I’m having a lazy Monday morning, doing some guitar playing and working on new songs. The other night I had a dream that I was visited by ghosts of songwriters passed that all wanted me to play their new songs that they can’t share because they are dead. it was a chaotic dream of like 10 people with guitars shouting songs at me at the same time and me trying to tell them - Yes, I would love to hear them all but can you can you take turns? But they all kept singing at once.
Singing and strumming in the garden is a nice way to spend a Monday until my show tonight.
I decide to make a run into the city center to a music shop and see if they have a pedal that I could really use. The traffic is insane and it takes me nearly 30 minutes to go the 4 miles to the shop. It’s a bit of an overpriced shop and really only go there to see what’s up and shockingly they have the pedal that I’m looking for and at a reasonable price. I try not to carry much cash on me at any given time so I take out my credit card to buy the pedal but currently the store cannot take credit card payments. It’s been like this for about two weeks now the guy says. “There’s a cash machine down the street if you want to get money and come back.” And there’s no way in hell I’m taking out money and paying those fees when a store can’t process a credit card. Just bizarre.
So I walk down the street past Litfass and buy a toaster. Then I stop and get some raisin bread and decide I will give Heike the toaster (because she doesn’t have one) but first I will make toast for everyone at the show tonight.
Tonight I’m playing at Sparkasse, a bank. Yes, a bank. And what’s crazy is that this isn’t even the first time I have played a bank, or rather this bank, or even this chain of banks! I think this is the fourth time I have played a Sparkasse and the second or third time I’ve played this particular Sparkasse!
I show up and there’s posters for me hanging on the windows, there are American flags hanging up, they have decorated the lobby with balloons and have turned the reception counter into a bar. There’s tables all around for folks to mingle about. The only thing is that there are no chairs and I’m fairly certain that that is because if you have more than 50 chairs it means venue and different laws about having live performances but I could be wrong about that.
In any case, they have really rolled out the red carpet for me and it’s wonderful - they have turned their bank into a great space to play music in.
Anja has booked me here and she is helping by bringing out these large cubes that they use for displays and I stack two of them up and put the PA speakers on them. I angle them behind me so the sound fills the room and I can hear them too and for me, the sound was pretty great.* Anja and I have a great conversation about Bruce Springsteen and for soundcheck I play “Atlantic City” just for her.
Then the room starts filling up.
Remember, this is a bank. A. Bank. I don’t normally do a head count but I’m shocked by how many people are in a bank to see me perform so I take a few seconds by the door and just start counting and there are over 70 people in here, after hours, at a bank that has turned their waiting area into a music venue and their reception desk into a bar - on a Monday night!
Seeing more friends and fans here, Claudia and Oliver have arrived and they brought me a rose that I then place on top of one of the speakers. I’ve never gotten flowers before! Mika, the fireman that gave me a patch from his Fire Brigade a few years ago is here. I tell the story about getting a patch from him and he has brought me a new one. (I brought him a patch from the states last time I was here - apparently, I collect police and fire patches now) And so many people, I’m forgetting names and don’t want to miss anyone. There’s the dude that used to work building ships and he tells me his friend was going to come tonight but he ended up in the ER instead. And the dude in the Steve Earle / Townes Van Zant shirt that tells me how this bank has the good beer!
And it’s amazing. While I’m performing I look around and see people singing along with me.
Halfway through the first set I unplug and bring everyone in close and I perform completely un-amplified and it’s amazing. The whole room is silent. Every once in a while I hear a bit of a voice and then three other “shhhhhhhs”.
I take a break after 50 minutes and start making toast for everyone. I forgot about cinnamon and Anja had her daughter bring some so we are making cinnamon raisin toast for everyone!
After about 6 slices, the toaster won’t work - I shorted out a breaker or something and I have no power, the PA is dead too. I find another plug over by Claudia and Oliver and they take over on toast duties while I find another plug to plug the PA into. Sadly, this power outage has not opened up the time release system on all the vaults like it did in Ocean’s Eleven but that’s ok, we have music, beer, toast…
I finish up my second set and sell a bunch of cds and t-shirts and USB sticks. Get a few new folks on the mailing list and it’s a great night. Anja brings me a bottle of wine to take home, we hug and say goodbye and she says “Next year we need to have it on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday so more people come.” Ok, we can plan that.
On the way out the door Claudia says to me “No Angelia?” Damn, I would’ve played it. “Yell it out next time if I forget.” She smiles and leaves.
Everything about tonight’s show I can’t imagine happening back home in the U.S. A bank selling beer over the counter. 70+ people going to a bank on a Monday night to see some dude from the states sing and play guitar.
And having all of that be awesome.
Thank you Sparkasse Bremen, thank you Anja. See you next year.
*It’s a tricky little PA to get dialed in because it is a very inexpensive one - a four channel, 80 watt PA head and two 10” speakers. It has global Low Mid High control and the individual channels have a tone knob. A single knob that makes it more high or more low. And tonight is the best I’ve ever gotten it to sound making a balance of the vocal mic turned tone up higher so that it isn’t muddy and the acoustic turned tone down lower so it isn’t too harsh. On the main eq I turn the Mids down to zero and it starts to sound more natural. But it’s a real balance with this PA of trusting your ears - where it sounds good isn’t always where you think the knobs should be.