Notes and whatnot on the tour:

Nov. 4th: Odd day to be flying, as the US presidential election was occurring as I flitted from airport to airport. Lots of intent viewing of CNN throughout the day. We were in the air somewhere over the Atlantic when a couple of the stewardess'  mentioned Obama won, which spread down the aisles-I won't say there was a celebration, but certainly a palpable sense of joy and relief amongst most of the passengers.

After collecting my baggage in Bordeaux, I was quickly spotted by Michael Hazera, our drummer for the tour [replacing Jeff Gard, who was stuck at work during Sweeps Week at his news station]. Mick drove us to Dax, where he lives and where we were going to be rehearsing. Once we arrived, Paolo & Chris met us, and after a bit of catching up, we began discussing the tour songs. Somehow, I'd forgot to give Mick a recording of "That Thing on the Wall", which we initially had not planned on performing! Mick immediately sat down and studied it and, after a handful of run-throughs, was able to play it flawlessly once the tour began-no small feat, considering there's very little groove to it and it contains many stops & starts.

The next day, we drove to our rehearsal area, an old stone barn in the country belonging to Bruno, Mick's bassist from his other band, Ptäh Sextet, which performs Magma & Crimson covers. It provided an enchanting environment, despite the chilliness. We led off with "Look at the Bears!" Paolo & I immediately began arguing over the intro [Ultimately I was wrong,  coming in earlier than I was supposed to], and God only knows what Michael must have thought - "here they are, disagreeing 5 seconds into the 1st practice?"

By and large, all the tunes were falling into place; although not performing them flawlessly, we were able to get through the tunes in one piece and with a minimum of train wrecks. Much optimism; everyone seemed to have done their share of homework. We spent most of that day fine-tuning everything, and afterwards were treated to Mick's excellent cooking back at his parent's house, where we were staying.

Nov. 7th: 1st gig-began the morning at the local Hertz car rental, where we procured a 7 passenger Ford Galaxy van. Took it to rehearsal, where there was much consternation over whether it would hold all our equipment, which led to a lot of last-minute panic over whether to get a trailer or a larger van. I have to admit being worried myself, but eventually figured out how to make everything fit.

Most of the day was spent rehearsing for tonight's show, a private affair at the barn to be attended by various friends of Michael & Bruno's band, who would close the evening's festivities. As far as I know, we did pretty well, and were in full performance mode, which the crowd [around 30 or so] seemed to enjoy. The socializing afterwards was fun, although we had one eye on the clock, as we needed to get up early the next day. Hung out quite a while with a Mexican couple and their friends. Mick's band was spot on, playing the Crimson songs "One More Red Nightmare", "Larks Tongues in Aspic Pt. 2", "Starless", and "The Great Deceiver" flawlessly. Loaded up the van afterwards, went back to Mick's place, and woke up a few hours later.

Nov. 8th: Final load-up at 10, then hit the road. Grueling 10 hours or so, fortified by the roadside sandwiches which became a staple of the rest of the tour. Once we reached Reims [silent "M"; roll the "R"], we spent another hour trying to find the venue, while the denizens of Reims did their best to keep up from getting there through spotty directions. Perhaps finding the venue [nice; a smallish auditorium] was a mistake, as this was one of those events which make a musician wonder whether their instrument would cause much of an accident if hurled out the window of his moving vehicle while on the highway.
A) The gig was arranged by complete amateurs, with no idea of the respect an out-of-town [make that out-of-COUNTRY] band deserves.
B) Bad attendance-about 12-15 people, who mostly wanted nothing to do with us.
C) A complete mis-communication on whether lodgings were going to be available, which led us to abandoning Reims immediately after the gig.
D) Clueless chumps who have no idea how insulting it is to explain that they'd rather not buy a cd because it's cheaper to dub a copy from their friend who was stupidly given a free copy by yours truly.
E) Two opening bands who thought it'd be cool to play extended sets for their handful of friends, leaving us to go on at 12:30.
F) Not a single cd or t-shirt purchased by the cheap fucks.
G) Stiffing us by mysteriously disappearing when we were preparing to leave. The 10 Euros wasn't much [MOST bands would have offered the whole door], but it's the fucking courtesy that counts.

