through little villages and farmland until I get to the top of Germany on the Baltic Sea at Tillman Hahn’s Gasthaus - it’s a Bistro I think. Really nice restaurant in a vacation area. As I’m looking for the venue I see a large poster with me on it. That must be the place! It makes me think how odd it must be for the models that are on billboards - like that’s me right there! Granted this is a small poster, only about 3 foot square, it was shocking enough to see it not knowing it was going to be there.
Tillman comes out to great me and it’s a nice place, they tell me they have a special tonight on the menu just for me - chicken tikka masala. I think - that’s odd, I love CTM but then I remember that this place likes to have dishes from where the performers are from and ask what we would like. I had originally told them I was from SoCal but didn’t think having Mexican food or a Hamburger was all that special so I told them about the tikka masala!
It was for real. Tillman tells me how he brought a guest chef in from India a while back and they brought with them an authentic recipe for the tikka masala and how they only offer it on special occasions and I look up by the bar - there’s a huge flat screen tv by the bar (that immediately has me thinking ‘oh crap another sports bar I will be fighting for attention with’) and on the tv - there’s a revolving group of pictures letting patrons know who and when the musical acts will be. I notice three different pictures of myself and today’s date attached. Respect.
Tillman and I have a great conversation waiting for my dinner to arrive - I tell him how I’m fairly new to the Indian cuisine and how it started with our friend Sal who hosted a house concert and served up goat curry. Well Tillman knows a bit about goats! I learn about Boer Goats (from the Dutch word for farmer) and how they come from South Africa and were raised for meat and how there’s a local farmer here in Kühlungsborn that he gets his goat meat from.
I know enough to know I know too much.
The Gasthaus has a nice stage area in the garden, Tillman runs an extension cord to the stage for all power and brings out some lights and everything.
I’m playing for about 30–40 people and they are a very tough group to read. They seem to be understanding me but it is so quiet in between songs, I make sure that I’m talking slowly and clearly with my stories and folks seem to like it. The other night in Chemnitz the country type stuff didn’t go over well, tonight I get a request for Garth Brooks. (!?!?). I tell him I don’t know any Garth but I will play something better, how about a country hit from 1973 by Del Reeves? “This song has been my touring experience so far this year, it’s called ‘Looking at the world through a windshield’.” It goes over well.
It’s a good night, I get these very reserved folks to sing along with me in APB and we all have fun. Tillman invites me back any time I want and he gives me a copy of his cooking book! It’s still early and I like the idea of driving through the night while there’s hardly any traffic so at 11 pm I head south.
I crawl into bed at 3 am and call Tracy on FB calling. (Absolutely brilliant that we can talk and not have international phone fees!) She tells me that she mapped out my first ten days of this tour and it would be the equivalent of driving from Madrid, Spain to Moscow, Russia.
I fall asleep doing math in my head.
Tour Diary Day 7:
Had a good sleep and a hot shower - so I’m already ahead of yesterday.
Tonight I’m at Schwarzer Hermann, it’s only about 20 minutes away so EZ-PZ! It’s a bit of a long gig though - 7:30–10 pm. I don’t have a problem playing for 2.5 hours, I just wonder - who wants to listen to a solo acoustic guy for 2.5 hours?
I’m reading the tour rider before I go and I see that this place is a smoking bar. I just finished ironing my new t-shirts to sell but I’m not bringing them to a smoking bar! No one will want to buy t-shirts that are all smoky smelling - so I leave them home, I’ll bring them with me tomorrow. The shirts look good.
It’s an easy set up with the AER on the front of the stage feeding a monitor to me - I got it mostly dialed in, I’m not 100% thrilled with my acoustic sound through the AER. I keep bringing down the presence and the highs but it’s still getting a little shrill in the top end. Maybe tomorrow I’ll figure it out.
I’m playing for a little bit, kind of a thin crowd inside of about 4 people and about 25 outside and I see Lara come in and sit down with her friend, I’m pretty sure I’ve met her friend before but my brain won’t put it all together. Lara is a Riddle & The Stars fan and when I play a couple of those songs I can see her singing along and that just carries me through. A bunch more people came in shortly after that and all was good.
Thank you Lara!
I try a couple of newish things tonight like a song I wrote last week called “Queen of the Party”, well actually the song is an old Gypsy Mechanics song but I couldn’t remember the words so I wrote all new words. First time I’ve performed that and I threw in the Pete Townshend song “Heart to hang on to” as well.
For a nearby gig I’m actually really tired for some reason tonight, I break down and as I’m taking the last trip to the car I notice that outside the bar has pretty much doubled in patronage. There must be 60 people outside now but for noise reasons I can’t play past 10 pm but this bar starts picking up at 10 pm. Weird.
Sold some CDs, made some connections. Winner.
Throat is a little sore. 2.5 hours of singing will do that to you.
Tour Diary Day 8:
I was bitching about all the driving I am doing and you know what? I got sick of listening to myself. I signed up to do this, it’s what I love to do. So in the words of Frank Zappa* “Shut up and play yer guitar!”
Today I am in Dangast at a place called Sonnendeck. It’s a holiday getaway type of town and I’m playing on the deck of this restaurant. They have weather curtains that drop down and they roll them up when folks are playing the deck so that all the folks on the beach can hear. When Tracy and I played here a few years back it was raining and the room was full. Today it was beautiful but a bit hot on the deck until they opened the curtains and then I was playing to about 100 or so people.
I’d been having a weird day with songs on the radio seeming to hit me the moments when I needed it and I’m sitting at Sonnendeck and every song on their overhead was a German language pop song. Not odd, I am in Germany but 40 minutes of nothing but German pop songs and then Phantom Planet’s “California” comes on and it feels like a ray of sunshine lifting me up saying “don’t worry, you got this.” I pull out my phone and message Jason Schwartzman (the drummer of Phantom Planet and the songwriter) and tell him “I’m in Northern Germany sitting here having a day and your song just came on and it was like a friend patting me on the back.” He writes back “No way! That’s the best.” Yes it is.
Sonnendeck is known for their French fries or Pommes (chips) and I get the gourmet burger and it’s pretty good but the Pommes are great! (See pic). They have people that come stand in line just for their Pommes!
Now I’m not gonna lie - my first song sucked tonight. I’ve been messing with the key of “Massachusetts” and it wasn’t ready. It wasn’t good. But the rest of the show rocked. I dove in, I rocked and rolled. Had kids on the front of the stage most of the night. During my first break I had a guy wearing a Dropkick Murphy’s sweatshirt come over to buy a cd - he looked at “Heart Like Mine” and said “I already have this one, which one is the new one?” “You already have it?” “Yeah, last time you were here I bought it and I really love it.”
That was two years ago. Awesome
Another guy comes up and says I remind him of The Band and do I play “The Weight” I tell him I haven’t played it in a long time. He says “I used to play it with my brother, we had a group, but I am just a doctor now not a performer like you. You play with such passion, I can’t help but wish I could do what you do.”
Second set goes well, I get a sing along for “APB” with Raphael (hard name to put into the song!) and I have an 8 year old boy named Paddy that wants me to do an autograph for him. I tell him I will give him an autograph if he will give me his. He is very cute and he runs to get some paper.
I end the set to the sound of “Zugabe! Zugabe!” (Encore)
So I take out the new song I’ve been working on “Queen of the Party” and I get people singing along with the “mama said she’d be alright” part at the end. I finish up with a big rocker and it’s the end. I put my guitar down and there’s a line of people to buy my CDs. One guy says “I’ll take one of each and a t-shirt.” I have to run to my car to get more CDs.
I’m exhausted but a good exhausted and I start breaking down the gear when Paddy comes back to see me, he’s brought some Pommes to share with me. Best tip of the night.
*that’s for you Chad!!
Tour Diary Day 8:
Lots to process today.
Woke up suddenly because I thought I heard someone say my name at 6:30 am. Was mistaken, I am all alone in the flat but I’m also totally awake now so I get up and go get my laundry from the basement. Still wet. My undies will dry in the back window of the hatchback rental car today. Sorry to those passing by.
My drive to Alsdorf today takes 4 hours and the fun is the construction in town once I get here, that coupled with the streets closed for the Europafest Festival today makes for interesting driving choices.
