Getting Home

At the Frankfurt airport, I met Jessica and Kevin. While we were halfway through a line with about 50 people in it, an older man walked into a gap in front of me. The couple behind me looked at each other, then me, then him. We asked him if he knew that he cut us in line. He mumbled something about him being allowed to do that because he’s quite old. I will remember this trick in 40 years if I stop caring about being rude in those intervening decades.

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That’s how I started talking to the couple behind me. Their names are Jessica and Kevin. They live in Arizona.

I learned that they were on a weeklong vacation, mostly in Amsterdam. I assumed that they’d been together for a while. They seemed comfortable with each other, and it looked like each of them knew how the other would react when a stranger confidently cut them in line.

Kevin was an actor in LA for the better part of a decade, but he said he mostly worked in restaurants. He’s been everywhere from Army barracks to the Playboy Mansion (and claimed to see Axel Rose crawling around drunk on the floor, Bill Maher drunk on the floor, etc. drunk on the floor).

Jessica is looking for a more stable job and is delivering pizzas right now. Kevin definitely was in more of a mood to chat, but maybe he was just blowing off steam as the older man stood right front of us, staring intently forward.

I asked them why they came out to vacation.

Jessica is in the middle of a divorce. Kevin just went through a breakup. They met about 3 weeks ago on Tinder.

He had already planned the trip, but didn’t know who he should take. He almost took his mom, but instead floated the idea by Jessica (sorry mom). She promptly told her coworkers that she would be out of town for “school” and packed up her things.

Then, they partied. Hard. They got kicked out of their Air BnB in Amsterdam for being too loud too late. I asked them what they did. “What didn’t we do!” said Jessica to avoid telling me. Kevin piped in with a story of doing a nitrous balloon back in college. I’m not entirely sure how it was relevant, but it painted a more vibrant picture of what they might have been doing to get kicked out of an Amsterdam BnB.

We both got our tickets. I assume we both got home. At least I know for sure that I got home.

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I write that to write this - I slept in my own bed last night. I made my own coffee. I showered in my own shower and used my own soap. I cleaned up some spiderwebs and plugged in my bedroom reading light.

I’m happy and thankful. I’m happy to go back to work. I’m happy to live across the street from work. I’m happy to sleep alone for the first time in about a month. I’m happy to go to the grocery and cook a meal for myself. I’m happy to splurge on a bottle of whisky and spend money on beer for the first time in what feels like forever.

I’m excited to finish writing this batch of songs. I’m excited to arrange this batch of songs. I’m excited to rehearse this batch of songs. I’m excited to record this batch of songs. I’m excited to see if they’re any good. I’m excited for people to hear them. And I’m excited to go back on another tour after that’s all happened.

Looking forward to looking back with a bit clearer head over these next few weeks. Looking forward to sharing a beer or coffee with friends I haven’t seen in a bit. Looking forward to squeezing in some tennis before the winter. Looking forward to what comes after that.

Thank you to everyone who gave us a place to sleep, a place to play, food to eat, beer to drink, and stories to share and carry with us. My favorite part of this were the conversations with strangers who seem a bit less strange after talking for a few minutes - and we can find that anywhere.

Sam

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PS: I need to ship some of this nectar of the gods over to my house every month. Club-Mate is the real hero of this tour.

Closing out tour with Lilly Among Clouds

After 16 shows with Dan, I spent the last five as the opening support for a German act, Lilly Among Clouds. Lilly is the songwriter and singer, and she’s got four fellas traveling as her band. Here’s a quick rundown of the cast of characters.

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 sam, onno, florian, jimi hendrix statue partially obscured

sam, onno, florian, jimi hendrix statue partially obscured

Florian plays percussion. He likes reading the newspaper set out with the hotel breakfasts. He found a story about a Missouri man who fell off of a treehouse after being attacked by wasps, then landed on a grilling skewer facefirst. It went through his head and face?But he’s ok? USA? Florian’s got two kids - 11 and 13. When he was 12 he got terrible grades in music class, so his parents got him lessons on the drums. After that, it was over. He’s a wine guy. I’m not a wine guy. But I did drink wine on the last day.

