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  • Writer's pictureJH

Day 27/28: Friends, Family, Tattoos, a 900-Year-Old Church, and Deni's Head Gets Set on Fire in

AVT: N/A (Tot. 72.5h)

ADT: N/A (Tot. 5,433 km)


"You no longer look like someone I'd ask for help. You look like someone I'd ask TO help."

- Ken (on his impression of my tour goatee)


Yes I took yesterday off.

How can I write about things if I don’t take time to experience them? Sometimes the day gets away from you, and since it was a day off for the band, I decided to let it go. I don’t mind telling you it was a great day. Tattoos, wine parties, 900-year-old church. It had a bit of everything.

But let’s skip back to the night before, shall we?

When last we spoke, the band had played a memorable acoustic show at Apotheke in Lippstadt, Germany. I don’t mind telling you that Lippstadt is one of my favourite cities in Deutschland. We’ve spent more time there than most other cities, so there are a lot of memories. Shows and people and moments. It’s a very pretty, partly medieval town. We were there for three days – which feels like two weeks in road time – playing shows and spending time with friends.

The night after the acoustic show we were booked to play a kind of grand opening event at Apotheke. It was what we in the business call a wallflower (or wallpaper) gig. We’re background music. People listen or they don’t. You’ve seen this before. Hors d'oeuvres carried on platters by waitresses in black skirts. Dim light. People laughing. We played some covers and some Sarah originals quietly in the corner. It was actually very fun. We play a lot, but we very rarely just play for each other and jam. The vibe was relaxed and affectionate and we had a good time.

The few people in attendance who were paying attention were treated to a monumental first: the debut of the Deni Gauthier/Johnny Boy duo. You may or may not know that I play sometimes in Deni’s full band back home. I really love playing those shows when I get the chance. The circumstances were right the other night for us to test out a couple of songs duo-style and I think it went really well. Deni’s songs are ripe for the kinds of harmonies I like to sing and his new songs in particular are fun for a drummer. Maybe we’ll do more of that in the future, I don’t know. I hope so.

So the wallflower gig was fun and easy. Apotheke took great care of us again and we so appreciate it. After the show we hung out at the club laughing with our friends. We’ve been able to do quite a bit of that on this tour and they have been special times. Again, you never know which time will be the last time, so you try to make memories while you can. It’s the same in every day life, really. Maybe we should assign more meaning and significance to those moments we have with the people we love. Those morning coffees. That shared suffering at work. Tonight’s game with your rec soccer team.

You just never know, kids.

Yesterday was definitely a day to remember. Deni and I awoke at the insane hour of 9:30 a.m. or something and set off on a very important mission: find Deni some cool Euro clothes. We have a friend who runs a super hip clothing store in Lippstadt, so we were determined to take advantage. But first, coffee. The old part of Lippstadt is very charming. It’s mostly a walking district, with people strolling along the brick streets past shops and restaurants and buildings old enough to seem fake. The whole three days we moved under the growing shadow of an enormous Ferris wheel that was being erected for a big fall celebration this weekend.

Deni and I found a café and had coffee. Then we went to Maennersache Clothing to see what we could see. And what I saw, gentle reader, was a collection of cool hats that I couldn’t resist trying on. I love hats.

Well, that’s misleading. I love taking pictures of me wearing hats in stores and backstage at theatre gigs. I’m not sure I love wearing hats beyond stores and stages. Marc Maron has a funny bit in his most recent stand-up special about the bizarre allure of hats that is so powerful in the store, but disappears completely the second you step outside. Then you’re left standing on the street thinking, “I’m never going to wear this hat. Why did I buy this hat?!”

Deni found something more practical in the form of a cool t-shirt. We also showed great maturity and restraint by refusing the offer of an 11:00 a.m. whisky, so I guess that means we’re growing up.

After the shopping, we convened with our friends Tanja and Heike and Heike’s son for a private historical walking tour of Lippstadt. I found it fascinating, but I have a weird thing with history. I won’t give you the whole story here. The city was founded in the 1200s by the upwardly mobile Lippe family. They had a big estate and built a monastery and then decided to build a town so people would pay them to live there. We looked at a diorama of the town, then hit a couple of very old buildings where Prussian kings had walked and conducted business over the centuries.

