The Best Kind of Trip: Touring in Belgium with three hard rock bands (Part 2)

When Elisa Fernandez-Arias offered to draft us a tour diary of her hop around Belgium as part of the BEUK / Redwire / Sofasonic road trip, we leapt at the chance. Elisa is a writer and performer and this was quite the trip to be going on. Here’s part two – part one was published yesterday.

The next morning I’m so hungover that I can barely function. I need three things – coffee, cigarettes, and something to eat – so Aimee, D and I head out to explore this sleepy Belgian seaside town, going from restaurant to restaurant; all of them too pricey until we find ourselves in a sports pub with favourable prices. They don’t serve food, but they do serve beer. Of course, beer will do.

We text Sofasonic and they arrive before we know it along with their friends who jokingly call themselves groupies. There’s only a couple locals in the joint, so our voices take over, as we toast to music, the tour, Belgium. We discuss music and yell profanities anytime we miss hitting the right ball on the billiards table.

The whole experience feels like a dream to me, as I’m still feeling hazy from the night before; a feeling I can’t seem to shake off, no matter how hard I try. Even after we go to the grocery store to ostensibly stock up on something to eat (about 90% of our purchases are alcoholic beverages) and Aimee, D and I split a loaf of baguette and some brie, I’m still feeling out of it. So when we head back to the flat, I head straight to the bedroom, to attempt to sleep off the hangover.

My dreams are filled with music. Specifically, Redwire’s music, as they practice an acoustic set over and over again in the living room, preparing for busking in Brussells the next day. I barely sleep for that hour, and even when I shower again, I can’t seem to shake it off. I get anxious as we climb back into Drifter, afraid that my set won’t go well. The Belgian countryside passes by, and then we’re in Bruges, beautiful Bruges; the sun is shining and we end up on a little cobblestone street, we walk down another little cobblestone street to get to the pub where we’re playing.

Café ’t Opkikkertje: its beer pouring into glasses and the music into the street since 1968, when it opened, is in its twilight years now. Roel from BEUK explained it to me: “Music history from the ceiling and the walls. All local, many national and some international bands cut their teeth in this little venue”. But now that the landlord has passed away, the building’s being sold, transformed into housing. It’s time for its swansong, and you can feel the nostalgia fill the room as the music and beer-lovers walk in, ordering a couple drinks before the music starts.

We haven’t had dinner so instead of a drink while we wait, Redwire and I, alongside my musician friend David who has come from France to join us for the night, go for a walk over the canal, down another cobblestone street which shines in the setting sun, and sit down for dinner at an Italian restaurant. We order fast, ask if they can bring the food fast but we have to rush off anyway. I’m on at 8 and if I arrive late someone else will have to start the acoustic set before me. So we speed-walk back to ’t Opkikkertje, Aimee stays behind to pay and I run up to the stage and say: “I’m ready.” Mike, who’s tuned my guitar for me to save time, mentions that there’s something off with one of my strings.

“Yeah, I know. It’s ‘cause there’s a small crack in the neck. I have to get it fixed when I get back.”

The night before, I managed to have a coughing fit in the middle of a song, and to drop one of my picks while playing. So tonight I stick to water, thank the gods of music (or of drinking?) that my hangover’s finally gone, make a prayer to them that the guitar stay in tune despite its current state, and tell the audience:

“Okay, um, some of you might know this already, but I write songs about men I want to sleep with? So here’s the first. I’m sure it’s relatable. It’s called “(The One on) Tinder.””

The set’s a success. I do everything right and my last song, a serious one about the healing power of music, feels just right in this atmosphere: “There’s music in the air tonight/ the city’s full of shining lights.” Aimee and D smile up at me as I play my last chords, and David too and I know that the rest of the night’s going to be perfect. Everyone was great on Friday, but on Saturday, they sound even better and more and more people come in as the sky darkens to listen.

We’re sweaty by the end of it from dancing and there’s a chill in the air but that doesn’t stop us. David, Redwire and I get back into Drifter, collect our bottles of beer and rum once we get back to the Airbnb and head out to the beach. It’s freezing and we huddle together on an old stone dock that juts out into the sea. We drink, we talk, we sing. It’s my last night here for the tour, so we keep drinking and talking even after we’re back inside the Airbnb.

Like the night before, I don’t know when it ends. I just know that when I wake up, I can hear Aimee in the kitchen, cooking all of us breakfast before the drive to Brussels where she’ll drop me and David off so we can see more of Bruges before I take another train to Brussels and then the Eurostar back to London. So we eat and we shower. We pack and then Aimee drives us to the train station. Everyone gets out of Drifter to say goodbye and then they’re off for the rest of their tour and mine has come to an end.

Redwire, Sofasonic, and BEUK will go on to a couple cities in Germany, to Amsterdam, to Copenhagen, to Sweden. Along the way, Mother Gaia will play with them, too. The tour’s already over but that doesn’t mean you can’t join in. Check out the sites listed in the introduction of everyone on tour and enjoy just as I did.

Elisa Fernandez-Arias: wordpress | instagram | soundcloud

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