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  • Writer's pictureJH

Day 18: On Tempos, Python, Impostor Syndrome, and a Fun Show in Gotha, Germany

AVT: 1.5h (Tot. 56h)

ADT: 130 km (Tot. 4,242 km)


“Do you guys understand everything I’m saying?”

“In German or English?”

- Sarah/Deni


It’s an exciting day, gentle reader.

For starters, I just put on my sunglasses for the first time in a week. At long last the persistent sheet of rain that has doused Germany lately seems to have passed, so hopefully things will warm up and dry out again.

For seconders, I just ate my first official pastry of the tour. It was some sort of chocolate/almond croissant thing, purchased on impulse from a gas station and consumed with great enthusiasm.

It’s not easy being the only pastrophile on a tour like this, you know. You wouldn’t let your buddies drink alone, but here I am like the town drunk, eating the sweeties in my conspicuous solitude while the others step over me or look away.

I don’t got a problem, buddy – you got the problem!

Last night we played The Londoner in Gotha. It was our second show at the club, having played there on the tour last year. Gotha’s a cool city. It’s another of these towns in the east that are ancient and beautiful and different from towns in the west. The Londoner is a big room apparently built for anglophiles, with pictures of The Beatles and Monty Python and Mr. Bean on the walls. It also has a big stage, which was a treat after cramming myself into so many corners over the past week.

Can I just say how much I love Monty Python? I really do. And if we’re talking about English comedy that I love, let me add the bizarre sitcom ‘Allo ‘Allo, which is the source of many of the accents I pretend to be able to do (“Knackered by a knockvurst!”).

There’s a fine line between silliness and delirium, kids.

I’m tripping over it today.

The Gotha show turned out to be a good one. We had some people, including Lexi and Kerstin and Isabel and Dani from our German tour party, along with the great Willi the promoter and our new friend Tina. The band played well and the sound was good, thanks in no small part to the fact that Sarah was in charge of sound. We even had a guy in lederhosen on stage with us for a few minutes, and I did something I’ve never done before: used a metronome on stage during a live show.

Sort of.

I won’t go into the technic of all this, but one of the things that’s been bothering me is some inconsistency in our tempos from show to show. Ninety percent of the time we’re in a good pocket, but we haven’t really rehearsed Sarah’s new stuff, so we haven’t dialed it fully in. Normally if you go see a big band play a big stage, the drummer is playing at very least to a click track. For the uninitiated, there’s a click sound keeping time in the drummer’s ear. Sometimes the other band members have it too. Shows at the very highest level tend to be timed to the minute, so click tracks (and backing tracks with vocals and instruments) are used not only to keep the songs in tempo, but the show on time.

Anyway, 90% is good, but I don’t want to be a 90% player. When I say there are subtle things I want to improve, that 10% is what I’m talking about. I’ve never been in a band that needed to use a click on stage before. I’ve used one in the studio lots of times, but never live. I’ve been thinking on this tour about mapping tempos and using a metronome to count them off, so I used a phone app last night that will flash the tempo for me. Now, this is the sort of thing that you should probably experiment with in rehearsal first, but we don’t have that luxury. I had to do it on the fly, and while it was awkward at times, I think it made a big difference to a few of the songs.

And so we improve, beat by beat.

Do you ever wonder why I write so much about the negative part of my playing?

It seems like kind of a dangerous thing to do. I mean, who’s going to hire a drummer with so many weaknesses? I could gloss it over if I wanted to. I could flatter myself or simply not say anything about it at all, but as I’ve written before, I want this blog to be authentic. The fact is I have self-doubt. I deal with impostor syndrome. The point is that it’s okay. Everybody does. Sit down with even the best of the best and I’m willing to bet that if they’re honest, they’ll say they struggle with it sometimes too.

What’s important is how you react to it. What you do with it. Emily Dolan Davies was confronted with timing issues in the studio when she was a young drummer. She might have let her ego respond and either ignored the issue or just quit playing. Instead she applied herself to fixing the problem so it would never happen again. There are things in my playing that I know aren’t where they need to be and where I want them to be. I’m applying myself to working on those too.

So when I write about not playing well, I’m not looking for sympathy or to have my tires pumped. I’m giving you an honest look at the mental game that touring is, and hopefully reassuring you that it’s okay to doubt yourself as long as you keep going. Keep improving. Keep working. Sometimes even the things you love are going to bring you down, especially if you care about them as much as I care about doing this well. Gary Vaynerchuck says you should triple down on your strengths and forget everything else. I agree with that in the macro, but in the micro I think you strengthen your strengths by bringing up your weaknesses.

That’s what I’m trying to do.

Okay, life coaching session over. After the show we hung out with the fans and packed up and laughed with the bar staff at the club. I learned how to say “I love you” in Hungarian but I can’t remember how to say it now. Later we drove back to the hotel. Sarah went to bed and the lads gathered in Deni’s room with great anticipation of events happening in the New World. We had it on good authority that our spouses were having a soiree at Ken’s house in our absence. And so, with spotty Wi-Fi and half asleep at 2:00 a.m., we managed to connect through a series of messages across six phones and enjoy a virtual party for an hour.

As far as we can tell, Ken’s turtle, Norman, had a great time.

We miss our homes and families and turtles und meine drei Katzen. That’s the other side of this coin. We love being here and being together and doing this, but the people who matter most to us are far away. In the very first tour blog, I wrote that I hope we’re worth our absences when we get back home. I still hope that. Doing this is asking a lot of the people who love and depend on us. Thank you to all of them for understanding and encouraging us.

Oh boy, another gas station stop!

This morning I uncorked the pastry genie. Will I be able to put him back in the bottle?

*Live photo by Isabel Smile

#TheRoad #SarahSmith #Gotha #Tour #Impostorsyndrome

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