This is probably the nicest bar I’ve ever slept in.
By the time I wake up, Nathaniel has already been here, received deliveries and checked in on me. Breakfast is happening at 10 amand he has made Rare Tea Co’s Speedy Breakfast for me.
As we east breakfast Nathaniel tells me about things in the pub and how some of the beams actually come from some other building and were repurposed for the Shakespeare Pub - this building dates back to 1730. That’s pretty cool.
I pack up my bags, backpack on front and back and guitar and walk about 50 yards/meters to the city center and wait for my bus to Dortmund. I know this was only two days ago but already I have no memory of arriving in Dortmund other than walking out of the train station, crossing the street, climbing some stairs and going into another hotel room.
Touring is hard.
It doesn’t matter if you are driving, taking busses and trains or planes. There is a feeling of constant movement and always having to be “on” that really drains you. I’ve been doing this for a good chunk of my life and I’m still not sure the best way to do it. I think in terms of touring a lot. And what I mean by that is I’m always trying to reduce my footprint. Carry fewer things, have equipment that can double for other things because I saw the economical side of traveling with less stuff. Someone like The Edge travels with 40 guitars on tour and his pedalboard and amps are so famous that even his guitar tech is famous - his name is Dallas.
I still wish I had achieved a larger status than where I am. The idea of not carrying all my own stuff or stepping on a plane and my stuff being brought to whatever venue I’m playing next - that still sounds nice. But my DIY aesthetic will always kick in. That said, I know so many other, more talented, folks that will never do what I’m doing now and so a certain gratitude sets in as I’m currently, at this moment, sitting in a hotel restaurant in Frankfurt, Germany drinking red wine and typing away.
But still, the tour is over and one cannot help reflecting on the past month.
My last show is at Wohnzimmer im Piepenstock in Dortmund. I’ve played this venue a few times and even a few times when it was in a different location. Marco runs the place and he’s a musician and actor here in Dortmund and quite a character. He’s big and bold and everyone loves him.
From downtown I couldn’t figure out a bus to the Wohnzimmer so I opted for a taxi and I have a great a conversation with this driver who has moved to Germany from Tajikistan. Admits the U.S. is better with Biden but to most of his world sees no difference between him and Trump. “It’s all the same to us.” Which is telling and disheartening but I get it. He drops me off in front of the Wohnzimmer and I’m early, a few hours early. Marco won’t be here for another 90 minutes and I don’t go on for a couple of hours but I don’t have anywhere else to go or to be. I have everything on my back so I’m not about to start wandering around, shit gets heavy.
So I sit on the front steps, take out my guitar and start working on some new songs. Across the street from me is a small park. More than anything else it’s just where some locals get together to drink and smoke outside. I can hear them laughing and joking and before long they wander over to where I am.
I was quite content to just sit by myself but they won’t let me. They are so kind and welcoming. I’m offered a beer, a shot, pot, a smoke… They just want to hear a song. So I play them a song. I’ve just finished the chorus of the first song and the dude is freaking out. He’s pointing to his arm and I can visibly see that all the hair on his arm is standing straight up. “Gänsehaut.” Is what she says and points to her arm too. Goosebumps.
They pick up my bags and make me come across the street to where their friends are and I’m hesitatingly following. I’m not a fan of folks grabbing my stuff and even well meaning…I’m skittish about such things. But they are all super nice, friendly and open and just want to share with their friends what I just did. It’s absolutely amazing. I play a couple of songs for them, one of them takes video and asks if it’s ok to put it on TikTok. We take pictures and it’s truly very pure, sweet and wholly unexpectedly beautiful.
Marco arrives and I say goodbye to my new friends and cross back over to the Wohnzimmer and set up for tonight.
Now the Wohnzimmer Live in Piepenstock is a music venue only. It’s got a bar, a stage and a Soundsystem. Sometimes plays get put on here. There’s a back line of amps if you need them and a piano on stage that if I had my stuff with me, I would’ve tuned.
Soundcheck takes a minute and a half and it’s probably the some of the best live sound ever. Marco is an attentive soundman and adjusts reverb levels during the songs and I can hear him adding bits here and there as part of the performance. It’s nice.
And then it’s time to wait for showtime. I take out my pillow, find a spot on one of the benches and lay down and fall asleep for about 30 minutes.
Folks start filing in and I’m told that it’s going to be a thin night as there is a Football match here in the city as well as it being a museum night which I think means that the museum is free tonight and lots of folks going to that. It’s alright, I’ve learned that you play to the folks that are here and not the folks that aren’t.
The first set is alright. I’m trying to read the room and it’s all folks sitting and listening. I test the waters with a bigger song, more aggressive strumming and they react positively. So when the second set starts I really turn it on and they react in kind. We hit a few nice high moments together and when I end, they won’t let me. Zugabe! I play a few more and call it a night.
Thank you Dortmund. It’s been beautiful.
Back at Marco’s, his wife Ingrid has made up a bed for me to sleep in. I sleep quickly and wake at 8 am with Marco asking me if I want breakfast. They have made me toast, tea and eggs.
I am a lucky man.