Well, so much for a constant presence on the blog. We had very sporadic internet access once we actually hit the road. And the reality is, when I did have internet access, I was usually too exhausted, or didn’t have 5 minutes free, to actually sit down at a computer past filtering through dozens of emails.
But — what a RIDE! Our first night we performed in the gorgeous Bimhuis (pronounced “Bim House”). A gorgeous room that overlooked downtown Amsterdam with beautiful, large windows. The space was acoustically great, and was videotaped/broadcast by VPRO Jazz, throughout all of Holland. The show was preceded by the humorous Albert Van Veenendaal, who, backstage, told us of an amazing project he’s working on. Jazz Trio + Elephant. I hope he makes this group a reality, as I will DEFINTELY go see that show!!! He also played a very fascinating and beautiful set on prepared piano.
The next morning we were in a van by 9am, headed to Paris, desperate to make our 5pm sound-check. On paper, we were going to be fine, but I was terrified of the infamous Parisian traffic. Luckily, everything ran smoothly, and we made it to the club by 4pm, walking in to a flurry of opening-night Festival activity. We had met the director of Banlieues Bleues, Xavier, a year and a half previously, while doing a De Bajo gig at Tutuma Social Club, in NYC. He loved the group, and brought the 11-piece Coconino to his club in Paris last July — on the night of the final game of the World Cup. Low attendance at that gig was an understatement, but he loved the group so much that he brought us back for the gala opening-night of his late-winter festival — quite an honor!
Entering the beautiful L’Espace 1789, there was a huge film crew for Arte Live, a great PBS-type organization that broadcast our show through all of France & Germany. They were incredibly professional, nice, and easy to work with. It was the kind of film crew in which, during the show, you never really realized there were 3 guys with giant cameras wandering around the stage. Their job was to be ghost-like — to be invisible, while still capturing the live energy and on-stage joy — and WHAT a success! We’ll be posting videos from this show shortly.
Clifton and I also had a short but enjoyable interview before the show with French jazz radio entrepeneur Alex Dutilh. The show was incredibly fun, and afterwards we hung with alot of friends. Many of the folks we met down in Bordeaux last summer were there, and it was great to see them. We also saw some friends from NYC — Chad Parks, an early fan of the group who has recently relocated to Paris; our buddy Alex “Frenchie” Auffrey, who took the cover photo for the first Coconino album; and Saskia Gruyaert, who had filmed a bunch of our shows while she was living in NYC last year. It was also great to meet Nicolas Ragonneau and Djouls in person — thanks guys for all the help!
The next morning we bustled out of Paris at 10am. It was too bad not getting to spend ANY time properly in Paris — drive into town, sound check, run around dealing with details, play show, talk to friends and fans, go to sleep, wake up, jump in van. Oh well. Arriving in Rotterdam at around 4pm, we got to a beautiful building — the World Music & Dance Center. The show was certainly the wildest of the trip — everyone, from the downbeat, was dancing and flailing, and just having a great time. It was refreshing to see such an animated and engaging audience.
After the show, we hung out with the crowd for a few hours, meeting dozens of extraordinarily interesting and excited people. Clifton, ever the sniffer of the after-party, said he wanted to find “an after-hours bar that has great scotch, is open all night, and plays 70s funk on vinyl”. 20 minutes later we were deep in the heart of the Rotterdam underground, at a bar that was slinging really good scotches, blasting The Meters (on Vinyl), and was packed til 6am or so. At one point, (around 4:30am I think) an obscure instrumental Kool & The Gang track faded seamlessly into the bass&drums intro to “Mourning of Ginger”. It was truly a surreal experience, and it was great to hear the song in such a magical environment, with everyone in the bar dancing and swaying. It held it’s own, too, I must say, which was an extremely relieving experience! (side note: nobody in the band prompted this; someone who had been to our show slipped him the cd, unbeknownst to us). The album will have a Vinyl release soon, as well, and I can’t wait for all-vinyl DJs to start spinning it!
Travelling back to Amsterdam, we all craved one last good meal and a bout with our old friend, “Tangerine Dream”. The return home was fraught with the inevitable tuba crisis, when the British Airways baggage people wouldn’t let the cargo case on the airline without a $150 “overage” charge (despite the fact that we’d flown with that exact case on 6 previous BA flights). Their “policy manual” was outdated (2009), and they had no internet access anywhere (?!?!?!). When we tried to pay with cash, they couldn’t accept THAT, because it was “too dangerous” to have cash in the airport. Despite it being the safest place in the world, with armed guards and security EVERYWHERE. Other than that (and the food on the plane), the ride home was smooth and easy.