I have played the Shakespeare Pub here in Herdecke (pronounced Head-aka) a couple of times before. One time with Riddle & The Stars when it was so hot, no one wanted to go inside for music so we just played busking style out in front of the pub. Then the next time I was there I couldn’t figure out why I had no memory of playing inside until someone reminded me of the outside playing the last time.
You see, there’s lots of gigs and it’s damn near impossible to remember everything from every gig. I’ve been going over some of my older tour diaries because I have an idea for a book and reading things I have written and experienced and have no memory of it nearly all the way through the reading. It’s my life but sometimes I’m watching the show too.
But last year when I played here I sat down after an incredibly long train trip where the trains were all canceled across Germany because of a terrorist attack and I had to figure out a way here* and when I walked up Nathaniel asked me if I’d like a cup of tea and he made me a cup of Rare Tea Company’s “Speedy Breakfast”** and that became my favorite tea ever.
Today, I get dropped off by the bus and walk the half mile here, mostly downhill even, drop my stuff and walk around the corner to an Italian restaurant and get some spaghetti and a glass of wine*** and I enjoy it as the skies open up and rain pours down. I eat and watch the rain from under a large umbrella outside. I’m the only patron not eating inside the restaurant and it’s so incredibly calming to me.
Back at the Shakespeare Pub my new musician friend from last year has been texting me and I’m chatting with Philipp. He’s an aspiring musician from Germany that taught himself to speak great English by watching Friends re-runs, loves country music, is wearing cowboy boots and is just a super nice guy. He texts me on WhatsApp every other month or so and he’s been really digging the new October album.
As I’m setting up, a dude in a Riddle & The Stars shirt walks in with about 6 friends and takes there place right next to where I’m performing. That feeling, of being somewhere remote or far away and wearing your shirt - it’s truly indescribable. Like, sometimes you look at a room full of folks you don’t know and it feels like starting from scratch but when there’s someone, even one person in the room that is already a fan - it feels like starting on third base.****
And then Alina Sebastian, Niklas Herzog, Jonas Vallan, and David Tarakona all show up. They are a band here locally from Osnabrück, Niklas has played drums with me and they have just put out a new album and she’s brought me a copy and I’m excited to hear it. I feel a connection to it already just by looking at the photos inside as they were visiting the US and borrowed my guitar for some pics - so my guitar is in their cd pics! Woo-Hoo!
As I start off I feel like the little engine that couldn’t. I’m struggling. The table to my left is loud even though most of the rest of the place is listening - they’re oblivious. And when I say to my left - they are like one meter*****away. And it’s distracting me because I haven’t really had to deal with this much. At one point I’m playing a guitar solo and they get super loud during it and I just thrash away at the strings for a second to drown them out in volume. And it does work briefly to quiet them.
Then I’m able to center myself. Don’t play to the fuckers who aren’t here to hear you. Play to the ones that are. And I look to my right and see them all watching me and listening. I make eye contact with Alina and she’s digging it. Phillip is at the bar just staring at me. And I find it.
It’s amazing that after all this time that there’s still a struggle at some gigs to find yourself but the internal dialogue and the external indifference meet up in weird ways to distract the brain.
Oh and I only slept for less than three hours last night so I cut myself a little slack.
Then it was just on. I rocked, played loud songs, quiet songs and everything in between until I started going hoarse. Told some stories too. There is a physical difficulty of performing somewhere where folks are talking as you have to sing over them and you end up pushing your voice and I had to do that in the first set and I can feel my voice is getting tired.
I announce last song and then get two encores.
The second set of last night’s show was probably one of my best overall performances I’ve done in recent memory. I’m not saying it was technically perfect. I’m saying it was a great performance. I connected differently and floated. As I sang, I could hear Tracy’s voice singing her parts. I could hear Matt’s rhythm driving the song. And yet I was all by myself.
I miss my band. I miss my wife. One more show. It’s time to go home.******
There’s a woman that was here last year and she comes and buys a cd, I can’t remember how to pronounce her name but she is super nice and gifts me some chocolate after buying a cd. I only put out about 8 cds tonight as I wasn’t expecting a rush but they all sell and I have to run upstairs and get more.
I say my goodbyes and go upstairs and fall asleep. It’s not even midnight and I sleep for nearly 9 hours.
See you in Dortmund.
*This is totally different from today’s long travel day here where I was just booked 450 miles away and had to take 11 hours worth of taxis, trains and buses.
**This is NOT a paid promotion.
***Because the last time I was here Nathaniel didn’t have food and he bought me a pizza and I wasn’t up for pizza today BUT I’m an idiot because he does have food now and blerg… whatever. It was a good glass of wine.
****Sorry to European readers for the baseball analogy. If you’re in the UK or Australia, it’s like starting with 2 wickets already knocked down. Germany, it’s like having Thomas Muller taking your penalty kicks.
*****About 39” away or just more than a yard.
******Don’t read anything into the band missed being before my wife. I wrote it both ways and felt it flowed better in this order. You say them the other way and tell me I’m wrong.