|On tour with The California Guitar Trio
Fall 2004, page 1
| page 2 |
Oct 14, 2004 - enroute towards Port Angeles, WA
Last night (Th) we had a nice but somewhat small show in Federal Way, WA. Very nice theatre and audience. The past three days saw me playing two shows with Bert and teaching the second (of two) group Stick lessons in the area. Staying active Stick wise and coincidentily stumbling onto what seems to be a better way of warming up before shows has contributed to me feeling very loose playing each night.
Curt Golden really went out of his way to help set up the two "duo-solo" shows for Bert and I on Monday and Wednesday. He arranged the shows, provided speakers for us, helped spread the word and even drove us around. Thanks Curt! The shows were a lot of fun; much more casual than CGT shows usually are. Of course I got to play a lot more too, so I was able to dig a bit deeper into "Tom tunes" than usual.
We had a great turnout of "Crafties" at the shows. Many I'd met before, some I met for the first time. One thing was apparent though, a room full of crafties makes a unique audience. First, they're incredibly attentive to the music and respectful of it. I doubt you'd ever find a quieter crowd while music is being performed. Second, they're incredibly serious! My usual smart aleck approach to humor seemed a bit out of place at times. I did get a good chuckle out of Curt though. On the first show I decided to try a Bach prelude I've only recently begun to feel is ready to perform. I made a comment about it being new and how I was hoping I could remember all of it. Welll. I did....almost! Having remembered all the hard parts I was worried about, I got to the end (easy part) and forgot literally the last five notes. I made up an ending and just had to laugh along with Curt who got the "joke!"
One of the venues Bert and I played at was unlike anywhere I've played before and I'm still trying the figure out how they keep the lights on. Curt described it as a "hang out" place and that's really the best term for it. They had a small stage and PA, couches and chairs, two employees to help out, some art on the wall and a self serve refrigerator and snack table. There was no charge for admission, only a donation jar for the goodies "backstage" Come to think of it though... I would up donating $6 for a soda and a few small cookies. Maybe that's how they pay the bills!
Our "days off" in Seattle also saw me giving another group Stick lesson, this time at the house of Louis, a Seattle firefighter... who.. incidentily pulled a great prank on Bert and I at our first duo-solo show. While we were setting up, I suddenly heard a booming voice telling Bert "I'm sorry guys, I'm going to have to shut you down!" I turned to see what it could be and saw a man in uniform! It took my road weary brain a few moments but I soon realized it was Louis! He had stopped the fire engine right in front of the venue and come in to harass us. Of course I knew him right away, but I think Bert and the venue manager were getting quite worried. Nice one Louis.. I owe you!
Great gathering at Louis' home Tuesday night. I have a tendancy especially in small groups to try to let the lesson lead itself. It seemed to work quite well here as at one point in the evening a little performance from Louis and a quick question and answer session wound up taking the session in a totally different direction (less Stick. more general music info). Always fun to be around other Stick players. Louis even has more gear than I do!
Oct 11, 2004, 1:45am - Seattle, WA
We've been back to Seattle for a bit now after the show tonight in Bellingham. Tyler's girlfriend just made it after flying in from Louisville. We're staying at a friend's house here and while Bert, Tyler and Hideyo got the private rooms, I voluntered for the living room floor. Tomorrow (or today actually) begins what are technically 3 days off for CGT and Paul is flying home tomorrow (but tonight he too is on the floor near me). Bert and I are scheduled to do two duo shows in small venues, and a radio show as well. On Tues night I'll also be doing another Stick workshop, so.. plenty to do on the "days off!"
Oct 10, 2004 - Seattle, WA
Speaking of Stick players.. two nights ago after the Eugene show I broke off from the "team" and spent the night at Stick player Qua Veda's house. Sat morning we then went to Portland early and I taught a 5 hour workshop for 7 Stick players. Great group of guys as always! I had solicited questions via e-mail before hand and the main one the had seemed to be on looking for ways to arrange accompaniment (left hand) parts so that's what we spent the bulk of our time on, plus some work on two handed bass ideas, gear (can't get away from it ;) and a bit of work on interlocking rhythms to help tighten our sense of timing. I think spending 5 hours playing Stick during the day really helped warm me up for the show that night. Too bad I can't do that everyday!
