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  • Writer's pictureJH


November 3, 2017

"I don’t see the point in hurrying to get anywhere. Where are you rushing to? Just death in the end.”

- Sarah Smith

“Damn, this coffee’s good.”

- Deni Gauthier

In the very first post on this blog, I said that one of the great things about touring is that you wind up in all sorts of cool and unexpected situations. It’s the diversions – the chance meetings and opportunities – that create the stories.

Well, it happened last night.

How could I have known, even a day ago, that I would wind up in the home of a lovely woman named Sietske, sipping Mongolian vodka and hearing about how her husband died suddenly of a heart attack at 38, leaving her to raise four children on her own? And how she vowed that no man would ever replace the love of her life at her table. And how she took care of her kids because she’s strong. And that I would watch the amazing Deni Gauthier begin writing a song about it right there on the spot.

The road, man. The road.

I mean, just wait until you hear where I’m sitting as I write this.

Yesterday seemed more like a traditional tour day. We decided on McDonald’s, the restaurant most patronized by bands around the globe, for breakfast. Too bad, then, that we arrived 20 minutes too late for the breakfast menu. Alas, no pancakes for Sarah. Instead, we breakfasted on veggie burgers and fries, which were actually pretty good. And the coffee was fab. They do coffee so well in this country.

After breakfast it was a three-hour drive into Friesland, which is a region in the northern part of The Netherlands with its own unique culture and people. Sarah was due to lead a workshop for local songwriters at Dream Project Studios, home of Klaske and Auke Ferwerda. Beautiful spot, beautiful people.

What can I say about the conversation in the van? We touched on past lives, the nature of death, Jesus, faith, stalkers, the illusion of separation, interpretations of existence, time as a meaningless construct, and coffee.

The coffee, man. The coffee.

We loaded some of our gear into a rehearsal space at Dream Project so we could run through Sarah’s songs. It felt great to play again and shake off the rust. I was particularly delighted to find myself behind a massive heavy metal drum set of the sort that I played as a teenager. Double bass. Four tom-toms. Cymbals like the wall at Long & McQuade. Crikey. It was cool. The kit belongs to Klaske and Auke’s son, Sjoerd. Remember that name, because he’s going to feature heavily in the next post.

We rehearsed for a couple of hours and then gathered in the Ferwerda family dining room for an unexpected treat: snert.

Yes, snert.

I know what you’re thinking, but snert is actually a split pea soup with thick sausages and sausage medallions, mopped up with the softest whole wheat dinner rolls I’ve ever eaten. The soup was warm and a bit salty. Deep flavour. Heavy. Nutritious. It found the proverbial spot and delivered a perfect poke. So, so good. I think another of my heroes, Anthony Bourdain, would have loved it. Maybe he needs to do a Parts Unknown episode on Friesland. Or I do.

After dinner we swapped out the metal monster kit and set up my rentals for the tour: a super classy Gretsch drum kit with a sunburst finish. It has about an eighth of the footprint that the metal monster has. Much more my style these days, and a pretty nice tour kit.

Shortly after we set up, the workshoppers – many of whom are Sarah fans – began to show up. There were about 30 in total. The band played a few songs for them before Sarah took them through her workshop program. The crowd was split into small groups to write songs, which they later performed. All were really great. Sarah’s fans being Sarah’s fans, they wanted more from us, so we played a few more songs, taking some requests. Angels and Anchors went over particularly well. After that a couple of the workshop people joined us on-stage for jams of Johnny Cash and CCR.

We had a ball. People love Sarah everywhere she goes. It’s a lot of fun to get caught up in that energy and watch how much of herself Sarah gives to her fans. I’m sure it’s exhausting for her at times, but the fans give their energy back to her too. Sarah’s very genuine. People sense and love that about her.

Then the first great diversion happened.

Deni and I billeted at Sietske’s house. She’s 70 and a world travelling dynamo. We were about to go upstairs to sleep when Sietske suggested the vodka (super smooth, warm in the belly). The drinks led to Sietske telling us her story. It was incredible, and it reminded me that we have no idea what people have been through. One life, one love. Sietske is such a generous person. We’re lucky to have met her and blessed to have learned a bit about her life. I’m looking forward to hearing what Deni does with the story.

And then it was sleep time. A warm bed in a quiet room. Indie artists do tend to depend on the kindness of strangers. In my experience, there are a lot more of those kind strangers than you might think.

Boy, did they come in handy the next day.

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