This is all still coming together and I have some avails left in there and am working to connect the dots -- please contact me asap if you'd like me to come to you to play, teach, or both! firstname.lastname@example.org
a couple of days ago, New Beard went down to philly to rock with our pals the Weird Hot at Philly's Kung Fu Necktie in Fishtown. It was an awesome night and was great to get New Beard out of town! (more photos coming soon!) see New Beard on Facebook!
TubaJoe Summer 2012 wrap up and photos. It was an intense summer -- I toured a lot in June through August... I went on the road with 4 different bands in consecutive trips.
The summer started out with some interesting projects around home in NYC Gato Loco de Bajo opened up its weekly residency at the lovely new ZirZamin in SoHo, and New Beard made another (big!) music video. Add that to the Red Hook Ramblers doing another historic Edison recording and the Ja Ja Jas hit the beach in Montauk ...that was in about the span of a week.
After the pre-tour in-town fury, it was then time for me to hit the road. In June, I was honored to be a featured performer in Austria's ‘Heavy Tuba’, an all-low-brass all-star rock/jazz ensemble that evolved as an offshoot of the legendary Vienna Art Orchestra. It was a thrilling experience for me to be amongst such amazing players. Heavy Tuba is a group I've known about for years... way back in Chicago, I managed a CD store and a traveling tuba player from Europe stopped in with his minidisc to play me this cool new stuff going on in Europe.
It was such an honor to just play with these guys, much less to be asked to be a featured soloist. It was an intense trip, mostly of rural Austria which is such beautiful country. Several full days of rehearsal learning new music, then a day of travel across the country, then a show at a folksy brass festival (keep in mind this is rural Austria!) made for an intense trip with no time for jet lag.
After a day in Munich of recovery and practice for my next trip, I had to rush to Canada, via NYC to join Toronto's amazing Saidah Baba Talibah and her kickass band. Saidah is somewhat of a hero in Toronto, with her soul-tinged rock called a cross between Living Color and Erykah Badu, ...with TUBA as her bass. I had to head to Canada twice, first to Toronto for rehearsal, then back to NYC for a few days, then back to Canada, this time to Montreal and to to meet the band for my first show with them.
Making the trip to Toronto from Munich via NYC was a trek. And unfortunately, as happens once in a while, there was a flight delay through London and my tuba didn't make the transfer. I arrived in NYC for my transfer to Toronto sans-tuba. No worries, a kind Canadian tubist lent me his Yamaha CC until I got mine the next day. Fortunately, my horn only missed a rehearsal day and I got done what needed to be done on the loaner. My horn showed up eventually...
The shows with Saidah were fantastic... first a large club gig in Montreal, then back to TO to play the main stage of the Toronto Jazz Festival in support of one of my favorite artists, Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews. The Montreal show was a great induction for me, and TJF show was fantastic. While she is the niece of the legendary Andy Bey (she's the daughter of Salome Bey) her vibe is all her own... soul, blues, funk and hard rock (thats where my heart is too!) She embraces this mix fully in her sex-tinged power show. The first seated, surprised Jazzfest crowd absolutely loved it (not one II-V was played LOL!) and were on their feet screaming by the end of our set.
I got to meet Troy Andrews again (I met him a few years ago at the NoLa Jazzfest) he's not only an incredibly honest and dynamic performer, he's a complete class act as a person. He congratulated Saidah on her ability to kick the crowd in the butt! A good night.
I had a day or two to recover in Toronto (and to continue to shed!) and then we played the main Toronto Canada Day celebration to an estimated 25,000 people. That too was a rocking performance. 3 kickass shows with Saidah under my belt.
Next I had to hi-tail it back to NYC quickly as just a few days later the full 10-piece Gato Loco was due to head to Europe. One quick rehearsal, laundry, and then it was back on the road.
Gato Loco's first destination was 3 shows in Bordeaux, France. We were returning to the place of that band's first 'big gig' and where we recorded our live record; Bordeaux's outdoor Festival du Hauts de Garonne, which is presented by Musique du Nuit.
Arriving back in Bordeaux was an emotional thing, this was the site of my favorite gig I ever played. We instantly had to visit our hangout, the famous fountain, as always with a handful of locals. I had to get a meal of steak tartare and a glass of... bordeaux. Bliss.
The gigs in Bordeaux were cool, albeit a bit weird (one was on a high-rise rooftop covered in mattresses, the others in sculpture parks) but the vibe there is always great. I did get a chance to sneak off to Saint Emillion to get an insider's wine tour and taste some great wines. Bliss again.