I’m playing at ABBBA Treff. I forget exactly what the acronym means but it pretty much breaks down to Alsdorf Couseling and Education Center. (Yeah, I know the letters don’t match, lost in translation!!). And the Center is in an older “Mall”. Like formerly shops and the like. Norbert is my contact and he’s super nice. He tells me that after a bigger mall went in nearby this one went out of business but it is centrally located in Alsdorf and so they started doing counseling there, put in a small restaurant and re-opened. There are lots of Syrian refugees here, some older German folks, a bunch of kids - there’s a lot going on the whole time I’m performing.
I start sawing away at my guitar and singing my songs and not very long into the playing the sheer ridiculousness of my songs in this circumstance is overwhelming. Everyone is very nice and folks listen and clap and cheer a couple of times but I see a woman who is missing most of her right arm and you just know that it’s her scar from Syria. And I’m singing about being Glad to be alive and driving across Texas and how Massachusetts is a funny word when you’re drunk and it just doesn’t add up.
Norbert passes the hat while I’m playing and yeah, this is my job - I have to get paid for my performance and yeah, I drove a long way to be here but shit - I didn’t leave a war ravaged country to be here!
I talk with Norbert some more and I convey these emotions I’m having while playing and he assures me that they enjoy having me and it’s great for some of them to NOT have to constantly be reminded of where they left and have some fun. Oh, yeah. That’s my JOB.
We talk more about the counseling that he’s doing and he tells me that most of all the adults are very happy to start a new story here. Meaning, yeah, they have lived through bombings and family being killed but they just want to start fresh, new life and leave the pain behind. They are enrolled in German speaking classes and take classes to get jobs and working really hard. Many of them have quite a difficult time with all the paperwork that needs to be done in order for them to stay, so they assist with that as well. He said the children have the hardest time letting go of what they have seen especially if they have seen one or both of their parents killed. They are more resistant to leaving it in the past. This last bit is said so matter of factly that my brain doesn’t even comprehend it until much later.
My mind is spinning from all of this. He continues that their center has received some criticism from far right Germans about “why are you helping refugees and not our own.” So they also started a group that works with retired aged folks to get them out of their home and mingling and meeting new people - including the refugees coming through.
We sit down to share some goulash and continue talking - making light conversation I tell him that I, too, make goulash and have a great recipe from my buddy Roman. We joke about my cooking show and he brings the chef over and tells her all this and then she disappears and comes back 5 minutes later with her hand written directions for her goulash!! (I’ll have to make a copy for Roman Sonnleitner)
Now here is the weird thing - last night I played a vacation area for some folks that, while maybe not rich…they were comfortable, fancy cars and holiday at the beach. There were easily 2–3 times as many people listening last night than there were today and today in the hat I made nearly twice as much money as I made last night.
The people today had less and they gave more.
I am very humbled by today’s show.
Tour Diary Day 9
I kind of forget where we left off, Alsdorf and a very nice Spartan room at a discount motel and I drive the 3 hours to Darmstadt.
Darmstadt is a nice city, there’s a city center with produce stands and sausage stands and lots of people milling about. There’s a gelato place that is really busy every time I walk by and it’s tempting but I avoid. There’s like these little passageways into the Marketplace that lead to the outer ring and there’s plenty of parking in this city- beneath it!
I get some parking near the Golden Krone where I’ll be playing tonight, from the outside it looks a little worn down and…punk? I meet 2 guys waiting for the doors to open at 7 pm. I ask if they are here for the music “what music?” I point to my name on their calendar*, “no, we’re here to drink.” Back in the day The Gypsy Mechanics used to play the Rat in Boston and that place was run down back in the 90’s, this place looks like it hadn’t cleaned since the 90’s. The music on the overhead is putting me in time as well, “1%” by Jane’s Addiction, “Territorial Pissings” by Nirvana, “Holiday in Cambodia” but the Dead Kennedys… If I was still 19 I would be loving this mix. The people here are a little older than me.
On stage there’s a Yamaha PA head. Awesome. I know what to do with that. There’s two large pa speakers and one monitor. Testing proves the monitor has a blown horn (it sounds like there’s a big blanket covering the speaker) but the two big mains both work so I flip one around and face it towards me so I can hear and in a matter of minutes I get it sounding really good in this room.
As I start playing the room fills up with college aged students, I found out earlier that a lot of them have just landed in town and classes start next week. I get some good cheers and clapping. They like the songs with the fancy bits on guitar so I do a couple of rockers. After almost an hour I announce that I’m going to take a break for a few minutes and then do another set and I have a hat that I will be going around with - the mention of the hat clears the room. College kids are the worst. Zero dinero, zero CDs moved.
I go to the bar to get another water, mit gas unfortunately and start talking to this guy at the bar and his friend with a guitar. Turns out he’s from the states and stayed here after his time in the army, does a mean beat-box and we hang out and chat. His friend starts taking out his guitar to play with me (I guess) but when I start playing in F#m he puts his guitar away and leaves. Not sure exactly what happened there. Me and Bigg have a great chat after the gig about family, race relations in the states and here, his dad was a police officer too and the problems he’s faced in Germany being a black guy getting pulled over all the time. “I’m a black man who doesn’t smoke, drink or do drugs and I’m a security guard and I still get pulled over while driving my car and they say because ‘you looked suspicious’.” We talk about our dads and our moms and it’s a good night.
You can have a bad night performing but if you make connections with people it can override the rest. That said, I had a pretty decent performance, the sound was good. There wasn’t anything promoting the night anywhere in the place. On the tour rider it actually stated that the venue does not want any flyers from my touring agency. What the hell do they expect then? No flyers, no promo, no people. I’ll take my guarantee and leave.
Well, I thought I was going to leave. I ended up hanging out in the parking garage waiting for them to let me out after the machine took my ticket. I told my AirBnB host that I would be back by midnight, it’s nearly 1 am when they finally arrive. I’m not actually annoyed by this, it just kind of drains me. I was ready to go, now I can’t. Urgh.
I wake up to tea already steeping and waiting for me. Volker, my host, is super nice guy from Peru, he works placing abused and neglected kids in foster homes and is here in Germany working for a few months because…Ok, I don’t remember this part. Anyway, he’s here and has a nice flat and we chat about music and life while we drink tea. He was listening to my stuff yesterday and said it was kind of Garth Brooks like (!?!?!? Seriously??). I tell him I aim for more Springsteen and he says he hears that it’s more like Nebraska era. I can get on board with that. We try to find some common musical ground on YouTube, he plays me some Runrig (which is like traditional Scottish music with a progressive rock band playing along), they are hugely popular in Scotland. I introduce him to the Pogues. I say, it’s like Runrig if they were drunk, punk and Irish. He likes it. Then he plays me some Peruvian pop music and asks me to play him one of my favorite songs so I put on Blue Rodeo’s “Hasn’t hit me yet”. As soon as the band kicks in he says “They sound a lot like you.”
I will be sure to tell Blue Rodeo that they sound a lot like me next time I see them.
I didn’t realize Darmstadt is only about 2 hours away from where my uncle Marty and aunt Petra live so I try to get in touch with them about having some lunch before I drive back to Bremen but I waited too long and didn’t give enough notice so I miss them but my friend Tobi from Radio Gong says he’s available so I stop by Wurzburg on my way north.
We met Tobi way back in 2011 when we came to Wurzburg to play a Radio Gong festival (shout out to Marty’s buddy Chris for making that happen!) and we have stayed in touch ever since - usually to compare hamburger recipes, Tobi takes his burgers seriously - dude even makes his own buns! So we hook up around the corner from Radio Gong and get some Thai food. Why Thai? Because he says it’s great and it is! I meet his wife for the first time and we have a wonderful lunch and then head over to Radio Gong where we record an interview to be played later on today. Tobi plays me the new Sting song and it’s really good.
One thing that comes up with everyone I talk to is Donald Trump. Part of me is happy to not be in the U.S. at the moment so I can try to avoid all his shit but everyone brings him up and how is it even remotely possible for him to be considered for president. How? “It’s like the people that live in these small places who only care about their small place and not about anyone else in the world or even anyone in the next town.” I’m told roughly this over and over. I agree.
People ask “You’re not for Trump are you?” And I shake my head no and then they say “I can’t imagine you being here doing what you do if you were.”
It’s an interesting moment in time right now. I’m going to get off this soapbox in a minute but being here has put me in an peculiar place and I’m just trying to be the best American I can be.
This ain’t the Olympics but it’s definitely something.
