Allison makes pancakes while Krzysztof and I trade mp3s. They are excellent pancakes! I realize I had pancakes earlier on the tour, in Detroit, also excellent, and it feels like a long time ago. It will take some time to process the process of this tour. I already know I want more, more, more of what I've been doing.
Louisville was a great time, but I am happy to be back playing the Conquistadors set tonight. This date was still open when I hit the road a few weeks ago. I have been so fortunate that friends and friends of friends have had their doors open and things have fallen into place. Not that I haven't worked overtime to put the tour together. But I know things don't always work out so well. I got in touch with Paul, who runs the Black Sparrow Pub in Lafayette, Indiana, through my friend Tad in Toronto, and he took me on last minute for a late set. He is pushing boundaries in Lafayette in good ways, it seems, and tonight he keeps telling me: "just do what you want." This is what I want!
I drive from Louisville to Lafayette, three hours north. I had been worried, before the tour, about all of the time driving alone. It's been fine. The drives have been relatively short, the weather and traffic have been easy going. I was worried I would run out of things to listen to. I do not. When I tire of the cds and tapes and mp3s I brought with me I listen to the radio. I have reasonable tolerance for classic rock, which is consistently the easiest to find, but those same 20 songs on every station get to be a drag. No oldies or soul stations in the midwest that I can find. So I'll switch over to the stations that air the fascist-fundamentalist crazytalk of populist millionaires. A highlight of that stuff on this trip was the famous rightwing radio host interviewing the lunatic preacher from Florida who burned a copy of the Koran, casting one idiot/asshole/psycho against another in the battle to most dutifully reflect the will of god and country.
I get to Main Street in Lafayette just after five pm. It's sunny and quiet, most of the shops have closed but restaurants and cafes are open. I drink a coffee, write, take a walk for a while, get some food, wait around. Now it's only nine pm, and I go on around midnight. I hang out at the Black Sparrow. It's packed, and noisy as all get out, lots of people moving in and out, folks from town and the local university and fans of the first band, which is an inter-generational klezmer ensemble. They play spirited versions of the hits without much embellishment to a large crowd of devoted friends and family. The most exciting thing about it is the very short old man in the red baseball cap and "I heart klezmer" t-shirt jumping around the crowd with a tambourine, clearly part of the show, and reflecting an actual old world practice. The music's not terrible but it goes on for a very long time, and I'm tired, and I don't know a soul here, and I'm thinking people are going to walk out or talk through my set, and we're talking three hours of klezmer here, people.
Worries unnecessary, I play perhaps my best set of the tour so far. Casey, who is running sound this night, is a music theorist and sound recordist and really helpful. He mics up the drums, my vocals, my treble amp and takes a direct out from the bass amp. This is the first time on this tour that I'm dealing with a p.a. and I've only agreed to it because of how big and noisy this club is. I usually hate the distance that big sound systems create and whenever possible prefer to avoid them. But the material is so comfortable to me now, and I am so happy to be playing -- instead of waiting around, or even teaching at this point -- that I lean harder on the music. And I open my eyes as I sing. People are into it. I sense them grasping the words, following along, swaying some to the more upbeat stuff. They clap along to A Bloodletting (the trick is to tell them it's a sing-along, and folks clap) and cheer on the saxophone solo at the end. I hardly talk at all, just play and sing the shit out of the material.
I haven't quite figured out what causes people to sometimes shout and whistle when I get into a circular breathing cycle on the saxophone. Perhaps it's a lack of familiarity with the conventions of listening to improvised or experimental music, perhaps it's just the alcohol talking. I used to hate it, it made me feel like more of a stuntman than a musician, but it feels just fine here. At any rate I am surprised by how much attention the sax improv at the end of the set gets in this rowdy place, especially since it is completely acoustic. I play standing out in front of my gear, closer to the audience. It really is a great crowd, boisterous and engaged at the same time, fun to talk to afterwards, too. I would happily go back to Lafayette to play. I suppose I feel that way about everywhere I've been on this tour, for different reasons. At the Black Sparrow there was some crazy, uncertain energy that brought me, and the set, to a new, good place.
SET LIST 4/09
What We Have
Fear / Helen Caldicott
The Love Story