Wednesday, May 30, 2018

SIMRIT Spring Tour 2018 Part 3

Part 1
              Part 2

 April 21: Tonight we played at the Tremont Temple Baptist Church in the heart of Boston just around the corner from the Boston Commons.  I enjoyed getting a taste of this city's unique culture when there was a chance to take a quick walk around downtown. I always try to get outside of the venue after the soundcheck and before the show to get a read on where exactly we currently situate on the planet and how that might play into this evening's experimental music invocation.  I remembered something R.U. Sirius said that Timothy Leary felt it important to be aware of your geophysical location.  BAWSTON: a lot of sports fans here mingling with the ghosts of revolutionary soldiers; a bar similar looking to the one from Cheers serving excellent hearty pub food.  On the way downtown we got pulled over by a cop  who looked like he could be out of The Departed.  A vehicle matching our description had been involved in a hit and run ... or so he said ... He circled the Sprinter about four times apparently looking for damage.  I tried not to think anything in case he was a psychic reader.  We told him a couple of corny jokes and got passed that bardo guard.

This basement meeting hall underground in a church was a last minute choice when a different venue fell through.  The concert still sold out despite the last minute switcheroo.  This venue gets my vote for the funkiest on tour.  There was a balcony, and, fortunately, a QSC sound system already in place on the main floor which allowed me to daisychain our QSC mains off of them and posiiton our mains as fills up in the balcony.  The acoustics here were extremely lively.  There was a hard wall right behind the very shallow stage to contribute more unwanted reflections from the stage sound. A few dozen people chatting before the show sounded like a throng of thousands.

You would never know that this concert was a bit of an endurance test for the band - third show in a row and a four hour drive to get here from Staten Island. The additional stress added something, in my opinion.  Everyone dug deep into their reserves of energy and pulled off a powerful and moving show; second wind enriched consciousness phenomena.  Once again they were dancing in the aisles, on the sides and in the back.  A highly successful invocation judging by the response of the concert-goers.

A Wilson Cloud Chamber works as a special detector in subatomic physics for tracking the passage of the kind of particles usually imperceptible some of which flash into measurable existence for only seconds or fractions of a second at a time.  The glowing faces and the kirilian aura photographs of some of the audience following the concert seems like a Wilson Cloud Chamber for tracking the passage of the living being(s), the nonorganic life force that used this space as a landing pad after a series of calls placed by SIMRIT.

 Kirilian aura photograph.

April 26: We arrived in Montreal yesterday.  A circuitous route to our hotel in Chinatown gave us a tour of the lavish houses, estates and mansions of Mount Royal - the Beverly Hills or Bel Air of Montreal.

Tonight's venue is the St. George's Anglican Church.  I felt like a speck of cosmic dust inside the vastness of this edifice.  The promoter said it had the penultimate free-standing (i.e. no horizontal support pillars) church roof in the world second only to Westminster Abbey in London.  A stage was constructed about a third of the way from the altar by a theatrical production company. They provided and hung a quality lighting system along with a reliable electrical supply for the sound and lights.

A big portrait of St. George slaying a dragon hangs in the large dining hall that serves as a temporary Green Room. Lots of resonance here.  St George's Saints Day was April 23rd, three days ago.  St. George is how some Fourth Way cognoscenti refer to George I. Gurdjieff.  My middle name is George, same as my father and grandfather.  Today the news broke that Bill Cosby was convicted of sexual crimes, the first powerful celebrity in these times to face legal repercussions for unacceptable, multiple sex abuse offenses.  As I write this, Harvey Weinstein has just turned himself in and been charged with rape.  St. George lives on as an archetype to combat this disease.

I loved mixing in this big space even though having to drive our modest P.A. to the limit. It helps when you have a great band and performance.

April 27: Centretown United Church, Ottawa.  This being the capital of Canada, I half-jokingly asked one of the volunteers to invite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as part of my mission to expose World Leaders to transformational music.  It turns out this volunteer did business with the government and happened to have Trudeau's email address.  An invitation was sent though I didn't see the PM in the audience.  Probably too last minute.  Or maybe he had important business to tend to like talking Trump off a ledge.

I had the idea to tie in Simrit's harmonium to the massive pipe organ resonators behind the stage, but this proved technically unfeasible with the amount of time we had to set up.  This church had a balcony which would get enough sound coverage in the center seats from our speakers on the ground floor.  The side balcony seats only received indirect coverage, it sounded like you were in another room, but I was told no one would be sitting there.  It wasn't cordoned off so people chose to sit there anyway.  I didn't have any extra speakers to fill in that region so ended up running the mains as loud as I could get away with to get the sound up there.  I had fun mixing this way, I love loud clean volume and now had a good excuse.

Pipe organ in Ottawa.  The harmonium is the wood instrument in the middle of the stage.

April 28: Toronto's unique ambience instantly conjured memories of playing there for the first time with The Tickets in 1983; folds in time.  We drove through Kensington Market stopping to get groceries; breathing in Toronto.

Tonight's concert took place at the Church of the Holy Trinity in Trinity Square, downtown Toronto right across from the Eaton Centre. It looked like they did a lot of charity work for homeless people there.  I set up the Midas in front of a soup kitchen that regularly gave food to anyone who needed it. There was a feeling of being on the street yet inside sanctuary when in the church.  I met a Friendly Guide named Brian who was there to set up and operate the lights, but who was also a sound engineer. He helped me set up our P.A. and hipped me a little bit to the acoustic characteristics in this highly reverberant performance chamber.