Couldn't leave the dump soon enough. We left immediately after the show for Germany, as it was obvious the guy who ended up being voted to host us wasn't too thrilled with this prospect. We got as far as Metz, which inexplicably had no hotels near their airport, which cost us another hour of driving aimlessly in search of a hotel. I think we checked in around 4 in the morning; it was some sort of coin-operated affair for check-in. Acceptable accommodations; split-level and clean. Unconscious within minutes.

Nov 9th: Left the hotel around 11am, with we Americans being accused of snoring [Chris] and moaning [me] too loudly. The persecution against Chris was relentless. Fairly uneventful trip, rainy but scenic German countryside, lots of fields consisting of nothing but flowers. Speed limit? What speed limit? Got tied up in bad traffic about a 1/2 away from Würzburg, Germany. Once we arrived in town, Paolo immediately accosted the nearest citizen for directions, and does he give us the runaround like the inhabitants of Reims? NO! He jumps in his car, and leads us directly to the venue(This story was used as an intro to one of our songs later in the evening, to great applause)! We met Charly, our contact for the show, who I take my hat off to for being one of the best hosts I've had the pleasure of meeting.

Unloaded gear; reasonably quick set-up, and away we went. Terrific audience, about 30-40 people, who laughed in all the right places; it was a joy performing for them. This gig banished all thoughts of never touring or playing live again-definitely needed after the last fiasco! They bought lots of cds & shirts, we posed for many pictures [it was at this gig that I discovered my Kodak Easy Share's flash stopped working-DAMN!], what a delight!

Afterwards, Charly took us to a pizza place [to Paolo's great consternation-"German pizza?? BAH!!"]. We then took the pizza to an empty club Charly had access to, and had a nice time reflecting on the show. Charly then took us to the hostel we'd be staying at for that night at the next, where the sole of my shoe broke. Curses! Pleasant accommodations, with a nice kitchen, showers, and internet access, where I finally checked in with the family and our future friends in Strasbourg.

Nov. 10th: The rest of the fellows went sightseeing, while I stayed in due to the bad shoe, my sore knee, and a developing cold. Read "The Salterton Trilogy", sketched the view from our window, and hung out in the hostel kitchen/break room. In the afternoon, Charly the Benevolent led us to yet another club where we set up for a much-needed practice to iron out some nagging inconsistencies in the tunes. No drumset, but that didn't stop the resourceful Michael from commandeering a couple of chairs & stools to bang on successfully. Prior to our arrival in Europe, I had learned that NEKTAR would be performing about an hour away this evening. The rest of the fellows had no interest in pursuing this option [BASTARDS!], so instead, we went to a very nice hotel/restaurant, where we feasted on different variations of pork chops & fries. Gotta watch the tipping in Europe-I was about to give what in US terms would be a normal tip, but was warned by our European contingent that it was overkill. Back to the hostel; more e-mail flurries, including musical directions for Markus Stauss, the Swiss sax player who would be accompanying us on "That Thing on theWall" at the Milan festival. Then off to bed and future snoring accusations.

Nov. 11th: We hit the road around 11am, after loading up on pastries and petrol. The trip to Strasbourg was quiet and uneventful; more beautiful German countryside; the various fields we passed almost seemed designed to be visually arresting; whatever was planted in one field seemed color-coded to contrast pleasingly with whatever was growing on the perfectly geometric field next to it. Arrived around 5pm; after a few abortive tries, we threw in the towel and were led near the venue by a rabbinical student. After finding the Cafe Anges, we discovered to our horror this was Veteran's Day, which meant almost all of the delicious nearby ethnic restaurants were CLOSED. No Moroccan food for us! So we settled on Chinese, and then killed time by taking a tour of this lovely city; checked out the canal area and a cathedral. Limped back to the venue, where we ran into Vincent & Philémon of Camembert. Eventually the club opened up, and we began the load-in. As soon as we entered, it was apparent the stage would be too small, especially with the absurd restrictions the owner gave us [which continued throughout the evening]. We settled on Paolo setting up his keys on this raised [about 5 ft. high] platform area about 15 feet across the room from the stage-very odd effect! Later, we met the remaining members of Camembert, including Pierre, the guy responsible for our show-quite a guy! Before the show, we sat down for an interview conducted by Pierre for the local cable channel-pretty fun stuff, and it was nice to be interviewed by someone knowledgeable about our cds & history.

