…bypassing the months of planning, booking, “networking” and nerve-wracking organisationisms leading up to it, we cut straight to the chase – the first flight, the behemoth 17 hour 40 minutes to Doha ex Auckland, NZ. Which was followed by an 8 hour vaguely meditative wait til the 5 or so hour flight to Vienna, Austria..
I was met by family for four days of recuperating and adjusting to being on the other side of planet earth where a record breaking long, hot, dry summer was evident and much discussed in broken English and my non-existent Deustch. A great respite. Familial hospitality , bush walks, lake swims, litres and litres of beer and plate after plate of great vegetarian Viennese food devoured gratefully. I was about to tackle head-on the myth that a vegetarian Alley is not genetically capable of getting even remotely obese..
“Let the tour begin!” went the internalized battle cry as I was dropped days later at Wien Hauptbahnhof to scan the platform displays for signs of my sleek rather long steel-wheeled limo..
“Thar she blows! Gleis 1!!” went another cry as the ICE26 rolled in dutifully and on time. Only 9 hours to Koblenz today, pffft, I can do that in my sleep! Sleep, or a close imitation of, was disrupted at some stage by a fellow passenger dropping his rather metallic, heavy suitcase directly onto the top of my head from the decent height of the luggage rack above, compacting quite painfully my neck and top half of the spine with a slip, crackle and pop. The looks of horror from those nearby and indeed from the mortified perpetrator dude forced me to practice Deutsch, “alles gut, alles gut, kein problem..” in that no-fuss kiwi manner. Of course no-one understood a word and continued to stare and admonish with looks of disbelief the afore-mentioned apologetic dude. I asked the lady next to me in perfect English with a German accent “Any blood?” pointing to what I could feel to be a rather decent gathering of angered cells. Luckily the skin was not broken and an incredible bruise in the shape of a piece of Toblerone rapidly began forming in what I could only imagine to be quite Everestial proportions.. I’m glad to report, I lived..
Without further excitement the train reached Koblenz in time for the Cochem connection and on to meet my old buddy Jon, (Doctor, Herr) Sanders.
The welcome to the Mosel valley (not counting the curiously inebriated lady on the local train) was most pleasant and greetings not shared in the northern hemisphere for many a year were exchanged and on to the house it was..
A couple of days rehearsing, sight-seeing (800 year old Roman ruins and cliff-face grape vines out the front door) and working on the weight gain then it was on to the first concert after a jaunt back to Koblenz to collect the one and only Rod, the mighty, chilled, drummer buddy of many a year. After sound checks, a couple more rehearsals, where I thought my trusty old Maton (Numero uno) was done for briefly with a loud hideous hum superceding her dulcet tones, the first concert was met with rapturous applause and bridled frivolity amoungst the gathered. Jamming on a full set of new and not so new originals with Jon & Rod was bliss, pure and simple. Both musicians who play with ears and hearts wide open and always in pursuit of the unexpected tangent. The venue, the lovely Alte-Schule, Mullenbach, run by King Frans and Jagermeister-swilling, cooking Queen, Katrin, bless!
Day two sees the 10 a.m (Tour manager hat firmly affixed) jaunt to venue two for a perusal of the situation with our drum kit supplier/tech Michael.. The p.a and staging set up, much to my liking was underway complete with sound engineer (who we later were told had a whopping 15% hearing left) and his assistant who would become invaluable as he could speak English, and hear. A personal guided tour of the ancient ruins in which the venue nestled was the only thing to do, followed by a superb espresso. Then back to the Alte Schule for mittag essen and rustling of the troops..