After soundcheck, I was able to get away for about an hour to have dinner with some old friends, Terry and Lisa Tompkins.  We caught up as best we could in that short time span.  Brief as the visit was, like last year when we played Toronto, I received an "external shock,"  to put it in Gurdjieffian terms, a outside energizing influence to help complete the octave of the tour.  I gave my copy of M Train to Lisa and a new edition of A Thousand Plateaus to Terry.  We had discussed Deleuze & Guattari at dinner last year and he had expressed interest.

I suggested he start  with Chapter 11, 1837: Of the Refrain.  This is where I had first been drawn into Delueze.  I might have told him that I meant only the first few pages of this chapter.  I recently read the whole thing and found the writing becoming very complex and difficult after those first few pages.  It seems to be about creating order out of chaos using a musical framework. This chapter examines  the subject of genesis - how "things" and evolutionary processes come into existence.

"A child hums to summon the strength for the schoolwork she has to hand in.  A housewife sings to herself, or listens to the radio as she marshals the antichaos factors of her work. ... For sublime deeds like the foundation of a city or the fabrication of a golem, one draws a circle, or better yet walks in a circle as in a children's dance, combining rhythmic vowels and consonants that correspond to the interior forces of creation as to the differentiated parts of an organism.

 - ATP, p. 311

"The refrain may assume other functions, amorous, professional, or social, liturgical, or cosmic: it always carries earth with it; it has a land ( sometimes a spiritual land) as its concomitant; it has an essential relation to Natal."
- ATP p.312

The refrain, in this instance, is a repeated motif of a special kind that D&G delineate at the start of the chapter.  The statement that the refrain always carries earth with it seems another way of saying that the work you do to raise consciousness accrues.  Any refrain of meditation, yoga, ritual, prayer,  etc. etc. you do adds up, it accrues; the alchemical process, the "spiritual land," develops with those kinds of refrains. 

For myself and the others on tour, the repeated concerts make a kind of meta-refrain, a refrain of refrains, that matches the conditions described by D & G. in that chapter - a consecrated space that opens up to the Cosmic.

 Loading out our gear in wintery temperatures, the night air was fresh and clear.  I joined Salif, Jared and Shannon on the 2 km or so walk to get the Sprinter.  The concert and events of the day had given me a whole different perspective on the city like I was an extraterrestrial seeing it for the first time.  Everything was packed and we were ready to leave when, Brian, who had helped with the load-out, pointed to Trnity Square and remarked that there was a labyrinth there.  I looked over and could see absolutely nothing so assumed that it must be painted or drawn on the ground. 

 April 29: Drove from Toronto to Chicago.  Stopped in Hamilton, Ontario for lunch: British-style fish and chips in a darkened bar watching the Cavs and Pacers basketball game with Devon while the others ate elsewhere.  I loved the ambience of this bar for the memories it evoked of my youth on the Western Canadian bar band circuit.  Some say that nostalgia ain't what it used to be though I often find the memories more pleasant than the original experience.

Cutting across Michigan on the way to Illinois.  A distant yellow Shell Oil sign high atop a pole reminds me of both a small sun and the old Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis film Some Like It Hot. 

April 30: Played the City Winery on the West Side of Chicago.  It's a small but great sounding room with a Meyer sound system - my favorite!  This appears a regular stop for recording acts.  A video monitor advertised upcoming shows by Corky Siegal, Al Stewart, Joan Armatrading and others.  Our Green Room hostess recounted the mad scramble to accommodate a last minute secret show by Prince back in 2013.  I noticed a band that I'd engineered and co-produced, Paris Combo had carved their name in the graffiti section of the Green Room.

One difference with this tour is that Salif and Shannon took turns opening the show with a 15 minute solo set.  Both of them have new albums out that I recommend checking out. Salif played his own arrangements of traditional kora compositions often dedicating them to his teachers and explaining a little about the tradition of jeli (griot) music between songs.  Hearing the cascading fundamentals, harmonics and resonances of the 21 string kora by itself would give me an excellent read on the acoustics of the room.  This was particularly helpful at the Angel Orsentz in New York.

Shannon played originals or a highly original arrangement of a cover.  If I took better notes, I could tell you which cover she covered.  Her electric cello pedal assemblage included a looper and a sampler so she was able to multitrack cello parts and layer in samples and electronics to create a one person symphony of sound.  Her parents were in the audience that night having made the trek west from Indiana.  They had nurtured and supported her musical passion since she was a young child so I imagine it was a great joy to hear their daughter playing like a world-class master bringing the illumination of musical sonority and adventure into existence.

Perhaps realizing that this was the last show on this tour, the whole band delivered more than ever.  Devon, who had been playing a little conservatively for most of the tour not wishing to overshadow or steal the band's thunder, really opened up and shone like the All-Star player he is.  Simrit's voice became like Ariadne's thread guiding everyone in the chamber through a labyrinth of musical exploration.

