Tour Diary - June 13, 2019
(A bit Guitar Geek Warning to start)
Ran a few errands and picked up my 12 string guitar from Heiko. Tomorrow I will go to the warehouse and find my signature guitar, I think that’s where I left it. I’m like the Johnny Appleseed of musical instruments, leaving a trail of them behind me. At this point I don’t even know how many mandolins I own, have owned or given away.*
Hardware stores are not easily found around here, I found a small shop and went looking for some wire cutters/plier type things that I could cut guitar strings with, there were none exactly what I needed but found some close enough for 3.50 euro, then picked up some falafel konig for lunch (also 3.50 euro) and came home to change strings on my telecaster and twelve string. Five (5) strings into the changing and the clippers stop working, the metal is so cheap that the strings have made indentations on the clippers and now cutting strings is a two handed squeeze with one hand and wiggle the string with the second hand to break/cut it.
Back to the Thomann website (online music store in Europe) and buy some clippers to have sent to me. Mmmm, music store shopping.
After I get my twelve string restrung I give it a strum and it’s fretting out up and down the neck. Now I need an allen wrench to adjust the truss rod in the neck. Dammit.
Then it’s time to leave for my show at Spatz und Wal** in Unna. It’s a classic bar in a little town that usually has a decent crowd. It’s about a 2.5 hour drive to get there and takes longer today as there are two broken down freight trucks at different points of my journey and a bunch of construction as well. Road construction is a constant in the summer months in Germany and it’s totally worth it, these roads are so easy and nice to drive on. There isn’t a mile of freeway in Southern California that can compare to a mile of freeway here.
Spatz und Wal has had a water damage and the old antique bar had to be replaced but the place looks great. It’s lost a little bit of it’s old timey charm but is now more open and I dare say, a better lay out.
I start setting up beneath the PA speakers and looking out at the sparseness of the audience. It’s a nice night with a touch of rain in the air and just not a lot of folks here. I look around and surprisingly there aren’t any posters with my face on them, there usually are when I’m here. Bummer. And then a couple of folks walk in wearing a Riddle & The Stars t-shirt. I recognize them straight away but can’t put the names together.
“Is Tracy coming?”
My heart sinks. “No. Just me.”
“Oh, that’s alright too. This was the only show you have close to us.”
“Oh, do you live around here?”
“Maybe about 30 miles away.”
I may have been tired on the way here with residual jetlag but seeing them wakes me up quite a bit.
The PA sounds pretty good as I’m using the venues mixer and PA speakers and my little monitor going out of the headphone jack of their mixer so I can hear myself. There’s always a bit of Rube Goldberg-ing different systems together that I can’t tell if I actually enjoy the challenge of it or am frustrated by always being challenged to figure it out.
Before I start the bartender tells me that if I get anything to eat at the restaurant across the street under 10 euro, the bar will buy it for me. Good deal. But what I really need right now is a parking spot! Up two streets, thru the light and on the right, down a residential neighborhood and that’s where I leave my car. There’s nowhere else to park.
It’s a good rocking set and I try a couple of new things, throw in a Riddle & The Stars song for good measure. It’s a mix of people listening and talking. I start to introduce a song and notice I have more folks attention and so I tell the story with it and it goes even better. I do some looping with my pedals and make a good amount of racket with a couple of songs and they go over well. Sometimes you think they will like the pretty or the well put together type song but the disjointed and strange often stands out better.
I don’t know. But I do know that the more I’m into it, the more they are into it.
During the break I talk to Thomas and Ella for a bit. We exchange some different things we’re listening to some other shows and what-not. Thomas tells me about going to a punk rock show with his son and the band they see is a very political, very anti-nazi punk band and he says “I was so drenched in sweat by the end of it - I had to change clothes to get in the car.” It’s positive energy. The subject turns to politics and he says “I don’t understand how the far right is coming back, we all went to the same schools and this is not progress this is moving backwards. Why can’t people see that? We have lived with no war for 70 years, why do people want to change that?” I commiserate with them. I tell them about seeing the white supremacist flag painted on the side of a barn in Kansas and how it made me want to burn down a barn.
Ella’s mother passed away recently and they mention how they are not waiting until they are older to do things, they are doing them now. I tell them about my Mom coming to visit at the end of my tour and they ask what it’s like traveling with my mother as an adult. “It’s actually pretty good because we’re not dependent upon her cooking.”
I finish rocking the next set and pack up. I go around the room and thank folks for listening and sell a few cds. Ella gives me a hug and Thomas and I shake hands and I thank them for making the trip. Thomas asks to buy one of the new Firefly cds. Dammit! I only brought a few to give to Rebekka in Brake! I take down his address and will send him one. I finish packing up and figure I’ll be back in Bremen by 1:30 am or so. Not bad. In the past two nights I've made as much as I made in the last 8 shows in Southern California.
One of Tracy’s favorite books is “Parable of the Sower” by Octavia Butler and I don’t know much about it at all but have downloaded the audiobook of it so I put it on during the ride home. It’s not an easy or “light” book. This is heavy stuff but it starts talking about “positive energy” and I’m not getting the quote right but it ties into the punk rock show that Thomas was telling me about. Be a force for good.
I’m thinking about this as I drive and listen. I have a little over an hour left to drive but I have to pull over and close my eyes for a few minutes, maybe and hour because I have not kicked the jetlag yet.
I park next to the big rigs and a VW campervan in the rest area, take my travel pillow out and zip up my hoodie, it’s 11:30, I’ll sleep for an hour and then drive the rest of the way home.
I wake up at 6 am in the car. I guess I was tired.
Drive home, write tour diary. I think I’ll go take a nap now.
*I know that I have my 1940 Gibson Kalamazoo mandolin at home and I’m not giving that one away.
**Spatz und Wal means Sparrow and Whale. It’s the name of a bar, I’ve played it a bunch of times. Usually there’s a crowd of metal heads there that are surprisingly into whatever I’m doing but it’s always a job to win them over. I know it’s death metal bands that they listen to because their shirts and jackets usually have the band names on them in the most unreadable fonts and you just end up staring at a shirt thinking “does that say ‘Decide’ or ‘Deicide’?” But I do have to admit to a favorite death metal band name: “We butter the bread with butter” is a band name that is so good the band can’t possibly live up to that moniker.