Wednesday, 28 December 2011

day 07 :: köln, DE :: solo tour, nov 2011

18th november 2011 :: köln, DE :: lichtung solo

i arranged to get the car at 10am... i'm not sure why, i didn't need it until much later and i knew that parking it in bruxelles would be difficult and that i'd be forced to get out of bed early - but maybe that's what i did anyway!

i was a little hungover from last night's concert - it was a nice evening, and its memories and the bit that's still in my head provoke a wierd sense of lonliness... i'm not used to touring on my own, it's going to be wierd to not have anyone to share this with, so i'm writing it all down so that i know it really happened!

at the car rental desk, i was greeted by steve who upgraded me to a bigger car (welcomed as i may end up sleeping in it after a couple of the shows! while we were sitting i got talking to steve and one of the mechanics working in the garage attached. i'm not quite sure how it happened, but i ended up phoning one of their clients. a man passing through from prague whoose ball bearings are busted to tell him that it would cost 595 euros instead of 415 euros because the housing is broken too!!!

i love choosing a period of time from time-to-time and just writing everything down - i love wandering through life with a notebook, a camera and a guitar. this next month will be difficult, though - i'll probably miss alot of the random pop-in-pop-out-of-the-head thoughts that i so enjoy while i'm driving :(

- anoar braham - astrakan café -

i have decided that the best way to remember some of the stuff i want to write down is by stopping for five minutes at the end of every album to write a few words... as my first album comes to a close, i notice the sounds of the different road surfaces in the relative silence!

the train line clings to the road along a stretch of journey that i have taken time and again, but usually on the train. it's flat farming land around here, climbing gently into the ardennes mountains. the sun falls on my right hand and warms it up, it shoots into cold every time i pass a truck and plunge into shade. the citroen picasso is a pleasure to drive. its comfortable, doesn't use too much petrol and the sound system is really clear :)

a little fly got into the car and keeps me company for a few kilometers
"hello!" ... "ok, fine... ignore me!"
"i don't talk, i'm a fly!"

- deus - worst case scenario -

on this trip, everything is at my own pace. if i want to stop, i stop... if i want to eat, i eat, if i want to put on a record, i put on the record... if i want to drive slowly...

never stop asking questions... i accidently drive through the german-belgian customs looking for a place to picnic. the border at eupen/aachen is pretty - not the shack, but the area! i made some food last night at 2am after the concert and it is really good - this may be the last good meal for ten days, in germany, not everyone understands vegitarian!

- led zeppelin - I -

i love the light at this time of year, autumn is my favorite season for the mental-energy storms and the sunsets, but only when it comes after summer, and this year summer was also very autumn - the light is amazing, but i'm finding the wind less refreshing than usual! the clouds look amazing in the rear-view mirror - driving, i'm also missing a bunch of beautiful photos that i'd like to be able to share here! it's strange looking over such beautiful landscape in such a beautiful sunset and the sound of traffic louder than my thoughts!

- darwin deez -

on arriving in lichtung, i am first struck by their choice of furnature and artwork hanging on the walls - beautiful old wooden sideboards overflowing with flyers and potted plants, landscape paintings mixed up among nude photos that all work rather well together - wallis would have something to say about this - and the pet shop boys on the radio!

the stage is lovely, slightly raised in a veranda - all surrounded with glass (glad there are no cymbals this evening!) - with a piano against the wall, a painting of a garden surrounding a small garden on the wall outside and behind me. i'll be looking over people sitting in comfy couches listening to the show.

michael greets me, offers me a coffee and shows me around. an hour or so later, fabien arrives just as i have my stuff set up - perfect timing :) the sound check is quick and i'm happy to have my amp, effects and  all my toys...

dinner is the indian buffet next door - what was i thinking taking so muuch food - i wasn't that hungry but everything looked so good that i filled my plate to spilling level. i have to eat it now or i'll look really greedy!!! the music in the venue was a very eclectic mix, so asked him who was choosing it - creamy radio, the world's largest shuffle ipod - hmmm - not very creative and half of the songs that pop up are a bit shit, not sure about this idea!

