Europe Tour ~ Fall 2007

*(originally posted as a blog on MySpace 11.29.07)

9.26.07 Fultson Manor School ~ Sittingbourne, UK

Alex and I flew into Gatwick airport and drove to Sittingbourne, UK. We had a gig that first evening there at the Fulston Manor School. Once again, making the same mistake I did back in the spring, I flew in on the day of the first show…which meant I didn’t get any sleep. I had a short nap at the hotel and that had to do. But I was happy to be back in England. We met up with my label mate, Jeffrey Foucault and the show promoter and had dinner and were off to the show. When we were setting up our gear at the school, there was a class going on at the time. And I had to laugh, because I’d substituted at schools here in Nashville off and on over the last several years…and here I was across the Atlantic, setting up to play in what’s the equivalent of a high school. (side note: that kids in Nashville used to either tell me I looked like a skinny Jack Black or Jesus when I had long hair and a beard). They had taught some of the kids how to run the PA system. Which, while not perfect I guess…it was hard not to be envious and laugh at the guys. I would’ve killed to be able to run sound and drink beer when I was in high school….at the school mind you…for traveling musicians from another country.

After the show we all (kids excluded) went back to the headmaster’s quarters for a drink. I specifically noted in my journal that the wine we were drinking was called “Bishops Finger”. Nice sense of humor the Headmaster had (more so than any principal I recall growing up). We talked about politics, schools, paddling, caning (which led to the discovery that many schools in the UK were having to drive to Brighton to buy canes at sexshops since they’re harder to come by..no joke.).

9.27.07 The Green Note ~ London, UK

My return to London was much smoother I’m happy to say. A recently purchased TomTom (last time rental car company ran out of them) and a co-pilot made it much easier this time around. Not to mention I drove all over the city for 4 hrs last spring. I met up with a friend (thanks Susanna) who was nice enough to take me up on the London Eye and see the city before our show. So this time; Parliament, Big Ben, the Defense Ministry, Westminster Abbey…..all weren’t just road signs that meant I was once again headed the wrong way. It was nice to spend a bit of time in London not so rushed….though it seemed a tad surreal this time around.

We played the Green Note that night and the club was lovely. The show was sold out and the crowd was wonderful. The wine went straight to my head since it was a vegetarian restaurant and we had tapas for dinner…but I’d later scarf down some chicken falafels out on the street to make up for it. Immy, the promoter at the Green Note treated us great and my first show in London didn’t disappoint. It was nice to see some familiar and friendly faces of folks there at the show.

9.28.07 The Park and Dare Theatre ~ Treorci, English Wales

We drove all the way across the island and over part of the Atlantic sea bay on the way into Wales. I was excited since I didn’t get to see Wales on my first trip to the UK. I felt like I stepped right outta Braveheart…….the hills and villages were so scenic. We were put up at a spot called the Baglan Inn. And it was straight out of a ghost story. There was a pub with good stout beer downstairs…nice and smoky…and were the only ones staying upstairs in the Inn it seemed. I was trying to play tricks on Alex since he seemed a little spooked about the place (and his last name is McCollough to boot), but once I noticed there was a child’s bed and a baby crib in my room…I felt like the joke was on me. I likely had the creepiest room. After what had been several hours of driving on very tiny and windy roads all I had was a pint of Newcastle and some cheese nips to tide me over since breakfast early in London….so I was about to starve. We got some fish and chips from across the street from the Theatre and ate em upstairs with our pints….and though not glamorous…it did the trick.

The Park and Dare Theatre had a magnificent 3 level room upstairs…..and John Prine’s posters were up all over the place. Apparently he was playing there real soon. One of my friends, Dave Jacques, who played bass on my first record, plays with Prine….and I asked him about it when we got home…cause I knew they didn’t put Prine in the Haunted Inn. And they didn’t. We were playing in the smaller room downstairs and it was a good night. I met several people who’d been following me since my first record came out here in 2004….way before I’d been picked up by Rounder Europe. I couldn’t resist drinking a glass of Jack Daniels from Lynchburg (down the road from my hometown). I met a guy who’d tried to help bring me over to the UK to tour back in 2004….he apparently lived abroad delivering ships, which fascinated me….considering I’m a typical southerner…scared as shit of sharks when I go to the beach even. And there was talk of a Welsh Prince who supposedly discovered America long before Columbus (not to mention the Vikings and Japanese). (look it up by the way…and you’ll see he supposedly intermarried with Indians who have descendants in America).

