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Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Stuttgart, its environs and an afterthought

Leigh, my cousin Ian and I drove to Stuttgart to play a couple of gigs last weekend.

We played An Sibin and The Phoenix Folk Club. Both were great experiences. Thanks to Claudi and Thanassi (AS) and Klaus (TPFC) for warm welcomes and the use of their audiences. And to Corrinna and Edwin and Norma Huss who gave us places to sleep and fed us sumptuously.

On stage receiving very generous applause at the end of the Phoenix gig was very moving for me. This is the first time in 20 years that I haven't either had a gig (or more) in the diary or the immediate intention of booking some. I don't quite know what it means, but it may mean I've retired. Let's see.

If I have, thanks to all those I've played for - hosts and audiences both - and all I've played with. And thanks to those who have helped me make music. It's been a great thing to do.

S. x

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Hopper vs Oktoberfest: the battle of the titans #13 (last)


You couldn't get a flight into Munich on the weekend of our final gig in Deisenhofen. The lederhosen-clad hoards weren't heading our way, however, they were off to the annual beer-fest that fills the capital of Bavaria at this time of the year. It was the reason I couldn't blag another gig hereabouts, bar-owners telling me that no one would show up since they were all getting pissed up town.

Well, the good folk of the Volkshochschule - who promoted this evening - triumphantly bucked the trend to fill the Wagnerhaus and provided us with an attentive, intelligent audience and a heart-warming final evening to the Two Duos Tour (gig 12). Many thanks to them.

And we played well. It was acoustic with all that that entails, I was on form and Norma provided her usual filigree array of embellishments to a set of songs that by now had all the burnished finish of a set oft-performed (that is the musician's joy of a tour).

Immense gratitude to the family Embacher, Hilde, m'lady Angelika (in whose home town this all happened) and her sister Christine (Kozak) who between them brokered the concert, gave us accommodation and their usual Bayerische welcome.

So, thirteen months in the making, the TDT is over. More thanks, then, to Norma and Filip for their Stirling support, to all the promoters who hosted us, all those who fed us and gave us beds and all the lovely people who validated our efforts by lending their ears and attention, for two spells of 40 minutes, to sixteen songs plus encores. In respect of my songs, that's a lot of (sometimes complex) words - that takes some listening to.

For me, it's the songs that are the heroes. Stalwart dependables like In Sympathy and Jeffrey and Robert and I, old songs given a new feel by the addition of Norma's harp like Rope Ladder and Trevor Square and songs I had to re-learn to play on the guitar (ex-mandolin) like Long Time Gone and I'll Settle For Today. The latter was my fave of the set.

As well as great audiences, friends and family jetting in to join us added a flattering frisson to the trip. Thanks to all who did.

I don't know what I'll do next with my music. One thing I realised was how long it is since I recorded a new collection...

I'm riding a motorbike to Switzerland with my sons and their mates now. Long Time Gone, eh?

Be happy!

x



(And no, I didn't do the gig in my shorts - sexy though they are - this was the set up...)

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Three gigs a-go-go #12

Three gigs in a weekend. That's what you do when you're touring. So;


Thanks to Walter, Uli and Klaus for their invitation and welcome at their wonderful folk club. Over twenty-six or so years, in an old barn,  they've built a nest of song enthusiasts that they entertain every month. And they occasionally allow a lucky nomad to come in and sing to them. I was one such last Friday and, as previously, loved every second of the evening...


And thanks to Norma for taking on the (daunting) challenge of playing and hosting simultaneously in Saturday's house concert. Her usual array of refusenik-Swabians, easy-going, liberal, art and fun-loving folk that they are, did us the honour of providing the ears for our playing. And well we played, too. The after-gig impromptu was pretty good as well...


