Bert Lams and Tom Griesgraber Tour - North Eastern US, April, 2009

Monday April 20, 2009 - Harrisburg Intl. Airport, PA
Waiting to board to start a long journey home today. Bert and I had our last show of this tour yesterday afternoon. We had to wake up a bit early in Elmira, NY to start the drive. It wasn't a terribly long one, but the show was an afternoon one. This last show was a nice intimate one at a house near Harrisburg with a very elaborate "Labrynth" in the garden. I learned a Labrynth is not like a maze.. you don't get lost in it, but just wind around through the twists and turns as a sort of meditation. I think this one is still fairly new and young, but still very peaceful. Our friend Joanne led Bert and I through it, though in the interest of soundcheck, we skipped over the smaller bits on the way out.

a bit of the Labyrinth
ready to go

Back home I know I'll have a ridiculous pile of mail and "things" waiting for me.. but Bert and I are already looking ahead to our next trip together.

Sunday April 19, 2009 - US-15S towards Harrisburg, PA
We had a really fun evening last night at my cousin's home in Elmira, NY. She and her husband have a beautiful home in the countryside and are experienced "house party throwers" and they did a fantastic job of organizing things. They had family members stationed to help guests with parking and to collect donations at the door, as well as tend bar and help with CD sales. Frankly it was way more professional than a lot of "real venues." Bert and I were a little spaced out from having a long 7+ hour drive to get there, but the mood of the show was very welcoming and light hearted and we really enjoyed it. I enjoyed getting to see my cousin's home and we had a nice outdoor dinner before the show and breakfast with most of the family this morning.

after breakfast sendoff in Elmira
(photo supplied by auto timer camera and kitchen counter)

goodies in Elmira
Ticket taker Kaitlyn and merch guy Steven

Saturday April 18, 2009, I-95 south from RI towards Elmira, NY
Last night's show was in a beautiful old church in downtown Newport, RI. I'm not sure when it was built.. a sign said it was "decorated" in the 1800s, but another said the congregation gathered in the 1700s. In either case, it was old as is much of the town. There is a great "sea farers" quality to the town which reminded both of us of something like the opening scenes in the novel Moby Dick. It just felt like a place where sailors and sea captins set sail from hundreds of years ago... which I suppose it was.

Newport "venue"
...and "backstage"

more "backstage"

Another long drive day today, but so far the roads are very clear as is the sky so it shouldn't be too bad.

Friday April 17, 2009, I-95 north from NYC to Newport, RI
Fun show last night right in downtown New York City, which capped off what I think is the most road-grueling bit of this tour. Both Wednesday and Thursday we had 6+ hour drive plus shows. I think that's just about the limit a person can do in a day and not start totally spacing out on more complicated pieces.

Wednesday night we played in Rochester, NY at a studio space used both by a Brazilian martial arts accademy and a local church. It was a nice intimate group and we got to re-connect with some old friends we haven't seen in awhile and make a few great new ones.

a Stick player live in Rochester

Yesterday we drove from Rochester to NYC and found ourselves right on Broadway about three blocks from the site of the World Trade Center. Bert's old friend Pietro (from the League of Crafty Guitarists days) and his wife Ornella hosted us in their amazing home there. Life in New York can be so different from almost any other place on earth it seems. We parked our car in a lot that then raised it up on a lift so they could park another car underneath it. The bill was $44 for the night which is actually probably reasonable for that area. A sign said they rent spaces monthly for about $500. We had to unload all the gear in the parking lot before the car got raised, and then Bert left me to guard it while he went to meet Pietro (according to Bert, I'm the more intimidating one and thus better for guar duty).

NYC here we come
underwater into Manhattan

parking... Broadway style
but we could have parked there too

waiting with the luggage...

Pietro and Ornella's home was one of 9 floors in a building that I guess used to be a factory. A guard lets you in from the street to an elevator, and turns a key for the appropriate home/floor, and you then ride up and step out right into the living room. Once we got all the gear set up we walked around Broadway for dinner, stopping finally in a nice little diner and then a pizza place. Foods there are amazing, and often highlighted behind the counters with fancy lighting to really make their colors come alive.

showroom quality NYC pizza

Pietro opened the show for us and played some really nice music with a gorgeous sounding Goodall guitar and two digital Echoplex loopers. His tone and feel were superb. Several other old "crafty" friends of Berts/ours came as well including Tony Geballe and Jon Diaz.

Pietro opens the show
old friends

This morning we went for a quick walk down to the World Trade Center site and found a crazy little cafe for breakfast. It was really like something straight out of a movie or maybe a Seinfeld episode, with sample dishes behind the counter all lit up nice and pretty and cooks shouting at each other and ordering us (the clueless customers) around through the line. It seemed to be a hot spot for a lot of the construction workers working on the new World Trade Center. The food didn't look quite the same when it came, but was still very good. Afterwards, we completed our lap around the WTC site and loaded up for the trip to Rhode Island.

