With a film by Robert Longo: Pictures for Music (1979)
9 February 2007
Electric guitars:
Rhys Chatham
Wade Hansen
Evan Miller
Electric bass: Robert Lowe
Recording engineer: Eric Block
Tour manager: Regina Greene of Front Porch Productions
We left David's house in Chicago at around 11:30 a.m. to pick up our equipment, which we had left at Semaphore Recording Studio. Up to now, we had been traveling in David's station wagon with David driving and Eric acting as navigator in the front. Regina and I were in the back seat, and all our equipment was crammed into the back.
As you can see on the pic, things were a bit tight in the car. For the rest of the tour, that is to say for Iowa City, Minneapolis and Milwaukee, Regina and David thought that it might be nice to include some of the Chicago guys as regular band members, in addition to the local musicians. It meant more work for Regina in terms of organization as well as headaches in finding sleeping accommodations, but heck! It seemed like a good idea at the time! So for the rest of the tour we had Robert Lowe of Lichens, and Todd Rittmann of USMaple and and Ben Vida of Birdshow traveling and playing with us.
Obviously we were not going to be able to fit everyone into one van, so David and Regina rented another one, and David drove his car and Regina drove the van to Semaphore. We packed everything in both cars and found we had a lot more room than before. Regina was driving the van to Iowa with Todd acting as navigator. Rob and I were in the back seat, with the amplifiers and guitars behind us. David was driving his car with Eric as navigator and Ben in the back seat, they had their guitars and the merchandise. It was about 1 pm and we were off to Iowa City!
The van I was in was new, and the heating worked quite well. This was an important issue because the temperatures outside were well below the freezing point. The only problem was that in our van, a ventilator of some kind was open causing a continuous stream of freezing air to whoosh past our feet in a constant rhythm. While continuing to drive, we spent an hour trying to resolve the problem, including calling the rental company, to no avail. We dealt with this problem by turning up the heat and putting two pairs of socks on. In my case, I put three pairs of socks on.
Aside from the problem with the draft, the drive went uneventfully and we arrived in Iowa City at around 6 pm.
Rob and Todd had played at the Picador before. There is a bar on the ground floor where the serious drinking gets done, and on the second floor is where the club is, which has its own bar. Access for the band is by means of a metal staircase leading directly to the back of the club on the second floor. Rob and Todd warned everybody that it would be icy and that we had to be really careful negotiating the heavy equipment up this staircase.
Upon arriving we opened the doors to the van. I hopped out and was immediately freezing my butt off. I live in Paris, where the temperature is moderate during the winter and I hadn't thought of bringing long underwear! Yikes!
After carefully carrying all the equipment up the slippery stairs, we closed the doors to the club and were enveloped by the friendly warmth of the Picador. The Picador is rectangular-shaped with the stage at one end and the bar at the other. The space is dark, with the lighting providing a warm glow, i.e. it's a cool rock kind of setting, so I immediately felt at home there. Also, the person who books the club and doubles as bartender, Chris Wiersema, was very friendly and helpful.
Chris originally booked a performance space called Hallmall, which was a squat venue located in a former mortician's office. They did a combination of acoustic and noise stuff two or three times a month. Chris started booking at the Picador a coupe of years ago, and he was the one who had found the local musicians. Chris also has his own band called Outsound.
The local musicians were ready to go, so I got my own amp set up, and while Ben, David, Rob, and Todd were getting ready, I went to talk to the guys from Iowa City. First I talked with Ed Gray, who had a cool looking Stratocaster. Then I met guitarists Evan Miller, Wade Hansen and Daren Ho. We chatted and discussed G3. I spent a bit of time talking also to Lucas Veldhuizen, who wanted to know if I he could use his double bass drum pedal, as he felt a bit lost without one. I responded by asking him if the pope was Catholic; we hit it off well after that.
During the G3 rehearsal/sound check the guitarists from Iowa integrated into the group quite well. However, it soon became evident that Lucas hadn't had a chance to listen to the recording of G3, i.e. he didn't have a clue about the music. He played solidly though. I talked to him after the sound check and it turned out he was rehearsing with a black metal group, so I figured his head was in the right place and that things would be all right. Eric Block took him aside and played Lucas some recordings of last night's performance in Chicago to give him an indication of what he was in for, and also to give him a sense of how G3 evolves over its two parts of twenty minutes each.
