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Lets Get COVID in New Hampshire!

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We thought we had narrowly escaped COVID with our collective departure from Italy.  But it was not to be.

Everything was looking good, from the could-have-been-worse schlep through the Zurich train station with the enormous guitar case (no carts?!  no humans who help?!), through wine tasting in SwissAir First Class, to smooth arrival in Boston.

My trusty ally and friend Spoolia was there to scoop me.

And driving into Newton it was as if we hadn’t even left Italy!  Heck, dinner even was Italian, but pronounced incorrectly.

Mabel was impressed, and this is a dog not really impressed by much!

So it was off to New Hampshire for some music.  And a side of accidental COVID.

Oopstock has been going strong for 29 years.  Many of the usual folks were in attendance. But get this: there was a professional sound guy, and there were high school kids manning the grill.  Holy cow, so upscale!!

This made my life much easier (not to mention Rhine’s).  Here are my feet on the table where the sound board USED to be positioned way back when I was the sound guy.  The hombre to the right is Steve.  He ran great sound.

The usual instrument pod.

The East German Gold Medal Swim Team Captain.

New blood with high charisma.

Where’s Aubrey did an iteration of the Into the Unknown game.  We all missed Sogol’s dancing.  But here is the picture that April made.

 

The Moose Hut guys also got whacked by COVID.  Chris was down and didn’t make the party.  As a result, a game of musical chairs around who plays what instrument resulted.  Zack played drums?!

Everybody missed Romey.

There was, in deference to Italy, a Negroni session mid-day.

The sun set.  The babies went to bed.

And the bands came out under the actual light show.  FWIW, LED lights still attract shit tons of mosquitos.

Guy Ferrari played some original music.  Tight.

Moose Hut became Moose Nut or maybe Moose Butt.

And then it was the Grayhounds (a quasi-iteration on Splatterfoot with a new guy named Paul whaling on guitar).

Sadly, Rhine was infected the whole time.  He started feeling symptoms Sunday.  And I got it from him.  I am pretty sure this all started with the Italian villa art collective (and I secretly wonder about their self-reported negative test results before our performance).  So many years of top notch risk management come tumbling down when you change your risk stance.  WHOMP.

A view from the stage.  We played electric until 10 then shifted to the campfire where this year’s highlights were a complete treatment of one side of the Pink Floyd Animals record, and a coveted iteration of Hangin.

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Then it was off to Spain to become a vector.  Unknowingly. Alas.

Special thanks to Spool for making this all possible and to Rhine and April for persisting with the music party even in a summer crammed with art and fun.

 

 

Play for Your Dinner

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The thing about Italians is that they love live music.  And they love Americans too (in spite of our recent proclivities for absolute dumb shit behavior).  Rhine and I took advantage of this by dragging around our instruments and playing for our supper where we ate.

The first great restaurant run happened after our worldwide debut as Into the Unknown in Campiglio Cervo.  The crowd converged and decided we needed a reservation subito subito.

In the end, I was spirited off with Santa Mariela so I could see the restaurant and meet the owners with my own eyes.  That’s because Ruers above Piedicavallo exists past where the road ends.  So you have to walk there once you ditch your car.  Incredible views await.  And the kindest people.

On the same fact finding mission, we also had to make a quick trip to visit Dick (a local Scott of great flare) and his cat, and catch up with pretty much everyone we encountered.  This was fun, but it made us late late late.

My scouting expedition revealed this view (that is Biella down there somewhere).

We returned (very late) in the Fiat 500, parked at the edge of the world, and proceeded to have an excellent dinner replete with local wine house made cheeses,  polenta, roast beef, and even gluten free stuff for Matt.

 

After dinner we got out our instruments and played a little music.  Here is part of the “first song” (a song by Bob that we always play first so we never have to figure out what to play first).

Then we entered the kitchen to play for the cooks.  This was a blast, and the staff was most appreciative.  Lets just say we are welcome back any time, forever.

Check out the face on this guy.

This kind of experience is what makes a trip to Italy an amazing, humanizing experience.  And to top it all off, the Signora would not let me pay all that I owed.

Of course, once we did it once, we had to do it again.  That’s just how it goes.

Rhine and I scouted out a restaurant run by the slightly pazzo Roberta in Sanctuario San Giovanni.  The moon was almost full, and the werewolves were awakening.

The local Barbera was outstanding.  This was one of the best simple meals we had on the trip.

Top of the world to you.

If you look closely, you will see Rhine.

Roberta recognized us as part of the concert crowd from Campigliano Cervo and asked if we had brought our instruments.  Since we rushed to arrive by 8:30 the answer was no.  Roberta asked us to return the next evening after our big opera, and a plan was born.  We promised to arrive a punto by 8:29pm.

She sent up home with a 100 year old plate for April and some goodies for breakfast.  We shared some grappa.

It took some doing after the big opera performance, but we did make it.  The moon was full.   Everyone else arrived shortly thereafter.  I played my violin at the edge and made Mariela cry.

And, once again after dinner, we played in the kitchen for the cooks even as the vegan meal was blitzkrieged on the massive stove.  The floor was sticky, but the love was palpable.

We stayed until the grappa ran out.

And we will return.

 

 

 

 

 

Performing in Campiglia Cervo: Into the Unknown

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The stadium in Campiglia Cervo is scaled to match the interstate highway system that blazes through the center of town.  We packed the stadium to the gills with what I am told was 65 people, including the vice mayor who introduced us, but not including the mayor himself who had more important things to do like look at himself in the mirror.  Just so you know, this was a much bigger show than the show Metallica put on at the same stadium!

The show was actually very good.  Intimate. Interesting. Tight.  During the rest of our time in Rialmosso we ran into lots of people who either attended or heard through the grapevine about our performance.  That was both really cool and very gratifying.

So what happened, exactly?

First we invented the idea.  And we practiced.  Then Matt arrived and things got remarkably much better.  in the end, the performance included:

April Claggett, realtime art

Gary McGraw, violin, mandolin and vocal harmony

Matt Savage, piano

Sogol Shirazi, piano and dance

Rhine Singleton, guitar, dobro, vocals, songwriting

The road crew set the stage after arriving the day before to check electricity levels and make sure all of the seating was available.  We have nothing but admiration for our intrepid road crew.  They work so hard so we can do what we do.

The show consisted of three parts as shown on the billboard above.

Here is a stage floor view of the set list for those of you collecting bootlegs.

And a view of the nosebleed seating in the back before anyone was in the house.  You can see the dancing props professionally built by our dedicated construction crew.

Publicity was run by our crack PR team who were able to put up a poster with the last of the tape.

Fortunately that poster was all it took to fill the space to the gills.  When we started (only 5 minutes late), people were standing because the seating was gone.  Even the reserved section for mastiffs and toddlers was full.

We sincerely appreciate the willingness of the locals in the area to support our art with enthusiasm and love!

The stage is set.  The weather is perfect.

And we’re off. Sogol and Matt play Bach together.

Dancing to Vivaldi Concerto in G major for Two Mandolins, Strings and Continuo, RV 532 (re-re-arranged for violin, guitar and piano).

Realtime art during We Will Float Away.

Then the game.

Here is a (raw) video compilation of the show, barely edited.  This is six minutes of an hour long show.

A complete properly-produced video will be available someday (or so we believe). We are told it is being edited by the BBC in cooperation with NPR.

Another view of the Finale from the audience.

We had so much fun inventing the game and performing it that we want to do it again.

 

 

Creating a New Art Form

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Eight of us have convened in Rialmosso, Italia to create some art together.  Sadly, three of us were almost immediately infected with COVID from the trip across the ocean.  So far, the other five of us are healthy and working together to create, well, something.  Here’s how that is going.

We have a movement artist, a painter, and three musicians.  For one section of the show we are performing this Sunday we’ve decided on an art form where we pass a token between us, one after another (and sometimes to a group).  The idea is for each artist to improvise in their medium given what the artist before them came up with in another medium.

This set of videos shows our second attempt at this performance game.

It all starts with April Claggett

 

Who passes the token to Rhine Singleton (uncharacteristically playing the dobro).

 

Who passes the token to Sogol Shirazi.

 

Who, uh oh, passes the token to me (Gary McGraw).  Fortunately, I was unable to film myself playing the violin.  (Though you can find some video on Rhine’s blog Blame it on Sally.)

Now that Matt Savage has joined us on the piano, we have five players.  This is an interesting experiment that we’re having fun with.

 

Ready…

Set…

Go…

We are also performing some classical music.  Here is some Vivaldi being worked up.  Sogol will dance to this once we figure it out.

A more pedantic video of the Vivaldi sessions.

There is Bach being worked up, and Chopin too.

 

And we’re spicing up some Where’s Aubrey tunes with simultaneous art and dance.

The incredible result of one of our improvisations

Our time together at Villa Emma has been filled with ideas, collaboration, and the joy of creating something together.

 

Making music Near Biella (Miagliano)

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What happens when you convene an eclectic group of artists with a vague plan to “make something” involving music, dance, drawing, and possibly opera?  Well who knows.  We haven’t been able to find out yet as one of the dancers came to Italy with COVID (everyone tested on arrival) and spread it to two others in our group before proper quarantine set in.  The biggest impact involved our fearless leader and chief convener Shooka taking to her bed.

The upshot on Sunday about three hours after landing in Italy was a hastily constructed spettacolo involving Bach, improvisational movement art to unplanned spontaneous music, and Where’s Aubrey in Miagliano, Italy. Amazingly, the people who came to see us actually enjoyed themselves.

We fittingly call ourselves, Into the Unknown.

Instruments fly from Germany

 

Giant guitar case travels well

 

Sogol plays Bach to open the show

 

The audience mostly avoided the actual amphitheater seats, instead opting for the shade

We shifted the “stage” to face the shade loving audience.

 

“Backstage” with a dobro

By far the most interesting part of the show was when the musicians played whatever occurred to them (us?) as the dancers moved to the improvisational music and the artist drew what she heard and saw.  We divided that piece into eight parts defined by the artist.  We also asked the audience to participate by drawing as well.

