Saturday, October 18, 2014

Music Star Cafe Norderstedt, Germany October 9

Today was the 74th anniversary of John Lennon's birth (and on a personal note, the 25th anniversary of the greatest set of music I ever saw The Grateful Dead perform) and we spent the first half of it blasting down to Lunenburg  for a radio interview.  Juergen (Jurgen in english) Kramer (there should be a colon'y umlat over the "u" in his name and that of the city) has been playing Jon's music for years.  As a result, Jon graciously made time to go record an interview for future broadcast as a thank you for all of the airplay and support.

Being the complete radio dork that I am, I would normally want to watch the interview....maybe even be in the room.  But I had fallen behind in my blogging at this point and the studio only had three chairs and a DJ from another show was also excited to meet and chat with Jon.  Juergen graciously set me up at a computer in their office so I could work.  So, there I was poking away at the keyboard next to some of the station's producers.  I had left some notes at The Bresnahan's, but Neil kindly and promptly scanned them and sent them to me so I could continue my work.  I could hear the sounds of the interview and performance faintly drift from the other room.  But I heard them well enough to hear Jon recount the story about how I had locked him in his hotel room during the first show of our previous European Tour.  Now tens of thousands of Germans know the story.  Super.  I recounted my version with the producers m;who were in the room with me, and they seemed to get a kick out of it.  I guess you gotta laugh at your own dopiness from time to time in this life if you want to maintain your sanity.

The interview went very long.  Jon played about 7 or 8 songs and sounded from the next room like he was in decent form despite the fact that he was a bit tired.  We briefly walked around the college campus that surrounded this professional radio station and then high-tailed it up the Autobahn to Norderstedt for our return to the Music Star Cafe.

The Music Star Cafe had been a key place on our last trip.  This is a room widely-known across Europe for being incredibly supportive of worthy and deserving independent musicians.  When I walked in for the first time I marveled at all of the pictures of previous performers that decorated much of the wall space.  It made me feel at home to see hanging on the walls pictures of a bunch of musicians from The States with which I was familiar - Chris Smither, Geoff Achison (an Australian who calls Atlanta his US home), Jerry Joseph and Caroline Aiken are each well-represented on the Cafe walls.  Aiken is scheduled to perform here in February, and everyone seemed to be looking forward to her return.

The folks at the Music Star Cafe provide every performer with a cool little light show, and they capture the performance with a well-edited five-camera shoot.  Below the setlist at the end of this post, you will see that you can click over to YouTube to see the version of Jon's "Ordinary Cats" from here last year.  It was by far the best video to come out of that tour, and most of the other European venues have been using it as part of their promotion for shows on this tour.  These guys are much more about spreading the word about under-appreciated great musicians than about turning a profit.  It takes on the feel of a music-lovers man cave, but instead of sports memorabilia and/or scantily clad women hanging on walls above pool tables - they have a bunch of music performance and documenting-related equipment.  Needless to say, it is a place with which I fell in love rather quickly.

Last year, they had provided a homemade dinner for us, but that would not be possible this year.  However, the dynamic and fearless leader of the room, Wolfgang Sedlatschek had kindly told us to just buy dinner and give him the receipt.  This came in handy, because as we approached Norderstedt we hit horrendous traffic on the same road which we had the year before, so we slid into a snazzy local pizza place and had a dinner that nicely balanced our healthy appetite with our concern for not wanting to spend too much of Wolfgang's money.

Jon was still rather tired, so I had to step up with some actual Tour Manager'y behavior.  I dropped him at the hotel (or "hotey" as the kids like to say) and then gathered some CDs I had brought for Wolfgang and headed over to the venue to see if they would allow a later than scheduled sound check.  This wasn't difficult, and Wolfgang graciously accepted the CDs I brought, although he told me he had the Neil Young ones (he has every show Neil has played in the past 35 or so years) but he quickly passed them on to an eager peer.  I had successfully bought Jon some nap time.

In all candor, I had been a bit intimidated when I first met Wolfgang Sedlatschek last year.  My first impression was that this large, stoic and somewhat imposing guy would kick my ass if I stepped out of line.  First impressions can often be radically off-base, and it seems as though mine were with regard to Wolfgang.  Once he and I discovered that we weren't just Neil Young fans, but rabid enthusiasts about all things Neil, we hit it off quite well.  Not only was Wolfgang the brains and energy behind this fantastic room, but in a short period of time he also would reveal himself to be the most fervent Neil Young fan I had ever met in my life.  In fact, he excitedly had told a story about how Neil had in Frankfurt in 1989 performed the rarities "Razor Love," "Winterlong," "Stringman" and "Cocaine Eyes."  A little research on the Internets revealed that Wolfgang is a lot like many of us aging rock lovers in that his memory wasn't completely accurate.  The show was actually in Rotterdam, the final of a brief December 1989 European Tour....and Neil hadn't actually played "Stringman" there.  Perhaps Neil had done the song for Wolfgang in Paris a few days earlier and Wolfgang was having memory merge issues (I find this happening to me more and more every year).  Or maybe Wolfgang had somehow encouraged Neil to perform the debut version of "Dreamin' Man" which also was brought forth that night in Rotterdam.  Whatever the case, it is a very cool story and to this day, Neil has never again played "Cocaine Eyes" in public.  (Neil fun fact - he also has not performed his composition "No More" since this Rotterdam show)

I did eventually go back and pick Jon up, who on this night had the luxury of NOT being locked in his room.  Everyone was happy to see and hear him because like I said, this room is all about quality independent musicians.  His sound check went seamlessly and shortly thereafter he was digging muscular low notes into "Loan Me a Year" and again regaling with a spirited rendition of Hank Williams' "California Zephyr."  Much like last year, Jon soared through the first set and was rewarded with an attentive and responsive audience.  Each of the shows were recorded, so proof of this will be on exhibit when the full versions of those reach the US.  Jon plays so well here that I suggested he consider releasing a DVD of stuff culled from the two performances.

This was the first version of "Fading Light," the lyrics of which Jon and I had discussed during the I was particularly drawn into them today.  Thankfully I grabbed my own video of "Mr. Snakeoil" as Jon tore into this one with strength (there is a link to a video of this included with the setlist below).  He dusted off "Laughter Fades Away" and absolutely nailed such an extent that when asked which song the room should master for video release, this was the one we decided upon.  The highlights of the rest of the set were Jon rewarding the attentive audience with inspired readings of "Merrimack" inspired by the decline of industry in Jon's hometown of Haverhill, Massachusetts, and "Full Bloom" which was inspired by brave soldiers who have served (and in some cases, lost their lives) in recent wars.

(edited to add - turns out someone changed his/her mind and "Luckier Than Most" was chosen from this show.  I wish I had captured that "Laughter Fades Away" now, but here is the "Luckier" vid anyway.

The 2nd set featured a few ol' Shain originals, a requested "Level It Out," another strong "Station Master," "Song For JoJo" (featuring a quick reference to The Grateful Dead's "Bird Song" a subtle reference to my cry baby whining about missing my dog Birdie the previous day), "Love Is a Lucky Thing" (sent out to Jefferson Waful, whose editing has been immensely helpful to this blog), the rarely performed instrumental "Drunken Horses" and a rousing, set-closing "Ten Days."  However, the rest of the set was composed of brand-new unrecorded Shain songs and covers.  Very unusual.  He was clearly as fired-up to be back here as I was, dropping on our faces spirited renditions of "All Your Neon Dollars," the Spanish-flavored "It Wouldn't Be Long" and the recent-Dutch-law-inspired "Den Bosch Blues."  The covers were Paul Simon's "Peace Like a River" (like "California Zephyr" this is from Jon's Reupholstered CD), a soulful and slightly down-tempo version of The Rolling Stones' "No Expectations" and he honored John Lennon's birthday with an impromptu version of "Norweigan Wood" replete with a nice section of modal improvisation.

Much like a Paco Plumtek in Almelo last year, the show may have ended, but the evening still had just begun.  We were in no hurry and clearly neither was the staff or a certain number of the attendees.  This place attracts a fantastic crew of music fans.  I ended up cornering one particularly enigmatic fella I would end up finding out was named Thomas Bruse.  This dude had been seeing shows in Germany since the 60s.  I wound him up and then listened to stories about seeing The Stones and The Beatles at Ernst Merck Hall in Hamburg in 65 and 66 (respectively) and Hendrix and The Band at Musikhalle in the same city a few years later.  He got particular wistful when he spoke of seeing Keith Emerson and The Nice play at The Star Club in Hamburg.  This is a precursor to Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and one that Bruse greatly preferred to the (what would become) considerably more well-known ELP.

However, what surprised me the most was his response when I asked him his all-time favorite band, he identified it as Spooky Tooth.  This was an English rock band with for which I had only a passing familiarity, and one that Thomas told me had featured the twin keyboard work of Mike Harrison and Gary Wright.  Yes this is the Gary Wright who played on George Harrison's All Things Must Pass record and who eventually had a solo career which is perhaps best known for the hit, "Dream Weaver."   The group also featured eventual Humble Pie bassist Greg Ridley.  They also featured Luke Grosvener, a guitarist who would eventually record and tour with the legendary Moot The Hoople.  My new friend Thomas spoke glowingly about the many times he had seen this band, and I was surprised to learn with a little research that many, many other musicians had played with them.  Among them was one of my favorite rock pianists, long-time Eric Clapton side man Chris Stainton and Mick Jones who would later form Foreigner.  I had no idea that my chat with Thomas at a tiny table outside of Sweeties Mehr Als Ein Kaffeehaus (the coffee shop with which the Music Star Cafe shared a building) would turn into a full-blown rock lesson.

I also had no idea that when I re-entered Sweeties, the few folks that remained from Jon's show had moved into there, and been joined by a few lively locals.  I had encouraged Wolfgang to tell his Neil Young story.....and I wish I could detail it better but I can't find the notes and my memory of the post-"on the clock" portion of the evening is admittedly a bit hazy.....but suffice to say that this inspired Wolfgang to get Jon to pick his guitar back up play an impromptu, informal set of Neil Young songs in Sweeties.  It was pretty cool to watch Wolfgang run around and excitedly film Jon as he led a couple of musicians through "A Man Needs A Maid," "When You Dance I Can Really Love," "Old Man," "Cripple Creek Ferry," "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere," "Big Time" and a couple of others while everyone else sang along or danced or made new friends.  Wolfgang seemed most excited about "Cripple Creek" and "Big Time."  The night ended sort of the way it began, as I acted a bit like a tour manager, dragging Jon out of there even though each of us would have loved to stay for hours.  But our hotel wanted us out of there by 11am, and I wanted to be sure my li'l maestro was well-rested for the completion of the tour.

Jon Shain
Music Star Cafe
Norderstedt, Germany
October 9, 2014

Loan Me a Year
California Zephyr
Another Month of Mondays
Luckier Than Most video
Ordinary Cats
Fading Light
Laughter Fades Away
Mr. Snakeoil  video
Full Bloom
Cut-Out Bin
Level It Out
Station Master
All Your Neon Dollars
Peace Like a River
No Expectations
Song For JoJo
It Wouldn't Be Long
Love Is a Lucky Thing
Drunken Horses
Den Bosch Blues
Norweigan Wood
Ten Days
The Deep Freeze

Jon Shain at Music Star Cafe 2013
Chris Smither at Music Star Cafe
Geoff Achison at Music Star Cafe
Jerry Joseph with Walter Salas Humara at Music Star Cafe
Caroline Aiken at Music Star Cafe
Blog author's video of Jon Shain performing "Windy and Warm" at Music Star Cafe 2013
Neil Young Rotterdam 12/13/89 setlist
Neil Young performing Cocaine Eyes Rotterdam 12/13/89
Neil Young performing Winterlong Rotterdam 12/13/89
Neil Young performing Razor Love
Neil Young performing Stringman
Neil Young performing Dreamin' Man
footage from the night when The Beatles at Ernst-Merck Halle in Hamburg 1966
audio of Rolling Stones performing at Ernst-Merck Halle in Hamburg 1965
audio from Jimi Hendrix's late show at Musikhalle in Hamburg 1969
The Nice footage
Spooky Tooth live

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Cafe De Fiets in Bremerhaven October 8

written by Rob Turner - Tour Manager

Today started with the language barrier resulting in me putting something other than shampoo in my hair.  I looked carefully at the bottles.  I really did.  Examined them.....tried to discern just what was in them.  But I ended up with a hairdo that made me look like Cousin It and apparently smell like something similar to the undercarriage of a VW bus that had been dormant since Grateful Dead Tour circa 1981.

I wasn't about to do anything about it though.  We were in too much of a hurry to get to Bremerhaven and see Neil and Liane Bresnahan.  Jon just made sure I had the driver's window cracked for a majority of the ride.

The lively Bresnahan's had hosted us last year and we had had a grand time with them.  Neil is a guitarist who had lived in Florida throughout the sixties, and ended up moving to Germany in 1977.  He worked as a roadie for the band Flatsch - named after the sound a pie makes when it hits someone in the face.  It makes one think that Josh Reddick would love them.  Neil was with the band for the majority of its incredibly successful decade-and-a-half existence.  The enigmatic Gerd Knebel fronted the band, and was  also known for his work with a comedy duo called Bath Salts.

Neil also worked local crew for many years.  One time Bob Dylan ended up standing next to him and Neil found himself lighting Bob's cigarette.  He even roadie'd through Belgium, Holland and Germany for Mickey Mouse during a Disney industry tour when they were trying to attract shows to their Florida park. He said that it was like working for The Vatican with all of the strict rules and protocol.  Among the many shows he worked were some from David Bowie's Glass Spider Tour and various U2, The Pretenders and Fleetwood Mac tours.  Neil also once saw Santana twice in one day.

Sadly, Neil has been dealing with multiple forms of cancer since just weeks after we left him last year.  We were expecting him to be frail and maybe not in the best state of mind.  We couldn't have been more wrong.  He actually looked like George Carlin, and was in great spirits considering his situation.  He even seemed to have a bit of Carlin's "devil may care" attitude.  He recounted his horrifying last year to us, which included many hospital visits for radiation.

Fortunately, he had sufficient energy to attend the gig.  So, after Liane made a fantastic dinner for us, she drove all of us down.  It didn't take long for us to be reminded how Liane is adored in the area.  Before she even entered the pub in which Jon would play, people were greeting her with excited warmth.  She seems like something of a celebrity in the area.  This is not surprising as she is incredibly friendly and thoughtful, yet she also has a wry and slightly edgy sense of humor - so much so that it comes across to me with clarity despite our slight language barrier.

We also were reunited with our friend Barbara Pawlik, who is quite possibly the most openly enthusiastic fan Jon has in Germany.  Her entrance to the bar brought a wave of energy.  She is a very lively woman and she happily reported that she had landed a job at Duetsches Auswanderer Haus.  This is a museum at the site of the German Emigration Center, from which many, many people sailed under oft-adverse conditions to reach the United States.  Neil had taken us to this museum last year!

She could not contain her excitement for Jon's return, and others seemed to find it infectuous.  Between songs she could often be heard shouting excited positive feedback to Jon.  "I have been waiting a year for this!"  "Please come back sooner!" and "Play all night!"  were among her exclamations.

"California Zephyr" has consistently been receiving a rousing response, and tonight it silenced a somewhat chatty, but energetic room - a few folks got up and boogied in the narrow area between the bar and the front of the stage.  The good-natured bartenders did not mind that this impeded their walk from the tables they were serving and back to the bar.  They calmly and kindly knifed their way through the revelry.  One bartender and I hit it off particularly well.  His name is Jakob, and we are now FB-friends.  He is also clearly a ladies favorite.  Good for him!

Jon did "Clementine" for Neil, as it was one of the songs they had performed together in this same room a year ago.  You can jump to a video of this performance in the links section after the setlists below.  Neil was unable to perform tonight, but he was most certainly enjoying himself, and he was familiar enough with Jon's work to appreciate that, "All Your Neon Dollars" is a new, as-yet unrecorded Shain original.  This song has become a staple of the tour.  It is filled with imagery from the old west, and encourages the listener to be drawn to the smaller and more meaningful things in life, as opposed to glitz and glamour.

Jon also did what would be the only version of "Social Disease" this tour.  This Elton John/Bernie Taupin song leads Jon's most recent cd Upholstered.  He performed it by Barbara's request.  It was followed by a pairing I had never heard from Jon, a gritty take on "Big Boss Man" which first featured a nifty little vocal jam, and then veered into"Good Mornin' Little Schoolgirl."  After a couple of verses, Jon played perhaps his strongest solo of the night and used it as a bridge to vault himself back into "Big Boss Man."  The crowd responded jovially to this, and again at the end of the song.  This prompted Jon to pick up the slide and dig in for a drippy and meaty "Little Red Rooster."  The slide sat out for "James Alley Blues" and would return for "Dram Lest We Get Dry."  A conversation at setbreak revealed to me that although "James Alley Blues" was written by Richard "Rabbit" Brown, it also is part of Bob Dylan's legendary Minneapolis Hotel Tapes and was performed by Wilco in the 90s.  Sometimes you get shown the light in the most German of places if you look at it right.

The spirit of bustouts continued through the 2nd set as he opened with a very strong version of "Poetry + Sin" that was sadly ignored by most, but the also-tour-debut of the mysterious "Philly Girl" started to draw them back by the time he delved into The Ventures' "Walk, Don't Run 64" he had the majority of the room focused on him again despite the fact that this was more so than any venue on this tour clearly a pub rather than a music room.  I later learned that this was one last tribute to our friends in Almelo as he had discussed the song with our Almelo buddies Hank Lammers and Tom Weel a couple of days before.

The attentiveness surely helped served to motivate Jon to plop "Blackberry Blossom" into the middle of The Rolling Stones' "It's All Over Now" so deftly that it felt stunningly natural.  Maybe the rock veterans should consider doing the same on their coming tour. He tore through the rest of the set, digging into "Perambulatory Blues" with extra zest for the blues-loving crowd and he reignited the dance floor during "Ooncha Ooncha Music."  Jon likes to end with sing-a-longs and so tonight he did, as everyone around the bar seemed to be backing vocalists on "To Love Somebody."  The crowd quieted down one last time for an affecting take on Mississippi John Hurt's "My Creole Belle" which was this evening's encore.

Liane kindly drove Barbara Pawlik back to her home after the show, and her post-show outright exuberance put me in the mind of how I had felt after many slamming Grateful Dead shows many years ago.  Then it was back to the Bresnahans where I congratulated Neil on his resilience (he seemed to be running out of gas mid-2nd set, but then rallied with strength).  They also brought over a dog from a neighbor's house, as they were pet sitting for the week, and so we were entertained by this li'l guy.  I particularly enjoyed having a little time with him because by this time I very much missed my own dog, something that Jon would reference musically at the next show.  After a quick recap of the night with Neil I retired to my blog while my partners in music for the night retired to their beds.  Much like last year, I knew I would reflect on my Bremerhaven night with fondness for many months.

Jon Shain
Cafe de Fiets
Bremerhaven, Germany
October 8, 2014

Worried Messenger
Drivn' 'em Crazy
Getaway Car
California Zephyr
All Neon Dollars
Lucy, Don't You See
Social Disease
Big Boss Man>
Good Morning Li'l Schoolgirl>
Big Boss Man
Little Red Rooster
James Alley Blues
Dram Lest We Get Dry
Poetry + Sin
Philly Girl
Cur-Out Bin
Careless Love
Walk, Don't Run 64
It's All Over Now>
Blackberry Blossom>
It''s All Over Now
Perambulatory Blues
Cornershops and Subway Trains
Ooncha Ooncha Music
To Love Somebody
My Creole Belle


Flatsch performing live
Josh Reddick as Pie-derman
Duetsches Auswanderer Haus
Neil Bresnahan joining Jon Shain for Clementine during last year's visit to Bremerhaven
Richard "Rabbit" Brown's original version of James Alley Blues
Wilco performing James Alley Blues
Jon Shain performing James Alley Blues during his 2013 European Tour

Friday, October 10, 2014

Historical Hall @Alice Salomon School, Hannover, Germany October 7

written by Robert Turner - Tour Manager

The drive to Hannover reminded me of my love/hate relationship with The Autobahn (a "bahn"is German for a track or a lane).  Many back in The States have a view of The Autobahn as being a free-for-all on which drivers can zip along as fast as they want.  And there are indeed stretches of highway that prove this to be true.  However, these days there are speed limits imposed sporadically and you aren't always given much advance notice of said speed limits.  This is where they getcha.  You can be blasting along at 150-160 kilometers per hour and suddenly there could be a posted speed limit of 100 kilometers per hour and you can get nailed by a camera and suddenly you owe money.  I feel it is almost unfair, but hey - you can always just keep to 100-120 kph - just if you do so, stay to the right and don't be oblivious to other drivers.  Lazy-minded drivers who camp out in the fast line even when not passing someone (so common in my home state of Georgia and its neighbors) are rare here, and they are "handled."  But you also must be diligent about constantly being mindful of those behind you and their rate of speed.  Should you not keep an eye on that rearview mirror, you are eventually going to either end up dangerously cutting-off those hurtling along in the fast lane, or frequently wasting gas because you can easily find yourself boxed-in to the middle or right lane.  You just have to get into it and be attentive and it can be an absolutely exhilarating and satisfying driving experience.

We arrived in Hannover, and after a fun little game of  "find the gig," we discovered that Jon would be performing in a cute and sonically (Is that a word?  I think it should be.  Get on it Colbert) ideal, little theater on the second floor of a centuries old building that serves as an extension to a local vocational school.  The school graciously allows a wide variety of local events to be held there.  Our host, Rainer Voltmer, books the music in the room.  

The heavily white room had a wraparound balcony fronted by a wooden railing which seemed more ornamental than protective.  Later I would discover that the best sound in the room was in the first row of the center of the balcony.  It was absolutely ear-delicious up there.

