Friends, Mates, Freunds & Amis
A Rolling Postcard from Bayou Seco's musical trip to the British Isles, Germany and France.
by Jeanie McLerie & Ken Keppeler
Editor's note: We once again share a "rolling postcard" from the popular Silver City "chilegumbo" musical duo, Bayou Seco. From April through June, they brought a little bit of Southwest New Mexico to Scotland, Ireland, England, Germany and France. Here's their report.
Yes, yes, another romp across the islands of England and Ireland and a bit of the Continent. Having taken last year off, we were keen to come over again and share our music with a diverse and hopefully willing audience, as well as have some adventures unlike any we could have in our Southwestern home.
Bayou Seco in Spilsby, England.
Spring is quite a lovely time to leave the New Mexican windswept fields and pollen-dusted surfaces. What we see over here is a verdant, lush countryside full of fruit trees in full blossom, daffodils by the thousands lining driveways and country lanes, and lots of pretty groupings of tulips, hyacinths and low-growing purple groundcovers in many of the town centers. The moisture is happiness to our parched skin and cracked fingers. We enjoy the drizzle and fog, and we laugh when the locals apologize to us about it. We wish very strongly that we could have sent it back home to New Mexico but unfortunately the westerly winds won't allow such an idea.
Landing in Paris, the first thing that strikes us is the crazy patchwork-quilt look of the fields in the French countryside. Borders are decided by little streams and big rivers, not by straight rulers. There are many colors of greens and browns this time of year, some fields still being plowed, and some crops already flowering a garish mustard-colored yellow — the rapeseed that makes canola oil and also makes our noses twitch. Driving our French leased Kangoo made by Renault, we get a nice view of the landscape as we sit up fairly high.
So many goat cheese choices in France!
We played the first gig in Waardamme, Belgium, near Brugges at a place called Cowboy Up. The crowd was very enthusiastic and it was a great start to the tour. The next day it was only a one-hour drive to Calais, and a leisurely hour-and-a-half cruise across the Channel. Luckily the boat rides on this trip are allowing us time to work on our weekly radio show called "Roots and Branches" on KURU — Silver City's own community radio station (89.1 FM or GMCR.org). It airs on Saturdays from 8-10 a.m. in Silver City, but if we want to listen, we have to catch it Saturday afternoons over in Europe.
We have been doing a lot of interviews with musician friends we know over here, as well as some new friends we meet along the way. So along with all the music we play from the station's vast collection on the hard drive, we have been running these interviews on each show. It has been a fun addition to our already busy days.
We drove right up to southwest Scotland, Dumfries, for a couple of nights. There was a good pub music session, and a wonderful stone circle just a few miles north called Twelve Apostles. An early ferry to Belfast was a short one-and-half-hour hop. Ah — living on Irish time! The gigs start pretty late and you are lucky to be in bed by 4 a.m.
Conor O'Kane (aka Teknopeasant) set up three wonderfully diverse gigs for us. The first was in Derry City at a well-known pub called Sandinos, the second one in Buncrana in a wild pub called Rodden's in the countryside of County Donegal, and the third in a very old stone barn called Keady Clachen near Limavady.
We were so well taken care of by everyone. We ate freshly caught salmon and fish pie and of course lots of potatoes. The brown soda bread is a perfect complement to all the meals.
We also played for the opening of a community garden (while the five-year-old kids from the school next door planted potatoes) in a shopping center that has become a community-owned and -run center. It offers a computer lab to teach those skills, a film-making class, yoga and senior activities, as well as a grocery store. The shopping center had almost gone into ruin because it was in a dangerous area during the "Troubles," and had been abandoned by the commercial market that was the main lessor.
Then we went to Belfast for a day and visited a friend who showed us some areas where the "Troubles" were centered. Annie took us to a bar on Sandy Row, which used to be a pretty wild and dangerous place but now is a little more sedate. All around the area there are murals on the walls of heroes who fought and sometimes lost. There was one mural of all the workers who built the Titanic, and quite a few of famous boxers. Things are more stable now in Belfast, but there is still a lot of unrest. It's hard to imagine all this is still going on but it is.
The rest of our time in Ireland was spent visiting old friends — Paddy Jones in County Kerry and Rick Epping near Sligo — and course seeing the stone circles wherever we could find them. Beaghmore, west of Cookstown, is a fantastic example; actually it's seven circles, only recently excavated in the 1940s.
We returned to England via Wales on a boat from Dublin. We played the next three weeks in many places — hotels, village halls, schools, community centers and of course pubs. Sometimes six concerts in a row — luckily only a few hours' drive between each venue. As usual it was wonderful to connect with old friends. We also really appreciated the diversity of the food — lovely fresh salads, unusual cheeses, and fine local veggies and meat.
On May 14 we took the boat back to France and drove straight to Berlin, where we visited our friends from Aldo Leopold High School in Silver City — Ruby Zeuner and Anton Sauer and his family — and our friends, the 17 Hippies Band. Four days in this amazing, fantastic city were filled with visits to the Holocaust Memorial (haunting and very thoughtful), and views of the old wall, a beautiful food market, several music parties and much more. The city of Berlin is like no other we'd ever seen. There is a lot of green space even in the center of the city.
We were so very impressed with the U-Bahn and S-Bahn system. We took a train from Anton's into the center of the city with the option to get off and on as much as we pleased and it cost only 6.70 Euros for the whole day of travel — about $10. We were very surprised to see a lot of beer drinking on the subway. There is also a line on the S-Bahn train called the R-Bahn, which continually circles the city every 10 minutes in either direction. Apparently kids have parties on this train and there is a lot of drinking.
We were fortunate to attend a CD release concert of the 17 Hippies in Aschaffenburg. This was an amazing event. The group (there are 13 now) played for two hours and 20 minutes without a break, standing up the whole time. The very large and tightly packed audience was also standing and, as the concert went on, everyone became more and more involved — dancing and hopping and jumping to the music. Arms waved with the horn section, people sang along on the numbers they knew, and it was a real happening.