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12 Sep – Heimathursch, Köln, DE

Ah, Heimathursch! The name means something like “local heroes” in German, and it was hands down my favorite gig of the tour. We had a rapt audience, played really well, had a wonderful time with the staff (who rock) and had a completely ridiculous evening afterwards. High points:

  • The venue is covered with weird 20′s-era German kitsch stuff – lots of antlers. Jason played with a set of antlers basically up his armpit for the entire show, and ROCKED it.
  • The cathedral in Köln looks like a spaceship. It’s one of the most awe-inspiring things I’ve ever seen – and it has a window done by Gerhard Richter! We are indeed clever monkeys.
  • After the show we:
    • Drove all of our stuff back to the hotel we were staying at for the evening and walked everything back up four flights of stairs (this came to be an organizing part of every evening).
    • Partied with a local roller derby team (who were quite impressed we were from Brooklyn and immediately started asking us roller derby trivia)
    • Drank a truly regrettable amount of Jagermeister at a 90′s themed dance party/rave. We danced our tails off – there is video proof somewhere.
  • In line at said dance party we met a dude who introduced us to a concept of his own creation called “chainie”. The idea is this – you take a picture of somebody, then you get in the picture with the first person, and a third person takes the picture of you two. Then that person hands the camera off to another person and gets in the picture. And so on. The goal is to then look at the chain of pictures that result and marvel at how you can get strangers to do truly ridiculous things if you hand them a camera. We ended up getting one that evening with all of the bouncers of this club, who I’m sure thought it was completely stupid. But it was awesome.
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11 Sep – Grammatikoff, Duisburg DE

This was the first night in a three evening road trip, which we didn’t realize would turn into a completely fucking crazy adventure. And it was our first show with Jason, who was newly passported, and able to get into the country. So we were at full power, and pumped.

Duisburg is kind of like the Pittsburgh of Germany – an industrial suburb outside of Köln. The venue we were at was pretty stunning – we were in the back room of this restaurant, with really atmospheric lighting and a big beautiful stage. Things about this show:

  • We blew out the power for the entire room about an hour before the show because the voltage converter we brought was a complete piece of crap. Aviva had no way of playing the keyboard without a converter that would give it American-style power, so the electrician that was working for the venue went downstairs and, I shit you not, made a plug for the keyboard that would work. Also – an electrician for the venue? Crazy. It was awesome.
  • We got a request that evening for one of our own songs, which gave me a smile so big on my face they’ll have to jackhammer it off my corpse when I die. Really lovely people at the venue.
  • We stayed at a friend of Songs and Whispers named Ketan, who let us all sleep on his floor. Jetlag was really hitting Jason then (and to a lesser extent everyone else) so we were totally wiped out. Steve though had mastered the art of sleeping in a foreign situation, and came prepared (as documented herein).
Live
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Echo Bloom at Zollhaus

10 Sep – Zollhaus, Bremen DE

Zollhaus is a beautiful hostel somewhat near the downtown area in Bremen. Things that happened around this show:

  • We got our first instance of dead tree journalism around this – a writeup in the local paper. It was in German, and we assume it said something like “completely brilliant Brooklyn band poised to rock your asses off”.
  • Everyone in the band was completely distracted when a blindingly beautiful woman walked in about halfway through our first set, and everybody played significantly better after that. So my takehome is this – if you’re better at public speaking when you imagine your entire audience naked, you’re similarly better if you’re playing to a room full of models (even if it’s in your head).
  • We drove the intern Maraike Frederike (who was our minder for the evening, and rocks, and drives a badass motorcycle, and whose name is definitely not Maraike) crazy because we were completely starving and thus REQUIRED food before the show. She must have looked at her watch about thirty times while we were snarfing food down at the mall. Also – German mall food – pretty good!
  • We got our first encore of the tour. That made us feel like seven million dollars, or an equivalent amount of euro.
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9 Sep – Hafen Casino, Bremen DE

The Hafen Casino is a truck-stop/diner in the port area of Bremen abutted by a large tent-like structure (imagine a *very* small circus tent, all painted white). And that night, it was our tent.

I should stop for a minute and express how little most of us knew, in general about Bremen, the tour, and what to expect venue-to-venue. Because all of our scheduling information (and really most everything) was in German it was often really hard to figure out specifically what was going on. From our end, this was part of the adventure – every night was some new unique place filled with lovely people. All to say, we had no idea really what to expect from a place called “Hafen Casino”.

The room was small – perhaps 30 people could fit inside. And as we began to get setup, we had no idea if we weren’t unconvinced our audience would be a couple surly bartenders. But, like almost every night, the place mysteriously filled with people who were nice, genuinely interested in what we were doing, and willing to endure our pathetic attempts at German.

