Chocolate & Cheese & Beer Oh MY! Belgium in Five Parts

/Chocolate & Cheese & Beer Oh MY! Belgium in Five Parts

Chocolate & Cheese & Beer Oh MY! Belgium in Five Parts

It’s taken me a couple of weeks to synthesize the experiences we had in Belgium on tour this October. I tried a narrative approach and it was so long, I thought you might be bored with all the details. . . so instead, I decided to contain this blog in my top 5 favorites . . . Enjoy!

1. What’s Goin’ On – Belgian Culture –
Belgium is a country after my own heart. I don’t care if it doesn’t have a government or

Gravensteen Castle in Gent

national identity. In fact, these parts of Belgium actually bring her closer to my heart. Belgians have a really interesting perspective of their history relative to geography . . . The region has been ruled by about a gazillion governments, countless wars have been fought on the soil and even now there is a constant dialog among citizens about what defines Belgian’s National Identity. I mean, there are some things like world-class chocolate and beer that OBVIOUSLY work as a cultural adhesive, but unfortunately they don’t solve the issues of wealth distribution and equality in government. Subsequently, conversation was constantly intriguing and there was a healthy, ever-present sense of impermanence in the way our Belgian companions shared their perspective . . .And it was almost always accompanied by the aforementioned delicious Belgian goodies. . .which leads us to . . .
2. The Consumables.

Window Display at a Biere Shop

Um. . . The eyes are always bigger than the stomach in Belgium. It is home to some of the most decadent and delightful food on earth. They have perfected two of the world’s most beloved luxury items, chocolate and beer and are celebrated for their ability to create the perfect sauces for fries.

Conrad serving Mussels

And then there are the stews, soups, brilliant cheeses and fresh pastries available on every city square. So, we sampled and ooh’d and aaah’d over everything from new beer to fresh steak tartare from the butcher. . . as they say in Dutch “Lekker!” (yummy!)

3. Conrad De Mûelenaere & Family – Our beloved host

Conrad! Tequila!

& tour promoter Conrad was amazing. He went the extra mile providing gear, food, lodging and late night whisky tastings. He made sure we were on time and ready to rock for every gig and even changed Chad’s strings when he broke them (on average about 3 a night). Conrad also has more music in his collection than many libraries and music stores, so the tunes and music education flowed day and night in the house. I had a great time talking and playing Rummy into the wee hours of the morning with his daughter, Sanne who takes fantastic photos and makes some pretty mean fries. We stayed at his daughter, Nel’s place twice in Gent and she inspired me with her mastery of soup and history lessons. We also got to spend an afternoon in silence

Spending the day in Gent with Nel & Alfonso

together at a European style “Sauna” which in the US would be called a day spa. . . One of our nights in Gent, after the house concert at Nel’s place, we danced till 6am with Nel and Conrad’s other daughter, Emma and their friends till 5am. At this point, we feel like adopted members of the de Mûelenaere family. Although Chad openly calls Conrad “Papa,” I think he’s got enough daughters so I like to think of myself as an exotic, estranged American cousin.

4. R-E-S-P-E-C-T! Find out what it means to me. . visit a show in Belgium-

Part I. The Venues. Hats off to Conrad. He was incredibly creative in his booking work for this tour. We had ten performances in 13 days. Our first show was a traditional house concert at Conrad’s daughter, Nel’s in Gent. Second show, we sat in at a festival with Lightnin Guy the third was at Stone Man’s juke joint- totally off the grid. Fourth show was at Kathy Dobbel’s sweet yoga studio, the fifth at a garden party at a professional gardener’s home, the sixth at a bookstore/Book Signing, the seventh at a restaurant/bar called Ulysses near the North Sea, the eighth at a pub, ninth at a biker bar under a motorcycle and the tenth was at the famous Banana Peel, Belgium’s most celebrated blues and jazz club

At the Banana Peel with Franky, Sanne & Our friend Hilde

where we celebrated another book signing and played with some great musicians. Talk about eclectic. But each gig touched on a different subculture with whom we resonated and in that, each gig was uniquely FUN and rewarding!

Part II. The Audiences. Okay, so we have only toured in Belgium ONCE and that was in the winter of 2008 and for a very short run. Our experience, however was the same if not better during this trip. Imagine walking into a venue, home or private concert area, being greeted by dozens of new faces who have never heard of you before and yet, completely respect and appreciate what you’re sharing with them. Your language isn’t their first or even second language, but where translation is lost in words, it is made up in emotion. They get it. They acknowledge its value. They greet you with smiles and stories and want to take your albums home with them. They even show up in other venues during the next weeks, write about your tour and turn their friends onto your music. What sometimes takes months and even years in the US in terms of fan/artist relations happened in Belgium in two weeks.

5. Creative Magnets. . .
We had some really unique opportunities to interact with writers, photographers

Me & Filip

and journalists in Belgium on this tour. Every event was natural, fun and easygoing, which is always the sort of environment I enjoy meeting other creative spirits. . . Conrad invited Filip Van Lerberge, the gentleman who reviewed We Are One in Rootstime Online Magazine to the first house concert and he joined us for four other gigs on the tour and ended up having so much fun that he wrote a review of the tour. Filip was a complete sweetheart and we loved having along for the festivities, even mussels and bumper cars. At the juke joint we met Patrick Lagae who wrote a

Face2Face

review of We Are One in Back to the Roots magazine. One Saturday, we performed at a great independent bookstore called De Zondvloed in Roeselare at a book interview and signing for a recently published book filled with rock and roll superstar interviews by journalist, Bart Steenhaut and pics by photographer Alex Vanhee called Face2Face. At the Banana Peel where we made a

Me & Johan

guest appearance at the book signing for Johan Op de Beeck’s book called, Blues. on how the Blues has influenced Belgian musicians. We had the honor of watching Willie Donni (Chet Baker, T-Bone Walker) perform and we also had the pleasure of meeting some of Belgium’s finest young blues musicians in the house band of the evening, Fried Burbon as well as one of Belgium’s most celebrated harmonica players Steven de Bruyn.

There were videos and photos shot at all the shows. There were so many sweet moments! One of the sweetest ones was our final gig with the band at the Banana Peel. Here’s a sweet video of “Nothin Gonna Take my Love” with us, and Steven de Bruyn on guest harmonica.
And if you want to see more pics, here’s a photo album of shots we took during the tour. . .

Salutjes!

2017-02-09T14:50:57+00:00 October 28th, 2010|