Odds and Ends: Or, items I forgot then remembered that I forgot.  When we were eating a pre-show meal in Ottawa, I remarked about my astonishment to Simrit that I had seen an advertisement for the Toronto show come up on my smart phone's google news feed.  She explained that her husband, Jai Dev, was very interested in and quite knowledgeable about social media advertising.  He regularly attends seminars on the subject to keep up to date.  She said that is what made these tours possible as  the majority of ticket sales resulted from these ads.  As she was explaining, I silently marvelled at all the logistics and details she personally did, with a little help from her friends, to pull off these musical journeys and felt much gratitude. 

In Toronto, Lisa Boudreau remarked that she had partcipated in at least one of Jai Dev's Kundalini Yoga online events and enjoyed the presentation.  It does seem indeed a small world. 

Once again all of the concerts were documented with multitrack recordings.  There may be a live album from this tour in the future.  Highlights from last year's Spring tour were made into an album that can be downloaded here.  I know at least one fan close to Simrit, who knows all her records, and has declared this one to be his favorite.

Last fall following the SIMRIT tour I recorded a podcast with Jai Dev.  At some point before, during, or after it I recommend that he read Cosmic Trigger Volume I by Robert Anton Wilson.  He told me in Asheville that he was reading it.  I've recommended this book many, many times over the years and have, I would guesstimate, about a 30% success rate of people who actually take me up on the suggestion and read it.  If I was a baseball player, that would be a .333 batting average which would be All-Star material in that game.  This tour certainly pulled a cosmic trigger.

Monday, May 21, 2018

SIMRIT 2018 Spring Tour Part 2

 Continued from here

"It's organisms that die, not life" 

 - Deleuze/Negotiations p. 143

April 13: After the Miami concert and reception, Simrit and the band generously meet and greet their fans for about an hour in the lobby as everyone gradually re-enters consensual planetary reality.  We then packed up and got on the road by midnight.  The next port of call on this voyage would be Asheville, North Carolina approximately 11 hours away as the Sprinter drives.  We drove north for 3 hours that night to make the drive the following day less taxing.  At 3 am we disembarked and checked in to a Holiday Inn in Melbourne, Florida.

Left for Asheville around noon.  I feel physically miserable under the throes of this headcold, glad that this is only a travel day. Twice on our journey up the country I noticed Midas shops by the side of the road . "Great!" I thought, if anything happens to our Midas mixer we can pull over and get it repaired at one of these roadside shops, how convenient!  I've never seen anything like that for Soundcraft. As a bonus, the Midas shops repair brakes and mufflers too!

My energy did pick up considerably a couple of times listening to loud music on headphones.  The album I had on rotation for this tour was: Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols. Had recently finished reading John Lydon's (aka Johnny Rotten) autobiography Anger Is An Energy finding it much better than expected.  Apart from being a Pistols and PiL fan, I'd been drawn to the bio interested to read about his interactions with Bill Laswell.  Although they had a major falling out not long after I started working with Bill, Lydon describes their collaboration as one of the artistic high points of his career.  Lydon seems to be saying that "anger is an energy," a lyric from the generic Album that Bill produced, can be a source for deterritorialization and transformation.  That would make him an alchemist of sorts, albeit informal and unschooled.

Never Mind the Bollocks is a high energy, well-produced (Chris Thomas) rock classic.  Rotton's lyrics contain a great deal of anger.  I plugged in Crowley's exercise, mentioned in the previous post, to determine the possibility of turning any of that energy into post-organic (spiritual) sustenance.  I recalled the anecdote where Vivienne Westwood asked Rotten to compose a song about submission, basically to advertise her bondage inspired clothing line.  He seemed to find the subject matter a little tacky so fulfilled the request with the Pistol's song Sub Mission ostensibly about a submarine mission.  I loved it.  Sub mission also represents another mission: sub = 68 - go here to see it.  Even without any elaborate fabulation, the song sings explicitly about mysticism.  The lyric, "It's a mystery," is one of the refrains.  Much like a qabalist, Rotten loves puns, wordplay and reversed meanings.  There are other explicit references to the mysteries: "I ain't equipment I ain't automatic, if you work for me just stay ecstatic." (Problems).  The declaration, "I am an Antichrist," which opens Anarchy in the UK obviously suggests Crowley and the ad lib "no dog's body" is congruent with a well known line in The Book of the Law, II:19: "Is a God to live in a dog?"

The lyric "God save the Queen, she ain't no human being," recalled a comment Devon made.  He said  he had seen a YouTube video where Vladimr Putin claims to have seen Queen Elizabeth II shapeshift in a giant lizard.  Rotten was right, she is  a Reptillian according to the unassailably truthful Russian leader.  Queen Liz apparently revealed this to show him who's boss.  Figuratively speaking, I associate "God save the Queen" with the 3 of Swords in the tarot. The music got me enough out of body to momentarily banish the misery of this head cold.

April 14: The venue for tonight's show was the Asheville Masonic Temple.  This was the first concert using the rented P.A. mains.  We soon discovered that one of the speaker stands was not a speaker stand, it was a stand for lights and didn't fit the QSC speaker.  This problem needed solving immediately.  Salif googled the location of a local Guitar Center then drove over to exchange the stand, dodging another bullet.  The small, two story performance area was circular and seemed mostly for small theatrical productions or dramatic ritual.  There was a selection of stage sets for the background on stage. Simrit chose an Ancient Egyptian themed one.  The circular shape of the space seemed to act as a natural amplifier for the enclosed sound waves.  That may have served well for theater or ritual, but it made our sound very loud particularly in the balcony.  I enjoyed it, but did get a few early complaints which I tried to accommodate.  My advocacy for people learning how to use ear plugs to get the exact right volume for themselves at amplified concerts hasn't caught on everywhere.  I always bring ear plugs to concerts just as I always use sunglasses when skiing on a bright sunny day.

