Tuesday, March 9, 2010

2009 what made it special-USA Krosswindz tour


Krosswindz 2009 USA tour

2009 has probably been the most exciting and memorable year in my musical career.The Guitar Gurus Festival in Bangalore being one of the high points and then the JPF(Grassroot Grammy nominations)and the subsequent offer to play at B B King’s pub in Nashville Tennessee.But the icing on the cake definitely was the 42 day USA Tour that Krosswindz went for in September and October of 2009.

The Grassroot Grammys organized by the Just Plain Folks is a community of 50,000 odd songwriters,musicians and publishers and a cross-section of members from the music industry.They nominated Jajabor Pokkhi an original written by Chandrani and produced by yours truly from the Krosswindz album Misiki Misiki in the Best Indian Song category and the Krosswindz album Misiki Misiki was nominated in the Best Indian Album category.A concert was set for August 28th at B B Kings Pub in Nashville TN and Krosswindz was invited to perform at the awards ceremony at the pub and at the main event at the Wild Horse Saloon Concert Hall in Nashville TN.Alas we could not get a sponser to get us airfare to fly to Nashville from Kolkata and we had to let it pass.

As we were moping about missing out on the 2 gigs in the US an email popped into my inbox enquiring if Krosswindz would be interested in performing a string of shows in the US for the Durga and Kali Pujas.One thing led to another and i was jumping for joy when i learnt that one of the gigs was scheduled to be in Dallas Texas as i had been waiting to visit Texas and Austin City-the Live Music Capital of the world for a long time and I knew Dallas was pretty close in distance to Austin City and commutable from Dallas.

As things progressed the final itinerary started looking really interesting with eleven gigs spread over nine cities-Sacramento,Dallas Fort Worth,Austin City,Boston,Wilmington Delaware,San Diego,Tampa Florida,San Fransisco and New York.

As the day for departure grew close i thought to myself about how i had evolved as a musician,composer and human being over time and i realized that there was one person who stood out from all the influences that shaped me over the years and that was guitar legend Eric Johnson and it just so happens that he lives in Austin City Texas.I did a quick web search of all the live venues in Austin to see if any of the venues featured World Music and had a theme that would go with the music that Krosswindz plays and i found there was this one pub called COPA.I sent them an email asking them if they would be interested in having Krosswindz perform and i got an email immediately from them saying that they were very interested.I sent them a list of probable show dates and we settled for 24th of September.Now i had the perfect excuse to meet Eric Johnson in person as i would be in his home town and maybe he would even come to hear me play.

Before leaving for the US I sent an email to Mr Park Street(best friend and associate of Eric)that i would be in Austin City on 24th September and would like to meet Eric.He replied that he would try his best to get him to the venue.We reached Sacramento our first city in the tour on 17th September and rested before playing 2 consecutive gigs for the Bengali Association there.We headed for Dallas Texas on 22nd September.On landing we were treated to the great southern hospitality that Texas is so famous for and now the Bengalis have also picked this tradition up.They opened up their big mansion like houses for us and let us live as we liked and generally play the fool all over their property.Once we settled into our rooms in Dallas Fort Worth i called up Park to confirm if he had got any response from Eric,he said that Eric was in town and if wasn’t very busy he might meet me and then he asked if we had all our musical instruments with us.I told him we were travelling light and therefore we had no guitar amplifiers and no drums.He said he would try to borrow some equipment for to use at the gig in Austin.

We took the famous Greyhound bus from Dallas to Austin City on 24th September morning, it was a great experience with a motley bunch of characters on the bus-Hispanic, African American and Caucasian obviously all chattering in their native tongue in the tapestry of the early morning thrush. The bus ride was a healthy five hours and on reaching Austin we took two GPS equipped cabs to COPA Bar and Grill on 6th Avenue where we were greeted by Manuel the manager who served us piping hot freshly cooked Mexican food. Afterwards we headed upstairs to the Live Venue. The COPA live performance area is one of the most beautiful and ornately decorated spaces I have ever seen in the music business. The mermaid wall installation art piece was a real heart stopper along with the other installation art pieces suggestive of primitive sea life and European Mysticism.

