Waking up in Walsrode, Bernd has gone to get some breakfast rolls for us. We make a big pot of tea pulling from his extensive tea collection and have a leisurely morning breakfast. Tonight we play in Verden but first we’r going to visit our friends Jeanette and Paul who live near Verden. (And Jeanette booked this show as well)
My dizziness seems to be better this morning and it’s an easy drive. In my head I’m trying to figure out the cause. Was it the wild mushrooms? No, Tracy had those too. Was it the whiskey? No, I had it before that. Was it the long drive? That seems unlikely as I do those all the time. My current theory is the new sunglasses. I mean, it was cheaper to buy them with someone else’s prescription but maybe that was a bad idea.*
Jeanette has made us Indian food for lunch and Paul has cooked, seemingly, all the rice in their house. It is delicious and great conversation that covers everything from King Charles apparently being a dick to the booking guy from my first show also being quite a dick and harassing Jeanette about getting the GEMA** form from me and bad mouthing my friends that played with me.
Then we play with their kittens. Maine Cooncat kittens. Super adorable. Jeanette looks at us and says “Do you want to take a nap?” And it’s those little things. She knows we’ve been traveling and performing and can just see in our faces that we are beat. “Yes, please.” She readies the guest room and Tracy and I take off our boots and crash for about an hour.
GPS to Bootshaus in Verden is…more of a suggestion than an exact directionally aid. Twice Google tries to send us down one-way streets and once even a bike path. But we get there and it’s a small bar on the bank of the river. Folks outside smoking and chatting. Reiner (our best guess on the owner’s name) shows us the stage. He’s a very sarcastic and boisterous dude. There’s a plank of wood about 6 inches wide by the back wall. “There’s your stage!” As he points to the thin strip of wood. He’s funny, I like him.
As we’re setting up we see some familiar faces coming in Manuela and her boyfriend, Heike***, Sonja and Barbara, Jeanette, Ina and her boyfriend and a bunch of folks we don’t know.
Now the challenge when you play a bunch of shows for the same group of people is keeping it different enough. I mean, we kind of have a core group of songs we’re playing and when we’re playing two sets - it’s roughly about 25 songs we’re doing and most are going to be the same night to night. We’ve been starting with “Massachusetts”**** and then “When we ride” and it’s a good duo for Tracy and I because it gets our fingers moving and us singing together from the get-go. From there we mix it up a bit. Not a ton but “favorite photograph” and “big damn hero” and a few others. We give “cold war” a good kicking and it nearly comes apart at looping part but we hold it together. That’s part of my favorite bit of that song is how holding it together is so…precarious. It’s walking a tightrope for sure.
There are two sing alongs tonight, there’s hijinx and laughter and all around great show. Sonja has brought us Franzbrotchen for breakfast tomorrow and we make plans for next summer when they are in SoCal. And Ina shows us a picture of a pair of birds she has rescued and asks if she can name them after us. Manuela gets a t-shirt and a big hug. Just all around goodness.
We make a good noise tonight and for the first time in all the shows - we had a group of folks talking through our set. I don’t want to make a big deal of it, they were kind of in the adjacent room to where we were performing and I think they thought it meant no one could hear them but they were wrong. I could visually see it annoying folks as we played, especially during our quieter songs.
There was a full room of people listening to us and yet the 5 people outside the room were distracting everyone else just by ignoring what was going on and being oblivious to their surroundings. You kind of just wanted to say to them - can’t you tell that you are the only folks talking right now? I was going to say something to them but Tracy tells me not to and she’s probably right.
Finishing up with “Jolene” and Tracy really gives it hell. It’s one of the best versions we’ve ever done of it. I look over at the outside table who have stopped talking during the first verse, get distracted and then continue talking. Nothing is going to reach them.
Reiner has a special hat for passing around. He takes it out of it’s hard shell case and goes around and tosses a 50 note on top and tells us to come back any time. Jeanette takes a picture of the tip hat and says she’s going to use that picture so people know what a full tip hat is supposed to look like.
The ride back to Bremen is quiet. Tracy and I are spent. We’ve done over 1000 miles in the past 8 days. We need down time.
Back at the hotel we’re told the garage is full and I have to find parking somewhere else. I tell the guy we have musical equipment in the car and is there anything he can do. He tells us that there is technically one space left but a Mercedes has parked so far over that he doesn’t think we can fit. And get this, he says - “I’ll show you and if you can fit without hitting that car, you can park there.” Now I know going into this that I’m going to be able to fit. I will crawl out the back if I have to. God damn Mercedes. Long and short of that - it was easy. I got into the spot but he definitely had a hard time getting in the driver side.
Is it Sunday already? We sleep hard. Wake up for the breakfast buffet that is totally packed, return to our room and go back to sleep until near 1 pm. We bring our PA and mic stands to Heike’s house and leave them here until next year. She has made us pumpkin soup for lunch and gives us a “Moin” kitchen towel, magnet and some chocolate as a parting gift.
The love we are shown is so humbling and beautiful. Es ist sehr schön!
Dropping off Tracy’s bass, bass amp, my telecaster and pedals at Niklas’ studio***** and I’m struck by how at home I am in Bremen. And things like leaving equipment here means that we are of course coming back. And folks that help us with that - that makes it possible. It’s like in the Goodbye Girl when she realizes he’s left his guitar behind.
We love you Bremen, we’re coming back.
Tomorrow Tracy flies west to home and I catch a train east to Berlin.
I’m a few days away from the halfway point of my tour.
*I joke. I didn’t buy used sunglasses. It’s just a minor plot point of The Darjeeling Limited.
**Gema is the performing rights organization here in Germany. I fill out forms everywhere I go with the song list of what I played so not only will I get paid but the folks whose songs I cover get paid too. Everywhere that requires a form, has a form for me to fill out. He did not have one and I told him it would take me a while to find a printer to fill one out and email him a picture of it. Stupid shit, not a big deal, it got done but JFC!
***Heike is currently in the lead for most shows seen this tour - this is her fourth!
****We figured out how to make this word easier for German speaking folks to pronounce - you have them say “Tschüss” first and then “Mass-A-Tschüss-etts”. It works!
*****I finally figured out what happened to this broken mandolin. It was at a Riddle & The Stars Breminale show where I tossed it off stage and the neck went flying off. I re-glued it and it lasted a little while but the re-glue didn’t hold. It is now in Niklas’ possession to do with what he pleases.