Tour Diary - June 26-27
I’m a day behind. I can’t let it go further than that.
Wednesday I finish up hopefully the last bits of paperwork for the release of The Red Wheelbarrow, got the barcode to pass on to Cris Barber, my graphics designer, and forward to S&W so they have the stuffs and now I can make more cds at a place in Poland.(1)
Ozlum is the restaurant on the corner by the flat that I’ve eaten at every year I’ve been here. They have great doner as well as you can get a half a rotisserie chicken, salad and some rice for like 5 euro. I’m feeling a little tired and as I walk in the guy behind the counter just lights me up, “You’re back!” Instantly brightens up my mood. “How long your here for?” His English has gotten much better since last year. “I’m here...until...Juli sechsundzwanzig.” “Ah, your Deutsche is better!” “Ich versuche.” (I am trying) “I listen to your cd all the time. It is very good.” I’m pretty sure I gave him one last year and I’m just flattered that he listened to it at all and then he hums a little bit of Angelia. Goddamn that’s awesome. I order my chicken, rice and salad and he throws some other food into the bag as well. I may not be huge on the radio but the people that make my food like me and that’s not nothing.
Tonight I’m playing with Ben Lorentzen at a small art gallery called Nunatek. It’s in a section of Bremen that feels...less developed and a bit run down. Well it did last year when I played the outdoor festival there. This time it feels less run down and actually feels like an area that is developing. I don’t know how to explain it but last year it felt like the neighborhood was hanging on by a thread and this year they have made that thread into a blanket. There’s more people around, more businesses open than there were last year and just feels like it’s growing.
Nunatak has an art exhibit that is some large portrait types of photographs and they are very stark. I’m not sure what the artist was going for but it’s definitely art. There’s a small stage and a PA system set up and I’m anxious to hear Ben play a full set. He and I did a small thing together...last week? It seemed like yesterday but clearly was not.
Now I like pedals and effects and guitars and what not but what Ben is carrying around is what the guitar magazines call “fuckall”. Two pedaltrain PT-2 pedalboards, a separate board just for his vocal mic looping...a bunch of Boss FS-2’s, a dual microphone set up. And he has it dialed in. He has so many options at his feet it makes me uncomfortable for how to remember where everything gets plugged in and I’m kind of a “too many pedals” guy myself.
His set goes very well. He has one song that he builds a loop doing like a beatbox with his voice and then a vocal line on top of that, a harmony on top of that and then a higher harmony on top of that and then sings lead over it. He has another song where he has a pre-recorded violin part play a solo over what he’s doing and how he stays in time I do not know. He sings in Norwegian and English(2) and it’s very dark and moody.
It’s always interesting when you play shows with other folks like this because it starts to get in your brain about what *you* do. And I’m starting to get the feeling that what I do is going to cause some kind of shocking reaction just by how different I am.(3)
Ben finishes his set and I get ready to start. I’m just feeling my way around. I decided to just bring my Gibson 6 string and nothing else tonight and I’m regretting not bringing my 12 string or signature model. They would’ve been good in this room. I start out sort of rocking and then just let the feel and mood of the room guide me. As I get to the end of my set I unplug, get off stage and sing just in the room walking back and forth just in front of them. It’s one of those nights where this is better. There’s been too much distance and this closes it. I play my last two songs completely unplugged and it’s perfect. I’m getting ready to put my guitar down and there’s a call for an encore, I turn around to get ready to play and Ben has joined me. “What Bob Dylan songs do you know?” “Umm, I know ‘tonight I’ll be staying here with you.’ Do you know it?” “No, but I’ll follow along. And we play it and then he takes over with “I shall be released” and I play along with him. It’s a nice end to the night.
We move some merch and pack up and agree to meet back at the flat for some wine and hanging out.
I do like wine. I will go weeks at a time without drinking anything alcoholic. But there is something about this life that lends itself to imbibing in the grape. I mean - I’ve worked in band rehearsal spaces and for some musicians being in a ‘band’ is just their excuse to drink on a school night. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had some wine before I’ve played, it’s just a different trip, you know? It doesn’t work for me. But after the gig, after the load out, after I’ve driven back to where I’m staying ~ then I like to have a glass of red wine.
Ben has bought a nice bottle. I think it was a 6 euro Chilean wine and it goes well with a bag of crisps. We talk about albums and recording and family and the 4 or 5 people at the show tonight that looked out the window the entire time they were there during both of our sets.
I sleep well and end up dreaming about the band The Church and how I’m their new guitar player and I’m in a recording studio with Steve Kilbey and he says to me “Do you know all our songs?” and I say “No.” and he says “Someone told me you were good, I’m not worried.” and I said “Well I am.” end of dream.
I have a meeting with Heiko Grein and Todd Partridge today.(4) For about the eighth time in two weeks I have a conversation about business communication and how it’s a new field of learning to get different cultures to communicate better. And I compliment Heiko about the growth in his communication skills. He says “Really?” and I tell him how when I first met him I would say “Hi, how are you doing?” and he would say “Today you are driving to Hannover…” It was all business but now he’s a regular Chatty Cathy.(5)
Todd and I work out some details about how we’ll be doing the sets/shows together and we make vague plans on working out some songs together that we will most likely leave until the last possible moment to work out. I’m not scared. It’s not like we’re going to have a melt down in front of a couple hundred people on stage - that only happens between me and Kaurna Cronin and that was ages ago.(6) Todd is from Iowa and it makes me think about my song “Sioux City” and I’m contemplating digging it out. I tell Heiko and Todd a very un-sharable story about my time in Iowa with my best friends a bunch of years ago and we have a nice lunchtime meeting.
