I know I still owe a (now) final EuroWinter tour diary entry – and I will get around to it, I promise – but in the meantime here is a little bit of music for the end of the year. I pitched this soundtrack for a short film and although it wasn’t picked in the end I still think it’s nice enough to send out into the world.
I hope you enjoy it, and the last few days of 2015.
Awesome news for the day! The wonderful Silvio “Don” Pizzica from Rockambula in Italy has given Dolorous it’s first listesque pat on the back. Super awesome!
You can find the full article here…but this is what the important bit looks like ;):
Woo hoo hooooo!
I arrived in Milan on Sunday evening (last weekend) after my second cross-country trek in as many days. I found somewhere convenient to put my car (my very first impression of the city was that there were far more cars than there were parking spaces) and made my way to Mirko’s apartment. I was welcomed in and after brief chat I had to run off to find the venue for my show that night.
Zog (the venue) is situated along the canal of the Navigli river which runs through the city. The area is pedestrianised so I had to park at the station a few hundred meters away and walk the rest. Arriving at the venue I was warmly greeted by Michele, the sound guy, and the barmen Fabio and Mirko ( for the purposes of this story, Mirko II). I set up and then went and found a quite place in the back to try and have a moment to relax and clear my head of a fair amount of exhaustion. I had a few minutes to myself before I was joined by Mirko II and we had a really nice chat about music and travelling while he ate his dinner. Then a few other patrons came in to the room and we chatted about the usefulness of English and the fact that it is not taught well enough in schools in Italy (which echoed a conversation I had had in Jessica’s apartment with the Spaniards who had said the same thing about Spain).
Gig time arrived and it was the kind of show were most (probably all) of the audience are just there by chance. They paid attention for the first two or three songs and then went back to their conversations. It is quite easy to get dispirited during these kinds of shows, especially when you are only being paid a nominal fee or taking the hat, but the thing to remember is that there are still probably one or two people paying attention and that the effort is still worth it for them. In this case, the one or two people were Polina, a Russian actress and media worker. She – and Michele, Mirko II and Fabio – were all super complimentary after the show.
In one funny way, the success of a gig can be measured in the amount of Facebook friends I make on the night. (This is different from getting a Facebook ‘like’, but at this point I get few enough of them to be any use as a measurement tool). By this point of reference, the worst kind of show is one when I arrive, am pointed in the direction of the stage by a staff member, set up, play to the smattering of people who were there anyway, and leave without making a real connection with anyone. No conversations, maybe a brief ‘thanks for the show’, but that’s about it. The best kind of show, or at least the best of what I can reasonably expect at this point, is one where the owners and/or staff are really welcoming, there are 20 or 30 people in the audience who have come specifically to the music, everyone listens and claps, after the show couple CDs are sold and there are enough appreciative conversations with the venue personnel, audience members and perhaps fellow musicians to feel that a variety of connections have been made and that perhaps I will be remembered beyond the night – and the easiest way to acknowledge this potential is the Facebook friend request.
So the Zog show was somewhere in between, tending toward the bottom of the scale. Maybe a couple people paid attention, I sold one CD and became Facebook friends with Polina, Michele, Mirko II and Fabio – with all four of whom I felt I shared a genuine moment of camaraderie. So, for me, although the show itself might not have been the most spectacular, I left with a good feeling and enough new contacts that the night could still have a benefit somewhere down the line – certainly beyond the €50 I earned for pitching up.
Once my set was over, Mirko arrived with a friend who was celebrating his 40th birthday. We left Zog and after Mirko took us (via the Cape Town bar, just to see) to a great cocktail bar which resembled something between an apothecary and a library with the barmen mixing the drinks right in front of you out of hand-labeled bottles. We then went back to Mirko’s apartment for a final shot of rum before I climbed into bed for a long, long, long awaited sleep.
The next morning I woke to clear-skied winter morning. I had been expecting to be woken at 8am (and to have to leave the house at 8:30am), when Mirko was leaving for work, but the clock said 11:30am and I found Mirko mercifully working from home for the day. I caught up on some emails and then we had a lunch of pasta and salad before heading out for a walk. Mirko lives quite close to set of ultra modern buildings in the centre of Milan and our walk took these in before we detour to the train station to collect his girlfriend, Valeria, who was arriving back from a few days in Rome. Together we returned to their apartment before I left for my second show in Milan.
