Sunday, 31 January 2010

Weather report

Woke up to a foot of snow in Parma this morning. Slept in a hostel
again. Own room in a new place, but hostels are not starred. The
breakfast was run by a little Napoleon who fussed over his domain. All
the drinks were out of machines, the croissants could hold open doors
and the breakfast was recycled cardboard.

The dinner lastnight was very nice. The Booker emailed ahead to get
pizza off the menu. It was a nice rice dish instead.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Caffee Letterario, Parma IT

A noisy restaurant. Tough long shows, especially when the crowd
doesn't understand a word you're saying. Parma is nice though.

La Salumeria del Rock, Arceto IT

- Surprise!
She was right. It was a surprise. We'd met in Amsterdam a few months ago and had a brief thing. I said she was welcome to join me on the road anytime, not thinking she would take me up on the offer, or would at least give me some warning. But no, here she was in  Reggio Emilia's crowded train station.
- I had to be in Pisa for a photo and saw that you were playing there so I thought I'd surprise you.
She came from Greece, she had a zest for knowledge. She studied sculpture, art and Butoh dance.
- I thought I'd come and see what life is like on the road.
She was disappointed. After three days of long train rides, long waits to play in small clubs, and me, someone who prefers to be on their own, to put it mildly, she flew back to Greece. It wasn't the romantic adventure she'd had in mind.

Lego Cafè, Cesena IT

The last of the crowd in Cesana.

Another day another show.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Pao, San Benedetto del Tronto, Italy

I’m at the Italian seaside. In January. Who plans these things? It’s raining which I’m pleased about. I’ve been carrying a heavy fisherman-sized umbrella around in my guitar case and now I have the satisfaction of using it.

San Beneditto is very charming. More palm trees than I’ve ever seen in my life. In the summer it’s the No. 1 Italian tourist destination but now it is all boarded up. The only beach bar still open is Pao, owned by Paolo. He’s been a fantastic host and it was a trip to eat with an Italian George Clooney doppelganger. I had a day-off today due to a cancellation and him and his girlfriend showed me around. Italians are rarely short on personality.

In the winter there is only one place each night with something going on. Tuesday’s is the live music in Pao. Wednesday’s is Dochs (docks) the sailor hangout and drag queen bar. They were miming which always is disappointing. I like my drag queens to give a full show. I didn’t ask what they do on a Thursday. I leave it to your imagination. (Back to lookalikes, there was a guy in Dochs who was the spitting image of Mickey Rourke. He was a fashion designer for brands like Vivian Westwood. I think he liked me).

The show went well. People only turned up at 12 o’clock. Few understood what I was singing about but they appreciated the sentiment.

In other news, I see that the iPad is official. I will have to get one in the interests of weight. My laptop is a brick. I will wait for the second generation though which will have a data connection, and try to get a contract for worldwide connection. It’s a real chore chunking around the bars, bags and all. Bowing clumsily through the door (the guitar bag adds two feet to my height), I shuffle around the corners, laptop held high, trying to detect a precious connection while the whole bar goes quiet. It’s one of the aspects of life on the road that I could most do without.

The other most problematic aspect of travelling is the food. It tastes fabulous in Italy of course. Unfortunately it seems to be restricted to pizza, pasta, pizza, pasta, pizza, pasta, cheese, pizza, pasta, cheese, cheese and cheese. One has to wonder where they get their nutrients. At least now I know everyone has a beeday. The mixture comes out like treacle. A spatula would be more use than toilet paper. Without regular bullets of espresso I don’t think you could get it through the system.

Tea comes with free cake.

It is certainly something to see an Italian drink a coffee. The whole process, from paying at one end of the bar, to drinking it another, is accomplished in under 60 seconds. A thimble-full of coffee is quaffed in an instant and they’re on their way. For a laidback, slow-moving society it is the last thing you’d expect. The Americano option, developed for those brought up on tea, was not even available in the village bar when I went up into the mountains with Paolo to see a printer he was working with.

