It had been pretty much forty years to the day since I'd last set foot in Philadelphia. In 1978 my family flew from there to Frankfurt am Main in West Germany. I've dreamed often of the skyline of Philly in the intervening years, and it was cool to finally see it again. Additionally, I got to visit with an old pal from Germany, Ryan Holiday. Ryan's a great, sweet dude, and it was fun to catch up with him, albeit somewhat briefly. The Rotunda show started with a Broken Whole set. Broken Whole consists of Mika on electronics, Eli on bass, and usually two drum sets. Calvin Weston and I took on the latter roles. We got into some good drum spaces, with Calvin providing all sorts of power. I tried to weave ideas in and out of what he was playing as Mika's Mac-generated tones blurped and beeped and whizzed atop of the maelstrom. Eli stepped in about half way through our twenty five minute set and threw out low tones from his bass. Good and abstract, I'd say. Following all of this, Elliot Levin played with an absolutely smokin' trio. I wish that I'd caught the drummer's name, as he was incredible. Elliot ranted great Beat poetry and blew some seriously righteous tenor sax. What a band! Cartoon Justice followed this tough act with a nice, long, heavy set. Calvin got his Funk side out: he was stomping on his home turf. After about thirty minutes of one piece, we stopped to catch our breath. Mika called out for Spirit Aligned Truth, but Eli and I had been playing that rhythm for it for the last ten odd minutes. We had to quickly come up with some new way of playing its 6/8 groove. Our efforts seemed to work, but I was sweating it a bit, and definitely felt drained afterwards. Kind of weird vibes all evening, but it was cool to get to play a lot. Added bonus for getting to sleep on an actual bed overnight.
Below: Broken Whole/Cartoon Justice shots, by and courtesy of Ryan Holiday (thanks, Ryan!)
A few days off, spent walking around Manhattan and Brooklyn had done me right. If you're in NYC within the next few months, do yourself a solid and seek out the Rammellzee exhibit at Red Bull Arts. Holy cow that guy saw a lot! Our Trans Pecos set started off by getting to know a real cool woman named Imani; she does sound there, and was very helpful. She grabbed me this venue's beat up old drum set, which was surely the funkiest and most questionable one that I played during this trip. I love old, beat up drums and cymbals, so I was pretty stoked on it. It took a while to get the sound dialed in, but she gave us a nice, loud mix. Kind of a languid start as we adjusted to the absence of Calvin again, but things cooked up into some good, raw Psychedelic spaces. Good flows followed, and we got groovy and free toward the end of our thirty five minutes' return to Brooklyn. One thing I learned for sure during this set: Love Is Love and it can test our abilities to accept the actions of others. This is completely fine, even in the face of resistance.
Below: ugly beautiful drums
The last show of our short East Coast tour, and the edges were wearing thin. Lots of emotion, lots of quiet contemplation, lots of angst. Time to finish and go home, for sure. Adrianne's cello had somehow gotten broken in-between Brooklyn and downtown, so she ended up playing Kersit's m'bira for the whole set. Some people showed up, but I suspected that they were disappointed that Calvin was not with us. No pressure, hahahaha....sigh. We started off with a good, flowing version of Spirit Aligned Truth (how hard I worked on that 6/8 for months before the tour), leading further into scattered mayhem and block-ey patterns of Mika's tribute to Gnawa, Desert Roads. Things came crashing to a halt, and I looked up to see some people in the audience, still there and clapping. All right. The second half of our set started off with abstract bug music, lead by Eli and his cell phone/bass guitar combo. I dropped in and got clicky and clattered, and Kersti, Mika, and Adrianne followed suit. This felt like the best improvisation of the trip to me. I was satisfied with the odd moves of it all, a nice, long set that seemed intimate and connected. Downtown Music Gallery is an awesome space, run by great people. Plus, they have a pretty decent back line drum kit, save for the janky old high hat stand that comes with it. It was a bit tough for me in that Calvin's absence loomed large over this show, but I had no control over that. Minutes after we'd finished, Vinny from Vinny's Music showed up to pick up our rental gear, and we were done.Above: Cartoon Justice at Downtown Music Gallery, this photo speaks volumes
We joked and goofed all the way through our cab ride back to Bushwick from China Town, the weight of expectations giving way to the elation of finishing something started.
Cartoon Justice will play with Elliot Levin in SF this Sunday......