I packed and left on March 14, 2019 to join my friends, Anthony Glise and Ken Sugita of the Nova Project for a quick run of concert dates in Northern France. “Nord”!
1 bag with a few pedals, a carry on guitar and a new passport. All set.
My limo to the airport was actually a 5 Guys van with my driver Craig at the helm. A MWSU alum who loves the rock music, we hit it off right away and I had to tip him big.
Checked in 2 hours early for my interational flight (and then delayed another 2 hours) I was texting freely.
After loading, I discovered my seating companion was a mom with a 2 year old who was very excited saying, “Mommy, there’s another plane” approximately 200 times. Too darn cute.
The 2nd delay was due to a fuel spill. It was not our plane but looked to be about 3 foot drip from a fueling truck surrounded by about 10 guys with 1 shovel and some sand. All Clear!
No delays now in DC just straight too the flight to Belgium. Sat next to Will from Sierra Leone and his traveling partners including a sweet baby who made not a single peep for 7 and 1/2 hours.
Great crew and a couple of movies later and we are safe in Brussels on Friday the 15th. Easy through customs (usually they hassle me), Tony was right there waiting for me, a little catch up time and we hop the train to Tournai. A little car ride to Sainghin, (the village in the french country side we call home), we lunch with Laurent and reunion with Annie at her Cafe’ du Centre.
Quick nap to offset/encourage jet lag and Ken arrives to start rehearsing.
A drive to pick up the required equipment for the concerts turns to an excellent meet and greet with new friends, Dipak and Corrinne turning into excellent soirée #1.
March 16 — Des Hirondelles (Fretin, France), 20h30
More rehearsals as we’ve completely taken over Syliva’s living room and then off to the copy place. We are playing the Theatre Ronny Coutteure and stopped in to see the space and to meet our hostess, the life-filled, Dianne. A set up, a sound check, back home and back to show.
The theater is small, seating around 50 but a great space with a nice stage and lighting. We had an attentive crowd of unlikely prog listeners, but many ladies of class and some were music educators and musicians too. We met Allain, Dianne’s “Hunny Bunny” and both invited us to soirée#2 at their place. We laughed hard and cried a little too.
Dianne is dutch, an opera singer and an amazing woman who has lived 3 lives in one. Theatrical, genuine, poly-lingual and wonderful. Thanks to them for a great night.
The 1st show was just bumpy enough to be fun but complete on every level.
March 17 — Eglise St. Nicolas (Sainghin-en-Mélantois, France), 16h
I sleep late everyday. We try to visit Annie everyday. Run some errands and to the Match for groceries. Tony points out the important historical sites in the area and knows all the stories. The Roman burial grounds, the castles in the woods and the WWII battle grounds and bunkers that still inhabit the fields.
We are playing in the local church this afternoon. The reverb here is legendary and perhaps disruptive to a clean presentation. Lots of hometown people, a full house and Yvonne!
Afterwards, it’s across the street to Annie’s cafe for the “bœuf” (aka a little jam session and fun with friends) AND a quick trip to see Yvonne and Laurent’s farm house and force them to give us more food. Great to see their family, the growing sons and cousin Mikhaela all busy and making life an adventure.
Monday the 18th and Tuesday were down days for us. Sylvia and Tony feed me lots. The neighborhood chickens provide the fresh eggs. Ken and I head into Old L’ille via the metro to check out the next venue and to drop off posters.
Ken is a celebrity here so rolling with him, we get everything free and they let us in to use the restrooms whenever we want. The local beer gave me some kind of head cold but it was great to catch up with Ken over sneezes.
Back to Ken’s for an evening with his family. Great to see Marie and Tiff and to meet the beautiful and smart grandkids, Taibi and Ida. There is professional style coffee and expresso at Ken’s. Also, pie. Also, whatever I need for my comfort.
The next day, Tony, Sylvia, Ken and I head back to the old city for a famous pastrami sandwich at Amir’s place. In another life, Amir was a graphic designer and he made the great poster for our run here.
Some sight-seeing and back home for some practice and another invite to hang with Dipak and Corrinne. Soirée#3 or 4, my french life is a party. We ate great stuff, drank some very high quality french wine and played some music too. We impov’d on this one chord, kind of indian jam that was just a blast and my favorite of the night. Great to hear Ken wail on this kind of thing. Super cool time and great people.
Sleep over at Ken’s! Waking here on the 20th with some writing. I am very homesick but some facetimes with the family are helping. Seems like it’s take a couple of days for my phone email and things to adjust but things are finally coming back on line and that is helping too.
I was able to Netflix a John Coltrane biography which really tugged at me, all from the bedroom.
I can answer some emails, hang with Ken, Antoine, Marie and Tiff. Talk a little Jacob Collier with Ken before we hit the metro back to the city for some touring and gift shopping. Ben gets a Berret (but not from the store named after him).
We had some deep discussions (as we are prone too), some pastry and took some pictures. Stopped by to see where Ken performs with the French National Orchestra, got the tour, met the prinicpal cellist (the only one there practicing), security and hit the bathroom. Again, you want to run with Ken. He knows people.
Tonight, it’s a private night at Annie’s. Wednesday is her night off but she chooses to spend it with us anyway. 2 very nice bottles of champagne, lots of treats and great stories. Such a special time with her. Discussions range from the academic to the bawdy, from the historical to the obscene. I didn’t blush those are just my rosy cheeks.
