Getting to know Bremen

After 3 solid weeks of gigs, I’m in the home stretch with one final show tonight at “Moments” in Bremen.  Nearly every evening has consisted of finding a venue, tracking down some dinner, setting up gear, playing, selling CDs, tearing down gear, and driving home.  The nice thing about having a home base ‘flat’ in Bremen is that each night I’ve had a place to come back to and get a good night’s sleep.  So since I’ve basically been living here for almost a month, I’ve gotten to know the city a little bit.

bikesI’ve taken public transportation nearly every day for the past two weeks.  It’s the first public transportation I’ve used where you pay for and receive your ticket from a machine after you get on the train and just hold onto it (honor system).  I was definitely confused the first time.

I won’t soon forget the greasy (delicious) lamb wraps (called Doner?) from the Turkish-owned kiosks.  One time I ate one and was full for six hours.  That never happens.

I’ve run to the bank to get my change converted to bills, to the post office to send postcards, the electronics store for a SIM card and batteries, and the grocery store for food .  ALDI here has daily fresh baked bread. aldi bread

There’s a touristy area in Bremen called the “Schnoor” and I busked there yesterday afternoon for a couple hours.  A guy stopped and sang the first verse of “Wonderwall” with me.

There are bikes everywhere.  There are bikes in the bike lane, bikes in the street, and bikes in the sidewalk.  Long story short – watch out for bikes.  I’ve met lots of people who don’t own cars and just take the train if they need to travel far.

There’s a strong history of counter-culture in Bremen dating back to the ’70s.  For this reason, graffiti plays a symbolic role in the city and, at least for the most part, is left as-is and not painted over or washed off.  Last night I went downtown with Joe and Boubacar and took a few pictures of graffiti here and there in the winding Viertel neighborhood.

graffiti1 graffiti3 graffiti2

So Bremen, it’s been good getting to know you.

And that’s my 2 cents worth.

2 cents

Sonnendeck – Dangast/Varel

Played a fun show last night at this vacation spot on a bay that leads out to the North Sea.

sonnendeck 1

There’s a little bar/restaurant right on this beach and I played on the deck for a couple hours.  Did an hour of covers and an hour of originals.  Got a request for “Leaving On A Jet Plane” which I butchered, but then redeemed myself with a segue into “Country Road”.  Sold 4 CDs.  The owner was really nice and kept trying to give me more food…even after I ate a whole pizza.  Whew, I need to go for a run.

Maximilian, Big Buttinsky, De Nul, Lambooijhuis

My first show was on Friday night at a restaurant/bar called Maximilian.  I played on one end of a large patio area, and since the weather was perfect everyone was sitting outside.  I played two forty-minute sets with about a 50/50 mix of covers and originals.  Overall people seemed to be enjoying it, but a few people at the table closest to me were really into it.  After I finished they bought CDs, we hung out for about an hour, and they’re going to host a house concert later in the tour.  While we were chatting they told me “In northern Germany, we usually do not show enjoyment with dancing.  We may seem to look stern, but we are dancing in our minds.”

Saturday was my first night playing with JeConte and the Mali All-Stars.  (The previous night we were scheduled for separate venues).  I have to say I’ve really enjoyed hanging out with them, listening to their music, and they even let me come up on stage and jam with them during their set.  (Videos to come later).  Through their songs they seek to speak peace into the current turmoil in Mali (read more here).  They have a new album available on itunes which you should really check out.

We played at a venue called “Big Buttinsky”.  When we arrived we had a hard time finding the venue because it was right inside a movie theater, located directly across from the ticket booth.  It isn’t owned by or affiliated with the cinema, it’s just a really cool venue that happens to be in a movie theater.  For that and many other reasons, I found this venue to be fascinating.  They treated us extremely well, even giving us a place to stay for the night.  But the thing I was curious about from the first time I perused the list of venues was “Why are they called ‘Big Buttinsky?'”  I had a chance to ask Carson, one of the owners, and he told me that 6 years ago when they started the venue and were trying to think of a name which would give them the number one spot on any Google search in any language.  Somehow they came across the word “buttinsky” which means “A person who habitually butts in; an intruder or meddler.”  So after trying different words and combinations of words on Google searches, they found that “Big Buttinsky” did the trick.  

jcmas big buttinsky

Sunday we headed for the Netherlands and played at a Venue called De Nul.  Very cool venue and staff who are establishing a place for independent musicians to play.  They gave us all t-shirts before we left.  I would love to play there again.  After we left De Nul we went a few blocks away to another ‘optional gig’ at a place called Lambooijhuis, where we had dinner, played for about an hour, and called it a night.

joebubadenul

Now we’re back in Bremen and have a show in town tonight.  One thing I’ve wanted to accomplish during this tour is to really develop my original songs for live performance and I think that is definitely starting to happen.  I’ll post some video soon, stay tuned.

Checklist For Trip to Germany

I take off for Germany Tuesday night and will be touring there for 3 weeks.  (If you haven’t read about it check out this post)

So as the time draws near, I’ve been trying to make sure I’m as ready as I can be and don’t stupidly forget something like my phone charger, which I have done numerous times.  Here are some things I’ve been doing/will do to get ready.

