"Prog-tober" (October) 2005
A month's worth of pics and stories from shows with the Tony Levin Band (Europe) Adrian Belew and Steve Hackett in (Southern California)

Saturday October 29, 2005 - Encinitas, CA
Near perfect show experience last night opening for Steve Hackett in Santa Ana. Steve had an amazingly loyal crowd of fans, that judging by my mailing list sign-ups came from all over southern California and even as far away as Las Vegas. Steve and his trio were a real treat. I was notably impressed by what an enigma Steve really is. As a guitar player myself, I know how far apart the world's of rock and classical technique really are. Generally when players who are primarily rock guitarists approach classical guitar, there are a lot of subtle details that are generally not as good as when a "full-time" classical guitarist might perform the same material. Steve is probably the only established "rock" guitarist I think I've ever heard who can also really sound at home on a classical guitar and with classical-esque repertoire. Perhaps advanced classical players and fans might detect Steve's more electric background, but he can fool me!

opening the show solo
and later... the trio

I described the show as a "near perfect" experience, and so it was. I had a great reception from the audience, almost sold out of all the "extra" CDs I brought, played reasonably well even by my own standards.. the only thing that I missed was really getting to chat with Steve much. Last night was I guess their last US tour date and this morning at 5am they had to catch a flight to Mexico City for one more show before heading home. Needless to say by the time we were loaded out after midnight, or maybe it was even 1am, they were in a hurry to make it back to the hotel for a few hours sleep. So.. while the touring musician in me was hoping they'd get out of the venue as quickly as possible, the fan in me was sorry to not have more time to pick Steve's brain about his music. Oh well.. maybe next time!

Tuesday October 18, 2005 (9:05am) London, England
My last posted guess yesterday was in fact a correct one. My flight from Geneva left about 2 hours later than scheduled and I wound up missing my next flight from London to Dallas. Fortunately British Airways put me up in a comfortable hotel complete with meals, and I'm now scheduled to attempt the same trip this morning. I was relieved that they would help with this as it wasn't really their fault, but the weather's. I'm not sure airlines in the US would do the same. Do they?

Despite having not slept at all between Sunday morning and Monday night I actually decided to be a tourist very briefly last night in London. I took a nap for a few hours, had my BA supplied dinner and then dashed off to explore the trains and tubes of London, finally arriving at Piccadilly Circus for a brief look around. I made it back to my hotel in time to get basically a full night's sleep before heading to the airport again this morning.

Piccadilly by night
late night in deserted Gatwick airport

almost home: somewhere above Arizona

Monday October 17, 2005 (11:35am) Geneva, Switzerland
Well... I'm still in Geneva, and it looks like there's a chance of a slight adventure brewing. The first leg of my journney home was to fly from here to London, but.. all flights to London are being delayed due to weather there. I was thankful to only have about a 2 hour layover there before my flight to Dallas, but now I have to wonder if I'll even make the Dallas flight. Something tells me this incredibly long day is going to be even longer now. At least.. amazingly I've managed to find a 110V outlet at the airport for my laptop, and some not too expensive online time. Now to sift through photos of the past few days...

Monday October 17, 2005 (10:30am) Geneva, Switzerland
The tour is all over for me but the traveling now, though there's plenty of that left. Last night we played near Basel, Switzerland in a nice large rock club. It was a very busy night behind the scenes for all of us as this morning we're all flying out, plus there were several promoters and interviewers present, plus a number of friends and even some family for Jesse.

Both TLB and M/G ran out of CDs our first night in Switzerland, so tonight I had a lot more time to really watch the TLB show and get some more photos:

our friends and promoters

When all was said and done, we made it back to the hotel maybe around 1:30am. Unfortunatley, our flights were all booked from the Geneva airport, about a three hour drive away and the flight for Tony's band had a 10am departure. So.. we had to leave the hotel at 4:30 am to drive to the airport. With all the packing I had to do and a bit of a Marotta/Griesgraber tour meeting in my room, I never actually made it to sleep last night and was showered and ready to go by 4am. Jesse and Larry had somehow drawn the duty of waking everyone up, which was made a bit more fun by our hotel rooms not having phones, so they wandered the hallways knocking on doors; Jesse using the distinctive percussion loop pattern from Tony's tune "Pieces of the Sun." The band is off to Hungary now, and I'm left to fend for myself and find my way home to San Diego.

Tiny Pratteln hotel, with the shower and sink right next to the bed!

Pete Levin unloads at Geneva

TLB invade Geneva airport

The TLB caravan heads towards Basel

Swiss interpretation of a US diner
Jesse Gress: diner photographer

truck stop food in Switzerland (!)

