Day 15 – Advice for Sound People

Our fifteenth show is over and we have only one to go. Filzbach was amazing. We had a full house of very enthusiastic people who loved the music and even danced to some of the tunes. Our venue and hotel is way up in the mountains overlooking a large lake. It’s also in sight of my favorite mountain peaks in Switzerland.

The view from my room.

The room that we played in was very boomy and reverberant. It would probably be great for classical or acoustic music, but for us it was difficult to tame. Our sound guy, xxxx, was a trip. I’m leaving some advice for sound people based on some of the things that went wrong last night.

1. If your system uses speakon cables, you should have speakon cables on hand. Storing them halfway down the mountain will not be useful and you will have to spend an hour driving to get them while the band twiddles their thumbs.

2. When mixing sound in a room with a large number of reflective surfaces, consider providing the band with monitors. If you don’t have monitors, at least try to have a way to connect the monitors that the band themselves have provided into your system.

3. It’s not enough to simply plug powered speakers in. You also must turn them on. Remembering this step will save you five minutes of checking cables while the guitarist in the band reminds you that operator error is much more common than sudden catastrophic cable failure.

4. Never lose your cool and run around nearly knocking expensive instruments over. Yes, it’s true that expensive instruments should not be left in precarious positions while you are running sound, but this problem is unavoidable unless you observe rule number 1 regarding speakon cables and mountains.

5. Once the show has begun, you might be tempted to add extreme amounts of reverb “for effect” without consulting the band first. Avoid this temptation at all costs! Extreme digital reverb in a room that already has a 1.5 second decay time will cause a great deal of confusion on stage.

If you follow these five simple rules I predict success in your future sound person endeavors.

Day 14 – Repurposed Spaces, Reimagined Songs

Eisenwerk is way more amazing than I indicated earlier. The man who helped us with setting up the PA took me on a tour of the building, which used to be a screw factory, like the Federal Screw Works in Chelsea. There is an art gallery, a 70 seat black box theatre, a bar, a large performance/ rehearsal space (also good for yoga classes, etcetera), and living spaces for about 24 families. In the front are some work spaces, including a book binder/ small printing press.

Large and small text.

This is a letter from a book in English. It’s titled “Dear President Obama”

Reverse image.

After touring the facility I rejoined my bandmates and Beth, who set up the show. The gig went well and the crowd was, as usual, very into the music. The high point was the new version of “Country Lines.” I’m really loving the vibe on the mellow tunes. We’ve cut some of the more stylistically well defined songs in favor of the more sonically interesting pieces.

Our stage at Eisenwerk.

Caption this photo!

I stole Kevin’s hat. Also shaving is for week one.

Interlude – We’re Never Ever Late

The best time for sound check is very very early. Today we loaded in and finished sound check at 4:00. Now we can relax.

We had an amazing breakfast with Michel and Marco and his partner Doris and his daughter and her daughter. We’ve had so much great hospitality on this tour!

Marco’s daughter is not pictured because she is taking the photo.

Then we headed out to the Rheinfall, now under the protection of a scurvy pirate and two of Tom Luley’s albatross sculptures.

I bet you’d love to see amazing photos of the Rheinfall but I forgot my phone. I’ll get them from Serge asap. I know he got some great photo and video.

Here are a few other fave photos of us playing.

I’ll post about tonight’s show later, but this venue is in a cool old warehouse that has been a bar, some theatre and workshop spaces, and some rehearsal rooms. It’s called Eisenwerk.

Day 13 – Naming Posts is Hard

Yesterday we went into Schaffhausen for a stop at our favorite Swiss music store (Saitensprung) and a trip to Munot.

Then back home to Marco’s for a nap. Marco also made us a “Texas” breakfast. I guess he’s spent a fair amount of time in Texas because it was delicious. We’ve received so much amazing hospitality on this tour.

In the evening we played a little house concert for only about ten or twelve people at the home of Michel, a long time fan of Kevin’s music. Although it was a small crowd we had a great time and sold a bunch of CDs. Musically, the high point of the evening was a haunting, very mellow version of Kevin’s song “Country Lines.”

Michel’s 14 year old son has turned a spare room into a store for his homemade cards and candles. I did a little shopping after the show. I should have taken some pictures but last night I was truly exhausted.

We’re leaving this region in a few hours and we’ve got three shows to go. I’m definitely looking forward to getting back to Ann Arbor.

