Tuesday, December 15, 2009
So Cabinet of Natural Curiosities played a bunch of shows on a zig-zag tour around New England this fall. We went many places for the first time, drove beautiful back roads full of turning leaves and steamy rain, ate fantastic food, and shared a lot of music with wonderful people. Some highlights, and pictures when we remembered to take 'em, or had the good fortune of having passed on to us, especially the pictures from Cyril Moya in Montreal.
Thanks everybody (you know who you are!)
October 23rd -- Rebel Sound Records -- Pittsfield, MA
w/ Amberblacks UK, Petulant Child, Ball Turret, Apathy of Longevity
First of all, this record store was awesome! We found an old Rat$ LP in one of the bins. There's a sweet back room with a PA, a place with local food and beer across the street, and some really good bagels a few doors down. This was our first time in Pittsfield, and the first time driving up through the yellow and red leaves. It smelled good. There is a chicken farm in Otis, MA, that you drive past on the way there. It has a kind-of old-timey general store. But I digress. The show was cool. Ball Turret, Apathy of Longevity, Petulant Child, and the Amberblacks were all really loud and rocking. It was pouring rain and we didn't have a place to stay, but the English folks in the Amberblacks offered us a bed in one of their hotel rooms. Then they kidnapped us (okay, I exaggerate) and took us to the only Yankees bar in Massachusetts. The owner of the bar invited everyone to his house after hours so he could have a solo show for himself and his friends. Hijinks ensued, parties included the singer's dad and the bassist's catwalk model girlfriend (who was also named Jasmine, who took a train from New York to Albany and a cab from Albany to Pittsfield to come to the show). I think maybe we got to sleep around 6 AM. My throat was SORE the next day. Thanks Andy at Rebel Sound and all the bands that played!
I only remembered my camera sometime around 1 AM:
October 24th -- King Street Manor -- Northampton, MA
w/ Orion Rigel Dommisse, Tongue Oven
When we woke up (and when we went to bed), it was pouring rain. Alex and I got bagels at a bagel place close to Rebel Sound, then headed out to Northampton by way of beautiful Pioneer Valley backroads. The leaves were yellow, red and orange, and through the rain, steam was lifting off of the hills and rocks. Everything was extremely vivid in a dark-and-shiny kind of way. We arrived in Northampton early, parked in front of King Street Manor, and said hello to Steve and Dan before striking out our umbrellas and wandering around town. We had some tea and cocoa at the Woodstar Cafe, and amazing falafel at Amanouz (some of my favorite falafel in the world.) The show was great! Tongue Oven played first, a set of beautiful, quiet folk songs with 12-string guitar, violin, and dry leaves in a bag (percussion, crushed by hand.) We played next, then Orion. Who was AMAZING. Her performance was creepy, sad, and euphoric. She writes with soul-baring intimacy (literally, she would probably cut your soul from your body if she had the right kind of knife) the kind of music that makes me reconsider everything I've ever thought about songwriting and singing and instrumentation. Beautiful. After the show, we went out to the local theater to see the midnight showing of the classic Italian horror flick, Spider Labyrinth.
Alex partaking of a massive hot chocolate at the Woodstar Cafe in Northampton:
Orion Rigel Dommisse
October 28th -- Cake Shop -- New York, NY
w/ Liz Durrett, Spider, Golden Bones
I had been looking forward to this show for quite some time. Spider (Jane Herships) and the boys of Golden Bones have some my favorite voices and songs humming around Brooklyn. I discovered Liz Durrett's voice online this summer (dark, dusky, soulful) and I'd been waiting to see her perform live. She was joined by an old childhood friend on a few of the songs (seen in the pic I took of them here) and they harmonized beautifully. It was a quiet night at the Cake Shop, really quality people and sounds.
The poster I drew for the show (this b&w illustration was originally going to be used as a tour poster but due to lack of time, I only gave the image to Dan in Northampton and used a different image for our last show in Portland, ME, so have no fear, historians and collectors, it's a singularity):
October 29th -- Hogfarm Studios Annex -- Biddeford, ME
w/ Tin Ceilings with members of Orchards and more
Hogfarm Studios is an amazing art space and all-ages venue in Biddeford, Maine. The place is run by Coco and Gil Corral, two artists that live with their daughter and make incredible handmade jewelery (Coco) and paintings (Gil.) This night was fantastic because we also got to play with Randy Illian's band, Tin Ceilings. Randy, Eric, Emily and Ed made gorgeous, spare and starkly emotional music. Their set consisted of a few Tin Ceilings songs mixed in with a few songs by Eric Schwan, who performed with Ed and Emily in the Portland, Maine, folk group Orchards. The dynamic these folks have together is incredible, completely organic. You can tell how much they like each other by how well they harmonize. Randy dressed up as a scarecrow. Alex and I wore handmade paper-mache cat masks during our set. Gil screened Labyrinth on a large screen above us as we played. For the first time in a long time (since the short Pacific Northwest tour we did last August!) we performed with looping and laptop, which was awesome. We've been sticking with playing the songs straight, but sometimes it's good for the brain to try something different, or revisit old techniques to see what was there. Afterwards, we drank amazing mulled wine, ate food that Coco had made for us, met their sweet pet turtle and slept soundly in a warm and cozy bed.