The way that this second show had come about was that, having booked the show at Zog but still having the next day free, I had asked Julien (my press agent) if he had any contacts who might the able to help me out. Julien has passed me on to another associate who had passed me onto Barnaba, a local promoter, who had offered me a unpaid slot opening for Ofeliadorne, an electro/rock outfit from Bologna (think Kate Bush as the singer of Mazzy Star with some modern electronica thrown in).
The venue was a restaurant called Gatto and the front section had been cleared of tables and turned into an temporary performance space. As soon as I arrived I was warmly greeted by Francesca, the band’s vocalist and guitarist, setting the tone for what turned out to be an extra special evening. I played a 25 minute opening set which was well received before Ofeliadorne played to a rapt audience. Afterwards I fell into a long conversation with Michele, Ofeliadorne’s drummer, while all the chairs were cleared and a long table was set out and laid with dinner for the performers and organisers. I meet a lot of really great people along the way but this night felt like an extra special meeting of like minds and I will make a big effort to get down to Bologna on my next tour and hopefully reconnect with the band.
That night I stayed at the flat in Milan’s Chinatown that Barnaba shares with his girlfriend. After a great night’s sleep, an easy breakfast and receiving a gift of a couple CDs from Barnaba’s label Sangue Disken I jumped back in the car to head back north to Zurich. Along the way I had a sweet little moment when, having to stop to pay the Swiss road tolls, the border official asked what the music I was listing to was – Feist’s Let It Die – before she went to get a pen to write it down.
I arrived in Zurich in the evening, feeling a bit exhausted again after missing the turnoff, landing up in rush-hour traffic, then having to go back on myself for about 10km before I could turn around only to find myself in more traffic and, finally, the regular frustration of what seems to be the general scarcity of parking in any European city centre. The gig itself, in the bar of a hostel called Langstars, was quiet. A Tuesday night with not much going on and just a few random patrons in the bar. I did have a couple nice chats afterwards and was well looked after but I didn’t feel I generated much interest at all and so mostly the show came and went without much to write about.
And this sort of marked the end of the first section of the tour. It was a bit more difficult than expect given all the extra driving that I had to do but most it went well and I met lot of really great people. Up next is ten days in France (of which I am already half-way through, as I write this from the dinning room table of a really great bunch of couch surfing hosts in Amiens) but I will leave that for the next post or two. See you then!
I am in Milan! I am sitting in the kitchen of Mirko, my couchsurfing host, looking out on a cold but clear winters day. This has been an unexpected element of this tour – making use of the amazing platform that is CouchSurfing.com. While most of the venues that I will play on tour offer a place to stay, some don’t (like the place where I played last night) and I also have a handful of nights where I don’t have a show booked. Being on quite a tight budget – the main financial aim of the tour is to cover the car rental, petrol and road toll costs – spending €30/40 a night on accommodation is not really ideal. So I have dusted off my old CouchSurfing account to wonderful effect.
A few years ago, at the suggestion of my friend Mara, I set an account up and hosted a few people in my home in Joburg and met a few others that were passing through town and looking for a friendly chat. Since I haven’t been home for more than a few months at a time over the past couple years I had become less involved but I remembered this could be an option when I was making the plans for the first leg of my journey from Berlin to Olten in Switzerland. The total drive is 913km so breaking it up seemed to be the best bet – if only I didn’t have to spend too much on a place to stay. Hooray for couch surfing.com!
I looked for someone who was offering a bed in Nuremberg, which is roughly halfway along the route, and was invited by Jessica to stay with her and her great big friendly labrador/great dane/something-else-I-can’t-remember mix Wilson. We had a great chat about our respective travel experiences and were then joined by her neighbours (two Spaniards and German) for a great hot bowl of soup over which we stumbled, with good humour, through a conversation of various degrees of German, English and Spanish.
The experience was good enough to settle me on this mode of accommodation for the rest of the trip. I am now sitting in Mirko’s kitchen (who has been an equally great host) in Milan. I will look for the same around Amiens and Lille where I will have a few free days in the middle of the tour and chance to explore the area a little bit.
