It was October, 2011.
I hadn’t performed live for well over a year, and it was something I was
deeply missing. Having no band at the
time, I spent a few months practicing my solo acoustic set and managed to book
a gig in a café in Kosice.
Days before the gig, I came down with a severe cold. The show should have been cancelled, but I
was so excited and determined to get out there and perform again that I went
ahead with it. My vocal performance was
truly terrible that evening…so awful that I drove away the 10 or so customers in
the place. Still I kept singing.
Toward the end of the performance, a group of 8 or 9 came in
off the street and enthusiastically sat down at the table in front of me. They seemed pleased as I went into a Bright
Eyes cover and a few of them actually started to sing along to a song that I had
assumed nobody in Slovakia knew. Who
were these people?
Later they told me that they were a group of foreign students
from Israel, the US, and the UK. I
talked with them and thanked them for coming, but I probably wasn’t as friendly
as I should have been.
7 months later, Abscondo was a full band and we had our
debut concert in Kosice. At this concert
was this same group of foreign students.
Despite my unimpressive solo performance, they came back for more! And what did I do? I managed to offend and
alienate a few of them by making a comment about religion between songs. They actually told me that my comment
bothered them. Not great of me. I failed to understand and respect my
audience. I alienated and divided them
rather than bringing them together.
Looking back, I now realize is that this is my
audience and these are my people. We are all Abscondo.
Several months ago I met a lovely young lady who is an
English teacher in Slovakia. She was so
enthusiastic about our music that she had the idea to arrange an “English night”
at a local bar with Abscondo as the entertainment. I realize now that she had hoped not just to see
us perform, but to attract all of the expats, travelers, and other
English-speaking misfits in the local area.
She wanted to meet these people and belong with these people. I guess she understood our audience better than I did…up
During our “English night” concert, I found out that it was
also her birthday. How absolutely
flattering it was (and honoured we felt) that she was such a fan that she wanted
us to perform at her birthday party! She
invited all of her friends. While the club was small and the performance
space less than ideal, I remember this as one of our best
performances. The energy was magical,
the small audience was completely engaged, and everybody felt connected to the
experience. This is what a rock concert
is all about. We all shared the same
feelings and we discussed the same ideas after the show. We all wanted the same things in
life and we understood each other.
You are my audience and you are the Abscondo band
audience. We are expats, travelers, foreign
students, and other English-speaking misfits around the world.
You are the people I will write for, podcast
for, communicate with, think about, and perform for. Whether on trains or planes, you are the people I end up
talking with. You are the people I
understand and you understand me. You
are my people.
I became one of you when I fell in love with my wife, who is
from Slovakia, all the way back in high school.
I travelled to Europe that first summer after high school and it changed
me forever. This experience, combined
with my deep love for her, would mean that I would never again see the world as
a “normal American” does.
I had changed. I
remember having difficulty making friends in University. I found the conversations and the interests
of “normal Americans” uninteresting. I
didn’t understand the way they thought.
Then I met a group of international students. For one beautiful year in Colorado Springs,
my wife and I hung out with and partied with Magnus from Sweden, Enrique from
Costa Rico, Kenai and Lukai from Thailand, Hedotoshi from Japan, and Natasha
from Russia. We went clubbing in Denver. We went white-water rafting. We hung out every weekend. We helped each other. We were true friends and thoroughly enjoyed
each other’s company. I realized that I
had much more in common with this group of “internationally-minded” people than
I had with “normal Americans”. This is where I belonged.
What was obvious to me then, and what I still believe to
this day, is that there is a relatively large group of people around the world
who...because of our international relationships and rich experiences with
travel and different cultures...we no longer fit into our own cultures. We no longer think that the traditions,
beliefs, cuisine, and customs of their own cultures are “inevitable”. We understand that everything we think, do,
and believe is a choice. We live where
we choose to. We do for a living
whatever we want to. We eat whatever we enjoy. We seek freedom, beauty, and
My life is a clear example of this. 7 years ago I moved from Seattle to
Slovakia. I have not only made it work
here, I have thrived here. I have lived
for short times in Cannes, Paris, and Barcelona. I’ve travelled extensively around
Europe. During this time I started writing
music, recording, and put together what I believe is a world-class rock band
with an original sound. Sometimes I eat
Slovak food, but most of the time I eat (and cook) Thai, sushi, or Indian food.
I work the hours that I want to at home
and communicate with colleagues who live in the UK and Canada. I travel the world on business and earn a
good living. I have lived here with no
material possessions for a few years and then later my wife and I purchased and
finished a nice flat. I have lived here
for many years without children and now have a beautiful 3-year-old girl. I have had good friends from the US and also
have been very fortunate to know so many smart, interesting, and talented
Slovaks. Today I feel more integrated
into Slovakia than I ever have been. Yet
I will never belong. But I will never
belong anywhere else either. I know I’m
not alone in this feeling. I know there
are people all around the world who feel exactly like me and I know that we are
large in numbers.
We do try to get together.
We join Facebook groups. We occasionally
go to meet-ups. But, in truth, we are
quite disconnected. Sometimes we feel
lonely. We feel like we don’t fit
anywhere and probably never will. This
is what I would like to try to change.
I want Abscondo to become a movement for expats, travellers,
and other misfits. I want to perform for
this audience in major cities around Europe.
I want to know you. I want to
make all of us feel more connected and I want us to feel that we are part of a
growing, thriving community. Ours are the
values are most relevant in 2013 and it is we who will invent the future.
We need to connect.
We need to share ideas. We need
to help each other and rely on each other.
Yes, alone we are strong, smart, interesting, and experienced. But together our potential is unlimited and we
Going forward, the Abscondo project will be all about
expats, travellers, foreign students, and other misfits. If this is you, then the songs we are
recording now are for you and I can’t wait to share them with you. The lyrics are about your life, your
feelings, your frustrations, and your victories. I will immediately begin to organize concerts
for you and your friends in Budapest, Prague, Krakow, Vienna, and eventually
This blog, the podcast, and everything I do will be for
you. You are my audience. To “abscond” means to run away, often taking
something or someone with you. That’s
exactly what this project has always been about, but I never fully realized it
We are Abscondo. We
are expats, travelers, foreign students, English-speakers, and other misfits
around the world.