TONY LEVIN'S Projekt Four Tour Diary
THE PROJEKT FOUR TOUR:
P4 TOUR PHOTOS
P4 TOUR DIARY
P4 Tour - Day 0 - Boulder, CO. Oct. 22
Today most of the band (Trey Gunn, Pat Mastelotto and I, with Chris Murphy and Robert Frazza, who will be doing our sound) arrived in Denver from different parts of the country, rented a van and drove to Boulder (Robert Fripp, had arrived earlier.) Though Robert and I are both suffering bad colds, the group is optimistic about tomorrow's show and the tour. In the interviews I've done, I get the feeling that most people who follow King Crimson are mildly interested in this "Project Four," the third of our smaller experiments (I don't know where Project Three went!) but are eager for the full group to tour again.
I'm a bit behind in knowing the music - we made tape mixes of the best of the Nashville rehearsals, but our hotel there, at Opryland, has had it's last jabs at messing up my life with that. When I checked out there, weeks ago, they couldn't find the tape that had been left for me (though I knew it was there - what good does THAT do - I had been asking for all 6 days for the proof of my book that I knew had been sent priority mail, and they never found that either.) Then, a week after we left, the hotel wrote to Pat Mastelotto that they had packages for me (the tape and the book, duh!) and they thought he might know how to reach me (I never seemed able to convince them of my existence, from when I checked in - at that time, they had no reservation for me, asked if I had a confirmation number, I shuffled through my papers and actually found it, they searched their computer and still had nothing for me, told me that they did have two rooms for Mr. Mastelotto though (earlier that day they had told Pat that they had no room for him, and actually sent him to another hotel.) I convinced them that Pat didn't need two rooms, and that I did need one, and that was probably the beginning of my slipping through the rather large cracks in their organization.) Anyway, Pat forwarded me their letter, and I called and got them to FedEx the much needed tape to me. Five days later it hadn't arrived - why am I not surprised! - and I left for the tour without quite remembering how the music goes. One thing's for sure; when I get back home after the tour, there will be the tape!
At dinner, we found a pre-review of the show we'll be doing here in Boulder. The writer, from "Boulder Weekly," says that the only time his editor ever made him turn off the music he plays constantly at work was when he played, you guessed it, King Crimson. "What musical monstrosity," he says, "could be so awful that a person would ask me to play Arlo Guthrie? ... Most people, like my publisher, think they sound like raw noise. And that's why I will always love them." An interesting start to the tour's reviews. I can't wait to see what they write AFTER we play!
P4 Tour - Day 1 - Boulder, CO. Oct. 23
Started the day with a search for decent espresso. Wasn't too hard, though the hotel is in a kind of mall area - a nearby place called Teaberry Coffee provided a very nice one.
The first gig of a tour always has a longer, and more problematic soundcheck. The hotel gave us bad directions to the downtown club, and when we saw nothing but the praries of Colorado in front of us, we deduced that Boulder was back in the other direction! 35 minutes to drive there in the van - Trey walked, and got there in 20. Soundcheck was clattery, hectic, and didn't reveal any of the new material to me - leaving the gig itself for the first runthrough of the pieces.
The show itself was very good. A great audience was enthusiastic right through it - they couldn't have been blamed for wanting some familiar music, but seemed in the right frame of mind for what we played. Some interesting phrases shouted out to me were "Play something we can dance to" ( a joke, I hope - with this group that's not likely!) and "Tony, play some funky finger stuff." I ventured into a rare electric upright solo (with bow) as well as some interesting 'rubber bass" parts on the Guild Ashbory bass I brought along as a hoot. We did two sets, the first one disconcertingly short, at least to me. "Vrooom" for the encore, was pretty different than it's ever been with the whole six man Crimson playing it. Tomorrow at sound check, Trey and I will work out some harmonies for the sections that used to be unison bass lines. All in all, we're happy with the music, and enthusiastic about seeing where it will go.
