FRENCH TV

BAND OF DESTINY








11/5: A pleasant, roomy flight to Paris. Rendezvoused with Brian, who arrived at the same time. Bit of a hassle tracking down my bass, but eventually lucked out. Walked out of the building to the pick up area, and was very glad [overjoyed, actually--I missed those guys!] to see Ludo and Nini Fabre waiting for us. Piled into the car, and headed to our HQ in Le Mans, about 2.5 hour's south of Paris.
After arriving, and being warmly greeted by Sylvie, we had a nice meal, relaxed for a bit, met Sylvie's cat Faton [Brian's new best friend], and then went to town to exchange our $$$ for euros, and a lot of lovely walking about sight-seeing. No practicing for most of us today, but Nini later stays up ALL NIGHT working on FTV charts. I also saw the equivalent of a candy store where all the candies are just out of reach--a comic shop that was CRAMMED full of all sorts of graphic novels-BUT ALL IN FRENCH--WAHHHH!!! It was a mind-boggling display--if there's an equivalent in the US, I haven't seen it.





Afterwards, we went to Le Zoo, the small bar where we will be doing a promotional show 11/23--on Thanksgiving! Charming place, and made even more charming by the arrival of the missing Mentat brothers Karl and Didier. It was wonderful to see them again!

11/6: A leisurely morning, and then off to the country to Ludo & Nini's mother's house in Saint-Mars-la-Bričre, where the Mentats rehearse. Mrs. Fabre is quite a sweetheart, and was kind enough to bring occasional espressos during our time there. As for me, I learned that the cheap-o electrical adaptors I got off eBay for my various pedals were cheap for a reason--they promptly fried after being plugged in. Oh, well, bass effects are overrated, anyway...We were also introduced to Devil-Machine. What is Devil Machine? Picture a metal bucket crammed with various metallic junk. A handle allows the operator to yank the junk out of the bucket, which then emits the most God-awful screeching ever heard by humanity. An impressive effect!




As for the rehearsal, it was rough-going, but promising. Never a good idea to judge a new band by the 1st rehearsal, anyway. Everyone seems to have a good grasp of the tunes, it's now only a matter of fitting the pieces together.
Returned to Mentat HQ late, where we spent the evening obsessing over the US election returns while sipping Brian and my new favorite drink [we've been corrupted by the Mentats!], a licorice-flavored concoction called "Ricard Pastis", best consumed with green olives and/or peanuts. Also needs to be watered down! Election results didn't come trickling in until 1am, France time, so off to bed. Briefly. Both Brian and I woke up at least 3 times, sweating over the election results. I finally got up around 5, went to the laptop, and breathed a heavy sigh of relief.


11/7: Joined everyone else later that morning for breakfast, and watched coverage of the election wrap-up. GOODBYE, MITT! AND GOODBYE KARL ROVE!
Later, back to our rehearsal place; everything getting tighter. Lots of controversy over the arrangement for "With Grim Determination, Terrell Dons the Bow Tie". Lots of uncertainty about pulling this one off, and we throw around many ideas to make it flow a bit easier. After the rehearsal, we pack everything up in 3 vehicles; the plan being to relocate for the next 2 days to Paco's studio for more rehearsal, and for me to record some new Mentat tunes, plus some rehearsal for my future gigs with the Mentats.
Our next stop was at a party in Le Tronchet that Karl and his friends from the rural grower's co-op were throwing for us. I assumed it was going to be a low-key affair, but I was in for a surprise when I walked in the door. There much of been 20-30 or so people there, and they were all quite friendly, plus there were lots of tasty dishes, all made from the veggies they had grown this year. There was a dried-spinach on pizza crust I found quite appetizing in particular. Met an expatriate from Arkansas, of all places, and Brian and I and she dished about all we knew about Bobby Petrino. A good time was had by all---it was a great bunch of people. Got back pretty late; this place was quite a ways off in the countryside. Checked in with the laptop, and good news: Obama is still president.


11/8: Another leisurely breakfast, and now it was off to Paco and his partner Ben's studio, about an hour's drive away. Set up; set recording levels, and ran through the set list. It was pretty nice to be able to hear very good recordings of what we'd been doing; lots of fine-tuning and critiquing. Originally, our plan was for today to be 1/2 FTV and 1/2 Mentat rehearsal, but things change--all FTV run-throughs instead. Return to Le Mans late again.


11/9: Back to Paco's, where we spend the morning running through FTV tunes again, then the afternoon is spent recording my tracks for the Mentat project, then some much-needed practicing of the Mentat Routage songs, which I mostly manage to bluff my way through. "Tritonite" proves to be beyond my capacity to understand/remember, so Nini spends time charting it out for me. The song continues to be a mystery to me, despite my being able to perform it competently last year. We then pack up for the evening, and look forward to a morning without obligations [Ludo will be gone rounding up the tour van]. Tomorrow, it's off to Paris to pick up Shawn, then to a studio for a final rehearsal before the 1st gig.







11/10: The Tour begins! We leave for Paris around noon, find Shawn at the airport with little difficulty, then it's off to the studio Nini reserved. Then, DISASTER STRIKES!! A mere 2 km away from the studio, we get sucked into the WORST traffic jam I've ever seen since Los Angeles '94. A 5-way intersection, with cars actually turned sideways, no gendarmes to be found, and tempers flaring due to much bumper-touching. Shawn, in the 1st of many tour disappearances, decided to jump out of the car and stretch his legs out and stop at a nearby fruit stand. Of course, less than 5 minutes later, we make a breakthrough, but are forced to overshoot the street Shawn is on, and we can't pull over til we're 7-8 blocks down the road. And, of course, it begins to rain. Karl is sent to search for Shawn, and we're rapidly reaching the point where the studio plan is kaput. By the time Shawn is finally retrieved, we give up on the studio idea, despite Nini's frantic phone calls in search of a replacement studio. New tactic: find a place to eat, then head for Reims [home to the worst FTV gig experience last time we toured Europe] to spend the night at a hotel. For reasons known only to the French members of our expedition, we circle Paris aimlessly until the American contingent demands we stop at the next Chinese restaurant. Good food, and nice to actually unwind after the hassles of the previous 3 hours.  We hit the road, and, after yet more aimless circling, find a budget hotel to spend the night. After checking in at the clerk-less desk, we notice the breakfast room deserted. Instruments are retrieved, stools are converted into drums, and we run thru the set list, to the amusement of the hotel guests. Around 11pm or so, we collapse into our respective hotel rooms [Americans in one, Frenchmen across the hall].


11/12: A pleasant, uneventful drive to Verviers, through beautiful, mostly farmland country. Arrived at the venue, Spirit of '66, around 2pm, and met the various staff people, who were all incredibly helpful. Unloaded gear, then set up merchandise at a small table next to some other prog vendors. Picked up the Beardfish cd, "Destined Solitaire", hoping it wouldn't contain yet more songs about being f***** over and going crazy [it did]. Spent some time chit-chatting with the Agents of Mercy; very nice fellows. Roine Stolt & I reminisce about our less-than-pleasant Cincinnati gig together the day after 9/11/01. Also run into a refugee from Louisville whom I haven't seen in 30+ years---Reed Billings, who currently resides in the Netherlands. Belated apologies to the RPWL fans whose enjoyment was marred by our inconsiderate blabbing. At the end of their set, Brian is nearly moved to tears by what appears to be RPWL's signature sing-a-long, "Roses". This song is later randomly belted out at quiet moments during the rest of our tour.


Finally time for FTV to hit the stage. After searching frantically, I can't find my little baggie with all my guitar picks. I find on the stage 2 kinds of picks: the standard plastic type, and a nylon type I normally don't use. The nylon feels slightly more comfy than the other, so I go with it. Big introduction by the MC; we launch into "Conversational Paradigms", and about 30 seconds in, I realize the nylon was an extremely stupid choice--with all the 16th-notes "CP" requires, the pick is flopping around as if I'm playing with a piece of soft carpet. I sub out the pick, and promptly blow a few measures. Let that be a lesson, kids!






Despite our overall sloppiness [Shawn is kind enough to point out to the audience how little rehearsal we had, so I'll helpfully point out how, after reviewing the recording, Shawn is roughly a measure or two ahead of us for much of the show], we put on a fun and energetic performance, and go over like ice cream--quite a relief for us, as we're a bit more "avant" than all the other bands at the festival. Afterwards, I sell lots of cds, which also comes as quite a relief.
We later go upstairs to the "green room", where we're treated to excellent Chinese food & wine from our hosts, and are also paid. Relief #3. We discuss what a pleasant revelation our stage antics were, and how this ought to set the tone for the rest of the tour. I realize I won't have to work as hard this time out--these guys are as hammy as I am!













More meeting & greeting with fans, and I also catch the rest of Agents of Mercy's set--quite a bunch of professionals, and their keyboardist Lasse Larsson in particular stands out. Great set, with lots of instrumental jammy-type sections where they stretched out.
Finally, after a couple of nightcaps at the bar and many goodbyes, we went to the hotel [after many futile attempts] and sacked out.




11/12: WURZBURG DAY 1:
I was up and about by 10am, and roamed . Last night, Roine mentioned that this was a combination hotel/tennis center, and seeing it this morning in all its glory was quite a sight, especially for accompanying the excellent breakfast buffet. The tennis area is indoors, and surrounded by the fairly- upscale hotel. I attempt to use Ludo's laptop, but give up in frustration due to the crazed hoops Gmail shove my way. Eventually, everyone packed up and headed to the parking lot, where we hung out with the Agents of Fortune for quite awhile, trading road stories and cds.

