Between tours….

We’ve been back from North America for a few weeks now and our Japanese trip is still a few days off. Perhaps now’s the time to sum up our fortnight’s passage across the pond.

The tour was hugely enjoyable on a social/experience level and also great from a playing point of view.

We’d done our initial rehearsals some weeks before the start of the tour, in an intense three day bash in Birmingham, the point of equidistance between our respective homes. Guy wasn’t there for the first day, so HB and I had the somewhat strange experience of hearing *exactly* what each other was playing without any covering smear of percussion. Fascinating, especially in the time-slip passages of things like “Interference Patterns” or “All Over the Place”…strangely convincing!

It was also, of course, our first opportunity to put together our respective homework on “Flight”. We’d mooted doing this for some time and our preparation had been under way for a month at least. A lot of musical archaeology was involved! There was also the question of which we should regard as the definitive earlier version, the solo album or the k group live, since they’re markedly different. Brain had also managed to unearth a bootleg of an even wilder duo version from WOMAD, which brought a smile and a fond few memories.

Eventually, with a mixture of muscle memory and diligent research, often involving swapping MIDI files for each other to play along to at distance, we came down to the definitive stuff. That still required a lot of home study to beat into even provisional shape, mind, and some mysteries were only finally revealed when we were all together in Birmingham. It seems – surprise, surprise – that I’ve got a tendency to put in half-beats here and there if I’m doing a left-hand pulse patterns. Well I never!

Putting something like “Flight” in obviously meant that the sets would be structured around it, so we didn’t attempt any other new stuff. One point though (and if I’ve made this before please forgive and bear with me): once we’ve decided to commit to a piece it becomes part of VdGG repertoire and we no longer think about its original provenance, be it solo or group. Nor do we really think overmuch about the age of individual pieces in a set. And happily as a result of this attitude I feel that we’re really achieving some kind of modern homogeneous VdGG sound and stamp across all the tunes….

Moving leisurely on, a month later we found ourselves once again in Bethlehem, PA, thanks to the Nearfest organisation. I can’t stress too highly how influential they’ve been in  getting first me and then VdGG over to play in the US in recent years. Apart from their invitations and enthusiasm they’ve also dealt with the crucial Visa issues. It’s become harder and harder – and more and more expensive – to get through the hoops of these, both in the US and the UK and time and again Nearfest pulled through for us.

They’ve also provided a rehearsal space for the two VdGG appearances on the day before our shows so that we had at least a chance of getting up to speed – very welcome and very useful. This time, we dealt with things -including “Flight” – pretty speedily.

There’s always been something of a “we’re all in this together” atmosphere at Nearfest and it was particularly pronounced this year in view of the fact that this was, definitively, the last one ever. Most people involved stay in the same hotel and so we met up with many familiar faces and also got on well with new acquaintances.

Among whom were Aranis, a really great group who played before us on Friday night. Their music is genre-bending and it was an inspired piece of programming to put the two of us together.

Once we began playing the following night it was as though we’d hardly missed a beat since the last time, to be honest….

And then onward, this time in a van and trailer rather than overnight bus: the budget simply wouldn’t run to that this time out. Our first four days were leisurely, a couple of shows and then a couple of days off in Annapolis. Then we headed out on some serious travelling: do a show, drive a couple of hours, find hotel, sleep, drive five or six hours, do a show and so on. Everyone became a little glazed in the midst of this but actually got used to the routine pretty quickly. We were, incidentally, extremely lucky to leave just before a major storm hit Delaware and DC – if we’d been stuck there just a few hours more….well, basically the netire tour would’ve been scuppered.

Anyway, before we knew it…well, actually we knew *quite* a lot about the ten hour journey it took to get us there…we were in Quebec City for an evening off and almost at the end of the tour. Beautiful weather in a beautiful city and we had a really good time in the show the next night, including the obligatory once-a-tour appearance of “Gog”. Maybe one day we’ll play it more than once!!

We had time aplenty to get to Montreal for the final show as part of the Jazz festival but traffic extended the journey no end. There were still hours to spare before the show but, for me, at least, it suddenly seemed to rush up at us post sound-check. It’s an honour to play at this event and I’m pretty sure we did ourselves justice, especially in the totally improvised parts of “Lemmings”. This, incidentally, was one of the tunes which seemed to get a second breath on this tour whenever we played it. But to be honest there weren’t any songs which seemed laborious to play, hard to get going, at any show. Thta’s really something.

And then, along a number of different routes, we were on our way home. To our usual team of Ed, Will and Carl we’d added the great Ethan Kairer, who’s now, I suppose, the honourable holder of the VdGG Crew Flag in the US. Heroic drives, great good humour and a crash course in VdGG lighting, all wonderfully done.

