Wednesday, May 31, 2006

gig 013 – 2 Million Years of Technology @ SAT/Nettime

Tuesday May 30, 2006
@ SAT (Société des Arts Technologiques) in Montréal
Part of CPR (Critical Practice Resuscitation)
an Nettime North America gathering
hosted by The Upgrade and MUTEK
7pm - 7:45pm

A solo performance by me
a stripped down version of my one-man show
2 Million Years of Technology
done for an audience of about 40 or so

i think it's fair to say it was a smash
as Tobias c. Van Veen
who booked the event
said to me afterwards:
"There wasn't one person in the place that wasn't totally locked in to what you were saying"


Some good friends showed up – Hans, John and Christine
nice to see you guys
i had fun
it may have been the best version of that piece that I've ever done

it's usually longer
the full version is 75 minutes
but it worked well streamlined too
the audience was a bit uncertain at first
as they usually are when someone stands up and seizes the floor purposefully
but i won them over

the strangest part was that just before i went on there was a webcast performance from some freaks in Belgium
who were webcasting brutal static and feedback and white noise
which was being blasted through the house PA
and along with this music were giant projections of what appeared to be a woman gratuitously smearing herself with and eating what she kept telling us – via the layer of typed poetic rambling text over the video stream – was her shit
so that was pretty damn disgusting
shades of gg allin
and in this case i was saying thank god for mediated experience
but it was a long and somewhat arduous half-hour that was one hell of an unusual opening act
be that as it may we all survived

later in the evening i was in the mood to play some more
there was an electro groove maker and VJ making some cool sounds
i still had my mic set up and horn out so i suggested i might jam
but to no avail
as the digerati were not down with the living interaction
not to read too much into this one response
nor to blame the dude especially
but it has been my experience
based on my having bum-rushed-the-show countless times over the past 30 years
in venues all over the world
that white guys almost always say no to jamming with strangers onstage
whereas black musicians almost always say yes
in fact
here is an amazing story

it was 1983 and I was 20 and living in an apartment on Ontario street east in Montreal
i passed an outdoor stage being set up on St.Denis street a few blocks from my house one afternoon on my way home
a band that i had seen around, and that played some of the same bars I did with my band at that time, was setting up
they were a reggae band called JabJab
i spoke briefly to the drummer
chatting about the gig that was being planned
i asked too whether i could come play with them
he looked at me for a moment and asked my name
"john" i said
he nodded and mumbled something
i went home
later that night i returned with my horn
to my amazement the crowd was vast
there were easily 5000 people crowding the surrounding blocks
the band was kicking and i had a great time dancing in the crowd with a couple friends
by the time the show was finishing i had long since given up on jamming with them and i was entirely ok with that too
as obviously this was a much bigger event than I had anticipated
but then
to my everlasting gratitude and amazement
the lead singer said
"Now, for this last song, we'd like to invite a sax player, John, up to the stage."
I was stunned.
I was also about 500 people away from the stage and found myself pushing through the crowd
sax case over my head
shouting "here, ici, here I am" until i finally made it
hauled myself up
took out and assembled my horn
and turned to the band and the crowd ready to play –
now, this had obviously taken some time
and people had been really patient
and you have to realize that this band didn't know me from adam
and here they were at the climax of what was probably their biggest ever show
and what do they do?
they invite a complete stranger
a guy who might completely and totally suck and ruin their night
up to play with them
it was beautiful.
Needless to say I didn't suck and we had a blast
playing (of course) Bob Marley's Jammin' first and then for an encore Third World (or was it Black Uhuru's) "Rally Round the Black, Gold and Green"
it was sublime
an extraordinary act of generosity and faith
i'll owe those guys my respect til the day I die
and I try to live by that example

SAT is located almost at the corner of Saint-Laurent and Ste Catherine in Montreal
an area i have so many memories of
it's the raunchiest part of town
the red light district
and as a teenager i played in bands endlessly all around there
going back to 1979 actually
in fact here's a link to another memoir of mine about that time and place:
the area's changed somewhat but not that much
right next door is Club Soda where I played justa couple years back
and then because we were on tour we slept in our tour bus in the greasy parking lot next to it

an enjoyable night
proving once again that i have to get this poem out into wider circulation because fully two thirds of the audience congratulated me personally after the show
saying how much they liked it
and that means my message is hitting home
and needs to be heard


Risk Factor: 8
Riff Factor: 4
Success Factor: not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse
Wild Card: scat art warmup act
Cash Factor: 0 :(
Parking Lot: skid row memory lane
Joy: 6
Obliteration: 3
Poetic power: 10

Sunday, May 28, 2006

gig 012 – w/House Band #9

Saturday May 27, 2006
@ Café Pazzazz on rue de l’Eglise in Val-David, Quebec
9:30 pm-12:30am

John Sobol – sax
Jean-François Barbeau – drums/batterie
François Myrand – basse
Richard St-Aubin – acoustic guitar