Tin Ceilings with Orchards
October 30th -- Montague Bookmill -- Montague, MA
w/ Tongue Oven
One of the perks of touring is that you get to visit new places, re-visit old places, and eat amazing food. The next day, after we visited Coco and Gil Corral's Loving Anvil storefront, we headed off to Massachusetts to make our way to the Montague Bookmill. On the way, we strayed a little off the path to have some fried clams at Woodman's in Essex, MA, a childhood favorite of mine. It was Alex's first time, and he was definitely won over. We took Route 2 in the dark (why does it have to get dark so early? I know, tilt of the earth, length of day, etc., doesn't mean I like it) to Montague and arrived at the Bookmill in awe. The Bookmill is a restored mill turned bookstore and coffee shop in the middle of the beautiful Massachusetts woods. If I lived within 25 miles of this place, I'd come here every day, drink a hot beverage and stare at the running water while intermittently paging through a book. Dan, aka Tongue Oven, played first -- solo 12-string guitar. A man who sat right in front of him listened intently and compared him to Leo Kottke (a high compliment!) The crowd was attentive and friendly, we shared some tea and cider and played an extremely stripped-down set (Alex only used a snare and cymbal with brushes, I only played acoustic guitar -- no keyboard songs this night) and felt a warm autumnal vibe. Afterwards, we followed Dan home and slept on the beloved futon of the King Street Manor. Did I mention that Dan and his roommates have an amazing three-legged cat? They do. If I weren't allergic, I'd consider catnapping!
October 31st -- 51 3rd / Troy ArtSpace -- Troy, NY
w/ Complicated Shirt, My Survival Kit, Blacklight Bloodbath
The morning of Halloween, we woke and went to breakfast with Dan at a cute Northampton cafe. Then we took off for a long drive through the Berkshires and west over to Troy, New York. At one point, Alex and I stopped to stretch our legs at a beautiful park along a river. It smelled good, like damp pine needles and lichen on craggy rocks. The sky rained our whole way to Troy. When we arrived, we loaded in and met everyone in My Survival Kit, Complicated Shirt, and Blacklight Bloodbath, who were soundchecking and filling a huge bowl with candy. The 51 3rd Artspace is also the home of Troy Bike Rescue, a large warehouse-like space stuffed with bikes and bike parts, a stage with a PA system, and a back room full of cool furniture and costumes and music-making things. There's also two rooms for bands and members to crash in -- beautifully mosaic-tiled bathrooms and all. The show was a huge party! We played, then My Survival Kit, who got the room singing along to their songs. Even more people showed up during Complicated Shirt's set, and finally, Blacklight Bloodbath were an electro-techno-dance frenzy. Then a DJ went on, and I promptly fell asleep! Dunno how I slept through it, I must have been really sleepy. Oh, and we ate pizza at I Love NY Pizza, some of BEST pizza in New York. Seriously. And we got to see and hang out with Ryder Cooley, who arrived dressed as a goat. Love her.
November 6th -- Le Cagibi -- Montreal, QC
The night before our show in Montreal, Alex and I packed the car with everything we needed... except the bass drum. Because we needed to pass the border without questions, and a bass drum in the backseat of the car would most likely attract questions. On our drive up, we found an amazing radio station that only played Disney songs, no commercials. If anyone knows anything about this, please let us know. Anyways! We arrived in freezing cold Montreal with zero problems at the border. Cyril Moya of What A Mess! Records graciously made us tea, showed us the good parking spaces, and welcomed us into his spare bedroom where we slept until the next afternoon. The next day, we walked around his neighborhood, which is close to where Leonard Cohen lives (Cyril showed us where!) The three of us ate a great lunch at a cafe, played around at a music store, and spent some time trying to stay warm as possible. The show at Le Cagibi was amazing! Fauxbrien played first, slightly-electronic folk songs that reminded me of Magnetic Fields or Little Wings. Then we played, met a slew of really nice people, strangers and friends of Cyril alike, while the folks at Le Cagibi fed us tofu and mushroom pesto sandwiches, bowls of vegetarian chili, and hot tea. Later on, Cyril's friend Peter Nevins came back to Cyril's apartment, too, and we all stayed up late talking. The next day, Cyril (who is practically an angel at this point!) took us out to lunch before we left for Burlington. Montreal was almost too good to be true!
