Tour Diary - June 23, 2019
Say what you will about Wolfmother, dude can play ping pong - but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Today I’m playing another show with Emily and Tori at a small pub/restaurant on the banks of the Elbe River. It’s super quaint and on a bike trail that gets tons of foot/bicycle traffic. The town itself has a population of about 80 people.
Jurgen himself is a bass player, harmonica player and a champion of music and regularly has a performer named Gabriel play here who, I am told, is the German Johnny Cash. I’m shown pictures of their venue packed to the gills* but I’m told it’s pretty warm here today so it may keep people away. Another guy, who has been interrupting, shows me how close the river is. “If you walk down that path it will take you right to a sandy beach and the river.” I go discovering and walk down the path (maybe you saw the video yesterday) and I get down to the river to discover a couple of nude sunbathers. They see me and quickly cover up. I do my best to show that I am not looking. (and I’m really not)
Back at the restaurant we set up pretty easily. There’s a couple of huge trees in front of the restaurant that have been trimmed back so they are like 25 foot tall stumps and the trees didn’t take the hint and started growing new branches and leaves cover most of the giant stump.
We have about an hour before we play and Jurgen is helping me with the menu. By “helping” I mean he is picking out what I’m going to eat. Emily and Tori have both ordered a sandwich with loxs.** I take a picture of the menu so I can know what was ordered for me. We spend lunch talking about our DNA, how that translates into how much we hide from the sun and hiding from the sun. Emily is thankful for her Lebanese heritage when it comes to being in the sun and all this sunshine seems to energize her. Tori is fairly pale and obviously descended from Australian criminals sent there, she hides from the sun like me.
My sandwich comes and I’m hungry but also not super enthused to eat what appears to be eel caught from the river right in front of me. It is very flavorful. Maybe a bit overwhelming at times, it’s super fishy tasting and a bit oily. I get about ¾ of the way thru it before I can’t do anymore.
The sun has passed overhead and is on the backside of noon but it’s still intense, I set up in the shade of this giant stump and start to play. Before I can even start the first song I’m covered in these little bugs. If you know May Flies in the American Northeast - they are annoying like that but way smaller. I look down at my arms and it’s like 50-60 little pencil lines that are crawling on my skin. My guitar is covered in them as well. They are in my nose, in my ears - literally eating me alive. I’m having difficulty playing at all. Jurgen comes out to my defense and sprays some stuff on me. He sprays a puddle of it into my hands and tells me to wipe it over my face, ears and neck. This keeps the bugs away for about 27 seconds.
I don’t remember the rest of my set because I’m in survival mode of just trying to do my time and be done. It’s literally the worst way to play a show.***
Emily and Tori take over and I’m dumbfounded by how they are seemingly unphased by the bugs but it turns out they were being eaten as well. (See pic of Emily’s shoulder) I don’t think it should be a litmus test of “how professional” someone is at their job by how well they can perform it while being eaten by small bugs so I’m not even going to entertain the notion.
We sell some cds, sign some cds and pack up. We’ve actually taken two cars here today because on the way back to Bremen is the Hurricane Festival and my buddy Rami has got us set up with some backstage stuffs and we’re going to go see Foo Fighters tonight. E & T are excited because Wolfmother are going on before FF and that sounds great too, I’ve never heard them live.
This is a pretty huge festival with people camping out for 3 days and everything. We get to the entrance and I ask the guy where the backstage check in is and he says “I can put it in your Navi but I can’t really explain where it is.” “Is it on-site?” “No. it’s a small place in this small town. I think this address works because no one has come back.” I get what he means but it’s an odd turn of phrase - I sent people away and they never come back. Interesting.
I can’t catch E&T as they are already in the parking lot and I have no signal here. The gps is somewhat working, I leave and follow it back past where we just came from, I turn down this little street that looks like it’s going to dead end. Destination is ahead on the left. All I see is some kind of industrial building and then the sign “backstage VIP check in”. And there’s a small temporary trailer set up in front of it with “check in” above it. I get wristbands for the three of us and a VIP parking sticker for the windshield. “VIP parking is kind of tricky to get to, you have to drive around the festival and come in from the other side, it takes about 15 minutes to get there.”
She didn’t lie, super confusing as I leave the town and follow these small signs posted on trees and in front of street lights that say “<-Festival”. I park on one side of the festival and E&T are on the other side. It takes a bit to get to where they are and we finally hook up and I get them there badge things and we go to find stuffs. Wolfmother just finished their set so we missed them. Bummer.
Backstage we can’t get in because we may have “Club Rami” wristbands and “Club Lounge” wristbands but we don’t have the elusive “artist” wristband. I message Rami about this, it’s totally cool, I mean we got into the festival. He messages me back “call me”. As we’re on the phone he literally walks right up to where we are. “Wait here a few minutes, I have to go do this thing and I’ll come back and get you.” Coolio.
The thing I didn’t mention is that Tori just flew into Germany the day before yesterday from Australia and jetlag is catching up to her. She’s still upright but she’s fading. And we all did just play a show in the heat by the river and then drive 90 minutes to get here. After a little bit they decide they are going to split. I’m bummed for them but I get it.
