Italy post no. 4 – first gig of the trip

(written 23/7/05 1.10)

Well, tonight was probably the hardest solo gig I’ve ever done, but was pretty rewarding for it.

The gig was providing an improvised soundtrack to a silent film from the 20’s called L’Inhumaine, directed by M. L’Herbier – a part surreal/part narrative film that was OVER TWO HOURS LONG!! This last bit I wasn’t told til about an hour before the gig.

The venue was beautiful – a cloistered court yard, with an art exhibition hanging in the cloisters, and chairs laid out in the courtyard facing a huge screen that was projected onto, with me sat in front of it, slightly off to the left, watching the film and reacting to what went on on screen.

There were two major problems that I hadn’t really forseen – the first was not having a light – the organisers had offered me one, but I thought there’d be enough ambient light to see what I was doing. i was wrong. And number two, the bits on the film where words come up on screen to help you follow the story, Harold Lloyd stylee, were in Italian. The film was French, and if the bits between had been french I’d have been fine, as I’d have been able to follow the story a lot more clearly. As it was, it took me quite a while to work out who was who in the story, and who was a good guy and who was a bad guy, and who was just some weirdness thrown in for Avant Garde effect.

As it is, it was a qualified success – the second half was a lot better than the first, as I had worked out what I was doing by then, and started to use the loops in much more sophisticated ways, keeping some loops and fading them in and out as leitmotifs for different bits of the story, I also had stopped trying to add to many literal ideas and near-sound-effects – I tried this a few times, and it was largely a bad idea (worked for a couple of driving scenes, but not so well for crowd noise etc.)

Thankfully, the audience loved it – it got loads of applause, for a v. long time, and lots of lovely compliments afterwards.

The other fun angle on the gig was that about a third of the way through, we started to see lightning in the sky, obviously from a fair way away, but there was always the possibility that it was heading our way. As the film went on, we had the occasional moment of gusty wind, which made the screen flap about, but cooled me down a little.

The actual rain held off until less than a minute after I’d finished – people were still clapping when the first drop of rain hit me, and within another minute from then, the rain was torrential – fortunately, we got my gear under cover before that bit happened. The rain then turned to hail – huge great mint imperial-sized hail stones, accompanied by lightning that lit up the sky like an apocalyptic hollywood special effects team who’d be asked to go really OTT on the lightning.

So all in, a fun, worthwhile evening that was very well appreciated by the lovely Italian crowd (are Italian crowds ever anything less than lovely? I think not.), and a great learning experience for me.

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