Hello everyone! Wanted to use this space to give updates and a little run-down of The Van Goat Summer 2019 European Tour.
First, we must start with an introduction. Our Captain Ahab, Kurt - owner of Rootstown Booking, tour manager, driver, snappy dresser. He has helmed the van through narrow, serpentine European streets with tact, and remains our professional yet warm guide.
The band convened in Brussels, Belgium Wednesday evening. Ben, Lindsay and Derek have been in Europe for a week or so, Taylor and Aidan arrived the day before our tour. Spirits were high and Jupilers (a crisp local Pilsner) were drunk.
Our first show was in Herselt, a town of 13,000 or so people. Cafe Pallieter, which is just off the main drag, is run by a magnanimous Belgian called Hans, who was kind enough to let crash in some pretty luscious digs upstairs. Taylor is planning on moving in after tour (sorry Liz). The crowd was very attentive and responsive during our set, and afterwards we were chatted up with stories of Belgian history, off-color turns of phrase, beer recommendations (Hapkin, Karmeleit, and Rodenbach), and an endless game of bumper pool.
Next we had a short drive to Westerlo, which has perhaps the most beautiful town hall in all of Europe - our hostel was just down the street from it. Brick buildings line the streets, and the venue Jake’s Place has sort of a subterranean surf club vibe. We played outside, which was a welcome change because of the summer heat and humidity. The owner, Lorenz, showed us amazing hospitality and outrageously tasty fries. He and many other Belgians we’ve met are CERTAIN that fries are a Belgian creation, not French. He even showed us a shortcut on our rural and dark walk home, making sure we didn’t fall into a concrete ditch obscured by trees.
The third show of the tour was a classic car festival called “Old Cars Rocking People,” which definitely has been the highlight so far. It was sort of a cross between a slick psychobilly ball, Burger Boogaloo, and Bob’s Big Boy on a Saturday night. The cars were awesome - the staff was too. We played with Stray Kitten and the Alleycats, The Courettes, who brought ridiculous energy to the stage, as well as two of Kurt’s other bands - The Jetsons, Everyone is Guilty. Check them all out!
It has been foreign yet surprisingly familiar here. People have been unwaveringly kind to us and seem to match our excitement and curiosity. After many Duvels, Jupilers, pizza slices and good ol’ fashion swing dances, day three went down in the history books.
More soon! ♡ VG
Greetings from a rainy drive to Leipzig, Germany!
The last few days have shown us some of the real ups and down of life on the road. Our bodies and minds have been put to the test, but we’ve met some amazing people along the way and received too many warm receptions to count.
Our first show outside of Belgium was in the city of Helmond, in The Netherlands. We were greeted by another warm welcome - this time by the owners Lydia and Jurr. The venue Lokaal 42 was another shotgun style bar - narrow and deep, with old wood, brick and low lighting. To our surprise, there were quite a few people patronizing the venue and the number multiplied when we played our two sets. The energy in the room was wild, especially considering we went on at 5pm on a Sunday afternoon! The sound engineer, Renée gave us a warm hearted ass kicking at foosball after the show. We slept in a spacious apartment upstairs after, but not before a raucous night on the town. A few of us called it an ‘early’ night at 2am.
Next up was a Monday night in Herenthout at a bar called The Titanic; per usual, we didn’t know what to expect. Jannik, the bar owner there, told us they specifically host music on Monday nights because most other bars won’t do it - which meant there was actually a really good sized crowd waiting for us by the time we started playing. We continue to be surprised and immensely grateful for our new fans and friends. We were also treated to what may have been the best pasta dish any of us have ever had, thanks to Jannik’s aunt Tilley. Sign up to our newsletter and we just might send you the recipe ;)
After Herenthout, we stayed at Hans’ place (our home away from home) for one last night of bumper pool before heading to French-speaking Liège, to play an outdoor event during the town’s mid-August festival. Liége is a medieval yet modern city in central/eastern Belgium, with magnificent views, old streets, a citadel nestled up high in the hillside, cathedrals, world famous waffle shops and wild nightlife. Our show, part of the first night of festivities for the 15 De Aout festival, was in the courtyard of the hostel we stayed at and the stage was HUGE! It is damn fun to have some room to run around. Crazy light show, crazy energy, and crazy fun. The MC/harmonica player, Fa (short for Fabian) joined us on Willie the Weeper and added some unbelieveable harp (harmonica) playing.
Next was Essen in the north, for one last Flemish show before leaving Belgium. They had a very tasty BBQ for everyone who came out. A bluegrass band, also on tour from the US, started the night off before we hit the stage. Once we started playing, Deet, the bar owner started twirling ladies around and some serious swing dancing broke out all over the bar. Another rowdy weeknight show to say the least!
