Europe is beautiful, wish you were here

Local musician/composer Shane Perlowin is currently on solo tour in Europe. So far, his travels have taken him to Spain and Switzerland and today he heads to Amsterdam before hitting Germany, Austria, The Czech Republic and Belgium.

Shane is traveling with his wife, local artist Courtney Chappell, who’s been documenting the tour in photographs. (The ones in this blog are hers.)

Shane recently posted this video of his full set at The Rincón Pío Sound in Don Benito, Spain, on Saturday, Sept. 3:

Watch live streaming video from rag_tv at livestream.com

You can also follow Shane on Twitter (@shaneperlowin). Here are some recent tweets:

• Sept. 2: “1st gig of solo tour was a smash in Madrid even though I was wiped out from the commute. looking 4ward to Don Benito. luvn me sum Cervantes!”

• Sept. 6: “after 4th gig I am really starting to figure out my set. Stop shoehorning all the composition stuff in. more breathing, improv, & noise. yep”

• Sept. 12: “Hot For Tuba. the name of my new project with swiss vocalist antoine lang. 7 gigs in switzerland. we hit the recording studio tomorrow.”

• Sept. 18: “played a workshop in a guitar shop in Valenciennes France yesterday, was cool to play to some young kids, and to do some acoustic numbers”

Perlow sent the following to Xpress:
“Here is my first entry covering the first week.

“20 hours of travelling and we moved from Agnes’ driveway in Columbus, Georgia to a cozy little hotel room overlooking a walled-in dirt lot in an industrial warehouse neighborhood of Madrid.  With my baby blue neck pillow, I defied the odds and slept through the night during the flight over the Atlantic.  Sleep is elusive in these situations and Courtney was not so lucky.  So, she crashed into a siesta as soon as we arrived at the hotel while Fran and I walked to the nearby La Faena II for the soundcheck.  L’Ocelle Mare, one of my favorite musicians, met us in the street on the way.  He is a one man modern percussion ensemble with a banjo, tuning forks, tap shoes, harmonica, and a metronome.  His music is located somewhere near the non-idiomatic spiky flourishes of improvising guitarist Derek Bailey and the prepared piano sonantas of John Cage.  He is a totally unique and visceral performer, minimal and rhythmic, dissonant yet engaging. Ahleuchatistas played a gig with him in France 3 years ago, so this was my second time having the honor of sharing a bill with him.

“La Faena (The Struggle) is a nondescript underground venue, tucked around a corner in a back alley down a ramp.  You press the buzzer and they buzz you in through a metal door.  It is run by a collective of musicians and a music lover.  This is their new location because the frequency and volume of their concerts finally wore down the tolerance of the surrounding neighbors at their previous address.

“My set went well for a travel weary first attempt.  Before leaving Asheville, I composed a ton of new material in the weeks leading up to the tour.  Ultimately, these songs and fragments will be realized in different contexts, with small groups or on solo acoustic guitar. But, for now I will perform it solo with electric guitar, looper, delay, volume, tremolo, and octaver.  I am putting a collection of new ideas on trial and hopefully soon I will be intuitively and organically feeling my way through performances, without thinking. Some ideas will disappear, some will linger, everything will evolve. It is a process in constant motion.

“I cannot say enough nice things about Yiye. Courtney and I rode the bus from Madrid to Don Benito, the same path Ryan and I followed back in December.  It was nice to have a day off there to recuperate from flying. Yiye gave us his van and we drove to Castle Medellin, where Cortez partied back in his pre-genocidal days.  Jimi Hendrix’s Spanish Castle Magic popped into my head as we ran around this mountaintop fortress and soaked in the sublimity of its wide open vistas and did yoga stretches atop one of the towers like nice American tourists from Asheville.

“Courtney felt a little under the weather from breathing in recycled airplane air and travelling so much on so little sleep.  So, Yiye and I procured some Penicillin from the local 24 hour Farmacia.  It cost 4 euros and required no prescription and no doctor’s visit.  It was a happy reminder of how brutally scammed we are in the US when it comes to health care, and the costs and hassles we accept as normal when we are sick or injured.

“On the way to the pharmacy, Yiye drove his scooter and I followed in his van.  I hadn’t quite yet gotten a handle on his manual transmission and I stalled out repeatedly trying to cross over a train track on a hump in the road.  Cars slowly lined up in my rearview mirror and began honking their horns.  Yiye turned around and pulled up beside me and began calmly repeating, “Its the first gear, Shane. The first one.”  I was embarrassed and lucky that no trains came through.  After the cars finally drove around me, I let it roll down backwards and gave myself a running start to get up and over with some momentum.  There’s a metaphor here somewhere.