Oct 7, 2004 - I-5 north in CA
Yesterday we drove from Silicon Valley to Lancaster, CA (6 hours south on I-5). Today we drive from Lancaster to Eugene, OR (12 hours north on I-5). This by most standards is a lot of driving. This is also a lot of I-5. We got a late start today as Hideyo's hi-tech alarm clock which apparently synchronizes to some sort of airwaves signal decided it was back in Japan, changed to Japanese time and never woke him up.
We've also been monitoring one of our tires closely. We've had to fill it up several times already on the trip and today discovered an audible hiss coming from it. Not so good with 800+ miles to go!
Last night's show in Lancaster was a great but challenging one for me personally. Since it was a fairly formal event at a beautiful performing arts center, the promoters decided it would be best for me to join CGT during one of their sets and then do something of my own, rather than do an opening set as I normally do. Before the show Paul and I came up with the idea of me maybe playing Victor's Chase with Bert as part of the encore as well. We never actually confirmed it before the show started though so I wasn't sure if we were actually going to do it. I wound up setting up the CD table and packing it away a few times in and around joining CGT on stage which proved to be a bit of a mental hurdle. Guitar Craft folks (inc. CGT) always seem keen on eliminating distractions from their performances. In fact they seem much more aware of the effect of distractions on a show than most musicians and often refer to them as "challenges." Last night I had to laugh at myself onstage as I made a few subtle mistakes because I found myself thinking about ways to quickly set up the merch table again. Definitley a challenge. I laughed again to myself later as I wondered if somehow I hadn't earned an extra 1/4 level Guitar Craft status from it all (1/4 levels not really existing that is). In any case, you'll notice there are no pictures from last night!
Tuesday we played at the Little Fox Theatre in Redwood City, CA. Another very nice venue though nowhere near the size of the Lancaster Performing Arts Center. The owner has done a pretty credible job of keeping noises down in the theatre by placing machinery like AC units, beer taps, etc in the alleyway behind the building. Ironically though before we even set up our gear there was a pretty loud hum in the monitors. Still though, a great venue with an amazing amount of low end in the sound system. I was loving playing the real low notes on the Stick!
Lots of Crafties in the house at the Fox and wonderful good will from the audience. Somehow though not the best performance of the tour for either myself of CGT I think. Good as always, but not our peak. I had one funny "dual role" moment. After joining CGT onstage for "Punta Patri" I went backstage to put away my Stick and found a door in a hallway had locked behind me! I couldn't get back into the venue! Likewise the next gate I tried was locked as well. For a second I thought I was about to have a Spinal Tap moment, but eventually found a way to get to the street and jogged (literally) around the building to the front door where I was met with some curious glances from the door guys.
Oct 5, 2004 - Sheraton Silicon Valley
Very fun show last night in Henflings although I think the drive there made most of us a little queasy. We took Hwy 9 going in and found it to be extra twisty and turny. Most of us went straight for the burger grill at Henflings when we got there to get something in our stomachs. Very funky venue, but since CGT had played there before everyone knew what to expect and it was taken lightly by all of us as well as the audience and everyone had a good time.
I felt very good about my own set. Being an opener for 25 mins is a very different task than playing for 4 or 5 hours a day (what I did just prior to this tour). Although I'm trying to rotate my set list a bit every night I feel like I've come up with a few good combinations now.
One weird moment during CGT's set; the promoter came up to me, after having spoken to Tyler first and said that CGT HAD to take an intermission. He said the venue only made money off the bar and with everyone just sitting and listening there was no action at the bar at all. He even went so far as to say that they were under contract to take an intermission. So.. akwardly right after the delicate and subtle Bach prelude circulation I jumped onstage and whispered the situation to Paul. CGT stopped immediatley and since they were near the end of their planned "one set" show, had to work out a second set. Meanwhile it seems rather than going to the bar, everyone seemed to flock towards the CD table. In the end everyone was happy, audience, acts, and promoter.
