2009 US Tour

Our first set was kind of ok (the PA had both tweeters blown off, so it was a miracle i was able to survive that), but indicated we were on our way to better shows. I chatted with Paal for a little while…


8 Troy
10 Boston
12 Lexington
13 Cincinnati
14 Columbus
16 New York
17 New York
18 Philadelphia
19 Minneapolis


May 7  
On a sunny morning, took off from Lisbon heading straight West across the ocean. Funny experience, like chasing the sun, the solar clock almost freezed for 6 hours, arriving in NY not much solar time after having departed Lisbon…
This time it was quite easy to enter the US, going through customs was smooth.



It was raining heavily. I took a ride on the Newark airport monorail to another terminal, catching the connecting flight to Albany, NY. Connor, a student of acoustic engineering, was expecting me and took me to the hotel in Troy, after dropping the gear at the amazing EMPAC building.



Micah (the curator) and Sabrina picked me up for an exquisite dinner by the (Hudson) riverside. And as usual when travelling to the US, it was a very long day, when we finished dinner it was already some 4 am for me, so i was ready to crash.



8 Troy, NY
The hotel breakfast turned out to be very poor. No bread! Just these plastic-packaged muffins loaded with chemicals and fat. Well, there were some cereals, at least. I was very slow in the morning, woke up late and spent some time catching up on email. Micah and Sabrina showed up in time for lunch, at a sushi place outside Troy. I had a delicious chirashi sushi, it's always welcome. In the afternoon there was time for setting up everything in detail – sound, lights, space.
Micah showed me the EMPAC facilities in a cool guided tour, from the acoustically impressive concert hall to the building's "brain", a room with racks of servers, digital matrix connections and fiber optics. After a short break it was showtime, a solo set in a demanding high-profile setting; i was happy i had arrived at a good performance level, after spending months away from playing, working on the website. So the tour was launched with a positive note. After some chatting with people from the audience, "the restaurant is closing" was the magic keyword to quickly empty the room. We went to this Mexican place for margaritas and burritos.



9 Troy, NY
Another slow morning, this time i saved myself for breakfast at Spilling the Beans, a really good coffee place where they roast their own coffee. It had a kind of fresh, fruity flavor that i never had before. I had a tray of french toast for breakfast, delicious even if New York's maple syrup is not quite as good as Canada's… In the afternoon, time to go back to EMPAC and pack up all the gear that was left on stage from yesterday. Wandered around the rest of the day.



10 Boston, MA
More of that special coffee (bought a package to bring home, ground in front of me), before checking out and getting to Albany airport and take a flight to Boston.



There is a boat riding from the airport into downtown, so i decided to take that for a change. I hopped into a cab straight to Mobius, and shortly after i arrived Joe Morris did too. We went to a Thai restaurant to get some food and chat for a while. We go back to Mobius, and there was Tom Plsek, setting up the room. Tatsuya Nakatani arrived a few minutes later. I found the idea of this quartet quite challenging, so i was really glad to see everyone was in a heightened state of listening. There was such a natural balance among us that it seemed we had been playing together for years (and it was the first time i played with each of them). I was both happy and relieved it went so well. Tatsuya and myself stayed with Vic Rawlings, he was very kind to have us there.



11 Boston, MA
At the show i met Emily Mello, with whom i had worked when she was at the CAC in Cincinnati. This morning she came and picked me up and take me where she works – the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University.
It was a rare opportunity to visit the museum, especially since there was been discussion about the university planning to shut it down and sell the art collection. Alvin Lucier taught at Brandeis and the Rose museum is where he premiered his brainwave piece ("Music for a Solo Performer") in 1965 and Cage did his "Rozart Mix".



After wandering in the museum for a couple of hours, Emily and i came back to Boston, where we were to meet Tatsuya at this Vietnamese restaurant specialized in Phô soup. Somehow we were talking about it yesterday, and Tatsuya suggested we meet at his favorite place.