We had to leave Bordeaux pretty quickly though, even though we felt like we were just getting started - unlike our previous visit where we stayed for quite a while and made a record. This time the road called.
A long train ride and we were in Italy. I LOVE Italy. A lot. Our first gig was in a rock club in Torino that was literally ON the bank of the (smelly) Po river, in some sort of catacomb-type place underneath the town square. Sorta cool. A quick, loud, rock-style gig, and we then had just a couple of hours to be back on the train. Venice was calling.
We got back in my favorite city of Venice for the second time in 3 months. I like Venice not for it's history or unique situation, but for the fact that it's such a timeless bubble.
And... Venice LOVES Gato Loco. We were to return to the exact site of our first big show there, the beautiful Serra dei Giardini. Again, presented by our good friends from Microclima, our job this time was to provide festivities for after the fireworks of the Redentore. The Redentore is the 'Festival of the Redeemer', it commemorates the end of the second coming of the Bubonic Plague, which hit Venice for a second time in 1575 and they've been celebrating every June ever since 1592. It's one of the city's largest festivals and it was packed to the gills with revelers from all over the world.
On our arrival in Venice, the Gato Loco band was *very* weary by this point, our travels had been tough this trip. We all were trepidatious going into this last show, simply due to exhaustion. However just a few bars into our fast "Coconino #3 "merengue-on-crack" tune towards the beginning of our show, all worries vanquished. The 1000+ crowd instantly turned into a mosh pit and people danced like maniacs for the next two hours. We had to barricade ourselves as people kept falling into the band! ...and we played on and on. It was complete mayhem... just the way we like it to be.
We wrapped up the show at about 2:30am, but the night was far from over. The longstanding tradition is that on the night of the Redentore, after a night of celebration, you sleep on the Lido; Venice's adjacent beach-island. Of course, we went.
The entire beach was partying, but I decided to take a long solemn swim in the warm salty Adriatic Sea. Heavenly.
The sun rose and we left the Lido, boarded the vaporetto (bus boat) and headed back to Venice and slept.
The middle of the next day we had one last gig, an outdoor acoustic performance on the Zattere at one of our favorite Venetian hangs, El Chioschetto. This was great too, quite tiring, but a good Campari Spritz took the edge off.
The following day the rest of the band headed back to NYC, but I stayed as I had more business to attend to. Before I get to that, I want to sum up my night like this: In a turn of events, I ended up cooking pasta for Venetians (talk about pressure) WHILE I fought off bats that had flown into the apartment. That's how I roll. Cooking while battling flying rodents. I didn't end up smacking any of the recording equipment, and the bat finally left. Most importantly, the pasta came out great. Venice.
Anyway... the next morning (more like the middle of the night) I took a boat to a bus to a train to a bus... to go to the other side of the Adriatic Sea, to Pula, Croatia on the Istrian peninsula. I was on my way to visit the Accord Case company, the makers of the finest, highest-end instrument cases in the world.
I have used an Accord Case for almost a year now and it has changed my life. My personal case is an early model in their revolutionary tuba case design, and was due for some adjustments. I have come to rely on this case so heavily that a trek to the factory was warranted since Pula is only about half a day's journey from Venice. After I rode a crowded train to the edge of Italy, then a crowded bus through Slovenia, into Croatia (an adventure for me as I had never been to Eastern Europe before)...and I certainly don't speak the language(s)! I was incredibly sleep deprived and exhausted, as well as a little intimidated by the Eastern European border officials that kept boarding our bus, so I didn't end up taking many photos of this leg of my journey.
Once at the Accord factory, it was wonderful -- a team sized up the wear on my case and did some needed adjustments. What an incredible company (more on that soon...)
After they were done, I headed out for a nice dinner then back to my hotel - a groovy old hotel built when Croatia was ruled by the Austrians, which was adjacent to the colosseum ruins from Roman times. Interesting place.
But again, there was little time for rest, as I had to be up at the crack of dawn to get back to Venice in time to get to my plane back to NYC.
Back on Venice, I said goodbye to my Venetian friends and to that amazing city... I had to head back home.
Once back home, I had a little time to catch up and dive back into the swing of things in NYC, but that was only temporary. I had had two pending, consecutive trips with New Beard - our first touring ever. It was now time for rock tour.
We loaded up in the pouring rain to head upstate to New England. A delightful trip (despite some nausea on the way home from the first one....) We hit Burlington, VT, Northampton, MA, and some little town in between, which I forgot the name of!
