I’ll be writing about our recent tour of Europe in several parts. This is part 1…. Obviously.
When I was 10 years old, I learned something from a man at the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia. He held a strip of paper under his bottom lip, and blew across the top of it. The paper, seemingly that of the magical variety, lifted itself upwards towards the current of air streaming from the man’s mouth. I clearly remember thinking that this was a trick—that such a thing was impossible. Those of us watching this were then handed our own strips of paper.
“Now you try,” the man said.
I did. I blew as hard as I could and the paper lifted up towards my nose. I continued to blow, and stared at the paper, cross-eyed, over the bridge of my nose.
“This isn’t magic. This is Bernoulli’s Principle.”
I’ve never been an expert in fluid dynamics. Not at 10, and not now, at 29. Bernoulli, a Dutch mathematician who in 1739 published his idea that objects move in the direction of decreased pressure, had managed to leave an impression on me some 208 years after his death. For some reason, that demonstration popped into my mind every time I looked at a plane… and this particular plane was a monstrous Boeing 777. I was about to board it in Memphis, and I hoped that Bernoulli wasn’t going to fail me somewhere over the Atlantic on my way to Amsterdam.
Myself, my wife Holly, Rodney Hayden, and a full load of passengers touched down in Amsterdam at 11:00 AM on August 2nd, and while I couldn’t speak for any of them, my faith in Bernoulli and his principle was once more reassured. We set off in search of coffee and Heineken to celebrate our arrival across the pond. The feeling of adventure coursing through my veins helped to curb that of the jet lag nipping at my heels. This was my second trip to Europe, but my first as a performing musician, and I was ready to test the unknown. After we tossed down our drinks we boarded a plane bound for Hamburg, Germany. From the airport in Hamburg, we took a train to Hannover. Sitting across the aisle from a girl and her dog, I found myself impressed with both Germany’s public transportation system and the calm nature of this canine traveler. His name was Yoshi. I felt it was only right that I remember the name of the first dog I had ever seen on a train, and I wrote it down in my notebook:
Train- bound for Hannover- sitting next to a dog named
Yoshi. Impressed with both train and dog.
200 miles of foreign landscape whipped by us at breakneck speed, and before we knew it we had arrived—weary but excited. My friend Nina, who had been an exchange student at my high school, and whom I visited on my last trip to Europe 10 years prior, greeted us at the station and drove us to her apartment in the heart of the city. Downtown Hannover was beautiful—a clean and interesting mix of modern architecture amongst pre-American-Revolution period buildings that sparkled in the night. After unloading our gear at her place, we walked the quiet Sunday night streets as she gave us a quick tour. As we closed out our long day of travel sitting on the banks of Lake Maschsee, we wondered how the German crowds would receive our music the next day, and if there would even be a crowd to accept or dismiss us at all.
We set off for the Blooming Bar in Gottingen, an hour away, driving 140 mph on the Autobahn after spending the afternoon walking through the Herrenhausen Gardens and its neighboring park, taking in the sights and sounds of our first full day in Germany. Touring an unfamiliar land was fun, but we were here to test out a new and foreign market, so it was a good feeling to know we were headed for a show. We anticipated a good turn out, but that’s what we do in this line of work… If you don’t convince yourself that you’ll have someone to play for, it makes it a lot harder to get through the day. I wrote of my anticipation—the first and possibly only words I will ever write while in a car traveling at such a high rate of speed:
Car- Autobahn- Expecting a good crowd tonight in
Gottingen, if only for the other musicians on the bill.
Driving faster than I care to think about.
Gottingen is a quaint college town of 30,000 inhabitants, most of whom are students. At the very least, surely we had that fact going for us. If a group of folk singers from Germany had showed up in my college town, I supposed that I would go and check them out for at least the sake of curiosity. Plus, it was a Monday. What else is there to do on a Monday? It’s this particular kind of positive thinking (or delusion) that keeps a musician going, both at home, and as I now discovered, abroad.
The Blooming Bar was nestled between two buildings. An open-air patio overlooking a nearly empty river was at the entrance, and a small inside bar area with seats and couches was directly to the right. The place had a cool and welcoming vibe—the kind of place I’d frequent if it were here in New Braunfels. We were the first of the musicians to arrive, and as we walked into the room, Rodney pointed out two people dressed in matching western shirts and cowboy hats. We introduced ourselves and discovered that the father and son had taken a train all day from Berlin for our show. They produced our cd’s for us to sign and bought us each a beer. We agreed that, if nothing else, their presence more than warranted our journey. The music business changes on a daily basis, but if there is one constant, it is the feeling of gratification a musician gets when meeting fans that travel great distances to hear music that they truly appreciate. It’s nice to know that you’re not the only people out on the road heading for a show. It’s even nicer when it’s your first show in Germany.
The rest of the musicians arrived within the hour. These next three shows were all a part of a songwriter showcase tour that occurs several times throughout the year across Germany, and this leg featured players from Iceland, Germany, Italy, and Australia. All of them proved to be incredibly talented and kind people, and they welcomed us into the fold for the next three days with open arms. Much to our relief, the room filled up, and as the show began, I noticed that the attentiveness of the audience rivaled that of some of the best listening rooms in the States. Each artist played their set, and each was met with the appreciation that they deserved. Our gamble was paying off—Germany had come through. Rodney and I each played separate sets and then spent the rest of the night talking with new fans. We headed home, again at 140 mph, and ended the night at Nina’s apartment with a nightcap. Day one was a considerable success, and as I drifted off to sleep, I thought about the day… it seemed that no matter what language you speak at home, you’re never really a stranger in a foreign land when you have music by your side.