Thursday, 11 August 2016

back in the north

the view from my room

After my happy days in Sweden I had high expectations of the coming Norway gigs. I had previously played in Inderoy, a small community near Trondheim in the north. So I knew I would be meeting up with old friends and that is always some thing to look forward to.
I was met by my host Erik at Trondheim airport. My guitar and luggage had arrived so that was good. I always have a little concern about that. The hour and half drive to Inderoy was interesting. Erik and I had plenty to chat about and I think we always would have. We have much in common by way of interests in History, politics and technology. Erik has an amazing command of the english language and the time passed by in absorbing conversation. The night sky was laden with blue and black clouds but the northern sun shone through the gaps in the expansive sky providing an atmospheric pale light. I thought of Viking ships setting out down the fjord on a moody night, on an ebb tide towards the open sea.
The landscape is covered in huge stretches of water where ever you go and it is easy to see why and how the ancient norse men, and shield maidens became so adept at building ships and sailing them to the new worlds.

Erik dropped me off at Husfrua an exquisite country farm hotel high on a hill over looking the Trondheim fjord. The hotel is entirely furnished and decorated in the style of the 1860s. We arranged to meet on the following day for a fishing trip and I began to settle in.

  my room

I slept very well and late so I was very refreshed and ready to fish when Erik picked me up from the hotel. We headed out along the edge of the fjord towards Eriks home which nestles a little way back from the shore line where he has a very cool boat moored to a jetty on the fjord. The water is a two minute walk from Erik and Venil's home. After a late breakfast and a cup of tea that tasted divine we were ready to fish. As I stepped down onto the boat I noticed the rods that Erik had set up were designed for big fish with strong multiplier reels and heavy braided line. I was very interested by the plastic lures attached to the traces and the weight required to get it all down to the bottom of the fjord. I ended up with a 500 gram weight.

Erik preparing the boat

We fished for a while a short way from the shore and then decided to head to a huge suspension bridge that crosses the fjord. It was here that we had our success.We fished in between 70 and 120 metres of water and the fish were there. We could see them on the boats fish finder. Soon we were hauling fish up from the dark depths and we caught four nice fish each. Erik had the largest fish but not by much. I was thrilled by the catch and we were only fishing for an hour and a half or so. Marvellous. I could very easily get used to that.

two of the best

After a little exploratory cruise around the shore we headed back with our catch. I was very satisfied and very grateful to Erik who had promised to take me fishing when I was last in Inderoy. It was especially pleasing to know that our catch would feed quite a few people.
It was time to get ready for the gig in Steinkjer. Stig Leinan picked me up from the hotel and after a very nice pause in his garden with family and old friends we all set off for the gig, a short drive away.

Steinkjer is a small town that is built almost entirely in the style of the fifties. This is one of many Norwegian towns destroyed in the second world war. It is quite strange to see a whole town with few old buildings and to see how a complete rebuild affects the ambience of the place.

The gig was in a pub. The Kulturpuben Vårt hjem is a very well appointed place, smart and very comfortable. I was warmly greeted by staff and introduced to my sound man for the evening. His name is Robert and he is as good as it gets. I noticed a chair was already on stage. A box was placed to the right of the chair for my drinks and towel. The microphone was already in the correct position and two very pro looking stage monitors were place exactly where I would want them. I noted that when I took out the lead I always use for my guitar Robert removed the lead he had put out for me. Impressive. But it was when I stroked the strings of my guitar and sang a line or two into the microphone that I realised Robert had set the whole thing up perfectly before I had even arrived. The little church reverb I like on my vocal sound was spot on.Top man! 

After a splendid meal I was ready to play and my welcome to the stage was all it took to shake off any pre gig nerves. I was so happy and as I ran through the set Robert made enhancing changes that were subtle and creative. I was in my element.

My audience was a delight. I played some old songs but the new ones worked best and they liked my stories. This was to be one of the gigs I have most enjoyed this year. I played almost every thing I have. The show lasted about one hour and three quarters. I played Ice on Fire as an encore for Stig. I know he likes it and so do I.

