Saturday, December 31, 2005

busy musical week in Stevens Point

More details and audio to come...

Tuesday 27th - "Song Swap" at the Clark Place, a lot of fun jamming along with Neil Young, Dylan, Beatles songs, etc.. Very cosy, informal, non-competitive atmosphere, a lot of great musicians playing a lot of great songs. The sound and shape of my saz always makes people think of the sitar, hence George Harrison, Ravi Shankar, etc., so of course we ended up playing "Norwegian Wood"...None of this got recorded.

Wednesday 28th - open mic sessions at The Mission and The Clark Place, jamming with Ryan Biesack (amazing percussionist) who came down from Waupaca for the evening. The first one was a bit rough, kind of a warm-up, but still quite well-received. The monitoring at the Clark Place was a bit better, and we really got into a groove, people seemed to really like it. We ended with a version of "25 Years", a piece I created as a 25th birthday present for Inge, and that worked particularly well - afterwards, Sonny, one of the current proprietors, asked me if it was a Joe Walsh tune - the first time that's happened!

Listen Here

...and here's some stuff we recorded back in early 2001.

Ryan Biesack, jamming in Poland, 2005
Ryan Biesack, jamming in Poland, earlier in 2005

Thursday 29th - I played over at The Yoga Studio for an intermediate yoga class taught by my favourite yoga teacher ever, Jenifer Ebel (sister of Joe "Rebel without an R" Ebel). In 2002 I played at her old studio with a one-off improv group, while people stretched, meditated, etc. [The recording is here.] It's a particularly nice setting to make music, as people are in a very receptive state, but not entirely focussed on the musician(s). Also, the 'reverential' atmosphere is more conducive to playing music as a sort of prayer or offering to one's higher self (which is what I think music ultimately should be) than most places (such as smokey mid-Wisconsin barrooms). This time it was just me, playing gently in a corner whilst Jenifer led her students through their various asanas. She concludes with a breathing exercise, so I gradually slowed down the last piece and came to the gentlest ending I could manage. She's having to give up the lease on the current studio and move to a location next to the Wisconsin River, so I hope that's successful, and look forward to playing in the new studio next time I'm here.

Listen Here

The Yoga Studio, Stevens Point
my view, more-or-less, playing at The Yoga Studio

Last night (Friday 30th) I played a solo set at The Mission Coffeehouse, opening for my friend Jenny Ludeman's new band "The Deadlies" (Jenny, and guitarist Jeff LaMarsh were formerly in the excellent Irene's Garden, which evolved from The Stellectrics who I remember from the mid 80's). Ken Stevenson who I jammed with in Madison briefly was also a Stellectric for some years. Originally I was supposed to be providing the music for a group of bellydancers I'd worked with a few years ago, then they cancelled and it was going to be me and Ryan. Then Ryan couldn't make it, and so it was just me, alone on a stage, attempting to entertain people with just my saz - not something I've actually done before. For the first time I can remember, I felt noticeably nervous, and tightened up so that my playing was rather rushed and generally quite weak. But people still seemed to like it (the saz, particularly played by an English person, has a certain novely value in Wisconsin) - a selection of jammed-out Irish, English, Scottish, Cornish and Greek folk tunes, plus my own "Mingus/Fungus" and "Norwegian Wood" morphed into "The Holly and the Ivy". I made a rough audience recording, but was later informed by Cole behind the sound-desk that he'd recorded it straight to hard-drive - he'd even burned me a CD by the time The Deadlies finished their first set - amazing efficiency. Listening back confirmed what I thought - not a recording I'd really like to make public!

The Deadlies gig poster 30/12/05

The poster was a themed 50's sci-fi comic book art thing, saying "Featuring The Starmen of Llyrdis", so I announced myself as "The Starmen of Llyrdis" (the rest of me being invisible and inaudible), and explained that I was originally meant to be accompanying a group of bellydancers...

After I came offstage, the Deadlies' drummer's father approached me to ask me about myself, my saz and my choice of tunes - he almost immediately brought up The Incredible String Band (who he'd met in Milwaukee on their U tour), Martin Carthy, and Dave Swarbrick, which was extremely encouraging, as these are some of my all-time musical heros. It must be more of a "vibe" thing that a "sound" thing, but over the years a few people have brought up the String Band after hearing me play. They were who Inge and I were listening to most extensively when we first started playing improvised saz and mandolin together back in 1994. It's very rare to meet anyone in the States familiar with obscure British psychedelia and folk-rock. He also mentioned David Lindley, the guitarist out of a US psychedelic folk band called Kaleidoscope, who now plays some saz, among other things - I shall have to check him out.

After The Deadlies finished, and a few beers were consumed, my old friend Marty took me to a biker bar called "Big Todd's Rumble Inn" where we played bad pool, ate disgusting stuffed pretzels and listened to Whitesnake, AC/DC, etc. on the jukebox - all very entertaining.


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