Onno plays keyboards and synthesizers. He’s the son of preachers and grew up in a little town bordering the Netherlands. They speak a unique language there, a mishmash of a variety of languages. Most of the younger folks aren’t learning it enough to pass on, so it’s slowing making its way out. The older folk in the town still speak it - and he ran into a hotel receptionist who grew up in his town on our last day together. He describes himself as not the best musician, but someone who kept making friends with gaps that he could fill on tour. Really, he’s just a great modest musician.

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sam, lucio, tiny gunnar far away, prosecco

Lucio plays guitars on stage, but also manages the tour. And he’s my age? I feel like a slouch. He coordinates the day to day shenanigans, always making sure we’re in the right place at the right time. He’s gracious and gregarious, always toting around a camera to snap pics for the band in spare moments. He plays and manages tours in a few other bands. So, check out Giant Rooks if you’re interested. All of the music that he puts on during his morning routine has really crispy electric guitar tones.

Gunnar runs sound. They tote their own board to every show, and then he adds his own special little bits to it. He manually adds delay throughout the set at a few little moments. So, if you watch in the back, you can see him popping back and forth between the soundboard and the delay pedal, peppering in some goodness and making it all feel alright. He also plays guitar and keyboards in the band Staring Girl - they also played the Sound of Bronkow.

Lilly is the singer and songwriter. She’s got a heck of a voice, and a heck of an ear for melodies. At one show, I talked to a couple as I was selling them a CD - they said that this is their ninth time seeing Lilly. This is a common thing. She writes these really strong songs with soaring melodies that never quite get out of your head. I started more than one day with her songs bouncing around in my brain before I even realized I was humming them.

We played five shows - a few things stuck out.

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I met the band at the venue in Potsdam. It felt odd to play a solo set after 16 with Dan, but I think I got all of my big mistakes out in this show. Afterward, I met Sofia, Klaus, and Ana. They all had kind things to say. I also met a stranger when they grabbed me and whispered into my ear, “You are Beautiful,” and then walked away? So, that also happened? I’m not sure what else to say about this show. I’m just gonna move on here real quick. I spent most of that day in Dresden anyway.

~~

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In Halle, I went for a long walk in a nearby park. I found some buckeyes. It occurred to me how weird my alma mater’s mascot is. A hard, inedible nut. With arms and legs? Anyway, it felt important at the time.

We played at Objekt 5. It’s a really cosy underground club with a fancy ass restaurant in the top part. As always, that means we ate well. We all had this super rich noodle dish with spinach and goat cheese. I will choose to believe that this dinner reminded me how to play a show solo.

I remembered that I have to talk a little bit to set the stage. I remembered to have fun puttering around stage. I remembered to look at people in their eyes. I remembered to make some lame jokes. I remembered to beg people to buy CDs and LPs, and they happily obliged.

~~

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Bang and Olufsen is a crazy hi-end stereo company based in Denmark. They billed themselves as the world’s oldest consumer electronics company in the hardbound history book of full color designs and stuff. They seem like they’re a designer and audio engineer’s wet dream. But I don’t think I’ll be a customer any time soon. I think I could live comfortably well into my thirties on what people spend on those speakers. But, like, more power to them.

So, we’re in Hanover, at the ultimate home audio store. And we’re playing this thing called the Salon Festival. It’s this concert series where people perform in unexpected places. We weren’t sure if I was going to be able to play. The booker was really intent on having only Lilly play, less intend on some random fella before her. It’s a special event; they feel fancy and important about themselves. And they’re billing it as a living room concert (but everyone was really fancy and dressed up?). That’s all well and good. But they did not want an opener.

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So, after Lilly and them soundchecked, Lucio had me set up and check. Then, he made a beeline for the booker. They went outside and had what looked like serious words as I strummed and hummed. He popped back in, told me to continue playing, and went back outside to continue the discussion. He came back in. He said he had to fight, but he got me 25 minutes (she had initially said nothing, then no more than 12 minutes). We celebrated our victory after the show with Domino’s delivery.

So, thanks to Lucio’s insistence, I played a singer-songwriter set on two speakers that cost about $80,000 each (seriously) in a room where I could have played completely unplugged. So that’s like, over $150,000 of sound equipment. I also ate my weight in Lindt chocolates, and those aren’t cheap either.

