Va Benne!

It was just a week ago that Jorma was dropping me off in my driveway, just around 3:00 AM…..he had informed me… “We’ve been traveling now for over 24 hours” just about the time we made the turn into my yard. It was the last stop on a two-week trip that had started in that same driveway……headed to The Full Moon Resort in the Catskills…..dropped down to the Great South Bay Music Festival in Patchogue on Long Island……..before flying out of JFK for Milan, Italy and a week of Electric Hot Tuna shows.

Sunday morning ….24th of July…..we meet down in the lobby at 6:00 am and load up for our trip to the airport. The kind folks at the Hotel Touring set us up with several bags of some great Italian coffee and some espresso on the spot. The trip is smooth to Milan Malpensa and we arrive with time to spare before boarding our flight back to JFK in New York. Our arrival is smooth and before long we’ve got our bags and a driver too and we’re heading off to New Jersey to drop off Abram “Abe” Fogel…..Hot Tuna’s drummer on this recent run. Mon, oh, mon……what a drummer he is…… more on that coming up. After saying a farewell to Abe and one more bless up, we’re onto Scotch Plains and the home of Barry Mitterhoff…….who just tour it up in Italia……..and even though Barry isn’t home……we have the key and Jorma’s jeep is still in his driveway. So……we fresh up and pack it all in and about 5:30 pm start the trip west for the great state of Ohio. Jorma and Myron do a great job of driving… fact, I felt so comfortable in the back seat, I fell off and got in a great nap.

The Italian tour was short but mighty and it was the first time ELECTRIC Tuna had made its presence in the country. As we departed the US for Italy I was remembering my first trip to Italy….with Jorma, Vanessa and Michael Falzarano…..twenty years almost to the day ago. It was one of those where does the time go moments followed by lots of giving thanks and praises. I’ve had the pleasure of making several trips to Italy over the years….. with Jorma and a glorious trip with Mom and Dad once as well. It is a beautiful country and I’d have to put it right between the USA and Jamaica in my top three places I love report.

So……we leave JFK at night and land in Milan in the morning. After clearing customs we meet up with the Italian tour promoters…..the fine folks from Blue Sky Promotion …..Jorma has worked with these folks for so long now… is like visiting with family……and it is good to be back in Italy and their company. The two tour managers we worked with on this run …..Vania and Alberto…

The Tuna gang with Vania of Blue Sky Promotions

The Tuna gang with Vania of Blue Sky Promotions

..have become old friends and they do such a great job of facilitating every little thing……it makes the travel fun and easy. I really enjoy both of them very much and they both are great at teaching me the finer points about Italy and forever helping me with my attempts at speaking Italian. Yeah, I get the feeling that my attempts are providing Vania with a lot of amusement. I told Vania, on one of the last nights, that Alberto is the King and you are the Queen……and Sergio… the Field Marshall General…… the King of the kingdom! Just great people to work with and a joy to travel with through the remarkable regions of their homeland…..Italy!

We leave the airport and a few hours later we are in Genova and we have the afternoon to relax and dinner at 8:30. We all meet up and walk to a nice tratoria not far from the hotel and commence to have our first of many killer meals that would mark the splendor of the day and the Italian way of cooking. We…..the Tuna gang……were joined by Bruce Cockburn and his manager, John, for a night of great eating. This area ……Liguria… known for it’s PESTO and the opening dish of pesto pasta was just exceptional as was my calamari friti that followed. All in all a great start….and a great meal… and the owner took it over the top when he pulled out of his personal stock of a rare Italian aperitif….Genepi…and poured a drink for those whose pleasure it was.

Monday, 18th of July and the first show. The show is right down on the port and Genova is a big port city. Indeed …..while setting up and during the show …big boats were pulling in and some were going out. These cruise ships are gigantic and the boat captains handle them as if they were pulling a car into a parking space…..maybe better…..they pull in then back them out with amazing precision…..which I guess is important when commandeering such a huge transport. Bruce Cockburn plays a well received opening set ….solo … start the night off. He sounds good from out in the house where I’m positioned by the merch table and his voice and guitar are powerful as are his lyrics. Electric Hot Tuna is ready to go and there is excitement in the air when they take the stage. The mix is good and Jack’s bass lines trail over the propulsive drums of Abe’s …..Jorma is singing better then ever and Barry and JK are putting plenty of great leads into the right places. At the end of the night……it’s all va benne……and everyone is feeling good……the people who came to hear and the people that came to play. You never know how these kinds of things will go……foreign place and using someone else’s equipment……so this is a great way to start things off. Jorma has posted pictures and set lists from all the Italian shows on his blog …….so check in with CRACKS IN THE FINISH!