http://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/Wales-History/DiscoveryofAmerica.htm

Back at the Baglan Inn we all had a few more rounds downstairs in the pub………and after hearing it over and over, I got into the habit of saying “Ya Dopey Bastard!” to Alex all that week in an English accent. It’s contagious. The bartender told us of the saying in Wales “If it’s cloudy, it’s raining. If it’s not, it’s fixing to.” and later he gave some good advice to a drunk Welshman at the bar; “Don’t Vomit!”. Back upstairs with the ghosts though……..our drama wasn’t through. Alex came knocking on my door late that night…and he’ll swear it’s that his heater wasn’t working…the bed sheets weren’t washed…(I just pretended mine were)…etc, etc. And when he reads this he’ll be pissed off I told everyone…but he was scared shitless. And he wanted to come sleep in my room. So with me in the big bed…him in the little child’s bed…and the crib empty (never piss off baby ghosts)….it was lights out.

9.29.07 E’nt Shed ~ Bedford, UK

Back in that spring’s show, </SPAN>Bedford was a blur to me. I’d been in my rental car for 12 hours driving …much of it in downtown London….and had barely got into town in time to make my gig. This time I’d cruised into town on a 3 or 4 hr trip…splitting driving with Alex and in a pretty damn good mood. Bedford is actually a lovely town…very scenic downtown. Alex, Jeff and I had a great meal at a nice Indian restaurant before the show…….and the show itself was great. A good crowd was there and that always makes it nice. We went out afterwards with the show promoters, who are some of the nicest folks I’ve met in the UK, and had a great bottle of Venlo at a bar nearby. The bar owner looked just like Keith Richards….and they spun great rock n roll records all night long….and probably the best olives I’ve ever eaten in my life. Too much fun.

9.30.07 The Musician ~ Leicester, UK

Luckily Leicester (Roman name) was a short drive. All those good times meant some tired fellas on this day. It was nice to get into town and crash. The Musician was a really nice club..and the sound was great. There were posters on the walls from my friends Rod Picott and Will Kimbrough from back in Nashville…who must’ve been through recently. After talking about it for several days….Jeff, Alex and I finally learned a song to do together during the shows and we did a version of Neil Young’s “Out On The Weekend”.

I specifically remember standing outside on the street and seeing a red fox run across like an alley cat or stray dog would back home. Weird.

10.01.07 Birmingham, UK

We had a tough go finding a restaurant close to the venue here……..there was a “cutery” next door…kinda like a “Perkins” or “Lubbys” in America. Either way the show was good and we all headed back to the hotel bar for a night cap. And there was a very entertaining Indian fella working the bar (and for that matter the only one working the front desk) named Manji. He kept pouring Jeff and I the wrong drinks…and repeating things over and over…and confusing where we said we were from. He insisted on calling me ‘George Dickell’ and Jeff ‘Chicago’. I assume my name came from TN, but were still not sure where he got Jeff’s from. But there was no persuading him. And finally Jeff turned to me and said…”Dude, I think this guys wasted”…which turned out to be true. Manji was pouring two drinks for himself for everyone he poured us. There were a few Welsh construction workers still in the bar…who were a bit tired of Manji’s act…and us…and we were quite entertained. He kept pouring everyone more beers because he didn’t want anyone to leave…and I don’t remember anyone paying for anything either. Manji said he was a Sikh…but he didn’t have a beard, a sword, or a turban…..and he certainly embraced the ways of the West and the tenants of alcohol that’s for sure.

While Jeff and I were still up and jabbing about music and God knows what…..Manji passed out cold on a couch over in the corner of the lobby…and then in the middle of our conversation…we heard a loud thud, which was Manji hitting the floor flat on his back, arms and legs flung all over the place. We were already laughing pretty damn hard…till a guy came into the hotel lobby trying to check in during the wee hours of the night. We informed him a passed out Indian bartender was the only one working…and we went to try to wake him up. This is probably the hardest I’ve laughed in ages…as Manji was in a coma. When he finally came to, he jumped up asking if we needed to check in. We left him with the new guest. After I went up to the room still laughing, Alex went back down to grab something he left in the lobby and he said Manji was solemnly sweeping up glass around the bar. I hope that guy didn’t get fired.

10.02.07 Komedia, UK ~ Brighton, UK

The drive down to Brighton was a long one…and the late night with Manji had me moving pretty slow. However, Brighton always restores my spirits. The show at Komedia was a great one to end the UK leg on. We had a great meal (Duck) and great wine at a nice restaurant across the street from the venue…and it seems the beautiful women in Brighton are on par with London. One last stroll around the town late that night and it was time to try and catch a few winks.

