The European tour continues to take shape, despite a few of my contacts' inability to give me a firm YES or NO -indeed, to even respond in a timely manner. Smile-shrug-what-are-you-gonna-do?
Markus bows out of the tour due to work demands---CURSES! Hopefully there will be some sort of collaboration in the future now that the ice has been broken.
Jeff and I keep on a'workin' on the final 6 tunes for FTV9. Warren turns in nearly complete keys and woodwinds for "SKA FACE"--delightful, particularly the horn charts-look out, No Doubt!
I acquire an interesting new music notation software program called MusEdit. Quite intriguing, inexpensive, and user-friendly. I'm a convert!
On the 17th, Jeff and I troop into Howie Gano's LOUISVILLE RECORDING ARTS STUDIOS and knock out 3 songs: "MARCH OF THE COOKIE CUTTERS", "SEVEN CUM ELEVEN", and "WITH GRIM DETERMINATION, TERRELL DONS THE BOW TIE" with relatively little heartbreak. "...BOW TIE" presents an interesting experiment: we cut 2 versions: one which is the "straight" arrangement we've been rehearsing for the past year, and a 2nd which is an improv containing most of the themes of the original, but severely mutated. I'm not sure if it holds up by itself, so I think we may cut some of the better bits and "paste" them into the regular version here and there. "SEVEN CUM ELEVEN" [the most recent of the tunes] turns out to be quite a smoker-wish we were playing it for the tour!
Speaking of the tour, it's official: we've been invited to play the prestigious GOUVEIA ART ROCK FESTIVAL April 9-10 this year! This will also be filmed for their annual DVD-I guess we'd better practice!
As for the rest of Europe, things remain as sketchy as they were last autumn--come on, people!
Thanks to that fabulous MusEdit program, I score out basslines for "SKA FACE", "MY LITTLE CICADA", and begin "EVERYTHING WORKS IN MEXICO".
Booking the rest of the tour continues to be a nightmare--all Spanish and French contacts prove to be ultimately USELESS, and my Italian contact waits until the last minute to book 3 gigs-2 of which eventually fall through. So it appears we will only be performing TWICE for this tour. I nearly balk and cancel the tour, but it appears the only way for my ticket insurance to reimburse me is for WW3 to occur. It seems we will do more sight-seeing than we planned.
We decide on a final setlist for the tour:
UNDER THE BIG "W" (from FTV7)
THAT THING ON THE WALL (from FTV7)
MY LITTLE CICADA (from FTV9)
THE FRENCH MEDLEY (from FTV8)
THE ODESSA STEPS SEQUENCE (from FTV6)
SKA FACE (from FTV9)
EVERYTHING WORKS IN MEXICO (from FTV8)
THE FATE (Samla Mammas Manna cover, from FTV6)
Damn, I can't believe nobody wanted to do that Kinks cover "PRESSURE" I suggested!
Chris arrives in Louisville on the 22nd to run through the tunes before
we leave. Jeff, Chris, and I leave on the 28th for Milan.
Writing this presents a quandry: SO MANY wonderful things happen during
our stay in Europe, that I really don't want to spend the next week
chronicling everything. So I think I will be eventually writing a
separate diary on our exploits, and for now just stick to the
We leave Louisville in the afternoon, catch a connecting flight to
Detroit, and spend the next 8 hours in claustrophobic agony. After a
brief stop over in Amsterdam, we arrive in Milano, get picked up at the
airport by Paolo and Valerio. 2 hours later, off to Ciro's house and
have 1st rehearsal as a band with Paolo, who thankfully has done his
FTV homework and fits in perfectly. And I mean PERFECTLY--I'm shocked
at how much work he's put into covering Warren's parts, even emulating
the fucking SAX SOLOS IDENTICALLY! Plus, the new parts he's come up
with here and there sound great, and hearing new keys for "CICADA" and
"SKA FACE" is quite a treat-it's like hearing them for the 1st time.