35 spectators
Set 1: 35 minutes
Set 2: 35 minutes
Set 3: 35 minutes
Improvised instrumental jams on simple and not-so-simple song forms
Serious grooves and extended blowing on my part
especially due to the absence of our lead guitarist Lauren
so I blew and blew and blew
can't beat it really
had some fun with the crowd too
found a voice with whcih to address them
something that has been somewhat elusive at Pazzazz
a rowdy voice
hectoring and playful
stirring things up
very nice
not so loud without Lauren too
easier for me to fill the room without worrying about using a mic
managed to play In A Semtinmental Mood over some completely unrelated groove and found that Duke's timeless melody was like ambrosia – I could twist it and turn it any which way and it was always scorching achingly gorgeous
even over this unconnected groove
very cool


Risk Factor: 3
Riff Factor: 9.9
Success Factor: always a knockout
Wild Card: no electric guitar
Cash Factor: 7
Parking Lot: 100,000 mosquitoes
Joy: 8
Obliteration: 7
Peace: 10

Monday, May 22, 2006

gig 011 - w/Taqralik Partridge, Sean Mcgarragle, Trevor Tchir and Jill Battson

Sunday May 21, 2006
@ Casa del Popolo, Montreal

An exciting evening of Words and Music hosted and curated by my old pal, the estimable Fortner Anderson
at one of the funkier bars in town
Casa del Popolo on St.Laurent (owned by members of Godspeed You Black Emperor)

50 people
5 buck cover
beer and purple haze of thick nicotine smoke
a decent stage managed by Steve the soundman
fabulous art on the walls by Les Georges Leningrad

a really excellent night all around
began with me blowing a funky saxophonic fanfare over Mingus' Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting
which Steve the soundman had put on by happenstance as background music
I waited til the track got to the funky handclap breaks and then went onstage
grabbed my horn and hit the funky horn breaks with Booker Ervin, who was on vinyl
then as Steve (on my last-minute instruction) lowered the music slowly i walked offstage
right through the bar and out onto st.laurent street
stayed awhile blowing at the traffic and the night
turned around and came back in to some raucous applause
fortner followed me back onstage and i introduced him with a loud "Hear Ye, hear ye!"
it was a nice way to start the evening

the first performer was Sean Macgarragle from Vancouver
i'd not heard him before tho i did know he's a youngish cat who's been active recently putting on spoken word events out west
his work was not uninteresting
although he suffers from the verbal tic so common to slam-bred poets of speaking in a rapidfire patter for no reason at all
what this generally does is camouflage the weakness of the wordsmithing
although in his case he did show flashes of quality
i did admire his topicality as he recited poems dealing honestly with his relationship to each of his parents
and only after completing the poems offhandedly mentioned that his parents were in the crowd
it was deftly handled and took some balls
tho his language still needs plenty of work

Trevor Tchir is another young cat from out west
edmonton this time
an earnest and tuneful folksinger
fingerpicking and a fine prairie baritone
one song was far superior to his others
it was about urakainian famers selling moonshine in Nellie McClung's Alberta
a fine song

Jill Battson
whom i hadn't seen in some years
also happened to be present and delivered a poetic excerpt with some flair

But the highlight of the night
apart from me of course ;)
was without a doubt the superb poetic performance by
Taqralik Partidge
who informed us she had just begun writing a little over a year ago –
luckily for her (and for us)
as only an oralist could deliver language so effortlessly
and with such a centred presence –
she's ethnically Inuit and was raised in Kuujuuak in northern Quebec
many of her poems deal with her childhood up north
at summer camps far upriver, thousands of years and miles from the rules of the white world
just as they also deal with the urban experiences of homeless Inuit in Montreal
where she has lived for over a decade
but Taqralik is young enough to be culturally aligned to hiphop
and much of the last decade in Montreal has obviously been spent rhyming
or at least listening to beats and rhymes
because she delivers with the sly finesse and flow of a fine MC
not hiphop exactly but influenced by its vibe
this is Inuit knowledge cloaked in black rhythms
sensual and tough and vital
and the result is somethign else
especially since most people who use the hiphop idiom – black or white – are fronting
and this woman is definitely not –
i know i wasn't the only person there was knocked out
by the depth of Taqraliq Partidge's living language

as for me
well i blew up a storm
did some poems that I've rarely performed
like Green Sun and Tintinabulatron
and also Planet Struck, which I dedicated to Voltisse
whom i only just learned passed a couple years back
and then I played some screaming horn in a new poem called Shame
and started it all off with Orderly Orderly
all in all a nice set
turned some folks on...


