Monday, September 26, 2011

Long Autumn Weekend [Part II of II]

… St. Paul …

I wake from a great sleep and feel absolutely amazing. Jason runs out for eggs and bagels. He’s stayed with Bruce and Anne before and knows their little nook of Logan Square pretty well. While he’s out, Bruce shows me where the magic happens and offers some of his fine label’s stock. Breakfast is eventually consumed among talk of workout routines, bike paths, and Wisconsin campsites. Unfortunately this breakfast is consumed in the back of their apartment and my phone is up front, buzzing away as Jason Zeh attempts to tell us he is in the vicinity. Eventually I remember I should probably have my phone on hand and notice Mr. Zeh on the porch where he informs me he has been sitting for a good half hour. Whoops.

We rearrange the car to accommodate the infusion of new gear and are soon on the road. I accidentally run through an I-Pass on the toll road – kinda hard to merge across four lanes to the one cash-accepting booth on such short notice – but otherwise the ride is much smoother than yesterday’s. Talk mostly centers around Zeh’s recent move to Indiana and how he’s dealing with splitting time there and his native Bowling Green, OH. When we get tired of talking, we listen to “Metallic Overdrive ‘85”, a gift from years ago that truly keeps giving. (Thank you, John Schoen.) After the raging, banging and a brief appearance from the Poser Death Squad, we find ourselves in downtown St. Paul an hour earlier than we expected. Despite our early arrival, our host for the evening, the wonderful Jesse Goin, is in the vicinity and we are able to quickly load in to Studio Z. Dinner options are discussed and I am relieved to avoid a fourth night of Mediterranean food in favor of some Japanese noodles.

After dinner everyone gets right down to business. Sounds are checked, people start filing in and before I know it, Jesse is giving a brief overview of the night and introducing Jason Zeh. Zeh’s set has taken a unique turn, discarding the cassettes and focusing on the sounds of the decks themselves. Dense layers of mechanical drone and electric hum swirl around the room for twenty minutes or so and it is absolutely enthralling. After Jesse’s introduction for Jason compliments the diverse fields in which Jason Kahn operates, Mr. Kahn proceeds to hammer the point home with another foray into harsh synth noise, not quite as loud as Columbus, but much more aggressive than Chicago. There are some amazing moments of radio synchronicity – “Now that’s how we party!” – but they aren’t enough to win over the crowd. I wrap things up (no opportunity to atone for last night’s duo this evening) with a set designed especially for the crow. After a frenzy of detuned guitar bowing, I play some non-improvised pieces, “Omicron Meditation” and “Omicron Serenade”, and both go over pretty well. At the last minute I decide to pull up an old patch from “Ko” as well because Joe from Small Doses is in the crowd. It’s my best set of the weekend even though it’s the one I least prepared for. Listening to the recordings umpteen times has hardwired them in the brain I guess.

There’s a bit of post-show scrambling as the twin cities seem to be repaving 70% of their streets. We eventually land at Hard Times CafĂ© and grab some delicious late night grub. Their vegetarian biscuits and gravy set the bar pretty high, their choice of grindcore for ambiance not so much. We get the food to go. We renavigate the construction maze and soon find ourselves at Jesse’s place. And he has a garage! (Not sure, but this may be a first in my decade-plus of touring.) No unload tonight. We can get straight to annihilating the take-out, conversing and passing out.

9.18 . 9.19
… Milwauke . Chicago . Home …

Jesse’s wife Allie procured breakfast foods in advance – even grabbing some vegan yogurt for Zeh – so we’re able to relax in the morning. Before we take off we get a chance to meet their pitbull who had stayed the night at a neighbor’s house. The prepare-for-the-worst warnings seem downright comical once Bodhi comes in, gives us each a sniff or two and proceeds to curl up and ignore everyone.

Back on the highway a discussion that starts with ins-and-outs of each other’s sets moves onto strange internet/social phenomena and eventually concludes with a story about ridiculous blog comments. Rain does its best to complicate our travels, but we still make it to Milwaukee earlier than expected. We’re dropping Jason Kahn off here for a few dates with Jon Mueller before he heads west. We eat, have some unfortunately brief hello-goodbyes with Mr. Mueller and part ways with Mr. Kahn. The rain comes down even worse between Milwaukee and Chicago, but we manage to arrive in a timely enough fashion. Jason transfers his gear and immediately heads back to the turnpike.

The three(-ish) mile drive from one end of Logan Square to the other is the only traveling I’ll do alone all weekend. It’s nice, calm, and too short. I quickly return to the apartment we dropped our passenger off at Friday evening and am handed a beer immediately. The drinking had been pretty restrained all weekend and I make up for it by keeping some form of alcohol in hand until I find my way to the sleeping bag several hours later.

I feel surprisingly good in the morning, but it’s a fake out, my stomach goes wobbly after I’ve been up an hour or so and I make my way to the bathroom to atone. I drive us – two non-musicians for the ride home, a grand trio – out of the city and then promptly hand the keys over, opting to sleep in the backseat instead. The next thing I know, we are in West Lafayette on the Perdue University campus. It seems like a great town, one that will require investigation at a later point. After "Korean fusion" lunch, we hit the Indianapolis bypass and the downpours start again so I retake the wheel. We make one last stop (post-lunch ice cream craving) and let Kanye West and Das Racist guide us the rest of the way. I’d like to say I finished the crossing line in some grand fashion, falling into my wife’s arms, but I am home no more than a half hour when Bruce McClure calls wanting to meet up to discuss the plans for his show tomorrow evening. Frying pan, fryer.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

[commercial break]

Part II of the tour diary will be up on Monday. It is finished, but I left the file on my work computer. I half-heartedly apologize and sincerely hope you on the edge of your seat after sick cliffhanger. (Do I die at the end? Find out Monday.)

In the meantime I will use this space to announce that the Mike Shiflet/Ryan Jewell collaboration Hysteresis is now available a digital download from Carbon Records. All the noise, none of the clutter. That's a savings of over 3 cubic inches of fresh air. Go ahead and breath that in.

Thanks for the continued support.

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]

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Upcoming Performances

Phi Phenomenon Tour
Cafe Bourbon Street
2216 Summit St., Columbus, OH
with Laundry Room Squelchers, FUN, several more...

It Looks Like It's Open
13 East Tulane, Columbus, OH
with Jason Kahn and Adam Smith

1550 Milwaukee, 3rd Flr, Chicago, IL
with Jason Kahn and TV Pow

Studio Z
275 E. 4th St., St Paul, MN
with Jason Kahn and Jason Zeh