Pat Harris

The Captain’s Log – March 2016

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Baton down the hatches, because the Austin Piazzolla Quintet will be spreading its polyphonic, polyrhythmic, poly-sacrilegious sounds all over the mountains and basins of Colorado and New Mexico in the coming days.  And not a moment too soon.  I, Commodore Harris, after nearly two weeks of living dormant in the northeast am itching for adventure.  The men and I have coordinated a two-pronged assault on the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains.  They will be approaching from the south in The Jolly Rogers, while I will approach directly from the east carried by the Trojan Horse of Southwest Airlines.  It is our mission for me to slip into the Denver area undetected, throw up a smokescreen, a diversion to create excitement and intrigue so that they may easily navigate through the horrid rush hour waters of the Mile High City.

We begin our journey this night at a dress rehearsal with the Parasol Arts dance company, and we will remain with the group through Sunday.  On Monday, we must steel our nerves for the mountain passes that lay ahead.  Whatever the ailment, it seems Colorado has the cure.  I do not speak alone when I express my enthusiasm for the micro brewing culture of this utopia.  The bearded, patchouli wearing, jam-grass picking natives know their wheat, barley and hops fermentation processes very, very well.  I dare not say the beer is better than my home state of Michigan, but there are no slouches out here.  Combined with the altitude, it is remarkably easy to feel an early onset of wooziness.

As any group of traveling marauders must do, it is only right that we stimulate the local economy as we are dependent upon every local community for our financial wellbeing.  It is only fair, and in good karma, that we see what offerings are available for us to partake.  In most cities, we favor local ale to literally “get a taste” for where we are.  We have also been known to purchase the occasional piece of art, stationary, mug or hat.  Colorado is different, though.  Colorado has its own jewel of an industry. Magical, magical things can happen in Colorado.  Magical.  Last year, we experienced a bit too much magic.  I can only speak for myself, but I knew I had overdone it when I awoke in the barracks of The Jolly Rogers after eight hours of sleep, and there were big black tentacles made of smoke grasping for my soul from down the hallway.  I was forced to lay motionless, eyes closed, in my bunk until the monster went away.  I have no recollection how long it took for me to muster the courage to venture out, but I know when I stepped out of The Jolly Rogers into the crisp morning air, I was immediately engaged in a staring contest with a deer that was crossing the road.  The Commodore does not flinch first.

I’m flying in, and I must pause to thank Colorado for its gifts and majesty.  Getting a literal birds eye view of the mountains inspires and delights.  We are all looking forward to another great run of performances.  Mike will finally get sweet assistance for his glaucoma, Tony’s chronic back pain will get temporal relief, and we can only hope that James gets his appetite back.

Friday, March 4 — Thursday, March 10

We have experienced what can only be described as Lost Time.  Even though we have been playing constantly, we have been operating within a very small geographical region of Colorado.  Today marks our first real push into the mountains.  We have been safely confined to the much flatter front range of the Rockies, and now we forge ahead into them.  The only way to literally go is up.

We have had the distinct honor of branching out and performing with other organizations on this journey.  Last weekend marked our first collaboration with Parasol Arts, a dance company based in Denver.  We were part of a show that mixed music, dance, and narration to tell the story of Astor Piazzolla’s life.  Our modus operandi has always been to be gracious and endearing— in order to do whatever is easiest for us.  As such, we docked the Jolly Rogers for the entire weekend in the parking lot of a multimillion dollar dance facility.  I wouldn’t say it was an eye sore to the facade of the building, but it didn’t do much to elevate its status in the neighborhood.  We didn’t ask to stay, but nobody told us to move, either.  Tis better to ask for forgiveness than for permission it seems. There was a very nice shower space in the locker room as well as a beautiful lounge we overtook with ease.  When we are invited to make ourselves at home, that is exactly what we do.

We had a show with the Boulder Chorale performing a few arrangements for chorus and quintet.  Having the opportunity to work with top notch dancers and a professional chorus has really ignited our creative juices, and we are thinking of new ways to incorporate other elements into our future productions.

In an effort to continually foster music education, we had the pleasure of presenting a few clinics and master classes at the University of Colorado in Boulder, as well as the Colorado Springs Conservatory.  We all get a great deal of fulfillment working with younger musicians in an effort to keep the artistic spark alive and to empower them to cultivate what they love.

It has been difficult to find time to keep track of our escapades in the Captain’s Log.  Since we have not yet spent hours traveling, the time to collect my thoughts has been severely lacking.  Even though we are technically a week into our jaunt, this is the first real bit of time we have spent watching the miles go by.  Our own Liberated Hell Raiser, Mike, is at the wheel as I write, and he is doing an admirable job keeping us from harm.

There are far too many stories for The Captain’s Log, and most of them are very nonmusical.  We are not rich, but we do see to it that we have an enjoyable time while we travel.

