Tour Diary – Germany: Hamburg, Hannover and Berlin (Nov 3 – 5, 2011)

Has it really already been a year? At the end of our European tour last November we decided to take a year off the road. Our most extended break in over a decade. There were a couple of one-offs that we couldn’t pass up like in Budapest and Beijing, but we haven’t seen the inside of a tour bus for twelve months: funny how it seems like only a month or so ago that we battled the bus from hell across Northern Europe.

It has certainly been a busy year. After we got home from Europe we finished off Demons, we recorded and released Sing In My Meadow and have made huge inroads into volume 4, The Wilderness. I also recorded and released a couple of albums for Latent: Ivy Mairi’s No Talker and Cootes Leland’s Trail Of Smoke, as well as working on a number of other smaller projects in our studio. Perhaps that is why this year has passed so quickly.

Hamburg (Nov 2 and 3)
It’s always hard to get going again. The disruption on the home front is always unsettling. My way to assuage the guilt of leaving is to go around the house changing all of the burnt out light bulbs. Once that is done I feel that I have left the family on a firm footing. The flight across the pond was thankfully uneventful (except for the $1700 excess baggage fee) and we arrived in Hamburg without the loss of a single bag or instrument case. On Day 1 the only struggle was to try and stay awake long enough to trick ones internal clock in to readjusting to the time change. Fat chance. The 3am wake-up is inevitable, you’d think we would have learnt by now.

Day 2 was gig day. It was a new venue for us, Fabrik, located in an old factory of some sort: a very beautiful old building (in an industrial kind-of-way) that has been intelligently reconfigured. When we walked in we weren’t quite sure of what it would sound like, but we were quickly won over at soundcheck. Tonight’s show was the type of gig that is responsible for keeping bands like us out on the road for 25 years. One of those magic gigs where the sound on stage is perfect and each player is reacting to what the other is doing, where the band moves as a single organism, growing, growling, collapsing and reacting as a unit. It’s the type of gig that when one comes off stage you think, “I never, ever want to stop doing this”. The audience was also in tune and was willing to come along for the ride as we dipped deeply into The Nomad Series and Sing In My Meadow in particular. The songs on volume 3 are particularly fun to play live and I have a feeling their intensity will grow over the coming years.

Hannover (November 4)
We were due for a bit of a letdown. All of the travel, a couple of days and nights of fighting jetlag and all of the energy spent on the first gig was bound to take its toll. We have never been to Hannover, but it was hard to do too much exploring, my body is confused and sometimes it’s best to just stay relatively still and let it orientate itself. It was a nice enough venue tonight, but it seemed set up for more of a rock band: a very high stage and a PA that was much too powerful for the room. Jared had trouble controlling the sound out front and consequently we had a tough time finding our sound on stage. It wasn’t a terrible night, but not nearly as good as last night. It was more like work tonight, but enjoyable work. Once again the audience was terrific. We have been, and where possible will continue, dividing the show into two hour long sets and reserving the entire first set for songs from The Nomad Series and then playing the “hits” and some obscurities in the second set. It seems to be working and, so far, the audiences seem to be reacting well to the concept.

Berlin (November 5)
Last night was our first night on the bus although we sat all night outside the gig and didn’t move until 7:30 this morning. A four hour trek along the autobahn isn’t the best way to start a day, but what can you do, this is Europe, you roll with the punches. Berlin is one of those cities that you can’t really get a feel for on just one visit. We have been coming here for over two decades (our first time was right before the wall came down) and I can’t say that I have figured this place out. All I know is that it’s got the energy and insanity of all the great cities of the world. It’s always a pleasure to come here. One nice feature about this bus is that all of the bunks have windows in them. This morning I lay in my bunk, watching Berlin roll by on this beautiful fall morning.

This is our fourth time playing this venue (Passionkirsche) and yet I’m still not exactly sure where it is located in Berlin. The neighbourhood surrounding it is very active and full of young families. The square across from the church was occupied by a flea market today and the food market just beyond was full of families out for a late breakfast. I spent some time wandering through the neighbourhood’s old graveyard which was especially spectacular in its fall colours. I even saw a few types of warbler-ish birds that I’ve never seen before. If I had a life list I’d have something to add to it.

The Passionkirsche is a beautiful and still active church that has a lot of musical events, although most of them are acoustic. It’s always a little tricky turning up the amplifiers in here. Fortunately we have some experience dealing with its sonic challenges. We had a magical gig tonight. It wasn’t as musically locked in as the Hamburg show but there was fantastic energy and there seemed to be a real communion between the band and audience: really fun night on both sides of the stage.

That wraps up the German leg of the tour….tonight it’s an overnight drive to Belgium and a day off In Bruges.