Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Day Three: New York, NY

The show in Troy ended at a good time and we continued our upgrade from Motel 6 to Super 8. At least I'm pretty sure we stayed at a Super 8. There was wireless internet! I definitely had a good 7 hours of sleep. Troy and New York City are not too far from each other, so the ride was going to be short. There was a coffee warehouse blocks from our hotel so we were able to get some decent brew. This is unusual for us, because most of the time we get the Sunoco Hazelnut Delight or whatever gas station coffee is readily available. Starbucks is a treat, but I have to add at least 3 packets of Sugar in the Raw - it's too bitter for me sometimes. Starbucks is an international phenomenon. Wouldn't you expect it to taste like chocolate chip cookies or something?
Well, it doesn't.
It was a fairly pleasant ride to New York City until we hit the treacherous 4:30 PM rush hour traffic. Still, I've been through worse. We still managed to make it to the club early. Last time we played here, it was a club called Coda. I believe they went out of business, so we ended up playing at the revamped Lion's Den. I haven't played there since July 9, 2005, where I did my first real gig with Andre, Dave, and Jordan Shapiro (a.k.a Project/Object Lite). We were Chris Opperman's backing band. By the way, if you don't know who Chris is, check out his MySpace. He's a brilliant composer who works with Mike Keneally and Steve Vai. I hope to play with him again someday.
So we were sitting outside the club, and Svalgard left and then came back with a loaf of bread and a container of fresh mozzarella. We must've looked like a bunch of homeless freaks sitting outside of this club, hoarding bread and cheese like animals. Quite a sight for ongoing spectators, I'm sure. The enthusiastic sound guy arrived and we set up, but we weren't allowed to soundcheck until at least 7:30 because of the offices next door. Maybe I'm an idiot, but why would an office open next door to a loud rock venue? The logistics on that one are just a tad skewed.
After we were done setting up, Svalgard told me that his daughter Madi Diaz was playing a couple blocks away at the Living Room. Laura (our merch girl), Svalgard, and I took a cab and got there at 7 on the dot. I walked up to the door and saw a bouncer. I then realized that this was a 21+ venue, and there was no way in hell I was getting in. We begged the bouncer for a good 5 minutes until Madi came out and saved the day. It was a bit embarrassing though. I can't wait until I'm 21 and I can go see shows without any hassle. Madi's set was great and performed quite professionally. I was particularly fond of her bass player. He had that Motown/Rick Danko bass feel, playing a little bit behind the beat.
We had to leave her show and lucky for us, there was a cab about to leave a block away from the venue. We hopped in and made back to the Lion's Den just in time for soundcheck. It sounded amazing in there, so it didn't take too long to get my mix figured out. Right after we were done, drummer Jerry Cucurullo showed up. His band was the opening act. Jerry is Warren Cucurullo's brother, and Warren was in a couple of bands, y'know such as: Duran Duran, Missing Persons, Frank Zappa. He also has uh, an interesting online presence, where he um, has videos on his website. Basically, you have to be over 18 to view portions of his site. Anyway, Jerry is a total sweetheart and a great drummer. He recently won one of those Guitar Center Drum Off competitions. He beat out all the young whippersnappers and Vinnie Colaiuta clones. After his band wrapped up, we went on a did a very good first set. As usual, I made a bunch of clams, but it was all in good spirit. The second set was just as good in spirit, with less clams. After we finished doing our double percussion solo in "Don't You Ever Wash That Thing", Ed Palermo walked onstage to sit in for our encore. What a surprise! We ripped into "Peaches En Regalia", and it was probably the best version we've ever played. The post-show was relaxing and Laura gave me a new Project/Object tour shirt and then Dave LaRue-ified it for me by cutting off the sleeves. After loading out we had Mamoun's Falafel at 2AM. Mamoun's Falafel is just amazing. People travel long distances to have it. It's only $2 for a gigantic sandwich. After the joy of the devouring it, we took the late night drive to the infamous East Brunswick Motel 6 - the first hotel I stayed at with Project/Object.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Day Two: Troy, NY

