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Music Production: Circuits of Steel Tour 2003
07/23/2003 Circuits of Steel Tour 2003: Live in Austin, TX: Circuits of Yeah!

Wow. What a fantastic day, even though I wasn't completely happy with my set. It was generally good, and nothing overall wrong with it, but I know I was coasting in a few places, and I didn't feel that on feeling I like to feel.

The day began early for me, as I had work to do, finishing a bug fix I owed a client. The PowerBook had charged overnight, but the adapter was getting really hot. It was still working, but given the way the last one failed, I wasn't optimistic for this one. I made sure the Apple Store in Dallas had the part I needed in stock, and got a shower. Soon the other guys were up, and we headed back into Dallas, actually quite close to where we were yesterday (damn). First time I'd been in an Apple Store, and I found it to be quite nice. Good layout, helpful people. I got the adapter, and learned that if I blow through the replacement too, I should probably send the 'book in for Apple to check out its internal power supply. That'll take a week or so to do, so if it comes to it, I'll have to schedule that one carefully. They were also going to get me some rubber feet for the laptop as well, but they forgot to bring them out before I left. I did, however, pick up an adapter for use in the car and in the air (combo cigarette lighter format with emPower port), which I'm using now and which is just great. I have so much power now that it's not even funny. It's ridiculous. (Another tour joke, involving Negativland's "Time Zones.")

The traffic around Dallas was pretty brutal, and we took a while to get out on the road South to Waco and Austin. On the way we listened to some rap stuff Greg had burnt to CD, and I burnt one of Naked City. It's kind of cool to be able to do that while jamming down the highway. I worked on resolving some of the evil Flash stuff that was dogging me, as well. During the drive down we made contact with my friend Andy, and it would work out quite well for the tour to drop me at an interchange near their house. The changeover worked out smoothly, giving everyone else some room in the van for the first time since evening in St. Louis. I got to check out Andy's house in Austin, and we got some tasty Chinese dinner (sesame tofu for me) with his wife Andrea and daughter Mychaella, who was excited to see me again, show me absolutely all of her toys, and tell me pretty much everything on her mind. I kind of brain-dumped about the tour so far, decompressing now that I was off the van and away from the tour for the first time.

Soon it was time to head down--showtime was at 9, starting with local AMODA volunteer DJ Oonce Oonce, and it was already 8:00. We made good time, and got in at 8:30 or so. Cirrus (where AMODA was having the event) was actually quite the swanky space, easily the best room on the tour. Wood trim and paneling, high ceilings, expensive-looking bar, the whole bit, although its entrance was in an alley. I figured I'd better change. The guys had already brought my gear in, bless them, so my clothes were already up there, although I had to get down to the van to bring in my big bag. I changed (black jeans and the bowling shirt again--I figured this room deserved the Power of Shandrew)--freshened up a bit, and set up my gear. I was next to Otto von Schirach, who turned out to be a nice guy who'd flown in from Miami for this gig. He apparently has a lot going on in Miami, which meant this was just a one-off for him.

It took a while to get set up, as the sound guys had a lot of us to deal with. They put a monitor up on stage, which really played havoc with the microphone Otto would use (as would Greg). It would be a while before I checked or started, as it turned out, so I hung out drinking water talking to Andy. (He observed that we were quite possibly the only nonsmokers/nondrinkers in the crowd. We weren't the only ones, but we were clearly in the minority.) I ultimately did check, and I got to show Andy where the magic happens with my software. I also showed him the digital camera quickly so that he could get a few shots of the show, and then bring the camera back for me to photograph the audience.

People began to filter in, and they were slated to be entertained by DJ Ooonce Oonce, but she was having software problems, alas. Eventually a decision was made to have Oonce Oonce go last, and I'd go first. That was fine by me--Andy could get going if he needed to, we'd already had dinner, and there was an audience in the house. I was announced, and off I went.

This set wasn't bad. During the whole thing, there were video projections I couldn't see, but one of which was a spotlight on me. I did my now-usual arc of ambient drones, some pick percussion, some noisy dystopian dissonant slides, leading me to the Bush samples. I got ambitious and opened seven modules, tempting fate in this way for the first time since Detroit. After two iterations of Bush's "Uh" track, I ring modulated it for texture and picked up some other Bush samples (like the decontextualized numbers), as well as Ashcroft ("believe me") and some similarly paranoid old movie samples before droning to a finish that I let ring out while I left the stage, "Apparition"-style, but I kind of think that the audience didn't really get it. There was too much going on around them, and only the first row or so of audients could actually see me to know that something changed. Once the tones died out, I said, "That's it!" from the crowd (it was too dense for me to go all the way to the back as I like to do), and got some applause.

