Driving into Innsbruck through the alps.
And the van itself. Our home for the next few weeks.
Driving into Innsbruck through the alps.
And the van itself. Our home for the next few weeks.
It’s about this time that I lose track of what the date is. I actually would have to consult a calendar to get that info. It’s Monday. Fourth night. We crossed into Germany without getting stopped by customs agents. We had a good show and sold plenty of CDs. Dinner was amazing again. I think for today’s post I’m going to take you through a typical day in detail. So, here we go. “How to Tour, According to Me.”
1. It’s sometime between 8 and 10 a.m. Wake up. Shower. Shave. Brush teeth and hair. Floss! Get dressed in the same clothes you wore all day yesterday. And by the same, I mean the same underwear and socks too, unless you’ve been wearing them longer than three days.
2. Practice your guitar. You have gigs coming up after you get home and you need to be ready for them. Plus you must always practice scales.
3. Go downstairs. Have breakfast. Chat with Kevin and Serge. Discuss your plan for the day, which basically boils down to “When do we need to leave?” “When do we need to get to the next town?” “Should we hit the hotel or the venue first?” “Do we run our own sound?” “When should we do laundry?”
4. Pack up the van. This task is simple because you rented a nine person van and there are only three of you. Plus two guitars, an electric bass, an upright bass, a bass amp, a guitar amp, two small powered speakers, a small mixer, seven mic cables (some functional), five mics, speaker cables, at least 6 power strips, various adapters, guitar cables, power cables, three mic stands (some functional), 2 speaker stands, a pedal board (Serge’s) over 100 CDs, various bags of gear, and luggage for three. And a bag of almonds, but not a real bag of almonds. It’s actually a bag of hazelnuts that you are pretending are almonds.
5. Drive to the next town. It’s only 1-3 hours away. Listen to music or get lost or talk about Miles Davis. Or all three. You must listen to Rock’nRoll Animal and Revolver at least once on this tour. Go to the hotel room and practice again. Change out of your stinky driving clothes and into your less stinky gig clothes.
6. Go to the venue. Unload the van. Set up the PA. This takes a long time, but is exciting because you brought gaff tape and when you’re done running cables you can tape them down. Resolve to always have gaff tape as it makes you unreasonably happy. Set levels, begin sound check. Run a few tunes. Adjust the threshold of your compressor with the help of Kevin. Work out some more harmonies.
7. Sit down. Eat. Dinner is always provided and is usually delicious. Often it’s mostly local. Have some wine, beer, whiskey or tea (please just pick two).
8. Play. This is why you’re here, right? Stay focused. Don’t miss those harmonies. Don’t second guess yourself. Be completely present at all times. Play the thing that needs to be heard and don’t play the thing that gets in the way. This task should be easy after 36 years but it seems like something always distracts you. Do better.
9. Sell CDs. Sign CDs. Talk to old friends and new friends. Keep an eye on the gear since some people don’t understand that it’s not ok to touch your stuff. Do not be afraid to get up and say, “Hey, please don’t” in a loud voice. Who touches an upright bass without permission? Germans, that’s who!
10. Pack up the gear. Load up the van. (see step 4). Drive back to the hotel and bring in some of the gear. Call someone, like your kids or one of your partners, for example. Send texts and emails. Notice that it’s nearly 1 a.m. Write a quick blog post. It’s late. Go to sleep!
Repeat steps 1-10 until you have played all the shows.
We’re starting to settle into the tour nicely. We’ve worked out the van packing issues, figured out how to navigate, learned our sound system, and as a result today was largely uneventful. We left Sils i.D this morning at 11 and arrived at our hotel around 1pm. Sometimes our GPS tells us to exit the freeway and drive aimlessly around some back roads, and sometimes it tells us to turn left on a road that is actually an overpass and therefore not accessible, but other than that everything was great.
Esse Bar is a jazz club and the room sounds great. Tom and Tom are the owners, and Tom is an amazing cook. After sound check we were served our best meal of the tour so far. It was some sort of Thai inspired rice, vegetable, and chicken dish.
As far as the music, we played and sang really well and we had two wonderful guests. Aaron Till from Nashville joined us on fiddle for three tunes and killed it. I love having two soloists because we can bounce ideas off of each other, and Aaron is a natural at sharing space that way. He’s a master player and really made the evening fun. Beth joined us again and we were able to get some three part harmony going. Her voice is superb and she’s probably going to be at 2 or 3 more shows. We had a crowd of familiar faces in the room, people who have seen us over the years and know all the songs. Tom from Dolder 2 showed up as well. Dolder 2 is a club that we always play at but it’s closed now. It felt good to play for an interested audience in a good sounding room. Tomorrow we head into Germany for the Illertal Cowboys Club. Last time we played there it was a bit of a let down, but perhaps this time it will be better!
