Tony Levin Band and Marotta/Griesgraber tour - Europe 2006

May 18, 2006 - Hamburg, Germany
The tour is now officially done I suppose with all that's left to do is get home. Most of our group left at 6am for the airport. Jerry had a later flight as do I, so we got to leave at 10am. He should be airborne by now, while I've got about two hours till my long flights to LA begin.

Last night's show was great, probably the best of the tour at least as far as audience response. It was a nice way to close things, and frankly yesterday we probably needed that. When we arrived in Hamburg in the afternoon, we found that our hotel had no reservation for us. Making things worse, a tennis tournament actually had every hotel in the city booked solid. So.. we wound up leaving for the show early with nowhere to stay afterwards. Somewhere during the show, the original hotel managed to come up with 5 double rooms (vs 9 single) so that was the best we could do. Larry graciously accepted me as a roomate, which was great because with him leaving early, I could at least have a few hours in a room to myself without worry about disturbing anyone. Trying to make things easier on him, I did all my bizarre gear and laundry packing downstairs in the lobby. I'm sure it was a strange site for other guests (audio cables, pedals, power cords, socks, underwear and all spread across a table and two chairs), but since it was done between about 1am and 3am there weren't too many people coming through. It was a bit odd, but it was the hotels fault we didn't have the right rooms anyways, so...

A few new pictures below from the past two days. All in all, it was once again a great trip. Big thanks to Tony, Jerry, Robert, Larry, Jesse, Pete, Marco, Francesco, Roger, JP and Christelle, Winfried and anyone else invloved that I'm forgetting! Off to the gate...

Hamburg venue

May 17, 2006 - Oberhausen, Germany
patient Mr Levin
a little translation

eight channels of Marco
gracious Mr Fast

hooray for Oberhausen!

Oberhausen bath buddy

May 16, Oberhausen, Germany
The calm before the storm... Yesterday as I said was our one day off of the trip, and now with just two days left the feel for everyone is definitely that we're at "the end." People are looking ahead towards travel plans and future plans which for touring musicians can sometimes stretch quite far into the future. Getting home from trips like this is also one of the most difficult parts for me, with all kinds of packing to do in a relatively short time between the last show and the trip to the airport.

It was great to just be something of a tourist yesterday. Six (out of nine) of us took a trip to a castle owned by an old friend of Tony and Larry named Kai. We first stopped on the way for lunch along the Rhine river in a stretch of restaurants obviously put in place for out of town visitors. We picked an Italian restaurant whose menu made me a bit dizzy; items listed in Italian with their descriptions written in German. The waiter also spoke both languages. Sometimes in situations like that when I try to speak to people I find myself going through a list of words just to even say "yes" or "no" (oui? si? da? no? nein? where am I?!?)

Looking for lunch on the Rhine
local traffic

After lunch we were off to the castle, but not without a bit of tricky navigation (nice way of saying we got lost).

seeking the castle

Our visit to the castle started with a walk through the central courtyard to the original tower which is roughly 1000 years old. All of us along with our two hostesses climbed a narrow staircase to arrive at a "deck" with an incredible view of the Rhine and its surrounding towns. From there we also had a terrific view of the main portion of the castle which we were told is much newer (only about 250 years old). Drinks councluded our visit to the top then it was back down the stiarcase.

giant chess
atop the 1000 year old tower

view from the tower (pt 1)
(pt 2)

drinks on the tower

the downward spiral

Once we were back down to the ground, Tony and Larry went off with Kai to talk software and computers, while the rest of us had tea and cake in the courtyard. Robert and I took a turn at playing chess on a giant board, and I don't mind saying he beat me soundly. I'm really not much of a player, and in fact early on mistook one of my pawns for a bishop because they were all so big.

From there it was on to tour the inside of the main castle. They asked that we not photograph it, so I didn't but there were really some amazing rooms, including a private circular chapel with some incredible frescos and a fantastic old pipe organ. Finally, we journeyed to a bar set up in a sort of basement where once again they had food waiting for us, along with a pool table, "kicker" (fooz ball), darts, a giant iTunes setup and a video screen projecting nature videos. I had a lot of fun loosing time and again in pool, but then somehow redeeming myself in kicker (a surprise since any time I've played europeans at it, I usually always fall way short).

the castle's "new" section (250 years old)

The night concluded with about a ninety minute drive on to Oberhausen where we'll play tonight.

I don't speak German, but...

May 15, 2006 - Bonn, Germany
Fantastic show last night in Bonn. The venues have all been good, but I really liked where we played last night. The venue seemed like some sort of concert hall/rock club hybrid with a bar and no chairs for the audience, but a wide open room and nice clean wooden floors and construction. The sound on stage was probably the best I've had so far on this trip. It's always great when you can hear yourself clearly but unfortunate how often you really can't.

