Today is our anniversary. Tracy and I have been together for 260 years now. And with the exception of when I’m in a hurry, have canceled trains or am sleeping in a terrible hotel or someone’s couch - I always wish she was with me on tour.
I planned ahead a little bit and ordered some crochet hooks and some purple yarn for her to make her own hat to leave behind somewhere and I’m actually on the phone with her when she opens it so that’s nice.
There is this myth that being “on tour” allows you all this extra time to, you know - be a musician and write more songs and all that but you really don’t. Being on tour is a lot like having a microwave oven. It’s supposed to make things easier and save time but really - you don’t save any time, you just do more stuff.
Seriously, what happened to all the time we were going to save by having a microwave? Where did it go?
And another thing that happens is that half baked tangents like comparing being on tour to being a microwave oven…makes sense to me.*
Lack of wifi has been causing me some issues. I have T-Mobile, which is also in Europe, so I do have signal everywhere but just using data and maps and downloading podcasts - it’s really bottlenecked and I get messages from T-Mobile saying I’ve used up all the 5G speed and am now getting throttled down to 256K.**
It’s a stupid modern problem but every time I write one of these tour diaries, I write it on my iPad in an email to myself. When I finish writing it I turn on the HotSpot on my phone, wait for it to connect and then send myself an email. This way if something gets lost, I have a copy of it in my Sent folder because it REALLY sucks when you write an entire tour diary on Facebook and then the screen refreshes and you lose the whole thing. Then after a few minutes when the email finally arrives on my phone, I copy/paste and post with pics in the phone on my Facebook page and on my website. There’s always a process and this is the best/most foolproof way I’ve found to do it.
Boy that was boring.
The drive from Bremen to Lübeck is about 120 miles and I’m leaving with plenty of time so that once I get to Lübeck I can find a laundromat and make some clean clothes. It turns out that doing laundry in Lübeck is way cheaper than doing laundry in Amsterdam! It cost 8.50 per wash in Amsterdam and then another 5 euro to dry it. In Lübeck, I did the same thing except all together it was less than 6 euro.
Lübeck apparently not the hotspot tourist destination that Amsterdam is.
I am able to sort of nap in the car while the laundry cooks but it’s not good sleep. This Fiat is easily the least comfortable automobile I’ve ever driven. It’s so bad I’ve apologized to it for bad mouthing it. I feel like I have to be nice to it or else it will turn on me.
But Lübeck is the home of Tonfink, a fantastic little bar with food and a great stage with soundman and monitors and lights. Carolin owns/runs the place and she also does the booking and cooking. She’s there waiting for me and makes me a cup of tea and later on some Thai chicken curry. We confirm details as well as the details for my stay in the local hostel/hotel.
“Don’t lock yourself in again!”*** she warns me.
“I will not do that again.” I assure her.
I sit down to change the strings on my acoustic and Carolin brings me my dinner. Lübeck is a very cute little city. There’s bikes everywhere and a ton of road construction going on that makes driving here exceptionally confusing - even with GPS. As I’m eating Felix comes up to the table and introduces himself as the soundman and he goes in and sets up stuff and in no time we have excellent sound happening.
There’s a couple that have come and are sitting down near the stage and I recognize her from the last time I was here. Anna has brought her boyfriend Heiko and they tell me about all the concerts they’ve been to in the last year, how they volunteered at music festivals, volunteered for LGBTQ events and worked benefits for women’s shelters and have seen, I want to say 300 shows but that can’t be right. It was a number that ended in “hundred” - maybe it was 100 shows in the last year. She is also wearing a Glen Hansard shirt and he has a Mohawk and they say how much they like listening to metal but the best show they’ve seen in the last year was Glen Hansard. I love that sort of range of musical taste.
She tells me that she follows me on IG and has been inspired by the causes I support and work with when I’m not making music. I’m humbled and amazed by the comment.
I dive into my set and it’s going well. Singing songs, telling stories. I play quiet songs and you could hear a pin drop in the room. I chat with folks during the break. It’s all good.
Super short Guitar Geek Warning:
There’s something weird going on with the phase of my guitar. I’m using my normal two pickup thing but when I bring the second signal in with the volume pedal, the sound gets super nasally. I know it’s phasing out. I flip the phase on my pickup and it doesn’t improve. I flip it back and then flip the phase on the DI and it still does not improve. I am stumped by this. Both of those things should’ve fixed it. I’m also testing the limits of what this SparkleDrive pedal can do. For what I do, it’s very limited. I’m missing my Barefoot FX pedal.