The circular room also made for a strong bass presence which I tried to have not too boomy at soundcheck.  However, I was startled to find all the low end had disappeared when SIMRIT began playing.  The 200 - 300 organic sound absorption baffles, i.e. the people, that filled the room didn't seem like it would account for this drastic frequency response difference.  After some semi-paniced searching around I discovered on one of the lower pages on the mixer that the bus send to the sub woofer was inexplicably muted.  Grateful that this problem had an easy solution, I was baffled at what I took to be an oversight on my part.  Even the mildly psychotropic effect from inadvertently consuming food I was allergic to didn't provide a satisfactory excuse or explanation. All of the bus sends that fed the monitor mixes right beside the sub send had been turned on.  I chalked it up to a cognitive malfunction on my part.  This issue happened twice more on the tour.  Once during a soundcheck in D.C. where again it seemed another inadvertent error and more dramatically at the start of the last show in Chicago.  As I was unmuting the bus sends while SIMRIT walked on for its final performance this tour I mentally noted to myself to turn on the feed to Simrit's "in ear" monitors because they hadn't been used the past few shows.  I left that page when all was turned on to go to my effects send page, usually the top page when I mix.  I was shocked when Simrit asked me from the stage to turn on the "in ears" because I had consciously (or so I thought) just done so.  Thinking the in ears weren't working, I tried to guess what else it could be but brought up the bus send masters page to check and saw that the send was muted.  I am hoping it is just me and not a logic error with the Midas.  Taking a cue from Buckminster Fuller that mistakes can have a positive aspect by raising awareness to prevent them repeating, I will definitely be double and triple checking for this in the future.

April 15: Today the band would play at a special afternoon event, a Kundalini Yoga workshop led by Jai Dev Khalsa.  It wouldn't be a performance, rather an ambient, improvised live soundscape while the students went through some of the exercises.  We unloaded the equipment in the wind and rain into a small yoga studio at a local Asheville center.  It was a minimal set-up, only a bass drum mic for the drums, no sub.  We even managed to bypass the M32 and its large footprint substituting it with a small Midas system Matt had brought with him to work on his music in his copious spare time. It was basically a small stage box with all the mixing done with software.  It was the first music event I've ever mixed on a cellphone.  Matt stayed with me until I had learned the commands and enough of the system architecture to do what was needed.  Mixing on a cell phone and not a huge desk meant I could participate in some of the exercises to some degree while always keeping a portion of attention on the band in case they signaled a monitor adjustment.

Jai Dev began the workshop with a short, informal discourse keeping it light and engaging, but informative and meaningful.  It felt more pragmatic than metaphysical; like an icebreaker and invitation to enter the space he would guide them through. "Welcome to my humble abode in another dimension " might have been the subtext.  "My wife and these amazing musicians will help us voyage through the next two hours."   He brought up the topic of death and how remembrance of that can be useful; pragmatic.  Presented as a workshop, this also seemed like satsang.

I heard a warm buzz of murmuring students softly conversing while packing up following the event.  The weather was still howling as we got the gear back into the Sprinter.  We had the evening off so I got a lift from Jai Dev back to the hotel and worked out of  my room chamber that night.  The hotel had a definite mountain retreat vibe to it though without a big central fireplace as I envision in those kind of places.  The laundry room was a forest hike away.  The night was dark, the moon out of sight behind dark, towering cumulus clouds.  I opted to wait until the light of the morning to navigate the laundry expedition.  The wind made its presence felt but nowhere as strong as about 100 miles north where a tornado was reported to claim a life.

April 16: Prepared for a longish drive with an amazing Southern-style breakfast - biscuits, eggs, and fried chicken, the latter of which caused the internal enzymes and organisms of my body to have several committee meetings about how to digest.  We stopped at a possible future venue on the way out of town called The Orange Peel - I would love to get out mixing at the Masonic Hall.  Posters of past concerts lined the top of the wide front entrance.  Lou Reed and Bob Dylan had played there among many other notables.  The ghosts of all those rock-n-roll shows hung in the atmosphere of the dark empty venue.  The smell was old and stale, I was glad to get back outside.

We pulled into D.C. somewhere around 9 pm.  The route to the hotel took us on a driveby past all the well known Washington landmarks which were illuminated.  The Lincoln Memorial looked especially impressive to me.  Lincoln certainly seemed much larger than life when seen from that angle; pretty fucking huge, actually.  The organism called Abraham Lincoln died by assassination, but the stream of events called his life lives on.  We disembarked at another Holyday Inn in Hyattsville, a suburb in a grey urban zone between D.C. and Baltimore.  A small amusement park was directly across the other side of the highway.  In the morning, it would remind me of the amusement park in the cult classic film, Carnival of Souls.


