Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Playin' Favorites: Ski Rack Supreme

I need to talk about a person that, in our lives, knows me as fan, capture-er, colleague, employee, awestruck fool, travel agent, archivist, care-taker, driver, writer, host, and special advisor. Better yet, he understood me when I acted short, confused, angry, and distant. Even f I never knew him personally or worked for him, I must still hold him in the light that I do. He's a friend, in the best sense of the word.

Once upon a time, two bands that I loved as a fan and a colleague toured together. Based on attendance, not many people caught that tour, but as both bands' FOH engineer, and as one's tour manager, I saw every date. Critters Buggin' and The Benevento Russo Duo hit the East coast as a package over two years ago, in Oct. '04. The event that causes me to write what I have and will, occurred in Asheville, NC, near the end of that tour, and if no other information survives to illuminate this person of whom I write, I'll make sure that what I captured that night in the Carolina Mountains serves as his eulogy.

If you still need to figure it out: I'm talking about Skerik. I won't bother to grace or burden you with background - you either know or you don't. Lucky enough for me, I KNOW.

That particular evening, at Stella Blue in Asheville, both bands fired on all cylinders, and each of them played perhaps their best show of that tour. As they almost basked in the glory of their performances (I say almost, because no matter how good the show, these musicians do not leave satisfied; they continue to boldly seek more than what they've already achieved), discussion about the evening's encore came to the fore. I refuse to condescend to say we made it happen, but I will say that my crew compatriot Bryan "Bronko" Aiello and I did offer a suggestion for said encore that was seriously considered, and ultimately chosen.

Here in lies the 4 paragraph later sensible segue. You see, Bronko and I both embraced a particular Critters' tune that features Eyvind Kang as the string arranger. And given that both Bronko & I operated at a high level, and made whatever they wanted/needed to happen, happen, the musicians in question trusted us enough to respect that request and play it. I speak about "Panang".

Picture if you will complete vibe, a crew, crowd, room and band caught up in a whirlwind and yet still able to perfectly exist in & capture a moment. The crowd fell silent as they began to comprehend what they witnessed. The entire room hung on every note, as all 6 players created a sonic tidal wave that dared not drown you, but instead warmed, comforted and awed you.

Enough you might say, about both the long winded story and the superlative laden description of this moment. I would completely agree with you if the moment ended there. But as the virtuosity of "Panang" wound down, the 6 musicians refused to abandon the proceedings . A memorizing jam arose from the ashes of "Panang". Apparently, a couple of weeks together on the road provided them with a foundation to support such exploration. As a fan, my attention piqued beyond what my favorite song had minutes ago demanded. Suddenly, and I kid you not when I say, in a moment that weakened my knees enough for me to never forget it, Skerik found John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" and the other 5 parts of his pioneering brain on that stage found it closely after.

Since I very much believe Frank Zappa, and his quote "writing about music is like dancing about architecture," I won't even attempt to capture that moment with words. The anticipation and foreshadowing included in this recount provides a firm enough foundation. I feel that detailing my reaction to what occurred says enough. I mix shows, when luck allows, for a living. As an engineer, the performances I've mixed only once caused me to uncontrollably weep as they occurred. As Critters and the Duo found "A Love Supreme", I broke down, as if I carried a thousand burdens and suddenly cast them off, only to find myself bathed in calming light and caressing warmth of my tears.

Needless to say, beyond the hyperbole, this moment lives in my head, heart and soul as the most intensely beautiful musical moment I've been lucky enough to experience. It forever lives vibrantly and beautifully in my head. As such, I can always draw on it to explain my place in this world.

Stay Gold.

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