That was a good start, but was not the end... just a few days later we had a second trip, this time down to Florida - as part of the Heart of Darkness comedy and rock tour -- it was 3 bands all travelling together. The Heart of Darkness band with comedian Greg Barris, the band Corrupt Autopilot, New Beard, and the soulful Yazan did some solo performances too. It was all presented by the Florida Beer Company. Mmmm beer.
We flew down to Orlando and congregated at the home of our new friend Tierney from the great band The Pauses. Tierney’s house also had a special pet... Garbanzo, the giant tortoise!
Several great shows, Orlando, Boca Raton, and then Ybor City, and we made it out just hours before Hurricane Isaac. A good solid first rock tour.
Ok... that’s enough for now. Many more things coming up....
This is sidestage (raw) video from one of the more memorable shows I've ever done. In April 2012, the full Gato Loco was in Venice, Italy for an outdoor show, which got rained out. Consequently we crammed the entire band's setup, as well as a couple hundred people into a historic greenhouse and rocked the place. I love Venice.
8/23 - Will's Pub, Orlando
8/24 - Funky Bhudda, Boca Raton
8/25 - Crow Bar, Ybor City
Here is an initial update of my international shows over the next few months. This is only preliminary info, more will be added.
With GATO LOCO
With HEAVY TUBA
With SAIDAH BABA TALIBAH
With GATO LOCO
...more shows pending!
See the full calendar for all my gigs!
A new promotional video for Gato Loco with highlights of shows from Europe and NYC!
I have played on a Miraphone tuba exclusively since 1992. I have based my career on it and make my living on it. I still exclusively play the one horn I have ever bought. It's seen so much action... been ridden hard and put away wet, and still has so much character, flexibility and soul.
On Gato Loco's recent trip to Europe a couple of weeks ago, it was my extreme pleasure to get to visit and tour the Miraphone factory in Waldkraiburg, Germany, about an hour train ride outside of Munich, right in the heart of Bavaria.
It's a magical place full of magical people and magical instruments!
Upon arrival, I met Josef Eisgruber, a technician, artisan, and euphoniumist from the company. He was incredibly enthusiastic about his job at Miraphone, and explained how the company is actually employee-owned and every stage of their horn production happens right there.
Josef gave me a tour of every corner of the factory...
(click on each photo for a larger version, sorry some are a bit blurry, they are phone pictures)
Assembly bench with 4/4, 5/4, and 6/4 tubas in final stages of production.
The assembly room.
Raw brass, from Germany, used for valve tubing.
Raw brass, from Germany, used in the larger parts of the horn.
More raw brass storage.
Bow jig/mold for the 4/4 C and Bb tubas.
Josef with the press that uses the molds. A tenor horn mold is in there at the moment.
Bells of raw brass in an early stage of fabrication.
A worker hand fires and joins the edges of the raw brass to make a flugelhorn bell.
The bell is now made round by hand with a hammer and anvil.
This is used to further shape the bell (a mold, of sorts - this one is for a 3/4 tuba)
A worker further shapes a tuba bell.
A worker makes valves on this hi-precision lathe.
Miraphone makes all their valves in-house. These are rotary valves for a tuba.
Rotary valve paddles.
Valve clusters for the popular 'Norwegian Star' Eb/F tuba.
Tubas ready for lacquer then assembly.
Giant dryer to dry the parts before lacquering begins.
Complete horns awaiting assembly.
Horn assembly bench. This guy (and a few others) were rocking some serious blaßmusik in the background while they worked!
A beautiful new 188 (or "88" as they call it now) is almost complete.
Josef and the 88. All that's left to be added is valve linkage.
Josef and I with the 88.
A bunch of horns, almost completed.
Finishing each detail.
Even more detail work. I loved how this worker suspended the horn from the ceiling.
Stockroom with horns awaiting shipment.
Naturally, I had to have them give my horn a tweak! They replaced some parts of my valve linkage and tightened it all up -- I am guessing it is better now than it was when it was brand new!!!
Artisans working on my horn.
Amazing work!! Many many thanks!!!!!
While there, I also spent a lot of time playing horns... I was SO giddy, like a kid in a candy shop, that I forgot to take pictures of the showroom -- I even forgot my mouthpiece when I was done!! Wow, was I excited...!
I got a chance to meet and spend some time with their development manager Christian Niedermaier and I got a chance to play about a zillion different tubas. I played every single CC they had in the showroom, as well as a couple of prototypes, including the new 6/4 York-style horn which is still in development. (it was great, York-like, but still had a Miraphone soul) I played a few F and BBb tubas as well. The best tuba I played there (next to mine, of course!) was the new 5/4 "Bruckner" rotary CC. It was actually one of the best CC tubas I've ever played. I almost tried to buy it on the spot... It's absolutely outstanding. Another tuba of note was the good ol 88 (188) It still retains that old Miraphone soul!
