Sunday, November 26, 2006

Men in Helicopters: Tour Post Number Four



Yeah, I know it's been awhile! Playing with Adrian Belew is so much fun I forget to do blog posts. I dedicate this post to "Men in Helicopters v4.0" from Adrian's new record Side Three. Another brilliant song. One of his best, for sure.

Anyway, today we're stuck in....
Tour Date Number Four: November 4th, 2006/Santa Fe Brewing Company

I woke up the next morning after being enticed and somewhat traumatized by "The Departed". Julie's boyfriend Matt and his friend had slept over and obviously had fun as evidenced by the neverending piles of discarded Tombstone's pizza crust. Unusually enough, I was the first person awake and decided to take advantage of this by going on the internet and eating danish. Soon everybody woke up and being in Santa Fe pushed us toward the decision of searching for the ultimate Breakfast Burrito. I'm not a fan of breakfast burritos -- I was much more interested in enchiladas. Adrian drove us downtown to the Market Square and we found a neat little self service spot that I can't remember the name of. The rest of the crew got breakfast burritos while I maintained my craving for enchiladas and inhaled them as I typically do. Afterwards we explored the artsy upper class area and there were rows of merchants with homemade jewelry. We ending up purchasing a nice set of earrings for my mom. There was also a cool guy who made Frank Zappa tiles. I say mass produce them!

After walking around aimlessly for what seemed like days, I persuaded the gang to walk 3 miles to the Camel Rock Suites.

Yes, I am insane.

Especially consdering there was very little pavement on the way back, and Julie was convinced she was the victim of deadly New Mexican bug bites. We sat in the hotel for roughly an hour and then we searched for the venue. "Genie" could not find the address for the Santa Fe Brewing Company so we followed Ade's engineer John Sinks' calm telephonic directions. I must say this was an outstanding place, truly designed for the touring musician. I loved the sound on stage during the soundcheck, and I was provided with a delicious Veggie Burger and salad. We were also at a massive 7,000 foot elevation. I'm surprised my ears weren't popping!

Saul Zonana called us out during his performance which was hilarious. Everyone looked at me like my hair was engulfed in flames after that. We went on and I knew right away that the night was going to be extra special. Adrian was excellent (duh!) and I'd like to thank the drinking crowd of Santa Fe for being loud. To future Adrian Belew concertgoers: Scream at any given time during the show, we love it.

My next post will drive us on up to Phoenix, Arizona where we played priceless guitars, introduced Dad into the touring crew, and ate expensive trail mix.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Gypsy Zurna: Tour Post Number Three



I'm sure most of you know what The Gypsy Zurna is. Do I even have to tell you, Adrian Belew fans? Well, just in case you missed out, "The Gypsy Zurna" is an awesome song from Adrian's 1985 album "Desire Caught By the Tail". Definitely one of those brilliant and underappreciated records. If you can find a copy, listen to it as much as possible!

I put it on this morning and had to write a blog post immediately so today we visit...

Tour Date Number Three: November 3rd, 2006/Day Off

No, we didn't play two nights in Santa Fe, but it would've been cool. After the raucous and confusing night in Austin, Texas, we woke up extra early to take a flight to Albequerque. Thank god, a day off for travel. Hardly a day off by any means! Our flight was 3 hours thanks to Southwest, as they never told us that we'd be making a rest stop in El Paso. We had a bunch of buff intimidating rugby team players on our plane, so that made me feel nice and scrawny. We got to Albequerque and what a surprise, it was cold. Didn't I leave Philadelphia to go do a West Coast Tour so I could bask in the warmth of the western sun?

Oh well.

"Genie" was still not feeling well and when we hopped in our new rental car she started spewing out the wrong directions again. I never thought a computer could get this lost. I was also starving because we insisted on not eating airport food again.

"Genie" finally got her senses together and we got to our hotel, The Camel Rock in Santa Fe. Y'know, I kept looking for that damn rock and I couldn't find it anywhere.

I did find a Walgreen's though.

After some heavy discussions about where we should eat thanks to Mrs. Julie, we decided on The Shed. Yes, the name makes it sound like a grotesque place to eat, but to the contrary the menu looked wonderful.

"Genie" was feeling better and she helped us find The Shed, which was located in the downtown area of Santa Fe. The downtown area is like a compacted version on Rittenhouse Square (in Philadelphia) with some high priced turqoise jewelry stores and art galleries (The Chuck Jones Art Gallery was by far the coolest). The Shed is hidden in the back of the bourgeois strip mall next to a year round Christmas accessory store. Adrian's stomach was rumbling with excitement. The menu was almost entirely Mexican, but what we didn't notice was that there was a warning which read:

"To our out of town customers, our green and red chile sauces are every hot. Beware!"