Finally, thanks to the people of Sofa Concerts gig at JuKi Ludwigsburg for a friendly welcome in the youth church in the city. Jutta coordinated very sympathetically and Simon organised most competently. In a small room we were able to play acoustically - always a joy when the rooms allows. (They like artists to leave evidence of their visit on the toilet wall. So my words are now on permanent view - until they redecorate.) And they gave me a sofa to spend the night on - appropriate for a Sofa Concert - and cheese pastries and coffee the next day to see me off on my drive...

To London!

Home now. Eleven and a half hours door to door (inc ferry). Back in Blighty - but preparing for a motorcycle ride to Munich for the final (and acoustic) gig of the tour. Who organised the travel arrangements for this trip? Oh...

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Die Fabrik, the best hotel in Berlin (#11)


With me here is Andi Kort, one half of the Simon Hopper fan club (Berlin branch). Great to have him and Martina, his lovely lady, along last night for the solo gig in....



... Die Fabrik, Berlin's best and funkiest hotel, in groovy Kreuzberg.

It all happened: I sang my Die Fabrik songs* (this place to me - as mentioned previously - is as New York's Chelsea Hotel is to Dylan and others); people came in off the street to see what the noise was about (and stayed); sister Brigid and chum Dave brought a personal element to the proceedings and Fedora brought beer and wine and generally managed the ambience.

I have made friends here over the times I have visited and played. One, Achim, a long-term resident in Die Fabrik who befriended me and with whom I exchanged unexpected intimacies over white wine was missing last night. He recently died of a heart attack. He was my age. I was very sad to hear the news. I thought of him as I played.

I also thought of my cousin Ian who accompanied me here the last time I came. It's not the same alone, cuz.

Notwithstanding all the above, last night was a good night. It's good to have good nights in the face of all that life insists on, don't you think?

Goodbye Die Fabrik, goodbye Achim. Thanks to you both.



Two Duos Tour - Germany '16 #10


Preparing for the solo gig - it's not just thrown together, you know!...

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Two Duos Tour - Germany '16 #9


The German 'donnerwetter' can be translated as thunderstorm.

Duo #2 played the music café Donerwetter last evening. We had to cross the Elbe to get to it. Fortunately the long queue of traffic on the tunnel road was heading the other way. Less fortunately, the weather didn't correspond with the name of the venue - it was still 25 degrees at 10.00 pm - and the good people of Hamburg had better ideas about how to spend the warm evening than sitting indoors listening to an itinerant Irish singer and his Swedish sidekick.

We were great, as it happens, but there were few to attest to it. Owner Mattias and his crew were charming, however, and looked after us royally.

We had to make an evening of it by repairing to base camp at St Pauli (whose football team won their first match of the season yesterday - Tim and I were there - it was great) with the aforementioned brother and a second Swede, the roadie whose nickname, inexplicably, is The Teflon Shark, and drink beer and wine, eat wasabi nuts and talk bollocks 'til the early hours. It's tough etc, etc...

I part company with Filip today. He's a great accompanist and we played well together - many thanks to him.

On to Berlin and line-up #3 (see the first TDT post).

Two Duos Tour - Germany '16 #8


We played the Mobile Blues Club last night.

If you look closely here, you'll see the artist in question sound-checking with his partner for the weekend, Filip Svensson.

For a guitarist, Filip is a bloody good bass player, proving that a good muso is a good muso is a good muso. He flew in from Gothenburg, rehearsed as he stepped off the 'plane and was ready to go in a trice. Us singer types need proper musicians around to make a us sound good. Filip is one such.

The Mobile Blues Club is a groovy place. It's not the smallest venue I've ever played in (that's the Wee Folk Club - which, by the way, is the reason I came to be in Germany in the first place), but it is, well, wee.

We played late. I thought we were too quiet to attract the punters from the free bar around the corner so reverted to some cheesy covers played loud. It didn't work. We played our own set in the second half and that worked better. This proved something, but I'm not quite sure what.

My brother Tim turned up. So did Lennart Svensson* with a couple of mates. Well you never know, do you?

Donnerwetter tonight. Berlin tomorrow.



*He brought the biggest bass cab all the way from Sweden. We didn't use it.