just before i started, a few fans of wallis' music showed up - this makes me happy - i appreciate their coming out :)

i get talking to a gent named essa, when he comes to the bar to order tea. he is in the rock band playing in the venue downstairs after my gig... he tells me of their music, it sounds interesting, i'll pop down and have a listen... the show was nice. about 50 or so people, some sitting in the armchairs listening, some standing around listening, others waiting for the later gig - some of these found me after the show to tell me that they enjoyed it - that was nice :)

it's wierd playing on my own again. i can't find much to say about the songs, so i just played them. i felt fairly self-concious and a bit uncomfortable, especially during the louder songs, thinking like i might be going to far - i kind of just close my eyes and let myself be taken away on the air... i haven't really gigged like this in nearly 10 years!

at the end of the show, daniela passed a hat around, while looking after the bar alone - some superwoman! i hung around for a while after the show for chats and tea! one guy, michael, took a shot of me with insane eyes - i should just keep them closed!

i went downstairs for a bit of a listen before heading off. there were 2 rock bands and both sounded really good, but i only caught the last song of the first band and the first couple of the second band - the sound in the room was great! i hit the road to drive the first 100 or so kilometers towards frankfurt and pull over for the night.

- blah - a compilation i made (see "mixtape" blog from oct 2011 -

i stopped in a layby off the A66. it was cold, but i was well equipped with bankets and cushions and with a quick blast of hot air to begin the evening in heat, i slipped into sleep with no problem. i kept waking up to pee and then putting the heat back on for a couple of minutes - i slept intermittantly!


Friday, 23 December 2011

day 06 :: off day, bruxelles, BE :: nov 2011 solo tour

17th: bruxelles, BE :: engineering and partying in sssc

the sunsets are stunning at this time of year, each one seems better than the night before's... it's been nice to have a short break before the next leg of the tour. this allowed me to get some clothes washed, print some more cds - with nico, we print the inlays as we need them. this week we did about 300 or 400, half pink with glitter and the other half turquoise. we usually change the paint every 200 or so. i like this - it makes each of them a bit unique... the first 1000 are being printed like this and numbered.

... what better way to polish off a break and get me in the mood for touring, than a gig amongst friends in sans souci. i embark with my gear at 17h for a show with 3 acoustic acts... illute, antoine villoutreix and ian fisher - they were all brilliant, but i really got lost in antoine's set - beautiful!


Tuesday, 20 December 2011

day 05 :: carpi (modena), IT :: solo tour, nov 2011

11th: carpi (modena), IT :: kalinka, solo with wallis bird

at breakfast, however, i was enjoying it's lingering flavour less... fuzzy-headed, i took a look around the breakfast room, took a yoghurt and went back to bed with it - the extra hour will do me the world of good!

it did! i battled with the underground carpark until she released my car and we headed for bologna... i made them listen to 80s music until they started singing along and my hangover subsided!

we arrived in bologna with enough time to sit down and eat. agata had an address for a good restaurant, so that's where we headed - trattoria del rosso, where i had a wonderful melanzane di parmiggiano - still not as good as silvio's mum's in torre al mare, but pretty damn good, all the same.

we sat and enjoyed it until the last minute possible and then rushed to radio citta fujiko, where wallis was playing a few songs on air. there are so many people on bologna's streets this afternoon, i feel like james bond or indiana jones!

we got back to the car, to the radio station in light speed and the others went up while i parked. the station was like something out of a 50s detective movie - all desks overflowing with papers, dotted around a large room with an almost entirly open partition wall down the centre of the room. each staff member walking around the room with a pen in hand, or sitting on the edge of a desk discussing stuff with the person in the office chair beside them, all this in a dimly-lit air thick with smoke!

the studio where we played was small and full of the same sort of style - i love this place :) wallis and i played three songs and went on our merry way for carpi.

the drive seemed long and we stopped several times for coffee and snacks. as we approached modena, we passed by an accident where a citroen picasso had been reduced to the size of a smart car - so dangerous, and still i drive at 100kmh :(

tonights hotel was proper de luxe - it always feels good when the hotel and sound are good on the last night of a tour (or in this case, part of a tour!)... so far, so good!

the posters surrounding tonight's venue were proper cruise-ship cabaret style - i didn't know whether to laugh or cringe. the venue is lovely, 3 or 4 booths under the windows along the left hand wall, behind it, a large L-shaped bar and at the end of that, the sound desk. the stage was large and hollow, perfect for my microphones :) we were greeted with a coffee and a smile - i love italy!