I should really make sayings like "Always read the fine print" seep into my daily mantra.

First they brought chips, salsa, and quacamole to the table and they were fantastic. The salsa was spicy and I started crying a little bit (ok, i'm a sissy), but I got used to it quickly.

I ordered a Bean and Cheese Burrito with red chile sauce. In fact, we all ordered items with the red chile sauce. Don't get me wrong, the food was incredible. But I've never seen the Adrian Belew Power Trio (emphasis on the word power) cry in pain from one bite of a meal. Julie looked like she was going to throw up which would have been simultaneously disgusting and hilarious, but alas she didn't. She ended up packing up her burrito and she somehow spread it out over 3 days worth of travel. Adrian and I completed most of our plates but our stomachs were now rumbling with more than defeat. We had lost to the red chile.

In order to conquer this defeat we mustered up the confidence and hunger to top off our meal with some Hot Fudge Sundaes. In the end, we beat the fiery Santa Fe red chile, but we almost didn't make it out of the restaurant. It was a close fight for sure.

Adrian went back to the hotel and Julie and I went to the Town Square. We went window shopping and listened to some guy play an acoustic massacre a version of Neil Young's "Harvest Moon". C'mon, he didn't even do the same melody!

After Julie and I waited for 2 hours, her boyfriend Matt and friend Will showed up to spend the next couple days on tour with us. At first, we wanted to find a jazz club where we could hang out. No such place in Santa Fe, but Adrian asked around for us anyway.

Good story: Adrian went to Walgreen's to ask where a jazz club was and the woman at the desk said, "Sorry, there's no jazz club here. But Adrian Belew is coming tomorrow!"

She didn't even know she was talking to him. Hah!

Julie and I split up, and Adrian and I went to go see "The Departed" by Martin Scorcese. Excellent movie, and very bloody. The drive back to the hotel was again screwed up by "Genie" but we started to get a feel for how to get around Santa Fe and we found the Camel Rock.

I was exhausted. Tomorrow's blog post will bring us to the 7,000 foot elevation of the Santa Fe Brewing Company, where we played to a drinking audience!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Woe is Uh Me Bop: Tour Post Number Two



On stage in Austin, Texas -- photo courtesy of Todd V. Wolfson

In order to get my creative juices flowing, I decided to put on some Captain Beefheart! "Lick My Decals Off, Baby" is long out of print, but if you can find a copy I suggest you get it immediately. A masterpiece for sure.

Tour Date Number Two: November 2nd. 2006/Cactus Cafe

Today's blog post takes us to the cold winds of Austin, Texas. Yes, I wasn't expecting it to be cold but as our luck would have it, it was. The drive wasn't as taxing as I thought it would be and so getting to the Habitat Suites hotel was a piece of cake. For those who travel frequently, the Habitat Suites is like an environmentally safe zoo for humans. Solar panels grace the rooftop, the rooms are entirely water efficient (imagine toilets...without water!), and the free breakfast is organic/macrobiotic (compare THAT to our favorite Holiday Inn egg patties).

I've decided to call this tour, "The Drum Nightmare Extravaganza".

In the last post I mentioned that my drums were excruciatingly out of tune, largely due to the lack of fresh drumheads. I also was sans cymbals for the first gig because mine were forgotten in Nashville. The cymbal bag also held my lovely tambourine which added colorful spices to songs such as "Of Bow and Drum" and "Young Lions". Adrian agreed to drive us to Guitar Center so I could pick up my drum paraphenalia but being the genius that he is, he stayed in the car. If I were Adrian, I would not want to go to a Guitar Center anytime soon. Way too tempting. We ran in and out and as fast as we could, kind of like being on "Extreme Shopping".

I bought a futuristic tambourine from Factory Metal Percussion. It looks like a Celtic cross with jingles on it. It does the job though. I was also then told that master drummer Pat Mastelotto from King Crimson will be attending the show that night.

It's safe to say that I was nervous.

We relaxed for a while back at the hotel to reminisce about our youth by watching episodes of "The Wayans Bros." on BET. After a few laughs we went to the minivan and told "Genie" to direct us to the Cactus Cafe, which is somewhat located on the campus of the University of Texas. I've learned by now that "Genie" and Texas do not get along. Maybe it's because of the constant road detours, or maybe "Genie" is a Democrat. It's the bane of my existence and I should figure it out sometime.

