Friday, October 30, 1998
Not quite like flashbacks like the ones you see in movies but damn close. I feel a sense of anxiety all day – always there in the back ground. Definitely a case of “I had too much to dream last night.”
It’s a bright though chilly day in Portland. I search for the ever elusive Partridge Family but fail miserably. RF recommends Powell's book store and I go off in search. Instead I find a CD store called Ozone (?). I quickly decide that I want my ashes scattered there. After a full hour and half browsing the shelves, I can't make a choice. There are just too many to have and thus I leave empty handed.
I rendezvous with the team and we make our way to the Crystal Ballroom.
This is a large, ornate barn of a place with a fabulously sprung floor which bounces you up and down as you cross it. During the sound check, the laconic Robert Frazza unveils the one string Warr bass beast that has been specially made for Tony. As Trey goes to work on it, amazingly low notes seem to shake the entire premises, enhanced perhaps by the sprung floor.
In the sound check the potential horror of the acoustics are partially revealed. John Sinks makes an heroic attempt to liberate the sound from it's booming and murky shackles.
As I set up the merch stall a TV crew show up. They are there to do a piece about the risk of fire in public buildings. Access to this level is by seemingly vast unending flights of staircases which at least have the benefit of being broad – by which I mean if there was a fire this would be a good thing.
To do a two minute live link up takes them about an hour and a half. In terms of waiting around the TV business seems as unproductive as the world of rock concerts.
The bar staff very kindly keep me supplied with root beer all night and the mood as folks file in, is of good humour. Someone tells me that they've heard a rumour that P4 will be playing ITCOTCK tonight ! Quite a few ask if RF will be signing autographs tonight. Legions more ask about the release dates of this and that album. Space Groove sells well as does the new sampler.
Show time and after a Soundscape out of 1999, PM unleashes a stop-start DnB-style riff and is joined by TL pulverising his one string bass. With RF providing a twinkling piano and TG pushing out jagged slabs of sound, a kind of mutant hybrid funk gradually appears.
The opening number has three distinct sections with PM providing the missing link between each one At one point a glitter ball spins maniacally as RF provides a magical solo of long sustained notes.
The second number consists of blocks of piano chords shared between RF and TG. It sounds like some leviathan jumping across acres of grand piano's over a stop-start backing. All the stop starting ends with a heart stopping finish. Well received by the crowd.
The second set moves into a cracking version of C's. I rate this the best yet Better than Seattle maybe? The second number develops into a gorgeous version of Deception of the Thrush, once again as a duo between TG and RF. This piece has all the melancholic beauty and mystery reminiscent of Starless. Very powerful indeed. I notice many people in the crowd appear to be profoundly affected by this one.
The last number at Portland is the Intruder style pounder. I've taken to calling this one Doom Tones because of the harrowing twin lead lines from RF and TG. There's such a menace to it. Once again, I rate this as the best version yet despite the terrible acoustics.
Maybe I need to raise my quality threshold ? Overall, the show doesn't have the energy of Seattle but the individual performances are being honed and sharpened, just as their collective mettle is being tested and shaped.
Back at the hotel I listen to a CD by Happy Rhodes. Robert Frazza is working with this singer / songwriter. The music is very influenced by Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel. She has a voice with a five octave range and the Big Frazzaman tells me she is awesome live. It's wonderful stuff and a total contrast to the storm and rage of P4.
Tuesday, October 27, 1998
Into the van and down to the venue and back out into the pouring rain. Opposite the club is a little wood frame house. Given that everything around it seems to consist of parking lots, offices and warehousing, this home looks totally out of place.
We got in at and by Sinks, Murphy and Frazza have transformed a pile of boxes and wires into a neat environment that is capable of sustaining music with impressive speed. The stage is all set bar the fine tuning of levels and stuff. By Mr. Sinks has Space Groove testing the corners and crannies of the sound system.
In the sound check Levin and Gunn work on a new piece given to them by Fripp. It's fiendishly complex and seems designed to induce Repetitive Strain Injury at a thousand paces. Imagine the fast diddly bits in 21CSM, some of the not -so easy bits of Fracture, the intro to LTIApt3 and perhaps a sprinkle of the intro to NY3 and then some.
As I watch from the back of the hall I can feel the pain as they try to navigate their way round the tight curves. RF ruthlessly counts them in take after take and makes it look easy. Even the seen-it-all before house crew begin to take notice as the piece unfolds and starts to come together. Trey gets it quite quickly but only because he's been swotting up on it in private as he tells me afterwards. The lines in question are scribbled out on a piece of paper that looks like its been in Trey’s back pocket for donkey’s years.
It's almost show time and it's a full house.
The crowd are really excited and express to me their pleasure that Fripp and Co. have made it to
I notice that a lot of people at all of the gigs ask me for some guidance about the music contained on each disc. This is always tricky as my definition of what constitutes a sexy mutha of an album might be vastly different to theirs. Still, I always try and answer honestly and as an enthusiast rather than the chap employed by the promoter who wouldn't know the music if it bit his bum.
Most of the stuff is easy to describe and frame for people. However, Gates Of Paradise is more of a problem for me. Easily my favourite out of what's for sale, it is however hard for me to verbalise the discrete pleasure that is to be found on this disc effectively and efficiently, especially when the prospective purchaser asks "Is it like No Pussyfooting?"
