"Bach or Bust" Tour
Bert Lams, Tom Griesgraber, Igor Abuladze
July 6-18, 2004
July 18, 2004 - Tujunga, CA (6:09 am)
Back at Bert's after a drive day yesterday and we're up early to get him to the airport for a flight, then I'll be heading home.

Backtracking... GREAT show friday night; a house concert in Los Gatos. Sandy, our hostess, invited me to do one there some time ago after we met at Jerry Marotta's studio in NY. Her home is in the mountains between Los Gatos and Santa Cruz and is an amazing place. Bert and I got thhere early enough to do a thorough setup/soundcheck and then relax for a bit. The scenery and decor of her home, the early setup and not having any rigid "policies" to work around made for what was probably the best night of our trip. From the beginning music, audience and performers felt very connected. There was one moment early on when Sandy interrupted us to try turning on a light. Igor had just played a gorgeous and emotional piece and it was my turn in the rotation. I'd been planning on playing "Speak softly" as it felt like it would follow his piece well, but after the interruption with the lights the audience started chit chatting and basically lost their focus. I waited for a bit, and when then kept going on, decided to do "Don't look Back" instead. It starts with about as big a "phwap" chord as one can get out of a Stick and I've found can be a good way to startle people into listening. It worked as planned and the rest of the evening flowed beautifully. A perfect ending to the tour!

Yesterday Bert and I drove back with some nice stops in San Luis Obispo for a walk and lunch and later in Oxnard for some shopping (we saw an outlet mall and were both in need of new jeans!) Kinda funny that the first thing we do.. before we even get home from the tour is stop to buy things. It reminded me of the old wild west stories of cowboys who after getting paid would ride into town and spend all their money at the bars and brothels. Bert and I simply chose Levis and sushi.

July 16, 2004 - Palo Alto, CA
The approach to last night's show was a rather stressful one. We've been aiming to get to venues about 2 hours before show time which allows plenty of time to set up, warm up and relax some before the show. We wound up leaving a bit later than planned but still with plenty of time... only to get to the parking garage in SF and find a flat tire on the car! We filled it up at a gas station and drove to Palo Alto with me frequently adjusting my mirror so I could keep an eye on it. It held alright (apparently a slow leak) but then getting off the freeway we managed to get lost not once, but twice. We finally screeched into the venue at about 30 minutes till showtime with me brainstorming "make it work" scenarios like having the Geary Street Quartet (our opener) play while I set things up behind them. We had a strict performance window too.. 6-8pm with the venue closing promptly at 8. With help from everyone though we got set up in time. Adding to the stress level.. before anyone had played a single note, the manager of the venue came over and started asking about how loud we were going to be, again just based on seeing my blinking lights. "It looks like it's going to be BWANNH!!!" he said.. I just let Igor talk to him cause my patience was a little thin from all the events in getting there.

Great show once it got going.. probably the best so far. One left and I'm really looking forward to it. A house concert tonight so we should be a bit more free in details than we have been the past few nights.

I've come to the realization that I need a new digital camera (some may have noticed a lack of pictures on this trip). I've got a few, but no way with me to get them uploaded. Maybe when I get home.

July 15, 2004 - San Francisco, CA
Fun, but slightly strange show last night in San Jose. The interesting points started off with a pen "giving up the ghost" in my pants pocket, leaving me scrubbing black ink off my hands and never quite getting it all off. Next on the list was the fact that the venue is typically an "acoustic" venue. They saw my stack of blinking lights as we were setting up and made a few unfomfortable jokes like "Didn't anyone tell you this was an acoustic venue?" We knew they'd be fine with it once things got started. Some people just see electronics and think things are going to be overpoweringly loud. Of course before we even played anything more than a few notes to make sure things were plugged in they started asking us to turn down (from what we heard, their talkback mic was already louder!). So... a strange vibe.

We've been starting the shows with Victor's Chase typically, but given the comments from the venue folks opted to just start with more subdued solo pieces. I think it gave us a less engaging show at the start. I didn't feel things really kick in till the second set. When Bert played the Bach Chaconne things suddenly locked in for me and felt really connected from there through the end. We wound up closing with Victor's and for about the first 3/4 of it it was probably one of the strongest performances we've had. Somewhere near the end though Bert mentally skipped a section and started his solo early... it shouldn't have made a difference, but somehow it threw me and while my bass hand stayed true, my guitar hand decided it would be good to transpose the melody down a fret. Igor and I were playing together and for a moment I couldn't figure out which of the three parts was wrong but wow.. polytonality! By about the third bar of the section I figured out what was wrong and got back on track. I looked at Bert and when we made eye contact we both started laughing out loud.

July 14, 2004 - Napa, CA
Bouncing through Napa valley right now on our way to San Jose. Great show last night in Kelseyville. My Dad and his wife helped set it up at the last minute to help fill in an open date in the schedule, but it proved to be one of the most appreciative audiences to date. I'd played a similar show there by myself last summer and found that some of the audience were "diehard" classical music fans (one woman even called out a request for it during that show). So.. having "Bach-mode Bert" along this time was perfect. We closed the show with our duo version of CGT's Train to Lamy and people went crazy. Having already bought a ton of merch at the intermission they now were all looking for the CD with "that country piece" on it. Bert steered them to the CGT website.. I pointed to the immediatley available CGT DVD.

This morning, breakfast and a quick lunch with my Dad and step-mom and we're back in the car. We missed having Igor last night due to his work schedule and the extended drives,, but will have him onboard for the remaining shows.

July 12, 2004 - San Francisco, CA
I'm roughly midway through a CA tour with guitarists Bert Lams and Igor Abuladze. The trip has been a great one. Fairly small shows, but the audiences every night have been great... great listeners, great supporters and many great friends.

Some highlights so far:

Playing my piece Victor's Chase and a few CGT pieces with Bert and Igor. I'm loving what they're adding to Victor's and the CGT pieces are some of my favorites. The "team" pieces get better every day.

We're seeing and meeting some very cool people every night. The LA show saw many of Bert's friends all of whom seem to have various music projects going and took an interest in what I do.

Here in SF I've gotten to catch up with my good friend Amy and last night's show here also featured music from the Geary Street Quartet with several "Crafty" folks I'd met before. Patricia Fripp was also in the audience last night. She and some friends had arrived very early, thinking the show started at 6pm (actually it was 7!). We only arrived at about 6:10! Yikes! So.. we started the show early. Patricia was great. She's a motivational speaker by trade (fripp.com) and during the first break she actually walked our merchandise around the audience and made sure every person knew what all we had there. She told Bert and I a funny story about how she had done this once for a series of King Crimson shows in the area and had at one point probably had her pants pockets full of about $6000! (We didn't do quite so well last night.. but her personality and tactics were obviously a great boost!). I didn't get to tell her last night, but I've had a few funny experiences with a video of hers someone leant me. The video sleeve says "FRIPP LIVE!" with a picture of her on the cover. It's been residing in the TV room/guest bedroom at my house and the funniest reaction was from Jerry Marotta who stayed in the room and apparently had no idea that Robert Fripp had a sister. Jerry has done a good amount of work with Robert Fripp (Patricia's brother) and was baffeled by seeing a video called "FRIPP LIVE" with a well dressed woman on the cover mixed in with all my live concert videos!

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