After the show, we loaded the van and our intrepid tour manager Kurt took us through a nine hour night drive to Denmark. We checked into our hotels at 10am and took some much needed naps. Tour life really does take a toll. We’ve found that small things like hotel beds, salads, and an hour or two of free time are luxuries.
Odense, another town with deep history, was wet and rainy most of the day and night. Our show was on another huge outdoor stage with a tall built-in roof covering (most) of us and some of the audience. All of the staff did a super job making sure our gear didn’t get wet and no one got electrocuted! Whew. Despite the rain, a small but mighty crowd formed around the stage. We’ve been trying out a few new things during our sets and to our delight, the crowd was clapping along during a new interlude. People’s willingness to engage with us in every new town continues to be one of the best parts of our journey.
That’s all for now. Leipzig, Viechtach, Livigno, and Tübingen are up next.
This run of shows took us through some of the most beautiful scenery any of us had ever seen. But we’ll get there in a minute.
We left Odense very early in the morning for Leipzig. Our destination was a venue called Substanz - it’s an outdoor beer garden with great food, and many little nooks for people to sit and relax. The building survived both world wars and is all old brick, overgrown and immensely inviting. The backyard area reminded us a bit of the Crepe Place - if it were much much larger, and had an outdoor bar area as well. We celebrated Ben’s birthday with the staff, bartenders, and patrons (Susan, Paul, Shubhangi) as well as Pepito the pooch - all of whom were so welcoming and became new friends.
After Leipzig, we headed to the beautiful Bavarian countryside in southern Germany, to stay with a guy named Olli and perform in a surprising and wonderful venue. On the way in, Kurt told us that we were really gonna like this place and he was right. Its name is Altes Spital (“Old Hospital” in German), and that’s exactly what it was. But the word “old” means something entirely different in out here, as Olli said “It’s older than your country.”. The building was built in 1432, and has fallen in and out of use over the years. Most recently, it has been converted into a bar and a concert venue, hosting many shows throughout the year (we saw that another Bay Area band, The Family Crest, passed through Altes Spital earlier this year). Here are a few photos of the venue.
Olli is quite a character, and we really enjoyed spending time with him. He is a concert promoter and an avid record collector - here are a few of the amazing turntables he has scattered throughout his house.
Next we headed for Livigno, a resort town in the Italian alps. Livigno is well known for its skiing, and during the summertime it’s also a tourist hotspot - both for its amazing scenery and the fact that it is a duty free tax zone. We got a chance to dip our toes in the river that runs through the town before heading to Marco’s Pub for sound check. We had an amazing dish of pizzoccheri valtellinisi, buckwheat flour pasta with delicious vegetarian seasonings, before playing a fun set in the downstairs portion of the venue.
It had rained overnight, making the drive out of Livigno particularly beautiful. That’s it for now - Tübingen, Unna, and Leeuwarden are up next.
We were sad to leave the beautiful Italian alps, but the silver lining was that we were heading to Tübingen, a Renaissance-era university town in southwest Germany.
Ben’s parents were on a vacation of their own this week and met up with us for pretzels and radlers when we got into town. The concert venue was another fascinating building. The building was a former police station, and when Hitler came into power, it became the local gestapo headquarters. After the war, it took a 180 degree turn and became a co-op housing space, with a venue on the ground floor. It was inspiring to see a place with such a dark history now populated by vibrant and wonderful people. The show was frenetic and jam-packed; the whole experience was definitely a highlight of the tour. And it was a Monday night! We had breakfast with a few denizens of the co-op, including baby Eleanor, who went around the table giving us each a doe-eyed stare. We sang Eleanor Rigby to her, and we’re pretty sure she enjoyed it.
Next up was Unna, with a small, mighty, and very attentive crowd at a bar called Tortuga. It was a relatively early show, which meant we could catch a good night’s sleep (a rare luxury on tour). In the morning we had breakfast with Susanne and Peter, a couple we met at the show; who were kind enough to invite all six of us over to their lovely home for a conversation and delicious meal. We continue to be surprised and immensely thankful for the friendliness and hospitality we’ve encountered on his tour.
Next we headed to Meppel, The Netherlands, where we stayed for two nights. From Meppel, we drove to Leeuwarden to play at Paddy O’Ryan, an English-speaking Irish Pub with some of the tastiest fish and chips we’d ever had. Ben, having two servings of fries that day, swore to take a break from them. It did not last.
