Tour Diary Day 53-54, July 16,17, 2017
We have an amazing ability to turn 3 hour drives into 5 hour drives. The German tourism slogan should be something like “Welcome to Germany, Our roads are under construction.”* I get a good nap in as Ben handles the bulk of the driving today and I actually wrote my tour diary from the back seat.
We drive towards Schweinfurt but really we’re staying in Mainberg where my aunt and uncle Marty and Petra live. It’s pretty sweet to get set up here for 2 nights with comfy beds and some home cooking. I’ve asked Petra to make her sauerkraut for Tracy and Ben** and she obliges. Petra makes great sauerkraut, it’s served warm, there’s some honey in there and some other stuff. She really should do a cooking show on it. Marty is on the grill and we have pork steak, brats and grilling cheese for Ben and it’s all delicious.
There’s lots of great conversation with Petra’s mom and neice here. Her mother looks at me and tells me straight up “You’ve gained weight.” (but in German) I thank her for that and she laughs. We have wine with dinner on the deck overlooking the castle across the valley. We talk a lot about my Mom’s upcoming visit and I give them all kinds of tips for my Mom’s eating***and before we know it we are all yawning.
In a shocking turn of events we are all in bed by 10:30 pm.
Which of course means I’m awake at 6 am.
We have a lazy day, watch Game of Thrones****, eat lunch and head to the gig.
Live Club Bamberg is the venue and we’ve gotten some conflicting info but we have been told “Don’t be late or they’ll think you’re not coming!” So we get there at 6:30 pm but it turns out we don’t have to be here until 7. And we thought we’re playing at 8:30-10:30 but instead we’re playing 9-11. It’s not a big deal to us but we were trying to stay accurate with our tour rider.
Robert is the sound guy, he’s tatted up, vaguely hung over and does great sound - Hell, he even helped us carry our stuff in from the car.
Live Club is a bit of a dive, you walk in much further than you think you’re going to and it wraps around and in the back. It’s a good size stage, nice monitor mix and it sounds great. I wish we had Robert doing sound at some of our other gigs - we were set up and soundchecked in about 15 minutes.
We have some time to kill in between soundcheck and stage time so we go back outside and Tracy gets a salad and we just chill. Then Marty and Petra show up with their friends and all of them (except one) is wearing either a Fallen Stars or Riddle & The Stars shirt! It’s such a cool feeling to see people wearing your shirt. Pictures and great conversation on the streets of Bamberg!
Showtime at 9 and there’s actually people here! The room is filling up and they are really digging us. Robert sticks around for the first few songs and then takes off - we’re still sounding good.
GUITAR GEEK WARNING:
My Model B pedal stopped working for no apparent reason so I had to swap out the Tech 21 Blonde pedal which is a decent pedal but can’t touch the Model B. My sound is going to suffer a bit but whatcha gonna do? Shit breaks.
We kick off with “The Sea” and folks dig it, “Massachusetts” we dedicate to my Uncle Marty since it is his birthday. There’s a couple on the left, he’s wearing an Ed Hardy shirt and I don’t want to judge but he doesn’t shut up the entire set. Our set is maybe a bit mellow for this room but that’s our sound - RATS is just that. We pick it up a bit at the end with “This is Happening” and get a good bit of a response. There’s probably close to 75 people in this room and there’s pockets of them talking but overall most everyone is listening and that’s a good feeling.
We take a short break, refill our glasses and sell a couple cds. There’s someone here taking pictures of us and she takes loads of pictures of Tracy playing and a fair amount of pictures of Ben’s feet. Ben is talking to her, Tracy is talking to some folks at the merch table and me? I get the guitar player!
I joke but I really do enjoy talking gear with people and he’s really sweet. “I play guitar about 20% as good as you.” He buys a cd and wants to know about my lap steel.
As the second set starts the room has even more people in it and we’re feeling pretty good. It’s a Monday night in Bamberg and this place is packed. We can’t even see everyone in here because of how the room is shaped.