Considering the shortened promotion of this gig [10 days ago, the venue where we were supposed to hold this CLOSED! Hats off to Pierre & the gang for being able to re-arrange things], the nature of the music, and the small venue, I figured we'd be lucky to have 20 people show up. When it was all said & done, it was just under 100! Unbelievable! This also seemed to set the record for most females at a French TV gig. After seeing Camembert, I understood why. What a show! These guys understand what so few progressive rock bands understand, and this is one of the factors that has killed progressive rock at the "grass roots" level-ya gotta be ENTERTAINING! If I'm some poor schlub that knows nothing about "challenging" music, there's got to be some angle I can get ahold of. Camembert gets it. Pierre did a lot of "MC-ing", talking up the members, they did a couple of goofy introductions for the harpist [who popped out from under a sheet bearing an uncanny resemblance to Bob Dylan circa "Rolling Thunder Revue" and bopped around playing a harmonica before settling down to his harp. "Beowolf", the trumpet/digeridoo player [when you see pictures of him, you'll understand the nickname] arrived on stage shirtless and delivering a WWF-type rant [everything was in French, but it didn't seem to matter somehow]. The music was a mix of Herbie Hancock-style vamps and Canterbury/Zappa-esque tricky chordal progressions, with Vincent [who needed to be turned UP!] delivering most of the solos-very subdued but melodic and tasty, ala Phil Miller. I really enjoyed them, along with everybody I could see.

Bernard G, the owner of France's Musea Records, showed up and was kind enough to buy me a drink [the cheapskate owner said "NO FREEBIES!"], and I was kind enough to knock his drink over later on. He brought some cds to trade with me, so we then had listening material for our driving.

Then it was our turn to play. The majority of the crowd stayed [including The Girl In The Red Corset], and we went to work. Sound-wise, it was a little disappointing, as our delightful owner friend made sure there was a tight lid on the volume. But we managed to put on a good show regardless [or, should I say "Gard-less"?]. I don't remember too much about it, but we did pretty well on cds & t-shirts. The crowd seemed to understand my rants and jokes, and a good time was had by all. We hung out for quite a while, then, as we were going to spend our off-day in Strasbourg practicing at the Camembert rehearsal warehouse [dubbed "Rhythm Village"], we took our equipment over to their practice facility, dropped it off, said hello to Merlin the cat, and eventually staggered into Pierre's place on the 6th floor [oh, my aching knee...]. Stayed up for a bit chit-chatting and playing "STUMP THE PROG EXPERT" [I won, of course], then went to bed. Chris continues to set new db records in snoring.

Nov. 12th: Eventually, we stumbled downstairs to a breakfast of bread, jam, and tea, while scrutinizing Pierre's amazing Metal Hurlant collection. Left around noon, promptly got lost trying to find the facility, but found it eventually. Set up, and it was probably at this practice when everything felt "automatic", as though there were NO weaknesses in our performance of the material, and it all felt very comfortable. Maybe it was the cold! Which might explain why I forgot to pack my tuner, cords, and other items when we were leaving, which I didn't discover until Paris. We were back in hats & mittens mode in the warehouse, despite it being reasonably pleasant outside. The guys in Camembert were going to have a band meeting til 10pm, so after practice, we went to a Syrian place and had fries & various sausages, meat, & chicken. An old guy attempted to start a few conversations with us, but the language barrier was too much. However, he went on to perform some sort of extremely slow interpretive dance to the blaring pop tunes on the radio. We found it quite entrancing, and resolved to work it into a future performance.

After a few wrong turns, we arrived at Pierre's apartment, to be greeted by a roomful of maniac prog-heads, including all of Camembert, with the beer and pizza flowing freely. WHOOO---WHAT A PARTY! Everyone took turns DJ-ing the stereo, and discovered that Vincent is the 2nd guitarist I've ever met who loves Messiaen--apparently knew all the accents to the piece we were listening to. We had SUCH  a good time! Philémon, their drummer, killed us with his impression of "an old man at the market"-had to be seen to be believed. More hilarity occurred when somebody put on something by the French group Atoll, and everyone trying to hit the high notes-fairly ear-splitting! In the end, we went to bed around 4 in the morning, despite knowing we'd have to leave 7 hours later.