Oct 4, 2004 - enroute from Sutter Creek to Ben Lomond, CA
Two more shows down now and both were great. Sat night we played in a church in San Francisco. They had a great sound system and house sound guy and we had what was I think probably the most enthusiastic audience so far of the tour. Lots of CGT friends and a nice turnout of Stick player too. Among those who made it out was Patricia Fripp who once again was quick to offer help with merchandise sales. In fact she pretty much ran the table. She's amazing with it. Remembering that we were short on $5's when she came to the CGT+TLev/TU show in Irvine, she came prepared Sat night with $110 in 5's herself. She is so quick with telling people what the CDs are that I wind up hardly having to explain things at all and she always concludes a transaction with a different remark like: "Thank you for supporting the musician's van" or "What a wise decision!"
Last night we played in Sutter Creek, CA; another small town kind of in the middle of nowhere. It was a great little theatre though, a bit funky but with charm. Pretty small crowd comparatively but I suppose that's to be expected when it's the first time either of us have played there. We did have some people make the trek from the Sacramento area though and I was happy to find that like in SF many of them were coming from having seen me at various solo gigs in the past. Always good to know that past shows are "carrying forward."
Oct 1, 2004 - Fallon, NV
Ladies and gentlemen wee have a tour! Somehow tonight it felt like everything really locked in to a groove. This trip has had a fairly slow beginning with smallish shows and several drive days or days off already. As of tonight though we've had several shows in a row now and everything from subtle musical elements to logistical routines seems to be locking in nicely. The venue tonight was amazing as you can see on the pictures of their brochures below. Fantastic backstage too with a great homemade dinner made I think by one of the promoters' mothers.
September 30, 2004 - Battle Mountain, NV
In my experience, there seems to be two things that can happen when you play in a small town. Either you have nobody at the show and you wonder why you went there at all, or you have a a good sized turnout which is very appreciative. Battle Mountain proved to be the latter. It seems as though often in small towns where there's not much going on for entertainment, when something good does come through town people are pretty grateful. Very different from playing in big cities where there's just so much going on that sometimes it feels like nobody cares that you're there.
In addition to the night show, CGT also did an afternoon presentation for a group of Jr High kids. Midway through the event, they invited me to do one of my pieces. I chose "Don't look back" which features a good deal of looping towards the end. There's a moment in it where once I finish recording a rhythmic accompaniement part I usually let my hands drop to my side for a second. At the end of the presentation, Paul took questions from the kids and had a girl ask if "the guy with the weird guitar was fake playing." Not at all, but sometimes on bad nights I wish that were the case!
September 29, 2004, 11pm - Battle Mountain, NV
Top ten signs that your next show is in a small town:
10. People you know think they may have driven through it.
9. Friends try to make you believe it's a happening place.
7. You can't call the sound man before the show because he's a "free spirit who doesn't have a phone."
6. The local promoter tells your group you're headed to the middle of nowhere.
5. Organizers apologize for the budget hotel they've arranged, but assure you it's the best in town.
4. AOL and Earthlink don't go there.
3. The best hope for wireless internet access is the McDonalds in the hotel parking lot
2. You run into your "free spirit" soundman running a kareoke night at the town's "other" restaurant which doubles as a casino that sells refrigerators, washers and dryers, microwaves and gun lockers
1. An hour from town, a billboard reads, "Come to (our town). Voted the Armpit of America!"
September 29, 2004 - rest stop at Bonneville Salt Flats enroute between Salt Lake City and Battle Mtn
September 29, 2004 - 1:47am - Salt Lake City, UT
Rough show for me tonight! Eek! The show here in Salt Lake was actually booked as a dual bill of CGT and Peter Rowen and Tony Rice, so adding me to the bill was a bit of a trick from the start. CGT only had an hour to play themselves, so Paul had suggested to the promoter that they have me play starting before the scheduled show time. In hindsight this would have probably been better as the place was pretty full then. But.. the promoter thought it best to have me play during the change over between acts, so.. that's what we did. Bizarre! With the second group being a mic'd folk group (much lower volume than CGT), Tyler decided it'd be best to lower my volume from the CGT level to kind of bridge the gap. I started playing and things were so quiet that I thought there was a problem with the sound in the house! I actually repeated the intro to my first piece a few times and was looking for ways to musically give Tyler a chance to "pop me in" with the house system, but.. it was on! Oops.. meanwhile the crew started packing up the CGT stage set and setting up for the second act, while I played on one side of the stage. The first thing they took away was Paul's talkback mic, so.. I never had a chance to say "hello" to the audience. They were quite chatty to begin with and not having that communication with them probably didn't help.