Back to Sylvia’s and some late night hang time with T. Deep discussions (as we are prone too).
March 21 — L’Illustration (Vieux Lille, France), 20h
Some time to myself today. A little solo practice in the morning. Tony made a nice lunch including some wild boar pate’. Group practice. A walk in the woods and country lanes with Ken and then we are off to the show.
A small venue on the 2nd floor but a full house with lots of friends on hand. They have these electric unicycles here? It was fun to see Antoine jump aboard and float down the street. “No hands”. Back to the farm house after a great day.
March 22 — L’Escapade (Wattreloos, France), 21h
Today is my dad’s bday but still hard to get texts out. (I tried Dad). Back to the cafe for lunch with Annie, Tony and Laurent. Even the postman comes by to sort mail, make bets and have a couple of beers. Stopped in the church and they have a world class magic shop right there too.
Wattreloos was about our furthest show out. A cool venue that has regular jazz, a nice stage and Bose sound system. The flickering lights were the only distraction in the dark room where we are all trying to read little dots from a score. You could change the lighting “clapper style” and I did a few times.
Really a good show with some great moments.
On the 23rd, I’m waking late. This jet lag and lack of daily responsibilities has given me some extra sleep that I haven’t had in a long time. Some reading and some deep discussions with Sylvia (as we are prone too). Lots of practice and then back to the Cafe with Tony. Louis and his mom came down (he plays so great), Ken and Sylvia, more champagne and talk (all in English because they are merciful to me).
Tonight was to be “Taco Night” in France. Sylvia took me shopping and we had to improvise some ingredients. I think tacos might be a delicacy here. On my night to cook, the menu is limited and I think I may have overspiced things resulting in the devasted taste buds of my companions. They were sweet about it though. I hope they’ll get their ability to taste back soon.
I’m learning a lot about my long time friends and their lives. It’s a joy to get a glimpse in on their day to days here. Everyone is so kind in telling me how happy they are that I am here. It’s a polite thing to say to guests in any language but I really do feel it.
Tomorrow is our final, the big show, the dance.
March 24 — Festival, “La Guitare en Fête” (Mons-en-Barœul, France, Salle Allende), 17h
Sylvia is my alarm clock, I shower and we head out to the hall early. Really cool hall where we are the final of 3 concerts of the day for a month long guitar festival. Dropped the equipment where could hurry up and wait.
Back to Ken’s for lunch and siestas. I played Tiff’s guitar in their beautiful garden under the blooming magnolias on a beautiful spring day in France.
Back to the concert, wonderful audience, good show and it sounded really great too. Cool room with lots of light which made it tough on the photographers. We did have a 4 camera video shoot going on but hard to say if they were able to get anything from it.
Back to the Sugita’s for the penultimate soiree’. Marie prepared a multi-course meal for all our friends, Paul (concert admin) and Martine’ and some family. Got to finally meet Ken’s oldest daughter, Naomi and husband Greg.
Meal was complete with “raqulette”, a cheese melting heater that made the dinner an interactive and remarkable experience. We don’t have those in Missouri.
Home for beers and “Godzilla”!
March 25 was my last day. No more concerts just a day to pack up and get all the hang time I could with everyone. One last stop at the Cafe, a few off-color tunes and Annie’s favorite “Guitar Boogie” variations from the CD player. This woman gets me.
One more metro to L’ille to the sheet music shop and souvenir shopping then home to get ready for the birthday party. My other skill is vacuuming! It was Alex’s 15 birthday and it was so cool to be there for it, to be included and just celebrating with this amazing family. Individual Pot Pies from Grandma Sylvia made it a great birthday dinner.
How many soirée’s is that?
March 26, grab some croissant and I’m out early with Tony. Back on the train to Brussels and back on the plane.
The flight home after a great trip is always a little rough. You are tired and ready to get home.
It was a great run and so glad to be back with friends in the Nord. I am filled with baguette, many fine cheeses, pate of all types, wine, champagne, incredible music, friendship and lots of memories. Sadly, my french is still pretty terrible.
So glad to be home and see my family. I missed them. I missed them a lot but couldn’t have made the tour without them.
Big THANK YOU to my family, Anthony, Syliva, Ken, Marie and every Sugita, to Yvonne, Laurent and the boys, to Dipak and Corrinne, to Annie, to the venues, the sponsors, promoters and the great people who came to listen to this strange music (made with at least one stranger).
Peace to each and hope to see you guys soon.
March 31 — Glise : conférence (Mons-en-Barœul, Salle Dedecker), 16h
Contrats d’Endorsement — Endorsement Contracts :
— SUGITA• Violins: Regis Hautin (Lille, France) • Bows: Thierry Doison & Jean-Marc Panhaleux (Lille, France).
— RILEY • Strings by: Dean Markley (US) • Picks by Wegen Picks (Holland).
— GLISE• Classical Guitars by: Gioachino Giussani (Italy) • Acoustic Guitars by: C.F. Martin (US) • Electric-synth guitars: Godin (Canada) • Classical Strings by: LaBella (US) • Steel Strings by: C.F. Martin (US) • Amplifiers by: Marshall (England) • Microphones by: Audio Technica (US) • Picks by Wegen Picks (Holland) • Legal Support by: Volunteer Lawyers & Accountants for the Arts (US).