My first gig for a psytrance party at Black River Falls in the Northwoods of Wisconsin was in September of 2010. It was a very pleasant weekend. I took only what could fit in my car, which was essentially a small modular synthesiser, effects and loopers, a Micromoog, and The Hot Mix Five (TR-808, TR-909, Juno-6, Korg ESX, and x0xb0x) before the Five had a case to call it home.
I had lunch on the way up at a place called The German Haus in Camp Douglas, a German restaurant owned by an old man with an accent who was working well past what should have been his retirement, whom I could tell cared very much about his business and had a customer base that appreciated him. Reuben soup! Have you ever had such a thing? It's amazing!
The party, an Earthdance event, was held at a place called Camp NCN, a clothing-optional sexual freedom campground. Camp NCN was owned by some real freaky bikers and had quite a rowdy reputation. The psytrance parties held at this place were as if the Baptists had rolled into town in comparison to the usual events here.
I wasn't able to record my gig, I didn't have room in my car for the recorder (at the time it was kind of big.) I do have some photos of me playing for a bunch of people dancing, including a man in an electric blue bear suit with a djembe.
The crowd was very friendly and receptive. I had, until this time, dabbled in both the dance music and hippie jam rock scenes but had grown very frustrated with them. This crowd was as if you'd taken the best of both worlds and made the ultimate party.
After the gig I loaded up my car, drove down to Tomah, had a miserable dinner at an unpleasant truck stop, and had a short sleep in a dirty hotel room of a chain called "Microtel" whose sole claim to fame was to have the smallest hotel rooms in the business, which I suppose makes sense in higher population densities but not in Wisconsin ... where it's just plain awful.
The next day I stopped for fuel or lunch or both at a truck stop and when I walked into the bathroom the man in the bear suit, still wearing it, was there ... washing his face and staring into the mirror. Drugs are a helluva drug ...
Later, I tracked down the truck stop that was used as a location in Werner Herzog's Stroszek and made it back to Chicago in time to completely miss a synth meet but still have a midnight dinner with my good friend Jim Coker in Chinatown.
I played at this strange campground for these wonderful parties several times again. I met a lot of very nice people, some of whom I remember better than others. I became familiar with the area a bit during these trips, figured out where the best coffee was, and where the coolest supper club was in case I had time to eat there.
For some reason I went a couple years without playing one of these parties. In the meantime, some things had changed. The owner of The German Haus died, and his business with it. The cool coffee shop and its vibrant owner had up-ended itself, and the classic supper club 3 miles down the street from the campground stopped serving relish trays with dinner. I was also notified this may be the last party thrown at this very lovable venue.
However, that said, this was hands-down the best total experience I've ever had playing a gig that I can remember. The Crown Victoria, eventually overloaded with a trailer, had given way to a Suburban which could handle the load comfortably, my keyboard rig was as optimised as it has ever been, the business end of things was stress-free, t-shirts and records were sold, I had really competent help loading in, I was able to start making sound by the time my slot was up, and I was able to take my time packing up afterwards. I even fit dinner at the supper club in after my set!
But that was just the logistic end. The people at the party are ultimately what made this such a pleasant experience. First to mention is the aforementioned help loading in and setting up. There was one man in particular who was there in 2010 and offered me a piece of the birthday cake his mother had sent with him. The beautiful Bulgarian woman who greeted me with the kind of hug that can set you at ease with the world. Above all, they were sitting, standing, dancing, whatever ... and were very supportive. I never felt uncomfortable or under the gun for the whole 110 minutes I played.
The next day I checked out of my hotel, had a cosmic experience getting coffee, and drove home.
This one's for Mya. I hope she gets her Molly back.
Epilogue: This was the first ever gig performed with Moog Music Inc's new synthesiser, the Mother-32, which I had been beta-testing before release. It was used for the bass lines on "A Very Rude Awakening" and "Operation Northwoods" in cooperation with an STG Soundlabs trigger sequencer, envelope generator, and suboctave divider.
I'm very honoured and pleased as last year I played the first gig with Moog's previous new synthesiser, the Sub 37, at Wolf Hills Brewery in Abingdon VA. Hopefully they give me test pilot wings.
Technical notes: This was recorded as both microphone and direct tracks to a Zoom H5 solid-state recorder. The final mixdown is a reconciliation of both sources in an attempt to present an idealised experience to the listener that gives the clarity of the direct signal but also the ambience of the room and the people in it. No edits were made for mistakes. This is the way I've been trying to present live recordings for a while now.
Nerd note: Jimmy McGriff quote at 11.30 in "A Very Rude Awakening."
released October 9, 2015
Suit & Tie Guy: Moog Sub37, Mother-32, Korg Kronos, King Korg, Roland Juno-60, TR-8, ESX-1, STG Soundlabs modular synthesiser, Eventide H3000SE, Oberheim Echoplex (x2), Boss RC-505