Alex and me in Cyril's favorite alley:
Cabinet at Le Cagibi! Thanks again, Cyril, for the photos:
November 7th -- Radio Bean -- Burlington, VT
Would you believe me if I told you that the border guard on our way back looked exactly like the T-1000? He was aggressively concerned with the possibility that we might be smuggling oranges. Burlington was even colder than Montreal, especially for someone who was lacking a winter coat. We pulled into town and called Paddy Reagan for restaurant suggestions and to find out if he/Paper Castles was/were indeed playing with us at Radio Bean. He sent us to a Thai place next to American Flatbread (the wait was too long at AF, we'd miss the show completely if we tried) and said he'd come down and play a solo set, which he did, and which was sparse and gorgeous. For me, my performance was a bit off. Radio Bean was gearing up for a huge 24-hour anniversary show featuring something like 100 bands that was to take place the next day. I tend to be distracted when the door is opening and closing a lot while the espresso machine squeals and people are rushing in and out to smoke (which is one "no duh" drawback to playing a coffee shop.) But Nick Mavodones, who set up the night, came and listened and was a blast to hang out with. Big thanks to him for letting us sleep on his futon -- otherwise, we would have frozen into solid blocks of human by the next morning! He also gave us hats and mittens and two magic light-spinning toys. And we saw this sweet truck the next morning at the gas station:
November 8th -- She Doesn't Like Guthrie's -- Lewiston, ME
The next morning, Alex and I ate some enormous sandwiches at a place off the cobblestone courtyard in Burlington before taking off for Lewiston, Maine. The drive was gorgeous. Alex bought some kind of caramel cream puff pastry from a small French pastry shop outside of Cabot, VT. We arrived in Lewiston early enough to settle in and have some food before the show began. (We eat a lot on tour, if you couldn't tell.) Guthrie's is a cool bar-like cafe restaurant with two extremely friendly and personable owners and a clientele of pretty much all the cool and freaky and normal-but-music-loving population of Lewiston. Jane Herships ordered the largest plate of nachos I have ever seen in my life, then preceded to charm the entire room with her haunting, sometimes bluesy, acoustic folk songs. Shanti and Buck Curran of Arborea came to the show, listened, and were great to talk to. We (Alex, Jane and I) ended up heading back to their house afterwards where we relaxed in front of a huge bonfire in their backyard before falling asleep. The next morning, we ate oatmeal, drank coffee and talked through the afternoon. Alex took a long walk around their neighborhood and found some incredible old buildings. I consider myself very lucky to have met the Currans -- much thanks to them for their unbounded hospitality!
November 9th -- Slainte -- Portland, ME
w/ Vince "Aleric" Nez, Tin Ceilings with Orchards and more
The next evening, Alex and I drove to Portland, a quick drive from Lewiston (well, quick relative to other drives we've done on tour) and had dinner at J's Oyster, a place Randy Illian had recommended a long time ago, when he first invited CONC up to Portland back in 2006. The 2006 show had taken place at the Local 188. We'd played with Mr. Vince "Aleric" Nez, which was one reason I was really excited about this show, the 11/9/2009 show -- because I hadn't gotten to see Aleric play in three years. First, Tin Ceilings played, again, with members of Orchards, also joined by members of Portland bands Tempera and Seekonk. It was breathtaking. I wish I'd been able to record this set. We played, then Aleric, who was awesome. He is totally unhinged, and a wonderful performer. I think Alex and I both felt so good about this night that by the end of it, we were talking about moving to Portland! After everyone packed up and drifted home, Randy and Dave took us out to a pizza place downtown, then over to Dave's art space and theater, The Aphohadion, to listen to records and talk late into the night. We slept in Dave's living room, an airy place with large windows that let in beautiful morning light. It was the easiest morning to wake up all tour (of any tour, I think.) Dave, Alex, and I went out for breakfast at a coffee shop downtown -- bagels, juice, coffee, tea -- with a view of Portland's Free Hug man. We met a few of Dave's friends who were up having coffee and watched pedestrians mill about. I bought a toffee cookie for the ride home, which Alex and I shared standing on the rocks at Fortune's Rock, looking at the ocean, just as we were realizing that tour was ending. The Atlantic is rough and hypnotizing and smells so good. Maine rules!
Poster for the show that I threw together pretty quickly, that the owner of Slainte had printed in the local newspaper. Awesome!
Tin Ceilings with Orchards
So much love to everyone who helped with shows, everyone who played, who shared meals and hot beverages with us, who showed us our their ways around! May we meet again soon.
Take care, and happy holidays!