Nov. 13th: Rolled out of bed before everyone else, and decided to be a nice guy and wash the dishes that remained after the carnage last night. Didn't see a teapot, so boiled water in a cooking pot. When Pierre came downstairs, he had a puzzled look on his face and immediately pulled out an electric hot water-maker and said it'd be ready in 5 minutes. How embarrassing. We spent the remainder of the morning getting ready for our trip to Paris [actually Les Lilas, a branch of Paris about 1/2 hour east of it]. Tearful goodbyes and promises to return, and somehow get Camembert in the States. Left around 11am. Trip to Paris uneventful and quiet, although we passed the hated city of Reims on the way. Much needling of Michael, whose girlfriend lives in Paris and would be spending the night together after a few month's absence. Traffic into Le Triton deadlocked, but we landed around 5:30. Found parking, unloaded, and went into sound check mode. Good, helpful staff & crew. 1st time I've met a sound engineer who wouldn't LET us leave until all was satisfactory! Didier from the legendary French band Moving Gelatin Plates came by early, and we chit-chatted a bit as I stuffed FTV cds in the little travel packets that so proved to be a life-saver for this tour. I wish I could've spent more time with him, but the sound-check beckoned.

Afterwards, we went into the restaurant and were treated to the BEST MEAL OF THE TOUR. The club owner was a very distinguished-looking gentleman, and, despite not saying more than 10 words to us [Michael assured us he is this way with ALL bands], insisted on serving us personally. It was some sort of African chicken stew, served over rice. We couldn't get enough of it! The restaurant also held a bonus for the patrons: a closed circuit camera allowed the people in the restaurant portion to eat and watch the band at the same time. NICE....Also met the chap behind the Calyx Canterbury website and Big Bang Magazine, Aymeric Leroy, whom I'd previously met at one of the ProgDay festivals.

Later, Paolo and I hung out in the dressing room [this place has EVERYTHING!] and talked a bit. Nobody has said so, but I think they were a little disappointed I didn't have this gig recorded. My reasoning was 1) I honestly didn't expect the band to be playing so well, especially considering the previous tour, and 2) the recording was a little pricey, especially considering the money I sunk into the tour.

Took the stage to rapturous applause about 9:15. Very, POLITE audience--clapped when necessary, but for the 1st time since [ugh] Reims, the snappy stage patter wasn't flying. Got the distinct impression we were being studied. Good thing, too, as I think this was probably the most PRECISE we played on the tour; there was less emphasis on thrashing around [well, ok, from me] on stage and getting the tune right. Beginning the 2nd set, we opened with "That Thing on the Wall", and about 1/3 into it, Chris had a complete equipment breakdown. When we stopped playing as a band, I ran over to the microphone and began scat-singing the rest of the tune for about 20 seconds. Well, I thought it was funny! After a few uncomfortable minutes, we got it going again and there were no further mishaps. When we reached "March of the Cookie Cutters", I decided to demonstrate to the audience the slooooowww dance by the old man in the Syrian diner. When I turned around, Paolo and Chris were conducting with a stick, and Michael was over at the keyboards! Very startling! Finished with "When the Ruff Tuff Creampuffs Take Over [apparently nobody in France knows who Robert Crumb is, much less know that he lives in the south of France]", then were loudly called back for an encore, which was "Mosquito Massacre". Great gig! Sold  30-35 cds--a new non-festival record--a batch of t-shirts; signed a ton of autographs; we were helped with equipment by the excellent staff once again. It seemed as though every time I made a move to pack up the cds, somebody would come from nowhere and ask to buy a cd or 3. Finally made it out the door, and walked a block or so [accompanied by some fans up to the subway] to our hotel. THREE separate rooms! Met up in Paolo's room and hung out a bit [and took some much-needed revenge on the Somna band's cd-r. If you e-mail me, I might explain it] talking about the gig and some politics. Went to bed late, as usual.

Nov. 14th: Got up around 9; finished reading "The Salterton Trilogy", showered, and went downstairs for a nice breakfast of croissants, various breads, jam, and coffee. Joined by the others a half-hour or so later, went back to Le Triton to meet with a red-eyed Michael Hazera for our trip to Lyon. Said final goodbyes to the ever-helpful Triton staff, and hit the road. Had a surreal moment at one of the ever-present roadside grills on the way: while waiting for the others, I found myself watching FrenchTV for the first time. And what is the 1st commercial I see? An advertisement for a brand of CAMEMBERT cheese! Brrrr...Quiet trip, passed a few castles on the way.