The trip to Wurzburg went okay, if a bit grueling-somehow, a 4-hour trip stretched into 7. Made a couple of stops at roadside diners-good food! Passing the airport in Frankfort was surreal--it seemed to go on for miles, and is pretty spectacular to see--didn't know there was that much glass paneling in the world!
Arrived in Wurzburg around 7pm; checked into the Babelfish hostel, spent what seemed like hours finding a secure parking garage, and went off in search of a place to eat--not an easy feat on a Monday evening, as we were rebuffed continually. Finally--you guessed it--we found a Chinese place--the streak continues!



11/13: WURZBURG DAY 2: We attempt a rendezvous with Charly Heiderich at The Immerhin [where we will be performing], but miss hooking up, as it takes an hour or so to get our van out of the garage! Despite our continual attempts at getting the automated reader to "see" our ticket, it refuses to open the exit. Afterwards, I kick myself for not walking over to the Immerhin myself to meet Charly [it's only a 10 minute walk from the Babelfish], as he could only stay for a short period before he had to leave for work and wouldn't be able to open the venue for us again until late afternoon. CRAP! After much discussion, we decide to go our separate ways and meet at the Immerhin at 3pm.
Spent the next 3 hours wandering around Wurzburg---bustling, mall-like downtown area, and I eventually stop for expresso and curiously tasteless pastry. Resume my exploration, and begin to suspect I am hopelessly lost. A helpful office worker on her break actually walks me to where I can find the hostel again. I decide I have more time to kill, and promptly get semi-lost again, but recover and wander over to the Immerhin with the others. Charly arrives to big hugs [I've often said how I wish there was a "Charly" in every city--it would make touring much easier and enjoyable!], and guides us to the actual Immerhin, which is housed in the deep basement of a large industrial building, which is also home to the local police station and a post office. We cart our gear to the club--decent size room with lots of couches, and a nice side room for the musicians. We set up, and decide to use our mixing board rather than the house set-up. Never learn why, but I think it was so the Mentats could use their laptop recording gear. We are able to relax and take our time as the gig isn't until tomorrow, so it takes a couple hours before we play a note. Once we do, I realize my bass amp isn't going to be very co-operative, as it keeps cutting out despite my helpful whacks. We finally begin practicing, and Shawn takes charge, ironing out all the rough spots, and honing the various unison bit he and Ludo, Karl, and Nini do. We also work out "The Secret Life of Walter Riddle", which we skipped in Verviers due to lack of preparation [we hadn't even rehearsed it as a group PRIOR to Shawn's arrival in Europe thanks to time constraints]. Once we get it down, we know it's going to be a show-stopper.

Charly returns around 10pm to lock up; I appraise him of the bass amp issue; and we head for someplace to eat. Except for Brian, who seems to be coming down with my cold and returns to the hostel. Somehow, the idea of wandering around Wurzburg once again searching for late-night food options doesn't appeal to anyone, so we do the obvious thing--the Chinese place next to the Babelfish! FOUR days of Chinese in a row! The food is great, but discover we're actually being CHARGED for the water---grrrr...


11/14: WURZBURG DAY 3: Day of the show; tour gig #2. Breakfast at the Babelfish; catch up with e-mail and the folks back home; meet up with Charly to unlock the Immerhin, and we spend the rest of the day prepping for the show. Charly also shows up with a better amp, thankfully. More rehearsal, some of which is recorded--this is the 1st trial run of the laptop interface, and it's a success--the Mentats are quite pleased. Later, the others have lunch at the Tibetan place we'd seen during our 1st wanderings while I stay behind to guard the equipment and await my carry-out. One of the sound guys for tonight shows up, and we chit chat about the gear. The others return; more rehearsal, and we call it quits around 5pm--there's such a thing as getting TOO good, I suppose...

Later, the other band, SVIN, who are from Denmark, arrive. Friendly bunch of fellows; one of those metal/jazz groups that seem to be everywhere these days. 2 horns, guitar, drums. They are kind enough to agree to let us open the show instead of closing, as we have an early start tomorrow for our journey to Montpellier. I then spend much of the rest of the day sacked out in the side room until gig time.

An hour or so before the gig, I set up our merchandise table, and talk up the various attendees--one of whom traveled 650 km to see us! Another guy had seen us at our previous gig here, so we must be doing something right. Speaking of which, I learn that Karl, Ludo, & Nini had visited the Omnibus last night after dinner, where French TV had played last time--wish I had gone! Later, Charly puts together a yummy soup for us, which we devour in the bar area, separate from the performance area. What a guy!








SHOWTIME! Roughly 25-30 people in the audience, but they're rowdy and want a show, and we deliver. We launch into "Conversational Paradigms", and THIS time we brought the finesse missing from Verviers--it was ultimately expensive, but I'm glad we had the 2 days off for rehearsal. To quote Brian--"It helped--it REALLLY did..." Tons of energy expended by all, and I'm tucked away in the back on a stool thinking how great it is to have such a dynamic, robust front line of Ludo, Shawn, and Karl, so I'm not the only active focal point. The rest of the show is a hit; we end with "Walter Riddle", and "THANK YOU- GOOD NIGHT!" The crowd is buzzing; I sell lots of cds again, and the fans are chatty, terrific and welcoming-great crowd!

We pack up [Shawn does his load-out disappearing act again], catch some of SVIN's show--loud, noisy, but still interesting--and Brian and I hit the kebab place at the bus station in front of the hostel. Later, the Mentats join us, and we're still quite juiced about our performance. Nothing succeeds like success! Hit the sack reasonable early in anticipation of the dreaded trip tomorrow.




11/15, MONTPELLIER (When is a show NOT a show?): Everyone up at 5:30am, and my comment "time to go fishing" seems to enliven the proceedings. Not much in the way of foot-dragging as I feared, and we're on the road reasonably quickly. I soon discover that I've left my Bob McChesney and John Nichols book "The Death and Life of American Journalism" behind-BAH! Fortunately, I snagged a copy of Oliver Twist at the hostel--hey, it was slim pickings for English books--and devour it greedily.
LOOOOONG, grueling  trip--I think we were in the van for a good 14 hours, including various pit stops. Fortunately, everyone is still somewhat buzzed over last night's show, and there's lots of discussion [among the members still awake] on making future shows even better. We arrive in Montpellier around 8pm--quite beautiful, and Shawn remarks that it reminds him of Monte Carlo. GPS eventually guides us to an older area of town among steep hills and tall, faded yellow buildings, and, as the driver at this point, I'm alarmed at the narrow streets and lose track of the various cafe chairs I've knocked over. This seems to be where the university kids live, as I don't see ANYONE over 25. We finally discover the Up and Down, tonight's host venue. We walk in, and learn to our horror we're basically playing in a tiny pit in which we have to go down steep steps and cross a tiny 5-ft rope bridge to get to our tiny playing area. There's a sad-looking drum kit that appears to have fallen off a truck, and there's no bass or guitar amp as promised before the tour.

Some back-tracking: this was the only gig during the organizing phase in which contact with the venue was almost non-existent. My contact in Toulouse, Manu Muré, gave me the name of a woman who booked the Montpellier show, then she handed me off to the club itself for further details which never arrive, despite all efforts on both my and the Mentats' part. Finally, the week before I left, someone involved e-mails about drum details, and that was the end of any contact. So, I was a little uneasy about this particular gig from the beginning.


So, as we're loading our equipment through this obstacle course, and as I notice the small crowd hanging about everywhere but the basement area, my "ALERT! BAD GIG AHEAD!" radar is going off, and I decide we ought to pull the plug on this gig and get a jump on our trip to Madrid [another 10+ hour grind]. I present this option to the rest of the band, and everyone except Ludo, who seems in favor of canceling, is non-committal but open to the idea. Complicating my thought processes is an attractive young woman who is very insistent that we ought to set up and at least give it a go. A handful of other cute girls and their dates begin to filter their way downstairs, and it was getting TOO surreal to me. This was a situation I'm not used to--pretty girls ASKING me to play for them??? We decide to have dinner at the Indian restaurant across the street [and break with our Chinese food tradition], and ponder all this, while keeping an eye out for my contact HĂ©loĂŻse, who arranged the gig and whom I was led to believe was bringing our amps. While waiting for our food, the character who had been eyeing us across the street at the Up and Down came over, asked if we were French TV, and introduced himself as the manager. He then politely suggested that we ought to be setting up soon. We explained that we were probably going to cancel the show, and listed the reasons. He replied that he could quickly find the amps we needed. I was expecting him to be angry about our potential decision, but, as near as I could tell, he seemed disappointed but OK with it [he mostly spoke French with Nini and Karl].

Throughout our meal, there still didn't seem to be any consensus on whether to do the gig our not. Even when it seemed the "no gig" votes won, there was still a lot of foot-dragging, which annoyed Shawn in particular, who began offering alternative ideas such as turning it into a duo Shawn/Ludo set. Rebuffed, he returned to the venue while we finished eating.


I finally managed to guide everyone back to the club to retrieve our gear. When we crept down the narrow steps and reached the bottom, we were greeted by the spectacle of a bug-eyed Shawn rocking out solo to a full room of happy and energetically dancing audience members, some of whom [including the insistent gal I met earlier] were banging away on the various drum pieces scattered across the tiny stage! We began to gather up our gear to occasional "BOOO's", and carried them back to the van. At some point, I slipped on the rope bridge, and landed face-first into a soft canvas case of ours--I'm sure this was a nice summation of our exit to the crowd.

