The familiar gears of the touring machine are starting to click into place. We started our seven show run with an instore at Rough Trade Records. It was pretty much opposite in every way to our Friday night show - very low key, totally acoustic, and to about 15-20 people. But it was nice to return to that part of town. Our old label (Tugboat - part of Rough Trade) was over there, and we actually played that same record store probably 15 years ago. And after battling on Friday with the PA and the dynamics of a massive room, it was nice to return to the format we know best - just us and our instruments, which is exactly how each of our songs starts out.
Inevitably, as was the case on I think every tour we have ever done, I have come down with a head cold. Mercifully, I got through our first show just as it was coming on, and will hopefully have the worst of it over and done with before the tour really ramps up.
Having some down time has allowed me to finish a book I’ve been reading - Instrumental by James Rhodes. For the most part it is a harrowing account of his journey surviving serious abuse and mental illness. But the inspiring part of it is that he is a classical pianist who is going against the grain of the traditional classical music industry to bring the music to new and younger audiences. Each chapter starts with the introduction of a new piece of music, an interesting warts and all account of the composer, and how the piece fits into the bigger picture both in James’ life and for music history more broadly. It reminds me of one of the aspects I loved most about when I was playing in classical music orchestras - the initial unpacking of a piece, where conductor guiding and talks the musicans through it section by section, sometimes bar by bar, to reach a shared understanding and interpretation of what these notes are intended to convey. This occurs before the hard work of refining the mechanics of the performance begins.
For some reason being on the ground in Europe makes me connected to (western) music and its history in a different way. My double bass feels different to play and somehow more alive, which I attribute to the crisper air. And as we walk these streets and play in the historic halls, I can’t help but think about all of our musical predecessors, both recent and not so recent, who did the same. Its all in my mind, but what is music if not where these feelings and experiences and history come together to form a connection amongst us all?
Last night we were there for the final farewell for the Fortuna Pop record label. There were a lot of hugs and a few tears. Its a massive tribute to Sean and all the bands and fans of the label what an amazing community of people has formed around this music. I’ve always had great admiration for all the labels and label managers we have worked with, and it it was great to see such a genuine outpouring of appreciation for the great work Sean has put in over the last 20 years. Sean wisely chose to end proceedings with the label's fresh blood - Martha, Joanna Gruesome, The Spook School and Chorusgirl - to leave every one looking forward towards the future indie music in this scene he has done so much to faster. Fortuna Pop is dead. Long live Fortuna Pop!