October 11 – 13, 2015: Back to Netherlands
Breakfast in Ahrensburg, Germany is fantastic. The folks putting on the Refugee Benefit last evening worked out a deal with the neighboring hotel for rooms for the musicians. We each got a 4 1/2 Star hotel room to ourselves, so we slept well and their morning meal was abundant. We said goodbye to the other performers and staff there and hit the road to return to the Netherlands.
This next week will strike a similar plan to the first few dates: some bigger cities and some smaller towns in Belgium and Holland.
We first arrive at Asten, Netherlands for a show tonight. This is our tour manager Ozzy’s hometown. We want to put on a great show for him, his friends, and family.
I’d say our two sets were hot. People got up and danced and moved in closer to the stage after some initial hesitation. It was a fun crowd with only one annoying drunk!
We were all rather loose and limber, bordering upon tired at the end of the 2+ hours of music, but we all felt great. We gave all we had knowing we had the next two days off – Monday and Tuesday – to rest and recover at Ozzy’s house before another 5 show dates in a row.
However, resting looks a little unusual on tour. We played it smart Monday sleeping into the afternoon, something that all-too-rarely happens on the road due to travel, check out times, etc. But Monday night we had fun in this relatively quiet town of 20,000 people. We went back to the Spektakel bar, the same place we played the night before. We had a couple of drinks with the locals, no big deal.
But our conversations over the last 24 hours had focused on something called the Duvel challenge. Duvel is a Belgian beer that is high in alcohol at 8.5%. It is not too dark a beer, but it is thick and foamy. We had heard that “no one could drink 6 in an hour.” Actually, we’d later find out the true challenge is 10 in an hour – no leaving your seat, no throwing up, no peeing yourself, and then you have to stay for 30 minutes after completing your final Duvel to prove you did it.
For the meantime, stick with this idea that our challenge was 6 Duvel in an hour. Joe felt like he could do it. Most of us were confident that Joe could do it, but we all figured he’d be hurting. We returned to Ozzy’s with a 6-pack of Duvel and Joe was up for the challenge.
The first 4 were going down about 7 minutes per beer. He was right at about 28 minutes when our online research (included watching failed attempts of the Duvel challenge on YouTube), let us know it was supposed to be 10 in a hour. He slowed down a bit, likely due to both the beer and the new info. But he still wanted to go for 6 in a hour.
Now, after doing a little more searching on the internet I found that it was at about the 5th or 6th Duvel that people really started to struggle. I saw at least 2 YouTube clips where beer number 5 really seemed to impair people. I read online discussions saying that around the 5th or 6th beer people failed, often throwing up. There was more YouTube evidence of this as well.
Joe started to look a little different during the consumption of this fifth Duvel. He poured the 6th one in while there was still more of the 5th, seemingly to keep himself focused during a likely loss of organizational functioning.
He coasted on the 6th, taking his time. At 57+ minutes, he completed the last of it. He sat for quite awhile – we stopped timing him – and his legs were barely working. He did it though! He lasted only a handful of extra time before Kirby and I had to help him to bed. The 2 buckets, one on either side of his mattress, along with a towel were some of our smartest moments at this late hour. Joe’s night was a relatively quiet one.
He completely lost his next day, however. He got up after almost 12 hours in bed, tried a little tomato soup – which only lasted moments in the stomach, hello buckets! – and back to bed he went. This last for the entire day. Late Tuesday night he looked himself again, well, almost. He was fine by Wednesday when we took off for Belgium. Needless to say, he wasn’t drinking and Belgian beer while in Belgium.
October 14 – 16: Belgium and France
We are playing in Aarshot, Belgium. This is a fair sized city with a good reputation for supporting music, arts, and culture according to a few people. We are playing the Loods bar, run by nice people that took good care of us. We have such a strange response to our music. People seemed to really dig it but they didn’t dance, they just observed. I think we must have put on a good spectacle for them.
