Thursday, October 27, 2016

10/27/16 Day -3: New York, NY

I know, I know... The tour hasn't started yet!  What the hell do I think I'm doing? Well, I'm starting it early for two reasons: 1) I'm in NYC and it's inspiring and 2) I want to document this weekend because it is unique, and I want to try to remember it as vivdly as I can.  So.  Sorry.  Tour blog starts early!  And really, it's part of a tour anyway, a very small tour... A one day tour, and no it hasn't even started yet.  Whatever, it's my blog.  I do what I want.

It's rainy here in NYC today.  The streets were quiet which can be unnerving here. I heard from MA family and FB that it's snowing, so I guess I should thank my lucky stars.  It was warm even.  I never looked at the temp, but I layered like it was cold and wound up sweating a lot.  Lately I've been crashing at my bro's Lucas' spot in the West village.  Great little neighborhood a stones throw from fun NYC activities.  In recent years, I've found a great little cafe with killing coffee, so around 11, I layered up with my brand new rain coat, and set out on my short jaunt to Grounded on Jane Street.  Narrow little joint with comfy zones and a small kitchen.  Every table is always jammed with folks consumed with their laptops and their ear buds in.  Working? Maybe. Surfing the web? Probably. Looking partially annoyed and a little stressed out.  Definitely.  Grabbed my soy latte and ventured back out into the rain.  Around the corner is an awesome little greasy spoon called La Bonbonniere that takes cash only, and is so small you can smell everyone's order. I even had grease on my glasses from the grill I was so close.  Tiny, but it has a moderately sized menu (not the 7 page monstrosity of other diners) of all the breakfast feels as well as some great classic lunch sandwiches like "egg salad with bacon" or "sliced tomato sandwich" (which is just a Vegan BLT).  The egg salad was at the top of my list until I decided to go my classic greasy spoon breakfast: bacon and cheese omelette, home fries, and English muffin.  I think tmrw I'll go with the egg salad...

Later in the afternoon I went on a walk about.  I didn't really have a plan.  I was just tired of fielding emails from the apartment and thought I should use my time more wisely than working.  I slapped on the layers (and man did the new raincoat come in HANDY today), and ventured east.  I was headed in the general vicinity of Greenwich Village, half thinking I would find a beanie to buy for the tour.  I got to Bleeker and it started coming down, so I popped into the nearest joint for a respite, Blind Tiger, which has about a 1000 beers on tap.  I stayed for one and then decided if I didn't leave then, I would be stranded for more, so I left and walked back to the apt in the West Village.

Around 715 I left the apt again determined to make the most of a night off in NYC and walked to Smalls Jazz Club around the corner. I cued at 715, the rain pouring down, until 730 when the cooky owner opened the door and let the line in.

Smalls has the smallest awning ever, barely enough to stand under.  The non-descript door leads to a narrow staircase downward where on the landing, the owner, in his Elmer Fud hat collects the $20 cover.  I do not envy the load in to this club.  That's why I'm not an upright bass player.  Oh and because that instrument is impossible.  The basement venue, which seats maybe 100 is completely no frills and as Time Out NYC called it, "unassuming."  Now, this assumes we have assumptions about jazz clubs... Small, dark, cozy, with a focus on the music perhaps.  This club had a small bar which seated maybe 12 and bench seating for another 85-90 and standing room for 10.  Do the math people, no one is getting rich.  The crowd as I heard it in line was full of foreigners; I heard Spanish and Portuguese and French.  I got a corner seat at the bar and started to take note... Strange, amateurish art on the wall.  Some great photos.  One of which, of Louis Armstrong, hung between the drummer and the bass player.  Smiling down on us.  Exposed pipes.  Low ceiling.  Brick walls.  Stark lighting.  Too stark to evoke any vibe. Relatively updated PA system.  Tiny stage (4" riser) with enough room for the drummer and upright bass player. Scrap pieces of carpet over mismatching tiles with badly stained grout. One touch I appreciated were the mirrors, fixed at an angle above the drummer and the piano player.  It gave us the opportunity to see their hands and absorb their technique.  The crowd for the most part was very engaged.  I witnessed folks from out of town sip their cans of PBR and then look inquisitively at the label, no doubt wondering what year that blue ribbon was awarded.