During one of our trips to the van outside, a tall, heavily-tatooed audience member [whom I later learned was the guy who set up the show and provided the drums] blocked Nini and me and angrily announced "I think you are being very unfair about what you are doing!", and proceeded to list the reasons why. After seeing the crowd downstairs, I was beginning to weaken in our decision anyway, so I asked how long it would take to get the amps needed, but he waved me off and said it was too late - but not too late to make sure we knew about his displeasure at this turn of events. He then lapsed into French arguing with Nini, so I don't know where it went from there, but it wasn't pretty. By now, we were getting a little nervous, and began retrieving our stuff together as a group, but there were no further incidents--not that we didn't deserve it! We also retrieved Shawn, who seemed a little uncertain whether he'd done the right thing--I thought he took the PERFECT course of action, and told him so.
We finally pile into the van, which was parked about30 yards down the hill from the club, and Ludo backs it slowly up the hill while dodging various pedestrians and cafe furniture to get to a good turning-around point. We pass the Up and Down, and realize the transmission is smoking! There was a general feeling of "WELL, PERFECT! WE BREAK DOWN IN FRONT OF THE CLUB WE BAILED ON! WE'RE DOOMED!", but despite the smoke, it seems to be running alright. Once we get going, it seems impossible to find our way back through the too-narrow streets, so Shawn jumps out of the van and guides us to possible escape routes. We eventually find the highway, drive for another 2-3 hours, during which I reflect on how this wasn't exactly our finest hour, and whether I should be allowed to be in a decision-making position for the rest of the tour. We get a motel, and the regrets continue until I fall asleep.

11/16: MADRID (REDEEMED! or: DUDE, WHERE'S OUR BEER?): We are off on another early start, and it's fairly smooth sailing into Madrid. Thanks to Shawn cracking the whip, we keep our breaks short, but still arrive slightly later than preferred. Complicating matters is that  after we arrive, it takes a good 1/2 hour to figure out how exactly we're supposed to load equipment, as we can't find anyone in charge. The venue itself is a disco (!) on the 2nd floor of a giant mall(!!)--very upscale and ritzy(!!!). The venue itself, the Colonial Norte, is quite larger than what we're used to, with a big stage, large sound system and fancy lights, a HUGE bar [for all the good it did us, which I'll explain later], audience tables & chairs in front, and lounge seating to the sides. We finally find help, and we're directed to a service elevator which we use for lugging our gear. Upstairs, we find a very harried Carlos Plaza [the guy who arranged this show] and his band Kotobel immersed in their sound check, but Carlos makes time to make sure we're good to go and understand the evening's plans.









I also meet my online buddy Bernabé García Sánchez. Some backtracking on Bernabé: prior to the tour, when we learned Shawn wouldn't be able to do the entire tour, I asked Bernabé [whom I'd corresponded with previously after discovering so many similar musical interests and seeing some great videos of him on his Fandalism page] about playing guitar with us for the dates Shawn would miss. He said yes, and later posted some videos of him performing the tunes, which left me and the rest of the band a little uneasy about his ability to pull them off. As the tour began, though, we realized there would only be room for 6, and there'd be 2 more dates where both Shawn AND Bernabé would be riding with us, which was impossible. So, I broke the news to a seemingly-relieved Bernabé, but offered to have him join us for the last two songs for our set, which he happily agreed to do.



Watched Kotobel's soundcheck, as they struggled to get a decent sound out of the acoustic grand piano, then it was our turn. Kotobel loans us all their equipment, which was top-notch--I even had a dizzying array of pedals and effects before me, courtesy of their bassist Jesús, who was quite a nice guy and had lots of ideas for sight-seeing on our day off tomorrow. Sound check for us went well; no problems, fortunately, as we didn't have much time until the show needed to begin [we were being thrown out at 11:30 to make way for the all-mighty dance floor DJ]. At some point, I went to the hotel across the street for check-in; very nice place. It was somewhat expensive, but I figured both the convenience factor and the hard traveling we'd been doing warranted something nice. Plus, they had secure parking for our equipment-laden van.

Kotobel began their set about 9:30, and I enjoyed them quite a bit--very classically-oriented, similar to perhaps Renaissance or the Italian band Banco del Mutuo Soccorso. Overall, they seemed to be having a lot of sound problems on stage with the monitors. It sounded okay in the audience to me overall, but it was kind of a boomy room, and perhaps not as pristine as they would have liked--they seemed to be a band that was more at home in recital halls.  Very unhappy faces coming off that stage.




We took the stage an hour later, and immediately after my plugging in, it was panic time: NO SIGNAL. After hitting as many knob combinations as possible, it was time to ask for help from Jesús [sorry, couldn't resist that one]. He straightened things out, and soon we were off and running. Breezed through the set, but the stage monitoring was AWFUL--all I could hear was Shawn, with Brian's a few notches below. Ah, well. My stage patter went nowhere, probably due to the language barrier, and the not-so intimate nature of the venue. Despite all this, we carried on, and the audience seemed to dig us anyway.


Finally, it was time to get Bernabé onto the stage for the last two songs, "Mosquito Massacre" and "The Secret Life of Walter Riddle". It took what seemed like FOREVER to get him hooked up. I may have been more nervous about this than Bernabé, as he looked pretty shaky even while running through his parts offstage before the show. I also found myself mentally obsessing over a recent message in which he admitted he had never played electric guitar in front of an audience. But our man came through with flying colors! I had to guide him through the changes we made to the arrangement [mostly expanding a couple of solo sections], and cue him when to change [or, at least I THOUGHT I did--he seemed to anticipate everything perfectly]. I'm certain I made more mistakes than HE did! I SERIOUSLY de-railed "Mosquito" by accidentally skipping a section, but everyone seemed to pick up on what happened, and adjusted accordingly. I really enjoyed watching Bernabé--he seemed a little stiff initially, but midway into the tune he suddenly morphed into Pete Townsend, with windmill flourishes and everything! PHEW!





"The Secret Life of Walter Riddle", our finale, was next, and Ludo & Karl [who were wireless] did something that was so hilarious, we kept it in the set for the rest of the tour: when we got to the "bebop" section of the tune, they impulsively ran into the audience together and chased each other throughout the venue, stopping occasionally to serenade various people in the audience--the patrons FLIPPED, and the rest of us onstage were in hysterics. It was hard to concentrate on playing our parts, we were so focused on seeing what was going to happen next. Somehow Bernabé kept it together as well, and innocently asked afterwards if we did this normally.







We finished with a bang, thanked the audience profusely, and broke down the gear. I weaseled out of it by high-tailing it to the merchandise table, where we sold a miserable 6 cds. HUH? But Madrid, I thought you liked us? Ah, well...


Eventually finished the long trek schlepping our gear downstairs, and at some point observed 3 very angry French musicians getting fed up with getting the runaround all night over getting their promised beers, resulting in heated arguments with various managers, bartenders, and bar employees. The manager was a complete jerk, insisting that we were supposed to have been given tickets for us to redeem for their booze. Of course, this never happened, and the staff either ignored us or pawn us off to someone else equally unhelpful. It didn't help that there was also this general vibe of "hurry up and go away, you bothersome and useless musicians, so we can unleash the DJ'S pre-recorded music." Finally reached the point of "let's just get the **** out of here." Not being much of a beer drinker, I didn't care one way or the other, but I've never seen Nini, Karl, and Ludo so angry, even in much worse situations. I resolved never to come between these guys and their beer intake EVER.

Said goodbye to the guys from Kotobel--Carlos was too tired to go out to eat [as crappy as the management treated US, I suspected they were even worse to Carlos]. We made plans to get together tomorrow, and Carlos then tried to find a place to eat nearby with us, but, contrary to popular belief, Madrid does NOT, in fact, begin their evening meals at 10pm--at least, in the part of town WE were located. So, back to the hotel and sacked out.

11/17 (the devils take a holiday): Our day off. Today was supposed to be a gig in Valencia, but about three weeks before the tour, the promoters were unable to get the theater they wanted, and consequently canceled. After all the traveling we'd been doing, this was a welcome break.
            My planned rendezvous with Carlos never planned out. He had family obligations, and there was a chance of meeting for lunch, but this didn't work out either. So, today's agenda was to do some exploring in what's known as the "old district" of Madrid, possibly seeing the museum, and then meeting around 5pm to drive 4 hours or so, probably to Zaragoza, to get halfway to our next destination, Perpignan.
           Checked out of the hotel, and caught a break--they would allow us to leave the van at the hotel parking garage. Then it was off for some sight-seeing with Shawn leading, as he had visited this area a few years ago. Up a series of hills - very urban area, with lots of shops, and more trees than I expected. We were keeping one eye out for nice places to eat, but most seemed of the kebab variety, which everyone seemed to be tired of for now. Then up a series of stone steps, which led us to a beautiful overview of gardens, with the hedges arranged in maze-like patterns. These were only waist-high, so no danger of getting lost. We then walked though a lovely park, with more mazes and 10-ft statues of the various kings & queens of Spain throughout the years. Finally to a very large open stone-covered plaza, with statues, fountains, and various odd street performers [the Giger alien from "Alien?]. Surrounding the plaza were beautiful old 6-story or so buildings, many of which have ornate, [mostly] black statues, usually of people on horseback, overlooking the scene below.


