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East Cameron Folkcore: Tour Diary, Part I

Cruising through Germany with the cursers of disgust

By Jesse Moore, 4:20PM, Tue. Sep. 24, 2013

East Cameron Folkcore performing at the Tower in Bremen
East Cameron Folkcore performing at the Tower in Bremen
photo by East Cameron Folkcore

In February, we released our second LP, For Sale, at the Scottish Rite Theater. Unbeknownst to us, a friend’s father who owns Austin’s Playing in Traffic Records and Loophole Management, attended. He liked it.

A few weeks later, Henry Garza, guitarist for Los Lonely Boys, who our friend’s dad Kevin Wommack manages, fell off a stage and injured his back. This turn of events caused the band to cancel some upcoming shows, including a South by Southwest showcase for Playing in Traffic. This is the beginning of how we got to Europe.

Welcome to the tale of how East Cameron Folkcore – the sideline bums, the bad news bears, the cursers of disgust – began an amazing journey that’s landed us on another continent, and me in a German town called Wiesbaden, leaned up against a graffiti mural depicting Jews being cattled onto trains during World War II, while staring at the smokestack of an insane asylum where Nazis experimented on people. We enter this story on the wings of Fortune, put into motion by our departed comrade and brother-in-arms we miss dearly, Mr. Jon Pettis.

At some point toward the end of February, I received an email from Kevin asking if we would like to headline their Friday night SXSW showcase at Bungalow on Rainey Street. Yup, we got Los Lonely Boys’ SX slot and we were a little more than excited, to say the least – not just with the opportunity presented to us, but also because of the idea that people would show up to see them and get us instead.

At the same time – also unbeknownst to us – a man named Rainer Ott, who runs a record label in Germany, was making plans to come to Austin with his friend and graphic designer, Antje.

Serendipity.

The night of our SXSW showcase at Bungalow, Rainer drank quite a few beers while attempting to get into Frank Turner’s showcase, and a Macklemore & Ryan Lewis showcase after that. Both attempts culminated in complete failure and an expanded bladder. While making his way down Rainey Street, he stepped into Bungalow to relieve himself at the moment we finished setting up.

Rainer seemed impressed and excited about our set, and he ended up coming out to all three of our shows that week. Two weeks after the conference, I received a forwarded email from Holy Mountain co-owner James Taylor. Apparently Rainer had been trying to get in contact with us for a couple weeks, but the form on our website was broken and just kept sending the emails back. Rainer wrote that he ran a label in Germany called Grand Hotel Van Cleef and expressed great interest in releasing For Sale throughout Europe. He also wanted to bring us overseas on tour.

Being the skeptic that I am, I responded to the email, but ignored any chance of this being a reality. Luckily for me, I was proved wrong. After six months of negotiations and planning, 10 of us, including our sound engineer and all-around homie Chris Seyler, boarded a huge plane bound for Frankfurt, Germany, for three-and-a-half weeks of holy shits!

We landed in Frankfurt after a 12-hour flight that included an emergency stopover in Manchester, England, after a passenger on board had a heart attack. Upon our arrival, we rendezvoused with our tour manager and label reps outside the airport, where they had our tour van packed up with gear and merch.

It was a two-hour drive from the airport to the first venue, the Bunker in Bielefeld, an old underground jazz club where legends like Joe Pass once played. This being our first non-DIY tour, we were excited at the bottle of Jameson and spread of food and beer awaiting us in the green room – a scene that’s repeated itself every night after thus far. It was actually a little embarrassing when we had to receive two interviews in the green room around that huge spread of food. I mean, what the fuck? We’ve been getting fed better on tour then we usually eat at home.

That was only the beginning of the amazing hospitality that we’ve encountered. That first night in Bielefeld we played to about 50 very interested and enthusiastic fans. Playing on the floor in a circle, with faces on every side, brought out a huge amount of energy, and it ended up being one of the best shows we’ve ever played as a band. Our reception was amazing and included an unexpected encore – not like one of those planned encores where the encore is written into the set. The audience wouldn’t shut up until we came back out to play, which we eventually did, closing out the night with “Charlie Sheen,” a go-to closer that we left off the set-list that night due to its volume.

The hospitality in Europe has been amazing and superseded all expectations. We have literally been living the dream: short drives by day; warm meals and warm beds by night; fresh bread and Nutella every morning to go along with delicious coffee; amazing and attentive crowds every night who continue to cheer us back onstage for encores; and line at the merch table after every show.

So far, the highlight show of the trip was in northwest Germany at Bremen, in a venue called the Tower, where we finally got to meet Rainer and some of the other label reps who helped to bring out a big crowd. They had us all floating a little lighter by the end of the night, filled with a humble gratitude. The show Sunday was one of the hardest for me, but Wiesbaden, where I sit right now, is one of the raddest towns I’ve ever seen – huge murals of art just like the one that I’m leaning against right now.

Hopefully someday I can come back here and remember all the stories I’ve already lived through, but for now we are in it and are here to soak up the adventure and the experience. Getting the opportunity to meet and learn about new people and travel around and play our music in a different country than our own, where the people seem to understand the words we’re singing, has been an amazing experience, and our eyes are all as wide as the kids in Wonka’s factory.

In the words of Ray Wylie Hubbard, “The days that I keep my gratitude higher than my expectations, those are really good days.”

Onward to more days like these.

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