Sorry I haven't written in several days. It's been busy. I just got back this morning from playing a festival in Eutin, Germany yesterday. Had a gig tonight in Copenhagen, get up early to leave for a festival in Sweden in the morning. I'll try to write more when I have a free moment and my computer handy. Take care everyone.
A few days have passed since my last post. It's been busy here and it's about to get busier. I'm back in Copenhagen now. This is probably my fourth trip to CPH. It's nice because I can find my way around the city pretty easily. I have a couple of favorite coffee shops, bakeries, cafes and this trip I've plotted out several running routes throughout the city. Yesterday I found a running shop similar to the one I work at in Charlotte and also talked to a runner at a running club here in Copenhagen.
Tonight, Nathan and I will be playing at Denmark's premier blues club called Mojo. It should be a good night because tomorrow is some kind of Danish holiday so people will be out and going crazy, from what I hear.
James Harman flew in from Belgium last night to join us here for some gigs in CPH and a couple of festivals in Germany and Sweden. Should be a good time. Always is when he's around.
Getting close to dinner time. I'll write more later.
Me running near Arnt Ove's house. This was my warm up everyday.
As my tour of Scandinavia approached I worried that I wouldn't have the time to fit running into my music schedule. I packed my running shoes anyway, sacrificing a few more clean shirts and another pair of dress shoes to do it. I'm glad I did.
The first week overseas has been spent in Norway. Fortunately we've been staying at one house that belongs to our host/manager Arnt Ove (Andy) so it's been easy to just put my running gear on and head out the door. Our shows don't start until 9pm usually so there's still enough time to squeeze a run in and take a short nap before the gig.
The weather has been perfect for running and so has the geography. There are paved bicycle/walking paths that will lead to almost anywhere you want to go. The day we arrived I set a goal for myself--to run from Arnt Ove's house, up and over this huge bridge and back again. The first few days were shorter runs and some speed and hill work and I had to take a day off because we were playing in another town so I didn't have time to run there.
I tried to run the "course" yesterday, but after Arnt Ove showed us the sights and cooked dinner when we got back, I really wasn't in the mood. But today, I had to put up or shut up. I had been talking about running that dang bridge all week, so when Nathan mentioned it today I knew I had to.
After attending this morning's Constitution Day parade in downtown Haugesund we came home and ate breakfast. I answered some emails and uploaded photos, allowing my food to digest then I put the gear on. I had been trying to think of a way that I could prove to Arnt Ove and Nathan that I actually made it across and that's when Arnt Ove suggested I bring a napkin back from the McDonald's which is just about 100 yards on the other side of the bridge. Perfect! Except that today being a national holiday, McDonald's was actually closed along with all the other stores around it. The 7-11 nearby was the only store open, but when I started to think about the route I thought it would be a waste to only bring back a napkin from 7-11. So I decided that I would take my camera. This was probably the only time I would ever bring a camera running. I put it in the little pouch and slung it around my shoulder and hit the road. I was glad I took my camera:
On the way to the bridge
This is the point where I had to decide if I still wanted to run it.
On the way up. The head wind was INSANE! I'm a little afraid of heights and the wind gusts felt like they were going to blow me over the railing.
View from the highest point on the bridge.
McDonald's! Just about 100 yards on the other side of the bridge. Proof that I made it over.
View from the other side. Heading back over.
The view of the community coming back over the bridge.
Heading back to Arnt Ove's house.
Coming back into town.
This hill killed me. I know it doesn't look like much in the picture, but my quads sure felt it. This was within the last two miles of the run.
The route turned out to be about 10 miles round trip and took my about an hour and twenty minutes to complete. When I got back to the house Arnt Ove said, "You look so relaxed. I can't believe you ran over the bridge. You are INSANE."
Happy Constitution Day! May 17th is a national Norwegian holiday. It is the day Norway signed it's "Declaration of Independence" from Sweden. This morning Arnt Ove took us into Haugesund to watch a parade. On May 17th, Norwegian men, women and children dress in ornate and hand-crafted traditional costumes. This morning's parade featured many of the children of the city who marched with their school mates and teachers waving flags.