I also made another discovery.  Behind the curtain at the back of the stage was a CASSETTE DECK.  I have made a compromise with my girlfriend that rather than throw all of my cassettes away, I would just listen to them one-by-one and then give them away.  I had even brought a few.  Once I found the tape deck I quietly made my way to the car and grabbed one of the three cassettes I had brought.  It was a killer audience recording of the final Bob Dylan show in 1997 at Los Angeles' El Rey Theater.  I listened to it briefly on our first visit to the theater, and then again at the end of the night, and then left the unlabeled cassette in the tape deck.  So, if any cassette-deck owning Bob Dylan nuts reading this live in or near Hannover, GO GET THAT TAPE!

We had hit a pub briefly upon our arrival, just to get the Germany vibe.  During our walk, Jon had spotted a pizza place that hit his fancy, so we decided to hit that in the interim time between our initial visit to the theater and the show.  I was starting to remember how the language barrier was much higher here in Germany than in the Netherlands.  Jon ordered a salad and asked for tomatoes on it, and we got a big bowl of sliced tomatoes and onions which were swimming in dressing.  Normally, I take dressing on the side and despise excessive dressing - but it was OUR FAULT BECAUSE WE DIDN'T KNOW THE LOCAL LANGUAGE BETTER.  This is a key point, as I believe it is the appropriate attitude one should have when visiting or moving to a foreign country without learning the local language.  Also, Jon tried to order tap water and quickly found himself 5 Euros deep in an unwanted Pellegrino.

The school had been empty on our first visit, but we returned to find much activity.  A table was set up with water, juice, wine, beer and snacks in return for donations.  I set up my little stand near the entrance at the back of the theater.  As the performance unfolded, the venue-nerd in me decided to move around this room and enjoy all of the different angles and check out how the sound varied around the room.  I was impressed that there weren't any "dead spots" with regard to sound.

The room inspired Shain.  Because once he got settled-in, he started delivering strong versions of several songs which he had not performed in quite some time.  He played a achingly soulful, "Luck Don't Come Easy," a weighty slow blues number which dates back to Flyin' Mice, a band he formed in the late 80s and fronted until mid-1996.   The crowd seemed to dig his finger-picking on the ragtime gem, "Chincoteague Chick-a-dee" from his out-of-print Fools and Fine Ladies CD.  And his slide guitar work on "Dram Lest We Get Dry" brought the set to a rousing climax.

We had to be out of the room by 10pm, and Jon likes to give his attendees a lengthy show, so the set break was the shortest yet of the tour.  The 2nd set revealed him to be even more comfortable in this sweet, sweet sounding room.  I hadn't heard the instrumental "Song For Isabella" in so long that I was unable to identify it.  The he played three as-yet unrecorded songs in a row.  A riveting "Seven Thieves" gave way to "Cold and Lonesome Morning," a title I found pedestrian given the unique lyrics he had written (sounded like the title of 2042 bluegrass songs).  Jon, later in the week, kindly let me help him rename it as "Fading Light."  We both believe this correctly indicates what is going on in the mind of the character that is the voice of the song.  Then he busted out the To Ramona-esque "It Wouldn't Be Long" - one that would quickly reveal itself to be a German favorite - and one that sent me scurrying to the balcony to have ideal sound for this debut version.  I hung up there while Jon played "Let The Mermaids Flirt With Me" with passion and precision.  I love it when Jon represents my man, Mississippi John Hurt.  Jon led the crowd in a rousing sing-a-long of "Don't Go No Further," which while made famous by Muddy Waters and The Doors, was actually written by Willie Dixon.

And then he reminded me of our Flyin' Mice days with a set-closing "Millionaire's Blues" and an encore of the disgustingly rare "Glass Bottom Saturdays," each from the band Jon fronted 20ish years ago.  "Glass Bottom Saturdays" reminded me of my good friend Steve Clarkson, with whom I used to attend many Flyin' Mice shows decades ago, and this was a song we frequently requested that they play. 

Heiko Wichert had videotaped the entire performance.  He and I struggled through a language barrier but were still able to bond in our shared love of music.  He, his wife, our host, Jon and I ended the night with a couple of pints at a wine bar across the street after which Voltmer led Jon and me to his house.  Voltmer has a stunning collection of guitars, so he and Jon had plenty about which to talk.   Voltmer graciously allowed me to use his son's computer to try to keep up with my blog.  

I'm glad I did.  Somehow, it is a bit more rare to simultaneously have WiFi and adequate writing conditions here in Germany.  I'm falling behind.  But I will finish writing about this tour, thanks in part to recent memory-enhancing changes in my life.  


Jon Shain
Historical Hall
Alice Salomon School
Hannover, Germany
October 7, 2014

The Letter
Ordinary Cats
Song For JoJo
Luckier Than Most
Luck Don't Come Easy
Chincoteague Chick-a-dee
Broken White Line
Peace Like a River
Dram Lest We Get Dry
Song For Isabella
Give My Regards To Brother Ray
Seven Thieves
Fading Light
*It Wouldn't Be Long
Let The Mermaids Flirt With Me
Getaway Car
Don't Go No Farther
You Cannot Hide Your Heart From The Band
Millionaire's Blues
Glass Bottom Saturdays

* - debut version

The Autobahn
Stephen Colbert and words
Final Bob Dylan show of 1997

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Jon and Johanneke Johanneke at Het Arendsman Huis (Adrie Arendsman's Gallery) in Enschede, NL October 6, 2014

written by Robert Turner - Tour Manager

This night was supposed to be an off-night.  Sure, it **sounds** good, but when you are traversing The Netherlands on a razor-thin budget an off-night is not even remotely helpful.

Enter Johanneke Johanneke.

She is a singer/songwriter we had met when Jon played at Paco Plumtek in Almelo on his 2013 European Tour.  This was also the gig that had opened the door to yesterday's gig and by extension, to this year's European Tour.

At Paco Plumtrek, Johanneke had captivated the crowd during the late night party that began a couple of hours after Jon had concluded his set.  Different musicians took the stage at different times, some alone, others in various collaborations - to perform all kinds of original and cover material.  However it was Johanneke who stole the show.  She passionately delivered three songs with stunning and elegant intensity.

Let me just say that I have been musically blessed in my life.   I have seen a dizzying array of incredible music over the past 35 or so years.  However, it remains truly rare for me to get to see in an intimate setting an artist who is quite clearly destined for greatness.  I can only right now think of a handful of times it has happened.

There was the time I saw the now-titans of jambandland Phish play at a tiny Allston club called Molly's.

Shawn Colvin commanded at the Old Vienna Coffeehouse just west of Boston, just weeks before her career skyrocketed internationally.

A 14-year-old Derek Trucks co-billed with Jon Shain's Flyin' Mice and was already destroying long before he would become widely considered one of the greatest slide players in the world.

The first time I went to The Merle Watson Festival I was among the many buzzing about the other-worldly mandolin work brought forth by Chris Thile.

When Aron Magner of The Disco Biscuits discovered a new keyboard style that would eventually spawn the creation of the "trance fusion" movement, there were several weeks of shows during which this band was melting faces in arguably undeserving small rooms.

And now, with confidence, I add Johanneke Johanneke to that list.

She is a classically-trained pianist with a soaring lead vocal and a clear-cut, "aw shucks" attitude.