We chill it out with “Long Way Down” and then rock it up a bit with “Hold Me” and then...I don’t remember what else but Petra requested “Jericho” so we dig that out and give it a good kicking. Tracy and I making minimal mistakes in a song we haven’t played probably in about 2 years! As we’re getting to the end of the set we play “APB” and we dedicate to Marty for his birthday. I even get the Center Cafe into the song. We get everyone singing along and then we go into “Folsom” and Tracy really brings it home as a closer. The crowd wants more so we do an encore of “Chance” and it’s pretty damn good. We finish at 10:46 - still time to do another song and the folks here want another song AND…
“HEY NOW YOU’RE ROCK STAR GET THE SHOW ON GET PAID!”
The DJ has taken over. There’s a stage hand guy pulling our cases out from under the stage and throwing them on the stage and unplugging the monitors and microphones. We left time for one final song but that doesn't happen.
I know he’s just doing his job but he is so pushy on stage and pulling cables that are under our stuff it feels...violated if that makes sense. We just played a great set with a roomful of people digging it and now we’re yesterday’s coffee grounds. There’s no time to try to sell any cds or t-shirts as he’s already taken our t-shirts down and put them over our cds. What a dick.
But you can’t show this. You can’t react outwardly about these sorts of treatments or you end up being treated like a female politician. “Oh, they were so bitchy.” or “They complained.” “She persisted.” More and more I’m understanding Axl Rose’s side of the story.
We had a great night. We had a great crowd. We played really well. We had great sound. We kept people in the club drinking.
Then it’s over.
I love what we do. I love what I do. The things that make it hard are usually external forces that break you and wear you down AND then you look at the 100 euro you get paid and you think - is this worth it? If you’re treated ok it usually is but when you’re not it’s not even close to enough.
*At the same time it must be said that their roads are really well maintained. My buddy Ryan had a facebook post recently that went something like “Me: “Man, I wish they’d fix these roads.” and then stuck in construction traffic ten minutes later; Me: “This is bullshit!”
**Even though I don’t eat sauerkraut because I hate cabbage.
***The blander the better. Pork and potatoes.
****Arya Stark is badass!
Tour Diary Day 47, July 9, 2017.
It’s an early start - meeting at the S&W office at 9 am and we lie to ourselves and tell ourselves we have to be there at 8:30 and show up promptly at 9. Perfectly executed plan.
We do a caravan down to Breminale and load in by 10 am which is stupid early but we all have sound checks to do and loading gear. There’s a moment while watching the stage crew hustle around I feel like I should be doing something. It’s all those years I spent doing staging and lighting. Watching the guy climb the truss up to the top of the tent and I’m really happy I’m not working that side of the gig.
Backline is the key to today and Kaurna Cronin and his band are providing the drums, bass amp and guitar amp - so that’s awesome. I’ll be playing through a Fender Princeton today and Tracy through a Mark bass amp with two 10” speakers. It’s good sounding stuff.
For today’s show Dasha is joining us on violin and viola on most of the set and we’re sounding good.
We’re set up in record time for our sound check and then wait around for them to dial in the sound. I’m always excited to play big festivals like this because the sound is always really great on stage. (foreshadowing)
Our sound check is marred by a handful of feedback squelches and we’re told to cover our ears a few times as well. One of the soundmen comes over to plug in my acoustic DI. He sees that I have a Fishman DI and this could’ve been the point that I lost him.
“We like to use our DI’s.” he says to me.
“Yes, but Ben’s DI has a boost function for his tenor guitar and mine has two separate EQ settings, one for 6 string and one for 12 string.”
“I will just take a line out of your DI into my Di then.” and holds up a ¼” cable to take the output of my DI to the no-name DI he has.
“But then you’re taking my 10 mega ohm signal and crushing it down to 1 mega ohm only to try to expand the frequency range by putting it into another DI.”
