2018 European Tour Diary
Tour Diary Day 1
I’m watching the ground crew here at Stockholm airport, half heartedly reading the Warren Zanes biography of Tom Petty (it’s really good!) and thinking about what the next two months have in store for me.
I have a new album I’m promoting, I got lots of shows booked, I have a PR person working the album - I’m in good shape. But I’m still sad to be traveling without Tracy. We had planned to be traveling and being together on her birthday (in 4 days) but we had to make other plans. Yeah, we went to Hawaii for her birthday and I got her something special but I hate missing the actual day.
This is something I need to do, I need to work my album. That’s what I do. And Tracy is loving her new job and it’s what she loves to do.
Moving into the house in Anaheim we have a comfortable routine we’d gotten into. Me making dinner at night and her doing the dishes and toast and tea in the morning... Comfortable routines are difficult things because they are “comfortable”. So I’m glad I’m stretching and doing things that are “uncomfortable” and then I can appreciate it more when I’m there.
“Christ that my love were in my arms
And I in my bed again.”
That Western Wind poem will follow me on this tour.
That’s all for now.
It’s interesting that the cavalier approach of caring about luggage by the baggage handlers is not a uniquely American trait.
Tour Diary May 27, 2018
Adjusting to the 9 hour time change - I slept until half noon! Rufus and Jess’s place (“the cave”) has the blinds that block out all light - I had no idea what time it was. I may be one day time adjusted!
When I did get up there was tea and a Berliner (powdered jelly donut) waiting for me!
Then we hung out and went and got margaritas for “breakfast” at 2 pm. Best Mexican food in Europe ever!
It was a nice relaxing day before my actual touring starts.
Tour Diary May 28, 2018
Ok, so I thought I was over my jet lag but it turns out I still slept until half 10 yesterday. Rufus and Jess were such great hosts and just quietly made themselves some coffee in the kitchen even though I’m sound asleep in their living room.
Jess was determined to make a nice breakfast and Rufus spoiled that plan yesterday by buying donuts so today it’s eggs, potatoes and spinach with feta cheese. I look at the spinach and think to myself “You need to eat vegetables, you’re going to eat it and you’re going to like it.” Surprising even myself - the spinach was really good. I mean, the whole thing was delicious but I was surprised by the spinach as this is not something I would typically eat.
It’s a slow start to a Tuesday and they are both happy to have a couple of days off - they’ve been going like gangbusters touring in Italy and Switzerland as well as Germany. They’ve been working on a new album and I’m flattered when they play me a couple of songs and ask me what I think the mixes need. I play a little slide part on one song in the living room with them and it’s super chill, dark music. There’s so much space in it that they leave. The space is almost like another instrument or band member in their music. I play 4 notes on guitar and I know I’m biased but I dig it.
Yesterday we started the day with margaritas at the Mexican restaurant around the corner and Jess suggests it as a good idea for today as well. 2 pm is as good as any time to have a margarita. We sit down and the same waiter from yesterday looks at us and remembers what all three of us ordered; “Same today?” Same today.
This afternoon I will be on my own for a bit while Rufus and Jess go do an interview for a magazine based out of New York. I forget the name of it but they’re going to David Bowie’s bar, I’m assuming for the ambiance and I stay in the flat and decide to do a little recording.
I make a pit stop at a used record store that I noticed yesterday and flip through the stacks a little bit. I’m the only one in the place and he’s putting on a new record and I hear the opening notes of “Feel” by Big Star and I turn around and look at him and say “good pick.” He looks surprised, “You know this album?” He asks, “Yes, of course.” I say. “Not many people know of Big Star in Berlin.” He says.
It sounds right here, kind of out of place and kind of out of time. In the stacks I find four Roxy Music cds. I have three of them and the fourth is a greatest hits. I feel like I’m on another planet but another planet where I have friends.
Back at the flat I set up a few microphones and I’m not even sure what to record when I just start playing “Virginia Plain” by Roxy Music. An acoustic VP might be kind of cool, I lock in a tempo and have a go. It feels like the right song to record here.
After an hour or so I figure it’s time to go meet them for dinner, I have the address of where we’re meeting but it’s a nice night, about 5 pm or so and I just start walking, it’s about 1.5 miles away but I’ve got “Actung Baby” in my ears and just crushing along. I get a text from Jess saying they’re heading back to the flat and we’ll get something to eat around there and I tell them I’m already further away and so we just plan on meeting back there before we go to the show tonight.
It’s a bit of a walk to the doner kebab place I like and my directions take me to a different one that has almost the same name. It’s still fantastic but not exactly the same. I think I end up walking about 4 miles all together. It feels good. I cut through the park where folks are laying on the grass drinking wine and beer and just enjoying life. It makes me wish Tracy was here and we could get a baguette, some cheese and wine and relax. It’s really one of the finer things in life to do and for some reason only occurs to me to do when I’m in Europe. Maybe it’s because drinking wine in a park is against the law in the states. (Home of the free!)
Back at the flat we’ve decided to go to an open mic that a friend of theirs runs, it’s a short walk away and they say it’s a good time. I’m game for anything.
The bar is called “Cafe Burger” and it has neither a cafe or burgers in it. They open at 9pm and the open mic starts at 9 pm. Perfect. We may be in Germany but we’re in Berlin and time can move differently. The open mic starts at 9:45! Conner runs the show, he’s an energetic ball of words from Ireland who has been in Berlin a few years now and his German is still shit. I meet a few of their friends and it’s like old home week with all the hugging and buying of beers and genuine love to see each other. Everyone knows what each other is working on and the older gent who shows up is working on an album as well, he’s having a hard time getting an accordion player to his session and his last session has just been canceled due to studio engineer having a crash on his bicycle.
I’ve been to my share of open mics and even ran one for quite a while. This one was different. First off, the performers were all given a drink ticket. (What?!?) and there were no TVs playing football highlights or people not listening to the music. When a performer was playing - everyone was listening. Sure folks went outside for a smoke or a chat but everyone inside was listening. There was one mic, one cord and everyone made that work. So refreshing. No divas, just talent and folks listening.
The first performer was from Ireland and she started off by mentioning how proud she was of her country for the vote lifting the abortion ban. She said how it felt like a cloud of shame had been lifted off the country. People cheered for her. Then she sang in Gaelic and Sanskrit! The next guy was from France and he sang in English and French. There were German performers who sang in English and German. There was another performer from, I think, Pakistan, another from Peru and me and one other from the U.S. There were people there that showed up just to watch and they were nice and supportive of everyone as well.
So much talent.
Rufus and Jess played right before me and they are a tough act to follow. I hadn’t seen them perform in 2 or 3 years and they just own the stage and take the whole room with them. It’s dark. It’s Irish. Like maybe a gothic Tom Waits of a deep baritone and Jess sings and howls along. It’s truly unique and powerful. These two have honed their craft and are a powerhouse on two vocals and one guitar.
I played. I was ok. Not my best but it went over.
I’m annoyed by the other American that performed as she left right after performing. It’s something that is common at open mics in the states where you will have people show up, sing and then leave without sticking around to support or listen to the other acts. Certainly not all open mics are like that but my open mics were always littered with a few people that did that constantly.
The end of the night had a bit of a jam and host Conner, who was fairly legless at this point, wrapped up the night with a flow of words and comments and then his take on the Monty Python song “always look on the bright side of life” but he changed the words to “we’re all gonna miss the last train tonight.” And added verses about the evening’s performers. When he got to me it was “Bobbo, he’s from America.” And then the rest of the stanza left blank - like being from America was enough for me. It was a hoot and we all laughed.
As we are walking home I spot Haus Am See, a venue in Berlin that I have played before and we decide that late night pizza is a good idea. It’s still strange to be far away from home and have so many places already be familiar - I have eaten pizza here before.
I think we were in bed no later than 2:30 am and I actually set my alarm as my train leaves the Berlin Haupbanhof at 10:30 am. I really don’t want to oversleep.
I didn’t oversleep, I woke up 2 minutes before my alarm went off, showered and was ready to go by 9:45. A ten minute walk to the tram line that will take me into the Berlin Haupbanhof - it’s not far but I’m dragging my Eagle Creek suitcase/backpack/roller, a guitar and a backpack with my studio in it. The walk yesterday was easy with no baggage but the roller on the uneven sidewalk and cobblestone does slow you down a bit.
On the first train I realize I have left my water bottle at their flat. I try so hard not to leave a trail of my crap behind me but I’m three days in and have already left stuff behind. And I just bought that bottle! Dammit!!!
Train travel is one of the smoothest, most enjoyable ways to roll and German trains are pretty nice. I sprung the extra €4.50 to reserve a seat and that always pays off as you are guaranteed a seat and can kick someone out of your seat, which I did.
The train allowed me to write almost all of this tour diary. It’s one of the few things that is really difficult about touring alone is finding time to do things like this because I will be doing a lot of driving.
So, two trains and a taxi to Hertz and now I’m in the artist flat and getting prepared for a bunch of shows.
My taxi driver has lived just outside of Bremen since 1979, he came here as a 7 year old with his parents from Turkey. I tell him I’m staying in the Groplingen area and he says “My favorite restaurant is there, do you know Ozlum?” “Yes, I’m probably eating there tonight.”
I just finished a chicken and rice plate from Ozlum. It’s time for a nap.
Tour Diary June 1, 2018
Day 5 was pretty boring, I met up with Julia from S&W and got my spreadsheet with my months worth of show info, she and I did a bit of a briefing on most of the shows and what to expect and need, time to leave and what not. Then it was off to find all my stuff in the warehouse and organize pedals and cords, change the batteries and restring the guitars.
Day 6 - Breakfast and then head back to the warehouse as I forgot to grab my guitar stands and then it's time to head to Hamburg.
I'm playing outdoors on the Reeperbahn tonight and the forecast is for rain so I wanted to get a jump on traffic so I would be there early. I think I know where I'm going so when the GPS suggests a different route - I override it and think smugly to myself "Ha, I've been here a few times, I know where this place is!"
Whenever you think "smugly to yourself" it's not good. I was not going to the same venue as last year, the name is very similar but it's in a different place - so I circled the block 4 times trying to figure out what's what.
It's a big open air "festival" for lack of a better word. There's 4 or 5 food trucks, lots of beer, tables and chairs for everyone to hang out and a proper stage. Sweet! I'm sitting on the side of the stage and the Bratwurst truck next to me is run by Claudia and her husband and I'm here early enough that there's virtually no one else here. Claudia has an aunt that lives in Pasadena and she is planning on visiting her again soon. She really loves California. I get a bratwurst und pommes and sit on the side of the stage then they watch my stuff while I go park around the corner - ("there's free spots around back in that neighborhood so you don't have to pay for parking" they tell me - Sweet!)
Jorg is the soundman today and he's top notch, I have fantastic sound and he even compliments my new microphone as sounding way better than a shure 58 and how it's not muddy sounding at all. I like when I can talk gear with folks and we talk about the eq curve on the mic and the mid boost on the 58. Sorry - did I lose you there? He helps me balance all three of my acoustics so when I go between them the eq and volume works for each.
I set up my guitar stands and feel the breeze. Hmmm, I've been here before - no guitars go on stands today they all get laid down in side their cases right on stage. Break my neck once, shame on me...
Looking at my weather app it is saying rain is imminent. Jorg says no. I mean, he says Yes, it's going to rain but not right now. We get set up quick and I kind of leave things prepped in case I have to pack up quick. He says something very reassuring to me:
"If it starts raining, we stop immediately and power down."
I'm booked to play from 7-9 but it's half 6 and he says "I think it'd be good to start now and that way you get both sets in before the rain."
I have a pretty decent first set, folks are listening and even though it is a big open "Biergarten" type of thing I'm still getting a good response. As I finish my first set I see Markus Wilken come up to the stage - I've known him and his family for a few years now and they come out and support and are so awesome. Sadly Markus read that I was starting at 7 and missed all but the last song. I'm sorry Markus! He took his bike and a train to get to the show too!
I hate when that happens, you don't realize that by being more convenient for some is inconvenient for others.
The second set is going well, I do a couple of loop type things in 3 songs, not a lot but just a little to fill it out and it works. As I'm playing a solo these three drunk guys are walking by and one of them comes over and reaches for my pedals and starts turning one of the knobs on my overdrive pedal. I instinctively kick his hand. He jumps back. I keep soloing. He's holding his hand and looking at me like I just kicked his baby. I give him a look that pretty much says "dafuq's the matter with you?" and he scurries off to his friends. It was odd. I've never had that happen before.
