So, I was on tour almost all of April. It was supposed to be three weeks – two of them booked by superagent Linus in Switzerland, and one booked by the gents at ChoiceCuts in Dublin. And if it hadn’t been for the golly gosh darned VOLCANO, it would have been smoove as silk. Oh well. Force majeure and like that.
First night in, I played RapHistory night in Basel, with the theme of 1980. Not rap from around 1980, mind you – 1980, straight and utterly. I did my homework before I left and played over an hour of the OG material (jetlag notwithstanding), thanks to the thorough discography by the RapHistory Institut of Switzerland.
Next I played Zurich, with a mess of support from Ivan and Klemens. This was the first gig I played that was the “official” new set, using new material and the Akai APC-40 controller. I worked on the set for several months, first figuring out how to configure the controller for my (ahem) idiosyncratic approach to the material – I went through 4 major iterations before heading out, and now, of course, I’m already working on #6 – then deciding what music, which pieces, what worked with what, etc.
Response was really, really good. A very decent-sized crowd, nice sound, much getting down. Whew. Understand, I’d been sitting in my studio for monthes, assembling elements, cackling away to myself about “this’ll kill ’em, heh heh,” but still, in the back of my mind, somewhat fearful that I might be wrong and what if everyone hates everything? After Zurich, I didn’t worry about the set any more, a rather unique state of mind for me.
Off to Bern for a few days. starting with a gig at Club Bonsoir. This was the first club I’ve played where the noise ordinance of the town mandated that the club use – as part of the DJ booth – a large digital db level meter with both momentary and hourly-average-up-to-60-seconds-ago readings. The rules were: no going over 99 db for more than a moment, and keep the hour average under 99 or the sound man would turn you down. Apparently, the cops had been called once too often. A big basement venue, the place was plenty loud for my tastes at 99 db. My agent Linus and his brother supported, tag-teaming with the goddamndest collection of 7″ instrumentals you ever heard.
And, I got to spend a few days in Bern. Awesome. The capitol of Switzerland is a 12th-century town with covered sidewalks and cobblestone streets, quiet alleys, street markets, and amazing views. Although, the street market I passed through in the center of the old city had a good proportion of crap you’d buy at any street fair in the Greater NY Metro area; i.e., funny hats and tube socks.
Took a side trip one day to Lausanne – which is one of the prettiest towns I’ve ever seen – to visit with pj from Vibrations Magazine, for whom I’ve done a few compilations. A wonderful afternoon, whisked around with split-second precision by the Swiss rail system. Yowzuh.
From Bern to Dresden, playing at the always live Block Rocking Beats party at Altes Wettburo, with a few sunny days to cruise around town with promoter Maria and explore Greater Dresden. Support by Buschfunk radio star T. Low Rock.
And then came the flight to Moscow. Vavoom, was that ever a unique experience. I’m not sure how most of these folks on the sold-out flight got to Frankfurt, but they didn’t fly; I think for most of them, this was their first time on an airplane. It began with the check-in at the Frankfurt Airport S7 airlines counter, which more resembled a rugby scrum than the docile shuffle I’m used to. Then, once everyone boarded, the flight attendants had their hands full getting everyone to stay seated, taking suitcases out of people’s laps and stowing them in baggage (many passengers were outraged at this). Early in the flight, I made my way back to the lavatory (2 for the entire plane, which was completely economy class), and discovered that there was 1 (one) roll of toilet paper in the lavatory (none in the cabinets; I checked). That’s for a full plane, 4 hours in the air. But wait, there’s more.
Lunch was served, wringing cries of utter delight from the newbie flyers; free food? Wow! Much talk, with comparisons of what everyone got on their tray of FREE FOOD! In between naps, I heard shrieks of various sorts coming from the back of the plane. On my next trip back to the lavatories, I discovered the source of the noise. As I got to the lavatory and saw the green “vacant” sign, I opened the door to find an older woman in a babushka (God’s honest truth) sitting on the toilet. She screamed, grabbed the inside handle on the door, pulled it closed, and held it shut. Either folks couldn’t read the directions about locking the door with the latch, or they didn’t trust them. That explained the intermittent shrieks during the flight.
