The American Library in Paris has a small reading room that they have been using for author events some evenings. They clear the tables out, arrange the chairs in rows, and put a podium with a built-in PA system and authors give readings, do Q&A, etc. The room also has an upright piano and it was conceived that perhaps having the occasional music event would be a nice cultural event in itself, but might also bring in some new faces who could see what the library is all about. And it’s pretty neat, too…it’s a great, well-stocked library of English language books, very up to date. Grant, my friend and contact for the show, even showed me the rare books collection kept out of public view. Marlene Dietrich donated the contents of her library upon her death in the early 90s. She had many books from well known figures in cinema and other arts, who inscribed dedications to her; even more interesting are the biographies of herself that read and made notes in, in her all caps handwriting. “WHAT ARE THEY TALKING ABOUT, I ALWAYS HATED CATS” was one memorable correction.
During the day I had a fairly normal Sunday, the last Sunday I will wake up in my own bed this year, as far as I can tell. We went to the market, had a nice lunch at home. I was making a few updates to mixes during the day but generally seen around the house. At 3, I met cellist/singer Lauren van Kempen, who is my neighbor, and a former Seattleite herself. We didn’t know each other until just a couple of weeks ago, introduced by our mutual Seattle friend Thos. We met at my studio and rehearsed the parts for the show. Meanwhile, I got a call from Dom…sick as a dog. She’d been fine at lunch, but something had gone horribly wrong, and she was violently ill. I couldn’t tell if I was next. And, Lauren’s boyfriend had reported sick with a GI malady that morning. Uh oh.
She and I cabbed to the library, and Grant met us, and we hung out until the library closed at 7 for general purposes, and set up for our event. The piano was sharp (think brittle old strings getting cold and tightening up) so she and I tuned to it, and I hoped the best for the harmonica. I was a little in doubt we’d get many people out on a Sunday night in the 7eme, which is not really a nightlife place, but the library has special powers and is I believe a very important cultural landmark for a lot of expats. I think it would be even more so for me if I didn’t live on the other side of Paris but even still, I plan to take in library events now and then. If you live in Paris, or even if you don’t but are interested in the activities there, sign up for their news letter–even better if you become a member and help them stay afloat. It had been years since I’d been in a civic library in the US, and I think I popped into the public library of the 11eme once to get some books and videos for Aden. They are great things, libraries, really kind of magical in a way. And here, the seats filled up, with people in their 20s on up to white haired seniors. Almost no one I’d seen at a Paris show of mine before. And we had a wonderful time. Grant had asked if I could include some storytelling/song background, a little bit of info along with the music, which I thought was a great idea. I wasn’t as articulate as I could hope, and really should have proclaimed my love of Pynchon, Saunders, Tristan Egolf et al and their influences on my work, esp since Tristan had his breakthrough in Paris. I did discuss the Lord Byron references in “4am Birds” so I got that part covered. Lauren joined me as vocalist on “Superwise” “History Buffs” and of course “Doesn’t It Remind You” and she cello’d on “4am Birds” and “Any Love”. And, as a bonus, Grant had requested “Lover’s Hymn”, I was delighted to find former Seattleite Terry Lee Hale at the show and got him up for an impromptu guitar solo/fills part on it while I played the piano. Throughout the night I made a running gag by focusing on the piano’s dead key, a “G” two 8va above middle C. All in all, a very successful gig in that I think 90% of the people there were hearing me for the first time. There were also some Posies fans, who were in need of an update on my whereabouts. Lauren was brilliant, despite having taken a lot on on short notice. Her boyfriend even made it, in the end, fairly recovered from his earlier illness. We all cabbed back together, with a taxi driver who was bizarrely obsequious–“ah, a great artist, yes, a great artist, surely”.
I dropped my stuff at my studio and walked home, and found Dom still up watching TV, still reeling from her earlier troubles; she was about 50% green and 50% grey.
This week before I headed to Amsterdam I was deeply involved in Eva Auad’s mixing. Starting to see the light there, mastering these songs at last, and the new vocals from Brussels were really helpful.
On Wednesday I was up very early, and out the door before the girls were up to go to school–tho it didn’t stop Aden from calling for me, to have a last snuggle. It’s funny how Aden can be so standoffish and appear to be repulsed by her parents, and then go 180 degrees the other way and need cuddles and hugs. This morning she was very sweet seeing me off.
