Friday, October 3, 2014

De Bunker in Gemert, The Netherlands October 2

written by Rob Turner - Tour Manager

Rotaries can be confusing here.  There are multiple lanes surrounding a center island, and you better be in the correct lane to exit the way you want or you may end up on the wrong road.  And at the moment of decision it can be kinda hard to figure out on which side of the curved, cement lane dividers you need to be.  Thankfully, people here seem to signal and respect the rotary right of way.  In case any of you don't know - the vehicle **already in the rotary** has the right of way - NOT the vehicle entering the rotary.  This also serves as a shout-out to my peeps in Decatur, Georgia.....a city that on the one hand has gone rotary-happy, yet on the other hand harbors many citizens who seem to be struggling with this somewhat basic right-of-way concept.  Please share this paragraph with anyone who fits this description.  Public service announcement'd.

So yeah, as we were closing in on Gemert we delayed ourselves by ending up in the wrong lane in the rotary.....or roundabout.....or whatever, and then being forced to scramble to find a place to turn around.  And our rent-a-car is French, so most of the other drivers weren't exactly dying to help us out.  I think this is when I started singing my self-criticizing song parody of a certain David Bowie song, my version being, "Dumb Americans."  We had ahead of us a 3ish hour post-show ride back to Peter and Leni's in Steendam, so even though we had a quarter tank of gasoline (yes that was for you, Bloodkin-lovers) we went to get gas at a normal-looking Texaco.  Turns out it was also a car wash, car dealership, curio shop, convenience store....and the place at which it took us about 15 minutes to figure out how to gain access to the tank.  You guessed it, I was already singing our Bowie parody again.  It turns out you just have to push the damn thing in and it pops right out.  Not exactly engineering degree stuff.

We were pretty early (Jon was slated for a 9:30 sound check, latest starting gig of the tour), so when we saw some funky, marsupial'y-looking animals in a yard right off of the road we decided to swing the car around and took a look.  I walked up to the fence and took some pics of these kangaroo-like things....they might even have been kangaroos. Am not really sure. One of them seemed to be getting upset, so even though there was barbed-wire atop the fencing, I quickly high-tailed it out of there for fear that the bugger might bound over and Arjen Robben my face.  There were also sheep, but they seemed more than willing to just go along with whatever was happening.  We also were wow'd at a particularly enormous windmill, but didn't stop to gawk at that until the ride home.

After a pretty cool greek dinner (I had some sort of meat thing wrapped around feta and vegetables with a perfectly complimenting cucumber sauce which really sat well in my formidable belly) we made our way over to De Bunker.  I have to admit I was a little concerned because the only posters we had seen for the club had only the September shows on it.  Seemed like we might suffer from "early month gig" promotional syndrome (monthly posters put up late obviously are of no help to the gigs of the early month acts).  The club had most certainly promoted the show on its web site, and most say that is more important these days - although I am a firm believer in poster promotions, as these often reach people when they are out with like-minded music friends.  Oh yeah, his first name was also misspelled on the handbills I would later see, kind of a bummer, but not something about which we were in a position to freak out.

Also, a quick pre-dinner visit to the then-closed club had revealed that this was clearly a rock club - which can often be problematic for a solo acoustic performer.  Rock audiences can be fantastic (particularly those of some of my favorite bands), but they also seem to often not have the ability to shut up and listen to acoustic music for one song, let alone an entire performance.  I call those who represent extreme examples of this, "Starbuckers."  You know, cuz they can't shut up and pay attention to anything other than that which is most mainstream'y and/or because they behave in a music venue like they were in a loud coffee shop.

Some of my trepidation was also born out of my experience on last year's tour - which had begun in Sissoch, Switzerland.  Let me be clear - we had a great time there.  I took a wonderful, lengthy walk around the town only to return to the hotel room and find out that I had inadvertently locked Jon in the room.  Although this bummed me out for hours that night, time has revealed it to be a hilarious story I will tell the rest of my life.  My first-ever day as a Tour Manager, and I locked my act in a hotel room.  Gold.

Anyway the people who actually came to the Sissoch gig last year had been fantastic.  One guy showed up requesting Jon's version of Vigilante Man as he had seen the YouTube of Jon's Trayvon Martin tragedy-inspired version of the song (link is beneath tonight's setlist below).  Another woman had taken to line dancing during Jon's set, eliciting an impromptu version of Ray Charles' "What'd I Say" in the middle of Jon's own-daughter-inspired, "Song For JoJo."  But the gig had been a failure.  Not many more people showed up, and even though the venue paid Jon generously (the owner LOVED the show), we had been rendered discouraged.

