Germany & Holland Songs and Whispers Tour July 2011. featuring The Epstein, Viarosa, Someday Jacob, Daisy Chapman, Johnny Parry Ensemble, Robert Carl Blank.

Tuesday July 5th

I wake at 3am and slowly get my last pieces together. For the most part the car is ready to roll. Just a matter of a shower and a last cup of tea before picking up Seb and Jon and heading for Dover and the 8am ferry to Dunkerque. Over the last 4 years we have made the journey to Bremen quite a few times but I never remember it taking so long... through France, Belgium and Holland. It is a hot day and the traffic is backing up all over the place. Belgium seems to be full of crazy drivers and bad service stations... Holland just one long jam... and slowly we get to our first show arriving 16hrs after leaving Oxford in a leafy town south of Hamburg and an arts facility out in the woods. At first there seems to be no one about - at all - then we work out that everyone is watching the show which we are playing in... So load out, set up and 1 hr after arriving we are on stage in a busy little theatre, lights glaring from below me, crowd invisible beyond. Even as I write this a few hours later I can’t recall our performance clearly.I think it went well considering we were all pretty delirious with fatigue. We certainly didnʼt rush anything!

01 Olly Ferry Sleepy

Olly catching some zzzzzs on the Dover - Dunkerque ferry, was a very early start to a looooong day.

02 Bremen Old Town (Olly + our friend Patrick)

Lovely to be catching up with old friends in Bremen. Famous for being the home of Becks beer and a story about some animals.

Wednesday July 6th

We are accommodated in one of the Songs & Whispers artists flats, Seb and Jon are sharing a double room and I get my own space. Tonight’s show is pretty low key, we just play 3 songs as we are coming back to the boat venue (The Treue) for a full show on the Saturday night. We sell a few cds and in general catch up on some rest as we enjoy all the other sets. It is great to be back in Bremen and great to catch up with some old friends. Things are looking good for this tour.

03 The Treue

The Treue was the boat venue we played on a couple of times in Bremen, a wonderful place to be.

04 Richard Neuberg Gronigen

Our good friend Richard Neuberg of Viarosa was along to play with fellow Songs & Whispers veterans Someday Jacob. Pic taken in Gronigen.

Thursday July 7th

I am excited. We are heading to Holland and the beautiful canal city of Gronigen which is a place we know pretty well now having played here 4 times in the past... Laurens the promoter is a legend, a man with a vast collection of music and an unending energy for putting on shows. He has done us proud this time, the show is in an old cinema which looks out onto a very busy square. The weather is beautiful and the square is buzzing with hundreds of people. It feels great to be back in this city with all the fond memories that I have of it. Seb and I take a walk and check out a great record store... every city in Holland seems to have some great record stores and in the past I have spent too much money in them... although I still regret not picking up the 4 vinyl Bruce Springsteen ʻGreatest Hits Liveʼ album last time we passed through... Our performance is well received, lots of people there, quite a few Epstein fans and it all works well between the bands. We play an upbeat set as the square gets darker outside. We have a long ride back to Bremen afterwards and then drink beers till 5... we have a rehearsal in the morning so we should not stay up too long..

05 Polyester Fuseball

The site of Olly's horrendous trashing at the hands of a Fritz Cola fuelled Fuseball champion at the Polyester in Oldenburg.

06 Polyester + Heiko

Seb and Jon backstage at the Polyester with Songs & Whispers head honcho Heiko Grein.

Friday July 8th

Strong coffee and a slow start. We head across town for a lunchtime session with local drummer Martin Denzin of fellow Songs & Whispers touring ensemble Someday Jacob. He sets us up in his beautiful basement studio and we do a great little rehearsal with him. It all feels great and I wish that we were recording it... Martin comes in and informs us that he has been recording it which is very good news indeed, looking forward to hearing that back someday! We head north to the University town of Oldenburg and the fantastic little venue called Polyester. I donʼt know how they do it but Germans seem to have all the tricks down when it comes to designing cool venues. Something in the decor and the lighting and this place has atmosphere in abundance. We are headlining tonight and I really enjoy watching the other bands sets. We are all becoming familiar with each other’s material now and it is a real pleasure to watch bands performing night after night when you know the characters and songs well. The crowd is really attentive and the room packed. All the bands play blinders and we play our best set of the tour. Fantastic show and great to taste the infamous Fritz Cola once again. The only downside of the night is getting thrashed 12-1 at table football by a local student just before going on stage...

07 riot police Bremen

Riot Police in Bremen... Standard Saturday night in that part of town...

08 Typical Tour Set List

Typical set list from the tour

Saturday July 9th

We have a tour group breakfast in town and in turns into more of an extended brunch... Most of the previous times that we have toured in Europe we have been by ourselves and this camaraderie between all the musicians on this tour has been a true joy. Lots of really talented people and no sign of egos in the group... not a normal state of affairs from my experience! We are not wasting the days on this tour and Jon, Seb and I have a session together in our ʻpower trioʼ set up before heading back to the river and our main show on the boat. The bands are supposed to be starting at 7pm and we are on at 11pm... but by the time we get on board at 8.30pm the whole thing is already 1hr behind... it is going to be a late one. Late indeed it is... as well as hot and hard to hear on stage. After our dream show last night this is a combat scenario and we get through it pretty well. We have a great crowd and a lot of folks are back to see us for a third or fourth time. One guy has come up from Berlin just for us which is really flattering. We shift alot of albums and head back to the flat pretty happy with it all although not before coming across a standoff between students and the police at a central crossroads in town. A local assures me that this is just a monthly game that goes on between the two sides.. students trying to use the roads as sports grounds... it all seems pretty calm and relaxed apart from one angry mohicaned youth.... One more show to go.

09 Breminale Festival onstage

Olly and Jon onstage on the last night at the Breminale Festival.

10 Breminale Festival Seb

Seb onstage at Breminale, he was pretty shot away by this point in the tour

Sunday July 10th

Our last show is by far the biggest of the tour. The whole group is taking over a stage at the huge Breminale Festival and everyone is really hyped at the prospect. The city centre is buzzing with people and we head through the crowds for our tent... this is a proper festival and we are all pretty honed after 5 consecutive nights playing. We are ʻin the zone!ʼ We deliver a top performance to a huge crowd... mixing it between the 3 piece and a 4 piece with Ben Milway from The Johnny Parry Band drumming on the bigger numbers. We play an encore and enjoy the rest of a long evening watching the other bands playing and chatting to friendly people who have bought our records... It is gutting to have played the last show of the tour but after such a successful week away it is the best way to finish it off. All the bands say some heartfelt farewells... it really has been a true privilege playing with these musicians. What a week!

11 Last Supper

The last supper with the whole tour party.

12 Car Drive Across Europe

The long drive across Europe, poster is from the Gronigen show.

Monday July 11th

Fueled by Fritz Cola we hit the road at 9am and head home... Our stereo is misbehaving which creates some tensions but after a few efforts we get it working again and make great time... Next month we have 6 shows in 5 days in Holland and if it goes anything like this then we are in for another treat. Bring it on!

13 Ferry journey home

View from the ferry on the way home.