I was able to jump on top of the nearby bar towards of the end of “Cocaine Baby” in order to get the audience involved. It was a low ceiling above the bar, so it was a bit of dance to be moving along the semi-slick bar top while, navigating among the drinks, talking into the mic and not hitting my head. Good times! I was told they’ve never had someone work the top of the bar like that. Hurray. I love blazing a trail.
Our next gig is in Lille, France. The weather is rainy and dreary now. It reminds us of home. Being on the road gives an alternate perspective to this sort of climate. We are surprisingly energetic arriving in Lille. I wished we had more time to explore the city, but we at least got to spend time with Parisian band Teleferik in advance of playing these next two shows together.
Arno, Eliz, and Olivier of Teleferik are a joy. We are sharing gear with them tonight, so sound check is easy. We have coffees early and dinner later and chat and catch up for the first time in almost exactly a year when we met them at the Deep Blues Festival weekend in Clarksdale, Mississippi in October 2014. They’re great people, musicians, and performers. Arno and Olivier are rockers and Eliz belts out the tunes and works her way among the crowd. The Lille show – not well promoted by the club – has a small turnout but the people are really into it. Everyone packs up front for the show. Everyone was there from beginning to end, moving, shaking it, and having a good time. We get some really great compliments after the gig and all of us “hit the wall.” It won’t be a late night, as we’d rather have energy for Paris tomorrow.
We get out of Lille and try to get ahead of the traffic into Paris. We are moderately successful. We are able to get into Paris and get a little local flavor, in terms of food and wine. Eliz is sacrificing her apartment – she will stay across town with a friend! – so that we can all be together.
Our interest is not in tourism. Rather, we wish to simply blend in with the locals … but I’m sure we don’t necessarily blend that well. Eventually, after meandering around the 15th district of Paris for awhile, we make the slow drive towards the venue. What would have taken about 15-20 minutes on the Metro took over an hour in Paris’ rush hour traffic. We got to see a lot of cool stuff, but poor Ozzy probably needed a sedative after the dangerous weaving in an d out of motorbikes and super crazy bicyclists and cab drivers.
The show is in an interesting space. Alimentation Générale is a venue in a hopping area of Paris. We are playing on the upper floor and there’s some sort of part or similar event happening downstairs. When we see it in the bright light, it simply looks like a crappy old warehouse. But in the alterations of light and darkness once the show starts, it is perfect for a rock-n-roll show.
Teleferik throws down another great set. Interestingly, I barely remember ours – – and it has nothing to do with being drunk. It’s just kind of a blur. We are playing shorter sets on these two French shows than the other gigs, so 50 minutes or so flies by. What’s more, I take the opportunity to enjoy the crowd. Many nights, the lights make it hard to see much from stage. Tonight’s sight lines afforded me the opportunity to see more people. There were the young lovers who were swaying to the music, a little self-conscious so they weren’t really dancing but the groove was undeniable.
There were a few rocker dudes peering on intently. There was a mix of nationalities, including Americans at the show. It felt very international, as it should be in Paris. I’ve had other amazing shows in Paris and this just got added to the list. I can’t quite articulate what I like about playing this city so much, but I do. If I could speak french, I’d see myself considering living here.
One other gentleman in the crowd stood out. He knew our music, even if he hadn’t heard us before. He knew the music of the north Mississippi Hill Country. He recognized our covers of Junior Kimbrough and RL Burnside. He identified my cross-handed drumming style like that of Cedric Burnside. We talked for awhile after the show. I feel like so many people are foreign to many of our influences. It is validating when someone likes our music and feels it is “new” to them. It is equally validating to find people that are into our influences and happy to hear us keeping a form of the traditions alive. This, for me, is an element of a great tour.
The night goes on for a while after the gig, but it’s no wild one. Paris provides so much to see that we are happy to play our show and simply relax in the city. Tomorrow will have more travel and we will only be able to enjoy Paris for the briefest of times in the morning.