P4 Tour - Days 2,3 - Boulder CO, and Vancouver, Canada. Oct. 24, 25
Having done the first show successfully, most of the pressure is off us now (though I COULD learn that blazing fast line that Robert Fripp wrote out for me weeks ago,) and second soundcheck is always much easier than the first (when there's usually new or rented equipment). I met some friends from Musica Pro, a Mexican music magazine, and we had lunch in the Pearl St. part of Boulder. It's quite nice there, I wish I'd seen it before. A visit to an art supply store was in order, since I'm drawing obsessively in my free time, and have covered the back of every sheet of paper with me. Got some new pencils too.
Second night was pretty different than the first. Predictably, we remembered the stuff that worked, and could avoid some of the things that didn't (and try new stuff that didn't work!) I played more bass, having ignored it on the first night for the Stick and upright. Also pulled out the little Guild Ashbory for some "rubber bass" notes. Trey played some mighty solos, and Pat powered things along more, Robert and Trey also joining each other, almost magically, for some very complex lines. (I've really got to learn that part Robert wrote out!) We've had a little discussion about the full Crimson touring together. It's likely that will happen next October - seems Bill Bruford is busy till then.
Sunday, a travel day, we headed through Seattle to Vancouver. To make a long story short- plane delayed, connection missed, immigration papers not in order - we left at 8:30 am, got in just in time for dinner. Goodbye Sunday! But it's a nice hotel in downtown Vancouver (across from the one I spent a month at last year, recording here with Seal) and tomorrow, on the day off, I will introduce all the guys to "Lush", which is the greatest soap store I've ever found. (I'm not particularly into soap, but theirs are very special.) Also, I can save myself from trying all the local cafes - I know from last year that none of them are much good for my taste - but the countdown has begun for Wednesday's trip to Seattle, (CoffeeTown USA,) the home of "Espresso Vivace", arguably the best cup of espresso outside of Italy and France. (I've got some quotes from their book on my "coffee page" - This is a place whose walls are adorned with dated photos of especially good cups of coffee they've made!)
There's a bit of delay getting my book printed, but I'll still have it by next week (not by Oct. 1st, a I had hoped.)
"Upper Extremities" tour is being booked, but I haven't posted the dates and cities yet because they're changing. We only have 9 days to tour, and must start in East Coast, but are trying to reach Ann Arbor and Chicago this time. I'll update soon with the booked dates.
P4 Tour - Day 4,5 - Vancouver, October 26 & 27
Nothing like a day off ( a real one, without 9 hours of travel involved.) I went to "Lush," got soap for the next year or so. Also got a pair of those huge waffle soled boots - thought they might look good on stage, and had seen lots of them here last year.
Show day: went to Internet Cafe, found two guys from the crew already there. Checked my own site (can't do it from my pwrbook, thank you aol,) and realize I've got to do some organizing! Nah! I'll just send more photos to the ever patient web meister Dan, who's got to somehow get it up there without a 45 minute delay to see it.
Another great crowd at the show - one problem though: those boots. First of all, they made me so tall that my upright, having been adjusted at soundcheck with normal shoes on, seemed like a cello! Of course I couldn't stop playing and change the height, so I sort of played cello for a piece. Then there was the experience of hitting my effect pedals. Surprisingly the boots (which have a mind of their own - an old quote from Robt. Fripp after a disaster on stage: "My boots lied to me.") didn't push 3 pedals at once, but the off-road tire tread-sole did have lots of spaces in it, and I often failed at pushing the buttons.
I'm late for check-out, but will report tomw. or late tonite with a special on how my coffee will be at Espresso Vivace in Seattle!
P4 Tour - Day 6 - Seattle - Oct. 28 Drive to Seattle, coffee first(!), then the gig.
