I’ve been here before.
I got lost then too.
That’s the problem with being lost so many different places - everything looks familiar to you.
Now Zennegat 13 is not an easy venue to find. It’s right by the locks of a canal that (apparently) is still very much in use.* Then venue is a tiny bar at the end of the land area between canals and rivers. Jan runs the place and also lives in a houseboat on the canal.
The last time we were here it was Riddle & The Stars and it was like 2016 or so. We played acoustically with the only thing amplified being Tracy’s bass. And we had a good night. I remember being fascinated by the canal locks in front of the place and how they looked like they hadn’t been used in years.** We had 7 instruments in tow and thought it was a place that I wanted to return to.
I kept asking S&W to book me back here but it never worked out. This year I contacted them directly and Jan was excited to have me back.
Now the way you get there does require you to drive down a bike path. I couldn’t find the damn thing again this time so I park on the other side of the canal and use the small bicycle/pedestrian bridge to cross and notice gates with lights on them as I walk by.
I make one trip with stuff and go back to the car only this time there is a boat coming and the gates go down and the bridge starts to go up and holy shit - this is one of those bridges. I didn’t even realize it when I was walking on it. I look down the canal and there’s a boat that’s pretty far away. I’m going to be here a while.
Looking down the other way there’s a psuedo bridge that goes across the top of the locks. Locks that have a lot of water activity going on. Whoah - there’s a boat coming the other way too and it’s raising the water level. Wow.
Yeah, so what. It was really cool. I’ve never been up close and personal with a canal lock system IN USE before. And it’s damn cool. It feels like stepping back to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution or something.
Did I mention this place is small? It’s tiny. I set up a single speaker/PA thing just so I don’t blow my voice out singing quiet songs. It takes about 30 seconds to dial stuff in and I’m ready to go.***
I belong to an Internet forum called The Alt-Country Club. It is an off-shoot of the gear page (guitar forum) as most of us got kicked off of that site a couple years ago.**** and Johan from the Alt-Country Club lives somewhat nearby. (I think less than an hour away) and he and I have been friends on this website for years and this is the first time we’re meeting in person. We talk blood sausage (Zennegat 13 specialty) and guitars, and moving his son this weekend and going to Newport, Belgium with his wife on Sunday… It’s just making the world smaller and I’m here for it.
As soon as I turn on the PA the whole room stops talking and turns around to listen.
I play for over an hour and then take a break to get some air as I’m working up a sweat.
Standing outside in the light drizzle I’m catching my breath. The show is going really well. Everyone is digging it and I’m talking to a couple about their trip to California and then I hear it.
They are chanting for me to start back up again.
Running back in I hear someone say something like “told you it would work.” I strap on the guitar and play about another hour and a half.
Sing alongs, some off time clapping, one woman even educated the whole room about Nudie Cohn after I asked if anyone knew what a Nudie suit was. She piped right up and knew her shit! It was awesome. Met another couple that owns another bar in Antwerp and wants to book me next time (or tomorrow!)
I’m exhausted. That’s the longest set I’ve played solo in quite a while and if I hadn’t broken two strings in my last song, I probably would’ve played longer. One guy says that he’s never seen a single musician work that hard. At one point Jan handed the woman in front a hand fan and she started waving it in front of me. I tell them that if you’re not sweating while doing this, then you’re doing it wrong.
Afterwards Jan heats up my pasta and brings me a glass of red. I sell a bunch of cds and USB sticks and records. I have to leave before I fall asleep here.
Settling up, Jan offers to let me sleep in his houseboat either tonight or next time and offers to pay me in rubles. We both laugh. I tell him I will accept natural gas as payment and he returns with two small cans of cooking gas. He’s crazy but the good kind.
Johan helps me pack up and we walk to the cars in the rain.
‘Twas a good night for rock and roll.
*I was unaware of this and feel like an idiot about it. Of course it’s still in use.
***The acoustic sounded particularly quacky through this PA. Next show I will use my other DI pedal with EQ and make it better.
****They are supposedly “no religion or politics” website and we all got kicked off for calling out the hypocrisy of that when they post pro-gun, pro-trump and christian bullshit. What they meant was “we don’t want YOUR opinion” and kicked us off. It’d be funny if it wasn’t so pathetic.