That was a spectacular day and really was an honor for me. I'll definitely be back!! Thanks so much Miraphone!!!
Not 3 weeks after our previous trip to Munich and Salzburg, Gato Loco was back at it in Europe again. After a few really intense pre-tour rehearsals in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, all 10 of us hit the air to the Motherland.
We again arrived in Munich, as this time the first gig was actually there in town. The full band all congregated again in Munich's West End. Early the gig-day morning we headed out for setup, rehearsal and soundcheck at Munich's famous Unterfahrt Jazz Club. While the band only sort of rests on the precipice of jazz, high-end clubs like Unterfahrt (and Bimhuis in Amsterdam) seem to like us!
The club was nice, but not huge... akin in size to clubs in NYC like the Village Vanguard or Sweet Basil. The fact that it was in a basement even more reminded me of an NYC vibe. When we got there, the stage, barely large enough to hold all 10 of us, had a giant concert-grand piano right in the middle of it. This was a problem. We found the tech and the GL rhythm section all pitched in and we got that beast moved - at least to the side of the stage.
After getting creative to sort out some logistic sound issues, we hit that stage hard. The gig was great! Due to the venue's regulations we had to split our single rock-concert sized set into two separate jazz-type sets, but that's ok, we still made it rock! We wondered in that intimate room if people would hang out for our whole show, but the did! The place was completely packed. It was also fun to meet some new people who had already seen a few members of the band perform back in NYC and had made it to the show. The whole crew from our label, Winter and Winter, as well as our new friend, massive-instrument inventor Eppleshiem were all in the house. We had a really great night.
Gato Loco plays hard, both on and off stage. That night, after the show, the jet lag eventually hit me and I crashed back at the hotel, but rumor has it that some raucous activity took place late that night in München........
The next day our large band had a productive organizational meeting discussing the next levels into the future and our spring and summer tours of 2012. Awesome.
The following day was a big one for me personally, I had an appointment at the Miraphone factory in Waldkreiburg, about a hour train ride from München, (More on that HERE!!!)
Then the next day the entire band got on the train for a 4 hour ride to Göttingen, the city of Germany's oldest university. Gato Loco was to headline the town's week-long jazz festival.
We arrived in the early afternoon and checked into our hotel, which overlooked the car wash, bowling alley, a McDonald's and a Burger King. It was just like being in Anytown, USA. However, at this place, every band member had their own room and the beds were quite comfortable.
That afternoon, after a quick nap, some of the band went to the university to teach some lessons to members of the school's jazz band. We met for dinner, then some of the band tore up the festival's open jam session and celebrated into the night.
The next day was the festival finale, and I was well rested. We went to the venue which was on the outskirts of town in some sort of old warehouse. Nice place, and they had GREAT gear for us! The band took its time getting everything in order and we settled on for a nice soundcheck. It was definitely a "rock" setup, which is the type of situation that works best for that band.
It came to gig time and the place really filled up, it ended up being packed to the gills - and the band absolutely went for the jugular with that show! It was aggressive and exciting and the close-on crowd absolutely ate it up! We did one encore and they wanted another, so then we did another, and they wanted more so we gave them more... we probably could have played all night! Göttingen Loves Gato Loco (or Gatö Löcö...?)
Here's a nice review of the night. ...if you read German.
The next day we hopped the trains hit our respective departure cities and flew home.
We'll be back soon.
The fall is always a marathon, and I now finally have a couple of days to catch my breath. This fall has been a time of constant motion... Have tuba will travel!
Starting in September, New York's notorious Ja Ja Jas kicked off our Oktoberfest tear with shows in New York at our home base of Zum Schneider. It was madness as always; a line down the street to get in (and we heard that someone actually slept in their car to get a good space in line!)
Right after rehearsing in NYC, the Ja Ja Jas immediately hit the road for the south, first down to North Carolina, then up through Virginia, back to NYC for a few shows, then back down to Virginia again.
(here I am with Herbie Abernathy of Valient Thorr -- was at our show!)
Big festival crowds and new friends and great food and... beer. Those shows are a lot of work, but are worth it for the vibe and the crowd!
