This is a German town where French people go for bargains. That’s what Estella (Sparte4’s artist liaison) told us. For years these two nations have occupied the same shopping space, commercially but never linguistically, a retail accord, their polite transactions like silent ambassadors or ocean liners passing in the mist.
Wandering through the street after soundcheck we decided Saarbrücken looks best at night. I don’t mean that as an insult. For me it felt like a town of angles rather than details. Pleasing silhouettes and promising shadows.
The venue was deceptive in its dimensions. Fans of Doctor Who will understand me when I say it is dimensionally transcendental - longer, wider and taller than it first appeared (and certainly larger than one might expect an independent upstairs city centre theatre/bar to be). They mostly put on plays and seated shows with folk/jazz acts (our friend Liz Green was there last week and apparently gave us a shout out which might explain why our gig was so well attended).
This was another evening that yielded no clues as to how it might develop. We arrived to find a sea of beanbags arranged in tight rows right up to the stage. It did not take long for my initial reaction of amusement to mutate into one of concern. Inspiring people to spring out of their seats and dance is hard enough, getting them to negotiate their slumped carcasses out of the leathery embrace of a giant floor cushion is almost impossible.
We opted to play two sets, the first peppered with some of our milder numbers but containing a strong suggestion that there would be a face melting sonic onslaught after the interval. People were up and moving long before that though and cheered loudly when I suggested losing the beanbags for Act Two (though not before I’d launched myself off the stage into aforementioned cushions, thrashing around in them during the instrumental section of The Tell-Tale Hound, sending them flying in all directions - easily the most comfortable stage dive of my career!).
They were a great audience. Indeed it was a wonderful final show of the continental leg of the Memoir Noir tour. After two encores and a period of mingling in the bar the venue manager told us they’d never had dancing there before. Mission accomplished.
And that, as they say, is that. I am writing this entry on the way home via Calais. Dan is driving, Kirsty is next to me doing her accounts, Fran is opposite throwing the odd suspicious glance in my direction (probably wondering which of his dark secrets I’m publishing here - he’s my regular slumber chum when we don’t get individual hotel rooms). Everyone else is reading or snoozing. About an hour ago we passed through Luxembourg to fill Bessie with cheap diesel while the smoking contingent of the band stocked up on a few months worth of tobacco.
It has been a short tour but tremendously rewarding. At each destination we have encountered people who have known our names, habits and lyrics (something we are not used to - particularly overseas) and have met some of the nicest folks one can imagine. Physically it has been exhausting - I have bruises all over from ill-judged stage dives, three smashed fingers on my strumming hand and barely any voice left - but emotionally we are soaring. I feel positive about the future, content with the present and we’ve got a few more stories to stash away for our winter years.
And we all still like each other.
Special thanks to Sara Harris who has been in charge of our merch table and shared driving and archiving duties. It’s a pleasure having her on the team.
Next stop: England.