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I started a quest to find terrific blues music and incredible musicianship when I was just a little kid. I also have a tremendous appreciation of fine musical instruments and equipment. One of my greatest joys all of my life was sharing my finds with my friends. I'm now publishing my journey. I hope that you come along!

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Friday, December 23, 2011

Brother Dege Netherlands Belgium Tour Journal Pt.1

This is my little scrap book
Of my 2011 two-week European tour.

I write these so I don't forget,
Years later,
What the hell happened.

I hope you enjoy reading it.


Check in.
Get the ticket.
I’m flying light on this trip.
Renting a backline amp
In Europe,
So all I’ve got is:
1 hiking back pack
1 effects pedal board
1 Dobro
Airline makes me check in
The pedal board,
Gate check the guitar,
And carry on the backpack.
Fuck it.
Dobro is in a good case.
Hopefully it doesn’t get
I go through the metal detector.
It beeps.
Then beeps again.
Each time I go through.
All my shits in the plastic bin.
Not sure why it keeps popping off.
The security people
Steer me off to the side.
A TSA guy puts on rubber gloves
And gives me the full TSA
Pat down.
Balls and all.
Homeland Security, meet my nuts.
This shit is ridiculous.
In my opinion,
The TSA pat downs
Are just a dog & pony show
Meant to train people
To submit
To their masters.
The dude doing the pat down
Looks more miserable than me.
Oh well, dude.
You choose your lot in life.
You could’ve been
A respectable garbage man
But you chose this.
So this is what you get.
Halfway through the patdown
I remember the nicotine patch
Stashed in my back pocket.
It is made of foil.
I pull it out and toss it in the bin.
The pat down dude looks relieved.
He makes a lazy show
Of finishing the pat down
But we both know it’s over.
He waves me through
And goes about
The business of working
For the fear mongers,
Scaring people out of
What freedoms they have left.
If you disagree,
I can’t help you.

11 hour flight.
I settle into my window seat.
Nobody booked
In the adjacent seat.
Very nice.

I eat some plane food.
Stare out the window.
Fly through a cloud.
I’m in a cloud, I think.
I stretch across both seats.
Make a makeshift bed.
Sleep for few hours.
Long ass flights
Are like a survival exercise
In staving off boredom.
My solution: read and sleep.
There’s really no one
To talk to on this flight
Except an old Dutch guy
Sitting directly in front of me
With his seat reclined in my lap.
He must have a special seat
Because that thing is way back.
Everytime I move or roll over
I bump the back of his seat
And he grumbles.

7:32 a.m.
Plane lands.
Amsterdam, Holland.
Overcast and grey.
Exit plane.
Grab the Dobro at the gate.
I make my way to the baggage claim
And wait for the pedal board to pop out.
There was a band
On the same flight as me.
They nervously wait
For their gear as well.
Sometimes the gear gets lost.
CC Adcock and I once flew
to a one-off gig in Finland in ’05.
They lost my guitar, pedal board,
And suitcase.
I ended up using borrowed gear
At the gigs.
The same clothes
For five days
In a sink
Until we returned to the states
Where my stuff mysteriously
Reappeared at baggage claim.
Go figure.
Here’s another funny story about that trip.
While wandering around the Helsinki Airport
Waiting for our flight,
CC and I saw a few
Aging metal dudes
With long, dyed-black hair
Wandering around the Helsinki airport
Looking bored just like us.
Jokingly, as we passed them,
I quietly said to CC, “Check out Anthrax.”
Not five seconds later,
Scott Ian (guitarist of Anthrax) walks
Around the corner
And joins the dyed-black hair dudes.
It really is Anthrax!
What’s even funnier is 15 min
Later after passing the Anthrax guys
Numerous times in the airport,
We all end up at the same gate terminal
Making small talk with them
As we’re waiting for the plane.
Anthrax: “What band you guys play with?”
CC: “CC Adcock & The Lafayette Marquis.”
Anthrax: (blank stare).
CC: “Who are you guys with?”
Anthrax: “Anthrax.”
CC: (blank stare).
I guess CC wasn’t much of a metal fan.
Nor Anthrax roots music fans.
You live and learn.

