Here’s the fifth and final report from C.J. Lewandowski on the Po’ Ramblin’ Boys‘ 2016 European tour – delayed by technical details.
I want to apologize for the delayed contribution of this last installment of the European tour for PRB. After arriving home, my ears never adjusted back, and that resulted in an ear canal infection. Then, after acclimating to the new times and resting up, I wrote a previous installment, only to lose it on my little iPad. So, after 10 days of being home, I finally got it whooped. Thanks for reading and I sure hope y’all enjoyed the little updates of The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys in Europe.
Last year, we played a great festival in Birkenried, Germany hosted by the Friends of Country and Western Koetz. We sure had a good time, and our return this year was no exception. We weren’t playing the festival this year, but the Friends hosted a show for us at the Birkenried on the 28th. A fantastic venue that is extremely unique. A greenhouse converted to a concert hall. Pretty dang cool. Our good buddy, Pee Wee Wroblewski, had accommodations at a nice hotel waiting for us as we pulled in from Selb.
After a little stretching out and relaxation, we headed to the greenhouse for dinner. The Friends of Country and Western had a big steak dinner waiting for us! What a meal! With our bellies full, the greenhouse concert hall had filled up to the brim with folks. We were really looking forward to playing for some friends that we had played for last year. It was nice to see our friend, John Donarski, also! He’s a German, that lived in Johnson City, TN for awhile. A good feller, for sure.
Three encores after two forty five sets, and we were heading back of a good nights rest. We wanna thank the Friends of Country and Western Koetz, and Pee Wee for hosting us at the Birkenried one more time. This is a dedicated group of people that live for the music. They truly have a passion for good music and even put together tours to the U.S. so they can encounter American music first hand and explore the regions where the influences derived.
Our anchor date for the whole tour had finally came on the 29th of October. The Rocking Chair American Folk Club hosts a festival every year right close to Zurich, Switzerland and that’s where we were heading. From the Birkenried in Germany, we headed south to Switzerland. After 2 hours at the Swiss border counting product and paying taxes, and a few more hours driving, we came to the festival location where we were greeted by Beat Heri and Paolo Dettwiler. Beat is the head of the Swiss Bluegrass Music Association and the Rockin Chair Folk Club Festival promoter. A super friendly man, with a kind heart. The hall had several long tables which 600 people would sit around for dinner and music. Our hotel was connected to the concert hall, so after sound check we all relaxed on the balconies of our rooms and enjoyed the views of the Swiss countryside.
Our show was the last of the evening, we were the headliners, which is odd for us. We feel like we need to pay a few more dues before we get any kind of headliner status, but regardless, we were honored to be thought of so highly by the folks of Switzerland. We hit the stage and I have never encountered a force like that at other time in my life. The cheering and clapping could be felt in my chest, it was so strong. I could only imagine that is the feeling that Del gets every time he steps in front of a crowd. It was intense and very flattering.
One a side note, halfway through the show, I began to introduce my favorite song, Longing For The Ozarks. This one is near and dear to my heart, one, because I’m from Missouri, and two, because the man that wrote the song taught me how to play mandolin. As I mentioned Jim Orchard’s name, I heard someone to the stage left hoot and holler. Could somebody in Switzerland possibly know who Jim is? Surely not. He’s popular around home, but Switzerland? We kicked into the song and as I started the break that Jim taught me, I heard another holler from the same area. The feller hollering was a vintage record collector and friend of ours, Matteo Ringressi, from Italy. He and his companion, Jean, had decided to surprise us. What a good surprise it was. Matteo has an excellent Retro-Grass band, Ruben & Matt and The Truffle Valley Boys. They have two new projects out that every hardcore bluegrass friend needs in their collection.
Well, the show went very well. At the tail end of the night, Big Stone, and Paolo’s Country Pickers joined us for a grand finale. A mighty fun time and great way to the end the night. After the show, we visited with folks for several hours. We were truly treated like royalty at the Rocking Chair event. After packing up, and accidentally locking Adam out of the room, we hit the bed.
The morning of the 30th, marked the last show of the tour. After 3 weeks, we were finally at the end of the tour. It didn’t seem real. We had a nice little breakfast with Beat, loaded up and went a short drive to Liestal, Switzerland where our last show would take place for the Back To The Mountains Euro Tour 2016. This last show was gonna be a fun one. We’d be sharing the bill with Special Consensus (they were starting a tour) and it was a celebration of Paolo Dettwiler’s 50th birthday. The Special C boys got to the venue not long after we did. I didn’t know how much I missed talking to folks from home until they got there. It was good to see them guys and visit. I had to go all the way to Switzerland to meet a fellow Jefferson County Missouri bluegrasser. I had no clue that Dan Eubanks from the same area as me, crazy world.
During Paolo’s birthday social, Dan, Rick Faris, and I reminisced about some Missouri legends and all the festivals we grew up on. Pretty neat to have three Midwestern boys all under the same roof, playing music in Switzerland. Shows how amazing music is, really. We celebrated Paolo’s day with incredible wine, food, and fellowship. The show followed directly after the celebration, and we were first up. We hit the stage with a little extra enthusiasm. I don’t know if it was the thought in our mind that this was the last show, we were going home after this set, the wine, or a combination of all that, but we picked it up and set it down.
It was an honor to play with Special Consensus at Paolo’s party. We finished up the set after three encores, and packed up pretty quick. We had a 10 hour drive to Amsterdam and we had twelve hours to get there in order for Adam to catch a flight out. We gathered up the merch, and heading out while Special C was hitting My Carolina Smoky Mountain Home. Wish we could have stayed and visited with Greg some more, but we had to rush out. North to Amsterdam.
On the way out of the country, we were supposed to stop and claim a refund on unsold merchandise. Well, we blew through the border and had to turn around in France. Yes, France. Can we claim that as country 7 for the tour? We headed back to the line, and after a little explaining, we got our refund, then it was off again. Pulling an all nighter, we got to the Amsterdam airport with a few hours for Adam to get through security and settled in before the big flight home. We all said our goodbyes at 5:30, the morning of the 31st, and then headed Belgium way to sleep a bit.
The rest of us were heading out on November 1st, so we had a little time to kill. We pulled into Jan’s and headed straight for bed. Once again, Jan and Leen Michielsen’s hospitality was unmatched. Thank you two for helping us out so much.
Since we got in early in the morning, we all slept until noon or so. As soon as we got up, coffee and breakfast was ready. We’ve decided that Hoogstraten, Belgium is the home away from home for The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys. We can’t thank the Michielsens enough.
After breakfast, Jan, Billy, and I set off to town to do a little banking and grab a couple liters of ADBlue. Y’all know what ADBlue is? We didn’t know what it was until the rental van ran out of it and wouldn’t start. It’s a stinking liquid that looks just like water that, evidently, cuts down on emissions and is required for the van to run. At least we didn’t break it too bad.