We continue on the road with wife and husband Avant Folk duo Shanti and Buck Curran, better known as Arborea. Read part one here.
Day 3, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
We drive from Syracuse, NY. to Pittsburg, PA into the arms of a mighty storm.
These diary entries are a great opportunity to share some brief insight to our life on tour, but sadly there isn’t space or time to properly convey all the beauty, hardship and intensity of the journey…or the wonderful connections with friends and people we’ve met along the way…
We were greeted by heavy rain showers on the morning of August 21st. Fortunately the rain cleared by the time we had to say goodbye to Amanda and leave Syracuse. By all accounts, from opinions taken at the house show last night, Pittsburgh was only a 4 1/2 drive from Syracuse…so we headed West on Interstate 90 which runs through Buffalo and then Southwest hugging the Southern shore of Lake Erie towards the town of Erie, Pennsylvania where I-90 meets Interstate 79, which would take us due South to Pittsburgh. We only got about 5 miles outside of Syracuse on the highway when we realized our daughter Shylah had left her iPod at Amanda’s house, so we had to turn around. The iPod has become an essential for us…with a great onboard camera, music library, and the ability to connect online and communicate through email, Facebook, Skype…it’s an expensive, but indespensible tool to have on the road.
I-90 is always heavy with traffic and a major truck route in the North, so it’s never fun driving for hours on that dangerous route…but it’s the quickest way to get to Pittsburgh and we were already running behind knowing our 4 1/2 hour commute (now looking at our GPS) was going to be more like 7 hours with the traffic. About 45 minutes into our drive, we encountered a major storm with heavy winds, rain, thunder and lightning…at one point we had to slow to a crawl and then pull over for a while, because our visibility was down to zero. We were all on the edge of our seats and wondered if a Tornado would land!
Pittsburg. Time travel Tintype.
Thankfully the storm moved off quickly and we headed East again. Eventually the rain completely passed and we had a beautiful ride into Pittsburgh, a city cradled in a deep valley of the greenest hills. We arrived at Acoustic Music Works (a wonderful instrument shop specializing in handmade acoustic guitars, mandolins, banjos etc) at 7pm with only an hour to spare before the start of the show. We had been hoped upon arrival to practice a little and change strings, but we were already out of time. After 7 hours of driving…all that sitting and focusing on the road and fast moving patterns of traffic, it was next to impossible for me to sit still…so I quickly loaded our gear into the venue and caught up with Raymond Morin who hosts the acoustic shows at the shop. Raymond Morin is a great acoustic guitarist who’s also started on the path of luthiery* and builds some very fine acoustic guitars in the back of the shop. Shanti asked about a mic and PA support for her vocals, as we feared the acoustics in the room would be a little muddy, but Raymond was steadfast with having it be an all acoustic show, so we agreed to do without. I had asked our old friend and Philadelphia based guitarist-composer Eric Carbonara (http://www.ericcarbonara.org) to perform with us that night and he arrived at the shop soon after we had gotten there. We’ve played a number of shows with Eric over the years and I had gotten in touch with him back in Spring, and luckily he was available and interested in playing. Unfortunately for Eric, he had driven from his home in Philadelphia to Pittsburgh and was involved in a car accident upon arriving in town. His car was totalled (he was hit on the passenger side front wheel by someone pulling out of a business parking lot). Fortunately he wasn’t hurt and still made the show in good spirit. We were also expecting to see a dear friend of ours that night, Michael Skees. We hadn’t seen Michael in 14 years and he had just moved from Hawaii and settled in Pittsburgh where he grew up and where his parents live. Mike used to help organize shows at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA where we all lived in the late 90’s. Those shows featured amazing Classical musicians touring from India.
Eric Carbonara, playing an all acoustic set at Acoustic Music Works. The beautiful Handmade parlor sized guitar Eric is playing was made by musician Raymond Morin who played the first set of the night. Raymond builds his guitar at Acoustic Music Works and works there. https://www.facebook.com/AcousticMusicWorks
Michael also plays guitar and sitar…and between him and our mutual friend Charlie Riegle, they were the first to introduce me to the sitar music of Pandit Nikhil Banerjee, a major musical influence on Arborea’s music. Pandit Nikhil Banerjee was a contemporary of Ravi Shankar and both studied with the same teacher Baba Allauddin Khan (one of the most important figures in the history of Indian Classical Music).
And so the sun began to set again and we all crowded into Acoustic Music works for an intimate evening of live music. Raymond kicked off the evening by playing a fine mix of acoustic guitar instrumentals and songs. Raymond has gotten very adept at playing Bert Jansch songs and skillfully performed versions of ‘Strolling Down the Highway’ and ‘Black Waterside’.
Eric Carbonara followed with an evocative set of original guitar instrumentals (played on a gorgeous parlor sized acoustic guitar that Raymond had recently built) and some funny onstage banter recalling the inspiration behind his compositions. Eric sounded great on Raymond’s steel-string, but normally performs with a Flamenco style nylon string guitar and also a hybrid guitar-Indian instrument known as the Chaturangui…designed by Indian slide guitarist Debashish Bhattacharya (who Eric has studied with twice in India). Over these last few years, Eric has also released two beautiful albums with another friend, Philadelphia based harpist Jesse Sparhawk…together they’ve recorded and toured under the duo name ‘Sixty Strings’. Arborea closed out the night with our first All acoustic show in quite a long time…normally I split our sets between playing acoustic and electric guitars and Shanti’s vocals are almost always going through a mic and her banjo through a sound system. We adapted really quickly to the situation and it ended up feeling really great for both of us. We kept talking about how we should play like that more often. We’ve performed in so many different settings over the years….however, with outdoor festivals or noisy bars amplification is really critical.
As with most gigs, the night flew by very quickly and we said our goodbyes, and made arrangements to pick up Eric in the morning on our way out of town, as he was staying at our mutual friend Mike Tamburo’s house (Mike and his wife Gallina had also come to the show). Eric was sharing the gig with us tomorrow night in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and then we planned to drop him off at his home in Philly. Soon we found ourselves back on the road…following Michael back to his new house on the outskirts of Pittsburgh. He was very gracious with sharing his new home and gave us a beautiful place to rest our heads for the night. To our big surprise when we arrived and settled in, he presented me with a very special gift, his sitar made in 1997 by the famous Calcutta sitar maker Hiren Roy & Sons. We had a short time to catch up before Shanti and Shylah went to bed. Michael also showed me his fine collection of stringed instruments before having to retire for the night. It was around 2:00am when I finally got to bed. Tomorrow’s drive to Harrisburg wouldn’t be so bad with only a 4 hour commute East.
Late night Jam with our friend Mike Skees, who we haven’t seen in a very long time. Mike gifted Buck his Hiren Roy & Sons Sitar that was made in Calcutta, India in 1997.
In the late 1990’s Mike used to help bring renown Classical Indian musicians to perform at Old Dominion University in Tidewater, Virginia…where we all lived at the time.
More soon from Arborea soon. Read all the entries so far.
*Buck Curran of Arborea is also a luther. Visit Curran Guitars here: http://curranguitars.blogspot.co.uk/
Photo Credits: Main Image Marticus Magnificus / In post images Shanti Curran