Hyattsville was apparently named after radical therapist and Golden Dawn Adept, Christopher S. Hyatt. Hyatt was his initiated name, his birth name being Alan Miller.  See this post for why he might have selected the initials "CS" to be high at.   I used to experiment with his Undoing exercises in the 80's.  These are neo-Rechian "energized meditation" techniques.  My girlfriend Paula currently presents them in her Awake Mind Body sessions. Hyatt also famously started New Falcon Press which published important books by Robert Anton Wilson, Timothy Leary, Aleister Crowley, Israel Regardie and others. He has many other credits in the brain change arena and deserves to have a city named after him just as George Washington did for crossing the Delaware on Christmas.  I was proud to be living, for the moment, in Hyattsville.

April 17:  Trump must have been tipped off that the musical resistance was coming to town because he fled to Florida and it wasn't even the weekend.  Corruption and sleaziness can't stand the light of day. The concert tonight was at the Kogod Cradle Theater, a performance space in the Mead Center for American Theater.  The name of of the theater was a bit of a coincidence.  I had been a full time engineer at KGOD radio station when I first moved to California and still work there from time to time.

This theater was top notch professional with equally professional technical support staff though a little formal.  I experienced some technical anarchy with the set-up.  Lines were run to connect the Midas with the house sound system.  The stage was all connected so I played some music from a cd player into the Midas to listen to the house system.  I got alarmed immediately when I saw no activity with the input meters on the board.  The signal wasn't getting in, I thought it was a cable and asked the theater tech if they had an extra.  Before he dug that up, I tapped on a room mic which was plugged directly into the mixer and that signal also didn't register. WTF? This brand new mixing desk won't receive any input?  Does not compute in my old school brain.   I rebooted the M32 then unplugged the CAT 5 digital snake from the board and tried again with no luck.   Having a major technical roadblock an hour before doors open and before soundcheck seemed to increase my stress level significantly.  I was not my normal, suave, chill self at that moment. I plugged the snake back in then descended the tiered theater steps to turn on the stage box to see if input might get in that way.  Lo and behold, after the stage box was turned on, the Midas came back to life and everything worked.   We emerged from a dead end path in the Labyrinth.  It had been a clocking issue.  The digital clock comes from the stage box so when the board is expecting to see it, but doesn't, then nothing works.  All was right with the world again.

To my ear, the concerts kept getting better and better.  This was the most professional, concert-like venue so far. The light system looked state of the art and they did an excellent job lighting the band, helping to supplement the strong shifting and dynamic moods the music created, territorialized, and traveled through.  It felt like a showcase, and because of playing D.C., a showcase for the world.  I made sure the sound resonated with the nearby White House, and the White House resonates with the World.

April 18: I had a health relapse last night; got a little chilled mixing up in the rafters with cool air on my bald cranium.  I awoke feeling mildly feverish with a headache and no appetite.  Fortunately, I only felt terrible on travel days. Waiting outside by the Sprinter for everyone to arrive on this cool, sunny day with the wind blowing.  A mono loudspeaker was playing a freak folk song at a healthy volume with a very passionate singer expounding crazy lyrics.  The Carnival of Souls amusement park across the street looked like it hadn't been used in decades.  I gained a noticeably surrealistic perspective on life just then.

Staten Island, NY was our destination today.  On the road, Simrit asked me to call Maidson, the house sound tech for the New York venue.  His phone number began with 666 after the area code.  Mention was made of its numerical symbolism in Revelations  Matt gave an alternate explanation that sounded good.  I piped in with story that Crowley said it was simply a solar number (6 repeated thrice) when he was questioned about it in Court under oath. "You can call me Sonny." 

We would be basing ourselves at the large, five-story home of two Kundalini Yoga students and very generous patrons of SIMRIT, Danielle and Chris for a few days.  Staying there was like finding an oasis in the desert, it was incredibly relieving and restorative mainly because of the really good food Danielle had stocked in the fridge and cupboards and for the healing remedy teas she had, including an ayurvedic concoction that proved effective.  We arrived in the late afternoon with just enough time to choose our spaces and unload our bags before going out to dinner.  Chris took us all to this amazing old school Italian restaurant nearby.  My appetite had returned and this truly amazing food, best since leaving California, really warmed all my innards and did wonders for my body.  Chris and Danielle truly and profoundly know the art of hospitality.

Our mansion, as I called this temporary home, was a block from the ocean.  My health bounced back enough so that I could go for runs by the ocean a couple of times though it was still very cool and the wind brisk.  The ocean reminded me that all the oceans are connected.  Meditating beside a massive body of water stretching around the world had a calming and restorative effect.  Maybe one reason why the element Water is often the first element the student is advised to empirically discover in some mystery schools.

April 19:  Westport, CT.  Played the Westport Country Playhouse, a historical theater that Paul Newman and family had rescued from oblivion some years back.  Once again, I was thrilled to work on a stage that Groucho Marx had once performed on.  The show and the house sound were both superb.  I heard that the stage sound was a little muted and dry.  Due to the architecture of the space the stage wasn't hearing much ambience from the mains.  Despite the less than ideal acoustics on stage everyone sounded great.

April 20: New York City, or as I inwardly felt it: NEW YORK CITY!!!  I always love visiting and working in New York which had been my home at various times totaling over ten years.  We were again playing at the Angel Orsentz on Norfolk, a block south of Houston on the Lower East Side.  This building was the oldest synagog in New York before it went secular.  It's a beautiful space that still suggests holiness and higher dimensions through the architecture and ambience.

