March 4, 2015 Liverpool, UK
With the last show completed now it was time for several days in Liverpool. Due to the uncertain beginning of this tour we had all booked our tickets leaving room at the end to reschedule some of the UK shows. We were able to only reschedule one of them. So, one of my dreads of the last few weeks was what was I going to do for the four extra days stuck in Liverpool. I wanted to fly home but it was going to cost $1400 to do so. That wasn't possible. I looked into taking the first half of my Iceland Air flight to Reykjavik and spending a few days there, before continuing on to Seattle. This also was cost prohibitive.
So, Liverpool is was then. I will make the best of it. And, it turns out, this was the most awesome choice. I really love it here and am so very glad I had the time to get to know the place. Liverpool is full of life, compacted into a very manageable city center. A ton is going on here and the people are super friendly and bustling with energy. I have been coming to England for 30 years now and, as much I love things about the place, this city rocks beyond any other English city.
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And, today, it was finally time for the full-on Beatle action that Liverpool has to offer. Uncle Derek is flu-ridden, so we were commandeered by Cummins-The-Brian today in his giant Dodge roadster.
Brian made us no promises as to the power of the Beatle-Tour, as many of the stops are silly. But he did promise us disappointed Japanese tourists at Penny Lane. Now we are talking. We saw the childhood home's of John and Paul which weren't that special. But Ringo's house was a treat. Nicely marshmallow-colored and our presence at the front door brought the homeowner out. She invited us in to her living room which was filled with Beatles memorabilia. She was a dear and only asked that we donate to the cancer fund.
Then we were off to Penny Lane – sadly no Japanese. Then to Strawberry fields (no Japanese either. I am beginning to get very disappointed.) Then back into town for the Beatles walk and into The Cavern – the regular gig they played before and after going to Hamburg. We descended for what seemed like about 4 stories into a dark, noisy, room. There was just like in the pictures. And what you imagine a shitty gig must have been like in the early 1960s – the same as a shitty gig today.
I have to say that, for how enormously huge The Beatles were/are, the town of Liverpool remains pretty restrained in the milking of their fame. Unlike my experience in Salzburg, where it seemed like everywhere you turned there was some kind of Mozart paraphernalia – Mozart chocolates, Mozart T-shirt, Mozart tours, Mozart's house where you can see a button from his coat and hair from his ass. Here in Liverpool there is the real sense of a living, thriving culture. Not a museum piece where The Beatles were birthed.
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Next up was the Cathedral. Brian had been spouting on about the awesome Liverpool Cathedral all morning. Of course, everyone is going to say that their local church is the most awesome one in the world. Plus, it is an Angelican Church. Come on..an English Cathedral that could be so awesome...? yeah, yeah....
How wrong was I?
Completely wrong. This was one of the most amazing spaces I have ever been in. Truly astounding. It was immense, but unlike Catholic Cathedrals, very sparse and open. Not a whole lot of anything around aside from the incredible, but simple, stained glass. There were details here and there, but it was mostly about the openness and the space. Which, to my mind, makes the most sense. This has always been one of the challenges of Catholicism for me (and Hinduism, as well, when I was traveling in India) – there is such a plethora of information that you get pulled out of yourself into the processing of all the imagery and the stories.
This place did it for me. Apparently the architect also designed the English telephone box. Which we all know quite well. And this design concept also features into the tower of the Cathedral.
So I wandered around, drifting away from the others. It was very still in this giant space. Not many people at all. But even if it had been full, like some of the churches in Italy, it could have contained them.
When I made it all the way to back, behind the altar, I followed some stairs down into what was called The Lady Chapel. I stood looking over, and into it, from the back balcony for a few minutes. What an awesome space. Here inside this giant cathedral was a small mini-cathedral, all of its own. Beautiful light floating in through, and around, the stained glass.
Then I wandered down into the space. Alone here, I felt myself drawn up close to the front and to the left of the altar. As I stood there I was suddenly hit with an overwhelming presence of silence. Not absence of sound, or absence of anything. Not even quiet. But a full on presence. A presence that can only be described in my vocabulary as Silence. Pushing itself right into my experience, I felt myself go blank. Every thought, feeling and image emptied out. With a small amount of effort I had to restart my breathing as it had been knocked away for a moment.
I stood there breathing. Breathing it in and forming no image or thought. This silence was challenging. Like staring into someone's eyes, it grew stronger as I sat with it. Trying to bring more of myself to bear. And then, to bring less of myself to the table. I tried both strategies and then gave up strategizing. Just being here. Letting it surge and wash through and around me.
Then my Trey-Curiosity kicked in. What is this? Is this me? Is this the architecture? Is this here because of something that happened here? Is this just my state after the completion of the tour and now I am fried out and more quiet inside? Is this really right here in this space or does it have nothing to do with the space? Is this silence specifically right in this spot or somewhere else in the room?
The last question got my feet moving and I scooted over to the right side of the room. The presence cooled and my breathing shallowed out. Then I moved back over to the left and it hit me again, like thick, heated air. Full of.... I don't know what... Silence, I guess is the best, but inadequate, word. So I sat down on the left side of the room and just breathed it in.
