July 25 – Today was our only real day off this whole tour — no travel, no show. I spent most of the day exploring the eastern side of Lake Como. It’s a beautiful place, with mostly local residents there and not too many tourists. A commuter railroad connects the little towns and stretches on to Milan. In Bellano I visited a waterfall called L’Orrido, or The Horrid, and climbed a hillside high above the town. Here are a couple of my tourist photos:
Mark told me about an iPhone app called Health that measures how many steps you’ve taken, how many flights you’ve climbed and how far you’ve walked in a day. That night mine showed 70 flights. But Mark, who got up early to take an extra hike, logged nearly 100.
July 26 – The Blues River Festival was held in a pasture near the Adda River. In the best Italian tradition, the food was given as much importance as the music. There was a large tent set up with tables where everyone could have dinner and visit with each other. A big kitchen area off to one side, behind a counter, was the scene of lots of activity and laughter. Once it got dark everyone moved to the stage area and the band played. After our show we drove back to Lake Como. I slept all the way.
July 27 – I met more Americans in one evening in Bellagio than in the whole rest of the tour. Paolo had described Bellagio in Blues as “a busking festival”, and, sure enough, there were solo and duo acts performing here and there throughout the town, on the narrow streets full of gift shops, perfumeries and art galleries. We set up and played on the cobblestones near the ferry dock. There was some dancing in the street, but mostly the audience sat and listened. The ones who listened hardest, we learned after the show, turned out to be other musicians who had come down to hear us after their street-corner sets had ended.
July 28 – Our flight from Milan to Luxembourg was on time and without incident. Thank you, EasyJet. A Blues’N Jazz Rallye shuttle picked us up and brought us to our hotel, where we were to play an informal set in the courtyard to open the festival, starting, we had been told, at 8:00. When we arrived the stage crew was ready and waiting. Even though it was only 7:00 I got the feeling we were late. After dropping our bags in the rooms, we set up and played. Later I saw on a printed schedule that a solo act was billed to perform from 6:00 to 8:00. I’d met the guy and even rode down the elevator with him. But he must have been going for a walk in town, because he never turned up at the stage. Anyway, everything worked out fine. We ignored the clock and played until it felt like time to finish, and then we ended it.
At one point a woman walked down front and shouted, “Play some blues!” We obliged with a few Mississippi and Chicago songs — creditable versions, I thought — but when I looked over she and her friend were gone. I tried not to let it get to me that an expensively dressed European woman, sipping white wine in the courtyard of a five-star hotel in one of the wealthiest cities in the world, should play blues police to a band that in its time has played some of the rattiest holes known to man. But I shouldn’t judge. She may have visited those holes, too.
July 29 – Luxembourg City is over a thousand years old, built on the site of ancient Roman fortifications. The central city, where our hotel was, stands on the edge of a cliff. The old city, where the venue was — someone told us it was originally the workers quarter — is in a deep canyon below. To get from one to the other, you can drive the long way around or just walk a few blocks and ride a large public elevator. The elevator gives a better view.
That night we had a full venue and a good show. I wanted to see some of the band that came on after us — their singer had a silver-sparkle, triple-pickup Danelectro guitar and invited me to sit in — but at this point we were starving. Mark, Franher, Paolo and I made our way to the musician dining area near the foot of the lift and checked our instruments in the “left equipment” tent. A friend of ours, Meena Cryle from Austria, was performing on a stage nearby, and after dinner we were able to catch her last song. Then we rode the lift back to the hotel for a few short hours of sleep before our 4:30 AM lobby call to catch a ride to the airport and start the long journey home.