Starbucks insidious ways hold no attraction here and there are no places you don’t see people walking around with ¼ gallon cups of warm milk with a shot of coffee in them. If only McDonalds had met with a similar fate. Unfortunately, they seem to approve. Which brings me full-cycle, so to speak, to my digestion.

The strain on my processor has been such that it almost evacuated with delight upon hearing the news that their was an Indian restaurant opposite the station in Accura. With its promise of hearty lentils and soothing rice we all breathed a sigh of relief. The digestive spices and calming herbs have been refined in their most agreeable mixture over thousands of years. No celebrity chef with an art degree deciding that vinegar, caramel and frozen mango are good for the palette, and to hell with the stomach.

Moving on, there are two more areas of difficulty,  namely getting enough sleep (as this is my priority above all else and I’m willing to be late rather than sacrifice time, I usually do alright) and alcohol. I spend every night in a bar and as soon as I walk in I’m offered a drink. Whenever I respond by saying that I am already perfectly well hydrated, I’m met with a puzzled look and the inarguable retort :”But you drink for free”.

If the initial wave of hospitality can be ridden, then the lubricant is often resorted to as the purposeless hours after the soundcheck and dinner, and before the show, drag on interminably.

Finally, to squeeze my spleen of its remaining sediment. The final area of grit is conversation. Having a conversation is very much like making love. Clumsy, quickly repetitive and easy to blame the other person when it’s not going well.

My sanity is becoming severely affected. I look forward with dread to the predictable hail of questions that will come with every new introduction. Because I am the act… and foreign…  and doing something they’d like to do… and with a story to tell… they will always reel off the same ten questions in the exact same order, no matter which country I’m in.

Just as I often try to think of ways to improve my live act, I have been devoting some time to thinking of ways to turn this negative in a positive. I believe there is no such thing as a bad audience, only a bad performer. Every exchange between two unique human beings who’ve never met before should be as equally unique.

Tactics to improve them currently before the committee, include answering every question with a question or giving entirely fictional accounts of my life. A more right wing idea is to explain my predicament to prospective parties and agree to a question-free conversation, with a €5 fine everytime an accidental question rears its head.

Monday, 25 January 2010

The coming week... Italy

Off to Italy today. The first show is there tomorrow. Everyone keeps asking me where I'm going exactly so here's a map.

26 Jan 2010 20:00
Pao San Benedetto del tronto
28 Jan 2010 20:00
Lego Cafè Cesena
29 Jan 2010 20:00
La Salumeria del Rock scandiano
30 Jan 2010 20:00
Caffee’ Letteratio di Parma Parma
31 Jan 2010 20:00
Exwide Pisa
1 Feb 2010 20:00
LaTanaDelleRane Reggio Emilia
2 Feb 2010 20:00
Officina Metropolis Livorno

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Orta Bar, Ljubljana Slovenia

It turns out that weekends are quiet in Ljubljana. Students and the workers leave town, so Saturday night, even in the big venue I played in, was dead quiet. The small audience did the best they could though. We worked together. I got offered another show in Graz (in Celje I got one in Maribour, so it all leads to something else).

I could stay here a few more days quite happily. It's a small, easy-going, walkable town. I met some very nice people through couch-surfing and have had thorough tours. I opted for a hotel for the last two nights just to have some quiet time to do booking. I'm doing Canada in May today. It's a weight that hangs on me - the trouble with doing everything is that you're always missing something. A good show means a late night which means less booking. The conflict. The ebb and flow of energy, and the power lost in the transition. Etc.
- - - - -
Roc was one of the guys who insisted on a guided tour. He always takes all the couchsurfers to a bookshop with a girl working there who he worships from afar. It has a few anarchistic tooms and he produces Slovenia's student magazine dedicated to the same course. I decided to put him out of his misery and invited the girl to the show as my guest, so he could get to know her.

However, he was thrown into a deep sweat by the prospect and come the moment of truth, he didn't come. I was left on my own to entertain her and her friend after the show. We went to Metelkova, an old army barracks that had been squatted and turned into a commune. The crowd was either very young or very old with few inbetween.

