Monday, March 31, 2008

To Wisconsin

I'm now in central Wisconsin again, for a few weeks. The tedium of the flight over was alleviated by the onboard digital sound interface on the back of the seat in front of me, allowing me to construct a playlist from an impressive selection of albums and lose myself in some fine sounds for many hours - most notably a track of the last White Stripes album called "Rag and Bone", the Zep's "Achilles Last Stand" and a song off Manu Chao's new one called "Rainin in Paradize". After dozin' on a busride up to Madison I was met by my guitarist friend Peter and his girlfriend Kate. We went back to his apartment for a bottle of Central Waters brew (as celebrated in song by central Wisconsin slopgrass merchants Sloppy Joe) and a saz and guitar blues jam. Pete's been exploring the blues the last couple of years (as well as teaching in a remote indigineous community in Alaska) and, more recently, gypsy jazz.

Wandering around the city the next day I noticed on a poster that The Mekons (who I've never seen, but would love to) were playing at The Barrymore the night I arrived. Oh well.

That evening, before driving north, we stopped by Kate's house, which she shares with a thoroughly outrageous and extraordinarily creative luthier called Ellie. Pete wanted Ellie to see my saz. She immediately made reference to David Lindley, started jamming on it, announced her intention to build me an electric one (and another for herself) and then proceeded to just give me a beautiful old round-back mandolin that had apparently just been hanging around on her front porch for a couple of years (she was going to sell it in a garage sale, she said). I've put new strings on it, tuned it in a G-D-G-D, and it sounds gorgeous. I can't quite believe this instrument is now mine. I'd been thinking vaguely about diversifying recently (my old balalaika is just a bit too clunky sounding and generally lives in Exeter, only coming out for COTD jams).

Ellie with steampunk Flying V
Ellie with "steampunk Flying V", built especially for a Halloween party!

Ellie's in a couple of Madison bands - an acoustic trio called "Toadkiller Dog" and The (New) Sigourney Weavers, a band in which she plays "horrible, nasty" electric guitar. The plan is to spend a couple of days back in Madison before heading back across the Atlantic so she can build my electric saz, and we can record some "endless, mindless jams" (her words, but sounds good to me).

So here I am in Stevens Point again. I'm sitting in what used to be The Mission coffeehouse. It's changed owners again and is now "The Afterdark". It still has an open mic night. The Clark Place is gone (but its weekly "Song Swap" lives on at The Elbow Room, the town’s most tolerant, and tolerable, bar). Everyone’s favourite music venu, Witz End, is long gone. My percussionist friend Ryan has moved to Oregon. But Sloppy Joe are still very much active (should get to jam with Gavin, Stef, et al. while here), Lieutenant Dan's around and looking forward to some more sessions, and Ryan's avant-garde trombonist/composer friend Dan is still here - I ran into him last night - he's about to graduate from the UWSP music programme, has a recital on 22nd April, playing his arrangements of some jazz standards with an ensemble, and a couple of original compositions (both in an 11/4 time signature, I'm pleased to hear). Dan's got a basement full of instruments and recording gear, so I'm hoping some new sounds may emerge from there while I'm around. Talking in the Elbow Room with him last night, I was suddenly reminded of a crazy, drunken late night jam in Maggie and Ken's music room a few years back, the only memory of which I have is that of Dan hammering out tone clusters on a nasty-sounding little electric organ while I played what was probably a rather out-of-tune, amplified-to-the-point-of-being-distorted saz...


Post a Comment

<< Home