Bye bye NYC (waiting with luggage part 2)

Wednesday April 15, 2009, Carnegie (Pittsburgh), PA
7:54am and we're up and nearing departure time quickly. We have one of our longest drive and still perform days today and Bert says there's a road in our plans that has been slow for the Trio in the past, so... we're leaving extra early. We played in a gorgeous house last night. The neighborhood reminded me a little of an super ritzy area of San Diego called Rancho Santa Fe. Big houses, lots of attention to interior design, etc. Unfortunately while most of the audience were great, a few people hanging out in other rooms were a bit noisy, but we overcame it. My friend Dave Brosky helped arrange for us to play there, and he and his father have been taking "almost over the top good" care of us. We had a fantastic meal from an excellent local Italian place which Dave brought to his dad's home. We've all been enjoying some wonderful stories from his dad too, who was born in Poland but early on lived here in Pittsburgh. His life story includes chapters of farm tales, being a WWII veteran, spending a week with Pope John Paul II, and working for many years as a Judge where he got to be friends with many celebrities such as Chuck Yeager.

The big house
clean up time (and much study of the Stick player's rig)

Breakfast with the Broskys

Tuesday April 14, Cranberry Township, PA
We're in route from Cleveland to Pittsburgh and have stopped for lunch. As is often our habit when we have a little extra time, we've sought a spot we know has wifi and basically turned it into our mobile office. Let this be a suggestion to all those restaurants that don't offer free wifi.

mobile office at work (and with soup and salad)

Monday April 13, 2009 - Cleveland, OH
We had a fun show tonight in a "venue" type I don't think either of us has ever played. It was actually a large photo studio that does product shots for things like food, toys and people. They set up a nice little stage for us, that was surrounded by things like kitchens (used for sets and by employees), a fake family room, a fake shark and lots and lots of cameras and computers. I had the thought (too late) that it would make a great place for some band promo photos. Afterwards we went out with some friends to a fancy bar that had great little pizzas and pomme frittes.

two musicians at K&P Studios in Cleveland (photo by James Popovic)

soundcheck view from the stage...
...and from above

a little "backstage" scenery

Sunday April 12, 2009 - Greensburg, PA
Easter Sunday... Happy Easter! We had a great show last night in Powell, OH.. then got to bed as early as possible. Brian Lucey and his wife Michelle have a group called Lucey's playground who opened for us. They had a very creative instrumentation of vocals, guitar (crafty tuning), wurlitzer, harp, upright bass and drums. The "crafty" guitar and harp made the chordal role very unique and it was fun to hear our friends play.

Lucey's maze open the show

This morning I woke up early to go to church for Easter before we hit the road. I wanted to come visit family in Greensburg today for Easter, and Bert was gracious enough to go along with the idea, even though it meant 3+ hours in the car both today and tomorrow. We had a nice meal with about fifteen of my family members then went for a walk around downtown Greensburg. It's always a very nostalgic place for me since my mom and I would come here for a month every year from the time I was born till I was about 19. The downtown area is long past its heyday with several boarded up shops that were once bustling department stores decades ago (outdone by the local malls in the 60's I guess). Tonight I found some great photos of the area from as far back as the 20's, the 50's and the 60's, with all the era cars and clothing you might expect. My aunt tells me when she was growing up here, people used to take a bus downtown for $.10 on Saturday nights and it was packed with activity. Also fun.. we walked down a tiny alley named for my family; Hudock Way. My grandafter was the city's mayor for a few year, and I guess the city recently named all their alleys, so.. Hudock way! Tonight a few of us chatted about the family history and my aunt told me Hudock actually means something like "violin maker."

scene from downtown Greensburg
it's basically an alley, but still....

some guy on Hudock way
some other guy on Hudock way

Saturday April 11, 2009 - I-71 north to Columbus, OH
Friday April 10, 2009 - Lexington, KY
We left Frankfort this morning with a grand send off from 5 neighborhood dogs. We had a short drive day today just from Frankfort to Louisville, so we actually took advantage of the situation and drove the opposite direction for 30 miles to Lexington. There we were treated to a really nice lunch from our friends Ela, Sladana, Mariela and Nadia (who's names I still hope I'm spelling right!).

our big neighborhood send off in Frankfort, KY
the start of an awesome lunch in Lexington

We had a fun night tongiht at a venue called the Jazz Factory in downtown Louisville. I guess it's been closed for a few months, but a new owner is taking it over and we were the first in a new series of shows there. CGT sound man Tyler Trotter set things up for us. The Jazz factory is actually in the basement of a large building which also houses a business called Glass Works which does custom blown glass art. We caught a glimpse of people making glass objects, and took a few minutes to browse through the gift shop. Only one downside really.. the only place we could use as a green room was the Jazz Factory's old (out of use for months) kitchen, which smelled strongly of old grease. I'm pretty sure actually my Stick strings need changing again because of it. Yikes!

Glassworks at work

a bit of GlassWorks works
and a bit more

A man and his CD's (load in time)
our view of Lousiville

Thursday April 9, 2009 - Frankfort, KY
Terrific show tonight at a cozy little cafe in downtown Frankfort. The owners of the venue spent time during our setup trying to sort out just how many chairs they could fit into the room (always a good sign). The audience were very receptive and we actually added a few pieces to the set. Afterwards we got to spend some time with our friends Ela, Mariela, Sladana and Nadia who are all involved with a local University (and come from three different European countries... so I hope the American typing this spelled all their names right!)