*The calendar I speak of is on one piece of paper about 6“x9” and has all the bands for the entire month on it. There is one copy, outside to the left of the front door. Only copy anywhere.
Tour Diary Day 10:
After my long ass drive back to Bremen last night I just wanted to make some dinner and climb into bed but first I had to wash dishes after being gone for 3 days the sink was left full of dirty dishes. Thanks flat mate!
Also, it’s way hot here. If you are doubting the whole global warming thing - I have noticed the summers and the heat in Northern Germany getting hotter just in the past few years of us coming here. They are breaking heat records all over the country right now. Shit is real.
Anyway, today. Meeting at S&W and discuss the gigs and stuff and I’m ready for this week. This week. Today is Wednesday! Alright. I’m back on track now.
Playing Zum Fass here in Bremen which is a bonus because it’s right next to the laundramat I like to use. I’m going to set up gear and do laundry at the same time. I can multi-task like that. Turns out I can see the dryer spinning from where I’ll be playing.
Zum Fass is in the gröpelinger section of Bremen, it’s walking distance from the flat and they are new to having music here. It’s like an old Irish pub here, smoking inside and out and a hard drinking crowd.
Bonus tonight - Geoff Geib (former mandolin and keyboard player in The Fallen Stars) is in town so he’s joining me on a few songs. It’s really great to see him and catch up. He’s here because he got married recently (a year ago) and his wife is from Turkey and they are having a wedding party thing soon. So his wife is visiting family in Turkey and he’s hanging out with me.*
I get a really great introduction from new friend Heiko and I’m off and running. It’s obvious early on that soft and pretty don’t count for much tonight. These folks want to rock, they like fast songs and the fancy bits of guitar. So I give it to them. We get a really great sing along going with APB and I swear one guy sang along with a couple other songs that I couldn’t figure out how he knew.
Geoff and I are rocking away and we’re given some shots. The shot we are given I’m told is called “Holy Crap”. Or some variation like that. I’m not much of a shot guy, I’m thinking it’s something traditional like schnapps or something. Nope. Down the hatch.
Smooth? No, not really. I play a couple of more songs and then more shots are offered. After the first shot my voice got noticeably… More Westerburgian** and some notes actually burn a little bit to sing. The second shot was too much.
Again, I don’t really do this. I was never the guy doing shots at a party - ever. But they are nice and we are walking distance from the flat…
I try to do the second shot and they made me laugh just as I did it and wouldn’t you know it - half of this thing comes back out through my nose.
Did it burn? You bet your ass it did. Was not as pleasant as the first shot.
Alright - I will do another song.
I can barely croak it out. The cool Westerburgian gravel has given way to full on Tom Waits phlegm. My voice cracks and my sinus passage still burns. I play the last song and say goodnight. It’s a good night, I sign a few CDs, pick up my laundry and head home.
Bonus points for now knowing what I would sound like doing Tom Waits covers and also how to get my voice to sound like that.
I’ve seen Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers do loads of shots on stage. I should’ve been paying better attention to their form because I’ve never seen it come back out Roger’s nose.
I got two rock-n-roll demerits tonight.
*He offers the traveling advice of “If you want to save money on airfare, travel to a country that has recently had an attempted coup.”
**As in Paul Westerberg of the Replacements.
Tour Diary Day 11:
My throat still hurts from whatever crap I drank last night. Getting better but shots on stage not typically a good idea if I want to continue singing.
If it was just schnapps or something but I found out that they did the same thing to Tom Richardson last week saying “It’s good for the voice.” I think that’s a bit of a trap. I’m on to you now.
I got a notice saying that the amp that I sent myself from California has arrived in Bremen and I have to go pick it up at the customs office which is right around the corner from the S&W office so that’s my plan for this morning. I don’t have to leave for Oldenburg until about 1 pm so I get to the customs office at noon and I end up leaving at 1 pm. I was “next” in line that entire time. Maybe tomorrow will be better.
So I pick up Geoff and we drive up to Oldenburg and have a great interview on air and I play a song live and they spin a second one off my cd. Really great visit with Olie and we try to arrange another get together in October. These folks are so amazing and nice. He promises to come to Litfass tonight. (And does!)
Geoff and I get to litfaß a bit early so we drive around and find more döner. We are convinced we could make a fortune if we opened a döner shop in L.A. But neither of us want to work there, we just want to own it and eat there. It’s like Morrissey said “I was looking for a job and then I found a job and heaven knows I’m miserable now.” I’m shocked Geoff doesn’t know this lyric because I feel it sums him up nicely. He agrees.
Litfaß in Oldenburg has a nice big stage and PA system, I’m left to my own devices with it and dial it in pretty great. The Porchboard is making a nice thump through the system, the acoustic is big and full. I’m pretty stoked.
And then in walk some of my favorite people in Germany - Mike, Irene and Maryann. TFS and RATS have done 3 house concerts with them and this year will be the 4th. They are super nice and Mike is even wearing his “This is Happening” shirt. We have a good catch up and talk about the show RATS is doing in October with them. All is good.
Starting playing this set, it gets off to a slow start but soon picks up speed No Expectations sounds particularly good, as I’m playing some TFS songs I can see a few folks singing along. I can’t tell you how awesome a feeling it is to see people singing along with words you wrote. There’s another guy here wearing a Motel Americana shirt that he bought off me last weekend up in Dangast! I remember him because, well he was wearing a Dropkick Murphy’s sweatshirt, and I’ve only made 8 of these t-shirts so I’m going to be very connected to whoever buys them, I’ve done them all by hand!
I dedicate APB to Mike and teach the room how to sing along with the song, having a few ringers in the room helps and the song goes great, huge sing along - I jump up on a table and play the rest of the song from the middle of the room atop a table. Do a bunch more songs and end it up to the sound of “Zugabe!” (One more song)
So I play “Hold Me” and this song is really coming together on this tour. I’ve rehearsed it a ton and I’m really liking how I’m incorporating the piano part on the guitar (cause I only have two hands) and I love playing this song. It’s probably my second or third favorite song I’ve written.
Another encore and I’m done. Spent. The water bottles here tonight are tiny and so Geoff and I keep refilling them at the tap instead of getting new bottles.
It’s a good night. As I’m leaving the owner tells me to figure out how to come back next month because he would like to have me again. That always feels good.
I talk to Oliver from Oldenburg Eins (radio station) and he tells me how much he likes the song “Massachusetts” and that it is in rotation at their station. Awesome.
I have just fallen asleep twice while typing.
Tomorrow isn’t a terribly big drive, only 190 miles but I have to sleep.
Tour Diary Day 12:
Feeling pretty good from last nights show, with folks singing along and having a good time - I’m pretty jazzed to hit the pub tonight up by the Baltic Sea.
First I stop by the S&W office to pick up our schedule for October and stop by the customs office to pick up my amp. All goes well, we start planning for 2017 already with shows booked at Breminale and Haus Am Walde as well as a tv show thing. We also start talking about how if I ever finish writing my book I could incorporate that into some bookings here at book stores as well. So now I have to finish writing/editing my book. I created a folder on Google Docs for all my short stories and there’s currently upwards of 250 of them. It just sounds like so much editing!! But I’m excited by the idea.
I was talking with Gina Villalobos yesterday about touring and music and she has new stuff coming out really soon so I listened to her first two albums on the ride and they’re just great. I don’t want to say she sounds like Rod Stewart because it’s not accurate but she has a vocal sound that lives so easily in rock and roll. There’s a bit of raspiness to it that sits just above the guitars in the mix and just below the cymbals. Much like Rod Stewart’s voice does. Looking forward to her new stuff and I just love her World Party cover of “put the message in the box”!
Heading north to Rostock is a bit of a ride, I notice that a good portion of the Autobahn heading in the opposite direction is completely closed. That’s going to be an issue later. My ride does require a 30 minute nap pit stop in a rest area but I get there on time and they are happy to see me, they have my name on the wall and everything. Pub Mambo #1 is an Irish bar up by the Baltic Sea and a nice little bar too with nachos on the menu!
I set up in the corner and the place starts filling up. Norbert keeps me hydrated all night with some “Proviant” beverage that is like an orange lemonade. It’s tasty.
I start playing and I just can’t figure out this room. The music on the overhead is nothing but Fleetwood Mac for the whole time I am not playing. I love me some Fleetwood Mac but is it common for a bar to play nothing but one artist for an evening? This can’t be like this all the time, maybe this is for me because I’m from SoCal. I’m going with that because otherwise it’s just strange.