Since i knew he was a sushi expert, i was ready to gladly take his advice on food. It turned out to be an enormous bowl of incredibly delicious, tasteful soup, and Phô is one of my favorites… Emily was cool to take some time off and we visited Keith F. Whitman at his Mimaroglu record store and later strolled around Harvard area and sat by the river in the afternoon. I was going to my friend Jason Lescaleet's birthday party, at a fine restaurant not far from there. Just as i arriving, i nearly bumped into… Al Pacino, who passed right in front of me while talking to someone else and some 15 other people followed in a procession. When i was finally able to get in, they were ordering oysters, which turned out to be delicious… it was good to see Howard Stelzer again and Jason too, among many other friends.



12 Lexington, KY
In the morning, Emily still had generous patience to wake up early and drive me to the nearest subway station (thanks Emily!), from where i went straight to Logan airport, flying to Lexington, Kentucky but with a stopover in Charlotte, NC. I had some free time there, so i sat and had a burrito. In my first visit to Kentucky, i arrived quite sleepy in a quiet, sunny Lexington. Trevor Tremaine (busy drummer for Hair Police, etc) got there shortly after and drove us to his nice place. We decided to take a walk in the sun towards a cool coffee place (i was needing one) and we had a massive, delicious slice of chocolate cake. Gladly we split it, otherwise it would have been too heavy… We got back and it was soon time to drive up to Land of Tomorrow, a kind of gallery space with a nice mood. C Spencer Yeh drove down from Cincinnati to join us for the Midwest leg of the tour.



OFFONOFF (Paal Nilsen-Love, Terry Ex and Massimo Pupilo) were playing here too. They were awesome, truly great. Terry Ex is a rare kind of guitarist, with an extremely sharp phrasing ability behind a punk attitude. Our first set was kind of ok (the PA had both tweeters blown off, so it was a miracle i was able to survive that), but indicated we were on our way to better shows. I chatted with Paal for a little while, traded CDs and at some point he offered me a taste of bourbon, which was a local brand (Bulleit) that i had never heard of and was hard to find outside Kentucky, but was far better than any bourbon i knew so far… Spencer drove back to Cincinnati and i crashed on Trevor's couch.



13 Cincinnati, OH
Next morning we picked up Robert Beatty, who would play a set tonight before us, stopped at Yaya's for some good cajun brunch and hit a liquor store on the way out to get some of that remarkable Bulleit.
We drove through a typical Midwestern landscape, endless ranch fences, elevated water tanks and the usual fast-food and gas brand displays up on really high poles… It was a rainy day in Cincinnati. I was glad to be back to the CAC, where 2 years ago my friend João Paulo Feliciano had his Blues Quartet exhibition and we played a set with him and Lee Ranaldo (that's when i knew i had to do something more with these dudes here). Soundcheck sounded great, and so did the show (Beatty joined us for a last set). We had a "party" at the upper floor balcony, with a great view and good wine, a great mood. The night ended at a bar, trying different brands of fine bourbon…



14 Columbus, OH
I had a hangover in the morning, so no drinking today. While Spencer went to work, Trevor and i went out for breakfast/ lunch (by now i started to miss European-style breakfasts) and we found this Thai restaurant that also served sushi – just what i needed. After checking email back at Spencer's place, time to hit the road and drive up to Columbus. On out way Spencer played a compilation he made from people home-recording song covers on acoustic guitars from Youtube, really cool. Mike Shiflet was waiting for us and we setup at the Urban Arts Space at Ohio University, a gallery space with all kinds of installations. It was an early show, so we had to start playing as we were ready. I was unaware of this (maybe i knew, but forgot), it was a bit disorientating to just start playing immediately after finishing soundcheck – it always feels strange. Shiflet and percussionist Ryan Jewell joined us, both brilliant. We packed everything up as fast as we'd set it up, and went for dinner at this old looking bar/ restaurant where they had this really delicious corn chowder. Still in the wake of the hangover, i had a grilled vegetarian dish. For a change i slept on a bed tonight. I needed one…