Day 12 – Redemption!

Schaffhausen has always been good to us. Kevin and I were bummed when we heard that dolder2, the bar run by our friend Tom Luley, had been torn down. Fortunately, Tom was able to set up a show for us in a place called Fasskeller, which means “barrel cellar” because it has a half barrel sort of shape, much like Johnny’s Speakeasy.

Tom, Simone, Kevin and me. I have another photo of the four of us from 14 years ago.

We arrived in Schaffhausen after a late and extremely tasty breakfast prepared for us by Christopher, one of the chefs at restaurant Traube Mult. He’s from Poland and he sat and ate with us. It was a great way to begin the day.

I’m happy to be able to say that in Schaffhausen we played an excellent show for a very receptive crowd. After the gig at Mult I was worried that we might be doomed to suck for 6 shows. The vibe was back and we were all tight and connected. We played “Ballad of the Parted Ones,” which we skip most nights. Tabea showed up to sing with us again. We skipped “Crimson and Clover.”

After the gig we went out for a drink and then home to our host Marco’s house. I was driving (I’m not on the rental contact) and we got stopped at a police checkpoint. Fortunately, Marco was with us and he told the cops that we were musicians coming home from a gig. Also, I had skipped the alcohol because I was the DD. So we were fine.

We’re staying for two days at Marco’s place while we play some shows in the Schaffhausen area. It’s nice to have a home base for a minute.

Day 11 – You Can’t Win Them All

Our eleventh day on the road was very relaxed. We took a few hours in the late morning to go to the natural thermal springs at Bad Ragaz for some much needed soaking. It was a luxury we have never had time for in the past, but since we played in Maienfeld it was just a ten minute drive. We returned to the home of Andreas and Cici just in time for their 11 year old daughter Monique to help us load out the gear.

My roadie Monique. She came home from school just in time!

It was a short drive to Gossau for our 11th gig in a restaurant that is run by Beth Wimmer’s husband Pascal. Restaurant Traube Mult is in a building that dates back to 1736. The ceilings were about 5’8″ high.

After load in and sound check we were treated to an amazing dinner by Pascal and his partners.

The actual show was pretty rough. The crowd enjoyed it but it was our worst playing on the tour. I think we are all very tired and worn out, even with our relaxing day. We sounded best on the mellow tunes, and I sang lead on “Crimson and Clover”. We all got good sleep after the show so I’m hopeful that we will get it together for show number 12. It’s difficult to be on night after night. I think next time we should plan a day or two off.

Day 10 – Maienfeld

It was a beautiful sunny morning in Sumiswald. On the way out of town we took a detour through the fog where I took some footage for the opening scene of a horror film…

Fortunately we are under the protection of a scurvy pirate.

We drove into Maienfeld for an early house concert organized by friends of Beth. Andreas and Cici had seen us play last time we were in Switzerland. The place was packed and there was barely enough room for the band.

Distance from audience area to stage area = -18cm.

We played two sets as usual, leaving a few songs off. We didn’t play “Crimson and Clover.” Maybe next time.

This tour is winding down. So far it’s gone pretty smoothly. We’ve had good food, good company, good gigs, and no major malfunctions. I’m looking forward to getting back home. Tours are simultaneously long and short. The beginning of this trip seems like ages ago but at the same time I feel like we just got here.

Day 9 – Over and Over

I’m keeping this one short. Sumiswald is an adorable little town where they make the clocks for Swiss railways. It also has a world renowned brass instrument factory (Hirsbrunner). Our hotel is over 500 years old.

We played a single long set on a three band bill. The first “band” was Beth Wimmer. I joined her on “Harvest Moon” by some Canadian guy. Then we played our long set to a loud crowd. I had a blast, it was definitely our most rocking show so far. I love singing harmonies now and never want to stop, though I don’t think I would give myself more than about a C when it comes to my harmonizing abilities.

The third act was a straight up rock band called Bubi Eifach. They were really good and sang in Swiss German. A lot of the crowd seemed to know their songs. It was fun being at a rock show!

There’s a lot of snow here. While I’m dealing with non-sequiturs I should mention that Serge found my lost sock in his laundry. Also it should be noted that we made it through customs without even having to show our passports at all both leaving and returning to Switzerland. Finally, I have bought no gifts and no postcards. I haven’t even seen a postcard.

Today we drive to Maienfeld for a house concert. Back to the mellow shows!