Arrived in Lyon around 5pm. The city is very hilly, with a small river dividing the city-reminded me of Cincinnati, Ohio, in a way. Found the venue without much difficulty; finding a parking spot was harder! Met Francois Thollot, who arranged tonight's gig. Not much English spoken, unfortunately; I would have liked to pick his brain. Quickly unloaded, quickly set up, and noticed the temperature dropping like a rock-shades of our Dax rehearsals!

Eventually, the opening act Les Ingrates, arrived. All we knew prior to the gig was that a punk band would be opening for us. They turned out to be a duo-a woman who played guitar and a drum machine that cranked out punk drum tracks, and another female singer. Watching them set up, I was convinced their show would be the longest 45 minutes of my life, and was contemplating braving the cold and exploring Lyon during their set, despite my aching knee. Was I glad to be completely wrong! Later, when it was time for them to play, 1st: the guitarist took the stage, wearing a sort of female executive pin-stripped suit. Then the other singer joined her, wearing what could be construed as a failed '80s pop star/model-look, with her back to the crowd, showing off a, errr, poorly-tucked-in shirt into her tight shiny leggings. What I soon realized was that this was a COMEDY act, reminiscent of the Smothers Brothers, with the guitarist as the know-it-all but continually exasperated Dick Smothers, and the other in the simpleton-esque Tommy Smothers role. They were HYSTERICAL, and that was with me not understanding a single word of their act, except for the occasional translation from Mick. One of the translations turned out to be delightfully filthy, where they performed an allegedly new song for the 1st time, with the singer constantly deciding to  change the words to something more, uh, stimulating, to the other singer's disgust. They left the stage to great applause, particularly from the members of French TV.

When we took the stage, I think Les Ingrates had raised the bar, in terms of us wanting to put on an even better performance. And so we did. I'd have to rank this as the best show of the tour; we played with more abandon without loosing the precision we'd picked up in Paris. The crowd ate it up, and rightfully so. Wish we could've recorded this one [or maybe not, as I probably would have picked it apart, as I later did when hearing the unexpected recording from Le Triton]. Played like madmen, and afterwards hung out for quite awhile selling cds & t-shirts while signing lot of autographs, despite a planned-on quick getaway. After being told we'd be staying with 3 different people [NOT Les Ingrates, unfortunately], and no guarantee of securing our equipment, we decided to push on to Milan after the show. So it was off for a theoretical 4 hour drive, which turned into 6 when Paolo slept through a turn he was supposed to tell us about. Lots of traveling through tunnels when we reached the mountains of the France/Italy border, which is where I took over driving. We finally rolled into Tradate about 7 in the morning, and quickly found oblivion in our sleeping bags.

Nov.15th: Rolled out of bed and the good old Botta basement around noon, had breakfast and caught up with Mama Botta [who presented me with a lovely homemade coffee cup] and the rest of the Botta household, then made our way to the Spazio MIL theater; about a 45 minute and very confusing drive. When even a French citizen complains about the Italian roadways, something is wrong. Arrived around 2, along with the band from Belarus, Rational Diet, who would be headlining today. Happily met many old friends from our previous trip to Italy-Marcello [the organizer for the festival], Renatto, and Matthias, the proprietor of the "From Genesis to Revelation" radio show. Did the sound-check; some reservations on the way this was going to turn out, which turned out to be correct-more on this later. Markus came and said hello, then bombarded us with questions about his participation-all well and good, but we were trying to do a soundcheck! We eventually had to chase him away while we went about our business. After soundcheck, we went to a mall down the street for an early dinner-calzones, pizzas, meat platters-not bad! Returned to the theater, set up my merchandise table, and the buying began shortly afterwards.

The concert began around 5pm, with a new prog band, Chance: Risiko opening. Very Radiohead-inspired, with the usual tuneless, moaning vocals required for such endeavors. The only wrinkle taken on this was the use of a vibraphone, which the sound crew seemed to have no idea how to mix-it was nearly inaudible-not that it would've added much to the music! Polite applause after the set.

Our turn: Opened with our usual-"Ska Face", and gradually noticed there were some tuning issues whenever I played any chords. I really ought to write some tunes with breaks where I can stop playing and do a quick tune-up! As I was playing fretless, I hoped I could merely adjust my fingering positions to compensate. This proved to be useless; I tried tuning on the fly during the next song, but it only made things worse. Also, the mix was weird, and I could only hear the keys depending on what patch Paolo used, so I would only feel there was something wrong intermittently. Finally and fortunately, Paolo grabbed me after the 3rd tune and got me back on track and that was it for any more tuning issues.