I had time before leaving to chat with fans and friends. A few folk told me it was the best gig they had ever been to. High praise indeed coming from young and old alike. I am now certain that my self re invention has worked and that I have an opportunity, for as long as I may, to reach a new audience and update my old friends in a current, relevant way. It is a very interesting and happy journey.
When catching fish and playing to my lovely Norwegian brothers and sisters is all contained in one sweet day I am a very happy boy. So it was.

a view from Erik and Venil's garden

Erik picked me up from the hotel and we arrived at his home in bright sunshine. This boded well for the coming outdoor mini festival that Erik had arranged. A cup of english tea and some grilled fish with salad and a local sour cream was a treat indeed. I had again skipped breakfast in favour of sleep so this was very welcome. Erik had grilled the fillets of pollack with a north African spice. The fish was delicious and fresh from the previous days catch.

The sound guys were preparing for the show so I headed off to Stig's home for a while. We chatted about all sorts including Brexit and the state of things.
We arrived back at the garden gig to find problems with the PA system. Eventually the crew agreed a monitor amp had failed and they set off to get a replacement. I have to say that things were never properly resolved and to some extent the out front and onstage sound suffered. Having said that I don't suppose this affected the audience very much at all. The folks who had accompanied me to the previous nights show were clear the sound was better there. I spoke with the guitarist from the blues band about the sound in Steinkjer and he asked me if the sound guy was called Robert. Enough said.

a wonderful venue

The large triangular covering over what was the area used as the stage is actually a sail. It looked so right under lighting and offered good protection should the weather change. The sail partly covered a swimming pool and the overflow runs down the front blue granite wall making a calming and relaxing water feature. The whole house is full of innovation and Erik likes his toys. I had a demo of the robot lawn mower that mows the garden when the family is else where, re charging itself as and when needed. 

As the hours passed three generations of friends and their children congregated in this wonderful space. The atmosphere was delightful. The garden had lots of tables and chairs and benches in front of the house. Small braziers were ready, filled with wood for burning when the evening grew cooler.
The food on offer to the guests and we musicians was excellent and as the audience grew I began to look forward to getting on stage.

A choir of six men opened proceedings with some very nice singing. We were still waiting for the replacement amplifier so they sang with out amplification. It was lovely. One of the guys sang a song about football. It was obviously hilarious though I hardly understood a word. I found myself laughing at the gestures and acting out of the song. The singer had obviously got this down to a fine art over time.

With amplification The Bjørn Alterhaug Quintet took to the stage. A very fine jazz quartet with some humour and they swing.
Next was me. What can I say? The audience was so warm and attentive. They travelled with me through the songs and attached stories. It felt special for me and I was pleased for Erik that it was going well after all his work to make this a special day for every one.

Next we were treated to a short performance by two Norwegian opera singers and their pianist. It was very interesting to watch and as one would expect it was a very professional and stylish performance.
Last onstage was the Jolly Jumper & Big Moe with The Jimbo Jambo Band. A local rock blues band that plays blues through the genre. Dirty old blues with that nice shambling feel that tells you they have really studied this and they love it. Young Daniel, the pianist is exceptional. The real deal with attack and the coolest feel.

What a fantastic day this had been. Tired now I set off with my friends to my drop off at the hotel. I slept like a log and woke refreshed and ready for the trip home. Eric picked me up and I spent some more time at the house staring out across the garden to the fjord beyond. Eric had planned that we might have some play time with an underwater drone. It is a project in prototype stage he is involved with. Prototype software problems meant we couldn't do this so it was about loafing around in the garden chatting and drinking hot tea until it was time to head to the airport. 

my lovely hosts Erik and Venil

I think by now, most of you know I have very real affinity with Norway and the Norwegians and so, it will be no surprise when I tell you this was a very special time for me. I just feel so at home there and grateful for their friendship. You know who you are. Thank you all.



alan in southampton said...

I have just returned home from a great chill day out on the south coast. I feel really good but I have just read your narative of your Norwegian trip and it has has made my day. I too have friends in Norway and you have prompted me to refresh our friendship.There is so much warmth in your words.

Mikefrom albuquerqu said...

Wonderful story......good on you.

Jarle said...

Wow, fantastic trip it seems, how nice!
Soon back to us norwegians,looking forward to father&son gigs.