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.

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