1 August 2007


Dixon used a two mic set up, one adding reverb to his trumpet, the other with reverb and delay. This led to some outlandish discussions between the soundman, Bill, and his wife (Do you need more of the first mic in the monitor? “What-ut-ut-ut?” Then, while Dixon blows his horn some more- Is there enough of you in the monitor, and is the delay long enough? “boop-oop-oop-oop… What-ut-ut-ut? I didn’t hear you-ou-ou-ou…”). Of course, after getting the whole system organized at the rehearsal on the 10th, nothing worked correctly at the sound check the following night. We had to start from scratch, a couple of hours of booming delay and feedback-laden conversation and snatches of trumpet. Thankfully, Dixon’s chops were incredible. His ability to jump registers and
tone to texture was startling (I wished he was more interested in working acoustically, his playing was extremely strong and to my ears didn’t need anything added to it). After all the work and getting nowhere, the soundman said he was going to have to start from scratch. Dixon’s replay was an understandable, “Oh shit-it-it-it!” Throughout the process of working with him, I was struck by Bill’s sense of humor, whether in regards to the music, politics, or history.

Thankfully, by the time of the concert everything was working well. The performance started with a series of short individual statements: Michael, then Josh and Nate, then myself (only working with the low register horns at Dixon’s request, the bass clarinet and baritone), then Dixon before he cued the rest of the quintet to join him. We played a series of long improvisations to a large and appreciative audience, Bill seemed pleased at the response to his first appearance in Chicago (at nearly the age of 82, it’s incredible to me that he had never been here before. Much gratitude goes to Matt McDermott for finally bringing him to town). He’ll be back again soon, to work with Rob Mazurek and his Exploding Star Orchestra at the Chicago Jazz Festival.

7/14: In another massive roundabout, Powerhouse Sound played at the Pitchfork Festival. Though we hadn’t had a gig together since our European tour (Jeff and John were gone for nearly a month on tour with Tortoise), we had a couple days of rehearsal before the show and the music came back to us with a vengeance. I never play at large, outdoor music festivals, but this experience was completely positive. Even though we were the first band on a smaller side stage the band had a great turnout, and being the initial group of the day gave us the benefit of having a sound check, by all accounts the group came across strongly. I stuck around for most of the day to hear some of the other bands with Battles and Mastodon as standouts. Getting a chance to participate on such an open minded and eclectic festival was a real opportunity, and thanks need to go to Mike Reed for asking us to be involved.

7/15: The next morning I headed back to Pitchfork to play in a version of Fred Lonberg-Holm’s Lightbox Orchestra. The group included such musicians as Josh Berman, Jeb Bishop, Todd Carter, Michael Colligan, Jeff Parker, Frank Rosaly, and Michael Zerang. To Pitchfork’s credit, they were willing to present a group with a pretty esoteric conception on a festival generally devoted to more popular forms of music. And to the audience’s credit, they were ready and willing to hear Fred’s conducted improvisations. Was a ball to play with everyone.

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