The evening concert in front of a most appreciative audience of music lovers was sublime. The sun setting and the moon rising serene over the impressive rock wall ruins. Paparazzi took photos and wrote reviews even.. The after show drinks table was lavish with whiskeys, wines, schnapps and brandy from the medieval cellars visited earlier on the guided tour.. And out came the olives, grapes cheeses and breads which I so often and gleefully associate with touring Europe. A good friend entertained us with her Darth Vader-speak as she bravely fought off voice-loss and enjoyed the liqueurs with us, bless. Then home to Bremm on the Moselle laughing at pending doom as my trusty driver friend near laughed us off the road..The next day being monday, all was a bit slow, but eventually we found out loosely where the drummer and his entourage were and headed off to Zweibrucken to play a wee gem of a garden party for an old friend and friends of. Hilarity of various dimensions ensued afterwards when cramming four people, guitar, percussion and backpacks into the trusty four door 90’s Ford Fiesta hatchback for the trip onwards to Karlsruhe. How much fun can one have in one day is anyones guess.
The morning bought a solid dose of weekend recovery, more arduous for some, and a pending hot date with Flixbus for yours truly. 10 hours only today, Karlsruhe to Vienna, pffft, nothing..
Flixbus, curiously, has an investment trail that leads back to Silicon Valley and the company is in the process of monopolising the passenger transport industry in typical Silicon Valley form. As this article goes to blogworld, Flixbus is taking on Greyhound in America AND taking on Rail in Europe.. hmm. This does make me wonder, how long will it be before Silicon Sally’s (Automated buses with no driver) will be introduced en-masse courtesy of Flixbus’s pending monopoly and it’s Silicon Valley connections.. (just an aside)
So back to Vienna and off to Africa Tage festival where, avoiding a pop pseudo-reggae band (a near miss) we managed two nights later to catch Manu Dibango.. Brilliant 84 year old legend with hot hot band, an inspiration! My one solo gig the previous night in Vienna was a somewhat chilled affair where without family and a close friend or two there would have been only the un-interested barman and a couple of others. Ah well, nächste jahre.. A week of hanging out in Vienna and the surrounding country-side with visits to friends and family and it was off again nonchalantly on Flixbus via Prague to Halle! yay!.. Another 10 hours of joyous bus seat surfing..
Hellooooo Halle-Saale.. A few years had been since a visit were made to Halle by I, so nice it were to be back. First stop a falafel and beer at one of the many such establishments in the city. Then on to our old friends’ place where we’d call home for a night and generally catch up before heading to Berlin. That done the road to Berlin was swift and we landed safe in the arms of hospitality, lasagne, a beer and a Tullamore Dew courtesy of Jansi, bless you, good man! The following day with perusing the streets of (name your Middle Eastern town) or so it seemed we breakfasted in fine style and waited for our native Berlinite saxophone friend from Waiheke-via London. After the briefest of rehearsals the gig called, so off we waltzed and U-Bahn’d to the Yorkschlossen to be greeted by fellow Kiwi Hattie St-John, the proprietor Olaf and a rather teensy, cute yet not cuddly p.a system which, when introduced, made me palpably nervous, resulting in a quite delightful “it’ll will all work out fine!” pep-talk from the great Hattie, Thanks m’dear!
“Who gets to go through the subwoofer?” a Mark bass amp, was the biggest dilemma. A rhetorical game of paper scissor rock which I wasn’t going to lose meant The Bigfoot took priority.. Everything else through the 10inch p.a speakers which surprisingly, we got a good sound out of. People ooo’d and aaah’d and said things which made me think they don’t get out enough to good live music. And one of the most onto it bar men I’ve ever encountered kept a very fine Glen Livet coming all night. Thank you dude!! And thank you also Yorkschlossen and JZ James, I can now say I’ve played Berlin with some really fine people in an establishment of apparently quite some pedigree..
The morning was blessed by a fine breakfast in an extremely packed yet efficient Palestinian restaurant around the corner suggested by a friend of JZ’s, superb!! Then it was goodbyes to our buddy Mr. Passauer & off to Leipzig where 12 people enjoyed the concert to the fullest. The live recording sounds like there are 50 or so in the crowd, without the aid of “canned” applause, I swear.. The night revelled on for hours with the contents of the Tullamore bottle mysteriously disappearing and a few laughs were had around the table at the upstairs bar before retiring for the night to more drinks back at the house of the proprietor, a very onto it, tree house master builder, theatre actor by the name of Marcus. A great night! Daylight brought with it gravity, I swear it didn’t exist through the night. Coffee.. After another sulubrious frühstück JS and I bade farewells to our new friend Jürgen and his buddy the Tree House builder, actor, theatre proprietor extraordinaire, as Halle called us home. A dip in a lake lead by the aforementioned JS who I declared crazy there and then did indeed, as he prophesized, wake one the hell up.