So my stock answer for Gates now goes something like "This album will make your ears bleed, shred your wallpaper and kill your dog". Somehow it works and Gates continues to find it's way off the table and into people's lives.
P4 play a blinder although they take a while to warm up. The second set is better and contains some superb group work. Trey plays an outstanding Thrush. They go into an awesome groove beast that goes Dubbadubbadubba on the bass end of things. This is the third or forth time I've heard it (they sometimes do the groove in soundchecks) and it just gets bigger and better.
Later, Trey tells me it's called "C's" or maybe "Seas" and comes from an idea by TL. Whatever it's called or wherever it came from, it sounds like the future arriving.
Lastly we hit into hard-core DnB with some frantic bursts of solos from the crew. This is extraordinary stuff for sure - very exciting and thrilling. Pat is pushing the others into unknown territory with this blend of live-time and programmed playing.
After the gig about I go out in search of food unable to sleep and totally wired up following the music. Only two blocks away from our hotel, I come across a line of several women. They seem to be tourist advisors due to the numbers of cars which slow down to get directions. In some cases I noticed they would even get in the car to show the driver the way. Now isn't that helpful? They seem very friendly even to passing pedestrians such as myself. Indeed, one of them enquires whether or not I might like some company. I decline declaring my intention to search out
What a great city. What friendly people !
After getting the grub I'm standing at the lights. I see six raccoons wander past. They are the size of small dogs and they totally ignore me and my burger which I nevertheless instinctively grip all the tighter! Given my track record with Robert Frazza and the phantom bridge faux pas I'm uncertain whether I should tell any one about this sighting.
Monday, October 26, 1998
Up at A truly stunning sunrise. We both rise to watch it from our vantage point on the 28th floor. The two of us in our shorts, beer bellies bathed in warm translucent light. I almost wrote a song.
Later in the day I venture out to find an Internet Cafe. I don't notice that Robert Frazza is also in here until Tony comes in - a bunch of e-mail junkies getting our fix. I mooch around some CD stores but still no Partridge Family at Xmas.
Consolation is found however, in finding Christmas With Willie Nelson. Surely the definitive version of “Silent Night”; a voice as old as the spirit of Christmas itself. After a while I can hobble no more and so get back to hotel to hit the floor for some relief.
The evening spent in a cinema watching the just released movie, Pleasantville. I spend the last hour of the film shuffling from buttock to buttock in gross discomfort. Whinge, whine, moan.
Sunday, October 25, 1998
The back pain is wild today coming and going with an extraordinary ferocity. When it goes I'm just merely uncomfortable. When it comes back I start to fidget like I've ants in my pants as I try (but fail) to find a comfortable spot.
As we neared
Robert drives us all through an unfamiliar traffic system with me providing a nominal form of navigation. Mr. Frazza quickly withdraws my status as co-pilot after I tell him that we are about to cross a bridge. There is no bridge. Yet I saw a bridge. It's dark and I'm tired I explain pathetically.
As he wrestles with the flapping map in one hand and the wheel in the other, he now eyes me suspiciously from the side, as though he'd just picked up what he now realises to be a very dangerous hitch-hiker.
The Sheraton Wall Centre Hotel waits for us. Frazza and I are on the 28th floor. Phew what a view. At Robert and I meet in the lobby and go for a meal with Pat and Tony. During the meal, Tony tells lots of tall tales about being on tour with Peter Gabriel.
At one point he mentions “On The Air” as being one of his favourite tracks from the first PG album. Without thinking, the anorak in me rises to correct him immediately. He disputes this saying Bob Ezrin produced it, at which I say "Hey what do you know, you only played on the album," reminding him that the track was part of the sessions produced by Fripp for the second album. He looks unconvinced but lets it pass.
Inevitably, there’s talk about the whole ProjeKct project and how it’s going so far. Whilst there’s no criticism of the fraKctal approach – far from it – I get the impression there’s a frustration expressed at not being able to work under the Crimson banner. After a sumptuous meal, we leave the hotel and the four of us walk through
Later, Pat and I grabbed a taxi to hit the
We are easily the oldest people in the place and I make a mental note to tell my broker to buy shares in spot cream. The music is loud and grungey. The p.a. is woefully inadequate and gives up on any attempt of definition at a very early stage, mistaking murk for texture.
The highlight is a live mix of Sun Ra and John Cage. As this young man twisted the mixers and vinyl on the decks, I couldn't help but be impressed at the sense of adventure in what he was doing.
On the down side, Spooky worried an upright bass with some dubious fingering. We both agreed that Tony would have this crowd eating out of his hand were he playing the Steinberger upright against a Drum n' Bass backdrop.
After an hour of spirited and enthusiastic playing, the club emptied and Pat and I grabbed a cab back to the Sheraton. Pat is listening to Howie B and Talvin Singh's new albums. We discover that we both share an enthusiasm for DnB practitioner Photek and his Hidden Camera release.
Later, I lend Pat a compilation of songs from French singer Charles Trenet. I tell him to check out a track called "Boum!!" which was recorded in 1938 and you can clearly hear Trenet say the word "Thrak" at around the 1.04 mark. Amazing but true folks.