So, "Genie" could not find the Cactus Cafe. It was hilarious. Driving around in circles, freaking out, laughing because of how bad these directions were. We asked everyone in sight how we could find it and few people seemed to know. My favorite part of this particular adventure was when Adrian didn't know where he was going and started driving onto an open food court much to the horror of the student body.

I live for this stuff!

Finally, we found a parking spot and rushed a soundcheck. Unfortunately, my double pass drum pedal did not survive in the car and somehow the durable aluminum body was ripped in half. Thank you Pat Mastelotto for being generous and lending me your bass drum pedal for the entire tour. It's holding up just great.

After scarfing down the best local falafel Julie and I went downstairs to our backstage area. I can't wait to post some pictures. it was like Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory basement. I soon discovered that striking the metal poles down there created some interesting sounds so I recorded a short video of myself playing Radiohead's "Idioteque" that i'll post when I have access to a Firewire cable. Adrian came back from the hotel and we did our normal exercises and went onstage.

I would say it was a fairly decent set, there were some guitar and monitor troubles but I think this was the show where we worked out all of the kinks. The crowd in Austin was loud and fabulous, and if we packed an arena with these people the walls would shatter. Again, thanks to Pat and Co. for being supportive.

Now we drive off for two days in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Prepare for painful red chile burritos!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Back on the Chain Gang: Tour Post Number One



The last time I wrote in this blog I talked about the very last day of our tour in August, or as I liked to call it, National Peach Cobbler Day. Since then a lot of things have happened: I played shows with Dean Ween/Dave Dreiwitz/Chris Harford, Mike Keneally and Bryan Beller, and the Sarah Zimmermann Trio (myspace.com/sztrio). I also cut my hair, but that doesn't really matter.

So let's just pick up where I left off, shall we?

Tour Date Number One: November 1st. 2006/Granada Theater
In a rushed frenzy we left our small row house in Philadelphia at 8:30 in the morning to leave for the airport. I felt unprepared as usual because I always leave my packing to the last minute. I can be the typical lazy guy when I want to be. So, we get to the airport hours ahead of time and we're flying to Dallas, Texas. I've never been to Dallas before. I think the flight was about 4 hours but luckily when we got off the plane we realized the airport was set up so ergonomically that it was impossible to get confused.

Take note: this is a serious plus when doing something as bewildering as touring.

We took the rental car shuttle and met up with Adrian (his hair was notably longer). Seeing Adrian helps me breathe that very last sigh of relief. When he takes charge, we get things done!

As we start heading to the hotel I realize that Dallas is practically one big Taco Restaurant. I mean, they're everywhere. If you went to Las Vegas and suddenly all the casinos turned into taco houses, it'd look like Dallas. Anyway, we're nearing the hotel and all of sudden "Genie" (for the new readers here, "Genie" is our trusty GPS system) starts sputtering out directions that make no sense.

"Turn left, then take ramp left u-turn", said Genie.

Being the hyperactive maniac that I am, I peeked over at Adrian who was completely at ease. I immediately felt better as we pulled into the driveway of the Best Western. I get out of the car and then it hits me - it's freezing in Dallas. I thought it was always warm here?! I was wrong. I rush to get my hotel keycard (because I am starving) and we go to a local hang that shall remain nameless. Hey, I was happy with my Veggie Burger, but Julie the Food connoisseur (and bassist extraordinaire for new visitors) decided that her Corn Chowder was far too salty and I agreed.

After 1 hour I already feel the spine tingling rigors of touring! It's good to be back, road.

There is no time to relax. We speed right on down to the Granada Theater for soundcheck. Another beautiful venue for sure. For all you Philadelphia readers, imagine the Trocadero with seating and painted walls with different murals. I go to the stage and there's a synthesizer propped up in the middle of Adrian's already gigantic rig. I thought it belonged to our opener (the fabulous Saul Zonana) but it did indeed belong to Adrian. He brought a new toy! That being said, Adrian can play piano and different synth sounds WITH HIS GUITAR. Isn't that insane?

So soundcheck goes okay, except my new drumkit is extremely out of tune. This is embarrassing for any musician, unless said musician does not know how to tune instrument. After I'm done my semi-accurate-by-ear-tuning I go straight for the Adrian Belew Emergency Relief Area (TM) a.k.a. the backstage food spread. This is a common pre-show ritual. I stay at the venue and talk to the super cool staff for awhile, then I make some long phone calls which makes my brain mushy. In my head I am sure the show will be good, but I go through the normal Eric Slick Paranoid Motions.