Another week of relative calm, rehearsals, reading, re-visiting the haunts of Halle (not the Dark Angel this time) in preparation for the final run of gigs to come in the weekend. And come they did. Am Vie Theatre, is one of the most simply stunning outdoor venues I’ve come across in Germany. Run now, just recently so, by an old friend of distinguished character and standing in the world of such things. Like Hobbiton meets Pompei Amphitheatre, Am Vie Theatre sits quietly, unassuming in the German country-side near impossible to find if not guided by one who knows, even google maps hasn’t a clue, or so local folklore claims.. A great night where the pizza oven reigned, the beer and whiskey flowed sweet and nurturing while friends and family came from afar (8 hours from Hamburg, 8 hours from Vienna) to enjoy the sound and surrounds.. The after-show fireside sing around was perfection in a ways.. Doc Sanders belting out songs like I’d not before heard him do before, a voice long in the honing there, along with Nico, Rudi and others.. A pleasantly surprising and hilarious conversación en español was a surreal way to finish the night as back in the van we climbed to Halle and home..
Day dawned and decisions to be made came from all directions. Decision making a-la Dave basically has the “path of least resistance” mantra as its core fundamental. Hence my lack of, well, most things that need shoving along with any great focus, which would lead to success, for example.. Eventually we found ourselves at the street festival where we were to play that day, a saturday. The beauty of Halle was out in all its splendour and the rain clouds that threatened at Am Vie Theatre the previous afternoon again came across the blue sky but went on their way.. Another superb wee concert played and onto Erfurt, a house concert.. Not particularly effortless. Fatigue and differing positions in the soundscape with mixed preparations played a part in this one as tempers attempted to flare but were reigned in by experience, respect and friendship. We played our hearts out, friends came from further afield (from New Zealand via Switzerland no less) and a good night was had by all.. Even the 2 hour drive to the next show after the gig was manageable but it did have me wondering at one point, “what the hell do we do this for again?” One of the answers came early the next morning. Waking to the view from my second storey window of the dawnlight sun kissing the statue of a lion in the forest at Ballenstedt followed by a fresh early morning forest walk with the man of the house and his trusty hound, Bond. Not James, just Bond. Not stirred nor shaken.. Then coffee and breakfast with children and then angels who appeared from out of the woods. So surreal I could hardly eat.
This last concert for the three of us, Sanders Alley Geiling, was superb in it’s entirety. A perfect finish to a great little tour.. After a meandering pack down and mittag essen, fond farewells, photos and “until next year!” it was time to hit the road with Mama Schaar back to Vienna and family.. only an 8 and a half hour drive, pfffft, no sweat.. Listening to sublime Turkish jazz made the trip fly by.. Two more days of family time, a walk in the woods criss-crossed with massive WW2 trenches and mushrooms followed by more beer and Viennese cuisine and it was time to hit the Plane Station again.. until next year.
for my own curiosity —> some semi-precise “Tour Stats”
15 hours waiting for trains, buses, planes, lifts..
88 hours long haul transit – trains, buses, planes, car.
8 hours rehearsal
20 hours music played
7 musicians played/jammed with at concerts
4 sets of guitar strings
1 kg personal weight gained
songs and tunes played in concert..
On we play
Pick cuppa guitar
Strange is the world
Sitting on the roof
Take up painting
Funk in C
Dreams are free
Ella’s hammock tune
Love in the time of Cholera
Easter bonfire / Rift Valley reel
Mama don’t like
Boy in the bubble