The set went well. People laughed, I mumbled about Ohio a bit too much, and sold a bunch of CDs. People talked about how well the sets went together. The booker profusely thanked Lilly for playing. She gave the cold shoulder to Lucio. I avoided eye contact and later fell asleep to a German dub of a Superman movie intermittently interrupted by phone sex ads.

~

We played our last show in Darmstadt. Full lights, huge rack of speakers, and a bigger stage than I’ve ever been on. That felt great. Afterwards, goofing off til nearly three in the morning felt even better.

Lilly and Florian and Onno and Lucio and Gunnar - Thanks so much for your help over the past week. Thanks for translating jokes and keeping everything light. Thanks for your feedback on my sets. Thanks for helping me order at the finest German Chinese restaurants close to the autobahn. Special thanks to Lucio and Gunnar for being stellar roommates as we moved from hotel to hotel.

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The Home Stretch: No More Driving

Over the past few weeks, I’ve driven about 4500 kilometers. I’ve spent literal days in my little Volvo hatchback. We’ve taken a liking to each other. I guess I don’t really know how it feels about me, but I’ve got a pretty big crush. But our relationship came to an end this morning, Mario and I dropped off the car. Lil Volvo can’t hold a candle to my little purple Honda Fit back home, but it was a splendid companion for a few weeks.

I stayed with Mario last night. I met his partner Kristina and their kids. Leo is seven. Benno is 2. They’re great little dudes, even if they’re a bit cranky in the morning. We’ve all been there.

I’ve done my laundry. I’ve had my breakfast. I helped drop off Benno at school and Katherine at work. We’re evening up on money and will head to Berlin tonight for the first show with Lilly Among Clouds. Popping about the country one more time before heading home.

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It’s the day after September 11th. I’m sitting in a city square in Dresden. A little artisan fair is set up. Beer and brats and currywurst is everywhere. People are selling spices and purses and belts and cooking ware and everything else under the sun. For some reason, Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising” is playing on loudspeakers. I don’t know if this is a coincidence or not. I remember that being a song in response to 9/11. But really, they’re just playing english language radio hits in the square, so it could be a coincidence.

I sat in this same courtyard last year. I waked through the same streets. There’s a bit more construction in the old city. There’s a bit more going on in the courtyard.

The song just changed to a jaunty song in German. Maybe someone slipped the Springsteen song into the playlist because of 9/11? Maybe there’s just a Springsteen fan at the decks? I won’t figure out, but I like to imagine some people love that song without having any idea about why it exists. Like “Born in the USA.” Bruce seems to have cornered a good bit of the market on patriotic songs devoid of nationalism (or maybe the other way around?).

I brought a little Bluetooth keyboard with me on this trip. It connects to my phone, which connects to a writing app, which syncs to my computer when I connect back to the internet. So, I’m just sitting on a big cube on the sidewalk, cross legged, with my phone perched on my left leg, and my keyboard between the crooks of my knees.

Anyway. This one is mostly for me. I’m looking forward to being in the backseat. I’m looking forward to seeing some shows. I’m looking forward to getting to the airport and getting home. And I’m looking forward to looking back at everything.

Dan Goes Home

I played my last two shows with Dan on percussion, keyboards, and general emotional support for the 2018 Germany tour. I dropped him off at the airport yesterday. Now starts my last five shows opening up solo for Lilly Among Clouds. Here’s what happened on our last couple days together.

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For this tour, we’ve played the whole range of places. Super quiet listening rooms, makeshift DIY spaces, bars, etc. Swamp in Freiburg was a bar. And word is getting out about our tour pal’s Wayne Graham. They’re on the top of the critics picks playlist for Rolling Stone in Germany. They’re on the big radio stations. And of course, they’re sweet as can be the whole time.

So, all that being said - that Freiburg show was a big ol loud sold out bar show. Folks spilled out into the street outside the little venue, listening to everything through the cracks in the windows. It got hot. It got cramped. Years ago, before anyone knew who the were, The National played here. It definitely felt like Kenny, Hayden, Lee, and Chris were at the beginning of something like that. And everyone in the building could smell it.

We played before them and got to wrestle with a packed room of excited listeners, wrangling our songs and hooting and hollering and having the time of our lives. At least the time of my life. We got loud, then got quiet. Then they got quiet, and we danced that little give and take between energy and stillness that feels better than even the best listening room. Carmelo and Martin really know how to run a place.