TLB in Neuchatel
Robert Frazza and Marco in Neuchatel

TLev photo exhibit in Neuchatel
"The Secret World of Flowers"

gas stop in the alps
only an Italian

Friday October 14, 2005 (8pm) - Schio, Italy
Backstage at tonight's theatre now which is conveniently located in the same building as the hotel. Tonight promises to be a great show. We have been told that it sold out some time ago with a capacity of (I think) 1000. And.. better yet everything seems to be working right with our equipment. Actually, since the first night in Napoli, our electrical woes have disappeared, though a few times during setup I did double takes when venues started up fog machines, thinking "oh no, what's on fire?!?" But here in "understudy Stick player" world everything has been fine after that first night.

Our busy days have made the subject of rest a running joke. Every day so far, we've been up very late, and up early as well to drive a few hours to a special lunch with the next town's promoters. We're being treated very very well, but the schedule is grueling. Tony's band has been playing a King Crimson song called "Sleepless." It seems to get a little more appropriate each day. On our drives, I've been working on finding the best way to slouch in my seat to try to get naps in. Tomorrow is a long drive to Switzerland. I think I'll see if I can't fashion a pillow somehow.

The shows in Rome and Prato were both amazing. Wildly appreciative audiences. Jerry and I have sold CDs at the end of the shows and its been a complete mob scene every night. I'm slowly learning all the essential merch guy Italian words like "fifteen," "twenty," "two CDs," and "lights please?"

Since Jerry and I were just here in March, we've already developed a great group of friends in many of the areas we're in. It's been really nice to see people again, even if only briefly. Seeing so many familair faces is helping me to feel more and more at home here.

Jerry signs after the Schio show
...and during the Schio load out

Prato venue outside
Prato Venue inside

Mr Synergy and his camera in Prato
Prato behind the scenes

TLB sound check - Roma

Lunch at hotel in Rome

Wednesday October 12, 2005 - driving to Rome
We (TLB + Marco and myself) are piled into a large Mercedes van and Marco is driving us from Naples to Rome. VERY early morning today, or at least it feels like that. After the show last night we went out to dinner, and got back to the hotel maybe around 2:30am. I actually stayed up till about 3am to do some accounting, and we all woke up around 7:45 to get on the road.

The show last night was pretty wild. It was in a theatre that holds about 1500 people, and the downstairs seating at least felt fairly full though I have no idea how many people were actually there. Marotta/Griesgraber was very well received though power continues to be an issue. Larry Fast and I had a chat over dinner and apparently he was having power issues too. Larry is a real electronics guru so it was great to talk things over with him a bit. He said during the TLB set he could actually see that whenever the venue played with the stage lighting, his voltage meter showed the available voltage dropping. This caused some issues for both he and myself as we were on that same line. He had the idea that maybe a battery backup system might be a good idea. I'm hoping today we'll have time to find one, but finding specific electronic goods in Italy seems to be a challenge.

inside the Naples venue

outside the Naples venue

After the show I sold CDs for both acts and Jerry came out to help me. The scene was insane. People were pressing against our desk and practically climbing over the top of each other to buy CDs and get autographs from us. It made me feel like I was at one of the futbol (soccer) matches I've seen on TV where people wind up getting killed as other people keep pressing into them. Of course it was also a lot like how people drive in Italy, though Naples seems to be known as the craziest part of Italy by the locals. In the end though, no one got hurt, amazingly nothing seems to have been stolen, and of course it's nice to know both groups were so well received.

Tuesday October 11, 2005 (10:11 am) - Naples, Italy
So far, almost everything has gone according to plan with the start of the Tony Levin Band tour in Europe. I say "almost" because there have been a few oddities for sure.

Flying with my equipment is always a bit of an undertaking. I generally pull apart my whole setup, wrap the individual pieces in bubble wrap and clothing and then fit them into my suitcase and rack for the flight. I've gotten pretty good about working things out as best as can be with the airline weight limits and overweight fees. I managed this time to actually have no fees, but Tony's band has so much more equipment that they had some hefty charges. What was really bizarre for them was that Delta had one set of pricing and weight guidelines on their website and through their phone operators, and a very different set of prices when they actually went to check in.

Whenever I get to the destination of a trip, my first order of business is to reassemble my equipment, and test everything to see if it survived. Usually I do this in my hotel room. This time, while everything looks fine physically, I really can't be sure it's all working yet. Last night when I tried plugging it all in, I blew the circuit breaker in my room and at least one other room on my floor! When the hotel turned it back on, I paid attention to where the breaker box was. This morning I tried again using different outlets in the room, but with similar results. I did manage to figure out though, that the problem is just with a new "pro" powerstrip I brought for the trip. At least now I know how to re-power my own room, and as far as I can tell it seems everyone else has been unaffected on my floor... I hope! I guess I'll just have to wait and hope everything works at load-in tonight!