Is it a huge problem that I'm listening to Gwen Stefani's "Sweet Escape" as I'm writing this? Absolutely. I'm about to listen to Steve Reich's "Music for 18 Musicians" instead, which is probably the complete antithesis of "Sweet Escape".
In my previous post, I just started to talk about the genius of Josh Oxford. I will elaborate in a bit. But first, here's another "It's such a small world"-ism: Josh played drums in Jordan Del Rosario's first band, and Jordan Del Rosario happens to be in a band called Cheers Elephant, which features Matt Rothstein on bass, who happens be my sister's boyfriend. Isn't that just crazy?
Anyway, Josh is from Ithaca, NY. There has to be something in the water up there. Not only is he a consummate drummer/percussoid/marimbaman, but he also plays piano like McCoy Tyner or something. His solos are breathtaking, melodically and rhythmically radical. It's like he's stuttering out sentences on that marimba, and he's one of the few musicians I've heard that knows how to put a period on the end of those sentences. He even has perfect pitch and he can improvise singing in twelve-tone! In fact, I can guarantee that Frank would have hired him.
The drive to Troy was another cold and lonely one, but we arrived early. We managed to get a great 2 hour practice in before the show. We run through "The Dog Breath Variations" about 5 or 6 times and it starts to sound great. I relaxed for a couple minutes after practice and decided it was time for dinner. I remembered that there was a place about 4 doors down. It's called Jose Malone's, which I am pretty sure is the world's only Mexican-Irish fusion restaurant. Can you even imagine that combination? Potato Burritos? I ordered a Salad Tostada and a Vegetarian Chili for after the show.
When I headed back to the venue I suddenly had a flashback to the last time we played there in January. There were a group of hecklers on the top left balcony who gave me the finger the whole time and would shout such absurdities as "Rye Fuckin' Bread!" and (this is a personal favorite) "Your smiles are superficial!"
As soon as this thought entered my brain, I looked up to the balcony and there they were! The good news about these guys is that the heckling comes from their serious love of our group, but it's still awfully confusing while playing a show. This time around they made tie-dye shirts with featured a detailed caricature of Frank wearing silly glasses. They were so adamant about us wearing these shirts on stage that one of the hecklers somehow made it past security and laid the shirts on the couch backstage.
We get onstage around 9:30 or so maybe, and play a pretty slamming first set. Practice makes perfect! I look towards stage left and I see a guy in the audience with a shirt that looks like a digital VU meter (if you aren't a nerd, look it up). In fact, I notice that his shirt is a real live VU meter with LED lights and it's monitoring the decibel level of our particular rock concert! Apparently he purchased it from a website called I just had to take a picture with him during the set break. I walked up to him and said, "You have no idea how much we love that shirt." He was a nice guy, and we took a picture of me looking baffled while pointing at the futuristic wonder shirt.
We did another slamming set and called it a night. During our breakdown someone had the idea to put Michael Jackson's "Number Ones" on the sound system. I did my best Thriller bridge section dance. If you dont know the moves from the video it's "clap, jiggle horizontally, shoulder shake, clap, zombie hands". The fans were wonderful and generous as usual. One girl randomly ran up to me and gave me a kiss on the cheek. Boy, I love Troy.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Day One: Hartford, CT

As I said in the last entry, we left Wilmington at around 11AM - kind of a late start. Certainly it was a bizarre weather day. During our rehearsals we had an unexpected October heat wave which made for some uncomfortable extended odd-time signature playing. On the day of our departure it was suddenly rainy and 20 degrees colder. Even after all this touring I've done, I'm completely unprepared and I didn't bring any warm clothing. I've opted to borrow Svalgard's BB King's Blues Club hoodie which is three sizes too big (I like my clothes teeny and toasty). It makes me look like a festival attending wookie, or the unabomber. I am also refusing to shave, because everybody knows that this month is Octobeard. We got to the Webster an hour and half late, which called for a super speedy set-up and soundcheck. There were 3 opening bands that night, one of which was - this is their real name, I kid you not - Dude, Fuckin' Yeah. It truly is a small world, because a member of Dude, Fuckin' Yeah attended our Adrian Belew Trio show in Piermont, New York. He complemented us after the show, and proceeded to leave in a limousine. This baffled my sister and I, and at the time we secretly believed that the band name Dude, Fuckin' Yeah was a cover up. I assumed that he may have been a member of a much bigger band, perhaps a backup keyboardist for the Beyonce group or a percussionist for the Allman Brothers Band. But no, he really does play in a rockin' teenage combo known as (say it with me) Dude, Fuckin' Yeah.
After our quick soundcheck, we had a nice family dinner. It was only 6:30 and we weren't going on until 10:00. We collectively practiced until around 9:00, and then I received a phone call from my uncle. He was downstairs in the venue lobby with his friend. Coincidentally, the last time I saw my Uncle Dave was at BB King's Blues Club! We had a nice chat and he gave me two CD's for the road. Thanks Uncle Dave!
We went on at 10:15 or so and did a solid two-hour single set. I thought it was a good first show. A couple bum notes and missed drum fills here and there, but good overall. I didn't talk about this in my last entry, because I wanted to save a special space for him, but we have a percussionist for the bulk of this tour. His name is Joshua Oxford. He is brilliant. I'll talk more about him over the next couple of entries.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