We wandered in and out of makeshift bars and clubs across the grounds. A drink in each and the night soon wore on. The pretty little object of Roc's affections seemed to becoming affectionate to me and the moral dilemma, the cruelest of the seven dilemmas, presented itself. In a sudden fit of what I later took to be my conscience, though it could have been indigestion, came to my mind. I made my excuses and stumbled back to the hotel.

Stepping into the elevator I noticed an advert for a nightclub in the basement. My hand hovered over the buttons. Up to slumber or down to sin. Still grumbling from the opportunity lost I chose down.

The elevator opened on to a huge ballroom with loud music, red velvet curtains and plush fittings. A classic nightclub scene except for the lack of people. I looked around finally to round on a group of three blond girls sitting alone at the bar. The knowledge that it was too good to be true only dampened my enthusiasm slightly.

- The girls drink champagne
The bartender said, in a husky voice. I bet they do.
- You have to ask them for the price
Cursing my luck, I rolled into the elevator and away from temptation.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Celje Slovenia

This is Kosta who organised my show here in his hometown. I met him in
Germany last year where we were both touring. He's a great character.
He was in one of Slovenia's biggest bands in the 70s, then he ran the
biggest nightclub, now he builds guitars for the top Slovenian acts.
Lots of tales to tell.

The show went well. A nice crowd battled through the snow. I stayed in
the hostel and visited Kosta in his workshop in the afternoon.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

The Flying Pig, Vienna AU

Another one on the list of strange places I've played. Up until three
years ago it was a whorehouse run by the Croatian Mafia. They sold
guns and drugs and during the war the rival gang heads would meet
there and settle disputes. There's even a cell in the basement.

It's now a bar run by Paul, an English guy, and for the first year and
a half he was open the Austrian police still had the place under 24hr
surveillance from an empty flat across the road.

He still can't get a music licence so doesn't have many live shows.
They have to be acoustic and can't be listed, but for a Tuesday night
it was a fair-sized crowd. He gets acts over from England and has had
people like Frank Turner in, so my stuff went down well.

Paul also plays in a mod band and they've been in the charts here, and
I can get a gig supporting them next time I'm back. They've supported
Paul Weller five times.

It seems that quite a few countries have a mod-influenced band who
support Paul Weller when he's in town. In The Netherlands there were
my friends in Supersub, and in Spain I know there's a guy called
Cooper. It must be strange to be Paul Weller, the Modfather,
travelling around. And reminds you what an iconic period the early 60s

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Cafe Carina, Vienna AU

I played at Graham Freespirit's birthday party under one of the subway stations. It was more like Hamburg than Vienna. Rough and ready. A noisy crowd. Just did half an hour. Went round the Belvedere in the daytime. Got my fill of art in these few days that's for sure.

Life can be so much easier when you've had enough. When you're saturated by humanity and truly tired of its dogma. You can behave with a carefree freedom normally the preserve of the rich or the mentally handicapped, dispensing with all the normal protocols.

For example, we'll get a taxi back to your place.
- Sorry? We've only just met
It's that kind of thinking that has held back mankinds development.
- I don't think so.

She had a small apartment and even smaller bed.
- What are you doing?
The only way to sleep in a single bed is to top-and-tail.
- This isn't very romantic.
Some people have said my feet are my best feature.

We spent the next few days wandering around Vienna. Both with that holiday feeling, when we weren't really on holiday. The only downside was her small bed.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Day off, Vienna AU

The best city so far by far. I've cone to the Leopold museum to see
some Klimt up close. Truly stunning.

Thinking more about the need for a story, I've decided to play every
European country this year. Not just the 21 member states member
states but the 50 that are categorised as Europe. I was planning on
playing most of them anyway, but this means a little more effort
playing the smaller ones. Vatican City for example, will be a tricky

I'm staying with a very nice couchsurfing host, Alexander, who's
letting me stay for three or four days. It's nice to be settled.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Triebwerk, Wien Neustadt AU

First show of the year for the club. The only one this month. And they
normally book punk so it was very nice of them to have me. The booker
liked my story. Reminds me that it's always good to have a story.

A local (Ella pictured) opened up and we sang the encore together. I'm
adding a few more touches to the show like that, singalongs, whistles
and bells. Got to keep their attention. I've tried the loop pedal in
soundchecks but it seems to be malfunctioning.

There were a few more talkers in the audience than the other nights.
I'm getting better at picking on them. It's just like being a stand-
up, you have to instill a sense of fear in an audience or they won't
respect you.

The venue put me up in the towns hostel. This big old building in the
middle of the park. I was the only person there and it gave me the

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Roda, Steyr AU

Strange to come to a town in a country I've never been to and see my face all over town.

The crowd were good again. I'm almost sold out I'd CDs. Boxes are being posted to cities along the route but I missed the pickup in Zurich.

I slept in a room backstage above the venue and three times throughout the night drunk guys came in to crash in the other bunks. I was ticked off by the end.

But I did get up early and had a nice look around the town. Steyr is very pretty, medieval. And everyone at the venue was very friendly - even doing my washing for me. The hospitality has been tremendous.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Weekender, Innsbruk CH

Sometimes I think being British helps with the booking, but yesterday I was certain of it. The venue was a shrine to Britpop. All Vespas and Union Jacks.

A big place - an old steel factory. Surreal to come to Austria for the first time and find a British venue.

Even the toilets were Rock and Roll.

I didn't get to see much of Innsbruk. In and out. But it has towering mountains all around and funny to see people carrying their skis around, even in the supermarket.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

The rail way

On the train for real now (before I'd only been city-hopping in
Switzerland) and it's very nice I can tell you. My US work permit
meant that I could buy the Eurorail ticket from the States so it was
cheaper, and first class, go figure. The trains are pretty comfortable.
I can't believe I was originally going to drive it all. Through the
snow and ice. Getting into a cold car everyday. Worrying about where
to park it, and if it's going to get towed, ticketted or broken into.
As well as all the hours of concentration driving. I've toured Germany
before by car (and even campervan) and when I think how uncomfortable
and problematic that was (crashing the campervan and taking a car that
had Dutch summer tyres into East Germany stand out in the memory) I
curse those decisions. Never again. Europe is for the train.
I just found out that Canada would also work by train, but it's too
late as I already have shows planned and a car booked. Next year.

While the Austrian trains have Panorama carriages. And my guitar gets a first class seat. He likes it here. 

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

The Cult Bar, St. Gallen CH

My audience in St. Gallen. Quite quiet but it is Wednesday. They were
generous and I'll come back on a busier night. I have to play the
quiet days of the week as well when touring.
I have to confess to being a bit tired. Working all day on the
computer booking, then travelling and playing a show until late drains
the batteries. The booking is going well though. I couldn't tell you
the name of the bar I'll be playing in on Saturday but I know exactly
where I'll be in six months. That's where my heads at.

St. Gallen is the wood carving capital of Switzerland

You think they'd have given him more warning...

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Bosch Bar, Zurich CH

Before the big run. A three kilometer sledge ride through the woods
with Imre, the guy I'm staying with and his friend Ulia. We took the
train up the mountain after dinner and took about an hour to get down.
It was a blast.

Zurich is an easy city to get along with. We like each other a lot.
The show went really well. It's the second time I've played the city
and it clicks with the people here. The Bosch bar is run by volunteers
every Monday night in an old warehouse and only gets going at 12
o'clock. It was thick snow but still a good turnout.

I'm staying with Imre again tonight. Two nights in the same place on
tour feels like a week. Time moves so slowly, in a good way. The days
are full and fattened. I'm taking it all in.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Fassbeisz, Schaffhuesen CH

Hanging out with the boys in the ornate town of Schaffhausen, 2
minutes from Switzerland. A nice little bar. Not many out for a Sunday
but we entertained each other. I thought it was in a fancy restaurant
but that parts closed Sunday. I had to make do with the bar snacks...
food is one of the highlights of the day so that was a shame. The B&B
was nice, run by a couple, also musos.