I finish up and I'll be damned if Jorg didn't know Hamburg weather like the back of a roll of gaff tape. I played both sets, said goodnight, put my guitar in it's case and the first drops started falling. Well done Jorg!
Walking around and talking to some of the folks a guy says "I like metal and I don't usually like your kind of music but I really liked you, you're very good." I liked him, he sat about 40 feet away and hooted and hollered after almost every song. Then he complimented my singing so I knew he was drunk.
Markus is super nice and helps me carry my stuff to the car and he starts his trek home. The rain is falling proper now and folks are starting to leave, by the time I hit the Autobahn it is full on downpour and even a bit of flooding on the road where everyone has to slow way down with flashers on to drive through about a foot of water. Thunder and lightening most of the way home - I was complaining about not having any actual "weather" in Anaheim. Here's some.
Goodnight - I have to be up at 7 tomorrow to start my 5 hour drive south.
Review of my show in Brake, Germany: https://www.nwzonline.de/wesermarsch/kultur/harrien-konzert-gute-gefuehle-auf-beiden-seiten_a_50,1,3311555147.html
Review of "Two Sides To This Town". https://rockingmagpie.wordpress.com/2018/06/07/bobo-byrnes-two-sides-to-this-town/
Tour Diary, June 7, 8, 2018
It's a two day catch up diary and two good days as well.
Wednesday, June 7 - I have a rehearsal scheduled with Niklas and Sam at Niklas' rehearsal space here in Bremen. I may have mentioned this before but I'll say it again - I met both of them last year when they were touring with Simon Hudson and I recorded them all for Simon's EP and was blown away by all the musicianship. Niklas and Sam are both recording and producers on their own and they are just the tops. Niklas says that the only time he has free to rehearse this week is Wednesday morning at 10 am. I'm sadly proud of myself for only being 20 minutes late. The reheasal space is nice and open and we get to it right away - I think we played 12 songs, each one a single time through and they're ready.* It's going to be fun to hit the stage with these two.**
After rehearsal I offer to buy them both Falafel Konig but I didn't plan ahead and Niklas can't fit in the car for the ride over. I will get him next time. So Sam and I head to the King.
At Falafel Konig:
"Number drei, keine gurke" (Number 3, no pickle)
"I remember you. It's been about 6 or 7 months since you've been here."
"Closer to a year."
"Are your friends with you this time as well?"
"No, just Sam."
"Not the rest of them?"
"I bring it out."
This amuses me so much that I haven't been here in 10 months and this guy at Falafel Konig not only remembers me but remembers my order. And it's so nice that he asks about the others - I don't know how to explain it but I know that he was asking if Barrett was going to be around. You see, Barrett IS the Falafel Konig. Dude ate there every day for a month. And in fairness - it's really tasty, it's made fresh and paying 2.50 for a rollo is pretty unbeatable.
Downtown Groplingen is really bustling - there are way more people here than when we first started touring here and it's super melting pot. I think I heard someone say that there's like 10 languages being spoken in Gropelingen alone. You notice that there are more cars first and then more people. It's kind of what I imagine the U.S.A. to have been in the middle part of the 20th century. Pretty soon they will all start marrying each other like when all the Irish married Italians in Boston.
The chicken avocado rollo is delicious and I go home to the flat. This waking up early has got me all afternoon sluggish. I contemplate taking a nap but I also don't want to be up all night so I do the most half-ass thing; I lay down and for the first time ever I start watching Big Bang Theory. I figure it's annoying enough to keep me awake but I might still get some sleep. In retrospect I don't really understand this thought process but needless to say I turned it off after episode 14 and then got up, made dinner, replaced the piezo pickup in my 12 string and went to sleep.
Thursday, June 8
(Really short Guitar Geek Warning)
The piezo pickup in my Guild 12 string was really bugging me - it had two controls: volume and bass. The volume is self explanatory but the bass knob - while increasing the bass should really have been called "more feedback" as that's really all it was good for. I installed a Fishman Matrix system to go with the Fishman Rare Earth sound hole pickup and strangely enough I now have to adjust the neck because the piezo element is much slimmer than the original and it's changed the action and now it's buzzing out from 7-12 frets. I will fix this tomorrow.
I spend today working on my paperwork stuffs to make sure I know where I'm going for the next 2 months. Julia at Songs & Whispers provides me with detailed spreadsheets with all the info but seriously - my brain cannot deal with spreadsheets. Each show's info spreads across three pieces of paper and I have 4 sets of spreadsheets. So I make some lines on paper and make myself a calendar and fill in the info I need for each day. I know it's silly but it is just so much easier to look at and understand. If Tracy were here she would demand more spreadsheets. Me? I'm a month-at-a-glance type of guy.
As I'm getting ready to leave for the show I get a notice that a website based out of the U.K. has just reviewed my album "Two Sides To This Town" and he loves it. I'm suddenly filled with energy and am ready to go! Tonight's going to be good!
Tonight I'm at Elo Bar in Bremen, it's on the other side of the river and even though it's in town it still takes nearly 30 minutes to get there because of rush hour traffic. Elo is a small bar, maybe room for 25 people inside. I look at the stage area and make an executive decision that we will not use a PA tonight. No PA gigs are seriously my favorite. Sam plugs his bass in, I set up my guitars and we are sorted. Sound check takes literally 35 seconds. The bartender suggests we start at 8:30 instead of 8 because it's so nice out that it will give folks more time to get here and stuff.
We are hanging out, Sam with a beer and me with a Fritz limonade (which is actually orange flavored) and more and more people keep coming in that I know. Petra shows up with a new present for me (see pic), Kevin has returned from his sea voyage and buys me a shot of Frangelico, his favorite drink (it's like hazelnut schnapps and dangerously tasty) The Wilken's are there and we talk about guitar amps and their son being at my show last week, Ellie tells me she can only stay for the first 3 songs but stays for the whole first set, Julia is bouncing around, Christina is there and I haven't seen her since last year, Sara sits with Petra and Uta, Axel has brought a friend and I kind of taunt him while I'm playing and then Aaron and Bee Elizabeth show up - I haven't seem them since we toured together and they brought a cajon with them - Sam sits down on it and he ends up playing it for a handful of songs. Mona is hanging out and I can tell she is mentally preparing for when she is going to be joining me on stage singing.
Now I know I'm forgetting people and I'm sorry, I'm trying to remember everything right now.
It's my favorite kind of show, no pa, great listening audience and I'm just loving it. When I play "Dam" it felt like most of the room was singing along and when I play "APB" everyone is singing along! Petra requests "Long way to Nashville" and I'm kicking myself because I kind of knew she would and I haven't played it since the last time she requested it in July of 2017! Dammit!! I need to practice it but I do play it and it's not perfect but it's one of those songs that resonates with me and I feel it every time I do play it.
I have one more song to play and I ask for a request and Axel says "Long way to the top" and I'm on it - Sam has never played this but he's ready for anything and we launch into the acoustic side of AC/DC and end on a high note.
It was a good night.
*We played one song twice.
**It actually reminded me a little bit of when I saw Paul Westerberg during one of his solo band tours - the guys playing with him were all super accomplished and he kept trying to make them mess up and he kept the edge in it. It's a fun place to be.
Tour Diary June 10, 2018
It’s a 300 mile day.
I’m not super excited about the drive today, in fact I’m kind of dreading it but I got word that my show tonight is sold out and that’s a pretty strong motivator.
I know it’s not a big place but being a sell out is right up my alley!
The drive takes nearly 6.5 hours today and I go through lots of music, The Church, Matthew Good, Brian Fallon, The War on Drugs, Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, Tawny Ellis - this helps the miles roll by.
It’s on long solitary rides like this that you can’t help where your mind wanders to and it not always of the sunshine and rainbows variety. Lots of existential dread and disillusionment type of stuff that does not make for good reading.
Tracy went to a creatives meeting yesterday with our friends Brian and Teresa - Brian just published his first book, Teresa makes jewelry and no one knows this yet but Tracy just finished her first script (and it’s awesome - but she’s not ready for anyone to read it yet) and I know that I’m on the road and touring and all that but hearing about the meeting - I really wanted to be there. I got stuffs in my head I need to get out and playing music is great but solitary driving for 6 hours doesn’t allow for anything else to get done.
My scheduled meet up for tonight is 5:30. I get to the venue at 5:15. I have 15 minutes to nap, relax and check my messages. It’s not enough time.
5:30 and Bridget is there and she’s bubbly and engaging and just super super sweet. I take a deep breath and GAME FACE.
Load in gear, set up PA and they asked me what I would want for food, I told them any meat, salad would be great and no cabbage. I get a home cooked schnitzel with potatoes and salad with vinegrette dressing and tomatoes. It is absolutely exactly what I needed. I’m not able to finish it and they put it away to reheat after my show. So I have that to look forward to.
The venue is a small bar and it is so prepped for music. They make sure everyone has their drinks before I start playing so no one is getting up and ordering. They normally have food served here but not on nights when their is music because it takes away from the listening environment. There are no TVs playing sports. It’s a listening room and it’s sold out for me.
I can’t even imagine a place like this existing in the states.
Did I mention it’s also about 90 degrees in here?
I sweat it out, I rock, I tell stories, the folks are right there with me. I play a solid 50 minute first set. We all go outside for a break and get new beverages. I start my second set with no microphone or plugged in and it’s perfect in this room. I play loud songs, quiet songs and then I play the sea and use my looping pedal and it goes over. Everyone’s with me. How about one bigger? Vegas and I use the looper, distortion and feedback and the 12 string acoustic. They dig it. I end with 1, 2, 3 and I’m spent.
They want more?
My mind tries to figure out what else to play. I ask them “do you want more of my music, a cover song - what?” We want more of your music - is what I get back. I immediately think of that scene from the movie Gaticka - where Ethan Hawkes character is talking about swimming against his brother, the perfect human, and how he would swim out further than - I’m going to stop there, it’s a metaphor for not holding anything back but it was getting away from me. I already did my big ending - I didn’t plan on an encore - never mind 3 of them.
The second set ends up being near an hour and a half. We had sing alongs for APB and Queen of the Party and it was all good.
Sometimes when you really don’t expect it - rock and roll does save your soul. I was beat tired and exhausted and these folks saved me tonight. If I never played a venue bigger than 50 person capacity ever again I think I would be perfectly fine with that.
One guy comes up to me and says “I haven’t seen a performer sweat that much since I saw Springsteen in 1985.” I’ll take that. Bruce is my spirit animal.
I sell out of my new cd tonight. I have more in Bremen but I sold more than I expected - I still have a couple of Motel Americana for tomorrow night in Bamberg.
It’s a great hang out after the show at the bar, I’m offered shots and wine and beer but really I just need a shower and a place to lay my head.
Thank you Maintal for being so wonderful tonight.
Oh, and I graffitied Kaurna Cronin’s poster that’s hanging here! Ha!!
Tour Diary June 13-14, 2018
Ok, I have a lot to catch up on.
June 13, 2018:
Tuesday morning leaving Schonungen to head north and I clear 3,000 km traveled (1,864 miles) in less than two weeks of touring. Oh, and before I forget - I wake up at Marty & Petra's house and Petra is making me some toast, tea and am omelette before I go. Even though I only get to see them for a short bit it's needed time. Petra, Martin and I stayed up late discussing politics and the world's exasperation with trump and how the damage he is doing today - we can't even see all the damage it's doing and how it's going to affect the future of the world. People say things about him in the positive like "Well, at least my 401k is doing well" and don't realize that they selling out their future for profit today. The rest of the world knows this - there are no trump supporters outside of the U.S that I have found. There are trump conversations everywhere, every day. The general consensus is that people realize that I'm not a trump supporter because I am here doing what I do and generally speaking his supporters don't immerse themselves in other cultures.
On the ride north I listen to my flatmates new album. His name is Ryan David Orr and his album really surprises with mixes of folk, rock and even a song that could almost be called 'folk-rap'. At times he sounds like Peter Gabriel or Richard Shindell and he has a great voice for folk storytelling. I highly recommend his album "Kopascetic". From there I bounce around and want to listen to some swirly guitar rock, I start using the voice function of Siri connected to the car to send some random text messages to friends complaining about Pavement and My Bloody Valentine. Here's all you need to know about swirly guitar rock - The album "Smeared" by Sloan is the best of the bunch and the song "Crank" by Catherine Wheel is pretty good to and while not technically in the genre, The Posies "Frosting on the beater" still really holds up to repeated listening - especially the song "burn and shine".
It was a long drive and Siri is pretty helpful for when I say things like "Hey Siri, play the song "Nirvana"* by Julianna Hatfield." Siri becomes my on-demand dj, it's working out pretty well.