Yesterday (Sat.) our host, Arnt Ove, took us out sightseeing around Karmoy (that's actually spelled with the "O" that has a slash through it). We first visited a nearby church that was built around the year 1250. During the World War II people could go to the church to hear radio broadcasts and news. The building still shows pocked marked signs of German airplane bullets in it's ancient stone walls. Below the church is a Viking museum that houses artifacts discovered there and elsewhere around the island. Further on down and through a little forest lies a Viking village that was recreated to look just like it might have during the time of the Vikings.
St. Olav's Church
Bullets marks from Nazi airplanes
This is called the "Virgin Mary's Needle." It's a giant, obelisk-shaped stone that was put there when the church was built. The stone leans toward the church and it is said that when it finally touches the wall that will be the day of Armageddon. There are only a few inches to go.
Just past the village and at the water's edge, you can see a tiny strip of land almost like a sand bar, out in the middle of an inlet. It is said that a scorcerer and his men were coming to the area to try and defeat the king, Olav. The sorcerer wanted to make such a powerful level of fog and darkness so that they would be able to catch Olav by surprise, but instead made it too dark and enveloped themselves...you can read more by clicking on the photos below:
Later Arnt Ove took us on a drive around the island eventually to a tiny community called Skudesneshavn. At first we thought he was saying, "Scooter's Nest." The community is bound by strict building codes that don't allow for progressive building. All the structures have to remain in the old-fashioned way. The drive around the island was beautiful and reminiscent of Northern California coastlines. Small farms and hugged the hillsides and quaint homes stood along the rocky cliffs.
Arnt Ove lead us to what used to be an old copper mine. It is now a water filled pit adjacent to a pretty little park and mine museum. The mine is significant because it supplied the copper that was used to make what eventually became a fairly famous American statue....See photo below:
The gig last night was a quiet one. Everyone was at home getting their traditional Norwegian costumes ready for Constitution Day, a national Norwegian holiday, basically their Fourth of July.
Since leaving California and moving to North Carolina I've settled rather nicely into a non-musician lifestyle. I went from playing gigs almost every night to not playing at all the last 6 months. I started going to bed around 10:30pm and getting up to take my wife to work at 6:30 am. On Sundays I go to church and afterward mow the lawn. As a musician I had been starting my work "day" anywhere between 8 and 9:30 pm and not getting home sometimes until 2 am. Now that I'm here in Scandinavia I've had to go back to the old hours. Unfortunately, even though I don't get sleep until late I still get up early.
Last night was no exception. After leaving Bryne, Norway in the morning we drove another 30 minutes to the city of Stavanger where we played an upstairs pub called Ovenpaa. The crowd wasn't as enthusiastic as the night before, but we still had a great time. And even though Nathan and I haven't played together in quite sometime our sound is coming back together as if we just picked up where we left off last November.
Ferry Ride to Stavanger
After sound check we went back to the small apartment the club owner had loaned us for the evening to take quick naps and get ready for the show. We walked back to Ovenpaa, had some dinner and walked around town and harbor. I guess Stavanger is a fairly wealthy town, getting most of it's money from the oil industry. We didn't see any of that money when we were checking out our CD sales. We only sold two CD's and those went to two other musicians--horn players who had just recently moved to Norway from the UK. Neil, the trombone player, sat in with us on a couple of tunes while I accompanied on jazz horn (kazoo) and jug.
The streets in Stavanger were filled with teenagers who are about to "graduate" from Norway's equivalent of high school. Hundreds of the students come out on the town wearing red overalls with the straps hanging down. Each kid adds their own patches and designs to the pants, sometimes rolling up one pant leg, or other times both. The legal drinking age in Norway is 18, so each disco is bursting with the graduates all wearing their red, school overalls.
Arnt Ove (Andy) our host and "manager" informed us that we were going to have to catch the late ferry back over to Haugesund and that we needed to be ready to go by 11:30am the next day for an appearance on a weekend morning television show. That would mean we would be done with the gig at 1:30am, but only be able to catch the 3am ferry which would put in Haugesund and in bed around 5:30am. Fortunately, when we arrived at the ferry terminal we found that their was an earlier ferry that left at 2:30am. We crossed the channel in the dark with just a handful of other people and watched the sun slowly come up as we hit the sack around 4am I think.