Once again, I faced an audience that appeared not to understand anything I said, so I kept the intros and jokes to  a minimum, to say nothing of my fabulous stage moves-I suspect I used them up in Lyon last night, anyway.

"That Thing on the Wall" finally came up, with Markus waiting in the wings. The deal was that I would cue him as to when to join us. Of course, he jumped the gun and joined us on stage sooner than planned, having to stand around and look interested until Chris finished his violin bit before playing his solo. But it was worth the wait, and his solo made a nice exclamation point to our set; it felt like this galvanized us a little and we put a little more into the rest of our performance.

Can't remember any wacky mishaps for the remainder of our tunes-ended with "...Creampuffs" to great applause, and was pleasantly mobbed at our table. It's so strange; the contrast of dead silence during my stage blather, and getting my ear talked off [not that I'm complaining!] by fans afterwards.

One of those fans was Danielle Piccinini, the talented bassist for Accordo dei Contrari, whom I'd been corresponding with for the past few months. Happy to meet him and the rest of the members at last, as they are one of the finest new groups out there these days. We later sat together while watching another one of the bands I was really keen to see, DFA, who did not disappoint. Came across as a more aggressive Gilgamesh; lots of chord-based changes. The drummer is a MONSTER! Sadly, they left almost immediately after their performance, so I didn't get to meet them as I'd hoped.

After this, Accordo snatched me up and hauled me to a nearby club/lounge, where we had a couple of drinks and a delicious meat platter. We had a nice conversation about how to get the kind of music we play across to more people; performance vs. entertainment [I brought up my new chums Camembert every chance I could]; composition; and the pros & cons of touring. Their keyboardist, Giovanni Parmeggiani, was pretty animated during all this-I like him; a very passionate guy!

We returned in time to see the headliner, Belarusian band Rational Diet. I guess they could best be described as having listened to the 1st couple of Univers Zero and Art Zoyd cds A LOT. I thought they were OK, but nothing that really made them unique; certainly didn't warrant headline status. The mock-opera stylings of the singer seemed kind of silly; maybe it was meant to be that way; I don't know. Overall, they didn't do much for me. The violinist stood out nicely, however; excellent technique and energetic performance. There were a couple of short duets that I liked.

Did the obligatory hanging-out after such occasions [NOT a complaint, mind you!], including meeting our old paisans Ciro and Valerio from our last visit ; packed up gear, and somehow navigated the streets and highways of Milan [perhaps specifically designed by gangsters in order to elude the police?] back to Botta Prog Camp, where we promptly collapsed.

Nov. 16th: Round Two of the AltrOck Festival. Woke up around 10am, had a Botta Breakfast, then it was time to go to the festival. Paolo had to be there early for his soundcheck with Picchio dal Pozzo, and the prospect of finding our way there without Paolo seemed a little too frightening. So off we went. On the way, we somehow found ourselves flanked on either side by a swarm of aggressive bicyclists-trying to evade them proved to be futile, until we hit a highway. Were they brave or crazy? I guess I'll never know...

Once we arrived, we were again greeted by our pals from Accordo dei Contrari, who offered some Sunday communion with a few glasses of homemade wine [red AND white]-I shortly found myself nodding off in the auditorium during PdP's sound-check. Maybe wine before noon isn't such a good idea! Picchio's soundcheck proved to be interesting, in terms of the mechanics behind their show. They have a full-time projectionist/slideshow guy on stage with them, lending a fascinating visual element to their music. Much of it was sequenced to the music; lots of shots of the band's early days, along with montages of old '60s Italian commercials and a sequence of shots of Italy's prime minister [whose name escapes me] from the early days of Picchio. Also worth noticing was the MASSIVE percussion rig they had-prior to sound-check, I offered to lend a hand unloading his equipment, but he politely waved me off. I suspect he's seen too many well-meaning people dropping his stuff!

Set up shop once again, and then made good on yesterday's promise to sit down for an interview with Rok, who runs the Slovenien music website ROCKLINE [][Incidentally, the website also has some nice pix of the festival]. Also spent some time chit-chatting with my new Swede friends, Lief and Lief. As near as I could tell, these 3 people constituted the only non-Italian attendees of this festival [not counting the bands]. Such a shame; I've no idea what kept the rest of Europe's prog-heads from this event.

