The 2009 Chicago Blues Festival/ Europe Tour:
An Inside Look At A Musician’s Life on the Road
Chapter 4: “A Fantastic Night In Switzerland!”
By Gregg Wright (photo by Salva1745)
In early 2009, my good friend Zac Harmon invited me to join him and his band as a featured guest on a tour of Europe he’d be headlining later in the year, called The Chicago Blues Festival Tour. The six week long tour would feature Zac, Diunna Greenleaf, and myself. After rehearsing in Dallas, we flew to Paris for an amazing month and a half of making music, traveling to new places and making lots of new friends. American Blues Blog has asked me to relay my experiences and give you the readers, a firsthand inside look at the reality of a musician's
life on the road.
November 23, 2009:
Man, last night’s show at Ville Haute in the picturesque hilltop town of Tournon d’Agenais was incredible! The venue is a beautiful old medieval church that’s been converted into an awesome music hall. The acoustics are unreal! We’re getting tight and really beginning to read each other. Of course, the Zac Harmon Band is already tight and have their telepathy thing down. So it’s on me to transform from woodshed mode into a fire breathing guitar monster, onstage. After getting a few shows under my belt, I’m nearly there.
This morning it’s cold, grey, windy and drizzling. After breakfast and coffee, I head outside with my camera to get some shots of this very unique 17th century hotel and its beautifully landscaped gardens. Chateau de l’Hoste is older than America itself!
We load up, pull away and finally hit the road. From this point on, nearly everything is a blur. Fortunately, I kept a journal! It’s a five hour drive to Bayonne near the Spanish border. I can see Spain’s Pyrennees Mountains near the outskirts of town. We check into Hotel Loustau and get to sleep for a few hours. Wiped out!
Tonight’s show at Boucau is even better than last night! Great sound, great crowd, great venue. Both Zac and I have killer guitar tones! Awesome night! Glad we rested...
(photo by Alex Rodriguez)
November 25, 2009:
Zac and I talk over breakfast about the differences of touring at age 25 versus touring at age 50 . . . “Brother, I ain’t hangout out all hours of the night chasin’ women, drinkin’ & smokin’ or anything! A glass of wine after the show and I am takin’ my ass to bed!!” We laugh so loud and hard at this new reality, that we actually startle a few of the other breakfast customers.
I don’t know if Zac was a wild ass back in the day, but St. Gregory the Virtuous I certainly was not! Hopefully, at some point your common sense and maturity take over, because the body count in the touring game is very high if you don’t wise up and make good choices. Think of all the great musicians that didn’t get to mature and grow because of all the vices and foolishness out here that lie in wait like a predator if you’re not careful. I enjoy and appreciate the privilege of being a professional musician on a much deeper level than when I was a twenty-something.
We’re in Brest on the northwest coast of France, tonight. The venue is Le Vauban which is in the basement of Hotel Le Vauban, where we are staying. How convenient!
The cold wind and rain from the North Atlantic make it impossible to go out and take in the town, which is a normal part of my touring ritual. Since I was a child, I’ve always wanted to travel to far off lands and meet people of different cultures and nationalities. But that cold has me staying in and watching French TV until I fall asleep.
It’s late afternoon when I awake. We all meet downstairs at the venue for soundcheck and a hot meal. As tired and spaced as everyone is, spirits remain high. The show at Le Vauban is sold out and the auditorium is packed shoulder to shoulder. People are jammed up right to the front of the stage, completely taken away by the music. We are kicking some serious ass! We’re totally in synch, relaxed and able to really pour it on. Tonight, I’m playing my best guitar thus far on the tour. We have Le Vauban sweatin’ & stompin’ like a Mississippi juke joint!
November 26- December 2, 2009:
These dates are a complete blur of highways, hotels, sleeping when you can and of course, amazing shows. One thing I’ve noticed on this tour, is the quality of the food in France. All the meals we have are of the highest, freshest quality. Doing a tour like this in the States would mean, fast food . . . burgers and a whole lot of nasty, unhealthy shit. It’s become painfully clear to me that there’s definitely something wrong with the food we eat in America. We’re slowly being poisoned, because everybody at home is either fat, sick, or physically messed up prematurely.
Since crossing the Atlantic, I’ve eaten two full meals a day, drank red wine daily, and snacked on French bread and cheese. Yet I’ve lost twelve pounds and my blood glucose is in the normal range. Hmmmmm . . . you tell me! Everybody I see in France is slim with some serious bounce in their step. The elderly people here seem to have more vitality than most people I know at home who are a good twenty years younger. Ironically, I’ve not seen a single TV commercial for pharmaceutical drugs of any kind here.
December 3, 2009:
Today, we are headed east out of France to Zug (pronounced “Zoog”), Switzerland. Of all my European travels, this is my first visit to Switzerland and I’ve got my camera ready. We cross the border at Lucerne and make our way to Zug. The first mind blower for me is seeing the snow capped Alps in the distance and the perfect little Currier & Ives Christmas card villages along the way.
Zug sits on a lake and our hotel is on a hillside overlooking the city and the lake. The view from my room couldn’t be more perfect. Tonight’s show is at a strange looking silver metallic building called the Chollerhalle, where we will have a damned near perfect show. Let me tell you about the amazing musicians that make this happen . . .
Cedric Goodman is one of the world’s great drummers. He has it all; killer feel and tempo. He locks, never wavers, is a great singer and real showman.
Cedric Goodman (photo by Xavier Chertier/Xavphoto)
Corey Lacy is a keyboard prodigy, sings his ass off and is the tour’s official funny man. The boy is stone crazy! So naturally we hung out the most.
Mr. Buthel is so rock solid on bass it doesn’t make sense! Sings his ass off too. He’s the kinda cat you want on your team when you go to war. Great bass player!
Diunna Greenleaf is well on her way to becoming the new Queen of Blues.
Diunna Greenleaf (photo by Xavier Chertier/XavPhoto)
Now Zac Harmon, well he’s equal parts Mississippi Blues Man and tent revival Pentecostal preacher, with a wicked voice and deeply soulful guitar. I love playing with these folks!
Zac Harmon (photo by Xavier Chertier/XavPhoto)
Come to the show and we will kick your ass, in a good way, of course. Tonight is pure magic. We’ve really hit our stride. After all the miles of travel, everyone is still feeling pretty damned good!
Next: “Luxembourg, Monaco and Paris”
To learn more about me and my music, visit my website: www.greggwright.com
An exclusive by Gregg Wright for the American Blues Blog
(photo by Serge Corrieras)
Story and photos by Gregg Wright
© 2010 Left Hook Music
All rights reserved
Additional photo credits:
photo by Salva1745, ©Salva1745
photo by Alex Rodriguez, ©Alex Rodriguez
photos by Xavier Chertier/Xavphoto, ©Xavier Chertier
photo by Serge Corrieras, ©Serge Corrieras