Goodbye Wijk aan Zee

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This was my view out into the Café de Zon at about 11:30pm on Saturday night. I don’t think I have ever taken a camera onto a stage before, but I wanted to capture this. For pretty much every musician, it’s these moments that remind us why we play music at a professional or semi professional level at all rather than just at Jam sessions or for fun in a few local bars. It’s about people, and the feeling of entertaining an audience. It’s a special connection I’m not sure you can get in any other way.

The Dutch tribute festivals have been very special to all of us. But what we see of them is only a very small part of the whole. Behind the scenes there are a number of people who you rarely see on a stage, but it is they who do the real work. And I’d like to thank them here. Paul Handgraaf, Theo van Baar & Jan van Bodegraven are the principle organisers and our direct contacts. Richard techs the backline, Albert Schierbeek runs the front of house, Anja, Linda and José you might have seen running the ticketing and merchandise. The Café de Zon hosts us wonderfully every year. And of course there are many more who support the efforts of those I have named here.

On behalf Secret Agent I’d just like to say a huge thank-you to everyone for looking after us so well, putting on some great gigs – and of course some fantastic after parties! You have all been brilliant hosts, and steadfast friends.

Also I must thank the audiences who have supported all of the gigs. You have been fantastic. Many of you have come from all over Europe, many from even further afield. Every year the tickets are sold out, and the after gigs are full to bursting.

At this point, special mention must also go to some real explorers! Harmonica player Patrick Fairchild made it all the way from Australia, about 12,000 miles. Now that’s dedication! But the prize for sheer guts over travelling adversity must go to the ‘Great Memorial Band’ from Hungary. When we first met them in 2008, they were exiting a small hatchback in the hotel car park – 5 musicians, one electric piano, two guitars and various assorted bits of drum gear if I recall correctly. They had driven all the way from near Budapest crammed into the car in this fashion just to be at that one gig. And they were brilliant! (We had to follow them, which I assure you was no easy task).

We have also made many friends in the ‘Rory Family’ and in the Dutch blues/rock community, not least the other musicians with whom we have played. The standard of players we have encountered has never ceased to amaze me, and the warmth between the players is genuine -there is no rivalry, just an immense sense of collective fun. This was one of the reasons why we decided to try to turn our final gig into a jam session, with Secret Agent as the ‘House Band’ backing as many guest players as we could. For me, it was one of the highlights of our time in the Netherlands. So many musicians, many I hadn’t met before that afternoon, everybody creating something bigger than the sum of the parts. And Tim and Mark coped admirably  with everything that was thrown at them! The set list didn’t survive long before deviation…..

To all the musicians we have played with over the last 8 years, it has been a real pleasure to share a stage with you all.

Lastly I must mention two old friends. Frank van Pardo has been pretty much the “4th member” of Secret Agent since the Rose in 2008 – cheers mate, from all of us. Last but not least, I must note the absence of Barry Barnes and Sinnerboy, who would have closed Friday night but for some appalling luck with the weather. In the end he was forced to abandon travel after a full day sat at a snowy airport. Even then, it took him several hours to get his guitars back. I’m sure we’ll meet again somewhere on the road.

And so it’s over for another year, and we all return to where we came from, encouraged by a fantastic weekend of Blues and Rock music in Tribute to Rory Gallagher. So now what?

For me, the thing that I have taken away from those original gigs in 2008/9 is the same thing that I have taken away from this one. I actually want to carry on being a musician until I physically cannot play any more (or nobody wants hear me – whichever comes first!) For me to do that, I know I have to achieve something in my own right. Playing Rory’s music has been a blast, but the one lesson that stays with me from observing his career is that he was a man who ploughed his own furrow. However good we are as a band, (and I couldn’t have asked for better musicians than I have had in this endeavour in Tim & Mark), it’s Rory’s songs that brought us all to this point. I did not achieve that, it was done for me.

It was this understanding that drove me back to original music and the production of the ‘Notebook’ album in 2009. For me, nothing has changed. Notebook was a minor critical success, but a terrible commercial failure. I simply couldn’t have gone about it more badly as a band leader – every decision I took turned out to be wrong! The guys that played with me were great, and their dedication to the cause limitless. Tim, Fred and Jasper on drums and ‘Glam’ Dave on the bass, all gave it everything they had. Yet I still haven’t achieved what I set out to do, as a musician, a writer, or as a band leader. But if the 2008/9 gigs with Secret Agent fired me up to carry on and finish Notebook, then this reunion has only done the same again, to go back and finish my second solo album and then bring it out to an audience as we did in 2011.

And as for Secret Agent…was this the final mission?  I have a lot of work to do first before I can return to it, and other musicians to whom I have given commitments which I must now fulfil.

But I hope not. It’s just too much fun….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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