March 26, 2012 - Encinitas, CA
Looks like it's been awhile since the last update, but as usual, that means a lot has been happening (ironic: more news = less time for news postings!). This past weekend saw the "Southern California Stick Seminar" take place in San Diego County. The event spread across three days, with two concerts, three teachers and twenty students coming from as far away as New York, Paris and Mexico City. Yours truly played the role of orgainzer (ring leader?) as well as teaching and performing which meant it's been keeping me quite busy the past few weeks and I got very little sleep the past few nights! It was worth the effort in the end though. I just put together a page of photos and a recap and looking through all of it reminded me of the many great reasons why I do it..... You can read all about it here: stick12recap.html

Looking ahead, in April I'm thrilled to be doing a show opening for the amazing Allan Holdsworth! Wow.. truly a "guitarists' guitarist," Allan is a legend in the fusion and rock worlds and a major inspiration to players as diverse as Eddie Van Halen, Eric Johnson, Frank Zappa and many others. More details on the show can be found here and tickets are now on sale on the store page. Hope to see some of you there!

Also coming up, I'll be headed to Vancouver in May for the Vancouver Stick Seminar, hosted by my good friend Jim Meyer. This is a great event that draws in players from all over the north west and apparently this time Switzerland as well! Also headed up from the US will be Don Schiff and from Canada, Dale Ladocouer, whom I've never met before. I'm looking forward to seeing all of them and as always with these events, trading ideas back and forth!

December 16-18 - Rome, Italy
A few days off now and time for some sightseeing and r&r before heading stateside. As usual, Rome is a pretty amazing place to spend your free time, though this time I enjoyed seeing Christmas decorations creeping up. The biggest displays of course seemed to be at St Peter's basillica in the Vatican, but.. they were still working on it before I left. I guess maybe they just really unveil things on Christmas itself? Not sure... but I did get to see a small festival at their Christmas tree one night, which seemed to feature and focus on people from the Ukraine. It seemed like every night might feature a different country/ethnic group as the Christmas tree's base was surrounded by quite a few translations of "Merry Christmas!" So, with that in mind.. time to head home. Till next time... Buon Natale to all!

Christmas comes to St Peter's square
A fountain, a tree, an obelisk

How the Vatican does choir miking

December 15, 2011 - Rome, Italy
Today we played once again at a school in Roma called the Highlands Institute. The students range I think from maybe (in US terms) 1st through 12th grades. So we had a big age range to play for and quite a large group! They were very enthusiastic, clapping along in time to some of the pieces which was a lot of fun, though it did get interesting in some of the odd metered songs where the rhythms are not straight forward. We took time during the show to answer some questions and describe what we do. I always feel akward doing this in Italy, but the students all study English which made it much easier.

Live at Highlands Institute: Tom and Andrea (backed by Mary, Joseph, Jesus and kings)
tap tap tap & thump thump bang crash

time for some Italian words
tap tap tap

December 14 - Rome, Italy
Something different today and a recording session for Fabio Zaccaria, a brilliant piano player and songwriter. His music had an unusual style. Though he calls it "pop" it had elements obviously influenced by jazz pianists like Chick Corea. It was fun and we spent time doing many Stick overdubs to give him some choices for the final production.

this guy played drums
this guy played Stick

three guys will track you

December 13 - Sorrento, Italy
Phew... long day today. We played in Sorrento tonight, about a 3.5 hour drive from Rome. Of course the show wasn't until about 11:30pm, so that left the day open and I took the liberty to go into the center of Rome for a bit. Then.. long drive.. the show, pack up and return back to Rome, finally completing the day around 5am! Sorrento is an amazing place, even at night, with hillside views of the water and lots of "classic" winding streets and small towns. I hope we can go back again in the daylight sometime!

Linea B di Roma arriva a Termini
and later... a drummer dances pre-show in Sorrento

December 11 - Brescia, Italy
Today, another long drive back to Italy passing through some incredible Swiss scenery on the way. Something I remembered from past tours was that in Switzerland, the weather and the languages can really vary based on the mountains. Switzerland technically has four official languages, and sometimes you can drive through a long tunnel (maybe even 15 km or so) and come out to find everything is suddenly in a new language and the weather has changed radically. Keeps things interesting! This evening we played in a drum shop called Drums Castle to highlight some of Andrea's gear choices. The owners were wonderful and took us out to a fun/funky pizza place afterwards that was decorated like a 50's American diner. The menu though was all Italian and Andrea and I ordered a pizza so spicy he said the name translates as "Run away!"

view from a Swiss gas station near Gruyere

a tree under construction?? At the border back to Italia

the stage is set for a drum/Stick clinic
we love drums! (who's that bald guy in front?)

