Tuesday, December 27, 2011

ROADLOG: EUROPE 2011 - PART II - Brother Dege


The Dutch love peanut butter.
Theo claims they invented it.
I need to do some research
To see if this is true.
That put it on a lot of stuff.
Even more than they love
Peanut butter,
They love sprinkles.
Little chocolate sprinkles
That you put on cupcakes.
It’s really kind of cute.
When a person from Holland
Asks if you would like
Some “sprinkles,”
You cannot help but smile.
It’s a major part of their food thing.
Upon further research
I discover a Dutchman
Invented chocolate sprinkles.
His name is Gerard de Vries.
Look him up.
The Dutch put sprinkles
On everything.
It’s like everyone is a kid
And wants sprinkles.
Even the way the Dutch
Say the word sprinkles
Is endearing.
They get a contented gleam
In their eyes
And the word rolls
Off their tongue
Like little Christmas bells.

Speaking of Christmas.
The Dutch also invented Santa Claus.
Except their Santa Claus
Looks like a hairy version of the Pope.
And his "slave elves" are black.
No bullshit.

Bjorn picks me up.
We roll to his house
Which is near the German border.
I watch the scenery unspool.
The Netherlands.
Autumnal beiges
And the wheat flap.
And the straw barley yapping by
Off the flat track of the land
Spinning off into the distance.
I think of it all
Along with
The blood of revolutions
Plagues and executions
Cradled in the ancient dirt
Of Europe.
What a place.

Bjorn and I arrive at his house.
Meet his wife and daughter.
Nice family.
Eat a good meal
Composed of rice, sausage
And peanut butter.

Gig is at a city arts center.
Community funded.
Nice place. Good sound.
Before gigs,
I try to be quiet and read.
And not talk.
Just to save my voice.
Still dealing with the snot
And scratchy voice.
But for me,
That is near impossible.
I like to talk too much
And vibe with people.
I can't shut up
And just be quiet.
I find a bathroom
On the other side of the building.
I hide out in it
For awhile,
Sitting on the floor
Then I play.
Gig. Good.
Attentive artsy crowd.
Finish up.
Load out.
Roll back to Bjorn’s
Where I sleep on a cot
In the computer room.
It’s actually really comfy.

I’m playing at a biker bar in Belgium.
Bjorn the Road Manager
Is my minder for this leg of the tour.
Venue is loud and rowdy.
Lot of chatter.
I take note that
The spacey, slide-scape jams
Might not go over too well here.
The attention span is too short
And the focus is on partying.
Fuck it.
I plug in my gear.
The step-down transformer, once again,
Blows the breaker on the venue.
They flip the lights back on
And find a better outlet
To plug it into,
Which usually solves the problem.
I crank into the set.
About 45 min in,
My stomp box breaks.
It is pretty much just a piece of wood
With a pick-up in it.
When you stomp on it,
It sort of sounds like a kick drum.
The thing breaks.
Bjorn unplugs it while
I am still playing
And goes to work on it
At the soundboard with
The soundman and another guy.
I segue into
Space jam, slide-scape.
Fuck it,
I stretch that thing out
For 10-15 mins
In the back of the club
I can see my stompbox
Being operated on
Under a flashlight
By Bjorn and the other guys.
I take a 20 min break.
Check in with Bjorn.
They’re in the middle
Of what looks like
Open heart surgery
On my stompbox.
Glue gun.
Duct tape.
Miraculously, Bjorn resuscitates it.
It’s alive, again.
Fucking A.
Here’s to you, Bjorn.

    Open-heart surgery on the Stompbox.

      Bjorn Maessen, leg breaker, P/T road manager.

Bjorn is a road warrior.
Over the past 10 yrs,
He’s been a roadie, stagehand,
And road manager
For hundreds of European
And American band tours.
Punk, metal, rock, roots, folk,
Blues, ska.
He’s done them all.
We met six yrs ago.
He was the European road manager
For that CC Adcock tour
I did in 2005.
On the first day we met, I said,
“By the end of this tour, you will hate
Everyone in this band.
And I will be one of your
Good buddies.”
Such was/is the case.
With the stompbox fixed,
I roll back into the set
And crank out another
Hour + of tunes.

