Sunday, September 04, 2011

Three of a Perfect Pair (TOAPP) Camp

When I first saw the announcement of a 5 day camp in the Catskills, with 3 members of King Crimson, last winter, I made a very quick decision to attend. I sent in my deposit, sometime in April.

This trip was also a present to myself, leading up to my 50th birthday, and it also afforded me the chance to return to the Mid Hudson Valley (a place where I lived for the first part of my adult life), for the first time in over 16 years.

As I'm typing this now, I am sitting in my living room, a week later, digesting the experience, and the subsequent drama with Hurricane Irene. I must say, that the most striking thing about TOAPP camp, is the fact that it went by so quickly. I believe that if you informally polled the other attendees, they would all be in agreement with me.

I am sure that the band and their techs were totally exhausted. Unfortunately for them, they will have very little downtime before they commence a US tour, on September 19th.

Day 1 - Monday 8/22/2011

I started the morning by driving over to Alto Music in Middletown, NY, in order to rent a Kurzweil PC2. This was to insure that I would have an axe to play. In hindsight, this was unnecessary, as they had several keyboards at the camp, already.

I headed north out of Middletown, right after lunch, and drove directly to the Full Moon Resort, in Big Indian, NY. The last 15 miles of the trip were through some narrow roads through the wooded Catskills, coinciding with a complete loss of cell phone service. It's probably good that there was no cell service at the Full Moon, but it certainly was inconvenient.

The Front Lobby

After getting my lodge keys, and unloading my luggage, I proceeded to the Barn, where we were all greeted by Tony Levin and Adrian Belew. Pat was already inside, and all three conducted a one hour session, where they talked about the schedule and logistics for the camp. One of the suggestions forwarded by Tony was that we take the opportunity to network, since bands like the California Guitar Trio were formed under similar circumstances.

My Lodge at the Full Moon Resort

Camp Welcome

We then all proceeded to the Front Lawn for a Welcome Social/Happy Hour with an Open Bar, which was followed by Dinner. I must say that all of catered meals at the Camp were excellent. Every fellow camper that I spoke to, had a similar assessment of the food.

The night concluded with a welcome concert by Ade, Tony and Pat. Afterwards, three buildings were available for people that wanted to jam. Two of which were reserved for acoustic only, with the last, the Performance Space, available for Electric Instruments. The Perf Space also had a Cash Bar, and a Campfire outside. Thus started the first of four straight late nights, with matching hangovers the next morning.

Tony Levin

The highlight of the day for me was hanging out around the campfire with some campers and Adrian Belew, and hearing about his two auditions with Frank Zappa, and his musical career, which included working with David Bowie, Brian Eno, and the Talking Heads, in addition to King Crimson.

I was also happy that Pat recognized me from Austin, and really made me feel welcome, when he saw me at dinner. Surprisingly, out of 75 campers, 5 of us were from Austin.

Day 2

I had no trouble getting up at 7AM. The temperature was brisk, and the weather beautiful, as you can see in this picture. I made my way over to the lodge for the Wi-Fi and some Coffee. A full breakfast was served every morning at 8AM, and really hit the spot.
I wish I had been staying in this cabin

The first part of the day was individual sessions. They were appropriately staggered, so that it was possible to attend all three.

Adrian - Songwriting and Adventures

Adrian spent quite a bit of time with two different one hour sessions, discussing songwriting, his effects and playing style. I was interesting to hear about how someone who doesn't read music was able to hold down gigs with Frank Zappa, and then Robert Fripp.

Adrian talked at length about how Fripp had taught him the Discipline material, and postulated that he was actually the first Guitar Craft student.
Ade's Adventures
Ade's Adventures

He also introduced us to John Sinks, his long time tech, who is also a Crafty, and lived with Robert Fripp for some time. I must say, both Ade and John were some of the nicest, down to earth people, I have ever met.
John Sinks

Pat - Electronic Drumming

After the Adrian's first session, Pat conducted a seminar on his Electronic Drums setup, and the tools he used, particularly Ableton. Pat's Tech for the camp, Adrian, is also an Austinite. You can see the two of them in this picture.
Rehearsal

Tony - Bass and Chapman Stick

Before he started his session, I was able to spend some quality time with Tony, as he showed us how to operate his Espresso machine.
Tony makes Espresso

Tony first talked about his background and musical education, and how he came to be a professional rock musician. He also discussed his playing philosophy and style, and spent a lot of time talking about his equipment.

