15 November 2011

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From Kaunas to Antwerp on the 12th, health from bad to worse- I arrived at the Brussels airport with my right ear completely blocked and the back of my tongue frayed. From the airport straight to rehearsal with The Thing and Lasse Marhaug to run Sun Ra compositions for a performance at the Follow The Sound Festival. To call the room where we worked acoustically dead would be a major minimization of what it felt like to play in the concert hall; I kept checking the bell of my tenor to see if it had been filled with cement by airport authorities. Not being able to hear didn’t help matters, and I discovered how much the inside of my mouth has to do with playing the horns, anything above the basic scale was excruciating and circular breathing was impossible. Fantastic. At least the material was beautiful: East Of Uz, We Travel The Spaceways, Tapestry From An Asteroid, and Enlightment. Mats put together a flow chart of improvising combinations intercut with the compositions. After that rehearsal Made To Break had a soundcheck and concert; very tough, no matter how much energy you put into the room nothing came back, the sound died, impossible to create a group expression, everything compartmentalized- really frustrating with Marshall Allen sitting in the room (what architect designs a room for music like this??). The audience responded positively but I just felt defeated by the circumstances and sick as hell. I suggested that for The Thing gig we use monitors to help balance the interaction in the band and when we played this seemed to help, plus I just gave up trying to play as I normally would, nothing was responding right in the room or with my own playing, I just threw whatever I had at the performance and hoped for the best. Felt a duo with Mats went nowhere (surely my fault) and a duo with Ingebrigt on East Of Uz was a success, the dry room got my tone into Lucky Thompson territory, which sounded lovely on the melody and improvisation that followed… Well, if I thought Antwerp was a challenge it was nothing compared to the events of the next day, traveling to Dreseen on a Sunday via plane and train. Things began on the wrong foot, one of the members of Made To Break dropped their only clean underwear into the toilet and burned out a hair dryer trying to make them wearable again, and employee of the hotel got into a major discussion about who was responsible for fixing the hair dryer, making the drive to the airport late. Then the first thing the presenter told us when we got off the train in Dresden was that he wanted to cancel the gig. Then at the soundcheck none of the equipment was available, the soundman was hours late. I frustrated the organizer by getting cheap hotel rooms for the band, paying them out our fee, instead of sleeping in a commune situation in the building behind the performance space; I was feeling worse and needed to sleep and did not want to get everyone else in the band, and the other musicians on the bill, sick. The tension just kept excavating throughout the evening but the other players were great and super nice people (Ron Anderson’s band, Pak, and Dosh), and we got a nice response from the people who stayed late to listen (man, so amazing the differences between Christof and Lasse’s playing, both two of my favorite electronics musicians and coming from such different angles towards their music!). The thing that probably saved me from going ballistic in Dresden was the fact that Made To Break was traveling to Vienna the next day, 7 hours on a train to rest, a night off with friends, and a concert at the Blue Tomato on the 15th. The experience in Vienna was everything that I hoped for- I completed 4 new pieces for the band in the afternoon before the show, we performed 3 of them at the gig (a new record for me), the band got to play 2 sets (the only time on the whole tour!?), the place was packed, and people “got” the music. That gig probably saved me. More of the duo with Paal in Ekaterinberg: