July, oh my,
A story -
I spent the last month on a home-made music tour of Germany and Switzerland with two dear friends, Hans, who I've been performing with since college, and Shawn, my first ever middle school Red-Hot-Chili-Peppers-covering band mate. We played a show in the tiny town of Krautsand, located on the Elbe river between Hamburg and the North Sea. Krautsand locals call it an island, outsiders are skeptical. Hans, Shawn, and I arrive over land, knock on a door, fumble a pronunciation of our hosts' names, and the pyjama wearing man points us down the road to a complex of houses. We show up, knock again, and a grinning Burkhard — built like a Viking with a dirty blond Mullet, an ex policeman born and raised on the “island” — welcomes us in.
Burkhard's English is shy but good. He responds mostly with his trademark, “Izz okay.” Burkhard shows us to our roomy digs and then invites us for an island tour featuring beers and the beach - can’t say no. We walk and he answers questions about the 900 person island, the apple orchards, how he left for two years but quickly returned when his dad got ill, the pristine fussball field. Burk laughs telling us of a toast he made for his fellow island native's 50th birthday, “to the 15000 beers we’ve shared.” We reach the beach and he hands out big bottles. Sand, murky water, a river reaching the end of its journey.
The next day we wake with another German hangover…how do they do it? I fumble through the hazy day, watch France beat Uruguay in the world cup round of 16, and get dressed for the show. We’re playing at the town’s once drowned church (these days there is a giant wall of earth protecting the town from the Elbe's tides). The church is small - pictures of Jesus, a pipe organ, great acoustics. 150 people from the town show up, every pew is filled, and onlookers peer over the railings from the second floor. My stomach feels bubbly.
That morning Jenny, Burkhard's daughter, asks me if I get nervous before shows. I claim, "not really anymore."
Jenny is the reason we’re in Krautsand. I met her in Chile this last winter when I was river guiding in Patagonia. We shared campfire tunes, and she helped our river guide team stack wood in exchange for warm meals and a few days of rafting. Jenny said goodbye with the customary “if you’re ever in…” A few months later I messaged her saying, "I actually will be in Germany, can you help?!" She planned the show and promoted it — newspaper articles, posters, personal notes. Jenny, you’re hired.
The performance felt okay. It was only our second show as a trio. Hans and Shawn had actually just met. The jokes and stories I like to share with audiences seemed to be getting lost on the older small town German crowd. I missed the normal reinforcing sighs and laughter. Shawn and Hans translated a few song stories into German to smiles and laughs, and some people sang along when invited. We closed the show with a rousing “Dams are for Beavers” - Germany has a fairly flat landscape, very little potential for hydroelectric power, dams aren’t a thing.
The crowd stood up and applauded and the scattered claps turned into one loud unison. We scurried back on stage, giving each other “woah” glances. I hurriedly decided on Josh Ritter's “Idaho” for an encore, and I remember thinking “shit, it’s way too mellow.” Same thunderous response. I noticed Burkhard standing in the doorway, wiping tears. I started to feel the welling myself. We came back up for another encore, Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall (video above).” This time we were flying. Another standing applause. The preacher had to stand up to quiet down the clapping. He then spoke to the crowd in German for a few minutes. I could only make out the word “Trump” (in the context of there are other kinds of people from the US), and hand motions that seemed to be encouraging the crowd to put money in our donation jar. Hans whispered to me that he wanted us to sing another one with Jenny. She came on stage and we stood there trying to find a song in common, mumbling back and forth, “How bout Hallelujah? “Yes! “Hallelujah," the song the Jewish Canadian Leonard Cohen wrote 60 something verses to over the course of a decade, the song his American record label turned down, the song first made famous by the Welsh John Cale. Here on the tiny “island” of Krautsand everyone knows Hallelujah. Jenny sings beautifully, Jesus looks on from his Last Supper, the 150 Krautsanders bellow the chorus, “Hallelujah, Hallelujah."
Prost Deutschland. We will be back.
Stay tuned for tour dates in Oregon, Washington, BC, Alaska, Colorado, and the Northeast.
July 20 - Wildcraft Cider Works - Eugene - OR (with Dangermuffin) - Tickets
July 21 - House Concert - Bend - OR (with Dangermuffin) - respond for details
July 25 - House Concert - Portland - OR - 7110 SE Boise - 6pm
July 26 - House Concert - Seattle - WA - 7304 44th Ave SW - 6pm
July 27 - House Concert - Vancouver - BC - respond for details
July 28 - August 4 - Music & Rafting - Chilko River - BC - with ROAM
August 5 - Sunfest Country Music Festival - Lake Cowichan - BC
August 7-9 - Sitka - AK - respond for details
August 17 - House Concert - Denver - CO - respond for details
August 18 - House Concert - Evergreen - CO - respond for details
September 18 - Rockwood Music Hall - NYC - Stage 3 - 8pm - Tickets
October 18 - The Sentient Bean - Savannah - GA - 8pm
Closers Spotify playlist. This month's playlist is a compilation of the closing songs on some of my favourite albums. I've always loved album endings. The final word, often a more pure artistic statement, not the one intended for the radio.
Radler: Beer mixed with lemonade. It’s great, not too sweet, not too beer-y. Drank all over Germany for when you want a break from beer, but still want to fit it.
Tom Waits interviews Tom Waits. "Question: How would you compare guitarists Marc Ribot and Smokey Hormel?
Answer: Octopus have eight and squid have ten tentacles, each with hundreds of suction cups and each with the power to burst a man's artery."
The Poet Game by Greg Brown. Hans showed me this album on an 11 hour drive form Northern Germany to the Swiss Alps. Blew my mind. So fun to fall in love with a songwriter again.
PS. "This summer I went swimming. This summer I almost drowned. But I held my breath, kicked my feet, and moved my arms around. I moved my arms around. " - Loudon Wainwright III