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


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