Sunday, 25 September 2016
You couldn't get a flight into Munich on the weekend of our final gig in Deisenhofen. The lederhosen-clad hoards weren't heading our way, however, they were off to the annual beer-fest that fills the capital of Bavaria at this time of the year. It was the reason I couldn't blag another gig hereabouts, bar-owners telling me that no one would show up since they were all getting pissed up town.
Well, the good folk of the Volkshochschule - who promoted this evening - triumphantly bucked the trend to fill the Wagnerhaus and provided us with an attentive, intelligent audience and a heart-warming final evening to the Two Duos Tour (gig 12). Many thanks to them.
And we played well. It was acoustic with all that that entails, I was on form and Norma provided her usual filigree array of embellishments to a set of songs that by now had all the burnished finish of a set oft-performed (that is the musician's joy of a tour).
Immense gratitude to the family Embacher, Hilde, m'lady Angelika (in whose home town this all happened) and her sister Christine (Kozak) who between them brokered the concert, gave us accommodation and their usual Bayerische welcome.
So, thirteen months in the making, the TDT is over. More thanks, then, to Norma and Filip for their Stirling support, to all the promoters who hosted us, all those who fed us and gave us beds and all the lovely people who validated our efforts by lending their ears and attention, for two spells of 40 minutes, to sixteen songs plus encores. In respect of my songs, that's a lot of (sometimes complex) words - that takes some listening to.
For me, it's the songs that are the heroes. Stalwart dependables like In Sympathy and Jeffrey and Robert and I, old songs given a new feel by the addition of Norma's harp like Rope Ladder and Trevor Square and songs I had to re-learn to play on the guitar (ex-mandolin) like Long Time Gone and I'll Settle For Today. The latter was my fave of the set.
As well as great audiences, friends and family jetting in to join us added a flattering frisson to the trip. Thanks to all who did.
I don't know what I'll do next with my music. One thing I realised was how long it is since I recorded a new collection...
I'm riding a motorbike to Switzerland with my sons and their mates now. Long Time Gone, eh?
(And no, I didn't do the gig in my shorts - sexy though they are - this was the set up...)
Tuesday, 20 September 2016
Three gigs in a weekend. That's what you do when you're touring. So;
Thanks to Walter, Uli and Klaus for their invitation and welcome at their wonderful folk club. Over twenty-six or so years, in an old barn, they've built a nest of song enthusiasts that they entertain every month. And they occasionally allow a lucky nomad to come in and sing to them. I was one such last Friday and, as previously, loved every second of the evening...
And thanks to Norma for taking on the (daunting) challenge of playing and hosting simultaneously in Saturday's house concert. Her usual array of refusenik-Swabians, easy-going, liberal, art and fun-loving folk that they are, did us the honour of providing the ears for our playing. And well we played, too. The after-gig impromptu was pretty good as well...
Finally, thanks to the people of Sofa Concerts gig at JuKi Ludwigsburg for a friendly welcome in the youth church in the city. Jutta coordinated very sympathetically and Simon organised most competently. In a small room we were able to play acoustically - always a joy when the rooms allows. (They like artists to leave evidence of their visit on the toilet wall. So my words are now on permanent view - until they redecorate.) And they gave me a sofa to spend the night on - appropriate for a Sofa Concert - and cheese pastries and coffee the next day to see me off on my drive...
Home now. Eleven and a half hours door to door (inc ferry). Back in Blighty - but preparing for a motorcycle ride to Munich for the final (and acoustic) gig of the tour. Who organised the travel arrangements for this trip? Oh...
Tuesday, 13 September 2016
... Die Fabrik, Berlin's best and funkiest hotel, in groovy Kreuzberg.
It all happened: I sang my Die Fabrik songs* (this place to me - as mentioned previously - is as New York's Chelsea Hotel is to Dylan and others); people came in off the street to see what the noise was about (and stayed); sister Brigid and chum Dave brought a personal element to the proceedings and Fedora brought beer and wine and generally managed the ambience.
I have made friends here over the times I have visited and played. One, Achim, a long-term resident in Die Fabrik who befriended me and with whom I exchanged unexpected intimacies over white wine was missing last night. He recently died of a heart attack. He was my age. I was very sad to hear the news. I thought of him as I played.
I also thought of my cousin Ian who accompanied me here the last time I came. It's not the same alone, cuz.
Notwithstanding all the above, last night was a good night. It's good to have good nights in the face of all that life insists on, don't you think?
Goodbye Die Fabrik, goodbye Achim. Thanks to you both.
Saturday, 10 September 2016
The German 'donnerwetter' can be translated as thunderstorm.
Duo #2 played the music café Donerwetter last evening. We had to cross the Elbe to get to it. Fortunately the long queue of traffic on the tunnel road was heading the other way. Less fortunately, the weather didn't correspond with the name of the venue - it was still 25 degrees at 10.00 pm - and the good people of Hamburg had better ideas about how to spend the warm evening than sitting indoors listening to an itinerant Irish singer and his Swedish sidekick.
We were great, as it happens, but there were few to attest to it. Owner Mattias and his crew were charming, however, and looked after us royally.
We had to make an evening of it by repairing to base camp at St Pauli (whose football team won their first match of the season yesterday - Tim and I were there - it was great) with the aforementioned brother and a second Swede, the roadie whose nickname, inexplicably, is The Teflon Shark, and drink beer and wine, eat wasabi nuts and talk bollocks 'til the early hours. It's tough etc, etc...
