Next up in our Tourist series, is The Parker String Quartet, a young classical string quartet that performs in venues such as Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center and Wynn Walent. Walent is a New York singer songwriter who recently released his debut album. These two acts recently joined together for a weeklong tour (co-presented by Concert Artists Guild and Kitchen Sink Music). The tour brought classical music into bars and clubs, pairing it up with music you would usually hear in such places. Below the two acts documented their experience:
WW-After taking the Fung Wah bus arriving into Boston at 2 am, Patrick the tour manager, friend, and confidante, and I had a drink and went to sleep on my dear cousin's floor and couch. We awoke, early, to the sound of a jack hammer outside of the window and the tour had begun. I met with the quartet in the afternoon in the hallowed halls of the New England Conservatory and spent an hour or so going over some songs that we were to later play in the collaborative parts of the shows. Not often do I rehearse with an opera singer across the hall. It was kind of nice.
We got to the the Lizard Lounge and checked the sound and toasted to the coming week. We decided to start the set by playing a song together with everyone, and that I would play first for the night. The setting was a dimly lit basement, there was a good deal of people there, and the crowd was extremely attentive throughout. My undying love and affection for the Parker Quartet began here at the Lizard Lounge. The quartet played pieces by Mozart, Schumann and Ligeti…probably not standards at the Lizard Lounge.
After the show I went and played a game similar to golf on the Boston Commons. I don't play golf, but at 2:30 am it seemed like a good idea. I accidentally broke my friend Geoff's nine iron. He feigned disgust at me for letting go of the club, though I knew he must have found it endearing, and Patrick and I returned to my dear cousin's apartment with the first night's triumph firmly under our belts.
PSQ – We picked up the van at the airport in the morning. There was a good bit of dog hair in it. The van was later dubbed Gunga Din as Rocinante was already taken. We drove to New York through a hefty Connecticut rain. The New York stop on the tour was at Piano's as part of Liberated Matter's Cross Pollination series which Wynn has played a number of times. Every Tuesday they have two acts play a set, and then collaborate. Since that's exactly what we were doing, it worked out very nicely. It was an interesting experience to compete with the drum and bass beats coming from the downstairs space. We had a nice crowd, and even had some fans from our more traditional uptown gigs come out.
WW- Since I live in New York, and the Parker Quartet lives in Boston, this felt like the first real leg of our too brief small tour. We played at the World Cafe Live, which is a nice place, perhaps even a little too nice (we even had our own little room with water bottles in it.) The people were very nice AND my 5 year old cousin came (along with my older, adult-type cousins who gave her a ride) and she came on stage and gave me a few dollars and said "this is for gas". That was a highlight.
We drove to D.C. right after the show because we had a place to stay there, which we lacked in Philly. Team bonding occurred on the ride and for the remainder of the evening. This was the point that the first glimmer of sadness came around due to the fact that I realized the tour was half done and I was really enjoying playing a show each night and befriending these fine folks. Perhaps using the word 'tour' was a mistake because it implies a longer period of time than a week. Once in D.C.Patrick, our tour manager, beat me two in a row in paper, rock, scissors (which he inexplicably calls Roshambo)and the futon was his.
WW-The D.C. show was at a place called the Red and the Black. The room is small and the sound is nice. There were no chairs really, but also not many people, so it worked out. I felt it was a great show musically. The quartet worked on more defined parts for my songs by performing throughout the week and things really started coming together here. I also continued to regret that we weren't 'touring' for longer. They are world recognized, very technical and dedicated, having won international competitions and played in Carnegie Hall, yet they are completely intense and devoted to the music in a room in Northeast D.C for a crowd of ten. It was impressive. If you get a chance to see them perform I highly recommed it. I also recommend hanging out with them for a week. Or however long.
WW-I grew up in Richmond so there was an enormous ticker tape parade and the mayor was there. I really did grow up in Richmond though, and we stayed with my parents, who are wonderful people. My mother had been putting up flyers around VCU for about a month and talking the ear off of any student who came into the health center with a cold. She was the entirety of our street team but she was intense. There was a hurricane in VA on Friday and we were supposed to be playing outdoors at place called Rocks. Despite the fact that they have a tent, we decided to play inside in a small space in the corner and it turned out quite nicely. There was a good crowd of family, friends, and what I assume to be hopelessly devoted fans and they all were very responsive and supportive. In the small and dead silent setting the Parker Quartet was really amazing. Again I found myself smiling in spite of myself during their set.
Towards the end of our set together we played "I'll Be Here All Night", which is a song of mine that is roughly about music, and how being devoted to it can be beautiful and bittersweet. In my small time with the Parkers it was abundantly clear how devoted they were to their music, how much time they had spent with it, and much love they had for it. It felt good to be travelling with them and playing with them. While playing, in home town Richmond, as the mini-tour began officially winding down, it felt very beautiful, and very bittersweet.
PSQ- Moving inside due to the raging hurricane was actually really nice as the crowd was listening intently. The whole idea of playing the clubs is to make our concerts more intimate, more personal and more relaxed. It felt really good to play with a guy sitting two feet in front of you, beer in hand. Wynn’s set was especially good here, and it has been a great experience playing with him. We sold and signed a lot of CDs, between furious bouts of photohunt.
WW-I went to college in Charlottesville. It was nice to be back and to ride through the country on a beautiful afternoon. We played at Shebeen, a South African Pub that both Patrick and I had worked for in college. The owner is a good friend of mine and he was kind enough to let us stay with him. The place is not really built to have concerts. There's a bit of a bar crowd and the restaurant quickly self segregated between a group that were very into the television and pretty vocal about it, and a segment that had come for the music. The music segment slowly semi circled around the performers which created a nice atmosphere. I broke a string on the last song of the evening, and we all spent the rest of the evening toasting each other. "For he's a jolly good fellow" was sung, drinks were had, and hugs and affections exchanged.
The next afternoon we slowly gathered ourselves and hit the road. We planned on stopping and getting what would have been the only hotel of the trip when it was stopping time in Scranton, PA. When that time came, I volunteered to drive through the night to Boston and we arrived at 4 am. I don't get to drive much living in New York and it was nice to sit up talking to the guys in the quartet and just sort of enjoying the feeling.
The next afternoon I was back on the bus to New York, exhausted, and looking forward to next time.
Wynn Walent and Parker Quartet have some upcoming NYC Shows:
October 10, Merkin Concert Hall (Parker only), 2 pm
October 12, The Living Room, 8pm (Wynn only)
October 14, Parkside Lounge, 7pm (Parker and Wynn)