The room sounds great and the little AER amp is filling space and I’m playing better and singing better than I did last night and I’m really into it but I feel like I’m annoying these people by being in their bar. Not the owners, the patrons. I get pretty decent applause at the end of songs but am pretty much ignored for the duration of the music part. I do big songs, I do quiet songs, I do in between songs - same exact reaction. I can see a few people on the other side of the bar paying attention and they are as far away from me as possible and still be in the same room.
I dig deep and leave nothing in the tank and still just a smattering. I announce last song and I rock a nice upbeat number and it ends, they all clap and it’s done. Trying hard to make that connection and coming up empty every time. Managed a little sing along but I am working on the farm tonight.
Taking the hat around, I seed it with a fiver to make it look better - I finish up with nothing but coin. One table gives me 5 euro and makes sure I know that it’s from all 10 of them. I sell 3 CDs. I’m just spent.
I have a handful of folks tell me as I’m loading out how much they enjoyed it and that’s really nice but when I was playing I couldn’t tell that at all!
The music on the overhead has changed to the jukebox and it’s now playing metal, specifically “breaking out of hell” by Airbourne. If this is what the crowd wanted then everything makes more sense.
Turns out there is a hostel for me to stay at tonight but I didn’t know that and didn’t bring a change of clothes or my toothbrush. I thank them but I’m going to drive home now.
As soon as I get out of town I hit up a rest area and my self loathing hits it’s zenith and I buy a bag of Doritos and a Mountain Dew.
Before I start driving I flip through my iPhone for some good music for the ride, I haven’t listened to Wilco in a while so let’s go back to the beginning. “AM” is an awesome album. It gets slagged by folks that want to compare it to Son Volt’s “Trace” but I love “AM”. It’s got a looseness to it and great songs. “Dash 7” is my jam tonight. I love how you can actually hear a really slow freight train rumble by in it. And then I move on to “Being There” and this album is amazing. How good is it? Well, it’s lifting my spirits. It reminds me that their drummer Ken Coomer contacted me about working together but we haven’t been able to make that happen. Maybe I will make that happen in 2017. And I start thinking about writing my book and what approach I’m going with and I’m up out of the doldrums. I’m ready for another day. Thank you Wilco.
OH, and the highway was deserted clear down to Breaker’s Point* - my detour puts me on back roads for about 25 miles through thickly wooded area that for a while I forgot I was in Germany - it felt like driving in the backwoods of New Hampshire, like Rte 153 or maybe some sections of 13. Over 25 miles I saw 3 other cars on the road and they were all together. It was a long bit of driving with pea soup fog for a good part of it where you could only see about 25 feet in front of you! Weather has changed here, the September Summer is gone, it’s now in the low 50’s at night, fall is here.
I’m mostly ready for tomorrow which is good because I have two gigs tomorrow.
Shake it off kid, You got more at bats coming up.
*Bonus points if you get that reference.
Tour Diary Day 11:
I HAD TO SET AN ALARM!!
I know, right?! The horror. I had to be in Verden by 11 am which meant I had to leave by 10:30. I can already tell that you are not feeling very sympathetic towards my need for an alarm but waking up by 9:30 is difficult when you don’t get to sleep until 4:30 am.
Today is a 2 show day with a short open air concert in Verden and then a 2 hour gig in Brake. I first got nervous about this but then realized they are only 66 miles apart. Piece of cake.
The Verden Open Air is put on by my friend Jeanette who I met back in 2013 and she’s been a good friend to the band and me. (She was also the cinematographer of the TFS “Glad” video where I run through Bremen). There’s a few other bands on the bill and it’s nice to hear live music that isn’t me for a change.
There was like an alternative type band, a jazz band, a pop band, a female singer who sang to a backing track and me. Quite eclectic and honestly, very nice. I chat with one of the guitarists about his telecaster. He mentions that he has the Ritchie Kotzen model pickups and I say “oh, Dimarzios” and he realizes I know some stuff about guitars and the conversation gets easier. Another band had a drummer using a cajon as well as a drum pad and it was actually really cool. I don’t know if I’ve just gotten more open to what can be done with one of those or if they have actually just improved that much. Brandon has one of these Roland drum pad things and what this guy did was pretty cool. The jazz band was fine. Ron Burgundy* would approve.**
I hop up and do my thing and get a pretty decent crowd happening. Nice. I sell some CDs, sign a few autographs and drink some free hot tea. It’s a good day!
Then I head up to Brake, well that’s not true. First I got in a few Facebook discussions about politics. THEN I head to Brake. I am that cartoon where the wife is waiting for the husband to come to bed and he’s at his computer “No! I can’t come to bed - someone on the Internet is WRONG!” I’m going to try to take tomorrow off from arguing.***
Brake. It’s not pronounced like the English “Break”. It involves rolling the R and elongating the K sound to an almost CH sound. German pronunciation: [ˈbʁaːkə]) and I’m playing Harrier Hof, it’s a very nice pub/restaurant. I’m showed around by the owner and he is keen to have me, tells me to order whatever I want off the menu and shows me the PA. Awesome.
It’s been raining on and off all day, it’s in the high 50’s for temperature and I see that they have goulash! Today keeps getting better. It is a very meaty goulash**** and very good. That’s two goulash’s in two weeks! RATS will be back to play Harrier Hoff in October and they are getting me their goulash recipe! I’m just going to wander the world picking up goulash recipes!*****
Time to play. It’s a pretty intimate room and rocking in here feels…too much. Maybe I can work up to that. The house PA is pretty decent and they run a speaker to the other side of the restaurant so folks in there can hear it as well. Well, actually - they more or less can’t escape it!
It’s a fun night with a very polite German crowd listening intently. I break down the 4th wall and all the solemn-ness with APB. As I’m introducing the song a woman in front of me is giggling and pointing to the guy sitting next to her. I find out his name is Frank and I sing it to him, everyone gets in on the singing along and we’re all friends now. Sell a couple CDs and sign some posters and chat with a woman who was married in Massachusetts and goes to California every other year. She is very nice and knows a bit about the states and everything. Nice! It’s almost time to go but our friend Rebekka and her boyfriend Claus are still here so we have a nice sit down chat. Claus is a journalist who has been covering the recent German elections and I ask him to fill me in on all the goings on.
There’s a lot to it, lots of ins and outs and who-done-it’s but it is really interesting to see where we are as a people. I feel like humanity is standing on the edge of either embracing all fellow man OR building a wall around everything and bury our heads in the sand of isolationism. There’s a lot of imaginary walls that folks are working really hard to build and justify.
Rebekka is also a firefly fan and did the artwork for our Leaves on the Wind Music Project.
Show is good. I try to play mandolin by itself on one of my songs and it turns out it doesn’t actually sound like.a good idea.
Tomorrow I am at Katakomben in Achim which is like 30 minutes away and I don’t have to be there until 6 so no alarm and I picked up raisin bread for toast tomorrow- will be celebrating Bobboism in style!
Oh and first equipment casualty today. Guitar cord died so that needs to be fixed tomorrow as well. I seriously have an incredible knack for breaking things.
*they had a flute.
**I don’t really enjoy jazz but this was actually quite nice to listen to.
***Unless someone is REALLY wrong!
****Sorry Roman and Ben. - But it was awesome.
*****If I was to open a restaurant it would be goulash, doner, pizza and chicken tikka masala. Actually that sounds like an amazing restaurant!!
GUITAR GEEK WARNING: (on the road edition)
Everything has been working pretty well so far. I brought my Gibson Acoustic J30 (Hummingbird) guitar and it’s a real work horse. There’s a real openness to it’s sound so I am able to play with great dynamics just on it amplified. My two pickup system still working*- sending the piezo bridge pickup to the LRBaggs para DI (thanks Rick!!) and LR Baggs sent me a nice little carry case for it as well.
The Fishman Rare Earth humbucker in the sound hole is feeding a Tech 21 NYC “Liverpool” pedal so it adds a little dirt to the signal when I need it and I can of course blend in some atmospheric what have you with the Line 6 M9 any time it’s needed.
I picked up a really cheap resonator so I don’t have to do a bunch of retuning for a couple of my open tuned slide playing songs. It has been really helpful despite being a bit underwhelming tone-wise** and a real conversation starter for some guitar folks who always ask about it.