And on this night she took a liking to Jon Shain's playing, cuz the girl also has a great ear.  She caught one of the best shows of Jon's first tour, and then celebrated at the post-show party with all of us, and even hung out post-show at the home of Tom and Emmy Weel.  She is a very wise soul, and perhaps a mystic.  I know this word gets tossed around far too liberally.  One dude famously known for being called a, "tour mystic" gave me a completely undeserved scolding while I was in the midst of taking eight days out of my life to work for his company for free at Mountain Jam this past June.  Nobody has to explain to me that this is an over-used word.

But if you see Johanneke perform, you will probably understand what I am saying.

She is also very kind, because when she found out we had lost the first gig of our tour, AND that we had an off-night near her city, she and her Mother sprung into action.

I have been living in Atlanta for over 15 years and while we have had some fun Jon Shain gigs, I have never felt as though I have truly delivered for him the way Johanneke and her Mother (Marion Hermine Ingrid) did for him on very short notice on this MONDAY night.  It should also be noted that Johanneke's boyfriend Tonny Nobel cheerfully helped to get her keyboard and a bunch of amplification equipment onto the site.  Nobel is a sound engineer (who also has a history in baking!) and a very cool guy.  It is always good to see that a woman of Johanneke's caliber has a solid guy in her corner.  He also provided for me the list of songs she performed, which I include at the end of this post.

In fact Johanneke made a fantastic (and healthy) dinner for Jon, Tonny and I which also featured some lively conversation. Johanneke even compared me to the manager in the program Flight of the Conchords.  In retrospect, I feel Jon and I gave back to her by demonstrating our ability to lovingly argue with each other.  This time it was with regard to our differing opinions about Led Zeppelin as a live band.  We agree that they were a vital and outstanding studio band.  However, Jon feels that Jimmy Page was a transcendent live performer who understood the format of the rock concert as theater.  I, on the other hand believe that they were a sloppy and over-rated live act, and I also feel that Jimmy Page's extended solos belonged in a circus, not on a rock stage.  His work with the bow seemed like downright gratuitous silliness to me.  Go ahead - watch Jimmy Page use a bow with a guitar, then watch Sigur Ros' Jonsi Bergisson do the same.  There are links to each below.  If after doing so any of you can find what Page does to be "musical" then we have radically different perspectives on music.

But I digress.

Anyway, Johanneke and her Mother arranged for a performance at an art gallery in Enschede.  The artist, Adrie Arendsman, greeted us with a welcoming smile.  She helped me with the elevator so I wouldn't have to lug Johanneke's keyboard up the stairs.....and while Tonny and the musicians made sonic preparations, Adrie cheerfully showed me the building and discussed its history.  She has lived on the 3rd Floor since she oversaw construction of the building six years ago.  It looks rather unassuming from the more main of the two roads that are adjacent to it.  Only a corner window with some funky artwork about one story up gives any indication of what lies inside.  However, when viewed from the alley, one can see vertical stained glass running parallel to the elevator shaft and a bright yellow door to its left.  This is where the arty vibe begins, and when we walked through the door her studio was visible across the foyer.  She seemed to have countless of "in progress" works of art.

Jon gave her a copy of his Ordinary Cats CD, the cover of which was designed by his wife, Maria.  Adrie was delighted with Maria's work and the fact that she had done it in the spirit of German artist Paul Klee.  Adrie not only mentioned that Klee had an exhibit currently on display at the National Museum in Berlin, but she also pulled out a book and excitedly showed us some specific examples of Klee's work from which Maria might very well have drawn inspiration.  It was a very nice moment, particularly when I noticed more than a hint of spousal pride in Jon's eyes.

The second floor is where the performance occurred, and Adrie had shoved tables full of enchanting abstract art off to the side to make room for the performance.  Atop a table sat wine, juice, cookies, candy and other tidbits for the attendees.  She was incredibly thoughtful, in fact at one point I returned from a trip to the bathroom to discover that she had taken it upon herself to dig up a desk light and an extension cord because she had noticed I was preparing to take notes during the performances.

Anyone who thinks this this trip is some sort of joy ride for Jon doesn't fully understand the essence of performance.  This is the 2nd gig in a row where Jon had to deliver with some element of pressure.  Tonight he was going to stand before a bunch of folks who seemed to be there to see the pride of Enschede more so than him.

But he delivered big time.

And I believe he won some new fans.

Once again we were treated to an unerringly attentive audience.  Jon responded with a very dynamic version of "Loan Me a Year," at one point letting it flow to a whisper, at another point rousing the crowd with a flurry of energetically articulated riffs.  They were particularly riveted to songs like "Level It Out," "Merrimack" and "Careless Love," each of which were rewarded with applause preluded by soft "aaaahs" of approval.  And everyone waited until the very final note before applauding, something Jon and I have come to learn is common here in The Netherlands.  Jon even performed Rev. Gary Davis' "Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning" that merged the original approach with that of the more well-known of Jorma Kaukonen and his various outfits.  He also told the story about how Rev. Gary Davis would busk on the street outside of the tobacco companies as this would be the times tobacco farmers would be wandering around with pockets full of cash.   Jon sent out "Love Is a Lucky Thing" to a friend of ours back home who has been extremely helpful to me on my blogging, but the video I shot was too dark, so Jon is graciously going to find another time to do this again.  The set closed with a raucous take on Hank Williams' "California Zephyr," and the audience rewarded Jon with the type of applause that would surely have earned an encore had this not been an opening set.

The crowd was still milling around and socializing when Johanneke started her set with a quiet instrumental that compelled the crowd to find their seats and focus on the show without any instruction.  She then used her loop machine to do some layered a capella improvisation - and then delivered nine songs of her songs with grace, strength and at times vulnerability.  At one point, while I was lost in rapture, I was trying to think of the last time that I had been completely transported by the performance of an artist who had also cooked me dinner, and I was unable to come up with one.

I had over dinner also told Tonny and her about my strongest memory of her Paco Plumtrek performance.  This was when she had performed her song "Please Leave Her For Me."  This is a brilliant song about an empowered woman who deals with her jealousy (and maybe even a tad of insecurity) by having the confidence to kick a unworthy lover to the curb.  As the crowd was responding after she had performed it powerfully at Paco, she had smiled sheepishly, almost seeming embarrassed.  Which I thought made for a compelling contrast to the voice of the song.  She referenced that in her introduction to the song, kinda poking fun at me saying something like, "I will try to remain strong during, and after the song this time."  She remained strong throughout the song and the entire set.

After she finished, she invited Jon up to the stage for an unrehearsed, impromptu encore.  Jon had not yet performed her favorite song, "Ordinary Cats," so she asked if they could perform it together.  Jon then had the daunting task of having to sing after Johanneke had filled the room with her gracefully robust vocal.  Jon again delivered, singing the song with strength and clarity.  The encore was a multi-generational, ragged-but-right affair.  It was a delight to watch these two brilliant, but somewhat disparate musicians moved through the encore.  Jon led during Neil Young's "Comes a Time" (an homage to the post-show party at which Jon and Johanneke had met, which featured a variety of musicians and a bunch of Neil Young covers).  Then Johanneke took the lead on her "On a Bench, In The Park, Next To You" and the traditional "Delia's Gone" which she knew from Johnny Cash's version.  Johanneke's relentlessly vivacious mother and I danced to the final song in the back of the room - which for me was a perfect way to end an incredible evening.

Jon and I excitedly talked about what a fantastic night we had had in this town with the unpronounceable name on our ride back to the bed and breakfast.  It actually led to a discussion about Ram Dass' book Be Here Now.

I gotta read that book.