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After the show, I met Leo. Leo traveled 3 hours by train and transit to come to the show. He stayed with a friend in the city that night. Somehow, he found our music through Spotify, and it hooked him. He told me about hiking in Romania with Straw playing, and how neat it was to see us play that live in a crowded room. We hugged like every time I talk to someone with a story like that.

We slept at the Hotel Kaiser, which happens to also be a restaurant. That means we had a killer breakfast with the best dang croissants that I’ve ever had in my life. I took two for the drive to Hof.

In Hof, we met a woman named Sandra. Sandra is an angel - she’s a nurse, but mostly teaches other nurses for a living now. Her kids, Hannah and Konstantin, made us feel like family right away.

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From time to time, they host concerts in the attic of their building. There are lines of benches, cushions, candles, and a little PA system. It’s kinda like our dream. So, we got to play a sweet little quiet set.

We hung out on the roof of the apartment, between the solar panels, and spotted a few shooting stars with Hannah and Konstantin. We ate homemade lasagne and shared a few beers. I felt like I was around the table at home again, scooping another serving and opening another beer as we went. We ended the night on the balcony, learning about the best and worst kinds of German music. And Hannah woke us up with breakfast, and sent us on our way.

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That brings us to our last show together. In Munster, Jacques got us settled in as soon as we arrived. I checked in to our hostel around the corner. Tobias got us sound checked right quick. We ate some killer quiche. Then, we played our last set together on tour. Surrounded by couches and filled up with dinner, I haven’t been happier sharing a stage with anyone.

Dan’s been a joy to have on this little adventure. Every stop, someone has talked about how he’s a tremendous percussionist, but so much more than a percussionist. He invented piano parts, then organ parts, then glockenspiel parts, then synth parts, and figured out how to play them all using a little keyboard attached to my laptop. He’s full to the brim with talent and ability, but smart enough to choose the best spots to highlight them. He never overplays (unless that’s our plan) and always gets me back on track when I hop off the rails a bit.

I’ll miss him over the next week. But it will be good to see him back in Columbus, and to reflect on this wild whirlwind of a trip. And all I want to do is arrange a new record with him hand in hand.

Thanks Dan - it felt good and bad to drop you off at the airport. Thanks for taking a risk on this adventure - I’m looking forward to more. But I’l see you in Ohio before then.

A Couple of Photos Prove That We’re Actually Playing Shows Out Here

Bless the photographers we’ve met along the way - we’re finally getting a few photos of shows in action, and dang does that make me happy.

Last night in Karlsruhe, Lorenzo, Manuel, Matthias, and the whole crew at Cafe NUN made us a home cooked meal and wrangled a wonderful room of folks eager to listen to songs. We ate curry family style and had all of the Bavarian beer we could drink. We’ve constantly been spoiled by these listening rooms - folks are whisper quiet as super engaged the whole time. At home, great beer and quiet rooms don’t normally go hand in hand. They sure do here.

The show went great - I broke a string, but Kenny from Wayne Graham came to the rescue with his acoustic guitar to sub in for mine.

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Nathanael took a bunch of photos of the night - I’ll repost most of them on Instagram (his handle is @nthnlsll). Someone heard us on an Austrian radio station and made the hike to see us live. She said that the host played a handful of our songs on the program - so they bought a CD.

Another fella bought a record - he’s going to play both us and Wayne Graham on his program “International Noise” on Bermudafunk - an online radio station in the area. Or maybe not in the area. Online radio stations might be able to be anywhere.

Nathanael was snapping photos all along the way. Feel free to find him on instagram at @nthnlsll - all of the photos of us here are from his lil camera.

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Dan and I slept in an adjacent apartment with yet another gracious host. Our room in the attic connected to a rooftop apartment, so I strung my guitar during the sunrise the next morning. We all had breakfast together. Coffee and bread and jam and honey and yogurt and fruit and a heck of a view.

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After that, Dan and I Walked around and found a palace/museum with an entry fee and a free state park. We opted for the state park. We saw ducks. We saw cranes. We saw an older man playing acoustic hits from Kansas to John Legend to no one in particular. We found a huge play structure/rope jungle gym thing and climbed to the top. We found something I can only describe as a long trampoline? And dogs. All the best, most goodest boys you could imagine.