I was sitting next to a young kid whom I overheard talking to the bartender about playing music so we started up a convo about music and beyond.   He's played there before and said its not the worst load in in NYC.  I shudder to think. Another thing I appreciated with Smalls was that the guests were basically on top of the performers... One guest sat so close to the drummer, he could probably smell the cats after shave.  Another guest was so close to the piano player that he could have whispered in his ear while stealing his wallet.  Now this scenario has its advantages... We as guests get to experience the music in a much more personal way.  The disadvantage is that, for a musician, you hear a lot of the crowd noise, which tonight, (and apparently this happens quite often) was quite loud...  I was so surprised to hear guests chatter and the bartender making cocktails at the bar.  It was so distracting.  Yes, jazz should be celebrated and enjoyed and not be the music of academics and old people (as Louis's smiling picture reminded me), but this was downright distracting.  People, a couple simple rules if I may.... Turn your flash off.  Stop chatting with your friend!  For the love of God, stop taking selfies with that annoying click of the camera, and lastly, just shut the fuck up!  I didn't pay $20 to hear your bullshit chatter. I was watching the drummer, who could hear it as well, who would throw the guilty party looks during some very intimate moments.  He was so close to them, he could've stuck his drum stick up their noses and I would have applauded him.  

All in all a great night.   Great experience.  I think if I were to return, I'd sit even closer and get completely consumed by the music.  I'd also bring a flask because $12 Manhattans isn't sustainable.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

5/10/16 Day 38: München, DE

Every time I set my alarm I wake up at least an hour and a half before it goes off. It's extremely frustrating. At least there was internet in my room and I could catch up on cat videos on FB. You guessed it... Still cute.

Had a band meeting outside on the rooftop patio at 10:30. Recapped the tour, made plans for next November, discussed what we would improve for next time. Productive little session for sure.

Walked over to Sabine's apartment across the street and had breakfast before Peter had to head to the airport at noon. Said our goodbyes to the small man as he hopped in the rental car and started his journey home. He wasn't going to drive home, he was just tasked with returning the rental at the airport.

Sabine , Jeff, and I then took the UBahn to Marienplatz (where the famous München glockenspiel is) and walked around. It was spitting rain but not enough to require an umbrella. We just kind of poked around, peeped some churches, and ended up at Viktualienmarkt for a pretzel and a beer. The largest pretzel in the world and a giant beer.
St. Peter's church.
Legendary Hofbräuhaus
Breakfast of champions?

The market (Viktualienmarkt) is cool; a collection of stands and tents selling all sorts of food goods from stuffed olives from Italy, to Turkish candy, to prepared foods, and cheese stands, and of course there is a beer garden in the middle of it with long wooden tables for people to chill and eat their food. The large trees provided shelter from the precipitation which at this point was lightening up. The sun tried desperately to join us but never got through the clouds for more than a few moments.

Walked back to the UBahn and went back to the hotel for a little nap. Jeff and I then walked back over to Sabine's at 630 to make dinner plans. We decided to keep it local, so we (now with Sabine's 19 year old daughter) just walked around the neighborhood until finding a classic German beer garden for one more German meal before I get home and start the spinach salad and water diet... I mean. Damn.
Classic schnitzel "wiener art" with pommes and a salad. Tasty tasty! Pork pounded thin, breaded and fried. A little lemon juice on top. Slammin'!

I too was pounded thin, breaded and fried by 10:30 and said my goodbyes and thank yous to Sabine for organizing such a fun show and being a great hostess. It's nice to finally play in her hometown considering she always has to travel so far to see us. Hoping we can come back to München soon. It's a really interesting city. A city that still feels small despite its size. A city steeped in tradition but modern at the same time. Plus they serve beers the size of your head...

