let me just check my notes. ah, yes. fascinating. oh, that was a fun one! ah, yes, I definitely… remember… that night…
ah, hello! I didn’t see you come in. what’s that, you say? you’d like to be privy to these tales of suspense, love, hardship, and triumph by which I am currently so enraptured? then gather ’round, my treasured chum, and I shall wet your literary whistle, imparting only the most dramatic, the most comedic, and the most memorable moments of this past summer’s tour in a segment I like to call:
the most dramatic, most comedic, and most memorable moments of this past summer’s tour!
(caveat: I don’t actually have notes and I was drunk or high for a lot of it. stay in school, though.)
partie un (it’s french): bella’s bartok opens for the indigo girls:
let’s begin at the beginning, with the very first show given to us by our new booking agent simon says! (if anyone else wants to work for us for money, perhaps hauling a passed-out crisco from show to show (he will just be tired, not drunk) or eating the crusts of our sandwiches that we refuse to eat (we are five), hit us up: firstname.lastname@example.org.) the show was at the legendary tanglewood music center, and this made it unclear whether our booking agent had confused us, like so many before him have, with the boston symphony orchestra. it turns out that he did, but we were good enough that no one noticed. we opened up for the indigo girls (about time!) and, after sharing victuals and libations, continued along our highlight reel.
partie deux: chris has fallen and he can’t get up:
disc jam was a fabulous music festival in upstate new york; look into going next year. when we arrived on a sunny saturday afternoon, it was pretty apparent after a few minutes that we had all caught what I’ll call a “contact trip,” which is like a contact high but means that so many people are tripping around you that you start to get all… weird. we were scared so we sat in the van and drank pbr until we felt normal again. asher: “I’m scared, chris.” chris: “me too, buddy…” fade to black on a shot of us holding each other, two cans of pbr grasped tightly to our shivering bodies.
anyway, we got used to this strange new lifestyle quite quickly, and took a jaunt around the place. it always takes me so long to get used to the fact that at festivals, people are NICE. like, strangers are actually NICE to each other. I know, it’s scary. I’m used to people purposely avoiding eye contact when I pass them on the street. I think this is the primary allure of the festival scene, for me at least; it is that particular utopia that we friendly-type people have always dreamed of, where folks are not judged as creeps for smiling at each other, and people throw ducks at balloons, and nothing is what it seems.
huh? oh, sorry. so we were onstage, and as anyone who frequents our shows will recall, I like to jump offstage and run through the crowd when I’m playing clarinet (“woooo! woooooooooo!!”). so far, great concept, I know. but as we play larger and larger shows, the stages, too, become larger and larger, as in higher off the ground, and so in mid-air during my leap from the stage, I realized: jesus, I’m not going to be able to get back up! it was true, I couldn’t. luckily, bella’s bartok is more of a brotherhood (dare I say a cult?) than a band, and my brethren were able to take time out of their busy schedules to pull me back onstage, in a flurry of limbs.
partie troix: jesse names every pokemon:
to pass the time in the van, I said to jesse, “hey, how many pokemon do you think you can name?” his response was non-verbal; there was a sudden a change in his demeanor. he immediately affected the sort of stern, purposeful countenance usually reserved for fighter pilots in the heat of battle, or laplace-, leibniz-, or hilbert-level mathematicians trying to solve a really, really hard math problem.
and he named each and every one of them, right then and there. all one hundred fifty. and to those of you who would tell me, “ummmmm, excuuuse meee, there are like, hundreds more pokemon than that,” well, to you I would reply, “you’re probably the type of person who thinks there are more than three star wars movies.”
partie quatre: bella’s bartok relaxes by the pool:
ahhhh. how relaxing.
partie cinq: bella’s bartok plays on a boat:
about time, right?! this summer has been replete with that sort of sentiment. yes, we got to play on a boat for once, with the world-famous adam ezra group, no less. and the joy of playing on a boat is that NO ONE CAN LEAVE! gwaaahahaha! they’re all trapped with us. I mean, unless they want to throw themselves overboard, which would definitely be a resounding testament to our music, and the degree to which it can… move people.
partie six: bella’s bartok drinks whisky with punch brothers:
yes it’s true, but not before we spent a day at the PHENOMENAL green river festival. you’ve GOTTA go next year, it’s the experience of a lifetime. after chilling with red baraat, riding in hot air balloons, parading around the festival in giant monster costumes, giving our last beer tomarco benevento (he deserved it), and hearing, for the first time, a band that would change the way I hear music forever, arc iris (seriously, if you have not heard them, I cannot recommend their music highly enough. it’s like nothing I’ve ever heard. they are the future. also they are really cool people who have since become friends, so look for arc iris/bella’s bartok shows in the near future, or perhaps a supergroup called “belle iris barctok” whose genre will be “post-music”), we closed out saturday night, covered in glitter with j witbeck on tuba, simply one of the best nights of bartok EVER.