The Great Naples Blackout of 2005

Monday October 10, 2005
Today was my one day off on this trip I think. Jerry, Robert and I got picked up in the morning by our friend Andrea of the PG Tribute Band that we did some shows with last time over. Andrea has been working as a liaison between Jerry and a drumstick company here in Italy called Roll. Today we all went to the factory and Jerry tried out a number of stick prototypes while Robert and I tried futilely to get online. Afterwards we met with some people from a big local music store where Jerry and I might do a clinic/performance in December. They took us out to lunch which once again was quite an undertaking. In fact, it seems lunch here is such a big deal that the store actually closes for about 3 hours everyday for it! Once again we had 4 courses, and once again I over ate.

Larry, Jesse, Tony and the infamous Marco Parisi all arrived tonight. Marco helped put together the Marotta/Griesgraber trip last March, and has been very instrumental in putting this tour together as well. Like Andrea this morning, it was great to see Marco again.

drumstick convention

Sunday October 9, 2005 - Naples, Italy
Grueling flight today.. or I guess I should say the last two days. I had to wake up at 3:30am Pacific (12:30pm Naples) on Saturday, and go through about 27 hours of flying, waiting and driving time to finally arrive here in Naples at about 3pm today (6am Pacific). Ug! The good news is that I made it as did Jerry M. and Robert F. on a separate flight. Dinah, one of the tour coordinators took us out to dinner. Although you would think any restaurant in the area would be great, we actually drove for probably an hour, but finally wound up at an amazing restaurant in another town overlooking the Mediterranean. I'm having to remember to try to eat only a little at a time, because in Italy they like to serve meals with about 4 courses; antipasti, prima piati, secondi piati and dessert. While everything was great, the second course (normally a meat or fish) was the most interesting tonight. The waiter actually brought out a tray of raw, uncleaned fish for Dinah to choose from.

On the drive home, Dinah and our driver seemed intent on giving us a bit of a sight seeing tour, but we were all so exhausted that it didn't last long. What was funny though, was as we drove down a long road overlooking the water, on either side of the road there were cars tightly parked. From time to time the driver would pull to the side of the road beside the cars and point out some sight across the water, but if we looked down into the cars there were always "romantically involved" couples in them, who usually looked up with surprise and dismay at this giant van with three rows of tourists looking down at them. I'm not sure who was more embarrassed, me or them. Of course.. some cars had wisely covered their windows with newspapers or towels. "Lovers lane" stretched on for probably several miles.

view from my room

Thursday October 6, 2005 - Encinitas, CA
I had a fantastic time last night opening for Adrian Belew here in San Diego. Adrian's band (Mike Gallaher: bass, Mike Hodges: drums) were great and I was surprised at the fullness of the sound they got for what was basically a "power trio." Bass player Mike and I talked some before the show. I guess he's traditionally a guitarist and this is his first time out ever as a bass player. He was laughing about how their first gig as a band was in Japan on a dual bill with The California Guitar Trio and Tony Levin. The funny part of that is that Adrian's band does several King Crimson covers, so poor Mike's first gig as a bass player was to play a bunch of songs Tony had written the bass parts for... with Tony in the audience! He must be a monster guitar player though, because his bass playing was fantastic. From time to time, Adrian would sit down and Mike would fly off into a bass solo, often with his bass running through some effects that seemed to pitch shift it up into a guitar range a bit. He had wonderfully tricky solo lines, a very complimentary contrast to Adrian's style of soloing.

Adrian was as stellar as ever. Wild guitar sounds, perfect vocals.. and (new to me with him) a fair amount of live looping it seemed. He's gotten very adept at creating small additional guitar parts that really helped fill in the sound. Always a bit of a trick with a live band behind you, but he's got it down. They had some great arrangements of both Adrian's material and Crimson songs; arrangements that represented songs well, but often threw a fun new twist or two at you as well.

Adrian Belew and band

"Thela Hun Ginjeet, Thela Hun Ginjeet!"

The night actually started off in a very unusual way. With the show at 8, I got to the club about 5:30 and the staff told me that Adrian's Band hadn't made it yet! They were supposed to be there at 2 since they had a lot of equipment to set up, but their truck had broken down on the border of Arizona. To make matters worse, their sound guy, and the only person who knew how to put Adrian's rig together couldn't make the trip! So.. I had a bit of a wait with the club as everyone wondered what was going on, "if" they would make it and what kind of show we might have! Their truck finally pulled in about 6:15 and (just to make sure they had a truly Spinal Tap type of day) managed to have a bit of a "fender bender" with the parked van of a club employee! Yikes. Needless to say things were a bit frazzled for setup. What was amazing though was that after all that, and even with a good portion of their equipment left backstage because they just couldn't set it up in time, they put on a show where nobody in the audience would have known anything was wrong at all. No synths? No electronic drums? No problem! Just a great show from some true professionals. Now I'm curious to see them again!