Escorted the Picchios to the mall where we ate yesterday, then returned in time for the 1st band to begin their set; our good friend Markus's band Spaltklang. Really fun and enjoyable, even more so than their cds. The violist was particularly outstanding; flying licks, and very nimble on his feet! Markus was amazing as well- great solos, but his lines were mostly what held the tunes together, so he wasn't allowed to shine as well as he could in another context. I know the feeling! Excellent band!

I wish I could say the same about the next band, Hostsonaten. They were cheeeeeesy, even before they played a single note, as each member took to the stage holding a different colored balloon after a laborious introduction by their ringleader Francisco Something-or-other. I'm pretty sure it was roughly 4:30 into their 1st number when the first chord change occurred, as they hammed it up playing what they seemed to consider the most challenging and marvelous thing in the world. This seemed to be a good time to wander backstage, and apparently quite a few other people thought so as well. Hung out with the Spaltklang fellows, mainly the violist, whose day job happens to be music director for a church. They later took off to their hotel, and I never got that drink Markus promised me, the bastard.

Up next were my buddies Accordo dei Contrari, the band I was most anxious to see. To put it mildly, they did not disappoint. WOW! It was thrilling to see them pull off such tricky compositions, yet were full of grooves that led to uncontrollable foot-tapping by us in the audience. Maybe my view is colored by hitting it off so well with them personally, but I considered them the hit of the festival, and many others thought so as well. Unfortunately, they were victims of the sound crew, and the only audible parts of Giovanni's keyboard work was the piano [provided that his accompaniment was reasonably quiet] and organ. They also introduced 3 tracks from the next cd-which ought to be a stunner when it comes out.

After their set, they came to say goodbye. They couldn't stay for PdP, as they were facing a 3 hour drive back to Bologna, so off they went after grateful hugs all around. I'm gonna miss those guys!

Finally, it was Picchio dal Pozzo-time. Now to make a startling confession: despite owning all their cds, I'm just not a big fan of their work. I'm sure on an intellectual level, it's melodically inventive, but rhythmically it's all at the same tempo, and it sort of plods along until it runs out of gas. I'm sure I'm simplifying what they do, and there's probably a depth to it I'm just not seeing, but I'm not going to pretend I see it. I was hoping seeing them live would change my opinion, but this unfortunately wasn't the case. I didn't hate it, but I found myself squirming in my seat halfway though each song-not a good sign. At least the visuals and watching Paolo [to say nothing of our pal Valerio's good-natured drunken heckling of the band!] made it reasonably interesting. There was a visual shown that I hadn't seen during sound-check: they had taken a number of sequences from the movie "BLOW UP", and somehow edited various shots of the members of Picchio into whatever David Hemmings happened to be looking at obsessively throughout the movie-quite a neat trick. There was also a funny moment, where we heard chicken cackling through the P.A., and then the bassist kicked something on stage that resulted in feathers flying everywhere.

At last the concert drew to a close [I don't want that to mean I couldn't bloody WAIT until it was over, by the way...]; the members seemed to be in a celebratory mood and encored with one of the earlier pieces. Also, for the record, the drummer, woodwinds player, 2nd guitarist, pianist, and, of course, Paolo, were members of Yugen, who seem to be developing into the go-to guys for '70s Italian proggers [Yugen's new album consists of compositions by Tommaso Leddi, a former member of Stormy Six] who want to re-engage the public. Said goodbye to all our friends, and headed for home. Michael & I were following Paolo & Chris when suddenly Paolo took an unexpected exit, too late for Michael & I to follow. We then spent the next hour or so trying to re-connect again. I'll never say a cross word about cell phones again!

Finally managed to get back to Paolo's house, did all the necessary packing for getting to the airport the next day, and collapsed.

THE NEXT DAY-I'd just as soon not bore anyone with the details here; suffice to say it was a mad rush to the airport [thanks for being packed & ready, Chris...], and a mad rush within the airport to get to the gate, with mere minutes to spare.

Observations? I took a bigger financial hit than I'd hoped to, but I wouldn't trade this experience for anything. It was wonderful to see how these compositions work in a live context [especially the new ones]; the people I met couldn't be nicer [except for the idiots in Reims];  and I can finally add "European Tour" to my resume. So many thanks to Bruno, Charly, Pierre, the staff at Le Triton, Francois, "Les Ingrates", Marcello, Danielle, Giovanni, Rok, and most of all to my French TV bandmates Paolo, Chris, Michael, and Jeff for making this happen. Salut!