I took a break from the Ja Ja Jas' constant string of Blaßmusik rocking, to head overseas again with the mighty Gato Loco for our third European trip in just over a year. We brought our "Psycho-Mambo" brand of jazz-rock to headline the Salzburg "Jazz and The City" festival in gorgeous Salzburg, Austria. (original home of W.A. Mozart, who I share a birthday with)
Gato Loco all converged in Munich, from what seemed to be a million different flights. We finally all made it in and got a great afternoon of rehearsal in a gorgeous art loft transformed out of an old post office in Munich's West End.
Here I'll mention that this was the maiden air flight for the famed Accord tuba case. This is the hi-tech carbon flight case which weights only slightly more than a soft gigbag. It worked great - I had to take 2 different airlines to get to Munich and they obviously put the case to the test (scratched the crap out of the outside of it, and beat the bumpers) but the ultralight case held it's own - no tuba damage! It came right out of baggage claim, right up the conveyor with the normal-sized suitcases, and I was able put the horn right on my back and walk right out of the airport and hop on a train. Tuba players will understand what a HUGE deal this is!
We visited this retro place called a CD store and look what we found displayed prominently!
and of course, we hit some bier halls!
The next morning, we got up early and hurriedly headed up the Alps toward Salzburg.
Once in this very pretty town, we got to the hotel and the band quickly befriended the dirndl-laden hotel staff and everyone got a quick nap to chill in our nice digs before soundcheck.
The venue was great - a large ballroom type of venue. The band and house staff got quickly to work putting together our sizable setup of two separate drum setups, two separate bass setups, guitar plus seven different horns.
During our soundcheck, a representative came to our venue in Salzburg from the Accord Case company in Croatia to modify my case for me! (Rockstar treatment! yeah!!) He set me up well!
Between soundcheck we had the pleasure of heading up the mountain to one of the most notorious restaurants in Salzburg which overlooks the entire town. Amazing! There we dined on Deer and got a chance to catch up with our festival-mates Bobby Previte and Steve Swallow, who had just finished their set. We didn't linger long tho... Gato Loco was on the clock and had a job to do!
We started our usual off-stage entrance and quickly surprised the crowd.
The band threw down for the entire extended-length set. The kind Austrian crowd ate it up, got out of their seats and danced the night away. It was a great show.
After the show, per Gato Loco tradition, we joined some of the locals for some reveling on the town.
Upon my return to the Big Apple, there was no time to rest! First, immediately, the De Bajo portion of Gato Loco played at our favorite home base of Barbes in Brooklyn, and New Beard was in rehearsal. I then headed with the Red Hook Ramblers for a quick jaunt to Boston, then rushing back for a show at Lincoln Center in NYC. Right from LC I ran to a CMJ spot with New Beard at Union Hall in Brooklyn. The next morning it was back to the studio with NB and then break and run to play an orchestral gig at Carnegie Hall, all of this within about 3 days time. Whew!
Fortunately this week I have a few days to recover and then in a week it's back to the studio with New Beard, Halloween with Gato Loco de Bajo, then back to Germany for a few more shows with the full Gato Loco.
Lots of things to come... some great media from both New Beard and Gato Loco to be released soon and more shows shows shows with all sorts of bands. Tuba Life is never boring in NYC!
The case came today. It arrived exactly on the day TNT shipping said it would. It was packed very well. It arrived at my door in NYC all the way from Pula, Croatia unscathed. Here is the box itself, along with my awesome helper, Fiona.
Here shows the good packing job.
The case (and Fiona) Notice the Sudhaus latches.
Accord Case company logo on the left, my design on the right (commissioned from Dima Drjuchin http://www.avrodesign.com/dima/) The entire case is absolutely gorgeous, a work of art. (it's gonna kill me when the airline handlers scuff it up for the first time!)
Interior of case -- note all the cushions. These are modular and movable, they included extras and many various shapes. The cushions are dense, but also lightweight.
My horn in the case. The lid has a bit of play in it when open, so care must be taken when closing so that the lips of the case line up correctly.
The Fiedler Backback System addon. It is very comfortable and the horn at first try seems lighter than it does in the gigbag despite being 5-10lbs heavier, due to the better support of the backpack apparatus. The entire backpack system is easily removable. This whole case package is remarkably lightweight!
...I'll post more photos and info as I use it.
Simple, Post-Summer update:
This time of year is always a point of change and rejuvenation. Leaning into Oktoberfest is always symbolic - it's more than a bier-soaked gropefest powered by Oom and Pah, It's a transition out of the slower moving, fragmented summer into the work-frenzy that Autumn always is for me.