10.03.07 Ancienne Belgique ~ Brussels, BE

We jumped up at 4am on about 3hrs sleep and after one rental car ride, 2 taxi cab rides, 2 trains and 3 countries later we were at a soundcheck meeting back up with Jeff in Brussels. A bit of sleep on the Eurostar train was the only rest to be had….but we shook the cobwebs off best we could …but once we got to the Ancienne Belgique it was hard not to be impressed with the place and catch a second wind. While we took trains all the way into Brussels, Jeff had driven back to London and then flown to Amsterdam to meet up with his band, who’d just flown in and then drive down to Brussels. We all got to hang out and have a great meal before the gig and the venue was one of the more impressive places I’ve played at. (there’s a video on youtube of Alex and I playing a song from that show at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zq2nHpGmwIQ ) The sound of the room was truly amazing. (there are plenty of great pics as well by lovely and amazingly talented Belgium photographer, VK Red also at: http://viewmorepics.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewPicture&friendID=8882317&albumId=1217549 ) Vk was nice enough to show me around Brussels after the show. I got to see the historic town square and the statue of T’serclaes and statue of the little boy who supposedly pissed on the town when it was on fire (or something like that ?) And one of my favorite bars of all time (right up there with the now closed ‘Sportsman’ in Thomas, WV) is now the Poechenellekelder..it was like a scene right out of a 40’s movie…..And there’s a reason Belgium has such a great reputation for beer. And I think that coupled with a lack of sleep was enough to give me a whale of a hangover the next day.

10.04.07 013 ~ Tilburg, NL

We had met back up with my friend Karen from Rounder Europe who books and manages my tours in Europe and Alex and I rode back to Tilburg with her (where she lives) and our show was that night. Karen and her boyfriend Yappi hosted us that night, so we got some good home cooked Dutch food. The sound at the venue, 013, was really exceptional. I had a conversation with one of the sound guys afterwards and he was saying he’d been listening to my records that week to study for how to run sound for the show. Any venues or sound people reading this, please take note of how serious Europeans take the quality of their sound. This is something that doesn’t happen that often in the states. Since Jeff and Alex and myself had been doing ‘Out On The Weekend’ together…we now were joined for that one with Jeff’s full band; Ahnad, Goody, & Zach. After the show, all of us (plus Karen and Yappi) went out for beers and to throw darts all night. It may’ve gotten a little competitive, but hey…I love me some darts. Alex and I cut out early with Karen and Yappi to try and get a few extra winks of sleep….but ended up staying up till 5am listening to records all night (they have quite the collection).

10.05.07 The Paradiso ~ Amsterdam, NL

This was kind of a Hell day on par with all the trains/cabs/busses from Brighton to Brussels. We had to catch a few different trains (lugging around our luggage, guitar, amp, and that damn big ass pedal steel) and basically barely got to The Paradiso just in time for our soundcheck. It was a long grueling day, and don’t get me wrong, the Paradiso is amazing. And I was happy to be there. But it was one of those walk in, do your thing kinda shows. That room is quite incredible…..and the show was sold out and so we didn’t hang around much afterwards…as it was too crowded to really watch. After us and Jeff’s band there was a later show with Old Crow Medicine Show…so all told, I believe I spent about 5 hours of my life in that green room that night. And at least half of that was everybody playing these guitars made from fruitcases…some friend of Jeff’s.

One random side note…….I actually ran into a buddy from back in East Nashville at The Paradiso. He met me as I was walking up on stage that night. And I’m sure I looked surprised to see him there…but I was so spaced out that day already..it didn’t sink in how random it was.

We all went out and hung out on one of the squares in Amsterdam that night…..taking it all in.

10.06.07 Take Root Festival ~ Groningen, NL

Alex and I pilled in with Jeff and the rest of his band and we all took off to Groningen. At one point I remember laughing at the fact there were 6 Americans crammed into a turquoise van with Holland plates barreling down the road listening to Don Williams. Why wouldn’t we be? I had played the Rhythm and Roots Festival at the very same hall back in the spring…in fact, the exact same room in that hall. So it was kinda surreal to be right back over here again so soon in the same spot. Groningen is a very beautiful city….and I’m happy to go back anytime. I saw a split second of old Nashville pals Hans and Kyle, who were there that night playing with Chip Taylor and Carrie Rodriguez. I’d done several shows with Carrie and the guys back in the spring in France and Holland..and we’d shared the labels van…and I don’t think I’d seen any of them since. I had a little time to take in a bit of several shows with a friend (Hi Sara); Chip and Carrie, Son Volt, Chuck Prophet, and Southside Johnny. We actually headed back to the hotel and a reasonable hour as we had to get up early and make an early show in Ottersum.