So as we went back to the club after dinner, I couldn't help but be a bit pessimistic about this gig.  Neither of us wanted the Tour to start negatively like last year's had.

I had just over dinner mentioned how much I was already missing my little dog, when I walked into the club and was greeted by a very friendly dog about the same size as Birdie while my boy Bob Dylan was blaring over the speakers.....I was pretty pleased.  Soon I would meet Peter Snydres.  He is a former professional singer-turned club general manager (he actually referred to himself as the "social worker"), and a lively and friendly guy.  He showed us our little green room, gave us the skinny on Wifi, soundcheck, beverage and set length issues and he showed me how to climb into the unused balcony to shoot footage.  De Bunker is part of a complex that also includes a flat floor theater and a youth club.  All of it used to be a milk factory, but De Bunker had been a rock club since 1982.  They had three generations of employees there, ranging in age from 15 to the 72-year-old Jann Van Der Welf.  (Van Der Welf later seemed to be having the time of his life....but truth be told this may have been as much due to the fact that his doctor had told him that he was about to go off of dialysis as it was about Jon's stellar performance.)

But when Jon sound-checked about 30 minutes before show time almost no customers had yet arrived.  Not comforting.  This made it hard for me to enjoy the fact that the room had surprisingly excellent sound even though the balcony hung over 3/4's of it.  I had sequestered myself in the green room to work on my blog, catch up with email and reviewing some product that had been sent to the club for us....and worrying.  And usually I make fun of Jon for being the big worrier.  So, when I walked out for the beginning of the show and saw that a bunch of folks had arrived, I was very pleased.  And then Jon opened with a song I had never previously heard or seen, the gospel-tinged bluesy "Seven Thieves."  Nothing pleases this old music nerd like hearing one of my favorite artists perform brand new material.  Jon moved through his set with strength despite it being the first show of the tour.  The club's soundman Lawrence had the guitar and vocals sounding balanced, rich and clear.  Only his version of the piedmont blues song "The Letter" revealed any indications of rust.  He brought forth the European debut of "Den Bosch Blues" inspired by our experience in the elegant city of Den Bosch (just 40 kilometers from tonight's venue) during last year.  Much of Jon's set was received quite well, although they didn't seem to respond to his humor that much, and the highlight of the set, a stellar reading of Hank Williams' "California Zephyr," received tepid applause.  Jon also played two other brand new songs, one of which has not yet a title (I am hoping to name it myself :), and the other, "All Your Neon Dollars" referenced the Flagstaff Mountains, which I had visited last December with my girlfriend - and which also was brand new to me.

Sadly, I might have unintentionally elicited the best laugh out of the mostly-attentive audience (given that this was a rock club, I was very pleased).  Not that Jon is a comedian, but his between-song banter usually gets the crowd chuckling a few times during his performances.  Anyway, when I am at these gigs I keep pretty busy.  Over the course of the night I shoot video on my li'l magic phone box, sell cds, take notes, keep a setlist, chat with venue staff, work on these long-winded blogs, GroupMe with Jefferson Waful and David Saslavsky, scour the Internet for tour promotion possibilities and I think there is other stuff I do too just can't think of it all at this moment.  So, when at one point I heard Jon ask where I was and say he needed a beer, I quickly grabbed a one out of the fridge.   I hadn't been drinking myself, so I didn't know where the bottle opener was.  It took me a few seconds to find it, crack the beer open and bound down the stairs.  But one of the ladies at the front table had beaten me to it, and I got downstairs just in time to see her hand a delicious-looking high gravity adult beverage to Jon.  So, I shrugged my shoulders and took a huge swig off of the beer.  Crowd loved it.  Great prelude to an introduction of this wing-man - although it didn't turn into as many cd sales as I would have liked.


Jon Shain
De Bunker
Gemert, NE
October 2, 2014

Seven Thieves
The Letter
Den Bosch Blues
Ordinary Cats
Getaway Car
California Zephyr
Yadkin River Blues
Dram Lest We Get Dry  video
If You Ever Flew Away
Peace Like a River
Cut-Out Bin
Ten Days
Level It Out
One Way Gal
untitled new song
All Your Neon Dollars
Let The Mermaids Flirt With Me
Love Is a Lovely Thing
Ooncha Ooncha Music
Meet Me In The Morning

More related links -

Bloodkin reference

Arjen Robben reference

Jon Shain Vigilante Man video

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