We had a full Thursday off in Meppel, which was hosting its “Meppel day” festival, with a parade running down the main street and street vendors, and people all over the place. Marcel, who runs the venue Muziekcafe Clouso, is another magnanimous bar owner with a big heart and bigger personality. We had a great time hanging with him and the other locals into the wee hours of the morning. Turns out our friends and dynamite band Battlehooch from San Francisco had played here before on one of their European tour, it was a real treat to see their record on the wall - it felt like home away from home.
After Meppel, we headed to Den Haag (The Hague) for Wild Rooster Festival, an outdoor festival with two stages in Grote Markt. We met some awesome bands: Awkward Family Portraits (rockabilly from Glasgow) and Mariachi Reloaded (highest-energy mariachi and pan-Latin music from Belgium and many other Places).
We had another early breakfast, and now we’re on the road to Gedinne in the south of Belgium, with just three shows to go.
Photos from Wild Rooser Fest taken by Cliff De Booy (that’s our buddy Fa from Liège playing the harmonica)
After Wild Rooster Fest in Den Haag, we headed to the south of Belgium for one last festival gig.
Belgian Classic Trophy in Gedinne is an international motorcycle race and festival featuring classic bikes, sidecars and DIY crews. We were the live music entertainment Saturday evening after a full day of racing and the awards ceremony. The singer/songwriter opening act had to cancel - so Ben (as Neeto) played a few songs, and Lindsay finished off with a full set of her own Lindsay Alexis music before Van Goat took the stage.
Photos from Belgian Classic Trophy
This was definitely one of the rowdiest evenings of the tour; the Chimay Blues were poured heavy, 500+ people danced late into the evening. Belgian motorcycle folks sure know how to have a good time! This event was a stark contrast to our darling lodgings for the night. We stayed at a French-Belgian bed and breakfast. Lindsay got to take a bath while Aidan, Derek, and Taylor got spaghetti from the local pub. Ben soaked in the surrounding rolling hills, chicken coops, grazing cows, and sunshine.
The next day, we took another drive up to Hoorn in the north of The Netherlands. Hoorn is a hundreds year old harbor town not too far from Amsterdam. The show was a mellow afternoon one, which meant we had the evening to pal around town. Cobblestone winding streets, renaissance facades and oddly angled brick buildings struck us during our adventures around the town. Lindsay’s brother Chris had flown in from Norway, and we all went swimming at dusk in Schellinkhouterdijk in Julianapark, which was incredibly revitalizing. This park, Hoorn and Amsterdam all exist behind the massive Dutch Delta Works Seawall sometimes referred to as one of the ‘modern wonders’ of the world. Despite being in a bay connected to the North Sea, the water was brackish and warm!
The final show of the tour was in Dordrecht, Netherlands, and we went out with a bang. It was at a place called De Melkbus (it means milk jug in Dutch, since the venue was the room that used to hold the cows when it was originally a farmhouse). It was a birthday party for Marc, the promoter and homeowner. To celebrate, his girlfriend Koko was doing tattoos of melkbuses to fundraise for improvements on the venue - specifically an A/C unit and new floor. Lindsay and Derek each got tattoos (it was Derek’s first one ever!) This was a perfect way to end our first European tour. We stayed up well into the night talking, laughing and reveling with new friends.
Photos from the last show of the tour in Dordrecht
Marc records every show at his place - he’s an excellent engineer. It’s an amazing community that Marc has cultivated with these shows, and we were so grateful to be a part of it. Perhaps there’s a “Live from the Melkbus” record in Van Goat’s future?
Derek, Lindsay and Ben has an early flight the next morning - Taylor and Aidan spent one last night in Brussels before heading home.
Now that we are back and relatively rested, we have had an opportunity to reflect a bit on tour life. Nineteen shows in nineteen days was supremely fun and equally exhausting. It’s not an easy thing to be in a new place every night! What made our time not only bearable but constantly invigorating was the ubiquitous kindness and excitement we encountered everywhere we went. We met new friends every day and discovered that Europeans have a love of live music and art that runs very deep. We feel deeply grateful to Kurt at Rootstown Booking for taking a big chance on a ‘California Jazzy-Punk’ group from the West Coast. We daresay that Van Goat had a successful first trip abroad and there may be more in our future.
Thanks for reading and we hope to catch you at a show back in the states sometime soon! From all of us at Van Goat HQ, we say goodbye in the six languages we heard spoken on this trip: “vaarwel / auf wiedersehen / au revoir / farvel / ciao.” Oh and English too - “Goodbye.”
Love, Ben, Taylor, Aidan, Derek, and Lindsay
P.S. In case you missed it, we released our final single and music video from our full length ‘Follow Me Under.’ It’s called Dry Me Out - watch & listen to it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e20O-PgqwNM