Thursday, July 4, 2013

Notes on Making Music in Europe

I am now a couple weeks back from spending 20 days in Europe, ten Neil Young/Crazy Horse shows (six 'on-the-rail') in ten cities. I am tired but so happily satisfied with the music I heard and the music I made and the Spirit on the Road.....

This story is mostly about the music we made and the Spirit....


We did some experimenting, my friends and I..... I have had the opportunity here in the states to busk in various places as well as play guitar in pubs and hotel lobbies and my friends and I have been generally well received..... In Europe, however, and probably because we were singing Neil Young songs to people anticipating the next concert or still ringing from the last one, we felt like hits.  We also learned.... don't ASK, just PLAY. We were never sure how the sings were going to go over with the staff at places, but when the first bar we partied in, pre-show, said NO when we asked, we decided after that to just 'Play and See'. We never had another problem!!!


And I also want to thank all the tapers and recorders, who still need to go under the wire and be anonymous.... you documented some amazing shows and I am very glad to know you!!!

The vacation started at a private party in Berlin, where I finally got to play with Johnny, a musician I have looked up to since the first time I saw him on the OPL stage, years ago. I hope he feels as I do, we made some fine, energetic music together, Johnny, Ron, Harry and I! Thanks!


Now, I missed a whole story right here in the beginning of the trip..... the after the show party at the pub near the venue.....I am reminded " Kalle brought a guitar to the Pichelsberger Krug after the Berlin show, and we shared it on the porch until the cranky and outrageously slow bartender screamed "Musik ist aus..." which is an incomplete sentence but seemed to mean, "knock it off" at which point Kalle and friends continued to play across the street by the S-bahn station.
and, Ron says "They had only one server who washed each and every new glass from the box and then poured from the single tap... thank goodness for the kindness of Paul or I might be standing in the beer queue still! Wolfgang, Uwe and I were singing *lead riffs* to Johnny's solo-acoustic Over And Over...
I was also gifted. Standing in the queue for the beer and it was just SOOOOOO long. Then Kalle came with the guitar, and You know where I wanted to be.... and it wasn't in that stuffy hallway! After what seemed to be yet another very silly reason to NOT serve people with money, I lost my temper and left the line, joining the music. Very shortly after that Heike brought me a beer. And that very nearly made me cry.

 My buddy from stateside, Ron ,and I, busked in two public areas in Berlin, Germany. Later in a pub before the show, we were recognized by a guy who told us he enjoyed what we did that first day.




During our  second street performance, we met a couple who listened for quite a while and then insisted on photographs with us. Cool.
I also went to the Hamburg, but had to catch the train and left before Neil's oncore for the sleeper and then there was.......

Amsterdam!! That is where things really took off. We busked in a public park but soon headed to a place where we could drink and eat.... the hotel where some of us were staying. A group of us (Harry, Roel, Ron, Tyler oh, the memories of who -was -where-when is fading!!!) set up outside and played mostly Neil Young songs to our party, which grew larger with the addition of 'civilians' who just wanted to listen to the music we made! Great time..... and YES, as intense as it looks in this picture!



In Paris, we tried to play in the GA line (waiting to get 'on the rail' right under the bands feet!!), and it was hard, separated by a fence as we were, and the heat, and ticket issues, and my cold which was catching up to me!

However, one of my favorite memories of the trip was the next day, Canal St. Martin, where we relaxed and shared tunes and beer for hours in a beautiful place!!! Rusties came and went and we just soaked up the sun..... Rusties such as Uwe and Jacqueline and others already named serenaded the walkers.

A fine musical moment happened there on the canal when Nan and Tyler played together...maybe Vampire Blues? It was COOL!!!

Oh, BRUSSELS!! No personal musical experience, but what an amazing time I had with RUSTIES!!! I had a ticket mishap that made it look like I would not be ANYWHERE near the rail, after standing in line since 1pm (yeah, Neil came on about 9pm), but because of the kindness and generosity of Rusties and other NY fans, I got on the rail (RIGHT in front of Neil) AND was gifted with a Ralph Molina drumstick, thrown by him to my new friends, the Haram sisters.

 I will cherish that stick because it is Ralphs, but even more so because of the friendships made and nurtured at that show..... Terri and Donna, thank you for all the laughs!!.... and Uwe and Tyler, who saved me a spot at Neil's feet on the rail!!

Newcastle. Now things start to get really hazy, so if I start to confuse things, set me straight. After that show, we played in the bar at the Travelodge. Yes. The decor is sort of 'american old-school cafeteria'..... plastic tables, bright lights and tile floor..... but I met my new partner in music, Alison, there and we played Neil Young songs until we couldn't anymore...... many many folks hung around, also having been to the show, and sang and smiled and laughed, and at one point the bartender caught my eye, smiled very wide and gave me a thumbs up!!! So we kept going, and it was good!!!! I think I made the acquaintance of several people that night, but again, everything is hazy (I was still sick, but now getting better) and I am not 100% sure of who.....  And I almost forgot the guy who wanted to play my guitar, but I told him I would play and he could sing a song, and he picked 'A Horse With No Name', thinking that was Neil.....lol..... we did it anyway!!!!

Birmingham. Ramada Inn. Another great after the show gathering!!! Another questionable type of 'venue' for our song making, but as I was learning, it is not the environment so much as the people gathered that make a wonderful time!!! We had two guitars, and they were well shared. I met Sean, Keith, and even handed my guitar over to Jules!! Lots of fun sharing songs and singing along, although we also had civilians not so happy with the Neil tunes and requesting lots of OTHER songs...... so I did 'Sunday Morning Coming Down' before leaving for my room. I heard that the party continued on with more rusted music until after 3am!!! Fantastic!