Spend rest of evening eating and drinking, which becomes a
cornerstone of our stay. We also introduce our hosts to the delights of
ROASTED MARSHMALLOWS, courtesy of Jeff's foresight. Lots of cd
listening, most notably a new archive release of a 1975 concert by
BANCO - amazing! By the time we go to bed at 3am, we'll have been up for
the equivalent of 2 days, and the bedside humor at PROG CAMP ITALIA
Stagger out of bed at 2pm, eat, off to Ciro's for a last rehearsal before our gig. Afterwards, we pack up and head for Lecco-45 minutes north of Tradate [our headquarters] without traffic, 1 1/2 hours with traffic. And what's this? ROADSIDE HOOKERS? We eventually discover location of theater [no thanks to locals we talk to while on the street we're looking for!], set up, soundcheck, have a terrific dinner with the staff of AGARTHA,come back to theater, listen to Italian political addresses, play songs for audience, drive home exhausted.
We take it easy for most of the day, and rather than rehearse, spend the afternoon minus Paolo walking to town and seeing the sights. We end up spending most of our time at a small and pleasant bar gorging on the various yummy snacks laid out by the proprietor -quite a bit more substantial than the stale pretzles in a US bar, assuming you get any freebies at all.Jeff's vocabulary of Italian curse words continues to expand dramatically.
Back in rehearsal mode; the tunes are rigorously tightened up and made more presentable. Roughly an 8-9 hour rehearsal--that's the way the pros do it, I hear. I enjoy it immensely [except for poor Chris' constant battery changing]-I've missed being in a band that plays together at the same time. Afterwards, another evening of rigorous eating and drinking.
No rehearsing for the weekend. Today we head to the Sacro Monte in Varese. This is a mountain which has 14 chapels, or shrines, which depict various events in the Passion, utilizing roughly 8ft. wooden painted figures dating from the 1600s. Very striking. At the top of the mountain is the church of Santa Maria, the most beautifully ornate church I have ever seen [that is, until we visit the cathedral at Duomo in Milano, a few days later].
That evening, as a reward for our brutal mountain trek, we have a feast
at Ciro's house and are introduced to GRAPPA-a dry liquour made from
the leftover mash from winemaking. PHEW! I STILL feel my stomach lining
dissolving! We stagger home [we seem to do this A LOT lately] around
Reward for mountain trek #2: we have an afternoon outdoor barbecue at
Paolo's. We end up so stuffed, it's afternoon naps for everyone. The
evening is spent watching Paolo's brother Marco play video soccer games.
Back to work. A full day [not including our usual 3 hour
lunch/breakfast] of rehearsing. Paolo also records our next few
rehearsals using his laptop. We finish around 10pm, and have decent
pizzas from a local restaurant.
Our long-promised expedition to Milano. We take a 45 minute train ride
to arrive there. Our first stop is a local coffee shop with INCREDIBLE
Next stop: a great cd shop [naturally!} called Buscemi Records. I
pick up copies of TONTON MACOUTE, LARRY CORYELL-"OPEN SPACES", 10cc-
"BLOODY TOURISTS" [how appropriate-but it was cheap],
OSANNA-"PALEPOLI", and FRANCO BATTIATO-"POLLUTION".
Not long afterwards, we rendevous with Marcello, the brains behind AGARTHA . We have lunch together and do some sight-seeing while on the way.
Afterwards, we head for the Piazza del Duomo [I could swear I've seen
this place in numerous Italian movies], and meet up with Marco's
girlfriend Valentina. We then go to the amazing Cathedral Duomo. I
don't think I have the vocabulary to describe it. For a brief history
and some pictures, click here.
Everything about it is breathtaking: the architecture, the stained
glass, the carvings, the masonary, everything. Paolo notes that there
is a meaning behind every square inch of it, all sorts of symbolism.
They also allow tourists to climb all the way to the top and view the
city from the rooftop.Vertigo-inducing, but again, breathtaking.
After this, we went to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a sort of
mall with an amazing cut-glass ceiling and mosaic flooring. We see a
bull figure in the mosaic floor and indulge in a local custom, which is
to grind your heel into the bull's privates and spin around once for
good luck. When in Italy...We stopped at the nearby bus station to get
travel times and tickets for Friday's trip to the Bergamo airport.
Then, goodby to Valentina and off to the Metro to get to the end of
town when we will eventually hit Kaliphonia Records [to hopefully
unload some FTV cds]. On the way, we stop at a place for gelato [ice cream] and then to a pleasant park for some relaxation.
