European Tour September 2014 Part 2

Part 2: POLAND ROCKS!

The band rocks Otwock

First, a note from Eric Robert, our keyboard master:

"A friend of mine (who has been around the globe and who knew I’d be getting to tour more overseas) told me about 10 years ago that when you travel to interesting and far-away places, you change as a person. You physically bridge the distance and you feel like a new person as a result, she said. I’ve toured before, to places like Kuwait and the Caymans. But this short tour was by far one of the most memorable of my career at this point. Going to Poland was the highlight for me. Actually seeing the burgeoning new culture and architecture and renovation...amazing! What an opportunity to be able to play for these wonderful, beautiful and welcoming folks, who make up some of the most responsive and energetic audiences I’ve ever seen. German and the Netherlands were also incredible. But humble Poland struck a resonating chord. And no better people to tour with... great band, great travelers. Huge thanks to Dudley for making this dream come true. And, huge kudos to Dudley and John for driving the Mercedes tour van on those insane German highways, where average speed in left passing lane is 150 mph. Can’t wait to go back."

--ERIC ROBERT

After shows in the Netherlands and Germany, the next day was Thursday September 11th and we had a long drive ahead of us. Our gig on Friday was in a town called Kielce in Poland, but our tour organizers wanted us to stay in Warsaw. That would have been a 12 hour drive, and if we ran into any problems, we might be driving through the wee hours of the morning. So we decided to make it to Poznan, Poland and stay at the hotel we were booked for later in the week when we were to play the Blue Note there. Luckily we didn’t run into any traffic problems crossing Germany, and made it in good time to the Polish boarder.

We had heard conflicting stories about the roads in Poland. Some said all the roads were in poor condition and to watch our stuff carefully. Others had said the roads were fantastic and they had no problems.

We crossed into Poland on the A2, and were happy to see the toll road was brand-spanking new!
Baby-butt smooth Polish Freeway

140 kph was the speed limit (about 87 mph) and we blazed our way into Poznan. We arrived late afternoon, checked into our hotel, and walked down to the City Center. We hit a money exchange and bought some of the Polish currency - the złoty. There are a ton of restaurants, shops and outdoor cafés there, and we took our time choosing where to eat, and found some tasty pierogy. We soaked up the atmosphere and the old buildings. Most of the young people spoke English, thankfully. We all tried to learn some Polish, but after repeating how to say please (proszę) about ten times, we completely forgot five minutes later. Hahaha. I did eventually learn how to say  “Hello, my name is Dudley Taft, I am from America,” but that took about three days of practice!

Downtown Poznan by the University

Old Town Square Poznan
 
The hotel in Poznan had scrambled eggs. Oh man, it’s great when you can get scrambled eggs on these European tours. Northern Europeans mostly serve cheese, lunchmeat (which is often unrecognizable) and bread. You are lucky to get a hard boiled egg.

Uh, breakfast?!?!
 
We drove to Kielce, and it was supposed to take 3 ½ hours, but it took 5 hours and 20 minutes. The roads south of the A2 are not in great shape, and there is a lot of construction. I think in about 3-5 years the roads will be better everywhere because Poland is really booming right now. There’s widespread real estate development and infrastructure improvements going on. Poznan has a brand-spanking new train station. My opinion is that they are fortunate to not be on the Euro, though the country is a member of the European Union. They continue to use the złoty, and are not as affected by the relative value of the Euro which is distorted for many European countries by the powerhouse economies of Germany and France.

We made it to the cultural center in Kielce where the gig was. I had no idea we would be playing in a small theater! Wow. Big stage, great sound system and one of the biggest buffet spreads I have ever seen! In addition to the professional soundmen, there was a studio in the basement where they recorded the whole show. Stay tuned for some videos and live recordings...

The band plays it's first show in Poland in Kielce

We met the guys in the Mike Onesko band here, and we played all of our shows in Poland with them. They turned out to be good men- all of them, and we became fast friends. The lead guitar player, Jay Jesse Johnson lives about 45 minutes from me in Ohio oddly enough…
 
We had been fine-tuning our set in the clubs in the Netherlands, and this is where the hard work paid off. Instead of playing two 75 minute sets we could only play one, and picked our best stuff!