I get back to Bremen at 4:45, drop off some gear and turn around and am out the door by 5:15 to go get Sam to play in Weyhe at the Shakespeare Pub. SP is always a good gig as it's fully set up for live music and sometimes has theater productions going on upstairs. Tonight it's just Sam and me - I throw Sam a few curveballs but it's a good show. The other Heiko is there filming, Petra has brought her own setlist that she wants me to play. I look at the list and she's asking for "Summer Wine", "House of Cards", "Millsboro". I play most of her requests but I'm going to have to practice a couple of them before I play it in front of people in, you know, a supposed "professional" type experience. Petra has also brought me some chocolate "Hachez" chocolate. She's brought me this before - her grandfather used to work at the factory. It's good chocolate and it's going down with some red wine at the moment. Kevin is here as well and he brought his mother, and as cute as you think that is to read - it's even cuter in person.
We had good sound, Sam played well, the crowd was great but I don't feel like I was hitting on all cylinders tonight. I'm a bit frustrated with my performance. I was ok but I was lacking something - I can't put my finger on it but I could've been better. Is it too much to ask to be consistent? Apparently it is. I feel like I'm fighting for it every day. It literally never gets easier. I suppose if you don't have anything to fight for then you're just dead but that is a big part of the challenge - every day you are fighting not just to win the crowd but also to better yourself, take some new chances and try not to fall on your ass.
Sam and I have a good hang after and we crank up First Aid Kit and then Led Zeppelin 1 on the ride home. I'm feeling the dichotomy between the bands shows how diverse our listening is and I silently pat myself on the back.
Back at the flat I see Ryan, he and I keep making vague plans for me to record another edition of "Meet my flatmate". Maybe tomorrow.
June 14, 2018
It's a guitar repair day. Yeah - I know, there's a lot of these but when you're playing a couple hours every day shit breaks down. I actually wonder about this because a lot of stuff wears out or stops working on me but I wonder about other touring acts - how much time do they spend repairing their shit. I will need to do a survey.
A couple of days ago I noticed that my Gibson was making a ground humming type of noise. This is the same noise that the pickup in my other Gibson at home started making before the piezo element died. So I know I'm on borrowed time with that one. I get a soldering iron from S&W and dissasemble the Fishman pre-amp in the side of the guitar, remove all the strings, remove the piezo element from under the bridge, put in a new element (Yes, I brought a spare!), re-solder the element into the preamp and put it all back together and I'm happy to report that the ground hum went away.
Then I tackle the guitar with all the signatures - It's been using a Dean Markley sound hole pickup for the distorted signal and that's fine but the cord was taped to the body and had this half ass connect to the strap button input plug that just pissed me off. So today I'm making a hole in the side and wiring it up to have a proper input jack. But I don't have a drill so I use the soldering iron to start a hole in the side by just melting through the finish and making an indent and then I screw a screw into it, remove the screw, make the hole bigger with increasingly bigger screwdrivers until it's big enough for an input jack and viola' - fixed.
***Currently it is 1:20 am and we left the windows open and we have about 6 flies in the flat. Ryan is on a tear with some rolled up paper trying to swat down these dying flies. The last few swats sounded particularly violent - I hope he was successful.***
Tonight I'm playing at Sparkasse. It's a bank. Literally a bank. Now I used to play The Last Safe and Deposit in Lowell and that place *used* to be a bank but was then a bar. This place is still a bank and it's the nicest bank I've ever played in.** and they are trying something different here. From what I can figure out - Sparkasse is one of the oldest banks in Northern Germany and they have made a conscious effort to buck all the trends of modern banking. Where most banks have online banking and ATM's these folks have taken a hard left hand turn and have gone customer service based. They have something like 40 branches and they are integrating themselves into the communities so that their space is also used for business meetings and group gatherings for the community where they are located. On the surface my brain says this won't work but here in Bremen it seems to be.
Heiko is here setting up with me tonight - it's the first show here and he wants to make sure everything is perfect so I have extra lights and he's helping with the PA. They have set up a lot of chairs and they have beverages on the counter and I'm just sort of hanging out scrolling on my phone thinking "If 3 people show up - I'm going to be surprised." I'm scheduled to play at 7, it's 6:50 and there's one person here. I go into the bathroom to change my shirt and come out and there's like 40 people here.
40 people have come out to hear me play in a bank.
Sometimes I think I understand the world and how things work but clearly I do not.
There's some familiar faces here again, there's a guy who saw me play at the University last year and Claudia and Oliver Bartels have come and brought me a present. "I saw on your page that you liked 'Fluffernutters' and the store near my house sells Fluff." Are you kidding me? They brought me fluff, peanut butter and bread. This is just too much. I tell them about how Fluff is the pride of Lynn, Massachusetts and how people call Lynn - the city of sin. And I'm just blown away by this. Just when you think you understand things...
My first set is ok. Just ok. I'm having a hard time hearing things the way things are set up in the room and I get a little bit into my head thinking about it and how to fix it. I rock for about 45 minutes and take a break. During the break I move the PA to aim at me a little bit more and the second set is much better for me. There's a nice thing about my song "APB" - at most of the shows I'm doing there are at least a couple of people that know it and sing out the chorus and other folks join in. It's like this club, where if you know it - you're "in the club". I've never been part of a club but I like this club.
There's a great thing that happens when you play night after night - you get to hear what's working and not working very quickly and adjust to it quickly. When you only play one show a week or one show a month - you never get into that groove to improve the art of the thing. I'm not saying what I do is perfect but I'm realizing that *my* thing isn't perfection. It's energy and perseverance and sweating it out and giving my performance a full and proper kicking. In learning this the past week, my performances have jumped up a notch. I still want to be better and more, whatever "more" is but I feel like this past week that the plateau I was on, performing wise, has been raised. It may only be small and incremental but It's still growth and I'll take it.
Again I end big with "1, 2, 3" and they want more music. I'm not prepared for encores. I gave it everything. I swam out with no intention of swimming back.*** I do one big and one quiet and end with "Long way to Nashville" and it's the end of a great night. I sell a bunch of cds, hang out and the folks from the bank have saved a special beer for me and a glass of wine. It's a nice hang out with the folks from the bank when everyone else leaves. One of the woman that works here is telling me how she took English in school but doesn't get to practice it much. She moved to Germany as a 5 year old refugee from Iran. She can still speak Farsi with her mother but usually just speaks German and English. We talk a little bit about Iran and when they left and how she would like to visit again someday.
The guys know that I don't drink beer but they insist I take it and try it. I get in the door to the flat and ask "who here likes presents?" and Ryan is here and he raises his hand and I give him the beer. Turns out it's his birthday today and I didn't even know. We have a great hangout here talking music and books. He's an interesting guy, full of surprises. He turned me onto The Districts tonight and I thought I was going to get him by bringing up Richmond Fontaine but he's hip to Willie and has even read some of his books but he never heard the Delines. The night ends with some Tom Waits and Kerouac as I show him a bit of "Pull my daisy".****
*Yes, this song is about the band Nirvana and it rocks.
**It is of course the first bank I've ever played in.
***There's the Gattaca reference I couldn't spell out the other day!
****This is super obscure Kerouac 101 stuff but essential viewing for any student of the beats.
Tour Diary June 14, 2018
I had today off.
I slept in, did laundry, worked on some new songs, sent a shitload of emails regarding bookings, equipment and promotions.
Then I went and had lunch. Ozlum is the closest, Falafel Konig is the cheapest but Arabic is the best.
Tour Diary June 16, 2018
I remembered what I was supposed to do. I was supposed to go to the office and have a meeting with Julia and sort out some money things before she left on vacation.
I was a no show. It will be fine, we'll do it in a couple of weeks but I feel kinda bad for not showing up.
Nico and Emily come by the flat to do some laundry and so we can have a chat about what we're doing at Sendesaal. It's nice finally meeting them in person and having a nice chat. I really need to do the "Meet My Flatmate" videos. Dammit. Anyway, Sendesaal is going to be great and I'm excited to be sharing some stages with them next month.
I'm playing in Garding today, it's near the Denmark border - like less than 50 miles from the border. So it's a hike for me.
Something that's hard to bitch about but I'm going to anyway - construction. Germany does a fantastic job of keeping their roads and bridges in great condition, this is due to them always maintaining them. So my 2.5 hour drive today was 4 hours. I still get to Garding earlier than my scheduled time but that's just because I still can't get 24 hour time stamps straight in my head. 1900 is 7 pm NOT 5 pm.
With some time on my hands I decide to go to the beach - it's not far from the venue, only about 10K and I get there and there's this huge boardwalk that goes out over the wetlands and it's a reserve and there's a restaurant at the other end and it's a nice walk. A long walk but a nice walk. See Pics. It's pretty remote out here and the GPS in the car and my phone lose signal and I have to get back to the club by memory which at this point in history - you might as well say "put this puzzle together by feel." It takes a while but I get there.
Back in Garding at Musikantenkneipe Lütt Matten the doors are open and the barkeep is happy to see me. I'm initially not sure if I'm at the right place because there's nothing advertising my show, no signs or nothing. She's very nice shows me where everything is, it's a nice stage, nice room. I look around and there's 8 people in the bar not including the dog and all of them are smoking.* I load my stuff in, set up the PA and guitars and check everything. I now have 90 minutes before showtime and I really need a nap. I've been shown where the green room is and it's sort of just an unused room of the bar, some tables but mostly used for storage.
As I move a chair and slide my guitar case in - I bump a stack of paper and it's all of my posters and show info as well as S&W flyers that the club has not put out. It is literally bare minimum for a club to do. S&W sent them the flyers, the posters, the date and time is already filled in and some little postcard sized things with description of my music and everything. S&W did their job. I put a few of the flyers out but I don't go taping the posters on the windows or anything.
Things like this are frustrating.
A couple of strange things - while I'm setting up the PA they have the jukebox on and "Africa" by Toto plays 3 times in a row. I see 4 or 5 guys that if I had to guess their name I would say "Willie Loman", I'm getting a strange vibe and I try to shake it off so I nap for 20 minutes across 4 chairs in the "green room".
9 pm arrives and with my game face on I turn on the rock.
Before I hit the first chorus two Willie Lomans exit the front door. I count 16 total people in the bar now.** Most are in the front of the room and I'm playing in the back of the room but there are 3 people totally into it. All of it. They are right up front and it's a woman and I think her husband and they are at least 75 or 80 years old. (He is chain smoking right in front of me) and another woman who is probably in her late 30's. The bartender is also really paying attention.
I have 4 people listening - I play to them.
My stories don't work here, no one speaks much English at all and I'm silently cursing myself for not studying German more. My core group of phrases don't really help when I'm on stage: "Kein Kohl"*** My 45 minute set had 2 extra songs in it because of lack of stage banter. During on song, the man in front of me has lit a new cigarette and I lose the end of the song to a coughing fit. It's been so long since I've played anywhere that people can smoke. It's burning my eyes and my throat is sore before the end of the first set. It's just the worst.
The 80 year old woman notices me coughing and tells her husband to go smoke outside and he gets up and leaves. I know this is what happened because I went outside in my break and he was out there smoking and he told me she made him leave. How sweet of her!
Second set and I get 4 people singing along with APB.**** and they really like Angelia and it's going ok. The 80 year old woman has bought one each of all my solo releases - that's very cool.
I finish up and she asks if she can get a photo with me - of course! Her husband takes the picture by taking an actual camera out of his pocket. Not a camera - an old for real camera and this shouldn't be strange but it is. After the photo she pulls me in very close, hugs me and proceeds to kiss me on the cheek and neck (she is probably about 4'10" tall) then she kisses me full on the lips. I flinch and she does it again.*****
Well, that's new.
I sweat it out and give it my all and some go over and the songs with more words - don't go over as well. But it's still decent and I sell some more cds. It ends up being an ok night and folks seemed to genuinely enjoy it. As I'm packing up "Africa" comes back on the jukebox. Someone really loves that song. I bring my autographed guitar over to the 80 year old woman and offer to let her sign it and she takes this task very seriously and is very thankful, she finishes signing and smiles. I pack up my stuff and say goodnight and it's hugs all around and wouldn't you know it - I get kissed again.
It's just odd. I don't normally kiss people that aren't my wife. and certainly not on the mouth.
Singin', Strummin' and Selling CDs. Overall a win but the 160 mile drive home after the gig take a lot out of me.
Imma go to bed now.
*The dog was not smoking.
**Not including the dog.
***No cabbage. Important when ordering food, less important when performing music.
****Just because only a few people are listening doesn't me they shouldn't sing along!
*****Fortunately no tongue.
Tour Diary June 16-18, 2018
Yeah, I'm three days behind - sue me!