On the positive side... I got to see and say hello to Scott Lambson; CGT documentary filmaker. Scott traveled with us on two of the tours I was on last year so it was nice to see him again. Nice room overall.. I loved the view from the stage. CGT played great. I think they felt the effect of the chatty audience, but.. I didn't hear it in their performance. With only a 1 hr set.. they condensed their usual set and kept things moving along at a great pace.
Tomorrow is a drive day. I of course am a driver. As it is now 2am, perhaps this means I should go to sleep.
September 26, 2004 - US-70W, UT
I seem to remember reading about cliff dwelling indians in school years ago, but today thanks to a day off I got to see a bit of the real thing. The Anasazi indians built a number of apartment complex like structures into the cliffs about 1400 years ago in what is now Mesa Verde National Park. We took enough time out from our drive day to check out two of the "houses." Pretty amazing to see. I think Tyler is contemplating trying to move in!
The first two shows have been smaller than average for CGT, but both in very scenic and welcoming locations and venues. Last night found us in a restaurant called Millwood Junction in a town called Mancos, CO. Mancos is a tiny town, in fact Millwood is probably about the only big restaurant there. Our motel was literally right next door. Tyler went walking looking for things to do in town, got about a half city block away from the hotel and realized that was it! Very nice people last night though and fantastic food!
Many of the stops on this tour are in places I've never been, including our first stop in Santa Fe. Very cool town! Santa Fe is rich in history and I guess thanks to city planning has a very consistent "adobe" architecture which gives it a unique flavor. Speaking of flavor, green chillies have become a mantra for this SW leg of the tour. I've been indulging with most meals to make sure I get an accurate Santa Fe experience. I can use the word accurate because they're literally everywhere. Even the McDonalds next to the hotel Tyler and I were at offered a green chilli double cheeseburger on their $.99 value menu. Tyler partook. I didn't. Tyler felt iffy. I didn't.
Another feature of Santa Fe was an abundance of old churches. We played in one dedicated to St Francis that is now used as a museum and performing arts space. Another in the center of town has a famous staircase I remember hearing about on a radio program (Paul Harvey?). The church was built along with an all girls school by an order of nuns in (I think) the 1800's. The church (actually a small chapel) was built with the traditional "2nd story" choir loft in the back. It was the custom of the day for choir members to use ladders to get into the loft, but since this was an all girls school the sisters decided they really needed a staircase. Problem was that the chapel was so small that a straight staircase would have removed far too much seating. They were at a loss for what to do, so.. they offered a novena (9 days of prayer) to St Joseph (Jesus' stepdad and a carpenter). On the 9th day a carpenter arrived in town and took on the job. He worked for 6 months on it with only a hammer, saw, carpenters square, and water to soak and bend the wood. By the end, he had built a free standing spiral staircase that has no center or side supports and completes 2 full 360 degree turns. It's considered an engineering marvel and referred to as the "Miraculous Staircase." The legend goes that he then left town without ever asking for payment either for his work or supplies.
September 22, 2004 - US-78W, AL
This promises to be a great tour and it's coming at a very good time for me. My new CD "A Whisper in the Thunder" is going to be put out nationally in Oct by my friends at Spotted Peccary. Actually, they're launching a new sub-label (their second) called O3E and "Whisper" will be the first release on it. So, come Oct 5 it should be showing up in independent record stores all over the US as well as on Amazon.com, with some larger chain stores to come early next year and probably Apple's iTunes store as well.
To help take advantage of the good timing of me opening for a long CGT tour and having the new album in stores, we're also hiring CGT's PR firm to help spread the word. It's a big expense, but hopefully one that pays off with some good articles, reviews, etc.
The most up-to-date list of tour dates I have is up now. A word of advice for anyone coming that wants to see me though; we're still in the process of confirming with all the venues that it's ok for me to be on the bill. Should be fine with all of them, but.. you never know. In some cases if a show has tight scheduling, I may actually start playing before the scheduled time for the show, so.. arrive early. I'll be posting the latest info I have on the schedules page as we go along.
Want more stories? Check out the website archives for past tour diaries.