the meal was amazing. proper sit-over-the-meal-for-two-hours food! and all the staff sit down together and ate with us - i like this - it's so italian and wonderful!

the sound was great in the soundcheck, but unfortunatly, the crowd were so loud during the show, i couldn't hear it!!! i hated that gig because i had the impression that we could have easily been replaced by a cd player for all the audience cared :( ... one of the people who came to the show brought a bottle of barbera d'alba, though - mon favorit! when we got back to the hotel, we had a glass and a chat about the last few days - i loved touring with agata and rosella, they were brilliant :)


Thursday, 15 December 2011

day 04 :: milano, IT :: solo tour nov 2011

10th: milano, IT :: bitte, solo with wallis bird

i woke up in the morning early, had a shower and a walk in the garden as the sun rose over the cliff that has been exposed by the light of day, and the green rolling valley, leading away from it!

the owner of the b&b was working on his garden and as i sat down to breakfast he came in with a variety of plates prepared with the fruits of his labour. i was sat in a veranda with chillis, thyme, rosemary and baskets brimming with tomatoes, corgettes and all sorts of wonderful colours hanging from the rafters. i leafed through a magazine filled with photos of wartime france with a warm sun now falling on my back - how strange it must be to live in a war zone... my friend, zlata, published her journal when she was a child living in the war in bosnia. she also did a book called "stolen voices" a few years ago, assembling war diaries from the last century - it was very interesting to read.

before long i was joined by wallis, rosella and agata and we chatted about the various places where we live, have lived and what we miss from home - we all aggreed that if the politics and the economy of this country were better, we'd all find it very attractive! we ate with a dog wandering around giving us eyes, but turning his nose up at the string beans we dropped - picky beggar!

i sat in the garden to enjoy the first mix of the first song on my album that marcus is currently mixing in sandhausen in germany - very happy about this... it's into the future and he has made the gospel choir sound like a hug :)

we loaded up the car and hit the road... back down the windey streets towards the venue where we played last night, down to the river, left and we'll follow it until we find a nice spot to go for a walk.

we drive along the riverside, with cliffs shooting up to the sky on both sides until they recede and allow a few hills that locals have taken advantage of to grow vinyards... there is a beautiful old village climbing up the mountain on our left to a church about two thirds of the way up. we drive down to the waterside and stop for a walk as the river opens into lake garda. it's a beautiful setting and wallis and i swap the camera - capturing the sun run along the water's surface; the ducks bouncing on the small waves; the golden trees; revealing themselves briefly while they await winter's blanket; the mountains and their snowy peaks propping the sky up all around us - as we walk further into lake garda. on the way back we follow the streets winding up the mountain until we get to a square with a church (a different one a little lower on the hillside!) and a beautiful view over the valley - we stood in silence for a while - we know each other well enough, now, to feel comfortable doing this.

the next kilometers were accompanied with valerie francis' album - scoring the hills and villages to milan perfectly until, as the fog began overcoming us, agata had us discover the wonder that is carmen consoli... amazing!

we arrived in milan and went to visit the cathedral - really nice - before going for some risotto in an old school café playing sade, and the likes. walking through the streets in the fog, rosella told us about her work and some of the other bands they have organised tours with in the past and some that they hope to work with in the future... fog makes everything eerie!

by the time we found bitte and drove down the darkly lit industrial horror movie streets to get there, the fog had turned to smog. as i got out of the car, the smell slammed me instantly back to winter-time cycles to school in dublin when i was 12!

tonight's sound was going to be a challange - i have, at my disposal an 8-channel yamaha desk and 3 speakers! the room is great - a great big open space with 2 floors and a few poles dotted around for dreamers.

this evening, i have made an executive decision to drive the car to the hotel before the show and get a taxi after it so that i can have a few drinks - ray, a friend from ireland and his wife, elisa are coming, as are bruno, with whom i work in belgium and his girlfriend doudou... should be shits and giggles!

indeed it was... wallis did a killer loopything that seemed almost as though she had rehearsed it! the vibes were there and a lovely couple gave me a bottle of their home-brewed beer - it was really lovely. the bar had a barbera d'asti that i enjoyed with my dinner, and kept on enjoying during the gig, and after when ray, wallis, the dude on the bar, and i kept on jamming - i kept enjoying that fine grape... and in the taxi back to the hotel, yup - barbera!!