At this point, Shawn left, as he had a Skype date with the folks back home. Then more streets with lots of shops, and finally a place that served seemingly authentic Spanish food. Foreign Travel Tip #38: Never be afraid to get your menu translated [when possible]. I order what I assume will be something "local", which I suppose probably was, when you think about it: fries, bacon, and runny eggs. Most disappointing-coulda got this at Denny's.
More wandering around; another pub pit-stop, then back to the hotel [thankfully, without MY directions--I had the route back completely wrong]. We hung out in the lobby for a bit, and I caught myself eavesdropping on the political discussion conducted by some people at the next table, whom I guessed were musicians. It turned out they were The Sonics, a notorious garage-rock band from the '60s. Nice guys, and we discussed being working rock bands in Europe. Afterward they left, Shawn asked who those guys were, and was quite flabbergasted at the answer.
Eventually gathered our forces together and said farewell to Madrid [eventually--it takes a loooong time to reach the city limits]. Shawn did most of the driving, and lots of music-talk with me in the front seat. Sometimes I think the whole point of being a musician is secondary to generating enough material to become a good storyteller. If so, Shawn has a considerable head start on the rest of us.
          For those among you in search of hotels before, in, and past Zaragoza, on your way north, be advised: you will occasionally see hotels to your left, but you will be unable to reach them, as there are almost NO nearby exits. If you see one, GRAB IT. Also, watch out for stray sheep on the highway--Shawn nearly obliterated one that seemed to appear out of nowhere. We stopped at one hotel, didn't like the price, drove for another half-hour or so, and finally saw a sign for another. This exit led to what seemed to be a fishing lake & campground about 5 miles from the highway, and we were starting to think this was yet another dead end, but we stumbled across the hostel and promptly checked in, despite the price being the same as our previous stop. By now, we had changed categories: from "choosers" into "beggars". Plus: SECURE VAN PARKING! The hostel was literally in the middle of nowhere: Brian hypothesized that this was like a village that had seen better days until the new highway had diverted drive-through visitors.


After checking in and getting our keys, we asked the manager if there were any nearby places to eat, and he pointed us down the street. Off we went [sans Shawn], and after a 5 minute walk, saw an honest-to-goodness Spanish buffet--it was INCREDIBLE--and we feasted. I managed to pass up the runny eggs this time. Still wondering how they can be in business here in the middle of nowhere [there were only 2 other patrons]. But it was a Sunday night--maybe more people during the rest of the week.
Waddled back to our rooms late and shortly fell asleep, despite the noisy party across the street at a meat shop (?)

11/18 [gypsies, tramps, and thieves]: PERPIGNAN--Nice leisurely travel day today; 4 hours tops. Went downstairs for the non-existent hostel breakfast, had an expresso, and watched Spanish-language news and was greeted by news from Valencia: MASSIVE FLOODING! As I watched the television coverage of rushing water covering cars up to the windows, I realized that sometimes gigs fall through for a reason.


After a series of attempts at trying to track down a missing door key, we hit the road. Arrived in Perpignan at midday, and progressed from the more cosmopolitan end of town to the scruffier, with narrower streets emphasizing the difference--after reaching one particular "T", we had to have 3 people stand outside and help Ludo negotiate the turn. Met up with my contact Lionel, who explained how to get to the cafe, and who wondered where I got the idea the gig was at a place called "SONO", and to this day, I have NO idea where I obtained this info. No wonder the address I had originally led us to a nice apartment complex. Anyway, we arrived at the venue safe and sound, and prior to load-in, decided to have a nice meal across the street at a tavern. Encountered a woman who resembled Dwight Schrute from "The Office". She was a fan [of US, not the show] and was there for the gig--nice girl, but difficult to extract from conversationally. Also made friends with a group of young toughs who were beating the crap out of a nearby pinball machine. As for the meal: OH, BABY! 3 kinds of meat, fries, delicious greens, and plenty of wine. Plus, we were re-united with Mr. Ricard once again while waiting for our meal! A lovely afternoon. Eventually said goodbye to the friendly owners and their army of dogs and went across the street to set up our gear.






Interesting place: a combination of bar, coffee shop hangout with lounge area, and a cd/lp shop! The music shop was small, but packed---I mentally filed away a few items needed for future trading. UNGODLY vinyl selection-Brian would continually nudge me, pull out a novelty lp, and ask "Have you seen THIS?" Could have browsed for hours, but we had gear to set up, however leisurely. We were also serenaded during our set-up by Lionel's DJ turntables set up across from us--mostly 60's psychedelic bands I'd never heard of, and it set up kind of a haunting, nostalgic mood - for me, anyway.

The band area was a bit smallish [especially after the big stage in Madrid], but comfortable enough. Very nice bass amp provided by Lionel; old but efficient drum kit-Brian actually preferred it to the snazzy kit in Madrid, but drummers are funny that way. Finally, we're up and running; it's 9:00---SHOWTIME---but there's no audience! A decent crowd of people hanging around outside the club, but not much curiosity being displayed. We play little 1-minute bursts of the [still] opener, "Conversational Paradigms", to no avail. Finally, in desperation, Karl and Ludo walk outside with their instruments and attempt to draw the crowd within, with limited success. We're yelling, pleading, and shaming the crowd to come in and see us--this got to be pretty comical, and I began to wonder if this was some sort of prank by Lionel. Finally, we decide to just plow through the set come what may, and apparently, our playing-hard-to-get crowd decided we were serious enough to come visit. Once they committed, though, THEY COMMITTED! The show morphed into a French TV Dance Party, with people bouncing off the walls and refusing to be intimidated by any weird meter deviations or abrupt changes in the arrangements [actually, "abrupt" is our only operating principle]. It was quite surreal--I guess the delayed entry might have been part of a pre-game 'girding their loins" for the job ahead. THUNDEROUS applause after every tune, and by the end of the evening, we could do no wrong--Brian actually was inspired enough to pull off a drum solo during "Walter Riddle", something he's normally loath to display [of course, we demanded he do this for the rest of the tour]. A bittersweet show, unfortunately, as this would be Shawn's last performance with us before heading back to the US tomorrow.
After we wrapped up, I thought "TONIGHT we sell some cds!", but reality quickly set in--NO SALES WHATSOEVER, not even from Ms. Schrute. Wow. Also, there was none of the meet-and-greet that usually accompanies such a happy gig--the crowd still milled around afterwards, but seemed to want nothing to do with us [except for Nini, who seemed to hit it off with a nice short-haired girl by the bar]. Quite a puzzler [the crowd, not Nini's meet-up]!


Afterwards, our hostess set up a long table and chairs, obviously for dining, and it didn't occur to me that it was for us until I counted the plates--oh, nice! She later dished up a fantastic feast of pasta and duck, along with the requisite bread and wine. Brian assumed this meat was steak, and was in the process of scraping away his portions to the rest of us when he was informed this was, in fact, duck. We were kind enough to return his potions, but don't think we weren't tempted to welch! Towards the end of the meal, a young guy stood a couple of feet away from Nini as he continued dining with Karl and Ludo, and, after staring at him for a few minutes, DEMANDED Nini give him his food! Nini brushed him off, and Lionel ushered the guy out. A "taste" of what was to come...

Later, as I was sitting on the couch and spacing out to some old blues being played on the turntable, Nini & I noticed an inebriated-looking young fellow with a beer slouched against the wall facing us. He'd stare at our pile of equipment for awhile, close his eyes for a bit, then stagger to the bathroom. Every now and then, he'd toast us with his beer cup. This cycle continued for a good half-hour, then at some point, he lurched away from us to the bar. During all this, I began to get the feeling that this guy was sizing up our equipment and might return after closing time to walk off with our stuff! At the time, I didn't realize the club had one of those folding metal fences to discourage break-ins [there'd been evidence of previous attempts consisting of a couple of smashed-and-taped-together plate glass windows].
An incident in which we learned Nini's priorities in life: the sleeping arrangements plan was that 4 of us would go home with Lionel & his wife, and 2 would go home with the girl Nini was talking to earlier. Shawn & Brian volunteered to go home with the girl, with the rest taking the Lionel option. At dinner, I pointed out that since Nini had been chummy with the girl, he should be part of that pairing. Brian, Southern gentleman that he is, agreed to let Nini take his place. So, a half hour later, the girl needed to leave, and we conveyed this to Nini. He more or less ignored this and continued eating. After putting off this decision 3-4 more times, Nini looked at the food, then the girl, then the food again, and announced he wanted to finish eating. So off went Shawn, the girl, and...Brian.

As the evening drew to a close and we were hanging around outside helping the manager lock up  chairs, I noticed the manager, Lionel, Karl, and 2-3 other patrons began walking intently towards an alley, and their target seemed to be the fellow who was eyeing our equipment earlier, and who seemed to have something tucked under his arm. They whistled for him to come over, and instead, he lets out a yelp and runs away! 4-5 of us began to give chase, with Lionel in the lead. I asked what was going on, and was told he'd stolen our laptop! The chase continued [I crapped out after the 1st 100 yards], but our quarry had too much of a head start and escaped. After being filled in on the rest of the details, it dawned on me that he'd grabbed the laptop right under our noses--I didn't even know our laptop was IN the pile of gear he stood by. This was the laptop with all our recordings from the tour and from Paco's studio...I felt nauseous.

After numerous breathless re-tellings of this heist and finally ending our lp listening pleasure with "James Brown--Live at the Apollo" [nice choice, Karl!], it was time for everyone to leave. Even before the robbery, I felt uneasy about leaving our stuff at the club, and had made a mental note to ask Lionel about possibly spending the night at the club with our gear. After what had happened, Lionel readily agreed to my request. He locked me in and closed the metal fencing, and I sacked out on the couch reading a book - the English version of Orwell's "Burmese Days" I'd found in their library, and fell asleep to occasional police sirens.

