BILLY BLOCK WESTERN ROOTS REVIVAL
ROAD KILL – DAY ONE & TWO – WEDNESDAY & THURSDAY, JULY 23-24:
Can’t believe I’m traveling again. This time it’s to Scandinavia with the Billy Block Western Roots Revival Package. First festival is this weekend in Seljord, Norway with Jim Lauderdale, Danni Leigh and Heather Myles. Then we drive to Sweden for a WEEK off (I’d rather be at home working!) and have a festival in Furuvik the following weekend. Furuvik will feature Danni, Heather, Monte Warden, and Stonewall Jackson with the Billy Block Band. Be back in Nashville in 12 days. The people at the airport are beginning to recognize me I’ve been there so much these last few weeks. Conversation with the lady at the coffee shop: HER: I know you. You’re here a lot. ME: Yes, mam. I am. HER: And, you know who you look like. I told you last time. ME: Yes, mam. (smiling) HER: Are you sure you’re not…. ME: I’m sure. I can show you my passport if you’d like. HER: Oh, I know that “those” people can get fake id’s so no one will know who they really are… I think she’s watched too many James Bond Movies….it’s my Celine Dion disguise that’s throwing her. And, this entire conversation took place while I had my earpiece in and was trying to talk to a business associate on my cell phone. She didn’t have a clue that I was talking to someone else half the time. Flight out of Nashville was “different”. As you know, I have a “feel” for when there is something a little bit strange and I had that “feel”. As soon as we leveled off, the pilot came on the speaker and said, “I have some good news for you and some bad news for you. I’ll give you the bad news first.” I was expecting him to say something about losing an engine or having to burn off all the fuel to make an emergency landing…something fatalistic (to me, at least). Instead he announced that the airports in New York, Newark and Boston were closed because of weather! Rest of flight was fine until we had to land and hit the deadly turbulence once again. No problem making our connection out of Detroit to Amsterdam. It must have been a really old airplane because the seats (even in Business Class) were BAD. There was no cushioning left and you sort of had to conform to the shape of the seat, which was obviously molded by other passengers. My head tilted forward and the lumbar support was nonexistent. Made for a long flight. Landed in Amsterdam where we had a 3-hour layover. Some of the guys (I’m won’t mention names) took the train and bolted into Amsterdam. Now, I wonder, WHAT can you do in Amsterdam in only one hour???? Danni Leigh flew out of JFK and met us in Amsterdam. We were on a KLM flight from Amsterdam to Oslo, about a two-hour trip. No business class and the seats were 3 across. I sat beside the largest lady on the plane. She “hung over” into my seat and I was squished up against the armrest the entire flight. When we landed and I stood up, she lifted the armrest between our seats and I promise you, she took up her seat and half of mine. Of course, she’s also the one who got angry with the flight attendant during the flight because they didn’t have enough sandwiches to give her two. Our driver was there to meet us but with a 9 passenger van – and there was 9 of us. Totally unacceptable since we’d been traveling for 20 hours with no legroom. He tried to rent a larger vehicle and nothing was available. So, he took us to the bus station and 5 of us hoped on the bus. It was great but the driver was horrible. All the roads in Norway are little winding paths up mountains with sheer drops on one side…usually into a beautiful lake. He drove like a maniac, slamming on the brakes and jerking us around for 4 (yes, count ‘em, FOUR) hours. But, at least we had legroom! We finally arrived at the hotel in the middle of the Norwegian woods at 6 pm Norway time….24 hours since we’d arrived at the Nashville airport. Thank goodness I’m with a great group of artists/musicians who are real troopers. The hotel is old but nice and EMAIL WORKS, so I’m happy. The shower is the kind that is just a showerhead and a curtain and all the water just floods the entire floor. Usually they give us a squeegee to push the water into the drain with after showering. Not so here. (David, Susan and Howard, I NEED YOU!) Had a really nice buffet dinner with smoked salmon, raw salmon, poached salmon, fried salmon, salmon salad, salmon soup, and I have a feeling somewhere they had dessert with salmon in it. Of course, it’s great salmon and fortunately we all LIKE salmon. It’s 9 pm on Thursday evening now and we’re going out for a walk. There will be about 30 minutes of darkness at around midnight, then it’s daylight again. Hot here and no air conditioning, but at least it’s cooler than Switzerland.
