Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Seattle prattle

Not very pointy, is it?

Well, that was interesting.

Day two of the latest IJG excursion is now over and done with. The IJG-PNW band did an intrepid job, I must say. It is never an easy thing to learn this music -- but to do so with a minimum of rehearsal, alongside thirteen other musicians who are similarly green; well, that's a real feat. And to have fun in the bargain (as pretty much everyone involved told me that they did) may be the optimal outcome for an experiment like this.

I wouldn't exactly say that I had fun, alas -- even during those moments when things really came together musically, this "tour" was overall a fairly stressful experience. That's partly because the audience turnout was a bit disappointing -- in terms of listeners-per-square foot, it was probably on par with the Barnsdall nadir of last April. (Of the two nights, Seattle was marginally better-attended. Of course it may only have seemed that way because of the architectural configuration of LoFi, which was narrower and more intimate than the cavernous newness of the Someday Lounge. (Both are amazing venues, by the way.))

One measure of the resulting frustration: I actually forgot to introduce Jill in Seattle. This despite the fact that she was the only other "original member" of the group to be on the tour (a circumstance that was only possible because she covered her own airfare), and despite the fact that she provided me with a very valuable point-of-reference throughout the week. Throw in the not-insignificant detail that she is also a dear friend, and you have a very unfortunate situation indeed.

I suppose I should be satisfied with the fact that I managed to fill the entire band with subs, cuz that was certainly the trickiest part of this whole thing. Of course, the musicians who gave of their time had less of a history with the project, which meant that there was a little more of a "hired gun" vibe than I am used to. (That's nobody's fault -- like any other relationship, true musical camaraderie takes time.) On the other hand, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that a few of the PDX / Seattle players, upon seeing the low turnout, refused to accept any money for their services -- a fact for which I am both embarrassed and grateful.

Anyway, the upshot, for me, was that there was just too big of a contrast with the euphoria of January's east coast tour, with its big, happy audiences; its artistic esprit de corps; and its sense that we were finally getting somewhere. I used the (easy) metaphor of a drug to describe that tour, and now that I have been denied my fix, I see how accurate I was. In the wake of the PDX / Seattle shows, I am finding myself irritable, peevish, self-absorbed, and just generally unpleasant to be around. It's a feeling that is fading a little this week, but I'm clearly going through some kind of withdrawal. (The irony is that there are numerous very cool IJG things being planned for the months ahead -- so I'm fairly certain the cycle is going to begin again. The trick now will be figuring out how to sustain the high.)

Poor Britney. First the breakdown, and then this flyer.

One of the more positive side effects of the PNW shows is that I got to add Reptet (authors of the above flyer, and bookers of these gigs) to the list of cool new bands the IJG has double-billed with. If I haven't been clear, Reptet is yet another under-the-radar mostly-instrumental jazz-derived ensemble that deserves your attention. Except for our mutual friends Gutbucket, they embody the jazz-punk aesthetic (and lifestyle) perhaps better than any other group I am aware of. Their latest record would have made my "best-of-'06" list, if I had actually heard it in '06. And on top of everything, and at great personal risk, two of their members (Samantha Boshnack on trumpet and Izaak Mills on tenor) joined the IJG ranks on both evenings (and thus ended up playing more music than any of us -- and without any perceptible loss in energy). Reptet are truly the bee's knees, and I hereby thank them officially for their friendship.

In the days immediately after the Seattle show, I kept returning to the question of whether it had been a mistake to go ahead and follow through on these gigs after I had discovered that I couldn't afford to bring up any of the IJG regulars. Aside from my disappointment at the turnout, I still think the tour was the right thing to do. As painful as it was to perform to a near-empty room again, at least I have finally put to rest the nagging feeling that I need to start getting my feet wet in the Pacific Northwest scene (even if if I did end up leading with my face and not my feet). If nothing else, I established a beachhead -- I need to remember that success up here is going to take time. I also met a ton of wonderful musicians (again, thanks to Rob Scheps for this -- and thanks as well to Tim DuRoche, Una O'Riordan, Jonathan Sielaff, and Mary-Sue Tobin). A few of the folks on the gig actually had that certain industrial je ne sais wha?, and so hopefully I won't have seen the last of them on an IJG bandstand.

Taking on the impossible, counterclockwise from left: Jim Sisko, trumpet; Rob Scheps, soprano sax; Chris Fagan, alto; Tom Hill, bone; Marc Smason, bone.

Oh, yeah, and I think I discovered a new metaphor for the frustrating insanity of the music business (the last metaphor, you may recall, was Christina Aguilera). I can't say more yet, but stay tuned...

1 comment:

lightinthewoods said...

Heya bud,

I just wanted to drop you a quick note to congratulate you on the (I would assume) hugely tricky job of getting the proverbial ball rolling. I can't imagine the difficulty you must have had in finding people to fill the giant shoes of the original crew.

Sorry to hear that this set was... less than ideal, but keep at it. Your determination and focus will see the show a grand thing indeed.