25 Minutes en Retard…. The train is late. We’re in Troyes, France. We had to wake up at 6:30 to catch a 7:30 train to Nantes where we are playing tonight. For some reason we need to be awake this early because we have a sound check today at 2:30 pm. Really??? I’m pretty sure that this could have been avoided. In any case here we are on the train platform. It’s a little cold. Mid October and still dark here in this part of the world. You can see your breath when you breathe. We’re all tired but we’re all joking. A lot of people have written about our band and talk about the styles that we play. They say that we’re genre less or genre-bending or as Ben likes to say “gender-bending”. One of the tags that stuck for a while was that we have the “swagger of hip-hop”. This is funny to us especially this early in the morning, being this tired after having played last night. We’re imagining concerts where out of nowhere we pull guns from our waistbands and yell “SWAGGER OF HIP HOP!!!”, shooting up the club. Anyhow. Here we are. Two concerts in to this European run and as Adam says, it feels like we’ve been out for a month. Last night’s show was a lot of fun. It was in a theatre in Troyes (which is a city that is named after what used to be “three” towns…). Phillipe, one of the promoters was our kind guide throughout the day. He was a principal in a high school for 40 years, in Troyes. He dealt with all sorts of situations. There were kids on drugs, suicides, and exhibitionists sneaking onto campus. But now he is happily retired, driving jazz musicians to the concert and drinking lots of wine at dinner. We played in a beautiful theatre with an audience of people who are new to our music and were a mix of different ages. I feel like we’re learning to play for people like that. We’re always learning to play for people that don’t know our music. Ideally that’s what you want to do on tour right? Play for different people. So that’s what we got to do and I feel like it went well. Tomorrow we’ll be in Nantes and I think we’ll do the same.
We started in Tilburg, Netherlands. I arrived there first taking the train from Amsterdam. The country is so small that going from Amsterdam to Tilburg in the south by train takes under two hours. When I got to the station Bartho, the musical director for the Paradox Jazz Club picks me up. He’s a tall nice guy who has been there at the club for years. He takes my by the club on the way to the hotel which is in the city center. It’s next to a café called café Kandinsky. He says they have great beer there. Too bad I cant’ drink beer anymore.
I take a three-hour nap and then when I wake up it’s time to meet the other guys who have all arrived, and we walk to the club for sound check. On the way there, we stop at a coffee shop that sparks Nate’s interest. The place is called “Sissy-Boy Homeland”. We take pictures in front of the sign then we head to the venue…. Our show is super fun. We’ve been playing a lot this month so we jump in where we left off in LA a week earlier. After the show, I’m having chest pains because I fell back in LA a week earlier… I take a cab to the urgent care clinic out side of town. A doctor there checks me out and says that I’m fine. 80 Euro to be told in five minutes that there’s nothing to worry about seems fine to me because now I don’t have to worry…
Instead of taking a cab back, I decide to walk through the streets just to take in some of Tilburg which Adam says was once the biggest wool producing city in Europe. It’s one thirty am. It’s dark and quiet. After forty minutes and a quick pit stop to eat “Kepsalon” the ubiquitous Dutch/Arab bar food (think donner kebab on steroids and garlic/mayonnaise sauce) I reach the hotel to hear that at 2am people are still drinking their brains out at the bars down the street. I collapse in bed and wake up 6 hours later to head to the train station to catch four trains to France….
I’m in a tube made of metal, plastic and blue rug fiber that is hurtling through the air at a scary speed. I left from Los Angeles 10 minutes ago and on this KLM Dutch flight. They have already turned off the seat belt sign so I could stand up and get my computer to write this. The Dutch are punks like that.
I’m flying to Europe to play more shows with the boys in the Netherlands, France, Switzerland and Prague. It’s been three weeks since the new Kneebody record “The Line” came out and we’ve been glad to tour and support it. It’s been about a week off since our east coast, Midwest and LA concerts. I was back in LA for the week, seeing my family and working in the studio on a couple of different things. The other four went in their own directions. I can say that as always, it is like home touring, playing and travelling with these guys. They are my brothers and we’ve all been through a lot together.
This tour so far has been beautiful. It was so great to start in New York. We got to play at WNYC for John Shaefer’s radio show. Thanks for having us John!! John is such a smart and righteously busy person. Why do I say righteously busy? Well he just seems like he has a ton on his plate and is one of the few people that seems to thrive and be able to do everything well and thoroughly. He astutely pointed out that Shane’s song “Cha-Cha” isn’t a Cha-Cha per se. Shane wasn’t phased by that. He played the shit out of his song. That night we played at Subculture in NYC which is a beautiful new theatre in the old Bleeker Theatre building. Great show! We played Brookyln at Shapeshifter. Such a great crowd there. For me it was great to meet the great bass player and owner of Shapeshifter Matt Garrison. We drove to Washington DC. There we played in an old church that had been completely and beautifully covered in bright colored paint. Murals everywhere. Inside the sanctuary were beautiful detailed animal murals that made the space beautiful to be in. It’s so great to get to DC again in a year. All I can think of when I’m in DC is Minor Threat, Fugazi, Dischord, Meshell Ndegeocello, Bad Brains, Henry Rollins, espionage and Richard Nixon. Then….Wait for it….We finally got to BOSTON!!!! Like Spinal Tap, for some reason it isn’t until NOW years after the band has started that we have finally played Boston. Don’t worry – it’s not much of a college town or anything…. There was a great crowd there for us at the café 939. They were so great that I had to give them the cookies that were backstage for us in the green room. Next time Boston, we’ll also bring MILK! That night, Ben, Shane and I spent the night at the parents’ home of our friend and fabulous musician/promoter Adam Schatz . Shane woke up the neighborhood at 1am with his car alarm that wouldn’t shut off. That said, I can’t say how grateful we are for kind and generous people like Adam’s folks. We really wouldn’t be a band if it weren’t for people like this who have helped us along the way all of these years. They had BBQ waiting for us when we got there. Adam’s dad chatted with us while we ate, asking us questions about our music and our lives. I slept in Adam’s brother’s old room adorned with awesome baseball memorabilia. I took a couple pictures to show OUR Adam (composer of “The Baseball Card Song”) the next day. The next morning we played at NEC and it was really nice to talk to some of the students who came to our clinic there. One of them, a singer asked me if we wrote our songs inspired by specific things. I told her that I do usually. We flew to Minneapolis where we played in St. Paul at the Artists’ Quarter. This place is an institution to musicians in the area. It was Nate’s birthday!! And be damned if he didn’t have a stomach virus. But anyhow, the show was awesome. Great crowd. But we’re saddened to learn that they are closing down after a long run. We actually have a bit of a curse with being one of the last bands to play great venues (see TONIC NYC and TEMPLE BAR LA)… We played Mcnally College the next day in St. Paul. The sound guy was playing Matt Chamberlain’s record (“Company 23”) that I played on during set up. Go Matt! It was a beautiful class lead by a beautiful and inspired professor. Straight from Mcnally we headed to the airport where we flew to Denver, Colorado. My mom was there. I stayed with her for the night. It was great to see her. Right after I got to her place I had some Persian food she made and we played cards till midnight. Yeah Mom! The next day we taught a masterclass at DU. Then, along with the great Denver bass player Kent Mcclagan, we ate a shit load of tacos at El Taco De Mexico on Santa Fe. That place rocks our taco socks. I went to Wax Trax – the record store that was my church growing up in Denver. I was looking for the Ron Miles record that I heard he did with Brian Blade. It wasn’t there so I bought a Black Flag T-shirt. Everything Went Black. I wore it to our gig that night at Dazzle. Dazzle is a home to Kneebody. We’ve played there a ton. It was great to be back. We saw lot’s of friends, family and new fans. Art and Aubrey Lande were there. Art came up with the name to Shane’s song “Sleeveless”. He gave Kneebody the biggest compliment ever by saying: “You know I like sports more than music right? Well, to me I like Kneebody AS MUCH AS SPORTS!!!”. Thanks Art. I like Art as much as anything ever. After our short run to Denver, we flew to LOS ANGELES. We played that day at the Ford Amphitheatre for the Angel City Jazz Festival. The festival is great. It’s run by Rocco Somazzi and Jeff Gauthier among other fantastic and dedicated people. On the bill were Richard Seres with Tootie Heath who pleayed so so so great. Then we played. It was great to play in LA after a week of consistent playing. I made a joke about how we rehearse in Laramie, Wyoming because I live in LA, Adam is in New Orleans and the rest of the guys are in New York but I don’t think the crowd understood that it was a joke. Also, the moniter engineer seemed like he was having a bad day. But aside from that it was super fun to play. Yosvany Terry played after us. Holy crao they sounded good. And then there was Greg Osby with Anat Cohen. I’ve always been a fan of Greg’s music so it was grea to finally hear him live. It was my first time hearing Anat. Anat is AMAZING. Sorry I’ll say it again. Anat Cohen is AMAZING. She sat in with Greg’s group who were playing such great music. Everything she played was basically what I want to be when I grow up… Anyhow… that was fun… Then afterwards, Shane, Nate, bassist Matt Brewer and I went to three taco trucks to sample the difference between the qualities of Al Pastor tacos. I have to say that I wasn’t surprised that The La Estrella Taco Truck on York in Highland Park won the battle…
Annnnnnd that was a week ago. So that brings us to now. We’re going to Europe. I can’t say how much of a pleasure and honor and blessing and piacere and wonderful thing it is to get to play OUR music for such great people – so I’ll say it again “what a pleasure!!!!” and now I’ll move on… I’m excited to play in Europe with Shane, Ben, Nate and Adam. There. Go Kneebody.
Time to wrap this up. The stewardess is coming around with the hot towels.