Bonn guitar check (pt 1)
Bonn guitar check (pt 2)

sound hero Robert Frazza sets up
enraptured by Jerspeak in Bonn

Today is the one day off for my portion of this tour. Tony is leading most of us to go see a castle a friend of his owns. He says it's an amazing place, and given all the places Tony's been if he's excited about it, I'm thinking it must really be something to see. So.. I made sure to charge my camera batteries overnight and will hopefully get some good pictures of it today.

May 14, 2006, 2:45pm - still driving to Bonn, Germany
Today is the longest drive day we've had since I joined up with the band in Switzerland. Estimates I heard last night ranged from 5 to 7 hours of driving today. We're about to finish our 5th hour, and from a quick glance at the gps screen it looks like we've got another 150 Km to go before we get off this road. In any case, it's given me a lot of time to go through photos from the past few days and augment what was already on this page.

It's been very quiet in this van today, which is normal for the "silver van." The "blue van" on the other hand has been nicknamed the Italia van and is usually a bit louder I suspect. Marco is the main driver there and the only actual Italian, but his passengers are normally Jerry and soundman Robert Frazza (both with Italian last names). Marco is notorious for playing loud music, singing along, air drumming, shouting on his cell phone and generally making you wonder how the van is still on the road since he only touches the steering wheel on occasion (see the last M/G trip page for a great photo). He's a very comical guy and seems to enjoy the fact that we frequently get to laugh at his behaviour. It's good to have him along.

A few scenes from today's journey:

rail lines outside Munich (through a rainy window)
cargo outside Munich

"I'm Larry... I'm Jesse.... I'm Tony... I'm Pete!" (inside the quiet van)

May 14, 2006 - driving to Bonn, Germany
Germans drive fast. Really fast. It's amazing. Since we're in two big vans, we're generally in the slow lanes, with cars constantly zooming by to our left. We seem to average maybe 120-130 kph, which if my figures are right is maybe about 75-82 mph. I've been trying to guess just how fast some of these cars are going, but trying to imagine that we're just standing still and they're just driving by. It's hard to tell, but it seems like the average ones must be going at least 100 mph, and some must be higher still. Of course almost all of the fast cars are BMWs, Mercedes and Audis.

Good show last night in Munich. The audience seemed to slowly get bigger throughout the night and towards the end of Tony's set I noticed many young people coming in. They were obviously not there for the concert, and many of them had slightly bewildered looks on their faces while they watched Tony's band playing through some of their bigger climactic pieces at the end of the set. What was fun to see though was that they slowly started to get into it and by the time Elephant Talk came around a few were even dancing.

TLB in München

May 12, 2006 - Karlsruhe, Germany
Just finished the M/G set for the evening and I'm now helping man the merch table while Tony's band is literally rocking the house. These guys are just consistently amazing players. I feel silly saying it as often as I do, but it really is an honor to be doing these shows with them every night.

I realized in going through some new pictures today that I'm really not taking many of the shows themselves. It seems I just hardly have any free time once we reach the venues. So.. my pictures are more of the things I come across in our travels. But in a way maybe that's the most accurate portrayal of what "a day in Tom's life" is like. Many hours in a van each day, followed by many hours of set up, all for about 30 minutes on stage.

Inside our Belgian hotel... really!

soundcheck in Belgium

packed in for TLB in Belgium

May 11, 2006 - Zoetermeer, Holland
A few unusual scenes from our second day in Holland are below. There was a great bit of confusion getting to our hotel. Apparently the local promoter had told the tour company the wrong hotel, so.. we first went to a very nice looking hotel who had no idea who we were. We then repacked our luggage in the van, and arrived 10 minutes later at a second hotel, who's name didn't match the new name we were given. finally, we sorted out that this second hotel was in fact the right one, it had just changed names. It was also under some heavy construction in the lobby and hallways which made the whole scene a bit surreal.
strange accomodations
hall to my room

One thing I couldn't help but notice about Holland is all of the bicycles. It seems like more people ride bikes than drive cars which is great. Old people and young people alike, all with what look like some sort of single gear bicycles and maybe backpacks to carry their things. Very different from my home area where people ride mainly for exercise or sport, and are always riding high tech bikes and bike race garb.

Another oddity I noticed at our venue tonight that I guess is a Dutch trademark; a special "cafe" selling things you'd never find in a store in the US.

Bicycle parking in Holland
a "special" cafe at the venue

May 10, 2006 - Zandaam, Holland

Our first show in the Nederlands last night and a welcome late morning thanks to a short drive today. So.. some time to update this a bit. The last two shows have been great, and I'm happy to say I think I've even finally found a workaround to the low voltage problem that's chased me since our first trip to Europe.