As we waited for the sound engineer to arrive i got a call on my phone from Park that he was waiting outside with some equipment for us to use. He walked in and my jaw dropped to the floor-he was standing with Eric Johnson’s very own vintage Fender Twin Reverb Guitar amplifier and Eric’s drummer Billy Maddox had sent us his top of the line Ludwig drum kit with Zildjian K seies cymbals.As i plugged my guitar into the amplifier i was greeted by tone heaven-sparkling sounds emanated from Eric’s guitar amp and Billy’s drum kit were thunderous with a crisp crack from the custom made snare drum not forgetting the beautiful textures of the Zildjian cymbals.We were in bliss and i couldn’t believe my luck.

We finished soundcheck and decided to take a stroll.The band were awed to find bands performing already at all the neighbouring pubs and is was only 6pm.By the time we got on stage to start the gig it was 10.30 pm early by Austin standards. An eager crowd had gathered and were waiting for us to get started. I looked around but i could not spot Eric Johnson anywhere, I asked Park and he said that Eric wasn’t feeling well and might not come to meet me,my heart sank and i decided to start the gig.We started with a guitar instrumental based on Raag Lalit titled Emotions and as i was about to end the tune i saw Eric Johnson walk into the pub.i had butterflies in my stomach and i had to tell myself to get a grip on myself.We played an eclectic set of Jazz,Rock,Fusion,World Music and even some electronic fused with guitar jams.The crowd really loved the Fusion pieces and were intrigued by the Eastern melodies and the different rhythmic variations.

We took a break after an hour of playing and i headed for Eric Johnson’s table where he was sitting with Park and my Facebook friend Darrin also the web master for EJ’s web site.He got up to shake my hand and as i shook his hand and lookind in his eye i had all these emotions come over me like a lifetime of unsaid thank you’s and the joy i felt knew no bounds.We sat and talked for a long time and he turned out to be exactly the same sweet humble and kind person that i always imagined him to be.We discussed music,touring,guitar gadgets,Zakir Hussain and Ustad Allarakha Khan,Gharanas,and even the possibility of doing a concert tour together here in India.I told him how i taught guitar to my group of loyal pupils and called it the Eric Johnson Gharana and he had a good laugh!He told me he had food poisoning but he still had to come to meet me as i am very special to him.He also said that he really liked my guitar playing and that he wanted to give me a little gift.I told him that i was going to be off on a tour of 9 cities after the gig and the only place where i would be for a substantial amount of time would be in San Fransisco.So he took the address of the San Fransisco show organizer from me and said that he would courier the gift to that address.

After a nice lengthy conversation that lasted a good 45 mins we went back on stage for our 2nd set.Eric left in the penultimate song and i waved him goodbye from stage.

From Austin we went to Dallas Fort Worth ,Boston,Delaware,San Diego,Tampa Florida,San Fransisco and finally New York.

In San Fransisco as we landed the chief organizer came to me saying an enormous carboard box had come by courier and he would bring it to me in my hotel room.When he handed the humugous box to me i did not know what to expect,on opening it my eyes popped out for sitting inside was Eric Johnson’s very own personal Tube Overdrive Pedal.This Gold plated electronic processor has been custom built by B K Butler Of Chandler Tube Works & Industries and has Boutique features like a Bias Knob ,high,low,gain and level all powered by a 12 AX7 Vacuum Tube.I was so stunned that i kept it on my lap for the entire day just mesmerized and awed at the kindness and humility of the man-Eric Johnson.

This tour will remain etched in my mind forever not because i saw three outstanding bands in one night in New York or because the Sunny beaches of San Diego were pristine or because i rode the Amtrack to the Capes of Delaware but because i got to fulfil my childhood dream of meeting my unseen mentor,friend,philosopher and guide-ERIC JOHNSON!