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

Doubleheader Sunday – Kulturambulanz and Katakomben

There have been a few days during this tour where we have played two shows in one day.  This past Sunday we played at 1pm in a concert hall inkulturambulanz a park near a Hospital in the Bremen area.  There were around 20 people in attendance and they were very into the music, and also quite generous when we ‘passed the hat’.

Then in the evening we drove about 20 minutes away to a very cool spot in Achim called Katakomben, an underground ‘beer cellar’ as Ollie, the owner, described it.  As soon as I walked in I went full-on shutterbug.  By the time the show started the place was totally packed and everyone had an ‘uber’ great time.

katakomben5 katakomben4 katakomben3 katakomben2 katakomben1 lewis katakombenbuba

And I really knew it was a good show when I broke my pick on “With Your Soul”

pick

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.

Turkish Delight

I spent Tuesday in Chicago with my buddy Gerad, who graciously offered to drop me off for my flight in Chicago, but since it was an evening flight, we decided to leave in the morning and hang out in Chicago all day.  We hung out with some Chicago friends in the afternoon, and topped it off with some barbecue for dinner at Weber Grill Restaurant where I used to work.  I had to be at the airport at 8:15 PM so we left a little after seven. However shortly after getting on the 90/94 freeway, we hit a sharp groove in the road and the right front end started making a scary, loud, wobbling noise. Sure enough, it was flat. Gerad pulled off into one of those little triangular areas between the freeway and where an exit begins, butted right up against the concrete divider. I started to get out to help, but he was like “don’t get out” so I just sat in the car and prayed that none of the cars whizzing by us would hit him as he took the flat off and put the ‘doughnut’ on. (Doughnut = slang for a small spare tire which is just meant to get you to the repair shop so you can get the tire patched.) So in less than 10 minutes he managed to get the old tire off, and the new one on. We were back on the road and still got to the airport by 8:00.

Leaving Chicago

I had decided to go with Turkish Airlines since it was the best price I could find.  The first flight from Chicago to Istanbul went fine for the most part. I got a little sleep, and did the two hour layover. Then I got on my plane from Istanbul to Hamburg. I boarded early, but then it was delayed one hour, then two hours, then three hours, with the pilot repeatedly mentioning they were waiting on some “information” from Germany before they could take off.  Finally they told us that the flight had been cancelled for security reasons.  Later I could see that all of the flights from Turkey to difference places in Germany had been cancelled.

They brought every passenger back outside the plane, went through everyone’s carry on luggage, and we all got thoroughly frisked. Then they put us on a bus and we waited for about an hour before finally getting carted back to the airport. Unfortunately, during this time we didn’t receive any direction as to how to catch the next flight. Everyone went straight to the ticket transfer desk and almost mobbed the Turkish Airline staff with questions and complaints. It was actually kind of funny cause there were like 15 people behind the desk and it seemed like none of them knew what to do, and they were just nervously talking to each other until one guy got up and stood on the desk, very much George Bailey style, and answered everyone’s questions, one by one. However, it was all in Turkish and I had no idea what they were saying. I asked several other staff what was going on, and they tried to respond, but it was clear they didn’t know enough English to explain.

If you’ve ever seen The Terminal (with Tom Hanks) it felt a lot like that for a couple hours. It really would have helped if I’d known German. I kept asking people, both staff and passengers, what to do and how to just get on the next flight, but kept having people tell me that they didn’t speak English, or speaking English that didn’t make sense, or giving me ‘directions’ that weren’t there when I got there. I figured out that I could get a free hotel room and sleep for four hours before coming back to catch my flight. But if I wanted to do that I would need to get a Visa at the airport, since I would be leaving the airport and entering the country, and I didn’t feel like doing that. By this time I hadn’t eaten for over 8 hours and wasn’t feeling good, but all the food places were on the other side of airport security and I still didn’t know how to get to the right place.  I did find an apple juice vending machine, but it only took euros.  I tried to withdraw some money at a nearby ATM with both my credit and debit card but it gave me an error message in Turkish, probably about my type of card not being accepted. Finally after asking more people and walking around,  by process of elimination I figured out how to re-enter the departure area, got searched and scanned for the third time for that flight, ran into a Starbucks and ate a bunch of food, and killed time wandering around the airport, buying water, defragging my hard drive, and writing this.  So in end, the flight which was supposed to leave at 7:10 PM left at 4:00 AM the next morning.  (This morning.)  (Thursday morning.) (I think.)

Now I’m safe and sound in my apartment in Bremen. I took a much needed nap, went grocery shopping, and got an internet stick.  Below is a picture of the kitchen I’m sitting in.  It has posters on the walls of all the previous tours and detailed notes by many of the musicians and bands on what the venues and fans were like in different places, how many CDs sold, etc.  The other band I’ll be playing with will be arriving in a couple hours.

my kitchen

I didn’t have the best experience with Turkish Airlines but the food on the plane was actually pretty good, and I was able to sleep enough at least to avoid going mentally insane. Also, at the beginning of the flight out of Chicago, I had my first taste of the notoriously delicious Turkish Delight.

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