I’ll be writing about our recent tour of Europe in several parts. This is part 5.
We arrived in Savoniero at 4 in the afternoon to find a crew of stagehands making their final adjustments to a rack of lights that hovered above a large stage. Savoniero is a small hamlet high in the mountains, one of several towns that make up the municipality of Palagano, which boasts a population of roughly 2,500 people. The view from the stage was incredible, with greens and browns from mother natures’ vast palate of color playing out in the fields and farms below us. I assumed that, unless I should get the chance to play at Red Rocks in Colorado, this surely would be the most scenic setting in which I would ever have the pleasure of performing. The stage was positioned along the far side of a tennis court that was undoubtedly the largest, flattest portion of land for miles.
Upon arrival we were greeted by hosts eager to let us sample the local wine, and we did so thankfully. It was a dark purple liquid that was served cold, and it’s ample dose of carbonation helped to make it an incredibly refreshing (and dangerous, I thought) beverage. After sound check, we were ushered into a building where several varieties of fresh pasta awaited us. After an incredible meal, Rodney and I spent the rest of the afternoon getting to know some of the locals, and Holly spent the downtime walking the narrow streets of the picturesque village. As the sun began to set, scores of people arrived at the concert grounds. Parking was scarce, and the nearby residents put up home made parking signs, squeezing 5-10 cars into their little driveways and yards. Vehicles began to line the road leading up to the village, as well as the road leading towards the mountaintop above. Darkness descended, and as we took the stage we were shocked to look out over a crowd that was nearly 4,000 strong. Where they had come from I didn’t know, but I was glad they were here.
Rodney and I began our set, and the audience, with its lust for music on full display, greeted each song with a raucous mix of cheers and whistles. A video screen behind us displayed our faces on a larger than life scale (a treatment I wasn’t prepared to see—as I looked over my shoulder during one of my songs, I nearly forgot the words when I saw the display) and lights the color of the wine we had been enjoying danced across the stage to the beat of the music. It was a monumental night for each of us. Yet again, our music had found an appreciative audience some 5,000 miles from where it came. The feeling of gratitude I had for each person that stood in front of us was as big as the mountain we were standing upon. Finishing the show, we met with hundreds of happy and enthusiastic people. They offered us wine, congratulatory handshakes, and jovial slaps on the back. Later that night, I wrote of the crowd in my notebook.
There must be friendship in the wine,
or wine in the friendship. Either way,
I’ll take it.
Our night finished, we headed up to the very top of the mountain to the chateau where we were spending the night. It’s rustic rooms and balconies offered a priceless view of Savoniero and the majestic valley below, now dotted with the tiny yellow lights of midnight. Our hosts were kind enough to send us back with several bottles of their now favored wine, and we put the finishing touches on our day sitting in the cool mountain breeze drinking and talking about the incredible places this tour had taken us.
The sun rose, and we rubbed the sleep out of our eyes with incredible scenery and strong espresso. In an hour we would head back down the mountain, through Savoniero, and back into Modena to catch yet another train. For now, we were content with saying nothing and letting the espresso do it’s job. We sat in silence, and I supposed that like me, the others were trying to memorize the view hanging before us like a master painting. I’ve experienced more than my fair share of wonderful things in these 29 years of life, and I wanted to make sure that the view I had on this particular morning was one that I would never forget.
We headed back down the mountain, passing first the tennis courts, and then through several tiny hamlets on our way to the train station. We bid our hosts farewell and promised to return, if only to spend a few days on top of that incredible mountain to write songs and share stories. The train chugged into the station, and we boarded it, stowing our gear where we could. With a three-hour trip to San Marino ahead of us, we settled into our seats. Telling jokes, and taking in the scenery, I thought it unfair that someone who makes his living on the aural side of the fence should be treated to such visual beauty. Without my eyes, I supposed that I wouldn’t have the fodder for the songs that I write, and I let the feeling of undeserved luxury pass by me like the vineyards beyond my window.
Perhaps my years of laboring in the sweaty honkytonks of the southwest had made me deserving of this rich experience… but I was not alone in my efforts. I sat in my seat wishing I could treat my friends to this experience. Surely everyone deserves this kind of adventure—at least once in their lives.
My moment of contemplation slipped away, and I found myself selfishly planning a return trip in my head. I smiled and closed my eyes, allowing the motion of the train car to rock me to sleep.