The doors opened and soon people started to fill the room. The evening opened with Evan Miller on acoustic guitar. You'd think acoustic guitar to be on odd choice for an opening act for G3, but surprisingly it isn't. We learned that in Detroit when Nick Schillace opened on Fahey-influenced acoustic. It's quite nice to open with a softer act and gradually build up to the volume of G3. Evan has a fingerpicking style that is unique and at times quite percussive. The performance was intense with the audience riveted by his playing. Chris Wiersema told me later that every time he books Evan, he plays new compositions. Evans is always experimenting and trying to push things in new directions.
After Evan, I was very pleased to find out that our own Robert Lowe of Lichens was going to do a solo act. I had no idea, no one tells me anything!    Evidently it was a surprise that Regina had been planning.
Robert Lowe's set consisted of him on voice with tape echo, e-bow on the electric guitar as well as occasional finger picked sounds. The voice, which was often in an amazing falsetto that Robert has, was sometimes sampled and subjected to tape echo. The music itself is difficult to classify, it doesn't really fall into any categories other than "other.” I heard echoes of Meredith Monk, Berber music, as well as Congolese and Sudanese music, all rolled into something that was not a pastiche of sounds, but rather a true amalgamation of something new, that only the tiniest pair of critical scissors could pull apart. All in all a stunning performance, I would say. The audience thought so, too!
It was soon our turn to go on and play G3. Due to the proximity of the audience to the stage, I spent less time with my back to them than usual. In rock venues like The Picador, I like to feed off the energy of the audience by engaging them while I'm playing, usually through eye contact. I keep eye contact with a particular person in the audience until either they notice or they seem uncomfortable with it, and then I switch to someone else. Doing this somehow makes the music more intense.
Another interesting thing about this performance was that it was the first time we played where there was a core group of us who had performed the music before. In all the performances up to and including Chicago, David and I worked with a new set of players each time. For the Picador performance we had a core team of me, David, Ben, Rob (Robert Lowe) and Todd who had already played the music together. This definitely had the affect of making things more relaxed and enabled us to focus more on the performance aspect of things. We were really able to rock out that night and a good time was had by all. Ben and Todd in particular were carried into another psychic space while performing. From the look of them, they were in guitar heaven! Rob was on bass for this night. He played quite rhythmically, working intently with Lucas, who hit the shit out of the drums, yet somehow in a musically sensitive fashion and didn't miss a single cue! Black metal rules!
The audience liked the set so much that they made us do the encore.   We started out fast and it ended up sounding like a cross between The Out of Tune Guitar and Drastic Classicism with walls of shimmering overtones morphing into a driving hammered rhythm in a non-conventional tuning. Lucas Veldhuizen really let all the stops out, using lots of double bass drum pedal and drum fills to good affect.  
We had a great time playing, and after the gig, we hung out with the audience, having a few drinks and some good conversation afterwards. Then the DJ put on some cool music and everyone ended up dancing.
Chris put us up for the night, with him taking half of us, and his friend, photographer Rebecca McCray taking the others. Chris has two roommates, banjoist Kellie Eberett, who also plays baritone, tenor and alto saxes, and Matt Chettler, a minimalist composer. After staying up late talking and sippin' a fine hand-crafted Kentucky bourbon whiskey (Maker's Mark), we went downstairs with Chris and Kellie and jammed for a while on saxes and bass (I used to play tenor sax, a long, long time ago). And then finally we three went to bed, much to Regina and David's relief (they were the one's who had to drive to Minneapolis the next day!)
A musical end to a wonderful evening in Iowa City!
Standing from left to right: Eric Block, David Daniell, Tod Rittmann, Matt Chetler, Molly Freeman. Kneeling from left to right: Robert Lowe, Chris Wiersema, Kellie Eberett. Sitting from left to right: Regina Greene, Rhys, Ben Vida © Rebecca McCray
Photo legend:
Oops, I forgot something... © Rhys Chatham
G3 performance at The Picador