11/19: BARCELONA--Released from captivity around 9. Ludo and Lionel had spent the morning filling out a police report on last night's thievery, so once everyone was rounded up, we began filling up the van. Afterwards, the French contingent went in search of pastries and expresso, while the rest of us watched the van. During this, I remembered needing to go back in and get my camera, but somehow got distracted when dickering with Lionel about trading some FTV cds for a Lonnie Liston Smith box set. We later said farewell to Lionel and hit the road. About 20 minutes out, I suddenly remembered my camera, but, not wanting to be a pain, resolved to have Lionel send it ahead of us to Le Mans. I know, I know...WHAT WAS I THINKING??? Naturally, we spend the next few days trying to convince Lionel it HAD to still be in the club, but Lionel insists it's GONE and can't be found,and was probably stolen. Naturally. When I think of all the photos I had from the tour on that thing, not to mention all the family stuff from over the years....

Boy, this particular stretch of highway was starting to get pretty familiar-this was now our 3rd go-round for the tour. Short trip once again, just the way we like it; about 3 hours. Arrived in beautiful, sunny, California-like Barcelona around 1:30pm, but must have spent another hour trying to find a place to park! We DID find the venue, which was housed in a long 4-story building. The club was shielded by a metal folding garage door, so no way to see inside. We luckily found nearby parking at last, and within walking distance-an underground garage, which was quite a tight fit for our trusty Opel van, but still doable. Above the garage was a big open plaza, populated by many skateboarders and people on bikes--excellent view of the ocean, decorated by 2-3 gigantic ocean liners-1st time I've ever seen one up close.
Shawn didn't need to be at the airport until 6:30, so he spent the afternoon on a tour bus seeing the city, while the rest of us went on foot for our exploring--lots of narrow streets and alleys; tons of vendors and shops, and also a significant amount of art galleries. Motor scooters EVERYWHERE. Lots of food options, mostly tapas bars, and we finally settled on one after a couple of hours-a nice meal for me involving albóndigas [a type of  Spanish meatball]-ahhhh...
Back to the club, which was due to be opened for soundcheck around 6. A short wait, then the owner/manager arrives and opens up the door. We attempt contact, but it's apparent she doesn't speak English, so it's a short conversation. The outside of the club looked pretty "urban", but inside, it was quite nice; clean brick walls and lots of chrome trim and mirrors everywhere. Another basement club, so down winding metal steps, and we find the stage area-again, very nice. Stage is housed beneath another stone aqueduct, similar to Montpellier [except larger!]; very good sound system & equipment--pretty nice bass amp, too! This place was just the right size for us, as far as I'm concerned.


Not long after we began load-in, my contact Guillem Roma i Batlle, drummer/main guy from local progressive band L'Herba d'Hamelí. They have 2 cds out, and are in the vein of early Camel and Caravan--very lovely music; I enjoy them quite a bit, so I was glad to see this particular gig happen. Great guy [and very tall]; very organized and on top of this gig--even set up and sound-checked the drums, as Brian was MIA. Before soundcheck, Karl took Shawn to the airport, so sad farewells all around. Gonna miss that guy and his teeny-tiny tour guitar, and great to know the normally-blasé Shawn was genuinely excited about the way the band and tour turned out, and is game for even more exploits with us.


After sound check, Brian and I hoof it in search of our hostel, and it turns out to be a mere 15-minute walk away. Slightly unnerved by the Boris Karloff-look alike/act alike desk clerk and his insistence on leaving my passport at the desk--is this normal? But the accommodations are perfect, including a large kitchen area-not that we'll be around long enough to use it! Balcony with an interesting "Rear Window" view of an opposing high-rise apartment building. I take the time to wash out last night's gig shirt in the sink and hang it on the balcony, where it seems to have lots of company with other resident's laundry items.
Back to the venue, and this time there is no static about our drinks, although there are tickets involved once again [must be a Spanish thing]. During L'Herba d'Hamelí's sound check, tonight's audience begin to trickle in, and soon I'm bear-hugged by Facebook friend Rafa Tintoré, who is even more jolly and delightful in person-really hit it off with him, and have to say this about the majority of the people I meet tonight-this had to be the warmest, open crowd I'd ever played for. Why couldn't the desk clerk be more like these people? The ever-modest Brian even met a guy who was a die-hard Volaré fan, which "Brenda" was utterly stunned by. If there were any justice in the world, this would be old hat for our under-valued drummer.

Soon, L'Herba d'Hamelí begin their set, and I sit in the back with Rafa and his quiet friend Josep, where we proceed to enjoy the show. L'Herba have added a singer/guitarist to their line-up since the 1st cd, and for once, this is a quality addition [usually don't like hearing bands do this-it always seems like a desperate ploy] - his vocals and acoustic guitar work give their music more of a Mediterranean flair, kind of PFM-ish in places. Lots of extended instrumental workouts that build nicely and don't feel tacked-on. Couldn't hear the electric guitarist unfortunately, but the rest of the band make up for it-their bassist in particular had a lot of lively, moving lines, instead of the usual eighth-note/lock in with the kick drum proponents I get so sick of. Now if they could only get him to quit hiding in the back!

L'Herba end their set promptly and on time [always a plus in my book], and there's a reasonably short turn-over to us. We begin our set, and PHOOO--what happened to the bass? I thought I'd dialed everything back to my original controls, but I guess I got a bit lazy, as whenever I play anything on the lower two strings, the low frequencies dissolve into mush. Fortunately, I get everything listenable again by the 2nd tune, but I was disappointed that I didn't put more work into my tone--I wanted to, but I tend not to like blowing a show's momentum once we get going. Shame, as this was a really good modern Fender amp [despite the retro design], and I could've sounded so much better.
As for our show, we were SPECTACULAR--I think there may have been a bit of unvoiced trepidation present prior to the show, as I'm sure we all wondered how the tunes would operate without Shawn's guitar parts, but it worked out fine--in some ways an improvement, as there was a lot more clarity now in hearing the violin, woodwinds, and keyboards. Lots of food for thought about this afterwards. We put on a vigorous, exciting show, just the way I like it, and this was a terrific and enthusiastic audience as well-if they didn't understand my goofy between-song chatter, they hid it well. They must have understood some of it though, because afterwards there were many questions about my chit-chats, especially about "that Walter character-who is he?"  In addition, Ludo & Karl's getting up-close-and personal bit with the audience was quite a hit - this is definitely a keeper!





Wrapped up the show, and, as I said, you couldn't ask for a friendlier, engaging audience. Generally, I've noticed that even when you're a hit, people kind of keep their distance-I suspect mostly out of respect and politeness. I have to admit I'm something of an attention-whore; I genuinely enjoy hearing what people have to say afterwards [mostly], and always feel a bit odd if people don't engage after the show - it's as if we've done something wrong. So, this was definitely my kind of crowd. Cd sales were pretty sluggish, though, and a lot of people apologized up front and said they'd been out of work or that money was tight--f*cking austerity Nazis [I'm referring to their government, or, rather, the EU]...also lots of talk about Catalonia [which is this area of Spain, for you geography buffs], actually breaking away due to the money crisis--they tend to feel they've been supporting the rest of Spain and not getting anything in return. Interesting. BIG round of group photo taking; and lots more hugs from mi amigo Rafa; crowd gradually disappearing; goodbyes to Guillem & company [did I mention what nice guys they were?], then it's the obligatory hauling of gear back up the steps and into the van. Brian heads back to the hostel, while Ludo, Karl, Nini, & I stop for a late meal nearby. Very LOUD, but cute waitress. I had a yummy watermelon liquor cocktail, and ordered something on the menu that involved frankfurters, reasoning that it was probably some sort of fancy sausage-type dish. Nope: HOT DOGS! BURNED AGAIN BY A SPANISH MENU! At least they could have offered saurkraut. We stayed out pretty late, and our rooms were set up in such a way that Brian would have had to stay up to let us in [he had the keys], but after checking in with us by text at 2am, he ingeniously propped the door open a crack with a matchbook. Sacked out shortly after arrival.




11/20: TOULOUSE--I was the last to get up and leave the hostel; everyone else left for breakfast while I slept. Once everyone met up again, I checked us out of the hostel [MUCH friendlier desk clerk, and no hassles in getting my passport back]. We piled into the van, and met Nini's friend David, who would accompany us to Toulouse and catch a train back to Paris. Before leaving the city [and MAN do I wish we had time for more sight-seeing here--so much to look at!], we stopped at Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia basilica, a SPECTACULAR cathedral, which is still under construction or remodeling. It has 3 architecturally distinct sections, one of which, although a complex series of spires, elongated windows, eves, etc, looks very organic--as though it grew out of the side of a mountain and happened naturally. It has to be seen to be believed. I later go across the street to a souvenir shop and pick up a nice University of Barcelona hoodie for my son Aaron.


We hit the road by noon, and this trip takes 4-5 hours. Still buzzing over last night's heroics, but without Shawn, the English conversation is limited, also due to the perpetually somnambulant Brian. We arrive at Toulouse late afternoon--very beautiful city, with a long canal dotted with various houseboats. Brian and I immediately decide to retire here and get matching houseboats. Finding the venue is fairly easy this time, and my contact Manu Muré and a friend are waiting for us outside. We say our hellos, negotiate a place to park, and proceed to bring our gear inside. I hope Manu didn't see my face once we stepped inside, because I'm sure I had a look of, "oh, crap--not again." It was a very narrow space, with what looked to be either a thrift store or possible stage costumes storage-all items stashed off to the side and semi-walled off. I suppose it was doable for a show, but didn't bode well for attendance of more than 15 people.