This evening I tried using some different pedals I’d brought, including a TC-Helicon vocal pedal I was really excited about. It takes a guitar signal and vocal signal, and creates harmonized vocals based on the chords you are playing. If you weren’t aware, the electrical systems in Europe and the US run on different voltages, so you need to step down the voltage so American equipment can use them (unless the gear is able to take a variable range of voltage). Unfortunately that TC-Helicon pedal didn’t have that range of flexibility. It lasted for exactly one song that evening, and was then kaput for the rest of the tour, which was too bad. C’est la vie. Or however you say that in German.

Also this was the first evening we met Mona, who rocked! Go Mona!
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8 September – Notes from Germany

Aviva and I are sitting in the Starbucks at the Central Station in Bremen, the only place we can get reliable WiFi (that we, foolish Americans, know of), so I’m going to dash something off real quick-like.

So we’re two shows in (~493 to go) and are reasonably settled in Germany. Traveling without a proper SIM card makes everything seem like 1998. You just have to – wait – for things. But everyone’s incredibly nice and patient with us. I’ve found that Germans have a secret, commonly understood password to let you know they speak English. That password is as follows – if you ask them if they speak English, and they say “a little” they speak FLAWLESS ENGLISH. That’s the password. Or I guess a “pass-phrase”.

Random story from two days ago – we were in Hannover, getting ready to head back after a really fun show at Sofaloft. Aviva went to pick up some food while Josh and I waited near the car, and these four extremely drunk dudes came up to us asking for a lighter. Which we didn’t have. But it sparked a conversation, and they found out we were a touring band. One of the dudes opened the passenger side door, looked at me and slurred “You, singer, sing me a song. Sing me John Denver – Leaving on a Jet Plane”. At which point he lifted up his shift and – I shit you not – dude had the words for the chorus of the song tattooed on his abdomen. So I sang him the song. I mean, you kind of have to in that situation.

Two shows in Bremen today, it’s picking up speed this afternoon!
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8 Sep – Litfass, Bremen DE

Litfass is a quaint bar near this hip town-square area of Bremen. All beautiful stonework and cute houses, cobblestone paths and narrow streets. We played for a polite, attentive crowd (which has been de riguer in Germany) and were joined for the first time by our occasional tour buddy Drew Davis. Truly beautiful evening (and Steve is here!).

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Sofaloft - Hannover DE

6 Sep – Softloft, Hannover DE

One unique thing about the tour was that, because we didn’t speak any German, we had no idea what kind of location we were going to each day. We woke up in Duisburg at around 3 in the afternoon the next day and began our journey to our second gig of the tour, at a modern furniture shop in Hannover. It ended up being a large, beautiful concert space with a deep stage that we chose to decorate with some of the random knick knacks we found around the store. We apparently found that randomness so compelling that we neglected to take pictures of anything else. We were all wildly jet-lagged still, so it’s probably for the best.

Our hosts were lovely and by the time we chatted with them after the show, had a few drinks under their collective belts. We practiced our non-existent German, drank some beer, and ate some food before heading back very late to Bremen. Steve was to come the following day, and we would almost be at full strength.
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5 Sep – Big Buttinsky, Osnabrück DE

Osnabrück is a quaint town in Lower Saxony dominated by a gigantic Cathedral dedicated to St. Peter (built in the 11th century!). The town has one main drag which contains the Big Buttinsky, a cute venue cuddled next to a movie theater. We thought the venue called for us to play “Fat Bottomed Girls,” but as it was our first show of the tour and I’d just picked up Aviva and Josh from the airport a few hours before, we decided to play it a little more straight. PS – those guys powered their first European set after being up for about 30 hours – TROOPERS.

The sound was absolutely stellar, facilitated by our main man Doerk von Erlbeg, who worked with us to get a really fantastic feel. We played two sets, including a few new songs – a B-side off Red called “Kings of the County” and a cover of the Beatles song “Something”. We were well received, and Aviva even got to be the glück-fairy for the evening. We stayed at Doerk’s place that evening, who was talking at one point about how he really wanted to create a global artist community: “You know, at one point my roommates moved out and I thought to myself, I could either get new roommates, or use this as a place to house artists coming through.” So nice to know how connected everyone is, and how willing people are to put in time helping folks out. Live
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31 August, Rockwood Music Hall

full-band

We finally got Blue Shift out in physical and digital formats and celebrated at Rockwood Music Hall. Looking back on the project now, it’s a seriously mixed bag. It ate my life for about a year, which is an unacceptably long amount of time for a project to be a creative block for other things, but we captured some really lovely performances and learned a TON about live production. So the next “shift” album will be significantly faster. I mean, if there’s any justice in the universe.


Setlist for the 31 August Rockwood show:


Operator
English Teacher
Cedar Beach
The Returning of the Doves
Steve McQueen
Swimmer
Texas Two
Leaving Charleston
Evangeline
The Weight (The Band cover)