Next: the Castel Sforzesco. I can't say much about it once again, other than how HUGE it is! For another bit of info & pictures, click here.
We then walk what seems to be 30 blocks to meet Raoul Caprio and Kaliphonia, and have a pleasant evening chit-chatting about all things progressive. I unload some cds and gain a few in the process.We drag our weary selves back to the train station [at a quick pace, as we might miss the last train, despite Jeff's painful blister], hop aboard, and collapse at home.
A rather late rehearsal; we wrap it up around 10pm or so. We are still hungry, so off we go to a pub in the next town for drinks and dinner and drinks and a few more drinks. Also, some drinks to go with our other drinks. We discover Cubano rum, which is verboten in the US, and I think I understand why. The bartender is kind enough to pour everybody shots for the road-Italian hospitality at its finest. On the way home [3 hours later], we pull over in a square for a brief, um, pit stop, where we are soon surrounded by 7-8 police cars. After the indignity of having our passports checked, we are left alone. Jeff gets a little green around the gills and I'll leave the rest to your imagination [and Jeff's, who doesn't remember anything after the encounter with the police]. April 7th:
A final run-through of all the material, then it's back to Paolo's to pack for the trip, as well as a farewell dinner from our friends [except for Valerio, the Party Pooper]. I also discover an interesting new way to cook roast beef. Ciao Tradate!
Travel day! We travel by nearly every mode possible: car-train-bus-airplane-rental van-and, in Paolo's case, you can add a bicycle trip to the train station. We discover to our dismay that we will have to pay an extra $340 to RyanAir for excess baggage. Note to bands: if you use this otherwise cheap European airline, MAKE ALTERNATE PLANS FOR SHIPPING EQUIPMENT! We finally arrive at our hotel in Gouveia at 2 in the morning.
I wake up around 8am and wander around the area until it's time for our 11:30 sound-check, meeting Carlos Taveras [my main contact for the show] in the process. Wonderful guy, who goes out of his way to make sure everything is OK with us. As is usually the case, monitoring problems blemish an otherwise excellent hall sound. Off to lunch at the hotel at 1pm. I meet Lars Hollmer afterwards, and he gives me a firm "maybe-first I need to re-learn it in my room later" to the idea of him sitting in with us to perform Samla's "The Fate".
After quite a bit of shmoozing with the organizers and some fans, I settle in for AMAROK [a Spanish band]'s set. This is the 2nd time I've seen them [I previously saw them at BajaProg in 2003], and they were quite fun.
Now it was our turn. I won't get into a blow-by-blow account, but I'll say we went over really well, my intros were laughed at in all the right places, and most everyone thought the sound was great, though some thought the drums could have been stronger sound-wise. I only remember really butchering one song: "MY LITTLE CICADA": In addition to messing up the chords I've been having trouble with all week, I left out a section entirely and tried to make up for it in the following section, which threw things off even more. We managed to get out of it OK, and oddly, many people I talked to [including both of Miriodor's keyboardists!] enjoyed this song the most. If memory serves, "BIG W", SKA FACE", "THE FRENCH MEDLEY", and "MEXICO" were performed without any screw-ups, and the remainder had only minor dings. The crowd was totally supportive and I like to think we were the favorite band for the next few hours, judging from the cd & T-shirt sales, autographs, and photos we did! It was really wonderful talking to all the fans; they were incredible appreciative-I can't say enough about them! Lars ended up unable to sit in, as he had to do some serious last minute rehearsing with Miriodor--he apologized afterwards. Ah well, I can't complain-whadya want-EGGS IN YOUR BEER?
ARENA weren't really my cup of tea, so I hung out with the rest of the guys and continued to bask in our glory.We had a dinner break, and I met and hung out quite a bit with Miriodor in the hotel lobby afterwards. Very interesting people; we hit it off nicely. Unfortunately, I missed Lars Hollmer's set, which included a duet with Michel Berckmans, but I was having so much fun socializing I wasn't paying attention to the time! Eventually [think they started around midnight!] it was time for Miriodor. FANTASTIC! I recognized 4 tunes; the rest were new songs from their latest cd which came out just time time for the festival. About 2/3rds of the way into their set, they were joined by Lars Hollmer and Michel Berckmans-what a treat! After the show, more socializing, then off to bed around 3am.
