October 4, 2018
"I say good-night to you, sir!"
- Deni arguing with a group of revelers in the street below our hotel room window
Sister Amy, it’s just so breath-takingly beautiful.
Sometimes the words collapse at my fingertips. Yesterday we were driving through the hills in western Germany and my head kept shaking in wonder. We would climb the long, long way up and then at the top the views would be massive. From one side of the world to the other, these enormous panoramas that shame my little words and pretty phrases. I don’t come close to doing it justice.
And yet I try.
I describe Germany as looking like Canada and it does, at least until it doesn’t. Our drive yesterday might have been through parts of Alberta or British Columbia or Quebec, but every so often you see something that reminds you where you are. Close your eyes again. Put yourself back on that German highway where the oranges first appeared. Look to the right and see a wide open field of green grass. Puffy white clouds in the sky. Sunshine. The horizon is lined with a thick, dark forest. It could be a thousand places in Canada if not for the tiny village nestled right in the middle of the picture. The orange triangle roofs. The church steeple. You can pinch yourself if you like. I have to all the time.
It's not home, but they sure do treat you like it is. Yesterday the kindness of fans and serendipity put us back in the city of Lippstadt, where we first met Tanja and Heike last year. We were supposed to play in Berlin, but it was an outdoor show and the venue cancelled due to weather. That turned out to be something of a blessing in disguise. We’re disappointed for the fans who made plans to be at the Berlin show, but the cancellation saved us a lot of driving time. Tanja went into action in her singular way when the gig got canned and within 24 hours had us a new booking in her city. Thank you!
It turned out to be great, as these odd situations usually do. We drove about four hours from Immeldorf to Lippstadt, fuelled by cheese pretzels and coffee – breakfast of champions. We were booked at a coffee shop owned by the amazing Sascha and Ralf. We so appreciate them opening their room up to us. We moved some tables, set up the gear, and then enjoyed the most fantastic dinner. I can’t even tell you what they made for us. Plates of shaved meat and cheese, lentils, peppers, breads with various spreads and dips, cucumbers, mushrooms. It was the ying to our breakfast yang, and it leveled up when they brought out the finest currywurst I’ve eaten in Europe.
After dinner they had to forklift us back up the stairs to play the show. Once again many of our German fans showed up. We are so grateful to them for supporting us, driving to shows, spreading the word. Deni opened the show and was great as always. We took a short respite and then the full band went up and I think we played well.
It can be tricky to get the sound right in a space that isn’t really designed for music. Volume is a particular issue. It’s a big, open room with high ceilings and bare walls that echo. I don’t understand sound stuff at all, but as a drummer you need to be able to navigate volume. Stick choice matters. How hard you hit matters. I always prefer to play hotrods or lighter sticks and play the drums hard in those situations. I’m not great at trying to play quietly and intensely at the same time.
People really seem to be enjoying Sarah’s new originals and the covers we worked up for this tour. By now you’ll probably know that we’re playing U2’s “With or Without You” (a song that I argue may be the best pop rock song of the 80s … and perhaps more than the 80s) and doing a very rock and roll version of “Here Comes the Rain Again” by The Eurythmics. We’re starting to get a good groove going with those songs now. They’re both a lot of fun to play and, in my case, to sing. People certainly love to hear them.
After the show we packed up all the gear again and I was reminded of a little vignette I wrote into the last tour blog. That time we were in Austria and I was on the stage after we finished playing. Sarah, Ken, and Deni were out in the audience, charming the fans, and I was alone packing up drums. I could hear their laughter and it made me smile. I had a similar experience last night. Once again I was alone on the stage, wrapping cables (imagine – a cable-wrapping drummer!). I heard Ken laughing somewhere. Sarah singing somewhere. Deni chatting with someone somewhere. I cherish those sounds. It’s these small memories that linger longest for me on the road.
When the gear was packed up we resumed the pre-show feast with Tanja and Heike and a few others. It’s a treat to enjoy such good food and company. Later I enjoyed even more great company when Ken, Deni, and I retired to quarters to hang and chat. We talked about music. About consciousness. About humanity. If you see us as a collective out in the world or at shows, you see a trio of goofballs doing silly voices and making bad jokes. That stuff persists behind the scenes, but there are also deep conversations about important things. I still learn so much from those two guys.
And now I’m sitting in a hotel room in Lippstadt, Germany, waiting for the breakfast call. Deni is in the shower. Ken is beside me working on fantasy sports with whatever weak Wi-Fi signal he can find. We’re heading back to the café for breakfast and then, joy of joys, we’re bound for The Netherlands to see the Dutch chapter of our superfan group. Tonight we return to the city of Urk, where we had a memorable night last year (for some good and some not-so-good reasons). We are excited to see our friends again!
Oh, and Sister Amy, the views are about to change.