I’m back home in a moment of repose and pivot after five weeks on tour with Antibalas.
I wasn’t sure what we were in for but it was a beautiful and strange night filled with immersive dance and theater performances, lots of people in couture, and a performance before us by Vava, an MC from China who put on a really good show.
The jet lag was intense and at times, crippling.
We had a few days to walk around before the next leg of the trip.
Part Two: Europe
From Hong Kong we flew via Moscow to Paris. It was not a nice flight, and the transfer was hectic.
We arrived in Paris and none of our checked luggage had arrived: no clothes, nor instruments (except for what we gate-checked and carried by hand.
Luckily our stuff arrived the evening before our first show in La Rochelle.
We set off on the next 3.5 weeks in a sprinter van and 4-person car throughout France, Switzerland, Belgium, Netherlands, England and Ireland.
The shows were a lot of fun and the level of production overall was tremendous, a much higher level than what we normally experience at clubs of the same size in the US. A large part of this has to do with two things: culture is taken seriously as a profession and social benefit/right and 2) The state (at local, regional and national levels provides financial support to both venues and festivals which allows them to staff each event with capable staff who are trained and getting paid okay.
It was non-stop, and has to be when you have 12 people on the road all needing to eat, drink, sleep and move. We can’t really afford many days off.
In Zurich, we made a horn squad field trip to the workshop of Thomas Indirbinen who makes some of the most divine instruments I’ve ever seen and played. These baritone saxophones are so balanced and resonant, top to bottom. Saving my Swiss francs…
The squad was top notch and we had Jerome Bach on sound and tour managing. I can’t imagine having done this run without him.
Part Three: New Orleans / Jazz Fest / Music Box Village
The Music Box Village is hard to describe: it’s a cluster of home-made buildings made from repurposed materials that are musical. Each one has different sounds (percussive, chimes, horns, metal, strings) and can be played with the other buildings. Everything is mic’ed or has electric pickups and the sound is fed and mixed through a soundboard.
We did a hybrid performance using our own instruments integrated with the sounds of the buildings. We had two days to get the repertoire and new compositions and set together. On day one it poured for five hours straight so our rehearsal was confined to the warehouse.
The day of the show we had pure sunshine and got to work setting up and testing the sounds.