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  • Writer's pictureJH

Hamburg #2

November 10, 2017

"Maybe she had to kill a chicken.”

- Deni

“When I go in drag I’m a chick-ken.”

- Ken

The currywurst, man. The currywurst.

Chunks of fried sausage swimming in a curry ketchup sauce. Served with fries it’s unparalleled as a post-show snack and probably the tastiest thing I’ve eaten in Europe. Excuse me while I take a moment to savour that culinary memory ….

So, so good.

We had the currywurst after our show last night at BeLaMi Bergedorf, on the outskirts of Hamburg. Far from the chaos of The Reeperbahn, BeLaMi Bergedorf is what we musicians call a “listening room”. People come for the show. They sit at tables and sip wine and drink beer and actually listen to the music. It’s perfect for an artist like Sarah whose music has dynamics and emotion and subtlety. Most of the time we play in bars, which have their own charms. A good listening room is a nice change of pace.

Funny thing: I heard the loudest cheer of the tour so far at the listening room.

Yet again I’m getting ahead of myself.

Having a two-night stay in Hamburg means one thing and one thing only: sleeping in! We definitely did that yesterday. We had nowhere to be until load-in time, so we could take extra time to rest. There’s a virus poking around the van these days. We need our strength to fight it and keep going.

So we bedded in for a bit in the morning before we got up for breakfast at the B&B. Our hosts prepared a traditional German spread of bread and cheese and meat and muesli with – of course – coffee. Fabulous. I don’t know what they’re doing to their bread over here that we’re not doing over there, but it’s incredible. Crusty on the outside, soft on the inside. Uh-oh, gotta take another moment ….

People often recommend things to see and do in the towns and cities we visit, but we pretty much have zero time for sightseeing. Late nights mean late mornings, and generally speaking we have to drive 2-5 hours to the next gig. As Sarah said on the way to the show last night, “Your day becomes about waking up, driving, a meal, and playing.” Most times our experience of a city is one street, one club, one restaurant, one hotel. And it’s great. It really is.

After breakfast, Ken and Sarah rested and Deni and I went in search of – DINTSI?* – coffee. We walked around our little chunk of Hamburg and happened upon a café. Chocolate croissant and a strong cup for yours truly. Once again, we talked about art and the business of art, and how successful indie musicians do what they do. Deni has a lot of insight on this stuff. He’s a full-time musician. He makes his living on the road and he does it very well.

Later in the afternoon we drove to the suburbs to the night’s venue to set up. Another cool place, another gracious host. This time it was Michael, who welcomed us like the others – with open arms and cold drinks. You have no idea how much we appreciate that kind of reception. We loaded in and set up, and then were treated to a fantastic dinner. The three lads tried salmon with kale and the most delicious potatoes. Sarah had a salad big enough for her to curl up in for a nap. Nutrition! We felt so civilized. Sarah and I then indulged a post-dinner coffee that I paid for later, but sometimes a good coffee costs you a good sleep.

Deni opened the show with another short set. This time he went full Deni with his looping station. Looping is a distinct art. For the uninitiated, Deni basically records parts to a song on the spot and uses his looping machine to play them over and over while he either loops other parts or plays over top of them. He’s a master at it. His set went over really well. If you haven’t heard his stuff, you need to. He’s great.

The Sarah show was arguably the best of the tour so far. We tried a new stage arrangement that had my drum kit angled toward Deni instead of facing the audience. Sarah’s theory is that, since I sing so many harmonies, it might be easier for the audience to see what I’m doing back there if I’m on an angle. I’m not sure how interested anyone is in watching me (let’s be honest – all eyes are on Sarah and for good reason), but it was fun to play that way and it looked really cool. Plus I get to watch Deni dance around the way he does, which is great entertainment. Dude rocks a stage toque like a boss.

The room sounded great. We can be a bit quieter in a listening room, which means we can hear each other better and we play better. It was packed, too. I’m so impressed with European audiences. People clapped, they sang, they cheered … but most of all they listened. We have all played “wallpaper” shows where the band or the singer is just part of the background at an event. They can be fun, but as musicians we play to be heard. If you go to a show, no matter who’s playing, I encourage you to listen. Artists notice and appreciate it more than you know.

We had another guest on stage last night. This time it was a ripping blues guitarist named Karl Cyperski, who played Tracy Chapman’s Give Me One Reason with us. What a fun few minutes that was. Karl laid down some incredible lead guitar and the people loved it. They loved the whole show, really. We gave them two encores, and when Michael asked them to show their appreciation, their cheers nearly burst my eardrums, even with my earplugs in. Thank you, Hamburg.

Then Michael brought out the currywurst and I almost fainted on my way to Flavourtown.

A midnight load-out had us back home before 1:00 a.m. All in all a very memorable couple of days in a wonderful city.

By the way, we found out there’s snow back home. Sorry Sarah’s not there to smile or punch it away for you.

*DINTSI – Do I need to say it? (We’ve come far enough to begin doing our own shorthand, haven’t we?)

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