TRAVELING THROUGH COUNTRIES
I’ve been in 8 countries with Béla Fleck and the Flecktones since Nov. 1. The first 2 weeks were spent in a different country just about every day with a show each night on 3-5hrs of sleep. The Flecktones may have single-handedly kept European airlines in business as they gouged us at every opportunity — charging 10-20euros per Kg over each persons 20kg (44lb) limit. I dusted off my weak Spanish, visited the Acropolis, lost myself in a world of Van Gogh’s, and visited all three of my ancestral homelands – Ireland, Czech Republic, and The Netherlands.
Back in the States, a tour bus took us from the northeast to the western Rockies, and everywhere inbetween. We shared many evenings with the increadible Alash – a group of Tuvan throat singers. Here’s a clip from the show in Chicago, performing Big Country. (More videos below, including Alash, below).
PHOTO PROJECTS ON THE ROAD
My goal was to document the same subjects at every gig over the 2 months of touring – as a way to remember the whirlwind of activity, to see how things differed night to night, and to give a glimpse into the touring life. Some subjects may be familiar, some may not — ticket tellers, dressing room mirrors, backstage bathrooms, backstage hallways, views from the stage, hotel carpet, my hotel room, and the view from my window.
I have two shows with the Colorfools in January. ‘Twill be good to stir it up with my buddies after this long absence. In February and March, I’m back out on the road with Béla Fleck – as stage manager and occasional fiddler – as he does his second US tour with musicians from Africa. We’ll be joined by Bassekou Kouyate and his band Ngoni Ba (Mali). Back with us from the first tour will be Anania Ngoliga and John Kitime (Tanzania). It’ll be 6 solid weeks of shows. See if we’re coming to your neck of the winter woods.
I have a few brainstorms storming right now, but it’s too early to talk. I’ll share when the sun comes back out. For now, please enjoy this tune from the show in Kalamazoo, MI.
MY CREW NECK
The Flecktones gig was twofold – an emphasis on crew work with some playing thrown in. I would load in/out, set up the stage – mainly Futureman’s drum world (tuning included), check in merch, find espressos / hot tea, and do whatever else needed to be done. I was banished from loading the trailer because of my hands – instead given the job of clearing out the food from the dressing room. It was often a 12hr work day (travel not included).
I found inspiration through listening and discussing, and did my best to practice fiddle. For the holiday tour portion (the last month), I handled my normal crew tasks and played songs every show. The nights were a bit more hectic, and after a full day of manual labor I had to summon mental and physical musical dexterity, but I was excited to be making noise. (Oh, I had also been squeezing in the above mentioned photo projects every day…)
I managed to meander in a couple cities and take some other photos. I borrowed my daughter’s monkey (we call him the Vice President of Fun) for some European poses to share when she gets older. Taking this photo, a young woman said to me “Wow, my friend takes a stuffed bear around to snap photos of, but I’ve never seen a guy do this…and of a….strange….monkey….” You never know what you’ll see in Athens.
NOT SO NEW KNEWS…
Oog never ceases looking for new life experience. Perhaps it will become your soundtrack for a few moments – wherever you are, whatever you are doing. Have a listen online right now, or send yourself one today.
Sharing evenings with the Alash Ensemble was an extreme pleasure. See them if you have the chance. I’ll leave you with the end of the show.