About ten minutes after they leave Rami comes back and he’s like “where’d your friends go?” “they left.” “What? Really? Ok.” He turns to the folks preventing my access to the backstage area and says “what do I need to do to get him back here?” “He needs a green wristband.” Rami reaches in his pocket. “Like this one?” “Yes.” And just like that it’s sorted.
It’s nice catching up with him and we have a good sit down for a bit before it starts getting a little bit crazier. He introduced me to a bunch of folks and it’s crazy to me. He is literally in the biggest band in the world and he introduced me as a peer to everyone, tells them I’m on tour in Germany right now as well and we tell stories going back to when we first started hanging out which I didn’t realize was 2005.
Chris Shiflett walks in with his son and is talking to some folks, I go over to say hey. “Hey Chris, just wanted to say hey…” He looks up at me “What the fuck are you doing here? Are you on tour here?” It’s a nice catch up. I can’t say enough things about these guys. They headline the biggest stages in the world, everyone knows their songs and they are the nicest guys in the world too. I can see Chris is having a hard time getting out of the conversation with this other guy so I step in “I don’t want to keep you Chris, have a great show.” and he uses it as a way to get away.
I have a good conversation with the guys from Hot Milk. I feel very out of it for not knowing them but he gives me his phone and is like “put your name in my IG, I want to find you.” As far as a backstage area it is super chill with folks playing cornhole****, ping pong and just very low key. We’ve been hanging out with the guys from Wolfmother for a while now - talking about how FaceTime or Facebook video calling is the savior of the touring musician. Run of shows in Europe, then he’s off to Canada for a couple of shows, back to Amsterdam to sort his Visa out so he can go to the USA all the while talking to his 4 year old daughter and wife nearly every day.
There’s people getting drunk backstage but they don’t really appear to be the musicians. Everyone has a bunch of shows coming up and lots of travelling so they are taking care of themselves. It’s the opposite of what people think happens.
There’s a ping pong table and I start playing with Andrew from Wolfmother. We’re just knocking it back and forth not really playing but then he says “volley for serve”. We count it out, he wins the serve. By the time the score is 7-6 we realize that it’s all of a sudden gotten super competitive and we’re both going for the win. He squeaks out the victory 22-20 and we both acknowledge that as the most competitive game of ping pong either of us have had in years. Thru the course of hanging with these guys I have become a fan of Wolfmother. I missed their set but know their rock and I’m fans of the dudes and that carries thru.
It’s nearly time for the Foos to start and I wander over towards the other stage. Oh, shit. I didn’t realize The Cure were playing! I hear a couple of songs including “Friday I’m in Love” and I call Tracy on the phone. We have a short conversation but I really miss her. My idea for when I started The Fallen Stars was that she and I would tour the world together and now that I’m “solo” I’m still touring but by myself. You get bits of guilt for enjoying yourself without her. I blame catholicism for all my existential guilt.
While talking to one of the bands earlier, they are mentioning that after this festival they are all piling into a van to do more touring. No more tour bus, need to save money on the road. I tell them that I too have downsized. “What are you touring in?” “A Ford Fiesta by myself.” “Shit, you’re by yourself? That’s intense.” “In a Fiesta? The mpg’s must be great!” “How many shows you doing?” I tell them that I have 38 shows in the first 42 days of my tour and they are all shocked by that schedule and doing it alone.*****
The Foos take the stage and it’s “The Pretender” straight away and you literally forget what a machine they are. Just a huge rock and roll machine that comes at you relentlessly for the first few numbers. I think to myself “oh yeah, they pretty much are the biggest band in the world for a reason.” I have never met Dave but there’s one thing he doesn’t do and that’s ‘phone it in’, the dude works for it every night. “Wheels” is a FF song that I forget about until they play it and it comes off huge with lots of Rami’s keyboards in there. When they go around and do introductions Chris plays a sped up rocked up version of The Cure’s “Just like heaven” guitar part that is a nod to the band that just finished about a ¼ mile away. Taylor gets out from behind the drumkit and sings lead on “Under Pressure” and Dave gets on the drums. Taylor doesn’t sound like Freddie Mercury but he’s got a great voice and when the song ends with Dave doing his famous Nirvana teen spirit drum fill and then ends the song it’s a sublime tip of the hat that’s just awesome. They play for 2+ hours and are ushered off stage with a police escort back to their hotel. My phone is dead by this point but by the time I get power back on there’s a message from Rami saying sorry he couldn’t meet up after the show...you know, police escort and everything.
I forgive him.
I have new gas in my tank. Thanks guys for being such great role models and saviors of rock and roll.
It’s time for rock and roll dreams.
*Fish reference, this comes up again later.
**What is the plural of Lox? Locks? Loxes? I don’t know. It’s fish.
***Well, outdoors in a thunderstorm is also pretty terrible but this is a close second.
****I’ve seen 5 year olds play corn hole with more accuracy but the level of fun everyone was having was on par with a 5 year old. That is meant as a good thing.
*****Well, almost all alone. I have 2 or 3 shows with my band here and Emily has driven twice now.