Three hour drive from Vancouver with the band in a van passed quickly for me - I'm sketching all the time now (including after the gigs, late into the night) so I enjoyed the captive subjects in the van. (I'm not good enough to draw anyone well if they don't sit still.) Dropped off bags in hotel and walked right up Capitol Hill to Espresso Vivace, to enjoy a really good cup of coffee. They didn't let me down - tough decision was to go with the espresso, which is my preferred drink, or the very special latte that's their specialty. I went with the espresso, and hope to make it by there for a latte tomorrow before we leave town. Speaking of this town, I like a coffee obsession as much as the next guy, but Seattle might be going over the edge. Walking back from Vivace, I saw a cafe named "Coffee Messiah" with a large cross for it's logo, and a drawing of Jesus' head on it, his halo reading "Seattle USA" and the words "Caffeine Saves" written beneath. Well, I couldn't just walk by it, could I! I went in - after I had gazed around the walls, all adorned with Jesus portraits, the proprietor suggested I check out the bathroom, giving me the key. I nervously entered the small room, finding it decorated like a small disco - mirrored ball and all. There was a machine on the wall which said "25 cents" I inserted a quarter into it, and red lights came on, a strobe, the mirrored ball began turning with a bright light on it, and "Disco Inferno" blasted out of a speaker. Wow, what a cafe. (Not surprisingly, they have a web site. Though I haven't checked it out, the address is coffeemessiah.com)
Show was the best yet - things just gelled well for us. Hopefully the taping (to ADAT's) went well - so it'll be a candidate for a live album. There always seem to be problems with the recordings on the nights you play the best. In fact, John Sinks, our engineer, mentioned that the drums dropping out for a while - we'll see how long.
The B.L.U.E. December tour is close to being booked. Definite are Dec. 2: Philly (TLA), Dec. 3: NYC (Bottom Line). Tentative are 2 nights in Boston, 1 each in Ann Arbor and Chicago. A Liquid Tension tour is being discussed for January (though first we need to finish the album!) That would be all in the U.S, and ending with a show at NAMM in L.A. at the end of January.
Travel to Portland today, no show. This tour is too easy, not enough shows! Maybe I've got time for that latte before I leave...
P4 Tour - Day 7 - Seattle to Portland travel day - Oct. 29
Started the day back in "Vivace" cafe, getting their famed latte this time. I wasupdating my neglected personal journal when in walked Pat (Mastelotto.) I'd told him about the place and he had risen early to check out both "Coffee Messiah" and "Espresso Vivace." It's a nice area - we finished our coffees and re-visited the Green Cat Cafe for an excellent muffin, and Fillippi's book and record shop.
The drive to Portland, 7 of us in the van, was real rock life. No delays, though, and the hotel in Portland is central, so we're happy puppies. My favorite restaurant here, Pazzo, has added a cafe/bakery so I didn't need to wait for dinnertime for a Pazzo experience. We passed on going there last night and a few of us, including Robert (Fripp) in a rare night out with the guys, went to a Greek restaurant near the hotel. Nice, and quiet enough for us to discuss some band plans - quiet, that is, until a belly dancer emerged from the kitchen, accompanied by a tape of loud Greek music. She approached our table, finger cymbals jangling, hips and stomach muscles undulating, and requested that I get up and join her in a belly dance. The veggie moussaka, feta cheese, and spanikopita were already doing a pas de troix inside my belly, so I respectfully declined, recommending instead, some others from my dinner party. Not surprisingly, none was eager to join in, and the dancer sadly moved on to the next table. Late at night, back at the hotel, I tried sketching what Robert would have looked like doing a belly dance!
P4 Tour - Day 8 - Portland - Oct 30
I've heard that there's to be a four CD anthology of John Lennon's work released next week by Capitol Records. It'll be titled Onceuponatime. And there is a plan afoot to shoot a video of one song, "I'm Losing You," that I played on with Rick Nielson and Bun E. Carlos. Talk about short notice, they just called me about it, and the video is being shot in L.A. next Monday - so it's a possiblility that I'll fly down from San Francisco that morning, shoot the video, and fly back for soundcheck that afternoon and gig that night!