"Will I drop a stick?"

"Will I break my hand?"

"Will I eat too much of this pasta and become the guy who barfed on stage?"

Well, before I know it, we're walking onstage and it feels like we never left at all. We rip through the set, plagued with the usual first night bum notes and broken sticks, but the energy was fierce as usual. Good to be back, as I often say.

After the show, I was obviously not thinking clearly. There was a curtain that led us to the backstage but before our encore I simply could not find the entrance. This happened several times! I walked right into the concrete backing. Not only that, but I had this uncontrollable urge and I inexplicably threw some our backstage fruit to the crowd instead of drumsticks.

Sometimes I wonder about myself, I do.

Off to Austin, Texas: The Live Music Capital of the World and home to Pat Mastelotto and even more confusing GPS directions.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

National Peach Cobbler Day



Julie Slick, a/k/a Peach Cobbler Woman, on stage in St. Petersburg

The late Kengineer would've called our night in St. Petersburg "the great big rock show". I used to love when he'd say that and I get misty eyed when I think about him coming up to me after all was said and done. Touring without Ken is very strange; I can only imagine how Adrian feels. Luckily, John has done such a fantastic job so the incredible heartache of losing Ken is a bit easier to swallow.

Anyway, we left the old-timey Holiday Inn in the morning to travel to our last show of the summer tour that seemingly lasted forever. Our "Genie" was correct this time and took us with the right directions (albeit the drive was mostly rural which always scares the crap out of us). As we were driving a huge black storm formed above us and a serious torrential downpour started. I honestly thought we were caught in a hurricane or some sort of natural disaster. It was surreal, and I felt like the landscapes around us were merely gigantic Dali paintings. I don't think I've ever seen a rainstorm look quite like that. And then, all of a sudden, it was over. I soon realized that Florida is JUST like that, and heavy rain is just a part of the way it is down there.

After that scary incident we continued to drive along these non-highway roads when Julie unexpectedly shouts, "Oh my god! Fresh Georgia Peaches!" The loud gutteral groan that went on in my head (if amplified) would have shook the universe. I knew what was coming, and I don't think anybody else did. Julie had been craving peaches ever since we were in Atlanta and would NOT SHUT UP about them. My mom didn't know this, so she went along with the plan. Don't get me wrong, I love Julie a lot. When she gets wrapped up in this food obsession, it could drive a sane man beserk. I guess by now I'm used to it!

From that point forward, that portion of the day is pretty much blocked off in my head except for the whole supermarket encounter. Julie decided to take these roadside peaches that she purchased and turn it into a full-blown Peach Cobbler. We needed to find a supermarket in Lake Worth and "Genie" was not helping us at all. Our last resort was finding a Publix supermarket and of course we all got nervous when "Genie" took us to a Public Storage! Funny enough, the Publix was right behind it. All I remember is holding my head in the car and just laughing with Adrian about the whole situation. Julie eventually made the best Peach Cobbler we ever ate and I was incredibly grateful.

Actually, if you want the whole sordid story of just what we went through as concerns National Peach Cobbler Day, let me refer you to my mom's blog. She pretty much wrote about every gory detail, including the part about me hyperventilating in the backseat of Ade's (rented) jeep.

Our venue that night was fantastic: The Bamboo Room in Lake Worth, Florida. We had our last lunch together at a sports bar and then stayed at the hotel for awhile. Our hotel was crazy...they were more like apartments than hotel rooms. The backstage area was in a bizarre place, but I enjoy variety. The crowd was great and we started our show by walking through the crowd! Just try and imagine that. Thanks to everyone who helped to make that show a success.

The show that night was fun but bittersweet. I wasn't really ready to come home anytime soon. It's amazing on the road, how 10 days can sometimes feel like 10 years. Sometimes it's the complete opposite. Frank Zappa once said, "Touring can drive you crazy." I don't think this is necessarily true. You have to be a little insane already to tour.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

St. Petersburg



Adrian on stage at the State Theatre, St. Petersburg, Florida

The show in Jacksonville was definitely wacky. Lost bass strings, improvisations, and drunken fans contributed to the hectic nature of that show! I was expecting even crazier things to happen in St. Petersburg and I was kind of correct.