Risk Factor: 5
Riff Factor: 5
Success Factor: no doubt
Wild Card: Taqraliq
Cash Factor: 9
Parking Lot: the dirty boulevard
Joy: 9
Obliteration: 7
Got home: way too late

Monday, May 15, 2006

gig 010 – w/House Band #9

Saturday May 13, 2006
@ Café Pazzazz on rue de l’Eglise in Val-David, Quebec
9:30 pm-1:00am

John Sobol – sax
Lauren Belec – guitare electrique
Jean-François Barbeau – drums/batterie
François Myrand – basse
Richard St-Aubin – acoustic guitar

50 spectators
Set 1: 40 minutes
Set 2: 40 minutes
Set 3: 40 minutes
Improvised instrumental jams on simple and not-so-simple song forms
Serious grooves and blowing

Well we really tore the roof off the joint
as usual but more than usual too
in this our familiar home
Lauren was in a hard-rocking mood and i was fed up with various things and needing to cut loose
all in all it made for a crazy ride
people screaming and yelling and dancing all night long
which is cool considering we ain't no dance band

i was completely exhausted by the time the third set rolled around
it's brutal to play unamplified with a kickass drum kit and three amplified guitars (bass, electric and acoustic)
all they have to do to turn up is tweak a knob whereas i'm blowing my guts out hour after hour
but hey i 'm not really complaining
at least i do get to blow endlessly and have everyone really get into it
very rewarding and fun if also gruelling as hell
another night in the music mines


Risk Factor: 2
Riff Factor: 9
Success Factor: over the moon
Wild Card: Mukhti's hair catching fire
Cash Factor: 6.5
Parking Lot: pouring rain
Joy: 9.9
Obliteration: 9
Burnout: 9

Sunday, May 07, 2006

gig 009 - w/Lyubomir Levchev and Bob Holman

Saturday April 29, 2006
@ Bowery Poetry Club, New York

John Sobol – vox

Well, it was supposed to be a performance of my one-man show
Two Million Years of Technology

i even made a cool flyer:
but i was so busy i didn't get much promo done beforehand
and when we arrived on a gorgeous sunny spring morning that also happened to be the day of the biggest ever (in USA) anti-Bush protest which was going by a block away
well I realized that
as they say in french
"il n'y aura pas un chat"
in other words nobody was going to be at my way-too-early gig on this beauitful day
(although Lisa and Isabelle did in fact show up - Thanks!)

So we hung out, Bob Holman and I and Annie and the kids
and waited for the 1 clock poets to arrive with their audience
and when they did it turned out to be a celebration of Bulgaria's most revered poet
Lyubomir Levchev
to whom Yevtushenko said, when Levchev was being criticized from both the right and left, "You can't make a lion out of a thousand cats" and who also reportedly reported, metaphorically or literally I know not, that when Lyubomir walks the streets of Sofia people toss flowers at him
LL was a grizzled and canny old fellow who was present with his wife on the occasion of a new translation of his poems into English
and so we all chilled
and I riffed a poem for Lyubomir and the protesters and Lisa and Isabelle by way of introduction
that, while not exactly brilliant, was nonetheless on point I think
and we all listened to the Bulgarian verses and their english equivalents
energetic language but simple narrative open verse
lovely at times
mostly interesting to meet the man
who had a real sense of humour and a puma-handled ivory cane
the kids drew his warty portrait with bic pens while he read and then gave them to him afterwards
gifts he received graciously
all in all a worthy encounter
another excellent poetic adventure
thanks Bob

Risk Factor: 7
Riff Factor: 10
Delivery: 7
Wild Card: Plan A out the window, Plan B from Bulgaria
Cash Factor: 0
Parking Lot: 300,000 pissed-off protesters

gig 008 - w/Classic Albums Live

Friday April 18, 2006
@ The Wolf's Den in the Mohegan Sun Casino, Uncasville, Connecticut

CLASSIC ALBUMS LIVE – Dark Side of the Moon

John Sobol - sax
Rob Phillips – lead vox and guitar
Leslea Keurvorst – vox (incl. Great Gig in the Sky)
Rob Cooper – keys
Kevin Young – keys
Steve 'Schnitzy' Szirai – bass
Marty Morin – percussion, vox and effects
Troy Feener – drums

1,000+ spectators (highly approximate as we were playing in a vast casino)

7pm set: 60 minutes
10pm set : 60 minutes

Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon
performed cut for cut and note for note
by our killer band
at the wealthiest casino in north america
Spencer Davis was at the gig as he was playing the same stage the next night with his band
the place was outrageously opulent and surprisingly gorgeous
we played our asses off
(for audience comments check out this post from the Message Board
or this one

a great gig with great folks
the same band we toured the maritimes with in february
(too bad that was before i started this gigblog!)

Risk Factor: 3.0
Riff Factor: 0.5
Music: 11
Success Factor: are you kidding, we're playing Dark Side of the Moon
Wild Card: 1st class all the way baby
Cash Factor: 9
Parking Lot: so big I got lost for an hour
Travel: 7 hour drive each way
Family: @ Mystic Pizza