That seems awfully aggressive Bobbo, you ok?
I'm totally fine - had an ok gig and two days off that I worked.
On Saturday Sam and I played Sonnendeck which is beautiful, it's right on the North Sea and the folks there are great. Usually Sonnendeck is packed but there was another event in town and a World Cup match happening so it was pretty thin. We played really well and the folks there did enjoy it so that's all that really matters. Met a guy that is having a big festival in September that asked me to play it. (Sorry man, I'll be back in the states then!) And a bunch of nice folks that got my email about the show there.
I make a deal with myself to not eat any more pizza while I'm here. Sonnendeck has taken the burgers off their menu but they have lots of pizza. Now I'm torn. I don't want to *buy* food when a place is feeding me but I don't want to eat any more pizza.
Long and short of it is - the pizza was delicious.
Sunday I have off and I spend most of the day working on radio promo things and PR. I've got some stations playing my songs and some nice reviews coming in so I'm trying to capitalize on all of that. Back in the old days of the music business someone at the record label would spend their waking hours calling radio stations and working the PR but in the modern world it's mostly on us. I'm still getting some help from some talented folks but it's still up to me to make the personal connections that matter.
I'm reminded of a story a friend of mine (that worked at a major label) told me involving Hootie & The Blowfish and Jewel.
Do you know how both of those acts finally broke through?
Scott Weiland ended up in Rehab.
Now I know what you're saying - "Bobbo, those things are not related." But hang on - the stories get better.
Hootie and the Blowfish and Jewel both had albums out and had been touring for about a year. Jewel famously living in her van and the Blowfish in a van with golf clubs. And the same label had earmarked a bunch of money for promo for a new Stone Temple Pilots album and when Scott Weiland ended up in rehab the label took all that money and split it up between Jewel and Hootie - and the rest is history.*
There's some weird music history for you.
I'm trying to find my road which is somewhere between Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones going from radio station to radio station eating bologna sandwiches convincing DJ's to play "Coal Miner's Daughter" and hiring Taylor Swift's family to buy a lot of copies of my album.
And at the same time I'm booking shows for September/October for me and Doug Schmude to go from CA to Texas and also organizing the Harbor Homes benefit in New Hampshire on Oct 13, as well as recording a video promo for my show this coming Saturday in Bremen.
I had two days off from shows but I worked both days. The new music industry allows everyone to play in the big leagues but you will have to play every day.
I'm going to book a cross country US tour - anyone want to a show in your hometown? I'm going to make this work.
*Sidenote: Hootie & The Blowfish's "Cracked Rear View" album sold roughly 16 million copies BUT nearly half of those were through the BMG record club thing where you could get 7 cds for a penny and the band didn't make a dime on the nearly 8 million cds sold through that club because the label called all those sales "Promotional". That's got to burn a little bit.
Tour Diary June 20, 2018
I'm feeling very far away this morning. I watched the Rachel Maddow show and started crying when she did. I got on facebook and saw people that I grew up with, people I went to school with saying the ugliest things about how these people, these kids deserve this treatment and went on an unfriending spree. I refuse to entertain their moral vacancy.
I wanted to be there in Texas and Portland. I wanted to be somewhere where I could make a difference for good and felt my touring and guitar playing to be...not enough.
Sam came over to drive with me to rehearsal and it's been fun getting to know him. Sam's from the U.K. in the Sudbury area. We pulled up Google Maps and he was showing me the towns near him - Melford, Groton, Boxford, Milden, Acton, Waltham, Chelmsford, Billericay and then I showed him where I grew up - Medford, Groton, Acton, Boxborogh, Malden, Waltham, Chelmsford, Billerica. And people in these Massachusetts towns think they have any moral high ground to complain about immigrants?
Before we leave for rehearsal I share a Fluffernutter with Sam - I tell him "this is what childhood in New England tastes like." He is somewhat disturbed by the peanut butter and fluff concoction but can't stop eating it.
Band rehearsal with Niklas and Sam rocks. Niklas who is still dealing with having his wisdom teeth removed a few days ago but was still able to kill on the drums and we got a solid 2 hour rehearsal in where we just cranked it out. It felt really good to plug my telecaster into a Marshall.* I'm really excited to play live with these guys as we are sounding great together. If our shows are anything like our reheasals - then folks are gonna dig it.
Sam and I are playing a Kreismuseum Syke tonight - it's a museum that shows what life was like in this area in the time leading up to the Industrial Revolution, complete with a very early saw mill, a bunch of horse drawn carts (including a horse drawn hearse!) and they have this great meeting room that we perform in. It's the kind of place "Millsboro" was written about. We're here nice and early so we set up and rehearse a few other songs that we've been doing acoustically and get the room dialed in for sound. Tonight is going to be good.
A strange thing happens tonight while singing and playing - a bunch of my songs start taking on new meaning to me.The song "Massachusetts" has a few meanings for me but tonight singing the chorus I'm actually consoling myself thinking about where I grew up. We play "Mexican Home" and singing that chorus hits a new nerve about kids being taken from their parents at the border. "Jealous Kind" now sounds like a song about two lovers on different sides of the border and one trying desperately to escape the law for his love. "Hold Me" has the line about wanting to tear down walls. And Angelia, which I wrote thinking about my home town - she is now an angel, a muse, a spark of inspiration that makes you want more from your life and to see beyond your own front yard.
You can write songs and they can mean one thing when you write it but that meaning can change, it can morph into something different and I'm finding a new way into them.
I mention the thing about Sam and I and our hometown names thing at the show. I don't think I was particularly clear in my explanation as it wasn't fully clear to me yet. When I explain "Angelia" and about not recognizing my country anymore - they get it. I know why I'm here. Our president can bad mouth everyone** but I'm here to let them know that most Americans are not trump and his ilk. I'm fighting a different battle and it's not on twitter, it's face to face - and that's something our president is way to scared to do.
Yes, I'm an entertainer but that's just part of it, I'm having to answer for what our country does and I have to put on my game face and be better.
A bunch of folks want to sign my guitar tonight. I dig that - and I keep meaning to take a picture of folks signing it. I hope to someday have no room left on it to sign. There is so much love on that guitar that goes both directions.
*Even if the Marshall is a solid state amp, it still sounded good as long as you don't use the built in distortion.
**and today made up falsehoods about German immigration statistics.
Tour Diary June 22, 2018
My friend Rex tagged me in a great post - we're in Vintage Guitar magazine this month! No, not a review - There's a picture with my Gibson acoustic, Tracy's '74 Rickenbacker, my 1940's Gibson Kalamazoo mandolin, my homemade telecaster and my Maestro Amps. Wicked cool!
Then I have to get ready to go to tonight's crap gig. I knew it was going to be a crap gig before I left. We played the same place a couple of years ago and it's a nice enough bar with halfway decent food - the bar and the people working there are not the problem. The patrons just don't give a shit. They don't want to listen to music and they can be kind of obnoxious. When we played here with Stressechoes a few years ago it was shit then too.
But I'm booked and I have to go so it's game face and I'm off. Mona is joining me tonight singing backing vocals and it's nice company and she sounds great singing with me. We have a big show tomorrow in Bremen so tonight is kind of like rehearsal for tomorrow.
The folks working here are very nice and they bring us food (I tried the hamburger, not bad - it was better when I used a fork and knife) and drinks and they are very sweet. The place in Zeven is a downstairs bar and there's a stage area with nice lights and everything. We start playing at about 9:30 and there are 16 people there including the staff. One guy comes up and takes a bunch of pictures of us. I think he's with the bar. The bartender tells me he liked putting up my poster with the "Fuck Donald Trump" graffiti on it and we have what starts out as a good laugh and turns into an awkward moment of acknowledgment of the shit state of the world. We nod at each other knowingly and continue on.
The sound is decent, maybe a little loud for the room but we only have the one speaker behind us - it seems alright. We get polite applause after every song. I take a break and Mona plays a couple of her songs. I like her songs, there's a rawness of emotion that comes through, it's no BS at all and it's nice to sit and listen to something that isn't me.
Her singing with me is really nice. I've really missed having Tracy with me on tour - not just for the fact that I love hanging out with my wife but because she adds so much to the sound and makes me sound much better. Mona is doing that for me tonight and it's really special. We haven't worked on all my songs so when we finish the songs we know together I keep playing and Mona goes around with the hat. I see her with the staff for extra amount of time but don't really think anything of it. I play a few more songs and then call it. I sit down with Mona and she says something to the effect of "can we pack up and go?" All night I was noticing this one drunk guy at the end of the bar, he would make a few sounds now and then but just figured he was the local drunk - I was right. Turns out he said something to Mona that made her really uncomfortable and she wanted to leave. She mentioned it to the staff and they shrugged it off with a "Oh, he's harmless" or "don't worry, he's just drunk" type of comments.
I'm really pissed. It was a crap gig that just became a shit-ton worse.
The drunk guy comes over to me and I'm in that moment where I don't really know what's about to go down. He's motioning to me something about a cd and will I sign one for him or something. I tell him to go away.
Mona and I keep packing up. She doesn't want to tell me what he said and I respect that. She is visibly shaken and I kind of want to hit him - actually I kind of want an excuse to hit him.
So our stuff is packed up and we're at the other end of the bar talking to the staff, just pleasantries at this point, they liked the night, thanks for coming all that and then the drunk guy comes up behind me and wants to join the conversation.
"No, you were rude to my friend and we're not going to talk to you so just go away." as I motion with my hands for him to leave.
He looks kind of stunned at me for a moment, looks back and I say "Go." and motion again with my hands. He finally leaves and the bartender says thank you to me. It wasn't hard to do. Why wouldn't someone working there say something? I was on stage and missed the whole thing and could only say something at the end when it was all over. Doesn't matter what country you're in - some drunk asshole can ruin your night anywhere.
The drunk guy wanted a cd - I didn't want him to have my cd and I'm very ok with that decision.
Tour Diary June 23, 2018
This venue is spectacular. I was built in 1952 and is exceptionally unique in that it is a building built inside a building - the whole concert hall sits on 655 springs that isolates it from outside noise and was used by Radio Bremen for decades as it's broadcast and recording studio - greats like John Cage have performed here* and tonight I am.
We get here super early to do sound check and all - Heiko and Michael are already here setting up mains and monitors and lights and what-not. Our sound check breezes by and I'm informed we're running an hour ahead of schedule.
Sam, Mona and I have a nice sound check and this room sounds amazing. Then Nicolas and Emily do their check and they sound fantastic. I'm excited to hear them tonight as this is the first show we're doing together.
Then there's a bit of down time. We have hours before the gig so we find a restaurant and hang out a bit. I really like Nico and Emily - Nico's from Massachusetts and lived in LA for a while - so we have a lot in common. Emily is originally from Connecticut which you know, is barely in New England - it's almost New York. But she's ok I guess. We all thought we were going to an Indian restaurant but it turns out to be...something else. I forget but it wasn't Indian. Was still good though.
Back at Sendesaal Heiko asks us to do a song together at the end. Not wanting another Breminale debacle over "Wagon Wheel" like we had last year - we actually rehearse a Tom Petty song a couple of times and it sounds pretty good. We're sorted!
Tonight Germany is playing an important game in the World Cup and there's speculation that this is affecting our drawing power here tonight. There's still a good group of folks here and football be damned, we're going to rock them.
Nico and Emily go on first. I really wanted to go out into the hall to listen but I have this terrific headache coming on so I sit and listen to them on the tv in the green room. (which is getting it's feed from a 1950's Neuman stereo mic that is suspended from the ceiling and sounds amazing!) I kind of go into Power Saver mode as I'm near falling asleep and my head is aching. Nico plays a suitcase with a kick pedal on it and even coming through the tv it sounds fantastic - he and Emily have a tight set of songs and sound amazing together. They get, I think, two encores.
My first song I go out and walk down in front of all the mics and play completely acoustic and the sound of the room is fantastic. I wish I could do all shows like this. I think they like it too but there are microphones and Sam and Mona waiting to perform with me so it's back to mics and cords after the first song. I give it everything I've got tonight and I get it back from the audience - my headache has evaporated with the love I'm feeling here and I'm energized.
We play great. Mona sounds fantastic and when she sings the last verse of The Sea it's so light and airy - just beautiful and Sam goes back and forth between the bass and cajon all the while singing along as well. We get a nice 3 part harmony in a couple of songs and I dig it. We get a fantastic sing along for APB and I tell some new stories and some old stories and it's good. We play 2 encores and then Nico and Emily come out and we all play "Mary Jane's Last Dance" with us swapping verses back and forth. It's a nice ending to the evening.
