October 14, 2018
"This sewer system is lined with regret and poor choices."
"I regret nothing!"
Just play the drums.
Close your eyes. You’re in your basement, where you’re most at home as a drummer. You’re playing the songs. It’s loose and relaxed and comfortable. There is only the music and your movements. The rhythm and the way it makes you feel.
Just play the drums.
Tune out everything else and just play the drums.
That was me during our first set in Sliedrecht, Netherlands last night. I’m human. We all are. People make it look easy to be on stage and play the shows and have a good time. The truth is sometimes it’s difficult, and last night it was difficult at first for me. I can’t really describe why. Cumulative fatigue maybe. In any case, as we went up to play last night I wasn’t in a perfect headspace for whatever reason. I was playing a strange drum set that didn’t sound how my drums normally sound, which can be an adjustment. It took a few songs for me to really get my brain around the sound on the stage. I was a bit disconnected from the band by a Plexiglas shield and a pillar.
Mostly there was a vibe messing with me that I can’t explain. Again, maybe fatigue. The thing is you still have to play your way through that stuff. The show must go on. I had rough patches at the beginning that threatened to derail me altogether, but a pro has to be able to shut that out and deliver. I’m still developing that skill. One of my techniques is to close my eyes and mentally put myself back in my rehearsal space – no pressure, no judgment, no mistakes. It helps. I also simplify my playing and focus on hitting the beat with confidence. Mercifully we got through the first set and were able to re-group before we went back up again.
I’m getting ahead of myself.
Yesterday was like a trip back in time. We awoke at about 8:45 a.m. in Weert and the lads stumbled downstairs to put money in the parking meter. We then took a quick breakfast before going back upstairs to try to sleep some more. I went back down to add more money at 10:45 while the others slept. When I was out and about I took a little look around the city and snapped a few photos. It was a nice morning. The sun was bright. The people were having coffee on patios.
Why am I telling you this? The mundanities, I suppose. This is life on the road. As I was walking back to the hotel after the second parking meter stint I ran into superfans Schimmi and Karin, who were heading off to do some shopping. It really is so great to have these fans who support us. We had a big group of them at the gig last night and they made a huge difference for us. Can I take a minute to thank the superfans again? Seriously, you make a lot of these shows what they are. Last night wouldn’t have turned out nearly as good as it did without you and I want you to know how comforting it is to look into the audience – when my eyes are open – and see you singing, smiling, cheering.
The trip back in time started when we got on the road and set course for the town of Gouda. We were destined for the same hotel we booked when we arrived last year. This was our first stop on the first Euro tour. I’m typing this right now with Deni napping beside me in the very same room we shared last time around. It’s the ultimate bookend on what you might describe as a two tour set.
We have come such a long way musically, personally, and professionally since that chilly day last November when we first unlocked these doors and set our bags down on the floor. There was no “V” word. There were no superfans (for the band at least). There were no characters. There were no Glitterboyz. We were simply the four of us, about to embark on an adventure that has been even more than we imagined – more difficult, more affirming, more rewarding, more humbling. How perfect is it for us to end this tour where the first one began?
After we settled at the hotel we relaxed for a bit and I put up yesterday’s blog post. Then we drove the 45 minutes or so to the Moonshine in Sliedrecht, which is a cool club/pool hall owned by our new friend Michel. We’ve been treated well by a lot of people over the past two tours, and Michel is right up there with the best of them. He welcomed us, expressed his desire to make it a great night for the band, and opened up his entire establishment to the band. He even gave us a little whiskey tasting session worthy of a distillery tour. He's just a generous guy who looks after musicians. We really appreciate people like that. We had a delicious dinner of Chinese food with him and his wife, then did a soundcheck.
Post-soundcheck, we had some time to kill, so Deni and fan Tanja challenged Ken at the pool table. I don’t know if Ken knows how many balls Deni sank or moved with his hands when he wasn’t looking, but, to paraphrase John Candy in Planes, Trains, & Automobiles, Larry Bird doesn’t do as much ball handling in one night as Deni did in 20 minutes. It’s okay, Deni. Your trick shots make up for your loose interpretation of the rules.
Anyway, next up was the first set as described above. After the first set the three guys went outside to breathe and collect ourselves. Ken talked me down from the ledge (a ledge that is getting shorter all the time, I’m happy to say) and Deni chatted with a group of locals who were interested in what we’re doing. I was very happy to come back in after a few minutes and hang with the superfans. My thanks to everyone for being there in that moment, though you might not have known you were being there at the time.
The second set was much better. I was more comfortable with the sound, the crowd in the bar warmed up to us, and we took up a kind of musical gauntlet. Sometimes you have to rise to a challenge and we did. The show culminated in a performance of “Here Comes the Rain” so intense that I broke a stick in half with about a minute left in the song. A couple of people out there took home rare mementos of the show. I almost never break drum sticks, but the two halves of last night’s tragedy found their way into the crowd and are probably on eBay at this moment. All in all, it was a good night. I learned a few more things about being a pro and the band shared another memorable experience together.
And where are we now? Sitting in our hotel room, relaxing before we load up to drive to the final gig of the tour. Whoosh. We’re playing Taverne Bergen, where we had a really fun show last year. It’s a great place for a grand finale, and we’re looking forward to one last party with the fans before we take a final bow and fly away again.
It’s going to be a special night.
* Many thanks to Tanja for the venue photos!