1. Cut Hair

I want to be remembered for the music I play, not for the neck hair I forgot to cut.

haircut

2. Wax/Polish Boots

Can’t be walking around with dull looking cowboy boots.  I just don’t feel that would represent America well.

boots

3. Get Fridge Empty

Gonna be gone for over a month.  Anything left in here will probably be gross when I get back.

fridge

4. Do Laundry

Something I also do on a regular basis.  But also now.

laundry

5. Make CDs

Making sure I have plenty of merchandise to sell at shows.

cds

6. Write Down Itinerary

Triple check.  Quadruple check.

itinerary

7. Bring 220 Electrical Adapter

Still have this from Korea

adapter

8. Finalize Setlist

setlist

9. New Strings

strings

 10. Bring Passport

Not going anywhere without this.

passpt

Tour in Germany

This past January I got an email from my friend Bryn, “Lewis, give me a call!  do you want to play a tour in Germany this summer?”

This really caught my eye, mostly because I rarely, if ever, get (non-spam) emails from friends asking me if I’d like to play a tour in Germany.  songsandw

I met Bryn when I lived in Chicago, about 5 years ago.  He writes and records great music (check it out!) and had been asked to do this tour in Germany himself, but because of other commitments, was not able to, so he passed the opportunity along to me.

So, after much preparation, all the tickets are purchased, and plans are in place to head to Germany August 13th and do this thing!

Let me try to premeditate what kind of questions you might have about this trip:

Q: “Who organizes this tour?”

A: “Songs & Whispers” a live music and artist development network. It is presenting live music in venues in Bremen, Germany and other places in Europe.

Q: “Is this a paid tour?”

A:  No.  I have to pay my own way to get there and stay there (plane ticket, apartment to stay in, food) but there will be ‘pass-the-hat’ style tip collections at each gig I play which I will get to use to recoup my expenses.  Also I will be able to sell and keep all money from selling my own CDs and other merchandise.  I have been in contact with several other musicians who have already played for Songs and Whispers and they told me that after all was said and done, they were able to make back their expenses plus a little more.

Q: “Are you goint to stay in hostels during the tour?”

A: No.  The musicians rent a flat in Bremen and use it as a ‘home base’ for the duration of the tour.

Q: “How long is this tour?”

A:  From August 17th to September 8th

Q: Is there anyone else on the bill?”

A:  Yes.  Most shows I’ll be playing will be with a band called JeConte and the Mali All-Stars

Q: “Do you speak German”

A:  Very little.  I bought all 3 levels of Rosetta Stone for German a long time ago, studied for a while, forgot about it, and am now picking it back up again, learning how to say things like “Dog” and “Egg” and “Sandwich”, but probably won’t know enough for any practical use.  Just enough to maybe make a couple of German people think I’m cool.

Q: “What songs are you going to play for the shows?”

A:  Songs and Whispers encourages their guests to do mostly original music with a few covers.

Q: “Are you bringing your piano?”

A:  No.  Just my acoustic guitar and a suitcase.

Q: “While you’re in Europe, don’t you think you should see some sites, and visit some people?”

A:  Yes.  After the tour I plan on visiting a friend from college who now lives in the U.K. and then over to Denmark to meet some very distant cousins who my uncle Jim met while doing some family history research online.  I found out about a good place to busk in Copenhagen.  Also it’s the 200th Anniversary of Soren Kierkegaard and I hear there are some cool exhibits on him.

So it’s coming up, just a few more weeks away.  In case you or someone you know happens to live in or near Germany, here are the dates/venues of the shows:

Saturday, August 17th @ Big Buttinsky, Osnabruck, 21:00

Sunday, August 18th @ De Nul, Hengelo, Netherlands, 16:00

Sunday, August 18th @ Lambooijhuis, Hengelo, Netherlands, 20:00

Monday, August 19th, @ Litfass, Bremen, 20:00

Tuesday, August 20th, @ RadioWeserTV, Delmenhorst, 14:30

Tuesday, August 20th, @Hafen Casino, Bremen, 20:00

Wednesday, August 21st, @ Strandgelanda am Weichelsee, Rotenburg, 20:00

Thursday, August 22nd, @ Altes Gymnasium Bremen, 13:30

Thursday, August 22nd, @ Moma-Cafehaus, Worpswede, 20:00

Friday, August 23rd. @ Sonnendeck, Dangast/Varel 20:00

Saturday, August 24th, @ Litfass, Bremen, 14:00

Saturday, August 24th, @ Whiskey Tasting – Summerfest, Bremen

Tuesday, August 27th, @ LOX, Bremen,  20:00

Wednesday, August 28th, @ Strandgelande am Weichelsee, Rotenburg, 20:00

Thursday, August 29th, @Elephantseven, Hamburg, 18:00

Friday, August 30th, @ Altes Amtsgericht, Lilienthal, 15:30 and 20:00

Saturday, August 31st, @ Schwarzer Bar, Wilhelmshaven, 21:00

Sunday, September 1st, @ Kulturambulanz, Bremen 13:00

Sunday, September 1st, @ Katakomben, Achim, 20:00

Monday, September 2nd, @Grusewsky, Emden, 20:00

Wednesday, September 4th, @Radio Jade, Wilhelmshaven, 14:30

Wednesday, September 4th, @ Pumpwerk, Wilhelmshaven, 22:00

Friday, September 6th, @Harlekin Pub, Neuharlingersiel, 20:00

Saturday, September 7th, @ Slatterys, Delmenhorst, 21:30

Sunday, September 8th, @ Club Moments, Bremen, 20:00