August 24: Culver City! August 25-6: Carson City! August 27: Oakland! August 28: Bakersfield!
Before I forget, there's a Mike Richardson quote from this tour that I simply need to record for posterity. Uttered on Friday: "It was a good day for emergency vehicles." (Mostly these had nothing to do with us, except for that fucking cop on the 5 freeway -- thanks for the ticket, Officer Chuck!)
Anyway, we're back! Here's the quick sketch of the last five days:
The first show was in our "home turf" of Culver City, and I must say it was the most fun I've had with the group in a long time. Not because of the performance (which is always top-notch, let's face it), but because of the audience. I don't know where our LA fans have been hiding for the last year but this time around they came out in droves. It was what is referred to in the business as a "good turnout," and the audience responsiveness made a great show so much better.
In fact, in general we had good audiences for this tour, at least in comparison with the recent past. Bakersfield proved the most disappointing in this regard, but what that city lacked in bodies, it sure made up for in enthusiasm.
We also had some new faces / sounds in the group, and, oh my goodness, the resulting stew was some kind of wonderful. I had been flirting with the idea of vibes (and other auxiliary percussion) for some time, and had only recently gotten around to following through, thanks in part to the urging of IJG stalwart Dan Rosenboom. DR turned me on to the playing of Drew Jorgensen, who joined us for the beginning and the end of the tour, pushing the eerieness factor in our music up by a few notches.
And that factor was pushed up a few notches more with the addition of Tany Ling, a world-class soprano who ably jumped into the void left by the absence of Jill (our regular singer, herself world-class, whose Burning Man commitments prevented her from doing this tour). Big band + vibes + soprano = chills! (Incidentally, I am now drooling at the possibility of getting Tany and Jill together for some future show to start re-presenting at least some of those long-silent Evelyn Situation harmonies -- in an IJG context, of course. I can dream, can't I?)
Tany sang with us in Culver City, but she couldn't do the rest of the tour, so in Oakland we had Dina Emerson, and in Bakersfield, Amanda Tiner. Tany was the only one who had had the benefit of two rehearsals, but each of these other chicks stepped up to the task with a bravery that I find humbling. Particularly notable was Amanda (that's right, sister of our esteemed colleague and good friend, Kris Tiner), who performed with us in Bakersfield and who is the first singer to actually have brought a jazz sensibility to the music, sending things in new, unanticipated, and totally beautiful directions.
On top of all of this, there is footage of at least two, maybe three of the shows from this tour. More than enough footage, in fact, for me to seriously think about the possibility of putting some sort of DVD thing together. (Or at least for me to finally get some sense of how ridiculous I look when I'm conducting.)
The trip was not without its drama, of course. (Another quote for the ages: KT, I think, pointing out something to the effect that it just wouldn't be an IJG tour otherwise.) Mostly this had to do with the Carson City festival, as (through some combination of miscommunication, misunderstanding, and lack of a contract) the initial offer of three sets turned into two sets, which turned into one set, which turned into one set with the rhythm section being drafted for some other group. In the interest of putting this shit to bed (as Carmine Lupertazzi would put it), these are complications that I'd rather not revisit here. Suffice it to say that things were ultimately resolved. We ended up using the quintet version of the group for the festival, playing a totally bitchen show late on Friday (immediately after completing an eight hour van ride), and then on Saturday providing background music for some strange, starched, private party (apparently the festival folks wanted to give us a chance to play twice after all, but this was the best thing they could find). We're not exactly good at providing background music, but no matter: we got fed, we got bread, and we got beer. Lots of beer.
(Speaking of the quintet, I'd be remiss if I didn't give mad props to Ariel Alexander, who over the past few months has cheerfully taken on the somewhat formidable task of learning three separate IJG alto books (quintet, tentet, and big band) in record time. Ariel was a particularly big hit in Carson City, and her willingness to travel in the midst of so much unbridled testosterone betrayed a pluckiness that I won't soon forget. She's a strong, strong addition to the group.)
There is one last theme that came up several times during this tour, and that bears repeating here. In Oakland, a guy came up to me after the show and said that he would pay a lot of money to see us in a bigger venue. In Bakersfield, someone else mentioned that I should be getting paid a lot of money to write music. "A lot of money": this is a phrase that I have never been able to realistically associate with the IJG, but as we get tighter (and believe me, by the end of this trip, the group was tighter than a flapper in a speakeasy), and as we build our vocal book, and as we get funnier and funner and weirder and cooler, it's a phrase that I hear more and more.
We'll see. Cross your fingers.
Anyway, thank you, musicians of the IJG. You never cease to amaze me.