I have played big stages in several other bands in the past: Sweet Water, Second Coming and Spike and The Impalers but I had not done so in my solo band. I know how to work the stage in bigger venues. I used all of my experience, and it felt like old times! The transition from small clubs and bars to small theaters and festival stages can be disorienting. You are not as close to each other, and it takes awhile to get the monitors dialed in so you can hear everything well enough. You can’t really practice for this; you just need the experience. Well, we got plenty of that experience in Poland for sure! The show in Kielce was in a 300 seat theater. The crowd seemed to like our brand of blues rock. After clapping at the end of each song, they settled into a rhythmic “clap, clap clap” until we started the next one. Very cool!

The crowd goes "Clap, clap, clap" waiting for me to tune up...
 
After the show, we made our way to the lobby and signed autographs and took pictures with the fans. Our tour agents here, Marika and Andrzej Swat brought their kids with them to help- Dominik, aged 18, and Bartosz, 20. We called them the “Swat Team” and they handled the merchandise sales while we were on stage and did a little bit of stage teching.

Killer Merch Banner made by the Swat Team
 
It is interesting to note that the age of the Polish crowd was younger than the Dutch or German crowds. We regularly saw teens and 20-somethings in the mix. Perhaps it is culturally more acceptable to like American Blues for these age groups?
 
After the gig we drove 2 hours down to Tarnobrzeg, south east of Kielce. Having our Garmin GPS as our only guide, we ran into a couple of dead ends in small towns that were completely shut down for the night. Not the best thing to do after a gig! We made it to T-zeg around 1 am or so, and crashed heavily.
 
The next day was the Satyr Blues Festival and the real reason and anchor gig for the tour. Victor Czura runs the festival which is in its 16th year, and he is the guy who found our band on the internet. (Thank you Facebook, Twitter, and Google!)
 

Dudley & Satyr Blues Maestro Victor Czura


He is a crazy energetic guy that made all kinds of interesting preparations for the show with his lovely wife Ewa. He had custom beer bottles made, postage stamps, posters, guitars made of plants, caricature drawings, etc… Really over-the-top! We were treated like Kings.

Floral Guitars
 
Stamps!
Now you can, uh, lick us and stick us...
Drinking Dudley Beer May cause your head to swell

The theater was a lot like the one in Kielce- it holds maybe 300-325 people, and it was packed! Victor arranged an interview with the big Polish guitar magazine- Gitarzysta, and the editor was sitting in the front row. Thanks Krzysztof Inglik, for the three page spread!

Gitarzysta Magazine
 
We sold a ton of CDs afterwards again to both youngsters and adults with the help of the Swat boys and Satyr employee Kasia Skoczek. Thanks for all the help!

You are never too young for the blues!
I just LOVE this KILLER drawing by Victor Czura!
 
The after party was a big deal with a GIANT banquet table full of all kinds of crazy Polish dishes and an amazing acoustic guitar player Piotr Restecki. We tried the local favorite drinks, Zubrowska Vodka and some cherry vodka too. We didn't get much sleep that night.
With Victor and Arkadiusz Maniuk- who drew all of the cartoons and caricatures
 
Satyr Blues Group after the Banquet

Saying goodbye to Satyr Blues

The next day we packed it up and drove to Warsaw and got some much needed RnR, and laundry taken care of. We checked out the old City Center and visited the Hard Rock Café and did a little shopping at the huge mall there. There is so much history in these old cities- Poland is wedged between Russia and Germany, and has been key strategic territory in countless wars. There’s a story behind every town and old castle…

Warsaw by night
 
After getting some much needed rest, we made the short drive to Otwock (pronounce ot-vosk), just south of Warsaw for the next gig- an outdoor festival. We were a bit worried when we pulled up: there was a stage with grade-school kids singing Polish songs and mostly families sitting around the grounds. I instantly thought “Spinal Tap” and wondered if there was a puppet show too...
 
However, this was NOT the case, and as the day wore on the families left and more and more people showed up for the main event. The mayor of Otwock appeared and gave us all mugs, t-shirts and brochures in a gift bag like we were visiting dignitaries. Some Harley dudes offered to drive us up to the stage on their bikes, and we were treated like royalty.