December 10 - Fribourg, Switzerland
Today we traveled north... quite a bit actually and into Switzerland which for a show at a cafe called Le Cintra. This is a fun place right in downtown Fribourg; a small city with a great feel to it (maybe I can say "cosmopolitan"... maybe not). The city speaks French, but almost everyone seems to also know some Italian or English and probably German as well. Our host Francis is an amazing guy with a real love for what he does. A lot of times you can go to a club and find that the owners are just busy thinking about the business. We've been lucky to have several hosts like Francis in Fribourg and Giuliana at Osteria Rive who are also passionate about the music we're doing and that makes these shows feel very special. Cintra has a fairly small stage.. plenty big for the two of us, but.. Francis was telling us about how Tony Levin's Stickmen trio came through recently and I spent a lot of time puzzling over how in the world Pat Mastelotto fit his gear on the stage!

Cafe Le Cintra in Fribourg

The amazing Francis mc's for us in French
Two guys sign Cintra performers' guestbook

December 9 - Cartigliano, Italy
Tonight we played in an amazing, old historic cafe called Osteria Rive. The owner Giovanna has decorated it for years with an amazing collection of "vintage American" elements like a great old jukebox and phonograph player, plus cash registers, TVs, funky lamps.... you name it, it's there. She has such a great collection she told me Italian movie companies actually contact her from time to time for props. It was fun and kind of welcoming to see something from the "old country" here. As the town is not too far from Schio and Bassano del Grappa it also gave us another chance to play for many of our friends in that region. And the food of course was amazing... but that's Italia!

some of the fun decor
I don't see any Stick music.. but still very cool!

first, dinner with our lovely friends
then Rive owner Giuliana starts us off.

December 8, 2011 - Schio, Italy
Today was a national holiday in Italy, celebrating the Immaculate Conception of Mary (and not actually Mary's conception). For Italy that meant many businesses were closed and we had a day off which we spent in Schio with friends. A stroll around the downtown area took us past a large celebration going on including musicians in Santa hats and the first lighting of the town's Christmas tree. Nice to stumble into that, though it's definitely cold outdoors here at night!

Immacolata Concezione (Immaculate Conception) in Schio

December 7, 2011 - Schio Italy
Back to the music (and driving!) Today we (or I should say Andrea) drove about six hours north to the town of Schio. This has been a regular stop for me on almost every Italy tour thanks to an amazing group of friends there who love unusual music and put on shows of all shapes and sizes under the banner "Schio Life." This trip found us once again playing in a historic old restaurant called Due Spade, famous as for a time Ernest Hemmingway lived in the building and frequented it. I was happy this time that we had an extra day to spend in Schio as well as it's always great to see our friends there!

Ciao Schio!
e ciao Andrea

Outside the venue

December 5, 2011 - Ostia, Italy
A day off today and that can mean only one thing... time for more photos of food! Actually the first trek of the day was to the center of Rome where Andrea and I went to a Bikram Yoga class (his first, bravo Andrea!) and then I went to re-visit St Peter's basilica which is just being decorated for Christmas (a major procedure involving construction vehicles and scaffolding!). My friend Ilenia then took me to an amazing award winning pizza place in the beach town of Ostia. This is one I hope to revisit! Normally (compared to the US) pizza in Italy seems simpler, with fewer toppings, but just done amazingly well. Ilenia said this chef is known for being "creative" though and she asked him to just do whatever he wanted. We wound up with a giant pizza with more variety than I can remember. Split in four, each section was unlike anything I've had. My favorite was the section with sliced apple, gorgonzola cheese and salmon! Wow!

appetizers... mmmmm

Christmas under construction at St Peter's

December 4, 2011 - Rome, Italy
Yesterday we flew back to Rome and thankfully had a night off to rest a bit. This morning we played at a drum festival in Roma called Batterika. The event took over an entire building, complete with several performance/demo areas and several rooms full of exhibits from product manufacturers and distributors. My Stick player friends Roberto, Andrea and Francesca came to the show and it was great to spend some time catching up with them. Afterwards, Roberto was kind enough to give me a ride to a chocolate festival happening at Rome's major musical auditorium where after tasting way too many things, we met up briefly with my friend Ilenia who took me to Rome's Bikram Yoga studio to try to burn off some of the chocolate. Too much fun.. and I'm realizing more and more how most of the pictures I take on Italian tours seem to be of food!

Batterika is back, and so are we!

one of Batterika's product rooms

our stage and the opening act

some of the more artistic chocolates

and outside.. a farmers market of sorts...
... meats, cheeses, olive oils..and everything else!