The second half of his session, was devoted to Chapman stick. There were at least 8 or 9 touch guitar players in camp, with most playing Stick, along with one Warr guitarist, and one touch guitarist with a custom made instrument.

A highlight for me was that Stick Enterprises had sent two 12-string, and one 10-string Sticks to the Camp, for the attendees to try. Two very experienced players in camp, Matt Tate, and Jim Meyer, very graciously spent some time afterwards with all of the Newbies like me, who wanted to give a Chapman Stick, a test drive. I took full advantage of this, and have the seed of an idea in the back of my mind to perhaps buy a Stick, one day.

Here's a shot of Matt, showing us how:
Matt Tate

Group Jam

The highlight of the day however, was the Group Jam. All 75 campers, along with Adrian and Pat, convened in the Barn. Tony Levin was the conductor and stood in the middle of us with a black felt pen, and a notepad. He conducted the group, and wrote instructions to guide the group.

It was a huge helping of cacophonous fun. I had jokingly told a couple of people that if it was recorded, that we could release the record under the title, The Worst of Glenn Branca. (Little did I know about a surprise, later in the week).

The first surreal moment of the camp occurred for me during the Jam. I sat down at a piano, and looked to my left to see Adrian Belew, right next to me. I would have never dreamed that I would have been in this situation, in a million years.
Winding up the Group Jam

E for Orchestra

After the Group Jam, a number of us stayed in the barn for movie night with Adrian. He screened his recently released DVD, E for Orchestra. It is fantastic, I've already ordered my copy.

The day ended with more late night jamming in the Performance Space, and hanging around the Campfire.
Jamming in the Performance Space

Day 3

Adrian and Pat start teaching

The morning started once again, with me waking up before the Alarm Clock. Adrian continued his session from the previous day. Pat also talked about how he and Bill Bruford arranged the double drumming for the 90's lineup.

The stories about working with Bill were fascinating. Bill had apparently said there were 5 levels of double drummer playing. He called the simplest, level 1, the Allman Brothers Band, where all the drum parts are just doubled, and you get the inevitable flam effects. They of course, were going for Level 5, and Pat said he thinks they achieved it. Pat continued and discussed how he was taking on Bill's role with Tobias Ralph, the current drummer in Adrian Belew's Power Trio.

Pat also talked a bit about Polyrhythms, and had the campers perform various clapping exercises, including learning parts of Thrak, with is signature 5 against 7.

Trio Rehearses 80's lineup material

Adrian, Tony, and Pat's held their first full rehearsal as a Trio, performing Crimson material. Before each song, Adrian and Tony talked at length at what they played originally, and how they would be rearranging the parts, for one guitarist, instead of two. In most of these cases, Tony was picking up the slack on Stick.
Rehearsing Red

More surreal moments occurred. Like, hanging out on the front porch with Tony and 2 other campers, and just chatting before lunch. Hanging on the Front Porch

5 Piece Rehearsal

Although the Two of a Perfect Trio tour will have 6 musicians, Marcus Reuter the third member of Stickmen, was still in Austria, and was unable to make camp. The members of Adrian's Power Trio, Julie Slick and Tobias Ralph, did make it, and arrived in the afternoon. So, we had a double trio minus one.

The rehearsals became more complex, and all 5 were playing material from the 90's lineup of King Crimson, the double trio. Julie Slick - 5 piece rehearsal Tobias Ralph of the Power Trio

Day 4

Morning

For the morning session, Adrian taught campers how to play the parts from Frame by Frame, and Discipline. This was very interesting.

This was followed by another 5 piece rehearsal, which sounded drastically more polished than the previous day. The pressure was on these guys preparing for the show at the Bearsville Theater, that night. It was particularly amazing to hear how quickly Pat and Tobias tightened up their double drumming, in just 24 hours.

For the rest of the afternoon, the band and techs were very busy loading up gear to head over to Woodstock.

