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
October 6, 2014
Loan Me a Year
Luckier Than Most
Level It Out
To Rise Again
Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning
Love Is a Lucky Thing
No Need To Know
Invite You In
Funfair (You Mean To Me)
Some Day In Spring
Please Leave Me For Her
Tot Je Er Bent (w/Johanneke playing a saw)
The Day Is Done
Comes a Time
On a Bench, In The Park, Next To You
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