10.07.07 Roepen ~ Ottersum, NL

Back in Ottersum. And back at the same old hotel I had my bizarre experience last spring with Kevin Kinney and his band. Yikes. Sunday afternoon shows at roepan are really a lovely experience. It’s such a beautiful place, that old church is absolutely amazing. The promoter and the entire staff are so kind to you. And there’s always a great meal and great wine….all things I love on a Sunday. We met up with a buddy of Jeff’s here too at this show, named Hayward Williams…really cool guy and he had his band with him as well. After the show Alex and I got up one last time with Jeff and the guys and did our “Out On The Weekend” version. They all had to leave right after the show to get back to Amsterdam for an early flight the next morning. It was sad to see the guys go after having so much fun together and hanging out so much. We all quickly said our goodbyes, as Alex and I had to play one more set later that evening…and Jeff stuck his head in and gave us one last salute. I’ll have to say, by sticking around…I got treated to a bowl (actually two, Alex was afraid) of truffle soup. I see what all the fuss is about!

When we walked back into the hotel lobby……..one of the guys from Hayward’s band was blasting “Purple Rain” on the piano in the lobby and most of the guys were singing along. We stayed up with em a bit for beers and some tunes….and then lights out.

*side note:  can someone tell me why Holland has commodes with the little shelf or ledge in them?  This just seems all wrong to me.

10.08.07 Amsterdam

We decided there’d be no more train hoping with all our gear………we got a ride to a rental car company and I slapped the ole visa down and that was that. We were now back in control of our own windshield time for the first time since the UK. After a quick trip to the record label’s office to pick up some more cds and stuff…we went on into Amsterdam to spend our first day off of the trip. Alex and I had some incredible Indian food….sipped some wine…took in the city…and just tried to chill out. Much to my surprise when I walked down into our hotel lobby…there was Heyward standing there. Of all the hotels in Amsterdam….there he was. Weird. The next day we got up and had a killer uitsmeiter (egg burger) and had time to go to the Van Gogh museum before heading out of town. The song “Vincent” kept running through my mind and I thought of an old friend from school and how much she loved that song..and thought how much she would love the place.

10.09.07 Lage Vuursche, NL ~ In The Woods

Short easy drive, wonderful hosts, great wine and a great meal. This was the way to get back on the path to feeling rested. For this show…the first one without Jeff or his band……I threw out the set list Alex and I’d been mainly going off of. I played a bunch of new songs I’d never played and some covers I’ve never played (and barely knew). Sipping Four Roses whiskey back at the hotel bar by myself…I said a toast to my Dad and Grandpa and called it a night.

10.10.07 Theatre ~ Oss, NL

It was a nice short drive to Oss….so we had time to browse around town for a bit. This was our last gig of the tour and it was the theatre in Oss with Dale Watson and Claude Diamond (who lived close to where Alex grew up). Claude and his wife Polly were really sweet people…..and he’d recorded his first album at age 65 and now here he is touring Europe. Strange world we live in eh? We drove back to Amsterdam that night after the show as Alex had an early flight. We had to drop our stuff off at the hotel first…and come to find out…it was on a street you couldn’t drive up to. So Alex stayed with the car while I made about 5 long ass trips lugging all our shit down tiny cobbled streets amongst all the partiers. By the time we got the rental car turned in and took the train back to our hotel it was 3:30am…and then we realized we were practically staying in the Red Light District. So a quick tour to satisfy Alex’s curiosity (I’d been here before). I helped him get his stuff to the train station at 6:30 the next morning then I went back to the hotel and entered into a deep coma.

10.11.07 Amsterdam, NL

I strolled around town and just generally enjoyed not having to rush anywhere. I ate, drank…wrote songs in my hotel and chilled out. Turns out the hotel was pretty nice and conveniently located after all. It had freaked me out a bit the night before thinking I’d picked the wrong spot to be in alone. But Amsterdam looks a bit different during the daytime. At night it can get a little crazy. Well…at this point…my journal turns from professional to private entries…so suffice as to say, I had a lovely time before heading home the next day.

The End

~SS

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