15 New York, NY
Slept as late as possible, but not that much, since we had to drive to the airport and get the plane to New York. We had separate flights, they flew into LaGuardia while i had to land on JFK. A long train and subway ride into South Manhattan had me surfacing on a sunny afternoon in the busy streets on New York. I was missing being here, maybe without knowing. I hadn't been in town for 5 years and it felt really good to be back. It was just a few blocks to walk up to Sílvia Benedito's apartment, where i stayed. Sílvia is an architect who once sang in a band i produced, ages ago, but we remained friends. Axel was there, a kind German architect with a remarkably pratical sense of space.



I dropped the stuff there and went to MoMA, where for some strange reason i had never gone before, but it was time to fix that. There were lots of "classics", always great to look up close, a giant, beautiful Pollock, a room full of Mondrian (absolute precision), Johns, Rauschenberg… it got late, so i had to take a cab to meet Sílvia and Axel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (where No Fun fest would soon start). Despite the stress, a lovely ride down the Broadway with a gorgeous sunset light. Yellow cab style zigzagging by Times Square, the Empire State and all those classic vistas just made me enjoy more being here. Sílvia and Alex were at a japanese sushi place, nice way to arrive in town… we had a leisurely chat, but i was getting restless because the festival had started already. I got in the Williansburg Music Hall just in time to see Chris Corsano's solo set in which he mindblowingly modulated massive feedback apparently from a contact mic on a hi-hat cymbal, ending with a short run with the full drum kit. My favorite set of the evening. I met Kimberly there, who i'd met in North Carolina years ago. It was great to see Peter Rehberg and Marcus Schmickler, my old Mimeo colleagues, and Thurston, Kim and Steve were there also. I got back in Manhattan pretty late. Stopped on the way for a freshly made pizza slice and walked down south.



There was an eerie calm in the streets, and it was only when i walked by Ground Zero that i realised how misty the night was. I stopped, gazing at that fully charged, empty space.



16 New York, NY
We went to a Greek diner for breakfast, and i had french toast. After breakfast, Sílvia walked me a few blocks to the riverside, by the recently closed Fulton Fish Market (now moved to Bronx) at the Southeast tip of Manhattan. I had never been there, and it was a rare place in Manhattan where you can sense the history and old traditions, with 19th century bars and restaurants and fish related businesses. The view from the pier, up East River with the Brooklyn Bridge in foreground and Manhattan Bridge behind it, the Brooklyn landscape across the river and the skyscraper financial area just behind us, was really beautiful.



We also walked by the tourist/ entertainment Pier 17, full of noise, but behind it were several old ships and tugboats, a refreshing sight in Manhattan.
It was time to go back and get ready to get on the uptown subway, change to the L crosstown line into Brooklyn and get ready for soundcheck at No Fun. I had some tech problems but sorted them out. Soon there were about 600 people in the room. A festival like No Fun is not the most obvious home for Space Program's delicacies, so i was feeling the pressure to make it work in that context without compromising anything. As with every other show in this tour, the set was full of tension and it worked well and was well received. Still sweating, i walked out to grab a sandwich (i was beyond starving by then). Got back on time to see an awesome set by Sonic Youth (here joined by Bill Nace, while Lee was in France). Extended layers of loud, harmonic feedback, with Steve playing something perfect through it. Kevin Drumm was there, playing tomorrow. After all the goodbyes i shared a cab back into Manhattan with Sílvia and Kimberly.



17 New York, NY
Axel rearranged the living room space to accomodate an airbed. They took me to a "dim sum" brunch in Chinatown. Great food (unlike the usual chinese you get everywhere), coming in rolling carts from which you pick small plates while leisurely eating and talking. After doing some email and laundry back at their place, i went to visit the Guggenheim and took a short walk in Central Park, by the big lake. Loving the smells of New York, like honey-roasted peanuts and grilled sausages on the street, or the signature mixed smell of old moisture and burnt oil in the subway. Took the 5 express line back to South Manhattan, time to prepare the "Home-Room" event in Gold Street. A public event in a private seting. Very unique and interesting idea, they invite people like architects, video artists and now, musicians to come to their place and talk about their work, demonstrate, discuss it with the small audience. I talked about the Space Program, what it's about and how i got there, and played a short solo (accompanied by a giggling baby). Some interesting Q&A and discussion followed.