Friday, March 11, 2016

The adventure continues.  The saga continues.  Simple things grew eventful following yesterday’s entry.  Colorado.  Mountains.  We were en route from Boulder to Pagosa Springs.  The scenery is amazing out here.  We journeyed through Wolf Creek Pass and James pushed The Jolly Rogers to her limit.  On our descent from the summit, we decided to take a quick break at an advertised scenic overlook.  I was sitting in the shotgun position while James was behind the wheel.  As we turned off the engine, I smelled what I could only describe as, “I smell auto burning.”  It was directly out of the Ralph Wiggum playbook.  We stepped out of The Jolly Rogers, and sure enough, smoke was billowing out of the front right wheel well.

James:  “It’s definitely smoking.”

Tony: “Is it on fire?”

Jonny snapped a few photos.

Mike went into the back of the RV.  He would seemingly prefer to be engulfed in flames rather than fight them from outside if things took a turn.

I, Commodore Harris, grabbed the fire extinguisher— just in case.  As the boys saw the possible severity of the situation, they began throwing snow into the wheel well and pouring water on it.  The unmistakable sizzle rasped up with every bit of snow and water thrown on it.  After 45 minutes, there was still immense heat radiating from the surface.

We kept The Jolly Rogers in a low gear and cautiously made it down the 10 mile stretch at a 7% grade into Pagosa Springs.  We love Pagosa Springs, and it is a destination any time we are in Colorado.  Our hosts, Sally and Doug are some of the most amazing people we know.  This morning, we awoke with a breathtaking view of the mountains.

Currently, we are in Durango, about two hours from our destination for the day.  God bless Tony.  Tony won’t take the blessing, though.  He’s a meat eating vegetarian who doesn’t believe in God.  That’s not a judgement, it’s a fact.  He wears many hats in this band, and this morning, he is wearing the auto mechanic one.  He has removed the problem tire, examined the brakes and caliper, and bled the brake system.  We are all saying a prayer to our respective deities, except for Mike, because Mike believes in science.  James might believe in something.  I don’t know.  Jonny plays in Church on Sundays when in Austin, so I’m going to assume he’s the most pious of the bunch.  My fingers are crossed, and that’s about as sacred as I get, but we have to tackle Red Mountain Pass after all of the kamikaze auto work Tony has done.  At the highest point, we will be 11,017 feet above sea level with sheer cliffs and no guard rails on the roads.  It is one of the most gorgeous areas in the country, and I hope that we can make it through without incident.  One thing we have going for us, is that the weather is being very kind.  The sun is out and wind is minimal.

Saturday, March 12

The Lark and Sparrow in Montrose was originally an old Masonic Temple.  I, Commodore Harris, being sensitive to the paranormal, immediately felt a presence in the building after walking up the extended stairway.  A simpler way to put it, is that even though the glass domed ceiling was gorgeous, this place is haunted as shit.  I cannot say by what or whom exactly, but there are entities that have not yet left this hallowed space.

After spending the night with James’ parents and pillaging their pantry for much needed calories, we boarded The Jolly Rogers, said goodbye to Colorado and hello to New Mexico.  James, perhaps due to his mass consumption of both meat and beer, may have lost partial feeling in his right leg.  I only mention this, because as we hit the city limits of Santa Fe, we were caught in a snow storm and yet we were still blazing past cars, never wavering our position from the far left lane.  So much for the weather being kind.  We barreled into Santa Fe, NM after an explosive show in Montrose, CO.  It turns out that we love every city we travel to.

Unrelated to the travel and vistas, we all now have an intimate working knowledge of Tony’s lower intestinal health.  I don’t know if there is any correlation between his fair weather vegetarian diet and the three pounds of fiber cereal he consumes promptly after waking up each morning, but there is always much pomp and circumstance when he enters and subsequently exits a bathroom.

We always wish we could spend more time in Santa Fe.  I now refer to him as our good friend, Bruce, welcomed us back to The Gig with open arms for the third straight year, and we sold that bitch out for the third straight year.  We love Bruce.  We love The Gig.  We love Santa Fe.

Not to go quietly into the good night, we stayed with Mike’s friends from “the early days” Dave and Jane.  They are our Albuquerque Connection, and they have a fondness for tequila.  Mass amounts of tequila.  Their fondness is contagious.  It has become a bit of a tradition for us to have a “tasting” post-show.  The tasting starts out innocent enough with Dave pouring responsible portions out for us as he explains the subtleties between the various tequilas.  As the taste progresses, the pours get a bit more liberal, the details on particular region become a bit fuzzy, and a few other conversations begin.  Generally, within an hour, we are giddily hammered, all subtleties are gone, and I’m loudly requesting another round of the tequila that has that smokey flavor out of the penis shaped bottle.  The following morning typically has a slow start. No exceptions.