In a much less frenzied mode, this afternoon I visited the great bookstore, Powell's, and also some friends who run Artichoke Music, out in the S.E. part of Portland. In addition to a nice music store, Artichoke Music has a stage for quiet performances, and a very good cafe (my espresso, made by a bass player who tends the cafe was, of course, excellent!) They're at artichokemusic.com for any who want to visit in a more virtual way. We discussed book sales in retail stores, and why distributors would rather that my book was going to be larger, or at least taller, in size. (So the title peeks out of the display bin.) I, however, detest when an offering of artistic merit has to be packaged in a way designed only for marketing reasons. I recall when cd's were sold in tall boxes, similar to the shape of some of the books I saw in the racks - the box's only purpose was to make the title visible in a certain kind of rack. Peter Gabriel and Sting fought long and hard to get their record companies to release their cd's without the wasteful extra cardboard. Eventually they not only succeded, but all cd's began to be re-packaged in that way. And the racks were re-designed! Consider the paper that's been saved from the millions of cd's sold each year. Well, I don't think my book will cause any re-designing of the industry, but like it or not, it's going to be 6" x 9", and that's that!
At soundcheck I was surprised to find a new bass which had been delivered to me. It was made and sent by Mark Warr, and it's a one string! Tuned to a low Bb. Really nice bass, and ideal for some of the stuff I'm playing with Project Four (though I wouldn't want to try it for the multi-note parts of Liquid Tension Experiment!) To give the bass a real-life tryout, I played the first piece of the show on it. Worked out well.
P4 Tour - Day 10 - San Francisco, November 1
At S.F. show, Fripp made a rare announcement. "Some of you may have items you would like to have adorned with the Fripp signature. After the show, at the merchandise stand, Sid, the man running the stand will sell you any cd's you like, and there to put the Fripp signature on each and every one will be... my SISTER!"
Darn, my powerbook's one remaining port has come loose. I've got days of road diaries written, but cannot send now (Chris Murphy, our monitor engineer, is kindly tolerating my using his computer in the middle of the night.) However, I'll upload some photos, and when home Wednesday, I'll bring the letters up to date (including Monday's commute to L.A. to be in John Lennon video, then back to San Francisco for the show!)
P4 Tour - Day 11 - San Francisco, Nov. 2
Still no computer, and again I'm in Chris's room late at night, using his. Today we taped the video in L.A. for John Lennon's "I'm Losing You" - When I arrived at the studio, Rick Nielsen (THAT'S the correct spelling of his name) and Bun E. Carlos were there, looking at my web site! We hadn't met up since we recorded the track - in August 1980. Amazingly, after 18 years, we all remembered our parts on the song. The video shoot was fun and very professional - between shots of the three of us playing (in front of white screen for John's films and drawings to be added in) and riding a bicycle for three, and holding big balloons.... between those takes I was playing around on Rick's computer - their site, CheapTrick.com, has a cute hotel room interface, where the visitor gets a room key and goes exploring. Check it out!
The last shot I did (I had to catch a plane back to San Francisco for soundcheck) was of the three of us throwing buckets of green paint onto the wall. Don't know the reason for that particular shot - but I rushed out to the plane, made it, and spent the flight sitting there with green paint spattered on my pants and shoes! An interesting memento of the video!
Nov 3rd, New York, returned from P4 tour.
Still searching my ailing powerbook for lost diaries and photos, but received some dig photos from Mr. Nielsen of the video shoot. It seems to me P4 was just hitting it's stride as we played the last shows in San Francisco. Not that the earlier shows weren't good, but material was gradually forming itself, and we seem in agreement that we've found at least a few compositions suitable for the larger full Crimson. Personally I wish there had been another few weeks of shows. But possibly we'll do it again in the Spring. More notes and photos will follow soon.