(Written with Ashley Davies)
Tues July 26 MW
Arrive into Bordeaux and we’re happy to see a man with long white hair and
a headband waving a festival poster at us through the window. Jean
Michael, along with Manu the driver, is here to collect us. First thing’s
first they say, ‘You want to eat?’ We stop in at a place on the outskirts
of the airport called Buffalo Grill. Hmm that’s not French. I say to Jean
Michael that I don’t eat meat and he raises his eyebrows. I predicted that
it would be difficult being a vegetarian in France but this surpassed all
expectation…I had a salad and a plate of cheese…and some wine of course.
Jean Michael’s eyebrows raised again, even more curiously when Ashley said
he didn’t drink.
We then had to pick up our gear we freighted over. When we get to the
customs office to clear it I realise I left my passport in the car, but no
problem. Voila! Jean Michael whips out the festival poster again and it’s
Then it’s on to Cognac.
After the drive and checking in I start to feel a long way from home…and a
long way from understanding French. “Bonjour” and “merci” are actually not
going to get you far. I make a mental note to spend some time with the
phrase book with my coffee and croissant in the morning.
Go to sleep with the sound of mopeds drifting up through the window.
Wed July 27 MW
Open the shutters. 7:30 am. A soft mist hanging over Cognac but you can
tell it’s going to be a scorcher… Later I go for a walk and see what’s
happening round town. Bump into Jean Michael and he shows me around the
festival as the finishing touches are made. I grab a bread stick and some
things from the supermarket and retreat to the hotel to play some guitar.
I later find out that the Imperial Crowns are playing a warm up show
tonight so I track Ash down to tell him. We don’t have mobile phones with
us but it turns out it’s not that hard to find a guy wearing stubbies and
an AC/DC t-shirt here in Cognac.
View from the hotel window in Cognac
Wed July 27 AD
Night time, it’s real balmy here. Been a hot day. Having a coffee watching
the kids scream round on their motorbikes. I don’t think the bikes are
registered or that they have licenses. They ride crazy and fast and as
close as they can get to the cars they are following. Loco young French
kids. They are setting up stages all around town. First gig tomorrow
night. Can’t wait to play
Thurs July 28 AD
Cognac township is starting to buzz. The festival is set up like
Queenscliff music festival. Some main stages then gigs going on in clubs
and bars all over the town. Lot of people at our first show and the gig
goes great except the acoustic guitar breaks down and we have to do a
mostly electric set. They like the toe tappers here. We finish and a blues
band called bulldog gravy get up and do a set, they are a bit left of
centre and have a percussionist that gets his instruments from the
Thurs July 28 MW
My friend Laure back home translated a couple of songs into French for me
before I left and the time has come to see if she has played a cruel joke
on me or not. The crowd respond well enough so I guess I’m singing what I
think I’m singing. This was a good start to the festival tonight…it was
also very nice to meet our booking agent Dominique for the first time (in
person). I catch the last half of Joe Cocker down at the main stage. An
outdoor amphitheatre that looked quite amazing with a sold out crowd
having a good time. Joe plays all the old stuff as you’d expect and I
guess it’s a nostalgic experience for most of the people here…and I can’t
help feeling it too on this summer night in Cognac.
Friday July 29 AD
Early start for 10.30 sound check and 12 pm gig. An outdoor show and
everything was going well and then it starts raining, and thunder, and
then the wind picks up and blows everything apart. Tried to cover the gear
up with tarpaulin but the wind blew them off. Show was brought inside. The
water affected everything, guitar tuners, effects pedals, Matt’s hairdo
Friday July 29 MW
Hung out with Dominique (booking agent) and her friends drinking Cognac &
Tonics. Caught some music…Lots of ‘Bompa - Bompa’. The crowds are
wonderful here. Lots of drinking but no fights…From what I can gather,
French people love there own wine, cheese, cooking, culture etc…but when
it comes to music they appear to be very interested in looking outside
their borders. They really love the mystery and magic of it all…Good tonic
for a musician.
Saturday July 30 MW
I still don’t have a lot of confidence speaking French. It’s OK when I’m
playing or hanging out with friends at the festival, but I go to do
something like post a letter or go to the bank I feel like a real tourist.