Went to the cafe next door with Nini and Ludo to drown my disappointment for 1/2 hour [lots of time to kill until show time]. When I came back, most of our gear was gone! I didn't panic, as there was no way thieves could have passed us outside, so I just scratched my head over this and wondered what could have happened. A few minutes later, Manu and his helper appear, pick up more gear, and disappear around the corner past a kitchen. I follow, and see them navigating a steep, rickety set of stairs [we should have called this "The Basement Tour"], and see a large performance area, which was yet another former aquaduct/underground tunnel. Lots of room for the patrons; a lounge; and a bar off to the side! NOW I'm smiling! Eventually the opening act TURBO SEMELLE, whose gear we are using, arrive. Pretty interesting bunch; their music is sort of on the math-rock side, and they do a nifty cover of King Crimson's "RED" [why is this the ONLY KC tune anyone does?]. Apparently, this is their 1st gig in nearly two years! We sound check 1st, and the bassist's bass rig is BY FAR THE BEST I'VE EVER USED!!! It's a MarkBass, which is a company based in Italy. I'd heard of it before but didn't really know anything about it, but color me impressed! I definitely have to look into this company. It's amazing; the head is roughly the size of a large alarm clock radio!


After leaving Turbo's sound check, we have some time to kill, so I go for a stroll, and also leave the little gig flyers on various cafe & restaurant tables during my travels. Lots of tempting food options, but there's rumors of free food before the gig, so I limit myself to a couple of chocolate croissants, and I even manage to complete my order in French from start to finish [look at meeeee]!







Back to the venue, and I decide to hang out in the lounge downstairs and get loose with my bass, and run through some of the sections I've been tripping over [contrary to popular belief, it's difficult to set aside time for practice while on the road, and certainly requires a bit of effort]. Eventually I need to make way for what seems to be a African conga drum class, so I head upstairs, where it looks like the meal is getting underway. Very communal atmosphere; both bands, plus another 5-6 staff people, so about 15 or so people in very tight quarters. Excellent food: a good pork/carrots/potato soup, various cheeses & breads, and Ludo supplies the cured jambon he picked up in Madrid. Dessert is a yummy apple tort. Even though all the conversation was in French, it was a friendly and pleasant vibe and a nice prelude to the show. Afterwards, I chit-chat with the young feller who cooked the meal, and we discussed favorite recipes--real rock-star talk!

Come showtime, there's already a nice turnout, and, as we've discovered at all our other dates in Europe, PRETTY GIRLS LIKE ATTENDING PROG SHOWS! Eat your heart out, America. Both Manu and Turbo have done a nice job of getting the word out on this particular gig--I can't even SEE Turbo, and so sit in the back lounge area couch with Nini and Karl, and try out different choreography routines to the tricky-yet-funky music Turbo provide. The keyboardist/sax player is quite the showman, but has no idea what will be following him - poor fellow!

We take the stage, and the place is PACKED--there's a good energy going on in the audience, and tonight we're ON. It's next to impossible to predict when a band will be firing on all cylinders, but this is one of them. We ripped through the tunes; my absurd stage patter was flowing perfectly and connecting; and I spent most of the evening marveling at what a fantastic group of players I had standing [or sitting, in the case of Brian & Nini] next to me on stage, who were performing these ridiculous tunes of mine with more flair and verve than anyone has a right to. It's evenings like this that you feel invincible. The audience was terrific, even the Saddest Girl In The World, who endured standing front and center before us, bolstered by her cruel boyfriend. What a great show!


Afterwards, I'm back to selling a load of cds again [I was beginning to worry], and lots of conversations with fans afterwards-it really felt good; it appeared most of them had no idea what they'd be getting, and very very happy with the show we gave them.

We finally arrive at the sad part of the evening - hauling all gear up the steps and into the parking lot. Fortunately, there's lots of strong backs helping us, and we're soon ready to go. We say goodbye to the guys from Turbo, and I briefly consider whether I'd get away with sneaking that wonderful Markbass head in our van. The plan now is to follow a guy who looks uncannily like Ian Anderson circa "Songs from the Wood" era to his house, where we'll be spending the night. This was about a 20 minutes drive away, and somehow Manu kept pace with us on his bike. We arrive, and spend another 20 minutes squeezing the van into his secure driveway somehow. Inside, there's a full party going on, and I somehow ingest what seems like 19 varieties of alcoholic beverages, including homemade wine. Lots of "how do you like touring Europe?" type questions, and my increasingly slurred answers result in me staggering upstairs to our bedtime headquarters in the attic and to oblivion.

11/21--LE MANS [return of the king(s)]: Had a reasonably long haul ahead of us today, so we were up reasonably early; wolfed down much of the food & drink our thoughtful host laid out for us, and went on our way. Not much to report of interest, other than beautiful country driving and being trapped behind truckers for miles on end. Also, Nini discovers his phone is missing, and suspects he dropped it when loading the van last night. Good thing the tour is nearly over, after all the electronics we've lost/had stolen. There was a pit stop at a large supermarket-- the cheese & yogurt selection was overwhelming, and, from what I'm told, typical. Finally landed in Le Mans around 7pm, but poor Ludo still had another 2 hour's of traveling in order to return the van. Spent an hour unloading and cleaning out the debris accumulated throughout the tour-this wasn't pretty! Brian's tearful reunion with Faton the Cat was truly moving. Sylvie provided a delicious welcome-home meal, and there was much regaling of our exploits [along with the necessary Ricard + green olives + peanuts], along with mapping out tomorrow's schedule [TWO, count 'em, TWO small promo gigs for the Big Gig Friday]. Sacked out after much e-mailing & catching up on the rest of the world [thank you BuzzFlash!]








11/22--LE MANS [double duty for dopes]: Easy, leisurely morning for all, up by 10am. Finally, a bed worth staying in. Breakfast, we blink, and suddenly Sylvia has a big early dinner waiting for us on the table. After dinner, Brian, Ludo, and I pack up gear and go downtown for our shows. BUT FIRST: THE LAUDROMAT! What a relief it was to finally have some clean socks! While there, we meet a British expatriate doing his cloths as well. He happens to be playing acoustic guitar sing-a-longs somewhere else tonight.


Later, Ludo gathers us, despite the not-quite-dry sweaters, and we head for the first gig, which is at a small jazz cd store. We arrive, and it's even smaller than I expected--good thing this isn't our usual production number! Minimal set-up: 2 amps for bass and 1 keyboard; with Ludo & Karl going un-mic'ed. It's a fairly genteel affair, with the hostess/proprietor laying out vast amounts of hors d'oeuvres and bubbly drinks for the patrons and us. Eventually the place fills up, around 20-25 people-very intimate! So, the plan was to go with different pairings of the musicians, and Nini & I are drafted into opening. Now, for the tour, Nini has 2 keyboards--the Nord, which he uses for more traditional keyboard sounds [organ, piano, electric piano, strings, etc], and the Roland, which covers the weirder synth sounds. For this gig, he uses the Roland, which I realize means we're going to be in space/trace territory for tonight. So, for the 1st tune, I'm basically in pulse/heartbeat mode, which Nini is creating interesting spacey textures. This sucks the crowd in nicely [except the 12-year old girl front and center pinging away at her video games [why are the least interested people always in the front row?], and you could hear a pin drop. Except, about 10 minutes in, when the small display lap behind me crashes to the floor, startling everyone [me included] - it was as though a bomb went off! I thought it was the perfect place to end the piece, but Nini trudged on for another couple of minutes before finally letting the tune die. Much applause, and we decide to perform "March of the Cookie Cutters" - this would be interesting, as this would be doing it chamber-style: what would it sound like? Well, I'm glad to report it turned out pretty neat and went over well. Karl and Ludo joined in for this, which helped considerably.






We went on to another long improv with Nini and me, and I sort of got sand-bagged by Nini--he spent the entire time twiddling knobs only making "whooshy" wind sounds, and I ran out of ways to make THAT riveting about 2 minutes in. It still seemed to hold everyone's attention, and it ended with much applause - I'd prefer not to speculate on the reasons! Afterwards, we munched on the appetizers while being avoided by the patrons - I think they were keeping their distance out of politeness. Where are the Three Stooges when you need them? Later, we packed up and it was off to gig #2.

Destination #2 was a place called Le Zoo, which we had visited our 1st day in France. Took awhile to find a place to park; unloaded; cleared a corner; and set up. No drum kit once again, but we talked Brian into rigging up some sort of hi hat, only using crash cymbals instead. Quite a bigger [though unnecessary, in my opinion] set-up this time. Karl and I went across the street to order pizzas, courtesy of the genial owner. Came back, and there seemed to be endless socializing by the various Mentats due to the many friends they apparently hadn't seen for a long time. I began seriously wondering whether the gig was going to happen, when I was involuntarily obliged into starting the show SOLO. UGH! I eventually stumbled into something groovy and rhythmic after various attempts, and thankfully Nini joined in to rescue me, and we were off and running. I don't recall much about it except it seemed to fulfill being the proper balance between background music for the yakkers, and stimulation for the handful paying attention. Also, that it went on for about 10 minutes past its expiration date. After that, it was off to the pizza [mmmmm...goat cheese...] and more socializing.

No structure for most of the rest of the evening - it was usually up to me to set up some sort of groove, and the others would join in if they thought it had anything to offer. I think we had another go at "March of the Cookie Cutters", and possibly "Dawson"; I can't remember - one of the hazards of waiting until AFTER THE TOUR to write a diary. One highlight I DO remember was a one-on-one I had with Mentat Routage's drummer Piéric - we were about a foot away from each other, face-to-face, and he was doing some serious sub-dividing of beats on the cymbal doing his best to shake me, while I hung on for dear life - it was very intense, and VERY telepathic. I ADORE having these moments with drummers, and Piéric is extremely fun to jam with. He's classically- trained, and not just some meat-head banging out rhythms - there's a lot of thought behind what he does. I still remember him at Sylvie's house before the tour began, and looking at Nini's French TV charts and shaking his head slowly, with a "I-hope-you-know-what-you're-getting-into" look on his face.

