“So many people could do so many things if they would just try, but they’re frightened off because they haven’t been trained to do this or that… I just picked up a $7.50 camera and went to work.”
– Gordon Parks
from “Black Renaissance, Gordon Parks (1912-2006)” by Mark Randolph, Waxpoetics #17 (June/July 2006), pg. 20.†
Pt. 1: Midwest
I arrived back home after the duo concert with Paal Nilssen Love in warm, somewhat sunny Utrecht on Sunday, February 4th. On Tuesday the 6th I was in a van with the other members of the Vandermark 5, driving in a blizzard towards St. Paul, Minnesota. Our North American tour started west of Chicago so that we could loop back towards Canada on our way to the East Coast. The weather was terrible, everywhere along the highway there were accidents- cars spun out into the median, 18 wheeler trucks jackknifed and blocking traffic for miles, shredded metal and glass on the side of the road left from previous collisions. Somehow we made it to St. Paul not only safe, but on time for our soundcheck at the Turf Club. Despite the lousy weather we got a very nice turnout, I’m guessing that the people who live in St. Paul are pretty used to crap Februarys at this point. The band’s performance was rusty; we hadn’t had a chance to work together since our December recording session because I had been on tour in Europe since the start of 2007. As usual, after the gig we went to check in at our motel. What wasn’t usual was finding all of furniture stacked in a pile in the middle of the floor when I opened the door to my room. After talking to the night manager, who was simultaneously eating two different pieces of cake during our chat, I found out that she had accidentally given the band rooms on a floor that was getting renovated. So we lugged our equipment and luggage to another room on another floor and tried to fall asleep on a bed that was identical to the one stacked in a pile in the room that was being “fixed up.”
The next day’s trip back to Chicago was much easier- the weather had cleared and driving wasn’t such a nightmare. The band had a gig at Fred Anderson’s Velvet Lounge, and had a good crowd despite the cold and it being a Wednesday night. Plus the quintet played like a band, the sense of the music had come back quickly. On Thursday the 8th our concert took place in Detroit at the Bohemian National Home, the best spot I’ve found in that city to perform (the first gig I had there was with Bridge 61 during July of last year). Another special motel experience, this time in the morning at checkout: We discovered that the lobby was actually a furniture store for junk. Old T.V. cabinets, bookshelves, office chairs, tables, and ashtrays were piled along a wall near the main entrance; a good spot for last minute impulse buys.
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