Bjorn and I hang at the club
For a bit afterward
But I'm burnt and feel
Like getting out of here.
Shows over.
It's time to roll.
10 years ago or whatever
Things would have been different.
We would've hung all night,
Drank, whatever.
But I've had to grow up
A lot since then.
I have a kid.
I'm engaged.
Older, wiser?
I don't know, maybe.
I'm trying.
They call it maturing.
It ain't easy.
But like a lot of things,
It has to be done.
At least to a certain degree.
I can't drink and party all night.
I don't do drugs anymore.
Drugs actually bore the shit out of me now.
Especially drug talk.
Unless it's psychedelics & mind expansion,
My mind just turns off when I hear it.
It's like talking about golf or something.
Or a lost war.
I had some good times.
Bad times, too.
It was just a lot of time wasted,
Trying to figure shit out
And using dope as some sort of
Deluded-therapeutic buffer.
Some people are like that.
I was one of them.
It seemed logical at the time.
Felt pretty damn good.
But it eventually became a drag.
So I moved on. Slowly.
Thank the gods.
I hate talking about this shit, actually.
It's pretty clich├ęd
And can easily get preachy,
Which is fucking lame.
Fuck the preaching.
Just do what you want to do.
Live and explore this life.
That's what it's about.
It's not all pretty.
And when the time comes,
And you get burnt, beat down,
Exhausted, whatever, etc.
Take your licks
Like a man,
And accept it.
And know when
It is time to move on.
One journey into the unknown ends
And another begins.
Fuck it,
What else are you going to do?

Bjorn and I
Load out the gear.
Smoke one more cigarette
Outside the club.
Then, apropos of nothing,
We turn
Go gentle into that good night.
Too tired to rage
Against the dying of the light.
We weave through
The lithe
Belgium roads
Nameless intersections
Miles of highway.
Miles of night
And the theater of stars
Hovering above us.


The venue is another community arts center.
It’s called The Bunker.
It’s got its own radio station,
Music venue,
And production facility.
And some other stuff.
Not sure what.
Everyone that works here
Seems really cool
With an earthy,
Rather than urban,
Punk rock vibe.
Load in.
Sound check.
Then I do an interview
For a radio show called
“Lost in the Blues”
or maybe
“Hotdogs & Cool Cats.”
Not sure which,
As the bumpers
Are all in Dutch.
The host is an interesting guy.
He asks good questions.
He gets it
And hones in on the fact
That what I am doing musically
Isn't just “blues.”
It's something else.
It is whatever it is.
Even I don’t know
What it is.
Only time decides
What your shit is.
Nothing else.
Not hype.
Not sales.
Not money.
Not magazines.
Not print campaigns.
Not fans.
Just time.
That's it.
The gig goes well.
After the show,
The locals give me
The amputated leg
of a mannequin
That was lying around the club.
"Here you go, Dege leg."
Fair enough.
I accept it
I pack the leg
Into the car
With the other gear.

Lost in the Blues Radio Show:
Lost in the Blues Radio Show, Holland, 2011-11-10

Theo picks me up
And we roll
To the next venue
In Belgium.

      Theo: Booker, road manager, good guy.

The guy is total class act.
Theo is a huge music fan.
He has a deep and profound knowledge
Of American music.
Europeans really internalize
And appreciate American music.
On this tour alone,
Turned me on to so much
Music I'd never heard of.
It’s obvious from the way
He conducts himself
And how the people
Around here treat him,
That he is a well liked
And respected guy.
Especially in Dutch music circles.
He is a really good dude.
Totally sober
Devoted to his wife
And he’s not a greed hound.
I thank the gods
For bringing good people
Like Theo
Into my life
And leaving the bastards
At bay.
I don’t need anymore bastards.
Fuck them.
Over the course of the tour,
I never hear Theo complain once.
And when he offers criticism
Of something,
He does it in such a diplomatic
And inoffensive way,
You can't help
But listen. 

The venue
Is a small bar
Run by an interesting
Guy name Jokah.
Like Joker.
But with no R.
He's an intense looking dude.
Like a tall, stocky Charles Manson
After he shaved his head.
But in actuality,
He is a good, friendly dude.
He hooks me up with
Jameson & Cokes
Whenever I need them.
Which is not to often,
Because I'm trying to
Get into chill mode.
And whiskey is hard to play on
Once you've had too many.
It can be a disaster actually.
So I go slow. And easy, baby.
Theo splits from home.
We make plans
To meet up tomorrow.
He is spending time
With his wife
In Holland,
So I am on my own.
Before he leaves,
I ask Theo
Where the hell am I
Staying after the gig?
Theo tells me that
The club has booked
Me a room at a place
Called “The Castle.”
Some kind of hotel.
I guess.
So I’m on my own
In Belgium.
Fuck it.

First thing I notice
Upon arrival
At the venue, De Loods
There’s no PA.
Just a Marshall combo
And a mic.
Insert: worried face.
Jokah calls a few Belgian guys
Who haul some more small amps
Down to the venue
And we Frankenstein
A makeshift PA together.’
It’s pretty ghetto,
But it works.
And it doesn’t sound too bad.
Fuck it.
The venue,
Which is next to an art gallery,
Fills up quickly.
I meet and talk with
A Belgian music writer
Named Mieke Geukens
Who wrote a nice review
Of my Folk Songs record
And voted it the top album
Of 2010.
Nice lady.
I get lucky sometimes.
We shoot some photos
And make arrangements
To do an interview
In the future.

This was Mieke's Top Albums of 2010 list:

*I kicked Natalie Merchant's ass!

With slight trepidation
I begin the set
Lean into the Frankenstein PA
And kick out the jams.
It works.
Crowd hangs with me
And follows
The trajectory of the set
All the ambient detours.
I like it when
I don’t have to be an entertainer
And can just be an artist.
Sure, it sounds bloated, indulgent.
But I know I’m not a great entertainer
Nor a virtuosic musician.
I’m an artist
Disguised as a musician.

The gig goes well.
Crowd hangs in there till the end.
Play an encore.
I hang out with the locals.
Cool people, Belgians.
I know there’s
A long historical rivalry
Between Belgians and the Dutch,
But both are, in general,
Cool motherfuckers.
I haven’t met one asshole
On this entire tour.
In America,
They’re everywhere.
I wonder if it’s because
I’m a guest in this country
And I can’t recognize
The assholes.

Aarschot, Belgium
After the gig.
I have no idea where
I am sleeping tonight.
Theo is gone.
I have no car. No ride.
No minders or road manager tonight.
I was told there was
A room booked for me
At some place
Called The Castle.
Jokah offers to let me
Crash at his house.
I think about.
I've spent the last 10 days
Being around other people.
It would be nice to just
For a night at least.
I could rest my voice.
Be alone.
It is nice to just be alone sometimes.
If I crash at Jokah’s house,
I know I’ll end up drinking,
Smoking cigarettes,
And staying up late
And further blowing out my voice.
I politely thank Jokah
For the offer to stay at his place
But I opt to crash
At this place called The Castle.
I need some alone time.
No one takes offense.
Arrangements are made
To bring me to the Castle.
We load my gear into
The car of a guy named Jimmy.
Jimmy works at the Castle.
He’s got the keys.
He will drive me.
We roll out
Through the dark
Belgian countryside.
Down skinny winding roads.
30 min later,
We turn a corner
And there,
Lit in the distance
Is the Castle.
It’s a creepy looking place
Place made of the Freemason stones
And old wood.
It doesn’t look so much
Like a castle
As some kind of medieval lodge.
We unload my gear,
Walk in,
And strangely,
No one is there.
The whole place is empty.
No staff.
No guests.
No nothing.
It’s like The Shining.
Jimmy leads me upstairs,
Down a long hallway,
And to my room.
Room #9.
He opens the door.
I lug in my gear.
Drop it on the floor.
We say our goodbyes
And Jimmy leaves.
I’m alone in the Castle.
The room is just a regular
Hotel room.
Bed, bathroom, TV, dresser.
Nice, but nothing extravagant.
I shower, relax.
Watch some TV.
It’s 2:40 a.m.
Eventually; I grow bored
I get up to smoke a cigarette outside.
Walk around the place.
Once again,
It’s like I’m in the movie The Shining.
There’s classical statues here and there.
A large ballroom room
And dining area
With a white grand piano
Dinner tables covered
With white table clothes.
Once, again.
There’s no one here.
Not a soul.
I find a sculpture
Of an owl
And get the Illuminati creeps.
I get the feeling that
This place is 
Some kind Bohemian Grove-style
Illuminati lodge.
It’s got a dark, aristocratic vibe.
I smok.
Walk around
Space out.
Back in my room.
There’s just eerie silence.
I feel like Scatman Crothers
Is going to walk around the corner
At any minute.

After a night
Fighting for sleep
In the Illuminati lodge,
I finally crash into my dreams
Lay there till morning.
None of which
I can remember.
I smoke.
Walk about the exterior
Of the lodge.
Discover a lake.
More statues.
Stare into the leaves.
Smoke levitating
In the still air.
And still,
Not a soul around.
How weird.
How strange
That I ended up here.

      Photos of The Illuminati Lodge, Belgium


At some point
Theo and I drove 
Through an ancient town 
in Belgium
Named Brugge.
It's been arround
Since the middle ages
Maybe longer.
It began as a Gallic-Roman settlement.
It’s pretty amazing.
There’s an actual mote around
The old section of the city.
Much of its ancient architecture
Is still intact.
In America,
We freak out when we see
Something 100 yrs old.
In Europe,
The scale of history
Dwarfs it.