11am came quickly this morning. I hung another blanket over the window before I fell asleep so the room would be relatively darker. The sun never really completely goes down here because we're so far north. It seems even in the middle of the night there is still a slight glow on the horizon.
Andy had only gotten about an hour and half of sleep. He still had to be at his regular job this morning. He took his lunch break and was waiting to take us to the TV station right on time. The station is small with the transmission only reaching the surrounding communities. We set up our instruments on their sound stage with the host, named Karen, while the production guy clipped microphones on our shirts for the interviews.
Norwegian local T.V. show
In Norwegian, Karen spoke into one of the cameras letting the audience know what kind of music we played and where we performing in town, I think. And then she turned to us and asked us a couple of questions about ourselves. Because it's a weekend show, the station found that no one wanted to get early and produce the show early on Saturday and so they record everything for the weekend during the week and run it on the weekend. So after our "interview" we stopped, made a couple of adjustments and then resumed recording. We played one song while the credits rolled, I guess.
Andy drove us back to his house, Nathan took a nap and I went for a run into town. I'm about to fix a sandwich soon and then catch up on some sleep myself. Tonight we're playing our first show of three at The Irish Viking here in Haugesund. This weekend is a Norwegian holiday--Constitution Day and so I hear that it will be pretty crazy downtown tonight and tomorrow. More photographs available in the "photos" section at www.benhernandezmusic.com
Last night I played in a small country town called Bryne. The drive over here was beautiful, the road winding through the hills and countryside. Occasionally we drove through deep tunnels dug beneath water inlets from the North Sea that separate the different parts of Norway. We arrived at the venue, a place called Thime Station, and dinner was already waiting for us. The venue is a small, dark pub with heavy timber beams supporting the ceiling. People crowded in close to the little stage and around the bar. It was a great audience.
I was a bit nervous about playing because Nathan and I haven't played together in about 6 months, but once the first note was thrown out there it was like riding a bike. For me it was a bit like riding a rickety and rusty old bike, but a bicycle none the less. My voice wasn't as strong as I wanted it to be, but I haven't been singing the way I used to. I felt like an old prize fighter being pulled out of retirement for one more fight, trying to win back the championship belt.
I spent some time enjoying a local brewed, stout beer called SorteFaar (Black Sheep) with some locals, one named Rolf. Afterward, we walked across the street to ErlingDagsland's apartment. He's a friend of Andy's and a blues fan and photographer who owns the top two floors of the building which used to be the living quarters for the proprietor of a grocery store that used to sit below. Nathan and I stayed up a little later with Erling and his friend "Oscar" watching film footage of Freddie King while Erling kept bringing out slices of bread topped with different types of cured meats and local cheeses.
This morning Andy was downstairs waiting to pick us up to take us over to his guitar player's house for a breakfast of eggs, thick bacon, sliced bell peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes and juice and coffee. We'll be leaving soon for a short drive over to Stavanger where we'll be playing tonight.
This morning I woke up, put my running shoes on and headed out the door. The air was crisp and the sky was clear. I ran about 7 or 8 miles toward town. I love running in a new place or in this case a new country. You're able to see so much more than if you had driven a car. I found a walking/bike path that stretched for miles, through tiny neighborhoods, along the harbor, and past wide open pastures.
I poured some coffee when I got back and fixed some eggs and fried up some of the potatoes from last night.
I think I might have left my iPod on the plane from Chicago to Copenhagen so the other half of the morning was spent calling a couple of airline service numbers with the hopes of tracking it down. All lost and found items get sent to the Copenhagen police (politi) office in the airport (lufthavn). After the shows here in Norway, I'll be back in Copenhagen on Monday and so with fingers crossed, I hope to find my iPod.
Andy, our host will be getting home from work early this afternoon so that he can drive us to our first show at Thime Station in Bryne, Norway. We stay the night in Bryne then drive to a show in Stavanger. We get back to Andy's house on the 15th for 3 shows in a row at a place called The Irish Viking.
Sunday, May 10 Sunday evening my wife dropped me off at the Charlotte airport for my flight to Chicago. From Chicago I would then be flying over the Atlantic Ocean and ending up in Copenhagen, Denmark. The O'Hare airport in Chicago is one of the most confusing if you're trying to fly international. There are no signs that tell you where the international terminal is. My ticket read Terminal M15, so when I stepped off the plane from Charlotte and looked up at the signs all I saw was ABCD. I ended asking about 5 different people where it was. It turned out that I had to go up an elevator to the sky bridge, then over the bridge to a tram that would take me 5 stops to the IT. Well, I found it and boarded the plane.