My pedal board pops
Out of the baggage carousel.
I grab it.
I make my way through customs.
The European Customs guy
Asks, “Business or pleasure?”
“Have a good stay.”
I wander around,
Lugging my gear,
Looking for my contact, Theo.
The guy who booked this tour.
I assume he is going to pick me up.
But it turns out
That Theo had made arrangements
For Bjorn (Euro road manager)
To pick me up.
As I soon found out
Through text messages,
Bjorn couldn’t make it.
Theo instructs me to buy a train ticket
To meet him in Eindhoven,
90 min from Amsterdam.
I search about for the train terminal.
Locate it.
Attempt to buy ticket,
But none of my credit cards are working
As I am told
“They don’t have the Euro chip.”
What the fuck is the Euro chip?
I came here with $100 in pocket.
I’ll use that.
I try to pay with an American $20 bill.
The train ticket guy shakes his head.
“You must pay in Euros.”
He points in a vague direction
And says I must exchange
My American money for euros.
I grab my gear. Lug it across the airport.
Locate money exchange bank.
I change in all the cash I brought: $100.
I get back 60 euros and change.
Keep on rocking in the free world, America.
Keep on rocking.
Good job with that.
I lug my gear back to the train ticket terminal.
Buy ticket.
Make my way downstairs to the trains.
I then begin the confusing process
Of figuring out which fucking train is mine.
I ask a few Dutch people.
Even they don’t know.
The Dutch train system
Inherently confusing.
And all the signs are written in Dutch.
I find a sign that says Eindhoven on it
I park my gear under it
And wait.
Till it arrives.
Train pulls up. Doors open.
I struggle my way through throngs of people.
Stuff all my gear in a seat
And plant myself down
Across from it.
Train rolls.
I watch the scenery.
Canals, fields, factories, subdivisions, etc.
90 min later I’m in Eindhoven.
Hump my gear off the train.
And text Theo that I’m here.
He shows up 15 min later.
We shake hands.
Welkom to Holland.


We load my gear in Theo’s car.
He drives to the apartment
Where I will be staying.
It’s a 3-bedroom apartment
In Eindhoven
Where guest musicians stay.
The apartment is owned by a
Dutch husband & wife
Who are folk musicians.
Their son Dylan lives there, also. 
And kind of manages the place.
We arrive.
I’m led to a small bedroom
And informed that this is where
Townes Van Zandt used to sleep
When he played in Holland.
This will be my room.
I toss my crap in a corner,
Climb in the bed,
And sleep for 4 hrs.

I’m playing at a club called The Rambler.
Cool place.
They book everything from roots
To punk rock
To metal
To indie bands.
I plug in all my gear.
Since Europe is wired for 220v
And American stuff is 110v,
I had to rent something called
A “step-down transformer.”
It’s 30 lb metal box
About the size of a shoe box
That has got a small transformer inside.
I need it to power my pedal board.
I plug everything in.
Flip the switch.
And it pops the breaker in the club.
Lights go out in half the place.
This, I will learn,
Will be a fairly common ritual
Of this tour.
The transformer, it seems,
Sucks a lot of power.
I sound check.
Drink a few beers,
And then
Play a 90 min set.
Composed of material
From my album Folk Songs of the American Longhair
Plus some new tunes
Plus a few extended
Where I layer loops of slide parts
And such.
The crowd hangs in there
With me.
This is good.
Because 90 min
Is sort of a long time to play
By yourself
When doing
All original material.
You're working overtime up there,
Trying to keep the crowd
I finish the set.
Drink and talk with the natives.
Shoot the shit.
Hang with
A couple Dutch metal dudes.
People are friendly here.
They aren’t jacked up on bullshit.
Or at least not as much bullshit
As back home.
Also my old buddy Bjorn shows up.
He was the road manager
For a European tour
I did here in 2005
When I played in CC Adcock’s band.
Haven’t seen him in six years.
Good dude.