The resonator has a mini humbucker pickup and if you use traditional bronze or bronze alloy acoustic strings the sound can be very unbalanced so I found some strings that are nickel wound for acoustic. So that helps. I really wish it had a pickup on the cone or the bridge, it’s just really dark sounding.
I’m continually asked about how many guitars I own and I truthfully don’t know anymore. I think it’s more than 30 but it’s definitely less than 50. I’m not entirely sure where they all are. When I got here to Germany, Ben told me that there was a mandolin at the S&W office so I went and got it and have been using it. It has a red star sticker on it and I know we got it for a RATS tour but I may have given it to Ben. So I don’t think it’s mine anymore. So that means I only own 2 mandolins - 4 tops. This may seem like a lot but I’m still 2 shy of where I should be. I don’t have a single Gibson electric guitar and my 12 string acoustic is not to my liking. I can’t foresee needing any more beyond those two things.
Other things I’m using on this tour is of course my Franklin Strap guitar straps. I’ve been using them exclusively for a bunch of years now and I have also been using a Tapastring Guitar Care strap keeper. This thing is so clever - acoustic guitars have that endpin/jack combo and your strap is always falling off of it and no strap locks work on it - this solves that problem. I’ve been using mine for about 2 years without fault. It slips around the strap and onto the jack and then a small plastic clip holds it in place. Essential if you do any kind of movement while playing.
I’ve included a pic of my traveling tool kit. I don’t have a roadie, I have to be able to fix things on the spot and sometimes finding a music store ain’t that easy while traveling.
*Well, once I replace the broken Mogami Cable.
**“She was underwhelmed if that’s a word” ~ Sloan
Tour Diary Day 12:
It’s Sunday so all or most of the shops are closed here. I made a dash to ReWe at 11 pm last night to get some stuff to eat and beat the closing doors to get some good raisin bread for toast and some eggs and what-not.
That might sound boring but I’m staying in a flat here in Bremen (in the Gröpelinger section specifically) and if you don’t plan ahead for a Sunday - you’re food options become very few.
I worked on some guitar stuff today to be ready for tonight when I’m playing at Katakomben in Achim.
Every time we have played at Katakomben we have had a good show, first time was an open air festival type of stage, second and third time were indoors (one of those with an awesome stressechoes double bill) and tonight is my first time here with the new owners.
Michaela is very nice and she suggests that I play outside. I look up at the sky and she can see my doubt so she pulls out her phone and shows me the weather - 3% chance of rain and a low of 50 degrees. She assures me it will be better and she is right.
There’s always that moment of when you’re setting up the gear of “Is anyone going to show up?” It’s part of pretty much any performers psyche. But before I can ponder this too long people are already arriving!
I see some familiar faces and have a great chat with friends Jens and Horst and a few others. Jens is even wearing a Firefly shirt!! We chat about Firefly and some other stuff and I’m ready to play now.
The folks listening are awesome, we get two sing alongs going and it’s just a fantastic night. We get a good “APB” sing along and some ringers in the audience help with the second “A PPPP B”. (You have to hold the second P!) and while playing “Queen of the Party” we all sing “Mama said she’d be alright” together and my night is complete.
We all make plans to see each other again in Verden and Club Moments. I sell some CDs and a tshirt and call it a night. Achim, you deliver again. Thank you all!
Tour Diary 12.5. (Tom Brady Edition)
I hate the number 13 so there will be no tour diary day 13. Today’s is 12.5 in honor of Tom Brady. Why 12.5? It’s a PSI joke. Come on! FREE BRADY - AGAIN!!
It’s Monday all day today which means a meeting at the S&W office and we go over stuff for the coming week. I hang behind to catch up on our itinerary for October as well as borrow a drill to make fixes in a guitar. Aw Yeah. It’s happening in the morning. MAKES HOLES IN TEETH!! Ha!*
I’m driving to Hannover today, playing a record store and Kulturpalast. I’ve heard good things about both so I’m looking forward to it.
Hannover isn’t that far, only about 85 miles. I take my time and listen to some good tunes on the way - which on the ride up included The Stelle Group, Kurt Vile, REM and Phil Cody. Piece of cake until I hit the city and all their construction messes with my gps and I drive a couple extra circles.
25 Music is an awesome record shop with CDs and vinyl and a stage type area by the front door. Benjamin told me to get there early to look around and I’m here about an hour early so perfect used cd shopping time! I score 2 amazing CDs. Roxy Music’s debut album from 1972 and Jim Cuddy’s “the light that guides you home”. These along with Tom Richardsons’s “Pockets” EP.
More about the albums later.
I play the record store and it’s not quite as bad as when Spinal Tap do the in store signing but it’s not really a happening gig either. Some folks listen for a minute - the staff seems to like me. Ah well. On to tonight.
Kulturepalast is a nice venue, small but a cool stage and nice sound system. Tycho Barth is opening up for me and he’s really good. Acoustic playing that I hear some Dave Matthews chord changes and he sings in English and reminds me a little of Sun Kil Moon. His guitar player, Phillipp, is using delay and volume pedal swells, I didn’t catch the bass player’s name but the cajon player is named Be John Winston - I know this because his dad tells everyone that he named him after John Lennon and John Winston KILLs on the cajon.
Watching and listening them I’m thinking “aw shit, I hate going on after really great bands!”
So they finish and I set my stuff up and I dive in and have a pretty great show. There’s probably less than 15 people there but they are so into it and we sing along and when I go into “1, 2, 3” John Winston hops up on the cajon and we ROCK it for the last bunch of songs. He knocks over his cajon, I strum until I break strings - we jump and end the set. So much fun.
I play rockers and quiet songs and it’s great. Sell a couple of CDs and pack up. Nicest compliment of the night is I’m told that my voice is really easy to listen to. I can dig that.
Can’t wait for Tycho to get some stuff recorded. That shit is gonna be great.
Now I’m going to go off here a bit on my cd purchases.
Roxy Music’s debut is so freaking weird. Even today this album would still be completely freaky. Just listen to Remake/Remodel or Virginia Plain. How the hell did this band go on to make “Avalon”??** I love Eno’s contributions to this band, it’s kind of dumbfounding that this band was even allowed to make a second album. I’ve seen videos of Remake/Remodel and man, the early 70’s were such a crazy time to be in the music business - throwing money at art school bands like this. I’m glad they did but this shit would never get made today and the world definitely suffers for the lack of it.
Jim Cuddy’s “the light that guides you home” is a fantastic companion to anyone who is a Blue Rodeo fan and what sold me on it was two things: 1) seeing that it was produced by Colin Cripps and 2) seeing that it had the Cuddy/Kathleen Edwards duet “married again”. Fantastic. Everything this dude does is fantastic. He’s got an annoyingly beautiful voice - like he could sing the phone book and you would be singing along.
Tom Richardson’s “Pockets” EP is like an acoustic “Avalon” album. -I’m thinking he has sex while listening to his own album. I ask him about this and he denies it but that’s what his music sounds like. Rom Tichardson. Tom and I did a cd trade today and it was nice to finally hear what my flat mate sounds like.
Now I’m home in the flat, getting ready for bed. Ben is all hyped up on some Jagermeister he had tonight and while enthusiastically making a point showers me with his water bottle. He and Tom had a good night. Really wish I had a show with one or both of them before the end of this tour.
*Will be covered in a new Guitar Geek update.
**Which is still the best “mood” music for any guy that can’t get his head around a Barry White album.
File under: people are awesome
Played a show a couple of days ago and this guy liked what I was doing but he didn’t have any cash on him. We tried using the Square card reader but my signal wasn’t strong enough and it wouldn’t work so as we’re talking he says “I have a paypal account”. So I tell him I do as well and “here, take the cd - my contact is on there, you can just go to the website and send me $10 for the cd.”
He promises me he will do it and I believe him.
Next day I get a notification of a sale of “Motel Americana” off the website.
Then I get 5 more notifications: sales of “leaves on the wind volume 1”, “new coastline”, “found & lost”, “this is happening ” and “where the road bends”.
I believe with that many purchases you should get at least one for free - you know like if you keep the punch card from the sub shop? So I’m sending him a free “heart like mine” today.
Tour Diary Day 14:
I set to working on my resonator today. (See GUITAR GEEK WARNING post) and installed a second pickup on it. Just a stick on piezo thing. It sounded pretty ok. Not fantastic but definitely better than I thought it would sound. I had to borrow a drill and make holes and it worked out ok. Now I can send the piezo to the DI and the magnetic pickup to the pedals and what-not.