It seems appropriate to play a holy space as this is a holiday of sorts.  4/20 - International Marijuana Day to the aficionados.  I was told about twenty years ago by a high school student that at 4:20 pm those in the know were supposed to stop what they were doing and smoke weed.  I've never heard an explanation as to why that particular time but do find it interesting that, as Eric Wagner has pointed out, one correspondence of 420 given in the Sepher Sephiroth (the Gematria section in Crowley's 777 and other Qabalistic Writings) = "Vapour, smoke."

At 12:30 pm a lone volunteer turned up to help us load in the equipment.  No house sound tech in sight.  I called Maidson's 666 number and he told me he was stuck in traffic court and would be there within the hour.  Another manager type was able to tie our audio into their PA - the loudest sound system yet as needed to cover this cavernous space.  Soundcheck runs smoothly.  We put our subwoofer on the stage behind Simrit.  Tonight the bass response will rock the band's world.

We finished soundcheck early, around 3:30 pm. With four hours open until show time I opted to go on a Manhattan walkabout and visit two of my favorite bookstores, The Strand, and Barnes and Noble at Union Square.  The latter usually has a good selection of obscure Deleuze titles and sells music as well.  I headed almost due east in order to walk past familiar haunts when I had worked at Platinum Island studios on Broadway between Great Jones (3rd St.) and Bond.  About a block south of Grace Cathedral I checked the time on my phone - it was exactly 4:20.  I half expected everyone to stop and light up, but alas, the Manhattan machine roared on with nary a pause, oblivious to this pivotal moment.  I didn't smoke but did improvise a short poem under my breath of acknowledgement and gratitude for this herbal medicine as celebrated in psalm 104.

At the Strand I found inexpensive new editions of Nabokov's Short Stories, Anti-Education by Nietzsche - some of his earliest writings, and Deleuze and Futurism by Helen Palmer.  In Barnes and Noble I picked up a copy of Deleuze and Guattari's A Thousand Plateaus to gift a friend I would see in Toronto, and a copy of Dialogues by Deleuze and Claire Parnet.

The concert was the strongest and best yet. Simrit declared it the best stage sound on tour, so far.  Having the sub on stage really helped.  In the house, I felt able to get a much better handle on the lively acoustics than last year. Invisible forces were rendered audible.  We had a confluence of forces and intensities; this day, this city, this musical assemblage.  Mercury designates the coherent multiplicity of forces, the deity, that rules over New York according to Aleister Crowley in Aleister Crowley In America: Art, Espionage and Sex Magick in the New World by Tobias Churton. I noticed all the Mercury iconography in the City years ago when I lived here like, for instance, the Mercury statue above the entrance to Grand Central Station. I had been tuned to that frequency.

Photo by Mark David Thomas

For more on what Mercury does see the always excellent Butterfly Language blog here

Salif, Simrit and Jared at Angel Orsentz 
On the right: one of Devon's cymbals and a Overhead mic (AKG 414)
Photo by Jila Ji

420 not only corresponds to "smoke," it also corresponds to "Pacifica," i.e. Peace. The next morning, 4/21, the world received news that North Korea did an about face by announcing that it was suspending its nuclear weapons program.  Complications have arisen since then, but it's always one day at a time; one spatio-temporal chamber at a time.  Today was a good day.

To be continued ...

Saturday, May 12, 2018

SIMRIT 2018 Spring Tour Part 1

"The play of the world now expresses one borderless world in which divergent series are endlessly tracing bifurcating paths: "it is a 'chaosmos'" (TF 81). The problem now is how one might be "at home" in the endlessly diverging series of this chaosmos, how one might cultivate a "manner" or "ethos" worthy of its events, movements, folds and becomings.  This finally, is what Deleuze often referred to as the problem of a "new earth" and a "people to come" that would require a "fabulation" no longer tied to particular identities, and communities in time and space, or the myth of an "original" contract, place or people.  This would be a belief in the world in which dwelling would be an ongoing experimentation with new ways of folding and connecting with "things in their wild state," an experiment with the possibilities subsisting beneath the abstract territories of familal, religious, or national identifications." - Keith Robinson/ Deleuze and The Fold: A Critical Reader.
"As Daniel W. Smith points out, Deleuze is interested in art which seeks to gain access to forces or sensations. So,C├ęzanne paints the forces which allow mountains to exist, Van Gogh invents the force of the sunflower and Proust discovers invisible structures of time.  The painter renders visible forces that are not visible, the musician renders audible forces that are not audible, and the philosopher renders thinkable forces that are not thinkable." - John Marks/ Gilles Deleuze, Vitalism and Multiplicity.

April 9, 2018: Sitting in a window seat in row 31 on a flight enroute to Miami.  Waiting at the San Francisco airport I encountered the second coincidence of this young day.  I had begun reading M Train by Patti  Smith and within a few pages Smith and husband Fred "Sonic" Smith catch a flight to Miami.

The first coincidence occurred at the Sacramento airport. I had picked up a copy of "Us" magazine and opened it to the first page before quickly becoming engrossed watching a YouTube video of Last Week Tonight not even clear if it was last night's edition which I was hoping to see.  John Oliver was conducting a  hilarious and insightful interview with Stephen Hawking who had recently abandoned the prison of his terrestrial body. It was heart-warming to see the sardonic British comedian make the paraplegic genius smile. Toward the end Oliver asks, "in all the many parallel worlds do you see one in which Charlize Theron agrees to go on a date with me?" Hawking replies, "no" and the exchange continues with Hawking never admitting the possibility. The first page of the magazine I had left opened showed a photo of Charlize Theron all gussied up in white Givenchy.