Summer was good, but I am glad the fall is here. As usual, I been working with quite a few bands and ensembles, but here's a few summer highlights from a few of the groups I am more vested in:
Big growth for the indie rock band of New Beard... from the big show we all put on at Littlefield, to the recent pre-hurricane show at Union Hall (which kicked ass!), and Zebulon and others between, that band just keeps getting better (and soon will hopefully release the awesome CD that we spent a year recording...!) The songs and dudes are just great.
I spent a lot of time in the trad trenches with the Red Hook Ramblers... we played all over place, and did several records. Highlights included our residency at Galapagos' Floating Kabarette, and now to add the Way Station. We made a live EP of original tunes recorded direct on to wax cylinder on an original Edison cylinder phonograph from 1908. The Ramblers will also appear in an upcoming episode of TLC's hit TV show "Four Weddings" to air in January.
Gato Loco has been working hard, much of it behind the scenes. We've kept the fire burning around town, but more importantly we've been working on two trips to Europe: Austria in October, then a larger trip in November which includes, Germany, Switzerland, and Holland. We have a number of trips already in motion for 2012. Stay tuned for upcoming media coming from this group!
Stay tuned for updates from NYC's legendary Mösl Franzi and the Ja Ja Jas. This coming Saturday kicks off our rockstar whirlwind that is Oktoberfest. Wish me luck!
Other CDs are coming out or recently came out with me on them: Recordings by Jack Grace, Kiku Collins, Voltaire, and Sabrina Chap' in addition to bands listed above. I go in this week to record another... I don't yet know who it is for!
A review surfaced from our Gato Loco show in Paris in March. Enjoy if you parle Français.
I was sad to leave France after being there less than 24 hours. I slept most of the way back through Belgium into Rotterdam. We got into town and found the venue. We were greeted by our contact Marianne, who right off the bat said: “Would you like to come in for a drink before you unload?” I knew I’d like this place!
A couple of us came in to check out the venue and saw a small room with a tiny stage in the corner. I immediately had that familiar sinking feeling that this was a punier venue than we thought... this is a NORMAL and common feeling in NYC, where many of the venues are the size of a small living room (and smell like a gas station restroom)
We followed Marianne to the back, expecting to find a greenroom or the likes. To our surprise and relief, the curtain on the back wall was concealing a large and glorious venue!!! It turned out to be much better than we had hoped for! This place, Grounds, had glassed in the entire courtyard behind the building and turned it into a gorgeous theater. The balconies of the surrounding buildings which had once overlooked the courtyard now made galleries for the theater... genius! The sound was top-notch as well. Their selection of gear was great as was the sound crew.
We unloaded the van and bid farewell to our kind driver Jonas. The hotel was right across the street and we assembled for soundcheck. We felt like this was going to be a great show, and it was. We started our usual march-in entrance from way up in the galleries and marched all the way down onto the stage, and that was only the beginning. The dancing crowd was awesome and made us feel so welcome.
We rocked the show, but the best was yet to come...
As we hung in the front bar for a bit after the show, the venue called last call. Well, we weren’t done. One of our new Dutch friends read our minds, and suggested what ended up being just perfect. We left Grounds and walked about a mile to a tiny dive bar where they buzzed us in and locked the door behind us. Our caravan of folks piled in... and what sweet music greeted our ears? A Meters B side on vinyl!! YES!! We were home. An amazing DJ and such a great crowd of locals made that night really fantastic. I left the bar at about 6:30am and it was still jumping. I had a gorgeous walk back to the hotel as the sun was coming up and the birds were singing. What a great end to a great night!
On to part VI....
After a much needed snooze, I awoke as we were coming into the famous Paris traffic.
We’d allowed plenty of time, so all was cool. When we got to the venue we were met by our friend Marie of the Banlieues Bleues festival with the exciting news that every band craves to hear: the show was SOLD OUT.
This was a wonderful surprise, as the festival had entrusted in us to open their whole festival, which of course we were thrilled to do.
It felt GREAT to be back in France.
A peculiar circular staircase down accessed the stage door at the venue. Fortunately there was a loading dock with a rickety lift for the gear, and they had a crew to move our stuff for us. (always appreciated as a tuba player!) The band waited on the sidewalk, taking a moment to soak up the Paris sun and to feel like rockstars.
Inside the venue was smoky! A large concert hall filled with smoke? This was France and all, but this was smoky even for them... we realized they were testing the theatrical smoke / fog machines along with a huge light setup -- as they were making a 5 HD camera video of the night, to be broadcast throughout Europe!