ROAD KILL – DAY THREE – JULY 25TH Woke up to rain this morning. Not good for an outdoor festival and certainly not good for my exercise routing. Had to work out with bands instead of jogging. Hoping it will clear up later in the day – for the festival’s sake and my physical well being! Still overcast but not raining during sound check. Heather is the only artist I have performing tonight. The venue is really nice. There are THOUSANDS of campers on-site and they are definitely Norwegian “hillbillies”! Yesterday campers waiting to get to the site blocked traffic up for miles. There was one double decker bus on the grounds today. The owners had built a “deck” on the top of the bus for their bar. The Norwegians start drinking at 10 am and by midnight when Heather goes on, they will be pretty rowdy. The venue is outside but the stage is covered and the backstage area is a really nice building with clean toilets….no port-o-lets. Amazing…a festival without port-o-lets! There are lots of booths selling western wear and alcohol. The only real snag we encountered at sound check was the fact that the sound company forgot the transformers to convert the stage power to 120 volt. The nearest city that sells these is a 6-hour roundtrip drive away. We finally found batteries and a smaller transformer (probably not enough wattage to handled what we need), which will probably blow up, mid-way through the show. I’ve been coming to Scandinavia for about 10 years and have always found that the women are beautiful and the men are – well, not. Totally opposite at this event. I suppose the good-looking men have been hiding out in the woods of Seljord all this time! Most of the women I saw today are slender but they have no “shape”. They have what we refer to in the South as “old man’s butt”. You can’t tell where their legs end and their hips begin. Too much information, I know. It’s a beautiful area with the mountains, lakes and forests but Northern Norway is even lovelier with all the fjords and glaciers. The air is so clean here that my allergies have kicked in. Smelling things I haven’t smelled in months, I’m sure. Danni and I went jogging but only about 4 miles. She hasn’t been running so we had to cut it short for me. But, at least I got in two workouts today. Rain held off for the show. Guess what – the transformer blew up during the first song – didn’t even make it as long as I predicted! Huge crowd of really drunk Norwegians. They had to put up barricades to keep them from getting too close to the stage. Heather signed autographs after the show and boy, was that fun! These people were “falling down drunk”. I had to pull several of them off of her. Glad they were too drunk to remember me. Got back to the hotel at 2:30 am. Night! Jude
ROAD KILL – DAY FOUR – JULY 26TH: Woke up to heavy rain so no jogging. Was hoping it would quit by the time sound check was over so I could run in the afternoon. We had a new driver today name Tor. (That’s as common as Bill or Joe in the U.S.) We asked him if the rain was supposed to stop and he said the weatherman said “It’s open!”. Sounds exactly like the weather reporters in the U.S. He turned onto a little winding side road and I assumed he knew a short cut around all the traffic to the festival. He was taking up almost the entire road when he rounded a curve and met a car coming in the other direction head on. We all gave a collective gasp and his response was , “I have more bad news for you. I took a wrong road. I’ve never seen this part of Norway before.” Finally found a little place where we could turn the van around and head back in the right direction. The campers were a pitiful sight. I can’t imagine being as drunk as they were last night and then waking up in all the mud and rain. Tor asked me the name of the “western pants” and the only thing I could think of was chaps. He assured me that was correct and asked if I had seen the drunk Norwegians last night walking around with chaps on and nothing else. Fortunately, I missed that spectacle. There are beautiful purple flowers growing wild all along the roadways. I knew if I asked what they were, I would be told that they were wildflowers. Sure enough, I asked, and that’s what they are! Someone finally offered that they are “foxbells” and they are poisonous. Said that they contain morphine. Which doesn’t quite add up so I asked if maybe they meant arsenic. But, was assured that it was morphine and deadly. No problems at sound check but the rain had still not stopped. Tried to decide if I should just run in the rain or brave the indoor pool. I know absolutely NOTHING about swimming for exercise. Finally decided to try the pool and pray real hard that I would be the only one there. Someone obviously heard my prayers and took pity on me. I had no idea how many laps to do or even if I was moving properly. I settled on 50 laps and 15 minutes in the sauna. Since I don’t feel like I’ve worked out at all, I have a feeling probably didn’t do enough laps. WOW! What a festival. The rain stopped but the mud was several inches thick. And, the audience was very drunk….not as drunk as I’ve seen on some of the festivals in Norway with the Bellamys but much more so than what you see on a really bad night in the States. I made the mistake of going out to the Front of House to deliver set lists. I am pretty good at “dodging and weaving” but not this time. I had to watch very carefully exactly where I was stepping to avoid landing ankle deep in mud or worse. Drunk men were grabbing and mauling. I thought I was going to have to give one guy my shirt just to get loose. Then, the topper was a woman with one ski on. She “skied” right into me. I’m not sure what that was all about but someone said she had been “skiing” around for 3-4 hours on that one ski… I went out with Jim Lauderdale to sign autographs and a really, really drunk lady came up and insisted that I sign her t-shirt. I kept telling her I wasn’t anybody but she insisted I was Dolly Parton’s manager….heaven only knows where that came from. Then she latched on to Jim. She thought he was Danni Leigh and it took him quite a while to get out of that one. Then Danni came on stage and Jim told her that Danni was singing a song that he wrote. Her response was, “Oh, I’m so sorry”. I had just taken a drink of water and managed to spit it all the way across the table at that one. Danni came out and signed an “Daniel” (an older gentleman) was there with bags of gifts for her plus an entire photo album and life-size photos he had taken. Evidently, he follows her around Europe when she is performing here. All in all, it was a great festival, great group of artists, great promoter…nothing to complain about. Few things to “tweak” but no huge problems. It’s 3 am (again) and we’re off to Sweden in a bus tomorrow. Should take us about 10 hours to get there. Then we’re “off” until Friday! Jude