Tuesday, 19th of July……After a nice breakfast at the hotel, we’re all in route back to Milan to catch a flight to Palermo, Sicily. At the airport we have the Blue Sky team of Vania and Alberto to help us get everything through gate check and onto the plane. After a full day of traveling …… I can see it……it is the welcoming coastline of Sicily glistening in the distance. The local promoters are on hand to pick us up and bring us to the Hotel Casena Dei Colli….and after checking in, we all have a little time to relax before we plan to meet for a nice dinner at the hotel’s fine restaurant. Being on the road with the gang gives me insight to the finer points of touring and the life of a musician on the road… the time we had touchdown in Palermo it had been a full day of traveling and as Jorma so appropriately put it….”Glad we had a day off.” We were all rewarded with a bountiful feast at dinner…..and everything from the home made Minestrone ….right through dinner … the home-made strawberry cream cake were tutu benne!!!!

Wednesday, 20th of July…..Myron and I go out for a morning walk. We first head literally right next door to the Teatro di Verdura where tonight’s show is going to take place. This show is part of the WOMAD festival that is taking place in Sicily over the next few days. Tuna is on the bill along with the Buena Vista Social Club. Everyone is hard at work setting the stage and after sussing things out …..Myron and I take a nice walk into town to check out the local flavor. In the afternoon we head on over to set things up and then come back to the hotel for another great dinner. Then it is back to the theatre and the show. I’m doing merchandise on this run as one of my duties and the head of security at the show is messing with me……they move me four different times before I end up at the front gate. At the end of the Tuna set…..which I could hear perfectly…I am joined at the merch table by Myron and Alberto and we have us a heck of a good time. Alberto is telling the concert-goers in Italian to buy a CD or we won’t be able to get back home. We’re cracking the people up and they’re buying the new CD too. Every night Tuna plays is bombastic and the Electric Tuna is fully charged. Jorma and Hot Tuna have a big following in Italy and some of the comments I catch from folks at the show illustrate this… guy….”I’ve waited 40 years to see Electric Hot Tuna”…..another….”Jorma is the greatest rock guitarist”. Yes, indeed…….longevity and greatness!!!! The Buena Vista Social Club puts on a great show and it is a thrill to get to hear them live. Big group…..I think I counted 13 members…..and the sound was even bigger…..Respect!

Thursday, 21st of July……We have a somewhat leisure morning and we’re all taking advantage of the nice breakfasts that they put out in the Italian hotels. We all head back to the Palermo Airport and before long we are on our way to Rome. We land in Rome and pick up all the bags and guitars and head for the hotel…traffic is already crazy, so after just a short stop Myron, Alberto and I head to the venue, which is a nice outside park stage. We get everything all worked out and are ready for sound-check by the time the band pulls in. After the sound-check, it is a short walk to another great place and another great meal. Everything was just fantastic! We all ate well and we all were very satisfied and maybe because we ate so well…when the server came over to ask us if we were ready for dessert….there was a unanimous NO…..we all were filled to the top. But he prodded us that we must have dessert and in Italian he told Alberto….that it was something special not to be missed… alright, he talks us into it and despite the fact that not one of us felt we could eat another thing….the fantastic …delicate… philo-dough pastry with cream and berries disappeared before you could say…….caffe dopio. Now it wasn’t all about eating and the music sustained me as much as the food. As I mentioned earlier……every….and I do mean EVERY show was primo….but my favorite of this run had to be Rome… just seemed like hotter then fire. It was a nice full audience……a fine outdoor setting ……great sound….and a great set! A highlight for me was getting to hear my song, A LITTLE FASTER, (from the NEW Steady as She Goes CD) LIVE for the first time and it was ……words fail……but, a dynamic version accompanied by wondrous solos and it just totally kicked or hurled butt!!!! We beat it out of the Rome traffic and I do mean traffic and made our way back to the hotel and I was amazed at the energy of the day……..and how much energy Tuna put out ……even after a full day of traveling. Buona Serra Roma!

Friday, 22nd of July……We leave Rome and start on our 5 hour drive, heading east into the countryside. This tour is a busy one and when I mention to a friend about going to Italy…..they always ask if you got to do some sight-seeing? Unfortunately, the answer is no…..we’re working here…..5 shows in 6 days. However, on a nice 5 hour drive there is lots of beautiful scenery to view as you drive by……hey look at that neat castle up on that hill……look at those fields of sunflowers…..yes, it would be nice to drive up that hill and explore that castle…..but just seeing it is going to be as good as it gets today…..and that’s cool too. We get into Faenza and check into the hotel and then it is off to the Piazza Nenni for the show. The stage is set up right in the plaza and it is packed and the band feels the vibe and puts on a super-charged show. The promoter takes us to a great restaurant for dinner. This is once again an old place and the walls and decorations on them all eek with antiquity. The place has a wood cooking grill and the foods cooking smell great. It has been a real treat for me to be on this Italy run. So many wonderful things and I’m getting to hear my favorite band every night and they are truly sounding better then ever. I’ve got to give a BIG UP to the drummer, Abe…..This is our first time meeting and Abe is am impressive cat. He sure has a nice way about him and it’s easy to enjoy his company……but, whooaa……is he ever one heck of a drummer. Abe is filling in for Skoota and that could be a hard task, but he is right there and if I didn’t know better…..I’d swear he’s been playing with them for years. He’s right on the one…..and even when we get to hear him play “I know you Rider” for the first time…..he picks it right up and is quick to learn the ending that JK and JC school him on. Each night towards the end of the set Abe gets a drum solo and each one …..although varied they were……is a mass set of explosions and he’s got each drum talking…..keeping the pedal on the bass drum while intermingling snare drum snaps. I can’t say enough about how great each drum solo was……but I can tell you he really stirred the crowd…..and he was on the tip of many tongues when after the show people came by to express their love for the band and the music. At the Rome show JC came in on the end of the drum solo and did some real ambient mind blowing bass stuff and the two of them worked real nice together!