The next time? Who knows, though, indeed, who knows where we’ll play/what we’ll do next after the upcoming Japanese shows. Of course, we can’t prejudge and of course it’s a difficult thing logistically and financially to keep this show going.

But it certainly feels like a vibrant ongoing show at the moment…next!


18 Comments on “Between tours….”

  1. ann says:

    thanks this

  2. Anonymous says:

    “the great Ethan Kairer” surely questionable.

  3. Brad Bridges says:

    Thank you very much for bringing VdGG back to North America. As a younger fan, I never would have thought I’d be lucky enough to see the group perform live; until, of course, I saw two performances during the 2009 show (in Toronto and Hamilton respectively). Both shows were excellent, but to see the band live at the Montreal Jazz Festival last month was a real treat. The performance was stellar, and all I can say is thank you and bravo! Hope the band can make it back across the pond sooner than later! Or perhaps even another solo tour…
    Cheers from Canada!

  4. Vadim Zaytsev says:

    Great to see such positive news and attitude! I’ve seen a couple of bootlegs of Flight on YouTube, and this version is excellent, although it does sorely lack guitar.
    Also, on another topic, and I guess you may mention it in a future post anyways, but I’d like to say anyway that your support of Pussy Riot is a great gesture and we must look like utter fools to the whole world with this quasireligious nonsense.

  5. Ron says:

    Thanks so much for the work!

    Despite problems with my ears (Eustachian tubes gone wild from the humidity—very bad timing!), I saw VDGG in NYC and had a wonderful time. It was so much fun because of all the joy and intense focus Peter, Hugh and Guy put into performing the material.

    Watching Peter enjoy so much what he’s doing was inspirational to me as an artist. It’s great to see people actually making a living while truly doing work they want to do. I know this has taken great determination, hard work and discipline on Peter’s part. But seeing someone really doing what they love in NYC—a town full of talented artists exhausting themselves working in restaurants and other odd jobs just to pay the rent—THAT is how the world should be run! Viva VDGG!

    Best to Peter, Guy and Hugh,

    Ron

  6. Len says:

    Reading this news made me highly curious about “Flight” in it’s newest form. I hope you plan to make it available to us on CD\DVD or as a download. The song has always been one of my favourites. Also good to hear that you enjoyed the tour and that you were lucky to escape being a “Sitting Target” in DC, “I’d have cracked up ,I say”, but “keep your eyes on the road up
    ahead…”
    All the best, and hope to see you soon (in Amsterdam The Netherlands if possible)
    Len

  7. Andrea says:

    … Italy and me is waiting too ! come back soon.
    : )
    And

  8. Good to know you are still travelling in vans and not limos… Not that you will agree I suppose Best wishes

  9. Santiago says:

    Next? Argentina. Hm.

  10. Bruce Hatton says:

    Flight, Gog, and an assorted selection of old and new songs, on a DVD.
    Doesn’t that sound like the perfect Christmas presnt?

  11. Bruce Hatton says:

    Flight, live.
    That could possibly top Danny Boyle’s work last Friday, for those in the know.
    I can’t think of any musical event I would look forward to more than that.

    • Howard Solomon says:

      It was an amazing version of a truly wonderful piece of work. It seemed like they have played it for years. The timing was impeccable. I am looking forward to hopefully seeing it again on WHYY’s “On Canvas” sometime this fall.

  12. Cameren Lee says:

    I heard the new live “Flight” on a video uploaded via the “other” official site (not Sofasound) and, in spite of my initial doubts over how it might go (I’ve always thought of A Black Box as a sort of pH “lo-fi” album, perhaps to that catalogue what, say, Nebraska is in Bruce Springsteen’s discography), it soared!

    Well done, pH, HuB and Guy! 😉

    • Mikayel says:

      Do you mean “other” non-VdGG-related official site? The ones we know do not show any uploaded files, as far as I know.

      • Cameren Lee says:

        It wasn’t “uploaded” – I think it was technically a link on peterhammill.com. Which I was directed to via a link on, I believe, an unofficial Facebook pH page. Hope that answers any questions.

  13. Howard Solomon says:

    Thank you for including Sellersville Theater as a stop on the US tour. I have been a fan for 30 years and although I have seen PH many times, I have never had the opportunity to see VDGG.
    The show was unbelievable. Well worth the wait. Hopefully I won’t have to wait another 30 years to see you again.

    p

  14. Have any trouble smuggling the word “vibrant” out of the U.S.?

  15. Barry J says:

    Thanks, Peter – this sounds wonderfully positive, and bodes well for the future, I’m sure. Next? UK dates, of course…!


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