the next day the festival continued, and we arrived with the express purpose of drinking whisky with chris thile, with a fancy bottle of four roses single barrel, which barrel was unique and made solely for the proprietor of four seasons liquors in hadley (that place is my jam). and it just goes to show you that if you have a clear idea and some determination, you can accomplish anything. YOU CAN FLY! if you want to, that is. we watched the punch brothers set which, of course, was incredible, just musically overwhelming. during their last song, I snuck (well, I didn’t have to “sneak”; the joys of being a musician!) backstage to ensnare thile et al in my whisky-trap. as he alighted the stage (can you alight a stage? I will look into this.)… as he, uh, “got down” from the stage, I ran up and said, “great set, man!” to which he had a really pointedly unenthusiastic response, the sort of response you might have if every person you meet every day runs up to you and sings your praises, and every musical media outlet heralds you as, like, an otherworldly god of the mandolin and music in general: he just kind of said, “thanks” without breaking his stride or looking at me. understandable. and so I added, “we have a really rare bottle of whisky we want to share with you,” at which point his eyes lit up, he stopped walking, and he looked at me like a little kid in a candy store: “oh, cool! what kind?” I handed over the bottle, which seemed to please my musical overlord, and he goes, “do you mind if I…?”, meaning drink out of the bottle. I reply, “oh, most definitely, go for it!”, and mind you it is 90+ degrees out this particular afternoon and we’re both sweating like maniacs and here is chris thile, chugging 110 proof bourbon straight from the bottle. THAT’S why I play music.
said I, “I was kinda thinking like maybe… some ice… and like, glasses and stuff.” he, as if awakened from a sort of whisky-happiness reverie, replied, “what? oh! sorry, yeah, let’s do that.” and thus did it come to pass that bella’s bartok hung out with punch brothers and fed them all whisky and eventually got down to singing a capella stan rogers songs with paul kowert and the festival staff.
partie sept: bella’s bartok goes to virginia:
the main point I want to make here is that every spot has its local shitty beer. we near rhode island have our narragansett, chicagoans have old times (I think? correct me if I’m wrong), baltimore has its natty bo. it’s really the only reason we go on tour, to sample the local shitty beer.
the shows were brilliant and the people were wonderful, but the real highlight was… you guessed it, VAN GAMES. we have this new one where you think of a movie title mash-up and have someone guess the title by a description of what that movie would be. for example, “a girl and her dog are transported by a tornado to a magical seaside town to help capture a much-mythologized shark.” (answer: “the wizard of jaws”). play it with friends, if you and your friends are as lame as we are.
partie huit: the meat puppets open for bella’s bartok?:
sort of. I mean, they played before us at our favorite brewery, everyone’s favorite brewery, ommegang at the “belgium comes to cooperstown” event, which was… like, holy christ, these people know how to THROW DOWN. most everyone spent the whole day sipping politely (read: guzzling down by the gallon) some of the finest beer this side of the atlantic, but I, always a man of the people, chose to mingle among the tents, among the general ruckus of that day. I quickly found myself in the so-called “gayborhood” and someone painted my face in a pleasantly subtle glam-rock style and fed me weed brownies. wandering some more, I was enticed by a bottle of tequila hanging from a rope, which appeared for all the world to be some kind of bear trap for drunkards, but again I, ever the guileful tequila enthusiast, was able to procure some without being ensnared or catapulted (ommegang events attract some clever folks). as a reward for my cunning, I was fed more brownies by the architects of the tequila trap.
needless to say, by the time we took stage, I was on a wonderful new planet, covered in sparkles, about to forego all this earthly music stuff and just fly away once and for all. if anyone has a recording of that performance, I’m curious to hear the ridiculous monologues that were, as I recall, pouring like flaming rainbows from my mouth between songs. playing music for a living is so much fucking fun.
partie neuf: fancy kerrigan gets blood everywhere:
we played at hinge a week later for perhaps the most wonderful crowd in the music scene: northampton. my own personal highlights include: pouring a can of pbr in to someone’s mouth (it was sean mcmahon) from 15 feet above them (most of it just poured onto his head. it’s hard to do.), crowd surfing while playing a clarinet solo, and jumping into the corner of a monitor so as to inadvertently get a bunch of blood to shoot out of my head and go everywhere. the bathroom of hinge looked like someone was brutally murdered there. I wish I had a picture. it was awesome. oh, and I’m fine now, thank you for your concern.
partie dix: the apple jam:
hanging out with hayley jane and the primates. everyone ought to check out their music.
partie onze: the lead singer of spin doctors follows bella’s bartok on twitter:
seriously! where did that come from? does anyone know how he knows about us?! does he like us? will you pass this note to him? do you think he’ll go to the prom with us?
the whole ordeal has got me into this spin doctors listening kick from which I may never recover.
partie douze: conclusion:
what did we learn this summer? many things. that the world can be a decent place, if one surrounds oneself with decent people. that if one presents oneself unabashedly to the world, concealing neither their flaws nor their talents, the world will respond in kind, organically and with great beauty. that with enough determination, you can actually fly.
stay tuned as the bartok story unfolds. we love you all.
oh and at some point we got a new kitten.
– Fancy Kerrigan