Saturday, 23rd of July…….
We’re off again……last show of this run is tonight, but first we must make the almost 300 km trip to Chiari….near Brescia. We are staying at the Hotel Touring and it is a nice spot. A short drive over to a bandstand where Tuna will once again play to full house of enthusiastic fans. There’s not a seat in the house that isn’t filled and everyone is treated to another great night of music. Remember to check JORMA’S BLOG for set lists and his comments about each show…….

TWO WEEKS BEFORE…….Sunday, July 10th……Well, Jorma said he was going to pick me up at 8:00 AM and here he comes ……rolling into Hurl’s Hideaway.. We’re heading off to upstate NY and the Fur Peace Ranch “On the Road” at the Full Moon Resort. We meet up with Vanessa, Izze and Lucy, who is one of Izze’s best friends, and Lucy is joining the Kaukonens for this trip to the Catskills. We’re convoying as Vanessa has the kids and we have the bags, guitars and other miscellanea. It’s a long day of travelling…..about 11 hours later when we pull into Kingston……but a great day of travelling. I really enjoy a ride with the Cap…..we’re so busy anymore and a car ride serves as a great way to visit and shoot the breeze. It also makes the time just fly by. We get up Monday morning and make a stop in Woodstock for some coffee before heading on over to Big Indian and the Full Moon. It’s nice to be back, as this is the third year we have done an off-site workshop here in the Catskills. All the same wonderful people are still on board at the Resort and it’s great to see everyone. Later in the day, our people start to show up and it’s looking like it is going to be a great group of people to spend a week with. David Bromberg is here to teach along with Jorma…..and it’s great to see him as well. After dinner the students head right to their respective classrooms and the teachings begin. Jorma’s teaching in the Barn building and they have given it a nice renovation since our last visit…..very nice! All of our days begin to fall into a pattern that would be the rule of the day. You wake up to a beautiful and somewhat cooler then hot and humid Ohio morning……take a stroll on down to the Café in the Valley View House for breakfast…..greet the people and enjoy a nice morning meal. All the meals are exceptional at the Full Moon and that sure makes all the campers happy. We have a high bar of what we expect in the way of food and service……we’ve been spoiled by all the years at Fur Peace…..and the Full Moon is doing it right! After breakfast we ……Vanessa, Izze, Lucy and Me…..take a ride into Woodstock. On a couple of the days we are joined by Judy, Julia and Stacy…..wives of FPR students…..and they all enjoy the Woodstock vibe……cause it’s still there! The week goes by faster then Michael C. can drop into a D – tuning and we are blessed with one nice day after another. The student makeup is a mix of repeat offenders and some people on their first Fur Peace experience. The music is a great common denominator and the sounds of guitars ring in the mountain air. On the last night of this session…..Jorma and David have planned to do a private show for the FPR students and guests. We set up the barn building for the show and the Full Moon owners…..Michael and Henry and some of their friends are all here to hear a totally unplugged set of some fine music. Oh yeah, ….. we had a special guest join the guys for the really big show….Woodstock’s own……Happy Traum……has come to do some playing as well. It’s a great night of music and the three kings are set up left to right…..David, Jorma and Happy. Happy starts things off with “I am a Pilgrim”….this is a personal favorite and I’m glad …..very glad… hear Happy kick it off. As was the case in most all of the songs… guy picked the tune and the others joined in…and joined in they did putting their own touch into the music. Next JK followed with “Let’s Us Get Together, Right Down Here” and David followed that with “Wayfaring Stranger”… can see there was a pattern being established here. So we have a real special ……hopefully not once in a lifetime experience… end this great day at the Full Moon. As I headed on up to my cabin, I looked at the painted Full Moon marquee sign that hangs by the entrance and dang if there wasn’t an actual full moon hanging high in the heavens right over the sign. As the Cap likes to say……You can’t make this stuff up.

On the last day of classes……Jorma starts his recap early…..Jorma and I are looking to be on the road to the Great South Bay Music Festival by 10:30 am. We bid everyone a fine farewell and give thanks for another great session at the Full Moon. We’ve left at just the right time and we are able to make it through all the weekend traffic and out to Long Island before it gets too crazy. We get over to the concert sight for the festival and it is right on the water in a nice setting. It’s a great day of music and we get to hear David Bromberg with his quartet play a great set before Electric Hot Tuna takes the stage. This is Tuna Country…. people… and the place is packed and Hot Tuna delivers a blistering electric performance and from what I could see……this was a super charged audience getting a turbo charged booster from Electric Hot Tuna putting it out with no energy shortage in sight. Tomorrow we’re heading for Italy……..