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  • Writer's pictureJH

Day 5: On Road Stress and a Cool Club in Kunzell, Germany

AVT: 6h (Tot: 23h, 15 min)

ADT: 500 km (Tot. 1,923 km)


“I’m not going to eat for your amusement like some sort of zoo animal!”

- John


Who knows when or even if I’ll ever get to post this? It’s like the writer in solitude, creating his little masterpieces, never to be seen by human eyes.

Hotel Wi-Fi, man.

Hotel Wi-Fi.

Today in the van we talked about the stress of touring. We were driving down some big German highway – on the road again – after a late checkout from our hotel. The late checkout gave us a bit of free time before van call, and each of us did something physical. Yoga. Push-ups. Something to get us moving a bit. We’re almost one week into the run now and our bodies are feeling it. The driving. The late nights. The slipping diets.

We make it look fun and easy, but it’s not for the faint of heart.

We arrive here jet-lagged, for starters. Right off the bat our bodies are out of synch. We were up for 30-plus hours and had played a show before got to sleep. Then some of us didn’t sleep even when we got the chance. There isn’t really a regular food schedule. Hotel breakfasts in Germany can be … compelling. Usually we drive most of the day and eat at the venue. We’ve had some really good food, but the timing is inconsistent and there aren’t always a lot of very nutritional choices.

Then, of course, there’s the stress of simply being in another country. We’re used to it by now, but it’s still stressful some of the time. Yesterday we were at a truck stop on the highway. We wanted to get a quick lunch for the road, but it can be hard to know how to order. How to talk to people. How to respond when people talk to us. We’re getting better at it, but there are days when the scale of it all can overwhelm you or it simply accumulates and you just want to hide.

All of that takes a toll on your body.

On top of all that you are actually playing shows, which is physically and mentally demanding even when it’s going well. The sum of it all can be exhausting.

So what do you do?

Well, you try to eat better, for starters. Vegetables and fruit if you can get them. Water. You try to sleep more. Find moments of rest. Clear your head. The van can be good for that. Yes, the miles can be tiring, but to simply have an insulated space where there’s no pressure – minus a few moments during the drives – is important. This really is a physical thing in many ways. It’s an endurance sport touring like this.

But we love it. We’ve built the kind of thick proverbial skin you need to be on the road for long stretches. We have experience. We’re good at not knowing what to expect. We’re even good at finding the silver lining in things. Certainly the humour. There’s a reason why they call the veterans road dogs. Dogs are survivors. They can feast and they can go hungry. Either way they wake up ready to chase something and see what happens.

I barely remember yesterday. Remember the tour time warp I’ve written about before? We had another long drive to a quaint little city called Kunzell in Germany. We snaked down one narrow street and saw a guy walking a horse like a dog. That sort of a place. We went to check out the venue and were surprised to find a magnificent rock club yet again in the middle of the German nowhere. Alte Piesel is a big room with a big stage and dance floor. Daniel the soundman and the owners, Michael and Milana, took great care of us like so many others.

It was a modest crowd, but not bad for a Sunday night in a place we’ve never been before. Many of our German fans were there to cheer us on (shout-out again to all of you for making these shows successful for us). It’s strange to play to a smallish crowd in a big space. Volume becomes weird. The vibe is sometimes difficult to catch.

I haven't written about the cajon yet. Do I have the time right now? We rented a digital cajon with our gear from Joost. It's a box drum that I sit on and play. This one is high-tech. It has different sounds in different spots and you can program all sorts of weird stuff. I haven't had much time to figure out how to use it, but I've played it at I think every show with odd and sometimes funny results. One night we were playing Girl Crush and I hit a button somewhere and suddenly my snare sound was a tambourine. That was okay in context, but we have no idea what this thing might do. The big crescendo in the song might have been punctuated by a Klaxon horn for all I knew.

Last night it would suddenly get super loud and boomy on one hit and soft on another. We'd exchange glances and shrug at each other and hope the next sound wasn't a fire alarm or something. I pressed a few buttons between songs and for about 30 seconds we had a dance club going.

The adventure continues.

We played well in the end and the audience liked us. Deni drew a great response from his opening set as well. We pulled out and dusted off a few songs we haven’t played in a long, long time. That’s always a bit of a gamble, but we found our way through them well enough. Our bow was met with calls for an encore, so we gave them one and everyone went home happy.

Later we returned to our hotel and fought with the Wi-Fi again. We were hoping to get the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. San Francisco 49ers game on the computer for Ken, but couldn’t quite work it out. There was also an issue with my last blog post that had to be rectified. I was desperate to know that I broke obscenity laws with my photo from the previous night's club but I think the issue had something to do with the hotel Wi-Fi.

Was fuer eine Ueberraschung.

My only other enduring memory of yesterday, which technically happened today, was the bells of our little town ringing loud and proud at probably 6:00 a.m. Just what the struggling insomniac ordered ….

And now we’re at our lovely billet in Wiesbaden, laying low before we head down to do it again. I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow.

Until then, all is well, gentle reader.

And hey, we’re still soliciting audience questions if anybody has one!

Thanks to Conny Kiefer for the cover photo!

#KunzellGermany #Tour #SarahSmith

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