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We grabbed a coffee and drove to Freiburg - just about an hour and a half south. We always seem to park on a street that’s more picturesque than the last. So taking a walk never seems like a bad idea.

So, now we’re loading into Swamp. Saintseneca is playing here in November. We’re playing our last show with Wayne Graham here tonight.

The owner here, Carmelo,  is going to buy us all schnitzel. We’ll eat at 7. We’ll play at 8:30. We’ll sleep at a nearby hotel. Here's to show 14. Two more with Dan riding shotgun. Then five more riding solo. Then back to a place where I can pronounce the street signs.

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​Bayreuth, Marburg, and Dusseldorf: Midweek Checkup

I feel super fortunate to have the day of the week on my little Timex Easy Reader. We’re in a different city every night, playing on a different stage, and sleeping in a different bed. But I can’t seem to keep the days separate, even with all the changes. So my watch tells me the day of the week and the date. And today it says THU. So hooray. Three cheers for little watches.

 Photo by @rockthatmood - hey thanks Nadia!

Photo by @rockthatmood - hey thanks Nadia!

We’re a few days into a string of seven shows in a row. I’m gonna rattle off a few stories from along the way.

 

Bayreuth

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Bayreuth is a town in Bavaria with about 70,000 people. It’s near a university, so there’s a pretty good mix of folks, but our hosts said that they tend to live in their own little sections.

Matthias booked our show in his little space called Subkultur. It’s sort of a community space in the old city, located in a run down old building with legitimately the spookiest abandoned upstairs rooms that I have ever walked through. Folks pay a tiny monthly fee, and then can host cultural events for everyone to enjoy. When we walked in, the walls were covered in drawings - they recently had a drawing free-for-all night. They just papered all the walls and had at it.

Matthias studied Literature in college, but didn’t see a bright future when he looked forward to the professor world. In Germany, he says that PhDs could work and teach at a university for decades before ever becoming eligible for a tenured or tenure-track position. So, he was looking for other options. At the time, he was in a band playing keyboards. Someone else booked the shows, but they we’re very good. Matthias actually enjoyed it, and had a knack for it. Now, he’s a booker around town, and runs Subkultur as a little nonprofit side project.

We all ate dinner around the corner at a pub popular with the univeristy students. We stuffed ourselves silly - Dan with a big ol hamburger, and me with a killer schnitzel.

These moments are probably my favorite ones on tour, and definitely the ones I’ll remember the most. We talked with the folks around the table about other things going on.

Poland apparently is in a sorry state right now. Protests are being squashed by the powerful right wing establishment and rights are being taken away slowly but surely. Young people are leaving the country for brighter futures elsewhere, and as long at the EU is intact, it’s pretty easy for them to do so. Poland already has some of the strictest laws prohibiting abortion across Europe, and they’re aiming towards banning it outright.

So, yet again, we’re talking to other kind, helpful, and artsy folks about some of the same things that we’re facing politically back home. I won’t remember the shows, but I will remember these chats.

 Photo by Matthias - hey thanks!

Photo by Matthias - hey thanks!

The show was packed tight in a tiny room with folks spilling out into the hallway and adjacent room. It was one of my favorite places on the tour. I think it was the smallest venue - but we sold the most CDs here.

Marlene made sure we had a place to sleep at her amazing flat. It felt like a jungle gym for grownups, and we slept on mattresses at the tippy top in a loft. We scrambled up and down little stairs to get there, and luckily didn’t fall down in the morning.

Marlene works in research and conservation - there’s plants all over the house. She fed us a great breakfast and sent us on our way to Marburg.

 

Marburg

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Marburg may be the prettiest place we’ve stopped so far. A castle on top of a hill, little central gardens in residential neighborhoods, painted houses gripping to the hilly landscape - all of that and more. We got into town and stayed with Jorge. He’s this eccentric dad who runs a cafe and music venue called Q. (He always called it The Q when talking to us though.)

We met his kids, who were completely used to artists and musicians sleeping in the spare room. When we walked in, they didn’t even look up or bat an eye. He made sure we felt right at home - it’s easier for everyone that way.

We played. I say in a red and gold throne of a chair. We sold CDs to strangers. Jorge and I hugged a lot. We slept in and got a late breakfast with him and the fam. Then they sent us on our way.

 

Dusseldorf

 Photo by @rockthatmood - hey thanks Nadia!