I trained up to Amsterdam, and headed over to my Amsterdam accom’s to drop my stuff–the multilevel flat of our old friend Toets, whom we’ve known for pretty much all 20 of the years we’ve been coming to Holland. She has a really nifty flat with many twists, turns, nooks & crannies, more vertical than horizontal in layout, like many Amsterdam houses. In fact, the other Posies had been staying here too, for the interregnum between the Spanish and Dutch shows. After popping by there, I jumped the train to Hilversum, and found myself at the venerable Wisseloord Studios. It’s an over the top, super modern & deluxe place, with gigantic mastering suites, tons of writing and demo-ing nooks, and even a fully functioning restaurant that’s open to the public.
I was there to try my hand at writing with my frequent collaborator JB Meijers and Ilse deLange. Ilse is a major artist in Holland, and in fact originally had a breakthrough in the USA, her background is in a kind of Nashville zone. She and JB were tearing their hair out on a project that day (they are involved in a ton of different things, from working on Ilse’s on albums to writing and arranging a musical) so I ducked into a conference room and worked on editing the Posies acoustic songs we recorded in Spain last month. Then we had dinner, sushi, in the cafe. And then Ilse was ready: “so, we’re gonna write a song, yes?”. She’s pretty fearless. It wasn’t long before I was seated at their 100-year-old piano, JB was on a 12-string, and Ilse was singing, and we wrote a damn song! And a good one! Mission accomplished–we headed home. Ilse dropped us off at the train station and JB and I went to Amsterdam. We met up with Thos, whom I had met at Doe Bay and who I’ve been trying to meet up with for a video session ever since. Tonite we pulled it off–we went into a Belgian beer bar very near Centraal Station, and I played the piano for a version of “Shittalkers”, and by request, as much of “Imagine” as I could remember. JB followed on nylon string. It’s all on film. Then we headed to Leidseplein and found Toets, Jon, Brian, Remi from Cheap Star (who was working in studio with Jon that day) at a bar, where we closed out the night, and finally, the Posies & Toets ended up spinning records at Toet’s place.
Oooh. That hurt. Too many kinds of things to drink! Luckily, we weren’t in a hurry. We had lunch at BRU the organic, fair trade cafe not far from Toets, then Toets, Brian & I trained to Eindhoven. Jon rode with Remi, and we’d put most luggage and gear in Remi’s car. Joe was in Belgium visiting friends and they were going to come to Eindhoven and see the gig so he was sorted. We got to town early, and headed to the hotel. Always cold and damp this time of year in Holland (and yet, for my voice, strangely dry) so I didn’t feel motivated to head out on the town whatsoever. I went to the venue, a 5 minute walk from the hotel, at the appointed time. And got down to business. Eva Auad herself was waiting for us when we arrived—Eva had volunteered to learn “Licenses to Hide” and paid her own way to come to these shows; I’d told her about the band and played her a few things and she was curious. And always up for singing.
I was pretty excited all told–I’d had enough days off from the last Posies shows to feel recovered in terms of my voice and general strength, and I knew this show had sold well in advance. The building was buzzing tonite–rock stalwarts Kane were in the big room, and later that night, Shelia E was playing, with Marcus Miller sitting in on bass.
It was just one of those magic nights. One of my favorite Dutch Posies shows of all time. An incredible audience, great sound — let’s not forget to mention that tonite we were reunited with our long-time sound man and tour manager Menko Leeuw, who was on tour with us for all of “Amazing Disgrace” and all of “Success”, and it was great to have him there. A lot of old friends were in the house. And we were on fire. The energy was so hot in the room, and the feeling onstage was so good. We did at least 2 encores, with Eva joining us for “Licenses” and finishing with Jon & I doing some old chestnuts acoustic — “I May Hate You Sometimes” was in there, and we did a three-piece version of “You’re the Beautiful One” to close. Jon destroyed all his strings, playing the last songs on just a string or two. It was fun, epic, even. After the show, Denvis, from D Deadly, our support, had some Chateauneuf to share, and finally at 1am we headed down to see Shelia E. Except, it was more about her line check, the sound check was taking forever and I was exhausted. So…nite.