Well folks, the tour's a'happenin' --I'm leaving November 4th, and here's what we got:

11/07/2008 DAX, FRANCE: Private concert/recording session; e-mail for details

11/08/2008 REIMS, FRANCE 8pm @ Le Centre Culturel du Crous
34, bd Henry Vasnier BP275

11/09/2008 WüRZBERG, GERMANY (EARLY SHOW: 5pm) @ Omibus
Theaterstraße 10 97070 Tel. 0931 / 5 61 21

11/12/2008 8pm - STRASBOURG, FRANCE @
Le Café des Anges
42, Rue Krutenau  67000

11/13/2008 8pm - PARIS, FRANCE @ Le Triton
11 bis rue du Coq Francais; 93260 Les Lilas

11/14/2008 8pm - LYON, FRANCE @ Boulangerie du Prado
69 rue Sébastien Gryphe 69007

Via Granelli 20099 Sesto San Giovanni (MI)
Also featuring:

Our line-up for this tour:
Mike Sary bass
Chris Smith guitar
Paolo Botta [of YUGEN] keyboards
Michael Hazera [of SOTOS & ZAAR] drums


Well! I suppose it's safe to say 2007 can be written away as "The Year Nothing Significant in the World of French TV Happened".
Can the same be said of 2008? You be the judge...

As I write this [August, 2008], a tour of Europe in November of this year seems to be taking place.
2 confirmed dates for now, with more on the way: November 14-15 [not sure which day yet, though I've asked for the 15th], we'll be performing at the AltrOck Festival in Milan, Italy. Other announced acts include Picchio dal Pozzo and Hostenaten. I have inside info on some of the other bands invited to be a part of this fabulous event, but I'll leave it to organizer and good friend Marcello Marinone to announce the remainder of the roster.
The other date is November 13th, at the legendary Le Triton in Paris! Very excited about this one. Most of my French musical heroes have graced the stage at Le Triton at one time or another, and I feel honored to be a part of this history.
Other cities we are working on are Bordeaux, Bonn, Strasbourg, Barcelona, Madrid, and Frankfort. Any Europeans out there willing to have us inflict tunes from our more recent cds (as well as 3 tunes from the one we're working on now) on their local venue, please contact us for a list of our unreasonable demands.

The line-up for our tour: holdovers Chris Smith on guitar/violin; Paolo [YUGEN] Botta on keyboards and grappa; and, introducing Michael Hazera, the talented drummer for French bands Sotos and Zaar. Michael has been a vital part of organizing part of this tour in addition to learning the tunes, and I'm quite excited to be exploring where in tarnation the "one" is in playing French TV music with him. Regular FTV drummer Jeff Gard is unable to join the tour due to being too vital to Louisville's WHAS News to be allowed to escape temporarily.

French TV 10 [provisional title: "I Forgive You For All My Unhappiness"] chugs along. Little Atlas keyboardist Steve Katsikas has finished all keyboard [sorry about the redundancy] tracks minus the tune Paolo has recorded; Chris Smith has finished one tune and is working on 2 others; newcomer Adam Huffer has recorded sax for 2 songs and will be recording at least one more, with the remainder of the sax parts to be recorded by former FTV member Warren Dale, and Little Atlas guitarist Roy Strattman has recorded some DELIGHTFUL guitar tracks for one other-shame we can't seem to coax more out of him at the moment. Two more tunes call for some sort of guitar, but I STILL haven't decide who to ask!

The side project I've recorded with famed guitarist Shawn Persinger [Boud Deun; Prester John] and equally-famed keyboardist Guy LeBlanc [Nathan Mahl; Camel], along with not-as-famed-as-he-deserves-to-be drummer Chris Vincent [French TV] has been finished for months, and currently resides in flakey-non-committal-label-interest Hell. I've pretty much decided I'll have to put this one out myself [too bad, as I think this one could make some $$$ in the right hands---larger hands than mine, that is]. However, the tour is tying up much of my finances and is a factor in when this comes out.

Also recording with a progressive band out of South Carolina known as 9 On Bali, featuring guitarist/keyboardist Dan Sweigert, from Chicago favorites Star-Period-Star. Dan's an old pal from way back, and has written some PHENOMINAL tunes I feel honored to be allowed to corrupt with my bass playing.