Another long drive yesterday, but a fun show. Stick player Ron Baggerman came to the show at soundcheck and we had a little time to catch up. Ron is a great player in what I'd describe as a bit of a "Emmett Chapman" style who I met a few years ago in San Jose at a big Stick seminar. Like most Stick players he's also a very nice guy and brought a number of other Stick players with him last night. Pete Levin even took notice as a number of them were bald and Pete has a website dedicated to bald musicians (

May 9, 2006 - Aschaffenburg, Germany

A bit of an embarassing moment for me in the hotel today (that's a bit funny in hindsight) . Somehow, Tony and I wound up sharing a two bedroom suite with a shared bathroom and kitchen. Knowing Tony to be a nice and tidy type of person, when I woke up in the morning, I had plans to just get a quick shower and then make sure the bathroom was nice and neat for him. Well.. it didn't turn out that way. A few minutes into my shower, Tony knocked on the bathroom door to tell me that water was coming out of the bathroom into the hallway!! The shower door was pretty unusual; just a small screen that only came down to the top of a bathtub. It seemed rather wobbly and given the results, it seems that the bottom seal on it was not really working right. So.. instead of directing water back into the tub, it actually channeled it onto the bathroom floor, then under the bathroom door into the hallway, and (thanks to the slope of the floor) straight into Tony's bedroom! So much for my plan to keep the bathroom tidy! I spent the next 30 minutes or so using every towel we had, and even grabbing a few more from a maid's cart in to mop up all the water.

after the clean up

One thing we haven't escaped for a few days is traffic. Heading to the Aschaffenburg show on Monday, we wound up completely stopped on the highway for what felt like at least an hour. People everywhere were getting out of their cars and sitting or walking around on the road. It was a bit stressful of course, but everyone stayed in realatively good spirits. Jesse and I played "catapult" with some pebbles and highway markers and I found the biggest snail I've ever seen and saved him from wandering into the road. Finally we were on our way again and about a kilometer down the road saw the remains of a semi truck that had apparently been on fire. Needless to say we were a bit rushed at load in, but somehow managed to get everything done in time and had what wa probably the best night yet.

Traffic stricken tour manager marco


May 8, 2006 - Wetzikon, Switzerland
After 24 hours of travel from San Diego, and a day spent with my friends JP and Christelle in Cluny, France, last night was my first show of this tour with the Tony Levin Band in Europe. When I say 24 hours of travel, I mean that literally. At about 12:30pm CA time on Thursday, I left home to drive to LAX. At about 9:00pm France time (12:00pm CA) on Friday my JP and I arrived at his home in Cluny. And yet somehow, flying from LA instead of San Diego made the trip feel shorter.

Friday night and Saturday I was the happy guest of JP and Christelle. Jerry and I met them last year when they organized a concert for us in Cluny. It was a very special show and we've remained good friends since. They were already planning on driving up to see Tony's show in Wetzikon and JP came up with the idea that I could fly into France early and drive up with them. It worked out great as it gave me a day to try to adjust to the time change, but in a fun twist also meant spending my birthday (Sat) in France. I'm not sure they ever eat American style cake, but they surprised me with an amazing French one. We took a trip in the afternoon with their children to visit a 1000 year old castle near their home and then Christelle's brother and family came over for dinner.

French birthday cake! mmm...

old castle near Cluny

view from the old castle tower of the old town below

JP and James in the old church
James Gauthier

Late Saturday night, after all but the American guest had gone home, I started putting my equipment rack back together, only to find that a battery in one of my effects units had decided to die. It's used for storing settings when the unit is unplugged, and the batteries last well over 10 years, but.. it picked the night before the tour to die and I lost all the stored settings for my bass effects. Amazingly, we found a suitable replacement in Cluny on Sunday morning when everything but the tobacco shop was closed, and I was smart enough to back up the effects some time ago so I could copy them back into the unit. They're not "quite" where they were before the battery loss, but are close enough for now.

The show last night was a lot of fun. It was great hearing Tony's new set, with a lot of material from his new CD Resonator. New for him, he's singing on most of the material, but you wouldn't know that from listening to the show. He sounds like he's been doing it forever, and has no problem playing some really tricky bass parts at the same time too. It was great to see Larry, Jesse, Robert, Pete, Marco and Jerry (Tony's Band) again too and I'm looking forward to catching up with them in the days ahead.

Au revoir et merci beaucoup JP et Christelle!

Marotta/Griesgraber opening for the Tony Levin Band in Europe - shows
update - May 3

I've been waking up extra early the past few days as tomorrow I fly to Europe once again and I'm hoping to get my sleep habits adjusted to the 9 hour time change as smoothly as possible. As the subject says, this trip will once again find Jerry and I opening for the Tony Levin Band. I'm excited to be getting into some areas we've never played before. In fact, with the exception of a show in Zurich, I think every area is new for us. The last Tony Levin tour we got to be a part of was a blast, and I'm sure this will be no different. It's just an entirely different experience when you're traveling along side an extra seven musicians and crew. As usual, I'll have my camera along and should be posting some updates and photos here as soon as I can get online. In some countries that is surprisingly difficult (Italy). I suspect Germany (where we'll be most of the time) will be a bit more along with that though. See you from the other side of the pond!

Want more Tom stories and trivia? Check out the website archives for past tour diaries.

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