We stopped around 1 in the morning, despite the place still hopping, and probably hung out for another hours, as the owner sucked us in by playing some AWESOME tracks on the house system--Mahavishnu Orchestra, Jeff Beck, and Zappa. AAAAAND pulled out some champaign for me--what a sweetheart! She was pretty jolly; too bad her English was non-functional; I really liked her. From what I understand, her club has been a bit of a money-loser, what with a lot of nearby competition, and this was an excellent night for her, especially for the middle of the week. So, despite me not being too thrilled with my performance tonight [although the rest of the band seemed to like it a lot], there was certainly a silver lining. We packed up; watched a potential fight across the street over a motorcycle; and headed back to Sylvie's for smoozing. Quite an out-of-the-ordinary Thanksgiving for Brian [who relinquished  the drumming to PiĂ©ric halfway through the evening - he was a reluctant participant, anyway- and walked home] and me!

11/23: LE MANS: A somewhat untroublesome morning--breakfast, e-mailing, lunch, then early afternoon it's off to the venue we'll be playing tonight. Considerable amount of loading and planning involved, as both Mentat and French TV play tonight, with a joint performance for the final tune. I've spent all morning cramming for the set I'll be performing with Mentat tonight, but don't feel too confident; I wish we'd set more time aside throughout the tour for brushing up on these tunes, but time tends to get away from you when something new is happening every day. The notes Nini and I worked up 2 weeks ago at Paco's studio are NOT WORKING this morning when I play along to the tracks in Nini's room/studio, and it takes half an hour for me to figure out the problem and to re-write my notes. I'm sure it drove everyone crazy to hear me looping the same section over and over and over and over.

As stated earlier, we arrive at the venue early afternoon, and I realize I've forgotten my stage shirt for tonight. I'm now stuck with a very hot and sweaty green sweater--probably the LAST thing in my suitcase I'd have picked out for a gig. Grrrrr....The venue itself is really nice; sort of a large community center. Paco & crew are already setting up the P.A. and the recording gear. Quite a roomy stage! The show tonight is supposed to be filmed as well, and I expect it's going to look GREAT--the lighting here is pretty impressive, plus Didier will be doing visuals for French TV also. Once everyone is set up, we proceed to sound-check Mentat Routage's set, and run through the various tunes. I AM NOT pleased with my playing-I'm more or less "getting by" with what I've got, but WAY too much guess-work. For whatever reason, nothing is really coming naturally for me, and even though the hardest tune "TRITONITE" is OK, it feels as through it will inevitably fall apart during the 2 trickiest sections. Not a good feeling...


French TV are next, and, road-weary veterans that we are, everything clicks in place and we're off stage quickly. The only issue is the bass amp, which is the same one we used for rehearsal prior to the tour at Madame Fabre's country estate. Once above a certain volume, it begins to crackle on any low notes. UNACEPTABLE! So Sylvie is off to procure another. Most of the rest of the crew are off for a quick lunch/expresso, but Brian and I stick around to keep an eye on the equipment. There is an off-stage area stocked with a nice selection of treats--coffee, tea, cookies, crackers, trail mix...oh, yum, almonds! I reach down, pop one in my mouth, and CRACK!!! I'VE BROKEN A TOOTH! OH, CRAP! I can tell it's snapped at the root, and is only being held in place by the gum. At this point, it doesn't really hurt, but just the awareness of what's going on in your mouth can drive you crazy, or at least be very distracting. Eventually, everyone else returns, including Sylvie with a new amp. It's quite an improvement, although I can't quite dial up the tone I'd like--I think the MarkBass in Toulouse has spoiled me!

At some point, Ludo need to go back to Sylvie's for batteries, and and I talk him into letting me go with him to change shirts. It's not quite as long a trip as expected, so we're back in time for the wonderful meal the staff at the venue have provided. Unfortunately, it's hard for me to enjoy it very much, as it takes me 10 minutes to chew anything.

And now, SHOWTIME. We were supposed to open with the 1st couple of minutes of "Tritonite". We were also supposed to enter at the same time and cut right into the song; and these two things didn't happen for whatever reason--Nini, Pieric, and myself entered first, joined later by the others, and somehow the intro was off, and I could never figure out the counting due to this, and it train-wrecked into the next tune. As I recall, most of the other tunes went OK, but on "Zonder's Kilt Vacations", I COULD NOT remember whether it was in Eb, E, or F, and I COULD NOT make out what Nini was playing, which I was supposed to double. Ugh. Then, towards the end of the tune, there's a crazed, Zappa-eque unison bit before the reprise. Prior to it, there's a two-chord, half-step section , where you change every FIVE repetitions, instead of a nice, pleasant EVEN number. Karl plays a sax solo over this; and it goes on for quite a while. When Karl tilts his sax back, that's the cue to begin the "final coundown". Spread out so far across the stage from each other, this was a recipe for disaster, especially with an under-rehearsed American bassist, even if he is parked at Nini's elbow intently watching his fingers. Karl raises his sax, blows a long whole note, Nini and I hit the change, aaaaaand, we're hung out to dry for some reason. Another 8 bars ensue; suddenly a couple members go into the Zappa bit; I'm trying to catch up; and the wheels have fallen off. We jump into the reprise and pretend nothing's wrong. After the gig, everyone who noticed said it sounded like we MEANT to do it, and it came across like your typical atonal avant-freak-out interlude. Afterwards Nini was pretty livid backstage, and made it clear he wasn't happy with the others about how this turned out. He seemed to let me off the hook [it was all in French], for which I'm undeservedly grateful.




After the backstage arguing, there was a long break, then French TV came on next. I think we played well, but it wasn't as passionate or as "band-with-a-mission"-like as our Barcelona & Toulouse gigs. My excuses:
a) By now, my tooth was really beginning to bother me, leading me to be less jolly and audience-centric as I usually am.
b) My initial feeble attempts at hilarity didn't really cut it with the audience, so I stopped trying. When I try to work a crowd, there has to be some "give and take", and it just wasn't cutting it. Probably due to...
c) The large stage and the remoteness of the audience-it seemed more of a "formal" affair, like the Madrid gig. There were a couple people really bouncing around and digging the show, but it felt more like a gathering of bemused onlookers, despite much of the crowd being friends of the Mentats.






For Le Grande Finale, we merged the two bands, with both Pieric and Brian playing separate drum kits. The first piece was an improv, featuring Didier's real-time painting being projected onto the screen behind us. This went quite well--it would be very easy for everyone to over-play in time with Didier's brush strokes, but the ensemble backed off and kept it just sparse enough. Big applause afterwards. Then, it was time for the full version of "Tritonite". The opening section went marginally better this go-round - I disguised my sloppy changes acceptably this time. The ending was pretty explosive--Sylvie always delivers the goods during her "angry tap dancer" spot, and it always goes down a storm, especially when she slams the metal sheet she's been abusing for the final time and the band suddenly stops playing. The minimalist coda is always effective as well, and left us finishing on a high note [so to speak]. More big applause.



Socialized afterwards with some of Karl's friends from the big party at his place before the tour- also met his dad! Sold a miserable three cds; hardly anyone even LOOKED at the display. Another "let's-keep-our-distance" crowd, except for a couple of well-wishers who thank us for the concert, and compliment our stage antics. Loaded up the cars, helped Paco & company a little with breaking down their equipment, then back to Sylvie's to rest up for tomorrow's final gig of the tour in Paris.

11/24: PARIS - Wake up mid-morning; various puttering around the house and prepping for both the trip to Paris and packing for my flight back to the US tomorrow. Also, the adding up of receipts and invoices to see who owes what to who. A CONSIDERABLY more lucrative venture than last time [in other words, we didn't lose as much this time around]. Karl arrives around 1pm with a large cargo truck-we could probably have fit Ludo's car in if we tried, but we go with the 2 vehicles separately. A nice big farewell lunch; everyone in good spirits, we load the gear, and it's off to Paris. I take a page from Brian's M.O. and snooze for most of the trip. We encounter a few traffic snarls, but nothing like our previous voyage. Find the venue, Le Cafe des Sports fairly easily, but parking is a pain. We grab a spot usually reserved for motorcycles without any consequences, and load in. This place is a bit on the small side, but doable. It's still serving dinner, so we have to be as unobtrusive as possible while storing the gear--our stage area is still occupied by various diners, so it's off to the side. Judging from the various flyers, they seem to do a lot of world music acts here, plus the usual French rockabilly--it seems to be everywhere! We sit for tea and wait out the customers, then set up. Didier sets up shop at the DJ's territory...uh oh, DJs! Never a good sign...During the sound-check, my good friend Aymeric LeRoy says hello--good to see a familiar face! We discuss how Paris' "Le Triton" club, where we had an excellent show last time we toured, seems to be run by a nest of vipers these days--Aymeric has severed all ties to that place, and in the coming months I hear similar stories. By the way, I'd learned prior to the tour that MAGMA has a show at Le Triton the SAME NIGHT as our gig--there goes our attendance!




We set up eventually, and boy, is this going to be a tight fit. But we make do; sound-check goes well; and eventually Mentat Routage is off and running. Prior to the show, I rehearse madly the "bits that give me fits", and get the correct keys from Nini. This certainly helps, as this has to be the most precise Mentat Routage show I've done--a total 180 from last night. I suspect it's because we're practically standing on each other's shoulders, resulting in cues that are impossible to miss. Also, we decide to not perform our difficult show-stopper "Tritonite". Why? During the sound check, I'm hearing rumors of the club really putting th screws on volume above a certain db level. I glance at the bar, and a woman from the club actually has a digital db reader on the counter measuring our volume! Unbelievable! I hate crap like this from clubs, and for most of the evening I'm getting the "dirtbag musicians--can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em--wish they'd just go away" - vibe from the manager and main waitress.