I wake at dawn
With the ghost
Of Townes Van Zandt
Pecking at my head.
The town is completely silent.
No sirens.
It’s pretty surreal.
I grab a coffee up the street
At a coffee/weed shop,
Check some email,
And locate the local grocery store,
Which is called “Jumbo.”
I buy some stuff that
Looks like American sandwich meat.
Walk back to the apartment.
I eat in silence,
Biting down on potato chips
Pondering the odd trajectory of my life.

Theo drives me to do a radio show.
It’s called the “JaBo Gumbo Show.”
People love the word gumbo.
Jabo is the host.
He seems cool.
Asks good questions.
I play four songs live in the studio.
Plus a short interview.
Having just gotten over a cold in the U.S.A.
I’m still snotting,
I play a couple mellow tunes
So I don’t have to strain my voice too much.
Note to self: quit smoking.
The other guest on the show
Is a songwriter chick named Devon Spoule.
She’s good.
     Me and Devon Sproule on Jabo Gumbo Radio Show

Quirky, folky.
Good songwriter and singer.
Here husband Paul Curreri is a ripper, too.
Other than the interview segments,
Most of the show is in Dutch,
So I don’t understand what they’re saying
Until Jabo points to me and says
“Broother Deeeege.”

Small pub out in the country
Known for hosting
A lot of touring roots musicians.
Old place.
I drink a few Jameson & Cokes.
Then the bartender tells me
That they also serve
“The world’s oldest and greatest beer.”
“I’ll have one of those, please.”
They’ve been brewing beer in Europe forever.
They know how to do it.
It has no preservatives in it.
It doesn’t give one a
“hog balls off the forehead hangover”
And it’s good.
20 min later
With nice buzz in tow
I have to agree
It is indeed
The “world’s greatest & oldest beer.”
Got a nice kick.
I wish I could remember the name of it.
I order another.
Theo and I make a food run up the street.
There’s nothing open but a snack shop.
He orders me something
Called a frikandel.

It’s the Dutch equivalent of a hotdog,
I think.
Like a hotdog, nobody knows what’s in it.
And nobody wants to know.
It’s late night food.
I munch it down.
It tastes ok.
Kind of weird.
But it’ll do.
I have a feeling
The World’s Longest Frikandel
Will work its way into the set.
Back at the club,
I bang out the second show of the tour.
Decent set.
Not great
On my part.
But the crowd is good.
Once again,
They follow me on the slide-scape detours
And don’t seem to get bored.
I appreciate that.
A photographer buddy of Theo’s
Is at the show.
He is working on a photo book
Of guitarists.
We shoot some pictures.
After that I drink another
Of the World’s Greatest Beers
Smoke a bit of weed with some locals.
Nobody believes me,
But I rarely smoke weed.
It’s just never been my thing.
Weed tends to makes me quirky & weird.
I don’t need any help in that department.
But fuck it.
It’s Dutch weed,
Which like it's beer,
Is supposedly good.
It doesn’t make me tweaky.
Which is nice.
Just relaxed.
The locals caution me against
Buying weed in Amsterdam.
“It’s tourist shit.”
“The good shit is outside of Amsterdam.”
Although I’m not planning
On purchasing any weed
Nor smoking any for another 2 years
Or so,
I take mental note
And realize that Amsterdam
Is probably a lot like New Orleans
And the tourists (Bourbon Street)
Situation there.
People from Louisiana rarely, if ever,
Go hang out on Bourbon Street.
(Or at least they don't admit to it).
That's where the tourists go
And pay for overpriced drinks and shit.
Amsterdam proper, it seems, is the same.