We setup and did our soundcheck thing, and all was copasetic. However, let's get our priorities straight -- the most important thing I was looking forward to in France (beyond the sold out show, of course) was the FOOD. Naturally, we were not disappointed. After soundcheck, we ran into our sweet friend from Bordeaux, "Audrey II” Theran who was not there to drive us in her father’s car (inside joke from back in Bordeaux), rather she was there to direct and lead us to dinner!! We were escorted a few blocks down the street to a delightful corner bistro that rocked us with some great grub. And of course, the incomparable Rich Stein provided the appropriate dinnertime entertainment.
I could have sat there all evening. But, we had a show to do, and a festival to kick off! We headed back to the venue and saddled up. We hit it and really hit it hard. The crowd loved it. It felt good to shake off the day of road travel as well as shake off the previous night’s show. The stage felt great and we hit a strong stride.
We were greeted by some more friends after the show. Once the general crowd left, there was a vip reception where we met some presenters of other festivals and interesting folks of all sorts. We desperately wanted to go out out on the town and catch up with our friends, but it was already like 2am and we still had to load out, and our hotel was way on the other side of Paris.
Fortunately, load out was easy. We got back to the hotel -- the same hotel we stayed at when we passed through Paris last summer. This was the place where we watched the finals of the World Cup and listened to neighborhoods howl in celebration or defeat, and watched cheeseballs fly out the window.
In the hotel elevator, I ran into another trombone player from NYC who happened to be in Paris to play with the Spanish Harlem Orchestra. They played the same festival the night after Gato Loco. What was funny is that he and I were just on tour with another band not two days before I came to Europe with Gato Loco. The music world is a small world indeed.
It was then off too bed, the van was leaving for Rotterdam early the next morning.
On to Part V....
So in the van, everyone tightly packed but comfortably snug within the Euro-comfort of their seats, we headed off for Paris through Belgium.
The countryside through Holland and Belgium is FLAT, but nice. I was excited to go through a country I’d not been before, so I didn’t sleep for a while. Holland looked like a giant putt-putt course. Funny. Seriously, I dug all the windmills.
And with regards to windmills, I am always left wondering why don’t we have more in the US? I’m not talking about the old-fashioned drainage ones, but what about the modern power-generating ones that are also all over the place... It’s seems pretty obvious to me...., Power by nothing burned.
I did get some sleep. I’m actually quite good at sleeping while comfortably upright; a valuable skill I learned years ago living on a crowded tour bus for months at a time.
I awoke to stopping in Belgium at one of my fav spots I miss in the USA. AUTOGRILL! (yes folks, it’s even better than Wawa!) Autogrill is a European highway rest stop that ROCKS. Instead of all fast food, it’s actually a grocery store! There's even a lovesick Italian movie called Pane e Tulipani that kicks off in an Autogrill. My wife and I got to really love them driving all over Italy a few years ago.
Now, I’d be remiss if I didn’t write about a Gato Loco excursion without at least a mention of the great Rich Stein.
Rich is unequivocally, the funnest van guy ever. He kept us amazingly entertained, as always. His personality is as infectious as his kick-ass drumming. His riveting and long recounting on an award-winning essay he wrote on a theoretical background of Tolkien’s characters was awesome. I’m not kidding. That and his road stories, like traveling by private jet with Lauryn Hill, were worth the price of admission.
March 10-11, Amsterdam
The next day we awoke at a decent hour, the jet lag and the previous-night's festivities were semi-slept off. We had rehearsal at the hall. Our vehicles picked us up promptly.
The building the Bimhuis space resides in is incredible! The Musiekgebouw aan 't Ij is a gorgeous specimen of Van der Rohe-ish modernity. The Bimhuis space is a hi-tech listening room located in a cantilevered box that juts out over the river. The entire complex is breathtaking... and what's more incredible is that this amazing structure is completely dedicated to modern music!
Inside this impressive place is a rehearsal room and all the gear we could ever want.
We immediately hit the space and started to work off our travel and refresh our minds. The whole band was into it and ready to work.
After rehearsal we hit the stage for soundcheck... and this audiophiles' room took some getting used to... both on our end as well as on the house crew's end. The thing is with Gato Loco is, while we may at first look like a modern jazz outfit, Gato Loco is really a rock band in disguise. And yes, we are LOUD.
We powered through the soundcheck, doing what we could to get used to the sound of the room, as well as our newer, slightly reduced octet compliment.
Then we checked in to the hotel. THE HOTEL. Wow. It was in the same complex, and absolutely stunning. It was the best hotel room I've ever stayed in. Not the largest room, but it was unequivocally the best. Not only were the beds great, my view over the river Ij was unbelievable. This hotel had to have the best views in all of Amsterdam.
