This post is a contribution from Bobby Britt, fiddler with a new Transatlantic bluegrass experiment, currently on tour in Europe called The Peregrines. The guys will be sending us occasional reports as their tour progresses.
It has been a wonderful tour thus far, full of exciting cultural, musical, and geographic exploration. Our journey began in London, ironically at a southern Memphis themed blues bar, with some outstanding beef brisket. Fast forward a couple of days, and we found ourselves in the gorgeous city of Copenhagen. We spent the night in a crisp, clean and futuristic Hostel, featuring touch screen elevators and beautiful views of the Baltic Sea estuary. The next morning, Ben invited me to run along the waterway, and I got my money’s worth. I typically run about 2-3 miles, 3 times a week. On this fateful morning, we ran around 6 miles, and at a rapid clip. After our run, we had a breather and refueled at a lovely waterfront café.
The weekend in Copenhagen was full of significant life events. It was my graduation ceremony from Berklee College in Boston (which I had to miss because I was in Copenhagen), and also my 32nd Birthday. I helped create exciting new music with gifted musicians in a lovely city. What a special way to celebrate these meaningful milestones in my life.
My good friend Rick Hauchman (formerly of Big Fat Gap bluegrass band) arranged our gig for the evening at Café Bartof. Rick is one of my best friends from North Carolina, and he recently moved to Copenhagen. Believe it or not, Rick had his first child, a beautiful baby boy, only hours before we arrived. The venue was dark, mellow, and rich with history. Ancient tones could be felt in the walls; vibrational remnants of past performances. The lighting in the venue was expertly placed; creating soft glows that seemed to emanate from nowhere. The bar was packed to the brim, full of attentive and intelligent Danes. I met some lovely travelers, all the way from Norway and Switzerland to hear us play. There were 12-15 small round wooden coffee tables, four to a table. It was a true joy to take this magical stage with Ben, Joe and Grant. They have an uncanny sense of bluegrass timing and feel. Grant can channel Tony Rice rhythm on a dime, and Joe has a beautifully groovy Tim O’Brien feel to his chop. He also has some beautiful new singing tunes, Red Skies being my favorite. Ben has an impeccable sense of timing, and holds the whole thing down. Grant’s new compositions have a fresh exciting sound, and deftly push the boundaries of bluegrass without breaking them.
The following evening, we took the eight-hour trek to Cologne, and stayed with our friend Joon, who we met when he was studying at Berklee. Joon is an outstanding musician, and is creating a bluegrass and old time scene in the Cologne area. Mike Marshall also lives close to the area, and is a great resource for the growing bluegrass scene in Cologne. I had schnitzel, and we were invited to play at a weekly old time jam. It was held in the street front window of a dark yet quaint little bar in the heart of Cologne. The cross-cultural experience was quite a treat… A guitar player from NY, John, who now lives and plays in Paris, and a great old time fiddler from Pennsylvania, Nathan, who came to Cologne to study Baroque music.
On our journey back from the bar, we busked underneath an ancient and massive stone and iron gateway. The cool and flowery evening air brought many onlookers to watch. At one point a man wearing a CBGB’s T-shirt (CBGB’s is a world famous NY rock/punk club where the Ramones got their start) ironically asked us to stop playing and said that we were too loud. Moving on to friendlier pastures, we took the jam with us, and started playing music on the train back to our apartment. There was an intriguing Cypriat accordion player who constantly floated in and out of the jam, as if drifting in and out of this world and another.
I have provided a video of the jam for your entertainment. We head to Munich tonight. This journey has made me appreciate the amazing bluegrass family and community that we all enjoy. Sharing this sense of community with the global community has brought me great joy.
On to Paris tomorrow!