May 3, 2014 (Krakow, Poland) & May 4, 2014 (Grodkow, Poland)
We leave the Las, Wada, & Blues Festival on the morning of Saturday May 3. It is, unfortunately, a 5 hour drive to Krakow. We all agree that Krakow is the city we’d most like to explore on this tour, but any significant chance to do so will not happen until the next morning.
Our tour manager explains to us that our show tonight in Krakow is in a venue attached to a beautiful hotel where we will be staying. And damn if she ain’t right.
We get into Krakow with enough time for Stefan and I to make a quick trip around the recently revitalized Jewish ghetto. Interestingly, the movie “Schindler’s List” helped attract people (tourists & locals) back to this part of town that was in decay. We had a bite to eat and did some walking to keep ourselves warm on this unseasonably cold day.
After sound check at the venue and dinner at our upscale hotel, we moved back downstairs for the show. Being that it was still the holiday weekend, we were told to expect a less-than-full house. Still, there was a nice crowd and we were ready to do two 45-minute sets.
The first set was a little uneven. I wouldn’t call it bad, but there were some difficult transitions for me because I couldn’t hear Kirby’s guitar. The mix sounded different from sound check. We adjusted the monitors at the break and had a much better second set. We got a great round of rhythmic clapping from the crowd at the end of the 2nd set to invite us out for an encore.
I know I felt a little low at the end of the first set. This was my third straight show of having some form of “technical difficulties” and, despite my advanced knowledge that I’d be playing backlined gear this whole tour and I’d have to be ready to deal with whatever came up by playing unfamiliar drum kits, I was a bit bummed. I guess it also had to do with the crowd be smaller and much more subdued than our last performance at the festival. Such is life on the road – highs and lows can be minutes apart.
It felt great to finish the night strong. There was even some dancing at the end. Tonight was a reminder of the delicate balance between performers, the crowd, and the instruments of sound and music that all combine for a successful (or unsuccessful) show.
We are playing a set that has a number of older songs, but there’s a song on our new album that we’ll release this fall – Weavin’ – that is getting really strong as a result of this tour. The song’s lyrics are bizarre and the song’s story is downright vulgar in a couple of spots, so maybe it’s a good thing the Polish people aren’t aware of what we are saying, but the music is undeniably groovy and fun.
It sure helped that, after the show, I could retreat to a beautiful hotel room and take hot bath in a 4-star tub and let the body soak.
The next morning, Sunday May 5th, we took full advantage of the hotel’s decadent breakfast buffet options. Multiple great meat & egg dishes, salmon and fresh fruit spreads, artisan breads and delicious cappuccinos filled us up and prepared us for a few hours walking through the heart of old Krakow.
We went into the main square where it was bustling with tourists and churchgoers on this Sunday. We walked around the city’s famous castle grounds and meandered through streets & along the Wisla (Vistula) river. Our tour manager Ewa was kind enough to serve as tour guide, telling us tales of dragons and other local folklore.
We headed out of Krakow amidst a variety of holiday traffic. We arrived in Grodkow a little later than expected but we were aided by being backlined by the opening band. Tonight’s drum kit was great, with only a small quirk in the clutch of the hi-hat as something I’d have to attend to during the set.
We were playing in what I’d have to call a “cultural hall” in this working-class town. It was a hall with a kitchen and a large stage that was available to the community. I’ve played in similar places elsewhere in Europe before. These are less common in the US, but growing up in Pittsburgh, we had some fancy “fire halls” that this sort of resembled, just with a large stage and a sound system.
The community-feel of this evening added to the night. Everyone there seemed to know each other, unlike playing a larger city like Krakow where the audience was made up of people that were strangers to each other. This audience quickly got up (and stayed up) to dance. One guy had his shirt off about 4 songs into our set! Good times!
The festival show had the wildest crowd, but this show was really special in that the crowd was fueled less by beer & a full day’s worth of music and more by their apparent enjoyment of the set of songs in front of them. All of the receptions to our music have been positive, but each of us remarked afterward that people seemed to really “get” what we were doing. We got very insightful comments and thoughtful questions. I know that Stefan was struck by certain positive feedback and I had a special moment when one of the oldest members of the audience told me, “That was the greatest concert I’ve ever been to my entire life.”
It is worth noting that Joe Johnson, on his first tour with us playing bass, is doing a great job holding his own and adding something better each and every night. He is working the stage and listening carefully to everything we are doing, which is vital because we strive to be dynamic and not overly predictable in our song structures. We want to allow for us to make adjustments on the fly, to let some songs that have a great groove go long if the crowd is into it, and generally be ready for anything odd & spontaneous that I pull from behind the kit. He’s doing wonderfully and having fun at the same time. It’s a treat having him along for this tour.
We get tomorrow (Monday) off before heading into Slovakia. Woo Hoo! – MR