TOUR DIARY: Castles, Cathedrals, and Kinderdijk

Scandinavia led straight into one of the most grueling 48 hours of the tour. From Odense, it was a 600km drive to the next night’s show in Altlandsberg, DE. The gig was sold out, and the venue was great (an old west style saloon/concert hall on a little farm outside Berlin), but I didn’t have a chance to hang out because I had to hit the road as soon the show ended. I had an afternoon gig the next day 650km away in Millingen aan de Rijn, NL. That was another beautiful venue, right on the banks of the Rhine, but the minute I finished playing, I was back in the car again and headed 150km south to Cologne, DE, play my third show in two days. All that solo driving on no sleep was a challenge, but when I’ve traveled across an ocean to play music, I want to make the most of it and play for as many people as I can.

The next day was a travel day, but I purposely booked my flight for the evening so I could spend the morning and afternoon exploring Cologne. I returned my car, dropped my bags off at the airport, and took the train into the city center, where I found myself drawn like a magnet once again to the towering cathedral. I’ve visited a lot of impressive churches on this tour, but this one is in a league of its own. At 515 feet tall, the cathedral is Germany’s tallest church and its most visited landmark, and despite being hit by more than a dozen bombs in WWII, it’s held up pretty well, especially considering construction began in the 1200s. Last year I took a quick peek inside, but this year I had more time on my hands, so I climbed the 533 spiral steps all the way to the top of the south tower and enjoyed the spectacular view of the city.

Next up, I headed back to the UK with American Aquarium for a trio of shows in Bristol, Manchester, and London. I readjusted to driving on the left pretty quickly, but I didn’t do so well at remembering cars can lock with the keys still inside them. My intention that first day was to visit Windsor Castle, but instead I looked on from a distance as I walked 20 minutes to get WiFi so I could call a tow company to come open up the car for me. (SIDE NOTE: It’s terrifying how easy it is for them to get into your car. Less than four minutes and he was in, no problem. Why do we think cars are secure? They are not secure AT ALL.)

These shows were a blur with a whole lot of driving, but I tried to break it up with a few little pitstops including a hike to an old trestle that’s part of the Severn Valley Railway and a visit to the ~900 year old Litchfield Cathedral, the only three-spired medieval church in England. Much less exciting was my journey into the world of suburban London warehouses, where I had to travel to pick up a shipment of CDs and vinyl that hadn’t arrived in time to meet me in Bristol. Keeping stocked with the right amount of merch out here is a real challenge. You want to have enough that you don’t sell out, but not so much that your bag goes overweight at the airport and you get charged a hefty fee. Plus, when I’m touring by myself, at any one time, I can only bring as much as I can carry along with my guitar/gear/clothes/etc. It’s a constant guessing game (How many CDs do I expect to sell in the UK vs the Netherlands? Will Sweden buy more vinyl than CD? Will the Italians want more t-shirts than the Germans?), one that requires you to set up refill shipments to arrive at various cities along the way. Hopefully they arrive in the nick of time, just as you’re running out, but sometimes they don’t arrive at all, and then you’re in a real bind.

Anyway, I could spend all day writing about the vagaries of tour logistics, but instead I’ll end with pictures of Kinderdijk, the largest concentration of old windmills in the Netherlands. After London, I flew back to the continent for my final shows with American Aquarium, and before the first gig in Vlaardingen, NL, I stopped there for a spectacular sunset. The windmills were built in the 1700s, and they’ve been beautifully preserved as an iconic piece of Dutch heritage.

Up next: the amazing Take Root Festival, plus adventures in Switzerland and Italy. Stay tuned!