That was most of what I got done during day light hours today but then I was only awake for a handful of hours before it was time to leave to go to my show. It’s day 14 and I’ve played 18 shows so far. In the 27 days of the first leg of my tour I will have 3 days off.
Something interesting about doing these tour diaries - people have been coming up to me at shows having read them, they already know what’s going on! I have nothing left to say. These diaries may exhaust all my charm.
Anyway - I’m playing the Immanual Church in Bremen tonight. We played here last year with Rufus Coates and it was my favorite show of there’s - it’s a big old gothic church with a Bösendorfer piano, a giant gong and just great natural sound.
Arne is here from S&W and he’s helping set up sound and lights. I like Arne, we’ve developed a good working relationship which roughly translates to “I give him a lot of shit and he mostly puts up with it.”
We have the PA dialed in and it’s room filling. Like loud in here. We turn it down but it’s still a bit much. A few folks come in and I start playing, I’m having a hard time delivering because I see as soon as I play the opening guitar chords two women in front immediately reach for ear plugs. That’s not good at an acoustic gig. So I play one more to see if it can be better and it’s actually hard to sing it because I just know it’s too loud so I unplug. I unplug and walk down in front of the PA and say to the folks that I think this will be better and it is.
I play the rest of the show pretty much in the audience and it’s one of the best shows of the tour. I’m able to tell what the songs about in a very relaxed manner and it’s great. I get a kick out of myself by playing “Nothing needs to be said” and dropping 2 F bombs in a church.* I love it when that song goes over well, it’s one of my favorite songs I’ve written. I dedicate APB to Petra in the front row - they were pretty nervous about singing along but we got it going and I did a cover of “Looking at the world through a windshield” and dedicated it to Arne because of all the driving he’s making me do! We have a good laugh it’s a good night.
Sell and sign some CDs and talking to two nice women and they say “we’ll see you at Club Moments!” And I tell them that I’m not playing Club Moments because I’ve been booked to play a TV station in Chimnitz and they get mad. I say I’m sorry and that I would love to play Club Moments but I got this other gig. They ask if Arne booked me and I say yes and I immediately feel bad because they go over and corner my booking agent about me being booked somewhere else! It’s funny and I’m glad I can’t understand what they are saying although I can kind of get the gist of it but because it’s in German it just sounds a bit more severe.
I get home from my gig and one of my flat mates tells me “the girl I bought weed off of knew you.” And for some reason that made me feel like more of a rock star than it should’ve.
Now I’m drinking some wine and getting ready for my 1 am skype biz meeting with a friend in the states.
All in a day’s work.
*I’m badass you know, I’m nationwide!
Tour Diary Day 21:
I just realized that my day numbering was way off. I couldn’t figure it out. I’m writing down Tour Diary Day 15 and I’m thinking “shit, I’ve been here longer than that.” So I did math. My counting got off somewhere along the way - this is day 21.
That makes more sense.
I felt like doing something simple today so I went to the mall. My brain was like “go get something for Tracy for your anniversary and have something to eat at the food court.” I accomplished all of that but while making change at the food court someone walked off with Tracy’s present. It wasn’t anything big or expensive but I was pretty annoyed just the same. So I stewed about it for a few and then went to a different store and bought her something nicer. On top of that the chicken curry I got in the food court wasn’t that great either.
After that I go to the S&W office and pick up Maraike - she is the PR person there and we head up to Syker for the show. Tonight I’m playing in an art museum but it turns out in the past they have had some of their artwork damaged by patrons of the music events so I’ve been moved to the basement.
The basement is actually pretty cool but has so much reverb it’s like playing a tiled room. The ceilings swoop down and around and it’s almost designed for echo. I suggest NOT bringing the PA down here but the woman from the place said it would be better. (Ha!). So I set the whole damn thing up and then when the folks arrive - I don’t use any of the PA.
Maraike and I are served a very traditional German type of meal of bread, grapes, ham, cheese, cheese/yogurt spread and beverages. It’s very tasty and Maraike and I have a really great conversation about where we live and come from, lots of stuff about the venues and this tour. It’s the longest I’ve ever spent with her and I’m glad we had this time to connect.
I feel like I sang ok tonight but with so much echo going on it was hard to tell at times as everything just kind of blurred together. This was also one of the smallest “crowds” I’ve played to and I’m told it’s because there was a big football (read: soccer) match tonight and everyone is watching that.
Doesn’t matter where you play; football is messing with your career. At least it’s not on a tv playing in the corner. That shit is the worst. I love me a football game but I hate performing opposite one.
We have a good show together, it’s way intimate and I tell stories and dedicate songs. I feel really bad because I recognize folks who have seen me play before but I really can’t remember their names and it makes me feel like I’m ungrateful and I’m really not! I play the song “part time cowboy” and mention my boots that I’m wearing and one of the guys says afterward - “those the same boots that fell apart last year?” And I’m gobsmacked! Not only has he seen me play before but he remembers the absolute ridiculousness of my boot dilemma last year!
I’m told there was a reporter there - I don’t know if she’s writing a story about the show or what. In any case - it was a lot of fun.
One thing that I’ve really discovered on this tour is the essence of what my songs are about. I’ve learned a lot about them and about me through playing 2 sets of music almost every day. I may think I write songs about people and characters but there’s a lot of me in there as well and there’s a few little ticks that keep coming up - there’s a line in “1, 2, 3” that goes “We were listening to Westerburg singing ‘hold my life’ the day I asked to you be my wife, time for this one to come alive.” And Tracy is always to my left and it started a long time ago that whenever we’d sing that line we just started looking at each other on stage. I’m here by myself and whenever I sing that line I look over to my left - and I’m hit with a bit of “where’s my Tracy?” And I do it every time I sing the song. I’ve been rehearsing the song “Hold Me” a lot outside of the shows because I really love the song and the big long notes are really hard for me to nail and it intimidates me every time it’s coming up. So I’ve been playing this song more consistently and figured out how to add the piano line in on guitar. And every time I play “Massachusetts” I’m reminded of playing it for my dad just a little over 2 months ago and it gets me every time. It used to just be a song I wrote and now it’s become a part of my memory of him.
Tonight when I’m playing “Dam” and I’m not plugged into any effects so I just start stomping the floor to add a backbeat and with this room it really booms - kind of like last night in the church when I did the same thing only in the church it really felt like the stomping on the floor was resonating through the whole church.
Pack up, time to go home.
Since Maraike rode with me I’m also driving her back and she asks if I can drop her off at the bar where her boyfriend is hanging out and so we stop by the Schwarzer Hermann and have a nice drink and great conversation with her boyfriend and her roommate. It’s a very greatly needed rest at the end of the day. I tell them about my adventures shopping today and about the thing I got Tracy* (Tracy don’t read the footnote!) and Maraike’s roommate thought that was very romantic. I tell them the story in the footnote and it’s very nice. I think Maraike bought my wine but it may have been her boyfriend - either way I say thank you and head home.
I may have only played for a half a dozen people tonight but they all will remember it.
In other news - I am not playing the Club Moments gig on Sunday. I am driving to Dresden for a show on Saturday and to Chimnitz for a show on a TV station on Sunday. Monday will be my first day off in 15 days and I will spend it driving 6 hours. And then Tracy and Ben show up and we start the Riddle & The Stars tour.
OH! And I just got a notice that my song “Hold Me” is a finalist for “Best Song 2016” by The Miews. So I got that going for me, which is nice. http://www.themiews.com/
*a while back I discovered that if you get some perfume for a trip that you’re taking together - in the future whenever she wears that perfume you both will be reminded of that trip and wherever you were. It started with our honeymoon and now whenever Tracy wears that perfume - we’re transported back to that time and place. We think it’s pretty cool and so I got Tracy some perfume because we’re going to have a couple of days off and we’re going to go to Copenhagen and I wanted that same sort of thing. Ta-da!
Tour Diary Day 22:
Today started uneventful, did some laundry and hanging out waiting to go to my show in Bremen and then I get a phone call from S&W - there’s been a change of schedule for tonight - is there any chance I can drive to Düsseldorf to play there instead because one of my tour mates got arrested last night and can’t make that show.
Well, that’s different and new.
Sure, why not. Playing an Irish bar sounds good to me tonight. It’s a few miles there (180) but it sounds like a better gig than the one I had.
