GRAVELROAD News June 2017 European Tour Blog #1

June 2017 European Tour Blog #1

Wed June 14 – Fly out of Seattle.

Me, Joe & Stefan have a 6pm flight out of Seatac airport which is essentially a red-eye direct to Amsterdam.  That’s at least how I think of it.  We all hope to sleep a little on the plane. We will land at Schipol airport at 1pm local time with load in planned for a show in about 6 hours that over two hours from the airport.  I’ll take rest anywhere I can get it over the next 16 hours. Sleeping on the plane is less than easy.  But we all get a little shut eye.

Th June 15 – Land in Amersterdam, NL. Show in Roermond, NL (Cornelius’ place)

Returning to Schipol feels warm and familiar; an apparent oasis from the changes in the world over the last few months. This port of entry to Europe provides a consistency.  We meet up with the rest of the traveling party in short order and we’re in the van being whisked away to the southeast of the country.

The idea of playing a show on almost no sleep is sometimes a pleasant surprise. If the body’s muscle memory can withstand the decrease in fresh energy, the altered state created by the sleep deprivation can work in one’s favor. It did tonight. We played 3 sets, about 45 minutes each (second set was longer and the third was shorter).  It was a beautiful summer evening. Hot as hell on stage, but a beautiful summer evening. The crowd was into it.  It felt great to play. No better cure for jet lag.

Fri June 16 – Show in Leffinge, BE (De Zwerver)

After a pretty good night’s sleep and some healthy food – two stalwarts of thriving on the road – we head towards the Belgian coast along the North Sea.  We are playing in Leffinge, which pales in size to the touristy hub of neighboring Oostende.  But this small town has fans of the music come from all around the region. Friends are meeting here tonight donning the t-shirts of our friends and contemporaries, like Left Lane Cruiser and Black Diamond Heavies. People have brought in personal copies of the albums we did with T-Model Ford for us to sign. We greatly appreciate the people that love this unusual style of music.

Sometimes it is these shows outside the large cities that are the most fun. Dire hard music fans as opposed to people passing through a “scene.” What’s more, this venue is known for bringing in acts from all of the world, so locals across the region know a good show can and will be had here.

We play one long set for about 1 hour & 45 minutes, but I honestly lost track of time. I jumped off my drum kit and into the crowd to dance and holler but my new bass drum was not stable and the dominoes fell and either the snare stand or the hi hat tumbled down and hit the screen of my phone/clock/camera and cracked it. I was waiting for the day when I’d rue bringing that thing on stage. Tonight was the night. Honestly, it was worth it. This show was so much fun and people hung out and talked to us in the cool night air outside the hot showroom for a long time after the gig. Good times. This is one of those places I know I will come back to.

I should add I’m learning about my new drum kit for Europe, as noted above, part of that lesson was a hard one tonight. It feels good to have my own kit in Europe. Getting on top of it and jumping off is so much easier when it’s not rented property … at least for me.  I got a Sonor kit with the help of our friend Ozzy, who is along with us on the tour.  The kit is relatively pristine. Let’s see if it stays that way.  I punched through the beater head of the bass drum too tonight. That’s cool. It just gives me reason to spend some time with this new tool of mine.

Sat June 17 – Show in Gerardmer, FR (Le Grattoir)

Third show of the tour, third small town.  Pascal is the owner of Le Grattoir and went out of his way to roll out the hospitality. Gerardmer is a mountain town. As we enter town on Saturday late-afternoon, the town is filled with hikers, bikers, lake-goers and locals buzzing about.  The place feels vibrant. It is warm and sunny outside, and this town know for its abundance of rain or snow throughout the year is enjoying summertime.

The stage is surprisingly large for a modest sized club. The place will be packed as the sun begins to set near 10pm.  We go on a little later and do two sets, the first is about 50 minutes and the second includes an encore that lasts over an hour.

The crowd looks a little stunned when we first begin playing. These first three shows, we kind of ease into the first song (“Furry”) but by our 2nd, third, fourth, & fifth songs (“Death Bed Blues,” “Fireman,” “Devil Eyes,” and “Capitol Hill Country Blues”) we are really rockin’. Unlike the night before when the vast majority of people know what they are in for with regards to our sound and show, this crowd seems less pre-informed.  However, they are into it. They are applauding and people – namely women – start to dance, so we know that the audience is gonna get it before the night is through.

That’s exactly what happened. They don’t want us to stop when we take our break. When there’s an audio issue slowing our return to the stage, people appear frustrated. They want to rock. Our second set is even more fun than our first. It may not have been our best sound, as a combination of tiredness and some minor technical issues came into play but no one seemed to care. The show was a big ol’ party. People don’t want to leave. One guy asks me “Why are you here in the town rather than a big city?” I cite our last three nights of gigs as reason for why we love playing small and mid-sized towns.

Finally, I must note the interesting thing about playing in France related to the language barrier. We are approachable people. In Netherlands & Belgium, it is easy to talk with the attendees during breaks or after the show. It is much more challenging here in France. Some folks try. Hell, I try the little French I know, but it’s a different here. I appreciate the locals like Lisabeth and Brian who make the effort to connect.  Part of why we travel is to meet people from all walks of life.

Since we are staying upstairs in the former pensione rooms that are now available for the touring bands, we stay up way too late talking to the owners and enjoying our first time in this special little town.

Sun June 18 – off drive, drive to Cassel, Germany (D)

The first tour blisters get to heal. This is to be the hottest day of the tour. The drive through the hills of the Alsace-Lorraine region is scenic.  We are fully into tour mode now.