Black Cat Oil Tour – 5


Friday afternoon we played at the prison in Geissen, Germany. The show was not listed on our website because it was closed to the public. But, really, who would want to go there? I’m sure the whole audience would rather have been somewhere else.

We had to surrender our cellphones and passports before entering the prison, so we couldn’t take any pictures. I copped the photo above from the Geissen JVA website.

Peter, the man who had booked the gig, said, “The rest of the day will be good, because these guys will go back to their cells happy. But they are very cool. They will not come to you, even halfway. You will have to take it to them.”

As the audience filed in they separated in to several distinct groups. To our right, a guard later told us, were the Germans. The back row on the right reminded me of the bad boys in the high school assembly, laughing and cutting up and tossing out pingpong balls. In front of them was a large group that, according to the guard, had mostly American GI fathers. They seemed to follow English well, and when I introduced “Clear Blue Flame” by saying moonshine was something like schnapps, a stir went through that part of the room.


“Ja, schnapps!”

The men on our left were another story. They sat stolidly with their arms crossed in front of them, faces screwed shut like doors not just locked but boarded over. The guard later told us these guys were eastern Europeans, mostly Lithuanians and Russians.

It’s hard to know how to perform in front of a crowd like that. I started with a smile and a bright “Guten Tag,” and knew immediately I’d struck a wrong note. So I decided to let the music do the talking.

The improvised double slide solo that Mark and I do on “Going Down South” has an element of danger to it. We never know where it’s going until we get there. Sometimes it flows and sometimes it feels like we’re fighting each other. But on this day we connected and the notes rang true like magic. When we finished the whole room burst into applause. As we walked to the side of the stage, Mark said, “I think we’re in.”

Marlon’s drum solo went over even better.

Then came “I’m a Witness,” which I start with a guitar riff as Franher leads the crowd in clapping to the beat.

“Don’t clap,” Mark called.

Franher said, “Man, I’m clapping.”

And then the whole room was clapping, the guys on the right loosely, the guys on the left with military precision. Although the most closed faces never really opened, we did see them relax a little.

After the show, two prisoners helped us carry the gear to the van. As soon as the van was packed, they threw themselves onto the narrow strip of grass between the driveway and the wall. They rubbed their hands in the grass and raised them to their faces to smell. I remembered then that the courtyard inside the prison had been completely paved. Grinning, both prisoners plucked small daisies and stuck them behind their ears.

9 replies
  1. "Gretchen"
    "Gretchen" says:

    Tom, you really should be working on a book.
    Reading your words, like listening to your music, imparts a strong crav?ing for more.
    The vignette in the grass touched my heart.
    Remember driving to see Doreen through Flannery O’Connor territory? In your tuna boat?’

  2. Gary penley
    Gary penley says:


    Awesome summa ry of your prison concert and great reading. I love the connections to the audience with your music and the different segment descriptions of the crowd.. You should write a song about playing your music to a prison crowd or livin in prison where you cant even touch grass of fields or smell of nature.

    Thanks for announcing the release of new album. I have been waiting to order it since i hea rd it was first being released in Germany.I amm ready to oredr it. I have all your albums and will catch you the next times you play innAtlanta and really hope to be able to come to your Atlanta rease party concert. Gary Penley

  3. Klaus Schick
    Klaus Schick says:

    Wow, when I read you spend one afternoon in a German Prison, I had to continue reading for the rest of the Story. Just amazing. I would think, that will automatically for a repeat in other prisons – Delta Moons Prison Ministy… I saw you couple of years ago in Charlotte, NC. It was great, I appreciate ….btw, I am a (free)German.

  4. Bianca
    Bianca says:

    Hi guys,

    it’s been a while. Great to hear you are doing such a great job… even in prison… Hats off to you, Delta Moon…

    Very touching the description of the all thing you gave…

    I hope I can get to catch you live again soon. Since I heard you in Cosio (Northern Italy)I started to enjoy and love your sound.

    Arrivederci from Bianca in Lecco – Italy


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