I part company with Filip today. He's a great accompanist and we played well together - many thanks to him.
On to Berlin and line-up #3 (see the first TDT post).
We played the Mobile Blues Club last night.
If you look closely here, you'll see the artist in question sound-checking with his partner for the weekend, Filip Svensson.
For a guitarist, Filip is a bloody good bass player, proving that a good muso is a good muso is a good muso. He flew in from Gothenburg, rehearsed as he stepped off the 'plane and was ready to go in a trice. Us singer types need proper musicians around to make a us sound good. Filip is one such.
The Mobile Blues Club is a groovy place. It's not the smallest venue I've ever played in (that's the Wee Folk Club - which, by the way, is the reason I came to be in Germany in the first place), but it is, well, wee.
We played late. I thought we were too quiet to attract the punters from the free bar around the corner so reverted to some cheesy covers played loud. It didn't work. We played our own set in the second half and that worked better. This proved something, but I'm not quite sure what.
My brother Tim turned up. So did Lennart Svensson* with a couple of mates. Well you never know, do you?
Donnerwetter tonight. Berlin tomorrow.
*He brought the biggest bass cab all the way from Sweden. We didn't use it.
Thursday, 8 September 2016
Wednesday, 7 September 2016
You see, there's this hare and this fox and this crow and they all know each other and the hare is called Luett Matten and he's not all that bright and so the other two eat him. Or something like that. And it's a folk tale from the Plattdeutsch region of northern Germany.
And there's this bar in Garding - in the Plattdeutsch region (see where I'm going here?) - and it's called Luett Matten.
This is a good gig evening:
An assertive barmaid called Beata looks after your culinary and liquid needs
A host called Rainer sits with you before the gig and tells you about his love life
He then gives you the big build-up before the first set
Ellen (my biggest fan in Sleswig-Holstein) shows up
A member of the audience asks for the CD with Rope Ladder on it
You get the crowd on their feet to Oh Sally Ann
And again to a rousing rendition of I'll Tell Me Ma (well you have to, don't you?)
Then back to your hotel room to red wine and cheese - and Tuc biscuits.
Norma, the earring queen, is off now for a jolly in Spain and I'm off to Hamburg to hook up with Filip Svensson - flying in from Gothenburg - and Duo #2.
And a couple of days off.
Tuesday, 6 September 2016
I forgot to take a photo. There, got that out of the way.
Cafe Instinkt is different - a gig in a oncology clinic is a tad unusual, you'll allow. But I've enjoyed playing here each time I've visited - and did again last night.
Special credit here to Norma who is beginning to be able to adjust to my occasional impromptu changes of song-configuration with aplomb - and who sang such a beautiful harmony to my entirely improvised Wild Mountain Thyme. Great earrings again, also.
We played well again and the gloss of intense repetition is beginning to show in the set.
Thanks to Thomas, our host. We'll see you again, dear chap!
Garding tonight, then a rest for me. Norma will take a break from the tour - and I'll go on to Hamburg to hook up with Filip and Duo #2.
Monday, 5 September 2016
Here's another performerless stage for you to peruse.
Ina is a chemical engineer, she lives in her share of a converted farm building in Aukrug. The scene of our (acoustic) concert last night was her shared hallway - all brick and tiles, no need for amplification.
This was the first of our Sofa Concert concerts. The audience included several of Ina's housemates and it was an intimate and cosy evening.
A house concert is always dependent on the personality of the host(ess) and Ina proved a sympathetic heart to the evening. Just as she was interested and attentive so was her audience.
It's always noteworthy to the writer when a song is first name-checked and I'll Settle For Today received such attention here - satisfying, because it's one of this writer's faves.
I've now sold out of Daffodils and The Beautiful and Cruel - marketing never was my strong point.
It's a privilege to play for a host's closest circle. Thanks Ina.
Sunday, 4 September 2016
Thirty-two years ago he came to Kappeln and they didn't want him here 'Because I'm mad', he explains. An early publicity ploy involved persuading locals to offer themselves as the 'goods' in a slave market. He ran the auction in which they were sold for a 24-hour period. He's Hans-Peter Scholz, he runs the best music bar in Germany. And you'd never fail to notice him in a crowd. And the world is better for him being in it.
And yesterday, in his bar, Palette, I remembered why I'm doing this. A full room, a responsive crowd who all seemed to 'get' what I'm up to, great support work from Norma - who sported a fine pair of earrings - CDs sold, an impromptu after-gig-singalong, splendid post-concert chilli-con-carne, oh, you know the kind of thing ...
Well done Hans-Peter, well done Norma, well done me!
And so, onward to Aukrug and gig #3. It's getting better by the day. ☺
Saturday, 3 September 2016
Here's the bucolic setting for the first gig of the tour at the cutely-named Dancing Mole music club hosted by the enthusiastic Christophe Nix.
It got darker and colder as the evening wore on but the warmth of audience compensated and the neighbour's electronic birds (yes, really) stfu as the sun went down and we played a blinder. The audience thought so too.
The harp, percussion, guitar & voices combo is bedding in, providing an interesting backdrop for songs in a range of styles from folk (The Farmer) to pop (Oftentimes) to singer-songwriter (Long Time Gone).
We were in Lontzen, Belgium. It's the German-speaking part. No, I didn't either.
Then we drove for eight and a half hours to Kappeln. It's a big country, Germany.
Playing at Hansy's place tonight - Palette. Thinking of Andy P - she played with me here the first time. A great musician and a great venue.
I'm starting to think this might be my last trip abroad. Hmm...