Talking to folks after the show - 2 people tell me they had goosebumps during our set. Can't ask for more than that. I sign a couple of cds and say goodnight to fans and friends. The two bands have a rendezvous at a bar in a little bit so we pack up and leave. I'm feeling pretty good about the show until I get a message from a fan telling me I shouldn't play one of the songs I played tonight ever again because she misses how Ben sings it instead of me. As if I don't know how great Ben sings it but....I don't have to justify playing a song, it's a song Tracy, Ben and I wrote together. The comment sticks with me the rest of the night. As a writer and performer you want to engage your audience so that your music becomes part of their life, their soundtrack and when you achieve that - it can sometimes come with the barb of loss of ownership of your own songs - they are out in the ether and some people think they own them or own their idea of how they should be performed.
Makes me wonder if anyone ever told Bruce Springsteen that he shouldn't sing "Because the Night" because Patty Smith sings it better.
There's a great story Glen Hansard (from the movie Once and co-writer of the song "Falling Slowly") tells about that song: (paraphrased)
"It's like you created this ball and you kick the ball and it goes over the fence, down the yard, across the street and into the next town and the next town and you're kind of amazed at how far your ball went AND four fifths of you are really happy and excited for how far it went but the remaining one fifth is saying "I want my ball back".
We meet up downtown and have a nice hang at a bar that resembles a cave. I have a long conversation with a guy who explains in great detail that he doesn't have a gambling problem but then details his gambling addiction to me. I don't want to write this song so I quote the Jukebox Junkies to him "You could walk away a winner if you could only walk away." and he quotes the three times you shouldn't quit gambling 1) when you're down 2) when you're even 3) when you're up. Aw hell, it's probably a good song to write.
*His 4'33 would not create much sound here as it is so acoustically isolated.
Tour Diary June 24, 2018
I bought a bike!
There is a flea market down by the Bremen Hauptbanhof every Sunday and I was told it was the place to buy a bicycle for cheap. I wandered around in the rain for a while and this green beauty jumped out at me, I gave it a spin and it's perfect for my needs. Some might call it a "woman's bike" but I don't think bicycles have a gender. It's green, has an easy step through and it's comfortable. I told Tracy about it and she made me promise to go get a helmet tomorrow. I reluctantly agreed.
Today I'm playing at Ohlenhof Erlebnisfarm. I'm told that there's no English translation for the word Ohlenhof but it pretty much means "the feeling of home at a place that is not your actual home" and it's a place for the local neighborhood to get together and work together. There's a bit of a farm, some chickens, horses, pigs, bunnys and they wanted music from me, Nico and Emily today.
We're given a bit of a tour and it's very nice - They ask, "Do you want to come in and pet the pig?" No, I'm good. Emily jumps at the chance, it's very cute. The pig she was patting was 650 pounds. When she was petting it it was trying to bite through the fence.
Nico and Emily play first after we work out the rules of "rock, paper, scissors". It is ,shockingly, the first time I've ever done rock, paper, scissors.* Heiko sees what we're doing and asks if we ever played " Schere, Stein, Papier; Ching, Chang, Chong; Klick, Klack, Kluck; Stein schleift Schere; Schnibbeln, Knobeln oder Schniekern" which turns out to be "rock, paper, scissors" but in typical German fashion is much more detailed, confusing and has 5 times as many variables.**
Since we're playing in the entrance to a barn we opt to keep it simple today and I'm going with 1 guitar and no effect pedals. It's a stretch for me but it feels weirdly liberating. Nico and Emily sound great and I'm starting to know more of their songs and I'm excited to get to know them as people as I already dig their music. Heiko does sound for us and sets the PA up differently than how I've been setting it up and it sounds really great today.
It's a chilly 55 degrees (13 C) and as it starts raining a little bit, I hide under a tree, Heiko stands next to me;
"Sorry about the rain."
"I can't blame you for the weather."
"Well, I did know it was going to be like this."
"So you're telling me I can blame you for the weather?"
He thinks about it a moment and laughs off the craziness of his words.
It's nice seeing some more fans show up too - Sonja brings her mother to the show. "I promise this 80 year old won't try to kiss you." she says to me and I watch Sonja sing along with most of the songs which is one of the best feelings you can have while you're on stage. I talk to her after the show and she tells me that "Mexican Home" always makes her cry. We hug. I understand, it has that effect on me as well. It's good to see Kevin at the show too - he's such a sweet kid and he always has the biggest smile - it's a contagious smile in the best way.
After the show we decide to hang out tonight, eat doner and drink wine. It's a great plan as we all have tomorrow off.*** and we have such an amazing night hanging out. Nico is so fun and full of energy and great stories. Emily is what New Englanders call "wicked smaht" and is just a fireball. Tonight is our last chance to hang out with Ryan David Orr as he flies out tomorrow and he is like a slow moving book - he just keeps dropping out little tidbits of his life that are just fascinating. The conversation turned to the pots and pans in our flat and Ryan lets it be known that he has a special cast iron pan just for making grilled cheese sandwiches.
"Wait, you have a pan just for grilled cheese sandwiches?" I ask.
"So do you have a great secret grilled cheese secret?"
"Uh, well, yeah. I guess."
I would love to tell you how he makes his sandwiches but it's not my recipe to share. If you want to know - you will have to ask him. I'm now exceptionally bummed that I won't have time to do a cooking show with him because the dude knows his sandwiches!
The rest of the night is kind of a blur although I know for a fact that I laughed a lot and it felt good to laugh a lot. Being around Nico and Emily is not going to help my proper diction in my talking or singing as they just bring out the Boston in my voice. We were liberally throwing around the "Hey Kid" and "Hey Buddy" as well as a fair share of "fuhkins".
'Hey Kid, it's like old home week around here. You going to Kelly's to get a lobstah roll?"
It's proper good times or as the Irish say "Craic".
Imma go to bed now Kid, see you tomorrow. Tell Sully good night for me.****
*We never did that, we did like a one potato two potato thing or used a baseball bat thing which no one ever wanted to do with me because of my freakishly large hands.
**Or it could just be a longer way of saying "rock paper scissors".
***A relative term. "Off" day just means your doing other work other than playing a show. In this case - we have meetings planned at the office.
****This whole last bit is parts of conversations we had that sound best with a Boston accent. Also some of them are just conversations I had in my head.
Tour Diary June 30, July 1, 2018
I saw this really cute thing and thought it would be a nice present for Tracy and I had someone email me where to find it, I emailed the place and they sent me back their address in downtown Bremen. I know that's a long wordy sentence that doesn't really say anything but I'm being all covert and trying to keep a secret. I'm pretty terrible at that and usually tell Tracy things like "I got you a present, here it is!" and don't wait for a holiday or anything. I'm trying to keep this one quiet until I give it to her. I hope she wanted a new guitar.* Downtown Bremen is quite beautiful with some seriously old buildings. As I walk around I'm seeing things and having memories of past visits - I've been to this city a lot! There's the Bremen Musicians, there's the big gothic church, there's the bratwurst stand, there's the accordion player**, there's where Tracy and wandered through during the FreiMarkt and had mulled wine and spiral kartoffel. And when my Mom and I were walking through we bumped into Sara and she showed us the schnoor section of Bremen and then bumped into Petra at the same time. Lots of memories downtown and I hardly ever go there.
Tonight I'm playing in Delmonhorst at...how do I describe it - there is a theater troupe in Delmonhorst and they rent out space in this warehouse that they use for storing their props and I think rehearsing, they also use it as a sort of clubhouse for their parties and get togethers. This is my third time playing here and each time in a different area of the warehouse because they keep taking up more room and moving things around! As I'm sitting and talking with them I remind Petra that coming here 2 years ago was an inspiring moment as Delmonhorst was preparing for a lot of refugees and the other side of the warehouse they were in was full of brown paper bags that were "welcome" bags full of things for young girls or boys, teen girls and boys and so on - each bag labeled with the age group it was for. And her words of "Why wouldn't we help? They have nothing." always stuck with me.
There's a great BBQ and Pot-Luck dinner tonight and lively conversation and they are planning their next production which is something to do with 8 or 9 doors and the whole show is from the view of the backstage area. It sounds fantastic and somehow familiar but I don't know where I may have heard of it.
When I play I shrug off all PA systems and just get in the middle of the room. They are a fantastic audience and sing along and listen to the stories for the songs and it's a great night. When I'm done I spend a while talking with Petra and she says to me "You're much more serious this year than in past years." And it's something that I drive home thinking about. She's right and I don't know if it's a good thing. Today is the halfway point of my tour and I need about 3 or 4 days off in a row to recharge and I'm not going to get them. I had asked for July 2, 3, 4th off but ended up just getting 2, 3 and I'm going to spend all day of the 2nd doing paperwork and booking. It's not technically a day off, it's just a day without a show.
I know, I know - quit your bitching, this is what you signed up for. I can hear myself saying that to myself but you do need time to recharge the batteries. The Jackson Browne song "running on empty" comes to mind a lot.
I drive home feeling sad that it might not have been the best performance I could've done because of my serious tone. U2 are one of my favorite bands and they have a documentary called "From the Sky down" and it doesn't matter how you feel about Bono and Co. - any criticisms of them, they probably have more criticisms of themselves. In any case, they were touring The Joshua Tree in the 80's and Bono's wife Ali says to him "when did you become so serious all the time? What happened to the fun guy I knew?"*** and it's a wake up call to Bono. There's times for serious and times for entertainment. I need to find a better balance. And I need more sleep and vegetables. If someone could point me in the direction of a good Caesar salad that would be fantastic.
More entertainment, less moody, introspective "artiste". I can do that.
Sunday, July 1. New Day, gonna rock. Today is the first time we unveil the power trio of me, Niklas and Sam. My good friend Mike brought me a Marshall JCM800**** and we're playing outdoors on the waterfront of the river. Because of my small rental car and the hugeness of this amp - it takes two trips to get all our gear there. That's ok because where we're playing and where Niklas' studio is located about 2km away!
We're all ready, I even made up setlists for all three of us and we're ready to rock. I look out and see Petra*****and Sara who have come to hear us and Petra has brought me a gift of chocolate (from the factory where her grandfather used to work) and a keychain that says I *heart* Toast. I'm reminded of all those times you see big rock stars on tv and they say things like "we have the best fans" and it sounds so Rock-N-Roll 101, like you're supposed to say things like that but I get it - my fans really are the best. And look - there's some more of them now!
Sam sees the amp I'm playing through and somehow acquires some new sunglasses that are also leopard print and is somehow able to pull of "musician wearing sunglasses on stage" and not look like a tool. They work for him. Niklas has his silver sparkle Ludwig kit out today and it's sounding great, he even has some 15" Meinl Byzance hihats that sound fantastic. I'm a little nervous of turning this amp up just because I don't want to drown out the ships in the harbor so I play it cautiously and maybe a little too much so as Niklas tells me he was having a hard time hearing it. Bummer!
In any case - we rocked it today. Was it perfect? Hell no - but it was rock and roll and we had fun. I have some things I need to work out for our next show together, there's some set flow things to consider that didn't work for me today.but all in all it felt good and the guys were great. It went by quick and I'm already excited for our next full band show next Sunday and we have two sets that day! Awesome.
Post-gig we have a nice hang with friends and get some bites to eat, I teach Heiko how to throw water in someone's face.****** and then it's home for a nap and laundry as I'm on my last clean show shirt. I bring all my gear up stairs and set up my electric and instead of falling asleep I start working on ideas for the next show, tweaking pedals and planning how the flow is gonna go. I FB video with Tracy for a few and I'm proud of myself for not telling her what I bought her. It really is difficult for me to keep a secret like that. It's not even that big a thing but I just like the giving.
Time to put the laundry in the dryer.****** Goodnight and catch you tomorrow.
*Ha - the new guitar trick, just to throw her off the scent.
**Who actually lives downstairs from me.
***Paraphrasing but you get the point.
****Recovered in leopard print fabric!
*****A different Petra.
******My face. It felt good. Jeff Bell would be so proud.
*******Cue up this song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3HUOHqokOI
Tour Diary July 2, 2018
Technically an "off" day. I have no show but I spend most of the day doing administrative things like filling out BMI forms so I get paid for my live performances and sending out cds to a record store in Spain that just bought a handful of my albums, food shopping and finishing up my laundry.
It's exciting I know.
