Well, apparently we have a new keyboardist: a fellow from Greece by the name of Evmenios Poulias. We've had a couple of extremely fun, energetic rehearsals, and he'll be making his debut LIVE in Milwaukee July 30th of this year. I think you're gonna like this guy--pretty ballsy, aggressive player...

We gain a keyboardist, we lose a keyboardist: Bill Fowler, a keyboardist who played on our 2nd, 3rd, and 4th albums and was a member of our live band in the early 90's, passed away in his sleep June 7th [as of this writing, I haven't learned the cause of death, although it appears it may have been an aneurysm of some sort. He was in good health].

Bill was barely out of high school when I first met him, at the insistence of founding FTV members Fenner Castner and Artie Bratton, who attended Ballard High with him. I remember being astonished at his casually knocking out ELP's "Karn Evil 9" and "Tarkus" for me, so having him cut some tracks for the cds I mentioned earlier seemed an obvious choice. Once he returned to Louisville after graduation for the University of Kentucky, I managed to rope him into the live band for a couple of years. That particular configuration of French TV [Jeff Mullen on drums and Tony Hall on guitar, in addition to Bill and I] was an odd duck, in that we only did 4 FTV tunes, with the rest being [mostly] progressive rock covers--the other players didn't share my "**** THE AUDIENCE!!!" viewpoint. I eventually dis-banded that line-up when I was even being outvoted on the choice of covers! But Bill still remained a good friend, even after moving to Seattle for a few years. A year or so ago, I recently attempted talking him into yet another round of negotiating our baffling compositions, but he wisely said no.

Bill was a gentle, self-effacing guy with an excellent ear and a dogged determination to master any piece of music he chose. Sadly, I don't think he realized how good he was.

I'll miss you, Bill-I can't believe I won't be able to explain to you why re-joining FTV one more time would be a terrific career move anymore.

Other news: I NOW HAVE the new MALS RECORDS deluxe 2-cd version of FTV10 "I Forgive You For All My Unhappiness". The 2nd cd is a professionally recorded and mixed recording of our ProgDay 2009 concert. I don't plan to have other vendors carry this, as it's a limited edition-if you like, you can order it from me for the low, low price of $15.00! You KNOW you want it...

Earlier this year, a band from Le Mans, France, called MENTAT ROUTAGE, had contacted me about touring the US in October. I had discovered them through MySpace [back when it was useful and user-friendly], and found their music delightful, and also was very impressed by their live videos-they seemed to put a lot of thought and effort into their stage show, which made them unique to most current prog bands. Anyway, they had secured an arts council grant that covered airfare and various other expenses, so I agreed to be their point man/tour manager/bassist. I spent HUGE amounts of my waking hours from August - September scrounging gigs [wish I had started sooner], with the result being gigs in St. Louis; Louisville; Columbia, South Carolina; Atlanta; and Lexington, KY. What follows is a blow-by-blow account of the festivities:


THURSDAY, 10/20th:
   I picked up the band from the airport: Ludo Fabre [AKA Zörn Behagh]: violin, composition, arrangements, and diverse objects; his brother Nicolas, who plays keyboards and co-writes; Karl Ledus: saxophones, flute, and samples; Sylvie Daguet: xylophone, percussion, and tap dancing [I'M SERIOUS!]; Piéric Le Teissier: drums; Didier Ledus [Karl's brother]: multimedia; and Paco Berthault: sound engineer. After initial greetings and pleasantries, I herded them into my van, and we headed to my house, minus 2 bags/luggage the airport promised they'd deliver soon. After hanging out and getting to know them, I helped them get settled and eventually herded them towards the dinner I prepared; some chile verde-ish concoction, which went over nicely.

FRIDAY, 10/21st:
  Spent a good chunk of the day at The Doo Wop Shop, a local musical equipment rental place. Don't know what we'd have done without it and their friendly and helpful staff-they were a life-saver! After lunch, most of the rest of the day was spent setting up equipment in my basement for rehearsals-it was quite an operation, seeing them in action-quite the well-oiled machine. The rehearsals began in earnest that evening, but unfortunately, out of respect to my neighbors, didn't continue for long. What we played sounded promising, and I seemed to fit in nicely, as I somehow managed to avoid having to play the tricky tunes I hadn't figured out yet!