My mom flew down to Florida from Philadelphia as a birthday treat and she came to our old timey hotel...which was a disguised Holiday Inn. Before she came there, we ate at an organic restaurant and then Julie and I went to the local music store. Julie bought new bass strings and also fell in love with a gorgeous Fender Jazz Bass. There wasn't any drum equipment there, but I play guitar, too, so I was having a good time. The promoter for the show walked in and had a Ween shirt on...so of course I started schmoozing! I also showed Julie a Les Claypool bass trick that she couldn't do and of course it frustrated her until soundcheck. We walked over across the street to the performance spot - The State Theatre - and we proceeded to do our normal pre-show soundcheck. Jerry Outlaw from the Zappa cover band Bogus Pomp was there. I met him at Zappanale in 2005 and he's a total sweetheart. His band was opening for us and I would like to thank him for being amazing.

We went back to the hotel and watched episodes of "Walker, Texas Ranger" (our favorite show to watch) and "Law & Order". The Law & Order was particularly funny because of how dated it was. I think it was the first episode to ever mention the "World Wide Web". Does anyone even call it that anymore?

We got to the venue at 9:00 to watch Jerry Outlaw. He performed a heart-wrenching rendition of the Zappa tune "Black Napkins" and dedicated it to Ken. Jerry and Ken were good friends and Ken had even recorded Bogus Pomp before. "Black Napkins" was one of Ken's favorite tunes and it's safe to say we all got a bit teary eyed. I must say, John Sinks (Ken's replacement and best friend) has been doing a wonderful job and deserves all the credit in the universe.

Back to the show...

We walk onstage and we realize that there is a hefty crowd that has packed the State Theatre. The show that night ruled! This was by far the most energetic one we played on this tour. Song highlights for that night include: "Ampresand", "Drive", and "Thela Hun Ginjeet". After all was said and done, we went back the old timey Holiday Inn and Adrian joked that the water fountain that looked like a toilet actually WAS a toilet. I love my mom, because she exclaimed, "I need to use the bathroom! Is it that thing?! " (as she pointed to the water fountain).

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Jacksonvillle!


Julie Slick, Adrian Belew, and Eric Slick in Jacksonville, Florida

Part Two of my recap of touring begins with a story about our travels in Jacksonville.

After the amazing night in Atlanta, it was hard for me to imagine that any of our shows would get better. We woke up the next morning and told the "Genie" (Adrian's GPS system which he aptly named Genie) to take us to Jacksonville. I haven't spent too much time in Florida in my life. I played in Fort Lauderdale with the School of Rock and that provided me with many memorable experiences, but I didn't get to see much of the area. Anyway, "Genie" decided to screw up our order and started telling us the wrong directions. "Turn left. Make a U Turn. Turn right. Turn right. Go to Buckhead Diner." How frustrating! Finally, Adrian got it to work and we were on the right road. We arrived in Jacksonville and I suddenly felt like I was in Venice Beach. It has a similar setup - the palm trees everywhere and surf shops - and I felt like I was back on the School of Rock West Coast Tour from two years ago. That was the day I purchased an LAPD shirt and then our bus driver Abel stole it from me.

Julie and I were starving and headed over to the venue to see what was up. The venue was Freedbird Live which is actually owned by the late Ronnie Van Sant's widow. Ronnie was the lead singer of Lynyrd Skynyrd and it all clicked...Freebird Live? Get it?

Julie was into getting sushi for dinner but I was feeling quite pedestrian and decided to get pizza across the street. I wasn't feeling fulfilled so I got super delicious ice cream that was next door to the venue. Julie and I headed back to the hotel and on the way we walked by a Margaritaville Bar where a guy in a Hawaiian shirt was singing "Comfortably Numb" with an 80's Yamaha keyboard.

I love Florida.

We run back to the stage to begin the set. We had a small but enthusiastic crowd. They were very dedicated and inebriated! Our set was going along fine until Julie broke her low A bass string. Adrian saved the day by going into the solo portion of his set early. Little did he know the insanity that was ensuing backstage! Julie did not have an extra pack of bass strings and we were running around and freaking out. David (Adrian's roadie) and I just kept looking at each other, shaking our heads. Adrian finished his solo section and we still had a broken bass. Julie played the next couple songs without a string...wow...kudos to Julie! Finally some guy in the crowd ran in with bass strings and Adrian and I went into an impromptu jam session. I think we may have even started playing a Crimson song, I don't remember. I kept staring up towards the ceiling and I forgot there was another level of venue seating. So I looked and people were giving me thumbs up! I started cracking up because I was not expecting that.

Julie ran back on the stage with fixed bass in hand, and she proceeded to rip through the rest of the set with ease. Thanks to the crowd and sound guys for understanding our technical difficulties. Shows like that are always valuable and important to me. They're learning experiences and they remind you that you're touring, and that it's not always easy. I've always said that spontaneity is the core essence of being on the road.