The flight to Copenhagen was only 7h and 45m long! Now some of you might say that that's a long flight, but not when you're accustomed to overseas flights sometimes taking 10 or 14. I sat next to this free-spirited, long haired, bearded bicycle mechanic from Capitola, CA (Santa Cruz). As we were lifting off the ground I asked him if he'd ever been to Copenhagen before. From that point on he talked almost the entire flight (sorry Victor, but you did). I found out Victor's entire life story it seemed. He was actually on his way to Latvia to meet his girlfriend. I found out the history of Latvia, stories about his past adventures in Latvia, his inherited house in Capitola with his crazy friends living their with all their dogs, his vegetable garden, old relationships with girlfriends, current relationships, his music, massage therapy. There was a moment that I actually started to fall asleep during one of his stories. The great thing was that I actually slept for about 3 hours. I never do that. Usually I fall asleep for about a half hour and am awake the rest of the flight.
I woke up and Victor started in again until we landed in Copenhagen. Victor was funny and hope to see him again someday. He made the flight go by pretty fast.
Monday, May 11 I took a train from the CPH airport and then walked about 5 blocks to my friend Peder Nande's house. He wasn't there and I didn't have a cell phone and I didn't want walk another few blocks to the nearest payphone. I stepped into a deli next door owned by a Polish woman and asked to use the phone. She was more than happy to oblige. So to return the favor I bought some food there. The deli serves this snack that looks like a big appetizer. On a small piece of rye bread, they layer on shrimp, sliced eggs or fish with small slices of cucumbers or tomatoes all topped with Hollandaise sauce. I chose one that looked like it had a nice fillet of fish on it, but turned out that it was actually a slice of compacted fish eggs.
I spent the evening catching up with Peder and his wife Lene. I rearranged my suitcase for the trip to Norway, checked some email and fell asleep.
Tuesday, May 12 I jumped into a cab left for the airport around 5:30 am. the next morning. We have shows in Norway so I would be first, flying to Oslo and then to a town called Haugesund where I would be meeting up with my partner Nathan James and our Norwegian host Andy (his real names is ArnstOve, but he says "Andy" is easier to say). I waited in the Copenhagen airport for about and hour and a half before leaving for Oslo--a 50 minute flight. I waited in the Oslo for about two and a half hours for the flight to Haugesund--a 35 minute flight. I waited in the Haugesund airport for Nathan and Andy another two and a half hours.
The flight to Haugesund, Norway from Oslo
Andy's house is a fairly large house nestled in the countryside about a half mile off the main road. It's surrounded on one side by pastures full of grazing sheep and on the other side by an inlet from the North Sea. We unpacked our suitcases and took a little walk while Andy cooked us this amazing dinner of local trout covered in pesto, small gold potatoes, cauliflower, salad all topped with herbs cut from his own little herb garden. We had a small shot of a Norwegian liquor to warm our insides up a little.
Dinner at Andy's house
The view from Andy's living room window
Then Andy told us that if we were feeling up to it, he had a friend that worked at the local performing arts theater in town. She could get us in free to see Bobby McFerrin in concert. Bobby McFerrin?!!! Hell yes!
I really didn't know what to expect. Of course, I really only knew that he did "Don't Worry, Be Happy", but didn't know much else. Let me just say that Bobby McFerrin is an amazing singer and vocalist. I was completely blown away by his performance. When we saw the stage we noticed that there was only one chair in the center. No band. He sat on the stage and made enough music with just his voice and taps on his chest and with his feet that it sounded like a whole orchestra and kept me entertained the entire time. He eventually invited up a choir from Haugesund to accompany him on a couple of songs and he invited the audience to participate a few others, but the rest was all him. That was a concert that I won't soon forget.
We all got home, fixed a little coffee and talked about the show. Later, we a little bit of aged Scotch from Andy's cabinet and finished the night out by watching a DVD of an old concert of Dr. Hook live on a television show in Germany back in the 70's. It was insane!