SATURDAY, 10/22:
   As this was tricky day for me, work-wise, I didn't get to work with the band as much as I would've liked. However, we DID get to do some practicing together. I wandered downstairs to the basement that afternoon to find Ludo, Paco, and Nini armed with soldering irons and wire-cutters repairing the equipment that the airport thoughtfully brought to my house after the obligatory mauling by the baggage handlers throughout their flights.

   The prospect of working on "Tritonite", the one tune on which I had absolutely NO CLUE how to decode the bass part, reared its ugly head at last. The notes are simple enough [only 4 of them, basically], but the duration of the notes is quite another matter. The band were terrifically supportive as I bluffed my way through it, but found it hard not to shake the image of a very large dunce cap sitting on my head. The band was pretty obsessed with me learning it, but I insisted it was cutting into the run-throughs for the other tunes and did not want to de-rail the rehearsal. So we eventually postponed it for tomorrow. It was pretty amusing [except for my inability to grasp the section]: they would huddle together arguing [all in French] with each other how to count the section out for 10-15 minutes; they would explain as best they could to the bass-playing block-head, who would promptly blow it on the next run-though, followed by another 10-15 minutes of frantic French arguing; English explanation; bassist crashes; repeat sequence of events.

   Other frightening news: Nicholas walks into our glass door and puts a serious dent in his nose-it was rather, uh, COLORFUL, and was the subject of much derision once we realized a hospital wouldn't be involved.

SUNDAY, 10/23 & MONDAY, 10/24:
   I honestly can't remember much about these two days; mostly a flurry of last-minute preparations and rounding up of needed equipment for Tuesday's trip to St. Louis. Finally tracked down an inexpensive projector rental, after a morning of dead-ends - from DOO WOP! THEY HAVE EVERYTHING! Other happenings: Didier artfully fixing our sagging shower curtain rods; a couple of artfully-executed dinners by yours truly; watching Paco and Pieric intently studying NFL football [yeah, redundant] on Sunday during rehearsal breaks; Nichol and Piéric breaking down the "Tritonite" section that's been giving me fits--3-5; 3-5; 3-5; 4-4-4-5-3-3-3-5-3-5-4-2; repeat sequence 1 more time. Simple, huh?

ME NOT UNDERSTAND 3-5; 3-5; 3-5; 4-4-4-5-3-3-3-5-3-5-4-2 SEQUENCE

   Left town early afternoon utilizing both my Astrovan & VW Jetta. Cool, overcast, and drizzly. After about 1/2 hour of 70mph driving, realized I should've given the van a front-end alignment, as there was definitely a feeling of "floating" throughout the entire trip, and not in an enjoyable way. Arrived in St. Louis amid much "ooh-ing" and "ahh-ing" at the Arch & the Mississippi River around 5:30, and found the venue Fubar [appropriately named, as I'll relate later]. Despite our constant door-pounding, for some reason, the staff wouldn't let us in until 6 (strike one). Once granted entrance, we spent the next hour setting up, with little help from the surly 22-ish year old  soundman (strike two). Around 7pm, we were informed that not only were we not headlining, but our set would only 30 minutes (aaaaand yer out)! After confirming this with the owner, who mumbled something about thinking he was doing us a favor by booking us, I broke the news to the band, who though disappointed, seemed to take it in stride. Jumped into our eviscerated set before the handful of patrons, then quickly broke down for the likes of Johnny Something-Or-Other, whose claim to fame was being a guy who karaoke'd to 80-hair metal power ballads. But he DID dig our set...


   After loading up, chit-chatted outside with Roy and Rhea, our local contacts who would be putting us up overnight, and discussed dinner options. No real consensus, so we went back in to see the (new) headliner, whom I'd been warned would be a "noise" band. Well, they painfully were, but in a fascinating way. Most bands I've heard do this approach tend to sit on static, boring riffs that don't develop. Not these guys! Themes mutated nicely, accompanied by weird films projected nearby. And the owner must've felt guilty about hosing us, because he gave away some freebie bourbon shots, which we downed with gusto while absorbing the wall of noise before us.

