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  • Writer's pictureJH

Day 14: A Narrowly Avoided International Incident and a Great Show in Suhl, Germany

AVT: 7h (Tot. 49h, 30 min)

ADT: 465 km (Tot. 3,750 km)


“How are you doing today?”

“Do I look like Deni?”


“Then I’m doing great.”

- Sarah/John/Sarah/John


Yes, we almost had an international incident last night in Suhl, Germany.

We were billeted at a hotel that was technically closed for the day, so our keys were left for us in a secret location. They told us we had rooms 3, 4, 5, and 6 and the keys were marked as such. The problem is that when Ken put key #6 in the door, it wouldn’t open. The key went in, but the lock wouldn’t turn.

Hmmm ….

Fair enough. Weird stuff happens at hotels over here, so we shrugged and Ken moved into my room with me. No biggie. We settled ourselves and then went off to play what turned out to be a great gig at a neighbourhood pub called Gambrinus. More on that later.

The narrowly-avoided international incident came after the show, when Ken, Deni, and I were in the hall and Ken decided to try the #6 key in the lock again. Now, it’s the wee hours of the morning, and we have Ken the Zen working that lock hard, pushing and pulling on the door handle, shaking the entire hall. Nothing. The key wouldn’t turn. He made one last attempt before we heard a voice yell at us from the other side of the door.


The voice was not German and most definitely not happy. We looked at each other and made the prudent decision to scamper before things escalated. That’s when one of us – I don’t mind saying it was your humble scribe – had the sort of epiphany that can really only come from spending nearly 50 years on this planet, living and learning and seeking wisdom. It came to me in a flash like pyro at a Ghost concert and I stood for a silent moment in the hall. The others turned to me, recognizing that we were on the cusp of a moment. I looked into their eyes, so world weary and yet still so youthful. I felt such affection for them. Such responsibility.

I put a hand on each of their shoulders and they leaned in closer to hear my revelation.

“Do you think,” I asked them, my fingers faintly trembling at the magnitude of it all, “that the six is actually a nine?”

And behold, the scales fell from our eyes. And the glory shone all around us as Ken slipped the key into the #9 lock like Cinderella’s foot into the glass slipper and it clicked gently open.

Inside we found a veritable Buddhist paradise, which was perfect for Ken The Zen and much better than creepy love nest with the round bed that we found in Deni’s room.

The road, man.

The Great Room Key Ballsup was a fun way to end what was a day of ups and downs, literally and figuratively. It was a long and at times difficult drive, seven hours into the eastern part of Germany in heavy rain. That part of the country is all hills, kind of like parts of British Columbia. There are tunnels and bridges and traffic and tall evergreen trees lining the highways. It can be incredibly scenic in nice weather, but with road grit and rain splashing against the windshield it’s a tough run.

Of course, Sarah handled it like the pro that she is and we arrived in due time in Suhl. The band has never played there before, but Sarah remembered the room from an earlier solo tour. It’s a small pub like you would find in any neighbourhood in Canada, though it’s probably much older than our places back home. As ever, we were greeted with drinks and smiles from the staff. Eastern Germany is distinctly different from the west. I’ve written about this before. The vibe is different. There is less English. The Cold War is long over, but shades of the old East Germany remain. You can feel it.

But the people are lovely.

We set up on a tiny stage (I had to climb over the drum kit to get out from behind it) and did a sound check before returning the hotel to relax for a bit. I published yesterday’s blog post and then we went back over to the club. We were happy to see our friends Dani and Isabel waiting for us, along with one of the all time greats: our pal Willi, who booked a bunch of our shows in the east. It was great to see him again!

Those were the only familiar faces in an otherwise packed room. Deni went on and did great. The people really liked his stuff, even though I’m sure some of the lyrics were lost in translation. When Deni was finished the Sarah band went up to play and I have to say the energy in the room was awesome from beginning to end. The people loved us. They clapped, they shouted, they cheered. They seemed genuinely happy to have us there, which always feels so nice.

After the first set we ate some fabulous schnitzel masquerading as steak. This has been the tour of great venue food so far.

We played two more sets and the calls for an encore came fast and loud. We gave them one and the calls for another came faster and louder than the first. We kept playing and they loved it. There’s something so special about playing a tiny pub like that for an audience that’s into the show. Yeah, for sure I want to play for 10,000 or 50,000 people somewhere some day, but I will never take a packed and bouncing neighbourhood pub for granted. That’s music at the grassroots level and it’s great.

After the show we packed up and returned to the hotel for my Earth-shattering moment of insight. Sarah went to bed and the lads sampled a California Merlot that we really liked (thanks Tjitske!). Then at last it was bed time. We’ve been staying up pretty late on this tour so far. I’ve been prepared to feel antsy about that at times, but at the end of the day it’s worth a bit of fatigue to share these moments with the guys. You just never know, kids. You never know when it will be the last tour. I know I did a cheeky post about that a few days ago, but it’s actually true. There are no guarantees that I’ll get to do this with Ken and Deni again, so I’m taking all of the opportunities I can to hang out with the guys. They’re two of the best people I know.

I heard it was super hot in Ontario yesterday. Enjoy it while you can, folks. Fall has definitely arrived in Deutschland, and they don’t do heat over here as well as we do back home. The days are dreary and the air is colder now than it was even two weeks ago. But the trees are turning and we’re in the land of wide open vistas. There is much to see. Much to experience. Much to enjoy.

A short drive today and then another room full of faces.

Bis morgen, friends.

*Live photo by Isabel Smile.

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