I get to the club and as I walk in I can hear The Stone Roses playing over the stereo - that’s cool. I have never heard the Stone Roses playing at a bar - anywhere!
As I’m setting up in the corner a guy comes up and says he heard me on the radio this afternoon and it sounded good so he came to the show. He and I talk for a while and he’s also a guitar player and he is from Düsseldorf but his band is all refugees and they are sponsored by the city of Düsseldorf! He shows me some pics and a little video. Folks from all over, mostly Syria but also Croatia and Pakistan. They all bring their own world instruments into it. He said the cajon player is 17 and the one of the violinists is 63. We swap info and he’s going to send me some video and music to share with everyone.
I’m playing and singing and a few people are digging it and I get some clapping. I take a break and order my dinner for when I stop at 10 pm. Mark the bartender/manager guy is really nice and of all the places I’ve played this seems to have the most people who English is their first language and the outside sitting area has a bunch of Americans hanging out listening.
Second set goes well and as I finish up another guy comes over to me, his name is Misha and he’s from Libya and he really likes it, enjoys my voice and songs and buys 2 CDs. We fist bump and all is good - he even speaks English too! I make my way out with the hat to pick up any stragglers and all the American folks that have been outside listening don’t offer up a nickel for the show. Zero. Nada. I tell them I’ve been the one performing - “We know.” Is the reply.
Can’t even say I’m surprised.
Mark comes over to me as I’m breaking down and brings me my fish & chips. Irish bar in Düsseldorf- damn straight I’m getting fish & chips (and it’s awesome.)He tells me how much people liked it and I eat my dinner and try to piece that information together what I just experienced. I don’t succeed in figuring it out.
Last thing tonight - I drive the 180 miles back to Bremen, just where the autobahn goes down to 70 kph from 120 - I’m slowing down and I see the flash.
Dammit. Speeding ticket. I start to get mad about it and then remember that I’m not in jail - I’ll take a speeding ticket over jail any day.
Tour Diary Day 23:
I meant to write this when I got home last night but we had a good hangout in the flat amongst fellow touring musicians and then just crashed afterward so I’m now having a hard time remembering what I did yesterday.
Had a gig in Weyhe. Which is not pronounced like you may think. The W is a V sound and the “he” is more of a “ha” sound. Don’t worry if you don’t have it - I was helped a dozen times last night and it’s still not sticking.
I get to town a little early, I kind of wanted to sit and go over some of my tour itinerary for next month so I found a restaurant nearby and for what seems like the first time in a month had a real nice sit down meal - with vegetables and everything! (See pic). This is one of those meals that makes me think of my mom. No, not making fun. We talk about traveling and she’s always afraid of what she’s going to eat when she’s traveling because she doesn’t like anything spicy. “Spicy” to my mom is a catch all term for “flavor I’m not used to”. Tonight’s food is amazing and she would’ve loved it as it’s pork medallions, potatoes and broccoli with gravy. I devour it. As I’m sitting there it gets cold outside. Fall is definitely here. But I love how people are still using the outside tables, as I get chilly I see most of the other folks just grab the wrap or jacket they brought with them and carry on. The beginning of this tour the weather was setting heat records throughout Germany and now it’s hitting low 50’s and high 40’s. (Fahrenheit)
The venue tonight is the Shakespeare Theater Pub and it’s fantastic. Patrick runs the bar, his folks own the theater above, there’s a great stage and beautiful sound and sound man!! Me and Patrick talk about guitars and music - he plays in the theater band as well as has his own band. Telecaster guy but wants a Gretsch. It’s a nice casual hang and a nice change to have some downtime before I start instead of rushing to get somewhere and starting right away.
Sound check takes literally 7 minutes and it sounds great in here. There’s a play going on upstairs and I play when the play ends at 10 pm. At about 9 the room starts filling up and I ask Patrick “Is it intermission?” He says “No, they’re here for you.”
The room fills up and I start at 10. Great response in a pretty loud room. There’s probably about 100 people here and about half are just listening to me and the rest are folks that just came down from the theater above and are just talking. Because of this mix, it’s a hard room to read while I’m thinking to myself - “did that one go over? Should I do a rocker or a quiet song next?” That sort of thing keeps going through my mind. It’s not technically insecurity because I know what I’m doing, it’s more just trying to figure out how to keep their attention for 2 hours that is really difficult.
It’s fun to watch people that are obviously guitar players or performers watch me closely, like when I use my looping pedal and then play e-bow over it - you can see them scrutinize what I’m doing. I’m not doing Whitehorse level looping here but it’s still pretty cool if I do say so myself. And when I use the Porchboard you can see them looking around for where the kick drum sound is coming from. Tonight’s system has sub-woofers so my Porchboard sounds especially good. And when I fade in the octave reverb and long delay over some parts I can see these same folks watching my feet for how I’m doing it. When I do a big slide solo in one song - I get big “WOOS” from the crowd when I finish - it is then I know I’m doing alright.
I don’t say this to brag because I know guitar heroes and I’m no guitar hero but I have a few tricks that I own pretty well and it feels nice when you see people digging it or asking me how I do things.
We get an awesome sing along going and we sing APB for Patrick the bartender but I mistake his name on stage and call him Mark because I’m an idiot. I hate when I mess up things like that. He’s so gracious he doesn’t even tell me I screwed up his name until the end of the night.
I do some more big rockers, well as big as rock can be with a guy and an acoustic and some pedals and I say “danke schön”. They won’t let me leave without doing a few more songs. That’s cool but my voice is starting to go now, I can feel it all scratchy and sore so they let me go after two encores.
There’s these moments that are just strange too where someone says to me after the show “so when does Tracy arrive?” And my brain has to readjust and realize that I put stuff out in the world and shouldn’t be surprised when people know stuff about me. Still catches me off guard.
Starting to get a little worn down I feel. Looking forward to a couple of days off when Tracy gets here. I have Mon/Tues/Weds without a show and then the second leg of the tour starts up.
I had planned to do a bunch of video blog type things but it hasn’t happened, maybe next month when I have someone to hold the camera that will be easier.
Before I fall asleep I start scrolling on FB and I see someone that I know posting obviously racist and very easily disprovable shit online - and it really took the wind out of me. I start typing and then just stop. I just can’t do it today. I’ve sat with and talked to so many amazing people on this tour, I wish people could get out of the small box they live in and see the world for the bigger place it is. More love is needed.
Time to drive to Dresden.
Tour Diary Day 24:
Woke up late in Bremen. Driving 360 miles the night before probably added to the tired but I’ve gotten used to the bed in the flat and look forward to hitting my head on the pillow. There’s a pretty big spider that hangs out on the second floor window by the stairs, I’ve started having conversations with her. I think it’s a her because of the good sized nest she is protecting. There’s stripes on her legs and for a spider - very pretty. She keeps the mosquitos out and I’m ok with that so we continue our separate but symbiotic existence. So far all the conversation is one sided and usually is about how little she has moved since the last time I saw her.
I have 5 hours to get to my gig which is normally enough time to finish laundry and get there but today’s gig is 5 hours and 300 miles away. Yesterday I was very nearly at the border for The Netherlands/Belgium and today I’m very nearly at the border of the Czech Republic. “Well I’m looking at the world thru a windshield, watching it fly by me on the right.” Is how the song goes and while it was written about a truck driver in the states it seems to fit my touring for the past month as well.
Tonight’s show is at a bar/coffee shop called &Rausch in Dresden. It’s a really nice little shop, they set me up with food and a hostel for the night. They suggest I go without a PA and that’s fine with me. I’ll just belt it out in the corner.
As luck would have it I’m way early for this gig. I thought I had to be here at 6, soundcheck at 6:30 and play at 8. Turns out I have no soundcheck and I start at 9. I eat dinner and sip tea outside while really enjoying the brisk weather. It’s not cold but someone nearby has a fire going and the smell of woodsmoke combined with the chill in the air really reminds me of New England - and it’s nice. Late September and early October is clearly the best time to live in New England - right before the 7 months of winter set in.
The gig is fine but just ok. For a Saturday night this part of town is dead and the venue neglected to put up any of the flyers sent to them promoting the show. So I rock all 7–12 people there - only one of which actually came to see me. He is really nice and is a Springsteen fan, he grew up in East Berlin and saw Springsteen in ’88 along with 180,000 other East Germans (back before the wall fell). He likes my stuff and has been listening to me on line. I get polite applause from the rest of the patrons and I call it a night after 2 sets.
