Trying out Google Photos story feature. Great to be back doing gigs with the JVM gang. We played at Les Ardentes in Liège and Cactus Festival in Bruges.
This is a great piece of film that captures the visuals and sound of our last show. It was a weird day, knowing that it was the final show, but it was one of our very best. I’m really glad it was recorded 🙂
You can see my mascot polar bear, that I’d picked up in an amazing hardware store in Glendive, Montana, a week previously.
Here’s a screenshot of my ursine mascot, sitting majestically on top of my beloved Nord Stage. The shot does rather fly past if you don’t know what you’re looking for!
The album’s on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/6ovbwOxYvhbLCBh8LhMVyL
Packing for our three-week tour, taking James Vincent McMorrow’s ‘Post Tropical’ show for its second jaunt around Europe. I’m excited to get back on the road again, back to our own shows, as opposed to all the festivals we did over the summer. Back to cities we visited earlier this year, and also heading to places we haven’t been to before (Milan, Barcelona, Madrid, Fribourg, Utrecht).
Yesterday we played on the radio — Ray D’Arcy’s show on Today FM. It was a really good experience. We haven’t done a lot of ‘pure’ radio as a band, i.e. without any video/webcast element. Not having a camera there made for a more relaxing atmosphere. Just as we were setting up, Eamonn Dunphy was being interviewed about the previous night’s Twitter-igniting football match between Brazil (1) and Germany (7!) in the World Cup. At one point — I didn’t catch the context — he got up out of his seat and held up a pink dress against himself. Radio allows odd things to happen. When we’d finished, a cool-looking Australian man swallowed a sword and then a lady called in and let us all listen to her enjoying a custard slice. A rich tapestry 🙂
Here’s the Australian man, Aerial Manx, swallowing the sword:
Ray asked him how far down the sword goes into his body — the tip ends up two inches below his heart…
We played James’s latest single from Post Tropical, Glacier. You can hear it here, four minutes in:
James also played his brilliant cover version of ‘Higher Love’, which you can hear just past the ten minute mark.
Finally, a video of an acoustic version of the last single from Post Tropical, ‘Gold’, that James and I performed back in April at the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto on the afternoon of our show there. I’m wearing a ‘Post Tropical’-themed t-shirt that I found in Hamburg earlier this year.
We met early at Dublin airport on the morning of the 14th and spent a full day travelling against the tide of the sun, arriving late in the evening to our hotel on Sunset Boulevard.
The next day (and the day after that!) we had breakfast at a great place called the Dialog Café. There was some gear to be bought in the afternoon and I went along to the giant Sam Ash music shop that the guys had been talking about. I didn’t have anything to get except a piano bench, so I happily played with the Prophet 12 synthesizer while the guys got the bits and pieces (and, the main item of business: a drum kit for Paul).
After a swim in the hotel pool, we made the pilgrimage up Runyon Canyon (impatiently eschewing the boring old path and making a beeline for the top) to see the Hollywood sign and take some epic band photos. I tagged along with James and Emma, then, to an amazing sushi place they’d been to before and we walked back past the Chinese Theatre, the panoply of stars on the Walk of Fame under our feet.
Sunday was show day and we loaded into The Roxy in the afternoon. I had been feeling a bit nervous about getting back into the swing of things again after our few weeks off, but once we started sound checking it all came back. The few tweaks I’d made to sounds worked well, too. It was amazing to play to such an enthusiastic, sold out crowd in such a historic venue 🙂
We got a few tales about the place from the production manager, most memorably the image of David Lee Roth running out into LA traffic, topless with red sequinned Lycra trousers, calling after his dog which had escaped!
The following morning, St Patrick’s Day, after waking up to an earthquake, we played a ‘Morning Becomes Eclectic’ session at KCRW.
Their studios are on the campus of Santa Monica College and the walls are adorned with portraits, large B&W prints and one entire wall of small Polaroids of everyone from Ian McEwan to Ellen Page to a three-years-ago James.
That night we played another show at The Roxy. James was having trouble beforehand with his voice and pushed through the show, the three of us supporting him with a heartfelt, albeit unmathematical, 110%. Again the crowd were brilliant (as were the supporting act, Aiden Knight and his band, who I’m looking forward to hearing more of along the road) — they responded really positively to the new material and were treated to James singing ‘Higher Love’ at the end, something he doesn’t normally do.
