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    Tuesday, October 27, 2009

    CGT/MG3 in Quebec

    CGT/MG3 Rehearsals in Montreal. Photo by Hugues

    CGT/MG3 Photo by Hugues

    11:15am. I am sitting in the back of the CGT Chevy van. Bert is driving, Hideyo is sleeping. The Saint Lawrence River is on our left as we begin the long drive from Montreal to Harrisburg Pennsylvania. It’s a beautiful sunny day, and there are still some bright fall colors, although most of the leaves have already fallen. Life is good.

    We arrived in Montreal last Monday evening and had sushi dinner at a restaurant near the hotel on St. Denis Street.

    On Tuesday morning, I had my haircut (shorter than I wanted!), and then went to the famous Schwartz Deli for lunch. I practiced guitar and worked on music for the shows with the Montreal Guitar Trio.

    On Wednesday morning, we met the Montreal Guitar Trio (MG3) at a rehearsal space near the hotel. We had only met them once before, just briefly, at a music conference in Eugene Oregon where we heard them play, and they heard us play. After introductions, we sat in a circle, tuned our guitars, and began playing together. Wow! The music immediately came to life. It was as if we had been playing with them for years. They learned some of our music, and we had learned some of theirs. Everyone was well prepared and all the pieces came together very fast. We rehearsed completely acoustically, without any amplification. The sound of the steel string guitars blended with the 3 nylon string guitars is amazing. The Montreal Guitar Trio are excellent players.

    On Thursday we played the first CGT/MG3 show in Saint Hyacinthe, a smaller city just east of Montreal. The show was in a really nice arts center, in a theater with cabaret style seating, tables and chairs and a bar in the back. The sound check was a bit stressful, trying to get all the levels set, balancing their microphones with our direct lines. The concert began at 8pm, with the MG3 performing music from Ennio Morricone’s score of “Once upon the time in the West”, and then a very modern sounding piece from Psycho. Followed by an Flamenco sounding piece, and wrapped up thier first segment with a very powerful piece of music inspired by traditional Indian music raga. The last piece slowly worked the audience into a frenzy and they were on their feet cheering wildly at the end. That is a touch act to follow!!! I remember getting ready to go onstage and wondering what we could possibly play that could follow that! CGT played a good set and were also very well received with another standing ovation at the end of our set. After the intermission, both CGT and MG3 played another piece and then we all played together. The pieces that we played all together sounded great and the audience responded really positively. It was a great first show together.

    On Friday morning we drove from Montreal to Quebec City. It had snowed the night before and there was snow on the ground. The ice rink next to the venue was open with quite a few Ice skaters already enjoy the winter-like weather. I did a radio interview on CBC radio and then over to sound check. The Palais Montcalm is an amazing venue; perhaps one of the best of it’s kind in the world. Sound check was difficult. The sound is a bit more complicated with 6 guitars, especially when 3 of the guitarists use microphones only. Sometimes it happens that when the sound check is really bad, the concert can be really good. And fortunately this was the case for this show. The audience was on their feet cheering at the end of MG3’s first segment. It was difficult to follow such a strong set! Bert, Hideyo and I decided to begin with the Bach Prelude Circulation because there was really nothing else we could follow the MG3’s very rocking Indian piece. The CGT set gradually built up and we received a very enthusiastic standing ovation at the end of our set. During the last half of the show, we added one more piece of music for the CGT/MG3 to play together, so we played a total of 5 pieces together. I could feel a big wave of positive energy coming from the audience. CGT and MG3 played very well together. I was actually really surprised at how well everything went with the spectacular response from the audience and the powerful combination of music between CGT and MG3.

    Photos by Hugues

    Click Here for: More photos by Hugues of the concert in St. Jerome.

    On Saturday morning, we drove through the rain back to the Montreal area for the show in Saint Jerome, which is just north of Montreal. It was a smaller show, but again, we the response from the audience was extremely positive.

    Sunday we played a private house concert for some friends of Marc of the MG3. It was really small, with about 25 people there. They made an amazing dinner for us, and treated us like kings.

    Click here for: More photos by Hugues of the house concert.

    I look forward to playing more shows with MG3 next year!!!

    Thursday, October 15, 2009

    October tour

    Charlotte, NC

    This morning is the first morning since the tour began that we didn’t have to drive. It’s rainy and cold outside, so it’s a good chance to stay in my hotel room and get caught up on the diary. We are staying in a nice hotel, and I can actually open my window for fresh air. Although my view is not so great, and hopefully there is nothing toxic coming out of those vents.

    Bert, Hideyo and I arrived in Charlotte yesterday late afternoon and were treated to amazing home cooked Italian food last night by our friends that live here in the Charlotte area. Thanks Gary and Jo!

    To recap on the past week:

    On Monday and Tuesday of last week, CGT was in Kevin Ratterman’s studio in Louisville KY recording more tracks for our new album. We recorded 2 original compositions and an arrangement of Hideyo’s of a traditional Japanese Koto piece written in the 1600’s. One of the original pieces is something that I wrote the original ideas for a few years back when I was in Argentina, playing music with some Argentinean friends. The piece is called Chacarera and is based on an Argentinean rhythm of the same name. CGT had recorded a version of this piece for one of our earlier Cds, and Robert Fripp suggested that it wasn’t quite ready yet for release, so we are giving it another try now. And have been including it in our set lists on the current tour. The other original piece was written by Hideyo and is called Hazardous Z. Hideyo wrote this piece in Japan while playing music with two of his Japanese pals, and we’ve made a new version for the CGT. While I was creating my own part for Hazardous Z, I was inspired by some music by Tony Levin, Terry Bozzio and Steve Stevens, which had a very flamenco sound to it. I recorded my part on my part over Hideyo’s initial recording of the piece on my laptop at home, and emailed it to Bert, who got out his nylon string classical guitar and created a beautiful Spanish sounding part. The scale used in this piece is one that is often used in middle-eastern music and also classical music. Hazardous Z is a Japanese, Belgian, Utahan, Spanish, Middle-Eastern, Classical fusion!

    Kevin Ratterman and Bert in the studio

    Hideyo changing strings

    Bert recording Hazardous Z.

    CGT soundman Tyler Trotter is opening his own store in Louisville and will not be joining us on tour for now. We got to visit Tyler and see his new space being transformed into a very cool beer store. The grand opening is on October 30th. Good luck with the store Tyler. We will miss you on tour!

    The first show of the tour was last Thursday in small church by the water in Oxford MD. It was our first show without Tyler doing sound for us in many years. It was a challenge to figure out how to do the live recording as Tyler had taken care of that for us. Basically, we have transferred all the gear that Tyler had at the house soundboard up onto the stage and are controlling most everything from the stage. The recording did not happen the first night, but by the second night of the tour, we had all the gear running properly and were able to sell the live recording after the show.

    Before we made the drive from Oxford MD to Frederick. A very friendly Oxford local took Bert and I for a ride on his boat in the waters around Oxford. What a beautiful place. Many people told us that once we visit the Oxford area, we are going to want to move there, and I can see why they say that.

    Oxford MD

    The show on Friday night at the All-Saints Church in Frederick was really great. This was our 7th or 8th time playing at this Church. Our friends/promoters Harry and Jeanne take very good care of us, and I always enjoy playing for the people who come to the shows there. I also feel some roots in Frederick as it’s very near where I took my first Guitar Craft course back in 1986. I used to go to Frederick on my days off on the Guitar Craft courses. I bought my first Ovation guitar from Boe’s Strings and I had my first lunch with Robert Fripp and Trey Gunn at the Firehouse restaurant, just down the street from the All-Saints Church.

    The concert at Wolftrap in Vienna MD on Saturday evening was completely sold out. Wolftrap is on our list of best acoustic music venues in the country. It’s an old Vermont Barn that was moved to Vienna and turned into a world-class music venue. Everything about the place is really top notch. The sound system is superb. The staff that works at the venue is great. And the audience there is exceptional. Not only was the show great, it felt like we were beginning to get a good handle on the live recording and controlling the gear on-stage. Hideyo has been running the CDR recorder and doing a great job at creating track ID’s between each piece during the show.

    On Sunday night, the concert was in the historical town of Williamsburg Virginia, which was the original colonial capital of the U.S. It’s funny how often we visit places of interest like Williamsburg, but don’t have any time to see anything of the place we are visiting. The concert was in a nice auditorium at the city library. The audience for the show was fairly small in size, but I could tell that they really enjoyed the show.

    Monday night was a big surprise for us. The show was at the state theater in Abingdon Virginia, which is all the way on the other side of the state, a 7-hour drive from Williamsburg between the Blue Ridge and Appalachian mountains. We were pleasantly surprised to have an audience of about 400 people in this small town of only 7000 people. Very few of the 400 people in the audience had ever heard of or seen CGT before. It was a lot of fun hearing their responses to each of the pieces we played as the performance unfolded. At the end of the set, the entire audience was standing cheering wildly. We left the stage as we normally do, anticipating a call back for an encore, especially since the audience was so enthusiastic. But as soon as we walked off the stage, I could hear the cheering immediately decrease, and people began leaving. We wondered if the folks in Abingdon are not accustomed to the traditional encore procedure. About 2/3s of the audience were still cheering, so we came back and played another song for them.

    On Tuesday, we drove north through the Appalachians on the “Country Music Highway” route 119 up to Williamson West Virginia, which is a small mining town on the border of Kentucky. Several people on the Tug Valley (Williamson) Arts council had seen the CGT play at a booking conference, and they brought us in as part of their yearly concert series, which consists of just a few shows a year. The concert was held in the local high school auditorium. I could tell that there were several guitar players right down front watching our fingers. It seemed as though that they’d never heard or seen an acoustic guitar played quite like we do. This area is the birthplace of many amazing country and bluegrass musicians, so I’m sure they are accustomed to hearing musicians really tear it up on acoustic guitars, but not like CGT does.

    CGT on stage in Williamson WV. Photo by Dave Dickens

    On Tuesday night we stayed in a motel in Williamson, which was located right next to the train tracks. Every few minutes, trains carrying tons of coal went by screeching and honking their horns. I eventually fell asleep. Yesterday morning as we were getting ready to leave the motel, one of the women working at the motel gave us each a lump of coal as a souvenir from the town. Her name was Shorty Hatfield. She is a direct descendant from the famous Hatfields of the Hatfield-McCoy family feuds. Leaving Williamson we drove down route 52 along the Tug Fork River, the area where the original Hatfield-McCoy’s lived and feuded. There were many little mining towns along the way. Some looked more like ghost towns with rows of empty houses and buildings. We were told that some of the mining towns were booming with as many as 50,000 residents and now were as few as 5000.

    Williamson WV

    On route 52 from Williamson to Charlotte NC

    Monday, June 15, 2009

    Pawling and Rochester

    CGT with Tony Levin in Pawling NY. Photo by Alan Abriss

    Sold out show in Pawling and both shows in Rochester were sold out and completely packed. There was a long line around the building an hour before the shows started, and many were turned away because there wasn't enough room to pack everyone in. Next time we'll have to play a bigger venue!

    We are headed to Toronto today where we are playing tonight.

    CGT in Pawling. Photo by Alan Abriss

    My friend Alan from New York gave me this Cigar Box Guitar! Cool! Thanks Alan!

    Sunday, May 17, 2009


    Brugge Belgium

    Last monday Tyler and I travelled to Bert's home town of Affligem Belgium. Bert was planning to join us but needed to make a detour trip to Berlin to visit his daughter. Tyler and I stayed at the house of one of Bert's best friends Benny. Bert and Benny played in a band together for many years called "Tube Screamer". Benny played some vinyl recordings from the band in the late 70's and early 80's and they were actually really good! Benny told us that the band changed format and changed the name (I don't remember the new name...) and then one day Bert announced "I am going to play jazz now" and the band broke up. I enjoyed hearing Benny tell stories about young Bertie, including one where Bert was using his mother's pants as a scarf while riding his small motor bike and the scarf (his mothers pants) getting caught in the chain of the bike, and luckily avoided any serious accident. 

    Tyler and I did a 3 day tour of Belgium which included Affligem, Antwerp, Brugge, Westvleteren and Brussels. I had been to Belgium twice before on tour, but never really got to have a look around. Belgium is really, really wonderful. I enjoyed driving through the beautiful country side, which reminded me a little bit of England with the small country roads, fields and quaint little villages. And I enjoyed walking though the cities. Tyler and I made stops in several Trappist Monasteries and Belgian Breweries to learn more about the Belgian fine art of brewing beers...Wow! What an amazing tradition. The Saint Sixtus Monastery in Westvleteren was absolutely amazing. And we visited the Cantillon Brewery in Brussels that has been owned by the same family for hundreds of years brewing very unique and special beers called Gueze and Lambic. 
    In Antwerp we visited a cafe called Kulminator, it began raining, so we staying at the cafe for much of the afternoon!

    Tyler at de Bier Temple in Brugge




    Saint Sixtus Abbey in Westvleteren

    Westvleteren Cafe
    Westvleteren 8, brewed in very small batches by the Monks at the Abbey, and available only here in Westvleteren, and a few cafe's in Brugge.

    Lunch at Westvleteren

    Westvleteren Cafe

    Affligem Abbey


    Vienna Austria

    Schloss Belvedere in Vienna

    On Friday, we took the train from Innsbruck to Vienna. Friday morning, we didn't quite allow enough time to get to the station on time, and were literally running to catch the train. Thanks to Markus and Bert, we barely made it on time and we piled our luggage, gear and guitars onto the train with just seconds to spare before the train departed the station. This was really the only mishap on the entire tour! After talking with Tony and Pat, it sounds like the CGT tour was almost more of a vacation schedule wise in comparison to the Stickmen tour, which is still going. We met a very nice guy on the train named George, who told us to go to cafe called Alt Wien, which means "old Vienna". After we settled in the apartment, we found Alt Wien on the map and walked through the beautiful streets of central Vienna to find the cafe, which turned out to be a very old, very local cafe. I think we were the only foreigners in the place. The walls were covered with posters of upcoming theater and music events, and it seemed to be the place where the musicians and actors gathered, so we knew we were in the right place. And as recommended by George, we all ordered the Goulash, and it was delicious!

    We spent 3 days in Vienna, staying at an apartment in central Vienna. On Saturday morning we worked with the Vienna Guitar Circle. We performed for them, and then they played for us. Then we divided into 3 groups, with Bert, Hideyo and I each showing one of the groups our parts in Blockhead, and then after about an hour (they learned really fast!) we all got back together and played Blockhead all together. I really enjoyed working with the guitar circle and hope to have another opportunity to work with them again.

    The Vienna Guitar Circle opened the concert for us on Saturday Night, giving an excellent performance and created a good energy in the venue before the CGT began. The concert was held in a nice small community theater. It was our first time playing in Vienna and I enjoyed the concert very much. I could feel the audience really listening and getting into the music. A great day in Vienna!

    On Sunday we did some sight seeing in Vienna. What a beautiful city filled with amazing palaces, churches, theaters, museums and incredible architecture everywhere. We went to both Beethoven's house and Mozart's house... wow! We walked most places, but also wanted to go see the Schloss Belvedere  and the Gustav Klimt exhibition there, which was a few kilometers away from the center, so we got in a Taxi to take us there. I heard Bert say "Schloss Belvedere" and also spoke a few other words in German to the taxi driver, and after about 15 minutes drive, the taxi driver pulled up in front of a large palace and the driver announced "Schloss Shune Brune, here you are". Somehow the taxi driver did not listen to Bert saying Belvedere, and we ended up at  another palace (which was also amazing) 5 kilometers out of town. We began arguing with the driver, and Bert wanted to run away from him without paying, and after much arguing and I was threatening to call the police, and the taxi driver chasing bert, we finally reached an agreement and he took us to Belvedere. And we saw the palace and the Klimt Exhibition including "The Kiss", and I tried quickly to forgot all about the mishap with the taxi driver. This was the only other small mishap of the tour.


    Tyler looking out the window of the apartment.

    Gutenberg! He invented the printing press.

    Taking a break from walking...

    Another break from walking...

    More Belvedere

    And more Belvedere
    Bert doing yoga at Schloss Belvedere

    View of Vienna from Belvedere

    Mozart's Death Mask

    Mozart's Piano

    Original Score by Beethoven

    View from Beethoven's house

    Beethoven's Piano

    Hideyo walking on the steps of Beethoven's house.

    View out of our apartment.

    Church where Mozart was married and had his funeral.

    Bert conducting an imaginary orchestra

    Mozart's house

    Streets of Vienna

    Beethoven's house is on the 3rd floor.

    Walking the Streets of Vienna

    CGT Tour Schedule

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