Despite this, the first set is a strong one, though the planned arrangements go off track a few times (Adam’s pieces tend towards head tunes, with suggestions for improvised events after the material, some kind of cross between Conference Of The Birds era Dave Holland and Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood Of Breath material; my compositions are organized more like sequences placed in a roadmap. In both cases there is a lot to
remember…). To focus the second set we met and talked through the pieces before hitting stage again, and things began to really burn, even the birthday party started to listen. About to start the final selection, and BAM- the lights go out. The power for the entire building, which appears to be running off one extension cord, blew a circuit breaker. Utter chaos ensued as a half dozen festival staff tried to get things up and running: power’s on, nope it’s off again, lights up but bass amp down… I looked around and all I can think about is that we’re on the second floor of an old building packed with people, what if there’s a fire? So I said, “We should call it.” After much discussion the festival agreed. The thought among the band was, “Well, at least we got eight out of nine pieces recorded.” Wrong. The entire second set was lost due to the effect of the power surges on the computer recording the music.
On the third day in Coimbra the quartet met at 3pm at the Salon to record all the lost material during the afternoon. Everything gets set up, we record the first piece, and… the power goes out. At this point the band is convinced that we’ll be playing in the dark all night and nothing is going to be accomplished by the time we leave town the next day. So we started to think about a plan B: return to Portugal next year to try again, which should be a hell of a lot easier since we’ve already laid down the foundations for the music- all we’ll need to do is some reviewing and we should be able to quickly hit the stage full force. Pedro seems open to the idea and this took the pressure off the gig. Had a nice dinner with all the Scandinavian guys, featuring some seafood from outer space which Paal ordered; went to check out Mario Pavone’s Quintet, but again the sound made the experience quite limited, though Gerald Cleaver came across beautifully. Then we went to the Salon to get ready for the midnight to 3am debacle. But it didn’t happen, everything ran perfectly: the room was packed with a fantastic crowd, the band played the best music of the three night series, and every note gets recorded. Insane.
On Sunday I head back to Lisbon to perform a solo show at the ZDB Gallery. I am completely fried, the shows ended at around 3am which meant that I wasn’t getting to bed until close to 5am. My cab to the airport is supposed to leave the hotel around that time Monday morning, pretty much when I’d been falling asleep for the last week. Perfect. The organizers at the ZDB are doing incredible things for a wide variety of performance and visual arts. It was exciting to talk to them, and their enthusiasm for me being there to play was a real help in getting me focused on getting music together before heading home. I worked again with the material from the Pintura Series and the Beckett Variations, and it felt good to play despite the fatigue. The audience was small, about twenty, but they were extremely receptive and the applause at the end of the second set felt as good as any from the last month on the road. The final step between me and the Lisbon airport was the cab pickup at dawn. Pedro had made arrangements with the driver who picked us up from the airport a week before, but after the series of broken logistics that took place over the last stretch I had my doubts about seeing that cab on time. After trying to catch a couple hours sleep, which amounted to nothing, I dragged my things into the elevator and out the front door of the Lisbon hotel. And there he was, standing by his taxi with some rope.
-Ken Vandermark, Chicago, 6/6/06.
© 2021 Ken Vandermark – musician & composer | Disclaimer