And then we landed in Moscow; the second the wheels touched the ground – and I mean the absolute instant – fully half the passengers were on their feet, opening the overhead compartments and filling the aisles looking for their friends. Only several screaming PA announcements by the flight attendants – who had to push the people bodily back into their seats while the plane barreled ahead – restored order. Not like Continental out of Newark, you betcha.
I was only in Moscow for 12 hours, but it was a natural ball. Anatoly, the promoter of the Cult Club parties, told me on the way in from the airport that the food in the club was really good. I rarely have good food in a club, so I was skeptical, but damned if he wasn’t right. The cream of pumpkin soup was one of the highlights of the entire tour. They gave me the recipe.
And the gig itself was truly memorable. It was the first time in many, many years where it seemed to me that the people in the club came simply to hear what the DJ’s played, and dance, and enjoy themselves. The enthusiasm of the crowd was incredible. Anatoly played before and after me (he had the only 7″ of “Telephone Girl” by Assegai I’ve ever seen), and people clapped, whistled, and cheered. When I got on, every time I looked up people were giving the thumbs up, waving their hands, yelling, and jumping up and down. It was like a DJ’s wet dream. They liked music, and liked to dance. Don’t fool yourself that these were behind-the-Iron-Curtain-and-so-therefore-deprived people, either. Anatoly’s been throwing these parties for over 7 years, and this was a knowledgeable crowd; I dropped “La Lupita” by Nico Gomez, and they sang along.
I noticed that while Anatoly and I played, several people dropped folded notes into the DJ booth, which Anatoly pocketed. As we were packing up (at 6 AM), I asked him about the notes. Requests? He looked surprised. “No, we don’t get requests. They’re thanking us for the music.” God bless Moscow.
After Anatoly and I packed up, we took a cab over to Red Square to watch the sunrise. We were alone with the astonishing St. Basil’s Cathedral (which looked brand new) and the scary-ass walls of the Kremlin. Then a short walk to the subway (which really is built of marble, lit by chandeliers, filled with bronze statues, and has trains arriving every 90 seconds, even at 6:30 AM on a weekend), back to the hotel for a quick shower, and off to the airport for the connnection to Ireland. The flight out was full of experienced travelers, so bathroom procedure was uneventful.
Dublin was like a warm homecoming, thanks to the ChoiceCuts people. Much hanging with them and a bit with the Hypnotic Brasss Ensemble, whom they manage. I shot out to Galway for a return gig at Bar Cuba, supported by ChoiceCut’s own DJ Rizm. Of course, just after my return to Dublin from dairy country, that Icelandic volcano took off, making my return arrangements home null and void.
In the meantime, I played my last gig at Anseo, a rammed pub across the street from my hotel. I had my doubts about playing a get-em-up set to a lot of jammed-in people tossing back the Guinness, but upping the volume caused an outbreak of dancing, and at one of the two Hypnotic Brass gigs I attended later that week, people came up to me to tell me how much they liked the Anseo set.
In the vast amount of time I had to kill while waiting for flights to start up again, I spent a bit of it in the Trinity College Library’s Old Book Room, which I was already familiar with because of my perusal of library porn. It was a wonderful feeling, more meaningful to me than a cathedral visit. I read a lot, and this is a serious temple of books. The college library is also the repository of the breathtaking Book Of Kells, which was good for some close perusal. Other than that, I spent my time on Skype with The Wife, strategizing on how to get a plane reservation, and recording the slide presentation I had to give in absentia at a Princeton U. conference on Copyright and Music. But that’s a story for another post, and this one’s taken me two days to write.
E-mail me ((infoATsteinskiDOTcom), and I’ll send you a link to download the Moscow set. It’s almost 2.5 hours, so it downloads as parts 1 & 2, but they fit together in an iPod like butta. Includes snappy artwork (seen at the top of the post) enabled by The Wife.