   After the band finished, we hung out for a bit exchanging compliments, with the upshot being that the bassist wanted to explore the possibility of arranging for us a 2nd St. Louis gig for the next day! Our original plans were to remain in St. Louis an extra day to catch the Adrian Belew Power Trio/Tony Levin's Stick Men concert, but as I told the others, I'd rather entertain than BE entertained, and they agreed. We wouldn't know til the next day if the gig was on or not, so much crossed fingers in the meantime.

   We then went to the legendary Blueberry Hill nightspot [INCREDIBLE rock 'n' roll memorabilia from end to end, if you're into that sort of thing], where the staff gave us a nice tour of the place-it's VERY big-and we had some needed bar food. We then went to Roy & Rhea's where I made a startling discovery: Roy is as much a comic head/old newspaper comics nut as I am! Quite a collection; and we could've yakked all night about the subject. Not to be outdone, Didier made a beeline to Roy's "Kung Fu" dvds, where he [Didier] did an impressive rendition of the famed Kung Fu intro ["Time for you to leave..."]. Crashed shortly thereafter.

   We wake up to a pleasant surprise: Rhea thoughtfully provides bagels and a jug of hot coffee courtesy of the local Panera Bread outlet. Nice! Around 1pm or so, we say our goodbyes to Roy & Rhea and invade the rainy streets of their neighborhood for some window shopping. Sylvia finds some florescent lime-green go-go boots, and Karl goes American with some impressive cowboy boots. We also spend time at a nearby musical equipment shop, a FANTASTIC record store called Vintage Vinyl [I pick up an Eberhard Weber ECM cd and a Three Stooges dvd collection], a comic shop, and eat at a noodle place, where we receive confirmation about tonight's gig. YAY!! Details are very sketchy, but we'll be there regardless. With time to kill, the group votes to go downtown and see the Arch & waterfront up close, despite the now drizzly weather. After this round of sightseeing, we huddle together in a nearby sports bar, 2 minute's walk from Busch Stadium, home of tonight's now-rained-out World Series. Of course, I introduce them to their 1st American experience with Nachos Grande, which they initially pick at dubiously until plunging in with gusto.

   On to the gig: after numerous wrong turns and dead ends, we arrive at the venue, imaginatively named CBGB's. Very narrow set-up; our section of it couldn't have been more than 10 ft across. We soldier on with load-in and set-up, despite a minimal 6 channel mixer. Peculiar gig-the bar was sort of split down the middle with a rail instead of a wall. The bar area was pretty full; maybe 30-40 people, some of who would occasionally peak in at us during lulls in their important conversations-perhaps 7-8 attendees actually seemed interested in us beyond merely being background music. Ah, well; you do the show anyway. Yet another stupid freebie gig [except for generic pizza-a step down from last night's bourbon offering], but such is the status of original music [as opposed to "original-music-that sounds-like-everyone-else"] these days. Our contact apologized for the indifferent crowd and offered accommodations for the evening, but getting the hell out of Dodge seemed more appropriate. Kinda wish I'd took his offer in retrospect, as it was all I could do to keep my eyes open for the grueling trip back to Louisville-had to stop once or twice every hour to clear my head, and at this point didn't feel comfortable letting anyone else drive the van [Sylvie made a short-lived attempt, but the front end's shaking made her nervous].
   Arrived near Louisville around 7am, and was greeted by an ENORMOUS  traffic jam on the way to the bridge, which delayed us for another hour. Arrived home and collapsed quickly.

   Got up early afternoon, cleaned up, and if I remember correctly, there were miscellaneous items that needed to be rounded up for the remainder of the tour. Around 5pm, we packed up and went to the University of Louisville's Bird Hall, a recital hall arranged by one of the members of local world/RIO/whatever-leader-Joee-Conroy-calls-it ensemble Ut Gret, who had the opening honors for us tonight. Took about 30 minutes just to track down the hall, and then find someone to give us access. managed to haul everything down a steep set of steps [this was our training for the upcoming Atlanta gig, as it turns out]. The venue itself was gorgeous; quite a step up from our previous 2 dives! The sound system was terrific as well. Plus, lots of friendly faces in the audience this time.