Theo and I pack up the gear
And make
The night drive
Back to Eindhoven.
I fade in / out
Of sleep.
Head against the glass.
The Dutch country side
Slides by, dreamlike,
In the watery shadows
And dikes. 

Sundays always catch up with you.
They find you hungover
Bad breath.
This Sunday is no different.
And I am no exception.
Zondag, bloody zondag.
I sleep most of the day
At some point in the morning,
I vaguely remember
Being awoken by the cacophonous
Sound of all the church bells in town
Ringing in clattering unison.
Put that in your Kloosterkerk
And smoke it.
It was both frightening
And beautiful.
Townes had left the window open
So I got a good dose
Of the sound of these
Voluminous bells,
Urging the citizenry to church.
I think this was Townes’ idea
Of a good joke.
I went back to sleep.
Slept all day.

      (View from the Townes Van Zandt room)

Good gig.
The owner of the venue
Collects vintage guitar amps
So the place is filled with
Beautiful old tube amps
That line the place like furniture.
It’s like amp museum.
Place is called The Nix.
I end up using the club’s
Vintage Fender Bassman
Because it sounds better
Than my Twin reissue rental.
The club video tapes every show.
I need to search the net for footage of it.
Note to self.
I play some new tunes.
Some with no words.
Some with no home yet.
I pull “Operation: Have U Never Been Mellow”

Out of the song bag.
It’s a 10 min slide-scape thing
I first wrote/improvised while my fiancé Joni
Was shooting video in the country.
It’s interesting to note that
The Europeans have been digging
These slide-scape things
During the sets.
They hang in there with me
And listen.
When I put these type songs
In the set
At home in Louisiana,
I tend to lose the crowd.
It’s like letting the air out of tire
Till it’s flat.
But that’s Louisiana.
It’s about shaking your ass.
Not so much your mind.
But that is the lot
We have been given.
I will make
The best of it.

De Groot, Eindhoven, Holland
Small club gig.
I bang it out.
Drink some beer.
Yak with the locals.
Good gig.
One of my favorite bands
Of all time,
The Birthday Party,
Played a gig in Eindhoven
On this same day in 1981.
That was a long time ago.
But the soul
And damage
Still resonates.
Don’t believe me?
Of them.
Eindhoven, Holland
No gig tonight.
I have the day off.
I sleep most of the day.
Rest my voice
Which is scratchy and hoarse.
Leftover remnants of my cold.
My book on the history of
The Mississippi River
That I bought for the tour
Is getting good.
There’s a crazy chapter on “camp meetings”
Along the Mississippi River.
Read up on that shit here.
They were like hysterical
Burning Man, religious revival festivals
Held out in the woods.
People caught the ghost,
Went crazy with the holyspirit,
Jumped up and down,
Flailed around,
And in general
Just freaked out in the backwoods.
Some of them were 5,000-10,000 strong
In attendance.
Quote from the book…
Participants at the camp meetings would be often become enthralled with what was known as the falling exercise. It was a kind of violent fainting spell that would come over people at the height of their religious transports. The subject would generally begin with a piercing scream, fall like a log to the earth, and appear as dead. They might remain that way for minutes or even hours. When they revived, they would often sob controllably or scream out to god and the glory of the gospel in what witnesses describe as “almost superhuman language, agonizing in tears.” Those who didn’t become fallers might instead experience “the jerks”…a convulsive movement that would begin in the arms, legs or shoulders and spread throughout the whole body. Others would twist and jerk their heads from side to side, rapidly nodding and snapping their heads back only to hurl themselves on the ground and in the mud, rolling around like dogs, writhing and screaming as though they were being stabbed with hot pokers.


