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.
Almelo, The Netherlands
October 5, 2014
Luckier Than Most
Level It Out
All Your Neon Dollars
Song For Maria
If You Ever Flew Away
Peace Like a River
Brain Damaged Eggmen
Level It Out official video
Level It Out from Kapel Stage at Liedjesmakers Festival
Jon Shain's Reupholstered CD
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
Blind Boy & The Grillplates Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor
Half Way Station