Saturday, January 29, 2005

Last night with Tony Levin...

So last night my son Eric and a few other Rock School kids opened for former King Crimson/Yes bass player Tony Levin and the California Guitar Trio, featuring former King Crimson drummer Pat Mastelotto. And yes, I took a million digital pics but I have to wait for Eric to come home and upload them for me. (one of these days I'm going to learn how to do that myself...sigh...)

Anyway, this was pretty exciting because Eric basically put this show together while Paul was in Salt Lake City, Utah for the screening of Rock School at the Sundance Film Festival. And he was the only drummer on all five songs. The show also marked the return of retired rock school greats - my daughter Julie and boyfriend Matt on bass and my "adopted" son, Louie, on guitar. They were joined by other rock school legends Kenny Liu and CJ Tywoniak on guitars, and Max DiMezza and Mike Connor on bass.

The venue was completely sold out because the concert is part of a Prog Rock series being promoted on the east coast and from the minutes the kids opened with a cover of King Crimson's 21st Century Schizoid Man, as is usual and customary with Rock School All-Star shows, the crowd went nuts. They were so awesome, clapping and whistling and of course, wearing the looks of utter disbelief I love so much. That's the great thing about being at shows away from the downtown Philadelphia venues the kids usually play -- I get to see the shock and awe (ha!) on the faces of people who can't believe what they are hearing from kids.

We had one weird moment after the show and we were all kinds of upset about it but Tony Levin keeps an on line journal so I was waiting to see if he wrote anything today before I reported what happened here. I'm glad I did and a cool head prevailed because as you'll read below, he had nothing but nice things to say.

What happened was this: The kids ended the show with King Crimson's Elephant Talk, which Tony Levin wrote. They do an awesome rendition of it...Louie rules in that song with CJ on guitar, Max DiMezza is just amazing on bass, and Eric brilliant on drums. Studying with Gary Chaffee and Rob Brosh at University of the Arts is giving his playing a whole new dimension. So after they finish the song, the set is finished and they walk off the stage. Tony Levin is leaning against the wall and what does he say to them?

"You guys played that too fast."

Louie said something to him, I'm pretty sure it was "Hey, I just found out I was in this show three days ago and had to re-learn the song"...I'm not sure exactly what he said but Louie also hasn't been in a show since the summer when he graduated Rock School.

Tony replied "Did you guys ever listen to the record?"

Yeah, Tony, like only a million times. They love your music.

So it was kind of a crushing remark but in retrospect, I think he was being the crusty teacher, the elder statesman rock and roller, wanting respect from the kiddies who just nailed some very difficult music. And besides, and of course this is only my opinion, but since when are you supposed to play a cover song note for note? Aren't you supposed to do your own interpretation? All I know is, both Eric and Louie were a bit shaken...but they won't be when they read Tony's blog entry. I guess I should only post the pertinent part, but it's kind of interesting so I'm posting the entire thing. Also, as a side note, drummer Pat Mastelotto couldn't have been cooler, letting Eric play his trillion dollar drum set and being really kind, supportive...and impressed.

Tony's Journal:

Jan 29, Pennsylvania Turnpike

This tour, the California Guitar Trio plus Pat Mastelotto on drums and me on bass, has had three shows so far this week. I'm writing an update from my car (Eric, our tour merch person and general helper, is driving now - I see we've put over 900 miles on my car since we began.)

On our drive down to Anapolis for the first show, Eric told me of a funny coincidence: the last time he was there was way back in 1990, when he went there for a show of Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe - never imagining that sometime in the future he'd be driving back there with the bass player, and that we're even doing one of the same pieces, Heart of the Sunrise in the show.

I've got very few photos because the stage isn't well lit - so I'll stick to mostly a journal report of this tour, rather than adding separate pages of photos.
Things got off to a lively start when the band arrived in Anapolis from all over the place - we drove down from New York State, and the others flew in from various cities. But we soon found that the drums were delayed in shipment, and had not arrived. Made for an interesting first soundcheck - Pat spent the day on the phone, looking for a local drummer who could lend us his kit. And, we know from experience, it's a hard call to choose where to try for delivery on Pat's drums - some bands have spent whole tours with instruments following them around, never connecting up with the players!

We found drums, of course, and the show went fine. The following shows were the same situation - borrowing drums at each. Hopefully Pat's drums will arrive in Kingston in time for Saturday's show.

Second show was in Morgantown, West Virginia. Very nice small theater, and a fun show for us. There was a Spinal Tap moment, however. After the first five songs, Pat and I leave the stage and the trio does a few pieces on their own. There was no proper dressing room to disappear to, just a hallway parallel to the venue, with locked door to the outside. Pat went off somewhere and I sat making a phone call. It was a bit loud, so I removed the chair propping open the door into the venue. Sometime during that call, I came to realize that the door was self locking, and there was now no way out of the room. Knocking on the door did no good - couldn't be heard with the volume of the show. I thought ahead to the setlist - it was a group improv that they expected me to return for - would they come looking for me, or think it was my improvisation to not appear? I thought, ah, I'll just the venue on my cell phone, to tell them to come unlock my door -- but, embarassingly, I couldn't remember the name of the city we were playing in! (I told you this was a Spinal Tap moment.)

Obviously, I'm not doing this web update from that room, so I was indeed rescued (choosing the right quiet moment in the music to knock loudly on the door was the trick!)

Next show was at Coatsville, Pennsylvania, at a "School of Rock". We met some very nice and talented kids during the day, and spoke to them quite a bit. (Should I have instructed them to never get locked in a dressing room?) Amazingly, the opening act, comprised of some of the students, aged 16 to 18, played a King Crimson repertoire. Included 21st Century Schizoid Man and Elephant Talk! Wow.

Now we're heading for my home area, Kingston, NY, where we'll play at Keegan's Ales - a great local brewery I've played at before.
More reports soon.