In the afternoon Nicolas comes over and he's got a new guitar and he asks me to tweak it a bit for him, I shim the neck, adjust the bridge and restring it and it's playing much nicer now. Tomorrow I may work on Emily's mandolin and my mandolin if I can find a wood file. The two of them are a lot of fun to hang out with and we've planned for tonight to be a "family dinner" night.
I'm so thankful for all the food that we get while we're playing and traveling but sometimes your body just starts screaming for a salad. It's like "Hey! Enough with the sausage and bread - eat some damn vegetables!" So we set out to make blackened chicken Caesar salad*. Finding the romaine lettuce is easy, chicken breast - check and then it takes a while to find some Caesar dressing and croutons but we figure it out. Nico and Emily are picking out wine at the Rewe and we decide to get something nicer than the Rouge de France (3 euro a bottle!) and opt for some nice 5 euro a bottle reds.
The rest of the night is music and hanging out, crazy stories, favorite songs on iTunes and videos on Youtube and Emily's Ted Cruz on Survivor video.** Nico's use of "wicked" as an adjective reminds me of home and earlier today he even used the saying "booking it" to mean going really fast and I seriously felt like I was in third grade again. The two of them are really stumped on why peanut butter is not more popular here and we hatch a plan to maybe make Fluffernutters*** for folks at one of our shows together.
Two bottles, three people. Imma go to sleep now.
*I even try calling my Mom to find out how to burn chicken - she was no help. Oh and suck it Kelly Devine - I ate a salad!
**I don't know if that's available to be seen anywhere but it's excellent. I just went looking for it on YouTube but I couldn't find it.
***You don't know what a Fluffernutter is? I don't even think I can explain, I mean...It's like. I can't even.
Tour Diary July 8, 2018
I may have thrown a telecaster today.*
But let me rewind, it's been a few days. I think I left off with the Friday night show in Syker with Nico and Emily.
Friday, July 6, 2018
It's an outdoor "festival" type thing at the Syker Vorvek which is a museum type of cultural center. The last time I played here I was by myself and it was cold out and they had me play in the basement of the basement for a "crowd" of about 6 people** but today we're in the garden, under a canopy with a full gathering of people and an amazing Ansel Adams sunset behind us.*** We flip a coin to see who goes first and Sam and I are on first. We got the PA sounded pretty good and we have a decent set. On the ride over Sam and I have a whole conversation about our shows and how their going well but we're about connection and not perfection and that is becoming our mantra.
Connection not perfection.
The set goes well, we get an amazing sing along happening and I have two people come up to me after the show to tell me that I made them cry.****
Then Nico and Emily take the stage and I don't think I've heard them play better - they were amazing tonight. Harmonies and stories and just fantastic. Samwise and I hang out in back just listening and it's making me really miss Tracy. Singing with Tracy makes me sound 87% better.***** And it's the kind of singing and performing that only comes from doing it for a long time together. Nico and Emily have been doing this for a while and it shows. In one of their last songs they both hold this note a super long time and you can see they are challenging each other to see who can hold it longer and it's killer. You don't get this tight, this in sync with just anyone. When Nico and Emily sing together, they breathe together and you can tell their hearts beat the same when they sing.
I really miss Tracy for these same reasons.
Post gig we all convine in the kitchen where they have left us food and it's German nibbles of salami, ham, cheese, lots of bread, a cup of egg salad (that Emily eats all of) drinks and little apple almond cake type things and of course some chocolate and wine. We're in here for so long that the staff finally shows up and tells us to go home so they can clean up and leave.
We're not ready for tonight to end so we head back to the flat and Nico, Emily and myself polish off 2 bottles of wine.****** When I finally get to bed sometime around 3, I set my alarm for 8 am because Sam and I have soundcheck at 9:30 for a festival downtown.
Saturday, June 7, 2018
Shit it is early and my brain hurts. I look for some music to sooth my head and I land on NiN, "head like a hole". It works - trust me. I pick up Sam and we're only like 15 minutes late for our get in time but it doesn't really matter as the sound guy is still setting up the stage.
We're playing two sets today at the Crazy Festival. That's what I have written down as the name of the festival but that doesn't seem right - it's a food truck festival behind the main train station here in Bremen and it's pretty cool. I look over at Sam and he left the house and forgot to bring a shirt with him so he's playing in his hoodie. It's a little chilly this morning and I still have my hoodie on and in solidarity - I play in my hoodie as well. We're fine like this - it's an early Saturday morning start and there are hardly anyone listening to us anyway. Our first set is pretty mellow and goes along fine. I think I just fell asleep writing that last sentence - it was just like that!
That's the thing that's always weird about performing - we played last night to about 40-50 people that were totally into it and listening to everything. There's easily that many people here and we're cranked through a big PA and on a big stage but we're background to them - they didn't come here for the music.
We're given 30 euro to eat today and that's pretty sweet. I hit up the hamburger truck and it's a gourmet hamburger. Eh. Of all the great food you find here if anyone in Europe ever ate at a Five Guys burger shop their minds would be blown.******* I move on to some Nigerian food and the meat pie is fantastic but the spicy beef is absolutely way too hot for me to handle. Tomorrow I'm gonna get the curry from the other truck.
Our second set goes well but it's weird - I know as a performer you're not supposed to say things like this but if I'm going to be ignored and be background music, I best be paid well. If people are going to listen and pay attention, I can definitely handle less money. Because here's the thing, being background noise is soul sucking. It drains your lifeblood. Also, I'm still a little hungover. Sam and I finish strong but the connection ain't happening today. As we're leaving our parking comes to 20 euro and I'm not having this. We parked where they told us to park and it was supposed to be 2 euro for us. So we head back in and find the guy in charge explain our case and he doesn't like what we're saying but finally reaches in his pocket and takes out a twenty for our parking. We won't park there tomorrow.
I go home and plan on fixing my 12 string and restring my 6 string******** and I skype with Tracy and bitch and moan and she's a fixer and trying to help but I really just felt like bitching - I have some food and a sleep and I'm a bit better. The 12 string is playing better
Sunday, July 8, 2018
I have a good sleep and go pick up Niklas at his rehearsal space - we have the challenge of fitting a drum set, bass amp, guitar amp and 3 guitars into a Ford Fiesta. I wish I took a picture of this - it was at the point of rolling down windows and putting stuff in and then rolling the windows back up.
Our get in time is 10 am and we're there by about 10:15 or so. Stage is still being set up and all is good. I'm feeling much better today. We finish soundchecking and there's a few people here and they're not even hiding on the edges. I have my little ZT Amps Lunchbox with me and using the headphone jack output and going DI with it and it sounds unbelievably good. Our first set is a rocking good time and we fly through our allotted time before we finish playing. That means our second set is going to be even better.
We're still sort of background music but the audience is different today and seem to be paying attention.********* I look out and I see some folks singing along and it really puts a bounce in my playing. We jump around, we made big hits and made a joyous noise. We connected. Not just with each other but with the people listening today. It was so good that when we finish our last song I launch my telecaster at my amp. I don't know why - it felt like the right thing to do. It's a telecaster, it can take it and the ZT amp has a metal grill on the front, it can take it too. There's a few chants of "Zugabe!" (One more song) but we're done.
It is the best show of the tour today and it felt so good I threw my telecaster. I don't know if I can explain that feeling adequately.
*When I say *may* - I mean I did.
***Emily took the picture.
****They meant it as a positive - I know some wisenheimer is gonna say "Your face makes me cry too Bobbo!" I'm just beating you to the punch.
*****Conservative figure. Somedays it's higher.
******Nope, still haven't been drunk.
*******Shit, a Friendly's burger is great and In-N-Out would've taken down the Berlin Wall all by itself.
********The 12 string is fretting out all over the neck so I'm putting a shim under the saddle to raise the action to hopefully fix the buzz and I broke a string in the 2nd song of the second set on the 6 string. Still only getting two shows out of a set of strings on that guitar.
*********I am also playing better. Coincidence?
July 9, 2018
Simple promo today on Oldenburg Eins radio station - Nico, Emily and I are going together to do an interview and play a couple of songs. We rehearsed last night and I have one of their songs down pretty ok and they have one of my songs down amazingly. It's always nice going to Oldenburg Eins and when we sing together it sounds amazing. Nico and Emily sound fantastic together and I'm holding it together long enough to not be distracting singing along with them and playing some mandolin. When we play Massachusetts they chime in and lift the song up and make it fly. It's been so great getting to know these two and hanging out and singing and playing. I'm going to miss them when this tour is over.
Back at the flat I attempt to make Ben's salmon, creme frisch and pasta dish, Nico and Emily bring over salad and wine and we have a proper home cooked meal. I got most of the recipe right except it still comes out better when Ben makes it.
I don't remember any more from this night. I think I watched some Netflix and fell asleep.
July 10, 2018
I wake up to an email from Heiko about a new review for my album and it's a good one. It's also the third time in as many days someone has compared me to John Mellancamp. It's not a bad comparison but feels odd to me. I like a bunch of his stuff but it was never something I sought out so I'm not sure what to do with this comparison. I also got compared to Paul Westerberg which makes me very happy and also makes a lot of sense but it turns out a lot of people don't know who Paul Westerberg is.* As well as The Old 97's. I mean, shit. That's just fantastic. I'm bubbly all day over this. I'm reminded of the Mark Twain quote: "I can live for two months on a good compliment". And this is a good compliment to me - it fills my tank. I start thinking for a while today that maybe I'm doing alright** but it passes when I start practicing some songs that I'm thinking about playing tonight.
Tonight is at Hafen Casino and I know what you're thinking - "A casino?" It's just the name. It's a German truck stop restaurant near the harbor and I know what you're thinking - "A truck stop?" But wait - it's actually really cool. It's nearby and they always get a decent crowd of folks coming out for the shows there and tonight is no exception.
On the gear side of things - we had to do a swap of gear with and so our PA head is smaller and not as good sounding as the one we had just a few days ago. We'll make it work but immediately I'm having a hard time getting my acoustic to sound decent out of it as it's like all honky mids and my voice has no bottom to it either. Urgh. This is going to take some getting used to.
Nico and Emily go on first tonight and they sound great. I walk across the street and am listening to them and singing along. There's a moment in between songs when they are looking at me but I am way behind everyone else that are looking at them and so I decide to flash Nico and Emily. I'm amusing myself. I'm in a good mood and I'm a little punchy. Their set goes well and I have to say, Nico has a suitcase that he uses with a kick pedal and tonight it sounds the best I've heard it. And it's a weird thing because you can be standing next to it and it will sound one way but out in front sound completely different - tonight it sounded great out front.
Sam and I take over and it takes me a minute to get all the cords working in the PA. I hate that I have to use a new system - I was used to the other one. And in my first 2 songs I can hear that my voice is distorting a bit. Yes, my voice does distort sometimes when I sing but this is different. Heiko comes up to fix the PA during Angelia and now I'm singing blind as I can't hear myself at all. I tell him my voice needs to be louder than my guitar and he adjusts some things and it's better. I'm adaptable, I don't fear change but I don't like changing to gear that feels like a step down from what I was using. Maybe tomorrow I will be able to dial it in better. I will try.
The rest of the set goes well, it's loose and it's fun and I do my best to break down the 4th wall and come and play in the middle of the crowd and it's good. Sam and I have been bonding pretty well and we get some nice moments in as well. After my set, we've planned on doing a set together with us doing "The Weight", "Massachusetts", "Backroads" and "APB". It's a solid plan and a lot of fun. "The Weight" is the old song by The Band and it's a classic song that I've never covered and so I'm having fun playing it and taking a verse as well. "Massachusetts" goes great and Nico is adding some tasty guitar fills. I'm singing and playing mandolin along with them on their song "Backroads" and we get off stage for this one as well and play it unplugged and it's excellent. As we're swapping out instruments to play "APB" I slip on the steps and lose my balance and ding my guitar pretty good.*** Show must go on and I get up on a bench and we do a fun "APB". I'm rocking on this bench and I can feel the bend of the wooden slats below my feet and I'm trying to stay where it's more solid. Whoops, my foot goes through the bench and I break one of the slats. I figure the best thing to do in this situation is to get off the bench and climb up on the table. That's definitely better and I can see everyone from up here! Great sing along and we call it a night.
I sell a few cds and sign a few cds and it's a nice ending to the evening and in proper rock star fashion I come home and make some decaf tea and now I'm going to bed.
*These people apparently have shit music collections. Here's a Westerberg video to help out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSBCYHV2eiw
**This is a dangerous place to be. Contentedness is never good.
***These things happen but goddammit it sucks when it does.
Tour Diary July 14, 2018
After a couple of not great gigs and not feeling great about my performances today felt great.
I was back at it again solo and there are definite pluses and minuses to each thing.
