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  • Writer's pictureJH


October 12, 2018

“Would anyone like to try the best potatoes I’ve ever had?”

- Sarah

“No. I don’t want to ruin the memory of the best potatoes I’ve ever had.”

- Ken

I got an email from an old friend this morning.

He’s been reading November and he wrote to say how much he liked it. I’ve written on the other side of this blog about things like nudges from the universe. His note feels a bit like that. It was encouraging and affirming and very timely, because we’re reaching the point of the tour when The Big Question appears.

You know The Big Question.

Now what?

Tour life is about this moment. There’s too much in front of me right now – here, on this German highway, under blue skies – to waste energy thinking about the future. That’s every day on the road. Just make van call. Just get to the venue on time. Just play the show and do what you love. Tomorrow belongs to tomorrow.

But still, a bit of encouragement goes a long way. Next week I’m going to wake up in my own bed in my own house. I’m going to drive my wife to work and then I’m going to come home and sit down in front of what is an almost completely blank slate. I have a couple of shows on the horizon, one of which I’m not really ready to talk about yet, and pretty much nothing else. I’m actually excited about that for once in my life. I talk to people about looking for my miracle when I get back home. What I know for sure is that I’ll almost immediately be back behind my drum kit, trying to improve.

But now to yesterday. True confession: My stomach hurts from laughing. Last night we played a sold-out gig in a really cool little venue in Gladbeck, Germany. I’ll talk about the show in a minute, but after it was over, Sarah, Ken, Deni, and I sat down to a snack and I laughed harder than I’ve laughed in a long, long time. This is what I was talking about on the blog yesterday. The moments you share as a band build you. We were being silly and singing and our chemistry bubbled up to the surface. We haven’t been able to do that a lot on this tour, but we made up for it at that table.

Yesterday started with a breakfast of scrambled eggs and yogurt and coffee, and then a blissful 45 minutes in the hotel gym. I haven’t done anything beyond hotel room push-ups since I left Canada and I can feel my body atrophying by the second. It felt great to be in that space for a little while. I listened to a couple of inspirational podcasts and got a bit of a sweat going. Exercise really does you good, physically and mentally.

After that it was van call and hit the road. We had a two-hour drive from Leer to Gladbeck. Pretty standard stuff at this point. The drive was a drive. We were staying at Blind Baby Squid’s place and, as ever, it was great to see him. Shout-out to Kenny again for helping us out so much on this tour. A travelling indie band needs friends like that and he and Anja and Patrick have been awesome to us.

Yesterday in the van we talked about characters. We meet so many of them along the way. They become part of our story. They’re what makes these tours so fun and so memorable. We’ve had some great ones this time around. The Fruhstuck Lady. The Tie Lady. Our friends Willi and Kenny and Walter. Carolin. All of the superfans that we appreciate so much. Last night at the show we were pleasantly surprised by the appearance of a favourite character from the first tour: Klemens, who hooked us up at Topos in Leverkusen. What a super guy. It was good to see him again and get an update on another of our November characters: the great Will Russ, Jr. – soul singer extraordinaire who is now tearing up the continent.

Also in attendance was the legendary Party Betty, who rocked Erle with us last year. Great to see her!

I sang a private lament for Anthony Bourdain over dinner last night. Our venue was a restaurant called Restaurant Lezginka. It’s an Armenian/Russian place and they served us a dinner for the ages. I wish I could tell you what was on the menu. It began with bread and different dips and flavours that we have never had before. Then there was a cheese croissant thing and a beef dish in some kind of pastry. It was all so delicious. We thought that was it but the food just kept coming. Potatoes for Sarah, followed by a stir fry. A plate of the most fabulous grilled meat. I don’t have the vocabulary to describe it. Man, sometimes even indie touring delivers extreme luxury. It was one of the best dinners I’ve ever eaten in my life and I know that Tony would have loved it.

Alas, poor Tony.

After dinner they rolled us across a little courtyard into the actual music room. It’s a classy space. More of a banquet room, really, but we set up and did a soundcheck and the room sounded great. Shortly after, they opened the doors and our sold-out audience began to appear. A lot of our German (and Austrian) superfans were there, but the crowd was mostly made up of people I had never seen before. I remember wondering to myself who they were and how on Earth they found us.

The show was great. It may not look like it if you’re in the audience, but I actually do pay attention to the crowd. A lot of the time I play with my eyes closed or watch Sarah or Ken to make sure we’re locked in. Other times I look at Deni whether I want to or not – he’s usually doing something funny and I can’t look away. Still, it may seem like I don’t notice the audience, but I do. And what I notice more and more is people in the audience singing along with the songs.

Have you ever seen footage of a stadium gig with the fans all singing their hearts out and wondered what that must feel like for the band? I’m beginning to get just a small taste of that, albeit it on Sarah’s behalf. I haven’t written or played on any of her studio songs, but I bet the experience is gratifying for her. She’s earned it. It’s fun for me too. There is energy in your voices, friends. Last night we did “Angels & Anchors” and I almost didn’t sing my parts. I always come up to the front of the stage to sing that song with Sarah. Last night everyone was singing so loudly and passionately that I considered just letting the audience take my parts for me.

I didn’t that time, but it’s in the back of my head now.

We had a special guest with us on stage last night, as we often do. Our contact who set up the show is a really nice guy named Lutz (and thank you, Lutz, for joining our list of people who have treated us like gold). His daughter Tanja sang "Three Little Birds” with us and she did great. Everyone really loves that song when we play it. One drop reggae has never been my strong suit, but I’m getting more comfortable with it and, frankly, I enjoy singing the low harmony on that tune.

Anyway, the show was terrific. We did several encores, “I Love Rock and Roll” was a freakshow in the best possible sense, and our packed house went home happy. Can I give yet another shout-out to Deni? His opening set was magic. He’s always great, but last night the Mojo was really working. I say well done to you, sir!

Post-show we gathered around the merch table to meet people and sign things and take pictures. After that we sat down together as described above for another round of that Armenian goodness. Seriously, I laughed so hard I could barely breathe. Freakin’ Deni. I really do love this little band. There’s a certain madness we share that, when it emerges, fulfills and energizes us like nothing else. We were still laughing this morning over breakfast.

But yes, The Big Question.

It doesn’t really matter in this moment. We’re driving. The sun is shining. We have three shows left on the tour and there’s no time or reason to look beyond this magnificent day in this magnificent world.

Everything else can wait.

#Gladbeck #TheRoad #SarahSmith #Germany

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