The next city Neil played in was Glasgow. In 1976, Neil busked with his banjo in the entrance to the Glasgow Central train station, and it was a goal to go there and do the same. Alison and I did so, and, after watching us for a while, a man approached and said, Do you know, it is exactly right here that Neil Young busked in 1976??? ah, YEAH, we did..... LOL LOL.

After the show in Glasgow we went to another hotel and played, but it was not planned and I did not have a guitar. I think others did, and I sang. Help me remember more about that night, folks.....

And yes, my memory has been assisted!!! That night we had guitars from Alison and Pauls backpacker and again, shared them, out and about. Alison played a wonderful version of Silver and Gold, and Ian gifted us with a couple of his originals... fine night!


I think my favorite city was Dublin. Nan and I came into the city center and got a little confused on where to get the bus to our hotel and in the meantime, found a GREAT little pub with some FINE beer and wonderful food!!! We even went back the next day!!. However, this is a post about music making, and I will concentrate on that.....I can say that while in the city center, I bought strings and a wooden spoon thing that I am having fun with here at home!!!

After the Dublin show, we went back to the hotel where Nan and I stayed, which was right across the street from the venue. A large, comfortable, loud, bar. However, unlike here in the states, pubs do not blare music so loud you can't hear yourself think (unless they were 'american' style places....), it was loud because of all the people, talking excitedly. If you follow such things, you may know that Neil did not go over very well in Dublin (they apparently expected an acoustic show, based on local advertising). Again, we had only one guitar, and my friends and I played for quite a while, struggling to hear each other singing.....

But, some folks noticed and started making requests. The guitar started to get passed around to likely candidates for songs. More and more people were paying attention and singing and smiling!!!! Before long, I looked up during Rocking in the Free World and saw many many folks watching and dancing and singing and smiling and having a GREAT time, and I gotta tell you, you haven't lived as a street musician until you have lead a spontaneous, loud, joyous sing along in a Dublin pub!!!!

Finally, the last stop.
London.
Before even going to my hotel, I went to the rustfest.
Tired.
No WiFi.
Anywhere.
No maps, nobody who could help....

Except of course, Rusties, who, when called and asked (THANK YOU PAUL!!!) gave clear complete directions and I ended up at the Canterbury Arms, Brixton, London. There, we had the room to ourselves, several guitars and some players who finally gave us more than a piece of a tune here and there.....Paul and Scott!!! SO GOOD to hear you guys!!!! Honest Burgers for supper with fantastic chips (thick cut steak fries for you stateside folk). Good friends, lots of laughs, and wonderful songs/vocals/ leads from Ian.


Again our hotel was very near the venue, but I am tired, I have been on the rail five times, and although my roomie was gonna make sure she got right under the bands feet that night, I decided to hang at the pub at the hotel and party, relax and sing with rusties in that welcoming place.....

Ian was first on the scene and we had a brew. Before too long, he got a call from Paul, "They are telling us they will watch the guitars for you during the show, bring them and play here!". Well, with an invite like that, who can resist?? So Ian and I left the pub (yep, more people came to the pub after we left, and it was a cool fest, I could tell when I stopped back to bring back my guitar... I just couldn't leave it at the venue with security after all!!!) and headed over to the GA line, which was surprisingly small. Ian and I took turns leading songs and entertained the line for a couple hours, I think.
video

We got a lot of thanks for making the time pass better, a lot of people singing along (again..... you see the theme here?---- not 'performance' so much as SHARING the music out and about..... THAT is my LOVE), a lot of smiles, and AGAIN, my spot on the rail.



This time, on the rail, I stood in front of Poncho, and we eventually made eye contact as I sang the songs with the band and started pantomiming lyrics to My My Hey Hey, ending with Poncho trying to toss me a helmet and two sets of pics, none of which reached me. Thanks, however, to my rustie friends Dave and Ian, I did take home a Neil pic and a Poncho pic!!!


One more note, talking now about being a FAN, Nan and I flew the same plane as Los Lobos out of Glasgow. Nan thanked them for their music and mentioned my travel guitar, which I then had (of course) to take out and show them. Both of the guitar players strummed it, impressed with the ability to stay in tune, the compactness of it in the backpack, and the tone, MUCH to the dismay of the woman trying to load us onto the plane!!!

Later, in the customs line in Dublin, Nan went first, talked and laughed quite a bit with the customs fellow and when I went through my questions were....

You with that woman? (pointing to Nan)
yes
And you are here to see that band? (pointing to Los Lobos folks)
yes
(STAMPs passport, big smile) Have a great time!!

AND------ I did.


(Many, many, many thanks to all the folks I met and traveled with for the FANTASTIC times I will remember forever..... and thanks also to all the folks who took the pics/videos I shared above....)

6 comments:

  1. Thanks for the Music Marilyn...it was fab to be on the rustie road trip for the UK leg and listen to your music along our Merry Way...Glad I caught one of Neil's pics for you in London :-) Dave G

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  2. What a great trip! So many corners & so much busking to be had.
    See you on the rail!

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  3. Marilyn, great blog - almost feels like we are there with you! Talk about your "dream comfort memory to spare". That's one heck of a trip, regardless of how one interprets the term 'trip'. Looking forward to hearing more.
    Paul XXX

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  4. Marilyn, great blog! Almost feels like we are there with you: talk about "dream comfort memory to spare". Your traveller's guitar got quite a workout and it seems to have proved a brilliant investment on your part. "Keep on rockin' in the free world", indeed.
    Regards and love, Paul XXX

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  5. Thanks for sharing the stories . . . Wish I had been there! : ) love, karen

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  6. Thank you for the nice words - for me it was an honor to play with you!

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