Gute Nacht from München, everyone. Thanks for following along at home. Hope you enjoyed the stories and pics!

And so another amazing tour comes to an end. Tomorrow it's back to Phoenix for what will be an amazing month filled with travel, music, and good times with loved ones. I have much to be thankful for. Thank you world.

Monday, May 9, 2016

05/09/16 Day 37: München, DE

Up at 7 for no good reason. Probably because I was in bed at 10:30. All good though, peeled the eye mask off my face and popped down to the extremely modest breakfast spread. Put down a couple cups of moderately weak coffee, hammered down a piece of bread with some butter and jam and streamed "wait, wait, don't tell me" on NPR. Nice to have a little taste of home to get me primed for the journey.

We waved goodbye to our friends at the Gasthof Bäck'n Hansl and headed west back to Germany and the beautiful city of München for our last gig of this great/exhausting/rewarding tour. Peter was an ace behind the wheel as we jammed to Zepplin. Lots of construction on the route today but Peter calmly navigated narrowed and shifting lanes like Mario Andretti.

Made it to the Hotel Leonardo around 2:45, unloaded the car (somehow we keep accumulating wine), found our rooms and called our hostess with the mostest Sabine who booked the show for us tonight. Plans were made to meet at 3:50 to head over to the venue for sound check. Quick drive to the venue Ars Musica, got the PA sounding good, then walked downstairs to a little restaurant and had dinner and got caught up with Sabine. I went with the burger with Gouda and bacon. It was a good choice... Peter eyed it knowingly and waited until I was 3/4 done before gobbling up the rest. Apparently his steak and fries wasn't cutting it.

Back to the hotel for a nap which never  came and out the door at 730. We hit to 35 beautiful Germans. The room felt cozy and loose. Good vibes all around. The set felt nice and tight. The benefit of a show at the end of a five week tour. Sabine was the proud band mama in the back singing along and clapping. We had a couple encores and finally with Free Fallin' we ended the night and the tour.

Got back to the hotel, dumped our gear and walked over to Sabine's apartment across the street and met her daughter and some of her friends who attended the show. We gifted all the remaining wine and schnapps to her which she immediately busted out. We chatted and played guitar until about 12:30 and walked back to the hotel.
Danke Sabine for all your hard work!

A great end of the tour. So nice to have such good friends who take good care of us. It's these personal moments that always stand out to me. We've made some great friends over the years on these tours and tonight was a great reminder of that. Thanks to all who make these tours possible and memorable, especially Tommy our friend and agent. These tours are always a highlight of the year for me. So grateful to be here, playing this music. Thanks to my band Peter Day and Jeff Vallone who continue to work to make the most professional, fun, and musically inspiring nights on the planet.

Gute Nacht Freunde! Bis November!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

05/08/16 Day 36: Öblarn, AT

Happy Mother's Day from Öblarn, Austria! Sending love out to all the mamas out there and especially to my mama. Thinking of her often on this tour and taking notes for her so when she comes to Europe, she doesn't have to rely on Rick Steves for info...

I went full eye mask and noise machine last night. Felt good to not set an alarm and wake up after the body had achieved its full intent. Threw on my pajamas and rolled downstairs and at once realized I was in a public restaurant and looked like a crazy man. Large tables of Austrians getting their prefix Mother's Day meals and enjoying tall beers, wearing lederhosen. They didn't seem to notice.

A small breakfast spread was in the back room for us. I didn't see Peter or Jeff as I threw back a couple bread/meat/cheese open faced sandwiches and a couple cups of weak coffee. Wasn't the most lavish meal I've ever had, but it got the job done.

Spent the afternoon chilling. Another nice day with the occasional sun shower so I spent some time on the patio next to our Gasthof writing postcards and having a cold one myself. The guys trickeled over and joined me for a bit before I decided to rewatch the last Game of Thrones episode in a hallway on the first floor. The wifi on my floor isn't great. The best signal is when you sit on the can. Which is handy sometimes, but not now.
Gasthof Bäck'n Hansl.

