November 23, 2017
“I would have sat down with you, but I was so full I couldn’t imagine bending my body to ninety degrees.”
“What a wonderful mistake that was.”
- Deni and John after eating way, way too much food.
Stars and stripes. Horse saddles. Waitresses in cowboy hats. Mementos of the Old West hanging on the walls.
Just how long was I asleep during the drive yesterday, Sarah?
Long enough to arrive at the Texas River Ranch in Bingum-Leer – a little slice of the USA in Deutschland and a fun place to spend a Wednesday night. It’s a steak joint, really. A huge one. Even in Germany they do American things big. I was waiting for fighter jets to fly overhead and for reruns of last year’s Super Bowl to pop up on the television.
Last night’s show was a unique one. We decided to have a little fun with the setlist, partly because it’s kind of a country-themed venue and partly to protect Sarah’s voice from the Virus of the Van. Sweet Home Alabama? The First Cut is the Deepest? The Cars? The drummer taking lead vocals? Dude, none of that was in the script when we started!
But it was fun.
We started with a steak dinner. I don’t eat a lot of red meat anymore, but with the V of the V happening and my energy levels low, I felt like I needed some iron and protein. The food was fantastic. So was the company. We had some new characters join us around the table – Jeannine, Petra, Tanja, Annika, others who I’m forgetting with apologies. Friends and fans of Sarah’s. Lexi and Kerstin, members of the German superfan crew, were also there, as was the original Tanja, who entered the story at the charity gig in Lippstadt.
As I said, we needed to protect Sarah’s voice, which is partly why we chose the songs we did. All of us took lead vocals at different times, which I think was a new experience for some of the superfans. There’s a song on Sarah’s new CD, 11, called Good Heart that is a duet with a great singer named Daniel Hallgrimson. Obviously he’s not here with us, so I learned his parts to sing it with Sarah. I think we’ve only done it once or twice on the tour so far, but we added it to the set last night. I certainly don’t have Daniel’s voice, but we did it well. Later we put Sarah on the drums for a couple of Tom Petty songs. Deni and I traded lead vocals on Free Fallin’. Ken took leads on Mary Jane’s Last Dance.
Being out front is weird for me, but I really like it, raw as I am as a lead vocalist. Deni and Ken are way more experienced at that sort of thing than me, so they’re pretty good mentors. Plus, you know, Sarah freakin’ Smith. Jenn Marino, who sings in my rock band Hiroshima Hearts, is also a master at grabbing people by the face and pulling them in as a frontperson. Should I find myself in a position where I’m singing more, I’ll be asking all of them for advice.
There’s technique involved in everything we do, from singing to drumming to putting on a show. Talent doesn’t necessarily get you there. Practice does. Experience does. You watch Sarah or Jenn or any other experienced performer and you can see it right away. I think that’s the part that a lot of people don’t consider when they go see a band. The hours and hours of practice. The trial and error. The mistakes. The corrections. The time and effort that goes into it. As I said in an earlier post, pros make it look so easy. So seamless. I’m lucky to be working with people who have done the work. I learn so much from them.
After the show we got to hang out with the Sarah superfans. The venue took such good care of us again. Drinks. Food. It’s still so appreciated. Later we packed up yet again and people helped us carry all of the gear to the van. Back at the hotel we indulged a parting gift of ribs (some of us more than others) and had a chance to just sit down and talk. We talked about old bands we were in. We talked about how opportunities come along and how you make the decision to take them or not take them. About synchronicity. About trusting yourself. About what it takes to really make it in this or any other business. It’s great getting to know these people even better as we go.
For those who might be interested, our soundtrack for the after-party was again the new record by The Killers, which we’ve decided is fantastic. Give it a listen if you can.
Have I thanked you recently for reading this blog? I’ve done something like 24 posts now – where did all of that come from? There’s a weird time warp happening here. Sometimes I glance over old posts and can’t remember writing them. Makes me realize how many memories are lost when you don’t make a note of them. I want to thank everyone again for following along, for sharing the links, for encouraging me to keep going. It’s been very rewarding finding my little audience for this thing. Thank you.
Thank you as well to Sarah, Ken, and Deni for letting me write about them. Any good story needs characters. They’re the best.