I had a few minutes, so broke out the phone, hooked up the WiFi and used this rare tour time-off to do some Face-Time to catch up with the family back home. (Face-Time is AWESOME)
We then headed back to the venue and had a wonderful dinner, and the show started. A nice violin-led fusion-y band started out the night, followed with a great pianist that worked with prepared piano. Then we got our chance to hit, and we did our best to hit it really hard. Sonically it was tough, but we fought through it like brutes. I have no idea how it came off. We were exhausted and missing that post-show adrenaline that we often have. (more on the results of the show later*) We still decided we needed to celebrate this show; being the first show of our second European tour. The whole band hung out on the ferry dock of the Musiekgebouw aan 't Ij and really enjoyed each other's company. That's an amazing thing about this band is that we all get along so well and genuinely enjoy being around each other.
*note - reviews of the show were AWESOME. In Dutch, but awesome nonetheless.
The next morning, after too little sleep in this majestic hotel, we congregated in the hotel's restaurant for the king-of-all-hotel-continental-breakfasts! HOLY CRAP it was amazing! That breakfast is still a topic of conversation.
We then met in the lobby and waited for our new drivers. We hired a company called “Just Like Your Mom” which is a band touring company out of Belgium. They had driven my sister and the band she's in, Nashville Pussy, and their crew, for almost an entire month just prior to us getting there. Our driver Jonas was also NP's driver. He was prompt and professional, and the van was exactly as promised… and everything fit in the back, including the tuba crate, so all was good. The van was packed tight, but everyone seemed comfortable enough.
Next, on the road. Continued in Part III....
March 8/9, NYC to Amsterdam
This was Gato Loco's second trip to Europe - and after the first one, this second one had a lot to live up to!
Our previous trip to Bordeaux last summer was amazing... it was one of those dream touring / travel situations where the group and the environment worked together so harmoniously.
I knew going into this second trip that it would be easy to fall into a pitfall of missed expectations...
Fortunately, we are 2/2. The second trip just a few weeks ago was just as incredible.
Due to logistic reasons, for this trip we decided to take only 8 of us instead of the full 11 that we took before. This was truly a difficult choice for us. The band powered ahead, much because of Stefan's unwavering positive outlook.
On to the tour...
Due to cartage of my tuba, I, and trombonist Ric Becker to keep me company, flew British Airways via Heathrow, while the other 6 flew Delta straight through to Amsterdam.
After the usual prerequisite pre-flight battle at the airlines check-in counter regarding my tuba, the flights were just fine. Pretty much as a rule, airline counter agents do NOT know the current baggage policies of the companies they work for, they tend also to be supplied with outdated information. (just an FYI!)
I had entered this trip practically stepping right off the plane from another trip - a one-nighter from NYC to Tucson and back again for a show with Theolonius Monk Jr. I was starting this trip into my third consecutive day of airtravel. I was exhausted, so it was great to have entire rows of seats to ourselves!
On British Airways, the food is always decent, and I did get to catch up on some sleep. I also watched the Big Lebowski to bide the time. The Dude abides. (The Dude is a personal hero of mine)
Becker stretched out across the seats and made a bed for himself with a conglomeration of blankets and pillows and even disrobed for his nighty-night time. Now there is an experienced tour-er!
After a long-ish layover in London, we got to Amsterdam and the tuba made it too, unscathed. Our driver was waiting for us, card "Gato Loco" in hand (Rockstar!) only to find that the tuba crate would not fit into the fancy Mercedes sedan they'd brought. Fortunately, a station wagon (also a Mercedes) was only a short phone call away. Once in that car Ric wanted to hear some tunes, so the driver took that opportunity to show off his surround sound with the audio from the helicopter scene from Apocolypse now. That was just what I wanted to hear after what seemed like a month on an airplane…..
Holland seems to be a very friendly place, and it seems that the average masses there have a quite high standard of living. It must be all the tulips that make them so cheery. Oh, legal hookers and weed probably don't hurt either.
Our little hotel was fine - was an old mansion adjacent to the Vondelpark... Amsterdam's Central Park. Pretty cool.
There at the hotel, we met up with the rest of the band who had arrived earlier in the day. The rooms were small but clean.
That evening, many of the band went around the corner to go hear the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, but after this, my fourth day of air travel in a row, I couldn't deal with anything that required cognitive thought. …much less Brahms. I went perusing the town with the Gato Loco rhythm section.
To be continued....