A problem with our bus meant that we were standing around in the parking lot for an hour after our pickup time. My clarinet was sitting on top of my suitcase and all of a sudden one of the venue staff pulled out of their parking space and knocked it over, crushing the case. A quick examination assured me it was okay, although a few keys had been bent and I knew it would have to be repaired properly. Shaken and annoyed, I went to bed as soon as we loaded the gear onto the bus. Next morning I found the name of a woodwind repairer in San Francisco, Daniel Deitch, and called him up when we got to the venue. He responded graciously to my plea for help (I learned later that he has a really big workload at the moment) and I brought the instrument to his workshop as the guys set up the stage. Daniel was brilliant, quickly working over the clarinet and ultimately leaving it in better condition than it’s ever been in. Every cloud has a silver lining and all that! I also joked with him about ‘the luck of the Irish’ as we contemplated the tonne of steel that my Yamaha case had withstood valiantly.
We chatted while he worked and listened to a brilliant Thelonius Monk album, ‘Live At Town Hall’.
When I arrived back a couple of hours later, the decision had just been made to cancel the Great American Music Hall show that night. James had an infection and a specialist had just prescribed penicillin and total rest. Hopefully the show can be rescheduled. On we go…
I’m writing this surrounded by cherubs and scholars in the reading room of the National Library. I have always meant to get a Reader’s Ticket and today finally got around to it. I was in town, at the sumptuous 37 Dawson Street, filming with James and the band for the RTÉ arts show ‘The Works’, which airs this Friday (7 March) at 8.30pm.
We finished our European tour with a really brilliant show in Paris (at La Gaité Lyrique) just over a week ago, having blazed a post tropical trail through Germany, Holland and Belgium. We played in quite a range of venues, from a small 200-seater (Brotfabrik in Frankfurt — dear knows what the venue guys thought as we ferried our entire lighting rig up the narrow, metal fire escape stairs that lead up from the courtyard below), to the unexpectedly brilliant venue in the old botanic gardens in Brussels, to the classy, professional venues that seemed to be everywhere in Holland, to what was for me a real highlight: the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.
It won’t be long now before we’re back on the road again for five weeks in the US and Canada. I’m really looking forward to it: it’ll be my first time visiting most of the places we’re going to. My sister and I took a trip to Philadelphia / Virginia (& Washington DC) / Long Island (& New York) / Toronto (& London, ON) in the summer of 2000. We crammed all that into one month, staying with family and friends along the way (and enjoying the hospitality of the Salvation Army in Toronto!).
This time out it’ll be a tour bus bunk all the way. That was probably the hardest thing to get used to, and there was much discussion as to the merits of top, middle, or bottom bunks. I only tried the top bunk last time, so I must experiment with the other options on this run.
I got through two books: ‘Stoner’ by John Williams and ‘A Visit From The Goon Squad’ by Jennifer Egan. Both were brilliant and weren’t a million miles apart in terms of subject matter and tone (although Jennifer Egan pulls off some beautiful chapters in voices ‘other’ than that of her primary style). I was also introduced to the delight that is ‘East Bound and Down’. It had been my intention to try and get through the last few seasons of ‘Breaking Bad’, but that would’ve meant isolating myself from the group and well, gosh darnit, if they weren’t just too good to be around! I really must try and get to it on our jaunt around America, though. The others have all seen it (and there’s more than one of them has some item of clothing related to the show), so I’d say they’re champing at the bit to talk about it sometimes!
I’m just home from a lovely full day of being a professional musician. I had five students in the afternoon / evening, three in one household and two in another. In the second house I was given a hot bowl of leftover chilli, in the first I got all the coffee I could drink and some marvellous chocolate chip cookies. I worked on aspects of musical performance, theory, and aesthetics with keen students.
Pretty good, right?! And that wasn’t even the best part…
This morning I rehearsed for the first time as a member of James Vincent McMorrow’s band. I worked with James on his new, ridiculously good, expansive, melodic, beautiful record, ‘Post Tropical‘. The opportunity arose for me to go touring with him and — having thought about it a *lot* and with the crucial blessing of my amazing wife — I jumped at the chance. (Check out some of the places we’ll be going.)
We got five songs done today, four from the new album including the new single, ‘Cavalier’, that has just been released today. It’s a different sound to the material he’s released before now — it’s bigger, bolder, stronger. I cannot *wait* to play it live — take a listen and you’ll see what I mean 🙂