Henk Langeveld

I'm very sad to hear about the death of Henk Langeveld. He was a sweet guy and a staple of the Amsterdam music scene. Long may he sketch in peace.

Sunday, 10 January 2010


Nomad articles catch my eye

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Day off, Basel

A beautiful city. You can walk from the West part in France, across
the middle in Swtizerland, up to Germany in the North in about an hour.

I'm staying with Anthony and Nina who I know from Amsterdam. They've
been great hosts. Anthony cooked a smoked Aubergine curry for dinner.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Gare de Lion, Wil, Switzerland

Off again at last. I'm looking forward to a great year. 200 shows is the plan. Switzerland is a great place to start. I have my Eurorail pass and it's stress-free without a car I can tell you.

It's picture-postcard stuff here. Everything is super-perfect and pristine. Excellent quality. But uber-expensive. The shows pay well and as long as I don't buy anything I should be fine.

I was in Zurich yesterday and that's all watch shop and chocolate boxes and bankers offloading their bonuses and inflating everything. €5 for the cheapest of coffee. Everything is twice the price.

I'm all set for the travelling though. Honed my bags down to the bare essentials. It takes quite some thought I can tell you and my little luxuries (smoking jacket, slippers, etc.) had to stay behind. I still have too much. The fruit and the sleeping bag will have to go.

- - - - -
The show itself went well. I made the usual mistake of trying too many new things in my enthusiastic mood: new songs from the holidays, loop pedal, getting people onstage to sing along on one (no-one would), getting the crowd to sing along on another (half did). It was a nice venue. Good crowd and I sold quite a few CDs. Bodes well for the coming Swiss dates. All is well.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010


Just got some nice photos from a shoot I did with Judith Dekker in the Nieuwe Anita in December just before my last show of the year. She has a really nice Hasselblad camera. You can tell the difference from digital. Check out the rest here

Monday, 4 January 2010

On the road again

Getting ready for the first shows. It will be good to be back on the road. I had a lovely Christmas and New Year. Hope yours was too

07/1   Gare de Lion, Wil, Switzerland
09/1   House concert, Basel, Switzerland*
10/1   Fassbeiz, Schaffhausen, Switzerland
11/1   Bosch Bar, Zurich, Switzerland
13/1   Cult Bar, St. Gallen, Switzerland
14/1   Weekender, Innsbruck, Austria
15/1   Röda, Steyr, Austria
16/1   Triebwerk, Wiener Neustadt, Austria
18/1   Cafe Carina, Vienna, Austria
19/1   The Flying Pig, Vienna, Austria
21/1   House concert, Budapest, Hungary*
22/1   TBC, Celje, Slovenia
23/1   Ort Bar, Ljubljana, Slovenia
26/1       Pao Long beach, San Benedetto del Tronto, Italy
28/1       Lego Cafè, Cesena, Italy
29/1       La Salumeria del Rock, Arceto, Italy
30/1       Caffee' Letteratio, Parma, Italy
31/1    Leninrad Cafe, Pisa, Italy
01/2   La Tana Delle Rane, Reggio Emilia, Italy
07/2   TBC, Barcelona, Spain
10/2   TBC, Madrid, Spain
12/2   TBC, Seville, Spain
16/2   TBC, Paris, France
21/2    Dimensione, Winterthur, Switzerland
24/2    Café le Ve, Vevey, Switzerland
25/2    La Catrina, Zürich, Switzerland
26/2   Musig Bistrot, Bern, Switzerland
03/3    Steinbruch, Duisburg, Germany
04/3    Quiet Man, Bonn, Germany
05/3    Prinz Willy, Kiel, Germany
06/3    Freundlich & Kompetent, Hamburg, Germany
07/3    House concert, Kassel, Germany*
08/3    House concert, Eindhoven, The Netherlands*

*For information email
Follow updated schedule at