Adrie Arendsman's Art
Enshede, NL
October 6, 2014

Jon Shain

Loan Me a Year
Luckier Than Most
Level It Out
To Rise Again
Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning
Careless Love
Love Is a Lucky Thing
California Zephyr

Johanneke Johanneke

crowd-silencing instrumental
loop improvisation
No Need To Know
Invite You In
Funfair (You Mean To Me)
Some Day In Spring
Please Leave Me For Her
Gedicht Loopstation
Tot Je Er Bent (w/Johanneke playing a saw)
The Day Is Done

Collaborative Set

Ordinary Cats
Comes a Time
On a Bench, In The Park, Next To You
Delia's Gone


Het Arendsman Huis Gallery
a young Phish
Shawn Colvin porforming one of her originals with Alison Krauss
Derek Trucks at 13
Chris Thile at 12
the Disco Biscuits
Flight of The Conchords
Jimmy Page bowed guitar solo
Sigur Ros (example of bow work at 6:05 mark)
Ordinary Cats cover art by Maria Shain
An example of the artwork of Paul Klee
Rev. Gary Davis version of Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning
Jorma Kaukonen performing Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning with Hot Tuna
Be Here Now by Ram Dass

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

de Opkamer Bed and Breakfast in Almelo, NL

written by Robert Turner - Tour Manager

I was so fired-up about the Liedjesmakers Festival that I forgot to post about the fantastic bed and breakfast that was our home for two nights. It was called de Opkamer and located a stone's throw from the cities car-less shopping area, and also walking distance from the Liedjesmakers festival site.  

The building was built in 1903, in the shadow of a coffee factory that at that time had existed for 40 or so years.  The factory building still stands today.  The initial version of what would become de Opkamer  had a store on the first floor in which herbs, coffee and other fun stuff from the Dutch Indies were sold.  In 1919 the building was given a make-over which gave it its current look.  It is a key part of the fabric of downtown Almelo.

Our hosts were Gijs Ligtenberg and Penny Hope.  The house has been owned by the Ligtenberg family since 1985.  Sadly, Gijs lost his Mother last February, and he and his girlfriend moved in shortly thereafter.  They are incredibly warm hosts.  Gijs and his sisters now own the property. 

Penny even did my laundry - which was very kind, but a tad embarrassing.  Thing is - when I travel I take some of my most ready-to-be-disposed-of things and wear them one of two last times and toss them while on the road.  It lightens the load up for the ride home.  They also didn´t have a dryer.  It was sorta cringe-inducing to see my socks and underwear (some of each with tears in them) hanging amidst her laundry.  

However, right by where the laundry was drying was a punching bag.  So, the fiery and most certainly physically-fit Penny cheered me up by demonstrating her kick boxing skills.  She beat the crap out of that bag, and what little embarrassment I had quickly dissipated into fear.

They are a fantastic couple.  They brought breakfast to our room each day - ham, cheese, a kwa-sah, some other bread, fruit, eggs and juice....and they were very helpful with our inquiries about their city.

Media dorks should also be alerted that they also offered a ton of local and cable channels.  We didn't have much time to watch, but I did briefly at one point watch and found myself fascinated by what I think was local Dutch baseball.

If you are traveling through The Netherlands, I strongly suggest you visit Almelo and when you do, stay at this killer bed and breakfast.  But plan early, as they book well in advance.  This place is not such a secret among European folk.

Liedjesmakers Festival Almelo, NL October 5, 2014

written by Robert Turner - Tour Manager

Our next stop was at the festival which made it all happen for us.  During last year's tour, Jon had performed a show at a place called Paco Plumtek (an anagram for capo and the Dutch word for guitar pick, plecktrum), a small theater run by a local musician and promoter named Henk Lammers.  We had a great time at that show, and at the musician-rich late-night party that secretly began when the majority of the crowd left after the show.  This was a festive night where the musicians that remained took turns jumping on stage, playing some of their stuff, and collaborating on a bunch of covers.  Neil Young's songs were well represented.  This was also the night we met Johanneke Johanneke, (more on her in the next blog).

Little did we know that this would be the night that planted the seeds for our return.  It turns out that Lammers also books something called the Liedjesmakers Festival, and after Jon's performance at Paco Plumtek (one of the best of last year's tour) he arranged for Jon to return to the festival.  It was this booking around which Jon framed the tour.

Even though Lammers was extremely busy, he gave us a few minutes of time upon our arrival.  It was very comforting to show up and see his familiar face, and those of Tom and Emmy Weel.  We had stayed with The Weels on the night of the Paco Plumtek show.  Tom is the editor of Beatles Unlimited, and he oversees the largest database of Beatles covers in the world.  He was one of the festival co-hosts, and was in full Sergeant Pepper's gear for the occasion.  Inspired by his passion I put out a call via Facebook for any musicians who would like to be included in his database and none responded!  I guess people already know about his publication, or they are just disinterested.  Hopefully it is the former.  Or maybe it is just another example of musicians being seemingly indifferent to promotion.  Whatever the case, it is a killer database, and Tom was even familiar with the band Brain Damaged Eggmen, which is an amalgam of my favorite jamband (Umphrey's McGee) and the patriarchs of trance-fusion (the Disco Biscuits) who perform Beatles and Pink Floyd covers.

Tom's wife Emmy is a very kind woman with a quiet wisdom about her, and she was in charge of the green room, and I believe also was responsible for the impressive array of food that was available there.  It was always nice to return to the green room and see her smiling face.

Jon performed about a one-hour late afternoon set on the Kapel Stage.  I thought it was a nice touch that Weel at the end of each set from the artists preceding Jon on OTHER stages, telling the crowd that Jon was going to start on the Kapel Stage soon.  When I asked one person how he had described Jon he said, "a folk/blues specialist with a John Hiatt-Americana side."  I love it.  The Kapel Stage was actually a small chapel on one end of the large, curved building that housed the festival.  The small balcony was completely full when he was on stage, and people came and went on the floor, but it usually was about 3/4'rs full.  Jon's set was well-received.  I was upset that I failed to video "Luckier Than Most" as planned - but even though I wasn't planning on capturing "Level It Out," (there already is an excellent video of this song starring Jon's daughter, Johannah on YouTube) the presence of a young, enthusiastic child seemed appropriate to the lyrical theme of the song.  So, I "rolled tape."  I feel as though I captured a gem.

Jon was well-received, particularly on the quieter songs like "Clementine" and "If You Ever Flew Away" - the latter of which received thunderous applause.  Hank Williams is apparently very popular here as well as the crowd was excited when Jon announced that he was going to perform one of his songs ("California Zephyr" from his recent release Reupholstered) and after he delivered it.  Jon was on point.  The only problem was that my sales "skills" were irrelevant tonight.  Only one person bought a cd from me, and even that was after a long chat about music.  The people wanted to talk to Jon.  For the most part, it was only when HE stood by the table, or when people approached Jon (which I later learned happened repeatedly until he left the festival around 10:30) that any CDs were sold.  My main jobs turned out to be enjoying and (in some cases) documenting some of the artists, working on my li'l blog and at one point I high-tailed it back to the hotel to grab live recordings of a Charles Sawtelle Tribute and a Jerry Garcia/David Grisman concert to give to Ron Snippe.  Snippe had enthusiastically told me about his love of the band Hot Rize (with whom Sawtelle used to perform) and when the topic of The Grateful Dead came up, he mentioned he liked the record "Reckoning."  I believe an acoustic musician would much prefer a strong Garcia/Grisman show to anything my precious Grateful Dead ever did.  Snippe performed on the Kapel Stage before Jon did, and by the time we arrived his set was mostly done and we were just getting acclimated to the scene.  However, Snippe and I quickly bonded and I'm hoping to see him again.  He is really a truly fantastic guy with impeccable taste in music.