From Nuremberg I left for the Coq d’Or in Olten, Switzerland. I’d played at Coq during my tour in the European summer. I had made good connections with the Nils, Daniel and the rest of the crew there and I was really looking forward to the return. As it happened, a double booking meant that I was playing on the same night as the club’s annual art auction where they invite locals artist to contribute pieces which are then sold off under very festive circumstances.
My show was divided into half a set before the auction and a half a set after. The first half went down very well but everyone’s concentration was gone by the time the auction was over and so the second set was mostly lost in the general chatter and vibes of Friday night. The auction itself was great fun. I didn’t really understand the specifics of each sale – and I was too nervous to bid for anything lest I find out later just how much money I owed – but it was great to be in the crowd for what was a fun and rambunctious community event. The rest of the night as spent hanging out with the Coq personnel and watching an improvised jazz-rock-electronica band that had been put together for the evening. They were playing in the larger, subterranean part of the club that I had not previously known existed.
Waking up the next morning I was greeted by the Coq’s morning team with a great coffee and croissant breakfast…and a sizeable shock: When getting ready to leave for my next stop I realised that I had made a dreadful error in that I had confused the town of Freiburg (a handy 121km from Olten) with the town of Freiberg (a less than handy 765km from Olten and almost all the way back to Berlin). It was 11am and if I left right away and drove non-stop I would make it just in time for my show. This is exactly what I did. I made it to the venue with 30 minutes to spare, played the show, went to bed almost immediately after, was in my car by 8:30am the next morning and then drove drive the 884km all the way back past Nuremberg, through Switzerland, to my next show Milan.
This was not, to say the least, the best 48hours of my life, but the show in Freiburg went really well so it was definitely worth it. From what I could pick up during my very brief stay, Freiberg is really pretty medieval town near Dresden, with buildings and cobbled streets stretching back 800 years and surrounded by farmlands in which I had gotten a temporarily lost the night before. I played at a really nice little venue called NotenDiele which is mostly the headquarters and practice space for a local a cappella group. Tim, a member of the group and my contact for the show, was a great – and very understanding – host and it would have been really cool to have had a bit more time to hang out after the show rather than rushing off to get some much needed rest.
The drive back, in its own way, was also worth it. Having had a good nights sleep I was much more relaxed than on the previous day and so I could fully enjoy the endless series of snow covered landscapes, climaxing with the magnificent peaks, lakes and tunnels of the Swiss alps. Then, upon reaching Lugano near the border of Switzerland and Italy, the snow abruptly disappeared and the sky opened up for a golden sunset. Yeah!
I’m back in Berlin and after three gigs in three days since getting off the plane there is finally a chance to relax and settle in (if only for a few days before I hit the road on Thursday).
So far the trip has been acceptably eventful, starting with my arrival on Thursday morning. I got off the plane at Tegel airport and through the glass I spotted Esther waiting in the arrival hall. In my enthusiasm – and lack-of-sleep-induced brain addled state – I thought that I would just pop out to quickly say hi before the baggage started arriving. Needless to say, they wouldn’t let me back in so we had to find a comfy spot in a coffee shop for a couple of hours before my bags and equipment found their way down to baggage claims.
We eventually got back to Esther’s apartment and, after a nice long nap, headed to Artliners in Friedrichshain for my first show. Artliners is a really popular venue amongst the Berlin singer-songwriter set but until now I hadn’t managed to land a gig there. The venue is smallish with the bar on the left as you enter and then a little stage (I don’t think it can fit more than two people) at the far end of the venue. By the time I started playing there were about twenty people in the venue, although I would say that only three were paying me any particular attention. The gig went well enough however and as we were getting ready to leave (the show had to be done by 10pm) Franz and Emilia, who I had met in Cottbus on my last tour, arrived at the venue so we stayed for while longer.
I find moments like that really special. A big element of touring is all the people who I meet along the way – cool, interesting, weird, disturbing, awesome, helpful, kind, chatty, disinterested and all other sort of things people – but more often than not they are simply fleeting acquaintances. The night I met Franz and Emilia was particularly good on the people front and so to see them again was really cool and a worthwhile reminder of the good people that are out there in the world.