Hans recommended we try a particular restaurant out for a special Austrian dinner called Tatarenhut but we couldn't get the restaurant on the horn so we decided to just eat downstairs in the restaurant which turned out to be great. I went with a nice big salad and some beef stroganoff with potatoe croquettes.  Afterwards the apple strudel with vanilla sauce and whipped cream, which I remember from the last visit two years ago. Cold apple strudel, hot vanilla sauce. Pretty slamming.

We went next door and had an aperitif with Harold at the venue bar and then called it. I was cooked. And although this is our last night to experience Austria, I was ready to fall into bed. You can tell the tour is winding down when I'd rather go to bed than find something fun to do. We had a good run here though and are excited to come back next year! Tomorrow München and our last show of the 2016 "Gambling" Tour... Bittersweet.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

05/07/16 day 35: Öblarn, AT

Breakfast spread was minimal but fairly righteous. There were some nice touches; namely tobasco and a hunk of salt with a nutmeg grater. It is "salz" burg after all...

We all agreed a walk about was in order so we loaded the car at 11:15 and ventured back towards the pedestrian waking area and "old" part of town. It was hopping today. The weather was actually quite warm. Large groups of foreign tourists led around by someone with an umbrella held high. Headsets. Selfie sticks. The whole shebang. Especially once we crossed the river into old town. Mozarts house. Salzburg Dom. Various museums. Shopping area and tourist carts with cheap trinkets. In the square next to the Dom a large stage was set up with a big brass and wind band playing traditional Austrian music. Long tables were set up for the audience and around the seating area filled with folks in lederhosen and other traditional outfits. A group of food trucks flanked one side selling grilled fish, pretzels, sausages, beer. It was a nice sensory enhancer to have these smells and this music as the backdrop to these visuals. 
Crossed the river into old town towards the Salzburger Dom and the Hohensalzburg Fortress looming above.
Salzburger Dom and square.

We walked up the hill to the Fortress which provided stunning 360 views.
The courtyard of this beautifully maintained castle. My 10 year old self was shitting his pants.
Cascading selfie photobombed by the Dom! Sometimes the wind would be just right and you could hear the music from the band down below.

Walked through various exhibits detailing the history of the castle through the ages. We found a perfect spot in the beer garden perched on the ramparts and toasted our good fortune with a couple frosty Stiegl and a pretzel with mustard. Glorious. So fortunate to have these moments.

The drive was shorter today (1.5 hrs) all things considered and painless. We headed east to Öblarn through quaint countryside, flanked by beautiful mountains dusted in snow. We rocked the Shins album "wincing the night away" (one of my favorites) and peeled off the highway 1.5 hours later into the small village of Öblarn. The last time we were here was exactly two years ago. We were excited. This is a great room, and last time we had an epic post gig hang, and our host Hans is the stuff of legend.

We loaded into the hotel attached to the venue and ran into Harold who runs the bar adjacent to the venue and greeted him warmly. He remembered the epic post gig hang that occurred in his bar last time and I assured him anything was possible, but those conditions were special. I tried to lay down for 45 minutes but could never get into the groove despite my full body weariness. We met back up at 530 and walked next door to the venue, next to Harold's bar, next to our hotel. The commute is killer.

Greeted Hans and sound technician Dinos at the stage. So nice to see them both again. This place takes these shows seriously and you can see in the attention to detail with the pa, lights, PR for the event, everything. Sound check wrapped about 6:45 and the band agreed to eat after the show as timing was a little tight to eat, shower, warm up by showtime at 8.
View from the green room into the surrounding hills.

We played a full set (2 x 45) to 65 lovely Austrians, some of which were at our first show two years ago. Set felt good. Polished and loose where it needed to be. We got called out for an encore and did Been Too Good and Bid You in the audience which put a nice bow on the performance. Really happy with this one.
Photo by our friend Christoph Huber.