December 2, 2011 - Messina, Italy
Back again, for the first time: I'm back in Italy for a few weeks, doing shows with my friend drummer Andrea Ruta. This trip will take us to several new (for us) locations around the country and briefly into Switzerland as well which will be great. Things started off before I left home though with a warning call from the airlines saying that there was going to be an employee strike at London's Hathrow airport where I was supposed to change planes. They said a lack of staff could cause delays of up to twelve hours in dealing with passports and that I might miss my connection to Rome. Our schedule didn't allow for me to change the flight though since we had just a quick turnaround to fly to Sicily. So... I packed a change of clothes and toiletries in my Stick case (carry on) and left with visions of possibly spending a night at the airport. Turned out fine though.. there were very few people at the airport and no problem with delays at all.. except that one of my bags didn't make it to Rome for another day.

Today we flew from Rome to Catania on Sicily then drove an hour or so to Messina. It's a gorgeous city right on the coast and the closest point on Sicily to the Italian mainland. Our first stop in the city was to see a famous church clock tower, which at noon put on a great "show" with all kinds of automated characters and music that probably lasted about 5 minutes or longer. Our show was right on the beach, in what was actually a windsurfing center, converted for the night into a music venue. Fun! Our hostess and promoter Gabriella took great care of us and is actually a drummer herself. We were encouraging her to play with us, but she was too shy... this time anyways! We hope to be back soon!

surfing tonight - Tom & Andrea
Ciao Messina!

Gabriella after the show

a serious view from the hotel room
night version

Messina clock tower

Catania arrivals.. it didn't feel that steep, but ??

September 12, 2011 - Menlo Park, CA
After about a month more or less on the road, today was our final show of this tour in a great backyard setting hosted by our friend Natasha, a dancer and dance instructor in the Bay area. It's always nice playing outdoors although I did have to fight off some mosquitos tonight. There were quite a few musician friends and dancer friends in the audience which helped lead to a very appreciative and attentive audience and a nice way to wrap things up for now. Tomorrow morning Bert flies home and I'll start the relatively short (compared to some tours!) drive home.

storytime with Bert in Menlo Park

September 11, 2011 - Upper Lake, CA
Tonight we played once again in what's become one of our favorite California stops; the Tallman hotel in Upperlake, CA. Upperlake is one of the little towns surrounding Clear Lake; the largest freshwater lake contained in California. The owners of the Tallman have done an amazing job of restoring and recreating some historical buildings in the town and we play in what is something of a meeting room next to an old hotel and saloon. The decor is great and goes well with Bert's boots! The audiences are always great too, and it's customary with their concert series to also have the audience and artists engage with questions and answers which is fun and makes for a nice rapport.

soundcheck at the Tallman
...and a bit later

September 10, 2011 - Livermore (Oakland), CA
Today we once again woke up pre-dawn to drive maybe 90 minutes to the airport and then fly back to Oakland. The show was a first for the two of us; a live web cast from the new office of CGT's webmasters XO Pandora. They have a great new space complete with multiple HD camera and a great concept to use their live stream as something like a "cable access" TV channel where they can bring in everything from music (like us!) to maybe local chefs, local politics, news or basically anything that seems interesting. Fun! Bert and I had fun goofing with the camera a bit before the webcast and then played to a small audience of invited guests and who knows how many more virtual ones.

ready for the live webcast
...with a few invited guests for a special atmosphere

September 9, 2011 - Colville, WA
Today we woke up very early to drive an hour or so to the Oakland airport, and then fly to Washington. I think I slept maybe three hours... but was excited to make the trek and play in a town I'd never been to before. Landing in WA, we then drove an hour or so to check out the venue (a theatre at a local college), and test the sound system. While I messed with wires and speaker placement, Bert well... the picture says it all. Let's just say he made enough full spectrum umm.. sound.. for me to help dial things in with the PA! Afterwards we had a brief time to rest and see a tiny tiny bit of the area then back to the college (pausing to check out some local snacks along the way!) Our promoter Maureen and her husband took fantastic care of everything and made all the extra effort of travelling well worth it. I hope we can visit again soon!

Bert considers a change of career path

there's always time for local delicacies

storytime in Colville, WA

September 7, 2011 - Santa Rosa, CA
Last night we were the guests once again of our good friends Nancy and Larry in Santa Rosa. Nancy is an excellent flute player and we have done several concerts with her in the past. This time, she invited another friend of hers to play cello with her and to close the show Bert did an arrangement of the Beatles' "Blackbird" with her. It was great! Bert did an amazing job of translating McCartney's classic guitar figure into his guitar's 5ths tuning. Not an easy task, but he made it look simple! In the morning, we had a rather crazy leaving at something like 4am to drive an hour or so to the Oakland airport and a flight to Washington. Once again I felt grateful to have Nancy and Larry as hosts because preparing for this trek meant taking over their living room with our baggage as we re-packed for the flight. It's a messy business flying with about 100lbs of fragile instruments and gear, but they were happy to accommodate and help! Thanks guys :)

Beatles via cello and guitar
early morning airport commute

Want more stories and trivia? Check out the website archives for past tour diaries.

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