Bearsville Theater

At 5PM, the entire camp loaded up in two school buses, and took the half hour drive over to the Bearsville Theater, in Woodstock. This was the first time I had been back to Woodstock, in 16 years. The time passed quickly, as many of the campers were doing the Thrak clapping exercises from Pat's sessions.

I thought I had previously seen shows at the Bearsville, but had mistaken it for the Woodstock Town Hall. No matter, this was also an excellent venue, with great acoustics.
The Bearsville Theater

Dinner at the Bearsville

After arriving and having drinks, dinner was catered at the club. A really nice touch, the bar and club were separated by walls with large panes of glass. So, we could easily see and hear, the setup and soundcheck going on in the other room, as we ate and drank.

The best part of the libations was the fact that the bar had a Milk Stout on tap. Mmmmm. Dinner at Bearsville Theater

Soundcheck

After eating, the campers basically had free rein of the club, during the sound check.
Sound Check

Setlist

After another hour, they started letting the rest of the people in. I ran into an old friend and Bass player, Mike Ralf, who I hadn't seen in at least 20 years. We both recognized and remembered each other, but couldn't remember the specifics under which we had met. I think he auditioned for Tom Limbaugh's band.

The opening act was Joey Eppard, lead singer of the band, 3 (and brother of one of the founders of Coheed and Cambria). I had seen him open several times for Porcupine Tree in Boulder and Houston (where I spoke to him after that show). For this show, he was performing solo.

After reintroducing myself to Joe, we had a nice conversation. He is an amazing acoustic guitar player and singer, with a heavy Flamenco influence. Unlike the Del Castillo brothers ( from a Flamenco influenced act here in Austin), Joey plays steel string acoustic, rather than nylon.

The main act, my 5 new friends, started at around 10PM. They did 3 phases of the show, the Trio (Ade, Tony, Pat), Stickmen (minus Marcus), and then the Double Trio (minus Marcus). Here was their setlist:

  • Pat, Tony and Adrian
    • Three of a Perfect Pair
    • Elephant Talk
    • Sleepless
    • Red
  • Stickmen
    • Slow Glide
  • Adrian Solo
    • Something from E (I think?)
  • Two of Perfect Trio minus 1
    • B'Boom and Thrak
    • Dinosaur
    • One Time
    • Frame by Frame
    • Encore: Thela Hun Ginjeet

During the show, it seemed like a switch had been thrown. Everything was better and tighter than any of the rehearsals we had attended. It was interesting to see a group of professionals turn it on like this, at just the right moment. Their show went by too quickly. Taking a bow

Late on the Porch with Ade

After the show, we road back on the bus, and a group of us were anxious to hit the Performance Space, which was unfortunately closed. So we convened out on the front porch. We were eating Doritos, and drinking Vodka.

Pat, Tony, and Adrian arrived in a car, and hung out for a while. Adrian had his usual happy demeanor, and joined us on the porch. Pat and Tony mentioned they were leaving after about 30 minutes, to go to their cabin. Adrian turned his head and said "ok".

Those two left, without Adrian noticing, with his asking whether they had gone without him, some time later. As we said yes, he just shrugged his shoulders and continued talking with us. The whole group hung out at least another hour and half, finally hitting the hay at 3AM. What an incredible punctuation to our last night there.

Day 5

The camp wrapped up at 11AM. There were no sessions in the morning, we all ate breakfast and hung out. Right before everyone left, we all posed for a group photo.
Main Lodge TOAPP_Group_Shot

Fun with Irene Afterwards

My original plan was to stay two extra days in the MHV, so that I could catch John Esposito's (my former piano teacher) gig. Hurricane Irene unfortunately intervened and the gig was cancelled.

Then, through a comedy of errors, that seemed like they were out of the movie, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, I did not return to Austin, until Tuesday afternoon. Two days later than planned.

Despite that, I would not have traded this experience for anything in the world, and I'm seriously considering returning next year. I already have one friend who is interested in going.

Other Blogs

You may be interested in reading Adrian's and Tony's blog entires about the camp, as well.


Updates

I'm finding other camper's blogs, now. Will link to them, as I find them.

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