On Friday morning we got up after a nice long sleep and in the afternoon went to have a birthday tea and cake with Becky. On way there, just two buildings down from Esther’s flat, we walked passed a construction site where, last month, while they were digging the foundations, two unexploded bombs from World War Two were discovered. 10 000 people were evacuated from their homes and offices for the day while the bombs were disarmed and removed.
Friday night’s show was at Kallasch& in Moabit and it is definitely the highlight of the tour so far. For a start, Lukas, Nina and a former colleague of Esther’s came to the show and it was really great to see them all. When the show started it was just them and one other table of people who were watching but as things went on more people trickled in and by the time I had two or three songs left the place was full. I played a couple more songs to try and stretch out my set a bit more. And then a couple more as a encore. And then, having run out of songs, and at the request of the audience, I just started my set from the beginning again and played three more songs. In the end I played for about 90 minutes and probably could have gone on with few complaints other than the fact that I was already half an hour past the shut-off time (also 10pm). It was a great feeling and great night.
On Saturday morning we got up and went out to join Esther’s friend Patricia and her two young kids who were visiting Berlin for the weekend. We met them on the way to the Naturkunde Museum where we spent a couple of hours looking at giant dinosaur skeletons, exhibitions on the evolution of earth’s geography, stuffed animals and hundreds of specimen-and-formaldehyde filled jars.
In the evening I headed off to 12 Grad Aetherloge in Friedrichshain for my third show in three days. I was a little nervous about the turnout for the show because 12 Grad was one of the venues during my last trip which really brought home the fact that touring the bars of Europe is a pursuit not necessarily best undertaken in the summertime. I thought that my fears would be realised when I arrived to an empty bar (not including the wonderful and attentive Diana who runs the venue) but having sound-checked and then struck up a conversation with another musician who had arrived to watch the show (under recommendation from a friend, if you can believe it!!) the venue slowly began to fill up, including my wonderful friends Rebecca and Evelyn. By the time I played, the tables and bar seats were mostly full and the people sitting closest to the stage (including a guy who had been at the venue last time I played) watched with an attentiveness that gave the impression that that had actually come to see the music. In the end it was another really nice show and afterwards a great chance to catch up with Rebecca and Evelyn and watch them geek out together (they had not met before) over online ethnomusicology databases.
Then, finally it was Sunday. A nice long sleep, pancakes for breakfast, waffles for lunch…and then a walk in the snow!!
My second European tour kicks off in three week time! There might be one or two dates still to add but mostly everything is booked, cars have been rented, etc. I am revisiting a few cities but there lots of new places (and countries!) that I am super excited about. If you are in the area please come along and say hi and have a beer! (or send your friends if I happen to be passing through their part of the world 🙂 )
Nov 19 | Berlin – DE | Artliners
Nov 20 | Berlin – DE | Kallasch&
Nov 21 | Berlin – DE | 12 Grad Aetherloge
Nov 27 | Olten – CH | Coq d’Or
Nov 28 | Freiburg – DE | Die NotenDiele
Nov 29 | Milano – IT | Zog Navigli
Nov 30 | Milano – IT | Gattò (Opening for Ofeliadorme)
Dec 1 | Zurich – CH | Langstars
Dec 2 | Grenoble – FR | Le Ness
Dec 3 | Lyon – FR | Kraspek Myzik
Dec 4 | Montluçon – FR | Le Majestic
Dec 6 | Amiens – FR | Sombrero Café
Dec 8 | Lille – FR | Quelque Part Records
Dec 9 | Ghent – BE | Bombardon
Dec 11 | Metz – FR | La Chaouée
Dec 12 | Brussels – BE | House Show
Dec 13 | Bochum – DE | Cafe Eden
Dec 16 | Poznan – PL | Meskalina
Dec 17 | Dresden – DE | Laika
Dec 18 | Leipzig – DE | Mühlstraße 14
Dec 19 | Cologne – DE | Motoki
Dec 20 | Amsterdam – NL | Pompstation
Dec 21 | Amsterdam – NL | Dwaze Zaken
Dec 22 | Nijmegen – NL | Cafe Camelot
Jan 9 | Berlin – DE | Gelegenheiten
Jan 12 | Berlin – DE | Mme Claude