Theo picks me up at “The Castle.”
He trips out on the place, too.
And decides to take some pictures.
We walk around.
He takes photos.
We load up
And drive to Haringe, Belgium
For the next gig.

I’m playing in a tent.
It’s a blues festival
In Belgium somewhere.
I’ve got a tent stage.
And a big ass tent PA.
All to myself.
The contract calls for 3
30 min sets.
When a band from the venue
Connected to my tent finishes,
I bang through a set.
It’s a good night.
Maybe the best of the tour.
200-300 people fill the tent.
Sounds is great.
Crowd rocks.
The acoustics of the tent
And the sound system
Allow me to feed back
The Dobro
Long stretches
Without it being too harsh.
During the last set,
I close with “Battle of New Orleans”
And segue into the section of the song
Where I layer loops and feedback,
Emulating the sound of hurricane.
It usually separates the tourists
From the purists.
It’s noisy, loud,
Not easy listening.
After I fade out the hurricane,
I grind into a Hendrix-inspired version
Of the Star-Spangled Banner,
Played on slide.
They tent crowd calls from one more.
I pull out
“The World’s Longest Hotdog”
And riff on frikandels and shit.
“Hotdog” is probably the most
Serious song I’ve ever written.
I’m joking of course.
James Taylor probably wishes
He wrote that bitch.
It’s moving and emotional.
The song came to me like a dove
And flew into my hands
With its wings gently wafting
On the breeze.
After the show,
A French artist guy
Showed me his sketch book.
He did these while I played:


At this gig,
Who was also playing 
At this festival.
Bob played guitar
in Muddy Water's band
From 1973-80
And even appeared
Playing guitar at Muddy's side
During the filming of
The Last Waltz.

Muddy taught him
How to play slide old-school style.
Bob watched my set 
From the side of the stage.
After the set we talked shit,
Drank beer.
    Me and Bob Margolin, Beglium.

Of course,
I asked him
A bunch of fanboy questions
About Muddy.
Bob was so chill
Approachable and cool.
Another musician 
Who isn't an asshole.
What a great dude.
So grateful I get
The opportunity 
To meet such good people.

Last gig of the tour.
A guy that makes
Cigar box guitars
Has a display set up.
These things are the rage
Right now.
This guy’s box guitars
Sound really good.
Sound better
Than my fucking Dobro.
Fuck it.
I’ll play cheap shit till
I die.
It still sounds good.
Speaking of which,
I notice my pick-up jack
Is coming loose on my Regal.
Something is always breaking
Or falling apart
Or being reborn
On tour.
Such is life.
Fuck it.
And move on.
And don’t complain too much.
It’s bad form.

I tear into the last set.
Try to make it count.
I play two sets.
Close with the layers,
And noise.
I walk out
With the Dobro
Leaning against the amp,
Still cycling feedback,
Sending a little mayday transmission
To the dark stars.

    The last note of the tour. (Theo)

11.14.11 – Amsterdam / Rated - PG
I wake early.
Pack my shit.
Say goodbye
To the ghost of Townes.
Wish him luck.
Theo drops me at the train station.
We say our goodbyes.
I thank him.
He’s a total class act, that Theo.
I catch the noon train to Amsterdam.
Then catch a cab to the hotel.
Toss my crap in room.
And walk to the Van Gogh Museum.
I love Van Gogh.

After reading the Lust for Life
In the 90’s.
I was hooked on
Van Gogh’s story
And art.
Van Gogh
Will break your heart.
After a couple hours
At the Van Gogh museaum,
I cab it to the Anne Frank house,
Which is interesting.
And sad.
It’ll bum you out.
But that’s history.
Last time I was
On tour here,
We got wasted,
And threw down.
This time around
My shit is totally square.
And PG-13.
Museums, food, books.
I love it.
It’s a different time.
I’m at a different place
In my life.
I like it here.
It’s nice to grow up

My Morning Jacket
Paradiso Club
Damn these dudes are good.
Been a fan
Of My Morning Jacket
Since ’00 or so
But I’d never seen them live.
Seen footage, but not live.
All I have to say is:
MMJ are so good.
What a great band.
They were so killer,
I couldn’t even be jealous.
They’ve got the great vibe.
Amazing tunes.
Ripping players.
Each of them are just monsters.
Guitarist Carl Broemel is a fiend.
Damn that dude was good.
Working overtime on his shit.
On stage,
They come off
Like good buddies
Rocking together.
Jesus, they were great.
Glad I finally caught them live.

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