I have no interest in Theron, but in the spirit of Crowley's exercise to interpret all phenomena as a particular dealing of The School with my soul (translation modified) I plugged her name into the qabalistic analysis machine and it spit out:  Charlize = Char (The Chariot -tarot) + l (Truth) + ease;
Theron = The (God - theology denotes the study of God) + r (Resh - The Sun) + on ( a magical formula). I regard this as an emblem or a sign for an esoteric work assignment on the SIMRIT tour.

Coincidences and synchronicities often signal bardo navigation instructions. Traveling simulates the bardo experience.  Bardo = the space in-between lives; where conscious awareness goes when the body dies.  The northern California iteration of Oz dies, travels through the bardo on United Airlines and gets reborn into a Miami/SIMRIT assemblage. The whole tour can be seen as a voyage through the bardo.  Much of America that I encounter on this trip looks like the Land of the Dead, to me.  The concerts provide sustenance for a greater life.

Patti Smith's book inspires me to write and to fold in a memory.  I am getting high on black tea.  Even higher than the 30,000 plus feet this body currently travels at.  Smith's poetry set to music has lifted my spirits for many years ever since my early 20's venturing forth on foot all over Calgary with a new, at that time, device called a Sony Walkman.

The tea helps to bring this body back to life. Yesterday afternoon I came down with a slight fever and irritating cough.  I immediately began dosing myself with immune support substances and vitamin C. I felt fine for the 3 am drive to the airport to catch a 6 am flight. Fortunately the travel went smoothly on time and this meat carcass got safely deposited in Miami ready to go.

The whole gang picked me up in a brown rented Mercedes Sprinter van and, after quick warm reunion greetings, we hit the streets back to the air b and b house in Little Cuba where we lived and rehearsed for the next couple of days.

The SIMRIT touring assemblage includes the same musicians as last year with the exception of drummer Devon Ashley replacing the previous percussionist.  Devon looked immediately familiar, to me and he said that I did to him also.  The assemblage becomes far stronger than any individual or even the sum of individuals.

"What is an assemblage? It is a multiplicity which is made up of many heterogenous terms and which establishes liaisons, relations between them, across ages, sexes and different natures.  Thus, the assemblage's only unity is that of co-functioning: it is a symbiosis, a 'sympathy' ... alliances, alloys... Magicians are well aware of this. An animal is defined less by its genus, its species, its organs, and its functions, than by the assemblages into which it enters.  - Gilles Deleuze and Claire Parnet / Dialogues.

An assemblage includes everything in whatever room or space it happens to be in whether it be animate or  inanimate, organic or not.  Thus the SIMRIT concert assemblage consists of the 5 musicians and 2 crew plus the audience and environment of the venue the group is playing in. In bardo terms, this is called a chamber. The ever changing and varying environment on tour, the transition in, out and through a succession of chambers, means that the SIMRIT assemblage is constantly in flux.  This flux portrays a bardo journey.

The boot hold in the back of the Sprinter contained the sound system we would use.  I was especially excited to meet and introduce myself to the brand new  Midas M32 digital mixer which nominally turned all sound waves run through it into gold.  Prior to picking me up, the group had spent hours at a somewhat inept local Guitar Center renting the powered stage monitors, and mains that would transduce the musical electrical voltages into acoustic audio sound waves.

My first priority was to conjoin my intelligence with the M32 so I could learn how to use it. I was fluent on other digital mixers so this seemed like learning a new OS.  Significant differences between the Midas and the Soundcraft Impact board that I knew had to get resolved.

I started the Vulcan mind meld with the M32 setting up the mixer on the dining room table with my laptop right beside it.  I downloaded the manual and digested several YouTube tutorial videos on the subject of programming and operating this board.  This became a far from easy and straightforward process.  After a few hours of cross-referencing the videos with the manual and trying things out on the board I reached a degree of confidence that we could work together.

By 11 pm eastern time I felt mildly feverish again.  I burned some Tibetan incense Matt had given me in response to a copy of  The American Book of the Dead I had sent him and called it a night.

April 10: In the morning before the rehearsal I connected the M32 to the digital stage box to make sure they would talk to each other.  This box connects the microphones and inputs on stage to the Midas via a CAT 5 digital snake.  I plugged in a SM58 to the stage box and got zero input.  This did not bode well.  A quick perusal of the internet revealed that the Midas mixer wouldn't synch up with the Soundcraft stage box.  The condoned insanity of capitalistic schizophrenia resulted in these two audio equipment manufacturers making these devices proprietary.  We had our first concert in two days and no way to connect the stage inputs with the mixer.

Upon being informed of the situation, Simrit immediately called the dealer who had sold her the Midas.  An assistant there had incorrectly told her that the two devices would work together.  To their credit, they acknowledged the mistake, gave her a discount on the Midas stage box and over-nighted it from their warehouse to our rehearsal house.  It arrived at about 10 am the next morning.  Fortunately, we had no need of a stage box to rehearse.  I plugged in everything that needed amplification directly into the back of the mixer.

