November 8, 2017
Sarah dances and we laugh.
High from the show and this blossoming dream of Europe, we tell our stories. We re-live memories of yesterday that seem like other lifetimes. Ken smiles in the corner. Deni reclines on his hotel bed. I recline on mine too and revel in our shared magic. We are drowsy and happy and silly together. Friends. Family.
It’s later now. Sarah and Ken have gone and the room is in darkness but for the light of my tablet glowing in my face. Outside, Leverkusen sleeps. Inside, Deni sleeps too. I think about possibility and wait to feel my heart crack open in my chest. The days go by so quickly. Blink and they’re over. And the weeks and the months and the years. Some day this will be 20 years ago and I don’t want to blink it away. I want to stop time, just for a moment, and feel it all. This warmth we share. This love we give to each other.
But mostly I’m stoked because tonight I did a push-up with Deni Gauthier sitting on my shoulders.
That sucker weighs like 170 pounds.
“You know what I want most from you? I want you to smile. I want you to be happy.”
We slept like stones at Kenny’s place outside Dusseldorf. It was another late night, but we knew the next day’s drive to Leverkusen would be a short one, so we could sleep in. I rolled over and looked at the clock, expecting to see 7:00. It was 10:30.
Then it was a German breakfast of crusty bread and cheese and – do I need to say it? – coffee. It was just what we needed. Then we packed up our stuff and were on the road again.
Germany looks like Canada to me. Trees, fields, cars, trucks. Driving down any major highway feels like driving down the 401 in Ontario. The only difference is maybe all of the smoke stacks I see along the way. That might be a regional thing. Germany feels like Canada too. It’s colder here than the Netherlands. Damp. The weather back home is probably very similar right now.
It was a quick trip to Leverkusen, which appears from the few streets we saw to be a nice city. Our hotel was fabulous. Deni and I bunked together in one room and Sarah and Ken in the other. There isn’t a lot of privacy on the road, for the most part. We spend most of our time in the van and on stage together. It’s rare to be alone. Fortunately, we all get along so well together that it’s fine. We laugh constantly, but boy I can see how hard it would be to tour with people if you don’t really like them.
We had a bit of time in Leverkusen, so Sarah did some exercise and I went with Deni and Ken in search of – do I need to say it? – coffee. We found a cool café, ordered pastries, and indulged yet another wonderful European brew. We placed our order through a series of gestures and Germanglish. The lady behind the counter laughed. Sitting on the patio, we talked about art and writing, and how the pressure to be successful can kill a person’s creativity. That happened with me during my last go around with writing. I’ve since learned from wiser people than me that you only have the right to your work, not to the results of your work. You put out your music. You put out your blog. You do your work. What comes of it is out of your hands.
After that we went back to the hotel and I, chilled to the proverbial bone, had the hottest shower of my life. Steam bath. It was like being in a Japanese onsen and felt terrific.
We were met at the hotel by our latest character – Klemens. Great guy. His job was to take us to the club and make sure we have everything we need. He also warned us, a day too late it turns out, that we shouldn’t drink the beer in Dusseldorf because it’s made with sewer water that flows downstream from Leverkusen. I’ve never been a beer guy, so I don’t have a great opinion on these regional rivalries. Deni seems to like everything. At this point Ken would trade all but a pint of the beer in Deutschland for a proper glass to put it in.
I saw Sarah drink a Coke once.
We were booked at a cool little joint called Topos. Tiny room, but a neat set-up. We lugged in the gear we needed so we could soundcheck and take turns smashing our heads on the low doorway to the stage. Sarah won that competition. I won the head smashing contest on the low bridge on the stairs at Kenny’s place.
After soundcheck, Klemens took us across the street to a fantastic Italian restaurant. Pasta and bread and olive oil. Sarah had vegetables and we watched her soul begin to inflate right before our eyes. She nearly bent the fork in her hand. During dinner we were also introduced to a guy from Detroit called Will Russ Jr. He’s a soul singer, and he came right over to talk to some brothers and sisters from North America. Sarah being Sarah, she invited him to join us for a song that night.
Afterward it was show time. The time slot worked such that it made a good opportunity for an opening act, and who better than the great Deni Gauthier? Deni borrowed Sarah’s acoustic guitar and played four of his songs. Deni’s stuff is great. He has an airy voice and subtle delivery. Lush chords. Great hooks. The audience loved it.
Then Sarah Smith and band finally took the stage, once again for an enthusiastic audience that included many of the German fans who have been at other gigs. We really appreciate those people turning up at show after show. Sarah has built that fan base one tour at a time over years and years. That’s how it works. The rest of us in the band are lucky that she laid this foundation for us to come and play on. Looking around the place, we felt like The Beatles playing The Cavern Club.
Will Russ Jr. came up at the end of the show to play a pretty rock and roll version of Stand By Me with us. We had never played it before, but it went great. What a voice that guy has. He’s living in Germany now and looking for a band to play soul music with him. If you need a magical voice in a great frontman, get in touch!
It was another fairly early show. We thought we might hit up the local food scene for a snack, but everything was closed, even at 11:30. Fortunately, a corner store near the hotel was open, so we loaded up for what turned into the little hotel party depicted in the vignette above, where we laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed ….