European Tour: Fall 2009 : Part II

EUROPEAN TOUR: FALL 2009 : PART II

Friday, September 4, 2009
Country & Western Friends Koetz 1982 e.V.
Kotz, Germany

It was a really short Ryan Air flight over into Frankfurt, Germany. I paid 40euros extra to bring on my guitar when I bought my ticket and they still tried to make me check it into oversized baggage (with the golf clubs on a conveyor belt). I ignored that and went on and then they tried to make me gate check it at the runway, and I walked straight out onto the runway and up the stairs expecting someone to try and stop me once again. To my surprise, they let me take it on after all that fuss and there was a ton of room on the flight in the overheads. But I do hate Ryan Air.
Arriving in Frankfurt also meant my time alone on this trip was finally over. My sometime touring partner, pedal steel player Alex McCollough, was there waiting on me when I arrived. He’d just flown in from Atlanta and had that de-shoveled-trans-Atlantic-not slept-look about him. We picked up the rental car and headed out for the little town of Koetz, Germany.
I was very excited to just be in Germany at all. I had only briefly ever stepped foot inside the country (for about 2 hrs) while traveling in and out of The Netherlands. After traveling so much in European countries where everyone spoke very good English (with the exception of France), it surprised me how little English people spoke in this part of Germany (mind you I realize it IS Germany). After checking into our hotel and going down for dinner, one thing was obvious; we had to stick to basics. “Beer” and “pork” were the only two words that the waitress and I could communicate with. She knew two more words in English than I knew in German though. Plus she was wearing the traditional German dress, so who could really complain. Besides, I like both beer and pork. Problem solved.
The next evening we drove over to the Artisan area where the festival was being held. I was honestly surprised at the number of Germans who owned cowboy hats and boots. But the Cowboy ethos is a tough one to resist, no matter where you live I suppose. Sandwiched between two Bluegrass bands and with English not as fluent, I don’t know what I expected. However, the audience reception was wonderful and our hosts made us more than welcome. They’ve worked very hard for many years at making this show a success and it has paid off. It was also my first time hearing a Slovakian Bluegrass band (no, seriously). Me thinks Bill Monroe would be proud.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Music Star
Norderstedt, Germany

After driving over into The Netherlands to pick up cds and an amp for Alex from the record label, we headed on to Hamburg. Norderstedt, which lies on the outskirts of Hamburg, was one of my favorite shows of the tour. Woflgang and crew took such great care of us, and the sound was great. It was the perfect venue for playing a really intimate set. They recorded and filmed the entire show, so hopefully you’ll be able to see it yourself online one of these days.
We had the next day off, aside from traveling back to The Netherlands. And Hamburg was really the city Alex and I were both were the most excited to see. Walking up and down the streets, with all the sex shops and typical charm of a port city is quite mesmerizing. And I know it’s the tourist thing to do, but the Reeperbahn, where the Beetles got their start, was just too cool. But ya know what? When you come to Nashville, I expect you to go see lower Broadway and Printers Alley if you’ve never been too.
However, really the coolest thing to me about Hamburg was the St. Nikolai building. A burnt black Gothic relic of pre WWII Germany, the only building left standing after the fire bombing of Hamburg, it still looms large over the city. And after going up into the top and looking at the view of the city, really the first view of all the port activity and cargo ships I’d had, was breathtaking. Usually when you are in a city built on the water you are always aware of it. But walking around Hamburg you don’t really see it, though you do feel it in the atmosphere.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
013
Tilburg, Netherland
After driving back to The Netherlands, we played a private house show in Oss for the record label and friends and then headed onto Tilburg. It’s where some of my friends (and my booking agent) live. The 013 is a great rock club, and I hadn’t played it since my first trip to The Netherlands almost two years ago. We were playing with www.eilenjewell.com and her band for the first time as well. Were on the same European record label, though we’d never. I really like Tilburg. It’s the kind of city I could see myself living in for awhile. Sitting in the hotel window overlooking the city centre and girls zipping by on their bicycles, one ponders such things.
Friday, September 11, 2009
Roots On The Road
Spijkerboor, Netherlands

The drive up to Spijkerboor took me close to other cities I’d played in The Netherlands. It’s funny how all the names of the motorways and towns start coming back to you once again. Two years prior feels like ten years ago in some ways and ten days ago in others.
The folks at Roots On The Road certainly made us feel welcome. It always amazes me that these little towns can put together a viable music venue where people come out and are so supportive. And the little towns back home are void of any artistic endeavors.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Huiss Concerts
Vlierden, Netherlands

Two of the the nicest folks I’ve ever met in The Netherlands, Hans and Loes, also host a great house concert series. House shows are very common back in the States, but just now catching on it seems in Europe. But with a bottle of Four Roses in their cabinet, a picture of Townes Van Zandt and a Geode on the top of the piano behind me; it really seemed like I was at home.
Their talented children opened the show. And once again, when you meet real people and talk, eat, laugh and hang out with them, it’s when you really get a sense of a place. And how similar we all are.
I ended the show with a song called “Traveling Strange” that I don’t play that often. But I was thinking a lot of home that night and that’s usually the song I play when I’m a little homesick.
Sunday, September 12, 2009
Roepaen
Ottersum, Netherlands

The following day on the way to Ottersum the sky was amazing. Even with a crummy digital camera it was hard not to capture the beauty. The way the wind tossed the tops of the trees back and forth, whistling as they swayed.
I received the message from my Mother on the way to the show that her Father, my Grandfather, had passed away earlier in the day. Though his health had often been bad for several years, it was very unexpected. He had hurt himself in a fall in the night. This was my last show of the tour, but my flight wouldn’t leave for two more days. And the funeral arrangements were still being made.
I truly admire the beauty and hospitality of Roepaen. It is one of my favorite places to play in the world. An old Monastery turned into a modern arts center. I’ve had to play shows over the course of the years where I was deathly sick, drugged and recovering from painful surgeries, or just plain heartsick; but never with such a heavy heart. So I guess it was only fitting that I play this show in such a spiritual place.
I ended my show once again with “Traveling Strange”, this time realizing the implication and being homesick. Not for my little efficiency apartment back in East Nashville, but for my native County, my home and my family. I felt my voice crack and the edges of my mouth start to tremble as I choked back and pushed down my feelings of loss. I would have to wait to truly mourn.
We were once again playing with Eilen and her excellent band, and while they were closing the show I tried unsuccessfully to change my flight, as it was now appearing the funeral and burial was being planned for right before I would get home. I would just have to accept not getting home for the burial. And I guess it’s also obvious why it took me so long to finish writing about the last of my tour.
I still feel very blessed to get to do this for a living. Anyone who spends a lot of time away from home understands this is the trade off. Life happens, and we inevitably miss many things. But we get to experience many wonderful things as well. So if I’m gonna be out your way soon, I guess I’ll see you when I see you.
Cheers,
~SS

TRAVELING  STRANGE

Grandpa said he never liked to drink
Only had one bottle of beer in his life
And he figured that it was ok
Was in Nagasaki in forty-five
But I don’t know what he ever did
With all those bottles of sweet plum wine
He might ‘a given ‘em all away and I guess that’d been alright
But I suspect it was more than that
That brought a tear to Grandma’s eyes
As she sat out on that porch swing
And read the Bible till she ran out of light

Chorus:
We’re traveling days from the things we crave
Just traveling souls on some kinda mystical plane
We travel in ways that I can’t explain
We’re traveling strange these days

Well I couldn’t of been four or five
When Uncle Robbie took his bride
I carried the ring in a suit that Mama made
Me of velour down the isle
But there’s a lot I didn’t know
A lot of things I was never told
And years later I’d be back to this place
But it’d never be like before

chorus

Well the square’s all still there
And sometimes I drive down
And I circle around these same old stores
That Mamma drug me in when I was a child
And there’s the Pool Hall over there
The one with the greasy burgers and the wise old men
And a stool that I used to claim
When I played hooky with my old man
And I guess that things move on
And I guess that season’s change
I used to think time just passed by
But now I know we just chase old things
chorus

~Stephen Simmons



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