We Begin the Beguine

The First Days of Touring

October 7-10: Intense Practicing

We started the Project/Object experience with a rigorous rehearsal schedule. I have to admit that I haven't touched this material in awhile. I've had a busy summer of touring with Adrian and had to focus most of my energy on that. In between all of the touring with Adrian, I played gigs with Mike Keneally, Crescent Moon, Sounds of Greg D, and Bob Musso. There were lots of songs to be learned for all of those and unfortunately Zappa had to be put on the back-burner. Revisiting this music after several months of not hearing it makes you realize how highly constructed it is. Each song - no matter how simple it may be within the context of Zappa's work -is still packed with information and idiosyncrasies. It's much like Mike Keneally's music. Bassist extraordinaire Doug Lunn once told me, "It really is impossible to play this stuff without rehearsal." Funny that he said that, considering we had absolutely no rehearsal for our early summer Keneally gig together at the School of Rock Festival.
On October 6th I was picked up in Philadelphia by Eric Svalgard, Project/Object's keyboard player. We decided that we'd rehearse in Wilmington, Delaware at the Grand Opera House. It was an easy meeting point for everyone in the group and Svalgard recently hired me to teach there on Saturdays. In the morning I taught three kids and I spent the afternoon shedding songs that I've never played before. On this tour we added "Let's Move to Cleveland", "TInseltown Rebellion", "Who Needs the Peace Corps", "How Could I Be Such A Fool?", "Ain't Got No Heart", "I'm Not Satisfied", "Hot Plate Heaven at the Green Hotel", and several other impossible nuggets. I've recently discovered an incredible piece of software called "Transcribe!" that allows me to play mp3's at half speed without changing the pitch or quality of the file. Not only that, but I can also EQ the song and remove bass lines, flute parts, or I can even put it in "Karaoke" mode and it can remove most of the vocals. Technology bugs me a whole bunch (I still opt for using a CD player and when I can I listen to vinyl) but this is truly something worth having as musician.
Andre Cholmondeley (our fearless leader) arrived in the late afternoon from his new home in Asheville, NC and from 6:00 until 10:00 we ran through songs such as "T'Mershi Duween" about ten times. Naturally, I was unpacked and unprepared so I took the R2 train from Marcus Hook to Philadelphia at midnight and slept for about 7 hours. I woke up around 8:30 on Sunday and started packing and practicing simultaneously. Svalgard picked me up In Philadelphia again and we got to Wilmington at noon. Our bassist Dave Johnsen arrived from Brooklyn and we practiced all day. This cycle continued for the next two days with alternating dinners at weird places. The first night we had authentic Mexican food which led to the return of the infamous "Mudbutt" joke. I can't really explain what "Mudbutt" is, because it is a sacred touring artifact of ours, but it never fails to make us laugh.
With persistence it makes our keyboard player very angry, but that's part of the fun.
The legendary Napoleon Murphy Brock arrived late on Monday night after 11 hours of traveling. The man has easily replaced James Brown as "the hardest working man in show business". Our group practice for the day was complete at around 9 so Napoleon went straight to the hotel. I continued practicing at Svalgard's house until midnight. In the middle of my practice I read online somewhere that said "Eric Slick isn't a tight drummer." This is essentially true, so I made the "post-practice practicing" a new ritual.
We rehearsed all day Tuesday with Napoleon. He sounded incredible. Any problems we had during rehearsal were given the magic Napoleon touch. The rehearsal was over at midnight, and at this point I was exhausted so I just went to sleep. At 11AM we began the journey to Hartford, CT to our first show at the Webster Theatre.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Thoughts for Sale

Now that I've had enough coffee for the morning, I'll begin my first post at this shiny new web address.
Let me re-introduce myself. My name is Eric Slick and I live in Philadelphia. I have been a musician since I was two years old and I currently tour with King Crimson’s Adrian Belew, Frank Zappa tribute Project/Object, and Crescent Moon. In the past I’ve performed with Carlos Alomar, John Wetton, Mike Keneally, Gene and Dean Ween, Jon Anderson, Eddie Vedder, Ann Wilson, Ike Willis, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Umphrey’s McGee, Denny Walley, The Paul Green School of Rock Music, Eugene Chadbourne, Bob Musso, Elliott Levin, and the list continues to grow. I am an active improviser in the Black Lodge Ensemble. I have my own radio show on WRSR devoted to my love of musique concrete, classical, jazz, and other strange music entitled “Modern Works”. I consider myself to be an extremely lucky twenty year old.
This website is going to be the official home of my tour diaries, memoirs, and other useless debris (also known as my thoughts).
But for now, I must practice. I begin a US tour in less than a week with Project/Object featuring Napoleon Murphy Brock. I will be documenting that entire tour so stay tuned!