"I GENERALLY LIKE TO CARVE PUMPKINS ABOUT THIS BIG"
A long walk around town, looking for souveniers for my loved ones. Not much to find, except a thick Donald Duck digest in Portugese! I had a few people recognize me and ask for autographs--boy, talk about an ego-boost. Later, after a brief caffee with José Carlos Fialho [one of the Portugese cameramen-quite an interesting guy, who can tell you about the history of Northern Portugal vineyards, expound on governmental privatization plans, and throw in a tirade on neo-prog for good measure], we went to the prog symposium being held at the local library. I look at the stage, and there's Jeff as one of the experts! It was all I could do to keep from cracking up! It was an interesting conference, although there was too much of the "it-sure-is-hard-to-play-prog-music-and-get any recognition" routine. And it was fun counting how many times the drummer for Arena mentioned being "in an baaahhhd that sold thrrrreeeee millllion recoooo'ds".
After the conference on the way to lunch I gab with David Oberle, the former drummer for GRYPHON, who was invited to the festival as a panelist. Geez... the times we live in!
After lunch, I amble over to the theater and meet a bunch more fans and $ell more cds & shirts and sign more autographs and take more photos---boy, oh, boy...
I catch the last 30 minutes of TRAP-ZAPE--better than I expected; wish I had caught more of their set. Reminded me [and my friend Carlos Romeo] of OREGON/RALPH TOWNER. The dialogue between the acoustic guitar/upright bass/piano/drums was fascinating to listen to and follow.
I meet more fans, including one guy with a radio show that points out similarities between our music and some of the prog-metal bands---I am taken aback by this, but he did make some valid points. Hmmm...
I watch THE WATCH [hee-hee] for the 1st 3 songs, and figure I've heard about all I need to hear. Besides, I figure now would be a good time for a nap, as we're looking at a long haul [4 hours] to the airport in Lisboa tonight.
I wake up, do more shmoozing, unload nearly the remainder of our cds to the fellow from Portugal's PROG CDS, and catch the set by UNIVERS ZERO. HOLLLEEEEE SHIT! I was really happy with their set--for the most part, it was older material, opening with "Dense", and including "Bonjour Chez Vous", "Toujours plus à l'est", "Meandres ", "Civic Circus", "Bulgarian Flying Spirit Dances", and some other tunes from Daniel Denis' solo albums. Watching Denis' approach to drumming....like watching an orchestral percussionist, but with infinitely more power, and a willingness to try different ways of executing the beats as well. The keyboardist really stood out also; amazing finesse and technique-also a joker when his rig went down temporarily. The full-screen graphics while the band played has to be mentioned as well - stunning.
After the show, we went to the bar upstairs in the theater and said goodby to all our new friends, and drank numerous toasts--so many many thanks to Carlos, Luis, Edwardo, and the other organizers. I've been to and performed in many festivals, but this was the ultimate! For many excellent shots of the festival, see the Gouveia website here.
Trying to round up everybody for our trip to Lisboa's airport grew pretty frustrating, complicated by the problem of not being able to figure out how to get the damn van in reverse! But, after more tearful goodbys, we finally hit the road, guided by Luis down the crazy spirals of the mountain to the highway below.
The 4 hour trip to the airport was a real sonuvabitch--I drove, and during the last 2 hours, the many toasts and lack of sleep were really taking their toll-especially when we began to realize we were going to be cutting it pretty close to our boarding time. Somehow I got us there [with NO coffee, I might add!], and after dumping the van made it to the gate with 20 minutes to spare.
After arriving at Amsterdam, we had to round up our luggage again for our trip to Detroit. This time, the trip to the US wasn't so bad--the Sinclair Lewis book I was reading kicked it up a notch, and I was unable to put it down until I finished it. I then watch the movie "Being Julia". Ehhh...
We eventually made to to Detroit, had to round up luggage AGAIN, go through customs, and finally settled down in a FOX sports bar for a couple hours, where Jeff FORCED us to drink KNOB CREEK KENTUCKY BOURBONS, the bounder. The trip to Louisville was only an hour, and I was greeted at Louisville International Airport by massive hugs from Aaron Sary and the missus. Nice to be back, but I continue to miss the places we went and the people we met.
Apparently, I've spent the week chronicling everything. Wellll......