Jason is a worrier like me, and I’m ever thankful that he takes the band seriously enough to have anxiety. He always seems to pull it all off marvellously in the end though. Up until now things have fallen into place at the right time. We’re on track, but need to be ever diligent. Pats on the back followed by enthusiastic accolades are no barometer for a chance at real success.
Last night’s rehearsal was a struggle. The older established songs sounded impressive, but the new, more nuanced material for ‘Fall Of Chronopolis’ need work. Part of the mandate for the tour is to road test pieces like, ‘Ghost Armada’, ‘Imperator’ and ‘The Minion’. ‘Ghost Armada’ is a tricky piece based around Kephera’s 5/4 piano motif with a 4/4 chorus; it is working well but has many land mines. Airing might strengthen the other two.
Krack, our lighting guy, was taking a lesson on DMX control systems while we ran through the set. We carry our own lights and operator in hope of adding some pizzazz to the normally mundane small clubs. This all adds to the set up time, but at least the photos and videos look great.
I spent all day at the DMV again, this time with Ursula and at least now we have our number plates. Two days remain to have our mechanic install a bulkhead to retain the gear at the back and make various other adjustments. New batteries are being installed. The bus runs great empty, all 9,900 pounds, time will tell if it’s so happy going up the grapevine with 2 tons of prog gear and 9 people on our way down to LA. That is always a worrisome stretch.
Thursday is prep day. The bus is still not ready and we need to pick it up in the morning – stressful again. St James and the Apostles arrived and are staying at Ari’s place. They are a 3-piece bluesy psychedelic prog band comprising of Keyboards, drums and guitar. We stayed at their spacious place in Philadelphia on the last Nik Turner tour.
I’m thinking of swapping out my Fender Starcaster for a different guitar for the tour. I use it on just one song ‘Somewhen Veaa (Dreamstate)’, and find it a bit heavy on the bass notes for the finger picking style. It is tuned down to D for that song. Also it doesn’t fit in the double guitar case so I can take another guitar and have room for a spare Stratocaster all in two cases. I’m not sure yet.
The bus is still not ready. More stress! So we have arranged to ferry all the gear to the venue in cars. We have a rehearsal first at the Oakland practice space. It was good; the band flowed through the set with few problems save ‘The Minion’, which is a tricky little piece.
Outside the Golden Bull is a small makeshift memorial to Emiliano Nevarez, the 26-year-old victim of the recent shooting. The downtown location seemed unperturbed like a handful of blocks of New York City dropped in the otherwise ramshackle spread of mostly unkempt houses. Satya Sena, the opening band furnished the night with gorgeous fine art posters highlighted with metallic ink. (See right...)
There is, supposedly, a good buzz on Hedersleben in Oakland, but this Friday night we are up against tough competition with Glitter Wizard playing in town along with a couple of other shows.
St James & the Apostles sounded powerful through the very good sound system and the Golden Bull, but soon into the set Mike’s bass peddles for the organ broke. With no bass player it was for them a not insignificant problem. To the audience I think it was less disastrous as the sound engineer was on his game and the band still came over well.
The turnout was scant and before our set the room was almost empty. After our line-check people reassembled and if you didn’t squint through the lights it wasn’t embarrassing.
Hedersleben. Oakland 17 April 2015
Left to Right: Ursula, Jason, Kephera, Nicky and Ariana - click image to enlarge
The stage, and I suspect the majority of stages on this tour, was not built for a prog band. Kephera, Ariana and Ursula were along the front while Jason and I were crammed in at the back. We played okay, but not relaxed enough. Ursula did well, this being her first gig with us, and there were no major train wrecks. Still, the feel was not what I’d hoped and I was completely cut off from the audience behind Ursula. Ariana is starting to develop into the front person she was brought on board to be.
It’s the first show so I was not too worried. Then, after talking to audience members, I realised they genuinely got what we are trying to do, were gushing in their appraisal and we even sold a fair amount of merchandise.
Hopes were not high for the Concord show. Jerry, my good friend from the Science advocacy community, opened the show with his cover band The New Originals - yes taken from Spinal Tap ! The attendance was abysmal but like last night the reception was fantastic. All-in-all a show best forgotten. Furthermore we, still without the bus, had to rent a U-haul van.