One unfortunate side effect of streaming my set to disk is that I can't listen back to gauge the level of applause, or to remind myself of what level of audience interaction I had. But it's so much more convenient in that I don't have to transfer from MD, and theoretically could burn a CD of my set right after I play it. Sadly, no one's taken me up on that yet.

Jason played next while I hung out and talked to Andy. The room was getting crowded, so Andy and I slipped out into the hall to talk while Jason and Xanopticon played. Andy had thought that the "Uh" section went a little long, but it's true that it's a long loop (one minute; two iterations making it two minutes). But he did like parts of the set, and observed that my method is a particularly unforgiving one, in that if I make a mistake with the guitar, that mistake is around for a while instead of just passing.

We continued to talk while Holocaust played, and we chatted with Greg before he went on. The mic problems concerned him, though, and he was afraid that he'd get up there and be completely inaudible. I'd told Andy that Greg's show was hilarious and dynamic and all, but in the event we weren't able to see him due to the number of people, and we weren't able to hear him. Apparently people in the front could hear, but all his vocals were lost for us. I had my first equipment failure at this point, when I went to adjust my satellite bag (an MP3.com freebie) and broke the plastic clasp for the strap. I knotted it and I'll have to look for a metal replacement. It's actually a good bag, apart from the hardware. Andy had to split by this time, but it was great to see him again and hang out.

I myself was pretty tired too, so I tried to find a seat in the crowded space. I sat on the arm of a chair Kerry had been sitting in, and chatted for a bit. He'd been planning on spending the evening with a friend, who for whatever reason had to leave, so Kerry would be hanging with us instead of bailing. He got up, and I just hung on the arm of the chair for a while. While Xanopticon played, one woman came up and sat down; it turned out that she's Mel, the drummer of the band Bahrain, and they're going on tour soon--on a route very similar to ours. They're even playing the Lemp, which I warned her about while sharing a few tour stories. (I mentioned this to Jason who said, "Dude! You have to tell her about the fleas!" so I went back and told her.) I introduced her to Manny, who may set them up with a Pittsburgh show one of these days, and she bought one of the poem CDs, too. Cool.

I wandered around for a while, and Xanopticon finished playing. Then Otto came on and did a good set of his lascivious IDM. His vocals were a little more audible than Greg's, but they still needed to be significantly higher. Then DJ Oonce Oonce took over, and persevered as much as she could before the software problems came back. I tried to take photos of dancers, but the area was too dark and I didn't want to intrude with the flash. One of the writers from Igloo magazine noticed and talked to me about sharing photos with them; she hadn't seen my set, so we discussed that as well, along with my situation in general (touring, married, working, etc.), and we may discuss these things a bit more for an article on the event.

The evening wound down, and we were thanked by the woman who organized it all, who said she'd see us tomorrow at the artists' brunch (an artists' brunch? Cool!), and we loaded out, waiting for the AMODA people to load out all their sound and video equipment, so we could all go get a late dinner at a 24-hour vegetarian place. I traded some CDs with Otto, who said he dug what I was doing, and suggested a collaboration with Xanopticon--interesting suggestion.

Greg bailed from the van to hang with his friend in Houston, and we took on a guide to the restaurant, which turned out to be funky, but quite good. The collective energy seemed to be draining with the lateness. Jason was inert, with his head down on the table, too much smoking and drinking. One of the Austin guys came over and started a multisyllabic philosophical flow that so reminded us of Jason that it was creepy. "Dude," someone said, "Did you suck Jason's soul out?"

I talked a bit to Todd from AMODA, who mentioned that they're planning on a series of sit-down concerts for which he thought my ambient stuff would be ideal. I'd be happy to play such a thing, actually, so with any luck I'll be back in this fine city sometime soon. I really do like the vibe here. The general vibe in Texas is straight-up, friendly, and laid-back, with Austin having a bit more of a Californian flavor.

We took on Mason, another friend of AMODA, who led us to the house where we'd be staying, a neat little house in one of the northern parts of the city, with KIm and Mike (more friends of AMODA; I think Kim had been at the show) who--bless 'em--had WiFi in the house, as well as a huge white puppy who seemed to have a great disposition. I picked a comfortable couch in the kitchen, plugged in my stuff to charge, offloaded images, downloaded mail and logs (man, I'd been up a long time), and went to sleep.

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Circuits of Steel Tour 2003: Chicago, St. Louis, Muncie
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