Heathen fans, you may have seen me walk across a stage with an arm full of beer and water, turning on amps in the last stages of prep for what will surely be a fun night for all of you, and a busy workday for me. I may have met you at the BOH Merch Mall when I was hawking our many wares. I may have bumped into you, spilled your beer, in a hurried rush towards stage to come to the aid of one of the guys with a broken guitar string or any number of ghosts in the machine that can rear their heads at random in a live performance. I am the man in black, seldom seen behind the scenes. I am known by many a name, am the wearer of many a hat in the live road circus you have come to know as The Band of Heathens. However, while on tour in Europe I hand most of my US Touring duties over to my German counterpart, Thomas (Sledge), while I just run sound. This has afforded me opportunity to take in the sights, sound, smells, the experiences of tooling around this vast foreign land with the five hooligans I call Boss. Below is but one small glimpse into days spent in Amsterdam as a fly on the wall, riding the coat tails of a band on the run.
I was waking from a bumpy van ride nap when we arrived in Amsterdam. I looked out to upon an urban cacophony, a sea of bicycles and a tangled web of metro rail, canals and narrow streets. As per usual, the heavy footed yet precise driving of Thomas makes for an interesting cannonball run rough any city. Architecture, culture, color, all bombard you as pedestrians dive to their safety from the path of our van. The ride ends with a stab of the brakes in the backstage area of the Paradiso. The Stones have rehearsed for tours here, and many a great name in music has blessed these stages with their brand of sonic art. We find out it’s a sold out show, instantly adding to the evenings excitement and with it the need for focus and attention in giving the crowd the best show we can. For the guys it means playing their best and leaving it all on the stage, for Thomas and I it means a thousand little pieces both technical and logistical coming together to have the best live production we can muster and leave the audience able to hear and feel what the Heathens bring night after night, a great Rock and Roll show. A great show this night would be an understatement. The energy of the crowd fed an already amped band to play a killer set. Amazing state of the art equipment and an incredibly accommodating and able staff put me at ease behind the mixing desk and allowed for even the smallest nuance of sound to be heard clearly. Nights like those are rare.
We leave backstage buzzing and hungry, ready to set siege in a new city with all options set before us. With the help of a few locals and the previous experience of the band we set out. This being my first time here Gordy wants me to hit all the hot spots. We have some great Italian food, then head for the quintessential Amsterdam tour spot, the Red Light district. The oldest profession in the world now modernized and enhanced with Red neon and LED lights, plastic surgery and an eye for shock marketing gives an entire new meaning to the term “Strip Mall.” The locals keep their eyes down, as if to meet the gaze of anyone behind the glass will rob you of your very soul. I do not keep my eyes to the ground. They wander, I am mouth agape, laughing. My eyes lock with a women of the red, she instantly blows me a kiss and winks. Hilarious. We end a very late night walking amongst the canals, ducking into pubs and clubs for many beers and cocktails.
My trip to Amsterdam would not be complete without some pain. I wanted to commemorate this tour and my first experience in Europe permanently, with a tattoo. Required listening for this section is the song “Euro Trash Girl” by the band Cracker. David Lowery pens a quirky love song, chasing a distant love throughout Europe. The song is serendipitous as both Thomas and I have spent time separately working with and appreciating music from Cracker and now find ourselves both working for The Heathens. “Got a tattoo in Berlin, and a case of the crabs, a rose and a dagger on the palm of my hand.”. Well the tattoo happened in Amsterdam, not Berlin. I did not contract any sort of ailment involving seafood. I did however, need a few shots of whisky to ease my nerves before the needle fell smack dab in the palm of my hand. Pain I can’t put words to would most likely be the reason that even my tattoo artist of 13 years tenure, Maxine, has yet to touch ink to this part of her body. The guys stayed for a bit to shoot some video and see me through the screams, yet dispersed as I found myself locked into a Stone Cold Steve Austin mental state and barely let out a groan. I was beyond sound or tear, Stoic in a state of shock no doubt.
The night ended with quite a few more cocktails to ease the pain. Amazing chinese food and a killer little jazz club rounded out an incredible few days.
I left a high paying, very stressful job a year and a half ago to take a chance on living my life better, with more meaning and experience, working to live instead of living to work. I count my days logged thus far with tBoH as lucky and as fun and happy a time as I have had in years! Cheers to the Road, to live music and all who support what we do!
When life finds you, may it find you Alive!
-Harley (Huck, Harls in Charge, S.B., huggies,…..)