I get a very blank expression from him and then he reaches down and unplugs his DI and hands me the XLR cable and I plug mine directly in and then he walks over to Ben’s DI and unplugs his DI and plugs his in as well.
I’m feeling slightly smug about this but that goes away when I hear our stage mix. Tracy can’t get any of her vocal in her monitor and he actually says to her “I have it turned all the way up, there’s no more.” And that’s when I get a little concerned because something else is feeding back now and it’s not Tracy’s microphone. There’s some wires crossed somewhere. We get somewhat dialed in and decide it’s close enough and just move on with our lives.
And then it’s sit around and wait for a while. We technically don’t have anything to do from about 11:30 am until 7 pm when we play. So I take to bothering getting to know the other bands like Troy Petty and his band (Barrett plays drums with Troy and he’s a gas) I continue with my full on annoyance of Kaurna Cronin - this time going on Facebook and listing him as “My Pet” in my “About Me” section. There’s a lot of wandering around and a lot of me just trying to stay out of the sun. Tracy and I walk around, there’s a lot of Fair Food but her stomach still isn’t up for it. I look at the burgers being made at “BurgerHaus” and decide against it - I head over to the place that says “Best In Town”* Fish and Chips and get some pretty damn good Fish and Chips. Tracy looks at some of the hippie dresses and says “In a different life I could see myself wearing one of these.”** We hide out in the backstage area some more.
Daisy Chapman is on first. We’ve been seeing her name on things and hearing about her since about 2013 and this is the first time we’re seeing her live and she does not disappoint! She does some looping with just her voice and a shaker, she plays piano and sings, she loops stuff, plays piano and sings - she has this crowd eating out of her hands. It would be unfair to say she reminds me of Kate Bush but there is definitely a similarity. Kaurna is working the merch booth and I go over to help him and when Daisy finishes playing there is a mad rush of people buying her cd. I felt like Eddie Murphy at the end of Trading Places when he’s just taking all the bids.
Troy Petty delivers a blistering set that is completely unexpected. Most S&W things are very...traditional acoustic sounding and Troy just blasts through that with big drums and a bass sound so heavy it was shaking the water in my glass! Troy does a lot of looping stuff as well and Barrett wears some headphones so he can play drums to the loop and I’m going to tell you that I have not heard anything to even compare them to. They play with great dynamics and hit these folks hard!
Simon Hudson is up next and gets folks moving with an easy blend of jazzy pop and rhythms and shockingly invites all the Aussie musicians up on stage for a closing number of “Land Down Under” and it’s a bit of a love fest for all these Aussies on foreign shore. It’s a song that’s a bit annoying when folks ask them to play it but they’ve flipped it around - They made it theirs and owned it. So much fun.
We hit the stage after Simon and it went off. I’m not going to say it was technically the most precise show but it had tons of energy and was definitely real*** and we had a ton of fun. In our first song Ben broke a string on the mandolin and that of course throws it all out of tune. I need this mandolin for our last song so during the course of the show I would do little bits to restring it like - I don’t play during the beginning of “This is happening” so I went and found a replacement string and started changing it. Then in between other songs I started tuning it up. By the time “Chance” came around in our set I had changed a string.**** Dasha sounds wonderful on her violin/viola***** Tracy has been storing energy for today’s show and even times her pain medication so that it doesn’t run out during our set. Ben is in great form and me? When we finish “Chance” I look over at the pile of guitar bags on the side of the stage and think “I bet I can throw this mandolin on top of those” and it’s a perfect mandolin throw. I have to give huge props to Julian who played an incredible show on the drums with us. The dude is a monster - he played Breminale on Thursday with his band where he sings and plays guitar. Today he played drums with us and was top notch. We’ve done 3 shows with him this tour and never rehearsed once. He just knows all of our stuff.
