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  • Writer's pictureJH

Day 7: A Sad Announcement, A Fabulous Dinner, and Tender Moments in Gladbeck, Germany

AVT: 3h,15 min (Tot. 28h)

ADT: 244 km (Tot. 2,307 km)


“It’s great to see you.”

- Deni

“It’s great to be seen.”

- Kenny’s brother Ian


When it’s time, it’s time, friends.

You come to realize it as you get older. I can tell you now that it’s been on my mind for a year – since the last European adventure – and today, on my 46th birthday, it seems appropriate to formally announce that this is it.

This is the last tour.

At a certain point you just don’t have it anymore. Ten or so years of music takes a toll. The relentless pounding. The bouncing around in vans. You lose your spring. Your resonance. It gets beaten out of you. Everyone and everything has a shelf life and in the past 24 hours I made a decision that I probably should have made at this time last year. I held on at that point because it was convenient to do so. Convenience has only so much endurance. To everything there is a season.

And so I am at last bidding farewell…

… to the old head on the Rogers snare drum we rented from Joost.

Don’t try to stop me. The deed is done. The head has been removed, signed, and delivered to a comfortable retirement with Conny the life saver, who perfectly executed her mission to find me a replacement yesterday in Wiesbaden. I should have done it last year, but didn’t. This time around I couldn’t take that dead “thunk” anymore. Yesterday Conny went to the store to get a shiny new Evans Genera Dry head for me. I put it on the drum for the show in Gladbeck last night and it was magic.

Thank you, Conny!

Yes, Gladbeck. Do you remember Gladbeck? Last year we turned up at Lezginka Kaukasisches Restaurant in the dark as usual (literally and figuratively). We had no idea what to expect, but it turned out to be one of the great nights we’ve had in Europe. The restaurant has a fixed menu of Georgian and Armenian dishes that are just absolutely incredible. We packed our bodies full of deliciousness and then rolled each other to the building next door to play for a large and enthusiastic crowd. Later we ate again and laughed our heads off. It was wonderful.

Last night was a repeat engagement.

Actually, yesterday was pretty great all around. We had breakfast at a cool café in Wiesbaden. I can’t say for sure what was going on with my pancakes, but they were amazing and sweetened with yogurt and raspberry sauce and pumpkin seeds. Wonderful coffee. Great vibe.

When we returned to our billet from breakfast, Conny and Karin were waiting for us with the new drum head. I must again express my heartfelt appreciation for their help. That old head was cooked. New skins can make all the difference to the way a drum sounds and I’m grateful for the upgrade.

After breakfast we piled into the van as usual and wove our way out of the city. It was a short drive to Gladbeck, where we arrived and began the work of setting up for the show. As ever, we were greeted warmly and with drinks. The set-up and sound check were fairly routine. Dinner was just out of this world. Those flavours. The ceremonial vodka. Crikey.

After sound check we had some time in our rooms and I went to work first on getting yesterday’s blog post up, and then replacing the snare head. That might have been a bit dicey (remember Kenny Three Strings and his adventure with replacing bass strings before the gig in Leverkusen). I estimate that the old head had been on that drum for a decade. Taking it off meant removing tuning lugs that might not have been removed for a long time. Things stuck in old patterns tend to break if you’re not careful, but it’s a quality drum and the replacement was quick and easy.

The drum sounds great.

Later we returned to the venue to get down to business. Many of our German friends were there, along with some others who appeared for the first time last night. Party Betty the keyboard player was in attendance (good luck today, Betty!). We also closed a few degrees of separation on Blind Baby Squid when Kenny’s brother Ian the bass player swept into the room. It was great to meet and talk with him! Like Kenny he’s been in Germany for 30-odd years, playing theatre shows and touring with a Pink Floyd tribute that does arena gigs around Europe. Great guy.

Deni killed it with his opening set as usual. The Sarah band went on and we continued to wrestle with the mystery cajon. It probably worked better than it has in the past, but it was by no means perfect. We’ll see how much longer we experiment with it before it gets stuffed in the back of the van and forgotten. I can make the thing sound like an 80s arena rock record if I want to with just a few button clicks. I can also make it sound like a dance club or a space ship. What I don’t seem to be able to make it sound like is a cajon.

Anyway, we had a good show. Confession: I’ve been highly critical of my playing on this tour so far. I can be honest about that. I remained highly critical of my playing last night, too, but the rest of the band was definitely on. Sarah’s good at doing sound in a room like that, which certainly helps. There’s a subtle art to live sound, gentle reader. And a science. I barely know which end of an XLR goes where, so it’s a good thing my only real job is playing the drums. Hopefully I’ll actually do that to my satisfaction at some point before we fly home.

After the gig we had a great time talking with our friends and fans again. It’s so great to see everyone and to be part of what I call the “Sarahverse” from the privileged positions we occupy. I continue to be fed functional phrases in Deutsch and am becoming more confident in using them. We really do appreciate the fans supporting us as we go.

After a few moments of fraternizing, the lads set to work tearing down the stage and packing up the gear. A light rain was falling when we and our friends humped everything out to the van (thanks for that too, guys). We shut the van door and went back inside, which is when one of my favourite tour experiences happened. We were just standing around talking when the bar owner invited us to have a drink. Beers were poured and then he kind of held up his hand – the universal signal for, “Oh wait, I’ve got something for you.”

The gesture was accompanied by a sly and knowing look that we’ve seen before. It means something good, probably rare, and possibly even illegal is coming. He disappeared for a few seconds and returned with a chilled bottle of what he called Chacha. It’s a product of Georgia (not the Ray Charles Georgia, the European Georgia). It’s a very strong liquor that I gather is some kind of delicacy and I don’t mind saying it was a privilege to share it with him. This is the kind of stuff we live for on the road, you know. It’s these small moments. These brief connections with the good and generous people we meet along the way. I cherish the memory of that ounce or two of Chacha in that company and in that moment.

Chacha chacha’d, Sarah suddenly announced that it was midnight and thus officially my birthday. A cheer rang out, a chorus was sung, and I was lucky enough to bask in the glow (and the hugs) of people I feel very lucky indeed to spend my time with in this blessed life.

Thank you, my friends.

Post-Chacha, Ken, Deni, and I set up my microphones in Ken’s room to record a “roadisode” for my podcast. Watch for that in a week or so!

And now it's another hotel in another pretty German city. There will be a show and a birthday celebration tonight. It’s enough to make a 46-year-old man giggle like a five-year-old ….

I'll tell you all about it tomorrow.

* Deni photo by Conny Kiefer.

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