During my second set I play a couple of songs on my telecaster and Felix had helped me dial in a direct sound with it through the SparkleDrive but it’s un inspiring tone tonight. Just bugging me. Then I pick up the mandolin and do two songs acoustically in front of the one mic and they go over too.
I strum a bunch more and as 10 pm approaches I announce that this is my last song. The table with two college age women on my left let out a loud “NO!!!” So much so that I’m actually shocked by it.
“Can this be the song before your last song?”
And in that broken English is the greatest way to ask for more.
“Sure, this is the song before the last song and it’s called ‘Angelia’.”
They scream again.
“My name is Angelia!”
This is an absolute first. When I first called the song that I was looking for a name that would sort of hint at the idea of a Guardian Angel but I didn’t want to be obvious about it and so I changed it to Angelia, sort of thinking I made the name up.**** I sing the song to them and then play another and say goodnight but they all want more. It’s so nice getting that sustained clapping of folks wanting an encore.
Of course I will play more. I actually don’t remember what my second to last song was but I felt like ending with some big rock,
“I stole this next song from a band from Australia.”
And I close with “Long way to the top if you want to rock and roll”*****
It’s great talking to folks after the show, I sell some cds and t-shirts and talk with the couple from earlier.
Heiko asks “What band was it from Australia? Men at work?”
“No, it was INXS.”
“Are you sure it wasn’t Midnight Oil?”
“Oh, it might have been the Go Betweens”
“Ah, yes, the Go Betweens.”
And we both laugh at our collective musical geekery.
Some dude at the bar buys me a shot, I take a sip. I’m not up for this tonight but I thank him. Felix asks me if I’m going to finish it and I say no and he downs it in one motion. “Made from corn” he says after a grimaced swallow. The two college women are very chatty and they want to be musicians. They ask if I will play another set and I tell them no, I’m done. “But maybe just another hour?”
I’m truly flattered that they want another hour of my music but music stops here about 10 and it’s 10 after.
We sit around chatting for a bit with Anna and Heiko after the show. And then talk with Merleine and Angelia. They ask about how long I’ve played music, when did I start and were my parents happy when I started playing guitar or did they want me to go to college and it’s a funny line of questioning as I can tell the two of them are struggling with it as well. Angelia swigs wine straight from the bottle and non-stop talks and Merleine just smokes and keeps asking questions. They ask questions that are honest but in a kind way. They don’t come out and ask “how much money do you make?” They ask me how successful I am as a musician. Putting it on my terms and it’s such a refreshing way to be asked.
I tell them that I’m not rich, I have to make money when I play, I cannot do it for free but most of my “success” comes from all the people/friends/fans I have met, the places that being a musician has gotten me access to, the extraordinary life that I live - that is success. I wasn’t prepared to have this conversation and my answers surprise both me and them. I can see them thinking and finally she says “I bet bigger bands don’t have the same experiences.”
“Ganeau.”****** I say.
I tell Merleine that she has the same color hair as Tracy.
“This is not my real color hair.”
“It’s not Tracy’s either..”
I tell them that tomorrow is our anniversary and they ask how many years we’ve been married.
“That’s longer than I’ve been alive.”
Carolin comes to tell me that my room is ready, I’ve been upgraded, I’m in room 6 and the key is already in the door. Because of course it is. I drive to the hostel, there’s no key in the door but the room is open. I go inside and fall asleep.
*I feel like it’s when comedian Eddie/Suzy Izzard made the connection that cannibals say that humans taste like chicken so when someone is served chicken he said “taste of human.” And he really lost a lot of the audience with that one.
**Which makes you feel like one of the beings in that show “Uploaded” where dead people’s consciousness are uploaded to a server thing but their families have to pay for more data otherwise they just end up in the basement all greyed out. Man, that show is way darker than the comedy it was first billed as.
***Devotees of the Tour Diary will remember that the last time I played here, at the end of the night I went to the hostel, went in the wrong door and tried to exit into a big atrium area only to have the door lock behind me and for a frantic hour thought I was going to have to sleep in that locked area in sight of my illegally parked car with the hazards on because the staff had gone home for the night. Carolin woke up the owner at home and he drove back and let me out.
****Completely forgetting that not only does Richard Marx have a song called Angelia, but my friend Tawny IS IN THE VIDEO with Richard Marx.
*****This song is obviously by AC/DC, not the Go Betweens, not The Church, not Baby Animals, not Paul Kelly, not Kacey Chambers…
******Ganeau is German for “uh-huh”. It’s probably the most common thing you hear in conversation here.