Movement art

 

Sogol and Dani and April

 

Where’s Aubrey performs with a kluged up sound system

 

Paparazzi

 

Sure

Ultimately, we all had a good time at our first performance (one of three planned so far). Benvenuto in Italia.

More about the show can be found on Rhine’s blog.

 

Metallica in Germany

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What do you do when you land in Germany?  The answer involves a Camaro and the Autobahn and Metallica.

Markus’s airport car service

 

After a quick shower to wash off the metal tube, it’s time for the first Radler.  A slippery slope to lots of beer.  It is, after all, Germany.

The download festival.  Here we come.

 

The duck is your co-pilot

 

Cider for the win

 

In the van things are serious

 

The weather GOOD

 

The weather BAD

 

duckface

After a bunch of beers (who is counting?), we wound our way over a 5km spiral into the venue.  Germans are a very orderly bunch.  Bt who thought up this entrance and exit plan?

MOO.

 

Sabaton from Sweden

 

Rock and roll

 

What?!

 

My crowd.  What an unruly, fantastic bunch.

There was beer

 

Did I mention the part about the beer?

 

We pushed off the rain through sheer psychic magic, but it was only delayed.

Nap time for the American

Five Finger Death Punch

You may start with five fingers, but you will end up with four.

Finally, Metallica

Are you feeling good?  Yes, we are.

Some guitar for you.

Rocker

 

Nothing else matters in this crowd of strangers.  Metalheads are a welcoming bunch.

I am not alone.

My first metal show was the best one ever.

Music Mode: Ritt and Wilder Release Hinge (with some fiddle)

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My music has been on a COVID hiatus for way too long — only the occasional rain in the desert with Rhine or a Bitter Liberal or two.  Fortunately, along came Ritt Deitz who just released a new album and did a four show tour to promote its release.  Buy a copy of Hinge here.

 

 

I played two of the shows with Ritt and his son, multi-instrumentalist and talented child Wilder.  The shows were great.  Here are some bits.

Wilder Deitz plays mandolin

The DC date was actually in Vienna at Diego Ruiz’s house.

The lineup (near the end anyway)

An excellent place to play a house concert.  Great people.

All temporary of course.  As we are not of this world.

Cocktails by Bill Shepardson.  Where did that doctor’s bag come from?

Wilder Deitz plays piano

 

No, mandolin. Wilder plays mandolin.

The feet

Wilder plays guitar

 

 

No wait, it’s piano that Wilder plays.

 

Some other fiddler

I did play, honest.  But nobody was there to record said playing.  He said he played. He played.

Sing it.

 

Then it was on to Wilmington, NC for a Sunday evening performance (close enough to the Stick to merit a long drive).

 

Feet up between sets

The venue was a fiddle shop of the highest caliber. Ronald Sachs for the win.

Who needs people?  Music is enough.  Right?  Yes?  Music is enough?

Nope.  The people add the magic.  Connect.

The mosquito green room.

On the stage again.  The music was even better.

 

These people charge the batteries. Thank you, people.

Sing it.

 

Then it was over.  More please.

Like a puppy on the beach.

 

Fin.

 

 

Nancy Griffith memorial

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During the 28th annual Oopstock, we spontaneously performed this version of Nanci Griffith’s song “Love at the Five and Dime” as a memorial.  Nanci died the day before we performed this song.

Thanks for the music, Nanci.

 

 

Eighth Blackbird at the National Gallery of Art

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National Gallery of Art

What a place to see one of my all time favorite contemporary music groups. Eighth Blackbird played the National Gallery 2.16.20, and the show was free. As always, the group featured brand new music from living composers, including: Nina Shekhar, Fjóla Evans, Andy Akiho, Holly Harrison, David Lang, Viet Cuong, Jonathan Bailey Holland, and Julius Eastman. This show included some ringers in for violin, flute, and clarinet.

Lisa Kaplan, fearless leader and director of eighth blackbird

My favorite set was the second, and my favorite piece was Viet Cuoug’s Electric Aroma (2017),

The most precious thing in the museum was Cora, of course.

Cora does contemporary

The setting (no pictures or recording during the show)

After the concert, there were a few minutes for art.

Then it was out and on the metro for cocktails and dinner at Baba.

Sundown on the mall

Smithsonian sculpture

Wholly Emily

Baba’s bar

john doe krisin hersh grant-lee phillips pittsburgh

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There were three of them. The setting was intimate at Club Cafe.  Negronis were available. Seating was not.

Ye olde van carpool crew

 

 

Krisin opened up with an interesting guitar song that involved intentionally bending chords on an acoustic.  After that song, all bets were off WRT tuning.  Who needs tuning for an intimate acoustic set?  EVERYONE. EVERYONE MUST TUNE.

(please tune)

 

Grant-lee joined in and tuning became mandatory.  This also allowed for some breathing.  Grant-lee is charismatic and fun to watch but about as deep as a puddle.

Duo to go

 

 

 

 

Picture picture for Em

John Doe was fantastic. Thank the stars for a poet singer like him.

John Doe

 

 

 

Hells yes on a great Pittsburgh Sunday night.  So good to see Alisa and Greg!!

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