“I played a lengthy concert in Don Benito.  Something like an hour and 45 minutes might seem self-indulgent, but repeat encores from the warm audience obliged me to do it.  When it comes to these things, I am typically a fan and advocate of Aristotelian brevity, which says that it would be nice if your work of art could be enjoyed in one sitting. There are exceptions for sure and this gig was a great opportunity to hear what works and be relaxed with the pacing of the music in front of an audience that was ready to listen all night.

“In Zaragoza, due to the late night/early train combo in Don Benito, I played in my most exhausted state at a little cafe appropriately called Desafinado, named after the Antonio Carlos Jobim tune.  Though well received, here is where I started to question my approach to the performances.  I am too eager to play through pre-conceived notions. I am at my best when I allow room for interpretation and spontanaeity. There is a formula that works, and it involves not thinking so much about what I am going to do and just allowing things to happen and then responding. Action/reaction.

“We stayed for two days in Zaragoza with Dani and Mili, where Courtney and Mili became close friends, and we all laughed a lot.  Dani delivered beautifully narrated lectures on Spain’s political history and current situation.  He is close to finishing his doctorate and is also the frontman for an amazing Spanish band called Picore.  Mili is working on her English, so Courtney taught her how to say, “Y’all come back now ya hear,” and the southern classic, “Do what?”  Mili’s delivery was very convincing, as though she had become another person, and we all died laughing.  She took us on a tour of the city where we saw an ancient Roman archway lit up on the median of a bustling traffic intersection.  A few years ago, one of those party buses full of drunk people jumped the curb and crashed into it.  A structure thousands of years old in the middle of the downtown of a modern European city with a disco bus jutting out of its side and wasted people stumbling out.

“In Barcelona, I stopped thinking about the music and started to just play.  To act, the will requires only a hand.  It happened by accident, really, when my looper froze up in the middle of an involved composition, all of its little red, gold, and green lights lit up bright.  The nightmare I feared finally became a reality.  But, it turned out to be a blessing and it forced me to “make it work,” as my man Tim Gunn says.  And the remainder of the music moved through uncharted territory and it was my favorite performance so far.

“Courtney and I walked all over Barcelona and saw the sites.  Since she was a child her imagination had been taken by photographs of the Gaudi spectacle, La Sagrada Familia, and it was magical to see her eyes light up when it unexpectedy came into view down the street from us in all its amorphousness.  We went to the beach and for the first time we swam in the Mediterranean Sea.  The water felt so good and we sat and listened to people walk up and down the sand hawking mojitos, beer, bottled water, hair wraps, tostadas, coconuts, massages and sunglasses.

“The next gig was in L’Estartit, just outside of Girona, and it provided the worst sleeping accommodations I have ever been provided while on tour.  All in all, for several reasons, this was a real low point after starting out so high.  But, it is good to have some perspective, some point of reference, some standard weight and measure for how shitty or how fantastic things are, with feet firmly back on the ground.  Though sparsely attended, the performances in Barcelona and L’Estartit were musically strong and I made some new friends after the gigs, and the few people listening seemed genuinely transported by the music.

“The bummer conditions in L’Estartit could not have ended more appropriately.  Early in the morning, on our way to the train station three villages over, the promoter’s car broke down on a country road and he threw his hands up in the air and said, “I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to do.”  A real confidence booster, I tell ya. So, when the tow truck shows up I asked the driver for a taxi and it turns out that, in addition to the towing company, he is also the cab company for the village.  He leaves and soon returns with a passenger van.  It cost us 45 euros, but it was totally worth it to make our escape, and the driver bumped some great techno and syrupy big clean dance pop music all the way to the station.  We missed the first train, but no matter, because we caught the next one and made the 15 hour trip up the stunning east coast of France, from a relatively difficult situation in rural northwestern Spain to a soft situation in Geneva, Switzerland, where Antoine Lang, a fine singer and my collaborator for the next seven gigs, was waiting for us at the station. Its like a dream as events, people, and places rapidly disappear from the horizon and new adventures draw near.  For the next week, everything will be improvised.  It will all be an experiment, a musical chance encounter.”

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts writer and editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs.

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