These summer flip flops across the Atlantic can really beat your body up but they can also be fun when I pack a lot into a trip like this. The main reason to be in Holland last weekend was for the Highlands Festival in Amersfoort, a charming town not too far from Amsterdam, complete with its own canals and cool Dutch vibe. I was sure the name of this festival in the Lowlands was a kind of Dutch joke but was later assured that this place actually did represent some of the higher ground in this country.
The weather was top - drawer. At the hotel, we met up with British bluesman, Aynsley Lister and later, caught a little of John Lee Hooker's daughter's set. Zakiya had a great band with her. I was transfixed by the bass player who really swung and the drummer, who I did not get to meet, also laid down the groove superbly. Zakiya, a classy lady with a cool delivery - what else would you expect from someone who's father was the epitome of cool? I had met him once, back in the day I remember, in Palo Alto. He came to our show and I remember that he was dressed super sharp and was full of charm.
Anyway, our set went superbly, despite full sun in the eyes and the risk of sunburn and sunstroke. The heat played havoc on the instruments causing us to re - tune constantly but I don't think that the crowd noticed too much. They were totally up for it and joined in with lots of call-and-response stuff. I was quite surprised and by the end of our set, the numbers in the concert area had definitely swollen considerably, as you can see in Bob Skeat's photo, which he took during our performance. I'm not quite sure how he managed this.
The next day, the band flew back to their various abodes while I set off to Düsseldorf by high speed ICE train, where later, I rented a mean autobahn-gobbling-Mercedes-machine. I stopped for a fine lunch, Bauhaus style, with my good friend Professor Doctor Bodo Kirf and his family. Anyway, after I'd said my aufwiedersehens, I headed off to Berlin for a meeting with a gentleman for a potentially very exciting project due to take place near Christmas this year in the beautiful southern German city of Freiburg. More on that later.
I had some free hours during my stay, so decided to rent a bicycle and explore Berlin more fully - something I'd never really had the chance to do before. Remember, we'd had a bunch of equipment stolen here a year or so ago so I took precautions, keeping my wits about me, with my hand firmly on my holiday money. I made for the Hessen Heide park, where refreshment was called for. A beer for 1.40 Euros - Amazing. All in all, I spent about 4 hours on my bike and later, ended up, via Checkpoint Charlie at the Tiergarten where I got to view the Reichstag, the new parliament building (Angela's Waschmaschine as the locals call it) and also the House of World Culture. I was pleasantly and patriotically surprised to see a stunning golden Henry Moore sculpture, Large Divided Oval:Butterfly in the middle of a lake there. I had to get a glimpse of the Victory statue, which had inspired my song, from the Strange Affair album, Wings of Desire (The title also of Wim Wender's movie of course, of the same name). All of these sights were made more poignant, for me on this Queen's Jubilee Weekend and pondering history and what went on here and in London during and after World War II. Later, watching the festivities in London from afar, on my hotel tv, certainly bought on a feeling of patriotism in me.
The morning of my flight home, I decided to visit Frank Deimel of Deimel Guitar Works in Schöneberg, where he gave me another try on the wondrous Firestar guitar which he will be debuting at the Montreal Guitar Show soon at the end of June. I'm hoping to meet him there since I'm always fascinated with the world of guitar luthiery, having made a couple myself, back in the day. There will be acoustic and electric makers from all over. I've become quite disenchanted with the low level of quality that some of the big instrument manufacturers are turning out these days, so this will be a real treat, I'm sure. It's so thrilling that hand - made is still inspiring these people to produce in this way.
OK so I've now had a couple of days to get over jet - lag at home and wanted to let folks know that ex Ash members, Tony Kishman and Roger Filgate, send their best wishes. I'll be accompanying the latter to a performance by the former this evening. Tony performs Beatles shows in different cities with local orchestras. He's the best at this, and has a reputation that is unsurpassed. To hear Beatles and on this show one, McCartney songs like Eleanor Rigby with a string quartet and Live and Let Die, live with a 50 piece orchestra is pretty cool. It should be a fun night full of reminiscences. The 3 of us, together with Mike Sturgis, who I've recently been chatting to, had big fun playing Wishbone Ash shows and tours all over the world and we all agreed that this era of the band played a hugely important part in the rebirth of Wishbone Ash on the international tour circuit and also regained us some much needed credibility as a recording outfit.
Postscript: Went to Tony's show and it was excellent. 3,000 people in the audience, complete with the Hartford Symphony. He personally did a great job, switching from bass to guitar and grand piano. By the end of the show people were on their feet - such is the power of the Beatles music. Later, in the dressing room, we had a blast reminiscing on the old days and Roger reminded me that he actually had not seen Tony for 12 years. Amazing how time flies. It's been 17 years since the release of Illuminations, if you can believe that about the album that we all appeared on. Illuminations is still, to this day, a fine album and one which we all have fond and proud memories of.