Well now... this final tourblogging installment is rather embarrassingly tardy, i'n't?
In my defense, I've been pretty severely under the weather ever since returning from Europe. I only just barely held it together for our gig in Philly last Friday, and after that I basically spent the entire weekend in bed, alternating long passages of faint moaning with occasional percussive hacking-up-a-lung interludes. I even had to miss out on David Byrne in Prospect Park last night -- godfuckingdammit. At least I managed to recuperate enough to go catch Sherisse Rogers's Project Uprising at the Jazz Gallery. (She's there again tonight. Go.)
So anyway, where were we... oh, yes. The morning of Saturday, May 30, the band finally gets to sleep in... except for the, ah, chosen ones who were drafted into the Moers Morning Improv sessions. These are actually a pretty cool idea, they are run by German saxophonist Angelika Niescier, and they present an opportunity for the various musicians who come from all over to perform at Moers to play some unscripted music together. I talked to the Society co-conspirators afterwards and they all seemed to really enjoy it -- I think it made a nice diversion from playing all my hairy anal-retentive stuff.
In the early afternoon, there was a tour of Moers castle, conducted by a lady in period costume. But she was not about to be left alone in her fancy garb -- she quickly drafted some co-conspirators into putting on some specialized headwear as well (see below). A whirlwind tour of the town followed, including a brief visit with Moers' Improviser-in-Residence -- yes, this is a real position! Endowed by the city! It comes with an actual residence!
The Moers Festival grounds themselves are a trip. If you don't know the deal at Moers, it is basically like Coachella, except it's not in the middle of the fucking desert. Also, the music skews significantly more towards left field. And they've been doing it for 38 years now.
People show up from all over Europe and camp out in the park for days. Some of them don't even buy tickets to the show, they just come for the hang. The venue is a straight-up, old-school circus Big Top -- reputed to be Europe's Biggest, with a capacity of 2500 people, almost all of them hardcore creative music fans. Remarkable balance of young and old, male and female -- and everyone is really vocal about what they like, and what they don't.
Our own turn under the Big Top came on Sunday, May 31. We had two particularly tough acts to follow -- Colin Stetson practically brought down the tent with his insane set of solo saxophone pieces. I say this knowing you will not believe me when I tell you that 2500 people completely lost their shit for unaccompanied bass saxophone, but they totally did. (He also played tunes on alto sax and clarinet.) Colin has apparently being performing this same incredibly grueling set opening up for The National, so he's used to winning over large crowds, but I doubt they gave him anything like the reception he had in Moers. After hearing the first piece, a dizzying display of circular breathing and extended technique -- "Hrm, I wonder what pedals he's using? Oh, wait, he isn't using any pedals... " -- it seemed hard to believe he had enough in him for another tune, let alone a complete set. But the thing is, they were actual tunes that Colin played, and good ones too -- not just free-associative freakouts -- which helped elevate the set far beyond "mere" jaw-dropping technical display.
After Colin came Guillermo Klein y Los Gauchos, who just wrapped up a post-Moers run at the Vanguard. This band is great, one of my favorite working groups in jazz, but I regrettably did not catch more than a couple of minutes of their set because I was frantically busy planning the tech for our own show. Moers runs on a tight schedule, and normally there isn't time for a soundcheck, just a brief line check -- "Mics working? Yes? Okay, let's hope for the best -- go!" This would have been disastrous for a band like ours, especially since we couldn't afford to bring our own sound tech along on tour. Fortunately, there was a brief dinner break scheduled between Guillermo's set and ours, giving us just enough time to actually check the sound. (It makes a difference, people.)
We are also massively grateful to the Bimhuis's sound tech, Ron Ruiten, who happened to be attending Moers as a civilian. Ron volunteered to help with the sound for our show, which is just a staggeringly generous thing to do on your day off, and hugely helpful since Ron had already heard our music in a (much) smaller space a few days earlier, and therefore knows how it is supposed to sound.
Our Moers Festival hit was an order of magnitude more people than we have ever played for before. Here is what it looked like from the stage after we were done (courtesy of Jen Wharton):
The Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger called our performance "one of the highlights of the 38th Moers Festival." What can I say? It was an unbelievable honor for us to play.
I did get a recording -- haven't listened to it yet but if the sound is okay, I'll put it up in the next few days.
Final batch of pics below the fold -- also check out Jen's Flickr stream.