November 17, 2017
“There’s a fire in people who make music for a living. You’re a wrecking ball. You’re an animal. It’s primal.”
The show is over.
The encores and played. The bows are bowed. These lovely people have cheered for us and asked for even more. I’m on the stage alone, packing up my drums, calculating and re-calculating to be sure I have everything. This isn’t Fitzrays in London. There’s no coming back tomorrow for anything left behind.
I hear a burst of familiar laughter and I smile. Ken and Deni charming the fans. I look up and there they are. Their beards. Their toques. They clink their bottles together, making sure to look each other in the eye as they do. This has become our ritual. I have a lot to do, but I take a moment to enjoy this picture. Ken and Deni. The people. And then in the distance I see Sarah at the merch table, signing yet another autograph, smiling for yet another picture. Her smile is genuine, and that’s what it’s really all about.
Why do we do this? In the end it’s about love. Not just the love we have for playing, but the love that surrounds this experience. Sarah brings love to people through her music. Through her energy. They bring love back to us too. It’s about service. We serve people when we play. They serve us when they listen. As Sarah’s song says, it all comes back.
And then it’s back to packing up my drums. Another show. Another ritual. Another memory to put in its place.
I’m a good writer, but I don’t think I have enough words to describe how magnificently beautiful that city is. We had two hours to be tourists there, and we took what advantage we could. Just strolling those streets, stunned at every corner by each new sight. I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn’t on a movie set. I wasn’t in a theme park. This was the real deal. Mozart walked here. Sigmund Freud. We sat in a coffee shop (yes, Austria wins the coffee war so far) and when I looked out the window I didn’t see 2017. I never do in these places. I saw 1817. 1704. 1658. Ghosts of history walking right past me.
Vienna, man. Vienna.
But we couldn’t stay. The tour waits for no romantic history buff, so we found our way back to the van and were on our way again. This time we drove a few hours through the Austrian countryside, which was nearly as beautiful as Vienna itself. A lovely country. Trees and fields and villages in the hills. We were on our way to a gig in the town of Neumarkt an der Ybbs. Turns out the gig was in an elementary school, which seems to double as a community centre. It was a great room with a big stage, lights, and fantastic sound.
We loaded in and did a soundcheck. Soundcheck is always important, but even more so these days with Sarah protecting her voice. The volume has to be right so she can sing without pushing too hard. It takes time to reach the perfect level, but we got there eventually. After soundcheck it was back to our billet – a beautiful hotel in a neighbouring town – for what ranks as a top three tour dinner. Deni had deer ragout. Ken and I had a turkey dish called Bhelifhs7der$55uigxzy@h (or something like that) that was just incredible. Cream sauce and rice. Sarah blew up again with vegetables on vegetables and her customary gallon of water. We’ve eaten so, so well on this tour.
We had an hour or so to relax before we went back to the venue, where we were greeted like rock stars by the event coordinators, the local press, and the people. Photos, photos, photos. It was great. We had an opening act for the evening called Amon. Awesome band. They have a Euro-pop kind of sound that we all really liked. Cool people, too. They presented us with whiskey, which is the key to a Canadian band's heart.
Our show was one of the best of the tour so far. I know I say that a lot, but that doesn’t make it less true. The stage sound was excellent and we played really well. A great show is a mutual thing, though. It takes an audience, and we had one last night. The people were so welcoming. They danced and clapped and sang when Sarah encouraged them to join in. The energy was fantastic on both sides of the stage. They were also treated to the Sarah and Ken duo playing Already Here.
The second set was a ball. We brought Amon up to sing Proud Mary with us and the place went nuts. They loved it. We closed our set and the calls for an encore came fast and loud, so we did one. And then they wanted another, so we did one. And then they wanted another, so we did one. We swapped instruments and Sarah took over the drum chair for the second time on the tour. We played Tom Petty’s Mary Jane’s Last Dance with Ken on lead vocals and guitar. Sarah killed it. We couldn’t have been happier with the whole show, start to finish.
And then it was the scene I described above. We got to hang out some more with Amon and an awesome guy named Mathias who works with them and is himself a high profile guitarist. They were all such gracious people. You realize that music is music and the scene is the scene. We can relate to musicians in every part of the world. Our struggles – and our dreams – are the same. It’s always gratifying to make those connections.
When the last hugs were hugged, we went back to our hotel. Sarah went to bed and again Deni, Ken, and I went in search of a nightcap. We found a tiny bar packed so tight with people that we literally couldn’t get in. We pushed our way through the crowd just far enough to turn around and push our way back out again. Fortunately, Amon’s gift served us well for a quick and very satisfying end to a magical night.
And now, yet again, the road. The road, the road, the road. On to the next show. The next town. The next set of characters in our unfolding European drama.
The next little bit of love.