Back at the flat and we’re lazily singing and strumming some stuffs and Emily and I sort of work out a cool cover of The Church’s “Under the Milky Way”. I don’t know if we’ll play it but it was nice and pretty different. We’re also trying to come up with what to do at the Breminale finale. One thing we agree on is that we should all do a cover by a female songwriter.
It’s an odd time to be a dude singing with a guitar because shit, I’m tired of hearing dudes with guitars. I love the fact that I’m sharing shows with these two amazingly talented singers/ songwriters and violinist. Oh yeah, and they’re women on top of that. Not like the “you’re pretty good for a girl” bollacks. These two are seriously great musicians that I’m regularly in awe of their sets.(7)
I have completely lost my train of thought.
Tonight I’m playing with Emily and Tori Phillips in a Marketplace area that is like a really upscale food court. The PA is super nice (if you’re in front of it) and super weird (if you’re performing). There’s a subwoofer to the left of where you’re standing and two other speakers in front of the stage. It’s a big open atrium with a fair amount of sound happening on it’s own and so there’s no real bounce back of sound. I get off mic a little bit and just let it go. I keep my set pretty upbeat and in a place like this I don’t really tell much before hardly any of the songs. It seems to go pretty well. People like it, there’s money in the hat. No real cd sales but people want me to autograph my postcard. Ok, I can do that.
E&T take the stage and just sound fantastic. I’m wishing I knew what the out front sound, sounded like while I was playing. There’s no way I sounded this good. For such a great sounding system, for the audience, it’s a truly difficult sound situation for the performer with nothing on stage except a low end rumble from the subwoofer. I’m getting to know their songs quite well and find myself singing along a bunch of times. They don’t do many covers but the covers they do go over huge and they’re “Rocket Man” and “Old Man”.(8) It has me really thinking about adding something classic to my set but for the life of me I can’t come up with anything. I know I know a lot of songs but absolutely nothing is coming to mind as something so perfectly that sort of encapsulates what they do like their choice of covers. I mean, I throw covers in my set all the time but no one seems to know that they are covers even if I say they are. I’m so hip even my covers aren’t hits.
And then my brain just goes on a little ride. Why don’t I play popular songs? Am I so set and determined to make songs that I think are great but are unknown more popular with people that don’t know them? Am I a songwriting communist in that regard, playing “Dam” and subconsciously telling people “What do you mean you don’t know who Matthew Ryan is? Everyone should know him! His stuff is brilliant!”
E&T harmonize so beautifully that they make “old man” sound new again and it fits in with their *thing*, that showcases their harmonies and Tori’s fantastic violin playing.
I guess that’s my *thing* - taking relatively unknown songs written by friends of mine and bringing them to a wider audience. “You might know this next song, it’s by a band that came in third place in the WBCN Rock-n-Roll Rumble in 1983, of course it’s the mighty Del Fuegos! What? You don’t know them? How about Treat her Right or Scruffy the Cat? Screw it, here’s a Tom Petty song.”
After tonight’s show Emily and Tori say it was one of my better performances.
What do I know? Truly and apparently - nothing. I go to the John Snow school of life lessons.
Patrick was our liaison at the venue tonight and he makes sure we don’t want or need for anything. I heard someone say there was Thai food here and I seek out some yellow curry chicken and rice that is fantastic. E&T go full meato with a pair of hamburgers and we hung out with our fans/friends that came tonight(9) and I end up having a really long chat with Heike. She tells me how she had to stop listening to music for quite some time because it was too emotional for her to listen to and now she listens to mostly Songs & Whispers artists all the time. And I have to say - while I’m playing she was singing along with most of my set - and I can’t emphasize how powerful that is to see while you’re performing. I ask her about some of her favorite music and I tell her that I will share some of mine with her and I’m making friends here. I know that sounds corny but all we have in life are our connections with people and I’m so very fortunate to have this kind of opportunity to travel to the other side of the world, meet amazing people and get to be part of their lives, even if just for a little while.
(1)Why Poland? Well, because I’m here in Europe and if they are printed in Poland and paid for from a European bank account I don’t have to pay the U.S. VAT/Tax on them. There are other taxes but it’s a bit of a work around. I’m all about the work around.
(2)And possibly another language but I forget.
(3)It doesn’t. People are adaptable to more than one style of music and the differences between us are probably more exaggerated in my brain. We’re both dudes singing song on Gibson guitars. How different could we be?
(4)Heiko runs the S&W label/booking agency and Todd is another singer/songwriter that I’m doing shows with and am sometimes billed as a duo with. I know - it’s confusing and we’re trying to sort it out.
(5)He is probably going to read this so I should explain what a ‘Chatty Cathy’ is and how he’s not really that, I’m exaggerating for effect. A Chatty Cathy is a person that doesn’t stop talking. Heiko is not that but comparatively to how it used to be. It’s good. The end. Not just that but he bought me lunch too!
(6)Ok, maybe it was 2 years ago.
(7)Because remember, I’m a man and they must need validation from me. :/ I’m seriously trying to give a compliment but even when I do it still feels like it’s coming out condescending. ARGH!!!!
(8)They did a Van Morrison song the other day too and just smashed it.
(9)Happy Birthday Kevin! Enjoy your frangelico!