WORDS: Mark McKowski & Howe Gelb.
I have returned home to Scranton. But yet I haven’t returned. A large chunk of me is still out there on the road. Somewhere behind me. Aren’t there certain cultures who wait at the airport for a day after they fly so their souls can catch up with their bodies? I know how they feel. A lot happens on the road without realising. It takes a long time to process it all. Sometimes you forget half of what just happened. It slowly starts to chip it’s way back into the memory banks, weeks later. Or it blurts out subconsciously in song. The whole thing can be very surreal.. Dream like. How can you possibly be expected to hold a normal conversation after a hefty dose of magic and mystery.
The trip had indeed been wonderful, as in full of wonder. The gigs were unusually memorable. Normally it’s the bits in between you remember most. It was a solid crew, it’s four quarters made up of two Gelbs, a Parish and me. The show in bangor had an energy. We teetered on the edge, walked the tightrope between creation and devastation. Where either something brilliant was about to happen or it’ll all fall apart at any second. That balance is where you find the good stuff. The sweet spot. If you can walk that line long enough, you are on the right road. And speaking of roads, the next morning we ventured up to the land of the giants. Or more specifically, giants causeway. It recharged the battery’s before our next stop, either moments or hours later in malin head. Within another blink of an eye we found ourselves in a country pub, playing pool and losing to a ten year old jimmy white. Not sure if we dreamt this or it actually happened. Does that pub even exist? The brain was now on cruise control. Riding the wave of exhaustion in a dream like existence. In this state I dreamed an unforgettable song and somehow forgot it. It fed into the next gig in a theatre in letterkenny, before ending the night in Podunk, or was it Omagh? A harpist played by our side while the Guinness came floating to our table, as if by magic. For a moment it felt like we might be in heaven. But Shane (Muck) Macaleer made us realise we were indeed actually in Scranton.
There are Scranton’s all over the world. Wether it’s Pensilvania or Tyrone. Everybody has their own little Scranton they are trying to escape from. Maybe the Scranton is in your head. Yet something keeps sucking you back. No matter how far you go, you somehow end up back where you began. You can be across the globe and find yourself in a town you’ve never been, yet you know it so well. Omagh or Podunk. It’s all the same place. And each time you realise where you are, you stop and ask yourself.. what the hell am I doing here?
THE BURNING BARN OF PODUNK
The day I rode my sisters horse bareback I learned the lesson of the burning barn. When a horse gets spooked, even when it’s stall is on fire, it will still run back into it. That’s the power of the burning barn.
Riding bareback was alright, but once she caught a glimpse of her stable that was all she wrote. I leaned into the left, she slung to the right and I was left with nothing but hindsight as she headed back to the power of the barn. In that instant now about 2 meters in the air with no horse beneath, I plunged down to the sandy bed of the dry wash, thankfully missing cacti and stone. The horse was back in the safe confines. Stable. The barn was not on fire. The barn is always on fire.
This tour now has been stage affirming. A short smattering of dates in some favorite places within a 2 week run to allow an experimental worth of elbow room of guitar in handpicked surroundings to determine if the merits of song still outweigh the delinquency of travel.
There’s one show left. Letterkenny. And we intend to take in Malin Head again on the way there. But we also gave it a go at the Giant’s Causeway on the day off before. What a wonderful freaky point.
The days leading up to this final show have been nicely varied. Zurich with M. Ward for a coupla nites. Milan to join him again and to take in the splendor of the alps in autumn as we tumbled down the tracks. A quick flight up to Berlin the next day to grab a final dental appointment with my loving dentist and to perform a show that night at another favorite venue in Neukolln. It nicely allowed a visit the next morn with a former Tucsonian that documented the music scene there in its earliest days back in the 70’s: Jonathan L.
Then back again down to Italy for a Firenze show. And with that came a national air strike which insisted we spend one more day stuck in a pasta paradise.
Then a flight up to Antwerp for my 66th sun cycle and revered hang time with some great friends there including the Colorist Orchestra and Iceland’s Emilianna Torrini.
Finally a train the next day up to Amsterdam to nab a plane direct to
George Best’s best airport and meet up
with old buddy John Parish flying in at the same time from Bristol. ( it maybe should be mentioned that on the walk to catching the train I was gifted with a haircut and a quick session in on a favorite little studio improvising some current piano smatter .. . and still got to the 12:38 train with 30 minutes to spare.
A nite off in Bangor with John and good ol’ Mark McCausland at the dream encrusted Cairn’s Bay guest lodge .. all the while bringing my youngest daughter along for the ride for her to help crew and help singing our set some.
The time in Bangor was severely enjoyed.
Letterkenny loomed, and was
already lamenting leaving Ireland and all the music being made.
Maybe my barn is on fire.
I don’t know why. I’ve loved being out here. But maybe it’s one sun cycle too many.
Thankfully Talula has been here all along to soften the deterioration of being on the road alone.
And now I know that that horse felt like.
I’ve very much enjoyed the run, but it feels like I’m over done. And the stable is on fire. And I just need to get back into it.
It’s been a pleasure,
Howe “Halo” Gelb