Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Long Autumn Weekend [Part I of II]

… Columbus …

I wake up and run four miles. With four nights of drink & days of highway ahead, I need to move while I have the chance. Upon return, I squeeze in one last round of setup tinkering, a bit of packing, and head to the airport to linger in the baggage claim. Kahn arrives in good spirits. We hit the coffee shop in my neighborhood (juice for me, thanks) and have a relaxed afternoon before rolling to Lavash for some falafel – a repeat of my dinner the night before – and then on to the venue. Adam Smith, the third act for the evening, arrives shortly after us and the talk is of children – Adam’s wife is about to give birth to their first and Jason has plenty of experience in this area – and percussion, which is of great interest to both but neither will be doing any of tonight.

A great crowd of a dozen or so (quality, not quantity) arrive and I kick off the evening with an acceptable set riddled with a few guitar flubs and the minor technical issues that rear their heads when six weeks pass between performances. It’s hard to tell if anyone notices, but I know. I KNOW. I learn quickly that Jason doesn’t like to perform late. He will mention the possibility of playing first each night, but no one will allow it. He settles for second this evening (as he will at the other shows) and proceeds to blow minds. The brutal aural assault he provides is not what I was expecting at all. Radio, field recordings, contact mics, and magnetic devices are combined and run through a synthesizer feedback system in a jarring, whisk-to-the-brain-lobes fashion. Everyone is knocked on their ass. Adam then proceeds to restore sanity and a return to normalcy with a set of floating tape manipulation and delicate ARP accompaniment. Jason and I perform a duo to finish off the night, but I have a hard time keeping up with his frantic style. I’d prepared for something much more reflective and have to make a last minute adjustment into the realm of the frantic and blistering. I do my best, but am unsure of the results.

It’s the first show at 13 East Tulane in which I have to perform and act as host. We end up sticking around at the venue longer than I’d usually care to stay making sure everything is in order and we’ve properly tidied up. Afterward we partake in some fresh date bread wifey made that afternoon – thanks, hon – and crash early, hoping to get an early start in the morning and beat Chicago’s rush hour.

… Chicago …

The early start doesn’t start as early as we’d like, but we pick up an additional passenger and hit the road around 10:30. The passenger in question is a non-music friend who we proceed to bore with conversations that offer little entry for sound-nerd outsiders. I’ve driven this route so many times I could probably do it sleeping and the scenery all but encourages it. Lunch is mediocre and takes too long, both of which were expected given the options that central Indiana provides. We cross the massive wind turbine farm(s) as we head north. I find them absolutely astonishing. Jason thinks they’re a blight on the landscape, but he’s outnumbered.

After the late start and extended lunch stop, we manage to beat the worst of rush hour, but still end up in a stop-and-go crawl for an hour or so. We drop the passenger off and somehow manage to find convenient parking in Wicker Park; the best spot possible actually, right between Enemy and Reckless. The good fortune continues as load-in and soundcheck are quick and painless, but we hit a speedbump as Jason realizes his cat allergy is going to make it impossible to stay at Enemy and we don't have much in the way of backup plans. We’ll have to figure it out during the show and no one likes to have that sprung on them last minute. Nothing to do about it now though, so off to dinner. We go around the corner to Sultan’s and it’s falafel and hummus for the third night in a row.

The gentlemen of TV Pow arrive at the venue shortly after we return from our dinner and several other friends start trickling in right behind. Everything between then and show time is a bit of a blur, but meeting Olivia Block for the first time stands out. TV Pow begin the evening and are in classic mode right out of the gate with an array of field recordings and pure tones. It takes some interesting turns from there though as Michael Hartman’s Moog Phatty Slim guides the set into some more polished synth terrain, a nice evolution of their sound. Jason follows with a less-harsh, more focused set than the previous night. Or perhaps it isn’t scaled back all that much and the fact that I’m braced for it affects my perception. I’m third with a set of processed guitar drone flailing about and running wild through some resonators before dissolving into a field of pulses and crackles. It feels better than the Columbus set. Jason and I close it out with another collaboration and this time I’m ready. We are firing on all cylinders until I unwittingly unleash some jarring feedback and, thinking it is Jason’s (because he’d unleashed no small amount of it himself the past two nights) let it run for far too long. Outside of the mass hearing damage, blown recording levels, and feeling of utter stupidity, it goes pretty well.

As the crowd dwindles, sleeping arrangements are finally made and we head to the home of Bruce and Anne Adams. They own cats – as everyone in Chicago apparently does – but it’s an environment less hostile to the lungs and sinuses. There’s some brief conversation and record collection browsing, but the long drive and time zone change have done a number on us and it’s quickly lights out.

[Part II in the next day or so]

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