Photo by @rockthatmood - hey thanks Nadia!

I’ve written all of the above in the green room at the venue. We got in a bit early, and Paschal got us set up and ready to roll. Finn check our sound lickety split, so I got to eat some pasta in this backroom while typing up the last few days.

When I think about what’s happened so far, the parts that I’ve written about seem to stick out the most. I’ve tried to keep up with the great things, writing them down so I don’t forget, but also so I appreciate them. Sometimes I think I should explore a city more often, but I really love being able to sit down and commit some of my favorite moments to this little journal. And then commit them to memory by default.

I only have five more shows left to play with Dan. After that, I have five more shows to play in Germany at all. I’m trying to soak things in and talk to as many people as I can. And I’m trying to make a few notes to remember a bit of their stories.

I’m going to write a setlist now. And then play some songs with a good friend. And then go to sleep. And then wake up. And then do it all again in Karlsruhe tomorrow.

Things Slow Down

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We had our first day off in Berlin, just in time for Dan to catch the cold that I was getting over. Taking it easy feels good after the last week and a half of travel and shows.

From Berlin, we went to Dresden for a day off and rendezvous with the good K&F Records folks.

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After going from air travel to sickness, and through the first week of shows, we got some time to stay in the same city for more than a day. It’s a bit strange to try to figure out what I do with spare time. It makes me think about what I do with my time at home, and why I sometimes feel like I want to go home, even if I’d be doing a similar thing here.

Like, right now, I’m sitting in an apartment, eating some homemade hash browns, drinking some coffee, and writing a little bit to recenter my thoughts. I took a shower. I got enough sleep. All of that is fine.

We played a show in Annaberg-Buchholtz two nights ago. It’s this lovely little town by the Czech border built into the little hill/mountains of the area. Windy streets and all that, feeling like a roller coaster as you drive through the neighborhood. We met Jens there at Alte Brauerie. They made us dinner, breakfast, and beds to sleep in between in the two. We played two sets for about forty folks. It was a lovely little bar/living room vibe, and we sold more CDs here than anywhere else.
It’s been helpful to talk about the burgeoning right wing and draw connections to places outside the US. Pretty much everyone that I’ve talked to about Trump or the US right brings up the AFD and the German right. They call it part of the same thing. We’re not exceptional - this is an event that’s bigger than any one country. And we’re confused and trying to make things better at our respective ground levels.

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We went back to Dresden to play at the Sound of Bronkow - a singer/songwriter festival that K&F runs. Mario, Lars, Hanna, Hannes, Annette, Ronny, Louisa, Hillary, Elmer, and everyone do such a great thing for the city this weekend, all the while treating the musicians to a real treat of an audience. There’s no lack of food, drink, or support. And always good songs around every corner.

We caught some good sets. Mark Berube is really something. Go listen to his music and catch a show.

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Also, Sam Vance-Law writes some of the most thoughtful songs I’ve heard in a long time. We caught his set at the end of the festival, then shared a beer with the whole band. He wrote “Homotopia” in 20-minute blocks while working as a summer camp counselor. That sent me over the moon.

This morning, we leave our borrowed apartment home for another string of seven shows. Thanks so much to Ronny, our host. Looks like he also hosted my favorite band, Frontier Ruckus. We'll sign our goodbye on the wall right next to it.

Stay safe, sleep well, and cook something new.

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On National Radio in Berlin

After about a four-hour morning drive to Berlin on Wednesday, we met up with a cheerful bearded fella on a bike. This is Flo. Flo is great - but we were in a rush. He gave us a quick rundown, then sent us on our way to the radio station. He left us the entire apartment to ourselves for two days in Berlin. We can sleep in the same bed, shower in the same shower, and actually buy some groceries for once! What a world!

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From there, we ran to Deutschlandfunk Kultur for a fancy interview and live session. A tall man named Henri engineered the session. Dan asked him how long he had worked in the studio. He laughed, saying that everyone always asked him that question. And that’s how an older man avoids questions that he doesn’t want to answer. A super attentive Bettina conducted the whole shebang - leading us to and fro, and even wrangling this sick boy some tea.

Vivian Perkovic interviewed me for the segment. And dang. I thought I was prepared, but she came more prepared. She had some really thoughtful questions, looked up our blog and drew connections between Trump and the AFD through the lens of our experience in Chemnitz a few nights ago during the Neo-Nazi rally.