Short Guitar Geek Warning section:
I'm using this Audio Pro all in one PA thing and at first I really didn't like it but today I had the time to really dial it in and it was pretty good despite being short one more input channel. I set it up back behind me to the right and then had a small monitor going as well and I figured something out with my Ditto loop pedal - If I run the porchboard into the second input of the loop pedal and then take the output of that and run it to my bass amp - I can do better loops with a bit of kick in the mix. Oh and I have to use the bass amp for my porchboard because I lack the inputs otherwise. This is something that if Sam is playing with me I can't do because he's plugged into the bass amp.
So much figuring out all the time. I had it sorted before but had to re-vamp what I do and carry more stuff for solo gigs. Before it was just one AER and now it's the PA, the monitor and a bass amp.
But this leads me to my next issue today - carrying stuff. I picked something up today and twisted weird and totally tweaked my lower back. I've been in excruciating pain today.
I started the day doing a short set in Verden outside and it went fantastic. I love playing this town - I sold a bunch of cds and got a fun sing along going on the street.
Then I headed south to Lavelsloh which is a strange little town with no Autobahn leading to it. It's a 2 hour drive on little back roads where the speed limit will go from 100 kmh to 30 kmh to 70 kmh to 50 kmh and back to 100 kmh - all in the stretch of less than a 1/4 mile. Tiny little towns and roads and at one point I was on a gravel road connecting to another actual road.
When I get to Lavelsloh - I'm playing a church that was built in the 1600's* and Michael and Katarina are there waiting for me. It's absolutely beautiful and Michael (the pastor) takes me for a bit of a tour and we climb up the spiral staircase** and he shows me the clock workings and the long rod that runs from the second floor to the fourth floor to move the hands of the clock. It's beyond steampunk - the rod makes a couple of right angle turns to get to the clock face and it's simply complicated and brilliant. He shows me the bells including the one that was made in 1639 that is still in use and as much history as he can remember about the church and some others in the area and about the bells. Fascinating.
I need something to eat before I play and Michael suggests an Italian restaurant that he says is just in the next village over. I never find the Italian restaurant but I drive for 15 minutes before I find anything resembling a restaurant and determine that this small doner shop will do just fine.
My show time is at 7 pm and I get back at 6:45, change my shirt walk into the church, turn on the PA, Michael introduces me and away I go.
This audience doesn't speak much English so I'm very slow and deliberate with my story telling as well as simplifying the stories as much as I can. I dig out a couple of songs I haven't been playing much like "house of cards", "long way to Nashville" and "Sight of me". I play "sight of me" unplugged and in the isle between the pews - this room has Fabraklang or "color sound". It sounds so good in here that when I finish someone says that I sound like Chris Issac. These walls must be magic! At first I couldn't tell if he was saying that I sounded like Chris Issac or looked like him - either way is good for me.
I play two sets and they go very well - I get two encores on top of that. I hang out afterwards and have half a glass of champagne and talk all kinds of stuff. Katarina mentions that she plays guitar and I bring her up to where my guitars are and let her play my J100 and she loves it. Everyone really liked my story about that guitar and they ask me a bunch of questions about it. More than one person chose to buy both of my cds I have and it's such a great feeling.
As I'm packing up my stuff the Advil wears off and I'm doubled over in pain. Fortunately Michael is helping me carry stuff and he takes the PA for me. The best thing about the ride home is how comfy the seats are for my back and I just settle in and drive the 2 hours home on all the backroads of lower Saxony.
Home now, have tomorrow off which is good because I probably won't be able to move.
*It's had some work done since then.
**The knob on the banister is a cannon ball from one time when the church was hit by a cannonball. (?!?!?)
Tour Diary July 15, 2018
I have been knocked unconscious 15 or 16 times*, I have broken my face, my nose, my jaw, my finger, my leg and one rib, I have been hit by vehicles while riding a bicycle 3 times (once a bus) and I have had machinery from a carding machine that turns cotton fiber into string fall on me ~ I have never been in more pain than I am today.
All I did was lift something up carry some gear from the car to the stage and I totally tweaked my back.
One day of pain and I can understand why people could get addicted to pain meds. If someone offered me nearly any pill today with the promise of it making this pain go away - I would've taken it.
I've eaten all of my Advil and I've moved onto Excederin Migraine. Tomorrow I will go to a pharmacy and find something.
Thank you all for the bits of advice, like my Mom telling me to get flexerall. I think that's a pretty heavy duty pain med. I'm contemplating finding someone with some pot to make me a brownie or something.**
On the good news type stuff - the rest of Kaurna Cronin's band showed up today so the flat is full of life and activity. Kiah Gossner, Kyrie Anderson and Tom Kneebone are all super cool folks that I love spending time with. In advance of their getting here I went and bought a blank t-shirt and decorated it myself.
The backstory is that Kyrie is a HUGE fan of the Adelaide Crows, an Aussie Rules Football team and last year they lost in the final game to the Tigers in epic fashion - 108-60. So I made a t-shirt to commemorate the game for her. I was greeted by a full on Australian "what the fuck is that shit?" It was a beautiful moment.***
*Not in chronological order: 1) sledding as a first grader, hit a tree, 3 stitches and a black eye. 2) skateboarding on Meadowbank road with my cousin T.J. 3) the beam between the cars in the garage while playing with my dog. 4) slapshot to the face (Bob Stickney). 5) slapshot to the face. (Bob Stickney) 6) slapshot to the chest. (Bob Stickney) 7) bicycle accident behind the Vining school. 8) Football as a freshman.(2 different players hit me from two sides) 9) Football as a freshman a week later. (Tommy Lee) 10) My cousin Tara hit me with a punch in the jaw. 11) slapshot to the face in goalie camp at Merrimack college. 12) slapshot to the face (Jim Ronski - coach) 13) New England College lacrosse game collision. 14) I don't remember. 15) I don't remember. 16) I don't remember.
**Not keen on the idea of smoking anything.
***It's very similar to the time Kalai King knew that Tracy Byrnes and I were going to be at his party and he had the 1986 Red Sox Bill Buckner moment ON VHS queued up for when we walked in and then turned it on in the living room of the party. Not just that but this was in the early 2000's - so KK had this game on tape, moved across country and this was one of the items he chose to move across country with, just on the off chance that he might become friends with a guy from Boston and he could play this TAPE at a party nearly 20 years after the fact. Now that is a planned ahead burn.
Tour Diary July 16, 2017
Yeah my back still hurts and I'm tired of bitching about it. I found some big Ibuprhfrensihen pills and I'm mostly ok. Blah, Blah Blah.
Today was our first day working with some kids over at a local farm type place. Nicolas, Emily and myself are working with the local folks and refugee kids from ages 4-12. We did some group activities and as they were learning the German words for farm animals - so was I. Then we broke off into small groups where Nico was making these ball spinner things with them, Emily was making shakers out of toilet paper rolls and I was making cardboard box guitars with rubber bands.
We all started by decorating our respective instruments with paint, glitter and stickers and then we sang a native American song called Tiano Tee. When Nico and I were working on the elastic band guitar box we figured out how to tune the elastics by twisting a toothpick around the rubber band on the back and then taping the toothpick in place. This is something I think we may tackle tomorrow because it was a bit loud and chaotic for that kind of attention to detail.
The kids really had fun and it was a nice afternoon.
I had the night off to try to recoup-orate and so I decided to get some wine and make myself a nice meal of zucchini, mushrooms, corn and a small piece of meat. As I'm eating I open up a draft of a script I started writing last year and finalize some character backstories and details and write the first scene of a tv pilot* and it doesn't even suck.
I finish up this scene and sit back with some wine and my back isn't killing me too much. Taking it easy is helping. A better chair to sit in would help even more.
And then Nico and Emily show up - they're going downtown to a bar that...I have to start over or this won't make any sense. There's this guy Oliver that we know from when he used to own Katakomben in Achim but now he has his own clothing line** and works at a bar in Bremen. (or owns this bar in Bremen, not sure) We have a good hang downtown Bremen. We get there and they're asking me "what do you want?"
Now, everyone knows I don't really drink much. I like a glass or two of wine but that's about it. I turn to Emily and say "Do you want a shot of tequila?" And her eyes light up and she says "I would totally do a shot of tequila right now."
"Oliver, three shots of tequila please."
This is the first time in my life I have ever ordered a round of shots.***
So in true Bob Dylan fashion - we started out on Burgundy but soon hit the harder stuff.
We had a great discussion about music and hair combing and just a great night out on the town and we decided that there needs to be a German crossover music based on the combination of Punk Rock and traditional German Schlager and we came up with the best name for this new super hybrid of musical styles ~
Nope, I don't remember what it was.
*I don't know how to write a tv pilot but if my binge watching of Big Bang Theory has taught me anything it's that a lot of this shit is pretty formulaic.
***Well, I did order them but Oliver would not let me pay for them.
Tour Diary, July 18, 2018
Back is doing better a little bit more every day. I did not go to a chiropractor or get acupuncture or take flexerall. I just took ibuprofen and did light stretching. Now that I'm home and played a show I'm going to say I'm functioning at a solid 60%.
/end medical report
I meet up with Nico and Emily at the farm where we're working with some kids from the neighborhood - we've made little instruments with them, elastic box guitars, shakers and some other thing that spins around. We do group activities with them and it's very sweet and fun. They range in age from 4-12 and we're all learning bits of each others languages and we sing some simple songs together as well.
Today my time with them is cut short as I have to drive to Munster in the south and it's not a bad drive as it only takes...shit, I guess it took nearly 3 hours to drive 110 miles.
I'm playing the "Hot Jazz Club" in Munster.
"Hot" and "Jazz" are not two words I have ever put together intentionally. The dressing room is full of posters of jazz and blues musicians and I'm feeling a little out of place. The only name I recognize on all the posters is Pat Metheny and the only place where our Vienn diagrams would cross over is "both own guitars". Pat plays all the notes, I stay away from the G13 chord.
There are posters here for literally hundreds of acts that have played here. My poster is nowhere to be found. No postcards no nothing. That bums me out because I know my agency sends them. I go around and put my postcard on all the tables and set up for soundcheck. It's nice that they have a dedicated soundman who dials you in* and it sounds really nice in here.
I keep getting warned that the weather is too nice outside for people to come in to hear music and that is not improving my chances of winning the folks over.
My time comes and there's 5 people listening to me and as I start playing the bartender goes over and closes the door to outside - so I'm not going to bleed into anyone's outside ears.
Before I start I remind myself "this is your job, this is why you are here, it doesn't matter how many people are in the room - you play to all of them". It's my little pep talk I give myself and I launch into my set and thru sheer will and exuberance - by the time I finish the first set there are 20 people in the room listening and cheering. I get a few whoops and hollars after some songs and I'm feeling pretty good.** The folks are liking the stories and I keep them short and to the point, I get everyone singing along to "APB" and we're on our way. I finish up and they're still clapping so I play an encore.
I grab the hat to go around and a few people, who have been here enjoying the music, as soon as they see the hat - leave. There's nothing you can do about it but know if you are one of these people that do this - we notice. We see you listening and enjoying and then bolting. These people are thankfully in the minority as I do pretty well in cd sales tonight. Half the people listening bought at least one cd. That feels good. One guy even says "We could you were a professional by the way you played to a mostly empty room." I know that's a compliment but that is a loaded statement.
I'm kept company on the car ride back to Bremen by the podcast of Rachel Maddow and Pete Drodge's "Necktie Second" album.
*and then leaves.
**even though I decided to put Icy Hot on my back right before I went on stage! It got warm, dare I say HOT!
Tour Diary July 21, 2018
Haus am Walde.
I love playing this Open Air festival in Bremen. This is the third time I've played it but last year was a rough one. Last year I had no voice above a whisper and really felt I let down a bunch of folks that came to see me. Tracy was able to cover most of the set but it was anti-climatic for me. When you want to deliver and can't - it's frustrating. So this year I've been determined to do a great show at Haus Am Walde.
Now when I say it was an early morning having to get up by 10-ish to go pick up Niklas and drums and get to the venue by noon for soundcheck - understand that waking up at 10 am is difficult when you didn't get to bed until after 3 the night before. Time and days run into one another on tour in a strange way where you most likely won't know what day today is but you know arbitrary dates like "The 29th of July is a Sunday" and "I'm booking Saturday, October 6th" but when someone asks "Where are you playing tomorrow?" You need to pull up a calendar to check.