In the years since I’ve been touring with Kevin on the Brambus label, a number of other bands that I have played in have also tried to get a record released over here. Paul will usually decline with a comment about how the band is “too country” and that Brambus is more of a folk and jazz label. That’s cool. Kevin is not really a country singer, but more of a songwriter in the vein of Dylan or Springsteen. So it’s always strange when we find ourselves booked into a room like Beni’s Backroad Beiz, where they play classic country on the jukebox all night, everyone smokes, and where literally every other band I’ve played with that has ever shown interest in Brambus would be completely at home.
Yes, that is a stuffed goat peeking out from behind my amp. There was also a still living giant dog named Rover. He was incredibly big and adorable.
As for the show, it went really well. We had to run our own sound so we had a long sound check, working out our stage setup, levels, and eq. Pro tip; always bring gaff tape. It’s worth every cent. The result of our long sound check was that we sounded good on stage and in the house. I’m really starting to love singing harmony and wish I’d started doing it decades ago. The mix was great and we all played really well. The crowd definitely preferred the more uptempo numbers, but they did pay attention to some of the ballads. I dug into my honky tonk bag a lot as well.
We were nervous going into this gig because it looked like a place where we would not go over, but in the end it was fun. We had a good time and the crowd did as well.
Tomorrow we play Esse Bar in Winterthur, which is actually a jazz bar. We played there before and it should be a fun night. The drive is short (or “handsome,” as Paul says), so we might arrive early enough to do laundry! Our clothes smell like smoke.
Last night we finally got some sleep. The first show was on a wonderful stage right by lake Zurich. We had professional sound and played for a small crowd of appreciative people. We were joined on stage by two guest vocalists, Beth Wimmer and Tabea Anderfuren. It was my first time ever singing harmony live with Kevin and that part of the show was a blast. Overall we played really well, especially considering our exhausted state.
I’ll make a post of photos soon as well.
Rock’nRoll scripture for Day 1: I’m so tired, my mind is on the blink.
This morning we picked up our PA and some paperwork from Paul, who runs our label. Then we drove on to our second gig. We’re currently relaxing in our hotel and about to leave for sound check.
It’s been a hard day. Getting out of the airport was tough because our rental van is so high tech that we are literally like the three stooges trying to remove the seats and work the GPS. I ended up navigating Kevin to St Gallen to pick up Serge’s bass the old school way. You know, with a map? We got there late and the shop was closed for lunch but we killed time for a few hours. The Sprenger violin shop is the oldest in Switzerland and it was gorgeous and very cool. They had three basses for Serge to try out.
After getting the bass we headed to Stafa, having deciphered the GPS. But we arrived with only enough time to sound check and to head to the hotel for 30 minutes. At this point we have been awake for well over 24 hours and it’s been showing. We’re all pretty ragged but soon we will play our first show and get our first night of sleep. I’m hopeful that we will be rested for tomorrow’s gig. Now we’re off to dinner and the show…
As I write this I’m in a plane over Great Britain with 2 hours to go on the first leg of our flight. The trip is so far uneventful, though we did run into a snag at the airport when Serge’ s bag was over the maximum allowable weight. We were told to get rid of eleven pounds of stuff. Fortunately we were able to stuff five pounds of cables (2 extension cords, 2 instrument cables, and a mic cable) into Serge’s road case. The remaining 7 pounds were distributed amongst our already full carry on luggage. Once we got to the gate I asked the desk clerk if we could pre board with our instruments. We were able to carry our guitars and the electric bass on to the plane. Today’s rock’n’roll scripture: “Take a load off Annie and put the load right on me. ”
Tomorrow is Thursday. I’ll call it day 0 since our first show is on Friday. I’ve packed and I’m ready to embark on my 7th two week tour of Switzerland. Kevin and I have been doing this since 2004 but it’s always fun and exciting. This time I can tell I’ll miss my kids more than usual. They are older and more interesting and I really enjoy time with them. Kevin, Serge and I played a kick off show to a very friendly Ann Arbor audience a few nights ago. Keith Meisel, who has toured with us four out of six previous trips, sang some killer harmonies. I’m definitely going to miss him on the road.
Just before the Ann Arbor gig I decided to drill a hole in my 1930 Slingerland so I could attach a strap button to the neck heel. Bad idea. I ended up cracking the neck heel and now the Slingerland is in the shop, so for the first time ever I’m flying with a Gibson. It’s a beautiful ES-339, basically a 335 for short people, which I am. I’ll hang out with the kids tomorrow until noon and then it’s off to the airport. For the next two weeks my life will be simple. Drive. Play. Sleep. Repeat.
In five days I will embark on a 2 week tour of Switzerland supporting my long time musical collaborator Kevin Meisel. I’ll be blogging the tour here and hopefully I’ll figure out how to post video. The band is Kevin, me, and Serge van der Voo on bass. Today we had our final rehearsal, at a secret location in Ann Arbor. We’ve been rehearsing every Saturday for a few months now, making sure that our arrangements are worked out and that we are truly ready for 15 shows in 16 days! Tomorrow we will perform at Old Town Tavern to kick off the tour. Check back here for details and stories as we make our way across Switzerland!