Tales from the Rails – Arrivals, Departures and the Footsteps Ahead

I’m at the usual suspect coffee chain in Brussels Nord station with an hour to spare before my train departs to Cologne. It’s day seven of the tour with eight shows behind me and three more to go before I have a couple of days off in Berlin. The last three nights have been a little rough, so I’m eyeing my very pricy cappuccino suspiciously, doubting it will do the trick. They’re playing Joni Mitchell and I can’t help but draw a comparison to her tales of sitting in cafés in Paris and dreaming about California, a scene somewhat more romantic than the little tin can I’m seeking refuge in at the moment.

Many jokes were made about Almere at the lovely living room gigs in Amsterdam… from the remarks, I gathered that it’s the equivalent to Milton Keynes – a new town with less than desirable concrete block buildings: The deranged 1960’s vision of what a sleek future might look like. Indeed, a pretty sight it was not. I tried to walk from Almere station to the address I’d been given (after the usual: Ah, no, you better take the bus, it’s long walk!), but alas, the road had no pavement so I gave up and hopped on the bus for two stops. This particular living room gig was hosted by Sandy, a singer / songwriter herself and founder of a Netherlands living room gig booking agency. I waited around until my gig buddy (and translator!) Merel arrived; she was going to open the show. Slowly people started piling in, the crowd distinctly more Dutch this time, meaning that communication was a little harder, save for one chap who was from Redditch (small world). We played in the suburban garden with the neighbours chiming in with applause or remarks from across the fence every now and then. The sun was still warm and birds chirped in tune with songs. I do love living rooms gigs, especially when they serve cheese, pate and other fun party food… and luckily you don’t need to speak the same language to enjoy music together or to be undrestood. Here’s a picture of the very lovely crowd, with a couple of you hiding in the west wing!


I had such an amazing time in the Netherlands, thanks again to Trieu and everybody at the most wonderful living room show, to Merel and to Sandy for proving that a good time can be had in Almere – oh, and to the wee white kitten at the hippy festival, who’s furry, curled up image keeps popping into my head.

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It’s probably a bad sign when you feel at home on the Megabus, but there was something oddly comforting about that little round man in his yellow cap, especially as this particular coach was London bound (what a silly journey that must be!). It took me comfortably to Antwerp in just a couple of hours, where I was met by Bert, promoter of the show in Rupelmonde. I had found this gig through my friend Laura Meyer. It was sheer coincidence that Niall Connolly and Warren Malone (Big City Folkers and a very big inspiration to me) had played at the same venue prior to me – a small world indeed and a good feeling to know that there are footsteps ahead of me – a path not entirely untrodden is a comforting thing when travelling alone.


On every tour there comes a point when your voice arrives and you wonder where it’s been all these months. It’s so much fun to perform when you’re at full strength (vocally up to 11, so to speak), it’s easy and comfortable and feel a ittle like coming home. On that particular day in Belgium, it arrived. Bert was a great host and of course I had a Belgian Beer after the show. The next day passed quickly and I found my way to Berlaar, by bus, tram and train. The venue was actually a station house, so it could not have been more apt for my tales from the rails.

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Despite kick off match for the World Cup, people came to see me play, which was a great relief! The audience was really attentive and it was a joy to play.

So here I am, hoping to wake up before I meet friends in Cologne to shoot a little live session. This will be my third gig at the Cafe Lichtung, looking forward to seeing everyone again.

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