Eventually, after a few more minutes, it felt like enough. And what I know, now that I am old and wise (Ha!), is that you can't hang on to anything. So the second it seemed like enough, I jumped up and sauntered out to find my buddies.
I went on with the rest of my day, laughing and joking around with my compadres. And, without attaching anything to the experience, many more questions began forming in me. And I knew I would be going back again tomorrow.
March 5, 2015 Liverpool, UK
My days here begin with more sleep than normal. I wake up around noon. Do an hour or so of work online, catching up with business that has been waylaid from this tour. Then out for some food and a several more solid hours of work online. Then back to the Cathedral. Then take my computer back to the hotel and head out for some food and a search for live music.
I got to the Cathedral a bit later in the day then when we were there yesterday. The Evensong service had just begun. So I sat and listened. Fantastic. The choir was singing the service with some very subtle organ accompaniment. What a sound. When one of the men was soloing between the choral lines you could hear the overtones ringing out from every syllable. These overtones were perfectly clear. Sometime the major 3rd, sometime the 5th and sometimes the flat seventh. Fantastic counterpoint to the melodies.
It was a short service and I slipped down to The Lady Chapel right afterwards. Several forms of trepidation upon me. The first being: you can never go back. It is a near guarantee that you can't formulate a powerful experience by recreating the external circumstances of a past one. The second being: what if nothing is there? I mean the nothing of absence, not the Nothing of Presence. What if I step down there and all is vanished?
But so be it. This is life and how it flows. No matter what this is an amazing place. And something has resonated from being here.
And, so, walking into the space surprised me with the same thick sensation as yesterday. I was emptied out and filled with this same silence. As I walked to the front of the room it got denser. I wasn't interested in seeing where it might or might not be in the room. Or how it might be here, but not there. Or why it might be, at all. I sat down in front on the left side and stilled even more. Breathing it in and breathing through it from the inside to the out.
Saying “letting it wash over and through me” probably sounds ludicrous, and subjective, to many. But for serious music-listeners who use that phrase in regards to their musical experience, I think the leap can be made.
After about 20 minutes I heard footsteps behind me. The Cathedral was nearly empty and I had wondered what time it closed. Or if it did. A security guard gently approached me and said they were closing. When I got up we exchanged small talk about the quiet in this place.
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Then back out into the world. Other times in my life I would have been shocked upon coming “back into the bustling world”. But, it seems, no longer. I had some dinner and then headed out to the Caledonia Pub to here The Manouchetones -- a local Django inspired trio I read about in the paper. I have been on an electronic music search, since arriving here in Liverpool. I have heard some fantastically strange electronica lately and am keen on hearing some of it live and/or finding some collaborators for a project I am interested in. But, it seems like these kinds of performances don't just happen all the time. I am still searching, but tonight I was very happy to hear these guys play. Two guitars and an upright bass. Combine with real British ales, hey, what's not to love. Plus I ran into a few characters from our show and met another kooky musician who I hit it off with.
Back to hotel bed.
March 6, 2015 Liverpool, UK
Daily routine set.
Back to Cathedral again in the mid afternoon. There is a concert happening here tonight and the band was setting up and sound checking. Wow, that is some serious echo/reverb to deal with for a band. At The Security Project gig in the church at Bochum, Germany we were dealing with a 4.5 second reverb. A reverb that wasn't crazy loud. But in this Cathedral it would have to be over 15 seconds. Perhaps longer. And it was a very loud reverb. Some of the band's instruments sounded incredible. Like the voice and the keyboard. But the drumming was ridiculous. Pounding away at a quick tempo in this space. Though it did seem like much of the material they had could work in the space. Sadly it is sold out. So I won't be going.
It was interesting how all the sound and activity in the Cathedral today had no effect on The Lady Chapel. Everything as it had been.
Today, I noticed an engraving on the wall in the back. Perhaps this might be some clue to the presence of silence here. As music and silence are intimately linked. Not just as sonic extremities, but also as interwoven archetypes. And, perhaps, as more. But no matter. My care to find answers is no longer.
To Build Greatly
And To Cause Good Music
To Resound Herein Was
Very Dear To The Heart Of
Helen Swift Neilson
Of The United States Of America
1869 - 1945
Early night tonight.
March 7, 2015 Liverpool, UK
Back to the Cathedral again. This time I climbed up the tower and saw the giant bells. The largest one, in the middle, weighing in at 14.5 tons.
Another band in the Cathedral tonight. Anathema. Amusing name for a band playing in a Cathedral. They had an incredibly large setup, right in the middle of the space. I don't know this band, but they looked like they would be heavy. Which...hmmm...how could that possibly work in this space. The show is sold out, so most would say it is going to work.
Back into the city and a meet up with Jerry, Brian and Graham for Indian food and British Ale. Great to see the guys again after a few day's break. We do get addicted to each other after so long doing a fully enmeshed day-to-day. Everyone is super tired and Jerry and I are really ready to go home.
Tomorrow I fly home. So this is goodbye.
previous tour diaries