Here’s the fifth report by The Henhouse Prowlers from their ongoing European tour. This comes from bass player and founding member, Jon Goldfine. The guys have promised daily reports (with photos) from their Euro-jaunt over the next week or so. You can follow all their posts by clicking here.
Sunday afternoon’s gig at a high security Belgian prison – a venue unlike any we’ve played in the U.S. – was followed by visits to a pair of venues that resemble some we’ve often come across in the States. We left Turnhout Prison and raced to the city of Antwerp, Belgium. Those who have been to Europe will know that the streets are much narrower here than in the U.S. Stijn pulled the van up in front of The Crossroads Cafe. With nowhere to park in front, and only a one lane road, a line of cars developed behind us while we quickly unloaded all the gear onto the sidewalk.
The Crossroads Cafe is a blues-themed venue that presents early evening concerts on Sunday. The walls are covered with art devoted to blues greats such as B.B. King, Robert Johnson, Sonny Boy Williamson, Billie Holiday and Howlin’ Wolf to name a few. The house sound man Jan (wearing a Grateful Dead t shirt – yet another display of appreciation for American music in Belgium) got everything set up quickly enough for us to get started at 5:45, only 15 minutes later than the scheduled start time.
I’ve been struck by how attentive and appreciative our Belgian audiences have been. They watch and they listen. Of course there is the occasional whoop and holler which is always appreciated! We played two sets, made lots of new friends and fans, and drank some delicious beer (which is found in great abundance here in Belguim). After an unplugged encore down on the floor, we chatted with those who had come to the show – including the warden from the Turnhout Prison and his wife, and a local radio DJ who’s been playing our music on his show.
Arriving back in Gierle relatively early, we grabbed a bite at a local pizza & pita joint. Then walked into a nearby tavern, In Den Eik, to find our housemate/driver Stijn and others in the singing along with a live recording of our show from Friday in Eeklo! We hope to have that show posted on line soon for anyone interested.
It is Carnival time in central Europe. Carnival is kind of like Halloween meets Mardis Gras meets a circus. For five days leading up to Ash Wednesday, folks in The Netherlands dress in costumes and generally party. Transfer that celebration to a Texas/Southwest themed bar. Now place that scene and that bar in rural Holland and you have Cafe Tielemans on Monday night. Although this was billed as an anti-Carnival, there were still plenty of costumes to be found and quite a party atmosphere developed by the end of the night.
We were greeted warmly by Thea, owner of the venue, who led us through a door behind the bar into the kitchen, and through another door into her modest home which shares a building with the bar. Thea poured us some Schrobbeler, a dutch liqueur, from a bottle which looked more like a container of propane or a fire extinguisher. Schrobbeler is along the lines of Jegermeister though not nearly as strong, and much more drinkable.
We sat and chatted for a while. Her friend Ference arrived, while we also enjoyed the company of Thea’s dog Sonja and her parrot Cees (pronounced like Case). Thea said she was born in the very home where we were sitting and that her family had established the bar in 1915. Thea and Ference attended South By Southwest in Austin about 10 years ago, and it was then that they decided to feature live music at Cafe Tielemans. Over the years they’ve brought in some of the finest rockabilly bands from all over the world. On this night we shared the bill with a Dutch band called Rockadile. They played rockabilly music specializing in covers of Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Elvis.
Perhaps it was the occasion of Carnival, or perhaps an unfamiliarity with bluegrass music, but this Dutch audience was much more talkative than any we’ve played to on this tour. Not surprisingly in this setting, it was our version of Buddy Holly’s You’re So Square, that received the biggest applause and had several people singing along. After our two 45 minute sets, we cleared the way for Rockadile. As they performed, we were able meet several people at the bar and watch the party atmosphere elevate to more and more raucous levels!
Stay tuned for word on Tuesday night’s show at our “hometown” venue, In Den Eik. It’s right down the street from the house we are staying at in Gierle, Belgium, and based on a couple visits we’ve made there over the past 5 days, I expect it to be quite a hoot!