We finish up and decide to go big with Jolene for an encore and after I start it on acoustic my brain says “You need to rock this on your tele” so I lean in to Ben and say “take the rhythm, I’m switching guitars.” And while Tracy belts out the chorus of Jolene I put on my tele and wind myself up for a big solo. It’s big, beautiful and we crash it to the ground in a good way.
As we’re taking our bows this guy lifts his girlfriend onto the stage and she gets in on our goodbye bow and has a photo op with us on stage. We’re all looking around at each other like “Do you know her?” and none of us know her and then her boyfriend decides he’s going to get up on stage with us as well at which point I tell everyone “Ok, we’re out of here.” and we leave the stage. It’s flattering and weird. I don’t know why they wanted in on our goodbye. Everyone at pretty much the same time says “What the fuck was that?” And no one knows. Heiko and company tell us to go work our merch table and they get all our gear off stage which is super great because there’s a line of people who want to buy cds.
I’ve never been a good capitalist but there’s a really great feeling when a lot of people line up to buy your cd that can’t be denied.
After us Kaurna Cronin played and he was ok.
Nah! I’m just teasing. Kaurna killed it tonight. I really love Kaurna’s music and I get a kick out of messing with them before their set;
“You playing ‘Fearless’ tonight?”
“No, it’s not in the set.”
“Why not? It’s only your best song.”
Kiah, Tom and Kyrie make up the band around Kaurna and they all sound amazing and are such sweet people - I’ve really enjoyed getting to know them all on this tour. At the end of their set they unplug and play on the front of the stage and you could hear a pin drop in a festival stage****** They go up and do two encores and it’s getting down to the moment that Heiko has been trying to prepare us for all week - what song are we going to do for a finale.
There have been emails asking all the bands all week long and all of them pretty much saying the same thing, “You all should get together and work out a song to do together for a finale.” And ALL of the bands pretty much shrugged it off until Kyrie said “Why don’t we do ‘Wagon Wheel’, we all know it.” And so it was defacto decided to do “Wagon Wheel”.*******
The finale is starting, Kaurna invites everyone on stage with him and we all sing along with them as they play Paul Simon’s “slip slidding away”. Tracy and I join Kyrie on the drums and everyone sings along. It’s a nice end to the show and we all walk off stage. I’m thinking “Oh, I thought we were going to do ‘Wagon Wheel’, but that was better.”
But the crowd called out for more. We’re all in the tents backstage when we get called back out on stage. Ok - let’s go do “Wagon Wheel”.
We all get back out on stage, I hand Ben the mandolin, he says “I don’t know this song”, I pick up my acoustic, Kaurna unplugs his acoustic and starts to hand me the cord.
Kaurna: “Here you go.”
Me: “Aren’t you singing it?”
Kaurna: “I don’t know the words.”
Me: “Well, I don’t know the words either. I thought you knew the words.
Kaurna: “I thought you were singing it.”
Me: “I thought you were singing it.”
Kaurna: <looking a bit flustered> “NOW IS NOT THE TIME FOR THIS CONVERSATION!”*******
Kiah: <turning to the audience and into the mic> “Sooooo - everyone having a good time?”*********
There are a couple hundred people waiting for us to play something. ANYTHING. And Kaurna and I are dumbfounded at this moment. Maybe we should’ve planned something ahead of time?
Ben: “Don’t you guys know some Paul Kelly?”
Me and Kaurna: “To her door!”
Kyrie: “1, 2, 3, 4”
And away we go and do a smashing version of Paul Kelly’s “To Her Door”********** Apologies to everyone who didn’t know this song - trust me, it was a great version. Tom nails the solo, we hit all the breaks, Tracy and Ben do the harmonies.
“Now is not the time for this conversation.” has now entered the tour lexicon and the joke is made countless times over the next 24 hours.
We all leave the stage to cheers and break down our stuff because we’ve been booked to do another show tonight. All of us (except Daisy because she has a baby) have been booked into Schauberg Kino for an after-party-gig. There was another email thread that went around asking everyone if they wanted to do this show and we all said a variation of “a party sounds great but please don’t make us play another show.” In return we got set times of everyone doing 3 song unplugged sets and I’m so glad we did.