After the set we demolished some salads and some bacon and onion flatbreads. Once back at the bar, Dinos insisted we have some Zirbenschnapps, which you can only find in Austria. Made from pinecones, this is more sweet than boozey and really smooth to drink. The late night jam wasn't in the cards tonight and we were all relieved for a night to fill up on rest. Such a good crew of folks here. Two years is too long!
P, Hans, Harold, B, Dinos, J.

Night from Öblarn!


05/06/16 day 34: Salzburg, AT

Met Peter at 9:45 for our exercises (our 10th go on the tour). We walked down to the spa where the gym is located and outside onto the outdoor exercise green. We banged out the 30 minute body weight exercise routine while staring at the alps. Somehow ones little issues (for me it was the burpees) seem meer triffles when gazing upon such magnificence.

Now, the breakfast buffet at the Interalpen Hotel Tyrol is, as you can probably imagine, not fucking around. Pardon my French. Similar to the buffet in Bad Ragaz; extensive but not overly lavish. I mean you have all the standard bits one would expect; breads, cheeses, various meat slices for days. But it wasn't opulent. There wasn't a caged leopard being milked for your coffee or anything...

Fresh squeezed juices of various fruits and veggies (best when a little champagne is added, peter was driving this leg so I figured I could indulge), omelet station, a full-on honey comb that you can bust a hunk off of.. It was all tasty. Lovely little breakfast scene happened.

Said goodbye to our fearless leader Tommy who was headed back to Baienfurt and we hit the road in the opposite direction towards Salzburg. Another beautiful drive deep in the heart of Austria. Passed Chiemsee and up into Germany for a moment before crossing the border once again into Salzburg. Our hotel, Goldenes Theater Hotel, was at the base of Kapuzinerberg, so once we located our rooms and put the car to bed in the tiny parking garage below the hotel, peter and I went on a walk about up the hill. We walked into the pedestrian waking zone where we spied a passageway up the hill. This particular area kind of reminded me more of Italy; I think it was the white stone tiles on the ground, or maybe just the different shops than you see in Germany. Beautiful though and bustling due to the good weather. Definitely starting to be tourist season. Today was really the first day we heard a lot of English on the streets. Walked up to the old Cloister (Kapuzinerkloster) and made a quick loop with the occasional photo opp.
View NW of the city from Kapuzinerkloster.
Home of Mozart. Mozart pride, yo. 
Views from the hill.

Grabbed a delicious little crepe with strawberries and Nutella after the hike, made it back to the hotel with just enough time for a rinse and then we walked down the road to the venue Kleines Theater which is nestled up next to a restaurant with a mellow little patio. We enjoyed a Stiegl beer in the sun, had a quick bite, I opted for just a side salad because I'm that healthy, and went backstage and waited for Marvin to flash the light in the green room.

I was excited to see a nice little crowd of anxious Austrians patiently waiting for the show when we emerged from the curtain. A group of young Austrians sat right in the front row and had clearly done their homework. The crowd cheered when we started Dance with Me to end the first set.

We knew the rest was going to be fun, and fun we had. Second set was loose with many stories and my attempts at German jokes, most of which went off surprisingly well. Peter also had the audacity to go out wearing this:
Um, what? Okay...
He rocked it the whole set. I couldn't look at him without bursting out.

After the set we rapped with the folks at the show. The group of young Austrians in the front row drove 3 hours to see us, they live on the border of Slovenia, and were so stoked to hang for a bit. Felt really good to connect with people who are very into the music. They even sang us a tune in their dialect.

Walked home and went to bed satisfied with another great night. This night was really needed. Another cup-filling event, and for an Austrian crowd they were super engaged and interactive. 