The toilets of Holland
Are a strange
And alarming delight.
In most of them,
The hole is at the front of the bowl
Rather than the rear
As in American toilets.
In fact,
Many of Dutch toilets have a shelf
At the rear
That catches your turd.
There is no idling water,
Waiting to catch and mask
The overpowering stench
Of your human turd.
It is only when you
Actually flush the toilet
That a rush of
Water mercifully carries
That turd off the shelf
And down the hole.
Forever to be gone from your sight.
And your smell.
The interesting thing is:
While making a doo-doo,
You get a really hearty
And disturbing whiff
Of your own feces.
There is no water,
Masking the smell of
Your own nasty humanness.
Your nose is forced
To confront
The stinking pestilence
That is your own ass. 
For the 3-15 min,
That you are shitting,
You must live with the
Of that
Horrible reeking turd
Coming out of your ass.
It’s a truly humbling experience.
Perhaps you are one
That thinks your shit
Does not stink?
If so,
Please go to Holland.
If only to shit once
And leave.
It will make you more human.
It will make you
A kinder or my empathetic
Man or woman.
Or beast.
For to be human
Is to shit in Holland.

Theo and his wife Diana
Pick me up early evening.
Tom Waits’ guitarist Marc Ribot
Is in town playing with his trio.
Free jazz.
Reminds you that there are no rules.
That everything is music.
That you can play
Do whatever you want.
Time will determine
Whether or not it is art.
It’s a good show.

I meet up with Dylan
at the Ribot show
And we head out to catch
A few songs
Of Boo Boo Davis
Who is playing up the street.
Boo Boo is an old Mississippi bluesman
Now living in Holland.
It’s an all too typical story.
Mississippi bluesman
Can’t make a living in the U.S.
So he moves to Europe
Where people appreciate him
And he can make a living
And live a life not teetering
On the brink of ruin.
Boo Boo was good.
Good Dutch blues players
In his band as well.

Dylan is a cool kid.
Round 20 yrs old.
Good drummer.
And a good guitar player.
And he’s got the gift of taste.
He just knows what is good
And what sucks.
We leave the Boo Boo show.
Head up the street to another bar.
As we’re walking,
He tells me there aren’t a lot of homeless people
In Holland.
But that the one’s that are homeless
Are usually drug addicts.
Most of them get by on stealing bikes
And selling them for $5 euros.
“But you can talk them down to 3 euros,” he says.
Not five minutes later a guy
Walks past us, pushing a bike.
“Five euros,” he says.
“I’ll give you three,” I say.
I give him three euros.
I think Dylan gave him an extra euro.
And I have a bike.
We ride to a hole in the wall Dutch bar
Owned by a Scottish, ex-Navy man.
The place is empty except
For three guys playing cards in a corner.
We drink beer.
The places is dense with smoke, old wood,
and dirt.
“This is the true Dutch experience,” says Dylan.
Meaning: it's a hole in the wall,
Dirty, old Dutch bar.
The vice-president of the Dutch educational system
Or something like that
Shows up.
He’s a friend of the family.
Also an old guitar player.
His name is Eddie.

     (L-R: Dege, Eddie the Vice-Chancellor, Dylan)

He drives an expensive car and wears a suit.
But he likes to party, hang, and get drunk.
Which is what we do.
The true Dutch experience.
The evening rolls on.
We’re all drunk.
We roll out.
Time to go home.
Exit the bar.
Eddie, drunk,
Hops on my newly purchased bike
And wildly pedals it up the street
Back and forth a few times.
I take his picture.
He gives me the bike back.
Hops in his nice car
And disappears
Into one side of the night
And we, the other.

    The "Vice-Chancellor of Education"
    In Holland riding my $3 bike.

      Dylan. Dude's going to be a monster musician one day.

      Wandering the streets of Holland.

Dylan and I go back to the apartment.
We watch funny YouTube videos
And laugh our asses off.
YouTube is like the new cable TV.
By far,
The funniest one we watch
Is a video that Dylan dials up
Of James Brown's birthday party
In 1983.
Michael Jackson is there.
So is Prince.
Everyone is drunk.
Words can't explain.
It's so hilarious,
I have to watch it about eight times.

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