I have some more tea and chocolate torte and talk with the two folks working there, they are very nice and we talk about Germany and USA, traveling and weather. She tells me she’s been to the states and the thing she missed the most about Germany while there was the bread. “I had this bread called ‘Wonder’ and it was terrible, it all just mushed together and fell apart. When I got back I just got some bread and ate it plain - I missed it so much.” We laughed and I said “Yeah, but Germany can’t make a hamburger.” We all laughed and she said there’s one place in Dresden that makes a good burger and she wrote down the address for me. I will try to find it today. Hopefully they are open on Sunday.
As I’m leaving I am given the instructions for the hostel: “there’s a lockbox by the door, the code is ‘1, 2, 3, 4’.” Me, “Really?” Him, “I guess it’s easy to remember.”
Before I go to the hostel i drive thru the city a bit, I’m told it’s really pretty at night and they are correct. So much old gothic-ness to it.
I drive to the hostel and it’s in a…not great part of town. I find a parking space on the street and head in. The lockbox has a note for me and all is fine. I fall asleep doing an itemized inventory of everything in the car assuming it will be gone in the morning, it’s a slightly nerve-racking way to fall asleep.*
*car was not stolen
Tour Diary Day 25:
I’m awoken in my hostel 6:30 am by another guest staying in the room.
Oh, did I not mention there were 5 beds in my hostel room? Guy sleeping above me when I got there at midnight(ish) and was fine but then this other guy comes in at 6:30 and starts watching something on his phone - with the volume on! It’s like music videos or something. I shoot him one of those “are you kidding me?” Looks and he turns the sound off but now I’m awake.
Pack my stuff, brush my teeth and get out of there. I’m pretty excited to see that my car is still where I left it and I put in the address for the Marktplatz (market place) and find a Starbucks there so I can chill out and check mail and stuff.
I wander pretty aimlessly for a few hours, I get a hamburger at a place that has been highly recommended for having the best burgers in Dresden* and then I drive to Chemnitz which is only like an hour away.
It is too early for me to check into my hotel but I am exhausted. I didn’t even mention the lumpiness of the bed at the hostel. (It was paid for so I’m done complaining). Across from my hotel is a nice little park and a fountain, I sit down on the bench and listen to two old ladies talking next to me. I’m still trying to pick up more German but it is hard. I’m getting to the point where I can hear the different accents from different areas but the words still just fly by me. As I’m sitting there I fall asleep sitting up for about 30 minutes. I must’ve been tired.
The hotel is really nice, I check in and take a proper nap until it’s time to go do this radio show.
I’m playing on Kwartirnik. Now this is a cool word. It has it’s roots in Soviet times where there were bands that wanted to perform but not everyone was allowed to so they would organize Kwartirniks which translates to “living room concert”. I keep messing up the pronunciation so I have Frank record it into my phone. I’m going to be using this word in the future!
Now technically speaking - it’s a bar but it’s very home-y. There is a stage and comfy chairs scattered about and Frank and his assistant are running cables for the microphones. I ask about using my effects and pedals and they said they prefer not to - even though it’s all being amplified through a PA system. Eh, whatever. I’m good.
I order some tea with honey and the bartender is visibly disappointed in me, he continues with his disappointment with each subsequent cup he pours for me. It’s a nice crowd of people and I’m live on the radio for an hour. Frank interviews me and the question starts in English, I answer it and then he translates the question and the answer into German. It makes the interview twice as long but at least everyone understands it. The first of the two interviews is about the music, the second is all about American politics and how is it possible for Trump to be in the position he is in, what is wrong with Americans? Do I consider myself a good will ambassador coming to Germany? It’s a really interesting line of questioning that I never really prepared for but am happy to answer.
He asks if I was always political and does it come through in my songwriting and honestly it doesn’t really, socio-political if anything but any time I’ve ever written anything vaguely political it came out terrible. And here in Chemnitz you can still feel the effects of the Cold War - it’s a city that still feels like it’s rebuilding - over 90% of it was destroyed in WWII. I was 17 or 18 when the Berlin Wall fell. That was a huge thing in the scheme of global politics and I was in high school completely unaware of what was going on. Retrospectively - Painfully unaware.
The music section of the night goes as well as the interview and we all have fun, we sing along and stomp the stage. The stationary mics are difficult for me because of how much I move around but I think it comes through alright.
The people are really nice and I chat with a few of them; a nice couple from the area that are heading to Wales next week and thought how being in this pub and hearing music in English is getting them ready for it and a nice older gent who I was very nearly understanding - his brother lives in San Jose and works as a park ranger in the forest. He didn’t speak any English and we had a nice chat. Everyone really liked it and I get good compliments and folks ask for my website address so they can look me up. And they ask if the band is coming back thru Chemnitz in October.
That’s really nice.
But two nights in a row without any cd sales or hat money is rough. Thankfully I’m being put up in a hotel but this is brutal. A few ask about cds and I say they are 10 euro and they kind of just put them back and say they will check it out online.
I pack up and Frank helps me carry stuff to the car, he wants to talk politics some more. He is a teacher, teaches English to refugees here in Chemnitz. He wanted to donate money to Bernie Sanders but the website wouldn’t let him since he wasn’t American. He works with a lot of teenage refugees and says their struggle is different, they aren’t old enough to get jobs, most don’t have parents any longer and they are just kind of floating - there’s nothing for them to do in the summer time and nowhere for them to be. They are living this rootless life - they have no family support system and are drifting through the system trying to find something to hold on to.
We talk a bit about how the far right in Germany is making a return and the similarities to the far right in the U.S. (and the far right of Muslim which is ISIS) And how comparing Trump to Hitler isn’t just Godwin’s Law coming into play. Folks are feeling pushed out of the new world because they don’t want to change, they don’t like computers, or fact checking or the fact that advertisers aren’t after them. They want things the way they used to be before homosexuals were out of the closet and before women wanted to be equal and before minorities didn’t bitch about being treated like minorities.
And we get it. Folks don’t like change. Change is hard.
I’m traveling and playing music and trying to sell cds. A lot of the new world doesn’t have any use for cds. I love what I do but is there still a place for it? Am I the musical Brexit?
I get back to the hotel and I watch a documentary on Mikhail Gorbachev. I learn how his policy changes were too much for the system he was in and way to slow for the people of his country.
The times they are a-changing.
*Maybe best in Dresden! But if any of these folks had a 5 guys burger they would freak out.
Tour Diary Day 27:
Picked up Tracy at the airport, cleaned the flat and swapped my small rental car for a bigger one for the rest of the tour.
I said earlier that I wasn’t going to complain about the amount of driving I’ve done and I’m still not going to complain but I am offering a free cd/free download and t-shirt to whoever comes the closest to guessing how many miles (or kilometers) I drove in the past 27 days.
When they told me at Hertz car rental how many miles I went - I was kind of shocked.
You have one day for guessing. Keep the guessing in multiples of 10’s please. I will tell you it was less than 10,000 Kilometers but more than 5,000.
Tracy is sleeping now, I don’t think she got over jet lag from her last trip from Massachusetts to California because two days later she flew to Germany!
New Guitar Geek Warning blog coming up too.
That’s all for today.
Don’t forget to place your guess to win a cd/t-shirt!
Pic is of my Ford Fiesta rental car that is exceptionally bug splattered. Sorry bugs.
GUITAR GEEK WARNING:
This one is short. A lot of companies make travel guitars and they are usually short scale or crappy versions of a guitar that you don’t really want to play.
My solution was different. I brought my #5 Bobbocaster to Danny Ott, I bought some machine screws and anchors and I had him install the anchors in the neck and then when I take the neck off - it’s not stripping out wood every time an wearing it out. It’s machine screws so I can take the neck on and off as many times as I need to.
Works great. I brought the body with me in my suitcase, Tracy brought the neck with her in her bass bag. Done.
Intonation is set, action is set. It’s ready to go.
Specs on the #5 Bobbocaster guitar:
2 piece Ash Warmoth body,
Late 60’s Fender Telecaster neck (decal had been removed)
Seymour Duncan Alnico II bridge pickup
Fender Wide Range Humbucker in the neck
Custom Wired by Danny Ott to be “Gretsch Wiring” with master volume, master tone and two sub volumes for each pickup.
Strung with 10 gauge Everly Nickel wound strings.