The highlight … well, there were a couple. We visited a pretty incredible old church that dates I think to the 1200s. Just a magnificent piece of architecture. How did they do that back then? I told you when I wrote about our visit to Bergen-Belsen that I try to see things as they were. You really have to use your imagination at a place like B-B because so much what was there is gone. The church is still there, so it’s easier to imagine the people building it, the generations of worshippers coming and going, the joy and sadness those thick stone walls have absorbed over hundreds and hundreds of years.

See the people in their clothing. See them walk through those heavy doors back out into a world utterly unlike our own. See them wave to each other. See the sun on their shoulders or maybe the rain. That was a world that existed. Many worlds over time. It just fascinates me.

After the church we walked over to the remains of the Lippe estate itself. The walls of the monastery remain, though they’re propped up now by supports. It’s something like 800 years old. Again, you imagine generations of priests and nuns living there. Walking the grounds. It’s a beautiful setting. Very serene. It made me think ruins we’ve seen in the Netherlands that are famous in part because Napoleon’s troops sheltered in them 200 years ago. I so love this element of our tours over here. Show me the old stuff. Show me where it happened, even if it was awful. I’m a history person. I want to feel it if I can.

After the walking tour it was time for another Deni quest. Frankly, he’s been looking like hell over the past couple of weeks. We were all passing concerned glances behind his back, but nobody said anything about it until he finally came out and admitted that he needed a hair cut and beard trim. His hair was really becoming a problem. I think it was probably almost a full centimetre long at one point. Freakin’ hippie. It took us a couple of days (barbers don’t work on Mondays in Germany), but we finally sat him in a chair at a Turkish barber shop and they went to work on him.


Like, the dude literally singed the hair off Deni’s ears with fire. It was awesome. And I have to say, when they adjusted his faceplate and buffed a month of roadwork off him, Deni looked like a hundred bucks. Felt like it too. I wonder sometimes what it’s like for mortals who age the way Deni does. Those of us who are perpetually angelic, immune to fatigue, and GQ-ready around the clock have trouble understanding your tweezing and trimming and waxing and clipping and the things you do with cucumber slices. I can’t deny the results, though, temporary as they may be.

As we were shaving the years from Deni’s face, Sarah and Lesley were on an adventure of their own. They were a few streets over at another barber shop/tattoo joint having matching sets of lips etched into their hands by an 11-year-old tattoo artist – symbolic of Lippstadt, of course. Good thing they didn’t decide to get tattoos in Hamburg.

Later we piled into Heike’s family bus for a ride out to her farm, where we convened with chickens and horses and ponies and a reluctant sheep before we enjoyed a wonderful vegetarian dinner. Heike and her family were so generous to us. It was great to sit around the table with her, her husband Martin, and two of their three kids. Our thanks to all of them.

We were in the glow of dinner when I realized that I forgot to bring Heike’s wine with us.

Let me explain.

A few weeks ago, Heike brought me a bottle of red wine with the instruction that we couldn’t open it until she could share it with us. Thus, the bottle has been riding around in the van awaiting our trip to her house. We didn’t take our van to her house, and I can barely remember my own name half the time, so it completely slipped my mind.


The solution was for Heike to come back into town with us to drink the wine. And so it came to pass that Heike, Deni, Lesley, and I enjoyed a glass of what was a terrific bottle. Then the celebration spilled across the street, where Deni, Tanja, Heike, and I ate some pretty tasty pretzel bread and laughed and laughed and laughed. Again, these are the things you remember when all is said and done, friends. Weird shows and abandoned castles and midnight pretzel bread with friends. These things and these people become the story.

This is probably the longest post in the history of the Sarah Smith Euro tour blog. Sorry. There was a lot to talk about.

We’re back in the van now on a seven-hour run to Nürtingen. Three days of civilization have made us a bit less feral, but I’m watching Deni’s hair grow out from my place in the back seat. Tonight we play with our friends Gracefire for the first time. We haven’t done a proper plugged in rock show in a while and we’re looking forward to it.

We’re on the downslope now. Less than two weeks to go.

Time flies, gentle reader.

Don’t forget to make those memories.

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