September 21, 2018
"Deni looks Irish.”
“He’s always trying to steal me Lucky Charms.”
Well, there were boos at BeLaMi Bergedorf last night.
Don’t worry – the boos came after Sarah announced our final song of the evening. ‘Twas then that our packed house erupted into what I’m going to call boos of appreciation. They wanted more, and let me tell you, that’s exactly what the band wants to hear on opening night.
I’m trying to remember yesterday. I’m not very good at articulating the weird time warp that touring is. It takes you out of normal life and the usual routine and thrusts you into a bizarre world where time is just a sliver. You’re focused on this period of hours when you’re driving or when you’re playing and pretty much nothing else exists. Not yesterday. Not tomorrow. Touring is very present. It’s like when you’re driving down a highway on a snowy night, and you can only see a few feet in front of you. Some days you wake up and it can take an hour to shake the memories loose.
Yesterday we woke up at Kenny Squid’s house outside of Dusseldorf and were treated to something we’ve been craving since the day we flew away last November: German bread! The drummer in me understands timing very well, and used it with precision to land at the dinner table just as Kenny was taking the buns out of the oven. How do they do it? Crusty on the outside, soft on the inside. Warm, creamy, chewy. Add some Brie or sweet jam, then insert into face hole and try not to pass out from pleasure. It was so worth the wait!
After breakfast we packed up our suitcases and were at last on the road again for real. We had a five-hour ride from Kenny’s place to Hamburg, where we were set for a return engagement at BeLaMi Bergedorf. It’s a great little club in the suburbs. Our show there last year was one of the best on our whole tour, and even though it was our first stop this time, I think last night’s show will rank among the best of this tour too. The owner, Mike, has really made the place a destination for listeners. It will come as no surprise to tour blog veterans that Mike and his team really took care of us. As a gift to all of Deutschland, he also reminded us what good schnitzel tastes like.
I wrote yesterday’s blog post in the van. As ever, conversations went deep. I remember making a point of that in my head as we were driving, but now I can’t remember what we talked about. The sliver of time. I know for sure we talked about coffee, which should please our sentimental readers. We also talked about vulnerability, addictions, and being who we are. We talked about power and powerlessness – whether we as people are actually powerful, or whether we only become powerful by acknowledging the fact that we are powerless and surrendering to something bigger than ourselves.
But mostly it was about coffee.
Music for the tour so far: Sarah’s into the final solo record by Joe Strummer of The Clash called Streetcore. Deni has been listening to a collaboration by Elvis Costello and The Roots called Wise Up Ghost. Ken’s been obsessed with the new Arctic Monkeys album, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, and your faithful blogger is listening to Ghost’s new album, Prequelle. I’ve also been re-discovering some recent music by a fabulous metal band called Believer. They had their initial run in the early 90s. Heavy, technical thrash metal with occasional bursts of orchestral strings. Intense stuff. They disappeared for many years, but then resurfaced around 2009 as more of a prog metal band with really cool electronic sounds and glitches and production. My musical tastes are all over the place, but I still get into these grooves where I want the music fast and loud and heavy.
Again, the sentimentalists will want to know that as we were flipping radio channels yesterday, we heard a song from the most recent album by The Killers, which was our soundtrack last time around.
Once again I was up front in the van, where I was witness to the birth of Sarah’s new career as a cargo van racer. No, she wasn’t driving erratically. There was a lot of traffic around Bremen thanks to road construction and at least one car accident. The Van Whisperer ran that gamut like a boss, finding our way through the maze and getting us to the gig on time. Tour manager extraordinaire.
Last night wasn’t just our first gig of the tour. It was also the first gig with our rental gear, which can be an adventure. I’m relieved to report that everything worked as we needed it to. I spent a few minutes tuning my drums (not something I enjoy or do particularly well) and we worked out the kinks on the other gear. We got everything set up and soundchecked with about an hour to spare before Deni went on to open the show.
While it was a night of firsts in some cases – new gear, some new songs – it was also a night of reunions. Yes, the superfans have begun to appear! We were just finishing dinner when lovely Angie from Austria swept into the club, wearing (much better than I do) pretty much the same shirt as me. Not long after, my football friend Schimmi walked in, along with Karin. Hugs, laughter. Schimmi and I are working on a scheme right now that, if it comes to fruition, will create one terrific tour diversion for me to write about. Stay tuned.
And then it was show time. Deni went up and did three of his originals, which the crowd loved. After a short break to collect ourselves, we stepped on-stage to cheers and applause. What a nice feeling! The place really was packed, which makes such a difference for the band. We always give our best, of course, but the energy in a house like that can really help elevate a show. We were loud but not too loud. Heavy but not too heavy. Fun but not too silly. For our first gig together in a long time, playing a bunch of songs that we haven’t played together before, the show was great.
I was going to mention some of the new songs, but I’ve decided I won’t for now. I don’t want to spoil it for the superfans. Suffice it to say that we’ve worked up some slamming covers and a couple of really terrific new Sarah originals. We played them well enough last night that the crowd demanded an encore from us. And then another. And then another. And then another. And then another ….
Have I mentioned how great German crowds are? They sang along with us throughout the show. They hit the harmonies on songs they knew. They added parts where no parts existed before. When the show was finally over, they lined up to meet Sarah and shake her hand. I worked the merch table with her for a bit and got to see – yet again – just how profoundly she affects people. And how profoundly they affect her. One new fan talked about the spirit in her show. The divinity.
The love, man.
It was a great night for all of us, and one that sets the bar very, very high for the rest of the tour. After packing up the gear, we weaved our way through Hamburg, remembering the last tour, laughing at some memories. Then we pulled over at the local Chez Macdonald’s for a snack, where we met a German couple in full-on Oktoberfest regalia – lederhosen, the dress, the whole thing. It was awesome! We also donned our reflective neon green Pieter Smit safety vests so everyone knew we were on official band business.
Last year we stayed at a B&B in Hamburg owned by classical guitar virtuoso Andreas. We returned there in the wee hours of the morning last night. As you might expect, Andreas greeted us with open arms and cold drinks.
It is so great to be back.