Evolution

Almost every band I’ve been an active participant in over the years has existed in a state of constant development and evolution. Example: the Stone Document you would hear today sounds different in many ways to the Stone Document that you would have heard at the beginning of the year and is vastly different than the Stone Document on the Anemnesis disc. Of course this has a lot to do with the improvisational foundation of the band but it still makes promoting the CD a bit tricky. “Here’s recording of what my band used to sound like” isn’t the best tag line for marketing it. The upside is you’ll never hear the same show twice.

The solution? Your suggestions are welcome. One option is to compose (gasp! shock! horror!), if not entire pieces then at least heads or even a hook or two. This happens very subtly anyway but taking a more active and conscious approach might help stabelize the incline of our development.

I’d like to see maybe two divisions of recorded output from this band: the live gigs (with limited airbrushing) made availlable (possibly as downloads?) shortly after each show and then the occasional studio album with composed pieces developed from our live set. So each show would be the Research and Development Department of Stone Document Enterprises.

In the Court of the Reanimated Skeletal Remains of the Crimson King

Travelled down to NYC to see someone else play (for a change). King Crimson were wrapping up a mini-tour to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the band. We (Stone Document plus auxiliary) went to Friday (Aug 15) night’s show at the Nokia Theater in Times Square. The area around Broadway has to be one of my least favourite places given my intense and seething hatred for Musical Theatre (what’s the emoticon for a sneer?) but the Nokia is a pretty nice venue in spite of it’s locale.

Got there in plenty of time, got in line to be searched (for elicit recording gear presumably), got in (Soundscaping was already audible from the theater) , grabbed a Tanq & Tonic and headed for the merch table. Always good to do your shopping early (before liquid refreshments influence your spending restraint). Snagged a couple shirts and headed for my seat. Relatively far-ish from the stage tho’ the Nokia isn’t that big to begin with. Saw a handful of NY-area Crafties floating around including Tony Geballe (composer/guitarist extraordinaire and producer of a couple tracks on the Stone Document CD) and Tom Redmond (the driving force behind the Hellboys – more on them later).

The show was:

– brilliant
– happy
– occasionally sloppy
– the very welcome return of Tony Levin
– poorly mixed (from my vantage point)
– stolen by Gavin Harrison (new drummer and percussive foil for Pat Mastelotto)
– great mix of post ’80 Crimson (with Red and Larks 2 thrown in)

When the new band lineup was announced the 2 things I was most excited about were the return of Tony Levin and the addition of Gavin Harrison. Tony spent the bulk of the evening playing Stick (I’ve since restarted my Stick practice regimen – I’ve been schooled). The material he didn’t originally play on was the most enjoyable (making parts played by Trey Gunn and John Wetton his own). My only complaint was the bass sound on Sleepless. The Funk Fingers were all thwack and no boom.

There were times where the drumming duo of Pat and Gavin sounded like one guy with 4 arms and 5 legs. Remarkable!
Adrian was… Adrian (what can be said?). The perfect frontman for this band. Robert appeared to be enjoying himself and his playing showed it, too. I know I sound like a vapid fanboy but I can’t find words to describe what he can do with a guitar. Maybe I need Adrian’s thesaurus. Ya just gotta listen.

The audience was enthusiastic although there were a couple of guys near me kvetching about not being able to see Robert for the stack of racks and equipment he had downstage between him and the audience. “After all dese years and he’s hidin’ behind dose things!” I think it was more a comfortable (ergonomic) set up for him and less a Roger Waters-style Wall between performer and audience. If that’s what necessary for him to be able to get onstage then that’s what it takes. I was lucky enough to be seated where I could see him pretty well. Kind of a shame I couldn’t hear him some of the time. My comment after the show was “I liked the band best when Robert was in it.”

 Oh and did I mention these guys rock harder than most bands 1/3 their age?

Speaking of post-show, we ran into Crimson biographer and blogmeister Sid Smith. We cracked wise into his video camera and slipped him a Stone Document CD. (He’s one of those folks we won’t have to explain the band to.) Spent the next few hours walking, drinking, carousing, eating and drinking some more. Band-bonding on the streets of New York and there’s no camera. Oh well, it probably would have been confiscated before the show anyway.

Return to Amazing Grapes

Stone Document returned to Amazing Grapes with a slightly revised approach. After listening to Anamnesis I realized what was missing from our live sound – the synths. The album is drenched in atmospheric synth pads. So it was time to revise the rack (as I seem to do before every show). I went back to the Roland GI10 midi interface (with the treble end of the Stick plugged into the mic input) driving a Kutzweil piano module (that I actually use for string patches). I also put my Oberheim Matrix-1000 into the bass signal chain and controlled it using my little M-Audio Oxygen 8 keyboard. This was a beginning…

After the show Mike said, “That’s the rig! You aren’t allowed to play without it, ever.” I guess the Oberheim was a good choice.

The other thing we tried was running the band direct into my Zoom multitrack and then using the monitor section to feed the p.a. (really just a powered speaker sitting between Mike and Doc). This seemed like an easy way to get a multitrack recoding of the gig and with the exception of a little harddrive noise it was. Highlights of the three sets will be mixed down, trimmed and compiled for possible future release. The other advantage of this set up was having all of the band’s sound coming from a singular central location allowed all of us to focus on the sound of the band as a whole and I think we played more cohesively than ever before.

We also made a conscious decision to take our time and let things build. This also payed off. After our first set one of our audience asked us what the name of the last piece we played was. We explained it was all improvised and wasn’t a formal composition. This seemed to surprise the audient. This is always a good thing.