She asked if I invented to keep sharing detailed personal things about my life, and I didn’t see why I wouldn’t. But, when she asked that, it kinda lit a fire under my ass to make sure I sat down to walk through the past couple days.

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We went home, heard the interview, and fell promptly asleep before this night’s show at Ä.

At the show, we met Clio and Maurice. They’re a Milan based duo. He plays the violin, she sings. It’s just dang beautiful and really fills up a room. Clio’s first year of sobriety was tonight, and her birthday was yesterday, so there’s a lot to celebrate, even though it was a pretty empty room.
Tanno engineered and was wonderful and helpful, gently pressing the importance of very soft drums so that they can continue to have music here. Akis was a kind host. After getting my third water, he said, “what the fuck with you guys?” (I’m getting over a cold, and my three free drinks probably wouldn’t help me recover any faster.)

I’m going to sleep hard tomorrow. We’ll get up in the morning. We’ll go see a few things, do another radio interview, and meet back up with the Wayne Graham guys.

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And then the next day, we stopped by ALEX Berlin for another radio interview with Lele and Madlen, and filmed a live video for “Ohio.” ALEX is an amazing public service - anyone in Berlin can use their top-notch audio and video equipment to run their own podcasts, radio shows, and more. It’s really a gem - like a tool share for multimedia work.

We stopped by the Jewish Museum for a few hours, and then had so much fun with Wayne Graham at Art Stalker - it was great to reconvene at a show when we all had gotten over our jet lag. It feels great to fall into a rhythm with Dan and fill up a room with two boys from Ohio.

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We played a Killers cover that I thought was on the first album. I announced it as such, and then a nice couple corrected me after the show - “Read My Mind” is on Sam’s Town, their second album. Then, we chuckled and smiled, and they signed up for the email list. Also, a nice man named Berndt asked us to sign our record - he bought it from a local shop in Berlin. He even gave us some guitar picks from a local shop in Berlin. He said our music touches him in the heart, and he'll be there next time we're in the city. We shared a big ol' hug. If we break the guitar before we leave, I’m sure we’ll take it to his friend’s place.

W e pack our lives back into our little Volvo and head out to Dresden today. Three cheers for kind people, hard questions, and good stories.

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Hamburg is Not Famous for Sweet Mustard

On Tuesday 8/28, we played in Hamburg. It was a bit of a drive - six hours from Offenbach. We played at Freundlich + Kompetent. F and K is a nice little bar in below a shopping mall in Hamburg, staffed by people who are both friendly and competent. This couldn’t have been more convenient, because I split my only pair of pants two days prior. So, our friendly and competent host Sarah told me where to shop upstairs, and I happily bought some new pants between load in and soundcheck.

Sarah made us feel at home, and Nicholas and Julien were brilliant sound engineers. We shared the bill with Anin Rose, a London based singer and choir director. She grew up in Hamburg, then moved to London about six years ago. That night was the first time that her parents would hear her live in about 6 years. She runs a women’s gospel choir in London and can’t visit much.

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Regarding our set - We were loud. I had fun. I’m getting over a cold, but boy did it feel good to be loud. It was the most fun I’ve had on stage this far in tour.

A friend named Andi picked us up from the show - he’s also on K&F Records. He writes songs in the band Heated Land.

As we drove away, he asked if we wanted to see his favorite place in the city. So, of course, we agreed. We drove across a bridge over the harbor, with lights lining up and enormous ships docking below us. Windows down, we did a u turn and hopped back over the bridge and got to his apartment. He moved there three months ago to teach German to foreigners (like us!).

We met Andi’s girlfriend, Barbara, who is just as kind as he is. Andi made me a few bits of bread with cheese, meat, and sweet mustard. Barbara insisted that this is not how I should remember Hamburg - this kind of food is totally Bavarian food, not northern German food.

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No one eats sweet mustard in Hamburg. No one.

Andi and I responded to that by by drinking Bavarian beer until 2 in the morning. Talking about songs, hearing bits of a record that he’s sending to mastering, and our hopes for songs.