Anyway, the Mentat show went great, but it was hard to dope out the crowd--the set-up for the bar was like a large "L", with us in the corner. The bottom leg of the "L" was on a raised floor, which consisted of people having dinner who seemed largely indifferent to what we were doing. The long part of the "L" was the narrow "drinking" part of the bar, and about half of the crowd seemed into us, the rest were there to socialize. And we can't even use volume to get their attention...

Mentat finished to adequate acclaim; we take a too-long break; and it's up to French TV to get the audience's attention - which we do with limited success. We out on a good show, despite our club-enforced audio straightjacket, and Ludo & Karl's nightly crowd excursion seems to provoke some enjoyment from most of the crowd. We also put on some funny dance move choreography during "Cookie Cutters" - wish we'd done this earlier in the tour. Like last night, I drop any communication with the mostly blasé crowd fairly early on when there seems to be no response yet again. I may be generalizing too much here, as it's possible the "I'm-not-really-into-this-band-but-I'm-still-going-to-sit-up-front" contingent crowded out the more enthusiastic members to where I couldn't see them-there DID appear to be a lot of people standing at the entrance. Despite protestations from Nini, I decide to cut a couple of numbers. I had been told we needed to be off the stage by 11:30 to make way for the All-Mighty DJ. Onstage, Nini said this wasn't so, but I can take a hint from a crowd/club, and that was that. Besides, that g*d*mned broken tooth was really flopping around and killing me at this point.

So, we ended the show. I went over to our cd display, and we did better than I expected; maybe 8-10 cds sold. Aymeric came over and introduced me to the older gentleman I'd noticed he'd been talking to during the show, and it turned out to be Patrick Forgas, one of my current favorite composers! He has an ensemble called appropriately Forgas Band Phenomena, which is similar to Pierre Moerlin's Gong or Zappa, with a big marimba/vibrophone emphasis. It was quite a treat for me to meet him, made doubly so by his apparent enjoyment of our show [his English was almost non-existent].

For video of the Paris show, see the link below:
http://www.dailymotion.com/canterburyscene#video=xvf1ok







It was quite an ordeal getting our stuff out of the club and into our vehicles--the club was PACKED, once us unnecessary and unwanted musician-types left the audience in the more-capable hands of the superior DJ [BTW, where's the db meter when the DJ shows up?]. We wound our way through the crowd and left our gear on the sidewalk to be guarded by Nini's buddy David--another familiar face! Karl retrieved the truck, Ludo found a parking spot right next to the club, and we were loaded in short order. Now it was time for US to get loaded. Apparently we didn't draw enough to get real money, so they paid us off in beer. This seemed agreeable to the Mentats, so I went along-after all these were going to be our last drinks together for a long time! I actually enjoyed this part of the evening more than the gig anyway. Toast after toast occurred, with a lot of group snapshots, as seen below. Later, 5 of us went in search of kebabs and fries, and found some after a 20 minute walk. I have to say I was pretty impressed by the nightlife--the entire area was hopping; mobs of people everywhere, tons of places to eat and drink. Went back to the club to share our grub with the people who stayed, and with a few total strangers as well. Everyone was getting pretty teary-eyed at this point, and more toasts: "TO THE TOUR!!!" Eventually, it was time for the Le Mans contingent to leave, so lots of hugs and embraces to Sylvie, Karl, and Pieric. Ludo, Nini, Didier, Brian, and I hopped into Ludo's car and drove off to Nini's tiny apartment for our 4 hour's sleep before driving to the airport.

EPILOGUE: Needless to say, I'm back in the US. Very sad leaving my good friends Ludo, Nini, and Didier behind at the Charles DeGaulle Airport in Paris [Brian stayed behind in Paris for a couple of days of rest, relaxation, and sightseeing]. It was like having to leave the Best Party Ever because you have to go to work, which about sums it up literally. I moped around for ages at home; sad that the roller coaster was over.

Conclusions: INCREDIBLY successful and happy tour, with the strongest, most balanced FTV line-up yet. EVERYONE wants to do it again, and I'm already making inquiries. I also feel a "Why Doesn't the US Prog "Scene" Have Its Sh*t Together, As Opposed To Europe?" essay germinating in my mind that's probably going to generate some controversy - stay tuned.

Favorite memories: Brian's attempts at writing the Perfect Country Song... impulsively leaning back-to-back against Karl onstage in Toulouse a la Bruce & Clarence... discussing music in general with Shawn while driving to Valencia [narrowly missing a sheep on the highway was good, too]...ALL the dinners... killing an afternoon walking around in rainy Madrid... The Ugly Man ["he's SOOOO UUUUGLYYYY he makes my EYES hurt!"]...watching Obama's re-election on TV in Le Mans...hearing Ludo say "nudles" and "WHAT?"....watching Nini stand up and destroy during his organ solo on "Walter Riddle" every night....the wild dancing in Perpignan...."Hey, Buuud..."....trancing out listening to old psych and blues lps in Perpignan....."I don't wanna go on with you like that---don't wanna listen to your talking cat".....the LOUD waitress in Madrid and the melon liquor she brought me....The Stone Man....Nini weeping over lost beer in Madrid....Rafa's jolly welcome in Barcelona....Karl's party and the incredibly nice co-op people in attendance....the wild girl with the cigarette hanging out the side of her mouth pounding an upturned drum while Shawn bashed away on guitar at the ill-fated Montpellier "gig"....Shawn's Crazy Eyes during that performance..."What's the buzz, Buzz?"....drinking champaign and listening to Jeff Beck in Le Mans at Le Zoo....the canal in Toulouse..."RRRRRROOOOSESSSSS".....the scary tattoo'd bald guy in Wurzburg thrashing about during the show who ended up buying a copy of ALL my cds....post-gig drinking in Paris...

Honor Roll: Francis Geron, Jean-Marc Roussel, and Suze Merlin of Verviers; Julian Wich and good old Charly Heidereich of Wurzburg; Manu Muré and his organization in Toulouse; Carlos Guillermo Plaza Vegas from Kotobel in Madrid [also his bass player Jésus]; Guillem Roma Batlle and all his bandmates from L' Herba d' Hameli in Barcelona; the talented Bernabé García Sánchez; Lionel from Perpignan; and PACO! And, last but not least: regular FTV drummer Jeff Gard, who was unable to do this tour.

Extra thanks to Brian J. Donohoe, who took the majority of the photos in this tour diary.


              


    



      



FRENCH TV European Tour Dates UPDATE:
November 11th: Spirit of 66 (Prog 66 Meeting), Verviers, Belgium w/RPWL & AGENTS OF MERCY
November 14th: Immerhin, Würzburg, Germany w/SVIN
November 15th: Up & Down, Montpelliers, France
November 16th: Colloniel Norte, Madrid, Spain w/KOTEBEL
November 17th: OPEN--anybody in Spain want to step up here?
November 18th: Sono; Perpignon, France
November 19th: Sala Monasterio, Barcelona, Spain w/HERBA D' HAMELI
November 20th: Amanita Muscaria, Toulouse, France w/TURBO SEMELLE
November 22th: Le ZOO, Le Mans, France
November 23th: L'Alambik, Le Mans, France w/MENTAT ROUTAGE
November 24th: Café des Sports, Paris, France


There are plans afoot to both record and film the Le Mans gig for cd & dvd release.

More dates/places to be announced SOON!


French TV 2012 Touring line-up:
Shawn Persinger [of Boud Deun/Prester John]: guitar
Nicholas Fabre [of Mentat Routage]: keyboards
Ludo Fabre [of Mentat Routage]: violin
Karl Ledus
[of Mentat Routage]: sax/flute
Brian Donohoe [of Volare;
Alpha Cop]: drums
Mike Sary: [aw, YOU know...]: bass

Yes, folks, it's a hostile takeover of French TV by MENTAT ROUTAGE!
S
talwart FTV drummer Jeff Gard is being held captive by WHAS News, and won't be touring this time [cue violin music....]



More details as they arrive....



In other news, our three out-of-print cds, French TV 2: "After a Lengthy Silence"; French TV 6: "The Violence of Amateurs"; and French TV 7: "The Case Against Art" are now available on Bandcamp, at http://frenchtv.bandcamp.com/
Jump on eeeeet! Most titles also available at CDBaby and ITunes, as well as most Russian torrent sites [fuckers!]


           

Surprising news item #1: there is a new FTV cd that just came out last week---and I'm not on it! How is this possible, you ask? Well 3-4 years ago, former FTV members Warren Dale, Chris Smith, and drummer Chris Vincent got together in San Diego for a week of recording improvs, and, after a lot of editing, tweeking, and looping, this is the result, entitled "Conspiracy Weary". It's a really nice batch of music: shorter pieces than FTV is normally known for, and definitely more experimental. It kind of reminds me of Miriodor. It's a very enjoyable cd--my only regret is that it is released under the "Trois Expatriates" name, instead of French TV! At some point soon, you'll probably be able to order it from this website, but I have to get off my duff and work it out with Warren. For now, it can be ordered through  Wayside Music


Another refugee keyboardist from FTV, John Robinson [cds #4 + 5] is coming to the US this month [he teaches English in the Ukraine], and we're looking into doing some recording together, but plans are very nebulous for now [what ELSE is new?].

Inquiries being made into touring Europe sometime in Sept/Oct this year--mostly  depending on if a festival request actually comes through.