Tuesday, 13 December 2011

day 03 :: lecco, IT :: solo tour nov 2011

09th: lecco, IT :: l'oficina della musica, solo with wallis bird

we missed breakfast but got cappuccino and a croissant at the hotel's café before going for a walk at turin's market. while we waited for wallis and agata to arrive, rosella and i chatted about pearl jam and ani difranco. she wrote a biography about her in italian!

turin is a really beautiful city... a higgledy piggledy mix of beautifully preserved buildings standing proud beside twins in a state of disrepair; covered balconies with clothes dancing in the breeze and plants or a bike hanging off it! we parked on a street with small second-hand and brol shops - we started there, distracted by all the shiny things. one shop had a great collection of old 4-track tape machines and typewriters - they played shiny-jacket italian techno on their sound-system passing through about 80 speakers!

once we had climbed through the sock- and phone-cover- stalls, the market made my mouth water - wonderful courgettes and pumpkins, fruit and fruit, cheese and bread, the odd whiff of fish, but we won't dwell on that! i bought a red onion that looked alot like one of my little egg shakers!

the market took us to some quieter streets where we walked among roman ruins and 80's appartement buildings to an amazing piazza where some sat reading, some stood looking at the magnificient buildings and statues, others stood looking at people playing the statue-busking game, and us four, we stood watching them all!

i stopped into a shop to pick up a lead i needed to play music in the car. when i got to the till, the lady insisted that my note was a forgery, which it wasn't - she just had an outdated machine that was probably built to test lira! i eventually convinced the manager to let me pay for the lead, and off we went for pizza :)

we found a nice little sandwich place where we had amazing smelly cheese foccacia (mmmmhh!) before hitting the road for lecco.

now that we have the mp3 lead, we can really start touring!!! we started with some pearl jam and ani difranco! we got stuck in traffic about halfway through versus and rolled down the windows and sang our heads off to a bunch of confused- and slightly akward-looking moterists!

we arrived at l'officina della musica just in time to avoid my bladder exploding! this evening's room is a big hall with mural graffiti on the walls and another nice allen & heath desk (must be an italian favorite!). the venue is in a space consisting of a music school and rehersal and performance rooms, including the one where we play. the system is good, but the room is not the best! i can hear a pair of rock bands battle it out in the airconditioning pipes above my head!

in the backstage room there is a piano. i tried to play it, but i could hardly hear it over the sound of the rock band in the next room - rock bands are kind of like wallpaper here! we got lovely spagetti for dinner, but i left most of it for after the show, as i am playing and first and then doing the sound for wallis :) the gig was nice... the crowd were great and i enjoyed the sound for my set - doing the sound was a bit of a battle of the bands, à la run dmc vs aerosmith!

after the gig, i took my time sorting out the gear and my accounting and then we were accompanied by the loveliest couple, a half-english lady and her boyfriend, who also happens to be the son of the owner of the hotel where we stay this evening. the drive was so lovely - narrow streets winding further and further upwards in the dark, until we were in a more secluded part of town that was more like countryside than town, but not quite that either - there were many houses around, and it seemed like a sort of village, but there was so much space between each of the houses!

our room was in a cabin up a garden step-path at the end of the garden. a lovely wood cabin that was beautifully decorated on the inside - warmly and comfortably, but pratically! i was ready for sleep almost instantly, so that's where i went!



Saturday, 10 December 2011

day 02 :: turino, IT :: solo tour nov 2011

08th: turino, IT :: el barrio, solo with wallis bird

of course getting up at this time is annoying. it's too late to justify getting a taxi, 'cause the trains have started running... i get my stuff together, and get walking to the gare de luxembourg. i bought a new suitcase for this tour as the old one's wheels had been worn down to the ball-bearings and sounded like the end of the world coming at you! it's a short 10 minute walk and the morning was mild. the sun was beginning to rise and kitchen lights clicked on as i passed. i love this time of day, but i rarely include myself in it!

i slept for most of the journey to italy, waking up only to catch a glimpse of the alps and to change modes of transport - i don't fly often and often the desire to see the earth from this rare point of view would overcome my auto-motion-provoked-sleep switch, but this morning, it doesn't!