Yeah I know I am a tourist, but I’m just not used to feeling like one. And
I’ve developed this ridiculous habit of just speaking English with a fake
French accent to people in the hope that it will help them understand me.
Tonight’s gig was great.
Saturday July 30 AD
All day free to see some music. A few favourites were a blues duo singing
classics from the Kansas region on acoustic guitar and tuba. A Captain
Beefheart version of the Melbourne combo The Band Who Knew Too Much called
Voodoo Skank. Le Bluetones, one helluva rockin’ and swingin’ French R&B
band and The Maxwell Family. A straight ahead blues/boogie three piece
family combo with mum on bass, dad on guitar and 10 year old son on drums.
Met the little fella in the elevator, had something in his hand. “What’s
that?” I said. He could not speak English very good. “BOOM” he goes. And a
few minutes later from the hotel room in the street below we hear a loud
bang and some people screaming and shouting. Don’t know about that
kid…next morning I caught him harassing the hotel poodle.
Sunday July 31 MW
I enjoyed our early morning show on the Tonic stage. We were able to play
a few of the slower tunes in this setting… and it can be a very nice thing
to sing into a PA before you’ve even spoken your first words for the day.
Sunday July 31 AD
Lots of parties and music going on around here. It isn’t just the festival
that has the bands. All the venues in town have something going on, and
pretty much into the early hours of the morning. Then there’s the cognac
which everyone is drinking. Last nights gig finished at 2, got home at 3.
Got up at 8 in the morning for sound check, then played at 10. Went to The
Bluetones that night at a small pub, a bit like The Rainbow in Melbourne.
Got there at 10.10 for a 10.30 start but they came on at 11. My feet were
killing me but the joint was going off. I could not get any closer too
them unless I was going to do some backing vocals. The music was loud and
it was packed and sweatin’ in there. The highlight of the festival.
Monday August 1 – Wednesday August 3
Hanging out in Cognac.
Thursday August 4 AD
Hit the road for Holland shows. French countryside is beautiful. Nearly
hit semi trailer.. must remember to drive on right side of road. Expensive
petrol, tolls and then there’s the traffic jams. Stay in some roadside
hotel in Belgium for the night and the room smells like foot odour. Next
morning we smell like foot odour coz there is no windows in the joint to
open. Glad to get out of there.
I think this motel is actually part of the witness protection program.
Friday August 5 AD
Holland! Excellent. Have to get to a place called Vaals. 500 metres from
the German border and 3 kilometres from the Belgium border. After some
circle work on the highways we make it there and drop off the gear and
head to Amsterdam to pick up a drum kit.
Saturday August 6 AD
Catch up with some mates in Amsterdam then head back to Vaals with drum
kit in hand. Strange show compared to the gigs we had been having in
France. Everybody was talking so loud it was distracting. So we played
louder. Then they talked louder.
& Matt in Amsterdam - Photo by Hilde
Sunday August 7 AD
Maastricht - Was wondering about this gig coz of the nights before but did
not need to. This was a great pub and a great night. The club was packed
and they opened the side doors onto the street where people watched from
the footpath outside. We were crammed onto a tiny stage and it was hot and
loud in there. The room thick with the heavy dope and beer smells of
Amsterdam cafes and people hollerin’ and jumping around. The best show of
Monday August 8 AD
Eindhoven is a big town and we get lost in it and have to call the bar
owner to come down and get us or give us some very good directions. he
comes down and we follow him back to where we are staying and the club.
It’s small bar in the backstreets of town and they are right into their
music. Not as crazy as the night before but everybody had a good time.
Tuesday August 9 AD
Gemert - Last gig for the tour and we are feeling good coz we are coming
home, but it’s a bummer to be not doing more shows. Europe gets to you
because of that great culture difference in the people, places and things.
You need some time to soak it up and feel it. The duo has had a real good
time here, the audience seem to get what we are trying to do with our
music. Played the last show in a smoky little club then headed back to
Amsterdam that night to get ready for the trek home.
Photo taken by