"I think we can fit in a few more chairs over here"
"But Bert.. what kind of introduction do you really want?"

Two guys stare at their hands
Two guys stare at their hands

Tom does soundscapes for Ela

Wednesday April 8, 2009 - Charleston, WV
Bert and I played tonight at the home of Dave and Debbie D. Dave's excitment for the music of CGT as well as Bert and I has become near legend. When he asks you to do a show, you always know the setting will be great, the food (prepared by sister Margy) will be nearly over the top, and there will be lots of little extras along the way. Tonight was no exception. We also had a nice opening set from Dave's guitar instructor Phil who did some great chord melody arrangements of jazz standards.

Margy's famously themed cooking
so many choices...

our opener in Charleston, WV

Tuesday was a day off, and we broke up our long drive from Harrisburg, PA to WV by routing things through Greensburg where most of my mother's family has lived for generations. It was a snowy drive, very surprising to a southern Californian in April, but I enjoyed getting a chance to see a few family members and go for a walk around the town.

night view of Greensburg

the tour vehicle... but what's that white stuff?
a bit of the local scenery

Monday April 6, 2009 - Mechanicsburg, PA
Tonight we played at a nice coffee shop just a few minutes drive from Bert and Carrie's home in Mechanicsburg. We had a small, but enthusiastic audience, some of whom showed up very early to reserve their seats and tables. There were many local musicians in attendance who we went out with for a bit afterwards. There was talk of Berklee (one is applying for the engineering major), movies (one is making an indie film) and Carrie getting excited about the "Tar Heels" (North Carolina basketball) on TV.

The Lams-es prepare for the show

Yesterday, being Palm Sunday, we went with Harry and Jeanne to their church in Frederick, MD (after another fantastic meal from Harry), then it was off to Oakton VA for a private house concert at the home of one of Bert's high school friends. The audience seemed to be mostly European people who all work together at the IMF office in D.C. Bert seemed to enjoy getting a chance to speak a little Flemish.

Saturday April 4, 2009 - Leesburg, VA
Show number two today was just outside Washington DC in Leesburg, VA at the amazing home of Bennett D. Ben is a craftie and actively involved with the local guitar circle, so we had a number of guitarists in the audience. Patrick Smith, a longtime friend of Bert's opened the show for us doing some very dynamic and melodic original music. After the show we had fun checking out Ben's music room. Though he says his primary instrument is bass, he has a great collector of old vintage synth gear including an old Roland GR-300 and Fender Rhodes.

Patrick Smith opens the show
Backstage #2 - Leesburg, VA

Friday April 3, 2009 - Frederick, MD
We had our first show of the tour tonight; a private event at the home of Harry and Jeanne L. They've been organizing CGT shows in aryland for several years now and I'd actually met them on a CGT tour way back in (I think) 2003 or so. They have a beautiful home in the Frederick countryside which they graciously opened to us, not only for this first show, but also for lodging for a few days and several fantastic meals prepared by Harry. Bert's wife Carrie was able to join us for this first weekend too which is fun.

Bert is excited for the first show
Carrie is too!

Backstage #1 - Frederick, MD

Monday March 30, 2009 - Encinitas, CA
It's time to pack... Wednesday I'm flying east to start the new tour with Bert Lams. I'm sure it'll be a fun one as always, and I'll try to keep things updated here with some pics and stories. I'm cramming to try to "close up shop" at home right now though while brushing up on the material we'll be doing as well. I've been revising some of the Stick arrangements for a few of the pieces we play lately. They're going to sound better than ever I think.. once I actually get the tricky new shapes burned into my muscle memory! Better get back to it!

Tuesday March 3, 2009 - Encinitas, CA
I've been dividing my time between several "behind the scenes things" of late, but that usually means some fun things are coming down the pike. Bert Lams and I have been putting together one of our duo tours for April through the North East (PA, VA, OH, NY, KY, WV....) Should be a fun one. We still have a few open dates, so if you happen to live in that region and would like us to come to your area, let us know. It's easier than you might think! Check out the schedules page to see where we're headed.

I've also been working on two recording projects. First up will be a special 10th Anniversary Edition of Agent 22's debut album. Hard to believe it's been ten years, but... there it is. This new edition has been an ongoing project for over two years now. Myself and Howard Givens from Spotted Peccary Music have taken apart the original album and remixed and mastered it from the ground up. Simply put, the audio tools we have to work with are incredibly superior to what I had back in 1998/9 and we've managed to make things sound much much better. But.. probably more exciting is that we're also including four previously unreleased A22 tracks that were recorded in 2001. That brings over 17 minutes of new material to the disc, which has some of my favorite bits that we did in that period. The new album is in manufacturing now, and should be in stores by April.

Want more Tom stories and trivia? Check out the website archives for past tour diaries.

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