Sunday, March 13

Our final day of the tour.  Time ceases to exist when you’re in The Bubble; what I refer to as life on the road.  It’s hard to remember specifics about where you came from and what happened.  I like it.  We play the music, and then it’s gone.  Even though we play a similar setlist through an entire tour, there are enough variants in each piece to make it difficult to remember who did what and when.  I do remember Mike and James having particularly inspired cadenzas in Montrose.

Since we were staying in the foothills of the New Mexican mountains, we decided to take a hike on this fine day.  James set out for downtown early, while Mike, Tony, Jonny, and I, Commodore Harris, went out into the desert on our own vision quest.  I’ve never been the outdoorsy type, but sitting in the hold of The Jolly Rogers for hours on end with four other guys who’s dirty laundry is piling up while toting a 50 gallon tank full of our excrement makes me crave any amount of fresh air.

What started out as an innocent 30 minute hike turned into a 3 hour race to the top.  I am perpetually out of shape, the air was thin, and we didn’t bring enough water.  Typical gringos from the low lands.  We made some friends who gave us some of their water.  We didn’t anticipate being out and about so long, and the four of us earned a solid sun burn on our faces and arms.  I speak for us all when I say it was worth it.  The views from the top were serene.  Our next run through Colorado and New Mexico ought to be titled the Vista Tour.  There was never any lack of scenery— the complete opposite of the midwest.

I don’t know how our fearless leader James does it, but we managed to play some of the best rooms I’ve ever been in.  Not only do we get to travel to great cities, but we play *the* best rooms in them.  It took three years for the scheduling to work, but James was finally able to get us into The Outpost in Albuquerque.  Much like every other venue we played on this run, The Outpost is in the game for all the right reasons (same with The Gig, The Mezzanine, Lark and Sparrow, etc).

Wednesday, March 23

Captain’s Log. Commodore Harris’ Account.

T’was a storm of storms rolling over the Rocky Mountains.  A level five shit-fest in Denver.  I, Commodore Harris, live in Albany, New York while the rest of the blokes live in Austin.  An important thing to know about Albany is that it’s at least 2.5 (in fair conditions) hours from anywhere people actually want to go to.  I packed up my automobile, affectionally known as the Blue Dragon since Fall of 2009, and first dropped my dog off at Camp.  She hates Camp.  They tell me she has fun with her “friends,” and that she “ate all of her food,” but I know my dog, and she hates Camp.  If I were her, I’d hate it, too.  Since she has dwarfism (Pembroke Welsh Corgi), can’t let herself outside, and can’t be trusted to exercise portion control with food, she has to go to Camp.

I drove the 3 hours down to Newark, just got into my extended stay parking lot, and received a phone call that my flight to Denver had been cancelled due to weather.  Everything done got cancelled.  I frantically tried to get on the Southwest website to remedy the situation, just like 100,000 other people, most with far more of a temper than myself, and no luck.  Called the toll-free number, busy.  Called again.  Busy.  Called six more times and finally got through.  Waited on hold for over 90 minutes only to find that I could get to Denver by Saturday night even though I need to be there on Friday.  Begin to drive back to Albany.

I’m sure you, dear reader, can see where this is going.  After a hoopla of hoops, and careful bordering on obsessive checking of the Southwest website, I was able to get a flight that put me into Denver late on Thursday night.

Thursday, March 24

Captain’s Log. Commodore Harris’ Account.

As it was, I woke up, repacked the Blue Dragon, took the pup to Camp, and got back on the road.  Did all of the fun things associated with driving and flying on a holiday weekend after a major storm has grounded every flight to and from a major US city.  Door to door, it took about 24 hours of actual travel time, plus a $75 fee to check my bass on a plane, and the out of body experience that is Terminal A of the Newark Airport.

It is important to note that my fellow band members, stationed in Austin, were scheduled to fly to Denver early this very morning.  Their flight was also axed.  James, ever the leader, saw to it that an environmentally destructive SUV was rented due to the Jolly Rogers being unable to depart on such short notice, and they all left Austin, driving, at 2am in order to make a 6pm dress rehearsal in Denver.  Those men.  Foolhardy lads.  Too foolish to procure any decent ale, so I was forced to imbibe Miller High Life upon my late night arrival.  It is no champagne, and I already feel its ill effects weakening my lower intestinal tract.

Sunday, March 27

Captain’s Log. Commodore Harris’ Account.

Again, we find ourselves relatively stationary this trip.  We are accompanying the word class Colorado Ballet playing two suites by Astor Piazzolla.  Everything about the weekend was amazing.  The dancers, our hosts, the AirBnB house rental, Natalie at the dispensary— everything except the travel.  We feel so incredibly lucky to have had the opportunities we have had thus far in the band’s tenure.  We often get asked how we came together, and to me, the story of Jonny replying to James’ Craigslist ad never gets old.

We have a bit of downtime until the end of May so that we can recharge and work on writing new material.  There are plans to go into the studio in June to record a new album or albums, and we are plotting a tour of the northeast in late August after we all attend the Tango Festival in Stowe, VT.  Positive things lay on the horizon.