i arrive in milan airport a little ahead of rosella's flight from dublin and find a nice conspicuous corner to lean against.

i have not yet met rosella, besides a few email exchanges regarding today's meeting. she and agata, who will arrive later today, run a little touring company called little maps. they put their heads together and choose bands to bring to italy for a few dates about twice a year. for the next five dates, wallis and i are those bands!!!

when she arrives, she spots me instantly - 2 cases and a guitar will make you stand out! we had four more hours to wait, so we changed corners for one with chairs and coffee! rosella is italian. she moved to ireland a few years ago where she lives and works with google. she tells me about little maps, the company that she set up with agata in ireland to bring bands to audiences in italy, we talk about some of the bands that they have worked with and about some of the places we will visit on these dates... i can't wait!

at 15h30, wallis arrives from london and agata arrives from denmark. agata and rosella met in italy. they moved to dublin together, where little maps was born and a year later, agata moved to denmark, where she worked with lego until recently.

the car rental company gave our car away! the booking had been for this morning, and while we were waiting for wallis to arrive with the credit card, they gave the car away and had nothing large enough to offer!!! we went to look at a few smaller cars to see would the guitar fit in... it didn't! eventually, after negociations and suggestions, they agreed to let me take an uncleaned car - i don't care if it's clean - we're not clean!!!

it took ages to get through milan's traffic - it was pretty, though :) apparently milan is known as the grey city in italy. it was rainy and foggy and mysterious looking! the rest of the journey was slow and uneventful - traffic was shit everywhere, but it gave us plenty of time to get to know each other and listen to some great albums.

the venue in turin, el barrio, was lovely. its funny, nobody here has much english, and i really like the adventure of communication! i was being a bit stressy about timing as communication was taking longer than usual - it didn't take me too long to slip into the italian rythem and stop watching the clock, as long as everything gets done well, everything is alright!

i had been afraid before leaving, thinking that the PA systems would be basic - it was a nice surprise to be greeted with an analogue allen & heath desk - this will be fun! on this part of the tour, ie. the four italian dates, i am playing a set and then doing the sound for wallis' set. i love doing her sound, as she wants a ballsy sound, and that's the kind of sound i like making!

soundcheck was quick, dinner was simple and lovely pasta from the restaurant attached to the hotel where we stay tonight. i ate a few forkfuls, but it was already stage time - first gig of the tour - a good crowd, great vibes, and i really enjoyed playing - it's been ages since i played on my own, and it was nice to have all my effects and stuff!

wallis' sound was brilliant - 2 broken strings, and loads of stomp! i managed to get through about half of my dinner! after the set, i was taking down the gear when someone (a friend of rosella's, i think), showed up with a creamy lemoncello thing - aparently it was lovely, but i had to drive after, so i abstained - we had a drink with the team in the bar, after everything had been cleared away - they were all really nice and run a brilliant project there. the hotel was basic, but giddy, wallis and i wrestled with the airconditioning in vain, drank beers and laughed our asses off for hours - not much sleep was had!



Friday, 9 December 2011

day 01 :: bruxelles, BE :: solo tour nov 2011

04th: bruxelles, BE :: atelier 210, with the italian weather ladies

this was a surprise gig, even for us... we were asked about a week beforehand if we could do it. it worked perfectly, just at the start of the tour - and a favorite venue of mine, so at about 17h, we all met up to start my solo tour together - fabrice, remy, augustin and i set out our gear on the rug - our effects collections are growing and the rug flashed like an arabian fairytale christmas. thomas set up mic stands around us, all of us working in relitave silence - i like setup - its very zen!

the soundcheck was very quick - thomas got a great sound, and quick! we all went upstairs, then where xavier and julie prepared us dinner. it was lovely sitting down to dinner among friends before embarking on my first tour in nearly 10 years.

the set was great, we all had a great time and the venue was packed - after the show, we stayed around and celebrated life together - more and more babies among my friends... we're growing up - good times!

augustin gave me a lift home and i was in my bed dreaming about the adventure to come at a reasonable tour hour! the next few days will be spent choosing effects and implements of noise-making to bring on tour and seeing what clothes i can fit around them!