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Day 1: Live in Leer at the Texas River Ranch


Approximate van time (AVT): 4h, 30min

Approximate travel distance (ATD): 360 km (not including the 6,100 km flight)

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“I love this song. It brings back memories.”

- Deni, upon hearing an awful country song.

“Everything brings back memories. I had worms when I was three. That’s not a good memory.”

- Ken

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Okay, let’s try it.

I almost didn’t, you know. It hung in the balance last night during my traditional early tour sleepless watch. It was precisely 4:44 a.m. when I looked at the clock and considered whether I would get up and begin writing or just abandon the tour blog altogether.

Your mind goes to weird places when you haven’t slept in 36 hours and there’s no relief in sight.

Have you experienced that before?

Imagine being so hungry you can’t even think straight. Ravenous. Then imagine sitting down at a fabulous buffet with your lobster bib on and your belt undone. There are wonderful salads and soups and roasted meats and potatoes and that layered chocolate trifle dessert and ice cream with sprinkles. You load your plate and your nose fills with smells and you lift the first magical bite to your face, prepared to satisfy that most primal, that most nurturing of needs … and your mouth won’t open.

Just won’t open, no matter what you do.

That’s the culinary metaphor for me in my bed last night, trying to sleep.

It’s maddening.

Anyway, in lieu of writing a blog post, I decided to give sleeping one more shot, and mercifully my body did what it’s supposed to do. Hail Morpheus, you great mythological tease. You pre-dawn Polkaroo. Almost four hours later I awoke face to face with Deni Gauthier in yet another shared hotel bed and here we are.

So begins the third Sarah Smith Euro tour blog.

You can have fun with it if you try hard enough. You can sing, ‘Hello jet lag my old friend’ to the tune of Sound of Silence. You can sing, ‘Hello insomnia’ to Emm Gryner’s Hello Aquarius. This is nothing new for me. Pretty much every one of these tours begins with me already fighting a cold and half ruined by sleeplessness. I’m hoping last night was the worst night. One thing I know for sure: the best way to deal with it is to laugh your way through the day. My band mates – Sarah Smith, Ken Ross, Deni Gauthier – have already started in with the laughter therapy, and if all else fails, I’ve asked them to slug me with a wine bottle if one appears in our possession tonight.

Desperate times, my friends.

How far back do we go with the first entry? Technically it’s been two days, although for me it feels like one really – really – long one. We left Toronto under cover of darkness on Tuesday evening, delayed by an hour for reasons that were never explained to us. I assume it had something to do with the heavily armed border patrol guards who searched our plane before we were allowed to board. Always a comforting thing to see before you wing across the Atlantic.

We arrived in Amsterdam (city of dreams) at about 10:00 a.m. local time and began a mad scramble. We were due for a third engagement in the city of Leer, Germany to kick off the tour, but first had to get our tour van and drive to Oosterbeek, Netherlands (town of dreams) to pick up the rental gear from our old friend Joost. We were running late thanks to whatever delayed our flight and margins were slim. Alas, we got the van, which is another perfectly comfortable and serviceable Sprinter (with accessible fuel tanken for our veteran readers) and made it to Joost’s place.

Most of the gear we have is the same stuff we used on the last tour. In fact, it hasn’t been touched since. The amp settings were exactly as we left them, as were the drums and hardware I lugged around. There were a couple of new things, but we didn’t have much time to play around with them. We had something like three hours to get to Leer, to the mighty Texas River Ranch – home of great steaks, friendly staff, and two memorable nights on our European adventure story.

This does feel like one story, now that I think about it. There have been interludes, but I think you could read all of the tour blogs back to back to back and feel like they’re all part of the same thing.

I digress.

You remember the Texas River Ranch, don’t you? The Old West paraphernalia. The cowboy hats. The stars and stripes everywhere. Such an odd place to discover in the middle of the German nowhere, but it’s always a fun room. We arrived to the gig to find so many fans waiting for us from Germany and The Netherlands. We’ve reached a point now where I can’t name everyone. There are too many, which is a testament to Sarah’s ability to build a community. These beautiful faces – these friends – will be with us along the way as always, and I want to thank them right now for their support. They make these tours possible. We couldn’t do it without them I hope they know how much we appreciate them.

Although I will single out Tjitske and the Frieslan party for bringing us an exceptional bottle of wine to sample. Thank you!

The show.

The show, the show, the show.

We had been up for something like 28 hours when we started playing. Most of that time was spent travelling and mad dashing to get to the gig. We didn’t really do a sound check. We didn’t really get to test out the gear. We managed somehow to start only ten minutes late after everything and we just sort of jumped in with both feet. And it went great. The four of us haven’t played together a lot since last year, but we fell in (literally in Deni’s case – at a certain point he was on the floor, fully stretched out on his back playing guitar) and I think we brought it.

Sarah’s here with a brand new album, Unveiling, which I suppose was formally released last night. We played a bunch of new songs from the record, all but one of which we had never performed together before. I think we played them well and the fans really loved them. They loved the whole show, which feels nice. Probably we were at about 80%, but the energy of opening night can compensate for that sometimes. It did last night. People danced and sang with us and we were only a few songs in before it felt like old times at the TRR. Later we posed for our traditional Texas River Ranch photo around the big Tisch in the middle of the room (Ich lerne Deutsch), but I’m sad to say the Frieslan contingent had already left.

After the show we were treated to a wonderful dinner that hit the spot after so much travelling and working. We were reminded yet again how well we get treated in Europe. Sarah’s new CDs were flying off the merch table, too, and the early reviews are extremely positive. All in all it was a great tour kick-off, though we missed our friend Bernie. Bernie used to run the venue and was one of our favourite people in Europe. He passed away earlier this year and we felt his absence. Cheers to you, our friend. Your memory lives on.

And now ….

I wanted this to be so much more literary.

Ah well. I haven’t woken up from not being asleep yet, if you follow. As I type this we’re driving down another German highway, bound for Leverkusen and a club called Topos that we played two years ago. Less than 200 km away, my beloved Arsenal is preparing to play a match against Frankfurt in the Europa League group stage, which means this is the first time I’ve been in the same country as my team on match day. What a strange and wonderful world this is.

I’m thinking maybe it would be fun to have more audience participation this time around, so if you have questions about touring or the band that you would like us to answer, by all means send them along and I’ll see what we can do.

In the meantime, rest up those of you who can rest, with my sincere and jealous admiration.

Until next time.

*Thanks Klaske Ferwerda for the live photo!

#Leer #SarahSmith #tour #TexasRiverRanch

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