European Tour September 2014 Part 1
First off, a note about language and pronunciation (pro-nun-ski-ay-shkun) from Johnny K:
I'm not proud of this, but I've been to the Netherlands 4 times in the last 3 years,
and still don't know how to do some really basic things like count to 10 in Dutch.
Don't know how to say the days of the week or even how to say "bathroom" in
Dutch. Of course it's not really necessary, because every Dutch person you meet
will speak perfect English, (and probably German and French as well.) This sets it
apart from most European countries, and it means that as an American, it's possible
to have quality conversations with people who are from a totally different culture.
In Germany, for example, many people spoke excellent English, but often we had to
rely on pointing and hand signals.
Before going to Spain or France you might think about "brushing up" on your high
school Spanish or French so that you could order a meal or book a hotel room
But you don't hear people saying they are going to "brush up on their Dutch" before
going to The Netherlands. There's a reason for that: it's a really difficult language to
read, write and speak, with letter combinations that test your eyesight and sounds
that have never and will never occur in English. This time we resolved to at least
attempt to pronounce the names of the cities where we were performing, which
turned out to be more difficult than we thought.
For example, a simple sentence like "Hi, it's great to be performing here in Wijk bij
Duurstede" turns out to take several days of practice. (vike-by-doershtead) Another
tongue twister was a radio show we played in Ijmuiden, (eye-maow-den) or one of
our favorite places Vriezenveen (vree-zen-vain). But in each case here, there are
subtleties that become apparent when you try to say them to a Dutch person, who
will patiently tell you where you went wrong trying to pronounce an umlaut.
That patience comes from the fact that the Dutch have been hearing people
mispronounce their language for centuries. We could tell they appreciated the effort
we made to say their words, but also suspect that THEY SECRETLY LOVE IT that
their language is next-to-impossible to pronounce, no doubt giving them a feeling of
superiority over us Yanks. America may rule the free world, but we will never speak Dutch."
I always start the trip by flying to Cologne, Germany where I rent the van and pick up gear from Ralf and Kristin at Tonehunter. Ralf has supplied me with a pedalboard, a guitar and one of his killer amplifiers on each of our four tours and also let's me keep our t-shirts and CDs in his storage room. It's a win-win for us; Tonehunter gets exposure and I get to play one of Ralf's killer amps. (www.tonehunter.de) We have gotten to be great friends over the years, and have dinners at his house and my favorite Cologne restaurant the Bitzhof every visit. I am priveledged to have such great friends!
The Tonehunter TNT rig!
After taking the back seat out of the Mercedes Vito van and putting in Ralf's storage room, we loaded the gear, and I set out for Anko Lammer's house in Vriezenveen, just across the Dutch boarder. I arrived at the train station in neighboring town Almelo to pick up John, Eric and Carl who came straight from the Amsterdam airport.
This time Anko had a surprise for me - a kick drum head with the DT Band skull! Yeah! What a stud. (Thanks Anko)
We set up the gear and had a short rehearsal before the travel burn really set in. And as it is becoming the custom, we drove in to Almelo and had salmon at the Shamrock restaurant. Beers for me and Carl, "water with gas" for John, and Eric discovered a cool non-alcoholic beer. Gotta have a good meal to start the trip.
After dinner, it was only Carl and me with enough stamina to have a couple of whiskeys with Anko. (Also, we are the only ones in the band who drink.) You have to be careful though, his collection is impressive! Had to keep the taste testing to a minimum.
The next day after some well deserved rest we headed to our first show in Sittard at the Volt café. It' was only a 2/12 hour drive. When we arrived we thought it funny that they had a bunch of furniture on the stage, with almost no room for our gear. Even though they set up three microphones, they thought there would only be one of us. (What?) ...
After we removed the furniture and took over the stage, we had a nice crowd that night and people were even watching from the outside windows.
That night we stayed at Theo and Astrid's place in nearby Geleen which is in a community center building with three floors of stages and ballroom areas. Like many of the places we stay in, this set up reminded me of a military barracks. We ended up staying there a few nights, and one morning we woke up to a chicken and rabbit show. Not kidding.
Theo and Astrid's place where the bunnies get together
The next night we played in a town called Echt (one of the easier names to pronounce on this tour) at a club called Stoba. We started at about 9 PM and the place was suddenly packed. These first two gigs were good for us because we were set up in small spaces, and could really hear each other well. We were honing our set quickly, and it paid off when we played much bigger stages later in the tour.
And the next gig did involve a bigger stage! We drove into southern Germany to a small town called Schmölz east of Frankfurt in an area known as Franken. Beautiful rolling hills and farmland stretched all around us. The gig was in a tent next to an old castle. They served beer in huge 'steins', so Carl and I had to be careful of how much we drank. We have gotten used to the little 10 oz glasses they use in Holland. They let us keep one of these, so Carl and I have official Franken steins. Heh.
The crowd loved us, and wanted three encores!
Schmölzer Blues Tage Tent
Crowd at the Schmölzer Blues Tage
We got moving the next morning and drove back to the southern tip of the Netherlands for a gig at Café Zaal de Reunie in Geleen- which was Theo and Astrid's bar. Sunday gigs are mellow, and we chillaxed our way through a couple of sets.
No show on the following day- so we drove into Amsterdam and stayed again at the Holiday Inn Express- the one with the cool blue light in the bathrooms. After checking in early, we took the tram to the museum district and got a good fix of Van Gogh! Don't even try to pronounce his name like the Dutch do; it sounds like you need to clear your throat!
We had some good food that night and wandered around the city, taking pictures like annoying tourists. It's a picturesque town for sure, with all of the canals and buildings from the 1500's and on.
The next day we made a short trip to IJmuiden (pronounced eye-mow-den), checked into our hotel and relaxed for a bit. That evening we drove to the Bluestrain FM studio and played an on-air set for hosts Rob and Ivy. Apparently the show is very popular, and we were grinning at the haphazard, gonzo style in which it is produced. Any comments John Kessler? It sure isn't KPLU. Hahahaha.
Bluestrain FM in IJmuiden
Continuing with the "Cities I Can't Pronounce" tour, we drove to Wijk bij Duurstede, one of the oldest villages in the Netherlands. We arrived early (mercifully short drives in this country), checked into our hotel and wandered the village. We met Carolien and Ton, who run Café Ome Ko, where we played that night. Carolien suggested a café on the canals by an old windmill. The weather had been fantastic for the whole tour so far, and we really took advantage of it. After lunch, we checked out the local church where the church lady let Eric played an old steam organ.
The gig that night was killer- the little place was packed (typical of all of our Dutch dates) and was even attended by the church lady!
Eric plays the pipe organ in Wijk bij Duurstede
Chilling by the old windmill in Wijk bij Duurstede
"Oh Well" from the Cafe Ome Ko show in Wijk bij Duurstede
Part 2 - POLAND Things Are Heating Up!
For all tour photos, click HERE and scroll down...