Barbara went to bed early, but before she did, we talked about growing up. Andi in Bavaria in the Western side of Germany, and Barbara on the Eastern side of Germany. Andi shared stories of eating three liters of ice cream in one sitting, and Barbara told a story about eating yogurt one spoonful at a time, lasting an entire week. They still behave differently today. When there’s chocolate in the house, Andi snarfs it up quick until Barbara tells him to stop. Then, bit by little bit, Barbara makes the rest of it last for days. Nobody talked about the differences like they were terribly unjust - just a different way of growing up. And a cute way for two people to live together.

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Andi left on a train to Bavaria to see his family the next morning. And we left in a car to Berlin.

Safe in Chemnitz

Today was a strange day. We woke up to the sounds of roosters, we pushed our little Volvo to 125mph on the autobahn, and we played a show in Chemnitz in spite of a Neo-Nazi rally in the city center.

So, I’m just gonna walk through the day. And then we’ll get to it all.

We woke up in a converted trailer home at Hafen 2. They set it up just for the traeling musicians. This place is sort of the DIY dream. It’s a community space, coffee shop, restaurant, music venue, movie theater, petting zoo… the list goes on. We played there the previous night, then slept in a trailer right behind the banners in this picture below.

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We woke up there to the sounds of roosters and road construction - this is still part of a city after all. I walked to the rental car place, forgot my passport, ran back about two miles, then took a taxi back again, passport in hand. However, I got a weird message from the Hafen 2 matriarch, Andrea, about the next stop on our tour.

So, at the rental car place, I was trying to make out the news reports, without really understanding any German. I did make out the word “Nazi” though. So, without internet, Dan and I surfed through the radio, parsing through the words to understand that “something” happened in Chemnitz, and it was to do with Neo-Nazis.

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We also found a radio station that mentioned me by name, Hello Emerson, played a bit of a song, and then listed some tour dates. We freaked out about that in a good way. And then we hit 125mph on the autobahn in our little rental Volvo.

Anyway, we get to Chemnitz and see a few Police cars, but nothing too wild. Last night, a man was stabbed, and the police arrested two middle eastern immigrant men. This led to far-right extremists, Neo-Nazis, and the AFD to call for a spontaneous demonstration. So, over 800 people assembled in the city center. Some bad stuff went down - read more about that here

Demonstrators from the left and the right were going to butt heads at around the same time that we were scheduled to play. There was talk of canceling the show, but they decided that they were going to continue with the event - they’re all about inclusivity and togetherness, and it seemed important to have some music in light of the potential violence. We met Barry Sloan, one of the most open and helpful Irishmen I’ve ever met (he gave me a book of his, which I’m excited to read). 

His venue, Chemnitz INSPIRE, is a community gathering space. It offers English lessons to retirees, homework help for refugee children, and events throughout the week to bring people together from a variety of backgrounds. Also, Haley Hendrickx played here, so WOW.

So, we played. And people still came out, even with all of the concern of the demonstration and counter-demonstration. And Loic ran sound and was helpful and brilliant - he’s lived in Germany for three years but spent most of his life in France. Florian helped us carry our equipment to the Air BnB for the night - he has a band called Orvo (here’s a video for their song, “Drunky”).

And then we met Tobi, our host for the night. He was born in Eastern Germany during the Cold War and lived under socialism in the GDR until the Berlin Wall came down when he was 13 years old. He said that things weren’t colorful, but everyone had food and a job. Other than that, they didn’t have much. 

One of the first things that he mentioned was their clothes. They all had similar, boring clothes. If you wanted something, and it wasn’t provided, then that was it. Imports and exports were banned. Nothing could go in or out. He said that they couldn’t leave the city, and felt like they were in a prison. If you fled, you were shot. If you staged a protest, Russia would send in the tanks to stamp it, and you, out.

But people would go home and make the things that the state didn’t provide them. And they would sell them on the black market to each other. And this was risky. But a lot of things were risky. And, bit by bit, people rose up. He describes many people demonstrating all across East Germany at once. And a few were successful. Excited by those successes, and scattered far enough that they couldn’t all get stamped out, they all rose up. And the wall came down.

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Tobi is now an engineer. He’s traveled the world over. He has four kids. And we’re staying in the bunk beds he made for his kids - they’re with their mom right now. So I’ll climb up there and sleep for the night.

Goodnight. It’s like 2 am here. But I wanted to write everything down before I forgot. Be well and stay safe.