The band rehearsed from about noon until midnight with breaks for food and to give Jared a chance to rest.  He had a much worse version of the flu, or whatever it was that I had.  Before they started I had a chance to walk to a local supermarket to get groceries and a supplies for a remedy my girlfriend Paula had suggested.  The sunshine and 80 degree temperature felt great.

April 12: In the bardo one can encounter other apparently sentient intelligences that play the role of Guides.  The American Book of the Dead speaks of Friendly Guides and Unresponsive Guides.  The Guitar Center staff that took hours to rent us a sound system tend toward the area of Unresponsive Guides.  Shaun Mitchell, the house sound tech at our first show in Coral Gables, Florida was a bonafide Friendly Guide, but not without some drama.

The first concert was at The Miracle Theater - 280 Miracle Mile.  I plugged the outputs of the Midas into the house sound system.  Shaun owned a sound company and was intimately familiar with programming the Behringer x32, a forerunner and downscale version of the Midas M32. He showed me how to insert a  virtual Klark Teknik 32 band graphic equalizer across the main output.  I already had a parametric eq there, but being old school, much preferred the layout of the graphic eq.  He also showed me how to save all the settings of a show light years faster than if I would have had to resort to a YouTube video.  There were also some channel configuration changes I wanted to make that had been possible with the Soundcraft, but that I couldn't figure out on the Midas. Shawn determined that the reason I couldn't figure it out was because, at the present time, it isn't possible.  Specifically, I hoped to put some of the FX returns on the top page with all the stage inputs so I could ride the returns alongside mixing the band.  I eventually solved the problem by riding the FX sends which was able to be on the top page beside the instrument channels.

The drama came about when I couldn't get input into Pro Tools to multitrack record the show.  I had set it up at rehearsal with absolutely no issues - plug it in, open the program and select the playback engine.  The inputs came up automatically.  Not so before the first show, wtf? Shaun, who didn't know Pro Tools, changed some things in my MacBook Pro internal settings and we took a little tour through chaos.  I tried opening a regular Pro Tools session, it wouldn't respond. After about 20 minutes in this particular form of hell, between the two of us, and with some luck, we managed to get everything working.  It turned out to be an I/O set up issue.  I had to manually create a new I/O template and saved it to import in the future.  No further problems with recording occurred for the rest of the tour.

Simrit debuted an elaborate new headdress recently designed for her based on the Greek God Hermes. Hermes may appear more familiar in his Roman form, Mercury. He serves as the messenger of the Gods, the link between the Immortals and the mortal humans. I call him the god of communication and invoked often his presence in the 80's and 90's to help with the sound engineering efforts.  I guess he never really goes away.  Mercury also functions as a pyschopomp - the guide for the Souls of the recently deceased through the Land of the Dead.  Getting fully inducted with the music at a SIMRIT concert, temporarily dying to personal identity and concerns, has a similar effect - giving the listener a taste of the bardo.  She wears the headdress of a psychopomp and communicator for a reason.

Simrit with new headdress
photo by Mel Bartel

Simrit said after the show that it was the best first show of a tour she had experienced.  It was, by far, the top first show of the three tours I've been on.  I remember telling them last year that the set had several slower tempo songs in a row. The set this year felt more upbeat and lively partly due to the inclusion of a great new song called Just A Glance. It was very well paced, still a healthy amount of the devotional, ecstatic (ex statis = out of body), trance music along with many songs where dancing in the aisles broke out.

The sound sounded much more solid and tight in the low end.  Though only a small, cocktail kit kick drum that relied heavily on a loud subwoofer, Devon's foot was strong and well defined.  Circumstances allowed me to use a noise gate on it this year which further helped the punchiness and definition. The bass drum drives the music through space by articulating the time. The snare drum had a dark, deep sound with a lower midrange ring that occasionally needed taming.  It reminded me of New Orleans. Overall the drumming was soulful, dynamic and foundational; becoming forte when called for while never overpowering.

Midas is renowned for the sound of their preamps.  I could hear the difference right away.  The kora sounded the best I'd ever heard it in this context and the definition on Shannon's fast rhythmic cello bowing was extremely clear.  Her electrified acoustic guitar sound was warmer and sounded more natural than before, and her effects sounded more transparent and audible.  Simrit and Jared's vocals also benefited from the improved definition, warmth, and transparency. You could hear a lot more subtleties in Simrit's voice and the halo of reverb and delay that surrounded it was warmer while also being clearer.  In general, the FX, and all of the digital signal processing was a huge step up in quality.  A good example was the channel compression on the bass guitar.  By dialing it in, I was able to get a thick, rich low end without it ever becoming excessive or boomy.

The opening concert was well received with a portion of the audience appearing to have experiences bordering on the religious.  This quote from Magick Without Tears (Crowley. p.387) attempts to put this kind of experience into words.

Life is to be a continuous vibration of ecstasy; and so it is for the Adept, whenever her work allows her time to consider the matter, consciously, and even when her work prempts her attention, is an eternal fountain of pure joy springing a crystal fragrance of reverberating light from the most inmost caverns of the Heart. It secretly informs one's dullest thought with sparkling wine radiant in the Aeyther - see well!  the least excuse, since it is always there, and champing at its bit, to turn the dreary cart-horse drudge into proud Pegasus himself!

To be continued ...