Night from Salzburg!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

05/05/16 Day 33: Tyrol, AT

Up and out of the hotel in Lustenau at 10:30. Made the excruciatingly beautiful drive to the, ahem, 5 star Interalpen Hotel outside of Telfs. The broad valley we started in started to close in around us as we headed east. In the distance were snow capped ridges. Around noon we started to enter a series of tunnels which spit us out into snow country around St. Christopher and back down at St. Anton. Switchback roads up and over passes with 8 foot snow markers on either side of the narrowing road. Tall snowy mountains on either side of us, bright blue sky, warm sun. We passed through small ski towns and whizzed past alpine villages that climbed the walls around us. We spotted skiers on the surrounding hills and hi-speed trams to unseen peaks. I would not want to be hehind the wheel during snow, but this was awesome. Our trusty Opel did a fine job negotiating hairpin turns and accelerating up sharp inclines.

Off the two lane highway in Telfs and ascended the hill, up and over to this amazing property. We drove into the hotel three floors below the ground, past rows of some of the most expensive cars on the planet and were immediately greeted by a bell boy who whisked our luggage away. Walked into my room and this is my view.
 Good god. The room doesn't suck either. Walk in closet, big bathroom, huge balcony, King sized bed...

Met Tommy in the lobby at 3 and we quickly set up the PA and sound checked in the location of the show. Cool little side room with its own bar. Kind of a side lounge vibe but very cool. Staff were putting fresh flowers on the bar as we wrapped up at 4. We weren't wasting any time. We had to check out the pool; heated outdoor pool with swimable entry to the indoor pool. This happened.
Sun tanning by the pool with a beer looking at the alps... I mean... It literally can't get better than this.

The pool was jamming. A ton of young families and little blond Austrian kids running around which makes me wonder 1) what the hell do their parents do to afford this luxury 2) are they hiring? Actually, screw it, I'm here to play music. I don't need their stinking job. I like my job better anyway.

We met Catarina, the woman responsible for having us, in the lobby at 6:45. Show started late (7:15) because people kept coming in, which made her quite happy. Better start late with more people, then on time with fewer I always say. I mean, I'm always saying that.

We played one 50 minute set to about 55 respectful guests. The vibe I describe as "Austrian loose" which means polite and respectful and mildly engaged when prompted. I got a few laughs at my dumb German jokes but the dry humor, dead pan thing is wasted here. No worries. Good thing we have some sweet tunes to back it up. Performance was pretty solid, I'd say. Not our best, not our worst. People were definitely digging it though.
Predinner, sunset cascading selfie.

After the set was a 6 course set menu dinner in the dining room. I mean, I prefer 7 courses, but whatever... I'll be honest, some of it was just above my head, for example the braised filet of char, but it was all tasty, properly proportioned and spread out. I mean, we finished dessert at 11:30... It was a three hour leisurely affair. 

Quite possibly my favorite part of the meal was the cheese buffet which would make a cheese lover weep. French, Italian, Swiss were well represented. I tried some of the goooiest, stinkiest, moldy numbers I've ever had the pleasure of tasting. I doubled up; went back for plate number two of my favorites. There was just too much to try. Oh and the truffle honey was a nice touch. Dig the pics....
Here are your may pick one from each course.
Braised char was salty and tangy. Not my favorite but I felt like a grown up eating it.
Main course suckling pig. Pretty bomb. Apple was a great compliment.
Cheese plate number 1... I can't even begin to tell you how delicious all these were. There was one called the "big stinker." It lived up to its name.
Dessert had us scratching our heads a little. This is the chocolate cannelloni. Very light, crunchy, fruity. Not much substance. I eyed the cheese buffet again but decided against it.

After dessert was ramazoti and espresso. Nice finishing touch on a great night.

After dinner we convened in Jeff's room for a post-show debrief/round up. We've been comparing our experience in Bad Ragaz to Interalpen Hotel Tyrol. I wouldn't say there is a clear winner; both have their charms. But we all decided it's best not to pass judgment too quickly. We will need a couple more visits to properly diagnose and weigh all aspects of both properties. Tommy was in agreement.

Night from Tyrol!