After the show, my friend and CD sales guy Jason and I hung around the club a bit with Adrian and Co. Before the night was over, I asked Adrian if I could "get a picture." Leave it to a great lyricist to intentionally reinterpret things... but he quickly grabbed my camera and took a picture of Jason and I and walked away. A joke of course, but he shortly came back and I was happy to get the "memento" shot with the full band I'd actually wanted.

Adrian's "picture"
photo by Adrian Belew
Adrian Belew, a Stick player, Mike Hodges, Mike Gallaher
photo by Jason Thornton

Today and tomorrow are packing days. Saturday morning it's off to Italy for the shows with Marotta/Griesgraber and the Tony Levin Band! More from that side of the world soon...

Friday September 9, 2005 - Encinitas, CA
Get Steve Hackett tickets here!

I'm home for a few weeks now and grateful for some "less hectic than normal" time. The summer was a complete whirlwind with over 80 shows in less than 3 months. Plans are shaping up for the fall now and in October, I'm quite excited to get to share the stage with three people who's music has been a huge influence on me.

Opening for Adrian Belew
On October 5, I'll be opening for one of my musical heroes Adrian Belew at the Belly Up in Solana Beach. It's hard to say even what Adrian is best known for, but he's been the vocalist and guitarist for King Crimson since 1981, has recorded and toured with David Bowie, Talking Heads and Frank Zappa and worked on recordings with countless others like The Bears, Paul Simon, Mariah Carey, Jars of Clay, DC Talk, Nine Inch Nails, Tori Amos, Crash Test Dummies, Joe Cocker and Bela Fleck. He has an absolutely uncanny ability to blend in with whatever artists he's working with, but in his own solo material is known as both an incredible "Beatles-esque" songwriter and a wildly experimental guitar player. In fact, he's won multiple awards from Guitar Player magazine for his inventiveness at coming up with new and unusual guitar sounds. If you like where I come from musically, Adrian is one of the people you have to thank.

Opening for Steve Hackett
Towards the end of the month, on Friday October 28 I'll be opening for another legendary progressive rock guitarist; Steve Hackett. Steve is best known for his work with the original lineup of Genesis., considered by many to be the "real" Genesis. The band was made up or Steve on guitar and Peter Gabriel as vocalist, plus Phil Collins, Tony Banks and Michael Rutherford, the trio who continued the band long after Steve and Peter left. It was his own artistic decision that prompted him to leave the highly successful Genesis, and that spirit of art over commerce has fueled his entire solo career. Steve is a guitarists' guitarist as evidenced by his many musical collaborations with people like Yes guitarist Steve Howe, Led Zepplin's bassist and guitarist John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page. He's released a total of 21 (!) solo albums. This current tour will feature his acoustic guitar work, along with his brother John Hackett on flute and Roger King on keyboards.

Through an arrangement with the Galaxy Theatre, we're able to pass along discounted tickets for this one Steve Hackett/Tom Griesgraber show. Normally $21.50 each (with credit card fees), you can order them through our web store for just $15.50 each. The Galaxy is a fantastic small theatre for live music and is open to all ages.

Marotta/Griesgraber open for the Tony Levin Band
Last but certainly not least, sandwiched between the Belew and Hackett shows here in S CA, Marotta/Griesgraber be flying back to Europe to do a half dozen or so shows in (at least) Italy and Switzerland opening for the Tony Levin Band. The full details of the trip are still being worked out, but what information I have so far is up on the shows page. Tony's band is an incredible mix of talent with Jerry Marotta-drums, Larry Fast-synth, Jesse Gress-guitar and Pete Levin-piano/keys. Tony, Jerry and Larry were 3/4 of Peter Gabriel's group for about 10 years, producing some of his most artistic work to date. Tony and Jerry have separately and together played with just about every major artist of the last 30 years including; Paul Simon, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Elvis Costello, Ani DiFranco, Pink Floyd, Yes, King Crimson, Indigo Girls, Sara McLachlan, 10,000 Maniacs, Buddy Rich, California Guitar Trio, David Bowie, Cher, Tracy Chapman, Robert Fripp, Paula Cole, Alice Cooper, Dire Straits, Al Dimeola, Hall and Oates, Stevie Nicks, Lou Reed, Warren Zevon... I could go on, but it just gets silly after awhile. If you're anywhere near where we'll be heading, or you've been thinking about a vacation in europe... make the trip... it'll be worth it.

More soon.....

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

©2005 ThosSounds.  All Rights Reserved.