Yes there’s some people there that had no idea we were coming in to play, yes the place gave us free drinks and we pretty much played to each other and sang along and egged each other on all night. It was joyous and beautiful.
Troy played solo acoustic to great effect, Simon played with drummer playing brushes on a guitar case and using Kiah’s double bass, I played 12 string, Ben played tenor guitar and Tracy sang and Kaurna played acoustic, Tom played acoustic, Kyrie played brushes on guitar case and Kiah played his upright.
Everyone’s guard was down and we were just floating after such an amazing day. We play Ben’s new song “10,000 miles” then we play “Mexican Home” because we didn’t get to do it earlier and by overwhelming request we play “APB” but a personal great moment happened in “Mexican Home” - there were two drunk folks in the front row that were being your typical obnoxious drunk folks at a gig and talking while everyone else is listening and when I started playing harmonica after the first verse I moved forward, aimed and I blew my harmonica right at them drowning out their conversation with my harp. It’s little moments like these, small victories. And I got the cheers from all my peers. We’ve just come off an amazing night where the crowd literally did not want us to go and we come play a tiny bar and two drunk folks are going to disrespect us here, tonight, now? No. Not on my watch. As I’m about to start the last verse, she decides now to make her move to be the center of attention and I just stop playing and say “No, not now.” to her and she finally shuts up.
Then we play the most glorious version of “APB” of all time.
When Kaurna starts playing they “Shhh” me and play “Fearless” for me.
It’s the best party I’ve been to in a long, long time - complete with endless belly laughs and mutual admiration. We’re reliving the “Now is not the time for this conversation” over and over and our friend Lara, who plays in a Ukulele Orchestra, just says to me, “I know the words to ‘Wagon Wheel’.” Ah, 2 hours too late!!
As I’m hanging out at the bar this older guy who has been sitting in back all night comes up to me;
“Do you all know each other or something?”
“Yeah, we all just played Breminale and came here afterwards.”
“Ah, we were saying that it felt like a private club that we all got to witness musicians playing for musicians - you know, playing for each other and it was really special.”
“That’s pretty much what it was. I’m glad you enjoyed it.”
“Enjoyed it? We felt honored to be here to witness this.”
Home by 2 or 3 am and I have a recording session at 11 am with Hanna so I need some shut-eye.
*The sign said “Best in Town” in English. Which is odd, right?
**I think that life involves me wearing more lace up shirts and leather knee high moccasins.
***We had to stop about a minute into “Get you out of here” while the sound folks found the thing that was making a big loud “HHHHMMMMMMMMMMMM” sound. Everyone was looking around the stage, I told everyone to just stop. There’s no point in playing through that shit. I think they had an open channel somewhere that was feeding back because when we all stopped playing - it continued. Oh, and my monitor mix on stage - I had Tracy’s vocals and my acoustic. LOUD. I had to keep leaving my side of the stage just so I could hear everyone else.
****Man, I miss having a guitar tech.
*****When I can hear her.
******Well, not technically a pin drop - it would just hit dirt and you would never hear a pin just fall on the ground but it was pretty quiet. The funny thing is - we had planned on doing the same thing but ran out of time in our set - good thing, it would’ve been not as good if we both did the same thing like that.
*******Turns out by “All” of us knowing it really only meant Kaurna’s band and most of RATS. Troy, Simon and Daisy had no idea what this song was. This was extremely poor planning on our part and a fair amount of blind “it’ll work itself out-edness”.
********This has to be one of, if not the funniest on stage interactions I’ve ever been part of. In Kaurna’s defense we should’ve had the conversation sooner and in my defense there is no point in having that conversation at a later date.
*********I don’t remember exactly what he said but he was deflecting and stalling.
**********Coincidentally track 2 on my new album.