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.