While I very much enjoy seeing Jon on a nightly basis, it was nice to bounce around and see a bunch of other musicians.  Early in the day I got lost in the haunting beauty of Roos Rebergen's ethereal delivery.  It was so quiet that the clicking of a camera was the only noise, and mid-song Rebergen seemed to (in Dutch) admonish the photographer and insist that she stop.  A few people applauded.  On a personal level, it seemed to indicate that I had at least improved to some extent with regard to focusing on music through distraction.  I was pretty riveted by her set despite the clicking.

Later Erwin Nyhoff's earnest vocal over slamming acoustic guitar roused the crowd - his stage presence put me in the mind of a male Melissa Etheridge.  He even covered Bruce Springsteen's "The River" and Chuck Berry's "The Promised Land."  Blind Boy & The Grillplates closed the festival with ragged-but-oh-so right high-energy old time music.  The two guitarists sang through low-volume megaphones to lend a decidedly old time feel - and the accompanying piano and washboard were rollicking along with relentless energy.  The pianist's playing was barrelhouselcicious. A link to their version of "Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor" is below, they also did "Train Kept a-Rollin'" in its original, swing style.  Oddly enough, the next day I was listening to Howard Stern interview Joe Perry and Perry was discussing the origins of the song and Aerosmith's history with the song.  He also in the interview referred to his pick as a plectrum - a term I had not heard since we were at Paco Plumtek last year.  Again, the "Plumtek" is an anagram for the dutch version of the word "plektrum."

But the surprise find of the day happened when I wandered out to the courtyard to watch a duo called De Geldwolven.  They were performing in a walkway between the two entrances to the building that housed the festival - busking style!  Despite the fact that they had to compete with much foot traffic, and an adjacent, much-visited food truck, they still commanded attention with their incredible energy.  Their sets were a mix of original and cover material, some sung in English, some in Dutch - but all of it was sick.  The trumpet player was outstanding, carefully choosing his moments, using space brilliantly and articulating every note.  The guitarist spirited vocal was augmented by his bring-you-in facial expressions.  Their cover of Radiohead's
"Nude" delighted me so much that when I chatted with them in the green room later, I suggested that we find a corner of the fest and shoot a quick amateur video of it.  Even though I wasn't toting elaborate equipment or from some big media outlet - they were more than happy to oblige.  These guys just LOVE to play.  They even were kind enough to drop an original on me, and the videos for each can be seen below.  When the festival ended, they didn't want to leave and continued performing on a couch across from the Foyer Stage.  When I left, they were still jamming away.

The musical highlight of the day was Half Way Station.  Perhaps Kate Bush's recent return to the stage had rendered me particularly receptive to some brilliantly-arranged, energetically-delivered ethereal music by a band fronted by an idiosyncratic female vocalist.  Whatever the case, I found the band intoxicating.  Elma Paisier is the lead vocalist, and she and guitarist Rikke Korsnagen originally performed as a duo.  They met keyboardist Mick Steekelenburg at a gig, and quickly found that he had a particular talent for arrangements.  This is perhaps why recently they were inspired to add drums (Bart Hoogvliet) and bass (Danny Lelieveld).  I have video of one of their songs from this set, but it the song is going to be on their forthcoming cd "Dodo," so I will not publish until they give me permission.  **editor's note - a private link to this video will be available as soon as I get to a place at which I can get Internet on my magic phone box**

I really enjoyed my day there.  It reminded me of how I used to experience much larger music festivals as a writer back home.  Buzzing around, catching music, chatting-up music lovers and musical artists, and returning to my laptop to take notes on that day, or work on writing in an effort not to fall too far behind.  It's been a while, and I forgotten how it had its own sort of exhilaration to it.  Would be a fun thing to do for a living if it didn't pay so poorly.

All in all - the festival put me in the mind of The Big Ears Festival I attended in Knoxville last spring.  This is because it featured a wide variety of music performed in intimate settings to people with an impressive combination of open-mindedness and sophistication to be able to give themselves an opportunity to appreciate it.  This is the kind of place where you meet people like Marcel Pullen, who sported a Velvet Underground shirt as he bounced from stage to stage with a perma-smile.  He had a camera with him, but it was not in lieu of having a genuine appreciation for, or ability to respond to the music as I have long-suspected many photographers do.  It was just to augment his experience, provide a memory and to give back to a festival that had provided for him a powerfully fun day.

Jon Shain
Kapel Stage
Liedjesmakers Festival
Almelo, The Netherlands
October 5, 2014

Ordinary Cats
Getaway Car
Luckier Than Most
Level It Out
All Your Neon Dollars
California Zephyr
Song For Maria
If You Ever Flew Away
Peace Like a River
Ten Days


Paco Plumtek
Hank Lammers
Johanneke Johanneke
Beatles Unlimited
Brain Damaged Eggmen
John Hiatt
Level It Out official video
Level It Out from Kapel Stage at Liedjesmakers Festival
Jon Shain's Reupholstered CD
Charles Sawtelle
Hot Rize featuring Charles Sawtelle
Grateful Dead Reckoning release
Jerry Garcai/David Grisman
Ron Snippe performing with Lazy Tater (Ron is wearing the stylin' hat)
Roos Rebergen (this is her with a symphony, she performed solo at the festival)
Erwin Nyhoff performing The River on a Holland's version of The Voice
More Erwin because he was Ron's favorite act on the bill
Melissa Etheridge
Blind Boy & The Grillplates Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor
Half Way Station

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Cafe 'tKeerpunt Spijkerboor, The Netherlands October 4

Written by Rob Turner - Tour Manager

Jon and I were just about to arrive to the little downtown of Hellum on our bicycles, when a young kid in a fancy car who had pulled to the side of the road with his hazard lights on suddenly began to turn back into traffic without turning the hazards off.  I had to swerve to avoid a collision.  Just two days after blogging about how respectful of bicyclists the drivers here are, I almost got picked off by one of the local drivers.  Ok, it was a kid.....and kids anywhere are likely prone to carelessness.  But it would have been so hilarious if it had happened that I almost wish it had.

I said almost.

At the risk of incurring the wrath of the irony police (essentially Jefferson Waful), I think this would have been ironic.

But it didn't happen.   So, we were able to say that we had biked to Hellum and back - and Jon's bike was  even adorned with a hand basket.

We had one last meal, walk and (the above-mentioned) bike ride before leaving The Podium Cafe Peter en Leni.  The walk away from our home away from home (along a sidewalk that sat atop raised ground which separated the canal from some farmland) took us past a couple of houses that were built into the canal and past some farmland on our right which was actually lower than the canal water.  The houses seemed like they could float off of their cement bases in the case of flood, but that might have been my imagination.  We wanted to sit and chill by the water somewhere, so when he came across a swan cleaning itself across the water, we plopped down and watched her for a while.  Once she was done, another swan and two baby swans came gliding out from the marshes and slowly and quietly swam by us.  It was a very powerful moment for me, as I am used to the sounds of the city, which where I live, often include gun shots.