18 Philadelphia, PA
Sílvia and i went to the Greek diner again for breakfast, and this time i had french onion soup, which was delicious. I chatted with Axel for a while, back at their place, and started getting my stuff together, it was time to move on with the tour. I got out of the subway into Penn Station, just in time to get on the Greyhound bus to Philadelphia (that was strssful, there was no gate information visible). It was a nice afternoon bus ride.

As i looked at the Manhattan skyline from New Jersey, i thought it had been a long while since i had loved being in NY so much.
Nice weather in Philadelphia, found out how the local subway works (with tokens, as NY's used to be – although i like the cards now), went straight to The Rotunda. It was funny recognizing the corner where it was, although i had never been there, then i remembered i had seen it on Google's street view. I hadn't had this experience before so clearly – recognizing a place by having virtually visited it before… Tatsuya showed up in a bright spirit. Our duo set was full of space and energy. Later in the evening, i was surprised by Tatsuya's knowledge of bossanova songs, knowing lyrics from memory.



19 Minneapolis, MN
Slept a bit roughly on a couch, and had to get up at 6:30, for a morning walk of a few blocks to 30th St. Station, to get a train to the airport. An early flight to Minneapolis, the path crossing Erie and Michigan lakes. I got to Minneapolis sooner than i was expected to, so i sat (sleepy) and waited for Andrew Lange to come over. Andrew runs Taiga Records, who released three LPs of mine but we had never met before… We went shopping for food an an incredible natural foods store (which had basically everything and everything looked yummy), then we had a refreshing lunch outside. I was so sleepy i had no option but to take a nap. With a shower, i was ready for action.

We went to the venue, it was a really warm day. Set the stuff up and a nice, cool crowd started getting in. The first show was with a tape loop and a huge home-built synth, very little of which was used in a surprisingly short set. The second band was a trio (guitar, sax and percussion) and all of them were great. Lots of space and precise attacks and sounds. And i was on third. There was a really annoying cell phone interference and i had to stop playing to ask people to turn off the phones. Otherwise, it was ok. Matthew St. Germain was there, it was good to see him. He organized the show last (and first) time i was in Minneapolis, 10 years ago. We went for dinner and got some bar food, it was getting late. Among what we got, there were some really delicious calamari. The food in Minneapolis is really great. Back at Andrew's, i slept like an angel.



20 Minneapolis
In the morning we went to thew Walker Art Center and spent some time checking all the exhibitions there. A fine space, great architecture and art. After lunch we had a walk by the lock and dam on the Stone Arch bridge over Mississipi river and visited the beautiful Guthrie Theatre. Laura had gotten some really fresh morel mushrooms, and i had never seen those before. They were truly delicious at a dinner with friends – Amy and Julie had made a High Definition video recording of the concert yesterday and we watched a bit of it. Michael brought some locally brewed really dark beer, of which only 400 bottles were made. There's this feel of local, fresh food everywhere in this city, it's a good place to live in if you care about food! It was a really nice farewell dinner and a warm, summer-like evening.



Time to pack, and meanwhile Laura was preparing a last treat – probably the most perfect and delicious french toasts i've ever had. Andrew took me to the airport, he was a very gentle host. Got on the plane to Newark, where i'd have to stay for 5 hours waiting for the lte evening flight to Lisbon. At Newark i had a creamy clam chowder (maybe i'm missing homestyle rich soups) and got to do some work, like writing this diary. Sitting by the terminal's gate area window, overseeing the tracks and ground traffic, behind New Jersey Turnpike, a beautiful view of Manhattan in the afternoon sun.