video from the show: Grant Hart/Broken Record
Somehow, the Burgerweeshuis, one of the classic venues in Holland, similar vibe to the the Vera–hosting Sonic Youth since 1985 and all that– even Husker Du played here (twice). We pulled into town and camped down in the basement dressing room, I got into reading the excellent book on the venue’s history. We had a soundcheck, then all checked into the former convent that was now our boutique hotel. Back to the club for dinner, an excellent one, and then back to the hotel to digest and try to not fall asleep. Jon’s guitar had kind of fallen apart after Eindhoven but with effort he put it back together. Another great show tonite. Really full house, great vibe, and despite the fact we were all tired, we pushed each other, and had fun. After the show, we closed out the club drinking downstairs with Simone and Alwin from Drive By Wire, some Dutch/Bosnian folks living in Belgium, and such.
Can it really be over so fast? Check out of the hotel was 11.30 so we headed to a nice cafe in Deventer for lunch and more coffee, then walked to the station and headed to the Schiphol, the Amsterdam airport, which also has a major train station, and is the closest train station to the P60, our venue. There we met Jon’s wife Tiz and her friends, so some of went with them and those who could not fit, cabbed. P60 is a very well run venue in a pretty generic if pleasant suburb of Amsterdam. Don’t know what it’s doing there but they get major bands, and I will say the staff and the general vibe there is amazing. In the end, this was a great show too, with a great crowd. We didn’t play a long encore tonite, as we had a bit of a curfew issue with DJs coming on after, but we weren’t pressured. I think we closed with “Beautiful One”. Eva sang with us again, excellent as ever. This might have been an even harder rocking show than the previous two. Again, as we were basically in Amsterdam, a lot of friends in the house. Members of bands I’ve worked with, Reveller & BEP were in the house. Jeroen, who puts out Eva’s records, came. And lots of old Amsterdam friends. A pretty lively party in the backstage room, til I had to get folks to the hotel. We cabbed to the Ibis hotel Schiphol, which has groovy neon lighting, a hotel bar, looked fun. Then we found out we were in the budget Ibis, 100 meters behind this one. Buzzzkilll. Still, we checked in and went back to the bar at the main Ibis just to say we did it. Then all in bed by 1.
Video from the show: Precious Moments
A private engagement. A fan wrote us to tell us she loved our songs, but wasn’t into the full rock show thing. So, she hired us to play a private event in a tiny coffeehouse in Arnhehm. Meanwhile, at the Biudget Ibis, the maid woke me up at 9.30 claiming this hotel had a 9.30 check out. I’d never heard of such a thing, but, these days, the customer is always wrong and subject to any number of inhuman demands, so I got up (I was getting up around then anyway), cleaned up, and was out of the room by ten. I went down to complain to the front desk–if you’re going to have such an unusual policy, at least *post* it somewhere or make it clear upon check in. Then I discovered I’d been had. Check out at this hotel is noon. The maid lied, just to get people out of the rooms so she could do her work early. I *really* complained–I mean, she knocked on a Do Not Disturb sign, that’s like…driving drunk at 100mph in a school zone. It the zenith of evil. I complained long and loudly to the front desk, who were at least horrified, and I will definitely be Yelping/etc. this.
Anyway, I had a nice brekkie at the airport, and we trained from there to Arnhem. Mariena, who put the event together, met us at the train station and we walked to the venue, which was delightful, friendly and fun. We plugged in our stuff, had some coffees, taped an acoustic video for a website in the office, and then whipped off a two-hour acoustic set, with songs from all 7 of our albums. We played “Compliment” from “Failure”. We played “Golden Blunders”, “I Guess You’re Right”, “Conversations”, “For the Ashes”, “You Avoid Parrties”. We did “Thirteen” by Big Star and a killer version of “Licenses to Hide” with Eva. And then we packed up and left, me downing a whiskey on the way out. My voice was a little tight from fatigue to start out with but it warmed up. The journey back to Paris, which is not yet complete, was hellish. Taking trains on Sundays in Holland is always a risk; there’s always track works going on. In the end, we had to take at least three trains, all of which encountered delays, just to get to Rotterdam to catch the Thalys home. Which we did, but…
Video from the show: Solar Sister
A wonderful tour. Sad to see those Posies go, tho my neck and, well, the rest of me, needs a break from the headbanging, high octane fun of the band.
train to Paris