Onstage in Otwock
 
This was the biggest show of the tour by far- my estimate of the crowd size was 1000-1500 people. And they loved every minute of it. I did my little “hello I am Dudley Taft from America” speech in Polish, and I think I nailed it.
 

The crowd at the Blues Bazaar in Otwock
 
The next day, riding high on these killer shows, we rolled back to Poznan to play the Blue Note club in an old Castle built by a German Chancellor. It was a fantastic place- majestic. The club was in the basement and held about 300-400 people, and (guess what) it was packed. On a Tuesday night. Wow.

Trading solos on "Going Down" at the Blue Note
Killer crowd at the Blue Note in Poznan
 
We did our thing, and the crowd response was phenomenal!
 
After the show we hung out with the cousin of a good friend, Maria Kacprzak, who is married to one of my best friends David Goble of Seattle. Marcin hung out with us until the wee hours, drinking beer and munching some Turkish food. We talked about historic Poznan.

The band was overwhelmed by the hospitality of the Polish people, and their love of American blues and blues rock.  It was easy to give all we had from the stage, playing off of the good vibes from the attentive and energetic audience. We were quite sad to leave Poland!


 
The next day was a driving day, and we had to make it to Itzehoe, north of Hamburg, Germany.
 
I didn’t make hotel reservations for the day off in advance, and was scrambling to find somewhere to stay in the lobby of the hotel in Poznan. There was no wifi in the rooms, so we were all sitting on the couches by the reception desk madly emailing, Facebooking and Hotels.com-ing. Hahaha. Luckily I found a neat little place on a small lake outside of Itzehoe called Hotel-Mühle. They have weddings and events there, and the restaurant was fantastic. The owner took a liking to us after Eric played on the piano in the lobby. Sometimes on these tours you unexpectedly find some great little hotels… 

Hotel Mühle on the lake near Itzehoe...

The next morning we drove into Itzehoe, and saw the poster for our gig that night. Uh, a bit of a let-down after the Polish shows for sure! Hahaha. The club owner was a nice lady and is working on fixing up the club, and improving it’s reputation. We did the best we could for her. Luckily the article in the local paper about us had the correct picture, but this one below clearly did not…

Itzehoe Poster Fail
 
Next stop was back to Anko’s house in Vriezenveen, where we were to play the Het Wapen. There’s a funny little story about this place. One of the first times we played in Europe, we stayed at Anko and Helga’s place and walked into the city center looking for food. It’s a small town, and there aren’t a lot of restaurants. We asked someone on the street about a place to eat and they said “200 meters that direction.” After the 200 meters, we saw no restaurant, and asked another person who said “200 meters that direction.” Hmmm. We eventually walked in to the Het Wapen, and like we were in an old western, the whole place-full of off-duty firemen stopped playing pool and talking and looked up at us. We asked if there was any food available and they said no, but you can go “200 meters that direction.” Hahaha
 
Well, now after we played the show that night at the Het Wapen, and got to know everyone, I think next time they will invite us in for beers and sausage! We all owe Anko Lammers a great deal of gratitude for making the show happen- he brought in a stage and his personal PA system and booked the gig. Anko, you rock!
 The band with Kip from the Het Wapen and Anko Lammers (far right), Vriezenveen NL
 
The very last show was down in the south again in Maastricht at “The Old Hamony House”. We played with two other bands- one composed of three 14 year olds! They brought a crowd of high-school kids with them. Oddly enough, the kids stayed most of the night!

Antoine and Les of Leavegreater Productions with the Netherland's Youngest Band Morganas Illusion

We splurged on a nice hotel in Maastricht. After a long tour, we were all very much burned out (and we EARNED it). We woke up early the next morning and I dropped the rest of the guys off at the train station in Sittard where they rode into the Schipol Airport.
 
I drove back to Cologne to return the guitar gear and store what was left of our merch (we sold out of 2 of our 3 CDs!). After a nice dinner at the Bitzhof with Ralf and Krisitin, I called it a night. Tour #4 was a HUGE success!

NOTE: It has been tough choosing the best photos for this BLOG. You can see ALL of the tour photos HERE.

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