Tour Chronicle: Forbes Graham and Hazel-Rah (summer ’07)

June 13th, 2007 – June 22nd, 2007

Forbes Graham & Tim Byrnes

(playing the music of Forbes Graham and Hazel-Rah)

This is the tour chronicle of Forbes Graham and Tim Byrnes’ tour down the American East Coast.

While in the middle of composing liturgical music for the 2007 Lenten services at Fort Washington Church, I was beginning to plan for further touring activities in the summer season. I had just received a copy of Forbes Graham’s CD Invocation of a Quadrilateral, and decided that he would be a good match both musically and personally for the short tour that I had in mind. Forbes took to the idea right away and we began to plan. We decided soon afterward that the best route would be southward from New York City.

After much deliberation, I decided that the best thing for me to do musically on this tour would be to play duo (synth and drum machine) interpretations of the 3 Hazel-Rah songs that I had performed on the previous tour. Forbes was up for the challenge of playing live drum machine, and after a few rehearsals in Providence and Boston, we were ready to perform. Forbes’ set consisted of laptop and trumpet compositions and improvisations, a thing that he had toured with previously in March of the same year.

As always, we did all of the booking ourselves, securing some of the shows mere days before leaving.

Philadelphia, PA

The tour was inaugurated by a show in Philadelphia at Queen of Sheba II. The bill included Brooklyn’s These are Powers, serpent Throne, and a few other local Philadelphia acts. My set was first, and was typical for a first time out…a little awkward, though the audience response was pretty good. Forbes killed it.

We spent the next day in Philadelphia, where we started the trend of eating Ethiopian food whenever possible. Alex Nagel joined us for the feast.

Baltimore, MD

We played a house show in Baltimore. We were the only groups on the bill. The audience was small but attentive. It was another good “starter” show for the Hazel-Rah duo set. I also got a chance to play trumpet with Forbes during his set.

That night, we decided that it was best to drive to Forbes’ father’s house in Silver Spring, MD to sleep.

Greenville, NC

We made great time into town, and got to hang at the venue for a while before having to do anything. It was called the Spazatorium, and it had a pretty large pull of college kids from the area. I felt that this was the first successful show for the Hazel-Rah duo. The kids were feeling it, and we played real well. I joined Forbes on his set that night, as well.

We shared the bill with Brooklyn’s La Otracina, who was also on tour, and Canada’s DD/MM/YY. There were some locals also on the bill. The show was pretty packed by the end of the night, but it was a college crowd, only moderately interested in the music.

We crashed in a house that belonged to some students in town.

Asheville, NC

In Asheville, we met up with Shane Perlowin and his friend James Owen (Doom Ribbons), with whom we would also play the next show in Boone. The gig was at the BoBo Gallery, and it was quite intimate. We pulled in a couple of Australian tourists who got a rise out of us.

Asheville, as always, was a good hang. Great food, weird sights…and of course, the mountains.

Boone, NC

We headed up even further into the mountains to play in Boone. The venue was called The Black Cat, and it was a Mexican restaurant as well as a bar. We arrived pretty early, and had enough time to walk around and enjoy the town. In the early evening, I was able to take some incredible pictures of the sun setting into the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The attendance at the show was sparse, although we all played quite well. I think that some of James and Shane’s friends were there. The best thing about Boone, though, was the hang after the show. Our host that night was also the promoter and booker of the show (His name eludes me! If you happen to be reading this, please drop me a line and let me know what your name was! You were real cool!). When the show ended, I got into the car with Forbes, and we began following the other two cars to the house. We drove, and drove…through many twist and turns. Our destination was yet another 45 minutes or so into these awesome mountains. The house was in a town called Todd.

This got me thinking…Who do you think was the one who founded this town? Do you think that it could have been Todd? The main road was called Meat Camp Road. This place was one of the most fascinating and beautiful places I had ever been to. For years, I had dreamed about being in a place where the stars were big and bright. Assuredly, we went through many places like that in the winter tour, but we never stopped in any of them. Here, I had pretty much a whole night to enjoy it.

After taking in some of what was around me (it was very dark), we all retired in and hung out a bit. Our host played us a bit of the Earth DVD, but we soon went to sleep. The hang in the morning was great, as well. Since our next gig was close, we opted to spend more time up in the mountains. We stayed at our host and his wife’s house for much of the morning, ate breakfast, watched some weird videos, listened to tunes, and enjoyed the outdoors. I had a great conversation with James about Thomas Merton and snake-handling preachers. Eventually, Forbes and I hit the road, but not without heading back in to Boone to eat some vegan cuisine. After the meal, we took a detour off the route and spent a good hour or so on a scenic route through more mountains. We chilled-out and got some great pictures. Then we began the long descent down into the lowlands. When we hit flat ground, the temperature was about 100 degrees.

Raleigh, NC

Raleigh was different because it was a big city, it was really hot, and we got to play a house show with a large audience of punk rock kids (on a Monday night). Now Shane and James had gone back home, and we were in a completely different scene. The show in Raleigh was actually hooked up by Sean Dail, Ahleuchatista’s drummer, and happened at Matt Joyner’s house. Both Forbes and I were extremely well received. Also on the bill was a local group called Savage Knights, and a duo set by two twins who lived in the house.

We spent the night with Sean and his girlfriend, and had the opportunity to hang around Raleigh in the morning before heading out to Greensboro.

Greensboro, NC

Before playing the show, we got a chance to visit my cousin, Greg Giordano, and his family in the town of High Point. This was particularly great, because I had never met their two children before. This was a delightful experience.

The show turned out really great as well. Kemp Stroble put it on at a Greensboro coffee shop called The Green Bean. The attendance wasn’t large, but all of the member of The Royal Sun came out, which meant a lot to me, at least. After the gig, we had a nice hang, and I met a beautiful girl named Anna, who I had an interesting conversation with. It turned out later that she was a big fan of Watership Down.

We spent the night back in High Point with my cousin.

Day Off in Fayetteville

We were not able to book a show for the following day. Instead, we took a trip further south into the state of North Carolina to a military town called Fayetteville to visit Forbes’ paternal grandmother.

Regarding this visit: It was a very moving experience for me. This women was visibly touched by God, a person who has obviously seen much in this life. Aside from some family conversation and stories between her and Forbes, she prayed for us and offered wise words of advice. We left the visit feeling great, and made it a goal to arrive in Washington D.C. with enough time to eat some more Ethiopian food. We did indeed achieve that goal.

Washington, DC

Our show in DC was at The Warehouse. Some of my friends in the area came out, but I don’t feel like I played very well.

Ridgewood, NY

Our last show of the tour was in Brooklyn (Ridgewood is between Queens and Brooklyn). After a smooth trip north on I-95, we arrived with plenty of time to get ready, set up, and relax. The first shock of the evening came when a man named Peter Dann showed up; a man from Australia, and good friend of one of my former trumpet students (we played some special music for him to open up the show).

This show simply went great. The turnout was good; we played great, there was enthusiasm, Blastex played with us and killed everyone. The tour could not have ended on a better note. We even walked off with some money…enough to get Forbes home to Boston.