I'm feeling a bit jovial today and really just enjoying the moment. I meet Todd and the gang from King of the Tramps and they are a blast of midwestern home. I have not been out drinking with these guys but I can only imagine the things that would happen - our combined personalities could lead to a lot of daring and, some might say, stupid shenanigans. I'm already about 80% sure I could dare the band into paired shopping cart races.* They are totally the guys you'd want to knock over a liquor store with using nothing but Roman Candles. When I sing "APB" and dedicate it to Todd** - it sounds less like a tall tale and more like last weekend in Des Moines.
I love these guys.
KOTT's soundcheck is tight. These guys are a well oiled machine and when they tell me about opening up for Marshall Tucker Band I hear it and it's a great sound. They got the B3 organ sound, a slightly dirty guitar, solid bass and drums and harmonies. I'm sold.
Nico and Emily have been rehearsing with Sam and Niklas all week and I'm excited to hear them in band format and it's a new level for these songs. I'm used to them in intimate form but when Nico sings "Ghosts" and Emily sings "Winter" the songs become big and powerful as Sam and Niklas bring a new dynamic to the tunes.
As I'm sitting by myself listening to all this I start to get a pang of...hesitation. I had hoped to get a rehearsal in this week with Sam and Niklas as well but I was booked every day and night so there was just no time...and KOTT and Nico are both so tight and well rehearsed... Got to put it out of my head.
Our soundcheck goes easy. I'm borrowing the Blues Jr that's on stage from I think Niklas and it takes literally seconds to get a great sound out of it. I'm stacking a Tech 21 Blonde pedal into the SparkleDrive and I'm able to get a great distorted acoustic sound with it*** as well as my telecaster sounds great as well. Sam, Niklas, Mona and I breeze through the beginnings of a couple of songs and a chorus of something else and we're ready to go.
Now it's sit around and wait for show time.
Haus am Walde is a big venue - I think the capacity is over a thousand people and there's always that bit of...I hope people show up - and sure enough, the doors open at 4 and by 4:30 it's packed.
We have a small check in with each other before we start our set. Everyone has their "job" which pretty much boils down to this: I'm going to try to run the train off the tracks, Sam, Niklas - you keep the train moving, Mona - sing along.
And it works.
The sun is baking in our faces during the whole set and we give it everything. Our big songs were huge and our quiet songs were super quiet.
Was it perfect? Hell, no.
Was it real. Hell, yes.
My favorite type of show.
When Mona and I sang "Mexican Home" just the two of us, it was so quiet out in the audience. I sang the last lyric and left a pregnant pause and just waited for the sound to bounce back to me over the quiet and when it did - I finished singing. We got a fantastic sing along going. "Angelia" rocked so hard I could feel it in my boots and when the bridge hit and Niklas was hitting the bass drum all alone - damn! We launch into "1, 2, 3" and Sam breaks the low E string on his bass. Sam plays bass with his fingers! He's a pro and adapts to his 3 string bass**** Nico and Emily come join us for "Massachusetts" and it's home-like. I feel like I'm in Lowell singing with my friends.
We tear through "Vegas" and I don't even come close to hitting the notes in the high part of the outro - it's a good thing I can play guitar. It's a glorious noise and we're done.
Except they want more.
The telecaster and Gibson are so far out of tune that I just pick up my backup "signature model" acoustic and we give "It's a long way to the top (if you want to rock n roll)" a thorough thrashing.***** And then at the end I decide to throw my guitar straight up in the air.
I've never done that before and it feels a bit like cliff diving. There's only one way to know if you're good at it and that's to just do it.
The rest of the night is a bit of a blur as I feel slightly buzzed just off the energy of the day.******
Nico and Emily sound fantastic and they invite me up to play mandolin and sing back up on their song "Backroads" and then again at the end for "The Weight" by The Band. I get my own verse and I'll be damned if I don't completely forget the words. The "Miss Moses" verse just trips me up every time! So I make up some new words that make about as much sense as the originals and we have a good laugh. Nico, Emily, Sam and Niklas sound tight as hell and put on a great show.
KOTT are up next and they just rock it like the pros they are. When their bass player breaks his low E string he just soldiers on and adapts. We search frantically for a replacement but none is to be found. Todd gets some fantastic sounds out of an old Silvertone guitar that rips up some slide guitar on and backing harmonies and the B3 and rhythm section are just top notch. I thoroughly enjoy them and when they ask me Nico, Emily and Mona to join them for the encore it's a great time as we tear up "Can't You See" and it's the kind of end of night jam song with a big chorus that just feels good that you don't want to stop playing these three chords.*******
and then the after party.
I think I was in bed by 3:30.
Oh, did I forget to mention that I jumped back up during Nico's set for their encore of and as I hit the stage my feet got caught on the top stair, I skinned my knee, twisted my ankle but still got on the drums with Niklas! I told them I was going to play drums today. AND I DID.
*No alcohol needed, 100% sure if alcohol was involved. And I'm about 90% sure that at least half of the band has already done a shopping cart race and would be silently remembering what they learned from the last race.
**Today is also his birthday!
***Trust me, I know what I'm doing.
****Technically speaking - three string bass is still one too many strings for a bass guitar but you do need the low E.
*****Remember I said I know how to distort an acoustic guitar - Comes in handy here.
******What did I have to drink? Two whole bottles of Lipton's Iced Tea. If I'm gonna be rock and roll - I should really get a Jack Daniels bottle for it.
*******Lou Reed once said "One chord is ok, Two chords is pushing it. Three chords? That's jazz."
Tour Diary July 24-26
I’m heading to an old church in Grossefehn. How old? Only about 800 years old. I have played here before with RATS and it went well. Tonight I’m here with Nico and the pastor is so nice, her son comes running up to me with his signed Riddle & The Stars cd. He’s very excited for tonight. I have been asked? Or told, I’m not sure which - to NOT get up on the pews while playing guitar tonight. I seriously had no memory of doing this last year but apparently I did.
The main part of the church is where we are playing and there’s a really long echo. Not as long as in the tiny room behind the altar*. We’re going no PA so I’m happy. Nico goes first and sounds tremendous in this room. He plays a few songs I haven’t heard before and it’s great.
The pastor stands up front and translates our stories to German as many of these folks don’t speak any English.
Which makes our stories much shorter.
I start on stage but soon abandon it and walk down between the pews and get in among the congregation, it feels better. Before the harmonica solo in “Mexican home” I walk down behind where everyone is sitting, they all stay facing front and I blow the lonesome notes up towards the ceiling. It’s a spiritual song for me and then I do something I’ve never done before - I sing the whole last verse a cappella. Listening to my own voice bounce off these ancient walls was religious for me.
The night ends with an encore and “APB” and they all sing along.
Nico and I part ways outside as he drives back to Bremen and I turn west and drive towards Amsterdam.
The drive to Amsterdam is 180 miles and about 80 miles in I spy a rest area with trucks sleeping and that looks like a good idea to me and I actually get some pretty decent sleep for about 5 hours in the rest area.
Morning comes and I drive the 100 miles to Amsterdam and I’m still very early for my 3 pm check in at my AirBnB so I shockingly find some free parking around the corner from the Anne Frank house and set about getting tickets.
FYI - If you ever go to the Anne Frank house, they only do online tickets, they usually sell out months in advance but they release a certain amount of tickets day of, I log in…. I’m 143rd in line for tickets...refresh a few minutes later...68th in line, 41st in line...19th in line…. There is one ticket left for today and it’s at 12:30, so I buy it.
There’s a pancake house next door that is perfect for the waiting.
We all read the Diary of Anne Frank and through the book felt like we had an idea of what and where they were living. Nope. IT’s absolutely unbelievable.
Anne’s newspaper clippings of movie stars are still pasted on the walls, the handle is still on the back of the bookcase that was used to hide the entry way. The kitchen counter top is the same as it was and I find myself running my fingers over it searching for the connection and getting it.
They said no photography allowed when you first come in and I don’t see a single person taking pictures - there’s a solemn-ness that is shared among everyone here. (As it should be) and I find myself being thankful for everyone’s discretion on this small point.
It’s not a large museum but it is quite powerful in a way that empty rooms rarely are.
My AirBnB is by the Lelylaan train stop which will make the coming and going easy and Ramone is my host - he’s from Pakistan and in college here in Amsterdam and is staying with friends while I’m in his flat. He is an economics and political science student and he can’t get a job here without a work permit so he’s renting out his place to survive.
We sit and talk a long while about all sorts of things. Pakistan is having an election today and he’s very excited because it was looking like Khan was going to win (a good thing and he did) and I was mentioning how sad it was that there was a suicide bomber that killed 30 something people outside of a polling place.
He agreed about how sad it was but says it’s the price of democracy and having free elections. I then learned how they need 172 seats for the majority and Khan didn’t have that but he did win. We talked about Isis and the fake news coming out of India who wishes to keep Pakistan down and how Khan is trying to open up communication with India. And holy crap I learned a lot about something I knew nothing about before today.
Of course trump comes up and we both just agree it’s terrible and yeah. “The United States standing in the world is going to take a long time to regain any respect after Mr. Trump’s term is up.” I agree and mention how I felt we were doing pretty well globally with Obama and he brought up something that I had not ever thought about.
“When the US secretly got Osama Bin Ladin, that damaged US/Pakistani relations because no one from the US told us that they were conducting this raid in our country. We are supposed to be allies and we have lost over 30,000 people to the “war on terror” and we knew if Bin Ladin was in Pakistan you’d have to come get him, we didn’t want him here either, but we were supposed to be allies, we should’ve been involved in the raid in our country. That is not how allies treat each other.”
There’s a lot to unpack in that paragraph. I nod my head and agree that isn’t how allies treat each other. I don’t know what else to say.
After all this - I go out and get Indian food for dinner. It’s delicious.
Thursday, July 25
I have my ticket reservation for the Van Gogh Museum at 9:30 am and, oh yeah, on my way home last night I passed by a coffee shop. Coffee shops here sell pot and the like. I know that pot is a treatment for back pain and I’m still waking up pretty sore every day so I go inside and for 5 euros I get a “space cake”. I read the instructions and it mentions that it would take about 90 minutes for you to feel anything and the high might last 3-5 hours. I take a small bite before I went to bed last night and didn’t feel anything. I eat the rest of it this morning with some tea and then go catch a train to Van Gogh.
It’s an easy get to with me just taking the number 1 train from Lelylaan train station into the city a bit and then a half mile walk. Today is supposed to be a scorcher of 95 degrees and the museum is air conditioned. I may stay awhile longer.
Van Gogh’s story is amazing and heartbreaking. Things like his brother Theo supporting him for 10 years so he could paint. Theo knew his work was important. Van Gogh was hospitalized a couple of times with his depression and other things. The last thing a doctor told him as he was getting out of the mental institution was this: “Above all other things- Paint.” And he painted like a madman. He died of a self inflicted gunshot to the chest. Theo inherited all of the paintings and was going to make them all known (he worked in the arts) but he died 6 months later. So it fell to Theo’s wife, who then dedicated the rest of her life to Vincent’s paintings.
I knew about the Sunflowers and I knew many other pieces of his work. But to stand in front of Sunflowers is something else. The depth in that painting feels like you could fall into it. The postcards and photographs can’t even come close to this thing in person.
Which reminded me of music and how I’ve been trying to connect with people by breaking down that 4th wall and it making all the difference. And how for what I do to work, needs participation - it’s an interactive give and take.
As I’m standing in front of Sunflowers a girl takes out her iphone,snaps a picture and walks away. I’m so insulted by this on the behalf of Vincent that I remind her that pictures are not allowed in here. “Oh,ok.” She says and walks away and casually takes a few more pictures before someone who works there tells her not to and then she does again. The cameras come out all over the place and are repeatedly told to put them away.
Vincent died broke, broken - all his life’s work just waiting to be discovered.
Snap. Another picture. IT is wholly disgusting me that this continues. The same people that think music should be free.
I know taking a picture of a 100+ year old painting won’t affect much but it breaks up the calm I’ve had all day. All art has value. Try living without it and you would go mad.
I take a short break back at the flat because it’s 200 degrees outside and the tram line is just sweltering. The flat is on the opposite side of the sun setting and so it stays pretty comfy in here.
Around 7 I decide to go get dinner. I get on the number 1 train and ride it to the end. Switch trains for someplace else and then get on a third train. The sun is low in the sky as I stumble upon a steakhouse that I smelled before I saw the sign.
Steak tartare is on the menu and I tell them to bring me some wine that will pair with it. It’s cool and the breeze knocks little seeds off the tree above me and a few fall in my wine. I’m not bothered by them and they go down with the wine and tartare.
It takes me 2 hours to get home because I have no idea where I am and that’s ok.
*which is crazy off center, enough that if you had ocd it would drive you insane.