Chandler (Randolph, VT)Posted on January 30, 2012 with 2 comments
Welcome to the new tour blog! We thought this would be a fun way to bring you along on the journey with us a little more, for those of you who are interested in the "full scoop" so to speak, and/or those of you who might be in a part of the country (or world) that we haven't been able to get to recently. We're going to try to do a post after each concert if we can. Another reason we want to do this is that there are always really great people we meet and really cool places we come across which we want to tell you and everyone else about!
To briefly catch up a bit, so far in January we have done performances in:
Portland, ME (at Blue)
Philadelphia, PA (at Milkboy Coffee, with Hang Drum player Dante Bucci)
East Stroudsburg, PA (at Don Slepian and Jan Julia's "Art Music Coffeehouse" house concert series - only time I've ever been on a real stage with professional lighting during a house concert!)
Pittsburgh, PA (at Brad Yoder's "Hospitality House" series, with Jason Rafalak and Heather Kropf and her band)
Weston, MA (at the Weston Library - they have an incredibly strong concert series going and we had a packed room with about 70 people despite the huge Patriots playoff game being on at the same time!)
...and finally this past weekend we played in:
Hyde Park, VT (at the Second Congregational Church - thanks to Dan Young for almost singlehandedly keeping that series going!) and
Randolph, VT (at the Chandler Center for the Arts' new upstairs space which they use for smaller concerts.)
(Above: playing at Milkboy in Philly. You can see one of Dante's Hang Drums just to the right of me, the grey UFO-shaped instrument. If you haven't heard of Dante or heard/seen a Hang drum before, you'd enjoy checking it out on YouTube! Search for Dante Bucci, or Manu Delago, a guy from Austria I played some concerts with awhile back.)
(Above and below: on our drive up to Vermont we had some pretty cool views courtesy of a recent ice storm up there that left all the tree branches meticulously coated in glistening ice. Pictures don't do it justice, it was pretty amazing! It's always really nice when our concert travels take us to places that are just awesome to see and explore anyway.)
My wife, Steph, has been doing the live sound now and it has made an incredibly HUGE difference in so many ways. I used to have to try and run the mixer with my left hand while playing both necks of the double-neck (or playing the fretless guitar or kalimba) AND running the looper and other pedals with my feet. It was stupidly impossible and pretty much gave me no chance whatsoever of sounding good at all. Now I'm able to actually focus on playing well, doing a better job with the looper, and being more mentally present with the audience! And on top of that, it sounds better (sonically / mix-wise) too, since Steph has such great ears and is so diligent and 100% attentive at every moment - and most importantly, she really knows the songs extremely thoroughly and in great detail, since she hears them every day (sometimes all day). So she is in a better position than anyone to balance the levels of the different loops, instruments, and signals and make sure things sound right and that things get muted and un-muted at the right time when I'm switching instruments in the middle of a song etc. Needless to say, I'm incredibly lucky and incredibly grateful! On top of that, she takes video, does the books and handles the CD table and mailing list signup, and does all the graphic design for posters, CD's, and everything else. And it goes beyond that to helping me figure out the right songs to play each night, and in what order, and really understanding the purpose, meaning, and potential of the music and just generally helping everything forward in every way possible!
(Above: Steph post-concert at Chandler! Below: Steph's CD table arrangement at Chandler. She always makes it look so nice.)
It was great getting to play in Vermont again, where I lived during the first several years of exploring what the double-neck can do and discovering each song-world up to DN38 (DN39 through the latest DN54 all came to me either in California or in the Boston area. "The Gift" track on this website is DN50. Into Open Land is DN1.) I used to play in a lot of background-music situations in cafes and restaurants in Montpelier, Barre, Waterbury, Morrisville, and elsewhere in the region when I was first getting going, about 5 or 6 years ago. It is really wonderful to get to be sharing these songs now in listening-oriented concert settings for people who really listen to every note and follow the path of each song with me.
It's also great to be getting to play in venues that are so beautiful and well-equipped with everything we need, and to work with the wonderful people that run those venues and help make the concerts happen! We had an amazing experience at Chandler. They've just recently started doing smaller concerts in their newly-rennovated upstairs space (and they of course continue to do their large events in the big theater downstairs.) The upstairs room has a gorgeous wood floor with some very live acoustics, and some nice lighting - and most importantly, some really great people that know how to put together a great evening for everyone! They had a mini-bar going just outside the performance space, and had a nice green room for us (space where we can warm up, tune up, throw all our extra bags and cases, hang out and get ready for the concert) which was really nice. They even helped us load everything in and then carry everything back out to the van after it was all over - that's going above and beyond!
(Above: the super nice room at Chandler, and finishing the setup/getting the computer ready for Steph to connect to from the iPad, which she uses to mix the shows wirelessly, by screen-sharing with the laptop, which is connected to the interface that all the instruments are plugged into - see below)
(Above: my "home" all set up at Chandler, after the concert. Left to right are: my double-neck; a $25 set of Altec Lansing 2.1 computer speakers which I got about 8 years ago - best deal of my life, they sound excellent and work great as a small monitoring solution so I can hear myself and hear the loops; my home-made pedalboard that I built using wood and hardware from the awesome hardware store in Rockport, MA (we'll do a more thorough explanation of the pedals and stuff on it some other time); the laptop running Logic 8 to record all the individual inputs from the different instruments - usually just for me to listen to, learn from, and delete, but we may sync some of it to the video this time and share a couple songs with you soon; one of the mics which is basically just for picking up the 6-string neck (there's another one for the 12-string neck which you can't see in this photo) - the 6-string mic is a Sennheiser hypercardioid condenser, I forget the model name; and last but not least, my beloved fretless nylon string guitar, which has become my main "lead voice" for soloing, and for bass lines when I kick in the octave pedal. I always wish I could sit around and play for another 5 hours before packing up and going home!)
It was really special to get to play in a part of Vermont that I'd never even been to, let alone performed in, in such a nice venue, and for a nice roomful of really genuinely good people, most of whom we'd never met or played for before. We are so grateful to Chandler for doing a great job promoting the concert. It's always hard to get someone to come out to a concert by someone they've never heard of before, when there are so many other things they can do or watch these days, but it seems like for the most part the people that do come out really really enjoy it, and of course we really really enjoy sharing the music with them!!
We got to Chandler super early since there was a wedding going on in the downstairs part in the late afternoon, which meant we couldn't be sound checking at that time - so we arrived at about 2:45pm for a 7:30 concert and got things partially set up and plugged in, then went and walked around downtown Randolph for a bit, which was fun, although we were super bummed that all of the cute and cozy looking cafes were all CLOSED! I guess people go home pretty early there. We ended up doing the usual thing we have to do and grabbed lunch/dinner from a gas station, in the form of 2 hot chocolates, 2 fig newton bars, and a clif builder bar.
By that point it was ok to head back to the venue and finish plugging things in and soundchecking. The room was so nice and live it was actually a little too boomy and wild for the really dense multi-layered looping songs, and the really percussive stuff I do, but we were really grateful that enough people showed up that they soaked up some of the room echo and made it a great acoustic environment for this kind of music!
We decided to video and record the concert as it seemed like a particularly nice space, and we were feeling pretty dialed-in and on a roll after the last couple concerts had gone fairly well. I'm really glad we did, since it turned out to be a pretty special night, not least because of the great audience. It was really fun to share an evening with such nice people and after 2 or 3 songs I felt pretty comfortable on stage and managed to play at least 2 or 3 songs fairly well, which sadly is somewhat of a record high for me for a live performance, haha! We should have some video (with good audio) to share soon from this night, so stay tuned! For now, here are a bunch of pictures from the concert which Steph took while doing sound and video at the same time!
We got to meet lots of new people at intermission and at the end, and I re-met a couple after the show who knew of me from when I used to play at a small restaurant in Montpelier called the Main Street Grill & Bar, if I remember correctly. They said that even back then they came to see ME, that they really listened even back then, which was really special and heart-warming to hear, and a tiny bit embarrassing considering I had talked on stage about how I used to play those kinds of places for people who weren't listening at all - apparently a few of them actually were!
I was really glad to be able to share the new evolutions of some of the earlier songs, as well as some of the more recent songs which represent how things have evolved for me musically, since then. And we really hope everyone will come back again, since things are always evolving - not just changing, but kind of growing out of the same roots that were there in the beginning, kind of flourishing in multiple directions - at least that is my sense of where the music is leading. I will do my best to follow!
All in all, Steph and I had such a great time at Chandler (as is almost always the case with every performance - but this evening was certainly a special one) and we were really grateful for all the support from the folks who made the concert possible, as well as the support of those who came to listen and be part of that evening of music together. We are really grateful they want to have us back, and already look forward to coming back there whenever the next time is!
In the meantime, if you're ever near Randolph, VT, be sure to check out Chandler's upper gallery concert series, as they have a great thing going there, and the people who come out to listen seem to be pretty awesome, good, kind, genuine, interesting, down-to-earth people!
The next day before driving back to Boston we got to go skiing with my parents at one of my 2 favorite ski areas in the country, Craftsbury, and also stopped at a great bakery called the Red Hen bakery, near Montpelier. We discovered there was a chocolate shop in the same building called "Nutty Steph's"! (That's my wife's name, if you didn't catch it, although I usually leave the "Nutty" part out. Just kidding!! We are BOTH nutty most of the time.) Unfortunately they were closed, but we at least got a picture to remind us to come back some time - as if we needed a reminder!
Bye for now to VT - but we will be back in Hyde Park on May 25 for a co-bill with Gregory Douglass at the Hyde Park Opera House, which should be really fun and really special - it's a really cool little theater, and in a town that is very significant for both Gregory and myself, and Steph I would venture to say. Hope to see some of you there!
Next up for us are concerts in Boston (well, Chestnut Hill) this Friday Feb. 3, and my first-ever performance in CT, at the Lakeview Lodge in Bethany, CT on Saturday Feb. 4, with a singer-songwriter named Hannah Fair playing at that one as well. From what I can tell it sounds like a strong ongoing coffeehouse-like concert series they have going there - it will be interesting to see who shows up! And it will be fun to play as always. We'll let you know how it goes!
Thanks for tuning in and best wishes until next time,
Ian & Steph
UPDATE: here is that video we promised you! This is an extended version of "North by Northeast", with some looping and fretless at the end. I look forward to doing this with a full band someday. Not a perfect performance of it, but it was a fun night. Hope you enjoy it!