It was actually only a half hour drive to the next venue, called Café ‘tKeerpunt.  This place first opened as the Hotel Spijkerboor in 1750.  Although initially the lodging aspect was its primary purpose, it also was then, like it is today, the only pub for several miles.  It has survived under different names over the years.  It was called Hotel Boelens (named after its owner) in 1901 and shortly thereafter dropped the hotel moniker to become Café Boelens.  It then took on the name Café Nevels in 1960 and then finally in 1989 settled on its current name, Café ‘tKeerpunt.  Keerpunt is a term from the local dialect (Drents) which means “turning point.”  You see, the main road (which we had taken to town) used to be a waterway on which ships would transport peat from the farmland to the nearby city of Groningen (where Jon and I had visited Wednesday).   The area adjacent to the café in which he had parked used to be where the ships would turn around because the water widened sufficiently.  Hence, the name. 

And you might be wondering about the whole “starting with an apostrophe t” thing.  That is because ‘t is an abbreviation for the word “het,” which means “the.”  The more you know.

There are two key people with regard to this gig.  Willem Dijkema and Jan Hoekman.

Dijkema owns the room today, and he was in the house for Jon’s performance, cheerfully and skillfully presiding over the room and handling all of the customers himself.   Clearly he is a music fan because first of all, he politely had a few chatty regulars leave the room before he had Jon start the performance
(I think he might have bribed them with a coupla comped beers), and secondly any time he had a lull in his work he was fixated on Jon.  When given a free CD at the end of the night, he insisted on purchasing an additional one!

Hoekman helps Willem book the room.  Jan is a local prosecutor who wears a long silk robe when in court, but was dressed in considerably more casual fashion for this show.  He also is a member of the board at the Veenbraand Foundation.  Veenbrand in the Drent dialect means “peat burn.”  There is apparently a phenomenon here where heat builds underneath the peat to such an extent that it sometimes will burn to the surface.  Similarly, the foundation’s goal is to take the great musicians who are bubbling beneath the surface of the music world and shine some light on them. 

So, this was the spirit of the room into which we walked on this night.  It had an immediate, timelessly festive feel.  The walls were filled with musical instruments, memorabilia, photos and even a little shrine of ticket stubs.  While we were loading in……essentially a guitar, some CDs and my li'l laptop bag…..we met the members of a local cover band who would be performing at a private party in the back room of the club.  They were very nice folks, and I even went over and checked out their set a couple of times.  The first time I visited one of the trumpet players was on the dance floor ripping it up, and the partygoers were ignoring the band.  The wandering trumpet player ended up jumping on stage, turning his back to the band, and continuing to wail away….until ultimately not only did he miss the band’s cue to end the song, but he almost fell into the bass player's music stand.  Normally I would have been amused by such a thing, but having just met these guys, I kinda felt bad.  Later, I went back and they were tearing up a mariachi-sounding song.  It might even have been a Los Lobos cover, but the trumpets were drowning out the vocals so much that I couldn't pick them up.  It was a friendly group in that room, but they were again oblivious to the band, chatting away and reveling.

Getting back to Jon, after sound check, he told me he was going to walk around the town.....and then reappeared about three minutes later.  Apparently, there was no town.  This place was town, everything else was pretty much farmland.

On this night, Jon delivered a supreme first set, definitely his best yet of the tour - the best I've seen him play since our Europe trip last year. Perhaps this is in part due to the fact that when he started his set the people who had been scattered around the room all moved to the area immediately in front of the stage.  Much like last night, you could hear a pin drop when he was playing.  There was no sound bleed from the cover band playing at the other part of the bar, and several people left that party to enjoy Jon, and they too were quiet.  This made for an excellent vibe.  Jon really dug in to the guitar on, "Worried Messenger" and Hank Williams' "California Zephyr," and the quieter songs "Broken White Line," "Clementine" and "Yadkin River Blues" were absolutely brilliant - and those were the exact songs customers inquired about when they visited me to inspect the CDs during the break.  My personal highlight was "Miss Lucy Gray," a song written by Big Boy Henry who was a huge inspiration to a young Jon Shain at the beginning of his professional music career 25+ years ago.  Thankfully, I caught it on video, something I had failed to do the one time he played it on the last European Tour.  A link to this video accompanies the setlist below.

The 2nd set was not as strong.  "Buckdancer's Choice" is another rarity, and Jon himself wasn't happy with his reading of it, but hopefully he will continue to have at it because it is a gorgeous little melody.  "All Your Neon Dollars" is growing on me, but I wish it had more guitar work in it.  And "Like The Ocean" is one of his songs that I ALWAYS dig because of the low guitar rolls during the verses and the general upbeat feel of the song.  The crowd, which had laughed heartily at a few of Jon's jokes, also listened carefully to the lyrics of "Cut-Out Bin" and offered a few group chuckles in response to some.  However it was again the slow songs to which this crowd responded the most -  "Cornershops and Subway Trains," "Careless Love" and an absolutely gripping "Pretty Peggy-o," the latter of which I really wished I had video'd, but my magic phone box was having issues.  Finally, Jon closed the set with "Little Red Hen" which had a rousing sing-a-long.  It was a VERY loud sing-a-long.  In fact it was the loudest I had heard at a Jon show in quite some time.  Perhaps this helped serve to inspire him to throw out spy movie, Birdland and Purple Haze riffs.  When he returned to the stage he complimented the crowd on its singing, asked if anyone would like another sing-a-long song AND THEY SAID NO.  Hilarious.  I wanted to hug them.  In my estimation, unless you are Peter, Paul and freaking Mary, you don't do two sing-a-longs in a row.   Instead he tore up "One Way Gal" to end the show with another taste where his career began.

Jan was our host, and he was eager to get home, so we hustled back and quickly went to bed.  Unfortunately, we would not meet his wife as she was asleep upon our arrival, and off to learn to fly a glider when we woke up.  Our bedroom had a wall of posters from Jan's previous production company, and since his wife's name is Maria, and given that Jon's wife is also named Maria, it was pretty funny to see them all signed to, "Jan and Maria."  

I fell asleep quickly, but once again woke up in the middle of the night (like the two other times, this was with no alarm, it just happened) and flipped some of the MLB Playoffs audio on my IPod and was treated to the last ten innings of the longest game (by time) in postseason MLB history.  I group texted during it with Jefferson Waful (who was at an EDM show at MSG) and David Saslavsky (who was blowing off some show due to the same game).  I had to go under the covers to text so as not to wake Jon as we were sharing a room that night.  It felt very sleepover summer camp'y.

We woke up late, I was baseball-blurry-eyed, but I fought through thanks in large part to Jan's two fantastic dogs, and the need to pick his brain about the history of the bar that had intrigued me the night before.  We had a delicious and beefy breakfast, took some pics for FB and then beat it on down the line.

Jon's audience-enhanced version of the previous of "Little Red Hen" inspired me to tell him the story about my moments with Taj Mahal at a recent music festival I attended in Virginia......but anyone who wants to hear that one will have to ask me in person.  We made our way to Almelo for a festival play, and a very special gathering that would render me able to see a variety of music.  Oh yeah, baby.


Cafe 'tKeerpunt
Spijkerboor, NL
October 4, 2014

Worried Messenger
Ordinary Cats
Broken White Line
California Zephyr
Lucy, Don't You See
Miss Lucy Gray  video
Louisiana Blues
Yadkin River Blues
Peace Like a River
Buckdancer's Choice
Station Master
All Your Neon Dollars
Cornershops + Subway Trains
Like The Ocean
Careless Love
Cut-Out Bin
Pretty Peggy-o
Little Red Hen
One Way Gal